My Theme for 2016


Do you have a word for the year? This is something my mother-in-law (who’s awesome) turned me onto a few years ago. I’ve never really stuck to it before, but I’ve always liked the idea. This is the year that I commit!

After thought, prayer, and consideration, my word for the year is “Effort.”

Yeah, it’s not that fancy, but completely sums up what I need to focus on.

Originally I thought of “discipline” (which tried to be my word last year, but that lasted like a month) or “self control,” but that wasn’t the root issue. Deep down at the bottom was the underlying question of “do I want to put for the effort?” In 2016 my answer will be yes.

Yes, I want to put forth effort. Effort in everything.

I want to get out and walk Buddy every day. I want to spend a little more time meal prepping so I don’t eat out for lunch. I want to make a grocery list every week!

Everything needs effort. I can’t just skate by on charm and a loud laugh. Easy choices don’t get you anywhere. Doing the bare minimum just to skate by, what’s the point!? I don’t want to be like that anymore.

I think every month I’ll write a little update on how my effort is going.

Do you have a word for 2016? I’d love to know it! – JJ


#DreamBig621 with Amanda Matthews

Today is the first of what I hope will be a recurring theme here on my blog. I’m excited to share a guest post from on of my biggest inspirations, my friend, Amanda Matthews.


Hello! First off a big THANK YOU to JJ for asking me to write a post about the most transformational season in my life. I’m thrilled to share my story with each of you and my prayer is that you are inspired and encouraged by my story. But FIRST, let me introduce myself.

My name is Amanda Mathews. I’m a Mississippi girl, that found my way to Texas almost 5 years ago. I’m 27 years old and a lover of Jesus, people, and all things creative. My full time occupation is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Director ofRehabilitation at a retirement community and rehab center. I also run a small business of calligraphy and design which I absolutely adore… but lets cut to the chase! I’m here to talk about the last two years of my life, my journey to health and fitness.


On January 1, 2014, I was sitting at my kitchen table writing out my goals for the new year and at the top of the list (as always) was “GET HEALTHY.” As I pondered that resolution tears filled my eyes and I cried out to God asking “WHY WHY WHY is get healthy/lose weight always on my list year after year and why can’t I win this battle?” In the sweetest, most wonderful way, God spoke directly to my heart and said “My dear, you have forgotten who your creator is and how you were created!”

He lead me to Psalm 139:13-15 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you whenI was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

WOW. Suddenly this revelation of identity broke through every wall of shame and worthlessness. My heart and mind were renewed in the revelation that I was a daughter of the Most High King and I was worth it!

After this moment, I went straight to the gym. That minute. I already had a membership to the gym that I was not using, but I knew I had to start. I didn’t know what or how, but that day a grace fell on me and my journey started. I decided to simply commit to 5 days a week and eating clean. I had a little knowledge of what clean eating was, and this blog helped me so much! I highly encourage anyone who is starting this journey to start here.

As the first week went by I decided to give myself a goal of -50 pounds lost by my birthday (June 21st) and -25 pounds by week 12. I exceeded both of those goals! During that first six months, all I did was Zumba or elliptical cardio for 30-60 minutes 5 days a week and eat clean.

That’s it.

After the first 6 months, I decided to start with a personal trainer. I continued cardio, but learned so much about strength training, its importance, and how to move forward into the next phase. I did hit a bit of a plateau the last 6 months of the year. I was still seeing some changes, but the weight and scale moved much slower and I lost 15 pounds the rest of the year.


In 2015, I kicked off the year with a Whole30. Another resource I recommend is the book It Starts with Food. You will be amazed by how much of our illnesses and issues can be healed if we just feed ourselves the right foods! Additionally, in 2015 I tried Smart Barre classes (LOVE!) and some fun Beachbody workouts. I lost another 15 pounds in 2015, but in the fall I hit a bit of a “rough patch” in life and gained about 10 pounds from September to December.

2016 has brought a restored hope and the word “completion” from the Lord. I don’t know that a healthy journey is ever complete, but I’m hopeful that with 50 more pounds gone, I will be at a place where maintaining is my goal rather than losing!


I wish I could tell you that there is one quick fix, but what I have learned on this journey is that a renewed mindset is key! And there are so many different ways to get healthy! Choose one that you enjoy and keep at it!


Lessons Learned from Ideal Protein

When I started this blog last summer, I was following the Ideal Protein Protocol. I’m very thankful for that season of my life. It was intense, hard and it revealed more about myself than I thought it would.

I followed the Ideal Protein Protocol (I’m using the term “follow” loosely. I did really well in the beginning and waned off over time) for about 4-5 months. When following the program/directions, I lost weight really quickly. I lost around 40lbs in that time span.

I had never lost weight before. Correction. I had never tried to lose weight before. This was the first time where I really took a good look at myself and knew that drastic changes needed to be made. You can read more about that here.

Restricting certain food groups was a brand new experience for me. I’d never passed on the bread or cheese before. I’d skipped dessert occasionally, but really making the effort to avoid carbs, dairy, and sugar was a much needed shock to my system.

When Luke and I examined our budget for 2016, I realized that Ideal Protein didn’t really fit in. We made some BIG purchases in fall 2015, our house and car, and came home from Christmas with a 100+ pound dog (who we love very much and couldn’t dream of life without him). Although, I didn’t lose as much as I would’ve liked or stuck to it as long as I would’ve liked, I’m looking forward to branching out and doing something new.

I want to share things I’m thankful for about my time on Ideal Protein:

  • I CAN exercise self control. Probably the main take away from IP was knowing that I could say no to certain food groups, that I would be okay without them. Again, prior to last year I had never restricted food groups. I can say NO. That was really good to learn.
  • I CAN lose weight. It’s happened. I’ve done it. I succeeded. Prior to last year, I thought I was a hopeless cause. Now, I know that it’s possible for me to lose and that I’m not too far gone.
  • I can trust people. I’ve never been this open about my life or my feelings. The way that everyone has rallied around and encouraged me is unbelievable. I totally didn’t expect it to this degree.
  • I need a new normal. The month of December was when I officially quit Ideal Protein. I stopped weighing in and using the products. Even before that I stopped applying all of the good stuff I’d learned. I regularly indulged in foods that I knew I should’ve savored sparingly. I was kind of lost. I didn’t know what I should eat. All I knew was that I wanted to eat every cookie, pie, cake, side dish, and candy that was sitting in front of me.
  • The faster is comes off, the quicker it can come back on. This was tough. For some odd reason I thought that I would continue to lose or maintain, when I was indulging a little more every day. Crazy, right? Because I didn’t follow through with phasing off the products like you’re supposed to, I didn’t enter back into a no rules situation the best way. Actually, it was the worst way. It was December, party month, and I didn’t want to miss out on all of the special food. 20 pounds came back on faster than I realized. It seemed as if each pound gained, a valuable lesson or truth I learned was lost. It was a nasty balancing act. That goes to show there is always loss and gain. For me it was loss of motivation, self control, and knowledge and a gain of 20 pounds. (I didn’t gain all 20 pounds back in December. The gains started happening mid to late October up til now).

Those are my main takeaways from my time with Ideal Protein. I know now, more than ever, that I can’t just be on a diet or a program. I had my first shot at maintenance and I flopped. This is one of the major things I’m going to work on this year: Healthy Habits. I want to give myself time to let these good decisions sink in.


I’m also thankful that I didn’t put all the weight back on. I can officially say I lost weight in 2015! The left is Thanksgiving 2014. The right is Thanksgiving 2015.

Do I regret doing Ideal Protein? Not at all! It was the right decision for me at the time.
Do I still recommend Ideal Protein? YES! Just do it correctly and phase off properly.
Would I ever do Ideal Protein again? I want to say yes, but I also don’t want to give myself an out for when I can afford Ideal Protein again. I want to lose this weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

Let’s get to work! – JJ



Healthy Habits: Move More

FullSizeRender I recently came to the realization that I don’t move much. I’m not talking about physically moving houses (already did that this year!), but when it comes to moving vs sitting, sitting definitely wins.

I was an active kid, teenager, and college student (playing tennis almost every day, being in show choir, walking around campus, etc) and sometimes I think that because I used to be active, I’m still considered “active.” That’s not the way it works.There’s not even a set of stairs in my life anymore.

My movement level has gone down to almost nothing over the past few years. The job I had right out of college there was a long walk uphill from the parking lot to the office, then my office was a 4 floor walk up. My second job had a decent parking lot to office distance. My current place of work had a couple of sets of stairs, then I moved offices. The apartment we lived in for a year and a half was a 2 story, our home is a one story.

I take full responsibility for my lack of movement. It’s not my workplace’s fault that there’s a short distance from the parking lot to my desk. It’s my fault for sitting for long periods of time without getting out of my chair.

2016 for me is all about getting healthy habits into my daily routine. Now that I’ve recognized my lack of movement, moving is front row center in my mind.

Here are some ideas of how I’m going to be incorporating regular movement into my every day routine:

  • Walking Buddy. Having an inside dog really does increase movement. We take him out for short walks multiple times a day and one long walk every afternoon. We also stand up and play with him, get on the floor and play with him, and run around the house while he chases us!
  • Getting out of my chair every hour. When I get in the work zone, I lose track of time and get lost in my project, like a lot of people! I can stand up and take a lap around the office (avoiding the snack baskets of course) every hour.
  • Actually using my Fitbit. I got a fitbit for Christmas! I was getting used to having it on, then I needed to charge it and I’ve forgotten to put it back on. I fully plan on having it on by the time this post is published.

I think just being mindful of the issue is a big deal. Now we have to do something about it! I’ll keep you updated on my movement progress.