Six Strategies for Managing Holiday Stress

By Katie, 5:30 am

For those of us who celebrate, the week of Christmas is officially upon us. We’re in the thick of all the holiday cheer…but also the stress that so often accompanies it. :-?


To help make the most of this week – and hopefully emerge feeling more joyful than frazzled – I’ve outlined a few strategies I’m going to try to implement.

Six Strategies for Managing Holiday Stress

1. Survive, not Prevent

To a certain degree, and especially at this time of year, stress is unavoidable. Which means that if my goal is to prevent stress in the first place, I’m not likely to be successful, as I cannot control the world. (I know, shocking!) So instead my goal is to simply survive the stressful situations, knowing they are just one part of my holiday experience.

2. Identify the Signals

I don’t know about you, but often stress creeps up on me and catches me by surprise. I’m cruising along just fine and then – BAM! – I realize I am totally freaking out. I’ve learned to watch carefully for my body’s stressed-out signs and signals, so I’m not caught so off-guard.

These physical signals are different for each person. When I’m stressed, the first sign is that I begin having extremely vivid, memorable dreams. I guess because I’m failing to give my brain downtime during the day, it just keeps chugging along at night!

3. Schedule Self-Care NOW!

I’m looking at the upcoming week and thinking about how I’m going to prioritize my own well-being – through things like exercise, deep breathing, and just a few moments of peace amidst the rush.

4. Cut Yourself a Break

No, Katie, the Christmas cookies don’t have to be perfect. No, Katie, the presents don’t have to look like they were wrapped professionally. (FACT: I stink at gift wrapping!)

5. Remain Present.

You know what I hate? When I get so caught up in planning for an event that I forget to stop and enjoy it. Then it’s over and I’m left wishing I had slowed down to really enjoy it. Not this year!

6. Appreciate the Joy of Giving

For Christians, this holiday is about celebrating God’s gift of Jesus. And for everyone, it’s about passing the love around a little more than we normally do. There is true joy to be found in celebrating our loved ones through the act of giving – be it through our presents, our time, or our thoughts and prayers.

What strategies are you using to manage stress this holiday season?


On Point #2, what physical signs does your body give that you’re under a little too much stress?

The Best Fudge I’ve Ever Eaten

By Katie, 5:01 am

Need I say more?

Probably not, but I will anyway. ;-)

Remember my brother, the keyboard player in my healthified holiday jingles video? Well, I wanted to find a yummy way to thank him for providing such beautiful background music for my silly lyrics. So I decided to make one of his all-time favorites: peanut butter fudge.

I was delighted when I discovered that fudge is shockingly easy to make!

Basically all I did was melt together peanut butter and regular butter, and then mix in some powdered sugar. And by “some,” I mean a lot. This recipe is not for those who make comments like, “This dessert is just too sweet for me.” ;-)  

I spooned the mixture into a glass dish lined with parchment paper, then let it sit in the refrigerator until it cooled. Cut it up into bite-sized squares, and voila!

After one bite my brother said – and I quote – “this is the best fudge I’ve ever eaten.” Trust me, that means a lot. :-)

The Best Peanut Butter Fudge
Seen on Erin’s Food Files, originally from Alton Brown

1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar

1. Place butter and peanut butter in a large microwave safe bowl; microwave for 2 minutes on high.

2. Stir and microwave on high for another two minutes.

3. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir to combine with a wooden spoon (mixture will be thick).

4. Spoon into an 8 X 8 pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick spray. Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the fudge and refrigerate until cool.

5. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

Have you ever made your own fudge before?

What’s something you’ve cooked or baked that turned out to be way easier to make than you expected?

Authenticity Round-Up

By Katie, 5:10 am

Thanks for all the fun comments on my spoofed holiday jingles! We had a blast making that video!

Also, thanks to everyone who participated – either through a post or through commenting – in this month’s Self-Discovery, Word by Word series.

I know “authenticity” wasn’t an easy word, but you all certainly rose to the occasion! Here’s the collection of posts I received, all of which look at the topic from a slightly different angle.

Happy reading!

Sunflowers ‘N Daisies: Authenticity

Being Joy: Just Be You

Health for the Whole Self: Are You For Real?

Honoring Health: Pure Authenticity

Peaces of Earth: The Spark of Authenticity

Ascension Blog: Authentic Nobody?

Nourishing the Soul: Authenticity Equals Power

Walking in the Rain: Finding My True Authentic Self

Rosie is a Loser!: Authenticity: A Strength or Weakness?

Healthy Cultivations: Balancing the Onion: Authenticity in Blogging

Mind, Body & Scroll: Authenticity: Being True But Growing Too

The Chameleon’s Backbone: The Art of Authenticity

Jumbling Towers: Authenticity vs. Anonymity

OCPD – Scattered Thoughts from the Front Lines: Naughty or Nice – Not Always So Easy to Figure Out

Health MiSfitS: Authenticity: The Complexities of Truth

Weightless: Authenticity & Body Image

Thanks again to everyone who participated. Look out for January’s installment of the series!

Health for the Whole Self Holiday Jingles

By Katie, 5:40 am

Warning! Warning! Major Nerd Alert!!!

A few weeks ago I randomly got the idea to take some well-known holiday songs and give them a makeover – Health for the Whole Self-style. Fortunately my loved ones were willing to humor me. They’re good sports like that. ;-)

I present to you: Health for the Whole Self Holiday Jingles

Jingle Bells
Jingle bells
South Beach smells
Atkins laid an egg
Weight Watchers I don’t prefer
’cause points ruin my day, hey!

Jingle bells
South Beach smells
Atkins laid an egg
Weight Watchers I don’t prefer
Its rule I won’t obey!

Rudy the Intuitive Eater
Rudy the Intuitive Eater took a very different approach
She thought that going on a diet was even worse than seeing a roach

All of the nearby dieters used to laugh and call her names (like hippie!)
They thought that trusting your body sounded foolish and just plain lame!

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Rudy savored her pie
She ate when hungry and stopped when full
And didn’t stress over her thighs

Then all the dieters loved her, as they shouted out with glee (yippee!)
Rudy the Intuitive Eater, your approach sounds good to me!

Diets, Diets, Diets
Diets, diets, diets
Won’t help you lose the weight
Diets, diets, diets
Don’t have to be your fate

Skinny, skinny, skinny
Won’t bring you lasting joy
Skinny, skinny, skinny
Its pursuit you won’t enjoy

Eating, eating, eating
It’s not your enemy
Eating, eating, eating
Let go and just be free!

Deck the Halls
Deck the halls with cake and cookies
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Stop depriving of the goodies
Fa la la la la, la la la la
No more “good” food, no more “bad” food
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
There’s no reason to exclude
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Frosty the Runner
Frosty the Runner liked to exercise for fun
He never thought about calories, just the pleasure of the run

Frosty the Runner started training for a race
He didn’t care about his time or worry about his pace

His legs got really tired as he trained for that 5K
But he felt no guilt and no regret
And rested his body that day

Frosty the Runner would avoid getting burnt out
By listening to his body’s cues and trusting them, no doubt

There wasn’t any magic at the finish line that day
He ran his race and ran it well
‘Cause he went the healthy way

Frosty the Runner is a model for us all
That working out shouldn’t be a pain, it’s about having a ball

Dashity, dash, dash, dashity, dash, dash
Look at Frosty run
Dashity, dash, dash, dashity, dash
He’s having so much fun!

The Night Before Christmas
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Katie paced and she paced and said to her spouse:

“Help me think of a rhyme before I despair;
A story of true health I do want to share.

Health for the body AND health for the head;
The message is simple but not yet widespread.

Mere care for the body is surely a trap;
Don’t dismiss meditation as new-agey crap.

The myth of perfection I do want to shatter;
Living life to the fullest is what really matters.

How do I tell them their efforts will crash
If they don’t throw their dieting books in the trash?

It’s not about calories, sizes, or points;
A focus on these things will just disappoint.

True health is broader: mind, body, and soul;
We’d all be much wiser to give up control.”

Then Dave said to Katie, “This is your dismissal
Your rhyming is awesome; it’s clear as a whistle.”

Katie went to her MacBook, wrote on her website
Healthy whole self to all and to all a good night!

We Wish You Some Self-Acceptance
We wish you some self-acceptance
We wish you some self-acceptance
We wish you some self-acceptance
And some self-love this year.

You don’t need to change
You’re great as you are.
Take care of your whole self
With some self-love this year!


If by chance you’re still in need of a good laugh, check out the outtakes! :lol:

Hope you had as much fun watching these as we had making them! Happy Holidays! :-)

p.s. There are still a few more 2011 Inspirational Calendars left!

Distinguishing Emotional and Physical Hunger

By Katie, 5:51 am

If you’ve never struggled with any kind of eating issue, you may think the title of this post is downright silly. You may think I’m wasting my time dissecting something as simple and straightforward as hunger. You may accuse me of over-thinking the issue, a charge with which I am all too familiar.

Yet if you have ever struggled with an eating concern, the title of my post probably doesn’t faze you at all. You’ve probably found, like I have, that hunger is not always simple and straightforward.


I’m reading along with the virtual book club on the intuitive eating blog Honoring Health, and we’re just starting to examine the book Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers. In the first section, Albers addresses the question “What is hunger?” Again, the initial reaction may be that that is an elementary question; we all are familiar with what hunger feels like. But Albers’ definition of hunger highlights just how complex it can be:

Hunger is a biological urge satisfied by the complex interactions between your physiological responses to food, your emotions before, during, and after eating, and your thoughts about your body and self, all in conjunction with your constantly evolving moods and desires and nutrient needs (p. 8).

There have certainly been times when I’ve found myself pretty confused and frustrated over my hunger. Sometimes I’ll think I feel a physical hunger pang, but I’ve been so stressed that day that I’m not entirely sure it’s not an emotional urge. Sometimes I think I’m physically craving the taste of a particular food, but I’m not entirely sure because of my emotional associations with that food. Hmmmmm…

Fortunately, I’m getting a lot better at distinguishing the two. I came across this handout on the Traits of Emotional Hunger from the University of New Hampshire, and I thought I’d share the measurable, concrete differences that I’ve experienced.


- Grows steadily. I gradually go from feeling full, to neutral, to slightly hungry, to very hungry, to wanting to chew off my own arm, etc.

- Promotes mindfulness. When I’m physically hungry, paying full attention to my food seems like a joy!

- Can wait. When I first get a hunger signal, I can be patient; I don’t have to satisfy it immediately.


- Comes on suddenly. When I seem to go from perfectly satisfied to totally ravenous in an instant, it usually indicates that I need to check in with myself before heading to the kitchen.

- Hinders mindfulness. When I’m eating out of emotional hunger, paying full attention to my food seems like a dreaded chore. And yet in those cases it’s more important than ever to make an effort to tune in!

- Can’t wait. I want to eat NOW.

Of course, the process doesn’t end here; distinguishing emotional and physical hunger is only the first step. And yet it’s an essential one. Because once I know for sure whether the urge is physical or emotional, I’m a whole lot better at satisfying it effectively, either by eating or by figuring out what I really need.

How about you? Have you ever struggled to distinguish emotional and physical hunger, or has it always been pretty obvious?

Please stop back tomorrow for a very special post that’s meant to bring a big smile to your face! :-)

Deck the Halls!

By Katie, 8:28 am

Let the season begin!

I don’t know what it is about Christmas trees, but I have a hard time not being in a good mood whenever I’m around one. :-)

The photos of this tree don’t do it justice. The only thing missing is a topper, which Dave and I have yet to get. But we have plenty of ornaments! That’s because the tradition in my family was that every Christmas I would get a new ornament, so that by the time I had my own tree I would have acquired my own collection. It worked!

Some of my favorites:

Love this one we got as a wedding present!

A Ravens sled for Baltimore…

…and a crab for Maryland!

And what tree is complete without a cotton ball sheep? ;-)

To help us start the season right, my mom sent us this lovely surprise!

I think it’s absolutely beautiful; it makes me smile every time I walk through my front door. :-)

All-in-all, Dave and I had a great time decorating, even though we got little to no help from the other members of our household.

Lazy bums. ;-)

Do you celebrate at this time of year? If so, have you decorated your house for the occasion?


If you put up a Christmas tree, what do you use as a topper?

How To Change…By Not Changing At All

By Katie, 5:38 am

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” —Carl Jung

I was in 10th grade when I first started hating my thighs.

I mean really hating my thighs. And I convinced myself that if I just hated them enough, it would motivate me to do something about them. In my bedroom I hung up an unflattering photo of myself – one that clearly displayed my detested thighs – because I believed it would incite me to change.

Well, guess what? Hating my thighs didn’t change them at all. All it did was create a vicious cycle of dieting and bingeing that led to nothing except more thigh-hating.


Eventually I got sick of hating my thighs, and instead began embracing this life-altering idea: if I want to change something, I first need to stop striving to change it. I first need to accept my situation - my thighs, my life, whatever – exactly as it is. I first need to just be.

It sounds a little wishy-washy, I know, but psychologists have actually given it an official name: the paradoxical theory of change. According to the Gestalt Therapy Page, “the premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move, and…it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing.”

In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense; when I hated my body so much that all I did was focus on changing it, it led me to beat myself up in ways that backfired against the intended effect. But when I started accepting my body as is, it allowed me to show my whole self – including my thighs – kindness and love.

Which led to greater self-care, both in body and spirit. Which in turn eventually led to some physical changes, but – more importantly – it led to a total change in perspective that has allowed me to live my life more fully.

If you had told me five years ago that the way to change is by not changing at all – that I couldn’t change a thing until I fully accepted where I already was – I would have looked at you like you had three heads. But today I know better. I know that in my life, change doesn’t come from a place of self-hatred, but rather from a place of self-acceptance.

How has this played out for you?

Do you think long-term changes are more likely to stick if they arise from a place of peace and acceptance, rather than from a place of hatred or frustration?

Don’t forget to send me your thoughts on Authenticity for the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series!

Cheddar Garlic Bread

By Katie, 5:38 am

 Long story short: I’m a bread woman.

Bakeries make me swoon. Open-faced sandwiches feel…incomplete. I can easily make a meal out of bread and cheese alone.

So why not just bake them into one? ;-)

Unfortunately, for as much as I love bread, I rarely make it myself. Not because I don’t want to, but because it seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to. So Dave and I usually just pick up a bag of dinner rolls or a baguette at the local bakery and have that with dinner, which is certainly delicious, but can get old night after night, week after week.

All of that is to say, the day I stumbled across this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Bread was a good one. I was already craving warm, homemade bread (a common occurrence). AND I actually had the time to make it (a rare occurrence). AND I already had all of the ingredients on hand.  TRIFECTA! 8-)

The best part is that the actual effort I had to put in was pretty darn minimal. I think I spent 10 minutes – 15 max – putting it together. Sure, then it had to bake for an hour, but that gave me plenty of time to leisurely put together the rest of the meal.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! :-)

Cheddar Garlic Bread
from Stephanie Cooks

3 cups all-purpose flour
4.5 tsp baking powder
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasonings, divided
1.5 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, cheese, sugar, garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp of the Italian seasonings in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, oil, and egg. Stir into the dry ingredients until moistened.

4. Pour into a greased 9×5 loaf pan. Scatter the remaining 1/4 tsp Italian seasonings across the top.

5. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing and slicing.

Are you a bread lover like I am? Do you ever make homemade bread?

Don’t forget to order your 2011 Inspirational Calendar!

She Will Be Missed

By Katie, 5:35 am

Yesterday I read this headline: “Elizabeth Edwards Loses Battle with Cancer.”


I beg to differ.

Elizabeth Edwards may have passed away yesterday, but she didn’t lose any battle. Through her courage, her strength, her power to forgive, and her eagerness to love, she won the war.

She will be missed. ♥

Are You For Real? Re-Thinking Authenticity (or Lack Thereof) in Others

By Katie, 5:44 am

Let’s play a little word association game.

When I hear the word “authenticity,” I immediately think of its antonym: “phoniness.”

And when I hear the word “phoniness,” I immediately think of other people.

Specifically, people I don’t like. 8-O


I know, I know, that sounds a little harsh. But people who come off as insincere or artificial have always gotten under my skin. I don’t like when people are so sickeningly sweet that it seems fake. I don’t like when people use a lot of “Christian Speak” (my phrase for the over-used, now-cliché phrases associated with evangelical Christianity) without giving it any personal meaning. I don’t like when people pretend they’re experts on a subject just to impress an audience.

Basically, I don’t like when people put on a show rather than just be their authentic selves.

But this Self-Discovery, Word by Word series has encouraged me to dig a little bit deeper, to challenge my frustration with those whom I deem the “phonies” of the world. After much thought, I’ve decided that when I feel that twinge of annoyance, I’m going to stop and ask myself two questions.

Digging Deeper: Two Questions to Ask Myself

1. Can I be 100% certain that they aren’t being authentic?

I have many talents, but reading minds isn’t one of them. The truth is that when I decide that someone else is being fake, that judgment is based completely on assumption. I can’t know what that person is thinking. I can’t know what’s in that person’s heart. In the end, who am I to decide what’s fake and what’s real in another person?

2. If they really aren’t being authentic, what’s the motivation?

Here’s an opportunity to turn an honest eye inward. I know I’d be lying if I said I’m always 100% authentic in my relationships with others. Sometimes I’m a teensy bit fake. Sometimes I put on airs. Sometimes I do the exact thing that bothers me so much in others.

And so I ask myself this key question: Why do I do that?

The answer: The times I struggle to be my true self, it’s not coming from a place of malice or trickery. It’s coming from a place of insecurity. It’s coming from the fact that I’m still on this journey to accept myself as is, to fully believe that my authentic self is enough, both for myself and for others.

Isn’t that probably the case with other people too? They aren’t trying to dupe me, they aren’t purposefully being rude to me. They’re just on their own journey away from insecurity and toward self-acceptance.

When I think about it that way, it’s a whole lot harder to feel annoyed and frustrated, and a whole lot easier to show kindness and compassion.

So maybe it’s time for a new word association game.

When I hear the word “authenticity,” I still automatically think of its antonym: “phoniness.”

But now when I think of “phoniness,” instead of thinking of people I don’t like, I’m striving to think of people to whom I can show a little extra understanding, a little extra empathy. Because I know exactly where they’re coming from.

Do you ever get annoyed with people who come off as “phony” or less than authentic? For some reason I don’t think I’m alone here!

What do you think of my assessment that those people probably need MORE kindness and understanding, rather than less?

This post is part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. If you want to participate too, just write your own post or short essay on “authenticity” and e-mail it to me at by next Monday, December 13!

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