Thanksgiving isn’t all about the turkey

It’s easy for us Dukes to get wrapped up in looking forward to fall break, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Years. But for me I am looking forward to my Friendsgiving on Wednesday night before I leave for fall break. With all of the holidays coming up it’s important to make every holiday event memorable and to express thanks.


I am going to start with Friendsgiving. Recent research has confirmed that finding room in your heart for gratitude is really good for your emotional health. There are hundreds of ways that people may express thanks, but here are five general categories that might be able to help you, your friends and family express thanks this Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving.

  1. Remembrance Items
  2. Holiday-Specific Activities
  3. Time Reserved for Sharing
  4. Ritual Expressions of Gratitude
  5. Special Foods

Remembrance Items

This one might be corny to you but some traditional remembrance items usually include pictures or an item that represents your family or that holiday that you bring out every year. You can even start a journal where everyone writes under that year why they are thankful. You can do this for your family Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving but maybe for Friendsgiving you would want to do something less serious. Maybe just get an item that reminds you all of JMU and bring it to every holiday you celebrate together. Use that item to remind you of each other and why you are thankful for each other.

Holiday-Specific Activities

A traditional holiday activity is one of my favorite ways to feel a sense of gratitude, make memories, but also have fun and laughter with my family and friends. With my family on Thanksgiving we have a flag football game since twenty of my cousins and I are together. My aunts and uncles and parents usually come out to the field at my uncle’s house and cheer us on but when it starts to get cold they migrate inside to prepare dessert. This year it will be our fifth time having our traditional flag football game on Thanksgiving. For Friendsgiving that my roommates and I are hosting at my house on Wednesday, I want to propose to my friends that we all play a fun game like Headbands. I know that my friends are too lazy to go outside and play flag football so I think that Headbands is something that all of us would get a good laugh at and form a tradition for our next Friendsgiving.

Time Reserved for Sharing

Make sure you catch up with all of your relatives on Thanksgiving. Catching up gives a time for you to fill in your cousins and aunts and uncles with what you have been up to since you last saw them and can strike story telling with one another. Sharing forms a sense of family unity. This sharing category goes for Friendsgiving as well. I think that with your friends it is about reminiscing about what you all have done together this past semester. Since you are probably with these people most of your days at school, they probably are up-to-date with your life so your sharing might be more natural and relaxed.

Ritual Expressions of Gratitude

This can be done for family Thanksgiving as well as Friendsgiving. Throughout the year, write things that happen to you that you are thankful for on a slip of paper. Make it a goal to write at least two things per month. For us Dukes, have one jar for your Friendsgiving and the other for your family Thanksgiving and you can bring your jar home and add it to the family jar over break. During your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, go around the table and pull out the slips of paper and read them aloud and reflect on those memories with one another.

Special Foods

This one is pretty relatable to anyone. I’m sure everyone has a family member that makes the pumpkin pie every year and one who makes those garlicky mashed potatoes that everyone loves. For your family Thanksgiving I’m sure those traditions will still stand. Maybe this year, volunteer yourself to make a dessert or side. For Friendsgiving, make those special foods a tradition starting this year to carry for the Friendsgiving’s to come.

As stated above, expressing thanks is really good for your emotional health. Hopefully you can try to incorporate these five general categories into your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving to show gratitude as well as help your emotional health in preparing you for the stressful finals week that is right around the corner after fall break.

Peace, Love and DDP,



Friendsgiving The Healthy Way

In five short days we will be heading home for the anticipated Thanksgiving break, nine days of relaxation, delicious food, family time and visiting friends from home. These last few days before break may be swamped but there is no better way to get your mind off of things and take a little break with food and friends. Friendsgiving is a fun way to celebrate with those you love here at school before we leave for the holiday break. Thanksgiving food is filling and delicious but not always healthy. Take this opportunity to celebrate in a healthier fashion with your friends before stuffing your face with the Thanksgiving comfort foods we know and love when you get home. Below are a few alternative options for those classic Thanksgiving dishes that you can try out and enjoy with the company of friends. Of course you don’t have to make your entire friendsgiving healthy, this is of course the time of year where it is fine to indulge in those unhealthy options, but switching a few dishes for the healthy version can help you from feeling so sluggish after eating. Cook these for your friends then show off your new skills and recipes at home on Thanksgiving for your families.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes with butter and garlic can be full of carbs and fat, an easy and delicious alternative you can use is cauliflower as your mashed potatoes. It will look almost identical so you can really trick your brain into thinking that you are eating the real thing. You can get the low carb “fauxtato” recipe here.


 Stuffing from a package or made from white bread can be full of processed ingredients that do nothing but bad things for your body. Opt for whole grain bread or for the gluten intolerant choose gluten free bread. This recipe uses many different fresh produce as ingredients for a tasty herb and apple stuffing. You can get the recipe here.

Rolls and Bread

 Croissants, rolls and biscuits whatever form it comes in bread is delicious, it is also chock full of carbs and lets face it, you are not skipping out on the butter either. An alternative to those filling breads can be flatbread. Flatbread is an even better alternative because it allows you to add more flavors to your meal by adding different spreads and dip including your choice of hummus or different salsas. Switching to flatbread is a win-win situation for your meal you get to cut calories while adding delectable and healthy dips.

Sweet Potato Casserole

 This might not be a universal Thanksgiving dish but those who eat it love it. Sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, butter and cinnamon it does not get much better than that and this is a dish with dinner not even the dessert. This dish is full of sugar, but a healthy alternative to this without losing the sweet flavors is this roasted sweet potatoes with honey and cinnamon. Still just as delicious with less sugar and you can find this recipe here.

Green Bean Casserole

 Some love it; others hate it as for me it is what I look forward to most during Thanksgiving. Green beans in a creamy soup sauce with fried onions on top, delectable but not quite nutritious other than the green beans, but of course that all gets cancelled out by the cream and fried counterparts. For those that get as excited for this dish as I, do no fear, I have the healthy recipe here. Still creamy, crunchy and still flavorful thanks to using Greek yogurt and grilled shallots as a substitute for the fried onions and canned or packaged ingredients.


 Arguably the best part about the meal. Anything you do not like you can drown in gravy and it will taste good. It goes on just about every part of the meal except for the dessert. Unfortunately it is full of unhealthy fats. Check out this recipe for half the fat but all of the flavor for your gravy.

Pumpkin Pie

No matter how much you eat, you always have room for dessert. Nothing is wrong with treating yourself especially during this time of the year. But, to save calories and yourself from cursing the world on the couch because you ate so much, try out this recipe for pumpkin pie bites. These are a smaller version of the staple dessert dish of the season. Whether or not you stick to eating just one or two is up to you, but hey, at least you tried right?

Tis the season for friends, family and of course, food, try out one or all of these healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving food recipes for your friendsgiving before you go home for the break. Impress your family with your nutritious but delicious meals and who knows, your dish could become the next family favorite.


Peace, Love and DDP, from my friendsgiving family to yours,


Body Weight Basics

Even though I have enjoyed running for a couple years, I get bored of it sometimes. Running is such a tempting workout because it is fast and yields immediate results. When I worked at a gym, I would run after work every day and loved it. After a couple weeks, my body was constantly aching and I assumed I was doing something wrong. I decided to invest in better sneakers and talk to some personal trainers that worked at the gym. They informed me how dangerous it is to run more distance than your body is prepared for. Since I was not used to running long distances very often, my body was informing me to take it easier. I learned how important it is to incorporate strength training and various forms of cardio. I have previously encouraged weight training over prolonged cardio, but I want to talk about some card workouts that burn fat and build muscle, in a safe manner.

I decided to run less and bike for about ten minutes before leaving the gym. I was amazed how much a short bike could effect how sore I would feel the next day. The thing is, biking uses different muscles than running. In some ways, at least for me, it is harder to bike for a long time than running. I decided to keep with biking everyday and adding some elliptical exercises in. After a week or so, both exercises seemed more appealing to me. Surprisingly, running less and biking more made the biggest impact in how I would feel when I would run. Runs felt more energized and my legs were sore, but not achy.

Mixing it up is always important to build the essential muscle to do more of your favorite cardio workouts. Popular in many workout plans today, body weight workouts are an easy and effective way to build muscle. The awesome thing about body weight exercises is that they usually do not require any materials or much time. The hardest part about starting body weight exercising is getting informed. I’m going to lay out the fundamental workouts you need to know to get beneficial results in little time.

First, arm muscles tend to show results the fastest. Because elf this, I have always enjoyed doing arm workouts because you feel stronger right away.

Arm Workouts

Push-ups: With your hands laying flat on the floor at arm’s length distance, slowly lower your entire body while bending your arms to a 90 degree angle. Make sure you keep your body flat or parallel to the ground to ensure proper form.

Pull-ups: Personally, I like to bend my knees when doing pull-ups because I am tall and usually they will touch the ground. You should try this too if you want to feel more comfortable with the workout.Start hanging from a bar with your arms nearly straight and your body relaxed. Then bring your body up towards the bar until your chin reaches the top of the bar. Try to remain calm and avoid moving your legs or entire body back and forth. This workout is supposed to be controlled to avoid injuries and reap the best results. Once youimg_3301 slowly revert back to straight arms, continue the movement for as long as you can.

Tricep Dips: Using a bar or any surface that is above the floor, place the palm of your hands on the edge closest to you and wrap your fingers around the edge of the surface. Remaining stable, let your body sink to the ground and then lift in up using your arm muscles.

Push-ups with Exercise Ball: Similar to a regular push-up, use an exercise body ball to lever your feet up. Maintaining balance can be tricky, but doable after a couple tries. This is a great way to work on balance and agility.

Ab Workouts

Building a strong core is essential to building your stamina and endurance in cardio. These workouts are easy and can be done in a gym or in your dorm room.

Bicycle crunches: Lay on your back with you legs crunched and knees bent. Have your arms bend with your hands supporting your heard. Move legs like a bike and have your arms and abs replicate the motion. Do this about 50 times with 30 seconds rest. Repeat as many times as you can.

Leg lifts: This is the perfect workout to grab a friend and compete over who can do more. First, lay on your back with your arms and legs straight. Using your abdomen, lift your legs up straight until you form a 90 degree angle. Then lower your legs back to the ground, without letting your legs bend. If you are working out with a friend, alternate doing leg lifts and pushing the other person’s legs down. This makes avoiding hitting the ground harder.


Possibly the most essential to building muscle for running, a little can go a long way when it comes to leg workouts.

Squats: With so many variations of squats, it is hard to say which one is the best. Be sure when you bend your knees you have your feet far enough from each other on the ground. Squats are a compound workout, so they work many parts of your body. Squatting can help your bones and muscles and increase flexibility. Basically, squats are a necessity when it comes to body weight workouts.

Some of the popular squats are sumo squats, jumping squats. If you want to use extra exercising tools for squatting, you can incorporate using added weights, bosu balls and resistance bands. All of these are awesome ways to amp up a simple workout and build leg muscle fast.

Lunges: Make sure your knee is directly over your front foot when executing a lunge and keep the upper half of your body straight and relaxed. Proper form is essential to working the muscles and making your you don’t pull anything in the process.

Give these workouts a try and see how they effect your cardio performance. Building muscles will give you the means to do more of what you love and risk the chances of injury.












How To Get Through Finals Week Like A Pro

With Thanksgiving break coming up, it is almost that time of year to start thinking about finals! Finals week is probably one of the most dreaded weeks of every semester. Some students are too hyped up on coffee the whole week that sleep is the last thing on their minds. There are a ton of ways to mentally prepare for this week and stay on top of your work without stressing the heck out! About 1 in 10 college students are stressed out often, and 1 and 4 students are stressed out on a daily basis. According to Bryce Goldsen at CNN, “most stress comes from the pressure to perform well day in and day out.”

Have no fear, I am here to help you mentally prepare for those extra stressful weeks here at JMU. Not only can being stressed out all the time be physically draining, but it can also increase levels of stress and can even lead to anxiety or depression. Some things that you can do to reduce these harsh symptoms is squeeze time in for yourself.  This may include getting your nails done, taking a yoga class at UREC, watching an episode of your favorite show or maybe just listening to music. If you take no breaks while trying to prepare for exams it can actually effect your grade in the long run.

My top tips for mentally preparing for an exam:

  • Don’t cram: study in intervals of 20-50 minutes. I like to do this and then walk around the library a little bit, maybe hike up and down ECL a couple times to get my blood flowing.
  • Eat superfoods: try to fill your diet with the best types of foods that will fill you up and keep you motivated. For breakfast try eating oatmeal with chia seeds for an extra fiber boost that will keep you full and focused the whole day.
  • Alternate study spots. Don’t keep going back to the same seat on the 4th floor of ECl because you will learn to dread it more and more each time you start to approach it. JMU has a wide range of study spots to choose from to change the scenery up.  Last year I spent most of the week studying in the small library in Memorial Hall. Not many people know about it, so it was extremely quiet and was way less depressing than carrier.
  • Avoid all nighters at all costs. This is my biggest tip. I am the type of person that if I am studying past 1 am, it is a huge waste of time. My body can barely function and retain any information that I am trying to memorize.  I recommend going to bed earlier and waking up early with a clear fresh mind.  Some mornings I even wake up at 5am to study for a 11am test and feel so confident because all of the information is fresh in my mind.

Pro Tip: Review the toughest material right before going to bed the night before the test. It makes it easier to recall the material later.

Finals week is not all that bad though. Here are some benefits of finals that will definitely make you smile:

  1. Falling asleep on a carrier couch is totally acceptable
  2. The perfect excuse to eat comfort food
  3. You have the motivation of going home for a month of relaxation and Christmas!
  4. It will be the last time you see that professor you cannot stand
  5. You can wear the comfiest, slouchy clothes you own and no one will judge you
  6. You do not have to worry about squeezing time in for the gym
  7. When you are reaching your maximum stressed out levels, the person right next to you at ECL is probably in the same boat
  8. No classes
  9. And last but not least, acing that test you stayed up all night for will feel better than you can possibly imagine

Finals week is hard, but don’t let it defeat you!

Fall Break is approaching… that means turkey

Fall break is less than ten days away. This is the first time that some Dukes are going home since they arrived for Frog Week this summer. This is the first time, for me at least that I’m going home. Home for me is in Northern New Jersey. Jersey means that there are warm, delicious bagels and any type of pizza that you can think of. With me going home for fall break means consuming all of these foods multiple days in a row. And I can’t forget that at the end of fall break is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving brings me pumpkin pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes and most importantly, turkey. With all of these heavy, delicious foods, comes another thing to think about: calories.


This fall break I am going to try not to make all my early morning gym trips to UREC and eating healthy go to waste. Here are five tips that I have researched that will help you enjoy Thanksgiving without overindulging in the calories.

  1. Stick to healthy portions.
  2. Eat before you indulge.
  3. Substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones.
  4. Drink lots of water and take a walk after eating.
  5. Avoid snacking throughout the day.

Stick to healthy portions.

Do you really think you need more than one plate of all of that sodium filled food that is on the menu for Thanksgiving? Definitely not. I challenge you to only eat one serving of the mashed potatoes and dinner rolls and if you are still hungry after your first serving, go back and get some vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, beets, etc. Fill your first plate of food with a half a plate of vegetables and one roll, a quarter of it with mashed or sweet potatoes and a quarter of it with turkey or ham. Amanda Chan from says, “If you fill up on those lower caloric density and higher nutrition things, you’re going to feel full, but not bloated and tired, because it’s a lighter fare.” So if you are still hungry after that first plate, then go back for vegetables to fill you up but not feel bloated. As for dessert, I know that my family always has at least five different pies on our table. Try and pick a fruit or pumpkin instead of chocolate or pecan. They tend to have fewer calories but you can still get a taste of Thanksgiving without the overload on sugar.

Eat before you indulge.

A lot of people think that not eating at all the day of Thanksgiving is saving room for the dinner feast. I know that my brothers and I have that mentality every year. In reality, you just end up overeating at dinner because you have been starving yourself all day. Try and eat a snack or breakfast on Thanksgiving so you don’t overeat at dinner.

Substitute healthy ingredients for unhealthy ones.

If you have any say in how Thanksgiving dinner is cooked, maybe you can recommend some alternative ingredients to put into some of your favorite foods to cut out excess calories. For mashed potatoes substitute butter with chicken broth or roasted garlic. My Aunt Karen adds roasted garlic instead of butter and you can’t even tell the difference. It still tastes just as starchy. This next alternative can cut a lot of calories; you just need a little will power to resist it. Don’t eat the skin on the turkey. It is basically just pieces of fat.

Drink lots of water and take a walk after eating.

These are two tips in one that I do every year. According to the article by Amanda Chan, “Many times when people think they are hungry, they are actually just thirsty. By drinking lots of water throughout the day, you’ll lower the risk of overeating.” The second tip is to take a walk after eating. After dinner and before dessert I take a walk with my aunt and her two dogs. We walk around the neighborhood in the crisp, fall weather and try to digest out food before eating a piece of pumpkin pie.

Avoid snacking throughout the day.

If you are trying to avoid overeating by having breakfast or one snack before dinner that is one thing, but constantly snacking on cheese and crackers or chips and dip before dinner contributes to overeating and not being able to keep track of how much you have eaten. Try to have one small meal or one snack in the late morning or early afternoon to hold you over until dinner. Avoid the mindless munching when you are conversing with your relatives.

I hope these 5 tips help you cut down on those excess calories over fall break. Remember, Halloween was the start of the holiday season and with every holiday comes delicious food with lots of calories. It is your choice if you want to make those trips to the gym count or if you want to eat it all away over break. The choice is yours fellow Dukes.

Peace, Love and DDP,


Stop Being Afraid of the Gym

Everything you have tried seems to fail. You have said to yourself before that you want to get fit so you start to go to the gym but that motivation lasts about two weeks tops. You may have no idea where to start. You may be self-conscious of being a gym newbie. That’s ok, everyone has to start somewhere, though it may be surprising everyone in that gym, even the most fit of people, have had the same feeling as you at some point. Motivation is key, but that’s just the start of it. There are many things that come into play when it comes to starting your workout regiment and I am here to help explain them to you so that you can get started in the gym without fear.

Get out of your own head

You are your own worst enemy. The fact that you are telling yourself that you can’t do it is holding you back. The second you change your mind about yourself it will be so much easier to get started. As I said before everyone has to start somewhere and no one is judging you in the gym. Everyone is there for the same reason, to better themselves and to keep healthy. The sooner you realize this the sooner you can get in the gym and stay there.


Maybe what you need is a little fitness inspiration. Check out different fitness blogs or accounts on Facebook and Instagram that show transformation photos of people who started out just like you. Do not become obsessed with looking like someone else that you see but use these pictures as motivation that you too can do it.

Find a workout regime that suits you

The weight room may not be for you. Maybe you love to run but you want to start strength training. The TRX looks intimidating but you want to give it a try. This step is all about trial and error. Do not get discouraged if you try something out and can’t keep up or just simply do not like it. There are many sources for finding different workout routines online all you have to do is type in what you want to try and you will get hundreds of examples. UREC also offers an array of classes to choose from. Try those out who knows you could become the next body sculpt regular.

Get a gym buddy


According to a support system is one of the best ways to keep up the good work in the gym. Finding someone to go to the gym with can get both of you into gear when it comes to sticking to plans to workout. It is much harder to cancel on someone than it is to cancel plans on yourself because now you have someone relying on you. You will motivate one another, you can use each other for partner workouts and it’s always going to be more fun doing something with a friend than just going at it alone.

Make a schedule and stick to it

Create a schedule of times that you can go to the gym that work around your classes and study time. Maybe waking up earlier is the only way you can get your workout in or maybe late night is your only opportunity. Find whatever works the best for you. The gym shouldn’t be a chore it should be something that you look forward to, a stress reliever and the chance to get away from the stressors of classes. Get together with your gym buddy and work out the times that you both can go and stick to it. Be sure to include rest days in your schedule as well. The moment you start straying from your schedule is when you ultimately stop going all together. So be sure to create a schedule that you know you can keep up with.

Listen to your body, do not over do it

Burn out is another factor in quitting the gym entirely. Working yourself too hard for too many consecutive days can be reason for you to steer clear of the gym for a while. As I stated before be sure to take rest days. Listen to your body when you feel too tired or too sore to go to the gym and take the day off. This doesn’t mean quit, just take the day off and get back to it the next day. Stretching in front of the television can be a great alternative for the day. According to Kayla Itsines, fitness guru, on her blog she says that skipping your workout for the day when feeling too tired or sore can give you a renewed focus and can be beneficial to boosting your motivation when it comes to working out in the future.

So get up get a friend, make some time and get to the gym. Find what works best for you and what you like to do. Most importantly do not be afraid of what others are saying about you because they are all there to do the same thing you are, to exercise. The gym is a judgment free zone so fear no more. See you at UREC in the near future Dukes.

Peace, Love and DDP,