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The Journey of a Lifetime

This year I have decided to do something big, something big for my practice, big for my family, and big for myself. Although I am coming to learn that for it to truly impact how I intend, I need all of my energy to channel on how to help others rather than on how it could benefit me. So, I have decided to take my yoga practice to the next level and become a teacher. As of the beginning of September, I officially started Yoga Teacher Training (YTT).  

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Spring Break

What does Spring Break mean to you? Do you define it with images of wet t-shirt contests and binge drinking at a seedy motel on the beach? Or do you imagine tranquil oceans and reading a book in a lounge chair? Perhaps the phrase means a family trip to Disney world or a vacation to visit grandma and grandpa in Arizona. The point is we all have definitions of spring break and regardless of what they are most of us imagine Spring Break as an opportunity to leave the cold, get some sunshine and get away.

What if I told you there was more to Spring Break than you imagine? What if I told you that the theory, the reasoning, and even the method behind Spring Break goes deeper than just a trip to the beach? Would you look at it different? Would you still be bummed when you can’t manage to take a trip? Would you find a different way to get your Spring Break??

This year Spring Break held a much different meaning for me. This is the year I started a new chapter of my nutrition career. I started teaching at Bemidji State University, granted it is only an adjunct position but never the less, I am a new instructor so it is very time consuming. I have found myself the last few weeks thinking more and more about Spring Break. I have had several thoughts about it… These range from wishing I was going somewhere warm, to being grateful to be able to finally catch up on all my grading and maybe get ahead with some lesson planning. The cold weather definitely has me wishing we were headed south, but lingering on that line of thought isn’t healthy either because I cant change that now. No vacation is planned and quite frankly, no vacation is possible until May. Does that mean I don’t get a break? Does that mean I should take that time to work harder and catch up like my thoughts are leading me to think?

For any of you that know me well, you know that my first thought when I have free time is: “What work can I fill this time with?” Even now, I am taking the 15 minutes before I bring the kids to school to write a blog. It’s hard for me to take a break and relax and not work. Even when I do take a break I end up filling it with household activities or try to see a friend or do something with the kids so that I can justify the time I spent away from work. Some would call me a workaholic, some might say I am dedicated, others still would say I’m a perfectionist or quite possibly that I’m a little nuts. What I say is that I am unorganized and inefficient with my time management which, results in me having to work harder and longer than is necessary. Whether there is truth in my assessment of myself or not, I can tell you that even if I managed my time well I would probably just find more work to do. The point is I am not familiar or comfortable with a break.

As I sat and pondered what I would get done over that week and excitedly drew up massive ‘To-Do’ lists, I began to have doubts. What if I was looking at Spring Break wrong? What if I shouldn’t be using that time to catch up? Maybe I should take a break? I am all about honesty and there is no time to change that now, so I will be frank. This scared the shit out of me. Take a break?!?!? Are you nuts?!??! (This is the conversation I had in my head) To me taking a break means falling behind and that means more stress later. But wait a minute; don’t I tell my clients to take time for them selves? Don’t I tell them that meditation, yoga, quiet contemplation, mindless tasks, reading, just sitting are all good things for them? Would they not equally be good for me? Could it be justifiable to read a book mid day instead of only late at night when I should be sleeping? Could it be justifiable to read a juicy romance instead of the latest diet trend/entrepreneur/make it big/self help book of the month? For that matter, why do I need to justify it?

This post has a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. But that’s what its intended for. Just as I need to consider and contemplate what this break could mean for me so to do you all need to think about what it means to you. Perhaps you have no kids and have graduated college years ago so Spring Break is something you used to watch on MTV but means little to you these days. Or perhaps you do have kids and Spring Break is a time that you have to take off of work or scramble to find a babysitter for that week. Whatever your situation in life I want you to think about the meaning of Spring Break as it applies to you. Remind yourself that Spring Break isn’t just reserved for wild 21 year olds; Spring Break is necessary for us all. Think about what it is on a basic level. It’s a break in the springtime.

A break. A moment to breathe. A chance. A chance to close your eyes. An opportunity to consider the change of season, to consider the changes in your own life. To relish in the opportunity that the rebirth of the earth gives you. To plan your own rebirth in a sense, your own coming out of the cold winter. What are some things you want to do this year? I realize for many of us the year starts when the calendar year begins or perhaps it starts with the school year. For me spring is like a new year to me. I love rebirth and renewal and nothing screams that more than spring.

So go ahead and take your Spring Break to a deeper level. If you can sneak a little ‘get away’ in then do it! If you cant try to take your break mentally. Put a new screen saver of a beach scene on your computer. Go for a walk on a sunny day outside. No sunny days? Give yourself a spring-cleaning task. Clean out a closet. Not wanting to clean for your break? Go to the book store and randomly pick out a new book. Don’t take the time to compare, just pick out the first one you are drawn to. Go home and start that new book. Even take your spring break to practice Hygge. Not sure what that is? Google it. Whatever you do make sure to utilize this time. Make sure to relish it, whether you take a day, a weekend or even a week. Be sure to take your break this spring. I know I will.


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New Year, New You!

Are you ready to kick start those new years resolutions? Maybe you are thinking about adding some nutrition and fitness in? Perhaps this is the year to get your diabetes in order? Could it be you are looking to start a brand new wellness journey? 

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Glad thats over....

Raise of hands, how many of you are happy the holidays are over? Its ok to raise your hand, no one can see you. I for one am glad. Its not that I don’t love the holidays, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year… but it is also my most unproductive time of the year, its my most stressed time of the year, its my most expensive time of the year and its my unhealthiest time of the year.

About November 15th things start to go down hill for me. With work my clients start having to reschedule due to family things. I also start having to reschedule due to the kids’ school events and activities. Weather starts to turn and some work gets set aside due to accessibility. Plus the workday suddenly feels busier with all these projects to finish with end of the year deadlines. On the home front we start prepping for the first big holiday meal around this time, Thanksgiving. This is also when you start negotiating time with family. Who will we see on Thanksgiving, who gets Christmas Eve, what about Christmas day? Plus it’s time to start scheduling in all the “required” holiday events such as baking, volunteer work, Christmas parties and Christmas shopping. And you know we all have our certain Holiday traditions that we do each year that we look forward to and need to find a spot on the calendar. These include Christmas movie nights, ice skating, sledding, building a snowman, and even going for hot chocolate seems to be more special and a requirement this time of year. We cant skip any of these, they make us feel too good, in fact we almost get a little intense about setting aside time for stuff like this. We cozy up to the season and tell ourselves we have to do this, that it’s temporary, we remind ourselves not to be a Grinch or to be bah humbug. And to not be too rigid we try to leave ourselves open for spontaneous get-together’s with friends. After all we want to enjoy the time and take advantage of the festive attitude of the season.


Now I want to make sure I am clear that I am not a Scrooge and I don’t see anything wrong with all of the above but there is something to be said about taking it too far and when is enough enough. And it should be pointed out that with all these schedule additions and extra merry making, something has to give. You cant have your cake and eat it too.

So what gives? Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too? Well for one there isn’t enough time. We all still live the same lives we did the month before. Most of don’t suddenly get to take a paid month off, we don’t suddenly not have to pay the normal every day bills. We still have to live life.

What gives for each of us, or what we are willing to sacrifice is different for us all. For me the first thing to go is work, I always feel like I can catch up the next day so its ok to slack and take a day for shopping or baking. Plus, I know how busy I am year round so I justify taking time off to spend it with my family. This starts to affect my financial state so my stress is affected. Then my sleep starts to go. I blame the start of less sleep on Christmas movies. There are just so many holiday movies that I like to watch that the only way to get them all in is to stay up late. But just one night of a midnight bedtime throws me off. This majorly disrupts my sleep cycle making me wake up later. Since I am still working though, its not feasible for me to get up later, so I set an alarm clock and try to get back into my routine but instead I feel more and more tired all day, yet wide awake at night. This creates a cycle of fatigue and exhaustion during the season. The next thing to go is my health, of course lack of sleep affects your health but also the extra stress of the season is a major contributor here, I mentioned one source for stress above, but there are many offenders here. This time of year my stress levels go through the roof. This coupled with poor sleep and suddenly my immune health is in the toilet. I end up spending most of the holiday season with a sniffle or worse. Another things that affects my health is what I eat. I start eating less healthy this time of year. Easy meals of salads and veggies are now replaced with huge meat and cheese platters, appetizer dips and Christmas cookies. There are holiday teas loaded with desserts at the office and candy every place you go in town. Even at home the holiday movie nights are accompanied by nachos or pizza. There are more elaborate large high carb meals on the weekends. Then the following week these leftovers fill our lunch boxes. And finally my activity decreases. I go from working out and doing yoga a few times a week to barely getting on the treadmill and not remembering the last time I stretched.

Looking back I can pinpoint the day this cascade started. I saw the writing on the wall so to say and could have taken steps to slow the progression and minimize the damage, or I did as I always do and that is close my eyes and let myself fall neck deep into Holiday madness.

Now lets look at another component of the holiday season and another reason we all love the new year. There is no time of year that breeds guilt better than the holidays. And not time of year that we feel eager to change this than the first of January. Lets say after you read this you decided to do it all different next year and not do any of the things above. You decide to not watch the movies with your kids, you decide to not bake cookies for your husbands co-workers, you decide not to buy gifts for your group of highschool friends, you deicide to cancel your annual wine tasting night, and you even decide not to visit Santa at Macys. Do you think you would make it through the season unscathed? I have news for you, instead of the merry making stress to wear you down, you will get an overdose of scrooge guilt. Watch Christmas with the Kranks if you need clarification. If we didn’t do all that we do we would feel tremendous guilt. It is human nature to feel guilt. And as I stated above the holiday season is a petri dish for guilt. Image you would feel guilt for not taking time for family when others have traveled hundreds of miles. You would feel it for not bringing your kids to the Christmas lights village. It would be especially heavy when you don’t get them the gift they asked Santa for because you decided not to visit Santa and they never got to sit on his lap. It would be present after you turn down the invite to the annual friends-giving. Again for not participating in the office cookie exchange. The guilt you would feel for not sending Christmas every time you receive one in the mail. The guilt of not having a gift for the UPS driver this year! I could go on and on but you get the point. The list is endless. I truly believe that guilt avoidance is ultimately what drives our choices each holiday season. We feel like we are doing things because we want to and some things we probably do want to do. But a lot of things are done out of obligation and an attempt to avoid guilt.

I feel guilt because I work too hard, then I feel guilt for not working enough. I feel guilt for not seeing enough of extended family but then I feel guilt for not enough intimate one on one family time either. I feel guilt if I don’t work out, but then I also feel guilt if I don’t indulge in the season a bit. No matter what guilt is going to visit every December whether we want him there or not. He’s like Cousin Eddy, we don’t really like him around but somehow he always ends up reminding us of what we should be thankful for.

To conclude this ridiculously long post I want to say that if you are looking for a solution to holiday stress, guilt, busyness, whatever, then you have come to the wrong blog. I don’t have the answer for you. Sure I could take bits and pieces from my various self help books and encourage you to take time for yourself, to forgive yourself, to meditate, to put first things first and prioritize but truthfully you already know that. You don’t need some 30 something dietitian-mom-blogger telling you to do that. What you need is to discover what works on your own, or you just need someone to say its ok. Because you know what it is ok. None of us are ever going to do everything right at all times. Unless we move to the Russian tundra, I don’t see the holiday seasons demands changing for any one of us. My little bit of advice to you is to do what I have started this year. I started saying no to a few things. I’m not saying its working, I mean look at this post, this was not written out of a “zen” state of mind… I also am currently battling the ultimate lingering cold… I am super broke and not sure how to pay bills next week… I have no new clients scheduled for the new year... and I am behind on all my projects which have to be done in about 3 days. Am I doing things right? Doubtful. But is it a little better than last year? Probably. Did we spend a little less than last year? Absolutely. Did I eat a little less bad food since I didn’t bake for 3 days strait? Without a doubt. Did not attending a few holiday events curb a few calories and prevent a few hangovers? For sure. So see sometimes there isn’t an earth shattering, ground breaking, move mountains solution. Sometimes the answer is that there is no answer. Sometimes we first have to learn to be ok with the mess before we can clear things out.

A funny little quip before I end, this picture I found on my phone and through the date I realized it was from last year, but the tree and decorations are exactly the same as they are in my house this year. Why? Because that’s what my family likes and I would feel guilty if I let them down…. ;)

Happy New Year everyone!


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Jessica Carter MS, RD, LD

Meet Jessica

Jessica Carter is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She is the founder and president of Core Health & Nutrition, LLC.

As a wife, mother, and dedicated professional, Jessica is passionate about living life to the fullest while still maintaining balance.

Jessica founded Core Health & Nutrition on the fundamental belief that with the right information and a little bit of motivation, anyone can have good health. She also believes that the ability to prevent disease and lead a healthy life is all about making the right choices. It is the mission of Core Health & Nutrition to provide clients with the knowledge, the tools and the motivation to make the best decisions for their health.

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