The pursuit of JOY

I’m running on less than five hours of sleep and didn’t exercise as planned this morning, BUT I drank a warm, wonderful cup of coffee, ate a fabulous breakfast and got a pedicure with a new friend. Then, I experienced the best customer service at Bed Bath & Beyond and witnessed a gentleman complimenting a Chick-fil-A employee on the great job she was doing directing traffic in the drive-thru line.

(Don’t judge – I was only enabling my husband on his cheat day and not partaking!)

The last one particularly made me think to myself:

What a wonderful world.

I chose (the operative word being “chose”) to keep the good vibes going by politely waving the woman on who nearly hit me with her car in a crosswalk and telling another woman in the parking lot that her hair color looked great on her.

It has been a great day!

Choose happiness joy.

One of my mantras since high school has been “choose happiness.” This helped me through some tough times, especially during my childhood and even the fortunate life events that have brought on some type of change.

I’ve always been pretty good at being happy. I do it by exercising, eating things that are good for me, spending time with my family and friends, getting involved in activities I enjoy and working a job that I love with people whom I love.

…but what’s left on days when my healthy habits slip, I can’t see my family and friends, I don’t have the resources to do what I want to do and I have a tough day at work?

This is where joy comes in.

Happiness vs. joy

It’s this simple: Happiness is fleeting. Joy is lasting.

Danielle LaPorte, a bestselling Canadian author, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger, explains this beautifully on her website, which discusses entrepreneurship, spirituality, and personal growth:

Joy is the fibre of your Soul. It’s the stuff of your essence. And since you, your Soul, can never be annihilated (yes, that would make you eternal and omnipresent), your access to joy never vanishes. Because joy is so foundational to your true being, every other state or emotion can rest on top of joy, it can accommodate everything.

This means that it’s possible to grieve with your whole heart, and still sense your joy. You can feel rage, and be aware of joy waiting patiently for you to return, and take deep comfort in that.

The last paragraph spoke volumes to me. I’ve been grieving how drastically my life changed more than a year and a half ago. However, just like I choose to exercise and eat healthfully, make time for family and friends, do things that I enjoy and go to work every day, I’m choosing joy.


Whether you are a man or love one, this concerns YOU!

Eat healthier.


Don’t drink coffee … wait … Coffee, in moderation, is actually good for you?

Remain alert to family members’, friends’ and your mental health.

Protect yourself from STD’s by practicing safe sex.

Don’t drink excessively or do drugs.

While this may sound like an annoying list of things we’re told to do and not to do in order to take control of our health, at least we have just that – control! These are called “modifiable risk factors.”

But what about the risk factors we can’t change like age, ethnicity, gender and family history? These are called “‘unmodifiable’ risk factors,” because we’re born with these traits and, for the most part, can’t change them and how they affect our health. That’s why we do our best to make up for this with modifiable risk factors – by living a healthy lifestyle.

Men’s health is in a state of crisis.

In general, men don’t do as well as women with taking care of themselves, and we have cultural factors to blame for that. Men are conditioned starting at birth to brush it off and suck it up. That’s one of the reasons why, around the world, women outlive men.

This is unsettling whether you are a man or love one.

According to MedlinePlus, men are more likely than women to do the following:

  • Smoke and drink
  • Make unhealthy or risky choices
  • Put off regular checkups and medical care

The behaviors listed above serve as risk factors for the following:

  • Cancers
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Mental health conditions
  • Obesity
  • Overall poor health

Furthermore, certain health conditions only affect men, like prostate cancer and low testosterone.

The Movember Foundation and Oxygen Fitness Studio are doing something about it.

The Movember Foundation is “a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives through funding programs focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.” During the month of November, men can raise funds and awareness for men’s health by participating in two different challenges:

  1. Moustaches in Movember: start by shaving November 1, and grow out your mustache while keeping it groomed through November 30
  2. MOVE in Movember: move every day in November

Oxygen Fitness Studio is partnering with Aiken Urology to host donation-based classes to benefit the Movember Foundation. The suggested donation is $10, and the schedule is as follows:

Friday, November 20 – Augusta location only

Saturday, November 21 – Aiken location only

To my Oxygen fitfam: I “mustache” you to join us with your friends and family, whether it’s in support of your own health or that of the men you love.

Reserve your bike, place at the barre or on the mat here:

This post was originally published November 19, 2015 on Oxygen Fitness Studio’s blog. Check it out!


Healthier Thanksgiving sides to gobble up!

Click here to watch our November 15 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

IMG_6647 IMG_6649 IMG_6652 IMG_6655

For the record, starting this year, I’m no longer accepting the misconception that the holiday season must be about overindulgence.

Since I started my weight-loss journey going on four years ago, I’ve discovered strategies for losing and maintaining weight that work well for me. One of those has specifically helped me to deal with social gatherings and the holidays, which are fast approaching. That strategy consists of taking control – a skill that I lacked before my weight-loss journey began.

For example, if I’m invited to a friend’s house to share a meal, I typically offer to bring something healthy so I have at least one item that jives with my eating plan. Also, something that I used to do more often than I do now is initiate dinner outings with friends so I could have some say over where we ate. As selfish as all of this sounds, it has worked for me and symbolizes a lesson I had to learn early on: that everyone is only their own first priority. Not only does that mean that I have to be mine, but it also means that I can’t be theirs, too.

At the end of next week, I’ll be hosting my first holiday with extended family. While it’s unreasonable to think that I won’t struggle with making healthy choices, I recognize that I have control and the most important kind: self-control. I’m exercising self-control by taking a cleaner, leaner approach, because that’s the only way to guarantee that I’ll make good decisions that I’ll feel good about. My mother-in-law is an outstanding cook, so my goal is to keep my last name and for none of my loving family members to starve. It would be an added bonus to shock everyone with how much these recipes taste like the unhealthy recipes that inspired them!

Not-So-Stuffing StuffingIMG_6606

Serves 8


  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 bunches of celery or one bag, diced
  • 6 sage leaves, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups ⅓ less sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
  • Black ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin (optional)


  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in medium skillet. Add onions and celery, and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent, for about 10 minutes. Add sage and garlic, stir to combine, and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Poke sweet potatoes with fork a few times, and heat in microwave for 5 minutes to soften. Allow to cool before peeling and cubing. Toss sweet potato cubes with remaining oil and a pinch of sea salt, line baking sheet with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Place potato cubes on baking sheet, and bake for 45 minutes or until brown and crispy. Remove from oven, and set aside.
  3. Put quinoa and chicken broth or vegetable broth in pot, and cook according to instructions on package.
  4. Put onion/celery mixture, roasted sweet potato cubes and quinoa in a large bowl, and mix.
  5. Add parsley, cumin and pepper to the mixture and serve.

Mock Mashed “Potatoes” (Cauliflower)IMG_6646

Serves 8


  • 4 heads of cauliflower
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • White pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. chives


  1. Cut cauliflower into florets.
  2. Steam until florets slightly change color.
  3. Place into a food processor with garlic, white pepper and process. Serve, and garnish with chives.

Healthier Green Bean CasseroleIMG_6605

Serves 8


  • 2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
  • “Fried” onions:
    • 2 tsp. coconut oil or olive oil, divided
    • 1 onion, halved and sliced
    • ½ cup regular or panko plain bread crumbs
    • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Creamy mushroom sauce:
    • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
    • 12 oz. mushrooms, chopped
    • 6 garlic cloves, minced
    • 6 oz. ⅓ reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
    • 5 Tbsp. flour
    • 12 oz. nonfat milk


  • Blanch green beans for about 3 minutes, place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and set aside.
  • “Fried” onions:
    1. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in pan on medium-high heat until melted (if using oil, until simmering).
    2. Saute onions while separating with spatula until golden.
    3. Reduce heat to low and, in same pan, add 1 tsp coconut oil, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese for two minutes, tossing frequently. The bread crumbs will absorb the oil.
    4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line baking sheet with aluminum foil and cooking spray, place onion/bread crumb/Parmesan cheese mixture on baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until crispy.
  • Creamy mushroom sauce:
    1. In same pan, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil on medium-high heat until melted (if using oil, until simmering), add mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms are soft and darker and water has cooked off. Add broth.
    2. In a small bowl, whisk flour and milk to make a slurry, and add to pan with mushrooms, garlic and broth. Reduce heat to medium, and cook while stirring frequently until thickened.
    3. Drain green beans, place in casserole dish lined with cooking spray, mix in creamy mushroom sauce, and bake in oven on 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
    4. Top with “fried” onions, and serve.

I don’t plan on missing the traditional versions of stuffing, mashed potatoes or green bean casserole, and I hope you don’t either!