To Be Continued:

Heading overseas!  Is London as plant positive as this article claims it is?  Can this rat remain calm for the duration of an international flight?  Will T behave for his Grammy and Pop Pop?  All this and more on the next exciting installment of The Joyful Gym Rat!

Plane wing
Photo credit: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/rodents-with-a-taste-for-travel/

30 Days to Better Health

In the wellness world, and the world in general, there seems to be a misconception that dramatic change originates from dramatic effort.  Unless you live in a rom-com, I’m assuming your life isn’t replete with grand gestures.  For us average folk, most days are a series of subtle actions that may or may not contribute to our long term goals.  In other words, it’s the small day to day choices we make that create the larger picture.

We can all agree that consistently smoking cigarettes on a daily basis would be more likely to raise our risk of lung cancer than going on the occasional smoking binge would.  Consistency, rather than occasional all out effort, is what truly shapes our lives.

What if I told you there was a way to improve your overall health in roughly 20 minutes a day?  For the low, low price of….just kidding, you didn’t accidentally stumble into an informercial.  This is simply an invitation from an over enthusiastic Joyful Gym Rat.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to add the three habits listed below to your daily routine for 30 days.  Don’t feel like you have 20 minutes?  Try adding them in one at a time if you must.  Small steps forward are always better than taking no steps at all.  Feel like you have more than 20 minutes?  Increase the amount of time you spend on each activity as you see fit.  Consistency is key, so do what you deem realistic.  Throughout the span of 30 days you may change how or when you perform these habits, the only requirement is that you perform them.  So what are you waiting for?  Today is the first day of the rest of your life (cue inspirational rom-com music and pan camera in on you reading this post with a starry-eyed smile….):

Drink Water First Thing In the Morning:  Drink as much as you please with the minimum being 8 oz.  Feel free to have your morning coffee or tea as you normally do, just make sure to drink water first.  Need some inspiration as to why?  Check out this post.

Exercise for 15 Minutes Every Day:  If you regularly read this blog, you are familiar with my fondness for morning rituals and routines.  Morning exercise is great but for the purpose of this challenge we can keep things more general.  Try moving your body and getting your heart rate up wherever and whenever you like, just make sure to do it every day.

Meditate for 5 Minutes:  For my clients new to meditation, I often recommend this app.  You can also set a timer and go on your own.  For more information on the whys and hows of beginning a meditation practice, take a scroll through my Mindfulness Monday series.

For more ideas and inspiration check out The Joyful Gym Rat Facebook page!

Dee credits her robust health to drinking water first thing in the morning…and copious amounts of sleeping on the couch…..




Playing Jazz in the Kitchen and a Recipe for Fall Spice Bars

Tunes pump out of the little bluetooth speaker that sits above our kitchen sink nightly.  Dance parties are common and T slays with his moves.  But dancing is not the only way we get creative in the kitchen.

One of the things I love most about our plant based household is the opportunity to be creative.  When it comes to plant foods, the palate is never ending and supremely colorful.  Once I got past the initial shock and awe of bucking conventionality in favor of a new way of nourishing myself and my family, things got fun.  Well, first challenging, then less challenging, and then fun.

Most humans are emotional eaters to some degree.  Tastes and smells can stimulate the heart as well as the taste buds.  The saying “eat to live, don’t live to eat” rings true in a way, but it is hard to deny that eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Call me cray but I do think it is possible for food to nourish both body and soul simultaneously.

I strictly follow recipes less often than I riff on them.  If my cooking were music, it would be less like classical and more like jazz.  Did you know that while there are approximately 20,000 different types of edible plants in the world, the average American diet only contains about 20 of them?  That’s like using just a few notes to write a song instead of the whole piano!  Interestingly, the #1 predictor of a healthy gut is the variety of plants in one’s diet.  Seems like humans and plant foods were meant to be.

Anyway, the other day when I got home from work I was overtaken by the familiar urge to play a little jazz in the kitchen.  As you may have read in last week’s post, I’ve been embracing fall in all its sweet and spicy glory.  Before I knew it, ingredients were whirling in the food processor.  As I stopped to taste what I had created, I was immediately transported back to childhood and my mother’s spice cake (she is an excellent baker and I fully blame her for my sweet tooth…Hi Mom!).  A dash of allspice and a riff on a frosting recipe later, these bars were born:


These babies are rich but also nutrient dense.  See, you can have your cake bar and eat it too!  Now back to our scheduled dance party.  Hit it T!…5, 6, 7, 8…..

Fall Spice Bars


1 cup medjool dates, pitted

1/3 cup + 1/4 cup raisins

1 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup raw nut butter of choice (I used a combo of almond, cashew, walnut, and hemp seeds so pretty sure any would do…)

1/2 cup gelatinized maca powder (an adaptogen that is said to increase energy and libido…hey now…) *oat flour works great if you don’t want to use/don’t have maca

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

a sprinkle (1/8 – 1/4ish teaspoon)  of nutmeg

a sprinkle (1/8 – 1/4ish teaspoon) of allspice

Pinch of salt (if it isn’t in your nut butter already)


2/3 cup coconut butter

6-7 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk (or other plant milk)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2-4 scoops (sweetness equivalent to 2-4 teaspoons sugar) pure stevia powder (or other sweetener of choice)

1 tablespoon date sugar (or other sweetener of choice)

Pinch of salt

To Make:

-Blend dates, walnuts, and 1/3 cup of the raisins until combined.

-Add remaining base ingredients except the remaining 1/4 cup of raisins until combined.  Taste and adjust spice as needed.

-Pulse in remaining 1/4 cup of raisins to keep some of their raisiny texture.

-Press batter into an 8×8 square baking dish lined with parchment paper.

-Soften coconut butter by placing jar in warm water and giving it a good stir.

-Using a hand mixer or blender, combine all frosting ingredients except soy milk.

-Add soy milk 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting is creamy and spreadable.

-Spread frosting over bars and place in fridge for at least an hour to set.

-Slice and enjoy!  (Store any remaining bars in fridge.)

A second picture!  How’s that for an encore?



It’s Fall Y’all! 3 Healthy Ideas for Embracing the Season

Fall has finally arrived here in Virginia!  The cooler weather last weekend had me clamoring for all things cozy (I really wanted to say pumpkin spice but feel like that gets overused…maybe because it’s so fragrant and delicious….ok, you got me.  I was totally clamoring for pumpkin spice…)

What is it about fall that brings the warm fuzzies?  Are we all just in denial that winter is coming (cue epic Game of Thrones music…)?  Switching from swampy and sweltering to crisp and brisk, as we did in a matter of days here in Virginia, is indeed refreshing.  It makes one want to soak up the season, short as it may be.

The following are a few easy ways to infuse a little autumn into your wellness routine:

Sprinkle Some Cinnamon: Aside from it being delicious, cinnamon has been shown to help control blood sugar by lowering insulin resistance.  Bake some cinnamon apples, sprinkle some on your sweet potato, or add some to your evening tea.

Cozy Up for Stroll: The simple act of going for walk has been shown to have a myriad of benefits.  Don a hoodie and catch a foliage-filled sunrise or bring a flashlight and the family for a spooky pre-Halloween/post-dinner stroll.

Settle into the Season:  Fall is by nature a time of transition, which can be exciting but also unsettling.   With the more introspective season of winter on the horizon,  fall can be a great time to adopt a mindfulness practice.  Plus, having a tool (or several) on lock for when the cooky relative-filled holiday season rolls around is never a bad idea….

For more content head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Still no color, mother nature must be confused since it was 98 degrees a week before this picture was taken….

Battle of the Vegan Frostings

This week was J’s birthday.  When I offered to bake him a cake, he asked that it be made with a “ridiculous” amount of frosting.  I took this literally and the amount of frosting made was indeed ridiculous.  3 recipes, 2 of them doubled, ended up in and on the cake.  A few of my own experiments, one an epic fail of garbage disposal proportions and the other that morphed into caramel candy, did not make the cut.

To save you all the trouble of making 5 different vegan frosting recipes (c’mon, you were totally planning on doing that, weren’t you???)  I have listed links to the recipes along with my personal reviews:

Vegan Vanilla Frosting from Feasting on Fruit:  When I saw that this recipe featured Japanese sweet potatoes (surprise J!), I knew I had to give it a try.  Simple and delicious, this one wins for ease of preparation.  I used it for the filling in between layers of carrot cake and added a bit of lemon juice for tang.  The only drawback is that you have to frost with it right away as it looses spreadability when stored in the fridge.

Maple Frosting from Forks Over Knives:  I highlighted this recipe in the linked to post from last Easter.  It requires a bit more prep than the other two and has a lighter, fluffier texture.  Bonus, the main ingredient is carrot so the nutritional profile is decent as far as frostings go.

Coconut Butter Frosting from Dreena Burton:  This definitely wins the prize for authenticity.  The creamy coconut butter creates  a frosting that is reminiscent of buttercream.  It tastes richer than the other two and complimented the carrot cake nicely.

For more plant based decadence check out The Joyful Gym Rat Tasty Tuesday series or follow on Facebook!

Happy birthday J, may this be your best year yet!