Author: Stephanie (page 1 of 5)

Low on Willpower? How to crush your workout plan without it

I’m on week 10 of 12 week my workout plan, 4-5 days a week of lifting at the gym, for 30 – 60 minutes. This is the first plan I have ever done without skipping workouts or extending out the weeks and I am so proud! I’ve been doing a lot of introspection on why this time is different, and I have some takeaways that I know will help you achieve similar success.

We’ve all started an exercise plan before thinking that this time we’ll stick to it, and then we feel miserable when we don’t. I’m here to tell you that if you’re relying on pure “willpower,” not only are you going to have a hard time getting to your goal, but also it will not be enjoyable. There are better ways to ensure success:

1.  Small successes beget bigger ones

Motivation through negativity is the quickest way to fail. Posing pictures of people who have your “dream bod” or telling yourself that you need to workout because you don’t like your body may be motivating for a short time, but you can’t ride the negativity train for very long without losing steam and hating yourself along the way.  What’s more motivating? Meeting small goals and feeling good about them. Every time you meet a goal or see small improvements, you build positive momentum and want to keep going. When you start something new, keep your goals simple and manageable so that you can see results. For me, it was simply checking off the boxes on my workouts for the week and being able to see progress in the weight I was lifting from week to week.

2. Do something you actually like

This may seem obvious, but it’s a big deal. I like lifting and running, and I alternate between them depending on what I’m into at the time. Lifting weights makes me feel strong and confident and I think it’s fun to see how much weight I can do on a given day. If I didn’t enjoy it, there’s no way I would have gotten this far. This does not mean I am super pumped about getting to the gym every day that I go. I still have days where I’m not as into it, or I’m tired and just do the minimum to get it done. But for the most part, I like it enough to keep going. When you do something you like, it’s much easier to convince yourself to do it, even on days you’re not so motivated. And life is too short to spend hours a week doing something you totally hate.

3. Know what motivates YOU

This is the first workout plan where I had a physical book to write in and I learned something big about myself. I already knew that I enjoyed having a plan when I hit the gym so I don’t have to think about what to do or how long to stay. What I didn’t know was that I love keeping a physical record of the weights I’m using and seeing all of the check boxes in my own handwriting from week to week. Once I got a few weeks into the plan without missing a workout, there was no way I was going to have a week go by where I left boxes empty. It is super motivating and makes me feel accomplished. Again, feeling good about your progress means you’re more likely to keep going back for more. Keep in mind that everyone likes different things. Paper check boxes do it for me, but you may think it’s dumb to carry a book around and write things down between sets. Find out what YOU like and do it. And this may require trying several different things before you find something.

Willpower is not the way to results and you are not weak or lazy if you’ve been relying on it and feeling disappointed.  Skip “just do it” and build yourself up for success.

Curious about what my workout plan is? Right now I’m doing the “Get Jacked” plan from Girls Gone Strong. I highly recommend following them, and their founder Molly Galbraith.

Want to know why I became a health coach? Read my story.

ETM Reviews: Fitbit Ionic Smart Watch

I’ve had a number of people ask me what I thought of my new Fitbit Ionic watch, and I love it! So I’m sharing why in today’s blog. I’ve been wearing various models of Fitbit and Garmin fitness watches or step trackers since 2014, so I’ve logged a lot of steps and tried out all of the features.

Trackers I’ve used before:

  1. Fitbit pepple – super basic step tracker that you clip to you.  You set a goal and it shows you in lights how far you are to hitting it. Nice and simple if you aren’t into bells and whistles.
  2. Fitbit Charge HR – My second favorite tracker. I probably never would have upgraded from this if it were waterproof. It has a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, activity/exercise tracker,  and a nice little screen to see the time and your stats for the day.
  3. Garmin VivoSmart HR – This is a good watch. It shows texts/calls, is waterproof so you can swim, does sleep tracking, and has a heart rate monitor. But is has no GPS, and the Garmin app is so not user friendly (especially compared to the fitbit one). I never looked at the app and the tracker lost it’s value as I paid less and less attention to my stats. Also, if you wear a Garmin running watch, it will not sync the steps from that and the VivoSmart.
  4. Garmin Forerunner 15 – Mostly a GPS running watch that works well, but also does track your daily steps. No heart rate or any other metrics.

And now I have the Fitbit Ionic. This watch is by far the best one I’ve ever used. Here’s why:

  1. It has GPS. I no longer have to look ridiculous wearing two watches when I run. And it connects to the satellites super fast!

    fitbit run map

    Track your runs with the Ionic’s GPS and see the route in the Fitbit App

  2. It’s waterproof. This is especially helpful when you are on island surrounded by water, or just don’t want to remember to take it off before showering. It has a swim mode and will track how far and fast you swim, and count it towards your activity minutes.
  3. It stores music. If you get Pandora (the paid version), Deezer or another approved music account, you can sync the playlists to your watch and run with music and no phone or MP3 player. You can also just store your music files on it. Connect some bluetooth headphones and you are out the door!
  4. It takes sleep tracking to a new level. My old Fitbit and Garmins tracked my sleep, but it was just awake and alseep time. This one tracks your time in different stages of sleep: awake, REM, light and deep sleep.

    fitbit sleep stats

    Track all of your sleep stages with the Fitbit Ionic Sleep Tracker

  5. It has built in breathing exercises and short workouts – try 3 minutes of guided breathing or a 7 minute warmup – all from the watch.
fitbit app

The Fitbit App is user-friendly and motivating

It’s safe to say that I am obsessed with this new watch from Fitbit and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to track steps, workouts or just general health, sleep and stress levels.

Know a friend that is looking for a new fitness watch? Hit share on your favorite platform below!


How to Take Action on Your Goals Today (it’s easier than you think)

You’ve read all of the books and devoured more webinars than you can count on both hands – so why haven’t you started that business, lost the weight, learned how to crochet, or [insert desired thing here]? Why is it always getting pushed off until tomorrow?


I know this firsthand. I love all of the books, seminars, videos, and podcasts and could eat up information all day everyday. I love books so much I wrote my own! It’s easy and fun to learn new things and we’re all inherently curious. But we’re missing a key part of life and learning: experience.


There is an abundance of information available to us in the world now and we forget that we don’t have to consume all of it, all of the time. Our emphasis on learning starts early in life, as we spend 12 years (minimum) studying in school before we are sent off into the world to use any of the knowledge. If there is anything we know, it is how to learn, how to study, how to think about things.


I see this knowledge paralysis with my health coaching clients often. They read diet books and get caught up in the next new theory about carbs and protein. They inherently know the basics: more water, more vegetables, more movement, less processed food, less sugar. However, they get too tangled up in diet rules and food theory and declare it a lost cause. It takes time and patience to implement new habits and see real changes. Health also requires experimentation to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. What makes YOU feel good?


As I build Embracing the Mess, I encounter a similar problem. I’ve read enough books and listened to enough online business courses to know what the basic steps are for expanding my reach. But when it comes down to actually doing the work that I know I need to do, I freeze. Part of it is fear that I need to move through, and I do that through tapping and journaling. The other part is that it takes effort to transition from thinking about doing something to actually starting it.


Inner knowledge, and knowledge from experience, needs more emphasis. There is a time when we need to put down the books and start to TRY things, even if they don’t work the first, second or even third time. This trial and error is invaluable and how change and growth happens. It may be harder or scarier to actually ditch the wine or start that website than to just plan on doing it, but you will never regret taking that first step. The good news is that as soon as you start, your energy will transform and the momentum will carry you through to the next right step. One of my mentors, Marie Forleo, has a quote that inspires me daily: “Clarity comes from action, not thought.”


What can you do today to move from thought to action so you can start reaching your goals? Leave a comment below and hold yourself accountable!


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Put down the Advil: three tips for natural pain relief

As I sit here and write this, I’m shifting to find a position that doesn’t make my back protest with pain. This weekend I tried to pick something up that was definitely too heavy and am feeling the after effects now. While it’s nothing serious and will right itself in a day or two, it did bring up a topic that I wanted to share with you. Recently an Advil (or Aleve or something like that) ad has been airing on my streaming platform, rudely interrupting my episode of House Hunters. This ad is driving me totally crazy because the whole thing is about people ignoring their pain and going about various activities anyway. “I took this pill and now I’m golfing for eight hours!” That is so great!… or is it?
Your body experiences pain for a reason, and I think with the inventions of modern medicine we have started to forget that. Just like hunger tells you to eat, or thirst tells you to drink some water, pain tells you that something isn’t working right and it needs to be tended to.  Here are some of my “dos and don’ts” of pain relief:
*Note: if you’re experiencing chronic pain, severe migraines, an autoimmune disorder, or something similar this is different than the temporary pain I reference in this article. While some of this may apply, you should reach out to a holistic health professional for further guidance.

1. DO listen to your body

Don’t ignore your symptoms. Rest if you’re in pain or feeling fatigued. Increase your sleep during this time, as a majority of muscle and cell repair happens while you are sleeping.
DON’T take ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) repeatedly to numb out the pain and continue your activities. You could exacerbate the injury if you can’t tell how the motions are affecting your body. There is also growing research around the side effects of ibuprofen specifically with gastrointestinal injury. Americans pop this stuff like candy; a 2010 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) that found that 12.8% of adults in the United States were taking NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) at least three times a week for 3 months, representing an increase of over 40% compared with the results of a similar interview in 2005 (ref).

2. DO continue to stay active (if you can)

Exercise is important for healing, as long as you don’t feel it is making your injury worse. Long walks are a great substitute for more strenuous exercise. Even light stretching or yoga can allow your body to move without jeopardizing your healing.
DON’T “push through the pain” or keep doing any exercise where you feel pain. There is a difference between straining your muscles in a productive way and furthering injury. Know the difference between discomfort, fatigue or soreness and actual pain.

3. DO fuel your healing with nutrition.

You know the drill here, lots of water and plant-based fare. Consider incorporating turmeric into your cooking, or taking it in capsule form. This spice is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties.
DON’T over-indulge in dairy, alcohol or sugar. These are all known to create inflammation in the body. If your primary issue is headaches, also consider experimenting with how caffeine affects you, and increase your water intake significantly.
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Feminism and Weight Loss – can they go together?

I’ve been studying personal development and nutrition for a few years now, and consider myself aware of media and how it affects women’s self-esteem and body image.

Whether you realize it or not, constantly seeing images of thin, photo-shopped women on social media, in magazines and advertising your favorite products can damage how you see yourself, and create body dysmorphia.  These images consciously or subconsciously tell you that your body is abnormal and needs to change.

As a health coach and self-proclaimed feminist, I encourage women to love their bodies and love seeing companies stop using photoshop in their ads. I think all of the women in my life are gorgeous.

However, the number one goal my clients and friends have is weight loss. Who am I to tell them that they can’t want to lose weight? And after coming home from a month-long vacation and noticing that my clothes were pretty darn tight, I started to think I could stand to lose a few pounds myself.

But there is NO way I was going to admit that. Judging my body based on its weight and feeling like I needed to look or be a certain way was just admitting that the media and all of its ugliness was right…right?

Body image can be a real mind f*ck, especially in the days of technology and social media. There is a whole industry targeting women, making them feel like they need to change themselves and buy certain products to do it. It’s in their best interest that you feel inadequate, and there are plenty of times a day that I and all women feel that way. Once you start creating awareness around the barrage of ads and subliminal messaging, it’s hard to go back and admit that you want to look differently.

How can you tell that something is what YOU want to do for your health and vitality and not something that you feel you need to do because of what the outside world is telling you?

There is no right answer, unfortunately. You have to examine your motivation, and the easiest way to do that is look at the language you are using when you think about starting to eat or exercise differently. Are you telling yourself that you’re fat and need to go look better for your cousin’s wedding? Or are you noticing that your energy is waning and you don’t feel as good as you want to, and you want to make some changes to get there?

See the difference? Both could have the identical outcome – e.g. a few more days in the gym every week. But completely different motivations.

Even if your motivation is just that you want your butt to be a little more poppin’ that’s okay. It is your prerogative to look and feel however YOU want to. But know that you may not stay on the workout train for very long unless you have a “why” that feels good to you. We can’t change our habits by beating ourselves into submission. Positive reinforcement will always work better.

More importantly, know that you ARE perfect the way you are now, and later. That you are worthy of love at every weight. It is possible to love yourself and want to change how your body looks and feels. Not only is it possible, but it will work better that way. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and the patriarchy isn’t winning when you are making decisions that are good for you. The most important aspect of feminism is women having their own autonomy – the right to make decisions and be who they want to be, when they want to. And know, if you’re even thinking about this, that you are one step ahead of pervasive media. There is no shame in wanting to lose weight, or any other changes that you’re thinking about making. Do what is in YOUR best interest.

<3 Stephanie



Tap your Stress Away (What is Tapping or EFT?)

I pretty much came out of the womb anxious. If you talk to my mom, she will probably tell you a story about when my sister was born. I was two and half years old, and as soon as my sister arrived, I refused to take anymore naps. There was no way I was sleeping when there was this new baby to take care of and all of these new things to do. I had to help, obviously. In middle school I had viscous stomach aches for no reason (uh, hey stress) and would panic if my presentation on cloud types wasn’t quite right, or I couldn’t figure out my homework. Almost everyday in high school I woke up popping peppermints because I was constantly nauseous.

Surprisingly enough, this didn’t go away as I became an adult. In fact, it got worse and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety during my freshman year of college. I took the medication they gave me, and it worked pretty well. While I never really liked being on it, I had tried to stop a couple of times and it didn’t work out.

In 2012, everything changed. I had three surgeries on my stomach for an appendectomy and resulting complications. I dove head first into health and wellness, and came across Tapping in my research. Tapping, also known as EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique, is best described as “needle-less acupuncture.” To use it, a person taps on points of the body along the energy meridians (best known from acupuncture) identified in eastern medicine. As you are tapping, you talk out loud about what is bothering you. The combination of these two things moves energy and emotion through your body, and calms a part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for stress responses and that “fight or flight” sensation we all know.

I’ve been using this technique since that year, and I can truly say it changed my life. I no longer suffer from depression, and am much less anxious. I use it almost daily to deal with everything from daily stressors, to rewriting big limiting beliefs in my life.

It’s best shown in person, so I made this video to show you. Click the picture below to check out the video, and I would love to know if you experience any changes as you tap along with me. Leave a comment here!

Learn how to use tapping or EFT and why it works

P.S Did you know I publish a weekly newsletter with blog updates? Subscribe here.

Do you have a love affair with food? Me too. Here’s what to do.

Let’s just start here: I love food.

I started religiously watching the Food Network channel on TV when I was in middle school. I have no idea how or why, because no one else in my family was into it. Rachel Ray was my after-school go-to girl. I learned how to make one of my first recipes around then too when my neighbor taught me how to make guacamole.

I was never a picky eater, not even when I was younger. At dinnertime my sister would shove her vegetables onto my plate when Mom wasn’t looking. Peas? Greenbeans? All Mine.

Do you have that one food you can’t ever get enough of? Mine has always been pasta. Plain pasta, Alfredo pasta, Mac ‘n Cheese, I don’t discriminate. As a child on spaghetti night I would sneak into the kitchen and shove handfuls of leftover pasta into my mouth over the stove. When I went through a bout of depression in college, plain pasta with butter is pretty much all I would eat. Now I could probably still crush a half a box by myself in one sitting, although I admit I haven’t tried.

When people making me dinner ask, “what do you like?” My answer is always, “I eat pretty much everything,” and it’s true.  Except raw celery…gross.

Food SHOULD be something you love. It’s an integral part of living, and making it is fun, creative and a loving gesture for those you cook for.  There’s nothing like a dish coming out exactly how you wanted it to. I’m pretty sure heaven is something pretty close to a perfect bowl of Shrimp Scampi and a glass of wine.

But here’s the kicker… It can’t be the only thing you love. If you’re living your life just to make it to lunch or dinner or a glass of wine at night, and not enjoying what is in-between, you may have a problem. I get it, because I’ve been there. Lunch break at Chick-fil-a is the only time you take a break and get to talk to your co-workers. Evening meal on the couch is the only time you get to unwind and not have to be “doing” anything productive.

When you only enjoy life during meals, your brain gets the idea that food = happiness, love, socialization, relaxing, etc. And when you need a little more of that good stuff in your life, your brain says. “I’m smart, I know what to do, let’s eat more!”

I don’t subscribe to the notion that food is just fuel for your body. I love cooking and eating and it is part of the reason I started this blog. But you do need to listen to what you REALLY need. Is it a new job? More frequent breaks to go outside? More time with your friends? Whether or not taco night is involved, make sure that you have lots of other things in your life that are filling you up – emotionally and spiritually. You may find that that second brownie isn’t going to do it for you.




Started From the Bottom, Now We Here: my story, health and gratitude

Maybe it’s some rainy day introspection, or some mercury retrograde vibes, or the fact that I am confined to the couch today “resting.” Being sick this week has been a poignant reminder of why I made many decisions these last four or five years. Granted I can’t fully compare surgeries and hospital stays to a three-day virus, but the feelings are strangely similar. It’s a reminder that I take my health for granted on days that it is good. I never want to go to work or the gym, until I am unable to.

For those of you that haven’t heard my story, in 2012 I ended up in the hospital with a diseased appendix, and was having surgery to remove it the next day. It had been failing me for weeks or months, and I mostly ignored the symptoms, pressing on through my new job and life in Maryland. Unfortunately, there were two more surgeries after that one, a result of some complications. Scar tissue, abscesses, a blocked intestine, and infections close to spreading to my blood had me in the hospital for weeks. I narrowly missed all of this happening a few months before I got my new job, when I didn’t have any health insurance. I still don’t know how I got so lucky. I eventually came out the other side, only missing one organ and in a few thousand dollars in debt instead of tens of thousands.

After I recovered, I started taking my health much more seriously. I read piles of books and countless blogs, went vegan, and started what is now ETM Health. While I am no longer vegan, I do still follow a mostly whole food diet, low in sugar and processed foods. I met my now husband in 2014 and he taught me a lot about exercise, running and strength training. In July of 2017 I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as a Certified Health Coach, after a one year program. All of these things have become such a big part of my life now that I don’t think of them much anymore.

But today, as I’m forced to not move much without spurring a coughing fit, I’m taking a few books off my shelf. These were with me at the beginning and I’m excited to crack them open again. I’m going to nurse myself back to health, and use this week of a reminder of why I do what I do.

I wanted to share this with you all, and hopefully spur you to reflect on your health today. Take a moment to be grateful for it, and think about how you can show your gratitude this weekend through some healthy choices. Go for a walk or run, make some good food with your loved ones, and take a break.

With love,


P.S. These are the book titles if you want to check them out:

Fight Back with Food, from Reader’s Digest

All is Well, by Louise Hay and Mona Lisa Schulz

Complete Guide to Natural Home Remedies from National Geographic

I’m back!… and how ETM will be different in 2018

I took most (ok pretty much all) of January off to travel with my husband. We went to Okinawa, Bangkok and Chiang Mai and it was amazing. Be on the look out for future blogs with some Thai food inspiration and a lesson I learned while mountain biking. For now I want to talk about some new insight I gained this past month, and how it will change Embracing the Mess this year.

Usually around New Years I am back to the work grind with everyone else. I’m not usually big on New Year’s resolutions, as I tend to set goals around my birthday. It feels more like a “new start” to me, but I still usually begin the new year hitting the gym and detoxing from Christmas splendor. This year was a little different as I sat on the sidelines, on vacation and in a different country.

I watched my facebook and instagram scroll by full of “new year, new you” posts full of fitness programs, diets, planners, and other “get your life together now” things. I felt really put off by the message that was getting sent, and honestly almost repulsed. Repulsed that millions of women were heading into the new year cataloging all of the ways they were inadequate, instead of celebrating being alive for what is going to be a fantastic 365 days.

I know I’m a little late to the 2018 party, and most resolutions are probably already forgotten about. There is a reason for that. When goals are created out of dislike for yourself, and fueled by industries that earn more money every time a woman’s self-esteem plummets, they will not be sustainable. And even if your goals are well-intentioned, a complete self-revolution in a month, or even a year, is a tall order. Healthy change takes time and inner work.

I started this blog five years ago to share how I was changing my diet. I figured out that I had the power to make myself healthy and I wanted others to have that same experience. I love food and cooking and always will, but I feel as though I’m doing myself and you a disservice by only showing you how to make hummus and non-dairy mac and cheese.

There’s so much more to health than that, and I have gone through a lot of personal development and internal changes that I don’t share here. Like many other people, I only post on IG when I’m at the gym or proud of the breakfast I made. You don’t often see the other times I’m eating pizza at 9:30 AM (hey, it happens) or having margaritas at dinner. This “highlight reel” effect can be dangerous.

Going forward, you’re going to see more blogs and videos (oh boy, yup) about how I shift my mindset daily and how that is the real fuel for health and change. More tapping (woop!) is coming. More big-picture stuff. No phrases like “guilt-free” or “lose weight fast.” It may mean more clicks, but I refuse to contribute to the “industry” of telling women they aren’t good enough. Still hummus, though. Always hummus.

Much love,


ETM’s 2017 Healthy Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday shopping is hard, and even harder when you’re trying to seek out good-for-you items that don’t break the bank. Here’s a list of my favorites in every price range. Give your loved ones something they’ll love AND something that will love them back.

1. A Lump of Coal or a detoxifying face soap that will clear even the most problematic skin? The Daily Detox Charcoal Set includes a charcoal bar and charcoal face mask and is a great unisex gift, a $72 value for $52 from Beautycounter here.







2. For the man who has everything: Instead of the usual socks, choose sustainably grown organic cotton, made in Fair Trade Certified factories. They have an array of clothing for men and women at Pact Apparel here. Socks regularly $25, on sale now for $10.






3. Make Christmas coastal with this beautiful palette of 6 eyeshadows, bronzer, highlighter and blush. The looks you can create are endless, $58 from Beautycounter here.








4. For the chef in your life: cookware from GreenLife. Their fry pans have a ceramic, non-stick coating free of PFOA, PFAS, lead and cadmium. You can cook with less oil, and avoid toxic Teflon, 12″ pan $24.99 on Amazon here.






5. Give the gift of easy dinners (and yogurt, and rice, and so many other things) with an Instant Pot. I got one of these a few months ago and can’t live without it. Frozen chicken cooks in less 15 minutes and “slowcooking” takes a couple of hours, Go fancy and get the one with bluetooth for $159.99 on Amazon here.








6. Know someone who could use some relaxation in their life? Give them the gift of yoga, anywhere anytime with a subscription to Rachel Brathen’s (aka Yoga Girl) online platform, OneOEight. Options range from a one month subscription to a whole year. Check it out here.








7. The Universe Has Your Back, and the back of whoever you give this bestseller to. Gabby Bernstein’s book inspires all ages. I recommend picking up a copy for yourself too, $13.90 on Amazon here.








8. When life gets hectic, we don’t always have time for spa days. This Winter Glow Body Duo includes a Lemongrass Sugar Body Scrub and Body Butter in “Citrus Mimosa.” This is a perfect gift for your mother-in-law or busy friend, $55 from Beautycounter here.







9. This Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp is the perfect gift for your best friend or someone who has it all. When heated, the salt crystal lamp emits negative ions that fight against electromagnetic radiation. The naturally-ionized air also helps you sleep better at night, allowing you to wake refreshed, $19.25 on Amazon here.








10. Healthy food can be sexy, and Kris Carr has lots of proof in her bestselling cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Get the hardcover on Amazon for $25.94 here.








Happy Holidays!

Note: Some of these items I just love, and some of them are affiliate links. This means I may get a small percentage of your purchase at no cost to you.



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