The Darkside Behind the Glam | What They Don’t Tell You About Competing

If you were to look at my Instagram (@reliablefit) a few months ago, to a year ago; you may think “Wow, she looks great! I wish I could look like that!” Thank you to all who have commented or sent me messages along the lines of that level of appreciation. However, it doesn’t come without it’s form of costs. It seems fitness competitions are becoming more popular with the aid of social media; and while competing did have many benefits in my life, do they outweigh the negatives? I am here to share the behind the makeup, glam, high heels, trophies, and cheat meals of bodybuilding.

I recall back in late 2014 into 2015 stating to a friend “I could never do what you do and compete, I love food too much!” Yes, I was one of those people; and who would have thought a year and a half later I would be a WNBF Pro Bikini athlete–surely not me!

competing

When I first started my fitness journey in December 2015; I was training for my C.H.I.P. test to become a cop, after the completion of the Appalachian Trail–I was eagerly searching for that type of camaraderie that I thought I could find within being a cop. While fell in love with the training; I evaluated my newfound career choice before I got in too deep into the process (though I did pass the C.H.I.P. test with the male standards of my age group which is harder and more than the female!)

I continued training though; and vowed to start my first bikini preparation January 2016 with my first show scheduled for May 2016. I will admit the heightened amount of self conscious thoughts and perceptions about the overall end goal of getting on stage in heels and flirting in a girly manner. A caption from an early Instagram post back in January 17, 2016 reads: “It’s about the fear of wearing high heels higher than these, on stage in front of a bunch of people judging you on your appearance, learning new routines that I’ve never practiced before, and seeing where I came from in the beginning while never losing the love and dedication towards my goal.” This was after my first posing session. My coach told me to stop walking like a boy and lead with the ladies, you can paint a picture in your mind of a male baby giraffe trying to show the world he is delicate butterfly…that just about sums up my posing sessions.

I hated practicing because I felt uncomfortable, awkward, fake, un-natural, difficult, and just frustrating–but I loved lifting weights in the gym. My confidence in my performance started to rise, and as I began to see my body change and chisel into that of an athlete; there was no stopping me. My perfectionism kicked in and I stuck to my perseverance in and out of the gym; some may say it even heightened it. I became a little obsessed with health, nutrition, and the gym; it took over my life and I was determined. My coach wanted me to compete a month early (April 2016) stating that I was ready and although I I didn’t feel it, I changed my plans to compete in my debut amateur bikini competition in Mashpee, MA in April where I placed 3rd place overall and 3rd place in debut. While this was a great accomplishment for my first show; I felt like I should have won, so 3rd place was a big of a let down. Everyone around me (friends who compete, friends who don’t, and family) were so happy for me, and proud of my placing, but in my mind I thought “It just wasn’t good enough. I was supposed to win.” Yes, this is my thinking at something I have never done before; to be the best. I understand now how unhealthy perfectionism is; and it is a constant battle every day to be more aware and present in the moment and not get caught up in the performance. I wrote in a post on Instagram that following day “The adrenaline was pumping through me, the nerves shook my legs, and my smile felt dry and forced; there is a certain confidence that comes from training countless hours toward a goal and yesterday I saw it flood from within. I didn’t feel self conscious, inferior, or insecure, I felt strong, sassy, and confident.

Back to the gym I went; I changed my diet for this next month in-between competitions because let’s face it, I am a foodie–and I only had ONE cheat meal throughout the whole 3 month preparation leading up to my first show. I became so strict with my meals that I no longer enjoyed food; it was just fuel– protein, carbs, and healthy fats at it’s most basic boring form. I was much happier creating macro-friendly meals that I could enjoy. My confidence boosted even more between these two shows; I looked and felt dynamite–but in a way, was still unhappy. There are many highs and lows of preparation and competing; not to mention the unhealthiness of it physically and mentally.

Which brings me to May 29, 2016 “I started training 146 days ago; that’s 4 months and 25 days to not cheat once in 105 of those days, suffer, grow, fall short, work harder, stay focused, get a cheat meal, partake in my first hell week. For 39.89% of 2016 I embraced a lifestyle with so much determination, and heart that I never lost sight of the goal from the start. I knew I wanted my Pro Card. No one said it would be easy, but it sure was worth it this journey I’ve been on!

I have met so many new amazing people, re-connected with old friends, helped current friends, and have been surprised a few times when people tell me that I, have inspired them. That’s the overall goal right? Find something you love, something that you get so excited to talk about, and be a part of, that it radiates and inspires other people without that being the plan. It’s when you help yourself, you find yourself helping others. Four roses, three 1st place gold medals, a plaque, and one thankful girl!

While this is all true; it has it’s price to pay, you don’t see that in a celebratory photograph. You spend a lot of time alone or isolated; sure you may train with a team or a friend, you can bring your meals to the table with friends or loved ones, you have a whole team the day of the competition helping and cheering you on–but it is a very singular experience overall. I have met many amazing people through my fitness journey, rekindled and strengthened other relationships, but at the end of the day; even when people support you–it doesn’t mean they understand you. Especially in the fitness industry; outsiders project their insecurities and self-sabotage on you when they see your change in lifestyle. Asking things like “Hows your diet going” “You sure you can’t eat this?” “It’s just a bite it won’t kill you!” “I could never do what you’re doing, but you look great!” and so on. I am not here to make you feel bad about your life or choices; so please don’t twist around your words or mine to think I am judging you for your lifestyle.

After winning; I went into a celebratory binge, I ate everything and anything–I was loving life, happy as could be, and I didn’t want to workout. Which left me feeling mentally like I should be working out. I beat myself up over indulging in food, and not going to the gym. It was a good month or so before I slowly wanted to get back in the gym–and by that point my mental realization of being absent from the gym for so long hindered my physical performance. I felt weak, I felt un-motivated, and I felt obligated. I had to compete within a year of winning my Pro Card to keep it’s status; let the ego flood in…NOW!

I slowly started to lose my confidence and sass; it would come in waves, I depended on others and this is not something I thrive on. I changed a couple trainers, stuck with one through the completion of my Pro Debut prep, and placed 4th in my first Pro show. While deep down, I wish I had placed better; I was a little more humble this show than my amateur debut. I had made the goal prior that I wanted to make top 5; that would be a successful Pro debut for me, and I did–I met that goal.

After my Pro debut; I again binged on celebrating, I never was the young girl who had an un-healthy relationship with food, I never tried fad diets, restricted my eating, or had a sweet tooth. Now this all changed; through competing, I began to associate food with emotion, eating sweets and over indulging with winning and good feelings of celebration. I started craving everything sweet and un-able to physically stop without telling myself I needed to. Let’s put this into perspective; one night I ate an entire sleeve of Oreos…let’s not stop there though–because each one had a dollop of peanut butter on top. They were amazing; so good tasting that I physically and mentally did not want to stop until they were all gone.

The hardest transition for me now has been maintenance; and overall living a healthy lifestyle. It is a struggle every day, to not associate with “bad foods” or “I can’t have that” and the freedom of I CAN HAVE IT! Restrictions are a tricky thing; you have to be disciplined either way, not to have too much just because you can, and not to restrict too much because I am no longer in preparation.

It has been 397 days (when I wrote this post) since my Pro Debut show; and like I said, it is still a struggle daily to allow myself to eat donuts or dessert without feeling guilty; but then when I do–to not overindulge and stop myself from doing so. I tell everyone (woman especially) who pursue me with questions on competing; to be prepared, and not for what they think like meal prepping and living in the gym–but for the mental changes and post show blues that we all face, yet withhold from sharing…the darkside of fitness competitions.

 

Café Coffee |Good or Bad?

I went from drinking coffee “light and sweet” occasionally, to not at all, to now black, sometimes 3 a day (or night.) What is the phenomenon with coffee and caffeine? Well, for one– in the Western World we want to accomplish everything and then some; preferably accomplished “yesterday”. Caffeine helps the illusion that we are superheroes that can accomplish more in a day, in a shorter period of time, with precise focus. Sometimes that is exactly what it is though; an delusion.

coffeecollage

Let’s recap some of the benefits of coffee…Say HELLO to Caffeine. Did you know that coffee is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world? Coffee can improve energy levels through the caffeine content, it can also help burn fat as it is a appetite suppressant. Several studies show that caffeine can boost the metabolic rate by 3-11%. Some essential nutrients are found in coffee as well; one cups contains Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) 11% of the RDA, Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) 6% of the RDA, Manganese and Potassium: 3% of the RDA, Magnesium and Niacin (B3): 2% of the RDA not to mention it is loaded with antioxidants.

In a study involving nearly 20,000 individuals; people who consumed at least four cups of coffee daily had a 64% lower risk of early death compared to those never or rarely consumed coffee…four cups!

Now that we have talked of some of the benefits; be mindful of how much you consume, when you consume it, and whether your body has become accustomed and reliant on coffee. The reduction in risk was more significant once people reached the age of 45, which means it may be even more beneficial to consume coffee as we age. Also it is not advised to consume large amounts of caffeine while pregnant; limit yourself to 1 cup or less during pregnancy.

Coffee is coffee right? Wrong–bad quality coffee can have a lot of impurities in it; which can cause sickness, headaches, etc. This can happen if your coffee is made from beans that have been over ripped or otherwise ruined. Even one ruined bean can make your cup toxic. If you invest and buy high quality, speciality coffee you don’t have to worry about this.

Another thing to consider is if you have high cholesterol please choose filtered coffee! Coffee beans contain cafestol and kahweol, two ingredients that appear to raise LDL cholesterol levels. Filtering the coffee traps most of the LDL, but cafestol and kahweol are found in espresso, turkish coffee, french press and scandinavian style “cooked coffee”.

Keep in mind that decaffeinated coffee still contains caffeine. Say what!? Typically an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain anywhere from 75 to 165 milligrams of caffeine; whereas decaffeinated coffee contains an average of 2 to 7 milligrams per cup.

Like anything; balance is essential to reaping benefits, become resilient to absence not co-dependent. With that being said…my cup of black coffee was delicious this morning! Coffee is often loaded with “hidden” calories, try adding almond, or coconut milk that is unsweetened. Cream contributes about 50 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon! Most importantly; avoid sugar in your coffee; a teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. It may not sound like much, but if you add two, three, five teaspoons to your brew and drink a few cups per day, the calories add up!

More importantly for me; the good far outweighs the bad since I drink my coffee black or with a splash of unsweetened almond/coconut milk. Coffee aids in a boost of happiness for me, not to mention is a big social factor–in a few hours I am meeting  a friend at a local café to share stories of her recent mission trip in Africa, and catch up before I leave for Asia in a few days (I will already be back in Thailand when this publishes!)

Ps. Pro-tip: I started to notice a discoloration in my teeth from consuming coffee last year so frequently in Thailand; I now drink both hot, or iced coffee through a straw! Slerrrrrrrp, cheers!

Fresh Starts | On-the-Go Snacks

I attribute most of my successful eating and lifestyle habits to my first season of fitness competitions. Not the food I ate, but the preparations. Let’s face it; we all live busy lives– whether you are a stay at home mother of 3 chasing them around while picking up clothes off the floor for the laundry, cleaning up the accident on the floor from the dog during the night before, or maybe you are the working professional that barely sees more in a day than florescent lights, four walls, navy blue, black, grey, and endless conference calls and meetings. We are all busy. I am here to make your lifestyle a more happier, healthier, way of life in every scenario of snacking and food!

snackscollage

Even before traveling to Asia in 2017, I was always a fan of the food. So what better than to kick off this post with Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps! Originally, P.F. Chang’s was my go-go spot for a quick lettuce wrap indulgence; but they’re so easy to make! Bring them as your lunch in the office, to a pot-luck picnic with friends, the beach, or a quick Summer dinner option.

ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS INGREDIENTS:

  • 2lbs Ground Chicken or Turkey
  • 3 Green Onions
  • 1 Can of Water Chestnuts; drained and chopped
  • 1 Cup Shredded Carrot
  • 1 Cup Shelled Edammame
  • 2tsp. Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • 2tsp. Reduced-Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper (Red Pepper Flakes optional, I like HEAT)
  • 14.5oz Reduced-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2Tbs. Hoisin Sauce
  • Butterhead Leaves (Bibb or Boston) work best!
  • Sweet Chili Sauce (basically romance in a container)
  • Seasame Seeds (for topping)

 

Who doesn’t love granola? There is a very logical reason why we all love it, this healthy snack is loaded with sugar; but it doesn’t have to be! Making your own granola ensures you know the ingredients that are, and are not in your healthy snack. From granola bars, to loose granola in a baggy, to pouring some almond/coconut milk over it and topping with fresh fruit and making cereal; I love it all! The other great thing is you make it in batches; which means once it is made– you have a quick grab-and-go option.

MY FAVORITE BIG-OL-BATCH OF GRANOLA INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 Cups Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 Cup Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup Walnuts
  • 1/4 Cup Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 2 Tbs. Ground Flaxseeds (It’s important to grind them, a coffee bean grinder works great–otherwise they will come out looking the same way they went in!)
  • 1/4 Cup Honey/Agave
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil (Liquified)
  • 1/4 Cup All Natural Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
  • Ground Cinnamon to taste
  • 1/2 Cup Goji Berries

 

Meatballs are my next go-to (quick and easy) snack or meal option; there are endless varieties of flavors and sauces that I never get sick of them! I usually buy 3 pounds of ground chicken or turkey from the grocer, and make three different flavors freezing some of each! Again, just like the lettuce wraps; they are good at the beach or on the go, hot or cold, added to other ingredients to make a dinner, or on their own as a snack!

BASIC MEATBALL INGREDIENTS:

  • Ground Chicken or Turkey
  • 1 Cup Panko
  • Poultry Seasoning, Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • Minced Garlic
  • 1 Cup Parmasean (Not for the Asian ones)

 

SPINACH MEATBALL INGREDIENTS ADD TO ABOVE BASIC RECIPE:

  • 1 Cup Frozen Chopped Spinach
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Sautéed Onions Chopped

BUFFALO CHICKEN INGREDIENTS ADD TO ABOVE BASIC RECIPE:

  • 3 Ribs of Celery Minced
  • 2 Onions Chopped, Sautéed
  • 2 Large Carrots Minced
  • Franks Red Hot
  • 1/4 Stick of Butter

 

ASIAN CHICKEN INGREDIENTS ADD TO ABOVE BASIC RECIPE:

  • 1/2 Cup Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 2 Onions Chopped, Sautéed
  • 2 Large Carrots Minced
  • 1tsp. Fresh Ginger Minced
  • Thai Chili Sauce
  • Sesame Seeds for topping

PINEAPPLE JALAPENO CHICKEN INGREDIENTS ADD TO ABOVE BASIC RECIPE:

  • Can of Crushed Pineapple
  • 1/4 Cup Lime Juice
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers seeded and Chopped
  • Ground Cinnamon to Taste

Food is one of my favorite topics; if you haven’t gathered that yet, if you like these entries with ingredient recipe ideas comment below and let me know! I would be more than happy to provide you with full recipes step by step for any of these dishes, comment below to inquire! Until next time; I hope you think of me the next time your internal world feels like it is spinning out of control, you take a deep breath– look at the healthy on-the-go prepared food in front of you and smile. I will be doing the same, thinking of you! Food is both soul satisfying, and a communal act; let’s enjoy these creations together–from afar!

Not Only Juice

Many of you know how much of a smoothie fanatic I am if you watch my Instagram stories; always creating a new concoction, not to mention my morning daily smoothie. What doesn’t get much love though; is juicing! And you may ask; “well what’s the difference?” The main difference between smoothies and juicing; is the pulp content / or lack thereof of fiber in juicing most of the time.

juicecollage

Well why would I juice then if I could just make a smoothie? The act of juicing contains a condensed version of most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals found in the contents, both juices (homemade not store bought full of added sugars) AND smoothies have their benefits in your everyday healthy lifestyle– it’s not one or the other.

When I was younger; I drank apple juice all of the time, of course the highest sugar content juice presumably. I never cared for orange juice, though I always asked for an apple juice at breakfast. The majority of processed juices are loaded with excess sugar and ingredients. Ever wonder why children are so susceptible to cavities? Between the sugar content in milk and juice alone; is enough explanation (though I am proud to admit I didn’t have my first and only small cavity until I was in my twenties.)

Not only are processed juices high in sugar content; but also calories! One of the first things I tell people when they ask me for nutrition advise is to cut out the excess beverages. It seems people tend to forget about the copious amounts of calories they consume through liquid alone!

Enough of the negativity already; back to the benefits of juicing your own fruits and vegetables! It seems more often than not, people tend to not drink enough water a day; juicing ensures getting not only many vitamins and minerals–but water. Vegetables such as celery, cucumbers, and spinach are nearly composed of all liquid! It is a quick and easy way to not only get all of your servings of vegetables in one sitting, but also hydration.

Ever notice how long it takes you to eat a cheeseburger (for me it is like 3 minutes flat) and then how long it takes to eat a large salad? I am already quite aware I eat too fast; it’s all so good, I just want to get it in as quick as possible! However, the physical process of chewing food helps to break it down into smaller particles. Which helps to reduce stress on the esophagus, and helps the stomach metabolize your food. When you chew each mouthful properly, you also release a lot of saliva, which contains digestive enzymes. Needless to say I take longer to sit and chew raw vegetables in a salad, than I do to shovel in a hamburger.

Which means; if you don’t enjoy most vegetables, you are not going to take the time to sit for 20 minutes and chomp on them like a rabbit–your solution: juicing.

Let’s review some health benefits of vegetables you may not be first to grab in the grocery store; but are easily hidden in a juice, or smoothie.

BEETS

Can help lower your blood pressure, boost your stamina, fight inflammation, as well as aids in detoxification!

GINGER

Gingerol is the main bioactive compound in ginger, responsible for much of its medicinal properties. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, may prevent cancer.

GRAPEFRUIT

High content of Vitamin C and A, can provide health benefits for the skin, blood pressure, heart health, and disease prevention.

KALE

Vitamins A, C, and K, Folate (a B vitamin that’s key for brain development) Alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, Lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that give kale its deep, dark green coloring and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts– Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and zinc.

PARSLEY

Antibacterial properties; freshens breath, can help eliminate body odor and treat excessive flatulence, flavonoid called myricetin may help fighting skin cancer, Apigenin decrease the size of tumors caused by breast cancer.

CILANTRO

Rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, Vitamin A, K, and Potassium, calcium help to build strong bones, teeth, and hair.

TURMERIC

Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (with the consumption of black pepper to aid absorption.) anti-inflammatory, boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in the brain, aids in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and cancer.

RED CABBAGE

Vitamin A, C, fiber, sulphur which helps the liver at filtering toxins, potassium, which improves blood circulation, Vitamin B, magnesium, calcium, manganese, Generous levels of a particular amino acid called glutamine are found in red cabbage, which is excellent for reducing the inflammation and discomfort linked with stomach ulcers.

SWISS CHARD

Excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as a good source of magnesium, potassium, iron, and dietary fiber.

POMEGRANATE

Polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation, Vitamin C, can aid to protect the heart and arteries, Vitamin E, Drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice a daily may improve learning and memory, according to a recent study. Ability to impact oxidative stress make it a potential fertility aid, may help reduce soreness and improve strength recovery. It also decreases oxidative damage caused by exercise.
The bottom line; be sure to check with your healthcare professional before drastically changing your diet and adding in an array of new foods, to be sure they don’t counteract any medication you may already be taking. Otherwise; to the everyday individual, next time you are at the grocery store–check out the produce section and select a few interesting fresh ingredients you may have not tried otherwise! Stick them in a juicer and sip on the longevity elixir of life and health!

 

Why Choose Loose Leaf Tea vs. Processed

I didn’t start drinking coffee religiously until 2 years ago; up until then it was tea–while I now drink both, depending on the occasion and application, sometimes I get rather picky with my tea.

My Nana tells the story frequently of when I was younger; maybe 4–6 years old, she would get me all dressed up, white gloves, frilled socks and all–and we would visit the local teahouse with her friends. The waitstaff would get a kick out of me apparently with my fancy white gloves eating tea sandwiches, crumpets, and shortbread cookies. Not to mention, one time they even had a photographer there to take photos of the facility and apparently I was used as a model in a few of the photos (I don’t recall this, I wish I had the photo to share with you all!) The moral of the story is; tea is a social activity, quality time to share with friends and family.

DO YOU DRINK TEA?

teacollage

The reason behind choosing loose leaf over processed is simply the “leaves” used in most bags are actually the dust and fannings from broken tea leaves. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea and less antioxidants are prominent. Now this isn’t to say that now companies make tea bags with loose leaf tea inside; they do, which makes the brewing process less time consuming and user friendly–but the process is half the fun of tea drinking!

We tend to call many things that we infuse in hot water a tea. But technically, it’s only tea if it’s made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis (originated in Southeast Asia), an evergreen plant indigenous to China and India. It wasn’t until the 17th century drinking tea became popular in Britain.

Tea is the world’s second most popular beverage, after water; and while Thomas Lipton invented the now-popular tea bag in 1952–tea in it’s traditional sense has been around dating back to the 3rd Century AD recorded for medicinal purposes.

Did you know:

  • WHITE TEAS ARE THE LEAST PROCESSED. THEY RELEASE THE LEAST AMOUNT OF CAFFEINE AS WEL
  • GREEN TEA, HIGH IN VITAMIN C, CHLOROPHYLL AND MINERALS
  • OOLONG TEAS ARE SEMI–OXIDIZED, WHICH PLACES THEM MID–WAY BETWEEN GREEN AND BLACK TEAS
  • BLACK TEAS ARE FULLY OXIDIZED AND MOST POPULAR TYPE IN THE WESTERN WORLD
  • PU’ERH TEAS ARE AGED AND FERMENTED MEDICINAL BENEFITS RANGE FROM CURING HANGOVERS TO REDUCING CHOLESTEROL
  • YERBA MATÉ HIGH IN CAFFEINE VITAMIN C, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM
  • HERBAL “TEAS” WIDE RANGE OF HEALTH BENEFITS DEPENDING ON THE HERB
  • ROOIBOS IS A NATURALLY CAFFEINE-FREE HIGH IN IRON, ZINC, COPPER

Most of these photos in the post were actually taken at a teahouse in Portland, Oregon; in the midst of a month long road trip with a friend of mine Anna, we stopped in to enjoy the Lan Su gardens, a cup of tea, and some Bao Zi (vegetable steamed buns.) Sure you can visit a place, and maybe you will remember it; but the act of experiencing a cultural tradition while doing so–engraves that experience in my memory.

Have you ever looked at a tea bag and tried to guess what’s actually in there? Very hard to decipher and see each individual ingredient. Unless it’s a very basic tea blend, you might not know what you’re putting in your body with processed bags of tea. If you look at the featured photo at the top of the post; you see many colors of green, fuchsia, and tan. You can pick out and hold each ingredient and identify it separately in loose leaf tea.

Health Benefits of Loose Leaf Tea:

  • High in Antioxidants
  • Lower Chloresterol
  • Helps Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
  • Possibly Helps Prevent Cancer
  • Calming and Mental Clarity

 

I boosted my tea consumption in 2016; when I started training for my first fitness bikini competition, and was drinking a gallon of water a day. Some people claim they actually hate water, you know the stuff that 60–75% of our bodies are made up of; I however love it. But, brewing my four 32oz containers with different flavors made the consumption new and exciting every time. Not to mention the added health benefits tea offers rather than just water alone. As I sit and write this; I am sipping on a steaming cup of Teavana Maharaja Chai Oolong / Samurai Chai Mate Blend Tea on this frigid 65 degree day at the end of June!

The Secrets of Meal Prep

As many of you know; and some may not, I competed in my first fitness bikini competition in 2016. In some areas of my life; I am a black and white kinda girl, and I don’t mean in how I dress. I am naturally a perfectionist (which I am growing day by day away from, or trying to at least!) Which means when I started my new meal plan back in 2016 I was very precise, 11 almonds meant 11 almonds not 10, not 15; not a handful, but 11.

While taking out a food scale and weighing 4oz of chicken, 4oz of sweet potato, and a cup of broccoli was cumbersome; it instilled the procedure and dedication I needed to keep me on track. But this way of meal prep isn’t for everyone; and it certainly isn’t for me anymore, and probably isn’t for you either.

So what got me from 2016 to 2018 (where I am now) and how will this help you? Well what got me from 2016 to 2018 is a loaded question of ups and downs and learning curves for sure, but we won’t get into that here; but we will pause on learning curves.

mealprep

Through the diligence of being so strict, I learned the basic principals that I still carry with me today. After weighing chicken and vegetables for countless days; I now have a keen sense on what an approximate 4-6oz looks like, and in the everyday healthy lifestyle sense–it is good enough! When you are not stepping on stage at a certain body fat percentage; the extra gram or two of chicken won’t hinder your day to day healthy physique.

Another valuable lesson learned was how to shop at bulk superstores like BJ’s Wholesale; not only does it save you money, but when you eat a lot of the same food it is easier to get larger portions saving you trips to the grocery store each week. Now, my weekly trip to the store looks like 10 items or so rather than a cart full. Every morning my green smoothie consists of frozen vegetables which are not only cost effective, but their longevity far outlasts that of fresh. Which leads me to frozen fruit and vegetables are not only cost effective; but already cut, clean, and when talking about vegetables– already partially cooked. Which means less prep time for you during the week!

Typically I eat between 5–6 meals a day because I love eating and snacking. Eggs are a big staple in my diet not only because I love them; but because they are also cost effective. I usually add one whole egg to egg whites, and while egg whites are more expensive sometimes than buying eggs; they have a high protein complex.

Let’s do a little recap; shopping at wholesale clubs, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs–which brings me to whole fresh fruit, and pre–packaged vegetables. Now depending on whether you are looking to save money, or time (because let’s be honest here, they go hand in hand) both of these topics may be beneficial to you–as they are to me. I love snacking on fresh fruit; which means my go-to are usually apples, and berries which are pre-packaged and when I want any kind of melon, or pineapple I buy the whole fruit and cut myself to save on cost. Whereas with something like pre-cut and washed vegetables or even frozen are sometimes more appealing to me than taking time to chop various veggies and blanching.

The grill and oven are probably my favorite meal prep tools; not only can you cook large amounts of ingredients at the same time, but they come out really tasty as well! Grilling chicken, and roasting vegetables changes things up, dedicated a day of the week (Saturday and Sunday usually work best for the 9–5 corporate world schedule) to go to the store and pick up anything you may need, and then prepare, cook, and pre-portion out your meals for the week. This makes each morning a breeze of just grabbing and going with your already planned out meals for the day.

I could go on and on about my favorite topic of food; so I will end with services such as HelloFresh and Home Chef, which make the modern life easier and healthy. Our family subscribes to both and while I prefer the majority of Home Chef meals over HelloFresh (HelloFresh is a lot more kid-friendly with their meal choices.) Anything from Salmon with Green Goddess Sauce to Chicken, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Grain Bowls make for delicious, healthy, no–brainer dinners. Each week; these companies send you a box with ice packs, and all of the ingredients you will need to cook the meals inside. As well as directions, and sometimes the vegetables even come pre-cut for you! This makes dinner a breeze, to come home after work, cook for on average 30 minutes and from kitchen to table you are able to enjoy time with your family through a communal meal. Because let’s face it; as much as we meal prep, and stay on schedule of a healthy lifestyle–food is sociable, and we need to not only enjoy it, but in good company!

Kombucci?! Kombucha; Same Same but Different

Forewarning; if you don’t like talking about poop, if you don’t even like the word “poop” “mierda” “cacca” “Khn sèx” “lem” “prýmni” and so on…this post may not be for you…but it’s beneficial, so let’s make an exception!

First of all; what is kombucha, it has to be more than just a Whole Foods hype buzz phrase right!? In fact; it is not just another health phase, kombucha has been around for thousands of years.

Let’s dive even deeper into what it is exactly…

Derived from black tea, sugar (cane, honey, or fruit), bacteria, and yeast. The combination of yeast and bacteria cause the tea and sugar to ferment. Considering it is made from tea; kombucha does have a small amount of caffeine (usually less than 15mg per bottle.)

kombuchacollage

If you are familiar with the “mother” in apple cider vinegar; you will notice those little things you see floating at the bottom, it might look a little questionable– but it is the source of so many of kombucha’s benefits. It can also be used to make new kombucha!

I was first introduced to kombucha on the Appalachian Trail 4 years ago; and love reaping it’s benefits! At first I was a little apprehensive, but once I got caught with a GI virus/bug/whatevermakesyoupoopallday type of situation–I became best friends with this naturally fizzy beverage.

During the fermentation process; it becomes effervescent and contains vinegar, b-vitamins, probiotics, acetic, gluconic, and lactic acid– hence the beneficial aid to my shitty situation…(had to, I know cheesy.)

What turns hops and wheat into beer? How does grapes become wine? Who knows how rice turns rice into sake? You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t, but I will tell you) fermentation. Which means, kombucha does have trace amounts of alcohol; in reality though it is less than .5% alcohol. This low percentage allows it to avoid being classified as an “alcoholic beverage.”

While probiotics and good gut buggies are great; we won’t stop there, because kombucha’s benefits don’t! As a result of the fermentation process it has iron; which helps hemoglobin, and in turn increases the oxygen we get to our cells. This cellular level stimulation improves energy levels, especially if you drink kombucha on a regular basis (steady for 2–3 weeks.) It is also a great source of anti-oxidants; which work to combat free-radicals in our bodies.

According to a 2000 review, “It has been claimed that Kombucha teas help cure asthma, cataracts, diabetes, diarrhea, gout, cold sores, insomnia and rheumatism. They are purported to shrink the prostate and expand the libido, remove wrinkles, relieve hemorrhoids, lower hypertension, prevent cancer, and promote general well-being.”

If you remember a couple posts back I talked about the benefits of apple cider vinegar; Kombucha, in congruence with a healthy diet and exercise will greatly benefit you. The acetic acid and polyphenols will also aid in the weight loss process. Acetic acid which is also found in apple cider vinegar.

Please remember though; there is sugar found in any fermentation process, which means don’t go drinking 16oz–32oz a day. I have found replacing a beer at the beach with 8oz of kombucha is just as satisfying, or a glass while cooking dinner as a substitution to wine. Please note no where am I replacing alcohol consumption with kombucha; that is just a coincidence that could and would work for you–I still occasionally drink beer and wine!

Cheers!

 

The Power of Routine

Routine is key; not everyone’s will LOOK the same, it’s about finding what works for you. But, there are many rituals reiterated time and time again:

  • Read. Read, and then Read some more
  • Exercise of some sort. Physical activity
  • Nutrition and healthy lifestyle
  • Meditation (in whatever form that looks like for YOU)
  • SLEEP, breaks, and rest/naps
  • Nature and getting outside

routine

 
The list goes on, in many forms; but these things seem true to living the BEST life that you can live. So what does my typical ritual look like?

  1. Wake up at 5am
  2. Listen to Joyce Meyer
  3. Get up at 5:45
  4. Listen to ipod with “Morning Mix”
  5. Make my Green Smoothie (click for recipe if you missed that article)
  6. 6am Train fitness client
  7. 7am Drink smoothie, read daily devotion from The Daily Stoic Read chapter book
  8. Dishes OR laundry
  9. 8am write, and schedule upcoming blogposts
  10. 9am Turn cellphone on, respond/initiate any texts or e-mails
  11. 10am Meal #2 (usually eggs of some sort)
  12. Social Media/Blog sharing/Vlog sharing
  13. 11am Gym
  14. 12:30 Meditate
  15. 1pm Meal #3
  16. Graphic design, Photography, video work
  17. 4pm Meal #4
  18. 7pm Meal #5
  19. 10pm Turn phone on airplane mode
  20. Netflix documentaries/vlogs on YouTube/Editing video/vlogs
  21. Read
  22. 11-12pm Bed

Now, things come up; travel happens, special plans, etc. so not everyday may look like this exactly. For example –some nights I may go to muay thai training, maybe I don’t go to the gym, maybe I go on a hike, or a friend’s pool, or out to lunch with a friend. BUT, most days; I try to certainly follow from 5am–9am as closely as I can and then all else is fair game.

I’ve never been a morning person…doesn’t matter if I was getting up at 4am to go snowboarding, or 3am to fly to Thailand. Morning is not my jam…I’m a peanut butter girl (no idea what that analogy has to do with anything.)

For me not being a morning person; (you may say, “you sure seem like a morning person if you wake up at 5am and get up at 5:45!”) I find this morning ritual extremely important. Everything helps ease me into my day. Just because I wake up at 5am doesn’t mean I am bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to meet the world…God, no! Half asleep with one eye squinted open I roll over to my laptop and try to type in “YouTube” half of the time with my eyes still closed. I listen to Joyce Meyer sometimes in and out of consciousness. My morning Mix consists of John Mayer, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, Iron and Wine, and so forth– not to mention my first client is my Mom, which I train from home, outside. So you can see how each event rolls me into the next slowly easing me into a productive day.

But why do I drink a green smoothie every morning? The answer is simple…
It makes me FEEL amazing. Not short term like the 5 minute endorphin spike I get with junk food, and later regret with a sugar crash–but long term; mentally and physically.

I love devoting the nourishing food I choose for my body over the occasional junk BINGE. The great part about this awareness?
The junk is slowly moving out of my lifestyle, and less impulses to indulge are arising. I never want to preach something I do not practice; I will not sit here and deny I didn’t have graham central station ice cream from J. Foster in Avon, CT this past weekend, I did.

But! And that’s a big BUT, that– is part of the process. Do not beat yourself up. Do not tell yourself you cannot have something. And do not feel defeated. Competing taught me in a negative way to associate food with accomplishment and celebration (something I never struggled with before.)

Time and time again we are told we are what we eat; and that is certainly true! Instead of thinking of taking away certain foods, think about just adding more and more healthy options IN.

Daily, we have to choose what we want to fuel our bodies with, it is a process, not an end goal. EVERYDAY choose YOU. And just like the balance of everything else…celebrate with chocolate every now and again to remind yourself you are human!

Growing up I was never a bookworm; I didn’t particularly like reading, and I sure didn’t like school. NOW, I can’t get enough of reading and knowledge! Constantly trying to evolve and learn through growth inside and out. Don’t let the pattern of what you’re used to; and your thoughts, keep you from evolving and changing. If there is one thing for certain; it’s change!

No matter the activity; working on my laptop, eating meals, working out, reading– I try to implement them all outdoors. I try to get outside as much as possible, I am happier outside, and I feel more justified staring at a computer screen for hours when I can hear the birds chirping, and the sun slightly kissing my skin.

Too many people seem to LIVE for the weekend…

Burning themselves out during the week; at a job they don’t find fulfilling, surrounded by miserable people, counting down the hours until 5pm on Friday.

Only then; are they too mentally drained and exhausted to do much other than spend their time “relaxing” mindlessly in front of the television…draining more of their energy –without even realizing it.

My goal, is to be oblivious to the day; for it does not matter–
when you do the same thing everyday.

To build a life in the long run that I don’t have to look forward to the weekend, be inspired by my work, and help others stop spending mindless money on things that are not fulfilling!

 

Sugar Addiction | Vegan Donuts

Artisanal donuts and cupcakes are the newest trend; starting only a few years back now, with words like “vegan” and “gluten free” they are more acceptable– but are they healthy?

While these sweets are admittedly delicious; choosing a dairy, egg, and/or wheat-free donut doesn’t necessarily make it any healthier! Dang, just when I felt better about the indulgence I just had…twice.

donutsvegan.jpg

Each donut could cost you up to 300 calories which is the same in a regular glazed donut; so while like most things it is important to remember balance, nothing holds more true than indulgences. One donut will not make you fat; just like a salad for lunch every day will not make you skinny.

When I do choose to indulge in donuts, cupcakes, baked goods, and galore; I am sure to choose quality (often pricey) options that I know are not filled with vegetable or canola oils, refined sugars, and other low grade ingredients.

There’s nothing healthy about a fried donut, no matter how much matcha and wheat grass are in it! Baking donuts also just another step towards a more health conscious treat, rather than frying in oil.

I must admit; being a foodie, I’d live close to a miserable life with these certain indulgences removed completely from my lifestyle. While most statements like “Just live a little, it won’t kill you; it’s just one!” are somewhat true; it seems people always find a way to rationalize, be the exception, and most of all– consciously oblivious. They know things are harmful for their bodies, they know they are addictive and only a temporary state of bliss; but they don’t know how to stop.

The key is slowly, and not taking it away; but rather introducing more healthy options. The more healthy conscious lifestyle changes you add into your day, the less likely your old un-healthy habits will return. Remember they are not gone forever though; I still some nights struggle with thinking about devouring an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, or a jar of Skippy peanut butter– I reach for Teddie Natural peanut butter instead; happier in the long run knowing the few ingredients, rather than temporary happiness that hydrogenated oils provide us.

So once a month; on an early Sunday morning, get up before the rest of the house–turn the oven on, and start baking some sweet treats to remind us of life’s sweet precious moments!

Basic Recipe:

  • 50 g (¼ cup) vegan margarine
  • 120 mL (½ cup) almond/coconut milk unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 250 g (2 cups) gluten-free all purpose baking mix
  • 100 g (½ cup) caster sugar (or Stevia)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

You Want Me to Drink That?!

Breakfast to me has always been one thing; eggs. I will admit though; starting my mornings at 5:30am, green smoothie at 7:00am– still allows for eggs by 10:00am!

I love, love, love now starting my morning with a nutrition dense shake that helps fuel and kickstart my day. Not to mention by 7:30am I’ve already had a cup of green leafy spinach and kale which are nutrient dense in vitamins A, C, E and K, contain an abundance of carotenoids-antioxidants which protect cells and may play roles in blocking early stages of cancer. They also contain high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. But let’s not stop there…

greensmoothiecollage.jpg

My smoothie also contains half a cup of fruit which typically is high in potassiumdietary fibervitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure which is always a plus!

Next on the list that goes in is carrots; they are rich in betacarotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, biotinvitamin Kpotassium as well as vitamin B6.

If you don’t love peanut butter; I am pretty sure you are not human (jokes aside) I add peanuts to my morning shakes not only for the flavor. Peanuts are abundant in niacinfolate, pantothenic acidthiaminriboflavin, choline, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E and rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassiumzincironcoppermanganese and selenium – basically a superfood in my eyes, no but really I just love the taste!

If you’re not like me; and don’t find it exuberating to drink apple cider vinegar out of the bottle, I have the solution for you! (Rather my Nana brought it up the other day, and I thought; “yeah! great idea for people who don’t care for the taste.”) But anyways; a shot of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (BACV) goes into the smoothie which gives it a little fizzle and light and airiness to your morning shake. But why would you want to put vinegar in your smoothie you may ask; well not just any vinegar, it has to have “the mother” which are strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria to keep your gut happy and healthy. Let’s not stop there though; it can help kill pathogens, including bad bacteria, lowers blood sugar levels and helps fight diabetes, reduced fat and promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, improves heart health, and many other positive attributes.

Cinnamon; more than just a spice added to pies and cookies, it is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols, reduces inflammation, which reduction in the body is incredibly important. It helps the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. May have beneficial effects on Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types.)

I am not dairy intolerant; because I am pretty sure cheese and Greek yogurt make up a food group for me, however: I do find it fascinating approximately 70 percent of African Americans, 90 percent of Asian Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 74 percent of Native Americans were lactose intolerant– so I choose unsweetened Almond/Coconut milk blend for these reasons! Plus it tastes amazing to me, almond milk alone is high in Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that fights against free radical damage. There is also 50% more calcium in fortified almond milk than dairy milk, and it is known to help aid in weight loss. Coconut milk is helpful in nourishing the digestive lining, helping to improve gut health, and well just delicious to me.

Quality protein powder; again I am not dairy intolerant so I choose Celzius Nutrition Vanilla Ice Cream flavor for my whey protein of choice; it is grass fed, sweetened with Stevia, with added amino acids (BCAA.) you can find it here: My Protein  You can even use the coupon code: ELIA20 to recieve 20% off your order!

I think that sums it up for most mornings! Sometimes I will add fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, or anything else fresh I have left over, sometimes flaxseed, or chia seeds, but most mornings it is kept the same:

 

Rough Estimate Macros:
______\\__
29g/16g/35g :: 384 calories

 

  • 1 cup frozen organic spinach/kale mix
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed fruit (mine is strawberry, peach, mango, red grape)
  • 1 scoop protein powder I use @celziusnutrition vanilla ice cream flavor
  • Handful salted peanuts (1/4c)
  • 1 carrot chopped up
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Silk almond/coconut milk blend unsweetened
  • Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar

 

You really can be as creative, or simple with smoothie recipes; that is what makes them so versatile, quick and easy! Just throw what you like in a blender and enjoy! (Please refrain from sticking donuts, cakes, beer, and wine in and blending – it won’t be as satisfying as you may think throwing your favorite things all together!)