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Photo by Tammy Strobel

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me, “Good health is the ultimate wealth.” I agreed with that sentiment. Yet, I received mixed messages as a tween and teenager about health. Adults told me to take care of my body, eat a balanced diet, and get enough exercise. But there was a problem with this sentiment.

My peers—and most of the women in my family—were focused more on appearance than health. Plus, every magazine I picked up in the grocery store featured thin white women on the covers. I wanted to be “healthy,” but the messages I internalized didn’t focus on health. I equated love, belonging, and success with being beautiful and thin.

My obsession with becoming thin started when I was a tween. I came down with the flu and was absent from school for a few weeks. I lost about 15 pounds, along with my energy and strength. When I went back to school, I couldn’t believe what my peers told me. They said, “Oh, Tammy you look so good!”

I remember feeling shocked. I had been ill and still didn’t feel 100%, yet everyone thought I looked good. I felt like something was wrong with my body. That’s when I began to equate being thin with social acceptance, and I developed an eating disorder. It took me two decades to realize that my values should not include thinness or body type. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I began to love my body—no matter what it looked like. I also shifted my focus toward building good health through physical and emotional strength.

Building emotional and physical strength is extremely important to me, especially in the context of my past history and new diagnosis. In February 2016, I was diagnosed with arthritis and degenerative disc disease in my lower back. Both my doctor and physical therapist told me that I needed to build my strength to regain my health.

Today, I’m going to share the action steps that have enabled me to gain strength over the past eight months. Please remember, the action steps I’m going to share are specific to my body and wellness plan. My plan may or may not be right for your situation. If you’re struggling with a health challenge, consult a licensed healthcare professional to create a wellness plan that’s right for you.

With that caveat, let’s dive into the actions that have helped me the most since February.

1. Moving my body and facing fears

Earlier this year, I joined the Rogue Valley Masters Swim Team. Getting up early and swimming with the team is one of the best choices I made in 2016 because, in conjunction with physical therapy, swimming helped me build strength and regain my confidence. In addition, I became curious about CrossFit because some of my friends and family members are CrossFitters. Their adventures made me wonder if I could lift weights. However, I was really scared to try CrossFit because of my back issues.

After telling my cousin Aubrey about my fears, I realized that I needed to give CrossFit a try. Earlier this year, she was in a horrible cycling accident, and I’ve been inspired by the progress she’s made since her time in the hospital. Aubrey is living at home with her folks, working hard in physical therapy and going to CrossFit!

Aubrey encouraged me to call the local CrossFit gym and have a conversation with the coaches. She told me to see if the gym would be a good fit for me and my health issues before I dismissed the idea. Aubrey also explained that good CrossFit coaches modify exercises based on ability and their aim isn’t to injure people.

After I had talked to Aubrey, I called the CrossFit gym in Yreka and spoke with Mykala—a coach and the gym’s co-owner. She was so helpful and kind! Hearing her talk about safety, form, and the broad range of individuals she’s worked with made me feel comfortable and safe. So, on September 16, 2016, I did my first CrossFit workout. The workout kicked my ass, and I was incredibly sore, but my back felt great.

Since mid-September, I’ve been attending CrossFit classes. The support and encouragement I’ve received have been invaluable. The classes are small, which is perfect for me. There is so much to learn, and I feel comfortable asking questions. Also, I appreciate how focused the coaches are on form and safety. Sure there is a risk that I’ll hurt myself, but that’s true for any kind of activity. As long as I listen to my body and communicate my limits, I know I’ll be okay.

2. Tracking food via MyFitnessPal

After a few weeks of doing CrossFit, I told Mykala that I was feeling fatigued. She thought it was likely that I wasn’t eating enough and suggested that I start tracking my calories and nutrients in MyFitnessPal. Initially, I was hesitant to try this because I didn’t want to obsess over calories or what I’m eating. However, the app has been really helpful, and Mykala’s hunch was correct. I was fatigued because I wasn’t eating enough food. Eating more food—and tracking nutrients like protein—boosted my energy levels. I feel much stronger!

I won’t always track what I eat. However, I’m going to track my food and nutrients for three to four months to get a better sense of how certain foods affect my energy levels and moods. My aim is to eat real food and stay away from processed, sugar-laden meals. Overall, the app helped me realize that I’m a healthy eater and that my focus on building strength over thinness is a good thing.

3. Not drinking alcohol

In mid-July, I read Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston. The book was informative and honest, and I saw myself reflected in Johnston’s story. The book caused me to examine my relationship with alcohol and ask myself hard questions like, “Do I drink too heavily?” and “Am I an alcoholic?”

I talked with my counselor about my concerns surrounding alcohol. I’m not an alcoholic. However, in the past I’ve used alcohol—and sugary treats—to cope with life challenges. Those kinds of behaviors don’t contribute to good health, and, at this point, I don’t have a desire to drink because it doesn’t make me feel good.

For example, if I have one glass of wine or beer with dinner, I sleep poorly and wake up with a headache. I enjoy the taste of wine and beer, but the adverse side effects that I’ve experienced over the last year aren’t worth having a drink. I’d rather sleep soundly and wake up feeling energized. I’m not saying that I’m swearing off alcohol forever. But for now, I’m going to listen to my body and stay away from booze.

4. Earning less money

In a recent Instagram post, Amy Purdy wisely said, “You have to listen to your body. When it is telling you to stop … Stop.”

I had grand plans for the first three months of 2016; plans that didn’t happen because I came down with the flu, and then experienced disabling back pain. Rather than teaching more online classes, writing additional blog posts, and trying to hit my income goal for the year, I decided to stop pushing so hard. Instead, I let go of my plans and made my health the top priority.

I’m incredibly grateful because Logan—my husband and best friend—agreed with me. I was the primary financial support while Logan was in grad school, and this year he’s supported me. I’m incredibly grateful for his financial support. I’m also thankful for our emergency savings account because we used some of those funds to pay for my physical therapy bills.

Learning to stop, listen to my body, and remind myself that my self-worth isn’t tied to my net worth is important. It’s easy for me to think that I can control everything—including my health and business plans—but you never know what’s around the corner. I’m not going to make much money this year, and that’s okay. I’m able to walk without pain, swim, lift weights, and that is an incredible gift. I’m hopeful that my business will do well as I move into the New Year.

5. Asking for help

Asking for help and seeking out the advice of licensed healthcare professionals—like my doctor, massage therapist, and counselor—changed the course of my year. Based on their expertise, I developed a wellness plan that works for my body and mind. I’m grateful that I can afford to visit the doctor and a massage therapist and engage in activities like swimming and CrossFit. Having access to these resources is a privilege I try not to take for granted.

With gratitude,

Important notes: I am not a medical professional, and this article is based on my personal experiences. If you have back issues, an eating disorder, or physical or emotional ailments, please consult a doctor or therapist. A licensed professional can help you create a wellness plan based on your specific health challenges, needs, and desires.

Other helpful resources include:

Photo by Tammy Strobel

For the last few years, I’ve contributed to A Simple Year: Twelve Months of Guided Simplicity. The course is the brainchild of my friend Courtney Carver—founder of bemorewithless.com and Project 333—and I’m thrilled to be part of A Simple Year 2017.

Course Overview

Imagine what it would feel like to breathe a little easier, and feel lighter moving through your home and life. How would things change if you started taking steps to be less overwhelmed, busy, sick, or tired?

If there was less on your plate, fewer decisions to be made, less stress about money and relationships, could you be happier, healthier, and feel more at ease?

Living simply provides so many benefits, but sometimes it can be challenging to maintain a commitment to long-term change. If you look forward to living with less stuff, less stress and less obligation so you can have more time, money and energy to pursue what means most to you, choose to live a simple year.

A Simple Year was designed to help you simplify your life gently and with purpose. You’ll learn something new each month and focus on what matters most with a simplicity advocate that specializes in topics like clutter, food, money, relationships, and busyness.

Each month you’ll receive written articles, plus an audio or video recording. There will also be a live monthly webinar where you can connect with the contributor, ask questions, and meet other people on a similar path. The live webinar will be recorded and provided so you can watch it anytime. You can even submit questions in advance.

Here is a quick overview of what’s included in the course:

  • new content every month all year long
  • live monthly webinars with recordings
  • private online group for support and connection
  • optional homework assignments with surprise bonuses for completing your homework

Because we encourage you to go at your own pace, we’ll give you a PDF at the end of the program with all of the content, and links to all webinars, so you can revisit the material anytime.

Read the full course syllabus, FAQs, and become a Simple Year member here. The course begins on January 2, 2017, and early registration is open through November 13, 2016.

And last but not least my friend Courtney Carver wisely noted:

“Maybe A Simple Year isn’t the answer, and there probably isn’t just one answer, but I want to encourage you to take a step towards change. You are brave and strong enough to answer the call. Big change comes from hundreds of tiny steps and they all matter. You don’t have to have a perfect plan for the next 10 years or even the next 10 days. All you need is an open heart and the next step. Not all the steps, not a big step, just the next one. You’ve got this.”

I hope you’ll join Courtney Carver, The Minimalists, Cait Flanders, Brooke McAlary, Marc and Angel, Anthony Ongaro, Colin Wright, Jules Clancy, Erin Somerville, and myself, as we guide you through A Simple Year.

With gratitude,

{This week: The Curated Closet, books, no need to reply, and more.}

Photo by Tammy Strobel

Hi all,

Our trip to Florida was relaxing. The beaches and water were absolutely stunning! It’s nice to be back home with our crazy cats, though. I’ll share photos and an essay about our trip soon.

Before those pieces land in your inbox or feed reader, I’ll post a long essay about why I’m grateful for good health. I’ve been working on the essay for three weeks, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you.

With that, below are 10 happy links that inspired me this week. I hope you enjoy them, too!

1. My friend Courtney Carver sent me a lovely care package that included The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees and a beautiful journal from Rifle Paper Co.

2. And speaking of books, I’d like to read fiction for the rest of 2016. I still have a few non-fiction books to finish reading. However, I bought The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I read The Historian about five years ago and loved it. Also, I purchased Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at The Book Exchange in Ashland, Oregon. I’m also waiting for The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka to arrive.

3. I’m going to start doing this with my emails: No need to reply.

4. So good: She chooses to be here.

5. Truth: 5 reasons why it feels like only business coaches make money.

6. This piece was heartbreaking: Patton Oswalt—‘I’ll Never Be at 100 Percent Again.’

7. A fascinating essay about handwriting: The Lost Virtue of Cursive.

8. Have you heard of the hygge? According to Calm.com, it’s “a ritual where one can find enjoyment and comfort in life’s simple pleasures.”

9. Super helpful: The Holiday Decluttering Guide to Make Room for More Comfort and Joy.

10. Eye candy: Simply Survivor & Top Cat.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my weekly happy links roundup and want to support it, share this post with a friend.

With gratitude,

{This week: Florida fun, Aeronaut 30, photography, and more.}

Photo by Tammy Strobel

Hi all,

Below are 10 happy links that inspired me this week. I hope you enjoy them, too!

1. By the time my Happy Links arrive in your inbox or feed reader, I’ll be in Florida. We planned a trip to Florida to visit our cousin Aubrey, her folks, and additional family members. It’s been over 8 months since Aubrey’s accident, and she’s relearning almost everything (walking, typing, etc). Our Florida trip is going to be a blast! I’ll share photos and an essay about our trip soon. In the meantime, you can see photos of our Florida adventures on Instagram or Facebook.

2. And speaking of traveling, I finally upgraded my travel bag. Based on recommendations from my Instagram and Facebook friends, I bought the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30. I’m planning on using this bag for the next thirty years, so it was worth the investment.

3. This is a cool project: “BryPix makes and sells selected original pictures to fund microloans, empowering women in developing countries to grow small businesses which support themselves and their families.”

4. So good: It wasn’t for me.

5. Alexandra Franzen on changing with grace and how to be more intentional with your time.

6. The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards are a fantastic resource.

7. Loved this essay: 3 Lessons from an 18-day solo mission in the Sierra-Nevada.

8. Wise words via Melissa Hartwig: “Negative self-talk is one of the fastest way of destroying self-esteem, sabotaging your goals, and upsetting your mind and emotions. ‘Fat-talk’ (speaking disapprovingly about your body) can lead to body dysmorphia, disordered eating habits, and low self-esteem…The words you choose to describe your food and yourself have real power.”

9. Paul Jarvis’s article—On simplifying: pizza & complications—made me reconsider what business projects I’m going to work on as 2016 winds down and as 2017 begins.

10. Courtney Carver told me about Calm.com. Calm is “a simple mindfulness meditation app that brings clarity and peace of mind into your life.”

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my weekly happy links roundup and want to support it, share this post with a friend or register for A Simple Year 2017.

With gratitude,

{This week: Minimalism, Real Talk Radio, coping with depression, and more.}

Photo by Tammy Strobel

Hi all,

Below are 10 happy links that inspired me this week. I hope you enjoy them, too!

1. If you only have time to read one article today, read Cait’s post: Why I (Kinda, Sorta, Sometimes) Hate Calling Myself a Minimalist.

2. I’m obsessed with Real Talk Radio!

3. A powerful post—I don’t have it all figured out. Actually, I’m dealing with depression.

4. So good—Selling Out: An Artist’s Search for Money and Meaning.

5. A helpful five-minute TEDx talk by Caroline McGraw: You Don’t Owe Anyone an Interaction.

6. Truth: “By caring for him, I am also caring for myself.”

7. I do the same thing with my books: Read Books and then Give Them Away.

8. Currently, I’m reading multiple books including Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig, When Strangers Meet by Kio Stark, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman and The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelo. Looking for more good reads? Check out my digital bookshelf.

9. And speaking of good reads, I ordered The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I can’t wait to dive into the story.

10. A Simple Year 2017 is open for early bird registration! If you register by November 13, 2016, the cost of the year-long course is $180. That’s $15 a month and 25% off the regular price.

I hope you will join Courtney Carver, Cait Flanders, Brooke McAlary, Marc and Angel, The Minimalists, Anthony Ongaro, Colin Wright, Jules Clancy, Erin Somerville, and myself, as we guide you through A Simple Year 2017.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy my weekly happy links roundup and want to support it, share this post with a friend.

With gratitude,

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