Welcome! I'm Stepfanie Romine, a writer and editor who specializes in food, natural health and wellness. I am also a health coach who focuses on compassionate, sustainable goal-setting. I live in the mountains outside Asheville, NC. More about me.

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35 of My Healthiest Habits

Today I turn 35.

To be honest, this feels like a major milestone, and it was a little tough to accept. I feel like a real grownup. I’m inching closer to 50 than 20, I’m married with three cats and I’m noticing that my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. At the same time, I am as healthy and happy as I’ve ever been, and I’m proud the life I’ve created.

Instead of throwing a pity party, I am choosing to be grateful, just as my friend Faith did a few weeks ago when she faced this same milestone.

In the five years since I turned 30, I’ve co-written two books of my own, worked on another and signed a contract on my first vegan cookbook. I’ve been laid off, built a successful freelance business and landed an amazing position with an ethical company I respect.

Sam and I moved from Cincinnati to Asheville to put healthy living at the forefront of our lives, we downsized our belongings and learned to live with less. We grew closer and deepened out relationship by staying committed to clear and honest communication. We never yell, and we rarely fight.

I ran two more half-marathons, realized distance running was no longer helping me reach my fitness goals and learned to love strength training and intervals. I overcame my hypermobility and found the strength to stabilize my practice, and I emerged more flexible than before.

I became a health coach, helped dozens of clients achieve healthier, happier lives and found my passion for compassionate, mindful goal-setting. I studied herbalism and holistic nutrition, and I’m in the process of becoming a fitness nutrition specialist.

None of this happened by accident, and my continued health and happiness are intentional daily habits. In the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve reached this point in my life, particularly the habits that are now second nature.

At 20, I was battling anxiety and eating disorders and never exercised.

At 25, I was in the process of losing 40 pounds while still partying way too much and getting stuck in negative and toxic thoughts and relationships.

At 30, I was a new vegan and distance runner and was just getting to know Sam.

At 35, I’m where I want to be, yet I know there’s always room to grow.

Here are (in no particular order) 35 healthy habits that I’ve built into my life over the last 15 years.

  1. Drink lemon water upon rising. While I don’t believe this to be a panacea for perfect health, I do find that warm lemon water clears congestion and stimulates digestion. I just use organic bottled lemon juice for ease.
  2. Early to bed, early to rise.  Getting on a regular bedtime, thanks to Sam, is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have steady energy throughout the day, fall asleep easily and awake without issue. When I have trouble falling asleep, I take Valerian.
  3. Cats. Petting them is like meditation. Dealing with their finicky behavior is a lesson in patience. Loving them is a gift. Everyone needs at least two.
  4. Running, hiking & walking. Cardiovascular exercise keeps my heart and lungs strong, and the impact helps keep my bones healthy.
  5. Yoga (almost) daily. It keeps my mind, body and spirit strong. It serves as a mirror for my real life, teaching me humility, grace and patience. And it gives me confidence, too.
  6. I’m never without my water bottle. Hydration keeps my mood steady, my digestion regular and my hunger in check.
  7. Regular strength training. After age 30, women can lose muscle mass every year, but strength training helps to preserve and/or build muscle tissue. Strength training helps keep body fat in check, as muscle burns calories even when you’re not exercising, and it helps preserve bone density.
  8. Daily magnesium. This mineral is crucial to good health. Along with calcium and vitamin D, it supports bone health. It also promotes a healthy mood, relaxes muscles and keeps blood pressure in check.
  9. 1 cup of coffee in the mornings. Coffee has plenty of health benefits, but by limiting mine to mornings, I keep my anxiety in check. Too much java makes me jittery, so by cutting back, I sleep better and feel better during the day. I’m really picky about coffee. I won’t drink anything that’s not organic and fair-trade, and I never drink sugary coffee like concoctions. We splurged on this automatic pour-over machine after the holidays. Totally worth it!
  10. No nail polish & minimal makeup & hair products. Your skin is your biggest organ, and it’s in charge of detoxification. Your skin is a literal barrier to the world, so why poison it with toxic chemicals? Giving up nail polish wasn’t easy, but my nails are healthier and stronger now. As for makeup, when I wear it, I feel like it’s a mask. I put on a bit now and then, but I choose to create an inner glow through my other healthy habits.
  11. No artificial scents, including cleaning products. I said bye-bye to perfumes (I use essential oils and rosewater), scented candles and air fresheners years ago, and I started making my own cleaning products when Sam and I got together. It saves money and ensures that both us and the cats are not exposed to endocrine disruptors and lung-irritating chemicals.
  12. Daily SPF, 365 days a year. I have good skin because I take good care of it. I wear SPF 15-20 in winter, SPF 30 in summer, and I wear sunglasses and a hat when I’m outdoors. My pale skin needs extra protection, so I wear short sleeves when I run or hike, and I try to stay covered and avoid peak sun hours. I love hiking because I get to stay shaded but enjoy nature.
  13. I never smoked. Ick. Gross. My mom smokes, and it is a habit that has always bothered me. I have zero tolerance for this unhealthy habit. (Yes, that includes vaping. Ew.)
  14. I make health a priority. I schedule my workouts, plan meals weekly and make time for myself. I learned that, in order to take care of others, I need to take care of myself first. That isn’t selfish. It’s insurance so that I can care for my loved ones.
  15. I’ve cut way back on drinking. I drank too much for a lot of years. I have made a conscious effort to limit my drinking.
  16. I manage stress. Busyness is not something to strive for; stress is not a point of pride. I used to believe that stress was a sign I was working hard, but in fact it made me less productive. Now, through my other healthy habits, I can manage my stress, not take things personally and focus on the things I am capable of changing and influencing.
  17. I eat a plant-based diet. Becoming vegetarian and then vegan were the two best diet decisions of my life. My body did not handle animal proteins well, and I do not miss eating them at all. It’s been a decade, and I feel great!
  18. I’m regular. A good poop is a sign of good health. I got myself on a “regular” schedule by taking triphala when I switched to morning yoga. Now, thanks to a regular bedtime and wake-up, I “go” upon rising, regardless of the time zone or what I’ve had to eat. The longer #2 is in you, the longer those toxins and waste products are in the body.
  19. I say no. I used to say “yes” to any request on my time and energy. Learning to say no to things that do not enrich my life and stress me out created the space I needed to pursue things that bring me joy. It’s so liberating to say no!
  20. I rid my life of toxic relationships. By saying no, I slowly weaned myself off some toxic people in my life, some of whom are related to me. While this might be controversial, maintaining my distance helps me stay positive and happy.
  21. I eat green veggies daily. I get cranky if I go a day without vegetables. I love the way they taste, and I know that they are nutrition powerhouses that are working their magic from the inside-out.
  22. A daily smoothie or salad — or both. Trying to get in enough vegetables? A smoothie or salad or both gets you there. They are also great ways to use up what’s left in the fridge.
  23. Tulsi & other herbal tea during the day. Adaptogens like tulsi (holy basil) keep your natural stress response healthy and happy, which keeps energy level steady. Drinking coffee all day gives you a jolt of energy, but you’ll crash later on — and adrenals are left to deal with it. Think of it like this: Adaptogens are like putting money in your energy savings account; caffeine and other stimulants are like using a credit card.
  24. I don’t hold grudges or keep score. My dear friend Dan introduced me to the work of Pema Chodron about seven years ago. She changed my life. I learned to not take things personally, not hold grudges and not keep score. The result? So much more space in my mind to focus on what really matters.
  25. I cook. Though I have days when I’m tired and not interested in cooking, I know that being in control of what goes in my food and in my body matters tremendously. Food is fuel for life, and putting that control in the hands of someone else is not something I take lightly. I also truly believe that food takes on the energy of those who prepare it. When I cook, I believe I am creating and sharing love.
  26. I pack my lunch. To keep energy levels steady throughout the day, I pack plenty of protein and vegetables. Grains and quick carbs are a recipe for an afternoon slump. Not to mention, takeout and fast casual food are usually loaded with salt and sugar.
  27. I eat breakfast. Unless I’m sick, I always eat in the mornings. If you want to start your day off on the right foot, with plenty of energy and a positive attitude, eat breakfast. Skip the quick carbs and sugar, and get some whole grains, lean protein and heart-healthy fat.
  28. I support my liver. I didn’t think much about the liver until this year, but it’s a majorly vital organ. It detoxes the body naturally and assists digestion. And, it’s in charge of the breakdown of hormones.
  29. I show my adrenals some love. The adrenals handle your stress response. Keep them healthy and happy to keep your stress levels in check. Paying attention to mine has changed my life!
  30. I get an annual physical. Every year, I get a physical to track my baseline health. The results are fun to see. It feels like getting a report card — and I was always an A student! Annual results allow me to see how my habits impact my overall health.
  31. I manage my anxiety. I lived with crippling anxiety for years, and I still deal with it most days. Now, I manage it through my other healthy habits, particularly limiting caffeine, regular exercise and a healthy support system. When I need a little extra help, I have some herbs I turn to, and I use a meditation app on really bad days.
  32. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Beyond just eating a plant-based diet, I limit foods like wheat, corn and soy. I choose to consume these only in whole, preferably sprouted form. That means that I rarely if ever eat seitan, which I find hard to digest. I choose tofu a couple of times a month, and I only eat organic, non-GMO corn. I build my meals around vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits in a variety of colors.
  33. I (usually) eat mindfully. I still struggle with emotional eating now and again, but instead of stressing over it, I understand that food is more than just something that fuels the body. Sometimes, food fuels the soul. I focus on eating mindfully and cleanly most of the time, so those times when I am emotional (aka every 28 days), I don’t need to sweat the overall impact on my health.
  34. I eat what I want. I want to eat clean, healthy food most of the time. However, I sometimes want a donut or a plate of vegan nachos. When I do, I eat them. And then I get back to my regularly scheduled eating habits — no stress, guilt or negative emotion.
  35. I actively stay positive. I am not a naturally happy person, and I do not come from a positive, optimistic family. I wake up every day and, thanks to these aforementioned habits, have the strength and the resources to be able to choose to be happy and healthy. One begets the other in my opinion. Sometimes, I fake it until I make it. That’s OK.

And some to work on:

  1. Drinking even less than I do now. I would like to break the habit of overindulging with friends, even if it happens only a few times a year.
  2. Meditate more. I have trouble sitting still. This is a sign I need to sit still more often.
  3. Create more time for friends. I still struggle with being busy. I make time for what matters, but because we live far from town, fitting in time with friends is a challenge. They matter, so I need to make that more of a priority.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to celebrate my 35 years. Every day is a gift, and I am so very grateful for the gifts of health and happiness. I hope that some of these habits inspire you to take positive steps in your own life.

Challenging My Strength

It’s April, and with that, one of the busiest months of my life is behind me. I went to California for my first Expo West, and I completed the recipe portion of the manuscript for my first vegan cookbook.

I have spent the last few months focused on strength training as a way to heal my body from hypermobility (aka being too flexible — more on that soon). My physical yoga practice has plateaued, but I focused on the other (read: more important) limbs, avoiding guilt and remorse over not spending as much time on the mat contorting myself. Now that my body is stronger and healthier and the weather is warmer, I am resuming my usual routines of morning yoga and afternoon or evening running and hiking, but I’m keeping strength training two or three times a week. For the first time in a long while, I’m noticing real improvements in my performance and my physique.

I’m always working to find more ways to strike a work-life balance, and I’ve teamed up with two co-workers to do an April challenge. We’re each setting personal goals and using one another as a support system to stick with it.

My goals?

A shift in my macronutrient balance to work on energy and body composition. I’m going to be 35 in two months, and I’m finding that my body’s caloric and nutritional needs and wants are sometimes in opposition. I will be eating more protein and fat, with fewer carbs. (Not going “low carb” — just trying to help battle cravings and work on keeping myself healthy as I age.)

Finding balance in running and strength training. I’ve not run more than 3 ½ miles in over a year. I’m OK with that, but I do miss longer trail runs. There’s a national forest and a state park within 20 minutes of our house, and I want to get my trail legs back. Thankfully, I’ve been squatting and lunging all winter, so the runs I have done have been much faster and easier. I’m excited to hit the trails, but I miss my running BFF, who lives in Black Mountain (now 75 minutes away).

Cope with my anxiety better. I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a teenager, and there have been times where it has spun out of control. In January, I did a liver cleanse (herbs to support the liver’s natural hormone catabolism and detoxification processes). However, the hormone shift led to a resurgence of anxiety, linked to some personal (extended family) stress. I am back to a level of “dealing with it” but want to do more.

These days, my goals tend to be less quantifiable. This suits my personality better. Calorie counting makes me a little crazy, though I will be tracking macros for a month. I need to get into a rhythm with my diet now that cookbook recipe testing is mostly behind me. I don’t make huge overhauls or try to change my entire routine overnight. I know from experience and my education that that doesn’t work. Instead, I try to check in with my goals and habits now and again, so make sure I’m still on a path that works for me.