The Tax Man Cometh

April 15, 2011 in Blog Recipes, Fitness, General, Health by Mary Ireland

Tax Day – a time each year where we are forced to take a look at our finances. How beneficial it would be to have a similar day regarding our health. To some extent, as a culture we may choose to do this at the New Year, in the form of resolutions. Some of us may take the opportunity on our birthdays or perhaps when a life-changing event occurs – such as getting married, becoming a parent, or losing a loved one. But we don’t really seem to do it with the consistency or the zeal of the government with taxes. We aren’t forced to plan ahead, making sure that we are on target with our bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly contributions.

This month – April is my birthday month. Next year is one of those milestone birthdays for me. I feel a need to prepare myself now – both mentally and physically -- for the next decade of my life. I am going to make this an adventure. I’ve had a lot of distractions over the last 18 months -- remodeling my house and then starting to work full-time for Dr. Grandma’s. The uncertainty of my schedule during the remodeling interrupted my schedule, something that I’ve had a difficult time re-establishing in earnest. But now, I have decided to be committed. This dreadfully long winter is over and now I’m looking forward to where I want to be in a year. I thought I might share a few techniques that I’m going to use to help myself achieve my goals.

I pulled out a book that I really liked and found success with a few years, back – Coach Yourself to Success : 101 Tips from a Personal Coach for Reaching Your Goals at Work and in Life. One of the first tasks in coaching yourself is to get rid of petty annoyances that zap your energy -- the things that you are tolerating and putting up with. These annoyances can be little things in your environment such as chipped paint, a light switch that needs to be replaced; things in your relationships such as someone always being late or whiny; or your own personal bad habits such as lack or organization or a sweet tooth that undermines a healthy diet.

The book recommends that you make a list of all the annoyances – every single thing that you feel zaps energy. It is important to write them down (preferable) or key them into your computer rather than keep them in your head as a mental list. According to the book, you will probably come up with 60 to 100 things that you are putting up with and that are zapping your energy. When you have your list, find a friend or someone who wants to get rid of their annoyance too. Make a pact that you will be cheerleaders for each other in this process and available to give each other a pep talk when momentum starts to lag. Next, set aside a day and tackle your list; focus on getting as many items off of your list as you can. Be sure to call your friend if you need a boost and to report your progress. At the end of the day treat yourself to the movies, a nice refreshing bath or anything that you will truly enjoy. Your next step is to plan for tackling the remaining items.

The idea of capturing things “outside of your head and off of your mind” is a key concept of the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. With so much going on in our modern days lives, it is a stressor to try to remember everything that has to be done. Having an external repository of your schedule and tasks frees up your brainpower to actually deal with the issues instead of juggling them and trying to remember everything. The book also suggests disciplining yourself to make upfront decisions about all of the “inputs” or issues you decide to let into your life. Many times when a new situation arises, we find ourselves saying, “I’ll deal with this later.” Making an upfront decision about the issue eliminates having unresolved issues nagging at you and depleting your energy. An example would be your husband mentioning that his mother wants to visit for three weeks; upfront decision is that three weeks is just too long – how about three days? :o.

Another excellent tidbit is making good habits your “default” action. Default action is a term I’m most familiar with from the computer world. It means the action that will happen unless something special is done to result in a different action. An example of a good default action would be to put your coat, brief case and shoes in the appropriate place when you come home from work instead of leaving all these things at the front door to pick up later. A study on self-control reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that policy-makers might use default or “opt-out” schemes to tempt people to eat healthy food, save money, and obey laws by making these the default options that require no effortful self-control. Not having to exert self-control can reduce stress also.

Successfully implementing default action can work wonders to implement new lifestyle changes. When I was working with a neighbor on a volunteer community improvement project, at the end of each session she would ask, “What time do you want to meet tomorrow?” – not do you want to meet tomorrow or when shall we meet next. It was implied that we were going to meet the next day and we did. We often worked seven-days a week for five or six weeks without taking a day off. We were devoted to the project and enjoyed it, but the fact that the default action was working each day made a huge difference. A good example of this is an automatic savings plan that withdraws money from your paycheck and puts into an account that isn’t easy to get to. If you have such a plan, you know how well it can work.

Some default healthy actions you might consider:


  • Saying no to all the white foods: sugar, white flour, white rice and potatoes.
  • Drinking water with your meals.
  • Avoiding desserts.
  • Noshing on veggies instead of chips and crackers.
  • Saying no to all fried food.
  • Working out each morning of the week alternating between aerobic and resistance training.
  • Incorporating whole grains into your diet.

All of the tips presented in here have the power to change your life. You can implement them one at a time or all at once, whatever you think best for you. Perhaps you will want to make your birthday and annual review day of your health to check your progress and to chart a course for where you want to be. You can take an IRS-type attitude that you want to make incremental “payments” into the system – no waiting until the end of the year. In the mean time, remember to keep reading our blogs and trying our recipes.

Spicy Papaya Enchiladas


Enchilada Sauce
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups papaya, diced
15 oz can of tomatoes with chilies

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 chicken breasts
10 corn tortillas


In skillet, brown onions and garlic until onions are transparent.
Add spices.
Cook for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and papaya.
Cook until papaya is tender, about 30 minutes.
Then puree in blender.

Put chicken breasts in saucepot, cover with water.
Add small carrot and dried parsley.
Simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove chicken from water, cool and shred.
Add sour cream and Greek yogurt.
Divide the filling into ten parts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. (I used two pans so I could easily freeze half.)
Put a thin layer of sauce in the pan.

Prepare tortillas
Spray a skillet (cast iron works best) with PAM cooking spray or you can use a small amount of olive oil.
Heat the skillet over medium heat.
Put a corn tortilla in the skillet.
Cook each side for 30 seconds.
Remove the tortilla and brush each side with enchilada sauce.
Repeat until all tortillas have been cooked and have enchilada sauce on both sides.
Put about 1/2 cup of filling in a strip in the middle of a tortilla.
Roll the tortilla up and put it in the pan.
Repeat the process until you have rolled all enchiladas.
Put the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, avocado and sour cream

Get chicken, carrot and parsley.

Cover chicken with water; add carrot and parsley. Slow cook for 45 minutes.

Gather onion and garlic for sauce.

Chop onion and garlic.

Saute onions and garlic.

Measure cilantro, oregano and cumin.

Add cilantro, cumin and oregano to onion and garlic.

Gather papaya and tomatoes with chiles.

Add papaya and tomatoes.

Puree sauce.

Shred chicken.

Mix sour cream and Greek yogurt into chicken.

Cook tortillas on each side for 30 seconds.

Brush sauce on each side of tortilla.

Roll tortillas and put into pan.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, avocado and sour cream.