Learning Patience & Perseverance from Nature

Image

Learning Patience & Perseverance from Nature

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

Advertisements

Snap Out of It with a Gingerbread Green Smoothie

“Walk towards the sunshine, and the shadows will fall behind you.” 
― Mary Engelbreit

Looking back at my post on March 3rd, I wonder if I truly understood at the time how challenging March would be?! I am thankful that so many of my Weight Watchers members have been diligent in posting their accomplishments in our March Madness Challenge. It has been very helpful in keeping myself grounded. Though not many things on the challenge list are new to me, it has been important to reflect and realize how many healthy lifestyle routines I have adopted in the past six years.

As a teacher I try to stay positive, but today was one of those days when I felt deflated and fatigued. When the lunch bell sounded I quietly shut my classroom door, turned off the lights, and tried to be still as hot tears slid down my cheeks. The waterworks were due to frustration and a quick phone call and pep talk from my husband transformed the tears to a smile. I stretched, did my best deep yoga breathing, and out of the corner of my eye something captured my attention. It was a magnet on my chalkboard. How many times over the years have I let  Mary Engelbreit‘s simple phrase “SNAP OUT OF IT” be my guide. Today I needed this shot of tough love.

Mary Engelbreit's charming art is sure to induce a smile.

Mary Engelbreit’s whimsical art is sure to induce a smile.

I really needed this reminder today and how perfect that it fits in so well with the March Madness Challenge #1: Find a quote or mantra to display in an important place. So many times in the past few weeks I have I had to remind myself to snap out of the stress and weather induced blues and fatigue.

Athena ChalkboardThis afternoon I took the magnet and hung it directly in my line of vision. It is now holding up a poster of the Greek Goddess Athena that was a gift from a student a few years ago after we studied Greek Mythology. Athena always reminds me of wisdom, watchfulness, and strategy which are all important parts of my weight management journey. They will now both serve as my anchors to keep me empowered and balanced.

Tonight I stayed late at work to get through a pile of grading since tomorrow is the end of the marking period. When I got home I felt exhausted but I pushed through it and managed to spend time on the treadmill. I had a light dinner and I still had quite a few Points Plus left for the day so I decided to try #26 on the March Madness Challenge list: Try a new combination of green smoothie. For a long time I have been meaning to try a recipe that I had bookmarked for a Gingerbread Green Smoothie. I love to add molasses and nutmeg to my green smoothies because it really brings out a depth of flavor.

I used fresh ginger, a frozen banana, and also added a few ice cubes.

I used fresh ginger, a frozen banana, and also added a few ice cubes.

The recipe can be found here at the preppy paleo. It was really spectacular and is something that I will be making again (probably as soon as this weekend). I have to say that it tastes very decadent and indulgent but is so healthy and packed with nutrients. Tonight it made a fantastic post-workout and after-dinner treat. I recommend it if your taste buds need a boost. Trying new recipes is a great way to avoid a food rut.

Tonight on my Produce with Amy facebook page, I posted a photo of my Engelbreit and asked what my friends’ favorite mantra was that kept them faithful to exercise and healthy eating. A couple minutes after I had posted, one of my former students, Emily, shared a photo of her mantra which she has right on her front door. It is a quote from Lucille Ball, “I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.”

Goosebumps thrilled through me as I read Emily’s message, “My mantra! I make myself take the time to read it every single time I leave my house. It’s a good reminder from a woman who has been very influential to me. I enjoy your mantra, too! I may have to write that down and put it somewhere in my classroom.”

Emily was an exceptional student in the 9th grade and she continues to inspire awe. I am so proud of her and can only imagine the young minds that she is inspiring now that she is a teacher. While I needed Engelbreit’s message so much today, I think that I needed Emily’s even more. She gave me a precious gift today and reminded of why I love being a teacher so much. Teaching is a labor of love that reaps so many rewards. It is priceless to watch your former students doing amazing things, transforming lives, and becoming productive adults. I cannot imagine a career that would be more satisfying.

Yes, sometimes I am going to be disheartened. Sometimes I am going to feel helpless. Sometimes I will need to shut the door and let myself surrender to tears. This afternoon I cried out of frustration. Tonight I shed tears of pride and joy. Thank you, Emily!

Dreaming in Green ~ St. Patrick’s Day Cucumber Gazpacho Soup

Cucumber Gazpacho“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” -Marty Rubin

The sunlight filtered through the windows today and my houseplants were sponges as they soaked up the joyful rays.

The sunlight filtered through the windows today and my houseplants were sponges as they soaked up the joyful rays.

I felt like Pandora today. Sunlight streaming through the window, I grasped the jar full of hope, and imagined spring arriving. The snow banks in our yard range from three to ten feet in height, but we know that even in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, spring is perennial and we will have our time to bask in the sun.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and like every other morning, Mike and I started the day with a green smoothie. I decided to make our routine festive and served up our healthy drinks in a pilsner glass. Today I made one of my favorite combinations: spinach, mango, pineapple, banana, lime juice, chia seeds, fresh ginger, and water. Cheers! Or as my friend Cavan taught me today, Sláinte!

I love the ritual of making a green smoothie each morning. It makes me feel that we are starting the day out right.

I love the ritual of making a green smoothie each morning. It makes me feel that we are starting the day out right.

Green Love

As my mom Karen taught me, presentation is everything.

Sláinte!

Sláinte! Who needs green beer when you have these nutrition packed drinks to fuel your day?!

After Mike and I enjoyed our morning together, I posted the above photos on facebook and my friend Paula said she wished she could taste-test the green smoothies before venturing out on her own. I have had many friends that, like Paula, have had trepidation over taking the green smoothie leap. My promise is always that they will love them (and 9 out of 10 tell me that they do). Paula also wanted to know if she needed a special mixer to make green smoothies and I assured her that for the first few years, I made ours with an inexpensive blender. (Though, of course, I recommend a Vitamix. It has been one of the smartest investments that we have ever made.)  The trick to a great green smoothie, is first blending the water (or liquid of choice ) with the greens and then adding the fruit cut up into small pieces.

Here was my message, verbatim, to Paula this afternoon: “My recommendation would be to start very simple. My first one was spinach, banana, strawberry, and water. Spinach is naturally sweet and you won’t believe how good it tastes. A frozen banana is key because it gives the smoothie sweetness and makes it creamy. I buy quite a few bunches of bananas a week and when they get ripe I peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer. 

Some of my favorite combinations are: banana and blackberries. Peaches, banana, and raspberries. Mango, pineapple, and banana. Experiment with your favorite fruit. I’ve tried tons of different combinations and often toss in what I have on hand. Frozen fruit works well and makes the smoothie cold (though you can add ice as well).

I’m a green smoothie “purist” and normally stick with water, fruit, chia seeds, and greens. The chia seeds make it filling and are a great source of calcium, protein, and Omega-3.Though I know that others add yogurt, milk and dairy-free milks, and even healthy oils.

The smoothies are a great way to fortify your iron and breaking down the cell walls of the greens makes it easier for our bodies to absorb the nutrients. Mike and I both drink one for breakfast and find them really filling and satisfying. I do eat my “lunch entree” [at work] during my prep (3rd hour) but I love them and I think they give me an important boost of energy in the morning!”

I cannot wait to hear what Paula, and her family, think of the green smoothies. Now that I have posted this here, she will have no choice but to experiment. 😉 Nothing makes me happier than getting feedback and learning new tasty combinations.

Mike was busy this weekend with his studies and we decided to spend the weekend at home. Still, I wanted to make the day special and try a new recipe to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Feeling wistful for spring, I imagined something light and refreshing to serve as a harbinger for warmer weather. Last week I received an email from Veg News for a Green Gazpacho. The recipe was contributed by Patti Breitman and I thought it would be a perfect dish for today. Last summer, cold and savory green soups were one of our favorite dinners to beat the heat.

Here is Patti’s recipe from the Veg News website:

Serves 4 to 6
What You Need:
4 large cucumbers, peeled and seeds removed, chopped into large pieces
2 ripe avocados, halved and scooped out
3 medium garlic cloves
2 medium green bell peppers, chopped in large pieces
4 green onions, chopped in large pieces
2 cups water
Juice of 1-1/2 lemons
1/3 small bunch fresh cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Paprika
leftDottedLine 3
What You Do:
1. Set aside a few sprigs of cilantro for garnish. In a food processor, add cucumber, avocado, garlic, peppers, and green onions. Blend until creamy, adding water a little at a time to reach desired consistency.2. Add lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve with paprika sprinkled on top and cilantro for garnish.

For our green soup, I decided to divide the recipe up into two batches. I followed the Veg News recipe but for the first batch I swapped out the lemon for lime and for the second batch I swapped out the cilantro for dill and added a couple handfuls of spinach. Both turned out fresh, light, and delicious! We ate the first batch tonight for dinner and the second we will have tomorrow evening. I will be making this again and I think it would be fun to experiment with different additions. Jalapeno would be a great partner to the cilantro and chopped tomato or homemade salsa would make a vibrant garnish. Lacto Vegetarians could also finish off this soup by folding or blending in plain Greek yogurt for a protein boost.

How can you go wrong with such a beautiful plate of produce?

How can you go wrong with such a beautiful plate of produce?

100_1159

Slice the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

Slice the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

I love the way this photo turned out. It's like a spring, cucumber flower!

I love the way this photo turned out. It’s like a spring, cucumber flower!

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor.

Since I used our Vitamix, I was able to leave the ingredients in large chunks.

Since I used our Vitamix, I was able to leave the ingredients in large chunks.

Green and Gorgeous.

Green and Gorgeous.

To finish, I drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with green onion, cilantro, and for my friend Jessica ~ added a spicy kick with Sriracha sauce!

To finish, I drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with green onion, cilantro, and in honor of my friend Jessica ~ added a spicy kick with Sriracha sauce!

The second batch turned out equally as beautiful and tasty!

Lemon and dill is a incredible flavor combination.

Lemon and dill is a incredible flavor combination.

I cannot wait to have this for dinner tomorrow evening. Do not worry, I already sampled a small bowl.

I cannot wait to have this for dinner tomorrow evening. Do not worry, I already sampled a small bowl. For this version of the chilled soup, I reserved some of the avocado to add as a garnish. I love the silky and luxurious texture of avocado.

In the background our posh black cat, Pandora, pines for spring.

In the background our posh black cat, Pandora, pines for spring.

Green eyes!

Green eyes!

Spring may be slow in arriving this year, but that does not have to stop us from making our own light. While I am waiting until my Spring Break to start the annual deep cleaning and organizing, I did a few things to add a bit of freshness to our home. A couple years ago Mike build me floating shelves out of reclaimed hollow core doors and I try to swap out the decorations with the seasons. I still had Valentine’s decorations up and decided to pull some of my vintage Chartreuse Fiestaware out of storage in the basement. It is amazing how something so simple can be uplifting to one’s spirit.

Make your own spring.

Make your own spring.

I encourage you to try a new recipe or do something light and lively with the decor in your home. Grab your camera and record the way the sunlight sifts through bare branches or watch the way your pets delight in puddles of sunshine. Continue to dream and eventually spring will be here! Until then, make the most of today and enjoy every healthy moment.

St. Patrick's Day Collage“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness — just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Tackle Spring Fever with Avocado and White Bean Salad ~ and a Healthy Dose of Friendship

Avocado and White Bean Salad

Avocado is by far my favorite food. The taste and texture is luxurious and it is packed with healthy properties.

Avocado is by far my favorite food. The taste and texture is luxurious and it is packed with healthy properties.

 

“…the avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise.” 
— David Fairchild

 

 

This post comes to you straight from snow day #9. Yes, that is correct. NINE snow days and I have a feeling that it will not be the last. This morning when we opened our family room drapes we were faced with a hulking drift of snow.

March Madness defined.

March Madness defined.

Our poor little house engulfed in snow banks

Our poor little house engulfed in snow banks

Though we live in town, our house is nearly obscured from the road. Mike had to fire up the snow blower so he could get to his classes at Northern Michigan University (they opened up campus at noon today). Strangely enough it is the first day back to classes after Spring Break. Obviously, Mother Nature did not get the memo.

As the Upper Peninsula digs out from an early St. Patrick’s Day 

Mike takes a break from snow plowing with his best friend, Phoebe. He just finished telling me that if I had a Subaru (like he does) instead of a Jeep that there would be no need for snow blowing our drive. ;)

Mike, with his best friend Phoebe,  takes a break from snow blowing. He just finished telling me that if I had a Subaru (like he does) instead of a Jeep that there would be no need for snow blowing our drive. 😉

storm, I took advantage of another day to decompress, grade, read, and write. I also made a comforting and filling pot of Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili (recipe will be shared at the end of my post).

I am always thankful for time off to reflect and recommit to my healthy goals. This weekend Mike and I made time for each other on Saturday. We had a lunch date and after going grocery shopping decided to enjoy a walk in snowy Marquette and spontaneously stopped at a few local establishments.

Mike took this photo from the North Star Lounge at The Landmark Inn with the panoramic feature on his iPhone 5.

Mike took this photo from the North Star Lounge at The Landmark Inn with the panoramic feature on his iPhone 5.

Another cool photo of Marquette. In the distance you can see the historic ore dock. ~Photo by Mike Laitinen

Another cool photo of Marquette. In the distance you can see the historic ore dock.
~Photo by Mike Laitinen

While traipsing around we were thrilled when we ran into my friend Paula Diedrich and her husband Todd. Paula and I have been keeping each other accountable to blogging. We have been friends for over a decade and have traveled and worked on many projects together with the Upper Peninsula Writing Project. Paula exhibits endless energy as a dedicated mom, wife, writer, educator, student teacher mentor, leader of professional development workshops, and in 2013 launched her fantastic new blog, Hat of Many Colors.

You can tell by the smiles on both of our faces how much a night out with friends was appreciated. ~Photo by Todd Diedrich

You can tell by the smiles on both of our faces how much a night out with friends was appreciated. ~Photo by Todd Diedrich

I am thankful for Paula’s encouragement and I think that having a support network is so important in achieving goals. This holds true with my writing, teaching, and my Weight Watchers journey.

I have so many ideas for future blog posts and the key is to MAKE time to write. It is fulfilling to know that people are reading my posts and that I can share tips and recipes. Today’s post is a recipe that I tried for my WW group’s February Recipe Round-Up and comes from one of my favorite Vegan blogs, Healthy. Happy. Life. When I saw Kathy Patalsky’s recipe for Veggie-Loaded Avocado White Bean Salad on Toast I was in awe. Kathy’s photos are stunning and really brought the salad to life. The recipe was a keeper and I cannot wait to experiment with different variations. Kathy’s recipe kept in the refrigerator for quite a few days and made a fine lunch option and I had it for dinner with a cup of soup.

All the ingredients for this hearty and satisfying salad.

All the ingredients for this hearty and satisfying salad.

  • 1 16 oz. can drained and rinsed beans (Kathy’s recipe calls for cannellini but I only had garbanzo beans on hand. They worked well in the recipe. Next time I will use cannellini beans since they are softer.)100_0981
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 cup spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar and added extra since I like my food very tangy)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (I used a few tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh tangerine or orange juice and a pinch of zest (I used orange)
  • 2 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon hemp or sunflower seeds (I used hemp seeds)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Kathy’s recipe also calls for 2 tsp white miso paste. I did not have any on hand so I used a couple splashes of low sodium soy sauce.If you do not follow a plant based meal plan, you could sub out the nutritional yeast and/or hemp seeds for some plain fat free Greek yogurt.

The recipe rendered four ~ 1/2 cup servings. WW members can run through the Recipe Builder for Point Plus totals. While avocado may be a bit “pointy” I think that it is PP well spent since avocado contains so many healthy nutrients.

I used a fork to mash the beans.

I used a fork to mash the beans.

I added the avocado and mashed them in well.

I added the avocado and mashed them in well.

Chop up the onion and carrot.

Chop up the onion and carrot.

Fold in the onion and carrot to the bean and avocado mixture.

Fold in the onion and carrot to the bean and avocado mixture.

Add the Hemp Seed and Nutritional Yeast

Add the Hemp Seed and Nutritional Yeast

I love my Microplane for citrus zest.

I love my Microplane for citrus zest.

Add the zest, orange juice, and vinegar.

Add the zest, orange juice, and vinegar.

I use pink Himalayan salt.  We purchased this Himalayan salt lantern at the Rusted Buffalo in Asheville, North Carolina. It is said to have many air purification properties and I love the glow it imparts on the room.

I use pink Himalayan salt. We purchased this Himalayan salt lantern at the Rusted Buffalo in Asheville, North Carolina. It is said to have many air purification properties and I love the glow it imparts on the room.

I toasted up a piece of Ezekiel bread to serve the Avocado and White Bean salad on. This bread is amazing, filling, high in protein, and contains no added sugar.

I toasted up a piece of Ezekiel bread to serve the Avocado and White Bean salad on. This bread is amazing, filling, high in protein, and contains no added sugar.

This salad looks as good as it tastes.

This salad looks as good as it tastes.

I cannot wait to try this again. I think it would be delicious with fresh cilantro.

I cannot wait to try this again. I think it would be delicious with fresh cilantro.

Even when I am eating alone I love to make up a fancy plate. They say that we feast with our eyes first.

Even when I am eating alone I love to make up a fancy plate. They say that we feast with our eyes first.

Athena our kitty was napping the day that I snapped these photos. I guess Phoebe decided that she would be in the stand-in photo bomber. ;)

Athena our kitty was napping the day that I snapped these photos. I guess Phoebe decided that she would be in the stand-in photo bomber. 😉

I tried this recipe on February 22nd and I was already experiencing a major case of spring fever. I dusted off some rose colored Fiestaware from my collection and had daydreams of pink flowers: tulips, bleeding hearts, lilies, and peonies. Until May or June (or maybe July), I suppose these pretty dishes will have to do!

Pink Fiesta Tower

Pink Fiesta Tower

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

Spring Fever

Spring Fever

Today I made a large pot of the recipe I came up with for Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili. It is one of my favorite “healthy comfort foods” and Mike loves it as well.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Sautee the following in 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil (or oil of choice)

  •   1 cup chopped onion     
  •  2 cups chopped celery   
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic     
  • 1 green bell pepper

Add the following:

  • 28 oz canned tomatoes (I used a small can of Rotel with green chilis and my mom’s garden tomatoes)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups corn
  • 6 cups cooked black beans
  • chili power, salt, and pepper to taste
  • simmer for 45-60 minutesToday I also added whole wheat elbow macaroni to the chili to bulk it up.

I serve this chili with freshly chopped cilantro, a squirt of lime, and cubed avocado. You could also add a dollop of sour cream or Plain FF Greek yogurt, and/or cheese.This recipe produces 15 one cup servings.

I wish I could end my post by saying that spring is right around the corner. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for the U.P. of Michigan. Though we know that eventually the warm weather will find us. Until then we must find ways to keep hope in our hearts. Nourish yourself with healthy food and make an eye-catching presentation with a pretty dishes and/or place setting. Stop, savor, and enjoy every bite. For even more enjoyment, share your feast with a friend. I am so happy that Mike and I ran into Paula and Todd this weekend. As Paula said,  it was “a chance meeting with so many good things as a result.” We are thankful for our network of support and the blessings that are bestowed on us. We will have to make time to get together soon!

March Madness Challenge ~ Making Weight Management Fun & Functional

“People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have. ”
― Anne Tyler

Is there anything lovelier than fresh greens?

Is there anything lovelier than fresh greens?

Welcome March. I am not Irish, but I do love the color green. Green smoothies, recycling and re-purposing furniture, avocados, fresh produce, dark green bars on my Active Link, and the luxuriant smell of spring buds tingling with life.

Phoebe eagerly awaits the return of spring.

Phoebe eagerly awaits the return of spring.

It has been a long winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and I am thankful that the deep blues of February have passed. Even our dog Phoebe has felt a melancholy lingering as she misses our long family walks together. Icicles make impressive glittering works of art in our neighborhood and I am hard pressed to remember a winter when our snowbanks loomed quite so large. Though there is something about the herald of March that makes one feel that we are turning a corner and ushering in spring.

Icicle art on our house.

Icicle art on our house.

This Saturday, after I returned from the Marquette Food Co-op, I asked Mike to snap a few pictures. Earlier that day I had marveled over the gorgeous selection of greens. Once in

My favorite kind of fresh cut bouquet: Green Chard, Dandelion Greens, and Kale.

My favorite kind of fresh cut bouquet: Green Chard, Dandelion Greens, and Kale.

In my hands they felt like a lovely, verdant bouquet of potential energy. Mike often muses that he is a lucky guy because I am the only woman he has met that does not demand fresh cut flowers for a gift. In the budding stages of our relationship I told him that I did not think a gift that dies in a few days is a profound symbol of lasting love. He laughed when I told him that I did not want flowers unless I could plant them in a garden and enjoy  their perennial blooms. Over the years we have planted lilacs, roses, bleeding hearts, star gazer lilies, and other offerings to nature together that we enjoy watching flourish each summer. Last June for my birthday I received a gorgeous red rose bush from my Saturday Weight Watchers friends for my birthday. I am so excited to watch it come to life and blossom this summer. Summer somehow seems sweeter after a long and bitter winter.

Mike and I found two four leaf clovers when hiking the Heritage Trail in Negaunee in June of 2009. I seek out this image often for inspiration.

Mike and I found two four leaf clovers when hiking the Heritage Trail in Negaunee in June of 2009. I seek out this image often for inspiration.

However, an unforgiving winter can make weight management seem very daunting and I am sure that many of us wish that we had the luck of the Irish to keep ourselves centered and on track. Though, we all know that weight loss has little to do with luck and much to do with hard work and reshaping, not only our muscles, but our lifestyle as well.

My Saturday Weight Watchers team often discusses how we can help make things manageable for our members and ourselves. We strongly feel that the journey we share is reciprocal. Regardless of our age, where we are in our journey, or if we have to lose 5 pounds or 100, we can learn from each other.

Each week of our 12 Week Challenge participants get a sticker for each meeting they attend. Each sticker equals a ticket for the drawing at the end of the challenge.

Each week of our 12 Week Challenge participants get a sticker for each meeting they attend. Each sticker equals a ticket for the drawing at the end of the challenge.

Brenda, is a receptionist for our Saturday meeting and she invited our members to participate in a 12 Week Challenge. We each chose a realistic goal that we wanted to attain within this time period. At the end of the challenge we will hold a drawing for prizes. Participants have generously been bringing in prizes for the drawing. Our meeting team always recommends green prizes that are gently used or even re-gifted.


Wendy's fantastic donation to Brenda's 12 Week Challenge drawing.

Wendy’s fantastic donation to Brenda’s 12 Week Challenge drawing.

In addition, Brenda and I discussed that we would encourage our members to join us in monthly challenges. In January we initiated a highly successful Green Smoothie Challenge and in February a Recipe Round-Up Challenge in which we all tried one new recipe a week that I will be compiling into a cookbook.

For March, we decided to put our heads together and come up with something fun and vastly different than what we have done before. We knew it was important to come up with a fun and functional challenge. So we decided on a March Madness Challenge to encourage our members to spend each day of March focusing on a different aspect of their weight loss/management journey.

This Saturday, our WW friends were given a printout of a calendar for the month of March. Along with the calender was a handout of thirty-nine tasks that Brenda and I came up with to challenge, entertain, reward, and encourage healthy habits. At the end of each day participants are to record the number of the task on the calendar that they completed. On Saturday, March 30th, those who have participated the challenge will bring in their calendar and their name will be put into a drawing to receive a Spring Salad Themed Basket that our Saturday team has created.

The second day into our March Madness Challenge there has already been a flurry of posts and photos on our facebook group page. I can tell already that our meeting will be full of fresh new ideas that we all can adopt to fit into our healthy lifestyle.

The Marquette Weight Watchers Saturday Team. Gini, Amy, and Brenda. We are so excited about the March Madness Challenge!

The Marquette Weight Watchers Saturday Team. Gini, Amy, and Brenda. We are so excited about the March Madness Challenge!

Thank you to Brenda for printing out sheets for all our participants.

Thank you to Brenda for printing out sheets for all our participants.

Here are the thirty-nine tasks that we unveiled to our members on Saturday. We believe that we came up with a challenge that will keep us all motivated, connected, and even inspire silliness and laughter.

March Madness Challenge

  1. Find a quote or mantra to display in an important place. The refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, your phone wallpaper, or on your desk at work.
  2. Have breakfast for dinner.
  3. Set your timer for 7 minutes (or longer) and dance. (If possible play music that was popular when you were in high school)
  4. Have popcorn for a snack and give it a zesty kick by adding one or more of the following: cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, oregano, or a grating of parmesan cheese.
  5. Buy yourself a health or fitness magazine or read a few health/fitness articles on-line.
  6. Buy yourself something special: an article of clothing, a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of nail polish, lipstick, lip gloss, a book, jewelry, or perfume.
  7. Take five minutes and assess your strengths and weaknesses as a WW member. Write down one strength and one weakness and how you are going to build on the strength and improve on the weakness over the next few days.
  8. Write a thank you note to someone in your WW group that has inspired you or shared a tip that you found helpful.
  9. Think about where you want to be in your WW by June. Create a vision board with magazine clippings that represent this goal (a summer activity, the clothing that you want to wear, a special vacation you’re planning) Hang this vision board somewhere you will see it every day http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Make-a-Vision-Board-Find-Your-Life-Ambition-Martha-Beck
  10. Purchase a health or fitness related item: a new workout video, workout outfit, shoes, cookbook, food scale, measuring cups, etc.
  11. Pack daily snacks for the next week.
  12. Buy something silly to keep you accountable to healthy eating or exercise: stickers for your WW tracker or calendar, a weight loss buddy mascot, a fun plate/glass/straws (look in the children’s section for something brightly colored and whimsical), a fun piece of jewelry to use as an anchor.
  13. Turn off the television and computer, light a candle, and enjoy a hobby (read, knit, draw, listen to classical music, or just meditate).
  14. Commit to one Random Act of Kindness: buy a stranger a cup of coffee, pay for someone’s check at a restaurant, leave a large tip, fill out an employee comment card when you get exceptional service at a store, write a thank you note/card to a co-worker, make a food/clothing/cash donation to a charity, make a homemade gift for a friend, or bring in a healthy snack to work to share with a co-worker/work team.
  15. When out shopping or running errands park a few blocks away or take a few extra laps around the store.
  16. Get your healthy oils in with your breakfast.
  17. Write down your top excuse for your #1 WW struggle (exercise, cooking, tracking). Take the piece of paper and burn it, tear it up, or cut it into shreds.
  18. Choose a goal outfit and hang in plain view. (ex: a pair of pants, dress etc. that you would like to fit back into or a swimsuit).
  19. During a television program(s) commit to exercising during commercials (ab crunches, push-ups, lunges, arm weights, walking up and down stairs).
  20. Go without refined sugar for an entire day.
  21. When you feel the desire to mindless munch or snack, grab a piece of gum, have a glass of water, cup of tea, or coffee instead.
  22. Spend 15 minutes working on a project in the house that you have been avoiding (set a timer).
  23. Make sure that every snack you have includes protein.
  24. Compute how much weight you have lost on WW. Weigh corresponding household items that register the same amount. Lift up the items to get a sense of how much weight you have lost. Carry the items around in a backpack or bag for a minute or longer (if you can). Make a mental note or even snap a photo to remind you of how far you’ve come when you are struggling.
  25. Make a list of 5-10 lifestyle changes you have made since starting WW.
  26. Try a Green Smoothie or if you already make them, try a new combination.
  27. Try a new food or recipe that you haven’t made before and give a review on it.
  28. Have a Junk Food Free day.
  29. Drink a glass of water upon waking in the morning for 7 days straight, do you feel more hydrated?
  30. Get 7 or more hours of sleep, being over-tired can be a trigger for snacking and over eating.
  31. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier.
  32. If you Bite It, Write It, Track for 7 days straight and try and meet all of the GHG.
  33. Meal Plan for a week, check your pantry, make your grocery list and shop for what you need.
  34. Put a spare pair of socks and sneakers in your vehicle; you never know when there may be an opportunity to fit in a walk.
  35. Try a new whole grain like Quinoa.  It’s packed with nutrients, fiber and some protein, making it a more filling food.
  36. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for or start a Gratitude Journal.
  37. Try a new work out video or exercise. Check out free workout videos on YouTube or at your local library.
  38. Wait 15 minutes to eat something you think you want to eat.  If you are still thinking about it 15 minutes later, you  really want it; otherwise, it was a passing urge.
  39. Enjoy a piece of fruit with your breakfast today.
  40. Add your own healthy ideas:
    My March Madness Challenge #10: Fun & funky paring knives and an electric green cutting board. I can't wait to use them to cut up fruit and vegetables for snacks, salads, and smoothies!

    My March Madness Challenge #10: Fun & funky paring knives and an electric green cutting board. I can’t wait to use them to cut up fruit and vegetables for snacks, salads, and smoothies!

    I am so lucky to have an amazing support network for the healthy goals that I am chasing down. My Saturday WW meeting is full of inspirational individuals who eagerly take on challenges and accomplish remarkable milestones in the process. We all benefit from hearing a wide range of voices and different ideas, tips, and tricks. I love starting my weekend out with our meeting and it keeps me fueled for the entire week. We are welcoming March with gladness and full and open hearts. Join us for the March Madness Challenge! Best wishes for a strong, active, excuse-free, Power Food filled, and On Program month.

                                                                                                                                      1. l