Final check in. I ended my week - and 6FIT - surrounded by my family and friends for my 40th birthday. I thought I was going to dinner with my husband but, when we arrived at the restaurant, about 20 of my favorite Boston friends and out-of-town family members jumped out and yelled “surprise!” I was truly surprised by the number of people who showed up to celebrate with me. It was so wonderful to be surrounded by my closest friends and family all weekend.
The weekend made me think of why I agreed to be a 6FIT Spokesperson in the first place. I was slightly hesitant when I first discussed it with Megs in early January. I had just declared my approach to 2019 was "less stuff, lower expectations, and limited distractions". But I also said I wanted to have more fun and experience more joy this year. I knew that joining an amazing group of women in a 6FIT journey would be a lot of fun and bring me joy. And it did!
I loved reading all the updates on our Facebook page and seeing everyone in class. I tried to be honest about my own journey and share my daily struggles. However, one of the things I have not touched on during these recent posts is my mental health. 2017 was a rough year – my grandmother passed away in my presence, my youngest had brain surgery and received a second genetic diagnosis, my job got out of control. I was up for a big – and long overdue – promotion but some of the staff working with me were (and still are) incredibly challenging. I ended up in urgent care with a spike in my blood pressure, then experienced hair loss, sleep problems, and weird stomach issues throughout 2018. I have managed to find some periods of relief, usually because of dietary changes or trying out meditation or avoiding certain people at work. But the feelings of anxiety and exhaustion are creeping back. It’s like a small random event will suddenly bring on uncontrollable tension and discomfort. Last Friday, I actually got back into bed for twenty minutes because I just did not want to go to work. Thursday had been a long day at the office, the kids were being really loud, our sitter was bombarding me with questions and I just needed a time out.
How does this all tie into 6FIT? These past four weeks were physically challenging but very satisfying and just plain fun. I felt so much better in so many ways. Gina, Megs, and all of the studio's clients have built something very special at DanceFIT. I needed that connection and support more than I realized.
But I also realized that being ‘fit’ or healthy isn’t just about the number of burpees I can do in a minute or the ounces of water I can drink in day. It is about my overall well-being. Do I sleep well and deal well with stress? I really don’t think I do. I have a check list of things I do to juggle the priorities in my life (see last week’s post), but I need a much better way to really take care of myself. I cannot keep going at this pace without addressing these lingering feelings. No amount of exercise or good eating habits is going to change it.
Then today, my almost three year old threw an epic tantrum and as I am wrestling her into the stroller, my back starts to hurt and I suddenly feel like I cannot manage this. Not a tantrum but life as working mom with two kids, one that has needed a lot of extra attention. What if this isn’t a typical tantrum? What if it’s a sign that she has deeper developmental issues we haven’t discovered yet? The thoughts sort of spiral out until I feel totally overwhelmed about my long “to do” list – packing for a family trip next week, getting back to our landlord about our elevator problems at work, scheduling both kids’ teacher conferences. As I am texting my husband about it all later, he basically says he is worried about my mental health. Yikes. Mental health? His comment was the final straw. He is so even keeled and thoughtful. And he knows me really well. I know he’s right but I don’t even know where to start to make meaningful changes in my life.
Coincidentally, I am headed to an advance this weekend for a leadership program I am participating in this year. I have a room all to myself overnight and am looking forward to the quiet to rest and reflect. I scheduled a massage for late February and made a few appointments for some annual doctor’s visits this spring to check on my hair loss and stomach issues. These are all small attempts at self-care but it’s something. My husband also recently brought up some issues related to his job that could bring some sudden changes for our family and I just said – let’s go see a therapist to help us navigate this stuff. The same way I might see a trainer or hire a housekeeper – outsource it and let someone else put the energy into coming to solutions.
I know there are deeper issues I still need to address and I plan to do it this year. This is the first time I say out loud - or in writing, I guess - that I think there is something bigger going on with me. I don't know where this will take me but I really want to figure it out. It’s like I never fully dealt with the grief of losing my grandmother. Or maybe I didn’t fully process my child’s diagnosis. Or maybe I am truly done with my job and need to move on. It’s such a layered issue that I don’t really know what is causing me to feel this way.
Anyway, I know this is a less than positive way to end 6FIT but that’s what’s going on. I am also looking forward to logging in to Zoom and spending more time with y'all this year. Every class makes a such a positive difference in my day. Thank you, DanceFIT, for creating this platform for so many of us to stay fit and connected when we can't get to a gym. It's provides a supportive, laid-back community when so much of our day is spent grinding away at our to do lists or working towards the next thing.
So after four weeks, 21 DanceFit classes, 6 sessions of circuit training, 84 mindful meals with lots of fruits and veggies, and more than 1,792 ounces of water, what have I learned to take with me beyond this month? A lot, actually!
Stay Focused, Stay Hydrated
Back in my magazine editing days, when we were close to going to press and working ‘til midnight was a thing I did every 7 weeks for a week, a fellow editor and I used to joke, “Stay focused, stay hydrated!” Her drink of choice was Diet Coke and mine was, boringly, water. (This is indicative of how I was the straight edge of the office. I am almost positive vodka was being chugged by those who will remain nameless. But I digress.) So I like water. But over the years, when raising small kids sometimes made me think, do I want to eat or sleep right now…(always sleep, haha!), I lost my way on the hydration thing. But now, I’m back! It was a little bit of adjusting week 1, but I have some strategies now. I have my favorite pint glass and I measured it out, it is a true pint, so four of those a day is 64 ounces. I used to live on seltzer, but plain water is a lot easier to chug, so now I probably only drink one pint of seltzer every two days and it’s totally fine. I keep a small post-it around and make four tick marks as the day goes on so I remember. And I take a water bottle with me when I’m going somewhere for a few hours. I fill water bottles for my kids every day, both for school and sports, so why not for myself? (This concept of self-care becomes a theme as well.)
Please Don’t Stop the Music
Music, for me, literally makes every workout awesome. Conversely, if there is no music, I am going to have a rough go of it. So it’s funny, the first few times I took Piloxing I was tinkering around with my settings and couldn’t hear Megs’ playlist, so I was dogging it. I was thinking, oh man, how am I going to make it? I really love this class but can’t seem to feel strong enough. My arms were like lead and I was ready for my nap...15 minutes in! Then it came to me: Rocky playlist, blasting. I need this. I grew up with two brothers and so I know every Rocky, Rambo, Van Damme and other fighting movie out there from the 80s and 90s, but Rocky/Stallone, my love for him is deep. So I built a “training” playlist heavy on the Rocky IV (Drago!!!! Sorry, I had to.) and boom, next Saturday I had a doable Piloxing class! I’m not going to say it’s easy, because that would be a hilarious lie, but I can do it! I just think of Rocky running through wintry Russia, or the Philly Italian Market, or up the museum steps! Sometimes you just need a little help in the mind over matter department, and for me, it’s music over matter all the way. (By the way, I can hear your playlists now Megs, and I love them!) So from this challenge I learned, let the music push you and inspire you. Take new songs or old faves you haven’t heard in a while from your instructors’ playlists and plug them right into your own Spotify or Amazon Music or whatever you use and let them make you smile and get excited for your next workout.
I love thinking of food as what you should include in your day, not exclude. What a concept. Don’t focus on not having this or that, just have lots of fruits and veggies with your smaller amount of this and that. Then have some water. And if you get to the end of the day and you’re still hungry, that’s ok, you can have something! Some rules of thumb for me to get in a good amount of fruits and veggies each day are: Make sure you do actually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was a huge breakfast skipper, then over-eater at lunch, and then I didn’t feel so great. Now I make sure to have a breakfast when I get hungry. It’s not always first thing, sometimes it waits a couple of hours until say 10, but I feel much more in control of my hunger at lunch time and have a more reasonable one. Second, include one or two servings of fruit or vegetables in each meal, as opposed to trying to get them all in during one or two meals. Third, salads and soups with lots of veggies are your friends. Fourth, leftovers make it all possible, so I treasure my stockpile of pint and quart containers and love having everything from lunch portions to cut-up fruit ready to go. It takes almost no extra time to double a recipe and pack up half of it if you’re the kind of person happy with leftovers like I am. Fifth, there are some things in life that are designed to sabotage healthy eating, among them brunch and birthday parties. So I hosted brunch recently for my family, and I made the usual eggs, sausage and we had bagels, but I also did a huge veggie hash with all the colors of bell peppers and red onions; I roasted baby potatoes ‘til nice and crisp; and I made a huge fruit platter with everything from berries to pineapple. And my family loved it and these things are going to be the new normal at brunch! One more silly thing as an aside, through logging my meals I realized I pretty much live on black beans and avocados. ☺ I could have those every day.
Virtual Aids My Reality
I had heard wonderful things about the virtual classes since day one of coming into the DanceFit studio, but I’m not always the first person to adopt something that requires technology. However, I knew that once winter came and the snow days started racking up, I would love the option of working out at home, and I am so thrilled I gave it a chance. Virtual classes are now an integral part of my workout routine and my life. Whether it’s first thing in the morning before I even have to pack lunches for the kids, or last thing after Stella is in bed and the guys are reading Harry Potter, there is a class waiting for me right on my tablet. I get to say hi and see other women just like me getting their workouts in, and none of us have to brave the elements…unless you count the kids trying to sneak in, but it’s ok! I know the other moms will feel me on this point too: You’re still there if they really need you, but you get to, as Megs and Gina always soothingly say, “Take a quiet moment for yourself.” Hell yes!
Challenge the Children
Funny how I used to think that leaving the kids for any length of time to exercise or do anything for myself was somehow cheating them. Turns out, my kids love that I love my workouts. They see me come home happy and proud of myself, and they try out my Pilates moves and want to hear the latest songs we crank in Zumba. Our Spanish is improving…just kidding. It should though, my 2-year-old sings along to most Zumba songs somehow! They saw my Post-It with my 14-minute workout listed and they did it with Mike watching them and doing the counting and the timing—and he was laughing hysterically because they insisted on doing 5-minute wall sits, not 1-minute. And they were yelling, “This is so haaaaard!” the whole time, while laughing. My boys aren’t really too into competitive sports, but it makes me smile that they still definitely want to be in shape. Turns out, they love Pilates, boxing, weight lifting, and tumbling. I can’t ask for more really. And my little girl, well she said to me during my latest 14-minute workout, “Mama, I need a tank top. I just have a sweatshirt on!” I said, “Baby, you can exercise in whatever is comfortable for you.” She said, “Oh, ok. I do my tumble now.” Yeah, no regrets here on taking a moment for myself. It’s good for all of us.
The Perfect DanceFit for Me
This challenge solidified what I already knew about myself and DanceFit: I’m home! I’m so lucky to have found such a positive community of women who want to challenge themselves and have fun in the process. After my last dance class (of 7 years for me—more than 35 for my instructor!) came to an end, I wasn’t sure if I could ever capture that feeling of fun and community with my exercise again. I tried some other classes here and there and I tried doing it all on my own, but it wasn’t the same. But now, as my husband said just the other day, “Out of all the ways you can exercise, DanceFit is perfect for you. You make friends, you crank the music, it’s a community. It’s nothing like just going to the gym.” Exactly. And so to the rest of the year and the years ahead I say, let’s do this. Turn up the music.
Space for Stretching or How I KonMarie’d a Mindfulness Space for Myself
We moved into our house about 4 ½ years ago with an entire house’s worth of hand-me-downs from my childhood home. I was 8 ½ months pregnant with Jane (my first) when we moved, and Ruth came along 20 months later, so it feels like I am just getting my house together now that the kids are a little older.
All last year I was working towards the goal of having some sort of mindfulness space, like a meditation space, in my bedroom. I thought if I had that space I would sit down before bed for 15 minutes and meditate with a lit candle and really work on my mind. I use space between inside-out kids costumes and a minefield of LEGO bricks on the floor of my basement for virtual workouts, but I really wanted a space with no hand weights or cardio equipment, just things for calming my body and my mind. I gathered together my two most new age-y friends, told them my plans, took a picture of the awkward space in my bedroom I was hoping to put to use, and we went shopping. I had no plans for the space, I was just looking for things I liked. This was all very exciting for me as I have almost all hand-me-downs so shopping for furniture is something I don’t get to do often! I was searching for things that “sparked joy” to me. We went to giant antique malls, quaint artisan shops in Lowell, and ended at Home Goods. After some online shopping (approved by my girlfriends of course!), I had a plan for my nook. I needed plenty of open space, somewhere to sit and read, an altar for my knick knacks, a rug for the floor, and lots of crystals (easy since I have a crystal and rock collection from my childhood). Then, everything sat in a pile for a month or three because I have kids and it’s hard to prioritize myself and my own space!
I do virtual classes in my basement, I stretch in the TV room, I do classes at DanceFit, I workout at the gym with friends, and I run outside with the kids in a stroller. Some of these things bring me joy, some of them do not. I like working out in my basement because it is quiet and after my workout I’m always inspired to throw in a load of laundry and pick up some toys, but it is anything but calm. I hate stretching in the TV room: it’s hard to focus and it’s cold. I LOVE working out at DanceFit because it’s social, calm, and I love seeing and sweating with my friends. The gym is ok, again social, but they also have yoga and a sauna (yay). I love running outside, especially with the kids and friends. Once I organized my thinking about my spaces through the lens of Marie Kondo (Does this workout bring me joy? Does this space bring me joy?), it became super clear why I wasn’t meditating or stretching at home more often.
So, this month, I did it and prioritized my nook. My goals for the New Year included really really working on stretching and mindfulness, so I put my space together. I bought a diffuser for essential oils, I set up the altar, I put up some lights, and I put all the junk that had accumulated on the couch away, which was more than I care to admit (this phase actually took days, full of things like, “Does this old empty cardboard jewelry box spark joy? No. Thank you box for being in my life.”) Everything in that nook now makes me so happy, but most importantly, it has inspired me to have some time to myself right before bed. Realistically I do not meditate every night. It’s ok, it’s something I can work towards, but what I have been doing every night before bed is stretching. It’s awesome, I take a bath to warm up my muscles, I sit in my nook, I set up my iPad with trashy TV shows, I plug in my lights and essential oil diffuser, and I stretch to a TV show. Sometimes I go crazy and foam roll too (I know, insane right?). It is so amazing to me how important the space around us can really shape how we go through the day and get things done.
This week’s check-in is coming in very late. Week 3 was a challenging one for me because as I tried to exercise more often, life got a little busier than usual – the elevators went down at the office, we had some additional early intervention appointments for my youngest, the hubby had an evening networking event, we celebrated my oldest daughter’s birthday. Plus, I took a short road trip to a winery with two of my favorite friends for a little pre-birthday celebration.
When I asked Megs for some blog post ideas at the beginning of 6FIT, she suggested writing something about juggling full-time work, healthy living, and family life. (Note: I did not say balance because that’s a loaded term.) Last week was a perfect week for this topic because I did everything I suggest doing here…yet I still found myself a little overwhelmed by Wednesday night and incredibly tired by the weekend. But here are some of the ways I try to manage my life on a weekly basis:
Outsourcing: I admit this comes from a place of some economic privilege but I outsource anything I can. As someone who grew up in a very low income neighborhood (78207 – look up the zip code), I hesitated to pay others to do what I thought I could so myself. However, two kids and one career later, I will spend some cash if it saves me valuable time. One such investment is a healthy meal delivery system. We sometimes use Foodery in Boston – the company provides “real food”/ready-made meals that the whole family tends to enjoy. I used to get annoyed at paying $24 for a from-scratch locally sourced King Ranch chicken casserole; then I tried making one and it took a big bag of groceries plus three hours on a Sunday afternoon. Nope.
Delivery: I save some time but mostly a lot of effort by not setting foot in a grocery store every week. I use Peapod which has the same prices I would pay at a regular store. “But I want to pick my own produce!” is often a rebuttal I hear when I tell people I do this. I don’t know. My people have long been associated with agricultural work. I’m cool with letting someone else pick it. And we live in Mass. It’s not like we’re gonna find the amazing stuff you can find in Cali or other parts of the country. I will supplement with trips to a big grocery store by my office or the local farmer’s market that often pops up down the street from us. Otherwise, click click click and my shopping is done at any hour of the day.
Apps: My life revolves around apps. Embarrassingly so. If we ever walk by a Starbucks, my six year old will say, “oh wait, did we pre-order our coffee?” (She does not drink coffee btw – don’t report me to child services.) I pre-order anything I can through an app.
Meal prep: No brainer. This is probably the best way to stay on track with healthy eating. I always boil eggs, cook steel cut oats, and bake egg muffins for the week. I am amazed by how well the DanceFIT gals do this! This is definitely an area of growth for me. I grew up with a grandma who would make all three meals every day fresh and from scratch so meal prepping and leftovers do not come naturally to me.
Team effort: My greatest achievement during Week 2 was teaching my just turned 6 year old to make breakfast so I could take Piloxing and her dad could sleep in. She nuked some frozen pancakes, chopped up some soft fruit, and served it with a yogurt pouch for herself and her little sister. Viola! Breakfast is done. Seriously, though, I cannot juggle everything myself so I rely on my family to do their part at home. My kids love to cook and help out so I put them to work. Even if they didn’t like it, I would still teach them how to do it.
Plan, plan, plan: One of the challenges I face during the work week are work meetings and the carb-n-sugar fest that is served at such meetings. Breakfast often means pastries and fruit. Lunch is sandwiches, chips, and cookies for dessert. So I regularly carry bananas, cheese sticks, yogurt, almond butter packs, hummus cups, and apples around with me. My bag looks like a preschooler lunch box but it means I can always round out a crappy work meal with some healthy options. p.s. If you can, change the menu! Our previous Deputy Director had some health issues and pretty much banned chips and cookies at every work meeting for a while.
Be prepared: I sleep in my workout clothes and I keep an extra set at work. I forgot my clothes once and did spin in a regular bra. Yuck! Now I keep a bag in my office with the essentials, including a yoga mat. Boston offers some great free outdoor classes every summer and I am more likely to go if I have everything I need at work.
Be sneaky: Despite the fact that I am currently negotiating with our landlord over our aging elevators, taking the stairs is a great option. I also try to walk outdoors every day for 15 minutes during the work day and use my Fitbit to make sure I am not sitting all day long. Maybe I won’t lose ten pounds and look like I did at 25, but my 80 year old self will thank me one day…right? Move! Move! Move!
Go with the flow: The biggest challenge I faced in transitioning to motherhood and full-time work was accepting good enough. In the past, I would pull a DanceFIT double header a couple of days a week to feel “accomplished.” Once I had kids it became difficult to get to and through just one class. I have finally accepted that a 14 minute workout is better than no work out. 2/3 of a class is better than no class.
Pick three: The most important thing I do every week is set up reasonable expectations. I have a lot of competing priorities in my life – my health, my marriage, motherhood, my career, my financial goals, my mental health, my friendships, my larger extended family. I started picking three every week that I could totally rock. I accept being okay on the rest and try not to feel guilty if I fail miserably at one of them. Last week was friends, work, and kids – everything else fell into place somehow.
Clearly, being a kick ass 6FIT Spokesperson and getting my blog to Megs on time was not one of my three last week but, oh well, there’s always next week.
My mom lives in Maine. Growing up it was our vacation house, then my mom moved up there full time after my dad passed away. It is amazing there: the house overlooks a picturesque lake set against a backdrop of ski mountains, with hiking trails out the back door. However it is quite remote and the only fitness class (my preferred way to sweat!) is yoga at the church once a week. I LOVE LOVE all the swimming in the summer, hiking in the shoulder seasons, and skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, but to be honest, it is tough to actually get in a workout with my kids in tow (still fun though!).
We like to go up for some R&R and grandma time in the summer, but finding my fitness groove becomes difficult. Last summer I was training for the half marathon, going to yoga once a week, and taking some virtual classes when I could fit them in, but was really craving the ability to just workout by myself with a yoga mat and some weights. I kept thinking “is this something people just know how to do?” My brain started going back to gym class in high school learning about weight training and timed runs...ugh I needed to learn a workout that I could lead on my own time but also something FUN. And something that incorporated stretching because training for a half marathon is no joke.
After some research, I landed on PiYo Live. I had been taking Megs’ Virtual PiYo and loved it, so it seemed like a natural fit for me. I love yoga, I love pilates, and I love dance, and PiYo seemed like the perfect mix of those things for me. I bought a giant (64 oz!) water bottle, signed up for the virtual course, arranged childcare (thanks Mom!), and set up a tiny log-cabin bedroom studio for my training.
PiYo training was actually so fun. There was a lot I expected, like learning yoga poses, flow, working out harder and longer than I ever had, but there was also a lot I didn’t expect, like learning musicality, safety of positioning in the poses, and having a super supportive PiYo community. The biggest surprise was how motivated I was to teach afterwards. I intended to learn how to construct a work out for myself, but as I learned the movements, the techniques, and HOW to teach I became so inspired! The respect I gained for what all my fitness instructors had already mastered pushed me to work even harder to master the format. It also pushed me to become something I could have never imagined ten years ago: a fitness instructor.
Since that training, I have been practicing PiYo at home often (mostly with my kids as my “clients”). I am working towards a full class that I am comfortable teaching, and learning so much from PiYo has given me the freedom to workout on my own. I just play my PiYo jams and flow on! I often think back to that weekend in the log cabin in Maine and realize how important that training was in my fitness journey. It solidified my need to work on stretch (and I actually put together a two song PiYo inspired stretch routine based on what I learned), it motivated me to take my strength to a new level, and it mentally inspired me to work towards a new job path. It also inspired me to continue learning as an adult, and all of the motivation I have gotten from my DanceFit community so far this year has lead me to sign up for a PiYo Live masterclass series so that I can really become proficient and make PiYo happen!
A good friend of mine once asked, “Are you cooking these days? I always know you’re happy when you’re cooking.” And it is so true! If I had my choice, every day I would have time to chop and either sauté, roast or braise something and serve it up to my family or friends. I am one of many cooks in my extended family, but I’d like to think I’ve made my own reputation as someone who especially loves doing dips, soups and salads—and who not only loves cooking, but also loves writing about it!
Honestly, it’s hard for me to narrow down the recipes I love. More than 50 cookbooks sit proudly in my living room (and those are the ones that made it through my pretty ruthless pruning process), along with 2 binders of magazine-tear recipes, a composition notebook of my ideas and critiques, and a folder of menus I’ve printed. I need to print out a menu when I cook for an event, because otherwise I would never remember year over year! I’ve had many a moment when one of my brothers or even my kids will say, “Can you make that such-and-such you made that time?” only to get a blank stare from me! So I started keeping much better records.
But I will say, I pride myself on meticulously storing my family and friends’ food preferences, allergies and aversions. Rob can’t do seafood, Dan can’t do stone fruit, Aunt Nat can’t do garlic and Aunt Terry can’t do vinegar. Mom hates yellow mustard. Mike eats everything—just no raw onions because he hates to offend. Nia doesn’t like fruit messing with her chocolate. Dylan doesn’t eat at parties, but he’ll eat when everyone leaves and it should have tomato sauce or salsa on it. Cole wants a chicken drumstick right now but hold the dessert! You get the idea.
So as I finish up week 3 of New Year’s Fit and head into the homestretch of the challenge, I thought I’d share just a small sample of recipes that have a ton of veggies and also bring me such joy to prepare. And if you see me in the studio or on Facebook and want to talk food, I am your girl! I firmly believe that home cooking heals almost everything! And it can be fun, relaxing and nourishing all at the same time.
Following are two recipes each for dips (just in time for Superbowl Sunday), soups and salads. Enjoy!
I have many more recipes on my blog’s website if you want more! www.sendmethatrecipe.com
Simplest and Best Guacamole
Recipe type: appetizer, side dish
Author: Andrea Benoit
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 4 servings
Once you make this extra easy guac, you will never consider buying it pre-made ever again, and you will find so many wonderful uses for it beyond a tortilla chip–which is amazing in and of itself, of course. On burgers or chicken sandwiches, as a topper for black bean soup, chicken enchiladas, or fish tacos, or with a couple of eggs in the morning, this will be your new go-to condiment. More healthy fats for you! Get smashing! Of course you can add cilantro, but I am one of those people who got the gene for not liking it, so I leave it out.
Roasted Eggplant Dip
Author: Andrea Benoit adapted from Ina Garten's Roasted Eggplant Spread recipe
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 50 mins
I started making this dip a few years ago when I had a fridge drawer full of vegetables and I needed a recipe that used a lot of them! To my delightful surprise, my kids wanted to skip the pita chips and just get a spoon! Something about the sweet red bell peppers, roasted garlic and tomato paste and the overall creamy texture of this dip makes it appealing to adults and kids alike. This is a great dish to bring to a party and can easily be made ahead of time.
Recipe type: Soup, Lunch, Dinner
Author: Andrea Benoit, adapted from Ina Garten's Winter Minestrone
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
This soup is like therapy. Both preparing it and eating it will make you feel better about what ails you. I adapted this from Ina Garten’s minestrone recipe.
Dad’s Fish Chowder
Recipe type: Soup, Entree
Author: Andrea Benoit
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 50 mins
My dad was hilarious and one of a kind, and I could sit at the table and talk to him forever! He loved soup, and this recipe is an adaptation of one he created and my mom and he made many times. It’s not really a traditional chowder because it’s brothy, not thickened, but it is hearty and filling, with potatoes, carrots, corn and chunks of fresh cod. You can also add shrimp or other seafood you love. Cook up a batch and share it with your loved ones, along with a nice glass of white wine, of course…
Cape Cod Salad
Recipe type: Salad, Side Dish or Entree
Author: Andrea Benoit
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 8 mins
Total time: 28 mins
This recipe is great because it doesn’t try to be a summer salad–it has robust winter flavors of bacon, cranberry, and apple with a dash of maple. I bought a 4-pack of wide-mouth mason jars at the supermarket and use them all the time to shake up my dressings.
Chopped Summer Salad
Recipe type: Entree, Salad
Author: Andrea Benoit
Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 55 mins
This dish is easiest made in the summertime, when you can get your hands on ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh green beans and sweet cucumbers. But there’s no way I can limit my eating of it to then, so just go for it! You may see the prep time and think that’s too long to make a salad, but it’s really a whole meal in your most giant bowl!
Roasted eggplant dip
Chopped Summer Salad
So many victories this week. I worked out 8 times this week, kept up with my 64 oz. of water per day, and snuck in a megaton of fruits and vegetables. I even went up in weights for 3 different exercises in my circuit regimen!
But there were really hard moments too. I’ve always been pretty confident and I look in the mirror without hyper-analyzing my looks. But it started to get to me this week that my body won’t let go of weight. While my husband and others around me experience this dramatic and self-affirming initial weight loss when they start something like this, my body says, great, what else you got?
I don’t usually step on a scale. It’s not part of my routine. But with this challenge, I started weighing myself each morning to try and see if I could drop the last 6-8 pounds I gained while pregnant with the kids. And it’s hard to say, but really, the scale has only moved down by a max of 3 or 4 pounds in the same number of months I’ve been really exercising hard. My clothes do fit better, I see my body becoming more fit, but the scale doesn’t show it. It was time to take a step back and think, should I even focus on this number at all?
I decided (yes, after a few tears) to go back to the usual me. The me that doesn’t step on a scale, but that focuses on energy, strength, flexibility (a new one for me), how my clothes fit, and doing what’s best for my heart and my cholesterol numbers. I realized that my mom showed me exactly how I want to be. She has never dieted, rarely steps on a scale, and when she snacks it’s usually fruit or popcorn. She loves to cook and it’s hard to find a vegetable she doesn’t love. She also loves baking and it’s no big deal to have a slice of something homemade with Sunday dinner. This is how I grew up, and how I want to model treating food and fitness for my kids. I want them to see the fun I have with my classes and learn how to incorporate lots of vegetables and fruits into their daily world. I don’t want them to see deprivation, frustration or me beating myself up.
There was a tough moment where I realized I needed to take a deep breath. My husband came downstairs to do our circuit training as I was finishing up working out with one of my virtual classes. I saw he was in workout clothes and started to cry. I just wanted to feel like I had done enough for the day, and maybe watch Top Chef or something? I was exhausted from being a mom and running our house, and pushing my body at every turn. I needed a moment. And I realized, that really is ok.
Week 3 will be a new kind of week for me. Hopefully one where I spend more time being proud of myself and less time doubting my hard work and whether it’s enough. Back to me, here I go!
(And PS: I’ll be doing some more heavy lifting this week, since my little girl is off her feet completely after spraining her big toe. A sedentary toddler…I have my work cut out for me.)
Mom of 3, wife, business owner, ballet teacher and fitness instructor. Trying hard to raise healthy, happy and grateful children while running the studio of my dreams. Trying to stay FIT, flexible, stylish and take care of myself in the process!