The Difference (+ Meal Plan Monday)

by Sara on April 22, 2013

Happy Monday!

I hope your weekend was relaxing, revitalizing, jam-packed, smile-inducing—or whatever you hoped it would be. :)

Besides running around Boise all day Saturday, and meal prepping like a mad woman on Sunday, I spent a lot of time thinking about big life changes ahead—about the career path I’m embarking upon, about where I want to live once I’ve finished grad school; about the goals I’ve set for myself… I feel as though I’m standing on a launch pad,  preparing to propel forward. Right now is an exciting time of preparation, however I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it’s a bit frightening as well.

As I was thinking about the changes that lie ahead, I came to a realization. I realized that I’ve have spent a lot of time in my life counting on  change to make me happy.

 When my weight changes, THEN I’ll be happy. When I switch jobs, THEN I’ll be happy. When I get that new car/house/outfit/promotion, THEN I’ll be happy.

Guess what? I sort of believe that certain changes and things like that can indeed bring us happiness.

For example,  these things definitely made me happy over the weekend….


Sweet and salty. 😉




Perfectly seared scallops.


Finding the new Carrot Cake Luna Bar—finally!


And devouring it in the car two minutes later. :)


Stocking up on spring-like nail colors. I couldn’t decide, so I bought them all. Welp.


Going nutty for my (second) favorite nut butter.




Saturday night partying–James Bond and Sophia Champagne with a sippy straw 😉


Shoe shopping.


Virgin cocktailing


Selfies in Sephora with my gal pal, Meg!

Yep, all those things brought me LOADS of happiness!

They did not, however, bring me JOY.

The way I see it, happiness is variable and fleeting. It goes up and down based on our external circumstances, on what’s going on in our lives at any particular moment. In other words, all of those superficial changes and things we desire probably can bring us a certain degree of happiness for a certain span of time.

happinesspin it

But joy is another story. Joy is steady and constant; joy is an unwavering sense of contentment and peace, and it doesn’t depend on if our circumstances at the moment are easy or difficult. Even when we’re unhappy, we can still feel the sense of peace and safety and hope that comes with joy.

There was a time I thought that losing weight or changing jobs or moving to a new city would make me happy. And actually, many of those things did happen and they did have an impact on my happiness levels.

But what I was actually searching for through all of those changes wasn’t happiness at all; it was joy. Now I realize that joy can never be created by a change in the external; it comes from a deep transformation of the internal. It has less to do with our circumstances and more to do with our perspective. It can withstand both the good and the bad changes that come our way in life.

gracepin it

Understanding this fundamental difference between happiness and joy means that I can pursue changes in life that I know will be positive for me without relying on them for my ultimate fulfillment.  I can withstand the ups and downs of my happiness while constantly maintaining a deeper level of joyful satisfaction.

When we focus solely on happiness, we can become prisoners to the next change in our lives. We’re constantly waiting for this to change or that to happen. But when we instead turn towards joy, we can anticipate changes with excitement without requiring them to sustain us. <3


Before I go…

Meal Plan Monday

I’m going to start posting my meal line up (mainly dinners) for the week because I think it’s fun to share and exchange recipes and prepping ideas! I’d also love to hear what you’ve made or are planning to make, so please feel free to link up to any recipes in the comments!

PicMonkey Collage



  • Hard boiled eggs (I boiled 16! I go through them that fast)
  • Chocolate Protein Bars

I tried out a new recipe over the weekend that knocked my socks off. Seriously. They tasted like healthy chocolate cake.

And when topped with coconut peanut butter?


Bliss. Okay maybe not bliss. But about as blissful as a homemade protein bar can get. 😉

I’ll share the recipe soon!


Have a marvelous Monday! Be sure to check out the other MIMM posts at Healthy Diva Life!



I want to know…

What things brought you happiness over the weekend? 

Can you relate to my past experiences of waiting for things  to change in order to be happy?

What do you think is the difference between happiness and joy?


What are you looking forward to making/eating this week? Do you meal prep each week?



  • Sophia

    Your perspective on joy and happiness I believe is correct- happiness sometimes just cannot be, circumstance can demand pain, greif and unhappiness. Joy as you so beautifully expressed can come from within and despite circumstance when you make yourself open to it. This weekend was particularly painful and unhappy-I found out my little brother has leukaemia again. I cannot express the anxiety and anguish this has brought upon me- but it really does make you appreciate life and moments with loved ones- and those bring true joy. Peace and love Sophia

    • Sophia

      On a lighter note (sorry I got so dark there!)- your meal plan looks amazing and I bet brings you some joy! I find meal planning crucial as I cook for my whole family- this week I get a bit of respite as my nonna is coming and she is phenomenal In the kitchen :) I’m most looking forward to her chicken schnitzel with rosemary and Parmesan xo Sophia

      • Sara Stewart

        I’m so impressed that you cook for your entire family! That must require a lot of planning! Enjoy your time with your nonna–her schnitzel sounds absolutely amazing!

        • Sophia

          My mama was in an accident recently, so I’m head chef at the moment- luckily she taught me her recipes but I’m starting to become more creative and your Crustless quiche sounds like a good place to start – xo Sophia

    • Sara Stewart

      Oh, Sophia, I am so so sorry to hear about your brother. I’ll be praying that he and your family are filled with strength, resilience, and comfort during this very difficult time. <3 As unfortunate as it is, it's often the toughest trials in our lives that make us appreciate the small joyful moments. I sure hope you're able to share many of them with your brother–and all your loved ones–despite the sadness you're feeling right now. Sending huge hugs! <3

      • Sophia

        Molto Grazie! Hugs and love right back in your time of transition beautiful Sarah xo Sophia

  • Khushboo

    Yes yes and YES! I couldn’t agree with you more, Sara! Joy comes from within and the only way we can experience it is by opening our heart up to gratitude and changing our perspective. Your distinguishing between joy & happiness hit the nail on the head :)! A few things which brought me happiness over the weekend included a night out with good friends, spontaneous plans, a leisurely, low-intensity walk on the treadmill, brunch with friends and relaxing!

    Can I come over for dinner? Everything sounds delicious, especially those chilli lime burgers! I don’t meal prep any more for the most part. I just try and make sure I have a good variety of wholesome ingredients on hand and then just wing it according to what I’m feeling like. I have a huge craving for pizza today so I am looking forward to making some pizza toast for lunch later!

    Have a great Monday, Sara!

    • Sara Stewart

      You can come over ANY time! How about you join me at my house for dinner, and I’ll join you at your house for lunch. Pizza toast sounds perfect! Happy Monday, my dear! <3

  • Lucie Pfaendler

    I love what you say about Happiness and Joy. I can totally relate on the experience that I wanted to change things to make me happy. Meanwhile, I realized that it is not about the place I live, not about my weight and not about my job or relationship if I have a true, inner joyfulness. I changed a lot about my attitude towards myself, worked to improve my self-esteem and practised thankfulness – THAT changed a LOT. You surely can change things externally to make you happy, but as you say, it is all about how you feel inside and about the positive/negative BASE we carry.

    Tonight I want to try the Cinnamon Eggwhite bites from Kierston!

    I do mealprep every week, but currently, it looks quite boring since I am doing the Whole30, so it’s mostly chicken with vegs, fish with vegs, or eggs :-) Happy Monday and tons of hugs to you!!!

    • Sara Stewart

      I love what you said about our joy being determined by the BASE we carry. I completely agree–it’s that inner deep core of our being from which everything resonates! If we’re joyful in our hearts, we’ll have the resilience to get through anything! <3

      Thanks for sharing the link to Kierston's cinnamon egg white bites! I'm going to go check them out now! Happy Monday, Lucie! <3

  • Tara @ Sweat like a Pig

    I love this post, Sara! For me, happiness was ALWAYS about reaching my goal weight. Even when I starved myself, I never reached that weight! What a horrible way to live my life, always thinking that things would be magically different if I lost a few pounds. Thankfully, I woke up and realised that my weight has nothing to do with my happiness. I’m currently sitting 15kg (!) above my so-called ‘goal’ weight and I couldn’t be happier with my life – my friends, family, job and the city I live in make me happy <3

    • Sara Stewart

      This comment makes me so happy! I’m so glad you’ve reached a point in life where you can live happily and joyfully regardless of your weight! I wish more women in our society would realize that hitting a certain number on the scale never improves inner joy–it would save a lot of time, obsession, and grief. I sure wish I’d known that earlier in my life! Hugs <3

  • coco

    it’s so true what you say, we tend to think once we reach “something” we’d be happy. Fortunately I realized it a while ago and understood that happiness is a state of mind, it’s internal and cannot be brought by something that we reach. Joy is instantaneous and it can be related to something we do.

    this weekend seeing Sofia falling asleep by herself brought me a lot of joy and accomplishment.

    • Sara Stewart

      Sophia must bring so much joy to you every day! You have a beautiful daughter, and she’s so lucky to have such a loving mom!

  • Lillian_SeizeTheLatte

    I love this post so, so much! First, good for you for taking the time to really think about what you want out of life after grad school. I think a lot of people don’t do that — or they just say “job, money, kthxbai” — and it’s awesome that you’re thinking about all this beforehand. It’s exciting to be on the launchpad, so to speak, and I know that you’re going to have fabulous adventures and do great things no matter where your life’s trajectory takes you. :)

    I also completely agree about the difference between an internal and sustained source of joy and deriving happiness from external events/things. I’ve found that finding small things to be thankful for throughout my day really helps me stay connected to that internal sense of peace and contentment, and I love that you’re writing about this!

    Thanks for such a lovely post, my dear, and have a wonderful Monday!

    • Sara Stewart

      Thanks, Lillian! While chasing a prestigious job title or large paycheck is certainly tempting, I never want it to drive my career decisions because I know that ultimately it won’t bring me joy. I’m so happy to hear that you’re pursuing a career that you’re passionate about, too!

  • Allison @ Life’s a Bowl

    This is a great way of looking at it! I never have believed that external things can bring us long term happiness, momentarily yes, but not forever… I think a lifetime full of happiness, joy, and love is the best life to live :)

    • Sara Stewart

      I couldn’t agree more—there is so much joy found in love!

  • lindsay cotter

    well said friend!Joy is being thankful for the moments. Happiness is fleeting and although we can feel happy it does not sustain us! xxoo

    • Sara Stewart

      So true! Hugs, and happy Monday! <3

  • Anna Smith-James

    I have been so guilty of thinking similar things. Specifically Ben and I used to always say “when we move out…” when we were still living with our parents. We never focused on the present, it was always the future. Then when we moved out it was “when we get a bigger house”. After realising we were just wishing our lives away, wishing each week to go quicker to save quicker we quickly stopped thinking this way. We started appreciate what we have right now. OK we have a small house, but hey we’re newly weds in our twenties! We started relaxing more and not being so concerned with savings.
    But I totally understand what you mean. Happiness is transient whereas joy is a part of your core.
    I do a meal plan for every week but don’t tend to prep too much food. I make my lunch the night before and maybe chop veg if I know I’m going to be in late. I quite enjoy cooking in the evening so I don’t mind too much. All your meals sound fantastic. Definitely checkng out the crock pot one! Gotta get it used!!
    Have a lovely week x

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles

    Oh, I’m excited for the recipe for those protein bars!

    I can absolutely relate to this. For a long time, it’s like I wouldn’t let myself feel joy until I reached certain goals or certain changes happened. I was always striving towards some sort of goal (either weight-wise, in school, or elsewhere) and always felt in the back of my mind that I didn’t deserve that happiness until I reached it. But I have been working for years at changing that mindset, so I’ve gotten better with being content as enjoying life as is, as opposed to waiting until I’ve reached certain moments or goals.

    I definitely meal plan, but I’m terrible at food prep!

    Hope you have a lovely Monday Sara! <3

  • Brittany Lesser

    It looks like you had such a great weekend! So many great things.. especially that coconut peanut butter. LOVE. As for the joy part of the post, I definitely know what you are saying. I think a lot of people are constantly looking towards the NEXT thing to bring them joy instead of just enjoying what is happening at the present moment.
    Aaaand I want that protein bar recipe.. yum! Happy Monday, love! <3

  • HealthyDiva

    You can send me that recipe NOW!!! Hehehe! I LOVE THIS POST! The quotes at the end, love! Especially the first one, so true!

    Love the nail colors! I got two new essie ones last week and they rock!

    Love the sneakers! Hope you got them! They are super cute!

    Loving the friend time with Meg! Hope you got some good stuff at sephora!

    Love YOU!! <3

  • Lori and Michelle

    love this posts!! and all the great quotes.
    thing that brought has happiness over the weekend was being surrounded by family and friends :)

  • Julie Luong

    I love that Sally Hansen nail color and it’s cheap! also saw that wine with a sippy straw – so unassuming.

  • runwithspoons

    I’ve never thought about the difference between happiness and joy. I definitely agree that certain things can bring us happiness in the moment, but a lot of the time that happiness doesn’t last and it vanishes as soon as the object does. To me, true happiness doesn’t feel like it should be contingent on outside circumstances, so I guess that’s what I would call joy. I can definitely relate to always feeling like I’d be happy WHEN I ______, and while yeah sure, it made me feel good for a little while, it wasn’t long until I was chasing happiness again. I think one of the biggest things for me has been learning to appreciate what I have and being grateful for all of my blessings – ’cause there are definitely plenty!

  • janetha

    1. i need to find that luna!
    2. i can never cook scallops perfectly.. they always get rubbery
    3. you’re beautiful

  • Elaina H.

    Great post – totally agree re: joy vs. happiness! We spend so much time chasing temporary happiness and not enough cultivating joy – which is spiritual. All of your dinners look amazing! I wish you were here to share them!

  • Maria @ Pappa Don’t Preach

    You know… after reading this, I have to say my mind often works the same. I’m always thinking that changes will make me happy. Usually work/love life related. But I am definitely happy with the small things too!
    How’s the Sofia? I saw it at the liquor store one day and thought it was genius! I’ll have to bring one to work on Fridays!

    I always food prep – but not necessarily meal prep. I just always have proteins and sides on hand and toss them together depending on what my belly tells me it wants!

  • Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl

    I cannot wait to try the new Carrot Cake Luna bars. Seriously, they just HAVE to be amazing!! Those shoes are killer, too! I am currently obsessed with neon colored articles of clothing :).

  • Honey What’s Cooking

    such a great post. so much to say. love seared scallops that are well done, mine were underdone when i ate at a restaurant in nyc. i love that essie nailpolish in mint apple or something, its so pretty. i gotta try chobani choco fix. looks so good with raspberries. yum!

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats

    I’m glad you’ve come to this realization and have such a great mindset, it’s taken me a long time to let go of the idea that “if ___, then I will be happy” and to learn to be happy where I am right now.

  • Devon @ Health in Equilibrium

    Ah so jealous! I feel like every blog has been taunting me with the carrot cake luna bar and I want it! I don’t even know if they sell them in Canada! I totally understand being anxious about big changes in your life. I just finished my 4th year of undergrad and I chose to stay an extra year for lots of reasons, but a lot of my friends have just graduated and are trying to figure out their futures and it makes me nervous for the decisions I will have to be making soon. So much pressure! Best of luck!

  • Miss Polkadot

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on happiness versus joy. Actually, I’d never pondered the difference – mainly because English isn’t my mother tongue. What I did think about and therefore agree on a hundred per cent with you, though, is being able to stay content/feel joy every day. Even if not everything goes the way we wish it did we shouldn’t let ourselves drown in sorrow. I firmly believe that not every day is a (totally) happy day but there’s happiness – now that you pointed it out: joy – in every day.

    Expecting certain life changes to instantly turn me happier than ever is something I can most definitely relate to. Be it weight loss, the start of my studies or internship or else.

    Happiness came from quality time spent with my parents this weekend. Being around them and in the countryside instantly makes me feel good.
    Happy Monday, Sara!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin

    That’s such an interesting point about happiness versus joy – I never thought of it that way! But what said makes so much sense and I totally agree. Things that made me happy over the weekend were wine, hanging out with my coworkers at our staff party, Chef’s awesome spread of food for the party, going for a walk with friends, going for a walk to the grocery store by myself, and finding out The Devil Wears Prada was on tv when I got home on Saturday night. Such a good movie!

    Also I LOVE that you’re starting to write out your meal plans in your posts! Your plan for this week looks so good – especially those lettuce wraps. I’m just trying to eat up all the food in my fridge/freezer this week so I’m keeping it simple with Mexican topped sweet potatoes, a chicken stir fry, and roasted veggies with sweet potato and leftover meatballs.

  • Jess @ JessieBear

    Love the purple nails! And uhg I’ve been looking for that coconut peanut butter everywhere and can’t find it :(

  • Alyssa

    This post really hit home and put things into perspective for me!! I have been a silent blog reader for a while now and just wanted to comment to let you know how inspiring you are and how this post was exactly something that I needed to read today! I have copied the part about happiness and joy and will definitely re read it on days where I’m basing my worth or happiness on superficial things or changes instead of internal joy and way I view myself.

  • Liv @ Life as Liv

    Gah, can’t WAIT for that recipe! It looks absolutely divine. :) Also, I’m totally on the look out for carrot-cake luna bars!!

  • Lisa

    What a beautiful weekend for you! Sounds like plenty of fun to me!

    Those carrot cake Luna’s look good. I wonder when Canada will get them? Possible soon;)

    Girl, I’ve been in that mindset in the past as well. That changing something will make me happy, but that’s SO false. It usually ended up making me more depressed. The small things in life are what truly lift me up. And great friends and family.

    I don’t meal prep usually, but I’m going to need to! Especially now that I’ll be in teacher training for pilates from 8AM-8PM starting Friday. Um, I should probably think of something ha.


  • Jessie

    I am in love with those asics. the color, the style, EVERYTHING! please tell me those are the beauties you bought?

    Thanks for posting the link to the Chili-Lime Chicken burgers. They look incredible, and may just have to be added to my menu for next week =)

    p.s. I can hardly wait for this recipe to be posted. They sound delicious, and topped with nut butter.. um yes please!!!

    pp.s. Have a great rest of the day hunnie

  • Courtney Violet Bentley

    WOW, I live in LA the land of being able to find/buy ANYTHING and I still have yet to find LIME MOJITO KEVITA + OMG CARROT CAKE LUNA BAR! You are one lucky gal, my mouth is watering 😉 JOY is all of what you make it, I watched a documentary called Happy on Netflix while i was recovering from surgery and it changed my views on my life. The people who had the least amount of material items were the happiest! You have to watch it, I think you would enjoy it. Your meal prepping looks fantastic and a day with ur girl at Sephora sounds like a BLAST to me! Hope your week is just as fun! Love + Shine CourtStar

  • Natalie @ Lift,Sleep,Eat

    Mmmm carrot cake luna bar..that sounds good!! Im the type who would want to devour something as soon as I’d bought it as well – especially if you’ve been searching for it that long haha! I still have yet to try that coconut peanut scared to open it too soon and love it so much that ill eat it so quickly and then be left with none until someone i know visits the states again ahah!
    Something that made me happy this weekend – its eventually sunny in the UK!!! Went for a lovely stroll round a local park; its nice that its actually not raining for once.
    I usually have a vague idea of what im planning to make during the week but sometimes i mix it up on the day if i dont fancy what id planned to have.

  • Lucy @ The Moving Muncher

    Loved reading this post as it was a sort of revelation for me when I first discovered the differences between happiness and contentment. Completely agree with you that happiness is only fleeting, it can’t be maintained for the long term, and hence people can get into a lot of difficulties when trying to strive for it continuously and end up trying to ‘fill the void of happiness’ with e.g. over spending, over eating etc. etc. Contentment on the other is definitely obtainable and, for me, a work in progress :)

  • Claire @Keeping Up With Claire

    I love this post, and you! It’s so true-joy is something that comes from the inside, and can be at any point in your life. My dog made me happy over the weekend! Nick’s old roommate was visiting so while they were off golfing I spent a lot of time with Bentley and he just makes me happy. Something about his innocence and how much he loves the little things in life-he goes crazy over a simple walk! I used to always.always.always think that “in a few months, I’d be in better shape and be happier” and finally realized I never stopped saying that. I’ve really learned how to live in the moment recently, and it’s one of the best things to happen to me. I’m looking forward to my weekly FROYO! Hope you’re having a fabulous week pretty lady! <3

  • Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen

    How amazingly, beautifully written, and something I need to remind myself of often. I have made SO many changes, constantly, in my life, always seeking….something. But many times the happiness IS fleeting, and I need to focus on finding a stable sense of JOY, as you so eloquently describe.

    In less serious news…I LOVE those Sofia grown-up juiceboxes, must find the carrot cake Luna bar, and have to tell you that if you love the creamy Coconut Peanut Butter spread, well you would DIE for the crunchy. It is like pure peanutty chunk bliss. :)

  • Melissa @ Mouthwatering Morsel

    your pictures make me happy!! you seem to have the best weekends girl!! and those nails are so pretty annnnnnnd those scallops and sweet potatoes … yum!

  • Ashley @ AlmostVegGirlie

    I love love LOVE the Sally Hansen Hard as Nails nail polish! It’s so much cheaper than other brands but it always lasts a lot longer for me without chipping.

    I still haven’t tried the coconut PB because I usually prefer my nut butters without added sugar or oil but it sounds so delicious that I might just have to splurge!

  • Rach

    First of all, I am digging your pretty purple nail polish color! Also that light blue by Essie – so pretty! Second, all of your upcoming eats look DELICIOUS!

  • Heather Powers

    Oh Sara!! What a beautiful post! You have such and incredible way with words…
    “…joy can never be created by a change in the external; it comes from a deep transformation of the internal.” <- WOW! And so true!! Over the last three years, my life has seen a LOT of changes…some bringing me happiness, and some (with a little extra work) bringing me REAL joy. It is so true what you said knowing the difference between the two. Happiness is what gets us through the day, but JOY is what gets us through life! 😀

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