The benefits of a healthy lifestyle

Benefit of healthy lifestyle photo

The benefits of a healthy lifestyle can seem superficial or self-serving. Living a healthy lifestyle helps you look great, feel stronger, and be more resilient. But it turns out that cultivating healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle is beneficial physically, emotionally, and is important for your interpersonal relationships.

When you look at the causes of anger and frustration, it’s not just from external sources like bad traffic. It turns out that internal or physical forces such as hunger, thirst, bloating, or tiredness can manifest emotionally in the same way that the fear or anger at external sources of stress. Studies have shown that your brain recognizes stress from physical and mental tasks in similar ways, and that hunger can affect likelihood of judges granting parole! And I think we all know what being hangry (angry because you’re hungry) can do for your relationships.

When I first learned about this link between body and mind, I was completely shocked. At the time, I was working as a barista. Most customers were completely lovely, and I enjoyed our daily interactions. However, there were the inevitable negative customers, who at best could be described as cranky. No amount of smiling, customer service, or delicious coffee was ever going to please them. I found that when customers were mean to me, I would then turn around and be less kind to the next customer in line. My negative attitude would follow me back home and infiltrate relationships with friends and family, and it created a chain reaction of negativity!

But then I realized I would sometimes be rude to others for no discernible reason. I found that I was blaming my outbursts on my internal state (like hunger or tiredness), and I got sick of making excuses for why I wasn’t treating others in a kind and generous manner.

After I learned that feeling physically unwell was having the same detrimental effects on my body and relationships as feeling emotionally hurt, I started to take responsibility for how I was feeling emotionally and physically. I began to feed myself right, to get enough sleep, and to diffuse stressful situations.

Because while I may not be able to control how the customer across the counter treats me (or the traffic, the weather, etc etc), I sure as heck can make sure I treat myself well.

If I can stop that chain reaction of negativity just by being kind to my body, it’s my duty to do so!

And from there, my philosophy of “feel good first” was born:

Take care of yourself. Honor your body, listen to it, and do what helps you to grow and shine. And from that place of goodness and strength, nourish others as well. Help them to feel their best and to be happy that they crossed paths with you. It is your gift to others.

As you venture into your work week, how can you elevate your good feelings, so you can bring goodness to others as well? I’d love to hear if you have experienced negative emotions because of physical issues — how do you treat others when you’re not feeling your best?

Lead image courtesy of

Packing for Healthy Travel



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I love traveling. Experiencing the food, culture, and people in a new place always leaves me refreshed, excited, and with tons of new ideas and perspectives swimming through my head.

But, traveling is also tough on my body. A lot of this can be attributed to sleep deprivation and jet lag, but the changes to my diet and activity levels also play a huge role. After a few trips where I found myself sick, tired, and not my usual contented self, I realized that it was time to take matters into my own hands. I had to be prepared when I travel, because “calories don’t count on vacation” simply is not a mantra I can live by.

On a recent trip to South America, I really hit the sweet spot of taking care of my body and mind while on vacation. As I always do when I travel, I worked in some time for morning coffee and yoga to keep me grounded to my usual daily habits. But, I also packed a “healthy travel pack” of food, supplements, and gear to prepare for the inevitable germs, crazy plans, and long flights we would be facing. I was so happy with how the healthy travel pack helped me out during my trip that I wanted to share its contents with you!

What I loved most about my healthy travel pack is that by keeping me feeling good physically, I was able to be present for all of the amazing experiences, sites, and sounds in a foreign country.

What do your travel routines look like? Please share any “must haves” for your travel pack in the comments below! I’m always looking for ways to travel healthier and smarter.

Sam’s Healthy Travel Pack

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We are all meant to shine

We are all meant to shine example

Download your custom wallpaper for iPhone 5 here!

As I shared recently, I have been dabbling in meditation for many years, and am currently trying once again to build a consistent practice. Over the last few days, this poem by Marianne Williamson has been popping up in my head again and again:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The part of this poem I love the most:

We are all meant to shine

I love this quote because it is empowering for yourself, but I find it’s also an amazing reminder of how to treat others. We are all meant to shine. We are all equal. We all are worthy of respect and love.

For me, “we are all meant to shine” also means that we are all worthy of feeling happy and healthy.

We should exercise, and eat well, and rest, because we all have the capacity to be strong and feel awesome. “We are all meant to shine” is why we take care and honor our bodies. I have been using this idea of “shining” in my yoga teaching – there has been a lot of heart opening, lotus mudra, and empowering poses like Warrior 2.

But I wanted a more consistent reminder of this quote and the sentiment behind it. When I saw Austin Kleon’s custom lock screen, I thought it would be a great idea to make a wallpaper for this great quote! So, I created this little custom lock screen wallpaper for iPhone 5. Hopefully it will also resize nicely for other iPhone 4 or Android phones, but I am not a developer, so apologies if it’s a little crude!

To get the wallpaper on your phone:

Simply download this picture and save the image to the camera roll on your phone. Then, open your camera roll, select the photo and choose “set as wallpaper”. Note that you’ll need to resize the photo (zoom all the way out) to make it display correctly.

I am loving this makeover for my lock screen and homescreen, and I hope you like it too!

Also note – I am new at this custom wallpaper thing, so please let me know how the downloading goes!

Why I don’t meditate during my commute

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Image by Mo Riza

I have a lot of things to occupy my time. Between school work, coaching, my personal yoga practice, and yoga teacher training…not to mention quality time with my boyfriend, friends, and family…my day fills up pretty quickly.

I have been struggling with building a meditation practice for years. I have jumped on and fallen off many times. I try 10 minutes a day. Eyes open. Eyes closed. Guided. Silent. I have a repertoire of strategies I use to try to stick to a consistent practice, but as of yet I haven’t been successful.

As I was pondering my newest strategy to trick myself into maintaining a meditation practice, I suddenly realized “Aha!! I’ll meditate during my commute!” I have a 15-20 minute bus ride to work each day, and I could spend this time in quiet meditation. I have seen this concept touted many times…meditation is one of those things like sodoku, learning a language, or catching up on emails that is supposed to take the wasted time of commuting and make it useful to us (funny how obsessed we are of making everyone moment useful…).
But as I was imagining what my commute meditation practice would look like, I realized that meditating during my commute wouldn’t work.
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What is on your 15 minute to-do list?

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I admit – I love making my to-do lists. I tend to write my to-do list in the evening, so I can wake up the next day refreshed and ready to get to work. The best part about writing my list at night is that I can go to bed with an empty head and without fear that I’m going to forget something. This system is much preferable to the days where I lived without a to-do list, and at night I would lie in bed, planning my day…especially because even with all of that disruption to my sleep, I would still find myself without clear direction the next day.

Recently, I discovered another great way for my to-do list to help my life run a little smoother:

I created a “15 minute tasks” section on my to-do list!

The 15 minute section of my to-do list is a catch all for tasks that take 15 minutes or less. This list includes emails I need to reply to, forms I need to fill out or bills I need to pay, or daily habits I like to keep up on, like meditating or practicing Italian. Continue reading…

Weekly Newsletter

Sunday Reading

Did you know that I share bonus content, recipes, health tips, and songs in my weekly newsletter? I send it out every Sunday morning, and it includes interesting news and links from across the web that you won’t find on the blog, or via twitter.

This newsletter is my favorite thing to put together and share with my readers. Check out this week’s news, or these past issues to see if you’d be interested in receiving it on the regular.

If you like what you see, subscribe here and share with friends who would be interested!

Thanks for joining!


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Getting healthy with friends

Friends on paddleboard
My sisters and I clowning around on the paddleboard at Lake Erie

Food brings people together. It is used celebrate and share in cultures around the world, and the social aspects of food are a major reason why I got into the nutrition field. However, when I first embarked on my journey of eating and living healthier, I came up against a problem: the only thing I did with my friends was eat.

Building relationships around food is universal – we meet first dates over coffee or a drink. We have friends we regularly meet for ice cream, a glass of wine, or dinner. We are creatures of habit, and it is apparent in where and when we meet with our friends and family.

Having habits or activities you always do with certain friends is not a bad thing! But for me, these habits became an issue once I wanted to stop my weekly ice cream habit, or consume just a little less wine. I realized that if I wanted to keep up my relationships with friends, while still transforming my health routines, I needed to find other activities to do with my friends! Wanting to improve my health was the nudge I needed to get out of my old habits and explore some different options.

So I did! I went to dance and yoga classes, formed a book club, and started making dinner for friends, rather than eating out. A weekly walk with a friend through the neighborhoods of my town became a great way to connect more deeply and to get moving on lazy Sunday mornings. And what did I find?

Making these changes actually improved my relationships with those around me. It seems surprising at first, but by getting out of our comfort zones and doing new things, me and my friends talked about different things, shared new experiences, and laughed quite a lot (particularly in our hip-hop dance class…).

It can be scary to shake up our routines or try something new. But the benefits can be huge. Particularly because you don’t have to choose between meeting your health goals and meeting with your friends. For me, my relationships and health began to support each other, bringing more ease and enjoyment to my daily life. It is really cool.

But what activities do you choose? Here are some ideas of ways you can get some quality time in with your friends without worrying about straying from your health goals.

Activities with Friends:

  • Go to an exercise class together.

    Who else is better to sweat it out with you in yoga, spin, or dance class than your friends? Having a friend in class will make it more fun, and you’ll have lots to talk about afterwards. Find a class that either you or your friend have been wanting to try, or something totally new for both of you!

  • Windowshop.

    Are you a city dweller? How about setting up a date to window shop down the nearest stretch of stores? Browsing, rather than having a dedicated shopping trip, allows you to spend more time together and to keep moving.

  • Join a team.

    Kickball, soccer, dodgeball, ultimate frisbee…adult leagues are popping up all over the country, and is a great activity that can keep you and your good friend seeing each other on the regular. Plus, you get to meet lots of other fun people who like to exercise! (Just watch out for too many post-win beers!)

  • Hit the trails.

    There are bound to be beautiful woods, trails, and parks nearby that you have yet to explore. Get your dose of nature on a beautiful day with a friend.

The key to changing up your routines, as is always the case, is flexibility. It is about expanding your horizons and getting to experience new things with your friends, so you don’t have to choose between following your health plan and spending time with those you love. Of course you are going to still get an iced cream or a beer, or have a date for burgers, and that is great! But by adding in some different activities, it keeps your relationships fresh, and keeps you both healthier.

What are your favorite ways to get active with friends?

Build healthy habits one at a time

Image courtesy of

Looking to jumpstart a daily flossing habit? On the first day, get out your floss, and only floss one tooth. On the second day, you can floss two teeth. The third day – floss three. After a month or so, you are used to getting your floss out every evening, and are getting your entire mouth the good treatment. When I learned about this strategy a few days ago, it reminded me a lot of my own strategy for starting a new healthy habit: I identify an actionable first step and build my health goal around that process. For the example of flossing, this works because for many of us, the issue is getting the floss out in the first place. Once we floss one tooth, it’s a lot easier to take care of all of them.

There’s another reason why this strategy works so well for ingraining your flossing habit:

It leaves you wanting more.

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Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #5

Evaluate nutrition claims on products

Welcome back to another post in our healthy grocery store shopping series! This series is designed to help you be a more efficient, healthier, happier shopper. Last time, we talked about shopping the perimeter first: buy the fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and fresh bread before you head into the aisles to pick up the processed stuff. Once you do make your way into the labyrinth, you’re ready for Tip #5:

Beware products bearing gifts (particularly nutritious ones).

There are many subtle (or not so subtle) nutrition messages on the front of food products that are designed to catch your eye and snag a sale. As a savvy grocery shopper, these nutrition claims are a signal for you to inspect that product a little further, and decide if what the company is claiming is actually of benefit to you.

Let’s look at various messages common to most packaged products:
ront Label of cereal box

Cereal box photo courtesy of

On the front of this box of Frosted Flakes, the left side has the usual players — the manufacturer, brand name, the dazzling smile of Tony the Tiger, but on the right, I noted the appeals to both parents (nutritious!) and children (toys!) to buy the product. The toys are a pretty obvious sell, and it’s probably a losing battle to get your kids to not be tempted by those free gifts. But I’d like to spend the rest of this post deciphering some of the nutrition claims found on products, so you can make an informed decisions about which products to buy and consume.

Common Nutrition Claims Deconstructed

  • Cholesterol Free!

    What does this message actually mean? That the product is made from plants. Only animal-based foods (milk, meat, eggs) have cholesterol! On the one hand, this message is great: the manufacturers didn’t have to do any special processing or add weird ingredients to make your products cholesterol free! On the other hand, it’s a little misleading to think that the label denotes an extra level of healthfulness above that in other similar products.

  • Now with less fat! (or less sugar).

    This message is a big warning sign that the ingredients have changed since you last bought the product. Fat and sugar are very important for the deliciousness and shelf stability of a product. So if a product has been reformulated to decrease the fat (for example), there may have been an increase in sugar, salt, or other ingredients to keep it tasty, keep the consistency of the product, and keep it shelf stable. When you see a “now with”, check the back of the box to see if what ingredients may have been substituted in, and make sure the new formulation still aligns with your health needs.

  • High Fiber!

    Similar to the cholesterol message, high fiber does not have to be a bad thing. If anything, we need more fiber in our diets! There are two possible reason why your product say high fiber: either the food is naturally high in fiber (because of flax seeds, dried fruit, or whole grains), or a bunch of ingredients were added to the product to increase it’s fiber content. Some of these fiber additives can increase abdominal discomfort (read: gas), so added fiber is something to watch out for if you haven’t been feeling so great after eating certain products. If you’re searching for added fiber on the ingredient list, watch out for “bran” ingredients.

Double check the price of products with nutrition claims on the front.

Some better-for-you products truly do cost more because it takes higher quality ingredients, a slower process, or a specialized workforce to make that good quality product. However, sometimes, the price are higher only because of the health claim, and not because they actually cost more to produce. When you see a claim attached to a higher price tag, take a step back to evaluate what their enhancement is, and if you actually feel that the benefit provided by the product is a worthy trade off for the price.

What are other common nutrition claims do you see on the front of products you buy? Do they influence your purchasing decisions?