Intentional about intuitive eating

On Sunday as I was meal planning for the week, I came across a slow cooker creamy chicken crock pot recipe. It looked delicious and really simple to throw together. Plus it reminded me of a dish a friend made for me (with pasta instead of rice) during my last week in Columbia that I loved. (It’s hard to believe that was exactly a year ago!)

I did my typical, “okay, how healthy is this?” questioning before deciding whether to put it on the docket. I was torn since it called for cream of chicken and cream cheese (kind of selling points for me since it’s likely what makes it delicious…) and no vegetables (though they could be added). Should I find modifications? Find a different recipe?

And then to my surprise, I decided I didn’t care. I put it on the list and made it Monday evening. In addition to the can of cream of chicken, I also used cream of mushroom. (The blogger is right — with more chicken, two cans helps.) The smell alone when I walked into the house after spin class was worth it.

Why the shift? It’s primarily because in the last week or two, I’ve been focusing on intuitive eating (you could say it’s another area where I’m trying to be intentional). It’s something the little talked about while we were home for the holidays, and a rockstar I got my MPH with posted this article about it on her facebook page. (I rarely put plugs out there, but if you’re interested in healthy living topics, Real Nutrition and Fitness LLC is beyond fantastic!) The article drove home the point that by saying I probably shouldn’t have something because it wasn’t healthy, I was actually creating an unhealthy view of that food.

With intuitive eating, nothing is off-limits. It’s similar to the “everything in moderation” approach to eating without that moderation restriction. It’s about eating to fuel your body and knowing when you’re full. What I also love is that it’s about having a healthy relationship with food. I don’t need to beat myself up or somehow justify having a dish that had cream cheese (I don’t want to estimate how many times I’ve said or even written on my blog, “I know this isn’t all that healthy but…”).

Plus I was able to balance the meal out, and that’s what really counts. I paired the creamy chicken with brown rice mixed with quinoa (a genius idea from a co-worker!) and loaded up on veggies as a side. So really, the “unhealthy” thing I was torn about only constituted a portion of an otherwise healthy meal. And it was delicious to boot! Comfort food without being too heavy, which I always love.

creamy chicken

Last night I also did a balancing act of sorts (with trying to make half my plate veggies) when I tried an oven-roasted sausage, potatoes and peppers recipe. This is comparable to another recipe or two I’ve tried, but it’s the first time I’ve used banana peppers (which I love!).

I’ll confess that banana peppers were the only peppers I used, but it turned out to be just the right amount of flavor for me — primarily because I used chipotle and pepperjack chicken sausage. So delicious! The leftovers were equally great, too. What was really surprisingly is that I only used salt, pepper and garlic powder as seasonings. The strong flavor from the peppers and sausage made me a bit thankful I didn’t throw in red pepper flakes.

sausage potato pepper

I’d say intuitive eating is definitely winning this week (though it’s still an interesting mindset shift I’m trying to make). It also doesn’t hurt that I’m getting way more steps now that the weather is gorgeous and Hurley gets double the time walking. We don’t mess around with this spring weather and extra hour of sunlight!


Perfect timing

This weekend proved to be quite a contrast to the last, and the gorgeous weather definitely put a spring in my step. Despite the 60-degree weather, though, I couldn’t resist pulling out the crock pot for a new dinner recipe.

Before taking Hurley out on a second walk (it’s my attempt to counter the effects of him being cooped up last week thanks to the 13 inches of snow), I started a skinny slow cooker chicken pot pie recipe. It’s one of my favorite perks of crock pot recipes — quick prep and then it just sits there for a couple hours. I actually used some of that time to make healthy banana bread baked oatmeal.

It didn’t take long to mix everything together for the baked oatmeal either (and there was next to no mess since it doesn’t require any flour or sugar!). I did end up adding in the 1/4 cup of maple syrup that the directions suggested as well as a sprinkle of brown sugar. While I love oats, I also wanted some sweet to it as well.


I thought the consistency would be similar to a banana bread, and in some ways it is. It almost reminds me moreso of those Quaker oatmeal bars, which I think will make for a perfect mid-morning snack this week. And I’m definitely glad I added in the maple syrup.

As the oatmeal bake was cooling, I put the frozen vegetables in the crock pot to finish up the pot pie recipe. Already I felt like this was much more successful than my actual chicken pot pie from a couple years ago — and not just because the portion size was more manageable. Having shredded chicken somehow made it better, and I was relieve to find that using almond milk instead of skim didn’t impact it at all (turns out almond milk doesn’t work well with pudding mixes…).

chicken pot pie

The timing was also nice since I pulled the banana oatmeal bake out of the oven just a few minutes before it was time to put in the biscuits. It’s probably better to have biscuits as opposed to a crust…except I bought two rolls so I can have fresh biscuits later in the week for leftovers. I can’t help that it’s my favorite part!

pot pie and biscuits

I may have to experiment with different seasonings and maybe crumbling the biscuit on top, but on the whole I loved it. The veggies were crisp and it had a thick consistency that reminded me of chicken and dumplings, obviously minus the dumplings. This crock pot dish was absolutely the way to go this evening. Perfect for a winter day, even when that day feels like spring. Not that this girl is complaining…

Dog walking

In retrospect, I should have posted this for Thankful Thursday. (Note to self: don’t forget that’s a blog series…)

I’ll probably talk more about this later, but another exciting thing about this year is that I’m participating in the Great Plains Public Health Leadership Institute. We had our kick-off a couple weeks ago and the other day we had a conference call that addressed mission, vision and values – both personal and organizational.

To start off the conversation about what drives us, we listened to a few “This I Believe” audioclips from NPR. The second story is one I fell in love with: Time to Walk the Dog. I primarily loved it because it pointed out two truths for me. First, dog walking really isn’t walking. Most days my “walk” with Hurley is simply meandering for blocks on end so he can smell every yard and stare down any squirrel, rabbit and critter that falls within his eyesight (and that happens way more frequently than I’d like…). I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who experiences that.

But the other truth is that sometimes that’s the beauty of walking my dog. It forces me to stop. With just a simple walk, Hurley has the ability to bring me back down to Earth, if you will. I love how the author describes it:

Walking the dog makes me lighten up and pay attention, not to what’s in my own head but to the unexpected small delights of the actual world. The dog gets me out of the four walls—work, clock, computer, phone—and into the land of smells and colors and serendipities. He reminds me of everything I can’t control and don’t need to.

My walk with Hurley is one of the few times where I don’t have to do or be anything. In fact, there’s not really anything I can do when I’m away from those four walls. There no crisis to be solved (save for the occasional bee sting…), no one to call and nothing to google. It’s one of those times when you realize you’re not carrying the weight of the world, that it’s going to keep on spinning regardless of what I do.

This has been particularly true with our new walking spot. Tired of walking the same 2-mile route in my neighborhood (plus someone’s allergies prevent him from getting to go to the dog park as frequently…), I decided to walk around Holmes Lake with Hurley. I can’t get enough of this place. Most days there aren’t too many people on the trail and you can only hear the wind and the water when you’re on certain portions of the path. Especially now that the leaves are changing colors, it’s gorgeous.


Granted, my perspective on dog walking may change once winter rears it’s ugly head. For the time being, though, it’s been a good way to regroup and get away from the daily grind of email, phone calls and google searches. Plus I’ve got fantastic company.

Like I said, it should have been a Thankful Thursday post…

A good cause

A few months ago I started volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association. In some ways it was prompted by my desire to reconnect with the organization that started my career path in the public sector. I spent one summer as a volunteer intern with the South Dakota chapter and, through that, realized I was meant to pursue a career in nonprofits and public service.

What drew me to the organization in the first place was my own connection with Alzheimer’s. My grandmother on my dad’s side had Alzheimer’s, and I don’t think I have a single memory with her where she wasn’t impacted by the disease. While most kids my age seemed to have the quintessential grandparent experience (though the disease is more prevalent than I realized at the time), I had a grandmother who didn’t know who I was.

On Thursday night there was a kick-off for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s to get everyone geared up and remind people why they walk. One of the activities at the walk this year is a “Why I Walk” board. Each person is encouraged to write on a purple footprint why (or for whom) they walk. This one caught my eye:


That thought has stuck with me ever since. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? As one of the speakers mentioned on Thursday night, wouldn’t it be great if, instead of a walk to end Alzheimer’s, we could instead have a walk to celebrate survivorship? It’s exactly what inspires me to walk and try to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s.

Given my family history, there’s a good chance that I or one of my sisters could end up with Alzheimer’s. But right now we’re scared to no end that it could impact one of our parents. I think that’s why “I walk so my kids never have to” is so impactful to me. I don’t know how my dad did it. I don’t know how millions of caregivers do it. All I know is that my heart would break into a million pieces if my one of my parents or a close loved one looked at me and couldn’t remember who I was and the lifetime of stories, experiences and love we’ve shared.

It’s one of those things that can keep you up at night, but unlike many chronic health conditions, there’s no real way to prevent it. That’s what’s scary. And that’s why I walk.

I mention all of this for a slightly selfish purpose. As a participant in the walk, I’m trying to raise funds that go back to the agency to provide resources and support to caregivers and advance research. Any donation helps. Or you’re more than welcome to join my team and can even do so virtually! (Dogs are even welcome at the walk, though since I’m helping with the walk I don’t think Hurley will be there to support the cause.)

If you’d like to make a donation or join my team, just visit my fundraising page. I promise you it’s going to a fabulous cause.

And with that, I’ll get off my soapbox.

Thankful Thursday #13

I’ve been meaning to get the Thankful Thursday posts going again, but it’s felt a little overwhelming with everything I’ve been thankful for as of late. I can’t even really explain how lucky I’ve been, especially with how well and quickly things came together this year. Suffice it to say I’m still eternally grateful about being a doggie mama who’s seven minutes away from the middle and has the job she’d described as her dream/ideal position for the last five years. Rarely do I forget to count my blessings.

Phew. All that being said, I can get back to the simplicity of this series.

Today I’m thankful for something relatively small. And I literally mean small: my FitBit.

There are certainly pros and cons to it. It’s a product that’s gotten a lot of hype and there’s a lot of chatter about which brands/products are better and if it’s really worth it. I wasn’t even aware of it until my dad put it on his Christmas wish-list, at which point I immediately put it on mine.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. I do know that it does wonders for me, though. As someone who loves data and setting goals (especially when it comes to health and self-improvement), this little device is perfect. It allows me to track my amount of physical activity (or lack thereof) and sleep (or again, my lack thereof) on a consistent basis to see how I’m doing.

I wrote earlier this year about what an eye-opener my FitBit was in those first few weeks. I’m all about health and consistently get to the gym. But that doesn’t do me a whole lot of good when the rest of the day I sit. And sit. And sit some more. I wasn’t leading quite the active lifestyle I thought I was, and that became very apparent.

That’s when lap-walking at the office became a thing. A few times a day, myself and whoever was feeling up to it would walk laps around the board room (I would not at all be surprised if we wore a path down on the rug…). It’s a habit that continues for me even now. Right around mid-morning each day, my new counterpart (also another L name, which makes me chuckle a bit) and I lace up our tennis shoes and walk laps in the basement of our building. Beyond just getting in those extra steps (and believe me, they add up), it’s also a great time for brainstorming, de-stressing and just chatting. And that change helps with my overall health, not just the physical activity.

When I got my weekly stats email just a few days ago, I couldn’t help but be thankful that my dad got me a FitBit for the holidays. Granted, my higher numbers are also impacted by the nicer (on some days, anyway) weather, having to park in a parking garage two blocks from the office and having Hurley as a walking buddy. But even so, it’s pretty great progress that I attribute in large part to my FitBit. We’re talking double and triple some amounts compared to my first week.

Jan fitbit



I’d like to think the lap walking and concentrated effort to walk more (and throughout the day instead of just relying on one workout) would continue without the FitBit. But I can almost guarantee that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be as committed. There’s something about seeing those numbers and getting that weekly email that keeps me motivated. (Now if only I would be more goal-oriented with my amount of sleep…)

Coincidentally enough, on the day I decided to blog about my FitBit, I got an email about a new red FitBit Flex. Not only am I obsessed with the color, but some of the proceeds (albeit small) go to the American Heart Association (heart disease prevention is one of my areas of interest in public health). To say I’m tempted is an understatement, in part because I want to see if I like it better than the FitBit One I currently have. Today I convinced myself to be thankful for what I have and not buy the new FitBit. But tomorrow is a new day…

Regardless of the brand or specific product, though, I’m thankful I’ve got this little gadget. While I can’t say it’s translated into weight-loss, it definitely makes me more aware of my overall health and helps me improve it. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely a great tool for me.

Two cooks in the kitchen

Let me tell you, crock pot recipes are the way to go (although I have to confess I was really nervous leaving it unattended with Hurley, though he was an angel while I was gone)!

The other night I made slow cooker chicken stroganoff and I’m still enjoying the leftovers (and that’s saying something for me). A friend of mine actually makes a similar recipe, which is what drew me to it initially, though I do wish it were a bit healthier.

I only used a small amount of butter and used the reduced fat cream cheese (yes, Liz, keep telling yourself that it makes is less unhealthy…). I wish there was a way to get away from the cream of chicken, but it had the creamy sauce that I’ve been craving. Sometimes you just have to scrap all the healthier alternatives and just go with what you like. Hopefully that means I’ve got my fix and can steer clear from it for awhile.

chicken stroganoff

In retrospect I should have added vegetables to it to at least increase my veggie consumption or add a bit of color, but I liked it just the way it was. And the benefit of the Italian seasoning packet is I didn’t have to use a bunch of extra seasonings of my own (not that it’s a huge burden to put in garlic powder, pepper, etc.).

My cooking (although does a crock pot recipe really count as cooking?) didn’t stop there. I actually hadn’t planned on baking this one, though. Yesterday afternoon when I got home, I realized I had a few bananas that were turning brown. I had two hours before a double date with the middle at the dog park, giving me ample time to whip up another loaf of bread.

After some quick search on pinterest, I came across a cinnamon swirl banana bread. With my trusty companion (he was there for quality control), we had the bread ready to go with about ten minutes to spare.



This time I actually remember to take a photo of it, too. (And I swear I haven’t already eaten half the loaf. I took the other half to the middle, I swear!) I’m not sure that it swirled quite the way the original recipe did, but it’s still pretty dang tasty. Definitely a fun contrast to the blueberry bread.

banana cinnamon bread

I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a good thing I’ve been getting in extra steps with Hurley. Otherwise all this comfort food would really start to take its toll on me.

Juneathon: Day 4

As I was finishing up today’s workout, I couldn’t tell if I should applaud my dedication and effort or shake my head at my insanity. The start of my walk wasn’t too bad, but I forgot just how hot and humid it can get in mid-Missouri. Even for heading out at 4 p.m. (initially I wanted to walk right before noon after meeting people for coffee), I felt every bit of the 95 degrees.

Wanting to get more miles, I opted to walk today for my 2.3 miles around the neighborhood. The hope was that I’d jog nearing the end of my route, but the heat got the better of me. In fact, I cut my walk a bit short because all I could think about was water. Like I said, I could applaud my efforts in the heat, but it’s mostly just stupidity on my part. Definitely made me miss the gym, although I would rather walk and jog outside.

What was different about my walk, though, was that I got full exposure to something unique happening in Missouri. I came back yesterday and was promptly greeted by the sound of cicadas. I’d never even heard of them prior to moving to Missouri three years ago (much like I hadn’t heard of brown recluse spiders…but that’s a whole other story), but apparently the cicada sounds only occur every 13 years in Missouri. I won’t lie – at times I did flinch when one got too close to me. The noise was a bit much at times, but in a few weeks the sounds will be no more.

In the end, the workout wasn’t that impressive, but I’m okay with that given the heat. Tomorrow evening I plan to hit the MKT with a friend, so that should be a lot more enjoyable…and also keep me from panicking about the first day of my big girl job on Monday. I’m definitely jumping right back into reality after vacation.


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