Love Yourself

“Abs are made in the kitchen.”

“Don’t eat carbs after 4 PM.”

“Eliminate the toxins.”

“Eat your biggest meal in the morning.”

“Don’t eat any big meals — eat six smaller meals throughout the day.”

The Internet is inundated with quotes, images, articles, and even blogs telling you how to live your best, healthiest life. I am thankful for all of these resources, and yet I simultaneously find myself feeling overwhelmed by them. How do we even know what is best for our bodies? What is really healthy? And as a complete side note, what are we trying to achieve? I think the biggest question relates to your goals. What ARE you trying to achieve?

For a long time, I was obsessed with what I put in my mouth. I counted every single calorie that I consumed and I completely messed up my metabolism and menstrual cycle (sorry, guys) in the process. The “standard” 1,200 calorie diet does not and did not work for me and my body (though, depending on your height and weight, it might for you, and that is perfectly fine).

So what was I trying to achieve? Well, at first, it was to be skinny. Not healthy, not toned, just skinny. And I’m not going to lie to you when I say I loved being skinny. I loved having a thigh gap. I loved that my jeggings were too big. But I also KNEW deep down in my skinny soul that that lifestyle was not sustainable and healthy. I was hurting my body by treating it this way.

Since that time, I’ve become a more serious runner, I’ve added another group fitness certification to my resume, I’ve dabbled in Beachbody coaching…you could say I’ve tried it all. I just want that one magic “a-ha!” moment to come when I realize that THIS one way of eating and working out is the one perfect way. I don’t know if that moment will ever truly come, but in trying different nutrition plans and workouts, I find myself becoming both excited and exhausted. I love trying new things, yet I’m tired of trying to keep up with all the new and different things. I just want to live without constantly thinking about my workouts and my food. There are so many more things that are more worthy of my time!

With this in mind, here are three things I’m giving up in 2016.

Eliminating certain food groups from my diet.
I really don’t like the word diet, because as Chalene Johnson says, “You shouldn’t go ON a diet, you should HAVE a diet.” I much prefer her way of thinking. Either way, I don’t want anything to be off limits. This is not an excuse to eat anything that I want…I know what is unhealthy for me. I never crave fast food or highly processed foods because I don’t eat them. I want real food. But, as far as eliminating food groups that are good for me, like carbs, or good in moderation, like sugar…I’m not doing that. It creates an idea that food is “good” and “bad” and I’ve been there, done that. That way of thinking takes me back to my old ways and I’m not going there.

Feeling guilty for eating certain foods.
There just literally is no reason to do this. I am not overweight, I am not unhealthy, and even if I was, I don’t need to mentally beat myself up every time I eat something that isn’t “healthy”. So I had tortilla chips and salsa while I was watching “The Bachelor”. Worse things have happened. This guilt, in a way, stems from the phrase “clean eating”. To me, it sounds like I can never ever eat anything that isn’t considered healthy or on my list of “good” foods, and if I do, then I need to work it off or make it up in some way. I’m sure not everyone feels this way, but I really want to remove that negativity from my mindset, and having certain foods that are “good” or “bad” doesn’t work well for me.

Looking in the mirror and hating my reflection.
No diet or specific workout routine is going to make me love my body. I have to CHOOSE to love my body. I can’t promise you I won’t make a face at myself when I look in the mirror, but I want to practice positive thinking. I talked a little bit about this when I wrote my goals for the year. This is important to me.

There is a time and a place for a strict diet and workout routine. If you are working towards a healthier lifestyle, I am so proud of you. If you are training for a race or a competition, keep at it. I’ve trained for races where diet and exercise need to be fairly perfect so that I can perform well. But, in living my day to day life, I don’t want a whole bunch of rules and restrictions, whether they are part of a plan or just made up in my head, to control my choices and my thoughts about myself. I want to look back on my life and remember the experiences I had with my friends and family, the good food I enjoyed, the activities I loved doing…not all of the time I spent thinking about how to have the perfect diet, perfect workout routine, or perfect body.

I just want to be happy.

Who’s with me?

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Healthy, Happy Holidays

Can you have a healthy AND happy holiday? It is possible.

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The holiday season used to seriously stress me out. Not because my shopping wasn’t done or my schedule was overbooked, but simply because for a few days, I felt like I wouldn’t be in control of what I was eating. I would just remind myself that I just had to get through these few days and then I could get back to my normal eating and workout schedule. But guess what? You (and I) are not here to survive the holiday season, you are here to enjoy it. I told you that I don’t appreciate being told I have to “work off” everything I am eating. So here are a few tips and tricks I’ve started applying to my life in the last few years. 🙂

1. Drink enough water. Very often, when hunger strikes, you are actually thirsty and that is your body’s way of telling you. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. That means if you weigh 120 lbs, you should aim to drink 60 oz of water every day. And then when you feel hungry, you will know that you really are! Enjoy feeling full and hydrated.

2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. In a perfect world, we would all get 8 hours of sleep and be well rested each and every morning. For most of us, that is not the case, and trying to play “catch up” when we have a few days off is very tempting! Unfortunately, it’s detrimental to your sleep and your cognitive functioning to play this catch up game. Try to aim for those 8 hours that you don’t usually get by going to bed at a reasonable hour and waking up around the same time you usually do. Enjoy being well-rested! I’m currently working on this as I’ve fallen down the Netflix “Parenthood” rabbit hole. Oops… 😉

3. Choose to feed yourself healthy food. This sounds strange, but when I cook for myself, I typically make something that would be labeled “healthy” or “balanced”. I truly enjoy these meals, but they serve another purpose. There will be many times during the holiday season when a coworker brings you a delicious snack or you meet up with an old friend for dinner. If you are planning healthy meals and snacks for yourself for the rest of the day, those out of the ordinary snacks and meals won’t be as big of a deal. Enjoy that time with others!

4. Go with the flow. If you are following a specific diet or exercise plan through the holidays, know that it will likely be interrupted in some way, shape, or form. I’m not saying you cannot continue to stick to your plan, because you totally can! But you should expect some minor interruptions. You might find yourself working out at a different time of day than you typically do and you might find yourself having a homemade Christmas cookie for dessert. Enjoy these interruptions. They are only here once a year. 🙂

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The holiday season occasionally still makes me feel stressed out, but I know how to balance my “normal” life with my “holiday” life. There’s no reason to throw your health out the window during this time and promise yourself you will start fresh in January. Do little things every day and it will make a difference. Take a walk with your family. Volunteer to make a healthy side dish for Christmas dinner. Enjoy this very special time of year!

A Different Perspective

*Disclaimer: We are all different. This is just my personal opinion.*

I have been a fitness instructor for almost five years. In college, I became a certified Spinning instructor and I love both taking and teaching that class! Then, last December, I became a PiYo LIVE Instructor. That’s the kind of workout I need to do more often as a runner, so I really enjoy teaching that format, too.

At instructor trainings, you are taught so many things to better your participants’ fitness routines. You learn a little bit of science about the human body, you learn about music and cues, and you learn more about the format you are teaching so you can help correct while you are teaching. Notice how I didn’t say you learn how to encourage your participants — because truly, you don’t go over that in detail. But as a fitness instructor, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your class!

I think encouragement in a group fitness class means different things to different people. It might even mean something different to you depending on what kind of mood you are in. That is true for me! If I am feeling a little lackluster about my workout and I have a really awesome instructor yelling encouraging things at the front of the room, I start to work a little harder. But there comes a point when encouragement in a fitness class starts to cross a line. Sometimes what is meant to be encouraging is actually kind of uninspiring.

Think of the quotes that we all too often see plastered across social media:
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”
“#teamnodaysoff”

And because we just had a major holiday, we were also #blessed with images like these:

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I’m pretty sure if you get sick or faint during a work out, you should stop. I’m also pretty sure that if you never take a day off, you will mentally and physically burn out. Maybe to some people these statements are encouraging, but I just don’t see anything positive behind them. I also don’t see anything encouraging about the workout image above. It gives me anxiety. It makes me not want to eat the food that my family spent so much time preparing. And for the record, how does anyone know how we prepare our food? We all have our own recipes. Maybe we make the healthy versions of our favorite dishes. 😉

I’m up on my soapbox right now because of a recent experience in a Spinning class. The day before I left for Thanksgiving Break, I took a class with an instructor who said things like this:

“The average person will gain 3-5 pounds this weekend! Keep going!”
“You better stick to that fitness routine this weekend. Don’t let anything get in the way!”
“Come on! Burn off that pumpkin pie right now!”

As someone who has previously struggled with food and exercise, I was very offended by this instructor’s encouragement. If his statements had encouraged me to work harder in class last week, they also would have encouraged me to go back to my old ways of thinking. Back in the days when I felt that I HAD to work out once, if not twice a day, and I spent hours planning my meals so that I could stick to my own “perfect” meal plan.

In retrospect, this was the first holiday where I worked out when I had time and ate pretty much whatever I wanted without feeling bad about a second of it. I have spent YEARS obsessing about when I am going to fit my workout in my day and how I am going to appear normal at the dinner table because I “can’t” eat the food that is being served. To know that I am finally getting to the place where I am not thinking about food and exercise all the time is exciting…but at the same time, I still don’t like the negativity that sometimes surrounds food and fitness.

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We should not work out because we hate our bodies. We should work out because we enjoy it and we want to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

We should not “earn” our food. We need food to live. You are “allowed” to eat whatever you damn well please.

Every day of the year, and especially Thanksgiving, we should be giving thanks. Thanks for our health, thanks for the ability to cook way too much food, and thanks for time with family. We should not be filled with worry that we completely ruined our healthy lifestyle with one meal.

And for the record, what is the big deal about Thanksgiving food? There are plenty of other days during the year when we indulge and don’t make a big deal about burning the whole meal off. In particular, I’m thinking about every time I visit a Mexican restaurant. #allthequeso 😉

Did I work out every day while I was at home? No. But I will be the first person to tell you that I ran 8 miles on Thanksgiving morning. The plan was wake up, see how much time I had before the Macy’s Parade was on TV, and run far enough that I would be back in time for the start of the show. I woke up early, the weather was pretty, and I was feeling really good. So I ran far. My dogs even joined in! But it was fun. There was not one moment when I was out there when I felt like I HAD to be running. I wanted to be out there.

I know that the instructor didn’t mean to hurt my feelings or make me think about how I used to be. I am SURE that is not what he was trying to encourage at all. But going forward, I am going to be more mindful of the things that I say when I teach my own classes. I think it’s also a good reminder to just be nice to yourself. What kind of things do you say to yourself…or what kind of images do you pin on Pinterest to encourage your healthy lifestyle? They should be nice. They should be positive. You deserve to think uplifting thoughts!

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Do tell…do you feel like you “have” to burn off your Thanksgiving calories or are you just happy it’s the holiday season?!

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5 Ways To Make Your Workout Happen

Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting like-minded people to one another, but I think that too much connection can make us put some pressure on ourselves. There are so many articles, pictures, and pins on Pinterest about eating healthy and working out that I think sometimes we think if we are not 100% “on” all the time, we are doing something wrong. Because isn’t everyone else doing all that healthy stuff? The most important thing to remember is that working out is bettering YOUR health and YOUR body. A workout is not something to just check off our list or tell others that we accomplished, it is something that changes us mentally and physically for the better! We need to strive for balance, not perfection. Still, whether you are having a busy day or a “regular” day, here are five tips that will help you balance your life vs. your workout.

Decide what you are going to do the next day the night before.
I cannot stress this enough! You must decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it the night before, or else it is all too easy to let the day get away from you. If I know that I have commitments right after work, like a meeting or my grad class, then I label that a long day and I KNOW I will not be waking up early. I will want to sleep as long as possible so that I have energy. Therefore, I will be working out when I finally get home…and that means I must pick a workout that I enjoy doing that is short. Am I going to feel like going to an hour-long Spin class after a 14 hour day? Definitely not. So be realistic with yourself. Maybe it is easier for you to wake up early and do something before your day begins, but if you are like me and save your workout for the evening, have a plan to do a short workout so that you don’t give yourself an excuse to skip it. I give myself many options: I do 30 minute workouts on Beachbody OnDemand, I know which classes at my gym happen in the 7 o’clock hour and are only 30 minutes, I give myself the option to run…but I always choose one of those options the night before. So, when you are laying down at night and going over all of the things that you need to accomplish the next day, decide what you are going to do when you finally get home and have time to workout. Short and sweet is key!

Workout as soon as you get home.
If you are a morning person, you can skip this one. Ha! If you are an afternoon or evening exerciser, I can’t recommend anything more than changing into workout clothes as soon as you get home and starting your workout right away! Maybe you drive straight to the gym instead. Whatever it is, do it right away. If you sit down on your couch, there will be no getting up! 😉

Schedule your workout!
In conjunction with the point above, you must decide the what and when of your workout, but what better way to make sure you get yourself moving than by actually scheduling it? Some gyms and fitness studios require participants to sign up ahead of time so that you don’t arrive at the gym and find your favorite class full. Likewise, these “sign ups” usually come with a late fee. If you sign up for a class and don’t show up, you are charged a small fee. Who wants to pay extra for not showing up!? That is definitely encouragement for me to show up, unless I have a legitimate reason not to go, like being sick. If your gym doesn’t require you to sign up or you don’t belong to a gym, schedule your workout by making plans with a friend. When I have plans with a friend and I am not looking forward to going just because I am being lazy, there is nothing like seeing a text message that says “Can’t wait to see you later!” or “We should run on ____ trail tonight!” Someone else is expecting me to show up and work hard with them, so I will! And you will, too. 🙂

Choose to do something that you really enjoy.
This stems from what I was saying above about doing what you think you are “supposed” to be doing. Your workout is changing YOU for the better, so you need to choose to do something that makes you happy. Obviously we all want to see results from our hard work, but you will be much less likely to see results and/or stay consistent if you don’t enjoy or look forward to what you are doing. I am a runner, and right now I really don’t feel like running. In fact, I signed up for Classpass for the next month so I can try a whole bunch of different studios and classes (it seems to be offered in big cities only so far!). Think about the workout you have scheduled for later today: are you excited about it? Do you enjoy that activity? Your answer should be “yes” to both of those questions. I know that yoga is so good for my mind and body, and I enjoy doing yoga, but I would never make myself do it by myself working out at home. I don’t enjoy that. I have tried many different online videos, but I am the happiest little yogi when I am at the studio. So figure out what you like and do that thing.

Give yourself a break.
I mean this in the most literal sense. If you are working out, you obviously need to incorporate rest days too, but that is not what I mean. I mean actually let yourself skip a workout AND not feel bad about it if you don’t want to do it or you really just do not have time. It is not our life’s work to spend every day in the gym. Some people love working out so much that they do make it to the gym every day, and others of us are like, why do I have to do this? I saw this article on Huffington Post recently and it really spoke to me:

“Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person? Instead of scrutinizing yourself in the mirror, looking for every bump and bulge, you turned your gaze inward?”

Read the full article here.

How true is that? I am a religious person, so I am always working to be the best version of myself. The person that God made me to be. But even if you are not religious, isn’t your character so much more important than anything else? We are not meant to spend our lives fretting over being the most fit person, although social media can make that all too easy. We are meant for so much more. And that might start with letting ourselves be “okay” with missing a day at the gym or having a weekend full of indulgent food. Balance, not perfection, remember?

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Pancake Party

My love for pancakes and waffles knows no bounds. When I was younger, friends who slept over would always get so excited for breakfast because my mom was known for doing something like this:

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Pancakes are a fun breakfast to begin with…but when they spell your name?! The best!

The love for any breakfast dish with syrup (pronounced seer-up;)) continued in college where, freshman year, I was the queen of Belgium waffles on Sunday mornings. After struggling with my weight and an “I-can’t-eat-that” attitude, I brought the pancakes and waffles back into my breakfast rotation…but not without some healthy modifications first. 😉 That’s not to say I don’t enjoy sugar-filled pancakes or waffles if I’m out at a restaurant, but when I cook for myself, I try to make as many healthy modifications as possible!

Today, I have four pancake options to share with you. Two that you can buy at the store and simply add water, and two that require a little more work. All four are worth it. 🙂

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If you wear this when you eat pancakes, it makes it all better. 🙂

Store Bought Options

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The first is P28 Pancake Mix. I purchased mine at Wegmans, but I will probably order my next container from Amazon or the P28 website. You have your choice of buttermilk buckwheat or white chocolate. Can you guess which flavor I purchased?! I am a fan of this brand because it is high in protein and low in sugar. Protein is good for you and it makes you feel “full”, which I need because I am not afraid to ask for seconds or thirds. Ha! It is a little pricier than your average pancake mix, but I think it is worth it because it is not something I cook every day and I am only cooking for one. All you have to do is add water to this mix and you have the perfect pancake batter. How easy is that?!

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The second is Kodiak Cakes Flapjack and Waffle Mix. I found it at Target and not only is the price point much better, but you get more of the powdered mix! Nutritionally, this brand doesn’t have as much protein as P28, so if that’s what you are thinking about when you purchase, I would go with P28. Flavor choices: whole wheat oat and honey or buttermilk and honey, which is the one I chose! Combine mix with water and you are good to go. These were also delicious!

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Now, it’s time for some recipes! One I have made before and it is so good, but the second was brand new to me and a little unique. You’ll see what I mean!

Egg White Oatmeal Protein Pancake
*Original recipe here.

Ingredients

1 c liquid egg whites
1/3 c oats
1 packet sweetener of choice (I used Truvia)
Cinnamon (to taste)

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Directions

1. Grease and heat pan (I used coconut oil).
2. Combine egg whites, oats, sweetener, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well.
*I have found the oats tend to “sink” and the cinnamon tends to “rise” or stay on the surface of your mixture. As long as you combine the ingredients and stir, I think it works well!
3. Pour mixture into frying pan.
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4. Cook until slightly browned on both sides!
*I use a utensil to even spread the oats around once the mixture is in the pan.IMG_9322

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Enjoy with fruit preserves or syrup! I first saw this recipe on Julie’s blog, Peanut Butter Fingers, and I have made it several times in the past few years. It’s always a good one! It’s the perfect balance of protein and carbs…but Julie once made this pancake and included spinach to get some veggies in with her breakfast. I’ve tried it this way too…it makes your pancake green, but I promise if you can look past the color, you can’t taste it! 🙂

Now for the unique pancake recipe…this was an interesting one to make! On Pinterest (follow me here), there are a ton of “healthy” pancake recipes using just a banana and eggs. I have made this recipe before, and I have to be honest, while it was tasty, it did nothing to fill me up. I hoped that swapping a banana for a sweet potato would do the trick and keep the hunger pains away!

Easy Sweet Potato Pancakes
*Original recipe here.

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 medium sweet potato
Cinnamon (to taste)
Honey (to taste)

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Directions

1. Make a baked potato. I poked holes in my sweet potato and put it in the microwave for 4 minutes. Time may vary for you, and you might have another preference about how to cook the potato.

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2. Slice your baked sweet potato and use a fork to scrape out the mashed potato into a bowl.

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3. Add 1 egg at a time and start to mix your “batter”. Once the sweet potato and eggs are combined, add cinnamon and honey to your liking. This adds some sweetness to the savory flavor!

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4. Grease and heat a frying pan and pour batter, just as you would with regular pancakes!

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5. Add your toppings of choice. I chose syrup!

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The sweet potato pancakes are not as sweet as say, my white chocolate P28 pancakes, but they have a great flavor and I didn’t feel like I was eating a sweet potato! Give them a try. 🙂

– Are you a breakfast person?

– Pancakes or waffles?

Summer Broccoli Salad

If I had to choose one word to describe me in the kitchen, it would be simple. I don’t like to mess with a bunch of ingredients and this sometimes means that when reading a recipe, I skip out on seasonings or other flavors because I don’t feel like it’s a necessary addition. I’m pretty sure that goes against every chef’s philosophy, ever. They love their flavors!

I love vegetables and I have a side with almost every meal. However, because I am so “simple”, I often steam my vegetables in coconut oil or…sigh…nothing. Hot water and maybe some pepper or red pepper flakes. Plain is just a-okay with me! Maybe I will add some hot sauce. In any case, I don’t go above and beyond to dress up my vegetables. After all, I am only cooking for one and if I like them plain, why not eat them that way, too?

On Thursday nights, my roommate and I take turns cooking dinner for each other. Sometimes we end up eating together on other nights of the week, but we usually just cook for ourselves and happen to eat at the same time. Setting aside one night a week to eat together makes me 1) be more intentional about spending time with my roommate and 2) branch out of my normal eating habits. I can’t very well serve her plain, boring veggies, can I?!

Last week was probably our last dinner together as roommates! She is in Israel right now on a trip and I am going on vacation and moving to Virginia pretty close to the time she gets back. For our “last supper”, I had turkey burgers and broccoli in mind. But, I decided to dress up that side of broccoli, so Pinterest came to the rescue. 🙂 I have tasted broccoli salads that incorporate bacon before, but I am not a huge bacon fan, so I loved that this recipe had some other “extras”. Bacon is a popular broccoli salad ingredient, though!

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Original recipe here.

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Add balsamic vinegar and honey to this photo and you have your complete list of ingredients. 😉 The outtakes I have from my past few blog recipes all have beautifully arranged ingredients and then I never ended up posting the picture because I always forget to set out SOMETHING! Here, you get what you get. Just don’t forget balsamic vinegar and honey!

Ingredients

8-10 cups chopped broccoli
2/3 cup smoked almonds, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shredded low fat cheddar cheese
12 oz fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T honey
2 t onion powder
2 t sea salt
Black pepper (to taste)

Directions

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This recipe was fun to make because it required no cooking…just lots of chopping. My Slap Chop is still my favorite kitchen tool for chopping things like almonds! Chop and add together dry ingredients: broccoli, almonds, cranberries, and cheese.

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In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, vinegar, honey, onion powder, salt and pepper.

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Add your “dressing” to the dry ingredients and mix evenly.

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Now you are ready to serve! It tastes even better after its been in the fridge all night. Yay for leftovers! Enjoy. 🙂

– What’s your favorite vegetable?

– Have you ever had broccoli salad?

Vanilla Pound Cake

When is the last time you ate cauliflower for dessert?

No?

Just me?

Well, your answer to that question is about to change because I have a recipe for you that is filled with totally random, yet nutritious ingredients! And you will be able to say that you ate and enjoyed cauliflower for dessert. 😉 This weekend, I was craving something sweet, and while I can’t say I have ever eaten pound cake in the past, Pinterest came to the rescue here. I wasn’t sure how the combination of these ingredients would turn out, but aren’t the Pinterest “fails” just as much fun as the Pinterest successes?! I think so! Ultimately, this Vanilla Pound Cake was easy to make, required few ingredients (my kitchen rule of thumb!) and tasted delicious!

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Original recipe here.

Ingredients

1/2 cup steamed cauliflower
1/2 cup egg whites
1 cup vanilla protein powder
2 eggs
4 drops vanilla extract
Cinnamon (to taste)

How To

First, preheat your oven to 325*. Steam your cauliflower (I used the microwave) and get your electric mixer or blender ready to go!

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Combine eggs, egg whites, and vanilla in a bowl. Add steamed cauliflower, then add protein powder. Finally, drop in some vanilla extract and cinnamon!

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I used my hand mixer and it worked really well! One thing to note: the “batter” is very thin in consistency at this stage of cooking. I kept checking the recipe to make sure I didn’t forget anything, but I didn’t, and you didn’t either! It is just very thin. Grease your bread pan (I used Coconut Spray Oil) and set your timer for 30 to 40 minutes.

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At the 30 minute mark, start checking your pound cake. The top should be slightly browned and the consistency should be much more firm to the touch.

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I was able to slice this loaf into 8 pieces, and using MyFitnessPal, I found that each piece of pound cake was about 75 calories! I ate it plain, but you could add honey for a touch of sweetness, too. Word to the wonderers: you cannot taste the cauliflower. 😉

Enjoy!

– Do you like cauliflower?

– Have you ever tasted pound cake?

Rain, Reading + A New Look

How was your weekend?! Mine looked a lot like this…

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Comfy clothes and slippers approximately 6 seconds after arriving home. Ha! I dare you to change faster than me. 😉 I was super excited to wear these clothes because it felt COLD this weekend which was a welcomed change! As a 23 year old, I pride myself on being an adult (90% of the time) but there are still some things that I rudely claim “only old people do”. One of these things –> talk about the weather. However, let’s discuss weather for a minute.

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Sitting in my car because nothing is important enough to deal with hail.

The Maryland/DC/Virginia area has been having some crazy thunderstorms lately. Last week, it was about 95* with 90% humidity all week long. It. was. so. hot. But on random occasions, we would have these ridiculous thunderstorms…think puddles that are deeper than you think when driving, lightning that makes green lights turn red, and hail. This craziness usually only lasts for an hour or so and then we are back to sun and heat. But on Saturday, it torrentially downpouring and CHILLY! 🙂 After running a bunch of errands in the morning, I decided the rain wasn’t worth fighting with anymore and came home to relax in my favorite comfy clothes. Is there anything better than that on a weekend?!

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Aaaand there’s that sun we were talking about.

My weekend was already off to a great start (besides cooler weather) because my roommate checked our mailbox and I got ALL THE THINGS!

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The new music and choreography for Round 40 of PiYo (which is 80s inspired…so fun!), a card from my mom, a card from one of my best friends, and FREE protein powder packets from Quest Nutrition! I received Vanilla Milkshake and Chocolate Milkshake after filling out a survey a few weeks ago. My favorite Quest protein flavor is peanut butter because it is truly such a decadent flavor! Some protein powder can taste gritty or even thin, but I have never had that problem with Quest protein powder. You should try it! (P.S. I’m not sponsored in any way by the company, I just love their products.) Their website is always offering some kind of free promotion. Also, they just came out with two new protein powder flavors: Salted Caramel and Banana Cream. Salted Caramel is right up my sweet tooth’s alley. 😉 One of my friends from college sent me a picture of the two free packets she received in the mail and she got the two NEW flavors! I love mail and I love free things so I tried not to be too jealous. Ha!

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My many pieces of mail inspired me to sit down and make little cards and care packages for two of my friends or family. One of my summer bucket list goals was to send two pieces of mail each month. June = check! And I am obsessed with the stationary. Target dollar section is the best!

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For some reason, I have been waking up at 3 or 4 AM every night and I cannot seem to go back to sleep. Thanks to Molly’s suggestion, I heard some pretty good tunes the other night. 😉

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And I added another book to my list for the year! My mom and I set a goal to read 52 books this year and seeing as it’s already July, I am nervous about how close I will actually get to achieving this goal! I love Jodi Picoult and when I saw this book at my local Half Price books, I knew I had to get it because even though it’s an older title, I have never read it. It was hard to finish and I hate when that happens! It was much different than her “typical” story line, the timeline was a little difficult to keep up with because each chapter jumped around, and I found myself kind of not caring what was going to happen at some points. Now that I know how the story ends, I like how it all came together…and I’m glad I have another book to add to my list! Ha! Have you ever started reading a book that you just couldn’t get into!?

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I ate my favorite meal on repeat…

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…and served in the nursery at church before attending service on Sunday. I go to National Community Church in DC and I’m so glad God brought me to that place when I moved here last summer. I have been in a small group since I started attending church, but I just started serving in the nursery. I LOVE spending time with the babies in the nursery. The first week I shadowed, I was holding a baby who was teething and she was SO distraught the entire time her parents were in church. This week was much better but we were a few adults short so it was difficult to appease the ones who were upset and keep the ones who were happy entertained! My favorite moment was laying on the floor with 2 girls and a boy and playing “cars” with them. They thought sound effects were hilarious even though they were only about 9-12 months! One girl took a liking to me and when she got tired, I ended up rocking with her a lot. When her dad picked her up, she cried! I wanted to go home with her. She was so sweet!

Perhaps the biggest event of the weekend came when I went to the hair salon and told my stylist to “chop away”.

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I have worn my hair the exact same way since eighth grade. I just like my side swept bangs and long length! I have cut it shorter a few times over the years, but I really wanted something different! Now, I have choppy layers and my hair is longer in the front and shorter in the back. Also, my favorite topknot ponytail hairstyle is out…

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…because my ponytail now looks like this! Ha! Running so far has required lots of bobby pins and headbands. 😉 And I miss the knot on top of my head when I’m just hanging out and relaxing! It feels weird to have my hair down. Ah!

– How was your weekend?

– How often do you change your hair?

Music, Food, and 4th of July: Summer Favorites

Good morning! Happy Friday to you 🙂

Today, my favorite thing is this…

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…new episodes of Orange Is The New Black in my Netflix library. 🙂 This show definitely isn’t for everyone, but after reading the book, I was so intrigued that I had to start watching! It’s based on the true story of Piper Kerman’s fifteen months in prison which I think is part of the reason why I find it so fascinating…it’s “real”! But then, you have to imagine they changed it to make it more entertaining for TV. Anyways, I finished the first two seasons pretty quickly in the fall and I had NO idea there weren’t more episodes! So when Season 2 ended on a huge cliffhanger, I jumped off the couch to click “Play Next Episode” and almost cried when that didn’t exist. Ha!

– TWO – 

Of course, I also discovered some new favorite songs this week, too. Perfect for teaching my first Spinning class in ten months! I can hardly believe it has been that long. When I moved to Maryland last August, I obviously had to give up my instructing job in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t want to pick up a new one here until I really got into the swing of things with my schedule. Plus, I had no idea where I was moving to (I had visited but wasn’t so familiar with the area) and I wanted to figure out where the “cool” gyms were. 😉 Now for the summer session at UMD, I am teaching one Spinning class on Tuesday nights. I loved being back on the bike at the front of the room again!

I like this song for a hard hill climb…

…and this one for a cooldown. Or so I thought. When it started playing, I actually changed it. I did listen to it on repeat when I was running, though. 🙂

– THREE –

My favorite kind of lunch or dinner requires little preparation and lots of ingredients that go well together because I am usually starving when I cook. Enter: chicken sausage & asparagus pizza flatbread.

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I cut one Flat-out flatbread in half and toasted it while I cooked two Trader Joe’s Spicy Chicken Sausages in the frying pan. Some asparagus was steaming in the microwave at this point, too. I said I like “little preparation”, but that still means doing a few things at the same time! I chopped the asparagus while I waited for the chicken sausage to finish cooking and then I chopped that too. On the toasted flatbread, I put some tomato basil sauce, chopped chicken sausage and asparagus, and a little bit of mozzarella. Then I microwaved it just long enough for the cheese to melt and BAM. Healthy pizza. My favorite.

– FOUR –

Is there anything better than working out with other people who also LOVE to work out? My favorite class to take in Pittsburgh is called Kam Jamz and it’s taught by my favorite coach and instructor, Kam Niskach. She’s a beast! I have been going to Kam’s classes for almost two years and now she has started teaching other formats like Insanity, PiYo, P90x, and Cize, too. She started her instructor career teaching Zumba and then her class evolved to more of a hip hop class and now it’s some Zumba, some hip hop, and some crazy hard moves like burpees and tuck jumps. It’s a good time. 🙂

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Can you spot me?!

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We were celebrating two regular class go-ers birthdays…Scott and Janine. Kam asked for song requests via Facebook and that’s how our workout for that night was decided. How fun is that?! That’s how this group of people is…always up for a party and so welcoming. You know the hashtag that floats around social media that says “#fitfam”? These people truly are my Fit Fam and I wish I could work out with them more often!

– FIVE –

Can you even believe we are getting to the halfway point of June?! My half birthday was on Wednesday so I was really thinking about how fast time goes! 24 sounds so far away and so old. 😉 But in the spirit of summer and holidays, my apartment got a little patriotic this week.

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And…this door. Sigh. I loathe it but apparently water heaters are a necessary addition to your living space. Haha!

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Hopefully your eyes are drawn to the banner and not the vent. 😉

So, there has to be something that you are loving…even if you loved it last week, too. Tell me about your favorites this week!

Linking up with these lovely ladies! 🙂

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AprilChristinaNatashaDarci

High Five For Healthy Habits

It’s time to talk Friday Favorites with Andrea, Narci, and Erika and today I’m sharing my five favorite parts of a healthy lifestyle. Join us! Write about some of your favorite things and join the link up on their blogs!

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Are you the kind of person who has a healthy lifestyle?  I guess that depends on how you define the word “healthy”.

For me, the word “healthy” relates to my nutrition, my physical activity, my mindset, my social life, my confidence…it’s the whole picture.

For others, the word “healthy” means eating certain foods and forcing themselves to work out…otherwise known as a diet. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?

My very favorite quote that I have ever heard about diets is this one by Chalene Johnson:

“Don’t go on a diet. HAVE a diet.”

If you decide that you absolutely need to make a change and become healthier, try a diet. I’m not at all saying you shouldn’t. There are tons of different diets out there! However, there is a reason that so many people start a diet and then quit. It’s because most diets are meant to be a quick fix. It might also be because it’s not the right diet for them. You need to decide how you can eat and exercise for LIFE, not for a short period of time. What do you enjoy doing as physical activity and what do you enjoy eating? That is your personal diet. You don’t need some fancy name for it. That’s just your diet!

Now when I say what do you enjoy eating…obviously we all have our vices. I like peanut butter and cookies and popcorn and queso, but those are not foods that I need to be eating every day. Do I want to eat them every day? Yes, sometimes I do.

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Do you feel me? 😉

But I know that there are other foods that I love just as much like chicken, yogurt, bananas, and eggs that are good for my body. They are the foods that have always been foods. They are real, they aren’t processed, they are full of nutrients. And so because this is my life and my personal diet, I eat all of those healthy foods and then sometimes I have one of my favorite indulgences. And I don’t feel bad about it. Because this is how I plan on eating for the rest of my life, not for the next few weeks. See where I’m going with this?

If you really like carbs, let yourself eat carbs. Just make sure you are getting lots of protein and lots of veggies in at your meals, too. If you really like to eat a snack before you go to bed, go ahead and do that. Just make sure that you aren’t eating mindlessly throughout the day because then when you eat that snack at night, your body will still need those nutrients.

It’s a balance game. It’s a guessing game. There is no one right answer and that is so frustrating to so many people! 45 million people go on a diet every year. That blows my mind. Are you a statistic? I am. I like to try new things. But I like to read up on what these diets are promising. Is it something I could do forever, or is it something that is only going to last for a few days or a few weeks? Because I’m telling you, if it promises that you are going to lose 10 pounds really really quickly, you probably will. But you will also probably also gain those 10 pounds back really really quickly. Figure out what works for you! It’s a puzzle. It’s a game. Puzzles and games are fun. 🙂

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So if you recall, I defined “healthy” as the whole picture: my nutrition, my physical activity, my mindset, my social life, and my confidence. And since we are planning on doing this healthy thing for life, we have to have some tricks up our sleeves when life gets in the way. You aren’t going to eat a perfectly balanced meal every time you sit down to eat, but you can try. Let’s start there:

– ONE –

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My biggest food tip is prepare.

Start the day eating a healthy, balanced breakfast.
Make lunch or prep ingredients for dinner the night before.
Keep nuts, fruit, a protein bar, or any other healthy snack you love in your bag AT ALL TIMES.

I cannot be trusted when I’m hungry. I have been known to eat while I’m cooking, which is very counterproductive. 😉 And when you are out and about at school or work or doing errands, you can’t be sure what your choices will be for a quick snack.

Prepare.

– TWO –

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Kill your cravings by hydrating. Half the time when your body tells you it’s hungry, it is actually thirsty. I have 32 oz. water bottles that I take with me everywhere. How much do you weigh? Divide that number in half and you’ve figured out how many ounces of water you should be drinking a day. I am actually working on drinking LESS water right now because I am constantly going to the bathroom. Ha! Hydrate yourself. I promise your body will love the crisp cool water. Or you can add some fruit for flavor if that’s your thing. 😉

Hydrate.

– THREE –

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Exercise is a huge part of being healthy. But for goodness sakes, do something that you LOVE. Do something that you look forward to! If I told myself I had to wake up every day and get on the StairMaster, I would probably never workout. I like running and Spinning and occasionally going to a yoga class or a hip hop class. Those are things that I know I will do FOREVER (I hope)! If you are feeling uninspired by your workouts or you can’t even convince yourself to GO to the gym, I encourage you to try something else. You might hate what you’re doing, but I promise you don’t hate working out all together.

Exercise. And love it.

– FOUR –

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Go to bed. I have been making a conscious effort to get eight hours of sleep every night and it is great. Of course the first few nights you have to “make” yourself go to sleep aren’t very encouraging, but when your alarm goes off and you actually feel like you are READY to wake up…well that’s totally worth it. And if you’re working out and eating well, your body is recovering and getting stronger while you sleep. You’ll probably concentrate better and be happier if you go to sleep.

(I like this article here about catching zzzz’s.)

EVERYBODY SLEEP! Hahaha

– FIVE –

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If you’re on this path to getting healthy FOR LIFE, you need to make more changes than just those to your diet and exercise. You also need to think about the rest of your life. That’s not overwhelming at all, is it? 😉 Truly…is your job fulfilling? Do your friends make you happy? Are you a caring wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, cousin…? In all the craziness that is life, people take pride in saying they are SO BUSY! But are you making time for the things you love to do? Example: I like to ride bikes. I like to read. I like to bake. I definitely don’t do some of those things regularly, but when I consciously make an effort to do them, I feel so much better. Find the love in everything that you do, and most importantly…

Love yourself.

To review: prepare {food}, hydrate, exercise {because you love it}, sleep, and love yourself.

Five little changes to lead a healthier life…are you ready to take on that challenge? You’re doing such a good job already. 🙂

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