What’s the Beef with Meat?: Decreasing Meat Intake, A Simple Step in Creating a Healthy Diet

There’s much talk about eating less meat as a part of a healthy diet. There is more public push for plant consumption, and multiple plant-based meat substitutions are on the market for those who desire a meat-like replacement for meat. Some of them are better for you than meat. While others are so highly processed, they are just a meat substitute. So what’s the push to decrease meat intake all about. One aspect is the impact that farming animals has on the environment. It generates a significant percentage of the greenhouse gases, which contributes to climate change. Another aspect is diets that are low in meat consumption are associated with a decrease risk of certain chronic diseases and cancers. Both sound like good reasons to at least decrease consumption. The questions then become how to ensure adequate protein consumption and decrease meat intake. Let’s get into it. 

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Consuming Adequate Protein While Decreasing Meat Intake

Protein in our diets can be obtained from plant and animal sources. Meat is not our only protein source. Good plant sources of proteins include grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans). Proteins supply our bodies with the amino acids (protein building blocks). There are nine amino acids, called essential amino acids, that must be consumed in our diets. Animal sources of protein contain all 9 of those amino acids. Protein sources that contain all the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Many plant sources of protein do not; however, eating a variety of plants ensures that all 9 amino acids are still consumed. With that, adequate protein consumption can most definitely be consumed on an all plant diet if one wishes to pursue that goal. Quinoa and soybeans are examples of complete plant protein sources. While combinations like whole grains plus legumes and whole grains plus nuts create complete plant protein sources. 

Ways to Decrease Meat Consumption

  1. Shift away from red meats and processed meats. Red meat is muscle meat from mammals. Common animals from which red meat is derived are cows, pigs (yes, pork is red meat), and deer. According to the World Health Organization, processed meats have been transformed in a way that increases preservation or improves flavor. These processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking, for examples. Hot dogs, bacon, lunch meat, sausage, and canned/jarred meat products are examples of processed meats. 
  2. Look for lean poultry and seafood instead. Poultry should be skinless as the skin contains a significant amount of fat and calories. Replacing red meat and processed meat with poultry and seafood is a simple step in the right direction. It does not require too much effort. This step may look like replacing ground beef in your spaghetti with ground chicken or turkey. 
  3. Try decreasing the number of meals during which you consume meat. While we are conditioned to think a meal is not a meal without meat, that’s not the case. Complete and wholesome meals can be created without meat products. This step may look like only consuming meat at dinner. 
  4. Try decreasing the frequency in which you consume meat. This step may look like only eating meat over the weekend or also may look like step three. 
  5. Try decreasing the portion of meat consumed at meals. This step may look like eating 2 ounces of meat instead of 4 ounces or 4 ounces instead of 8. 
  6. Find meat substitutes. Not all meat substitutes are created equal. For example, there is a big difference between a veggie burger and a plant-based, highly processed substitute. Veggie burgers are composed of whole food formed into a patty. However, highly processed plant-based meat substitutes contain little to no whole food and are not as healthy for you as a whole-food veggie burger. There are multiple creative recipes online that can teach you how to use plants like nuts and beans as protein sources in place of meat. 
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Protein comes in both plant and animal forms. Plant forms are healthier for you as diets high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in meat consumption are associated with a decreased risk for several chronic diseases and certain cancers. Animal protein is associated with cholesterol and saturated fat intake which should be monitored and limited. There are multiple plant sources of protein and consuming a variety is key. Decreasing meat intake can be accomplished in a number of ways. It’s a matter of preference as to how to go about it. Start simple and slow. Eating is not supposed to be a stressful event. Instead, it should be a time to provide your body with high quality nutrients in manner that is satisfying. Discovering what you find satisfying is where the creativity and fun comes into eating.

With Love,

JR & Erica

How to Avoid the Shock “What Happened to All of My Money” in 3 Simple Steps

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Most of us have been there. You get your paycheck. You pay your bills. You buy a few fast food meals a week. You buy your coffee every morning. You pick up that pair of shoes that were screaming your name when you walk by them at the store. You buy the kids a couple of trinkets. You buy your son a new pair of khakis because he’s ripped his third pair of uniform pants this school year.  Whew! You check your bank account and to your surprise, your account balance is much less than what you expected. What in the world happened to all the money you had when you received your paycheck?!?! Well, life happened. Bit by bit stuff comes up that chips away at your account balance, and with money being less tangible, it’s easy to miss the fact that you’re spending it. If this happens or has happened to you, you are far from being alone. This scenario is avoidable. It just requires a little diligence. 
Learn Where You’re Spending Your MoneyGrab a piece of paper. Fold the paper in thirds, then fold it in half and half again. You should have twelve boxes. You can also just draw lines to create 12 boxes on the page. Label each box using one of the following words: 

  1. Housing: Includes rent, mortgage, insurance, HOA fees, maintenance, repairs, etc
  2. Transportation: Includes loan/lease payments, gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, bus pass, ride share fees, etc
  3. Medical: expenses and insurance—medical, dental, vision, disability, life
  4. Utilities: electric, gas, television, cell phone, water, waste, internet
  5. Grocery
  6. Eating Out
  7. Entertainment: travel, movies, hobbies, etc
  8. Childcare
  9. Clothing
  10. Credit card and other debt payments
  11. Savings
  12. Miscellaneous 

Now access your bank and credit card statements for the last month. Go through each transaction and assign it to a category. Once you’ve completed that step. Add up the transactions in each category. Highlight or circle  the totals. Take note of where your money is spent. Knowing where and how you spend your money is the first step to improving your money management habits. The intention of this exercise is to make your spending more “real.” With money being spent without ever seeing or touching it, it is so easy to lose track or never really know how you spend your money. By knowing how you spend your money now, you can be more cognizant of how you spend it in the future. 

Decide How You Would Like to Spend Your Money in the Future 

What are your goals? Where would you like to focus your resources in order to meet those goals? What will need to change in my spending in order to redirect resources to meet my goals? These are questions you will need to ask yourself. If you are not meeting your financial goals, changes in your spending habits are inevitable. That’s okay. Decide where you would like to begin your journey to financial wellness. Looking at your current spending habits, decide what changes are easy for you to make immediately. You do not necessarily have to make all of those changes at once, but make them at your pace. Some changes may require work on your end and time for you to build new habits, like making coffee at home before work instead of going to the coffee shop everyday. This is why it’s important to make changes at a pace you can handle in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed early in the process. Take your time so that you can be organized and purposeful about your changes. You can make changes at a pace that does not cause you stress. Make changes you can maintain. Build healthy financial habits along this journey. Build habits that are meaningful and that you can also teach your children. In deciding how you would like to spend your money in the future, a plan needs to be in place. This is called your budget. A budget serves as a roadmap to meeting your financial goals. Know what money you want or need to spend in each of the categories from the exercise above. Write down a budget for each pay period, month, quarter, and year. These serve as a reference. 

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Develop a System to Track Your Progress and Spending

With your current spending and financial goals in mind, develop a system to track your spending and progress. Are you a paper and pen-type person where writing down your spending and budget works for you? Or are you more of a digital person where you prefer to organize on apps and computer programs? Either method is fine. It’s a matter of personal preference. No matter the method, be sure that whoever spends money from your account has access to your tracking system. Choose a regular time to update your system. It could be at the end of each day, each morning, the end of the week, etc. During this time write down or note your spending over the chosen timeframe using the categories mentioned above. Compare it to your budget. Are you on track? As you compare your spending to your budget, you’ll know whether you’re on track or need to get back on track. Develop a realistic budget, track your spending compared to your budget, and adjust as necessary. You’re on the road to meeting your financial goals. 
Developing these habits take time and may involve some trial and error. Be patient with yourself and your partner as you all navigate these changes. The premise in all of this is to be more cognizant of how you spend your money. It is to be mindful before you swipe or click “checkout.” In so, you decrease your risk of “running out of money” accidentally. You know where your money is going because you’re thinking about each purchase. You’re thinking about how each purchase compares to your budget. You’re becoming a mindful consumer and smarter shopper. 

If you need help with developing budgets and plans to meet your financial goals, email JR at jrjohnson@prepfi.com

With Love,

JR & Erica

Restructure Your Kitchen in 5 Steps to Make Healthy Eating More Efficient

Whenever, we all think of healthy eating, we take a big breath in, then quickly exhale it in a big annoyed huff. Why? Well, because we know that in order to actually eat healthy food, we have to prepare it at home. Who in the world has the time to prepare all meals at home? How are we to fit it all in?  Being healthy is important to most of us, and we make time for what we find to be important. So what’s keeping us from doing it. One of the big drawbacks is figuring out what eating healthy actually means; however, it’s simpler than many make it out to be. It’s eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while decreasing meat intake and severely limiting highly processed foods. A second major drawback is being in the kitchen. The kitchen can seem like this black hole that sucks you in once you step in and feels like you can’t escape. You cook breakfast, then clean up. Boom, it’s lunch time. Same goes for dinner. So how do you avoid getting stuck there for hours on end. Well, it involves a little pre-work on your end, but I’ll explain how this makes life so much easier. 

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  1. Take note of the foods you no longer wish to eat as you pursue your healthier lifestyle. Foods to limit are those high in sodium, cholesterol, added sugar, and saturated fat. Make these foods less accessible and prepare to purchase them less, if at all. In order to decide if a food is high in any of the nutrients to limit, you need to investigate the nutrition label. First take a look at the serving size. Decide if that’s a realistic serving size for you. Do you typically eat more or less than the serving? I suggest measuring it out if you’re unsure to get a better idea. With the serving size, investigate the nutrition facts, pay close attention to the nutrients previously listed. If the serving size, either the one listed or your personal serving size, provides more than 20% of the daily limit of that nutrient, then it’s considered high. The daily limits are set with a 2000 Calorie per day diet in mind. If your calorie needs are higher, your limits may be higher than those listed. The opposite holds true for lower caloric needs. The limits may be lower. There are certain medical conditions that require limitations on certain nutrients as well. If you have questions about what your caloric needs or what nutrients you need to limit, contact your doctor or registered dietician as applicable.  
  2. Aim to fill the vacancies with whole, plant-based foods. There will be a future post on making healthy substitutions, so stay tuned. Focus on making fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds the bulk of your diet is the goal. Make these foods very accessible. Use storage bins in the pantry and refrigerator to make these foods accessible to your household. If you have children and are comfortable allowing them access to obtain their own foods, then place the storage bins with foods you want them to eat on the bottom shelves. We use open containers in our fridge to store the kids’ favorite fruits and veggies. In the pantry, we store items like applesauce, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds on the bottom shelf so our kids can reach them. 
  3. Organize your food storage areas so that you can easily see what foods you have available. When organizing foods, store like items together. Decide what you consider to be like items. For example, you can separate items by meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) or food types (produce, whole grains, nuts, seeds). You can even use some combination of the two. We use a combination. In our fridge, I store produce that the kids have easy access to for snacks in bins on the bottoms shelf, but we store produce that needs to be prepped before consumption in the crisper drawers or other shelves.
  4. Store your kitchen tools in efficient locations. Keep items in locations near where you will use them. Pots and pans should be near the sink and stove. Spoons that you use near the stove should be stored in a drawer near the stove. Store knives and cutting boards near where you usually cut items and cups near the fridge. By keeping items where you use them, you save time in walking all around the kitchen. Also by organizing your kitchen essentials, you’ll know where items are and spare yourself the waste of time looking for them. If your drawers are overflowing with items and too crowded, consider which items are essential for you. Decide the quantity you need of certain kitchen utensils. Consider how often you wash dishes, and if items will be available when needed based on that.
  5. Prior to grocery shopping, take note of what you plan on eating for the next few days. When purchasing fresh foods, your grocery trips will be a little more frequent; however, they will be quick runs. Buying groceries with meal and snack plans in mind saves time and money. Your grocery trip is faster because you have specific targets. You can go in with a list and quickly tackle it. Knowing what you will eat and only buying groceries for a few days at a time, helps decrease waste, which saves resources and money. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of shopping with a list. It decreases your time in the store and reduces your chance of impulse buying. 
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Restructuring your kitchen so a healthy lifestyle is more efficient involves five simple steps: 

  1. Removing  the foods you wish to limit, or at the very least, make them less accessible. 
  2. Replacing those options with whole plant-based foods  like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains of your choice. 
  3. Organizing your food so that you easily see what you have. 
  4. Storing kitchen tools in convenient locations. 
  5. Grocery shopping with a plan. 

Healthier eating is easier when you don’t have to battle your willpower every time you enter the kitchen. By limiting access to highly processed foods and other foods high in sodium, fat, and sugar, it is much easier and less stressful to avoid them. You are much less likely to eat a bag of chips for a snack if you have to go to the store first to get them. With that, if nuts are in the pantry in place of the chips, a handful of those is a healthy and convenient replacement. Organizing your foods so you can see what you have and tools where you use them equals efficiency in the kitchen. You know what you have and what you need when making grocery lists. So the moral is reduce access to foods you wish to limit, replace those foods with whole, plant-based foods, organize that food so you can see what you have, make grocery lists, and organize your kitchen essentials where they are convenient to use. 

If you need help or tips with restructuring your kitchen, check out www.getfitward.com

With Love,

Erica & JR

Three Steps to Paving Your Road to Financial Wellness

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The road to financial wellness doesn’t have to be dark, windy, or gravel. In the age of digital money, it’s so easy to essentially “set it and forget it” with your money. We swipe a card, set up an auto payment, or enter our payment information in our favorite shopping apps and with a simple step, the money is spent without us ever laying eyes on it. It can be really tough to keep track of things we cannot see. That certainly stands true for our money. Spending an entire paycheck can happen with very little effort. Despite the ease of spending, you can develop the ability to see your money again. You can hop on the smooth road to financial wellness. 
What is financial wellness? Financial wellness is knowing your current financial state and where you’re heading with a firm understanding of where you’ve been. 

Step 1: Knowing Your Current Financial State

This entails knowing where you stand financially at any one given moment. It’s knowing how much money is in your bank accounts, the balances on your credit cards, and where your investments stand. Understanding your investments involves knowing how your investments are faring. 

  • 401k, IRA
  • Stocks, bonds
  • Value of your house in the current market
  • Businesses you own or have invested money
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Understanding your current state also involves knowing how you are currently spending your money. This means you have allocated the funds in your account according to the budgets you’ve set. It also means knowing who is handling the money in your relationship. Is it shared? Is it each person handles their own money? Is it a combination? Regardless, of how it’s handled, it’s important for both parties to have a clear picture of the financial picture. Every month, my husband goes through our financial picture. He allocates our funds and documents the process using a paper ledger. Yes, pen and paper. That’s us, however. For us, seeing it “ in person” and not from a computer screen makes is easier to comprehend. We’re old school, perhaps, in that respect. We’re the same with books. Nevertheless, every month we go over our financial obligations and discuss our goals. I do not like to spend a lot of money at once, so going through our monthly obligations gives me anxiety, but my husband stresses the importance of being aware of where we are. He’s right. Being aware of what we are spending is very helpful. I always keep it in mind before spending. Have a conversation regularly with you significant other about your current finances. Having a keen knowledge of where you stand gives you a clear picture of your financial state. Meaning you’ll know what you can or cannot afford. You’ll know if making certain moves make financial sense because you have a clear picture of your current financial state. Basically to know where you are helps make decisions in line with where you would like to go. 

Step 2: Defining Your Financial Goals

With your significant other, have a conversation about your short term and long term financial goals as a unit as well as individually if that applies. By outlining your goals, you motivate your saving or spending, depending on what you’re looking to do. You have a reason for doing what you’re doing. When we have a “why” that we care about it makes it much easier to continue to save money or spend money wisely. Write down what is you want to do in the short term and long term with your funds. This may be paying off debt, starting a business, going on a vacation, preparing for holidays, buying a new bike, or any other task you choose that requires money. Think about what is motivating you to create these goals. Your motivation is what is going to drive your actions. If you’re paying off debt to improve your credit to put you in position to purchase a house, that house is your motivation. Keep your motivation in the forefront of your mind, so you’re spending consciously. You are thinking about what and why you’re buying. Before you buy your third pair of boots, you’ll think about the impact this purchase has on your future plans. You’ll think about whether these boots are needed to pursue other goals you have. You consciously weigh your options and develop a decision that is either cohesive or not cohesive with your financial goals. Either way, you will know if you’re hurting or helping yourself. No more surprises at the end of the month. What happened to all the money? You know because you thought about your purchases and know where your money went. Know your goals for the week, the month, the year, the next how ever many years, for day at times. Just know why you’re spending what you’re spending and decide if it’s helping or hurting you. By being purposeful about allocating funds and budgeting, you will set the stage for successfully reaching the goals you’ve set. 

Step 3: Having a Firm Understanding of Where You’ve Been Financially

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This means knowing the financial lessons you’ve learned along the way. Perhaps, it’s the way you’ve seen money handled growing up. The lessons you’ve learned paying off those credit cards you applied for in college. Or the stress you’ve been through living paycheck to paycheck. Noting the valuable lessons you’ve learned in the past, makes establishing clear goals for the present and future spending habits much easier. If you recognize in the past, you’ve had no idea how your paychecks were spent, you’ll know for the future, you want to change that in order to improve your financial clarity. When we were younger, we racked up credit card debt providing for our young family. From that experience, we know that credit card debt is something we are not okay with in the future. We learned valuable lessons and took a deeper look at our spending from those experiences. Those experiences have made us wiser consumers. Do not dwell on your past mistakes or experiences. Move on from them but don’t forget them. What I mean is don’t wallow in your sadness about how you spent money in the past and how it’s still negatively impacting you today. Instead, recognize it and use it to your advantage. Now you know how not to handle your money in the future. Use it as fuel. Gas for your financial knowledge tank to propel forward. Use the experiences to make you a wiser consumer. 

Closing It Out

Throughout our financial blogs you will see us use the terms funds allocation and budgeting. Funds allocation or allocating funds refers to the act of deciding where funds need to be spent and actually setting aside the funds to use for those purposes. It involves deciding how every dollar of your money will be spent and saved. Budgeting on the other hand, involves deciding how much money you’re willing to spend on certain aspects of your financial life. Having a budget sets the stage. Allocating funds puts the players in action. Both are very important for establishing a clear financial picture. By keeping record of your spending you will see how it evolves over time and make clearer and suitable goals for the future. 

With Love,

JR & Erica

For help on your journey to financial wellness, email finance@fitfamilyfocus.com

Live A Healthy Lifestyle Right Now in 5 Easy Steps

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If you search the Internet for “how to live a healthy lifestyle,” you will be inundated with tons of information. More information than you have time to read and implement. There’s information about diet and exercise trends, quick fixes that are not sustainable, and also fixes that are. However, who has the time or energy to decipher all of that information and weed out the confusing chatter? You can read an article and think you have a plan, then ten minutes later read a different article contradicting the information you just read prior. Frustrating to say the least. So, what is a person, striving to improve his or her physical health, to do? In this article, I will outline five very simple steps that will have you on the road to improving your health and living a healthy lifestyle. 

1. Eat whole food

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What is whole food? Well, whole food is basically food that is as close to its natural state as possible. It’s strawberries that look and taste as they did right after they were picked. It’s broccoli that looks and tastes like broccoli. Catch my drift? It’s pretty much food that hasn’t been messed around with too much. By eating whole food, you consume food the way it was created in nature. You eat the nutrients the food has to offer all together, the way nutrients are intended to be consumed. Nutrients in foods are there to work together to give you maximum benefit. In general, they do not work the same when picked apart, packaged in a supplement, or artificially added back to the foods from which they were stripped. Okay, okay. I feel like I am standing on a soapbox. Let me hop off and shove it in the corner. The premise of eating whole food is to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. Plain and simple. By eating a colorful diet, primarily consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, you help to ensure that you’re consuming a variety of nutrients. 

2. Limit highly processed foods

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On the spectrum of altering natural food, whole food is at one end and highly processed food is at the other. Highly processed foods are manufactured. They are usually high in at least one of the following: sugar, salt, and fat. They contain very little to no whole food. Highly processed foods include items like many pre-packaged snack foods, baked snack items, cold breakfast cereals, packaged bread items, crackers, processed meats, and soda to name a few. Eating foods in an “un-whole” state can cause the body to react differently. These foods can cause inflammation. Inflammation is when the body’s immune system gets revved up. Chronic inflammation (if inflammation continues for a prolonged period of time) can increase the risk for diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, strokes, heart attacks), and certain cancers. Also these types of foods can cause excessive weight gain.  I am definitely not saying never have these foods again. It’s not practical. They exist and are designed to be tasty. As far as pursuing a healthy diet, the goal is to limit the amount and frequency with which you consume them. All I am saying is save these items for special treats. Say one that you do not keep on the regular grocery list, but one that goes on the occasional list. There’s no need to get bent out of shape for having occasional treats when your diet is primarily composed of healthier foods. Eat the treat and move on. No need to entertain the thought any more, and you resume your normal diet thereafter. No guilt.

3. Get physically active

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Meeting or exceeding the physical activity guidelines has both, physical and mental health benefits. For most adults that’s 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 30 minutes for five days in a week. For children, sixty minutes of daily physical activity is recommended. These activities include not only cardio but also other exercises like strength and balance training. For the sake of sanity, it’s not necessary to pull out a stopwatch everyday and physically time your activity. However, becoming more cognizant of your physical activity can help increase your activity. Simply be active. Playing with your kids counts. Doing chores counts. Running up and down the stairs (20 times it feels like some days) to get that thing you forgot upstairs counts. Cutting on some music and dancing counts. You do not have to “formally exercise” everyday to be physically activity. Recognize the physical activity you already perform, then find simple ways to increase it. 

4. Cut yourself some slack

I cannot stress this enough, AVOID BEING OVERLY RESTRICTIVE. It makes it really hard on you when you paint yourself into a corner that keeps you fighting your willpower to keep from stepping out of it. You do not have to put a label on your eating if you do not want to. Let’s say you read about the health benefits of reducing or eliminating your meat intake. You’re so inspired you decide to become a vegan. You pick a day for your last day of eating meat and start your vegan lifestyle. You’re doing alright, but you can’t seem to shake the fact that sometimes you just want a little piece of chicken. But you’re vegan and vegans don’t eat chicken. You’re miserable with the mental struggle of trying to be a chicken-wanting vegan. So much so that you quit all of it. You completely revert back to your old way of eating just so you can eat chicken. For a while, I thought I had to be a vegan. I do not really mind a vegan diet at all. However, on occasion, I like to eat eggs. Sometimes I will have a few shrimp. Every so often, I have a dapple of cheese. I felt guilty about wanting or having those things because I was striving to be vegan. I dropped the title. It’s not necessary to label your eating. Decide what foods you are okay with eating, which changes, and what foods you are NOT okay with eating, which also changes. All of that is okay. The most important aspect in all of this is that your good foundation is strong. If your focus is on eating whole, plant-based foods as the main part of diet, then I wouldn’t worry too much about treating yourself from time to time. Being healthy shouldn’t be a big headache. 

5. Make it enjoyable

If you despise broccoli, don’t make it your go-to green vegetable. If you hate running, don’t do it. Eat healthy food you actually enjoy eating. Do physical activity you enjoy doing. Try new things. If you try something new and don’t like it, try a different way next time. There are so many different ways to prepare food and to perform activities. For example, you may not like steamed broccoli but love them roasted. You may not like to run on a treadmill but love running outside on a track. I’m not in love with long bike rides outdoors but love riding stationary bikes. Spend some time finding out what you like and enjoy the healthier lifestyle you seek. 

It all boils down to simplifying your definitions of healthy eating and physical activity. We make them such formal activities when they don’t necessarily have to be robotic events. Eating healthy does not mean counting, measuring, and calculating. Focus on eating whole, plant-based foods. With that, there’s no need to get out your calculator to eat. Who checks the nutrition facts on carrots or oranges, broccoli or apples? There’s really not need for the vast majority of us. Being physically active does not mean you have to start some strict exercise regimen. Find activities that get you moving, and you enjoy doing. Then do them. You like to dance? Dance. You like to ride bikes? Ride. You like structured exercise regimens? Rock out. Getting healthy means first defining what healthy looks like for you. Explore your options. Explore different healthy foods and ways to enjoy them. Explore different physical activities. Find the things in life you enjoy AND allows you to take care of your body. There are countless options. There is a healthy lifestyle that fits your lifestyle for sure. 

With Love,

JR & Erica

Need help getting going? Check out www.getfitward.com for resources and assistance. 

Introduction to Fit Family Focus

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Greetings! I’m Erica. I’m a wife, mother, and M.D.. However, the most important roles in my life revolve around my family. My husband, JR, and I met in high school. We became best friends, and our love and friendship has continued to grow since that time. We went on to have four children: 2 boys and 2 girls, ages 3-13 right now. I work full time as an anesthesiologist. In addition, I am working on building a health coaching business centered around helping families to live a simple healthy lifestyle. My husband has a financial coaching business with a focus on teaching habits to help individuals and families reach a state of financial well-being. He is also a real estate agent. We have been blessed with a hearty desire to aid and support others in ways that we can. We decided that a blog is a great way to share our experiences, knowledge, and advice that we’ve learned along our journey into a healthier lifestyle. When I say healthy, I am referring to both physical health and financial health. We feel these are two aspects of family life many people value but also may have some struggles. It is challenging to juggle all that life throws your way, and we’re not immune. Please do not think we have it “all figured out.” We’ve made mistakes (some we’re still fixing). We’re okay with all of that. Those things are what make us all human. What we share in our blog is a collection of things we do, things we’ve tried, and ideas we have based on experiences. 

About the Crew: Our Family

I am the oldest of four children and naturally grew into a helper. Through love, patience, and faith, my parents have helped shape the person I am today.  My mom is literally one of the strongest people I know and is married to one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life. My parents taught me perseverance. Despite, your circumstances, you control how you come out in the end. I’ve always been very driven and goal-oriented, and I owe developing those attributes to them. Once I get something I’m my head, I’m full steam ahead on how to accomplish it. With that, starting a business has been an exciting challenge for me. With college, medical school, and residency, it’s more simple in the way the goal is accomplished. The goal is clear, and “here’s” what you need to do and learn in order to attain that goal. Boom, done, and now I’m an anesthesiologist. I’m being sarcastic. It definitely was not that easy, but I thought I’d be dramatic for effect. However, starting a business is not so cut and dry, making the process fun and terrifying all that the same time.  Since deciding to have a family, I’ve wanted a big one. I grew up in a big family and always thought it was fun. My family keeps me going and inspires me for sure. Aside from family time, I also enjoy reading, projects around the house like organizing (the end product is what is satisfying), and creative outlets like listening to music (can’t sing), dancing (not anything fancy, just letting my hair down at home), and the occasional craft opportunity.

My husband is truly an amazing man. We met as teenagers, and together we did a lot of growing up. I am so happy with the man he has become. He has grown into one of the most kind-hearted, loving, and giving individuals I know. He is so outgoing. He can sit next to a complete stranger, and within minutes develop a relationship. He is really good at connecting and understanding people. It’s pretty cool, really. With that, he knows someone EVERYWHERE we go. JR is literally one of the most chill people I know. It is really difficult to bother him. We were young, only twenty-one years old, when we had our first child. JR worked at a bank to help provide for our growing family and attended college while I was in medical school and residency. He has a mind for numbers and obtained a business degree in finance. He obtained his realtor’s license a short time later. He loves anything sports-related. I do mean anything, especially basketball. He will watch sports at any level. Seriously, one Father’s Day he went to a gym and watched basketball tournaments all day long. He was stoked. He’s a big family man and puts great effort towards being the best husband and father he can be.

Now for the rest of the household, our four children and puppy, Diego, round out the bunch. It is amazing how four people, who come from the same parents, can be so different. Our oldest son is thirteen, he is a sweetheart, goofball, who is very academically inclined and a perfectionist to a fault. We’re working on it, however. Our oldest daughter is very strong, kind-hearted, and would probably stay a kid for as long as you let her. Don’t worry we’re not rushing her. She is athletic, and although, she is not one to get excited about school, she works hard at it. Things do not always come so easy to her, but she doesn’t give up. Our youngest daughter is like joy in the form of a person. She is full of energy and love. She loves anything creative and artistic. Right now, singing, dancing, and really any sort of performance are right up her alley. Then there’s our youngest son. Poor guy gets misunderstood and left out being that his brother is ten years older than him and sometimes the girls just want to have girl-time. They are all working on it. He is a ball of energy with a sweet smile and a loving hug. He enjoys doing what preschool-aged boys like to do: running, playing with anything with wheels or that roars, staying out of hot lava, and building forts. We do our best, just like most parents do. We raise our children to develop relationships with God, to be kind and empathetic towards others, and share what blessings they have. I may be a little biased, or a lot, but I think, so far, they are shaping out to be pretty cool people.

Motivating Life Experiences

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We were living the typical busy family lifestyle and loving the everyday hustle and bustle, and, as if all in one day, life changed for us. It was late summer in the year 2017, when life started to change. My oldest daughter started experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, constipation, and occasional diarrhea. She would casually tell us about her symptoms, then we would all move on to the next thing. I just took it as your typical kid bellyache. You know the one where you tell them “you shouldn’t have eaten that” or “you should try to poop.”  That is until one day while we’re all sitting at the dinner table, she tells me she’s been having blood in her poop. For anyone with kids, you understand that talks about poop, vomit, and any other bodily excrement is not off limits at the dinner table. Nonetheless, when she told me that, I knew something else was up. We got her in to see her doctor and start the evaluation process. After the results of a blood test, it was determined that she needed to see a specialist, a gastroenterologist (a doctor that specializes in the digestive tract). It took sooo long to find out what was going on. After weeks, we found out that our seven year-old daughter has Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disorder, meaning that one’s immune system is acting inappropriately. With Crohn’s, the immune system thinks it needs to activate anywhere along the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. However, people with Crohn’s can have inflammatory issues in other areas of the body as well. Scientists are not sure about the exact cause of Crohn’s disease; however, the general consensus is that it is due in part to a genetic susceptibility as well as environmental factors. I remember I was at work and sitting in a hospital atrium when I received the news of her diagnosis. I felt powerless. I knew what that diagnosis meant for my daughter. For the rest of her life, she would have this illness to consider. Nevertheless, we are not ones to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, and we do not allow our children to do so either. We always encourage them to get up, keep going, and find the positive. She is a strong little girl, who pushes through with a smile on her face most days even though she’s been in some level of pain for the past three years. My husband and I are both very proud of the strength and courage she portrays on a daily basis. When she was diagnosed, I felt so out of control. I like to fix things, and I couldn’t fix this. Then, I took a deep breath and collected myself. I am not big on taking medications. So much so that pretty much the only time we take medications is for occasional fevers, headaches and seasonal allergies when warranted. With her diagnosis, we were made to feel as if we had to commit our daughter to a lifetime of medication. That didn’t sit well with me. I started educating myself and developed an interest in diet-related health. My eyes were opened to the effects diet can have on Crohn’s disease and several other chronic diseases, especially those deemed preventable. I made the commitment to change my family’s lifestyle, but not without frustration and countless hours trying to figure out how and what to implement. I had moments where I understood why people gave up when trying to live a healthy lifestyle. There is so much information. Trying to decipher it all and to decide what is best for you and your family is a daunting task. Once I was able to uncover what is at the core of a healthy lifestyle, I decided that I wanted to help others skip all the drama of figuring it out. I want to help people get right to work on how to best implement the basic principles of a healthy lifestyle in their households. With that, I started Fitward.

As far as JR’s inspiration behind starting his business, he had several memorable experiences during his time working at the bank. He developed relationships with countless people and listened to their stories, to their frustrations, to their struggles, and to their dreams. These people weren’t asking for anything extraordinary, just what most of us want: to have financial security and freedom. However, many people he encountered felt like this was not an attainable or realistic goal for them. He felt differently, and he knew he could help. With his strong desire, he directed his talents to helping others understand and improve their finances. He dove in head first to further his understanding of personal finance. He used our experiences with money, his love for numbers, and his desire to see others succeed as fuel to start his business. We have made financial mistakes and learned some things, perhaps several lessons, the hard way. His belief was people are not being adequately educated on how to handle money. It is not necessarily taught in school. It is a skill you develop by doing. He helps people understand where they are financially, how they arrived at that point, and what the necessary steps are to reach their financial goals. He has learned so much along the way in experiences and formal education that he is excited to share with others. He started Prep Financial.

What’s To Come

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You will learn more about our family, our experiences with Crohn’s disease, and basic principles with simple guidance for achieving health and financial wellness as you follow along in our blog. Usually the blogs will be written from my perspective but will include JR’s input. Establishing healthy and practical tactics in building and maintaining your household’s wellness is a key to creating a less stressful and happier household. Getting organized and efficient is a significant part of attaining these goals. Knowing how you spend your money and how you invest your time in your family’s physical well-being helps to open your eyes to the present and clarify your goals for the future. All of this is a process. It takes time and patience. One has to move at a pace that is comfortable and make changes that are sustainable. We plan to post a new blog once a week for now centered on finance, physical health, and/or our personal journey to improve both. We are both very down to earth people and would love to engage in dialog with any reader who has questions or comments. We look forward developing lasting relationships with our readers and helping you along your journey as well. 

With Love,

JR & Erica