Plan Simple with Mia Moran
The Three Week Sprint with Stacey Ackerman

The Three Week Sprint with Stacey Ackerman

August 22, 2019

Agile is all about flexibility, reevaluation and inspecting and adapting what we’re doing. That’s the agile mindset and I bring that philosophy into my family.  – Stacey Ackerman

On this episode of the Plan Simple Meals Podcast, I’m really excited to talk with Stacey Ackerman, the founder of Agilify Training, about Scrum. Not sure what that is? Don’t worry! Neither did I until very recently … and then I couldn’t wait to learn more. 

Scrum is a management framework based on collaboration and teamwork, focus and getting things done in small iterative ways. The goal is to get things out quickly, get feedback and make a change. Stacey is a scrum coach in the corporate world but has also used the framework in her home life. One of the key things is to get all the players involved. That means getting your kids involved in the process if you are using Scrum at home instead of just dictating their jobs. 

Stacey talks about how the process has changed as they use it more and more. She talks about getting her kids involved in the planning and using it as a way to increase responsibility and accountability for chores before fun. 

We talk about: 

  • Trello as a tool to organize home and work tasks
  • Friday planning sessions and Monday check ins with an accountability partner
  • The idea of timeboxing—giving yourself a certain amount of time to focus and get something done
  • Having fewer tasks going at once for greater productivity
  • Sprint reviews and retrospectives—meetings or ceremonies at the end of a sprint
  • Creating a backlog—all the things that have to happen—and prioritizing


Stacey Ackerman is the founder of Agilify Training. She’s a coach and trainer with a background in marketing. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a Scrum Master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. She’s also a speaker and mom to three kids. 



Doable Changes from this episode:

  • CREATE A HOME BACKLOG. Have a family meeting and create a backlog (a list of all the things that need to happen) for either the things it takes to run your household or for a specific project (a move, a vacation, etc.). Pull out the sticky notes and get everyone’s ideas. You can then prioritize and assign tasks to different people.

  • TIMEBOX. Take a look at your list of things to do. Choose one important task for this week. Mark off on your calendar when you will do it, including how long you have to work on it. When the time comes, turn off all distractions. Focus on the task at hand and get it done.

  • DO A SPRINT RETROSPECTIVE. When a sprint is done, stop and look at how it worked out. Use the information from this retrospective to make adjustments going forward. For example, look at the chores assigned to your kids. Were they too difficult? Did they have too much to do? Do they need more guidance or different tools to accomplish those chores going forward? Make adjustments as needed.

Intuitive Tools with Sara Walka

Intuitive Tools with Sara Walka

August 14, 2019

Learning to pay attention to the lunar cycles helps us pay attention to ourselves, which helps us hear intuitively. – Sara Walka

On this episode of the Plan Simple Meals Podcast, I’m really excited to talk with Sara Walka, the head magic maker and founder of The Sisters Enchanted, about moon cycles, intuition, cards, and other tools. 

Intrigued by tarot since she was 15, Sara has been following an intuitive path for the past 20 years. Leaning into her intuition led her to quit her job as a candy sales rep, go to graduate school, become an educational consultant, and then eventually to start The Sisters Enchanted. We talk about letting intuition guide us.

And then we talk about lunar cycles and ebb and flow. So often we fight against a cycle, feeling like we need to keep doing things all the time. Sara talks about recognizing the changes in the sky and in our own energy and how we can learn to pause and not feel bad about doing that. I love that she says this from her knowledge of the lunar cycles and ackowledges that as a mom and a business owner, it can be challenging to let ourselves do that. But it starts with awareness.

We talk about: 

  • Finding and using the energy periods within a cycle – and then resting (the full moon or the new moon tend to be intense periods for different people)
  • How those pauses help us to hear what our bodies and intuition are telling us
  • How to use lunar cycles whether or not your own cycle lines up and the benefits of tracking both cycles and your energy
  • Looking at other cycles, like the 24-hour day learning what part of the day feels more energetic and which part feels slower and then combining this knowing with what you know about the 28-day lunar cycle
  • Oracle cards and pendulums as tools to help us hear our intuition
  • How emotional attachment related to having kids can get in the way of our intuition


Sara WalkaLunar is the head magic maker and founder of The Sisters Enchanted. She makes magic mainstream and helps people magnify their magic, stretch their soul, and learn to love their life and themselves. The Sisters Enchanted strives to spread magic, optimism, and spirituality to an increasingly chaotic world through monthly membership programs, free Facebook group, and courses. She’s the mom to a five-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, and currently can usually be found at home with her kids in Connecticut or cultivating communities on the internet.


Doable Changes from this episode:

  • TRACK YOUR ENERGY. Start noticing and tracking your energy. Write down how you feel at different times of the day and throughout the 28-day lunar cycle. You can find a lunar calendar online to help you find when the moon is full, new, or at any other stage. You may want to track your energy during your own menstrual cycle too, whether or not it matches up with the lunar cycle. Starting to see patterns may take some time, but try simply getting into the habit of awareness and tracking.

  • WRITE IT DOWN. Writing down the thoughts that seem crazy or like, “Why am I thinking this?” Then circling back later in the day to see what happened, what you noticed, how you felt, or what you realized.

  • PULL AN ORACLE CARD. There are oracle decks for every one. Find one that speaks to you. Then pull a card first thing in the morning. See how it plays out for you throughout the day. Does it help you hear and trust your intuition a little more? 
Make Big Changes Without Feeling Like an Outcast

Make Big Changes Without Feeling Like an Outcast

August 9, 2019

When the going gets tough. We hide. Well, I don’t know about you but I do… When we make changes in our lives it can feel strange to us, our families and our friends. Others may resist our changes because they feel threatened. They wonder if you are judging them. They don’t want to change or even think that they might have to. They are uncomfortable when you don’t do the things you always did before. As humans, we are not programmed to love change, so this is totally normal.

It’s hard to stick to our changes when we are getting disapproval or too many questions or enticements to do what everyone else is doing and just fit in. But you can do it. With your why, a plan, and a little accountability and support you can do it. 

5 Steps to Make the Change You Crave

Here’s what you need to get through the discomfort to stick with the changes you crave. 

1. Accept that change is hard and feel OK with change.

Do one doable change at a time. Know your big why. When I made my big change to lose weight, it was really about having energy. I didn’t know how to cook, but I did what was doable. For me, it was making 5 not-even recipes day after day until I got the energy. Then I learned how to cook. Then I was able to integrate healthy eating into our family. But it all happened by committing to what felt doable. What is doable to you is different from what is doable for other people. 

2. Keep it super simple. 

Big change can feel overwhelming, that why here at Plan Simple, we focus on One Doable change at a time. I like to look at Doable Changes as experiments. Lean into one change at a time and see how it feels. We include ideas for doable changes at the end of every podcast or get a 101 Doable Changes for different areas of your life. (Just remember to focus on one at a time.)

3. Recall what works regularly. 

Write down what you are grateful for. Write down the “magic moments”—those times when what we need comes to us when we make choices and take actions to move toward our goals. It helps us block out what other people think and focus on what is working. It also helps us quiet our own mind from telling us we are crazy for doing this. Write down the shifts. Write down the ways life is getting better. Learn to notice the magic. Write it down. Look back at that when it feels hard. Keep going.

4. Don’t lecture, just lead. 

When you start to make amazing changes in your life, people notice. They notice your glow or your energy or how organized your house is or how unflustered you seem all the time. People start to ask questions. We want others to feel amazing too, and sometimes our response comes out as a lecture or judgey way: You need to give up gluten or commit to yoga or stop overscheduling your kids or set regular work hours … 

Instead, be a walking example. Bring a gluten-free treat to a party so that people can love what you love instead of notice what you aren’t doing. Live your calm or your energy or your joy … whatever good comes up for you. 

5. Find accountability. 

Not everybody will be ready for the changes you are making. Having like-minded people to talk to when things get hard and to hold you accountable can make all the difference. You may find these people at your school, in a moms group, or in Facebook groups. Check-in weekly just to tell someone what you are planning to do — from not yelling at the kids to eating more kale to finishing the presentation that you are working on—and then check in to say how it went. 

If you want to look at your life holistically and make big changes, FLOW 365 might be just what you are looking for. We mix big vision goal setting, planning around your cycles, resources to help you keep moving forward with regular support and accountability. Check it out here >> FLOW 365

Doable Changes from this episode:

  • EXPERIMENT WITH ONE THING. Drink enough water daily. Go to bed on time. Eat more veggies. Only work during work hours. Get outside every day. What one change will move you toward your bigger goal? Whether it’s a health goal or a work goal or a lifestyle change or moving toward better self-care, a big change comes from repeated little changes. Choose one doable change to experiment with. Lean into it for a week and see how it feels. Do you want to keep going? Do you need to tweak it? 
  • SCHEDULE SOMETHING. Pick one thing you want this week and schedule it on your calendar. It could be your morning meditation, dinner prep to eat better, the writing time you need to move forward on your book, your favorite yoga class or even downtime. Put it on your calendar and hold that time sacred to what you scheduled it for.
  • NOTICE YOUR MAGIC MOMENTS. Magic moments are those things that crop up once we commit to a change or a goal. Maybe your 5-year-old notices that you didn’t yell today or you find your teen trying to meditate after seeing you doing it the morning after morning. Perhaps you get an email from a coach who’s program exactly fits your needs after telling your friend what you wanted to do. Maybe it’s an aha you had about how to move forward or reaching a milestone. Notice and write these down. Go back to them when you feel unsure about your path. 
How to Overcome 3 Major Blocks to Make Change You Crave

How to Overcome 3 Major Blocks to Make Change You Crave

August 8, 2019

You know what you want. You crave big change, but you can’t seem to get there or even gain momentum toward the life you really want. We’re going to look at three blocks to making a change, and more importantly, what you can do about it. 

Block 1: We fill our calendars.

We see an empty hour and we say yes to a playdate. We see an empty day and we say yes to volunteering all day at our kids' school. We see an empty weekend and say yes to the birthday party, the show, and the neighborhood cookout. 

Work ends at 5, we run to get kids by 6:00 we need dinner on the table by 6:10 for the rest of our evening to work. We don’t make time for the things we say we want to do. We literally schedule ourselves out of our own lives.

Let’s change that. 

  • Build in space. Go through your calendar and schedule space — ramp up and ramp down time, blocks of nothing gets scheduled time, transportation time,  10-year plan time. Get really real about how long things take. 
  • Make time for the important things. If you really want to eat better, schedule time to meal plan and prep. If you want to write a book, put that time on your calendar and hold it sacred. Put it on your calendar so you don’t fill that space with the things that don’t matter. 
  • Commit to one doable change at a time. Big changes happens as small actions we take again and again. You aren’t going to lose 65 lbs in a day. You won’t write your book by the end of this week or have meditation part of your morning routine overnight. Set yourself up—in your calendar—to make one change. Set aside 5 minutes to meditate every morning next week. Set your alarm. Get up. Do it. Plan your meals. Stick to the plan. See what happens when you set yourself up to move toward your goals. Really fit it in your change. Feel curious. Maybe even have some fun.

Block 2: Our calendar system limits us

Do you keep all the parts of your life separate? Kid rosters are stuck on the fridge. Your meal plan is on a chalk board in your kitchen. Appointments and work show up on your phone. But everything is separate and all over the place. 

We’re reacting to what’s coming in and not what’s going on big picture.

Let’s change that.

We need a plan that has the whole picture in it. We need a plan that honors our seasons and cycles. Plan for the next 90-day season. What pieces of your big plan can you work on during those 90 days? 

But when we look at this, we need to look at our lives holistically. That’s why I created the FLOW process. FLOW stands for:



Om (selfcare and down time)


What do you need to focus on in this season to work toward this life you crave? Maybe you are focused on one category right now, but often categories affect each other. Making a choice has magic in it. One member of FLOW365 was working on a big change at work, but she kept coming up against barriers. She decided to focus on clearing clutter at home for the next 90 days, and as she did so, the work stuff fell into place. 

Trust that you are going to live in this bigger way of living and that what you choose now to move you forward has less pressure.

Block 3: It’s hard to be different.

It is hard to be different. We don’t have a blueprint for parenting, for entrepreneurship, for so many of the things we want in our lives. We get input from the media, from our community, from the Internet … we don’t even hear what we want. 

I hear this a lot around food changes. “I feel good when I don’t have all the sugar” or “I want to go gluten-free” but how do I go the party or have dinner out? 

Let’s change that. 

Put your big why someplace you can see it regularly. Let your why to pull you forward instead of feeling like you are constantly pushing to make a change. 

We’ll talk a lot more about this block in the next post: Make Big Changes Without Feeling Like an Outcast.

How to Ditch Overwhelm to Get More Done with More Ease

How to Ditch Overwhelm to Get More Done with More Ease

August 7, 2019

Overwhelm does not happen because our to-do list is miles long. Our to-do list is always going to be miles long! Overwhelm happens when what we are doing — what we are choosing to check-off from our to-do list — differs dramatically from what our heart knows will lead us to our ideal life.

 Let me give you a small example that I hear a lot: I don’t have time to exercise.I can’t find a consistent time. I am always in my car driving kids to soccer, ballet, and play dates. There is just no time, and I am exhausted. 

In this case, your body literally knows it needs exercise to be its best, yet you are paying attention to all the things that you added to your list because you thought you had to. 

I could tell you that I have friends like Dai Manuel who could give you easy 20 minute workouts you can do at home or Catherine Basu who has personal trainers that work with you through your computer screen. But you might raise other obstacles that are driven by overwhelm or the things you think you have to / should do. 

Your overwhelm triggers might be different. It might be that you are always tired and you cannot sleep. It might be that you are always with kids so you cannot get your work done. It might be that there is never enough time to make healthy dinners. Or it might be that you are always working so you feel like your family and home are falling apart.

 What I have found over and overworking with women is that we can only change our habits when we change our perception of time and our perceived limits that time brings into our lives.

 I want to offer you 3 ideas and some tools that go with each that might help.

3 Steps to Ditch Overwhelm and Feel Great 

First, let me tell you a bit about my obstacle 10 years ago. I had a perfect life on paper, but I was exhausted and very overwhelmed. In a total breakdown moment, I was able to pinpoint that I was 65 pounds heavier than I had ever been,  always had a coffee in hand to get me through the day, and operated in survival mode most of the time. I always felt short on energy and time, and was at my wits end by the time I was supposed to get dinner on the table.

One day, seeing the huge stack of coffee cups on my desk, I decided I needed to change. I made the decision to feel great. I believed it was possible. I found support. I took action one doable change at a time. I now have the tools to be the best I can in every one of my roles, every day. It all starts with knowing what you want. 

Know what you want

When you know what you want, you can choose things on your list that align with what you want and say no to what is totally misaligned. That might mean delayed gratification as you move toward a larger 10-year vision. For me, it meant getting really clear on family values—my own values, my spouses, and what we believed together. These things help us make decisions about what we take and leave. Get your planning sheets for what you want here. 

What will it feel like when you get what you want? This is like the imaginary play you did when you were young. Maybe you haven’t exercised your imagination lately, but this is a great way to do it. See yourself living the life you want. Is there a word that comes to mind? A smell? A memory? 

We can feel the finished result before we experience it, and that can help us stay the course to get there. Try writing out what you want as if it has already happened. I exercise daily and I have so much energy. We enjoy healthy, delicious dinners every night and feel nourished by the food and connection. Whatever your vision, write it out as a done deal.  

Understand and learn how to honor your different cycles

We are expected to live in a go go go environment, always doing, always being productive. But we don’t work that way really. Think about natural cycles, the seasons, your menstrual cycle. There are different energies to different times of the year, the month, the week, even the day. When you start to recognize these energy levels and work with them, you feel less overwhelmed and can actually get more done.

Start by playing detective. Take notes in your journal or planner about your energy levels and what your body craves. Notice how imposed schedules, like the school year, weekdays vs. weekends, or holidays, affect you. Wonder how it could be different. Think about what works best for you. How can you adapt the imposed schedule to fit your cycles? 

Know Your Why

You are going to feel really ready to make those big changes that you have been saving for “tomorrow.” This is good. You need to have this passion and conviction – your why.

Making change feels hard and there are lots of things that pull us away from what we want, but if you have a clear and compelling why, it can keep pulling you forward. 

When I wanted to lose weight, I needed more than a surface answer. I kept asking Why until I found something that really resonated and motivated me:

  • Why do I want to lose weight?
    I feel uncomfortable in my clothes because they don’t fit.  
  • Why do I want to feel good in my clothes?
    Because I how I feel in my body is getting in the way of how I show up in the world.
  • Why do I want to show up in the world?
    Because I have gifts I’m meant to share with the world and I need more energy and clarity to share them.

Keep digging to find your why. Then write it down. 

Your why can give you great momentum, but then something happens. You hit a snag — for me, not knowing how to feed my kids and myself. Or it might be that you have a work goal and a kid gets sick, or you have a food goal and you go on vacation. Knowing your why can help you navigate through these times or pick things back up again. 

Doable Changes from this episode:

  • GET CLEAR ON YOUR VALUES. Take some time to get clear on your personal and family values. These can be a great guide when it comes to deciding what stays and goes on your to-do list. Once you are clear, look at your list for the day or week. Get rid of anything that doesn’t align with your values.
  • NOTICE YOUR ENERGY. Our energy changes throughout the day, throughout our cycle each month, throughout the different seasons of our year. Planning based on your own energy cycles is smart, but the first step is starting to notice your own energy patterns. Just notice your energy throughout the day. Are there times of ay you have more energy or feel more creative or contemplative? Are there specific routines or activities that drain you? How does your energy feel throughout the week? Where are you in your cycle? Track your energy to see what you can learn about your own rhythms. As you start to see patterns, you can adjust your planning.
  • SET YOUR WHY. Dig deep to find your “real” why behind a goal or change you want to make. Don’t stop at the surface, keep asking why again and again until your change resonates and inspires you. Write your why on a sticky note and put it someplace you can see it again and again. 


Finding Flow with Carrie Allen

Finding Flow with Carrie Allen

August 1, 2019

I realize how much I love and crave planning ... It helps me be all what I want to be and get things done … It doesn't mean everything gets crossed off the list that day, … but it will get moved to the next day and the next day until it is done. – Carrie Allen

On this episode of the Plan Simple Meals Podcast, I’m really excited to talk with Carrie Allen, about how she finds flow between a full-time, high-level job that includes lots of travel, four kids and a new husband, and running her own business. While Carrie always seemed to “get things done,” she’s learned during her time in FLOW365 to find more balance between different parts of her life. 

The FLOW planning system helped her to be more mindful. She learned that she could care about food, self-care, lifestyle, family and work without being a workaholic. She learned to think about seasons and what she wanted things to look and feel like. She started blocking time for the things she wanted, and she started to feel more well-rounded. 

We also talked about her moving from a very masculine view of time that fit with her corporate job to a different kind of rhythm. 

We talk about: 

  • Meal rhythms as a way of planning
  • Knowing what’s for dinner as a tool
  • The importance of family mealtime and how that can help you balance other things
  • How leaning into your dreams or doing something creative can be self-care
  • Writing lists, meditation, and other ways to get grounded—and what we can do when we get quiet and grounded
  • How having a plan doesn’t mean everything gets checked off the list every day, but you can keep moving toward your goals


Carrie Allen founded August Table with her husband Krister to inspire people to connect with friends and loved ones for meaningful conversations around a table. They are passionate about beautiful design, eating delicious healthy food, and connecting with loved ones around the table. August Table features hand block printed linens for your table, your kitchen and you. In addition to running August Table, Carrie runs the corporate innovation program at the Cambridge Innovation Center. She has four kids ages 13–21. 


Doable Changes from this episode:

  • BLOCK TIME. Choose one thing you want to do—meditate in the morning, take time to meal plan, rest, do a creative project. Block out time on your calendar to do that thing. Even if you are only meditating for 5 minutes, block out that time. 
  • MAKE A MEAL RHYTHM. Instead of trying to come up with a new meal every single night, set up a rhythm that makes it easier to make a meal plan. For example, make every Monday bean night and Tuesday grain bowl night and Wednesday soup night. Having a rhythm makes meal planning and decision making easier. Once you have a rhythm set up, start with what you already know you like. From there you can experiment with new recipes — or just keep going with what you know. 
  • CHOOSE ONE FOCUS. There are so many things we want to do—work ideas, home projects, family adventures, health needs … It’s easy to lose focus and not make progress on anything. For the next season (90 days), choose one focus. For Carrie, it was healing her foot and ankle. It could be to launch a new product. It could be to sell your house or declutter the basement. It could be to feel better in your body by eating better and moving. Let any other goals and actions flow around your core focus. What will you focus on this season? Write it down. Tell somebody who will support you.


Maintaining and Mindset with Paul Salter

Maintaining and Mindset with Paul Salter

July 25, 2019

On this episode of the Plan Simple Meals Podcast, I’m talking with Paul Salter, a registered dietician whose mission is to help people break free of poor relationships with the scale, food or feeling trapped in the cycle of weight loss and regain. 

We start with the problem of girls starting to diet as early as 5 and 6 and being taught so young that being thin is essential. And yet, my food story starts with weight loss, with losing the 85 pounds I was carrying from pregnancy. Paul talks about the scale as one marker of progress, but that it isn’t always the right marker and shouldn’t be the only one. Energy can become a powerful marker instead. 

Then we dive into why dieting doesn’t work. How we don’t think about what or how we’ll eat after our diet or cleanse ends. Short plans—usually 30 to 90 days—are designed to make you feel successful. You feel like you can do it, knowing it will end, but when it does end and the plan doesn’t fit with your lifestyle, you don’t know what to do. We need to find a sustainable plan for our food. 

We talk about: 

  • Keystone habits, things we do that have the biggest return on investment, such as meal planning and meal prep 
  • Getting clear on your foundational foods—your 4–5 main staple food groups that you need every day—making a list of foods you know you like and make you feel your best, and flexing what and when you eat around your foundational foods
  • How to get past the noise to know what to eat. For everyone, that’s wholesome nutrient-dense foods and then paying attention to what doesn’t sit well with you
  • The “what the hell” phenomenon and ways to reframe to get overall or nothing/black or white thinking when it comes to food
  • Two ways to handle feeling weird about food choices at family or social events
  • Training your brain to scout the positives by writing down a non-scale related victory each night
  • Having an after-action plan for when you get off track


He's obsessed with helping men and women who have a history of yo-yo dieting develop the mindset and behaviors essential to achieving long-term weight maintenance and he takes great pride in his ability to provide impactful education, resources, and support to help you do just that.

The past few years, he's worked one-on-one with more than 1,000 men and women, helping them to transform their lives while collectively losing tens of thousands of pounds of body fat.

He's served as a Sports Nutrition Consultant for the prestigious Renaissance Periodization, a lecturer in the Health Sciences Department at Northern Arizona University, as the Nutrition Editor for, and as a Sports Dietitian for IMG Academy.


Doable Changes from this episode:

  • CULTIVATE A VISION. The first step is to cultivate a vision of what you want your future relationship with food and the scale to look like. Answer questions like What does my social or dining out lifestyle look like? How many times do I want to spend having meals out or tending social gatherings with your family? How many times do I want to work out in a week regardless of the form of exercise that you choose? Having a clear, detailed vision is necessary to taking action steps to move in the direction you want to go.

  • WRITE DOWN WINS. Each night before bed, write down one non-scale victory or positive. It could be related to your workout, the way you feel, the way you felt wearing a certain outfit, your energy of the day, or some other non-nutrition or exercise related positive. This practice helps retrain your brain to scout out the positives, which can help you keep moving forward.

  • MAKE AN AFTER ACTION REPORT. We all “screw up” or go off track as we try to eat better. Instead of beating yourself up or deciding that it’s all over, reflect on why you got off track. See if you can identify any specific triggers or stressors or challenges you faced then take a step to reflect what you could’ve done differently to better navigate the situation. This can help you make a plan to handle similar situations that you encounter in the future.

Blend It with Tess Masters

Blend It with Tess Masters

July 18, 2019

On this episode of the Plan SimplePodcast, I’m so excited to talk with Tess Masters, aka The Blender Girl. Tess is all about the perfect blend, our own personal mix of different notes and philosophies, culture, work, love and relationships, hobbies and literally food that make our perfect blend in health and happiness. Oh, and she believes food needs to pull us in at a glance and be mind-blowingly good. 

Tess talks about her food philosophy and how she came to love blending. One of the biggest takeaways? Bringing joy back into the mix. Tess went from evangelizing one way of eating over another to “coming at health and nutrition and food from a place of abundance and joy rather than depletion.” When she started focusing on all the incredible things that she could do as opposed to all the things I couldn’t eat or couldn’t do or whatever, everything changed. 

Tess isn’t just the blender girl. She an actress too and travels a lot. And since travel and summer barbecues (or winter holidays or this week’s birthday party, or pick your reason) are two of the big challenges I hear people talk about when it comes to eating food that serves you, we talk about that too, and she shares her tips on eating and feeling great when traveling. 

We talk about: 

  • Blender recipes that get self-proclaimed meat lovers to crave mushroom stroganoff, green hating kids to eat kale smoothies, and everyone to swoon over cauliflower, and the alchemy of flavors you can get when you blend that you can’t get other ways (hint, try red pepper and strawberry)
  • Why it’s worth investing in a high power blender (and the fact that any blender is better than no blender)
  • The sachets Tess carries on a plane—what’s in them and how they help keep her feeling good
  • Bringing something you can eat to events—and choosing what you will eat to be part of a celebration
  • The importance of staying hydrated, when we travel and in general to support our eating decisions
  • How to handle questions about what you are eating/not eating (because sometimes it’s what other people think that keeps us from eating in a way that gives us joy)
  • Ways to get kids to eat healthily… including changing tastes and getting them involved


Tess Masters is an actor, voice-over artist, and a food fanatic. She went to a naturopath in her teens because of extreme lethargy and learned that she is gluten and dairy intolerant. That led her to explore how food affects us. She tried pretty much everything: vegetarian, vegan, raw foods, Ayurvedic philosophy, Chinese yin and yang, alkalinity, Body Ecology anti-candida principles, blood-group strategies, and zillions of green smoothies … One day her dad asked if she was having fun. That was a turning point to getting more intuitive with her eating, to cherry-picking from different plans to find what works for her. And Blender Girl was born. She started blending foods, finding new combinations, and sharing her amazing recipes to help others find their flexible wellness plan. 


Doable Changes from this episode:

  • TRY A BLENDER RECIPE. If you think healthy food can’t really taste all that good or that your husband won’t eat or your kids will say, yuck, try a delicious recipe that is also healthy. We’ve included 3 of Tess’s favorite, yummy recipes in the links—or check out her website or cookbooks for more. Pick one to try this week. See what everyone thinks. If it’s a winner, make it again. If not, try a different recipe.
  • ASK YOUR KIDS ABOUT FOOD. Ask: Did you like that? Do you want me to make that again? Should we put that in the meal rotation? What fruit should we eat this week? What vegetables? This helps give them autonomy about choosing healthy foods. Sometimes people start just by feeding themselves what they need and then try to bring their family along. Try this to get your kids on board with healthy choices. 
  • FIND YOUR JOY. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, focus on what can have, what you love, what makes you feel really good. Get really clear on that, especially before you go to a social event. Then fill your plate with confidence, and if people ask, let them know that yes, you’re enjoying yourself.

The Freedom to Thrive

The Freedom to Thrive

July 12, 2019

“I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his [or her] freedom.” - Bob Dylan

I’ve been thinking about freedom today for a number of reasons – it was just Independence Day in the US, I recently visited my 101-year-old grandmother who still lives independently, and I had a two-week road trip with my family while still coaching the members of FLOW365.

I want to share what I thought freedom was, what I have come to learn it to be – and how I practice making choices on a daily basis to experience freedom. 

For a long time, I thought freedom meant buying whatever I wanted, doing what I wanted when I wanted, and eating everything in sight. Sometimes it felt good, but more often than not my desires were based on other people’s agendas. I needed to reconsider freedom.

I started paying really close attention to all the people in my life over the past few years — guests I interview here, coaches I have hired, colleagues I respect, my grandmother, Oprah, Brene Brown — I am so curious how each person finds their version of freedom. 

I want to pass on some of my biggest lessons about freedom today. I don’t have all the answers. I come from many years of bad habits and limiting beliefs, so these are all things I experiment with and practice on a daily basis.

Freedom is saying no to foods and substances that don’t serve me. Who knew? I get asked all the time if I feel left out at parties when a cake comes out in its full dairy and gluten glory. (For those of you who are new to my world, I have chosen not to eat those things.) The truth is that it may have been hard at first, but 10 years in, I choose the energy, good-health, and waistline that come with eating what I know serves me. I never knew in my 20s that I had the freedom and choice to feel well all the time. 

My latest “no” has been to alcohol. A few months ago, I realized that even though I was not consuming that much alcohol, I would grab a glass of wine at the end of the day so I could feel fun in a moment when I was feeling exhausted. I realized that I had stripped myself of the freedom to be fun or admit I needed to go to bed. This change has not been easy — trips, weddings, holidays all draw me towards wine bottles, but it has been a really important experiment in finding “my fun.” And I have to say, a mere 90 days in, it feels so freeing knowing that I can be fun all on my own.

Freedom is deciding, making a plan and sticking to it. Not everyone gets this point because it seems counter-intuitive. Eating junk food every day is not freedom, because though it is fine today (after a little tummy ache maybe), it may catch up with you later. 

The same is true about exercise, sleep, and water. If any of these things aren’t optimal for a day, it’s not a huge deal. But put that on repeat and you have a problem. After too little sleep for a week, a month, 3 months, you will not have your best ideas and you are more likely to get the cold your kid brings home. On the other side, FLOW365ers continually report the freedom they experience from meal planning – the time saved, the worry averted, the kids who eat more variety than ever, how easy the kitchen becomes.

Planning does not mean you are rigid and never do anything on a whim. It means you have set great boundaries, so you know when to say yes and no, and when you say yes to something out of the ordinary it feels great. When I don’t plan, there are many yeses that feel bad. I think it is the uncertainty of really knowing whether I have the time and space to do that thing and live into my ideal life at the same time. If I slip into not planning or not following through with my plans, I turn into martyr mom. I carefully planned my last trip with my family down to New Orleans. I included time to spend with my grandmother, time to spend with family and friends, time to visit our favorite eating spots. My grandmother landed in the hospital, but because I had decided what work I would do on vacation, made a plan, and communicated it to my husband, I was still able to show up from the hospital for our weekly FLOW call. That is freedom to me!

My grandmother is 101. She does not have dementia, but her mind is getting a bit more childlike. In her world, independent living means she can still administer her own vitamins and medications. So how does she spend many of her waking hours? Looking at her calendar, getting organized about her sets of colored pills, and creating systems to remember. Her calendar is literally her freedom.

Freedom is being of service. It took me a while to understand this one. I heard it from inspirational coaches, public figures and self-help books. But I always “helped” and felt bad.  What I have learned is that real service is intentional. It feels good. You are leaving the world a better place than you found it. You are not leaving the world a better place when you always say yes to driving kids around and act grumpy to your family the rest of the night. You are not being of service by always saying yes at work and staying up all night to finish the things you committed to the detriment of your body. 

My grandmother felt a strong alignment to her church, healthcare, and art. Her sons might report that she did not do too much around the house. But at 101, she can say she helped build a health center in a very underserved area of New Orleans. She can say she helped in the War with wounded soldiers. She can recollect a few stories about her childhood and parenthood, but mostly she recalls the things that are her legacy.

Freedom is not having all the stuff. I have been totally fascinated by the minimalism and essentialism movements. I have noticed loved ones around me dying with attics full of stuff not noticed for many years. I have experienced (as someone who keeps things pretty simple) a basement that fills up with kids’ stuff bought with love and quickly outgrown. I have also experienced a year on the road with three kids during my book tour. I experienced the freedom of less — fewer clothes, less variety in food, less stuff. Wash did not feel like a chore. Dinner took less thought. We were bored less.

This is the second secret, I believe, to my grandmother’s longevity. She decided to give away all her stuff to her kids and grandkids, who would love it in her lifetime. She kept a few things but downsized pretty dramatically, keeping only what she loved and working a few new things into the mix. Over the years, when her health has a “bleep” she downsizes apartments and keeps chugging along. For 20 years, I have been able to send her photos of festive meals around the table that used to be in her dining room. She has the joy of the “stuff” without the stuff itself, and I have something we use regularly.

Freedom is finding your people. I remember getting to design school at age 20. I had “dropped out” of Georgetown after admitting to depression. When I arrived at RISD, after years of very traditional schooling, I realized I had found my people. The 3 years I spent there were the most rigorous years of education, but I got through it with a tribe a of like-minded people. 

My grandmother did the same thing when she downsized. Yes, she got rid of stuff, but she moved into a building with her oldest friends and two sisters, so she had community. They shared meals and formed an art club. 

One of the things that come up again and again in FLOW365 is the people, the support of the group, how important it is to have accountability and people who “get it” as you work through a big change. When you find your people, you stop trying to do things you think you “should” because people around you are doing it. Instead, you can focus on what feels right to you. 

I guess my big lesson in recent years has been that freedom calls for structure. As I fold different aspects of life in my freedom plan, I see this over and over. After 10 years, I know it with food, but I am still learning this lesson with alcohol, and I am working hard on applying it to business and money (check out my episode with Sandra from Smart Cookies).


Looking for more freedom in your life? 

Freedom takes vision.

Freedom takes personal responsibility.

Freedom is not a quick fix.

Freedom can feel like a hard journey.

When we create structure, we experience little bits of freedom and understand its magic.

You are free to thrive. 


Remember, your freedom plan comes from within you. It is your recipe. The media does not have your recipe, and neither do your parents, your community, your own limiting belief, or me for that matter.

I believe there is magic is writing things down. It is why I write 3 pages every morning in my journal and why I created the FLOW planner.

So let’s get into action. Let’s journal. (I give you my answers on the podcast, so listen in…)

  1. Write down 3 people who embody freedom for you. What qualities of their life give you that feeling?
  2. What is one area of your life that feels hard for you right now? Does it feel hard because it is taking away your freedom or giving you freedom?
  3. Where in your life do you feel freedom? Describe everything about your experience of that freedom. Can you see how these areas of your life might inform others?
Navigating Parenting in the Digital Age with Sharon and Chelsea Maxwell

Navigating Parenting in the Digital Age with Sharon and Chelsea Maxwell

June 28, 2019

"Technology is distracting us all the time. It’s incredibly effective ... because the people that are designing these apps understand how our brains work better than we do."
– Sharon Maxwell

On this episode of the Plan Simple Meals Podcast, I’m really excited to talk with Chelsea and Sharon Maxwell, an amazing mother-daughter duo. Sharon Maxwell is a clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience. Chelsea has a masters in education and has been working with her mom for 5 years to bring information about sexuality in the digital age to families and schools—and a larger message about navigating parenting in the digital age.

I first met Sharon about 7 or 8 years ago when she spoke at my son’s school about talking to your kids about sex. (It starts earlier than you think!) Since then, I feel like so much has changed. Sharon believes that we have less control over the environment our kids are in on a daily basis: “If you want to be the person that acculturates your child and give them what your values are as a family, your capacity to do that has diminished.”

Sharing values is really important because it affects how we approach all kinds of questions. One of the ways Sharon and Chelsea like to frame this discussion is with the phrase, In our family, so In our family, we believe that ..., in our family we think this is what’s important … Beyond values, it’s important for kids to understand how their brain works and how apps and other technology are designed to manipulate them. 

We talk about: 

  • Talking with teens about ways in which technology is actually manipulating how you spend your time and how you think about very important issues. 
  • Understanding how your brain works, so you can understand why it’s hard to stop playing a game or disengage from devices
  • Learning to exercise self-control, including tools like what to do with the energy of wanting something
  • Phones and other technology as a distraction from doing hard things and the effect on developmental milestones—and how parents use these things as distraction too
  • Teaching kids to use technology, the same way you would teach them to drive a car
  • Being a creator, not just a consumer
  • Talking with your kids about values, specifically around entertainment, information, and communication


Sharon Maxwell, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author, and educator. She’s a a practicing clinical psychologist, specializing in adolescent and family therapy. She is the author of the award-winning book, The Talk: A Breakthrough Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in an Oversexualized, Online, In-your-face World, and is currently working on a new book with her daughter Chelsea about raising healthy and responsible kids in a media-driven culture. She and Chelsea bring her Sexual Health and Responsibility Curriculum, to public and independent schools.

Chelsea Maxwell, Ed.M., is a learning designer and educator. After receiving her BA from Vassar college, Chelsea specialized in curriculum development as well as technology and innovation at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is currently focused on educating students about healthy relationships. Bringing years of experience as a director of mentoring for children and teens, Chelsea creates interactive and dynamic learning experiences for students of all ages. She has begun developing a series of online courses and is working with her mother, Dr. Sharon Maxwell on a book about raising healthy and responsible kids in a media-driven culture.


Doable Changes from this episode:

  • DON’T AVOID UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS. For one week, pay attention to when you turn to your phone to avoid uncomfortable situations. That may checking messages instead of talking to other parents at pick up, or scrolling though Facebook because you don’t feel like making dinner, or picking up your phone with no plan because you are bored and don’t know what to do. Sharon and Chelsea talk a lot about helping our kids with technology use, but start with yourself. Simply notice how you are using your phone and other technology.

  • PRACTICE SELF-CONTROL. Start by being aware of desire. Ask, on a scale of 1–10, how much do you want this? Feel the energy of different desire levels in your body. What can you do with that energy of wanting? How can you transform it into something else? Could you create something with it? Save it up? You can try this exercise with your kids … or try it yourself next time you find yourself really wanting something.

  • TALK ABOUT VALUES. You can start with In this family …  to frame the discussion. Try focusing on communication, information, and education. Sharon offers some questions to get started. Communication: What are your values around communication? Does what you say reflect who you are as a human no matter what media you are using? Information: How do you know something is true or not true? What are your values in terms of passing on information that you’re not sure is true? Entertainment: When is it okay to entertain yourself with another five minutes of Candy Crush versus when is it not okay? How are you going to integrate this new capacity to be entertained or distracted anytime you feel like it? Are you just avoiding the hard things by going online for five more minutes watching YouTube videos?