weight loss

Fit Bride, Amber // Before & After My First 5k

AmberProfileI'm a Color Runner! I can't believe it!  The night before the race: 

As I get ready to embark on my first 5k, I realize I am really nervous! I have never run more then a mile and I swear that was back in high school. I may have walked/run on a treadmill for more than a mile but it took quite some time! I know the Color Run is supposed to be fun, it's at the national harbor and will definitely be pretty, but the issue is: I DON’T RUN!

I knew this run was coming but I had talked to a few people running with me and they said they weren’t doing any intense training. (Sure, they may be smaller then me but I have been working out.) Everyday I take at least 30 minutes to do something active. (Sure it's more cardio and kickboxing than running, but my heart knows how to pump! My muscles know how to work!) But run? I just don’t know! We will find out! At least for now I am excited to have a good dinner, get in bed early, and hit the ground running in the morning. LITERALLY! LOL.

After the 5K:

Right before the race I was definitely nervous (read above!) - Sara and I discussed arriving almost 2 hours early and she had all these tidbits on what I should wear/bring… things got serious! The night before I barely slept. Lol! I woke up at 6am, got my game face on, did some stretching (my hubby suggested I start early!) and got in the car to head to the event! Once I arrived I INSTANTLY felt better! I saw so many different people of different ages, weights, fitness levels. Plus, most of the people were dressed in tutu’s or something colorful and fun so the mood was very light! There was no seriousness or super stretching that made me feel my performance would DEFINITELY be inadequate! They gave us tattoos and headbands and that got me in the spirit to have tons of fun! Yay - it's here! My first 5k! 

Color Run

When we got ready to get in the line there were tons of people there. We had just met up with our team of ladies developed on Facebook so the 30 minutes in line was spent taking lots of selfies to show we were AMPED for the run!

Color Run

Once we got to the start line my nerves crept in a little bit because while I knew walking was appropriate, I also knew that the ladies in my group would want to TRY and run the whole thing and I wanted to try and prove it to myself as well!

So, we start and we are running and I am OK! When the first few start to walk I felt good that my lungs were still cooperating and I could keep running! At this point, I found my running buddy -- Michelle; pictured pre-race below -- and was able to keep with her for most of the rest of the time! It was really great because we ended up making different little goals for ourselves -- we would start running at a certain sign and walk through certain color stations. We had a rhythm going (and I was really running)!

Color Run_Amber

Actually, harder than the running was getting used to having the powdered paint thrown at me! I know next time I do it to bring a towel or something for my eyes because wearing contacts and having dust fly in them constantly is not a good look! I also thought there were going to be mile markers or something that let me know where we were. It wasn’t until I saw the finish line that I realized I had actually run 3 miles! My running buddy and I pushed ourselves through to the end of the race and it was so rewarding to finish! I felt fit, I felt in great shape, and I didn’t want to die! I wanted to take a shower and throw away my contacts but physically, I felt great! Suns out, guns out! :)

Color Run-1

My overall impression of the Color Run is that it was a lot of fun! Doing it with a group of friends definitely helped with the lead up excitement, having a more experienced runner (Sara) definitely helped me to have some insight into what I was going to experience, and having a running buddy was awesome because she helped motivate me at times when I probably would have just kept walking!

Color Run-2

My overall impression of my first 5K is that IT'S NOT THAT BAD!

It wasn’t as long or as tiring as I had originally thought. I finished the whole thing in 38 minutes and probably 85% of that was running!

I never thought of myself as an active person but this really helped me to think about how I need to broaden my horizons. I need to try things that look scary because they probably aren’t. My weight loss has changed my life by making me healthier. I can do more then I did before and that is so rewarding! I might not be at my goal weight, but all in all I am healthier! Healthy enough to do a 5K where before I wouldn’t have thought that! God is good!


JUST JOINING US?

AMBER IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW AND BLOGGING HER WAY TO THE WEDDING. CHECK OUT HER INTRODUCTION, CHECK OUT HER COLUMN, AND FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM

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Fit Bride, Amber // Seeing My Family for the First Time After 40 lbs Lost

AmberProfile
AmberProfile

I had been trying to keep my weight loss a secret from those closest to me. Most have known (hello world!) but some did not. I had tried to stay away from posting pictures of myself on social media as a way for no one to find out! My coworkers definitely know as they have seen me shrink little by little since the beginning of the year and while it is nice to have strangers come up to me and say “you look good!” I have been overweight for most of my life and my family of all people will be prouder of me then any stranger because they know it is something I have struggled with FOREVER. Well just last weekend I saw my ENTIRE family at a wedding in Orlando. It was so rewarding being around family and their gushing over my weight loss was just the icing on the cake! I had bought a new dress (nothing fits!!) for the wedding and it definitely showed off my weight loss!

Amber
Amber

Sometimes it’s easy to see how far you have to go instead of seeing how far you have come so it was really nice to have people who haven’t seen me daily see how much progress I have made! I am down over 40 pounds now and while I can tell a difference in my stomach, arms and legs, the MAIN place you can see my weight loss is in my face. My face looks completely different! I have even heard that I look younger! That will never get old!!

>>>See more progress photos!<<<

It’s pure and utter motivation for me to keep going, too. Every time I think about pizza I just think that I am actually losing weight, no food will ever be more important then that!

All of my life I get on the scale and it stays the same, may go up, but never goes down pounds, but with this diet and me being so focused I am actually dropping the pounds. I saw the scale go up back in January when I was still an infant in weight loss but now that I have learned my trouble areas and am in the greatest shape of my life due to my workouts, NOTHING seems worth messing that up!

I have also mentioned that my self esteem was very low when I was heavier (just take a look back at my first few posts). I also mentioned a few weeks ago that my self esteem hasn’t changed much as I focus on the negative wayyyy to easily (anyone else with me??), but being around my family and experiencing their love and support not only renewed me to focus on dropping more weight, but also renewed me in terms of what matters. I need to go back there daily and remember that no matter what happens in my day, I have love and support around me and THAT is what I need to focus on. Joel Osteen summed it up perfectly….

”If you are always looking at your problems, meditating on them, feeling sorry for yourself, telling everybody about them; you will become consumed by them. But when you look up, your life will start to move up.”

Its time to start looking up more often, and being lighter should make that easier! ☺

JUST JOINING US?

AMBER IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW AND BLOGGING HER WAY TO THE WEDDING. CHECK OUT HER INTRODUCTION, CHECK OUT HER COLUMN, AND FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM

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AmberSignature

Fit Bride, Amber // Lifestyle Changes

AmberProfile Progress update!!

When I first started keeping this journal and writing down how I felt about being overweight I was 231 lbs. I keep remembering that number because I never want to forget where I was or what it felt like to be that size.

20 days on this program and I am now 218 lbs! That's definitely progress!

However, I have to admit, some of those old feelings of inadequacy are popping up. Even though I haven’t been this size for at least 2 years, I feel like I need to lose more. A lot more. This is knowing it wouldn't be healthy to lose this weight any fast than I currently am.

It's not all about the weight, though, right? This is a lifestyle change. With that said, I want to share a non-scale victory with you:

Today was the first day I declined happy hour with about 15 of my coworkers.

YAY! (This = major progress) 

They were celebrating a friend of mine getting a promotion and a new person starting. Happy hour was scheduled for Glory Days… I love Glory Days! But as soon as I saw the invite, I knew I didn't want to go. I am still too “new” to this lifestyle change to even want to mess it up by going to happy hour. Sure some say to just go and not drink, but that's not me. Some say just have one drink, but that's too hard, too. If I learned ANYTHING from my trip to Orlando, it is that alcohol can ruin EVERYTHING I have done to lose weight. Not to mention, it would take more than a single drink for me to really have fun at happy hour. I am an experienced drinker, which is definitely the reason I am the size I am... I think my whole life I've been overstimulating myself with things like alcohol; always going overboard and indulging (wanting to get the worst [yet most delicious] thing on the menu). Probably in an attempt to make myself feel better about myself, but really just making matters worse.

I've realized that at least right now I'm not at the point yet where I can be go to happy hour and not drink or be tempted to throw in the towel. And that's OK. 

I've also realized I need to let go of what others think of me, especially if I expect to really change my lifestyle. Everyone was on me about not going, of course. I think they look and me think, "What is one happy hour going to do? You're already huge!” They've seen me lose weight and gain it back. I doubt they think I'm taking this seriously this time, but I am trying this time. And at the end of the day, they can think what they want. They aren’t going through this weight loss journey with me, they aren’t as invested in me as I am; they probably don't care about how I'll look in my wedding dress but I do! Right now they're just worried about the big girl who likes to go out, have fun, and drink. They aren’t really concerned about my goals and ambitions. Those that do understand, know why I'm not there.

A New Perspective

Months ago I literally cried because I felt as if I had no friends. No one wanted to hang out with me….no one wanted to do happy hour. Brandon has been working this evening shift for awhile so I felt so lonely just coming home to myself, like no one cared. Of course I attributed it to me being fat…. me not being the pretty, fun girl. But my outlook has changed. Now I look forward to coming home after work and working out. I look forward to staying motivated to lose weight. I look forward to hibernating so I can just wow everyone with my weight loss. I am so determined you guys!! I am so focused. I refuse to let anything get in my way! And as upset as I was last week for gaining weight while traveling due to the alcohol, it was a learning lesson that means a lot more now because I'm making the change. Now I know just how damaging a single happy hour can be!

All of this reminds me that God is good!! Even when you don’t see what's happening, He is working in your life. I was so down in the dumps last year and literally had no self confidence. I beat myself for everything and felt like I had nothing. But God put the persona doctors commercial come on for me to see it that day. God bought the right people in my life so I have support. I see Him in all this -- there have been times of weakness in the car when I am on the way home and I just think “let me get something to take home... I want a snack” and God makes my phone ring or the line is too long. I can leave work and think “I have no energy to workout, I should have done it in the morning!” Then for some reason, as soon as I get home and walk up 3 flights of steps I feel energy take over me and I can't wait to change into my workout clothes!

God has been with me every step of the way and I feel as if this is my time.

This is my time to grow up, stop making excuses, and to focus on what really matters. Joel Osteen always says that God has something waiting for you -- something HUGE! He is going to cause a breakthrough in your life; you just have to be patient.

Honestly, I feel like God has been preparing me for 2015. Brandon's job. My job. My new house. The wedding. And finally, this weight loss. I won't let any happy hour stand in my way. ☺

Have you had to turn down friends for dinner or happy hour because you're trying to make a lifestyle change? 

Do you feel like God is guiding your efforts to live healthier? 

JUST JOINING US?

AMBER IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW AND BLOGGING HER WAY TO THE WEDDING. CHECK OUT HER INTRODUCTION, CHECK OUT HER COLUMN, AND FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM

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Fit Bride, Amber // Some Journaling Before the Start

Before Amber shared her desire to blog for the website, she started journaling. She wrote down her deepest, sometimes darkest feelings about herself, her weight, and her desire to get fit. For me, personally, reading this was gut-wrenching... Amber is not only my sister-in-law, but my friend and I hate to see a friend down on herself. Then again, I know where she's coming from. I've been there, too... feeling overweight, defeated, and stuck.  Amber: Thank you for sharing this. I know you will be an inspiration to someone going through the same thing! 

AmberProfileNovember 20th

As I wake up on November 20 I realize that I feel super bloated so I decided to go to weigh myself for the first time in weeks and I get on the scale of course, there's a number on there that I'm just not ready to face. This has gotten out-of-hand.

My resolve is now determination that I will allow my sister-in-law to provide me whatever type of diet she wants to give me into 2015 -- I've got to do something about my weight because I refuse to look this bad forever. It's no longer just about the wedding, it's about me getting in shape and not having cellulite and not feeling like crap all the time.

I'm sick of being the big girl at the party... sick of being the one who never wants to go to the pool or never wants to travel anywhere cause I don't want to be seen in a bathing suit. I'm 30 years old at this point time and if I'm not going to do it, when I turn 30 and when I'm getting married, then when am I going to do it?

I have the perfect person, the perfect occasion, and it's time.

Time to get serious and get this weight off. I don't want to die.

November 21st

I don't even know if I can call today my first day or not but I wanted to write down my thoughts anyway. About 2 weeks ago my brother came over and got ready to sit where I usually sit on the couch. He immediately got up and said he knew the seat was mine because it was dented in. I felt awful that I am that fat but I am that fat. No matter how much I want to deny it... I am. There is definitely a dent in the bed where I lay, too, and maybe skinny people leave dents but honestly I just hate feeling like my fat is in the way. I need to get my life together asap. I need to get serious because I am honestly disgusting. Honestly I am. I need to lose weight and stop making excuses asap. Seriously... I need to do something...

November 23rd

So I definitely started out the day with good intentions but, I was starving by the time we got to breakfast and, being so hungry, noticed they had this full breakfast option on the menu that came with french toast. I love big breakfasts with french toast! I got it and when it came out, it was that nasty challah stuff (not a fan). But still, it got me thinking: why am I so messed up that taking away things I love seems impossible? Like, french toast, really? And, I ate it. All of it. 

For dinner I did better. I ordered ate a single piece of turkey meatloaf (one square out of 6) some rice pilaf, broccoli, and a biscuit from Red Lobster. So all in all not bad. And even though I had half a glass of wine and a mixed drink, I think it was a good day. I just needed a workout and it would have been acceptable. And, of course, maybe next time I can make a better decision at breakfast (no french toast).

November 28th

I'm feeling the worst I have ever felt. I feel completely bloated, I have gained 3 pounds and honestly I have no reason why. I didn't think I overdid it this much, but apparently I have. I feel fat. I feel like a house. I have to do something. First step is joining SoldierFit on Monday, but my eating is the issue I have to change immediately. It's 80 percent what you eat and 20 percent how much you work out. I know that. Food is the problem. I can't eat like I want to. I have to change the way eat. Immediately.

December 7th

I've spent the last week being sick. It was awful. I didn't eat much, which was good, but as soon as I started feeling better and had a chance to eat, I went overboard. Friday I had a Starbucks sausage and cheese sandwich (bad) and a grande non-fat caramel macchiato. Then for lunch I had a long island (can you tell I was feeling better?), potato skins, chicken wings, and a half a caesar salad. Dinner was probably the worst: a few more drinks (champagne, an espresso martini, and two miller lights), french toast (again!), eggs scramble with cheese, sausage, and hash browns... Need I go on!!! Awful. Just awful.

December 10th

While I try to do better I still have a day where I don't do better. I went to McDonalds and Noodles and Company. In total I know I've had way too many calories today... a Mocha Frappe from McDonalds and cheese bread from Noodles and Company... Am I even trying? I need to get my life together.

Have you ever felt like you needed to get your life together? 

Have you ever felt completely down on yourself?

Have you ever thought long and hard about what you ought to do, but actually doing it felt impossible?  

Let's all give Amber a virtual high five for facing these feelings head-on and fighting for the change she so desperately longs for, and for being brave enough to share those thoughts here and let others who might be feeling the same know they're certainly not alone. (Also, spoiler: Amber turns things around soon! So excited to share her progress!) 


JUST JOINING US?

AMBER IS MY SISTER-IN-LAW AND BLOGGING HER WAY TO THE WEDDING. CHECK OUT HER INTRODUCTION, CHECK OUT HER COLUMN, AND FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM

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Fit Mom, Karlye // September SMART Goal Results

Fit-Mom-MonikerHi guys! In the beginning of September, I shared my SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals with you. I wanted to challenge myself to not take more than 3 rest days in a row, hold a 2 minute plank, and run a mile nonstop. I didn’t make it to Crossfit as often as I wanted, but I was pretty good about sticking to the “no more than 3 rest days in a row” rule. It forced me to utilize the workout equipment I have at home and go for walks at the park. I even did a yoga class with my munchkin one day at his school. :) I think I’m going to keep this as an unofficial goal moving forward to make sure I keep moving and avoid getting stick in a rut for too long!

Ok, I mentioned I struggled holding 20 second planks during my Crossfit Elements classes and then miraculously held a one minute plank during a warm-up one day. That jump from 20 seconds to one full minute inspired my goal to hold a two minute plank by the end of September. What.was.I.thinking?! Clearly I was still high on excitement when I decided that was a realistic goal. Two minutes in the plank world is a lifetime. A LIFETIME! At least it seems that way to me. Obviously from my rant, you can tell I didn’t meet this goal. I did, however, improve my plank time by 27 seconds, and that makes me proud. I FOUGHT for those extra 27 seconds that day and it was HARD! I planked almost every day, usually while I watched TV at night. I also did exercises like shoulder taps that required me to be in the plank position. I definitely think that helped me improve my time. My October goals will not include planking, but I will continue to keep them in my workout routine. Right now, I’m content with planking for 30-60 seconds at a time; I definitely feel the burn!

So about that running goal… I totally dropped the ball on this one. I really want to use a treadmill to accomplish this goal because I feel like that would make it easier to measure my progress, but I was unable to re-join my work gym in September. So, I decided to roll this goal over to October. It’s still something I really want to do, and I know I’ll be able to re-join the gym this month for sure. Plus, this time around I will have Sara and another colleague jumping back into running too. I am super confident I can accomplish this goal if I really put my mind to it. In fact, this is going to be my main focus for October. The only other official goal I’ll be focusing on is drinking one gallon of water a day.

This time, I’ll be giving you guys updates on my progress throughout the month via Instagram. Feel free to stop by to leave an encouraging comment or remind me to get off my butt and jump on that treadmill!

What are your goals for October? 


JUST JOINING US? CHECK OUT KARYLE’S INTRODUCTION, MEET KARLYE: OUR NEW FIT MOM BLOGGER AND TO SEE HER PREVIOUS POSTS, SEARCH “FIT MOMS” IN THE CATEGORY DROPBOX. 

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#TransformationTuesday

Hi guys! I'm starting a new series on the blog - #transformationtuesday! I'll either share a before and after photo, or a weight loss success story. These are wildly popular on social media so I figured why not bring a little more before and action to the blog? I have oodles of old photos and clearly, I have no shame! Haha!

#TransformationTuesdayWearing a crop top for the first time on New Year's Eve in Florence was such a new and exciting feeling! I remember thinking, Who am I? I felt totally transformed in this tight-on-tight ensemble, but maybe I liked it? You can tell by the way I'm swaying in this photo that I definitely did!

Crop tops - I'm learning - are awesome because they show just enough skin; not too much, not too little. I'm still self-conscious when I wear one, but hey, look how far I've come! These posts serve as a reminder of that! #proudmoment

What's something you've been able to wear since losing weight, or something you hope to wear when you do? 

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DO YOU HAVE A TRANSFORMATION PHOTO OR STORY YOU WANT TO SHARE? I'D LOVE TO FEATURE YOU! SHOOT ME AN EMAIL!

Fashion Friday & Get Motivated March // Week 3

Happy Friday friends! How's your week been? Mine has been really good! Tomorrow marks the end of my first full week at my new job and so far, I really like it! It's a lot busier than my other job, but I have a beautiful office and I really like the work I'll be doing... get this, I get to blog! Woohoo! I'm combining this week's Fashion Friday feature with preparations for Week 3 of Get Motivated March! How adorable is this Protein Shake tank? I love it!  I also love these Nike shorts and if it ever gets warmer, I plan to get a few pairs!

Protein-Shake

ShopStyle

 

The Protein Shake Tank is available on Etsy here. I really love all the NobullWoman Apparel. They have Fit Mom tanks, too!

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Alright, so you haven't downloaded the Get Motivated calendar - it's never too late!

Get Motivated

And if you haven't done the first couple of challenges, jump right in!

March 16: Log Everyday!

I'm really excited to try to do this the entire week because I recently logged back into MyFitnessPal and I saw that theres been some nice updates! (Here's 10 Tips for Making the Most of MyFitnessPal!)

March 17: Cut Out Processed Foods!

This means fast food and packages lunches! Get creative and pack your lunch! Make a breakfast casserole or try overnight oats - I don't know where these have been all my life! It's been a delicious and filling way to start the day!

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March 18: Drink Water First

I'm really trying to get in this habit but it's hard! I always always go for the coffee first, then water, but there are so many benefits to drinking water first thing!

March 19: Plan an Active Date

I'm actually already planning an active date with my girlfriends! We're supposed to be going to DivaFit for a pole dancing class! That should be fun, active and hilarious!

March 20: Make a Healthy Swap

I have a healthy swap posted planned for next week! I've realized there are some many healthy alternatives to the foods I once loved, and once I introduced those healthy swaps in my diet I never looked back! Especially with protein pancakes and spaghetti squash! I don't miss the other stuff!

March 21: Take the Stairs

I'm on the seventh floor in my building and a walk up the stairs would be a great midday workout! Looking forward to this!

March 22: Pass on the Booze!

It's pretty well-known that alcohol can sabotage diet efforts! Try passing on the booze this weekend, at least for one day!

I'm going to try to be better next week checking in with you guys on these challenges (as I do them) via social media! This week has just been crazy with my new job and I haven't had time to get on Instagram! I miss it, though!

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Also, who's pumped for 14.3 of the Open? I am! Box jumps and deadlifts! I can do those so I'm stoked! Look for a full recap of the event Monday and to those of you competing - GOOD LUCK!

See my recaps of 14.1 and 14.2 here and here.

Thanks for reading guys! Have a great weekend!

Navigating Diets & Finding a Weight Loss Method that Works for You

Hi guys! Sorry for being quieter than usual lately! As you can see, I've been making a few changes around here. We now have a static homepage - www.fitforabrideblog.com - that will soon link my shop and bootcamp! Eek! There are a few other tweaks on the way, so please bear with me! This website is a constant work in progress!  So, lately, I've been feeling more and more confused when I think about how I want to approach weight loss and advise others on weight loss. There's so many diets and methods out there, and having experimented with quite a few myself, I tend to overcomplicate the process in my mind, and stall actually getting started... sound familiar?

FUNDAMENTALS
FUNDAMENTALS

Having this realization, I decided to nail down the things that have always worked to help me lose weight in the past, and, surprisingly, they're quite simple! No diet restrictions, no memberships, or expensive proteins or pills, just 5 fundamentals! 1. Get Motivated - Whether it's an upcoming event (ahem, like a wedding!) or just another summer season, I need something to get me motivated. An upcoming trip is good motivator and so is an upcoming anniversary of some kind (my 3 year wedding anniversary is in April). I also get motivated by taking a before picture of myself, making visual reminders (like below), reading about health, searching crossfit and weight loss on Instagram, trying new workouts, and combining forces with others. There's so many awesome ways to get motivated - it' just a matter of tapping in! In the past, I've used challenges to motivate me, too, but I've often fallen way off the bandwagon at the end of the challenge and gained back all the weight I lost while on it. I read this word of caution about Paleo Challenges and "Clean Eating" Programs and could totally relate! In my opinion, a challenge might motivate you, but it won't sustain you.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 1.36.07 PM

2. Change it up - Just like I constantly need motivation, my body needs constant change; this is especially true with workouts. If you've been doing the same workout or same type of workout for the last 6 months and you haven't seen any changes (and you're looking for change), you need to switch things up! Try something new, whether it be the workout itself or even the time of day you're working out. Challenge yourself! I love the quote "If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you!" So true! I think that's why CrossFit has been so beneficial.

Challenge-Change
Challenge-Change

Change is also the reason why strict diets that only allow for certain foods or meals don't really work for me. I've received meal plans that were the same two day's worth of meals repeated for an entire month! No thanks! I like to use those meal plans as a guide, but ulitimately, I need there will be a lot more variety in my own diet. I like to experiment! The key is experimenting with healthy foods, not new flavors of oreos!

2. Meal prep and log your food - These are big. Huge. Majorly important fundamentals to weight loss in my book. I do so much better when I think about what to eat ahead of time and then log as I go. While a diet might work to outline WHAT you eat, I find that just being prepared and watching it WHILE I eat is a much more effective and long term.

Meal Prep
Meal Prep

4. Have some accountability - I'm always thinking about new ways to incorporate some accountability into my life because I do my worse when I go unchecked for several days and weeks at a time. That's one reason why I think programs like Weight Watchers and other weekly weigh-in programs are great. Not because they focus on your weight (I don't think that's good), but because they add an element of accountability. I mean, cause, let's face it, how easy is it to ignore what we don't want to deal with? Too easy!

5. Get into a routine - Even though I like to change things up and try new workouts and recipes, my routine - with work, working out, sleeping, and meal prepping - always directly translates into whether I have a good or bad week in terms of weight loss.  If I don't go to bed at a decent hour, I'm traveling a lot, or bogged down with lots of obligations one weekend, it's easy for me to get off track. And then it's easier to stay off track than to refocus! I know it's important to be healthy on the go, but it's hard for me! I do much better when I have a set schedule and stick to it!

If you're navigating lots of diets and not sure where you should begin, it might help to brainstorm the simple solutions that worked for you in the past! I wouldn't be surprised if we had some in common - most people agree that tracking food and having some accountability helps!

And, here's an idea! Let's help each other! Beginning in March there will be weekly challenges that reinforce these simple weight loss fundamentals. One week you might be challenged to track your meals, or prep your breakfast for the week! You might be challenged to change up your workout and go for a run outside, or try a CrossFit class! I'll publish the Get Motivated March calendar tomorrow, and all the challenges will be typed into each day!

Get-Motivated
Get-Motivated

There will be a new calendar and a new set of challenges in April! I'm really hoping these challenges motivate us to stop stalling and do what we know we ought to! Who's with me??

Do you overthink healthy sometimes?

Do you go back and forth about how to go about losing weight?

Talking About: Too Much Weight Loss

I wasn't going to mention it but the buzz about the Biggest Loser, Rachel losing too much weight hasn't lost any steam in the last two days. Everywhere I look there's something about Rachel being "too skinny," and the Biggest Loser being a "bad show" because of rapid unrealistic weight loss. I'm dying to know what you guys think! Do you watch the Biggest Loser? Does the show motivate you, or do you agree with the nay-sayers that it's too much weight loss, too fast. Biggest Loser

And what about Rachel? Is she too skinny? How does she compare with last year's winner, Dannielle?

Another question: is saying someone is too skinny the same as saying they're too fat? Body shaming is body shamming, right? Should America just butt out? Share your thoughts!

Image courtesy of NBC.

The 6 Secrets to Weight Loss

Do ever feel like you're searching for the solution to weight loss? Chatting with your friends or your personal trainer, do you ever find yourself trying to determine what will be the *trick* for you? I know that feeling so well. I get caught up talking about weight loss with almost everybody I know - my mom, stepmom, coworkers, friends, even my husband! And I've noticed, we're all searching, asking, wondering, exploring what might finally work for us. Having shared my own weight loss journey on the blog, it should come as no surprise I've struggled with this question my entire life. Try as I might to get away from the weight loss talk, it's never far from my mind. What is the answer? That's why when I received this infographic from Elena of Courthouse Clinics - I got excited. Not because the secret is here in this graphic, but because yep, you guessed it: there is no secret! And that's what these tips remind me. There's no magic pill or formula or diet, but there are tried-and-true approaches that can and often do work.

And funny thing? It's all common sense... stuff most of us already know! I especially love point #2, as it's something I struggle with myself.

Infographic-official This infographic was made by Courthouse Clinics

 Do you identify with any of these?

What's been your secret or rather, approach to weight loss?

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Tips for Staying Healthy During International Travel

Hey friends! This week I've been sharing all the fabulous eats and restaurants we experienced in Florence -- the food was definitely a big part of our trip! But I wanted to balance things out by sharing the ways we countered all this eating and tried to stay healthy abroad. I can't say I followed all these tips for staying healthy on my recent trip to Europe, but I took note of what the more seasoned travelers in my group were doing; several of them had tried-and-true methods for feeling a little more balanced away from home for so long.

How to Stay Healthy Abroad

+ Drink a lot of water. One lady made it a point to buy a liter of water from the hotel everyday to ensure she was getting enough. Because they don't serve huge glasses of tap water with meals (like they do in the U.S.), it's easy to get dehydrated. Experts also say it's easy to get dehydrated during long airplane rides. Make it a point to drink water, even if you don't want to. (Also, check out this article from Today with tips for making your next long flight a pleasant one!)

+ Take the stairs every chance you get. One couple passed us walking into the elevator on their way to the stairs almost everyday! Mind you, they were on the fourth floor and we were on the third! I finally smartened up and took the stairs too. The little workout gave me an instant energy boost!

+ Pack lots of different types of shoes. The feet have different pressure points and because of this, it's helpful to wear different types of shoes over the course of several days if you're doing a lot of walking. Once again, I failed in this category and learned my lesson! My feet were aching so bad by the end of the week from walking in the same shoes every day, and walking so much! I'll definitely pack more shoes next time to switch up the pressure points getting hit during long walks each day.

+ Opt for one light meal, whether it's lunch or dinner. In Italy, it's easy to feel like you need (or rather, want to) eat pasta, pizza and gelato with every meal, and if you're on vacation, why not?! A better approach would be to aim to have a light lunch or dinner because inevitably one of those meals will be heavy.

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+ Find fresh fruit. About mid-week we found a market where we bought the most delicious oranges! They served as the perfect snack midway through the day when we wanted something, but didn't have anything handy. I'm definitely a snacker so finding this store was a lifesaver! You could also buy almonds to keep handy for quick and easy snacking!

+ Sleep. My husband had an especially hard time sleeping and it definitely effected his energy level. One lady said she always asks for the room in the back of the hotel, which may seem a little over-the-top, but she said I can see her logic: sleep is so important to an overall sense of health and well-being. If you can't control what room you'll be in, pack ear plugs and sleepy time tea -- both should help combat any loud noise you hear from your room (we had a lot)!

+ Eat a sensible breakfast. So, I'll be honest - the first few days at the breakfast buffet I went straight for the prosecco and orange juice (vacation=mimosa) and chocolate crossiants, but I eventually realized this sugar-laded breakfast wasn't lasting long on my stomach, or giving me a lot of energy for the day. I switched to eating yogurt with a sliced banana and granola and water, and found that I stayed full longer and more satisfied through the morning.

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+ Opt for espresso instead of wine, sometimes. My husband doesn't drink so he'd get espresso when I got wine at the hotel bar in the evenings. However, wine is usually served with dinner in Italy, along with a cocktail (on the house, believe it or not!). Alcohol reaks havoc on any weight loss efforts while coffee boosts your metabolism. Try swapping the wine for an espresso every now and then. 

+ No milk in your coffee after midday. So this is an unspoken Italian custom, but I think it would serve Americans well. We all know sugar and dairy laden drinks from Starbucks can totally blow your diet, but sometimes you just need an afternoon boost; what's a girl to do? Again, try espresso or an Americano. It's not as delicious, I know, but save those calories for real food - something chewed! Not an afternoon drink that's gone in less than 5 minutes!

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+ Go for an early morning walk or run. One of the guys in our group is a former navy seal and we heard he went on an 8-mile run one morning! Now, that's a little extreme and of course, us ladies aren't as safe as a navy seal running through an unknown town early in the morning but, if you can, make some time for exercising while you're away. If your hotel has a gym, make use of it! It'll make you feel good. I promise.

Are you an international traveler?

What are your travel health tips?

Getting Our Christmas Tree & The Cookie Monster

Our parents never did real trees so it's kinda been our thing, which I love. This year, with our plans to leave for Italy two days after Christmas, I wasn't sure it was worth the hassle of a tree, but my husband insisted! He's a stickler for tradition. So, Sunday, during the light snow flurry we experienced, we decided it was time to carry out our yearly tradition and get our Christmas tree! In years past we went to privately owned lots and paid upwards of $75 for our real tree, but this year we just went to Home Depot and got our tree for just $35! It felt like a steal!

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(Yea, so, um, I have braces now... more on that later.)

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I didn't get a good picture of the tree all lit up because as soon as we strung the lights on it and flipped the switch, we realized half the lights were burned out! It took us a few days to get new lights and put ornaments on the tree, but it is officially done and I love it!

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I'm really glad we finally got it together though because I LOVE the smell of a real Christmas tree and it's so nice and cozy to lay around and watch TV near it.

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In other news, I've been feeling a bit like the cookie monster lately; is it just me? I had to ask - are your homes and offices filled with an abundance of cookies and brownies, and cakes and crap? Like HUGE cupcakes with green icing, and green and red chocolate chip cookies? My office holiday party is today and it's more cookies. It's CRAZY out here!

I've been thinking a lot about cookies lately though. My little sister called me the other night and told me she hasn't been eating that well. She's very active and plays volleyball (and even does Shawn T's Hip Hop Abs on her own), but she was kind of down for not "sticking to her diet." To be honest, a part of me completely freaked out during this conversation - DIET? I didn't EVER want that word coming out of my little sister's mouth! She's 13 for crying out loud, and she's growing! Not to mention, she's perfect as far as I'm concerned. I assured Brooke it's that time of year, and we're all splurging. It's normal. And more importantly, it's OK.

I talked with my friend at work about it and she suggested I encourage Brooke to focus on health, not weight loss - amen to that! Ultimately, too, I think it's most important none of us beat up on ourselves and rather, enjoy our wonderful lives and the wonderful foods in them. Even those of us who are focused on health (not weight loss) can't be so focused we miss out on the fun in life and the holidays.

So cheers to cookies friends!

What are your thoughts on dieting during the holidays?

Do you get a real Christmas tree, or fake one? 

9 Amazing Instagram Transformations

When I first joined Instagram back in September, I had no idea it would play such a huge role in my fitness journey. But, the way this social media platform instantly connected me with clean eaters and crossfitters, and incredible transformations, has been the biggest motivation. I love meeting new people (Hi Nutty!), trying their recipes, and watching others transform their lives as I try to transform mine. Posting my own before and after pictures, workouts and clean eats is fun, too. Not to mention it's free and easy to use! If you have instagram and you're on a weight loss journey or a get-strong journey an eat-clean journey or whatever, you should be following these women.

@Estellearcher

Dawn is positive, upbeat and on a mission to change the lives of women across the nation! I love seeing glimpses of her fast-growing zumba/fitness workout classes, SWEAT and her motivational quotes. I also love that Dawn setup a seperate instagram account to share other people's transformation stories. If you need a shot of inspiration, just start following @wesweat. Like Dawn, the people, the stories, the transformations are incredible!

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@Nutty4Nutrition

You guys know I'm a huge, huge fan of Nutty!! She always posts great recipes that are easy to make and taste delicious. I also love all the funny jokes she posts, and her before and after shots are so inspiring. I love that her fitness journey has been HERS and hers alone. She advocates finding a path to healthy that works for YOU, and that there's no one-size-fits-all approach.

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@sarah_griff_fit

Sarah is a friend of mine and she is on fire for running - she just completed her first half marathon! - and PX90! She's a beachbody coach and on Instagram, she posts the most inspiring before and after photos (like the one below!). This mama was definitely born to encourage and inspire others! Rock on, sister!

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@myweightlossfr

The picture tells it all! Wow! Just wow!

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@the_masonette

I totally love this girl! Just look at her before and after photo - it's not just about weight loss, look at that muscle! And doesn't she look so much younger in her "after" photo? Someone commented the before picture could easily pass as her mom! It's amazing the way weight loss makes us look younger. The Masonette is down more than 67 lbs, and has more than 100,000 followers. If you need a dose of heavy inspiration, look no further!

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@babnotonadiet

I interviewed Brooke about her incredible weight loss and ever since, I've been following her journey on Instagram. I love Brooke's balanced approach to weight loss through Weight Watchers, and not any extreme measures. She's also not afraid to try some hardcore workouts like Jillian Michaels Shredded or Insanity! She's lost more than 150 lbs!!!!! It doesn't get anymore inspiring than this.

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@jessicasmith626

I also interviewed Jessica- she's incredible! Like Brooke, Jessica takes such a balanced approach to weight loss and healthy living. Jessica is a runner and her blog is full of awesome, healthy recipes. She just doesn't give up! She's got a heart for God, which I love seeing laced through her posts; she's so inspirational.

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@niftyfoodie

Another friend of mine who has lost an incredible amount of weight - Amy is an awesome source of inspiration! She's been tracking and counting calories, running and weight lifting! I love these shots of her flexing that she posts every once in awhile to Instagram. Amy also has an incredible food blog, The Nifty Foodie, where you can read more about her weight loss journey, as well as find some awesome recipes! I really love Amy's approach because she's not looking for a quick fix! She's slowly, but surely changed her life through running and eating better - and the results are just a side effect of that. You're amazing girl! Keep up the good work!

niftyfoodie@average2athelete

I get a new favorite instagrammer every so often and the moment, I'm obsessed with @average2athelete - two girls on a mission to inspire! Below is a photo of Julia before and after beginning crossfit - she looks incredible! Both ladies, Julia & Kayte post some crazy workouts that always looks awesome and intense! I love that they're doing them in regular gyms, too! Not necessarily crossfit gyms! They look like they do these workouts on their own, too, which is something I really admire!

If you're looking for a place for workout inspiration - this is it! These girls will have you leaping from off the couch in no time! They also have a blog you have to check out!

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Are you on instagram?

Who do you follow? Share your favorites!

Weight Loss Success: Jessica of Get Busy Living

May_2013-11-2JessicaJessica is an elementary teacher in Pennsylvania, who has lost over 80 pounds and transformed her health through exercise and clean eating. Yep, you read that correct: 80 lbs!! Jessica loves running and recently completed her second half marathon. She has a blog called Get Busy Living and can be found on Instagram @jessicasmith626 -  sharing post-run selfies and lots of clean eats! When I read Jessica's story, I cried y'all. After experiencing devastating tragedy, this girl grabbed life by the bullhorns and began an incredible transformation. What I love most about her journey is that it's not over. She didn't meet her goal weight, and then go back to her old lifestyle. She lives one day at a time, striving to be healthy (not skinny), and has developed some great habits along the way. On her blog, I love reading how she's working on accepting that she's not the girl she used to be. (Oh I can relate, Jess!) And I love all her clean recipes from squash fries to the world's best cup of coffee. I'm honored to share Jessica's story here. I hope it inspires you like it has me!

Has your weight always been an issue for you? Since what age?

My weight has been an issue for me since the summer before 6th grade.  Before that, my mom used to say I was a “string bean” – it was hard to find pants to fit my long skinny legs.  That changed seemingly overnight. It was like I woke up one day skinny and the next day I was fat!  At first, we attributed it to hormones – but when I continued to remain overweight, it became clear that wasn’t the cause.

Has your decision to get healthy been on-again off-again, or did something just click?

I have attempted to lose weight many times since high school. I’ve tried Weight Watchers (with some success), South Beach, Medifast, Slim-Fast, and other diet programs like that.  I’d always lose the weight and then gain it back when I went “off my diet”.  I finally decided to stop looking for things with the word “FAST” in them, and just start eating quality, healthy foods.  This lifestyle change, not diet, has transformed my life!

Did you measure body fat?

Yes! The gym I belong to started with a measurements that included my weight, body fat, and measurements of various areas of my body. When I started, my body fat was 47% - it’s now 26%!

Did you use a particular program to help you lose weight? What program? (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, MyFitnessPal?)

I lost my first 40 pounds by exercising regularly and cutting out processed, fast, and sugary foods – no calorie counting! I got stuck at a plateau then and started to use the MyFitnessPal app to track my calories, and that helped me lose the next 40 pounds!

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Has anyone been doing this with you?

I haven’t had anyone doing this “with” me – but through my gym I ended up meeting many wonderful friends, some of whom are now my best friends.  We sign up for races together, plan workouts together, and text each other almost every day to help each other stay on track!

Have you reached your goal yet?

I haven’t reached my goal quite yet – I have about 20 more pounds to go! I settled myself around 170 pounds for a few months, and just allowed my focus to shift from calorie counting to properly fueling myself as I was training for my 2nd half marathon and a 10-mile obstacle race.  Now that those races are behind me, I’m getting back to calorie counting and trying to get rid of these last 20 pounds!

When you started, did you lose weight immediately or has it been a gradual loss?

My weight loss has progressed along for over 2 years now.  I’m taking the “slow and steady” approach and seeking to make permanent life changes, not fast fixes!

What are some of your staple foods and favorite recipes?

Every single weekday morning I make a green smoothie.  I mix unsweetened coconut milk, a handful of spinach, and protein powder as my base.  Then I add frozen fruit and other mix-ins like cocoa powder, powdered peanut butter, flax, chia seeds, coconut oil, or almond butter.  I also eat a lot of fish and quinoa.  My go-to dinner is baked salmon, broccoli, and quinoa!

Do you workout a lot? How often? Do you workout at home or do you belong to a gym? 

I work out 5-6 days a week.  I used to hate it, but now I’m addicted!  I belong to a great gym in my area called Phases Fitness.  At Phases, you work with a trainer every 8 weeks to check progress via measurements, discuss goals, and they set up an 8 week strength training program for you.  It’s a smaller gym, so I’ve gotten to know a lot of people there.  You schedule your workouts by appointment, so if you don’t show up – someone notices and sooner or later, they’ll call you to see what’s up!

I run 2-3 days a week (more if I’m training for a race) and strength train 2-3 days.  Right now I just finished training for 2 big races, so I’m spending November shaking things up! I’m working with a personal trainer at my gym, attending a friend’s outdoor boot camp, and taking some Bikram yoga classes.

I know from your blog that you enjoy running. What got you started running? What races have you done? 

I started running around August 2012.  My gym offered a training for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in New York City, and I thought it sounded like a great challenge.  I did the 10 mile course as part of a relay team, so I had to run approximately the distance of a 5k.  After tackling that challenge, and learning that I COULD run (I always swore I couldn’t!), I registered for my first half-marathon and I haven’t looked back!  I like the half-marathon distance the best right now.  It’s challenging and requires focused training, but yet it’s not as tough on my body as a full marathon.

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Are your family and friends aware of these changes in your life? Are they supportive?

My parents are super supportive! They are enjoying an active retirement touring the country in an RV and it’s so fun to be able to go places and do things like hike and kayak with them.  I also would be lost without the help of “The Fab 5” – 4 girlfriends I met through my gym.  The 5 of us text each other constantly for support, advice, and encouragement!

Finally, do you have any advice for other women who are trying to be healthier and/or lose weight?

Get up and get started! Even if it’s to walk around your block, or start cleaning the crummy food out of the pantry – just make one change and then get up and do it. And if you’re a person of faith, as I am -  pray about! Ask God to help you, invite Him along on the journey. Don’t assume that your struggles with eating and exercising are outside the realm of God – He cares about these things! Romans 12 tells us that taking care of our bodies is an act of worship!

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Jessica, can I just say thankful I am for you, your willingness to share about your journey, and your outward expression of your faith? The way you've made these changes stick; the way you've intertwined them with your faith; you are incredible. Your success is a blessing and inspiration to many! Keep it up girl! 

Friends, if you need some motivation, check out Jessica's blog, where she shares a lot more before and after pictures. You can follow her on instagram, shoot her an email or leave a comment here. 

Thank you again Jessica! You are INCREDIBLE! Good luck with bikram yoga!! And check back with us again sometime, k? :)

CrossFit: Four-Month Progress Check

On May 6th, my husband and I started CrossFit Elements at CrossFit Falls Church and have been attending CrossFit at least twice a week ever since. In the 4 months we've been members, and since graduating Elements, I've attended more than 40 classes and did things I never thought I'd do: things like 100 hang power cleans at 55lbs, a 185 lb backsquat, and rope climbs! CrossFit has been a whirlwind to say the least, and I wanted to take a time-out to share the good, bad, and ugly of it since I started this journey.

The Good:

I'm stronger!

// You can see it in my progress pictures! I've NEVER had a bicep (not even a baby bicep) but you can definitely see one popping through now! I also love the way my shoulders and chest have leaned out. We do a lot of shoulder-to-overhead lifts so it's no wonder I see a difference there.

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I've lost weight. 

// I've been meaning to share a little about my own post-wedding weight loss because within the last year or so, I've dropped the 10 lbs I put on after our wedding. I lost the first bit before our cruise (around the time we started CrossFit Elements) and the last bit during the Paleo challenge. I need to take another side-by-side comparison photo to see if I look any different than I do in these photos taken back in August. (I should seeing as I just finished the Paleo challenge!)

Did I mention I'm stronger? 

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My endurance has improved significantly. 

// A sure way to know how I'm really feeling physically is to workout. You know when you go into the gym after months off and try to run or take a yoga class, and you feel immediately depleted? I've been there! But recently, my trips to the gym have been exhilarating! When I see my trainer at work (I go to the gym on my lunch break and meet with a trainer about twice a week), I feel stronger and faster than ever before.

Mentally, I'm stronger, too.

// I still have a long way to go to break several mental barriers, but in general, I'm much more confident than I used to be. I think this has to do with the fact that I've continued to go to Crossfit, even though it's often scary and challenging, and I might suck at whatever we're doing that day.

Better Everything with Aaron. 

// Sharing the experience of CrossFit with my mate has had so many amazing benefits. I'm really glad we have similar pasion for something, and can connect and talk about something we both love all the time. I've also really enjoyed watching Aaron get stronger and faster (he's kicking ass y'all!), and connect so well with the community (everyone at our box loves him, I swear). Sometimes we compete during workouts to see who can finish first and the friendly competition drives us both. We always encourage each other, too. I think CrossFit couples rock!

IMG_6910^^Aaron has been trying to help me with my handstand push-ups!^^

Working out alongside real athletes

// I really enjoy the enviornment at CrossFit. Classes are small and coaches are really invested. I also feel really lucky to workout alongside some serious athletes - that wouldn't happen in a regular gym - a lot of our coaches are former Division 1 athletes, yet we're all able to do the same workout. I think that makes me a better athlete too.

The Bad:

It still sucks sometimes.

// There's a few exercises that I don't enjoy like deadlifts (call me crazy!), pull-ups, and wall balls and when I see those things on the workout of the day, I definitely hesitate to show up. (Especially when it's something I can't do at all, like 7 rope climbs or 30 pistols!). But, I think that's the point. I think I've gotten stronger and more confident by showing up and giving it my best effort. Aaron has been a huge help in getting me to CrossFit consistently, too.

Making the time to go.

// I never thought I'd have trouble just getting to CrossFit but I do! I am so used to the convenience of having a gym at work and working out at lunch, physically getting across town in time for a class is tough! Also, when friends and family want to get-togther during a time when I'd usually go to CrossFit, it's hard to say no (though, I'm getting better at it)!

It is kinda like a cult.

// I say that because I find it hard to connect with people about working out who don't do CrossFit. I mean, of course, I can talk to anyone about working out, but I love talking about CrossFit. I think that's why it connects me and Aaron like it does - we have each other to talk t oabout it consistantly. I really want some of my friends to get involved with it, but I know it's not for everyone.

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The Ugly:

I get really awful bruises sometimes.

// As much as I love CrossFit, I don't love the disgusting bruises and cuts I've gotten as a result of some workouts. The ones on my collar bones are especially gross - someone told me they look like hickies! Ugh! Interestingly, the bruises come from working with the barbell and I LOVE the barbell. So, I guess it's worth it in the end.

2013-08-25_0030^^ This is totally disgusting, I know! ^^

And I have ugly hands.

// It's so true! CrossFit is the sport of ugly hands. Whether it's from pull-ups or work with the barbell, it's easy to scrape up your hands. I don't think this is a big deal, but I have had to learn to take off my wedding band for certain workouts. Otherwise, I end up with some really painful cuts!

2013-10-29 14.59.28^^ Eww! ^^

Oh, and sometimes there are butt sores (better known as "raspberries").

// They joke at my box about "raspberries," also known as little rashes that form from your butt rubbing against the floor during situps! I remember getting them the first week... I thought I was the only one until Aaron mentioned he might have a sore on his butt! Come to find out- we had matching berries! Lol! Talk about hilarious! We had a good laugh over that one. (See #5 above!) But, I have to say, I really hate these things and while they were funny the first time, they aren't every time. Nowadays I put a yoga mat down to protect my butt during situps.

So there you have it, the good, bad and ugly of CrossFit as I know it about four months in. Sometime at the beginning of November I plan to do some benchmark workouts and time my 400 meter run so that I can do more comparison down the road. Overall, though, there's no doubt I love CrossFit and for almost every bad or ugly thing, there's a positive to outweigh it. I imagine the gains in strength and confidence will soon overshadow anything negative there is to say about my new favorite sport. You can't argue with progress!

Do you do CrossFit? How long have you been going?

What has been your experience?

Paleo Challenge Recap

Hello and happy hump day! I'm excited to recap the Fall Paleo Challenge I did with my CrossFit box today! Even though I didn't fully finish the contest because I stopped tracking at the end, I did learn a lot and I saw results, too (both in my physique and strength-wise). To recap the experience, I decided to go with a question/answer format. These are the questions I'd ask someone who did the challenge, so I anticipate they are on par with questions you might ask, too! If you have any others, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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What was it like getting started? How did you feel after the first week? After three?

The first week was rough because I gave up creamer in my coffee and I love my morning cup of jo! I tried almond milk and coconut milk, but nothing seemed to cut it like Coffeemate Hazelnut creamer! On the plus side, I didn't feel as addicted to coffee as I usually do, craving it all the time. The same was true for my sugar cravings -- they weren't nearly as strong or as frequent as they used to be (hunting for something sweet after every meal!) -- and that was a relief! Almost immediately I felt lighter and less bloated, too.

Mentally I felt really good because I was sticking to my guns and exhibiting self-control. The Paleo Challenge leader says will power is like a muscle, and I totally believe that now. In the first few weeks I felt like my will power muscle was strong and growing! Even though I wasn't perfect, I stayed pretty consistent. Making intentional decisions about what I put in my body day in and out felt great.

Around week three I have to admit I let a few things sneak back into my diet, like the creamer. Even though that was the only thing, I knew that sugary dairy mix wasn't a good way to start the morning. With that said, as soon as I started allowing other non-paleo, sugary treats back in, the harder it became to stay on track. (I believe this is due to the addictive properties in refined sugar, as well as the weakening of the will power muscle!)

Did you feel like you were on a diet?

No, I felt satisfied (and sometimes even excited) by the food I was eating. I didn't feel as though I was depriving myself at all or like I was on a strict diet.

Has this enhanced your CrossFit skills/performance at all?

To be honest, I couldn't tell at first whether this way of eating was making me any stronger. One of my friends says it helped her to be able to do pull-ups (Hi Wendy!!! Way to go!!!) but I'm not there yet.

I did, however, significantly improve my overhead squat one rep max from 65 lbs to 100 lbs and I backsquatted a one rep max of 185 lbs the other day, which shocked me and everyone in the class! (That's much much more than I ever thought I'd be able to do.)

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As for other lifts, like cleans, deadlifts, and snatches, I'm trying to go heavier but it's on a case-by-case basis. It really depends on the workout and the way I'm feeling that day so I can't say for sure "yes, I'm stronger," but I have seen some improvement.

What changes have you seen in your body?

I lost weight and inches, and my clothes fit better, but the best part has been seeing my arms and upper body change. I've recently noticed my traps - located at the back of the neck and the upper part of the chest - raised a little. I've noticed more definition in my delts and arms, too and I have a flatter, less bloated-looking stomach.

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It's really hard to say whether the paleo diet contributed to those physical changes, but I imagine getting leaner makes my upper body look more appealing. I'd love to do the challenge again and measure body fat.

How much weight did you lose?

I lost about 8 lbs and that was pretty much within the first 3 weeks. At one point (2 weeks ago) I was down 10 lbs but with my recent travels, I haven't kept strict.

I really only wanted to lose 2-3 lbs (to get under 160), but I'm happy I lost more. I can really tell a difference and I'm motivated to keep eating this way. Plus, clothes shopping is so much more fun! :)

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Did I lose inches?

Yes. As you can see from the image above, I lost one inch around my waist and another around my thighs. I think if I would have stuck to it, I would have lost more.

Did it stay off, even after 2 weeks essentially off the diet?

Eh, it's hard to say because I was down to 153 and now I'm up to 155 lbs. I don't like to put a lot of stock in what the scale says because it varies so much, but I think overall, for the most part, tTe weight has stayed off. Nevertheless, I think it's very important to make a smooth transition off the challenge in order to maintain.

Would you say this challenge was easy, kinda hard or really hard?

I think the challenge was kinda hard just because you have to prepare almost everything you eat. Besides larabars and plaintain chips, there's not much you can just open and eat. There's usually cooking or chopping, or some form of preparation involved and that gets tough when you're busy or in a rush. Additionally, eating out is really hard. There's so much crap in salads at restaurants today, and most don't even offer oil and vinegar as a dressing... I think it's hard to eat 100 percent strict paleo all the time.

What was the hardest part?

Eating out was the hardest. Even walking into Whole Foods, there's not much to grab and just eat on a strict paleo diet. That's why I'm more comfortable doing it loosely.

Will you continue the challenge? Do you want to keep eating stict paleo?

I'm not going to continue the actual challenge with the points system, but I do want to continue keeping a food diary and eating paleo. I'm really excited to share that I introduced my father-in-law to the lifestyle and he loves it. It's transformed our household and the way my in-laws grocery shop (more veggies, which I love), and having their support is really helpful. Aaron has even expressed an interest in cutting out sugar like I did on the challenge. I'm really excited to see where this lifestyle leads leads our family.

What would you do differently next time?

Next time I would stick to it through till the end! That's something that is really hard for me (to see things through to completion) and I'm kicking myself for sorta throwing in the towel on vacations and in the end.

Next time I would also like to measure my performance better by timing my 400 meter run and maybe doing a benchmark workout at the beginning of the challenge and again at the end, to really see if there's progress.

What would you recommend to others trying a challenge?

Get really involved with those that are leading the challenge. Email them, check the Facebook page, talk all the time if you can. When I slipped out of the habit of checking our group Facebook page, I made more slip-ups.

Also, and probably most important, don't stop tracking! If you're going out of town, ask whoever is going to remind you to do a diary at the end of the night, even if you're not eating strict paleo! I think the #1 reason why I stopped was because I stopped tracking.

Did you learn anything about yourself that you can keep in mind in the future, or that's changed your relationship with food?

My take-away is pretty much the same as what I suspected at the beginning, and that's that sugar is my biggest problem. If you eat really sugary foods, it makes you want more of that same stuff, and sometimes, the cravings are really strong. I need to avoid that trap by avoiding those foods altogether. I thought avoiding sugar was impossible at the beginning of this challenge but now I know it's possible! I need to work on implementing that way of living all the time. I think it's fine to treat yourself here and there, but not with the really bad stuff. One of my favorite snacks was ants on a log, which is very sweet and satisfying. Oh and meal prep! You can't do this if you don't have the foods, and they aren't prepared and ready to eat.

What's your take-away?

Even though challenges aren't for everybody (some people think of them as diets, they're too strict for some people, and they don't last or really help others), I have to say for myself, these types of challenges help me. I enjoy having a start and finish in mind, not so that I can binge when it's over, but so that I can set an attainable goal and strive to get to that point. I do need to work on my transition in and out of these types of challenges, but I'm really happy that I participated. It actually forced me out of my comfort zone and I learned a lot of new healthy recipes to add to my rotation (kale salads, chicken sausage, and banana ice cream)! And I learned that I really love healthy foods! I feel good about myself when I'm intentional about my diet, and acting aware and responsible for my body. Of course it's a day-to-day thing, but at least I'm trying! Trying to find balance and self-confidence in my body and my eating habits is obviously important to me... why else would I have a fitness blog? :)

Stay tuned for a 3-month progress check coming all about CrossFit and the changes I've seen since starting that!

Have you ever done a paleo challenge? 

What were your results? Are you still eating that way? 

PS: Did you see this artcile on the Top 10 Mistakes CrossFitters Make? I really enjoyed it!

6 Tips for Surviving Roadtrips

Greetings again friends! By the time you read this, I'll be on my way to Tennessee for the National Storytelling Festival. My husband proposed at the festival four years ago and for that reason (and many others) we look forward to this trip every year. (You can read about his proposal here; our one year anniversary here; and the Storytelling Center did a write-up about us here.) As much as I'm looking forward to this trip, it's hard to eat healthy on the road when there's a 7-11 and McDonalds at every exit along the way. Here are my methods for staying strict, and surviving a 7+ hour drive to Tennessee.

Road-trip

1. Get a Cooler. It might seem a little ridiculous to drive around with a cooler in the backseat, but having a cooler will give you a lot more options of things to eat on the go. You can pack more fruit and vegetables, and even frozen items to heat and eat when you arrive at your destination.

2. Shop with your trip in mind. When I went grocery shopping this week, I bought things that were roadtrip friendly like Larabars (they're such a treat)! I also picked up raisins, almonds, carrots, and pears, all of which will be easy to eat in the car. Another great buy is pellegrino! I've been addicted to it lately! Sure beats plain ole' water.

3. Pack for the Road. Obviously it's not easy to eat a kale salad and drive, but if you pack smart, you can enjoy some delicious snacks will driving. Recently, I've been making ants on a log for work. Simply cut up your celery, smear on your almond butter, place the raisins, and store them in Tupperware. They make a great snack and are easy to eat on the go!

4. Say no to fast food. Decide before you go that you won't stop for fast food under any circumstances! If you can't say for sure whether you can keep that promise, look at the menu ahead of time and chose some things you can enjoy without the guilt! (Personally, I love McDonald's Sante Fe Salad!)

5. Rest stops are your friend. Rest stops are a great way to stretch your legs and use the bathroom without being bombarded with fast food options. If you have to stop, look for a rest area!

6. Warn your co-pilot. I'm traveling with my husband who has absolutely no qualms with stopping along the way for some Burger King and Redbull, but, I've already asked him to refrain for my sake. I'm packing a few things he likes to eat, too, of course; and in the end, this approach not only saves our waistline, but our wallet as well!

What are your tips for surviving long roadtrips?

What are your favorite on-the-go snacks?

*Also, a quick thanks for bearing with me as I continue to work on the website. If you catch things looking wonky, my apologies! I'm trying to get the new template (and all the links and photos) squared away! I appreciate your patience!

Guest Post: A Girl, Her Dress, & Five Pounds

Good morning + happy Tuesday! Today I'm thrilled to introduce my fellow bee and friend, Stephanie, who is going to share the story of her relationship with her wedding gown and getting off that last five pounds! I hope you enjoy this read! I know I did! Stephanie, you're so fun! Love this! :) 2013-07-08_0008

From Stephanie:

I love weddings and I love reading and writing about the wedding industry. I’m the girl who bought the dream that your dress is one of the most important elements of your wedding and felt all the pressure that comes along with such nonsense. Luckily, I found the dress of my dreams, but like most complicated relationships we had our ups and our downs. It started off quite romantic though, love at first sight, a sexy strapless fit-n-flare with ruching on the bodice and ruffles on the bottom.

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Despite knowing my dress was stunning The Pressure got to me and I was really nervous to try on my actual dress when it arrived at the salon. Unfortunately, even with low expectations I was disappointed. My stunning dress was covered in wrinkles and ill-fitting. I looked like I was stuffed into it and the consultant couldn't even zip it up all the way until they removed the ridiculous bra they sold me to go under it! (I found out later that the bra was not made to go under wedding dresses and it had contributed to the bad fit.)

I was literally shocked! I had fit the sample with ease a few months ago (size ten) but they had persuaded me order the size twelve. How could the bigger size not fit when I had stayed the same?!?! On top of it all, I wear a size eight normally and even with the knowledge that bridal gowns have a different sizing scale, I felt awful. I knew one of us was going to have to make some changes and I decided to be the bigger person (pun intended!) and do the honors. All she needed was a good steaming but I had to lose some weight and I had no idea how to go about it.

The thing is, I had back surgery for a herniated disc in March of 2011 after which I was told never to run again and that I might have a genetically weak lower back, which could mean more herniations in the future. The biggest issue I had with my herniated disc was that debris had landed on a nerve and was slowly killing it. By the time I had surgery I couldn’t feel anything in my left leg starting from my butt and ending with my toes. I didn’t realize how much muscle tone and strength I had lost as well and my surgeon told me I’d be lucky if all the feeling in my leg came back. I consider myself very lucky because almost all of the feeling did come back.

Something that won’t go away is the damage that’s been done to that nerve and when I walk too much or move a certain way I get pain shooting down my leg that starts in my lower back. If you’ve never experienced a pinched nerve, then let me say, my doctor told me I could handle childbirth if I could handle nerve pain, which may or may not be true (I am a big wuss), but it was pretty intense.

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I wasn’t too bothered my limitations, I’ve always hated working out and for the most part, have been happy with my curvy body shape. But your wedding is your wedding. Everyone wants to look their best on their wedding day and I was no different. I quickly came to a decision though, if looking super tiny and skinny came at the cost of back pain or nerve pain I wasn’t interested.

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To avoid any major back malfunctions before my Big Day I decided to forgo most exercise and stick to eating better to lose weight. And that’s how I lost five pounds. I ate better, I ate less (damn you portion control), and I ate more fruits and vegetables. Like Sara says, it really IS all about what you put into your body that counts! That said, it wasn’t easy for me, I have a sweet tooth, and love for snacking, but I did my best and the next time I tried on my dress it fit so much better! It’s amazing what five pounds can do for your body. Everything shifted and just looked better overall. (And I got a new bra too!)

Even though it was love at first sight I don’t think I truly appreciated how beautiful my dress was until I was wearing it on my wedding day. I look at our pictures now and while I see a stunning dress initially, I also see a happy, gorgeous bride who is madly in love with her husband which is all that really matters.

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And I’m reminded that there are way too many expectations of how we should look on our wedding day. You just have to decipher what will make YOU your happiest and what will make you feel the most stunning. For me, it was a five pound weight loss and being able to walk down the aisle with nary a nerve pain in sight.

Such great advice! And a story so many of us can relate to! (Especially "The Pressure!") Thank you, Stephanie!

Guys, If you haven't already done so, please go check out Stephanie's post-wedding blog, Drama Happens. It's filled with wit and fun, and awesome observations about relationships. I love it!

Stephanie, you were a gorgeous bride and bravo for not letting "The Pressure," get to you! You looked amazing!

Thank you for this awesome reflection on a girl's relationship with her gown! 

Did you have a sort of relationship with your gown, too?

Was it love at first site?

Did you go through ups and downs?

All images all courtesy of  Crystal Liepa Photography.

Weight Loss Success: Brooke Not on a Diet

Good morning and happy Tuesday! Today's post is dear to my heart because I've been following Brooke's journey over on her blog, Brooke Not on a Diet. As you can see from the pictures below, Brooke totally turned her life around -- losing an incredible 178 lbs and becoming an "after" for the Weight Watchers campaign! Her weight loss journey is utterly amazing and you will not regret reading this Q&A.

Brooke: I truly appreciate you taking the time to share your story with FFAB readers. You are such an inspiration!

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Brooke-FInal

Has your weight always been an issue for you? Since what age?

Weight has always seemed to be something I have dealt with. I really cannot remember a time when I was “thin.” I was always a chunky kid and an even chunkier teen/adult.

When did you decide to make a change? Were you engaged at the time? 

I decided to make the change after a really crappy relationship and realizing that I really needed to start loving myself if I was ever going to find “the one.” My mom invited me to a Weight Watchers meeting around that time and as they say, the rest is history. ;)

Has your decision to get healthy been on-again off-again, or did something just click?

I did do some fad diet stuff throughout my teen years and there was even a doctor recommended diet. But I never stuck with it for long because I was doing things to lose weight that I wouldn’t be able to do for the rest of my life. (Grapefruit diet, anyone?)

When I started Weight Watchers back in 2009, it just sort of clicked. Sure there have been times where I wasn’t fully on track (Wedding planning brought on a bit of stress eating and who can forget the honeymoon where I started everyday off with a Mudslide cocktail!), but I’ve never strayed so far that I’ve gained a lot of weight back. I’ve been doing this awhile, so I’m pretty good at reeling myself back in when I’m straying a bit too far. I always remind myself how much better I feel when I’m eating things that are better for me.

What was your starting weight? 

My starting weight was 327.6lbs. Talk about a shocker when I stepped on the scale at my first Weight Watchers meeting! I knew that night that I would NEVER see that number again.

Did you measure body fat?

I didn’t measure body fat in the beginning, but it is something I pay attention to now.

Did you use a particular program to help you lose weight? What program? (Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, MyFitnessPal?)

In case you haven’t figured it out by now; I follow the Weight Watchers program. I follow the Simply Filling Plan they offer. I did the PointsPlus for most of my journey, but made the switch to Simply Filling last November. I absolutely love Weight Watchers and cannot sing enough praise for the program. I love that you can eat anything you want, but they teach you to choose more fulfilling foods. I go to meetings and just love the support and encouragement I get there weekly. My plan is to eventually work for them and then demand they put me in a commercial. ;)

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Has anyone been doing this with you?

My mom started out with me, but jumped off the wagon a few months in. She joined again last year and is now down almost 50lbs! I love that I inspire people everyday with my journey, but I’m most proud when my mom tells me that I inspire her. It’s awesome!

When did you start to see the number on the scale go down?

It started going down right away and steadily went down for a while. Of course there have been many plateaus since then. Getting under 200lbs was the most difficult and I played around with that for over a year. The day I hit Onderland (199) I ran into the bedroom and jumped on the bed scaring the crap out of Mr. B who was snoring peacefully. Haha

What's been the best part about getting healthier/losing weight? 

Sex. ;) Seriously though the way I feel now is the best part. I can do things like bike 100 miles in a month and run up stairs. I don’t get tired as easily and my body doesn’t ache daily. I found a love of cooking and exercising. I became confident and found the most amazing man to stand by my side during this journey. I also get to inspire people everyday by showing them that they don’t need a fad diet or surgery to become healthy. Being healthy is AWESOME!

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What's been the hardest part?

The hardest part is always dealing with the scale. I know they say not to let the scale define you, but man sometimes you just let it. Of course I deal with it better now than I ever would have in the past and I always remind myself of how far I have come.

Another hard part is the loose skin I now have. It is so freaking annoying and frustrating! But again, I remind myself that it’s there because I worked my ass off. I also much rather have the loose skin than the extra 177lbs!

Have you reached your goal yet?

I have! I hit it in the beginning of May and it was one of the best days ever! If you want to read about it, I posted a lovely detailed story on my blog, including the part where I took off my bra! ;)

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If you made these changes because of your upcoming wedding, what specifically was motivating? The wedding gown? Seeing all your family and friends? The pictures?

I started losing weight before I got married, but obviously getting married kept me on track with my efforts. The pictures really kept me motivated, no one wants to look back on their wedding day pictures and hate how they looked. And it worked too! I actually had to reorder a smaller dress a few months before my wedding!

What are some of your staple foods and favorite recipes?

Gosh, where do I even begin? Lol. On my grocery list there is always light vanilla yogurt (which I always top with fruit for a snack), unsweetened vanilla almond milk, PB2 (powdered peanut butter), bananas, eggs, oatmeal (regular & Better Oats Oat Fit Maple & Brown Sugar), Hendrickson’s salad dressing, and frozen fruit. Oh and you can’t forget the occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s. ;)

Mine and Mr. B’s favorite recipe at the moment is Philly Cheese’steak’ Filling. It is crazy delicious! We also love us some roasted green beans!

Do you workout a lot? How often?

I’m not crazy about my workouts, but love doing DVD challenges! I just finished Turbo Fire and have done couple of Jillian Michael’s DVDs. Jillian is by far my favorite! I would say that I workout anywhere from 3-5 days a week depending on my mood and motivation!

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Do you workout at home or do you belong to a gym?

I have lost all of my 177lbs without ever owning a gym membership! I have only worked out in a gym once during this whole journey. This means all of my weight has been lost by working out at home, outdoors, and with the occasional Zumba class.

I have quite the variety of workout DVDs and have done several challenges. My favorites by far are my Jillian Michaels DVDs; I have such a girl crush on that woman! I also love biking when the weather allows it!

What are your favorite exercises? Do you lift weights?

My favorite workout DVDs are the 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30 by Jillian. I don’t do a lot of weight lifting because I don’t have access to a lot of weights, but it is incorporated with each of the DVDs I mentioned.

If so, do you have a favorite body part you like to work? (Such as quads or delts?)

I really don’t have a certain body part I like to work. My favorite part to flex though is my biceps. I flex in the mirror at least once a day. It is totally surreal to me that I have actual muscle! I also tell my husband constantly that I’m stronger than him, which I’m not, but he plays along. ;)

Where do you find your motivation? Other blogs? Magazines? Which ones?

I read a lot of different blogs and get great motivation and inspiration from them! I love Fit & Free with Emily, Kelly @ Curvy Fit Girl, Mel @ The Daily Mel, Rachael @ The Domestic Geek, and a million others. I absolutely love blogs! :)

As for magazines I love Health, Fitness, Shape, and Weight Watchers. Oh Cooking Light has some pretty great recipes too!

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Are your family and friends aware of these changes in your life? Are they supportive?

My family and friends are both aware of my changes. I’m not quiet about it at all. I love hitting a new milestone (scale or non-scale) and quickly texting everyone about it. ;) They have always been supportive in anything I’ve chosen to do and my journey is no different. It’s awesome to have them cheering me along!

What does your husband think of these changes?

I didn’t meet Mr. B until I had already lost over 100lbs, so he didn’t know the old Brooke. He has really only knows ‘healthy’ Brooke. So, he has always been supportive and is a great cheerleader. He is my recipe guinea pig and even sometimes pushes me out of bed in the morning to exercise. I couldn’t ask for a better support really. This is why he’s my soul mate because he loves me for whom I am and supports me in everything I do. Cannot sing enough praise for my Mr. B! I’m one lucky gal. :)

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Finally, do you have any advice for other women who are trying to be healthier and/or lose weight?

My most important piece of advice is: You Are Worth It!! So many women don’t feel like they deserve to be healthy and shouldn’t put themselves first. But, you must remember that in order to be there for others, you need to be here. If you’re unhealthy, the chances of you being around for a long time are slim. Take care of you and your health (physical and mental) first, and then tackle others.

Other advice is to look for some support, whether it come from family or a group like Weight Watchers. There’s also awesome support online! I have found a great community of healthy lifestyle bloggers who are super supportive and then my readers are also awesome. All I have to do is send out a tweet that I’m struggling with something and I can get a slew of tweets back offering support. There are Facebook groups, online message boards, and so much more. You can find support anywhere these days!

Also, be sure to take it one step at a time. When I started my journey I focused mainly on my eating, then slowly incorporated exercise. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too much, because you’re more likely to give it up. Small changes add up to big results.

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Oh and don’t forget to set some goals! Reward yourself for hitting those goals too! I try not to focus solely on scale related goal either. My goals consist of drinking 100oz of water daily, moving my body at least 30 minutes daily, and trying a new recipe weekly. This journey is much more than the scale and we all need to remember that sometimes. :)

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Thank you so much for letting me tell my story on Fit For a Bride! I hope you all get something from it! If you want more inspiration from me, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! Oh and of course my blog! Hope to see you around!

Thank you so much, Brooke!

I'm so inspired by your hard work and drive. You look AMAZING!!!!!

I vote Weight Watchersput you in a commerical ASAP! :-) You totally deserve it!

Do you know someone who has lost over 150 lbs?

Have you ever tried Weight Watchers?

Wedding photo credit: Creative Wedding Package

Weight Loss Success: Amy aka NiftyFoodie Down 70lbs (& Counting)

Over the last several months I have watched (and been inspired by!) this lady's weight loss journey. Week after week, on MyFitnessPal, I see her steadily and consistently lose the pounds. On Facebook and Instagram, I see the photos-- she's literally shrinking!-- and I'm honored to bring her story to the blog!  Please welcome Amy, author of the popular food blog, the Nifty Foodie-- she's lost a whopping 70lbs! 

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Nifty-Foodie-Pic

My Q&A with Amy:

Has your weight always been an issue for you? Since what age? 

I've been a bigger girl as long as I can remember. Definitely since elementary school.

What factors contributed to your being overweight growing up?

I'm not really sure. Perhaps portion sizes? As a background, I was very active as a kid (preferred to be outside rather than inside), and never had a problem eating fruits/veggies. I would think my only downfall is how much I ate when it came to family meals.

What kind of household did you grow up in? Were you taught healthy eating principles?

My mom made sure we had a home cooked meal most nights, and I'm very thankful for that. She also made sure we ate healthy... we never really got snacks in our house (very rare that a kid wanted to trade lunch items with me in the cafeteria haha!)

When did you decide to make a change? Were you engaged at the time?

I actually lost some weight while wedding planning, but packed it right back on after (and 60 more lbs.). I decided to make a change, because the scale was at 298.5. I was a meal away from seeing 300 lbs. on the scale! I had to do something.

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Has your decision to get healthy been on-again off-again, or did something just click?

I've always attempted diets...every Monday seemed like a new week. I think the big clicker was ignoring the scale for a long time, and finally seeing that number. I got out of control.

What was your starting weight? 298.5

*To show off Amy's amazing progress, I put together this timeline:

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Timeline-Photos

Did you use a particular program to help you lose weight? What program?

Calorie counting, via MyFitnessPal.

Has anyone been doing this with you?

My husband. He's lost 115 lbs.!! It's great to have that support at home.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.30.40 PM

When did you start to see the number on the scale go down?

Within the first month, I lost 10 lbs. The results were awesome!

What's been the best part about getting healthier/losing weight?

Fitting in regular sized clothes again. It's still SO crazy after shopping in plus sized stores for over 10 years.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.07.21 PM

What's been the hardest part?

Resisting the binges. It took me a while to face the fact that I had/have a binge eating problem. It's a daily struggle.

Have you reached your goal yet?

No. I'm about 50-60 lbs. away from my goal.

When you started, did you lose weight immediately or has it been a gradual loss?

The weight loss was fast in the beginning (I was SO spoiled by it, too haha!), but after 17 months of doing this, my weight loss is a steady 0.5-2 lbs./week.

What are some of your staple foods and favorite recipes?

Greek yogurt, fresh/frozen fruit and hummus with veggies are my favorite snacks to have on hand. I love making fruit "ice cream" (food processing frozen banana with a few berries until it's like soft serve...like the Yonana machine). I also enjoy tortilla pizza, which is basically adding marinara, mozzarella cheese, and turkey pepperoni on top of a whole wheat tortilla and baking for 10-12 minutes at 350. I also love a simple banana protein smoothie (1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup ice, 1 RIPE frozen banana and blend until smooth)...it tastes like a milkshake!!

Do you workout a lot? How often?

I try to aim for 4-5x/week with workouts. 2-3 times/week with cardio, 2 times/week with weights

Do you workout at home or do you belong to a gym?

We belong to a gym, but for running, I prefer to run in our neighborhood. I mainly go to the gym for weight lifting, and if the weather is terrible, I'll go there for cardio.

What are your favorite exercises? Do you lift weights?

I'm a big fan of running and strength training.

*Read about Amy's experience doing the Color Run 5k on her blog here.

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Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.05.42 PM

 *Also pictured is Amy's sister who has recently lost 40 lbs!*

Do you have a favorite body part you like to work? (Such as quads or delts?)

My shoulders. I was using 10 lbs. on the machine when I started out in January, and now I'm up to 40 lbs. I finally saw a little crease in my shoulders a couple of weeks ago. It's very cool to see my body changing!

Where do you find your motivation? Other blogs? Magazines? Which ones?

I like to read blogs for motivation. My top 3 favorites are: Can You Stay for Dinner, Runs for Cookies & Prior Fat Girl.

Are your family and friends aware of these changes in your life? Are they supportive?

Absolutely! My family/friends are very supportive, and are always throwing compliments when they notice my weight loss. :-)

What does your husband think of these changes?

He's very supportive. He's on a weight loss journey himself. :-)

Finally, do you have any advice for other women who are trying to be healthier and/or lose weight?

Take baby steps, and recognize that you're only human. Weight loss (for me) wasn't a flip of the switch. As in, it wasn't like I was one day eating terribly...living a sedentary lifestyle...the next, I was eating 1200 calories/day and running 5Ks. NOPE! That's not how it happened! I started at 1800ish calories/day, and then gradually went down. I slowly added activity into my day...started doing Couch to 5K, and really just started doing weights in January.

I also don't beat myself up if I go overboard for a meal. I know I won't gain back these 70 lbs. by eating an extra slice of pizza. I just adjust for the next meal. There are days where I go over in my calories, but I treat this journey like this will be my life forever (if that makes any sense?). There's no way I'm going to be perfect everyday...I'm only human.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing all these inspiring photos, Amy! Even though you didn't mention it, I have to share your rewards list, which I think is really cool! Check it out:  

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Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 11.39.19 PM

I also have to brag on Amy's success with Dietbet (I learned of Dietbet through her, and blogged about here). She's participated in three games and if I'm not mistaken, won them all! (Impressive!)

And (you may already know this but) Amy's a beast in the kitchen! I love that she's started incorporating healthy recipes in with all those delicious baked goods on the Nifty Foodie! Check out this Banana Biscoff Protein Shake Recipe:

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If you want to continue reading about Amy's journey, which I highly recommend, visit her life blog, Nifty Foodie Life!

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Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 11.36.38 PM

Thank you again, Amy!!