2019 Fitness Challenge with BBG – Adding an Additional Program to My Workouts

Happy Wednesday, loves!

So, I did a thing.

Well, I’m working on a collaboration with a company, and I did a thing, and I’m really excited about it. Y’all know that I’m big on being fit and toned, eating well, and being healthy in general. Not that I don’t love me some vino and some decadent and unhealthy foods, but I really place so much importance on being fit and toned.

Listen, I’m 35 years old and my metabolism isn’t going to carry me forever. I love to work out. I love the endorphins and the rush I get after a good workout. My mood is good. I have so much more confidence, and I have zero problem putting on a bikini. I love the feeling of knowing my size and that I can fit into whatever I want to wear. I love that. I love have abs, and I love having a muscle and being toned.

And I’ve developed a serious passion for both running and yoga.

I like the gym, too. I work out at the YMCA when I’m not running at home. I take a very intense yoga class at the Y 2 to 3 days a week, and I use their machines and equipment there, too, when I’m not working out at home. I like a nice variety – but I’ve been a little bored with my standard workouts. Well, bored might not be the right word.

I told my husband before the new year began that I wanted to find a fun new way of working out to add to my running and my yoga. I love both, but I know that I have to add something to it and change it up a bit to make it effective. I’m at a plateau where I love my body the way it is, but I’m not feeling the additional challenge or seeing results in other places because I’m doing the same thing – though yoga is different every single day.

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So, when a collaboration with Kayla Itsines and the BBG workout was presented, I was all over it. I’d been checking the internet – I love you, Pinterest – for new workout ideas and routines, but nothing seemed challenging. When this opportunity came about, I decided I’d give it a try. I love to work out, I love to try new things, and I’m always up for mixing it up.

The idea of 28-minute workouts every day is also exciting to me. I want to be stronger and even more toned, so this is something I’m excited to try. I’m excited to share more with you as I get started. I only just started this week as the program just went live – and that’s exciting.

I’m not going to give up running or yoga. I’m not replacing either, and I am using a combination of the at-home workouts and the gym workouts. I don’t think everyone does that, and it’s certainly not required, but it’s something that I’m excited to try. I’m always up for new things, and this seems fun. I don’t know if I’ll love it. I don’t know if I’ll dislike it, but I do know I’ll see myself through all 12 weeks – because I don’t quit.

Here’s what I’m hoping to get from this workout program.

  • A new appreciation for variation
  • More strength
  • More toned
  • the ability to run further
  • more stamina
  • change
  • a more well-rounded workout

 

While yoga and running give me what I want and what I need, I also love variation and exciting new things – and that’s something I’m going to enjoy. Basically, I love a challenge, and I’m excited to try something new that I’ve never done.

2019 is all about adventure for me, and I’m considering this my first step to trying new things and adding to my life. Here we go!

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Being Content: Finding Happiness Right Now

Happy Monday, loves!

I hope you all had the most fantastic weekend. We did, and I loved every second of it! I know I say it all the time, but we are so fortunate to have had the same amazing friends in our lives since long before any of us had kids. We all got married around the same time, we all had our babies together. We’ve been to every one of the other’s baby showers, we’ve spent a least a day together every week for more than a decade, and we are family.

How does it get better than that? How does it get better than having your very own amazing family and then having this amazing family you’ve created for yourself? You have all these memories. You travel and vacation together. You raise your kids together. You spend so much time at one another’s houses you know them and feel as comfortable in them as you do your own.

Family is what life is all about, whether you are born into them or you make them yourself. And I love that.

It also has a little bit of something to do with today’s post, which is all about being content. If you know me, you know I have my off days and a bad attitude and all the uglies sometimes. But you also know that I lay my head down at night with a full heart and a sense of peace that I don’t take for granted. You know that saying, “I remember the days when I prayed so hard for everything I have now?”

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I do.

I remember those days.

And I know that it’s like to want more. I’m always looking to expand my business, to grow more, to have more, to do more, to give back more, to experience more, to be more. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with wanting more.

But, if you know me, you know that I know that I’m content. Like, really, truly, happily content. What I have is everything I’ve ever wanted. I wasn’t always. There was a time when I was younger when I thought I needed more of everything to be content. More money. A bigger house. A more expensive car, another expensive bag, more expensive shoes.

And don’t get me wrong – I love those things.

But they don’t make me happy. I mean, okay, they do make me happy, but they don’t make me content and fulfilled. They bring me temporary joy (like every single time I put them on) but they don’t make me content.

What makes me content can’t be measured in terms of more.

It’s babies who want to be cuddled. Sweet little faces who love me to the moon and back. A handsome man who has loved me since I was 18 years old and has seen me at my very best, my very worst, my most vulnerable, and my ugliest, and somehow decides every single day to love me even more than he did the day before, and to show it in everything he does. It’s people to surround myself with who would do anything for me, who love me, who make fun of me, who make me feel like I’m home when I’m with them.

Learning to Find Content In Your Life

Here’s the thing – once you learn to find it, it’s so easy to keep it.

  • Don’t compare
  • Don’t wish
  • Don’t complain
  • Focus on what is important

 

Comparison is the thief of joy. If you spend your entire life comparing what you have/are/look like/do/go/whatever to what other people have, you’ll never be happy. Additionally, what makes other people happy probably won’t make you happy and vice versa.

Don’t wish. If you want something you don’t have, make it a reality by creating a goal and working for it. Don’t wish for it. Do it. Make it happen. It’s okay to want more if you’re willing to work for it and make it happen. It’s not okay to sit back and wish your life away.

Don’t complain. I mean, it’s okay to complain that Starbucks once again took 2746938473 minutes to make your latte, but then let it go and enjoy the deliciousness of it and remember that without all those minutes, you wouldn’t have this amazingness in your hand.

Focus on what’s important. People. People are important. Things are not. They’re fun, but they’re not important.

 

Really, and honestly, the best way to find content in your life is to focus on what is good in your life. It’s not to sit back and wish for more. It’s getting to work to make your life what you want and then sitting back and enjoying it every step of the way. If I complained about all the things that go wrong in my life, I’d waste a lot of my time being very unhappy. Instead, when life throws me a curve ball, I take a moment to panic, and then I remind myself that every single thing I ever thought was a bad thing in my life somehow turned into the best thing that ever happened to me.

Every lesson in life is just that – a lesson. You learn form it. You grow from it, and you change from it. You let it hurt, you let it get to you for a minute, but you stop yourself and learn to be content with it. You cannot change it, but you can use it to change you for the better. Everything that happens in your life is for a reason, and that reason is to help you grow. Put your faith first and you will always remember that there is something happening because you need to learn from it. You need to grow and change and evolve, and that shit doesn’t happen inside your comfort zone.

That’s how you find content in your life. You smile when you feel happy. You walk away when you need a moment, and you love what you have while you work for more. It’s easier than you think, and I certainly hope that even just one person reads this and realizes that life is really, really good.

Quick, Healthy Pizza With CauliPower!

Happy Friday, loves!

This week flew by! Perhaps it was being gone all last weekend, or maybe it was our daughter’s Safety Patrol Induction ceremony and all that went into planning that (hey, surprise! I’m on the Safety Patrol committee….because what committee am I *not* on? Oh, none, that’s the one I’m not on), or perhaps it’s just because it was a four-day week. I don’t know, but it flew by!

Last week I was fortunate enough to do a campaign with CauliPower, which is an amazing cauliflower pizza crust. We love pizza in our house, but we are huge fans of taking our favorite foods and turning them into healthier options. When the amazing people from CauliPower reached out to me, I was all in to try their amazing crust and shoot this campaign (which is a hilariously funny story I’ll get to in a moment).

Craig and I are big fans of food. We like to consider ourselves foodies. We love to try the most amazing restaurants in the most amazing cities, and we love to cook. I’m not great at it, but he is – and we’re an amazing team. Because we are very health conscious (because metabolism and good genes alone aren’t enough once you hit those mid-30s my friends), we always find a way to make our favorite meals healthier. Since we love pizza, we always look for a cauliflower crust, and we always choose healthy toppings.

This campaign was fun. I received the product on Monday night, the campaign was due Thursday morning, but I wasn’t home Tuesday because of a PTA meeting and a Safety Patrol meeting. We didn’t have time to shoot until Wednesday night – a night all the kids are home, we had guests, and it was POURING rain. The sky was black. Like the night.

Our house is usually amazing for shooting my campaigns because we have so much natural light. We like to say our house is made of glass, and it kind of is. It’s amazing how much beautiful light we have, and we like our furniture and décor to be light and bright, too. Except that it was dark. It was so dark because it was pouring. The rain was insane. The thunder and lighting were insane. Our power went out several times while we tried to shoot. It was so dark, and it made our light, bright kitchen look like a dark, closed off kitchen.

The recessed lights didn’t do any justice. I set the fire alarm off cooking chicken sausage. The kids were terrified of the smoke and the storm. My gorgeous lifestyle shot was not gorgeous. And I drank all the wine.

The pizza, though, was spectacular.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

WHAT YOU NEED

1 cauliflower pizza crust

1 red onion

Fresh mozzarella cheese

Arugula

1 red bell pepper

Salt and pepper

EVOO

3 pieces chicken sausage

 

All you need to do is cook your sausage completely and cut it into small bites. Next, cover your pizza crust with arugula. Slice your bell pepper and add slices to the pepper, add mozzarella cheese, sliced red onion, and then top it with your sausage, and sprinkle a little bit of EVOO on top before adding salt and pepper (I totally borrowed this recipe from my friend, Veronyca Poupard, follow her here on Instagram for more health and fitness tips). Bake it for approximately 10 minutes at 425 degrees, and then enjoy.

I like to pair this healthy pizza with a glass of dry red wine – and you might, too.

Enjoy!

Staying Healthy When Time is of the Essence

Happy Wednesday loves!

I have no problem admitting I’m vain. I like to look good. I take care of myself, and I like to maintain good health for aesthetic purposes. However, I really like to maintain good health for a few other – more important – reasons than just my outward appearance (though I believe looking good on the outside helps improve self-confidence, which helps improve my mood, which helps improve my productivity, which makes me a nicer person, which makes my family like me more, which makes me happier…it’s the circle of life, right?).

I don’t know if y’all know this, but I have four little babes – and I want to be around for a very long time. I have a lot of boys to tell them they can’t date, a lot of girls to smile at in person and tell my husband, “Oh, HELL no,” when our son can’t hear, weddings to dress up for, grandbabies to cuddle and love, and basically another 80 or 90 years of memories to make (laugh now, but longevity is a thing in my family, and my husband likes to make the very bad joke that I’ll be married to my second husband a lot longer than him because he’ll live an average lifespan to my 120 years. He’s so wrong, though. There can’t be two men in this world crazy enough to want to live with me).

Anyway, my point is that life is a little bit crazy with all we have going on, and this week is one of those weeks that just gets crazier – if you can believe that.

We haven’t been home in the evenings in well over a week, I’m in the middle of packing us up for a 2.5-hour flight to Texas, a 5-hour drive from the airport to the farm, and time spent with my amazing grandmother. I have clients, deadlines, and projects going on. Kids with sports and activities, and there is always fun to be had with our people. We were out late last Tuesday for the fourth, Wednesday because we had our regularly scheduled #wednesdaynightdinner, Thursday for a family exercise situation at the YMCA, Friday for family date night, Saturday on the boat, Saturday night for family date night, Sunday at church and the river house, Monday for hair appointments and cheer uniform fittings, last night for tumbling, tonight for #wednesdaynightdinner, tomorrow night for a meeting…do you see what I mean?

I’m up at 5 am, we aren’t getting everyone to bed until late, and then we’re passing out quickly after them, and I’m exhausted. I have to work ahead so I don’t have to take my computer with me while we’re gone, and that means doubling up my efforts. It’s a lot of prep and work (thank you Lord for sending me a husband who efficiently packs for himself so that I don’t have to) but it’s my life, y’all.

So…this is usually when I start to feel myself coming down with something, but I refuse.

We put a lot of emphasis on healthy habits and eating, and we always have. It’s just a lifestyle for us, and it works so well. We have more energy, we feel better, and we get sick infrequently, but weeks like this always challenge me as I run myself into the ground. So, I thought I’d share a quick blog post about how I make sure I stay healthy when life is like, “No, eat all the donuts and definitely go to Chick-Fil-A and get that warm cookie for dessert,”.

Keep Eating the Good Stuff

It’s so easy to decide to get all kinds of lazy when life is hectic. Drive-thrus, take out, and unhealthy eats are just easier, but that’s not how we roll. I maintain my regularly scheduled eating on weeks like this. Some of my favorite quick and easy go-to meals include the following.

  • Greek yogurt, fruit, granola
  • Strawberries, blueberries, oranges and raspberries
  • Lots and lots of water and coffee
  • Peanut butter with tiny chocolate chips when I want something sweet

For dinner, we almost always have something simple like fresh salmon with a lemon butter sauce, baked or grilled chicken with either a cilantro lime marinade or something like a mango/avocado salsa on top, filet, and we rarely ever have a starch. We are double up the veggie kind of people – not that we don’t love starches, but we reserve those for get-togethers and stuff like that.

We love to take our favorite guilty pleasure foods and make them healthier. For example, I’m a taco-aholic who could eat them all day, every day, constantly. Problem – I don’t like pork or really any form of red meat other than filet. So, we bake chicken, mix it with chile peppers, tomatoes, and onions, bake it, and put it in a taco shell. Amazing. I also love pizza, so we will do a cauliflower crust with baked chicken, tomatoes, red onion, fresh mozzarella, and some buffalo sauce – amazing.

The key is to find things you love that don’t take much time to make, and then make them a lot healthier. It helps you stay feeling good and not falling apart because your body hates what you’re putting into it.

Don’t Skip the Gym

This one is easy for me. I love how I feel when I work out, so missing a day at the gym is not something I allow often. The good news is you can take a half hour and just go with it, and that’s amazing! Take a walk, go for a run, do a yoga work out on your computer. I do two to three days a week of intense yoga for an hour. I do three to four days a week on the treadmill. I run 8 miles a week minimum, and I’m working up my minimum to 10 miles a week. I also mix in another class such as HIIT (okay, once, last week) here and there to try something new. Just don’t skip the workout. It’s so important.

Take a Break

Sometimes you just need one. I know I do. I like to take a break, drink some water, read a little. Sit on the porch and watch the sunset. Sit on the deck and watch the sunrise with some coffee and whatever Bible study I have for the week. One thing that’s always been helpful to us is definitely our Wednesday night dinner tradition. It’s like 10 years of a mandatory mid-week break. We either host our friends or they host us. The kids get to play, we get to have an adult conversation (which is definitely appropriate and mature….), and force ourselves to put work away for a few hours. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s like therapy when you’re a workaholic with a hundred kids.

Find Motivation

Sometimes I get tired. I lack motivation and the desire to do anything. I know once I get started I’ll be fine, but it’s the getting started part that sucks. So, I start writing down things I already did today on my to-do list for the sheer satisfaction of crossing them off.

Brush my teeth. Check. Wake up. Check. Shower. Check. Drink coffee. Check. Kiss husband. Check. Kiss babies. Check. I mean, my to-do list sometimes looks like a hot ass mess of WTF, but once I see more items checked off than not, my brain forgets that things like ‘Breathe, check,’ are not actual accomplishments and my bad-assery kicks in and I get things done.

What do you do to stay healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally when you’ve living la vida loca (but the boring kind of la vida loca, not the music video kind where you’re on a yacht poppin’ bottles and living it up)?

Recipe Wednesday: Healthy Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps in Under 20 Minutes

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Happy Wednesday, loves!

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I are pretty good about what we put into our bodies. Healthy food is priority in our home, but we don’t have much time. I swear, sometimes I’m not even sure how we function with all we have to do, but we get it done. One of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my inbox has to do with how we manage to eat well without much time to cook.

Honestly, we cheat the system a bit. We try to make recipes that are healthy but that take much time. I thought I might start sharing those with y’all. One, so you can also learn how to spend a lot less time in the kitchen as well as a lot less time feeling guilty about what you’re eating. Two, to inspire and motivate us to find and create new healthy, fast, and simple recipes to try. It’s a win-win.

I’m starting Recipe Wednesday with our typical Monday night dinner. Mondays are our latest night of the week. Addison – our 9-year-old – has gymnastics and advanced tumbling classes on Monday nights. Her last class doesn’t end until 7:30 and the drive home takes approximately 1 hour.

We usually take turns taking her while the other stays home and does bedtime and bath time with Ava and the twins, and whoever is home makes something fast and easy. And this is legit the fastest and easiest thing we make….so it almost always falls on a Monday.

Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

All you need is a premixed Caesar salad, boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins, and some whole wheat wraps.

We like to bake the chicken with just a little salt and pepper on it until it’s done. We chop the bagged salad, put it into a bowl with a tiny bit of fresh parmesan and a small amount of low-fat Caesar salad dressing, and then we cut and mix the chicken and throw it in.

Mix it up, place it on a whole wheat wrap, wrap it up, and enjoy!

It’s flavorful, simple, and not so bad for you. And it’s one of our favorite things to eat when we have zero time. We love Publix chicken tenderloins (random and weird, but I have this thing where I cannot stomach the thought of eating “fat” chicken. Seriously, I cannot buy whole chicken breasts to cook. It has to be the tenderloins or the really skinny pieces of the breast that have been cut like they’re flat). They take about 20 minutes to bake. We usually stick them in the oven while we’re upstairs putting the twins to bed, and then mix up the salad and the chicken when we come downstairs.

It takes so little time, but dinner is ready when the other gets home with Addison. It keeps life quick, and it allows for easy clean-up and not such a late night!

Enjoy! If you make it, I want to hear how much you love it and/or how you’ve modified

Friday Favorite: Working Out to Feel Oh-So Good

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Happy Friday, babes!

Isn’t April just gorgeous? I love this time of year in Florida when the temperature is warm during the day but cool in the mornings and evenings…the open doors and windows, the late nights outside, and the fun we have with the people we love the most. Halfway through the month and the Raiford household is in a good mood. It’s been a busy but productive month, and everyone has been in such a good mood the past few weeks.

I think it has something to do with the fact that we’ve been so active, and my husband and I have been making a major effort to work out together most days. We’ve been focused a lot on working out this month just to make some healthier changes in my husband’s life. I find the time every day to exercise, but he often finds himself deep in a project with work and doesn’t move from his desk all day long.

He’s been making an effort to go running during lunch, and I’ve been joining him even on days I go to yoga first! On days I don’t have yoga, he’s been making it a point to ask me to wait to go to the gym so he can go with and work out during his lunch break. It’s been amazing challenging one another and seeing him working so hard on his health – I like it a lot.

Because I’ve been talking about it lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions in my inbox about my workouts, our workouts, and things of that nature. I thought I’d take some time to share why I love working out, what I do, and answer some of your questions.

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How often do you work out?

5-6 days a week almost every week, but never fewer than 4 days a week. I do two days a week at yoga for an hour, and the other days I spend at the gym doing a variety of things to keep my body in shape. I don’t feel good if I workout fewer than 4 days a week, and I really don’t love only getting in a four-day workout if our schedules are hectic. I love to workout daily. If I have 10 extra minutes, I will run or go to the gym and literally workout hardcore for 10 minutes – because it makes me feel better.

What do you do?

Again, two days of yoga – but it’s not regularly yoga. My instructor is hardcore, and she pushes us. Our yoga class usually involves 20-30 minutes of challenging stretches and core workouts on the floor and another 30 minutes of sun salutations made exceptionally challenging. Most of us are sweating, panting, and in LOVE with her classes. I’m challenged hardcore each and every class, and I love it.

The rest of the week I hit the gym. I use the weight machines for 10-15 minutes, and I always do a half hour on either the treadmill or the elliptical to go with it. Lately, I’ve been running with Craig. I’m not a runner, so I’m learning, but it’s been surprisingly easy. I guess I’m in shape because I don’t feel like I’m dying. Yesterday I did 2 miles in 20 minutes without stopping or slowing down. I’m slow, but I literally just started running a week ago!

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How do you find the motivation?

Listen, I’m not motivated to get up and add something else to my schedule every day. Our kids have hectic schedules, I have a business to run, and my husband and I can’t always get our schedules to line up. However, I always find the motivation to feel good. I motivate myself by reminding myself how good I feel and how much I love the energy I have when I exercise. That’s my motivation. Additionally, I’m vain enough to realize that I’ve been pregnant three times and given birth to four kids and I have a great body – and I like that.

How do you make exercise more fun?

I don’t do things I don’t like. It’s pretty simple. If I try something and I don’t like it, I don’t do it. For example, I *HATE* Bodypump, so I don’t go to that class. I also find that I don’t care much for Spin – though I think I could change my mind about that one. Exercise is fun when it’s something I enjoy. Yoga, for instance, is my favorite. I also love to work out on machines that allow me to challenge myself. I always want to go further, faster, and better than I did the last time.

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I find challenges make me love working out. Lately, I’ve been running with my husband. I’m not as fast as he is, but I find that I’m more willing to run longer and without stopping when he’s there. I mean, I don’t want to be the first one to stop, so I push myself to keep going when I don’t want to just so I ‘win’ because I love a good, healthy competition. We have fun together, so that makes it fun.

I also wear fun workout gear. One of my favorite things to do is find the most outrageous yoga pants possible because they make me happy. Bright colors and fun patterns certainly put me in a good mood. It’s impossible to put on a pair of bold and bright yoga pants and not feel excited about my workout. It’s simple, really.

Do you only exercise?

No. We also eat well and healthy. I’d say 90 percent of what we eat is good, but we aren’t above a great cocktail or dessert – or bacon. We just don’t eat poorly often. A typical day in our house is healthy. I, for example, eat the same thing almost every day.

Breakfast/Lunch (I cannot eat early in the morning. I’m not hungry, it gives me a stomachache, and it makes me ravenous the rest of the day if I do eat breakfast) is at 11 am: 1 orange, half cup of Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and a quarter cup Publix granola from the produce section (omg, it’s so good), 2 scrambled eggs.

Snack is at 2ish: A tablespoon of creamy peanut butter with a teaspoon of tiny chocolate chips.

Dinner is around 5:30 pm: Always a baked chicken, fresh salmon, or filet Friday with double veggies and no starches. We find a way to make our favorite unhealthy foods healthier, too. Craig makes a killer homemade pizza on a thin crust, we love healthy chicken piccata, and any wheat pasta with roasted veggies on top is my favorite.

I find that eating later in the morning means I’m actually hungry, and it curbs my appetite the rest of the day. I also drink like 89 cups of water a day – and black coffee all morning.

{We ran a 5k with our 9-year-old daughter last weekend. The first picture is us with her after we finished. She walked and ran the mile, we both ran the 5k. It was my first time running a 5k (I’ve walked plenty of them…) and I finished in 35 minutes. The second picture is my husband and I before the run….and right after I put my arm around him and asked him to take a photo only to realize I put my arm around a teenage boy and got awfully comfortable with him because Craig had walked away! It was hilarous, and now he’s our new friend, and he snapped this picture!}

At the end of the day…

I am not an expert or a health professional or a coach or whatever. However, I do love to work out and I do get a lot of questions, so I’m just answering them and hopefully motivating someone to get up and get moving.

My main goal is to stay healthy and look great. I love to feel great, and I want to be sure my husband is as healthy as possible so I can keep him longer. We’re celebrating 13 years of marriage next month and 17 years together this year….and I want to multiply the amazing years we’ve had already by a million. If I can’t get him healthier and I can’t stay healthy, that might be a challenge.

I love to exercise because I love how I feel. I love being in a good mood. I love being stress-free, and I love feeling more relaxed and energized. I also love that I like how I feel in my clothes, and I love never being ashamed of putting on a two-piece and going in public. I just like feeling good.

 

**When I don’t want to work out or stop my work-flow, I remind myself that I’m going to be furious with myself later if I don’t work out. I’m always right, and I always feel amazing after a workout. Being strong is so important. 

***One of the best things about working out with your spouse, too, is how good it feels to challenge one another. It’s good for you. 

2017: The Year of Quality Over Quantity

2017 is over. Can you believe it? I swear the years go by faster every day. I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that it was New Year 2017 just a minute ago and now we’re mere days away from ringing in 2018 with abandon. Anyone? Just me? No?

2017 was good to us. It had its up and downs of course. Life is far from perfect in the Raiford household, but it’s really good – we’ve worked really hard to build a life of freedom, and we are enjoying every second of it.

It’s been good to us, but we always have room for growth. And that’s what 2017 brought to us. It was a year of growth. We call it the year of quality over quantity. It’s difficult to explain, but we had a moment at the end of 2016 – somewhere before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving – when we realized we needed to make some changes in our lives.

We were getting ready to go somewhere and do something with our girls, who were 8 and 5 at the time, and they both sighed. “Can’t we just stay home for once? We always have to go places. We’re tired,” they whined.

Wait. What?

familllly

Their lives are good. Were they really complaining about spending the evening with their friends? Were they really being ungrateful about all the fun we provide them? Weekend after weekend of traveling, of spending time with friends and family, of going to BBQs and pool parties and Christmas events and Disney World. Were they really complaining?

They were. And what made it even worse was that we knew what they were saying. We were also exhausted. We were never home. In 2016 we didn’t even take a trip for our wedding anniversary like we wanted because every weekend was pre-planned with some event, function, party, etc. We had no free time – we were actually scheduling free time in our calendars. We were tired. It wasn’t that we weren’t having a great time – we definitely were. But we were just worn out. Run down. Tired.

We have four kids. My husband has a career he loves, and it keeps him busy. I have my business to run, and it keeps me busier and busier everyday with new growth, projects, and clients. We have four kids. The twins were about to turn three (side note – I’m dying over here thinking they will be four in less than three months. I mean, I was just pregnant with them!), and that many kids doesn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for rest and relaxation.

We knew we had to make some changes. We wanted to be more deliberate with our time. We wanted to learn to say no to being overscheduled. We wanted to start planning things for our family to do together just us so we could really spend some quality time with the kids. The twins were more fun than ever, easier to travel with, easier to take out.

We wanted to be more deliberate, and we wanted to have more time at home. We bought our dream house in 2014, and we’d spent very little time in it – even though we both work from home – just enjoying it. Our kids were tired, we were tired. We needed some change.

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Que New Year’s 2016-2017. We decided we’d learn to say no to things that didn’t work with our schedule instead of saying yes to everything and killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Sundays were a no-no for plans. Sundays would become our day as a family. No plans other than church and relaxation. If we wanted to do something, we’d wake up and make that decision, but we agreed no making Sunday plans.

And I cannot even tell you how good this year was to us. We had more free time – though I am ashamed to say that more free time is still not nearly enough free time – and we were able to schedule so many of the things we were never able to find time for in the past. Sundays became very well spent in a slow, sweet manner. Mondays were so much nicer because we were prepared, organized, and rested because of those slow Sundays.

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The kids are so much happier. They love the quality family time we are spending together, and they love the ability to sometimes get to stay home and enjoy the many things they never got to enjoy before. We took more bike rides and golf cart rides. We took more walks. We played outside a lot. We baked cookies and had family movie nights and spent weekend after weekend at Disney World just enjoying what they wanted to do. We slept in, we made big breakfasts, we took day trips to our favorite places. We traveled.

My husband and I were able to find the time to schedule five long weekends and trips this year. Just the two of us. Just to spend to quality time together (we do have four kids….). From New York to Fort Lauderdale to California to South Carolina to Naples, we earned plenty of frequent flier miles this year. We had another three or four single nights away a little closer to home in Tampa in Orlando. We dated. We laughed. We focused on our marriage a lot more this year. It was good.

We also made it our goal to spend at least one weekend a month out of town with the kids. Tampa and Orlando are easy drives, and we wanted to really get some serious use out of our Disney passes this year. We made sure to schedule a few of those weekends away with just the big girls to spend a little quality time with them, but we made it a point to really enjoy this new stage the twins are in that makes life so much simpler.

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I think the highlight of my year – and I’m so serious – was when we were flying home from a fun vacation in North Carolina and two total strangers came up to us at two separate times in the airport and on our flights and told us what well-behaved, delightful kids we have and how well they travel.

If that’s not a mom’s dream come true…

Quality.

It was all about quality this year. We are getting older. The kids are getting older. We were changing. Maturing a bit, growing up a bit, and our wants and needs were evolving. It was time for us to focus our priority on doing what makes us happy and what makes us feel good rather than making sure every day in our calendar was filled.

As a result of focusing on quality, so much of our life has changed for the better. The kids are less exhausted, and they’re so much easier. We can load them up, take them out, sit down at a nice restaurant, and we don’t have to worry they’re too tired or cranky to behave. We are less exhausted, so we aren’t as grouchy or as impatient as we were in the past.

We are more focused on our work, and it’s shown in both of the advancements we’ve made this year. Craig has never been more ebullient. I’ve been able to find the energy to expand my company and take on some major new clients, as well as focus on a change of direction in some of the services I offer.

It’s hard to explain, but slowing down has really made a change in our lives. It feels good to be in control, and it feels really, really good to spend so much quality time as a family. I didn’t even realize how much I like spending time with these little animals until this year because I’ve been on autopilot for so long.

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Now that I’ve written a small novel, I want to share with you how we made the change to focus more on quality than on quantity in 2017 if it’s something you want to do, too. I’m also working on a post about how we’re getting #backtobasics in 2018 for later.

Be Deliberate with Your Time

Learn to say no. It’s not easy, but sometimes you just have to say no when you’re tired, not feeling well, not up for it, not in the mood, when you have other plans, when you just want to relax. Sometimes you just have to say no. It gets easier each time, and it’s going to change your life. Remember – your time is valuable. It’s too expensive to dish out so frequently on things that aren’t as valuable to you.

Focus on Your Health

Get some sleep. If there’s one thing I’ve always believed, it’s that sleep is too important to miss out. A few late nights here and there are fun, but nothing beats a good night of sleep followed by feeling good the next morning. There just isn’t enough time to waste not felling well or being too tired to function all the time.

Work out and eat good food. Nothing feels as good as being healthy, and nothing feels as good as moving your body and fueling it with things that are good for you. I don’t feel well when I don’t work out. I don’t have energy, I’m crabby, and my body gets really angry with me when I don’t feed it well. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my favorite unhealthy things; I do. I just do it in moderation (mostly…we all have our moments).

Take a Rest Day

For us, leaving Sundays open and unplanned has been the best decision we’ve ever made. It doesn’t always work out, of course, but doing this most weekends has been amazing. Nothing makes the week more exciting, more productive, and better than being well rested and prepared.

Get Organized

Life is better when it’s organized. I can’t sleep if my house isn’t clean. I can’t leave the house if it’s not clean. I can’t function if things are out of place or order or ignored. It’s not who I am. I know not everyone is such an obsessive neat freak, but it really is easier to get through life when you’re organized and on top of things.

Do What You Want

If there is something you want to do, do it. It’s better to do it now than keep waiting on it. Find the time. Make the time. Do the things.

Thank you, 2017

Thank you for helping us grow, for changing our hearts, and for allowing us to prosper. Our life is so filled with abundance, and we are so grateful and thankful for the opportunities we’ve found, created, and been given this year and the years before. It’s been more than a little exciting to exceed our goals, to surpass our dreams, and to have the opportunity to spend so much time together. Here’s to 2018 and all the blessings, lessons, and new beginnings in store.

 

34 Life Lessons to Live By For My 34th Birthday

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s true – but it’s really inside your personality. If you’re ugly on the inside, it won’t take people long to determine you’re ugly on the outside. Basically, you control your beauty and it starts from the inside (remember – sarcastic people who love to laugh and genuinely kind people are the best…and we could all strive to be a little most of all of the above) but that doesn’t mean you get to forget about the outside. I mean, you can be Mother Theresa’s personality twin but girl, if you’re not taking care of the outside, you’re going to look more like the kid from the Exorcist. Just saying.

Beauty tips and lifestyle tips are really a dime a dozen. The internet is filled with them (and the internet doesn’t lie, y’all) but it’s really the simplest, most basic habits that really help you put your best face forward both literally and figuratively.

As I age, I’m learning that basics are my best friend. I’m turning 34 on Saturday – Happy Birthday to ME! – and I thought I’d share 34 of my favorite beauty and life tips. Use one, use 34, use 7, ignore them all – it’s your face, ladies – but hopefully one of these tips that have changed my life more than once over the past 34 years can do the same for you.

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Basic Health Makes You Gorgeous

  1. It keeps you young, helps you sleep better, and gives you energy. Now you don’t have dark circles, your stressful attitude is gone, and your smile is more sincere. Instant gorgeous.
  2. Drink the water. Drink all the water. I might have a small three cup of coffee obsession in the mornings, but it’s water, water, water, water, all the time. I keep my Yeti filled all day long so I always have cold water – your skin cannot thank you enough for all the water you should give it.
  3. Seriously. Get some sleep. I have four kids, a husband I like to spend a little personal time with each night, a house to maintain, an active social life, and a business to run – and you better believe nothing stops me from sleeping 8 hours every night (also, you’re all welcome. I’m a monster with less than 8). There’s nothing so pressing in your life you can’t get a solid 8 hours (unless you’re new parents).
  4. Eat well – and often. I loooooove good food. I don’t tell people to diet. I don’t. I love donuts and ice cream and other things that aren’t so good for me. And I never say no. But I also never go overboard. I love those things, but I’d much rather have a bowl of yogurt and blueberries or some roasted broccoli. I’ve found healthy food can be made into something magical, and your body will crave it.
  5. If you’re not laughing to a point you feel it’s probably inappropriate each day, you’re not doing life right. Sorry. Laugh more. Forget everything else.
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Care for Your Skin Every Day 

  1. Don’t forget to moisturize. It’s the best thing you can do for your skin, and not just your face, ladies.
  2. Wear sunscreen. All. The. Time.
  3. Wash your face. I don’t care what you wash it with, just wash it at the end of the day.
  4. Keep your hands off your face – they’re really gross.
  5. Keep your phone off your face – it’s even nastier than your hands (at least those are washed!).

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Change Your Attitude and Watch Your Glow

  1. Choose to be happy. Sure, some days suck. It’s true, but focusing on the all the negatives gets you nowhere. Focus on the good in life, and be thankful for your problems. My grandmother always said that if I threw all my problems into a pile with everyone else’s, I’d want mine back FAST.
  2. Be nice. Seriously, it’s not that hard.
  3. When you decide to be a giver, you decide to be a happier version of you. Just remember that giving is only pretty when it’s private. Once you post it on social media, you take away from the giving and become a taker.
  4. Don’t compare yourself. Girl, you are amazing and you don’t have to try and be like or better than or whatever than anyone else. Everyone has a different life, different wants, different tastes, and differently dreams. Live yours, love yours, and be happy for everyone else doing the same. It’s very, very simple.
  5. Be you. It’s much easier. And it’s much better than trying to be someone else.

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Know Yourself and Be Yourself

  1. Know what looks good on you, and stick with it. For example, high necklines and sleeveless tops and off-the-shoulder tops are not flattering on me. I don’t wear them. They’re amazing on others, and I really love them, but I know they’re not spectacular on my broad shoulders – so I avoid them.
  2. Know your colors. It might sound silly, but it’s not. You might have yellow or blue undertones. Figure out it, and pick colors that flatter you. Want to know why I wear so much Lilly? Because bright, very bold colors look good on me. Muted colors do not. That once made me sad, but I’m growing to appreciate it.
  3. Don’t wear it if you’re not comfortable in it. Darling, if you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t look confident. If you don’t look confident, you don’t look good. I don’t care if you’re wearing a $7,500 Versace gown or a $7 H&M dress. If you’re not comfortable, it doesn’t flatter.
  4. Wear the heels. They make your legs look amazing. I’ve never met a woman in heels who doesn’t look like a bombshell.
  5. Don’t worry about anyone else. If you like it, rock it. Who cares what anyone else thinks?

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Pick Good People and Be Good People

  1. All right, so sometimes you can’t really choose the people in your life (I mean, you can’t pick your family, right?!) but you don’t have to spend too much time with great auntie Sue and her secondhand smoke, so that’s a plus. The people you do get to pick, pick them well. They should complement you (both literally and figuratively).
  2. Get rid of toxic people or minimize your time with them. We all have them in our lives, and sometimes you just have to minimize your time with them. If they don’t fill your tank or make you feel good, you don’t need ‘em.
  3. Be a good person. Treat your people well. Be good to them. Make an effort. Remember they are on your side and you are on theirs. Check in, find time, make time, and have fun.
  4. Be kind. If you’re not a kind person, you’re not anyone’s kind of person.

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Be Deliberate With Your Time

  1. Say no. It’s okay to say no to people and things that don’t add value to your life, that you’re simply not in the mood for, or that you simply don’t have time for.
  2. Forget busy. It’s overrated. We’re all busy, but I never really realize how much “busy” we have in our lives until we had the twins and became the parents of four. Our busy now is much different. The kind of busy we have with four kids is not like the kind of busy we had before. A lot of our ‘busy’ is not by choice. Before, it was. Get rid of it and take back your life.
  3. Go on dates. With yourself, with your friends, with your spouse. I went on my first date with my husband 16 years ago, and I enjoy our date nights more now than I did then – and that never fails to amaze me! I love that time alone. I feel so energized and refreshed when it’s just the two of us having a good time. Probably because he makes me laugh. I like to laugh. Also, he’s cute. And I like kissing him. But that’s not any of your business.
  4. Keep it simple. I won’t lie – I’m a very fancy girl at heart, and I want the high heels and the fancy date nights and the champagne. But it’s the simplest things that make the most of our time. It’s cookie baking with the kids. It’s Gator football parties with our people. It’s our weekly Wednesday night dinner date with some of our favorite friends in the world that we’ve been having for – wait for this – almost 10 years. From one baby and a weekly dinner at our favorite restaurant on Wednesday nights to 7 sweet (mostly) babies and Wednesday dinner at alternate houses every week. It’s a really simple thing, but it never fails to make my heart happy.
  5. Make time to rest. The best thing we ever did for ourselves was take our Sundays and turn them into our own personal Sunday Funday. We don’t make many plans on Sundays unless it’s something really important. We church. We eat. We sleep in. We shop. We play outside. We basically say no to everyone but our kids – and Mondays are so much easier because of it.

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And a Few Others

  1. Do what makes your heart happy. Trust me when I say it makes all the difference in the world.
  2. Spend some money on your shoes and handbags. Who cares about anything else?
  3. Wear lipstick. It’s pretty.
  4. It’s prettier.
  5. Love your kids. They are the coolest people you’ll ever know. Love them hard – but don’t forget to be a parent first, to strive to be the worst parent ever from time to time (it means you’re doing it right), and don’t forget to be realistic. They’re not perfect. They’re actually probably pretty annoying sometimes, but they’re also funny, sweet, and they love hard. So try to ignore the annoying, embarrass them as often as possible, and have all the dance parties in the family room. They’re the best things.

Friday Favorites: The 5 Things I Do For Myself When I Need to Recharge My Soul

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Four kids + one business + a husband + a house + social life + children’s activities = One busy mama.

I’m (hashtag) blessed, you guys. I married a man who doesn’t have a traditional view of “men and women” in the home. He’s the kind of guy who goes above and beyond for us – every single day. He does 95% of the laundry, he vacuums the carpets in our house every night, he cooks, he cleans, he gets the kids dressed for school, and he changes most of the diapers. He respects my business and does whatever he needs to do to support me so I succeed.

He also has a career that keeps him very busy. He’s a senior systems engineer, and he works from home. Hard. He works hard, but the man never stops. What I’m trying to say is I’m really nowhere near as tired as much as I could be or would be if it weren’t for him.

But even with all he does, I’m still tired. I started my business almost 9 years ago, and I’m adding to it each and every day. This year I decided to learn to say yes to new opportunities, and that’s what I’ve done. In addition to my already long list of clients, I’ve started my own blog and decided to expand my business. I work every waking moment of every day. And I wouldn’t change a thing. My success is important to me, as is the freedom it provides me.

When people ask me why I work so hard as a business owner and my own boss, I have a simple answer. I want to. I want to work hard. I thrive on hard work and dedication. I love being in my office at home, and I love creating and developing and making my clients happy. I love it. I don’t feel like it’s work. It’s my passion, and I’d spend even more time in my office if I could. I’m such a big believer in working hard and playing hard; and that’s precisely what I do.

That said – I do get burnt out from time to time. I put in 16-18 hour days most days. It’s not all work; it’s kids, activities, social life, date nights, and all things related to being all the things I am. But I’m tired sometimes. Obviously by sometimes I mean every moment of every day. Tired, though, is my way of life. It’s the burnt out part that bothers me. That’s why today’s Friday Faves focuses on the things that help me de-stress, relax, and unwind. They’re what make me feel better and stronger – and just maybe they’ll help you do the same.

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I Exercise Daily 

For real, guys. I hit the gym every day. I need to exercise. It gives me energy, makes me feel strong, and it motivates me. I like all kinds of exercise, and recently began trying new classes. Yoga, spin, whatever. I’m down with anything that makes me sweat and pushes me beyond my comfort zone.

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I Keep A Peaceful, Happy Home 

I need, need, need order in my life, and a peaceful home is one of my favorite things. By peaceful, I mean I need to feel good when I’m home. I need a clean home. I need it to smell nice, and I need a lot of bright light. Fresh flowers, decadent candles, and order create a perfect marriage of a peaceful home for me. I work from home, and I need to feel relaxed when I’m there.

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I Focus On Self-Development

Some people prefer a day at the spa or a night out – both of which I adore – but it’s time to practice self-development that I love. It’s listening to an inspirational podcast (the Becoming Fearless Style Collective Podcast by Annie Spano is EVERYTHING, you guys) in the car on the way to drop my kids off at school, or reading a book that motivates me to push myself further than I’m currently pushing. I’m all about being better, doing better, and always learning.

I love to hear the stories of others, to find inspiration in their words, and motivation to help me grow. I live by the knowledge that I certainly don’t know everything – and I never will. I want to learn something new each day, and I want to push myself to do more. I am a sucker for self-development. It’s my favorite way to unwind. Journaling, praying, podcast-listening, and reading are my jam.

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I Hang With My Family

I won’t lie – I’m never relaxed when I’m hanging out with my kids. Our oldest will be 9 next month, our “middle” daughter is 6, and our twins are 3. There’s no such thing as relaxing with them, but I do feel recharged and really good when I get to spend time with them. And it’s not just being in the same room or the same house or at the same party – I crave actual family time. As much as I enjoy spending time with others, I need my family to myself sometimes. I need to be able to play with my kids and my husband without interference or distractions.

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I love being present while they play with their friends and we spend quality time with ours – but I need to have time in my life where there are no other people around and we get to be a family of six who spends real, quality, good time together. I’m exhausted, and usually annoyed, and probably over it by the end of the day, but oh my goodness do I feel good that we had that time. So, restful? No. But I’m recharged.

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Date nights and weekends away – yes, please. I can’t get enough. My sweet best friend recently pointed out how much time Craig and I get to spend together, and I told her we just need it. We work from home together all day, but we don’t speak. He’s doing his job, I’m doing mine, and we don’t socialize during the day. Half the kids are home all summer, we’re constantly busy, and we need time to spend alone.

He is my favorite person, and our date nights every other week and our weekends away every few months are everything. I come home feeling so rested and relaxed – but my cheeks always hurt. We spend a lot of time laughing, and I can’t stop smiling when we have time alone. I love it.

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I Relish the Quiet Moments

I can’t get enough of them. Probably because I don’t get enough of them. Like I said, I have a family of six. My house is noise and chaos from 7 am to 7 pm every single day. Unless they’re not home or asleep, we don’t even know what quiet sounds like.

But I do live for the quiet moments. I love to steal 10 minutes sitting outside on our deck with the appropriate beverage (coffee, wine) and listening to absolutely nothing. I love it even more when it’s raining because I can sit on my front porch in my red rocking chairs and listen to the rain. I love the moments when my husband is in the shower in the morning and the kids are asleep and the whole house is quiet while I have my coffee.

Basically, I need a little bit of quiet, a lot of noise and tiny kisses and laughs, my husband, and cleanliness to recharge. We all need that time – and since Friday is my favorite day, and these are my favorite things to do when I’m in need of a de-stress, I wanted to share.

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How do you unwind?

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What I’ve Learned About My Skin in My 30s

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I’m a creature of habit. I like schedules, routines, and I don’t like change – unless the change is my idea, and it’s executed with exceptional planning and my own control. Control freak, anyone? I just like things my way, all the time, without anyone or anything changing my plans. Is that too much to ask?

Change happens in my life all the time. I never rarely handle it well, but I always see how God’s plan works out in my favor in the end. Everything in my life has always worked out in a beautiful way that I never imagined possible, and that’s why I have such a love/hate relationship with change. I hate it until I love it.

I promise there is a point to this.

My skin.

I didn’t have great skin as a teenager, but that was a sheer lack of knowledge. I didn’t know how to properly wash my face, that I shouldn’t sleep in my makeup, or that I needed to care for my skin better. Um, Google didn’t exist when I was a teen. When I entered my 20s, I began buying better makeup, getting regular facials, eating well, and taking better care of myself as a whole. But, I never changed my skincare routine. I began using Clean & Clear (morning burst) in the shower at night and in the mornings, and my skin was so clear, so pretty, and I loved it. I never thought to change.

I was afraid using too many products (yet I use about 27351849194 makeup products) would damage my skin. So, it was Clean & Clear (and oh-so totally under control) for the past 15-ish years. Not that I’m complaining about it – it was an amazing product for me, and I loved it and my great skin.

But then I turned 33.

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Thirty-three.

It’s been 9 months since my 33rd birthday…and you guys, I swear my entire life has changed. Cruising through life with good genes and a fast metabolism suddenly became a challenge. You guys, I actually had to start working out to maintain my weight. Drinking all day on vacation and waking up to feel super good the next morning following some water and a few ibuprofen became a thing of the past – if I drink all day on vacation, I feel like certain death for days.

And guys, my skin changed. My pores turned into the Grand Canyon. I began breaking out when my monthly visitor was only a few days away, and my skin began to dry out.

33 and I swear I’m falling apart.

Thankfully, I eat well and always enjoyed exercise so no life changes were necessary when my metabolism changed at 33. I just work a little harder, but I feel a lot better. I just toned down my drinking – a lot – and I’m happier as a whole. All the negative changes have turned into serious positives. I have more energy, I sleep better, and I’m happier. That’s all translated into more productivity when I work, which has brought me even greater success. No complaints here.

But my skin. What a different story. The same routine and skincare schedule I’ve had for 15 years suddenly needed an overhaul, and I was scared. I took my time trying new products to help with my newly unwanted skin. I drank more water, wore more sunscreen, and even changed up my makeup with the seasons for the first time in my life.

Skin Changes in Your 30s

It turns out your skin changes with your age – which we know, but we don’t really pay much attention to. For me, it happened at 33. For you, it might happen at 30 or 37 or some other time in your 30s. But it does change; and knowing what to expect helps you change with your skin.

  • Estrogen levels drop dramatically in your 30s, and this means your collagen, elastic, and hyaluronic acid levels fall, and your skin becomes thinner and less beautiful
  • Cells turnover slower
  • Skin doesn’t bounce back as quickly from imperfect days
  • Dryness is more likely to occur in your 30s
  • Acne makes a devastating reappearance in your 30s

 

Finally, I found the perfect skincare routine.

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Clinique Pep-Start 2-in-1 Exfoliating Cleanser followed by the Clinique Pep-Start HydroBlur Moisturizer (and this one when I’m having an outdoor day) to start my day. I use the same cleanser at night, but I follow it with Belif The Truth Cream Aqua Bomb at night. Twice weekly I use the Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask – usually halfway through the week and on Sundays to refresh my skin after a long weekend of fun in the sun. The best thing – aside from how amazing my skin looks – is each of these products is super affordable under $40!

I’ve learned my skin needs the exfoliating cleanser every day, but I also need additional moisturizing cream to keep it from drying out. In the three months since I began this particular skincare routine, my pores are back to their normal size, my skin is tighter and brighter, and it’s far less dry. It’s helped dramatically.

Handling Skin Changes In Your 30s

What’s helped me is not just my skincare routine, but also the other positive changes in my life.

  • Drinking less means sleeping better and better sleep means prettier skin
  • Drinking more water is good
  • Exercise is good
  • Don’t sleep in makeup
  • Wash your face immediately if you work out in your makeup after a long day at work or being out
  • Wear sunscreen Every. Single. Day.
  • Don’t burn
  • Wear a hat
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Care for your skin at night when it’s most likely to rest and regenerate while you sleep

Your skin is going to change, and this means changing with it. It’s been a big adjustment for me, and it’s been one that really caught me off guard. Perhaps it caught me so off-guard because I don’t feel like I’m in my 30s (until about 8 pm…then I feel it). Either way, prepare for the change, expect it, and challenge it.

Do you notice any changes in your skin? What have you done to combat these changes, and at what age did you begin to notice them?