Tara Stiles

Enjoy Holiday Feasting without Letting Yourself Go

Tonight you might be scarfing down swedish meatballs and several helpings of Auntie Mae’s special brownies, but come January 1st you’re getting a membership and losing 10 pounds. Afterall “Tomorrow is another day.”

So yes, at every party you’re going to help yourself to another glass of eggnog with an extra helping of sugar cookies. Already you’ve committed to a gym membership, a carb-free diet and a guaranteed horrible time working out to strip the extra holiday weight from your body. Isn’t that how every American starts their new year?

Maybe most of us succumb to gaining weight every Christmas more than we have to.  ‘Tis the season. But before facing the holidays feeling totally powerless to maintain some kind of restraint, or healthy mindset rather, when faced with a never-ending Christmas smorgasbord, here are a few suggestions to approaching Christmas and New Years celebrations without completely losing yourself.... (or gaining another self, rather.)

1.Eat when you’re hungry -

I know - groundbreaking. While it sounds like a obvious idea, those who actually eat 3 meals a day or more (snacks don’t hurt) are probably the minority. By eating before you’re famished you’re more likely to savor, choose wisely and actually enjoy your meals.

Some of us girls like to micro-manage the way we eat and for most guys it’s just convenient to skip a meal if you know there’s going to be free food in 3 hours. Overall there’s this idea that by skimping on breakfast or keeping lunch to a minimum of a bowl of salad, we’re somehow leaving room for a third helping of pecan pie later tonight. Trouble there is, you can’t really outsmart your gut. So try listening to it. Eat when you’re hungry, which is probably more often than not. Stop when you’re satisfied. Simple.

2. Don’t save the gym for Jan. 1st.

An effective workout doesn’t have to be a P90x sweat session with Tony Horton everyday (thank God!)You don’t need a trainer or gym membership to stay active through the next week. In 20 minutes you can get a decent workout at home on days when you’re crunched for time, though 30 - 60 is always ideal. Recently I’ve enjoyed short cardio circuit sessions by James Duigan. Wait til you get to the “burpee” on the link below and 20 minutes will be more than enough.

Here are some ideas for simple & quick workouts -

3. Forget about deprivation & diets

I can’t count the number of holidays I’ve faced thinking, “Ok, after vacation I’ll nix this and that and feel better.” I’ve done the whole no sugar, dairy, processed foods cleanse thing a handful of times and while there are endless benefits to this, the aftermath of supressing every urge for chocolate or cookies can get you in more of a mess than where you first began. You don’t have to be a certified nutritionist to grasp the idea of  healthy eating. Just keep it simple. Plenty of greens, lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, nuts and learn to moderate sweets and processed foods. Enjoy a variety. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

Why is it that Americans revel in the extremes of holiday weight gain? The reason most of us continually fail or backtrack during these weeks is more connected with our train of thought than anything else. You can enjoy the holidays, those special brownies and a healthy lifestyle. Give yourself a Merry Christmas and don't give yourself up so easily this year.

Vita Inspirations: Kara Joy

Sometimes people have a hard time believing I used to "struggle" with my weight. But, believe me, when I was in high school, working at Starbucks and indulging in daily caramel mochas and blueberry scones, I struggled. I was a good 4-6 sizes bigger than I am now. You know how it is: hormones, emotions, highschool drama, chocolate, more drama, more chocolate. Honestly it was a struggle all through college too. Highschool was more like the kick-off as far as my "struggles" were concerned. And now that I've come to find balance and discipline, I thoroughly thank God that I've learned to live this way. Because now I love it. Few people can relate to this "struggle" and pure joy of deciding to live with healthy habits like my sister could. That would be Kara Joy.

About two years ago, my sister Kara, decided to start to eating  healthier and learn some yoga. She asked if I'd mind if she'd shadow me for a while and  follow the way I ate. So for a week or so she began taking note of what and how I ate. In turn, she started completely changed her habits, eating more vegetables and fruits, cutting out processed foods, red meats, ate more fish and whole grains, started doing yoga a few times a week and voila...

 Kara went down several dress sizes and essentially is a new woman. It's been for about two years that Kara has maintained her healthy habits. Of course becoming an elementary school teacher has kept her running around all year long. Kara has stayed on top of her game, especially considering her stressful job with the high expectations on her (and students and parents calling her off the clock) and has really jumped into adulthood with more energy due to her new lifestyle.

While it hasn't been a piece of cake, maintaing these habits while teaching full-time, working part-time with a youth group , leading worship two times a week, Kara has remained disciplined and made it happen. And just look at her! She's thinner than she's ever been. 

 Though chasing kids around all day and night helps keep Kara stay active, she loves doing yoga a few times a week with Tara Stile's dvds, walks and runs the lake, and spends most weekends at the beach learning to surf with her boyfriend Rick (the expert surfer.)

As far as her diet goes, Kara has continued to keep the habits she established early on, avoiding red meats, dairy, and processed foods (chips, pretzels, cookies) out of her diet.On a given day breakfast consists of oatmeal or toast and eggs, lots of salads, roasted veggies, fish, and sushi for lunch and dinner. Her favorite treats are specialty cheeses from Whole Foods and dark chocolate. And Kara can typically be found drinking plenty of water along a daily espresso over ice, during the hot months in Florida (9 months of the year!) Sound familiar? What can I say. "Sisters, sisters..."




Yoga Party!

Okay, it was more like Yogi-Foodie Party! Last Saturday my sister and I made a night of yoga and food for our friends. So many of them have been asking and wanting to try yoga for awhile. I admit I'm not really the girly-themed-partying-type, but when my sister mentioned a "Yoga Party" I was all in.

I wish I could take credit for this brilliant idea but it was all my sister's. That would be the gorgeous one cutting the pizza,who also made the pizza. She figured we'd sneak in a night of yoga before I head to NYC to train with Tara Stiles. Just one more week and I'll be at Strala Yoga training with Tara and Mike! It will be a month-long intensive, learning alongside other health activists and inspiring yoga instructors in the city. I couldn't have dreamed up such an opportunity. God seriously knows me better than I know myself.

As Tara says,  it was "time to make the yoga."

We did some balancing...

A little downward-dogging (our dog, Roxie, got her tail in their too)....

and some other crazy-fun stuff .

We got our "yoga on" for about an hour and a half. So after our cool-down we were energized and hungry. The rest of the night was full of food, talking and laughing. We served a menu of whole food recipes, snacks and other ideas from my favorite bloggers, who are all experts at celebrating food and life. The girls left with full tummies and great ideas for better eating (and Vita.)

tasting menu

margarita pizza

dough from Sprouted Kitchen


3 kinds of hummus

Chickpea, Spinach & Kalamata Olive

served with Wasa crackers and veggies

from 101Cookbooks


sweet-potatoe fries

from the Crosby Kitchen


bananas in chocolate blankets

from (never home) maker


oaty chocolate chip cookies

from David Lebovitz


dry roasted wasabi edamame

lara bars



iced green tea

with lemon and limes

starbucks' coffee

with cream and raw sugar

The night was lots of fun ...

Load of food...

Everyone was feeling good ( and hungry ) after the yoga.

Take my breath away

In a given day our minds race with all sorts of thoughts. Bills that are due, what will be for dinner, what to wear the next day. But is breathing ever a thought? Does it deserve a thought? It may sound like a question ridiculous to ask. Breathing is suppose to effortless, right? But what exactly is a breath suppose to be.

Breathe : to inhale and exhale freely; to pause and rest before continuing; to blow softly; to feel free from restraint.

For a few weeks I had been churning on this idea to post . The same night I was all set to post this was also a night I was eagerly chopping away and baking cookies. Rather than making cookies I ended up chopping my foot. Ok so that's a tad dramatic. My foot is still intact. Just to save any weak stomaches let's skip the details and say, the cut was enough for me to see my tendon. After looking down at my tendon first thought was, "Ok, now is a time to breathe." That and "I finally have a free night and all I want to do is curl up on my couch, eat my cookies and watch a movie!". The last thing I wanted to do was wait in urgent care. But this was no little cut my curious george band-aids could handle.

Luckily there is no permanent damage. Now with an irritated tendon that I actually shaved a string off of (sorry weak stomaches), a swollen foot and a slower,  and a somewhat limited yoga practice I need to just breathe. You might be thinking, " Aren't you already breathing ?" Yes, but maybe we're not always breathing as much as we could.  Just like, maybe I'm not alway sleeping as much as I should. Come to find out each day the average human being takes about 26,000 breathes. That's about 14,000 liters of air a day. 99% of our energy should come from our breathe, yet most of us only access 10-20% of that energy. Not only does breathing more deeply and often improve you well-being, but breathing shallow and incorrectly can produce more stress and fatigue in the body. Something to consider.
So take a moment and innhale real deep. Then slowly let it all out.How often do you think to breathe ?
While we often attempt to  control things in life that are out of our control, rarely do we take the time to control those things that are in our control. You have the ability to control your breathing and change your tension and state of stress. The only one taking your breathe away is you.
Better breathing tips:
1. Do yoga. Whether you do yoga for a complete workout, to mentally de-stress, or to stretch your muscles a proper practice in yoga will inevitably improve your breathing and reduce your stress.
2. Before you react... just breathe. We are quick to react when frustrated, nervous or upset. So remember to breathe and you may react more sensibly.
3. Set aside time to breathe better. Just like anything else in life, practice will bring improvement. Try to really focus on deep breathing for just a few minutes a day. Try Tara Stile's breathing routine or any of her chill out routines to breathe better.

Afraid to fall?

As a kid I was never athletic. I mean NEVER. Maybe I took gymnastics for a year or two. That didn't last too long before my fears sank in. Namely, the fear of doing anything athletic. Especially in public. Normally I just avoided sports, competition, and sometime even the outdoors. I know it sounds pretty "blah", right? I admit it, it was.  Being my "blah"-self, I simply called it “unathletic” and avoided such events. I just hated looking stupid, falling, or worse; I loathed being that person on the team who would  miss the ball and lose the game.

Yet through the years I have expanded my horizons a bit, trying some different activities: pilates, running, spinning. However most of these interests were for the sake of a better figure, not so much for the sake of experience. So yoga seemed a great fit. No comparing, no competing. It’s just you and your mat. And anyone that knows me, knows I like my space. Giving yoga a chance, I wasn’t expecting to gain anything beyond some flexibility. However learning Yoga has been and continues to be an experience. I’m not quite practicing yoga on the Himalayan mountains, but ...  learning from Tara Stiles I’m discovering to fully benefit from yoga, you’ve got to risk a bit.

As a kid I hated risks. I never did cartwheels or handstands. They scared me to death. At first I couldn't understand how some stuff in Yoga could be “so much fun.” After watching Tara effortlessly lift into handstands, forearm stands and all the other craziness she can do, I was eager to conquer these fears. Now through countless attempts, falls and  bruises - I finally get it. Sadly I’m just now experiencing some of the joys of being a kid.  Being upside down is fun! It’s fun, when it’s effortless. You should try it - going upside down. You might fall.  No, you probably will fall. Maybe you'll get a few nice shiners in the name of conquering your fears. But when you let it, it just happens. That’s the fun in it. We don’t have to try so hard.

Yoga is a practice you can’t force into happening. Sometimes you have to risk a fall here and there to discover new depths and heights. It’s forced me to see where else I could risk. Most of us could benefit from risking a bit more. Simple risks like cooking for others, even if you're not Martha Stewart. Or risking big, like in relationships or vocation. We aren’t created to force life into happening, but we are created to risk a bit.

Maybe you already have conquered handstands. Maybe you can’t and want to give it a try (check out Tara's "Turn it upside down" video). And maybe you could care less about handstands or yoga, for that matter. Either way risks can be fun. They even can make you feel younger. So try a going upside down. Risk a bit in life. It can be scary at first. But you just might explore some new heights, even if you do fall.