Category Archives: Healthy Body

What’s Your Tendency?

Today I bring you this morning’s emailed reflection for the Healthy Holiday Streak, written by Melissa Kennedy, my partner in streaking and owner of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. I thought it was so helpful, I wanted other people to read it.

If you haven’t signed up for the streak, it’s not too late. Sign up today and I will send you all of the posts you’ve missed. We still have several weeks to go–lots of time to set a good intention or two for this hectic season.

Take it away, Melissa:


One challenge with regard to developing and maintaining healthy habits is that we are all different: what seems like best practice to one person can be counterproductive for someone else. So when MaryAnn and I write these messages, we try to keep in mind that not everyone looks at change in the same way that we do.

Gretchen Rubin, a writer who focuses on happiness and habit change, has created a personality framework which she calls the Four Tendencies. While this isn’t a scientifically validated framework, it resonates with me and provides some interesting insights into why certain habit-change strategies do or do not work for me.

The Four Tendencies are based on how we respond to internal obligations, commitments made to oneself, and also to external obligations, like a work deadline.

  • Upholders keep all commitments, whether made to themselves or to others. Habit change may come easily to Upholders, but they have to be cautious not to over-commit themselves.
  • Obligers always meet external expectations, but struggle with commitments made to themselves. They can really struggle with changing health-related behaviors unless they create some sort of external accountability system–like our Streak!
  • Questioners, as you might guess, question everything, especially authority. They push back against external commitments until or unless they become convinced that what they are being asked to do makes sense–then they turn it into an internal commitment and honor it.
  • And Rebels push back against all commitments, even the commitments they make to themselves. They want to do what they want to do in the moment. Needless to say, this can make habit change hard! The motto Rubin gives for Rebels is “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”

None of the Tendencies are better or worse than any of the others–they each have their own advantages and pitfalls. But understanding how you respond to internal vs. external commitments can lead to very useful insights about what habit change strategies will and will not work well for you.

Your Tendency may be obvious to you after reading the descriptions above, but if not, check out the quiz on Rubin’s website.

Me? I’m a Questioner. I’m generally a rule-follower… but I am driven up the wall by rules that don’t make sense. I sometimes frustrate myself by not following through on things that I think I’m committed to… but in hindsight I almost always realize that I had never completely bought in. And I finally understand why my devil’s-advocate questioning of new ideas can be perceived as negativity.

Today’s Question: Which Tendency do you identify with? (Take the quiz if you aren’t sure!) What insights does that lead to?

Stop by the Facebook event if you would like to chat about Tendencies! (Maybe MaryAnn will reveal hers…)



Sign up for the streak and get a copy of all the posts through today.

Welcome to the Streak!

Note: The Healthy Holiday Streak begins today! Here’s the first reflection to get people started. All future posts will be sent to the email list only. Not too late to join! Register for the streak here.

We’re so excited you’re joining us on this adventure! Many of our daily reflections will be short and sweet, but today’s is a little more in-depth to help ensure you get off to a good start.

First thing is for you to define your streak. What makes a good goal, you ask?

  1. It’s small. Remember, this is something you will strive for every day. Don’t set yourself up for failure by picking something unrealistic.
  2. It’s within your control. Focus on things that you have the power to achieve. For example, instead of “get eight hours of sleep each night,” decide you’ll turn off the screens and unwind at a certain time each evening.
  3. It connects with a deeper sense of purpose or well-being. This is not a time for “should” or conforming to others’ expectations. What will help YOU embrace this season with a sense of well-being and joy?
  4. It needs a day off… or it doesn’t. Some of us are abstainers–we need to go all in on a habit, and if we “cheat a little,” we’ll fall off the wagon completely. Others of us are moderators–if we don’t give ourselves a little wiggle room, we’ll start to resent our goal*. Decide if you intend to follow through every day, or if you’ll do better with one streak-free day each week–and which one it will be.

Now, the good stuff!

Suggested Focus Areas for Goals

  • Exercise/Movement Each Day (how about dancing?)
  • Food/Nutrition
  • Saying No and Letting Go
  • Meditation and Gratitude
  • Sleep
  • Play and Recreation
  • Participation in Art and Beauty
  • Healthy Online Habits
  • Connecting with Loved Ones

Last Step: Accountability!

Here’s the bad news. When people set goals for themselves, there’s a pretty small chance they’ll follow through. Like, a 6-8% chance.

But guess what? The chance increases to 30% when you write the goal down. (So go do that!)

AND it increases to 60% when you tell someone about it**. So grab a friend and streak together. And head to our Facebook event and share what your streak will be. We can’t wait to cheer you on.

And we’ll be streaking too: Melissa’s streak will be focused on sleep–she is committing to a specific lights-out time each night, as well as a devices-off time 60 minutes before lights-out. MaryAnn will be choosing a different practice each week–this week, it’s a brief gratitude list at the end of each day. Each Monday we’ll report how our own streaks are going–including our stumbles–so we can all get recommitted for another week of streaking.

The next few days will be preparation for the streak, with the official streak starting on Thanksgiving (or the day after, your choice). But if you’re ready to start today, please do!

Today’s Question: Given today’s guidance, what will your streak be?

Until tomorrow!
MaryAnn McKibben Dana and Melissa Kennedy

Check out author Gretchen Rubin for more on abstainers and moderators.

Statistics on goal-setting are from the book Goal Setting: a Motivational Technique that Works by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham.


Image is from George Deputee on Flickr and used via Creative Commons Modify Non-Endorse License.

Streak with Us!

What would it take for this holiday season to be the best one yet?

Chances are, your answer to that question has nothing to do with receiving the perfect gift, or hosting the best cookie exchange, or writing the world’s bragging-est Christmas letter.

If you’re like us, a good holiday season is one that is mindful, joyous, and brimming with simple pleasures. And if we’re honest, it would be nice to get to January 1 and not be exhausted, frazzled, and crashing from too much holiday indulgence.

That’s where the Healthy Holiday Streak comes in.

To “streak” in running means to run at least a mile a day, every day. (You may have heard another definition for “streaking”—hey, what people wear to run that mile is up to them 😉)

Many runners choose to streak as a way of staying accountable to moving at least a little bit each day. This holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we’re creating our own twist on the streak. We’d love to have you join us.

How It Works:

You decide what your streak will be. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take part in some kind of exercise each day
  • Set a nutrition goal that allows you to enjoy the holidays while still making healthy choices
  • Spend at least a few minutes each day outside in the fresh air
  • Try to get a certain amount of sleep each night
  • Intentionally drink water throughout the day
  • Make contact with a friend each day
  • Let go of one task each day that drains you

Maybe your goal is more general—to be present and enjoy this often hectic season. Or maybe you mix it up and focus on a different goal each week. There’s no right or wrong way to streak! The ultimate goal is not deprivation, but a deeper sense of enjoyment—caring for oneself in body, mind and spirit.

Each morning from Monday, November 20 though New Year’s Day, streakers will receive a short email in their inbox, containing a brief reflection and a question to ponder. These reflections are designed to keep your streak on track with inspiration, tips, and suggestions.

The reflections are written by MaryAnn McKibben Dana of ZOOM! Coaching and Melissa Kennedy of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. We’ll be streaking too, so in addition to offering our best wisdom, we’ll be sharing our own successes and struggles along with you.

How Do I Sign Up?

Register here through MailChimp. Note: If you are signed up for MaryAnn’s Blue Room emails, you will NOT automatically be subscribed; you must opt in. Use the link to do this.

How Much Does It Cost?

Not a thing. Feel free to share the emails with others, and it’s easy to unsubscribe if it turns out not to be quite what you’re looking for.

What If I “Fail” at My Streak?

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Life happens, and sometimes the exercise just doesn’t happen, or that second (or third) cookie is just too tantalizing to ignore. Don’t stress about it. Melissa and MaryAnn believe that health and wellness come in the midst of baby steps, setbacks, recommitment, accountability, and grace. Let your goals and intentions be a North Star that guides you, not a destination you either succeed or fail to reach.

We look forward to streaking with you!

About Us

Melissa Kennedy is a physician, coach, and owner of Everyday Balance Health Coaching. She helps clients learn the lifestyle habits which maximize health and well-being, using a small-steps, habit-based approach. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband, daughter, and two crazy cats, and she loves hiking, cycling, cooking, reading, and playing the violin.


MaryAnn McKibben Dana is a writer, speaker, and owner of ZOOM! Coaching, which focuses on personal/professional coaching and running coaching. She is author of the forthcoming God, Improv, and the Art of Living, and numerous other works. She lives in the DC suburbs with her husband and three children, and also has two crazy cats. She is a muffin-maker, a haphazard knitter, and an occasional marathoner.




Image is from George Deputee on Flickr and used via Creative Commons Modify Non-Endorse License.

This Week’s Muffin: Spinach (?!?)

It’s been a long time since I posted a muffin recipe, mainly because it has been sooooo hot here in NoVA. Who wants to heat an oven?

Also, I’ve been trying to cut back on that kind of food. I won’t go so far as to call muffins “junk” food, but I’m trying to make better choices, such as quality proteins, and cramming as many fruits and veggies into my day as I can.

But finally, the weather has turned, and fall is here. These spinach muffins call for 6 ounces of baby spinach–that’s more than half of one of those big rectangular containers–and they use whole wheat flour. SOLD!

But dang, that batter is green:

I mean… wow.


I haven’t tasted the finished product yet, but the batter is tasty–the banana takes center stage, while the spinach flavor recedes into a generic earthiness that’s quite nice. I have no idea whether my kids will eat them. Part of me hopes they don’t.

from the Six O’Clock Scramble menu-planning site–We’ve been happy subscribers for a long time, and they’ve just started adding weekly breakfast suggestions, like this one!


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (GF is fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk (use any kind you have)
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line two muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter. In a food processor or blender (I used an immersion blender), mix the milk, spinach, and butter until it is completely pureed. Add the banana and vanilla and blend until just mixed.
  4. Pour pureed mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until completely combined. Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full and baking 18-20 minutes.

Focus on Form

A reflection about running, and also more than running.

This past weekend I was in Comfort, Texas, celebrating my brother’s recent marriage. As part of my training for an upcoming half marathon, and the Houston Marathon in January, I had a track workout scheduled for Saturday. I drove to Comfort High School a little before dawn to run some fast-for-me miles around the track (pictured above).

Speed workouts, like long runs, are a test of psychological strength as much as physical endurance. Around the 3/4 mark is when my energy and motivation always start to flag. I’ve learned a variety of mental tricks to keep going, and I needed them Saturday too. I was mentally thumbing through my list of favorite mantras and slogans when I remembered something I’d heard on a running podcast:

Beginning runners focus on the pain.
Intermediate runners focus on the mileage.
Advanced runners focus on form.

It’s definitely true for me. When I first started running several years ago and the going got tough, all I could think about was my burning lungs or stinging quads. (Pro-tip: focusing on the pain is not a good recipe for endurance.)

As I gained more experience on my feet—as an intermediate runner—I would focus on the miles: how far I’d come, how far I still had to go. If I was feeling good, that could be motivating: More than halfway through… Two-thirds done… Just a mile to go! If things were going poorly, however, it was a motivation-killer: You still have seven miles. You’ll never make it. Loser. Focusing on the mileage can be brutal in a race, especially if you’re a middle-of-the-pack runner like me: Lots of people have already finished, and you still have miles to go. And look at all these people passing you.

As for being an advanced runner, I don’t know whether I’ve achieved that milestone yet, but on Saturday morning I decided not to think about the pain, or where I was in my workout, but to focus on form.
Shoulders back and down.
Torso tall.
Quick feet.
Easy breath.
Arms bent at 90 degrees. 

It helped! The miles were still a tough effort, but I focused on myself—on what I could control, and the countless small adjustments that would make the remaining laps more bearable.

Later I pondered how this concept applies to life in general. When we’re in the midst of deep adversity, or even just an unexpected detour, what do we do? 
Do we fixate on the pain and negativity, until that’s all we can see?
Do we obsess over external factors beyond our control?
Or do we turn inward, breathe deeply, and focus on what we can change… namely, our own response?

This week’s shooting in Las Vegas—the most deadly in modern history—has offered an enormous, heartbreaking opportunity to practice this approach.

It’s natural and understandable to feel the full impact of that pain—to empathize with the 59 lost and 527 injured (so far), and their families and loved ones. I myself find it hard to turn away from the stories. But I also know that to focus on the pain to the exclusion of all else will consume me.

It’s also understandable, like the intermediate runner, to focus on the miles… to look around at our culture of violence, the sorry state of gun safety legislation, the dearth of mental health resources for people in need, or all of the above. Many of us wonder why the United States has such a shameful track record compared to other developed nations, and whether our political leaders will display any political wisdom or courage to make a change. I’ll be honest; I don’t see much reason to hope for progress right now.

What, then, is left? To focus on form. To care for myself and the people around me. To look inward, and make sure I am acting with the most integrity, wisdom, and compassion. To tend to my breathing. To do what’s mine to do. In my case, that means giving money and writing letters and making phone calls to Congress… and also showing up to work each day, and reading nourishing books, and eating food that’s good for me and for the earth.

To focus on form means to “run the race that is set before us,” as the author of the book of Hebrews wrote to the early church so long ago. I wish the terrain were different—less treacherous, less painful for body and soul. But the race is ours to run nonetheless.

I’m glad we’re running it together.

Fight back with beauty,

Note: This message was sent to my email newsletter this morning. If you’d like to receive twice-monthly reflections right to your inbox, subscribe.
Want to “work on your form,” as a runner or as a human being? I do running coaching and personal/professional coaching as well. Learn more here.