Missed the gym this morning. The pup woke us up twice last night- and I know it’s taking me longer to fall asleep because I’m NOT working out. First thing Saturday & Sunday is the gym, because I’m not giving up! I need to be held accountable! I’m also planning on making all my own meals this weekend- necessary after last weekend.

Cardio and core strengtheners are on the agenda (going to give reverse sit-ups and REAL push-ups a try)! I wish I had more time to vary my routine- I normally like cardio, strength training, and non-weight bearing exercises like spin, plus yoga to change things up and have fun.

New trick: Drink a whole glass of water before eating. You already know you need to drink a lot of water. But doing this right before eating will also fill your stomach a little so you don’t go in ravenous. Then once you finish your first serving, wait TWENTY MINUTES. The same goes when you’re at a buffet or during the holidays. If you are still hungry after twenty minutes, then have seconds. But give your body time to feel full.

Also, read your labels! You need to get really comfortable with reading labels and what to look for. A couple of the biggest things to look for are the sugar and sodium content. Unfortunately, they don’t separate out natural sugar from added sugar, so you’ll have to do some digging and look at the ingredient list. Women should only have 25 grams of added sugar A DAY. Look for words that end in -ose on the ingredient list. Luna bars for example have high sugar amounts- but the ingredient list is only a few ingredients and the sugar comes from the natural dates that they use as a base. For sodium, you should limit it to under 2,300 mg a day- which is still a lot!! If the sodium amount is great than the calorie count- look elsewhere.

This is another side tip that when my mom comes into town next month I’m definitely going to put into place- get the right fitting clothes!! If your clothes are too small, you are going to look like you are busting out of them. If your clothes are too big, you are going to look like you fill them up! So reward yourself with well-fitting clothes. It’s a great way to stay motivated. A tailor goes a long way and my wardrobe is in desperate need of an upgrade with the weight I’ve lost over the last few years.

How is everyone doing with the No Junk Food Challenge?? Remember- if are jonesing for sweets, there are substitutes to chocolate! Fresh and dried fruits are natural ways to get your sugar fix.

Hope everyone has a stress-free weekend! And if you aren’t- just breathe. And remember to get what you need!

Yesterday’s food journal

Breakfast- oatmeal with PB and banana

Coffee 

Snack- apple & 2 Laughing Cow cheese wedges

Green tea

Lunch- salad

Snack- KIND bar

Dinner- sweet potato and black bean quesadilla & 2 glasses of Pinot Noir

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Fell off the wagon

Ok, ok. I broke my promise. My accountability person was very confused Monday when I hadn’t blogged since Thursday. And here is Thursday again.

The reason was because I had disappointed myself. And my imaginary audience of this blog.

I had the doughnut at the business dinner. I also do not regret it because unlike most overhyped things it was AMAZING AND DELICIOUS and if you live in Charlotte, get a group of 10 people (because it will legit feed that many people) and order it. Worth. It. (Stoke at the Marriott)

But then we had visitors come in. And it became just a 2.5 day eating & drinking binge.

  • Dinner at Haberdish Friday night, where we shared a pimento cheese ball (amazing), biscuits & bacon jam (delicious), a whole fried chicken (the best), sweet potato dumplings (excellent- highly recommend), charred okra, pickled coleslaw, and maybe a kale salad?
  • Afterwards, we went to Salud where I had a CAN of wine. That’s a thing now.
  • Brunch at Cafe Monte Saturday, where we shared five hot beignets and I got a Croque Madame.
  • Sandwich at Earl’s Grocery after the hike
  • Dinner at Soul Gastrolounge Saturday night- you will all die when I list all the food we ordered (and ate). Asian glazed pork belly tacos (these are a must if you come here, they’re probably the best thing on the menu), the “dirty south nachos” which are fried chicken skin chips with a pimento cheese fondue and jalepeno pickled okra (this is probably the 2nd most fantastic dish), sashimi tuna tacos (everyone else died over these, I did think they were pretty good), BBQ glazed pork belly stuffed shells & cheese (disappointing), a “Red Dragon Roll” (yes, they have sushi here), lemon chicken skewers (one of our party doesn’t eat pork or shellfish so was excluded from many of the options), grilled Caesar, grilled cheese (pretty incredible I thought), a duck banh fit (3 kinds of duck, including foie gras pate & duck confit on a banh mi style sandwich) and french fries with garlic-herb salt, pecorino and truffle oil (great and surprisingly large portion for the price). So don’t hate me but DO get to Soul ASAP. It’s arguably the best restaurant in Charlotte.
  • Had drinks at The Hop Shop and City Lights
  • Breakfast a Common Market Sunday morning. I got some kind of wrap with eggs, chorizo, pepperjack, black beans and corn.
  • Build You Own Bloody Mary bar at Ink & Ivy
  • After our guests left, the BF and I had a late lunch/early dinner at Diamond Restaurant where I got a “Po’Greek Boy” which wasn’t what I expected- basically a feta stuffed lamb burger. It was pretty good.

We did hike one day to the top of Crowder’s Mountain which was pretty challenging and strenuous. And we did a lot of walking both days (over 12,000 steps!) but I still felt gross by Sunday night (obviously- re-read above. Or, on second though, please don’t). Surprisingly, besides the doughnut, I didn’t really have any “junk food” (because we were too stuffed by the dessert course to have any) but I am resetting the Junk Food Challenge back to Monday anyways. So April 23 will be the last day (which will be tough- I’m home that weekend and have a bridal shower!)

After the weekend, I stocked up on healthy food (definitely one of those whoops moments in the grocery line when I saw the receipt) and prepped salads, snacks and sandwiches for my night classes. And I have gotten back on track- no drinking since Sunday, and all healthy meals and snacks. Since the class gets out so late (normally when I’m turning out the lights) and it’s 25 minutes away, I have not gotten into the gym. But my goal is to get in Friday-Monday the weeks I am taking this class. Minimum 25 minutes of cardio each day plus weight training.

I’m trying to get back into my tips and tricks. I know  I don’t really need to lose weight- but  I do want to gain muscle tone and lose some fat around my middle. I’m trying to ignore the scale as it’s not what I’m after- and I’m also trying not to be complacent just because I like my weight where it is (kind of). It isn’t the end-all, be-all measurement. I’m recommitting to carrying water everywhere, knowing my portions, and trying to ignore the voice in my head that says “Just order the pills in the back of the magazine!” (That is partially a joke- mostly because that voice was quieted in college when I actually did use diet pills for a year. They are not worth it- not only will you gain the weight back, they will screw with your metabolism and you will be up all hours of the night. Helpful for a college senior- not for an adult who knows better.)

It starts with one step. Like cutting out soda. But don’t deprive yourself.

What is my one thing I’m going to start working on today? Bettering my posture. I used to be a dancer and school teachers would always comment on how good my posture was in class. But now I’m just like the rest of the slumped over herd. Since I am sitting all day (at work and now also at class), good posture is better for a number of reasons. It helps with digestion by smoothing out the flow of your organs, it helps with back and shoulder pain and it also makes you look thinner instantly! Plus it helps develop core muscles, which is necessary for a lean look. There are all kinds of gizmos and gadgets that will remind you if you’ve slumped over or curved your shoulders too far. Sometimes just a reminder on your phone will do. Check in with yourself throughout the day and see if it’s something you can better!

Monday’s Food Journal

Breakfast- 3 egg omelette with shredded low fat cheddar cheese

Coffee

Snack- strawberries with flax and low fat plain Greek yogurt

Lunch- Salad

Snack- Apple with peanut butter

Dinner- Sandwich on sprouted bread, natural sliced turkey, Havarti cheese, sprouts and mustard

Tuesday’s Food Journal

Breakfast- Banana almond smoothie

Coffee

Snack- strawberries with flax and low fat plain Greek yogurt

Green tea

Lunch- salad

Snack- cucumber slices and baby carrots with sun dried tomato hummus

Dinner- Same sandwich above

Wednesday’s Food Journal

Breakfast- 2 eggs scrambled with low fat cottage cheese (if you haven’t tried this before, give it a shot, it’s pretty cool) and a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter

Lunch- salad

Snack- Popcorn

Snack- Pistachios

Dinner- Sandwich above

Sleep = Skinny

Junk food that you have been craving for an hour or the body you have wanted for years?? It’s your choice.

Repeat this to yourself as needed during the junk food challenge!! I’m not going to lie to you- I am going to a business dinner with my BF tonight at the new restaurant inside of the Marriott in downtown Charlotte and if there is dessert- especially their famous ONE POUND doughnut- I will be eating it. There are things that I may just never get to try again!

That’s where your “excuses” come in versus your willpower. Cupcakes from down the block that come in every time an office birthday happens? You don’t need those. Pecan pie you ONLY have during Thanksgiving? Go for it. That’s what this one pound doughnut would fall under- because I doubt we will be going back to this restaurant again (hotel restaurants are notoriously overpriced and this will be on his company’s dime- PERKS!).

I know it’s only day 2 of the No Junk Food Challenge. (And I’m already planning on breaking it- but getting right back on!) How is everyone doing? No fast food right? That’s considered junk food! And it’s definitely something you need to cut out of your diet if you’re trying to lose weight- not just during the challenge, but really, forever. It’s not doing you any favors.

I think my biggest challenge lately has been eating slowly. I’m really trying! But the BF has gotten even speedier I feel like and not wanting to be sitting alone eating  may influence me. I’m really going to concentrate on improving in that area.

Exercising has also eluded me lately- with my schedule going haywire next week, I will need to be more disciplined about it! Cardio will help burn fat so doing any brisk walking, jogging, aerobics (yes, it still exists) or cycling will help you get rid of that extra fat.

What I have also noticed is that when I exercise, I sleep better. SLEEPING BURNS FAT. Seriously. That is my tip today. GET MORE SLEEP. When you get enough sleep, you feel more compelled to get into the gym. When you get into the gym, you will sleep better! In an article I read recently, they recommend doing cardio in the morning and weight training (which doesn’t raise your heart rate as much) at night in order to get the best sleep. But the key is consistency. When I don’t work out, it’s harder for me to fall asleep, but then I’m too tired to get to the gym the next day! If you’re well-rested and have been working out, you’re more likely to eat better because your brain has more energy to make better food choices. It’s a big cycle but the bottom line is shoot for 7-8 hours of sleep. Which means, lights out at least 15 minutes BEFORE that because most people do not fall asleep instantly. I also like to do a wind-down routine of prepping for the next day, getting into pajamas, brushing my teeth and taking off my makeup and then reading (no technology!!) in the couple of hours leading up to bed to signal to my body that it’s time for sleep. Sleeping in a colder environment is also helpful for restful sleep (but keep your feet warm!)

I know this will be tough for me when I start my class. Not only will I be getting home after I SHOULD be asleep in order to hit 7 hours before my 5 AM alarm for the gym, but working and going to class all day is sure to exhaust me- I’m not planning on going to the gym Tuesday-Thursday during those weeks because I feel like I’ll just disappoint myself but who knows?? Maybe it’ll give me more energy to get through the day. I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.

Yesterday’s food journal

Breakfast- 3 eggs scrambled on a whole wheat English muffin spread with 2 wedges of Laughing Cow and topped with smoked salmon

Late morning snack- a couple tbs of walnuts, and 2 dried dates dipped in tahini

Lunch- regular salad

Afternoon snack- low fat Greek yogurt with strawberries and flax

Dinner- leftover pork and broccoli. I may have also had a couple fingers of PB when prepping today’s snack. I’m weak!!

Recommitting to losing stomach fat

Mid-week mantra: If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up!

I have to remind myself of that a lot lately. Getting to the gym has become increasingly difficult- we’re so busy in the evenings that getting to bed so a 5 AM wake-up call doesn’t kill us, is proving impossible. Plus our bed is so comfy and the 12 minute drive to the gym (and the fact that our gym isn’t really all that great) just adds to the daunting nature of the task.

Every morning I try to remind myself- you always feel better when you do, something is better than nothing AND come next week, when the real estate classes start, you’re going to find that you’re not going to be able to get into the gym like you want. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I need to make it easier to make time to work out in the evenings if I am forced to skip the morning session. I’m trying- I really am. Any tips??

Refocus on your goals. What are you really trying to achieve? Are you trying to lose 20 pounds? Get a 6 pack? Run a marathon?

I’m trying to lose fat and gain muscle, specifically in my midsection. It’s not my weight I’m concerned about- I want muscular toned arms, legs, butt and stomach (I’m not trying for one of those creepy body-builder 6 packs though). Adding up these tips and tricks we’ve discussed can help- but I know I need to be doing more. Which is where getting into the gym consistently comes in. I’m going to look up 5Ks in the area- even a small race can help me stay focused and make sure I commit to some cardio every week, but I know I need to ramp up my strength training more.

Quick reminder about a simple tip that we’ve already discussed & that is very easy to do and really does make a difference but many people still neglect it:

  • WATER! I drink a lot of water during work- at least a gallon. But I am also going to start carrying water everywhere I go. I will fill up my S’well bottle before I get in the car to run errands, road trip out to a friend’s house, whatever! I hate being thirsty and it really can stave off hunger.

Now for a new tip:

  • Color your plate. Every time you eat a meal or a snack there should be COLOR (beige and white or cream are not colors just as an FYI). Hummus and pita chips? BLAND. Add carrots and/or peppers. Chicken and pasta? BLAND. Throw some spinach into the pasta or put the chicken over a bed of sauteed spinach. Cheese and crackers? BLAND. Add some sliced tomatoes. Every meal or snack needs to have a bright color- you’ll automatically be making a healthy choice that way.

Yesterday’s food journal

Breakfast- 3 egg omelette with 2 Laughing Cow cheese wedges and smoked salmon

Coffee

Late morning snack- Apple & peanut butter

Green tea

Lunch- regular salad

Mid-afternoon snack- carrots & cucumber slices with sundried tomato hummus

Pre-dinner snack- cashews and 2 dried dates 

Dinner- Pork cutlets with roasted broccoli and homemade crispy breadcrumbs (made from panko & parmesan cheese). Pineapple for dessert.

No Junk Food Challenge

Last night was beautiful- sunny and in the 70s for a few hours after work. No more of that getting home in the dark stuff!! So the BF and I took the dog up into town to get a beer (for him) and Rita’s (for me). I eat Rita’s rarely; normally, only when home visiting during the summer when my mom wants to go, but since their First Day of Spring deal just happened a few days ago, it was on my mind.

I had a regular size Gelati with strawberry custard and Fudge Brownie cream ice. 450 calories. For a dessert that size, not bad I thought. However, it had 66 grams of sugar (I didn’t know this at the time). That’s almost triple what is recommended daily- and I’m sure I ingested some throughout the day as well. My body did not react well. Sugar is not it’s friend. It isn’t anyone’s friend. My stomach kept me up all night and probably is why I felt too exhausted for the gym this morning. This is another lesson on my constant learning curve.

I am not a “fitness junkie”. I am not one of those people who goes to workout classes 5 times a week until they just find themselves becoming an instructor. I was not an athlete in college- I danced growing up, taking minimum 4 classes of week in high school, but was not in the competition group. I didn’t see it as a career path. I am not someone who can commit to a lifestyle of Paleo or Vegan or Gluten-free- because I don’t want to. I can’t do a yoga headstand while drinking a green juice. I try to be healthy. But I have a life, a job, a dog, a boyfriend, friends in multiple states, and I really like alcohol, baking, and binging TV shows. Ice cream is my favorite. So sometimes I need to be reminded- maybe next time let’s try a kids size, stick to the fruity or “all natural” Italian ice flavors (lower in sugar), and maybe even just get that without the custard! (Remember- moderation, not deprivation. Tweak things, don’t cut them out.) Nothing is worth feeling like I did last night. But even after ALL THAT- after breakfast, I craved a dessert. Seriously. So this leads me into today’s topic:

Remember when I told ya’ll I had a trick up my sleeve for getting you guys off the sugar train? Well here it is! I do this No Junk Food Challenge a few times every year and it’s usually pretty successful- yes, sometimes things come up. The last time I did this I had a coworker bring me a dessert personally that I couldn’t turn down and we went out for Restaurant Week and dessert was included in the meal (and if I paid for it- I’m eating it). Maybe you’re planning on partaking in Easter basket treats. But every time I do it, I feel my craving for desserts weaken and my willpower gets a GREAT workout (there were two birthdays in the office over my last challenge- killer!)

Here’s how it works:

For 21 days (or 3 weeks), you have no chocolate, no candy, no cookies, no cake, no donuts, no muffins, no pastries, no white bread, no chips, no fast food, no Nutella, and no ice cream. If you want to make it really hard (if you’re anything like me), no peanut butter. I  think I’m just going to cut it down to twice a week during this.

The best way to do it is say you’re going to start tomorrow. So that means that it will end on April 18- the day after Easter Monday. That will give you no time to “store sweets” or stuff your face with dessert in anticipation (although- guilty) and it will not let you plan around a fun weekend or event (now if you have a chocolate tour booked- by all means, that is an exception). But know that you will probably slip up, there will be exceptions and excuses- just be honest with yourself. But cupcakes for office birthdays are not an exception. YOUR birthday is an exception.

Some food for thought on this:

Think of trying to push a car up a hill. If it slips a bit, and you catch it and keep pushing, you haven’t lost much. If it slips and you let it slide, you’ll have to go back down the hill and start all over again. It’s the same in weight loss (and the junk food challenge). Accept the tiny slip and keep on pushing. Why climb the same hill twice?

Who’s with me???

Yesterday’s food journal

Pre-workout coffee

Breakfast- 2 scrambled eggs with a melted Laughing Cow cheese wedge and some smoked salmon plus a protein shake

Coffee

Green tea

Lunch- salad

Snack- 2 2% cottage cheese containers (80 calories each) with strawberries and mint

Dinner- leftover chicken, Brussels sprouts and sweet potato wedges. Then the Rita’s Italian Ice debacle described above.

Simple Swaps for Dinner, Drinks, Desserts!

Man, the gym has been a dream this week. Like literally a dream- we’ve been so exhausted and comfy cozy in bed I have only made it once plus my SoulCycle class. 5 AM is not normal to wake up!! I need to figure out a schedule that works for my body. My gym buddy hasn’t exactly been the most motivating either…

This weekend will definitely mean time in the gym and we’re laying relatively low anyways after our last weekend. I did get to enjoy time with my sorority alumnae group yesterday at a brewery- they also brew kombucha! So since I’m still in “I never want to see alcohol again” mode, that is what a took part in. It was delicious!

Now onto the simple swaps you can make whether you are eating out for dinner or cooking at home, as well as swaps for drinks and desserts that accompany your meal!

  • We know deep fried foods are bad right? Like you shouldn’t REALLY be eating anything fried- french fries, corn dogs, etc. Look for “pan-fried” on menus or cook food yourself in a skillet with a little health EVOO (that is extra virgin olive oil for you noobs).
  • This is something I need to work on, but if you have access to local produce via farmer’s markets you should take advantage! They have less preservatives and potentially more health benefits than veggies you get at the supermarket.
  • This is one of my favorite swaps because I always have Greek yogurt on hand! Instead of sour cream on your Mexican food (or anything that calls for it)- sub Greek yogurt. It has more protein and less fat, plus healthy bacteria for your gut. I swear, you will not be able to taste the difference.
  • Whole grain swaps are so easy- no more white rice or white pasta. It’s all brown rice and whole-wheat pasta from here on out! I try to not even order rice or pasta when out to eat because they normally don’t have these options. And when you are eating pasta? White sauce is a no go- there are so many extra calories that come with all that cream. Marinara sauce or another tomato based sauce is your best choice.
  • Eating out? You do not have to end up in a food coma! Get a doggy bag to go- this is something that I do struggle with and need to get better at. Reminding myself of how bad I feel after stuffing myself at a meal should help.
  • Asian food on the menu? Give the chopsticks a chance! They will slow you down way more than eating with a fork. It will help with that speed-eating habit.
  • Trying to cool down in the summer with popsicles for dessert? Try sticking grapes in the freezer- they really do come out tasting like mini popsicles. They’re very satisfying and have way less sugar and more health benefits!
  • Soda fiend? Well STOP IT. I gave up soda for Lent in high school once and have never looked back! If you must get that carbonation from somewhere, swap it for sparkling water or flavored sparkling water. But watch out- too much sparkling water can damage your teeth (so can soda for that matter), so keep it to under 1 or 2 servings a day. Also- if you are reaching for an energy drink- just stop. The chemicals and sugar in them are crazy. Take a power nap instead.
  • Alcohol on the agenda? Red wine or beer is a better choice than a sugary cocktail- especially a margarita. Honestly, since I only really enjoy vodka or tequila cocktails, they all end up tasting the same. I’d much rather have a really good glass of wine. They tend to be cheaper as well!

I shouldn’t have to say this but I will- now that we are wrapping up swaps for our three meals a day, please eat three meals a day! Plus snacks! If you skip meals and just snack throughout the day, you will end up feeling unfocused, tired, cranky, and no one wants to be around someone like that! Also, if you’re just grazing throughout the day instead of sitting down and focusing on a well-prepared meal or snack, you will consume more calories than you think.

Some other tips that I think help when it comes to food-

  • Never grocery shop on an empty stomach (it’s a recipe for disaster)
  • If you find yourself reaching for comfort food (for me, it’s ice cream) or emotionally eating, check in with yourself for just 5 minutes. Meditate a little- dim the lights, close your eyes, clear your mind, and ask yourself who or what is driving this urge for comfort. Maybe you just need to go for a walk, maybe you need to call a friend, maybe you need a nice long hot shower. But that check-in could be all you need to not slip down a 1,000 calorie path. If you can’t get on board with the whole “meditation” thing, try journaling. When you’re a couple cookies deep, pull out a notebook and write down what you’re thinking about. Not only is it distracting but you may realize the void you are trying to fill can be filled in other ways.
  • Skip the plastic silverware at home- even if you have take-out, use your fancy stuff and you may be more aware of what you’re eating and slow down because you’re not in a rush at a fast-food place.
  • Remember- everything in moderation. If I deprive myself, I binge. So giving myself the leeway to indulge on vacation, have dessert or alcohol every so often (but not all the time), keeps me trim. TREAT YO’ SELF!

Yesterday’s food journal

Breakfast- oatmeal with chia seeds, cinnamon, strawberries, and protein powder

Coffee at work

Snack- almonds

Lunch- salad

Green tea

Snack- Apple with 2 string cheese sticks

Snack- KIND bar

Dinner- leftover casserole and some pineapple. 2 Kombuchas at Lenny Boy Brewing. 

Simple lunch & snack swaps

Man, taxes suck. Owing over $1,000 in federal taxes REALLY sucks. I’m turning my side hustle meter way up and applying to every date-night babysitting gig I can find!

I’m also sticking to packing  lunch and snacks- it is such an easy way to NOT spend money. I’m so used to it, I don’t even know where I would find that money to spend on eating out! But if you’re not, then think about how much you could save if you switched. Here are some things to keep in mind for lunches:

  • For salads, instead of boring iceberg lettuce that has really no nutritional value and a bottle of dressing, trade it for spinach or another leafy green that is chock full of vitamins and minerals. For dressing, I throw together olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard for my usual lunch salad- so yummy and there are no additives, sugar, or carbs that can sneak into those bottled dressings!
  • Packed a sandwich? Instead of slathering on mayo which is filled with fat, spread mustard on your (whole-wheat) bread! It’s fat-free- just make sure the sugar count is low. Also, watch your meats! Fatty meats like bacon (and this goes for breakfast too), beef, and pork just should be avoided or cut down on if you’re trying to lose weight. Because it’s not the good fats! It’s the bad fats that cause heart attacks and the like. Choose leaner meats like turkey and chicken, especially at lunch.

For snacks (not just at work, but anytime!):

  • Instead of pulling out a container of cream cheese based dip for a party or before dinner, put out salsa! Who doesn’t love chips and salsa? Plus, it’s spicy and we know that ups your metabolism!
  • Now, I’m not saying to dip your popcorn in salsa, BUT swapping air-popped popcorn for greasy potato chips is definitely a better bet.
  • Don’t just dig into the box! Remember when we talked about measuring things out? Measure your portion out and eat from a bowl or plate. Mindlessly grabbing into a bag is a surefire way to empty that bag without noticing.
  • I am a peanut butter lover. I really am. But I have been trying to cut down on my consumption and swapping it for raw nuts. It makes a big difference because there are more fats and sugars in nut butter than in almonds. Also, unless you’re measuring it out (which you should be), it’s easy to over do it.

Also, just some friendly reminders about things that we’ve discussed in previous posts but that are very easy to forget or not be consistent on!

  • Chew slowly! I’ve really been working on this as I am a speed-eater at heart. This morning was difficult because I was late- but really like to slow down and give your food a good chew.
  • In keeping with slowing down, eat at the table. This allows you to focus and slow down instead of mindlessly eating in front of the TV. I rarely eat in front of the TV but I do eat in front of my computer at work which is very hard not to do!
  • Cut your portion sizes down easier by swapping out your large plates for medium or small ones. It tricks your brain and you probably didn’t need all that anyways!
  • When you eat slower, you should get those satiety signals sooner. That should prevent you from cleaning the plate (unless it’s the right portion for you!). But don’t feel forced to clean the plate- that’s something that has been ingrained in us as small children and it’s very difficult to break that habit (I really struggled with it). Stop when your full and keep it as leftovers.

Yesterday’s food journal

Pre-workout coffee

Breakfast- protein shake & 3 eggs

Coffee

Lunch- normal salad

Green tea

Mid-afternoon snack- yogurt with strawberries & flax

Dinner- leftover casserole and some pineapple

Simple Breakfast Swaps

Hello everyone! I am finally starting to feel like a normal human again. This past weekend in NYC was full of late (like 4 AM late) nights and lots of alcohol and unhealthy foods. But it was also filled with close friends, delicious NYC-only foods like bagels and pizza, and wandering around the city that I used to call home. I am so thankful that I had the time there, even though it was 40 degrees and my feet are not used to walking that much. After a 3 hour delay on Monday, I finally was home (sans dog) at 10:30 PM. I got into the office early on Tuesday to get caught up, treated myself to a midday massage (lugging heavy luggage around that city will kill you!) and then wrapped up my day by picking up healthy groceries for the week and finally picking up the pup! I cooked a healthy dinner, started unpacking and even caught up on a few shows (ummm is anyone else hooked on So Cosmo?? Since it was always my dream to work there, this show had me feeling serious FOMO).

This morning I dragged myself out of bed to put yesterday’s blog post to the test- perfect day of fitness! When I just wanted to stay in my comfy, cozy bed, I reminded myself of how groggy and sleepy I would be if I did. I did a 5 minute brisk walking warm-up, a few dynamic stretches, then the interval run- whew was it hard! But I successfully did it and felt so accomplished. Since I was running short on time, I did a couple of planks and 2 sets of 10 squats holding free weights (makes it a LOT harder!) then finished with some static stretches. I didn’t have time to foam roll but I plan to tonight while I watch TV. Then I took the stairs at work! I can’t wait for my gym buddy to come back from NYC tonight 🙂 so we can push each other together. Tomorrow will be strength training- legs, butt, core, and arms!

Today, I’m going to go over some simple, healthy swaps that will really make a difference. Every little bit counts and small steps add up to big ones. Some of these swaps you won’t even notice and honestly- they may even taste better!

First things first- if you are trying to lose weight, you need to cook at home more and stop eating out as much. I think we eat out a lot but then I hear about other people who eat out 5+ times a week (not even including buying lunch everyday) and I’m shocked! Save money AND calories by cooking at home. Not only will your meal be healthier overall (even a decadent meal at home probably has less calories than a so-called “healthy” meal at a restaurant which can still clock in at over 600 calories) but you won’t be tempted by a bread basket or starter salad. Don’t be intimidated- start with basic recipes and you will pick up skills as you go.

Now some things to watch for both while you’re out eating and when you’re cooking at home. We’ll start with just the morning meal and add on throughout the week!

At breakfast or brunch:

  • First and foremost- EAT BREAKFAST. You have time. Don’t hit snooze again- don’t get sidetracked with untangling a necklace- eat breakfast. It gives your body the signal that it needs to start burning calories which gets your metabolism going and I think it helps focus me. Even if it’s just grabbing a Greek yogurt while you run out the door or prepping overnight oats the night before so you have something ready to go- do it!
  • Instead of orange juice, why not try a whole orange? Or an apple instead of apple juice? You lose all the fiber and a lot of the benefits when you opt for juice (unless we’re talking mimosas- that’s a whole other ballgame). I pretty much only drink coffee, tea, water, and alcohol at this point- caloric drinks aren’t worth it to me when they provide empty calories.
  • Can’t do black coffee or plain oatmeal? Try swapping your sugar for cinnamon. Cinnamon slows your stomach’s rate of emptying and softens blood sugar spikes. It also has many other health benefits and is full of antioxidants. But while we’re talking about it, give black coffee a try. Your regular morning latte packs more calories than you think. I always needed milk & sweetener in my coffee but once I got acclimated to the taste, it’s so much easier (and cheaper! Especially at the coffee shop.)
  • Speaking of oatmeal- eat it! If you are still eating a bowl of sugary cereal (or really any cereal unless it’s full of fiber), try oatmeal. It’s better for your heart and it’s more filling. Let’s be real- when you’re pouring a bowl of cereal, are you really only eating one portion size? (I hope so- see my blog post on measuring everything!)
  • Getting pancakes or waffles for brunch? Swap the syrup for fresh fruit like blueberries- there is SO much sugar in syrup, it’s good to cut down on it. Or try dipping your food instead of just dumping the whole container on your plate. And at home, look for 100% pure maple syrup- not the brown-colored high-fructose corn syrup stuff.
  • My NYC weekend notwithstanding- bagels should not be on your regular breakfast rotation. It is the equivalent of 5 slices of bread. Would you eat 5 slices of bread in a sitting? Eat ONE or maybe two slices of whole-wheat bread instead. Avoid topping it with butter- try something with protein, good fats, and vitamins like peanut butter or avocado.
  • Eggs- it’s what’s for breakfast! Eggs are so good for keeping you full in the morning. Instead of frying them in a bunch of grease, hard-boil them or use just a little bit of olive oil spray if you prefer scrambled or over-easy.

Try these simple morning swaps tomorrow and see if you don’t have a more focused, productive morning- and maybe you can push lunch off a little longer!

Yesterday’s food journal

Breakfast- 2 scrambled eggs, whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter

Coffee

Mid-morning snack- Almonds

Lunch- Salad

Green tea

Mid-afternoon snack- string cheese, then an hour later a bag of 94% fat-free microwave popcorn. Then after grocery shopping, a KIND bar. 

Late dinner (for me)- Roasted Broccoli, Chicken, and Cheddar Quinoa Bake

 

A better day of fitness

My gym routine has gotten a little staid. I do a couple dynamic & static stretches, go for a pretty relaxed run on a baby incline after warming up, maybe do a core workout. When I get into the gym more than 3 days a week, I’ll do some strength training focusing on my butt, legs, and core (maybe a couple arm moves and that’s if I don’t opt for the extra hour and a half of sleep). Then I finish off with some more static stretching. Now, I know I might be better than most but I am still a far cry from what an amazing day in the gym SHOULD look like- and I’ve also changed up my routine from what it used to look like a few years ago.

Here’s what an ideal day (or two days if there is no time for both cardio and strength training) should look like:

Warm up FIRST. Don’t rush right into it- that’s why you get injured. Walk briskly or do whatever you plan on doing slowly at first to get your muscles activated. Even if you’re just doing strength training, hop on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes.

THEN do some dynamic stretches- walking lunges, arm swings, running butt kicks, power skips. This gives muscles an extra power boost, helps prevent injury and reaps flexibility benefits.

Cardio- Let’s be real, doing a relaxed run is fine if you’re training for a race. If you’re going that route, ALWAYS crank up the incline because, as we know, flat roads do not exist in the outdoors where you will most likely be racing. If you are NOT training for a race, try an interval run with sprints and some walking recovery. You can start slow- 3 minutes running and 3 minutes walking or 1 minute sprinting, 1 minute walking, 1 minute jogging, or you can try this run that has literally made me almost die on several occasions. But I just take that as a sign it’s working. And if you’re new to running, start small! Even if you run a short distance and walk farther, that’s better than hopping off and giving up.

Other cardio options- Can we be real and ban the elliptical? It’s fine if you  have a back injury, but any exercise you can do while also reading a book is not going to burn the calories you need to burn. If you must use an elliptical, at least don’t hold the handles! If you’re hands-free, you challenge your body slightly more. Same with biking- unless you’re doing an intense spin class, those sit-down bikes that literally look like wheelchairs with pedals, are doing you NO favors. If you don’t want to run, take a fun class (maybe try Zumba or one of the other dance-cardio classes that are sweeping the nation) or hop on the row machine (take a class first to really get the hang of it- CityRow in NYC is a great one but there are studios around the country) or the StairMaster. The bottom line is- instead of dreading your workout, have fun with it!! Just because you don’t hate the exercise, doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. And it’ll keep you coming back for more!

Strength-training- I like to do routines I find in fitness magazines or blogs, but if you’re just throwing in some basic moves, here is where you should start. For your core, stop doing crunches and do planks. If you’re short on time, a minute holding a plank will work your whole core. If you can also add in v-ups, Russian twists, flutter kicks, bicycle kicks, and side planks, even better! Skip the machines and pick up free weights- either for your arms or while you do other exercises like squats (instead of sitting down doing leg presses-what an oxymoron!). Compound moves like that work multiple muscle groups so are great for multitasking, e.g. pull-ups (start small with assisted pull-ups) vs. bicep curls.

At the end of it all, partake in some static stretching. But ALSO get the knots out using a foam roller. That will really help you massage out those kinked up muscles from your awesome work-out! And don’t just go home and pop some ibuprofen and a protein bar- drink a class of cherry juice if needed (the natural muscle medicine!) and eat a homemade post-workout snack or meal. Most protein bars have too much sugar in them so read your labels!

My biggest challenge though is GETTING to the gym- and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But I know that going to the gym instead of sleeping will keep me more alert at work later in the day. It gives me a huge energy boost and keeps my calorie-burning engine fired up all day long. Working out with a buddy (remember that tip!?) instead of going it alone will also help with this.

Now if you still feel like you’re just guessing at all of this, maybe work with a personal trainer a few times to get a feel for what you need to concentrate on. Many gyms provide them or you can look for a Groupon to cut the cost. Not only will they teach you proper form, but they can push you through sets when you’re ready to give up.

There are also so many ways to keep burning calories throughout the day- these tips make me feel better if I have to skip the gym and make me feel even BETTER if I also have gone to the gym that day!

  • At the office, try to get your hands on a standing desk or exercise ball to swap for your office chair. Unfortunately, at my current job, that’s not an option but I have had both options at other jobs and it’s great! It feels so much better than sitting all day and it helps with your balance while working your abs.
  • If your boyfriend (or you!) is a video game fanatic, why don’t you try swapping in some Wii games or other games that incorporate exercise? The Just Dance games are my favorite and really do work up a sweat!
  • If stairs are an option take them! I trek up and down the 4 flights of stairs in my office building (unless I’m wearing really high heels).
  • Instead of doing dinner and a movie for EVERY date night, switch it up! Go hiking, go ice-skating, check out a trampoline park!
  • Unless you have a handicapped sticker on your car, park farther away. You do not NEED to get a spot right up front.

Alright guys, incorporate some of these tips into your next gym session and see how much of a difference it makes after a couple of weeks! Let me know your gym routine in the comments!

Yesterday’s Food Journal

Pre-Soul Cycle Clif bar & coffee

Breakfast- I had a nice little solo brunch at Buvette in the West Village. I had two Americanos, 2 mini croissants with butter and jam, and then their steamed eggs with prosciutto on toast. It was THE BEST.

Early airport dinner- an $11 chicken quesadilla that was really half of one (one tortilla folded over). I hate eating in airports. 

Almonds when I finally boarded the plane after my 3 hour delay. And then the 2 Biscoff cookies they offered. 

 

 

It shouldn’t be difficult!

Due to technical difficulties I tried to post this from the airport yesterday but that didn’t happen! I also had a three hour flight delay, my puppy is still at the dog-sitter’s and I am under water at work! This will be another double-post day, but just pretend you are reading this yesterday 🙂

If you aren’t like me- Type-A meal-planner who writes out dinner menus & grocery lists, shops once per week, and preps ahead of time- eating healthy can be confusing. What should I eat, what shouldn’t I eat? If I don’t want to meal plan, what the heck do I buy??

There is no definitive answer to this as it all depends on your personal tastes. However, I’d like to provide some guidance on foods you should feel free to eat every day and others that maybe you should cut back on. I will also provide how I incorporate or don’t incorporate these foods! Looks like I have my grocery list planned out for me already then, right?

Every day, you should eat dark, leafy greens (like spinach which is the base of my salad for lunch every day), nuts (I eat them as a snack or sometimes with breakfast), carrots (in my salad and sometimes as part of dinner), green tea (I have a mug either pre- or post-lunch), whole grains (occasionally with breakfast and sometimes with dinner), and fruit (occasionally with breakfast and as snacks).

Whole grains are rich in fiber and will keep you fuller longer- we talked about this when I shared with you ways to ADD to your diet instead of subtract. The healthiest whole grains you should be eating are whole wheat (like in sprouted wheat bread), whole oats like in oatmeal, brown rice, whole rye, freekeh, whole-grain barley (beer doesn’t count), buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, whole wheat couscous and corn. Nuts are a great source of protein and contain many other awesome benefits- almonds and pistachios are the healthiest choices but every kind of nut brings some benefit to the table. Greatist has a great infographic to help you decipher. Greens & carrots are both vegetables that are low in calories and chock-full of vitamins and minerals, as are fruits and green tea. They are especially high in antioxidants that can help you live longer!

Once you’ve hit those bases, then there are the foods you should aim to eat a few times a week. Those are yogurt (I opt for low-fat plain Greek yogurt as a snack or part of breakfast), cauliflower & broccoli (usually part of a dinner recipe), sweet potatoes (also usually part of a dinner recipe), avocados (I have to sit this one out- I hate them), oily fish (honestly, most oily fish I can’t stand the taste of besides tuna so I choose tuna as much as I can when out to eat if it’s affordable), and tofu (if I brought tofu home my BF probably would strike so I don’t have much experience cooking with it but everyone should experiment!) Obviously, everyone is going to have their likes and dislikes and also you need to mix it up a bit. I don’t eat broccoli and cauliflower every week, but if you’re having trouble getting started with a meal-plan those are great veggies to start with as they have tons of antioxidants. If you like salmon and sardines, eat them!! They’re high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are so good for your heart & skin. About once a month, I’ll splurge on smoked salmon to scramble into my eggs- I can’t stand cooked salmon. Tofu is a great low calorie protein source that is crucial if you’re vegetarian or don’t eat red meat. Yogurt is also a great protein source and has calcium for your bones.

Foods you should limit to about once a week include red meat, white starch (like that croissant splurge at brunch), desserts and alcohol. Remember my alcohol ban? Maybe it’ll be more like a drink a week limitation…Love it, savor it, and be smart about your portions. But remember this also means that YES you are allowed to have a dessert once a week! And no, I don’t mean fruit. Personally, I would choose something low-sugar which might mean making something homemade, or there are tons of lists on-line of healthy, low-calorie, packaged desserts at the grocery store (except follow my rule below).

Now the foods you should never eat- just cut them out! They have no place in a healthy diet. Soda, processed meals, canned soups, or anything labeled “diet”. Sodas, diet drinks or diet foods mostly contain artificial sweeteners- these may be even more addictive than real sugar! (See yesterday’s post.) Canned soups and processed meals usually have sodium levels FAR beyond what you should be consuming in a day and can lead to bloat. So I hope this provides some guidance and for those of us who have maybe veered off the healthy eating road- like me after last weekend!!

 

Sunday’s food journal

Breakfast- We went to Union Fare for brunch. I had coffee and then my friend and her boyfriend split 3 “smash toasts” with me. Then I had a breakfast sandwich with chicken sausage, egg and cheese on a cinnamon roll.

Dinner- A 12 inch white pizza at Speedy Romeo’s (didn’t eat most of the crust). Then we went to 10 below Ice Cream which is a Thai-style ice cream roll shop and got the Nutella-banana flavor with pretzels and whipped cream that we shared.