The Magic Pill

When I connect with potential clients for the very first time, our conversation typically commences by shrouding The Goal – you know, the capital-G end-game G-O-A-L looming in an unknown and unknowable galaxy far, far away – in a cloud of circumstantial causation. It sounds like this:

“I just really want to lose 20 pounds, for good. But I’ve tried everything – every Diet – and nothing works. I have no willpower and I have a nagging sweet tooth and I just don’t love vegetables.”

By the end of our fifteen-minute discovery session unpacking that initial introduction, we conclude that a change in body composition isn’t so much the result we desire, but a by-product of something much more than skin-deep – identity and behavior change.

Life hack: stop setting outcome-based goals and start setting behavior-based goals.

All ’round the globe, from coast to coast and sea to shining sea, people are resolving to change. But how long before goals are abandoned, left to collect dust on the top shelf, far out of reach? I’ll let you in on a little (big) secret that will change the way you approach – and achieve – goals.

If you ask me, it seems everyone is so caught up in toning their arms or building their booty, they forget to shape their character. Their identity. Their integrity. It’s your insides that shape your outsides. It’s who you are at your core – your values and how you act on them – thats sculpts your reflection.

I don’t even mean this metaphorically, I mean it quite literally.

If you’re looking to commit to a change, like put-a-ring-on-it commit, then I say stop focusing on results and start focusing on your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve.

Set behavior-based goals and build identity-based habits now. The results can (and will) come later.

It works like this: when most people set goals, they choose an outcome they’d like to reach.

Outcome-based goals focus on the end-result.

I will lose 20 pounds

I want to Squat my body weight

I’ll stop smoking

I will get sober

Sound familiar? That’s because you’ve likely been there, done (or should I say, didn’t do) that.

Outcome-based goals are problematic, and often so difficult to accomplish, because they put more emphasis on circumstantial causation than personal choice and control. Outcome-based goals look at the long-term, and despite any amount of desire or desperation, they can quickly feel too distant, lofty, or insurmountable. Outcome-based goals don’t often address the root cause for wanting change, which makes it difficult to stick to it when the course gets slippery.

Outcome-based goals focus on the end-result… but don’t put emphasis on what happens between now and then or here and there.

I’m not telling you to never ever set a goal. Far from it. I’m telling you to set behavior-based goals and better yet, identity-based intentions, instead.

Behavior-based goals focus on actions and process.

Behavior-based goals create conditions that make the chances of an outcome or result more likely. Behavior-based goals look more closely at the short-term, emphasizing attainable action items that can be implemented consistently and repeatedly. Behavior-based goals consider the catalyst for change, bringing clarity to the why behind the how and the what.

Behavior-based goals focus on actions and process… emphasizing what happens between now and then or here and there.

But if you don’t believe you’re the kind of person who can achieve the goals you have set, no amount of resolve is going to lead to action. And ultimately, it’s action that yields results (or not).

You are what you do, and you do what you are.

No matter how S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) a goal is, you’ll be hard pressed to stick to it if you don’t believe yourself the type of person who can, will, and wants to.

If you want to accomplish your goals, and maintain the results long-term, you have to identify with the behaviors necessary to achieve them.

Any which way we look at it, identity is at the root of achieving goals.

Who you are (identity) impacts what you do (behavior) and dictates what you have (outcome).

Or…

What you have (outcome) is a product of what you do (behavior) which is directed by who you are (identity).

When we give up on a goal, we often chalk it up to self-sabotage. But the actions we take that prevent us from our goals aren’t self-sabotage, they’re self-reflective – a mirror-image of who we believe ourselves to be.

Whoever you identify with now, you believe it because you have recurring proof:

  • If you identify as somebody with a slow metabolism or genetic predisposition to a certain body composition – the number on the scale reinforces that every day.
  • If you identify as somebody with no self control – the empty ice cream containers in your trash can reinforce that with each additional pint polished off.
  • If you identify as someone who is “too busy,” – the structure of your to-do list reinforces your priorities (or lack there of) daily.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:

“Once you have adopted an identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change. Many people walk through life in a cognitive slumber, blindly following the norms attached to their identity.

When you have repeated a story to yourself for years (or decades), it is easy to slide into these mental grooves and accept them as a fact. In time, you begin to resist certain actions because ‘that’s not who I am.’ There is internal pressure to maintain your self-image and behave in a way that is consistent with your beliefs.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

So you can imagine how difficult it is to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs about yourself that dictate your behavior.

Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

So, how do you even begin to change your identity?

Fake it ’til you make it.

Listen, I am all for authenticity. But in this case, I give you full permission to fake it ’til you make it.

An identity-based habit is formed by acting like the person you want to be, until you actually become them. 

Although it seems like this crazy complicated concept, changing your identity can be done with two simple steps:

  1. Decide who you want to be
  2. Prove it to yourself

Every choice you make will either act in accordance or avoidance of your identity. So with each choice, ask yourself, “what would they do?”

How does the person who has what you want act? Eat? Train? Think? Speak? Work? What do they prioritize? What do they enjoy?

And then do that. Until one day, it’s not what they would do, but what you do.

Work backwards to move forwards.

Outcomes are about what you get (“I lost weight”).

To achieve a goal, start first by establishing the outcome you desire. You don’t have to put too much thought here. Honestly, it’s okay if the goal is skin-deep. It’s perched on a pedestal now but trust me, it’s hardly going to mean a thing as we keep going.

Behavior is about what you do (“I meal plan and prep weekly, eat mostly nutrient-dense foods, and exercise regularly”).

Then, outline the actions, processes, and habits necessary to achieve that outcome. This should come easily to you. Truth is, for the most part, we know what it takes to achieve a goal.

Identity is about what you believe (“I am a healthful, energized, active human.”)

And finally, determine what type of person performs these actions and processes regularly. What do they value, prioritize, and believe? Here’s where it gets more than skin-deep. Where the soul-searching and self-discovery happens.

The real challenge is not defining the outcome and determining if you want the result – everybody wants to be an olympian, an award-winning author, a millionaire, accomplished, successful – but if you are willing to accept the sacrifices and compromises and actions required to achieve your goal. Do you want the journey that comes with your destination? Do you want the difficult – and sometimes boring and ugly process – that comes before the exciting and glamorous product?

In other (key)words, outcomes are about the what, processes are about the how, and identity is about the why. And the why is how you get what you want.

Ultimately, it’ll look like this:

  • Goal: lose 10 pounds To be a healthy, self-confident person.
  • Goal: stick to [insert Diet] To value nutrition and nourishment.
  • Goal: squat 300 pounds To be a strong person who prioritizes strength training
  • Goal: run a marathon To be a runner.

And that’s when you’ll have it – The Magic Pill. The prescription – rather, a set of behaviors, beliefs, systems, and skills – for successfully achieving any goal and sustaining results.

Discover your core values, limiting factors, and bright spots with my FREE Wellness Worksheet: The Magic Pill.

Week of Eats Holiday Edition

If you think the long anticipated arrival of The Holidays (you know, the capital-letter week-and-a-half of Christmakwanzakuh celebrations) stops this sister from planning her meals… you don’t know me as well as I thought.

When social commitments are crowding the calendar leaving little resemblance of routine to be found, mapping out my (color-coded, time-blocked, hyperlinked) menu makes room for all the things that fill me up (like food, friends, and family) and reduces those things that weigh me down (like stress, scrambling, and inefficiencies).

Scroll on to read all about my approach to planning around – and for – The Holidays!

Plan practically.

A plan that isn’t practical – or flexible – isn’t feasible. Be sure to plug in an at-a-glance view of your schedule so that you have a clear view of how your plan will come into practice. This step will answer questions like: How many meals do you actually need? Where and when are you eating away from home (and can you contribute a dish)? How often are you cooking and how often are you being served? Where do you need to pack snacks for the road?

Keep a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry… and use it.

A sporadic schedule is the perfect time to pull together simple meals from your Staple Stock Ups and make a little room for a refill. If you’ve always got eggs in the fridge, cauli rice and peas in the freezer, and coconut oil in the pantry – bam! Cauliflower “Fried Rice.” Grab chicken sausage and cauliflower rice from the freezer, your favorite pasta from the pantry, and sauce from the fridge and – voila! Marinara bowl.

I’m putting this into practice this week by whipping up a batch of my Spinach Artichoke Chicken n’ Cauli Casserole (still need a better name for that mouthful). I have artichokes in my pantry, cottage cheese, mozzarella, and cauliflower (I always buy an extra) in my fridge, and scooped up spinach to complete the dish.

Mix up your prep personality.

Take on the traits of a Big-Batch Prepster and cook up complete containers of casseroles, soups, and stews that you can dip into at a moments notice. Just reheat and eat! Or, channel the Mix-n-Match Maker by preparing individual components of meals that you can compose on the fly.

Like the true Gemini I am, I’ll be opting for a little bit of this and a little of that. The Mix-n-Match Maker in me is cooking up beef, rice, and veggies (Bonus! these are also items I have in my Staple Stock Up) for Mo to assemble to his tastebuds content and the Big-Batch Prepster in me is tossing the fixings for a Chicken Marsala Soup in the InstantPot, ready for the sippin’.

Go with what you know.

You’re giving out as much energy as you are gifts this week, and you don’t need to be squeezing out the last drop sweating over the stove. Set yours up for success (and satisfaction!) by dropping your favorite repEAT recipes into rotation.

I’ll be implementing this with my Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake, Spinach Artichoke Chicken and Cauliflower Casserole, and Egg Cups with Breaky Brussels n’ Onion a la fitlicity!

No prep, no problem.

Lean on items that require low-to-no prep to build snack-style or bistro-box meals. Think hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, and deli meat or dairy like greek yogurt and cottage cheese for protein, raw crunchy veggies like snap peas, carrots, and baby bell pepper for fiber, and nuts, cheese, or olives for fat. Charcuterie Board for one? Count. Me. In.

Get freezer friendly.

As much as we can color-code and hyperlink our lives, plans change. *ahem, see point one* Stay one step ahead and plan to minimize food waste and maximize your grocery spend by preparing meals that can be frozen if they don’t get finished.

That’s precisely why I planned this Chicken Marsala Soup.

Share your Love Language.

Use time with family and friends to serve up the things that serve you and invite your support system to share in the flavors (and nutrients!) you love. Offer to contribute salads, sides of veggies, or yes – charcuterie boards, to The Holiday spread.

I’ll be assembling a Cobb Salad for my mom’s Christmas Brunch and a seasonal Pear and Pomegranate Salad and roasted Brussels n’ Onion a la fitlicity for Mo’s family.

Plus, I’ll be packaging up some Truffle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts and tying ’em with a pretty ribbon for a gift that keeps on giving (until the jar is finished, that is).

Recipe: Sweet + Savory Breakfast Bake

I don’t measure a thing when I cook… I just sprinkle, shake, and add until I hear my culinary spirit guides whisper, “that’s enough, child.”

It’s been a minute since I’ve developed an official recipe for you – aside from the many culinary concoctions that frame my Instagram stories on the daily – because, well, that ^^^

Alas, the cold temps are comin’ in cold and this winter-inspired Savory + Sweet Breakfast Bake is comin’ in HOT.

You know the drill – as always, this recipe is:

  • Meal Prep Friendly
  • Macro-minded
  • Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber
  • Flavorful, satiating, and satisfying

Sweet + Savory Breakfast Bake

Yields 4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp cooking oil, divided (I used a delicious mushroom sage infused blend from Lebherz Oils!)
  • 1-2 tbsp bone broth for browning meat (can sub additional oil, if needed)
  • 4 oz ground chicken breast
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup egg white
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium (200 g) apple, chopped
  • 1/2 small (300 g) butternut squash, cubed (acorn or delicata also work)
  • 3 heaping cups chopped kale, lightly steamed
  • Savory Spice Blend: 1/2 tbsp Primal Palate Amore seasoning (sub a combination of Garlic, Rosemary, Onion, Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Parsley, Red Chili Flakes), 1 tsp fennel seed, 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • Sweet Spice Blend: 1 tbsp Primal Palate Breakfast Blend (sub a combination of Himalayan Pink Salt, Garlic, Onion, Oregano, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Sage), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • While the oven comes to temperature, assemble cubed butternut squash on a parchment lined baking tray and brush lightly with preferred cooking oil.
  • Bake butternut squash for ~30 minutes, shaking every 10, until squash is tender and edges start to caramelize.
  • While the squash bakes, prepare the remaining components of the casserole as follows:
  • Add preferred cooking oil to a pan over medium-low heat. When it’s warm, toss in onion and cook until translucent, browned, and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground chicken to the pan with 1-2 tbsp bone broth, or more oil, and lightly brown over medium-low heat, about 5-7 minutes. When the meat is mostly brown, add the Savory Spice Blend and mix thoroughly to combine.
  • Add chopped apple to the pan and lightly sauté, about 2-3 minutes.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine steamed kale, roasted squash, and chicken & apple mixture and toss thoroughly.
  • Transfer to baking vessel lightly coated with cooking spray of choice and evenly distribute the mixture across the surface of the dish.
  • In the mixing bowl, whisk 8 eggs with 1/2 cup egg white until fully combined. Add in the Sweet Spice Blend and fold until evenly distributed throughout.
  • Pour the egg mixture over top the fillings in the baking dish, mixing with a spoon or spatula if needed.
  • Bake in the previously preheated oven until edges are golden and eggs are set, about 30-35 minutes.
  • Allow to set before serving, or allow to cool completely before transferring to a storage container.
  • Stack it high and serve with a side salad or cup of fresh berries – yum!

Week of Eats 1216

Receipts rejoice! I was way under my $200 grocery budget this week, tallying $178! This means one of two very different things. 1) I forgot a bunch of stuff or 2) I was extremely efficient with maximizing some Staple Stock Ups and leftover produces. After making my list and checking it twice… good news! It appears the latter is true.

$200 per week yields roughly 60 meals for myself and Mo between post-workout recovery, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners – not to mention licks, bites, and tastes, nibbles and munchies, and of course, desserts. That comes out to $3.33 per meal! Hot dang, I’ll call that a freakin’ steal.

Here’s what the protein, produce, and packaged products of that spend are serving up this week:

Let’s kick it off with my weekend ideas (not pictured in the plan above, but most def accounted for on my expanded spreadsheet). I like to loosely draft up some dishes I’m craving, usually ones that are some combination of the following:
a) kitchen clean-out inspired, maximizing Staple Stock Ups or leftovers
b) a bit more complex or time consuming to make or plate
c) comforting and cozy
d) something Mo doesn’t prefer
e) all of the above


As it currently stands, I’m day-drooling over my Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole (method in this blog), Spaghetti Squash Egg Bake, a Create Your Own Pizza experience – Cali’flour Foods crust for me (use the code FITLICITY and save some dough on your dough), or perhaps some air fried Fish Sticks. We’ll see where the belly takes me and you can follow along on my stories, daily!

Sunday Night supper is… you guessed it – Spatchcock Chicken! Peep my method in this post. I’ll be plating it up with some combination of my favorite veggies: cauliflower and brussels!

The minute I scrolled up this Italian Sausage Kale Casserole, I knew it would have a place in my plan! I had leftover mushrooms and kale in the fridge, always have marinara in my pantry, and was immediately excited by the cozy vibes of the dish. I’ll modify the recipe to yield four servings, plating mine with Cauli Mash a la fitlicity, Mo’s with roasted carrot, and a salad shared between us.

Our ButcherBox was delivered (Ranch Steaks included) just in time to inspire a recipe a promised I would repEAT, Thai Basil Beef Stir Fry! By marinating the beef over the weekend and combining the veggies night-of, I recall this combo being the perfect partial-prep recipe that boasted amazing flavor and kudos from Mo! We’ll both get our portions dished up with rice (white for Mo, cauli for me) and blanched broccoli. Yum!

Leveraging yet another repEAT recipe, Tandoori Chicken is in rotation this week. I’ll make up the marinade ahead of time, and air fry the thighs night-of for optimal flavor and freshness. You’ll see it paired with a lemon-herb yogurt sauce and plated my with one of my favorite sides of the season: roasted shredded brussels, cauliflower, and grapes.

If all goes according to plan and I whip up a small batch of Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash Casserole this weekend, I’ll have some leftover ground meat that I plan on combining with some chopped shrimp and Primal Palate adobo seasoning for some flavorful patties inspired by one of my favorite meal prep friendly recipes!

I’ll round out the eats with breakfasts – Egg Cups a la fitlicity and a sweet n’ savory Winter Squash Breakfast Bake (recipe coming!) – and snacks – cottage cheese power bowls, collard wraps, bistro boxes, and more!

Did any of these dishes spark your palate and get penciled into your plan? Let me know!

Week of Eats 1209

Guess who’s back? Back again.

Y’all, I missed blogging about the delicious and nutritious menu I laid forth for the week ahead. Alas, I found myself needing to prioritize productivity as I took on some new layers of my career which also happens to be my lifestyle, and it left me hard pressed to carve out a corner of my mental capacity to even scribble down my plan, let alone form full sentences around it. But to know me as you know me is to know that I L-O-V-E meal planning and preparation with a passion hotter than a Fabio romance novel jacket. It’s my flow state that leaves me feelin’ tingly with pride and endorphins. And it’s not that *snap* instant gratification kinda feeling, it’s that long lasting, this was a future investment for myself, sustenance kinda feeling. Sweet, savory, sustenance. What I’m trying to say is, it brings me joy, and if can bring you just a little bit of inspiration, my joy doubles. So here’s to drafting (much more concise) versions of this blog and cataloguing my inspiration, planning, and preparation over on my Highlights. Without further ado, the Week of Eats that breaks the dry spell…

As alluded in rambling paragraph number one, some things have changed since my last published meal plan! I launched a group nutrition program (Cycle 2 kicks off January 5!), picked up coaching two CrossFit classes at my home Box, switched up grocery haul to Friday morning to maximize my time (and my sleep), and got into the groove out outlining my menu in an online spreadsheet, just like my clients do! Don’t worry. My cart is still filled with brussels and I still eat Spatchock chicken every week… not that much has changed.

Speaking of Spatchcock Chicken… this looks-way-fancier-than-it-is dish is on the menu every Sunday (or sometimes Monday) ’round this neck of the ‘burbs. I love how home-y, simple, and versatile this protein is. Plus, a 3.5 lb bird yields Mo and I about 5 meals throughout the week. I coat my chicken with a generous mixture of ghee, dijon mustard, and freshly chopped herbs (rosemary, sage, and thyme) and stuff the pockets under the skin with quartered lemon and onion. I serve mine with my fave veggies (usually brussels and onion, cauliflower, or a big ol’ kale salad) and Mo’s gets plated with his fave sides (rice and blanched broccoli or roasted carrot).

Here’s how I do it:

  • Spatchcock your chicken by removing the breast bone and giving the ribs a good crack so that it lies flat in a pan. If that sounds totally gross or totally too time-consuming for you – I can promise, it’s neither! – opt to buy it pre-prepared. Check out this video for a follow-along visual.
  • In a bowl, mix your marinade by combining 1/2 tbsp melted ghee with 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage and 1 tsp dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. On the side, quarter one white onion and one lemon.
  • Prepare your chicken by first using your fingers to carefully create pockets between the skin and meat of the breasts, thighs, and legs. Then, massage your marinade across the entire chicken, distributing evenly under the pockets and on top of the skin. Finally, wedge onion and lemon quarters in the largest pockets between the breasts and at the thighs. Reserve leftover onion and lemon for storage and baking.
  • Transfer your chicken to a large, shallow dish. Add remaining onion and lemon quarters, cover, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but best overnight.
  • When you’re ready to cook, allow the chicken to rest on the counter for about 30 minutes prior to heating. Option to bake in your storage dish if oven-safe, or transfer to a different vessel. I prefer to roast my Spatchcock Chicken on a wire rack that allows the heat to fully circulate the entire surface of my bird. I stack a wire rack on top of a tinfoil lined baking sheet to catch my pan drippings (best drizzled atop the chicken before eating… drool!). For easy flipping, spear your chicken with two skewers through either breast and thigh before placing in the oven.
  • In a 425 degree oven, roast your chicken breast-side up for 40 minutes. Flip, and roast breast-side down for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165.
  • To finish, broil chicken breast-side up for 10 minutes, or until skin is crispy (but not charred!).
  • Optional but recommended: eat hedonistically with hands.

For the last few weeks, I have been salivating thinking of a totally that-hit-the-spot combo I whipped up around this time last year – BBQ Chicken Thighs paired with Braised Kale and Caramelized Onions and Roasted Brussels, of course. The only thing stopping me, the dark, cold night separating me from my grill. I wanted that crispy yet juicy texture! But organic dino kale was a Pie Deal at Whole Foods this week, so it had to happen. Me and my palate are pleased to say “so long” to those grill-woes after recently discovering the nom-factor of cooking chicken thighs in my air fryer (previously had only used to rehEAT). I could stand outside and grill in my headlamp and beanie… or I could stay in the comfort of my slippers and set the air fryer to manual. I’ll take the latter!

Healthy Hint: Buy Primal Palate blends (hashtag not sponsored just love). You guys. I know I’m capable of creating my own spice blends, but I also know (from experience and experiment) that my culinary concoctions can’t come anywhere close to Primal Palate blends.

Despite cold temps and classic comfort cravings, soup doesn’t always do it for me. Especially when all the contents are blended into one puree. But this InstantPot Veggie and Chicken Soup looks like a big ol’ mouthful sure to satisfy my brain and belly with eat bite. The turmeric and ginger separate got my senses excited, and I love that the recipe calls for Bonafide Provisions bone broth, which I have stocked as a freezer staple! In the theme of staples (always set up for success, y’all), I’ll be adding one of my many pantry staples, Palmini “pasta,” to my bowl and tortellini to Mo’s. We’ll enjoy cozied ’round the coffee table with a shared side salad and How I Met Your Mother.

Healthy Hint: the act of meal planning (and preparation) actually amps up the anticipation for the food you are going to eat, which serves up a big ol’ mouthful of increased pleasure and satisfaction when it comes time to eat what you’ve planned!

I’ve said (and written) it before and I’ll say (and write) it again, as much as I love cooking and create many of my own culinary originals, I also love that full-time recipe developers are out there doin’ it for me. Use your resources y’all! Rarely do I follow a recipe down to the TBSP of ghee – I experiment, modify to meet my needs, and leverage as inspiration! I’ll be putting that principle into practice with these Enchilada Skillet Meatballs, swapping the ground beef for ground chicken and leaving the meatballs undone… So, for me, it’ll be Enchilada Skillet Meatballs. I’ll be serving mine over riced cauliflower and zucchini and Mo’s over white rice. We’ll enjoy a crunchy romaine side salad from a big shared bowl.

Thursday night is Fish (or seafood) Night in our house. And this week I’m planning another recipe turned inspiration for my own madness (creative genius?)… Shrimp Stir Fry inspired by this Chinese-inspired Broccoli Chicken Stir Fry dish. I’ll be using the sauce (and the InstantPot) but whipping it up night-of with jumbo shrimp and some additional veggies – think snap pea, bell pepper, and zucchini!

For breakfasts, I’ll be prepping what I hope is a NEW RECIPE for you! **drumroll please** An Acorn Squash and Apple Breakfast Bake sure to please lovers of savory and sweet. Plus, Prosciutto Egg Cups a la @fitlicity and of course, Breaky Brussels n’ Onions – methods for both of which can be found on my “Food” Highlight on the ‘gram.

Do you meal plan? And if so, do you stick to it? Why or why drop? Drop me some insight in the comments. I may have a tip, trick, or healthy hint up my sleeve!

xo,
Al

Under (Food) Pressure

It seems like you just watched Hocus Pocus for the twelfth time in twenty-four hours and already, The Holidays are upon us… bringing with them parties a plenty with friends that feel like family and family that feels like… well, family. Amidst good conversation and genuine connection are abundant apps, snacks of snacks, and tempting treats that leave our hearts, plates, and bellies full, fuller, and fullest.

But what happens when – gathered ’round the charcuterie board or seated at the dining table – someone makes what’s on (or off) your plate, their prerogative? Whether a curious inquisition or a snarky snipe, commentary about your eating choices may leave you feeling anything less than merry this holiday season. Here’s how to deal:

Before we begin, a disclaimer.

It goes without saying (but I’ll write it anyway) that even if you’re striving to live a healthy lifestyle and tend to be very thoughtful about your food choices, it’s okay to engage with food containing little nutritional value in whatever context is appropriate for your individual wants, needs, and goals. For you, the holistically-healthy choice may be enjoying a piece of candy or cake free of guilt. Or, it may be saying “no thank you” in a demonstration of developing discipline. Whatever it is, make sure what you’re serving yourself is serving you – body, brain, and belly.

We may choose to engage (or not to engage) with a food for several reasons, from personal preference to specific goals to ethical beliefs to allergies and beyond. Of all the things that belong on our plate, peer pressure is not one of them.

To eat the cake or not to eat the cake is not the question – but either way, you’re gonna hear about it. So, let’s strategize some effective responses to navigate Nutrition Nudgers.

First, make sense of the motive.

If you ask me, there are three reasons a “Food Pusher” may have something to say about your eating choices:

  1. Genuine Love & Care: For Aunt MaryPat, cooking enough meatballs & gravy (or is it sauce?) to feed an army is the ultimate expression of love. Keeping the people she cares about “well-fed” (maybe by way of calories, but not so much nutrients) by questioning whether or not you’ve eat yet before both feel are the door or suggesting – or straight up serving – seconds before you’ve cleared your plate makes her feel fulfilled. She means well, and that means you might feel badly about offending her…
  2. Curiosity: Your coworker Jane sees you happily munching through your colorfully-packed tupperware each day at lunch while she stares solemnly into a styrofoam take-out container. She’s been prime witness to your progress from how your productivity has increased to how your clothes are fitting, and she wants in! Don’t get your guard up! Jane might come off like she’s making a back-handed remark when in reality, she’s totally inspired by you.
  3. Pride: With all of the Diet fads floating around, one of your family members or friends is bound to be testing the trends, and they aren’t afraid to share it – after all, they lost 3 pounds! Your cousin Carla who’s “mostly Keto” will probably be the first to side-eye you for spooning some pickled beets onto your plate, but she’ll be the first to over-justify her slice of pumpkin pie at the end of the night.
  4. Insecurity: The girl you later refer to as “That B****” when you call your bestie to tell her what went down at your boyfriend’s cousin’s sister’s Friendsgiving is probably jealous of you. Or, what she thinks she knows of you based on your eating choices. Beneath the brash, she’s insecure about her own habits and decisions, and she wants to make you feel badly so that she can feel just a little bit better. It’s unfortunate, but remember – her words speak more about her character than yours.

Once you know who you’re dealing with, choose your tactic.

  1. Gratitude: Express your gratitude to Aunt MaryPat in your own way, something meaningful and tangible that doesn’t necessarily translate to unwanted food on your plate or in your belly. Start with how grateful you are for her thoughtful and sure-to-be delicious preparation. If the pushing persists, don’t be afraid to ask for her love and care on your terms, as well. After all, it’s these motives that are at the heart of her actions. Tell Aunt MaryPat that, while you absolutely love her meatballs & gravy – they’re the best in the world! – you’ve had your fill. Or let her know that, right now, you’ve made a commitment to your nutrition and would really appreciate her support in honoring your current priorities. That way, she can feel she served her purpose of caring for you, without serving you unwanted food. Plus, maybe she’ll even be inspired to whip up a delicious and nutritious meal for the next time you stop by.
  2. Education: Get curious right back and ask Jane what’s been going on in her life. Has she started a new exercise routine? Is the thinking about making some changes to her diet? Has she ever tried brussels sprouts? Be a catalyst for change from a totally supportive, I’ve been there, I get it, type of way. No need to lay down the dogmatic law with Jane. She’s not quite ready to hire a Nutritionist and get under a barbell, but with the right encouragement she’s well on her way. To get there, she needs empathy and a real deal, authentic role model. Feel free to share some healthy hints (or maybe even a bite of your snack?!) when she seems to pry. This could be the start of a brand new fit-friendship!
  3. Neutrality: Stay in your lane, sister, and don’t forget to celebrate cousin Carla’s success, no matter what your knowledge tells you about her tactics. Much like religion an politics, Nutrition Dogma doesn’t belong at the dinner table. Change the subject and do you, boo!
  4. Assertiveness: For someone who’s rarely at a loss for words, “That B****” won’t know quite how to respond when you politely lay down the facts. The straight-forward strategy will have her reconsidering her – and your – confidence while you move right along.

Above all else, remember that the actions you take to respect yourself, your values, and your priorities do not require justification or validation.

Week of Eats .010

The boy is back in tooooown!

ICYMI: Mo was traveling all week, leaving me and sweet Baby G to eat to our heart’s savory desires. Despite being an introvert (yes, actually) who relates to the lyrics of Ariana Grande’s *bop*, NASA on a personal level, I am more than ready for my partner to come home. And his return means… back to planning meals for two that not only meet both of our caloric and nutrient needs, but our preferences, too.

On an unrelated note, the first day of fall is officially this Monday, September 23! While I finally feel like I have seasonal permission to put fall flavors and soups, stews, and casseroles into my plan, temps are still hovering in the 80s here in the Philadelphia ‘burbs, so I’m gonna stick to some lighter, warm-weather fare… for now.

No surprise here: Spatchcock Chicken is staying in rotation! This week, I’m doing it up with a lemon-herb ghee marinade and pairing with roasted baby broccoli and brussels, all drizzled with a sure to be delicious caramelized onion and mushroom gravy.

I’m easing into the fall flavors with this One Pan Pork Loin with Brussels and Apples. It looked entirely too delicious, nutritious, and easy to pass by, and totally speaks my palate love language! I’ll be adding a side of my very own Cauliflower Mash (which I now steam in the InstantPot!) to take the cozy rating on this dish from a 10 to an 11.

One of my favorite repEAT dishes, I’ll be grilling up Tandoori marinated chicken thighs to pair with Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower and a hearty bed of greens.

I got very excited to put this Korean Beef Bowl on my menu when I stumbled upon a few variations of inspiration. I’ll be searing sirloin steak from The Simple Grocer with a Korean stir-fry sauce and plating (bowling?) with a bed of shredded cabbage, cauliflower rice, and home-pickled veggies! My inspiration is coming from the Cook Once, Eat All Week cookbook!

Another product of my recent The Simple Grocer order, I’ll be grilling up Pederson’s Green Chili Cheese Sausage and shrimp and pairing with grilled bell pepper and cauliflower “grits,” just like this recipe!

Here’s how it’s all playing out in my Meal Plan, breakfast and snacks included!

Week of Eats .009

Contrary to popular belief, Labor Day Weekend does not mark the changing of seasons. In fact, the first day of Autumn falls on September 23. So, another week of summery recipes for this gal!

Even though I waited until what felt like the eleventh hour to fill in this week’s meal plan, the usual ~*flow*~ took over and the dEATS were decided before the clock struck 3 pm and grilled zucchini squash turned back into pumpkin spice 😉

I told y’all that Spatchcock Chicken would be a staple on my menu for the foreseeable future, and I wasn’t lyin’! This particular preparation of a whole chicken, in which the backbone is removed, produces the most flavorful tender meat and crispy skin. Plus, it leave me with the perfect amount of protein to whip up a few easy-to-assemble, low-to-no cook Fridge Clean Out meals when the weekend rolls ’round. You can find instructions here, or pick up a deboned bird from Whole Foods! This week, I’ll be serving it with a spinach and arugula salad spread of grilled peach and prosciutto and a side of baby broccoli (or, as I’m writing this, I’m debating brussels… I don’ have a lot of brussels planned and I love my brussels…)

ButcherBox bring Ground Beef for life! I’m transforming it into one of my all-time favorite, super simple repEAT meals: Sloppy Joe! It’s a taste that transports me right back to childhood, eating what we christened “Sloppy Moms.” Equally delicious and likely way more nutritious (Sorry, Mom, I have no idea what you put in between your buns). I follow this recipe, usually experimenting slightly based on what sauces and such I have on hand at the time of culinary conception. My portion will be plated bowled a top oodles of zoodles and served up with a side salad.

You never know when meal inspo will strike, and I’m pretty (100%) sure I flagged this Chicken Satay Cauliflower Rice Bowl during a 4:45 a.m. Instagram scroll, before hitting the gym but after my daily selfie-shimmy. What? You don’t search for recipes before sunrise? Weird…

I have a surplus of fresh parsley and cilantro on my shelves. Don’t let wilting herbs go to waste! This is the perfect time to blend up a Chimichurri Sauce to compliment your favorite protein and veggies! For me, it’ll pair with Sirloin filets, an heirloom tomato and shallot salad and Golden Jicama Fries, my favorite way to prepare my new favorite ultra fibrous root veggie.

ICYMI, Mo has a Friday ritual of grabbing lunch with coworkers to as the culmination of a successful workweek passed, which leaves me with the challenge opportunity of planning a Thursday dinner with just enough servings for two and assembling leftovers for a Friday fridge clean-out lunch. For my fam, this is the perfect occasion to make a dent in our weekly seafood quota since, in my opinion, fish, shrimp, and shellfish is often best eaten fresh off-the-grill or out-the-oven (I mean… I’ll do it, but no one really wants to be the one microwaving fish in the office). I only hope that my attempt at this Sicilian Style Salmon recipe with vibrant tomato, crispy broccoli, and briny olives is as beautiful as this photo. Intimidated by cooking your own salmon? Been there! Pro tip: use an air fryer for a perfect salmon filet (wild caught, skin on – the only way) every time. Season, rub with just a dash of your favorite oil (avocado or EVOO), and place skin-side down in your air fryer, cooking for 8 minutes at 400. Flip (carefully, keep that skin in tact) and go for another 2 to get the outside ultra crispy.

The Bonus! meal this week is courtesy of a weekend trip to my family mountain house with friends! One of my ButcherBox 5lb pork butts is making the 3 hour journey so that I can offer up an a la carte Pulled Pork spread. Bowls or buns, the fam and friends will be able to take their pick! This InstantPot recipe will make that marbled butt (actually, the top of the leg) the star of the show, and I’ll be serving up a ton of supporting sides from slaw to salad to brussels!

Check out how it all comes together across the week, below and stay tuned for how it pans out (get it, like pots and pans?) on my stories daily! Also, I added fun emojis to my plan this week during a rare moment of procrastination. You. Are. Welcome.

I Eat Whatever I Want

There’s a trend weaving its way through the wellness-sphere right now that screams, in capitol bold letters captioning filtered – but totally candid – photos of fit girls eating greasy grub and sugary sweets, Eat Whatever You Want.

But what happens if, when presented a choice between pizza or salad, for example, Whatever You Want is the not the bubbling cheese and crispy crust, but the big bowl of leafy greens behind Curtain Number One? Do you feel shameful or question your holistic wellbeing for making the nutrient-rich choice among equally (if not more) accessible nutrient-poor options? Do you feel like you have to snap a photo of yourself spooning up ice cream or slinging back fries for the sake of proving a picturesque point about upholding an arbitrary, external expectation about “balance”?

Unpopular Wellness Opinion: sometimes you have prioritize your needs in favor of your wants.

Before you go unfollowing me on the basis of promoting restriction, please allow me to explain.

If you are a human who is in the process of, or thinking about, adopting a healthier (where I’m defining healthier as supporting your physical, mental, and emotional needs through an intentional approach to diet and exercise) lifestyle and identity, you need to exhibit the habits of a healthy human. It might seem as simple as “I’ll just get up and go to the gym each morning” or “I’ll just pack my lunch everyday,” but when you get down to it, behavior change is no joke. It involves consistent, persistent, intentional choices that support new habit development – such as daily movement and consumption of minimally processed foods – and break or bury existing ones.

It’s the age old principle, fake it til’ ya make it. As in, if you want to become a healthier human, ask yourself, “what would the healthy human do?” And then do that, over and over again, until you become the healthy human.

At first, it might mean making the difficult choice. It will most likely mean fighting against instinct. It probably means getting a little uncomfortable. That’s because you’re working to uproot deeply burrowed existing habits. And even though you know these habits (i.e. seeking out empty calories to cope with your emotions, over indulgence, impulsive food intake) don’t serve you, it doesn’t change how intertwined they are with your identity. But each time you tackle resistance, you set a new standard for yourself until it becomes the norm. Until no longer are you acting like the healthy human, you simply are the healthy human.

To do this, you have to understand the difference between a perceived immediate want (an impulse) and a deep-rooted, real-deal want (an intention).

An aside: It seems to me, as I scroll Instagram on the reg, that the folks who promote Eating Whatever You Want as extreme, disproportionate, impulsive indulgence have already achieved the behavior change described above. They’ve gone through the process of restructuring and rebuilding their habits, so at this point – the perfectly posed Instagram you’re double tapping – in what is known as the Termination phase in the Transtheoretical Model (or Stages of Change), engaging with a less-nutritious food item is not a great risk to the trajectory of their lifestyle or goals. But for someone in the infancy of behavior change, someone who may be in the Action or even Maintenance phase, new habits require constant reinforcing and nurturing, and impulsively engaging with less-than-nutritious food items is more likely to cause disintegration of the discipline, skills, and systems necessary for success.

It is insanely confusing to see a fitness model with six-pack abs chowing her way through a six-pack of donuts. But here’s the science behind it: when your body reaches a certain percentage of body fat and lean mass, the way you metabolize food changes. So, not only is the fittie you’re following far more intact with their healthy eating and exercise habits, but this individual biologically processes nutrients differently than someone in the beginning stages of behavior and body composition change. If you’re looking at someone with the muscles and curves you’d like to see on yourself, you can not eat how they are currently (to support their body composition) – you have to eat how it takes to get there.

Eating whatever you want does not necessarily mean eating whatever is in front of you.

In the beginning stages of change, you might “want” to eat an entire pizza pie, six donuts, and a super-sized soda for breakfast. But what you really want is to take pride in your choices, practice self-respect, and feel + function your absolute best. Which want do you choose?

Suddenly, eating what you “want” is separated from eating what you want.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean establishing one “cheat day” or allotting for one “cheat meal” each week.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean pre-logging a particular food or foods into MyFitnessPal and modeling your remaining energy/nutrient intake around that entry.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean rewarding yourself after a difficult workout.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean following suit of your peers.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean mindlessly reaching for whatever is in front of you.

Eating Whatever You Want does not mean copious amounts of “junk food.”

All of these things create a sense of scarcity, morality, or restrictive rules around food. They assign food a power it simply does not deserve.

Unconditional permission to Eat Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want means becoming truly attuned with your biological wants and needs from all angles – short-term and long-term, physical, emotional, mental, and physiological – in combination with your priorities and values, and using that awareness to choose whether or not to engage with a food offering in any given moment.

Of course, no one enjoys feeling deprived of something perceived or predicted to promote pleasure. But true deprivation doesn’t come from denying a potential 10-seconds of instant gratification. True, cyclical deprivation comes from acting against the things that matter most to our intrinsic identity: our values, our priorities, and our aspirations.

In this sense, Eating Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want means acting on intention over impulse. It means prioritizing long-term impact over instant gratification. It means eating in a way that directly supports or reflects your personal priorities, values, identity, and character strengths. And that may show up in the form of saying “no thank you” to the less-nutritious option in favor of something more-nutritious.

And of course, some days choosing the pizza, or cupcake, or candy may, in fact, align with your values and intentions, just as other days it may not. The important thing is that you understand the motive of your choices, so that you can make them mindfully and intentionally.

How to Eat Whatever You Want

I am most confident that, when you allow yourself unconditional permission to Eat Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want, as defined above, direct avoidance of your health will fast become less-than-palatable. You’ll quite literally crave the choices that make you feel your best in any given moment.

Practice cultivating connections between what (and how) you eat and how the food makes you feel physically. Greasy grub leave you with tummy turmoil, horrible headaches, and lethargic feelings an hour later? High-quality protein, veggies, and favorable fats leave you feeling energetic, focused, and productive? Ah ha! Analyze it and apply it! With each connection, making those more-nutritious choices looks more and more palatable.

In both the big picture and in each unique choice, ask yourself:

  • If the food I ate was a direct reflection of my values, what would it look like?
  • If the food I ate was a direct reflection of my priorities, what would it look like?
  • If the food I ate was a direct reflection of my identity, what would it look like?
  • Does this choice support or contradict my values, priorities, and identity?
  • Is this choice a reflection of my impulses or intentions?
  • What are the outcomes of this choice, beyond immediacy?
  • Does this choice empower me, or have power over me?
  • Does this choice make me proud?
  • How will this choice honor my body, mind, and soul?

Week of Eats .008

With all due respect, all y’all bloggers and ‘grammers and recipe developers who are seeping sentiments of fall into your foodie flatlays and crafty captions can GTFO off my feed, okay?!

Just kidding, ILU all! But come on now, let’s embrace the long days and minimal layers of the season we are in, for at least a little while longer, before we go full blown squash n’ soup.

So from me to you, a summery Week of Eats because… August. 90 degrees. 9 p.m. sunset…

ButcherBox has arrived, my friends! And it came boasting two cuts of meat that will be featured on this week’s menu. First up, Sirlion Tips. I’ll be grilling these tender cuts and serving them with an a la carte spread of steak-house inspired sides including sautéed ghee mushrooms, roasted brussels, cauliflower mash, and more! This dinner won’t just be about the fuel and the flavor, but the entire eating experience.

A whole chicken is a Meal Prep-er’s savior! I was so happy with the flavor, texture, and leftover’s we reaped from last week’s Spatchcock Chicken… I’m doin’ it again! I’ve got leftover produce and garnish in the fridge, so I’ll be going for a Herby Lemon Fennel vibe paired with broccoli and a creamy ricotta Palmini pasta.

Oh my gosh! I was so excited when I scrolled upon this Paleo-Friendly Chicken Ruby Murray (think curry) recipe that is inspired by and modified from the best Indian restaurant I’ve ever been to in the whole wide world – literally, because it’s in London – Dishoom. Moses and I ate here the night after we got engaged! #Feels #Mems I can hardly wait to plate this dish up with some cauliflower (roasted or rice?) and spinach.

Another ButcherBox (and summer!) inspired meal, Baby Back Ribs. I’ve never cooked ribs before, but I’m pretty hype to add it to my repertoire. I’ll be using my InstantPot and serving it up with Buffalo Brussels & Cauli and a big bowl o’ kale salad. Fingers crossed for success! Stay tuned.

A few variations of a nutritious spanish-inspired Romesco have been floating around my Pinterest and ‘gram lately, and the gorgeous red-orange hue pulled me right in to double-tap & flag, and ultimately inspiring this week’s Thursday seafood spread. I’ll be grilling up shrimp and scallops and roasting cauliflower steaks and green beans as the base for this surprisingly simple, nutty sauce.

Reoccurring faves like Prosciutto Egg Cups, Breaky Brussels and Onion, Blueberry Pecan Breaky Sauasage, Lemon-Dill Yogurt Breaky Boxes, Cottage Cheese Power Bowls, and Adobo Chicken Burgers are filling out the snacks n’ gaps!