Weight Loss

Mini Recipe Cards

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Mini Recipe Cards with Printacular

Good morning friends!

Today I'm sharing a healthy hack with you!

One of my favorite aspects "healthy" living is trying new recipes. I'm always amazed at how delicious healthy tastes and I love exploring new breakfast, lunch and dinner swaps that will allow me to "crowd out" the bad stuff.

There's also a slew of easy-to-access recipes online!

One of my favorite sources for inspiration is Instagram because there's so many amazing accounts chock-full of good eats and they're easy to access from the grocery store or from within my kitchen. The only problem is the sheer number of awesome recipes I see and screenshot all the time. Finally, I instituted a new system for saving my favorite new ones to try and old favorites.

Enter Awesome Photo-Printing App, Printacular!

I used this app when I made a fun Instagram display in my old office and I've always loved how cute and compact the printable squares are! Here's a quick tutorial for using this same app to snap, print and save your favorite IG recipes:

Step 1:

Screenshot a few photos of the recipes, to include a picture, the ingredients and instructions. Sometimes it's hard to fit all this into one or two shots, which is fine.  I will use up to three photos for each recipe.

Step 2:

Using the app, Layout, compile the photos for each recipe, depending on how many photos you took. You might use 1, 2 or 4 photo layouts to fit in everything; doesn't matter as long as you have the info you'll need later to try the recipe!

Step 3:

Upload your Layouts to Printacular to print your squares at the nearest Walgreens. Make sure you designate that you want the square photos! You'll also need to choose when you want to pick-up the photos -- I love that within the hour is one of the options!

Volia, that's it friends! Find a place to store and easily reference your recipe cards and you're good to go! No more hours of surfing Pinterest or wasted time stumbling through your phone in the kitchen.

Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards
Easy Recipe Cards

I'm totally addicted to saving recipes this way! We have a small kichen so it saves on space as well!

What's your go-to method for saving, storing and referencing favorite recipes?

Do you search Instagram for new recipes? What are your favorite accounts?

Fit Bride, Amber // Progress Pictures

AmberProfileHi guys. Amber here. You've been an amazing audience during this journey, so patient with my long-winded posts that were sometimes without a single photo!

Well today, I'm excited to finally reveal some of the REAL changes I'm beginning to see in my body.

I recently weighted in less than 200 lbs, a huge milestone for me! In the pictures I think you can definitely see a big difference in my face, especially -- not only is it a lot smaller, I have a bigger smile than ever before. Below I share journal entries at 30 lbs and 35 lbs lost. Now I'm past 40!

 

Amber's-Progress-Photos 30 pounds down

I haven’t been under 200 lbs since I was a freshman in college! In fact, I don't remember the last time I saw a one on the scale! (I entered college in 2002!) That means I haven’t been this small in over 10 years. That's a HUGE accomplishment!

The thing that is the most interesting is that while writing this I know for a fact that I should be completely proud of the weight I have lost. 32 pounds is a LOT! Especially in the time frame I have lost it and the fact that I have not faltered from my plan. I have not just said “fuck it” (something I used to do all the time) so all in all not only is this the most weight that I have lost, but this is the longest I have stayed focused! Sure, I've had a few cheats, but I haven’t had a whole “fuck it” day. I haven’t just said “I am sick of the diet” and cheated! If anything I feel as if I am not really on a diet. I am just trying to make better decisions constantly. I think previously I was trying to make better decisions occasionally.

The main difference is that I almost always eat clean.

If I know that I am going to cheat (Brandon LOVES cheese pizza) I will have an extra workout or just not eat that much! I have even had macaroni and cheese, but I counted the carbs and had less carbs all day to allow for it. It's amazing that it really is all about balance and making sure to stay within your calorie budget or in my case, the carb budget.

I have been trying to stay away from my family and friends because I wanted them to see me at my goal weight and just be in shock about my weight loss; however my mom recently got sick so I had to see them earlier then expected. The interesting this is that they seemed as if they could barely tell I have been losing weight! (Though they did notice *something* was different!) And here my clothes are falling off of me! My face looks completely different to me. But, instead of being upset that people aren’t noticing and using that as an excuse to cheat or to give up, it's actually fueling me to lose even more.

2015 is my year! 

Being down 35 pounds honestly makes me feel really proud and grateful to God that I am even in this situation. I mean He is just blessing me left and right and it's so humbling! My brother always said this about his drinking and for me it's just seeing how all these things are lining up for me to have the victory. I am on my way to being down 40 pounds! (Insert proud face!) And the best part is, I feel great. I feel really, really good. I have so much energy. I want to work out all the time. There isn't a day that I don't want to work out. It's just like, addicting and since I am losing weight I just want to lose more weight! I am no longer worried with drinking (probably 60% of my weight problem), I look forward to my alone time so I can workout. My life revolves around it and that feels good. (Well, work, too but my free time is now spent working out, not at happy hour!)  I honestly can't say why it's all clicked now (I don't know why I didn't figure any of this out 10 years ago), but I'm just so happy it did!

2015 is my year! It's the year that my life changed on so many levels. I remember when I first starting writing these journal entries I used to feel like shit! I used to beat up on myself all the time. And in just 3 months so much has changed. I have lost 35 pounds. My clothes are BAGGY. I'm just so damn happy! Can you tell?

Amber's Weight Loss

Ta da!

Amber's Weight Loss

Have you ever hit a milestone recently? How did it make you feel? 

When you've lost weight, did it just click? 


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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Introducing Amber, our Newest Fit Bride Blogger

I am so excited I don't even know where to begin!! This is a big day. HUGE! I'm finally introducing you all to my sister-in-law, Amber, who is going to be our newest fit-bride blogger! Everyone please, welcome Amber! You may recall Amber got engaged on Christmas Day and is set to be wed this September. She's a sweetie from the South with a big heart for hosting parties, football, and wine, and I always say, of all I'm friends I'm glad she's my sister. I love her dearly! 

I've known Amber for more than 10 years and her friendship in college cemented me meeting my husband, Aaron. We're really close--we actually share the same birthday (crazy!) and we both have motor mouths, meaning we love to talk! We can pass hours catching up over-the-phone or on a road trip and often seek each other's advice. 

When Amber approached me about blogging her weight loss journey, I didn't hesitate to say yes. In fact, I was flattered! Amber wanted to open up to me (and to the world!) about something so personal and so important and allow us to hold her accountable. Wow, I thought - just wow! That takes trust, faith and determination -- you know, all the things you need to stick with a weight loss program for the long haul... all things I know Amber has, in spades. 

So, knowing her deep desire to get fit and feel good about herself, I started collecting blog entries from Amber in January as she embarked on a strict meal plan and intense workout schedule. I can tell you, just from what I've seen so far, this girl is well on her way! In just the month since she's started she's dropped more than 10 lbs and she's feeling better than ever. I'm so proud of her!

Without further ado, meet Miss. Amber Lou! 

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A few basic facts about the soon-to-be Mrs. Amber: 

City & State: Frederick, MD

Age & Occupation: 30, Product Support Manager at a global biotech company

Fiance’s Age & Occupation: Brandon, 30, Shipping Coordinator

Engagement Date: December 25, 2013

Wedding Day: September 2015

Venue: Two Rivers Country Club in Williamsburg, VA

About Me:

On Christmas Day 2013, I got engaged to a delicious, mocha-colored man I love! I am a self conscious, overanalyzing, emotional creature that just turned 30, and I know it sounds cliche, but he completes me (awww). I'm the talker; he is more quiet. I'm the emotional, detailed, crazy half; he's the calm, peaceful, let-it-flow half. I have always had weight issues but starting college was definitely the beginning to the end of my waistline. With 8 months until my wedding I am determined to make a transformation to my outside and inside so I can start living the healthy lifestyle I have always craved!

Once and for all:   

I have been a fat girl for most of my life. When I was younger I definitely think that I was smaller because I was more active, however I would never call myself “skinny." Now, I don’t want to just lose weight (which 20 pounds is probably the most I have ever lost on any diet plan) but keep the weight off. I have done diet pills, liquid diets, and Weight Watchers, but nothing has given me the results I want, nothing has been anything I could hope to maintain for awhile, and in the end the weight always comes back. I am ready to stop that! I am ready to have children and to have a happy life and stop feeling like the fat girl. Stop worrying about what everyone thinks of me! I am ready to change me and start learning to be happy with me. Here we go!

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On Thursday Amber shares her love story: how she met Brandon and their big wedding plans. After that, look for Amber's column on Tuesdays.  Amber: I'm so excited to have you onboard! 

Are you shedding for the wedding? 

What's your once-and-for-all strategy? 

How to Use the MyFitnessPal App to Track Macros & Lose Weight

Hey friends! Happy Monday! I've been meaning to share this post for awhile!

You might remember my mention of an 8-week weight loss challenge I did with friends this summer. I shared how successful it was, and personally, how it was one of the first challenges I've ever stuck with till the very end!

Why was this challenge a success?

The number one reason I believe I was successful is because I started tracking my macronutrients using MyFitnessPal.

Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They are the nutrients that compose the various foods we eat. Obviously, not all foods are created equal; some have a lot of carbohydrates and others a lot of protein; some foods have no protein or carbohydrates at all.

MACROS
MACROS

I first heard of "counting macros," on Instagram. I stumbled on a company that provides macro breakdowns, meal plans, and support for body builders, CrossFitters, and other people looking to improve their nutrition profile. It was an expensive service but I told Aaron about it because I was intrigued. He was too so we decided to employ the technique ourselves and test it out.

Second reason I was successful is because I someone (Aaron) doing this with me!

We both got on the If it Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) website and punched out information into the calculator - activity level, body mass index, and our goals: weight loss, aggressive weight loss, or maintain. From that I got a nutrition profile or suggested breakdown of exactly how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat I should aim to consume each day.

The nutrition breakdown I received seemed very reasonable to me. My breakdown is about 1,600 calories with 100 grams of carbs, 150 grams of protein and 62 grams of fat. It's low carb but not carb-free (you can chose a carb-free approach if you want) and I like that fact that it doesn't eliminate anything from my diet. I struggle with restrictive diets (such as paleo) because I think they're hard to maintain long-term. I love Greek yogurt and every once in a while you're gonna have a "bad" food like pizza or cake. We all do it!

What I like about counting macros is that you CAN have those foods as long as you track them and anything else accordingly.

The only real surprising aspect of my nutrition profile was the amount of recommended protein: 150 grams! That was a huge change to my usual eating habits but one I think has really paid off!

At first, meeting my macros seemed impossible! So. much. protein. Haha. But, I've gotten a lot better at it. I drink a lot more protein shakes now; I almost always have one within 30 minutes of working out and I use a scoop in a half now instead of just one scoop.

Of course, consuming more protein means I have to pay attention to the protein I'm consuming. For awhile we used the CytoSport Chocolate 100% Whey Protein (sold at Costco and DELICIOUS when blended with a frozen banana!) but recently we've started to experiment with pea and vegan protein.

There's a lot of other ways I try to incorporate protein in my diet like eating hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, and protein bars. Again, I really love that I'm not restricted in WHAT I eat; it's more about what's in the foods I am eating.

Alright, so it sounds simple right? There's a catch! A few, actually.

First, you've got to log your food and I get it, that may seem way too tedious to do everyday, but once you get in the habit it's really not that bad (I say that after several weeks out of the habit; I gotta get back on it myself)! But, if you miss some days and that's OK, too! There's lots of OKs with this approach, which is another reason I like it; it takes a lot of the pressure off to eat a certain way, only eat certain foods, etc.

You can eat things that would otherwise be considered totally bad, like a donut, but so long as you log it and account for the macros, you are fine; no reason to feel guilty!

Here are some quick tips I have for this approach:

1. Plan Your Protein Sources:

Initially I wanted to plan out every single meal we'd eat with IIFYM but I have to give it to my husband, he had the genius idea of just planning our big meals (lunch and dinner), making sure we got our protein in with those, and winging the rest. I'll admit, it may not sound like the best plan, but let me tell you: it works! Having your main meals figured out is just enough structure, and having some flexibility built-in works well with the unpredictability that is life! Here is an example of the way we try to meal plan:

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Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 10.47.01 PM

2. Use the App:

Whether you have to set a timer once-a-day to log or plug in meals in advance, you absolutely have to use a calorie counter for this approach to work so that you know what you're eating! Of course not all the entries available within MyFitnessPal are accurate but regardless, getting in the habit of logging is good for you! I've also learned a lot about foods just by inputting them and then checking the nutrition profile - holy Diary Queen blizzard!

3. Log Before You Eat, Not Vice Versa:

It's also key to use the app when you're on the go and eating out. The trick is use the app before ordering, browsing entries, and finding something that won't blow your macros for the day. For example, let's say you're at Jimmy Johns for lunch with your coworkers; what do you do? Well, if you check the app you'll find there is a lettuce wrap sandwich that is a heck of a lot better nutrition-wise than the regular subs which have upwards of 100 carbs!

4. Watch Portions:

It's really important not to underestimate your portions, especially if you are trying to eat less of something. For example, it's pretty convenient to estimate you had a half a cup of mashed potatoes with dinner but be honest with yourself: was it really just a half a cup? The same goes for over-estimating portions of protein. We use the scale lot now and measure out our protein. It's awesome because having used the scale we can eye things and have a better sense of how much we're really consuming.

4. Speaking of Scale - Measure Everything!

Better than estimating is actually measuring. While it annoyed me at first that Aaron wanted to measure out every little thing we ate - especially our meat! - I've come to appreciate this exercise! It's given me a much better sense of what 2, 4, or 7 ounces looks like.

5. Ignore the small stuff:

Good news: you don't have to log EVERYTHING. (At least we don't.) I eat salad almost everyday for lunch but I don't always log it. In fact, I often don't log it. I spend my time logging the items I know will impact my macros, like if I added cheese, corn, croutons or dressing to the salad but I don't waste time adding 2 cups of lettuce, 3 cucumbers, or 2 tablespoons of fresh salsa; that stuff is mostly water!

5. Chose lean meals:

One thing you do want to be careful about is fatty meats. We use ground turkey for a lot of things now because it saves us a lot of fat! I wouldn't have known that if I didn't log a few burgers over the past few weeks and wonder where in the heck all the fat came from?! This also helped me make better choices on vacation. I contemplated ordering the prime rib one night just to find it has more than 20 grams of fat (and hardly any protein)! No thank you! I went with the flank steak instead.

6. Eat Clean:

So I know a lot of people in the IIFYM community boast about eating whatever they want - even some of the worst foods - but for me personally, I do not think this would work if I didn't eat balanced, healthy meals. Eating clean is definitely a part of this approach.

7. Keep it simple, stupid.

Especially when it comes to meals - don't dump extra virgin olive oil on everything or over season with salt or butter (I'm so guilty of this!) because those things add up! Keep it simple! I can't tell you how many boring dinners we had with cabbage and chicken sausage; the point was that I got full -- not that it was the most flavorful meal, ever! (And, with this approach and through research I've tried some new recipes I really love, like these turkey muffins from Jamie Eason!)

8. Meal prep: 

Ah! This is so key! Meal prepping is such a lifesaver, I swear! When it's done, it's done and you don't have to think twice about what to cook or eat! My ideal week is one we plan our meals in advance, I prep them and log them, and then log the odds and ends as the week goes on!

9. Don't fret: Finally, don't fret. This is my favorite part about the IIFYM approach - if you eat something awful - something you know you probably shouldn't have, like pizza, a donut, or some ice cream - there's no need to fret! Simply log it and move on. If you can, try to still stay within your macros but whatever you do, no longer beat yourself up for eating "unclean" sometimes. Start fresh the next day and don't try to make up for yesterday. Everyday fuel yourself what the macros your body needs. One thing I've found is that I feel very satisfied at the end of each day eating this way, as if my body is getting just what it needs!

Does this work for everyone? Of course not! Everyone is different. I also know that the challenge and the allure of a cash prize, plus the encouragement provided by our group made a huge difference, as did having Aaron's support. In my opinion weight loss is a series of choices; there's no quick fix and no right or wrong way to do it. You just do the best you can everyday and for me, tracking macros really helped!

Have you ever tried counting your macros?

What was your experience?

Image via Death to Stock Photo

Hungry for Change & Why Diets Don't Work

Hey guys! Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I had another really low-key one, which was great! We had a movie marathon and somehow managed to watch FOUR different movies! It's usually hard for me to sit still through a single movie so getting four in felt like such a treat! We have a busy couple of weekends coming up so I was glad that we forced ourselves to just relax. We rented two Redbox movies Friday Night: Lone Survivor, based on a true story about a group of Navy SEALs, including Michael "Murph" Murphy, who died in the line of duty. The Memorial Day CrossFit hero WOD known as Murph is named after the same Murph in this movie. It was really sad but we enjoyed getting to know his and the other SEALs story, and learning more about their sacrifice. (Pretty amazing!) We also watched Out of the Furnace, which turned out to be another pretty sad movie. Both were super intense and I went to bed feeling kind of depressed Friday!

Saturday morning I went to CrossFit, which of course, fixed my mood! The workout was deceptively hard!

AMRAP in 25 minutes of: 5 Power Cleans (135/95) 10 Toes to Bar 15 Wall Balls (20/14, 10’) 200 m Run

I shocked myself doing real toes to bar, not knees to elbows or some exhausted variation! I didn't string them together but just getting one at a time felt great! Before the workout Aaron suggested gripping the bar with my fingers rather than wrapping my palm around the bar and that seemed to help a lot. I also used hand grips, which helped too.

I was completely exhausted at the end of the 25 minutes and literally laid out on the ground, which I don't usually do! I got 6 rounds + 25 reps but Aaron beat me with 6 rounds + 30 reps! I was close, though! I have to give him major props because he went for a 6-mile run after the WOD to prepare for a Spartan Super Race he's doing later this month. I seriously cannot believe he went running after a running WOD!

After CrossFit I babysat my friend Michell's son, Jackson! He's such a cutie! (Check out Michelle's pregnancy story.)

When I got home we watched Blackfish, a documentary about the captivity of killer whales. Seriously. so. sad. :(

Since we were on a documentary kick we flipped to another, Hungry for Change, which was much more upbeat and the perfect way to end our movie marathon! It was actually really inspiring! If you're at all looking to learn more about being healthy, losing weight, or just generally feeling better, I can't recommend this movie highly enough!

hungryforchange

Hungry for Change is full of shocking facts that really wake you up to the world we live in and the implication of our food choices. I really liked the emphasis on why diets don't work, and the fact that they are fundamentally flawed because they are temporary! I love the advice to turn your "I can't" into "I can, but I don't want to." What a powerful message! This is something I could immediately relate to having just completed a weight loss competition with friends and feeling a bit wild and free with my food choices lately! Time to bring it back in and realize "I can't but I don't want to!"

Check out my other favorite tips from the movie below the jump.

Use the crowding out method to get started. I've blogged about crowding out.

Goodstuff

Get visual with your subconscious! The subconscious doesn't speak English but we can speak to our subconscious through visuals, which is why it's so important to imagine yourself the way you want to be!

It’s NOT what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you. There's a reason they say stressed is desserts spelled backwards!

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Along those same lines, obesity is not the problem, it’s a solution for peoples stress and traumas... 

Did you know studies have revealed that when under stress you can gain weight by just looking at fattening foods? How crazy is that!

We do not eat real food anymore. We eat food products that are designed to look more tasty, better smelling and longer lasting. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans consume, on average, 150 pounds of sugar and artificial sweeteners a year! I've blogged about the dangers of consuming too much sugar.

Food kills more people than all drugs on the earth combined. All of the experts agreed that sugar, MSG and other food chemicals were just as addicting as nicotine and cocaine. Shocking!

Start juicing today! 

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I especially love that the documentary offers immediate ways to get started detoxing your body of the toxins, such as getting more chlorophyll rich foods and eating more parsley and cilantro. The website also offers this great 10 Step Action Plan:

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The documentary prompted us to ask my father-in-law to borrow his juicer, which we know has been collecting dust in his garage for the last few years. We didn't have time to get the produce we need to start juicing but I'm excited to start juicing soon.

I'd love to hear your tips for juicing!

What are your favorite healthy documentaries?

Have you seen Hungry for Change?

Images from Hungry for Change

Bulu Box

Bulu Box Subscription ReviewHello there and happy Tuesday! Today I want to share with you a fun box subscription I recently started that so far, I'm loving! First of all, there's something just kind of cool about coming home to package! I love getting snail mail and these Bulu boxes are full of awesome treats!

I received my first BuluBox  last month and even though there wasn't a lot in it that I liked, I had fun trying the different products and I'm anxiously awaiting my next installment! Here's how it works:

BuluBox is the best way to discover health, nutrition and weight loss products. Each monthly sample box is filled with 4 to 5 premium products selected to help you feel your best. Look forward to a new mix monthly for both women and men that include: vitamins, weight loss, energy, protein, digestion, sleep support, fitness DVDs, healthy food utensils and more.

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As you can see, my first box was full of fun little treats. I also really liked the card insert that provided a little background on each product. From this box, I liked the Smarty Pants Gummy Vitamins (who doesn't love vitamin gummies?), but I found I was not a fan of the Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bar. I actually love KIND bars, but the chili almond was way too spicy for my liking! I also wasn't too crazy about the Tapaz to Go. The lentil crackers were good but the hummus was just so-so. If there had been something I really liked from the box, I would simply hop over to the Bulu Shop and purchase it!

BuluBox provides several options for getting started and if you chose the month-to-month subscription, you can cancel anytime. (Though... why would you? I love having the chance to sample a product before making a purchase!)

If you're not sure whether there would be anything of interest, browse through the premium brands partner page and I bet you'll see a few names you recognize (Justin's, Quest, PowerBar, FlapJacked).

Also, good news, FFAB readers get 50% off any monthly, 3, 6, or 12-month subscriptions by using the code BULUGAN336 at checkout. However, please keep in mind I am a BuluBox Ambassador, therefore, I do receive a small portion of the proceeds from your purchase.

A few more fun facts about Bulu box

  1. Y can earn 50+ Rewards Points (that's $5) or more every month to spend on full-size products at BuluBox !
  2. You can put your fav product on Repeat Delivery with @BuluBox & it will automatically be mailed to you each month so you never run out!
  3. You can score freebies and gifts in the @BuluBox Bonus Shop.
  4. There's free shipping on all products featured in each month's BuluBox !

Do you have any box subscriptions? 

Would you be interested in testing out various health products this way? 

5 Unexpected Delights of a Standing Desk + Tips for Creating Your Own

Awhile back The Washington Post published this infographic revealing the health hazards of sitting all day. I saw the graphic but didn't think much of it because well, I work in an office... have a traditional desk job... what can I do? Well, fast forward to today and I've managed to create a standing desk at work, sit a lot less, and realize: this is awesome! I'm loving it! I've already begun to see benefits, not just with my body, but with productivity and the overall satisfaction I feel with my work environment. I thought I'd share the story of my standing desk with you guys!

This all came about when I went on a job detail 2 months ago, left my cubical, and got a sweet office! I'm really lucky because the office has a huge window and it's very spacious - a lot different than my old cube!

Well, I caught wind of some conversations around my new job about a few people who created standing desks. I went and looked at one and got inspired! I immediately started rearranging the furniture in my office, but as you can see, my first attempt didn't work so well - it was too high and looked pretty obnoxious too!

IMG_2612 After a few more failed attempts (and weird looks from coworkers), I finally found a way to create a standing desk and still preserve my sitting area! As you can see, I put the coffee table on top of a cabinet - it's not perfect, but it works! I also love the view!

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I've been using the standing desk for about 2 weeks now and I have to say, it's pretty awesome. I know standing is better for me health-wise, but it's made work (and just my day in general) a lot better, too! Here are five immediate delights I've experienced so far:

1.) Productivity is up: Have you ever heard the attention span of human beings is as short as 10 minutes? Seriously, I believe it! I can really dig into a task for maybe, 20-30 minutes (max) but then I usually have to break things up by switching gears or stepping away and coming back, and a standing desk allows me to do just that! When I'm losing focus on a task, getting frustrated or need a change of pace, I simply switch to standing (or sitting) and I've found that small change in "environment" really re-sets my focus!

Tip: Of course, this only works because I still have the option to sit, which I highly recommend you do, too, if you decide to try a standing desk. It's hard to stand for 8+ hours straight and having the option to sit (especially on the days I wear heels), is really comforting.

2.) I move a lot more: When I work from a standing position I find myself walking in, out, and around my office a lot more. It's just easier to get walking when you're already standing, whether it's walking to get water, to go to the bathroom, or even just around in the hallway for a few minutes... I'm a lot less lazy working this way!

3.) The days go by faster: Alright, I'm not quite sure why this is, but it just is... Switching between a standing and sitting position, walking more, and overall, being more productive, I find the days go by a lot faster, which of course, I love!

Tip: Even though I'm standing now, I still find myself slouching and leaning quite a bit. I've actually had gotten a little back ache from leaning down from a standing position so I have to watch it and still remind myself to stand up straight!

4.) I eat less often: I'm one of those people who has a pre and post lunch snack everyday, but I don't like to eat standing up (who does?)... So, as a result of standing versus sitting most of the day, I find myself less eager to eat. I'm a lot less bored, too, which I think helps minimize mindless snacking!

5.) I leave work on time: I'm not sure if this is because I'm a bit more focused now that I'm standing while I'm working, or because I'm standing and therefore, in a walking/leaving position, but I've been a lot better about closing down and leaving on time now that I'm working from a standing desk! Plus, while standing, I'm not as likely to get "stuck" on my computer, looking at something or writing something; the work is broken up!

Of course all of this is made possible by my awesome work environment and the fact that I work from a laptop, but, if you can, I highly recommend exploring whether a standing desk is an option for you too! Let me know how it goes if you end up with one!

I'm curious if you'd ever consider trying a standing desk? If you have, what was your experience? 

Summer Shape-up Weight Loss Challenge

Did summer creep up on you? It's funny, in DC we complained about it being the longest winter ever but then when summer finally hit, my friends and me made mad dashes for pedicures and flip flops; Gah! It's here and we're not ready!

There's been a similar sentiment about slipping into our swimsuits and during a recent get-together I sensed a little bit of dread among friends about upcoming beach trips. I decided this might be a good time to coordinate a last-minute summer shape-up (weight loss challenge) and I'm excited because we're set to start Sunday!

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This will be the first time my friends band together to motivate each other to do something healthy, but I'm hopeful we'll be great motivation for each other! (I love the picture of friends at the pool above!)

We've decided to open it to outsiders, too, so if you're interested in joining, let me know!

The Official Rules:

The challenge begins this Sunday, June 1st and will run a total of 8 weeks till July 20th. There's a $20 buy-in and there will be two winners: the person with the greatest percentage of weight loss and the person with the most points. The person with the most points wins 25% of the pot for best effort.

Participants have to be paid up by this Friday to participate and must be willing to submit their weight (with a photo) at the start of the challenge. Each week (on Sundays), participants will be required to submit their current weight as well as their weekly points tally. If points and weight aren't submitted, we’ll assume you’ve forfeited.

The Point System: 

Each person begins the day with 5 points, add or subtract accordingly:

-5 for a flat-out cheat meal... meaning there's nothing healthy about it!  What constitutes healthy? That's left to your discretion but we all know the difference between a healthy and a not-so healthy meal. Obviously there's an honor system at play here, but if you lie, you really only cheat yourself!

Also note it’s a cheat MEAL, not cheat day! Therefore, if you eat an unhealthy breakfast, like french toast and unhealthy dinner, like four slices of dominos pizza, that’s minus 10 points for the day! Yes, you can end the day in the negative, though it’s not recommended!

-2 for each glass of alcohol - One glass of wine/alcohol per day is allowed; it's minus 2 for each after that.

-2 for eating (or drinking) anything with more 20 grams of sugar - 20 grams is the equivalent to 5 teaspoons of sugar (there's 4 teaspoons per gram); this includes soda, lattes, and more. Be mindful by checking the label of the food you're eating... sugar is often disguised as dextrose, evaporated cane juice, maltose, sucrose, frutose, lactose, and high fructose corn syrup... to name a few. If there's no label, Google it!

Please note this does not include naturally occurring sugar in fruit (any fruit is OK!) but be careful about fruit juices - there's often added sugar in those. For instance, a 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade has 21 grams of sugar.

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+1 for every 30 minutes of working out that you do - Any kind of workout counts, even a long walk!

+1 for sharing a healthy tip or recipe with the group - A simple post with a link to an article or a picture of your healthy breakfast or snack counts!

+1 for drinking 64 ounces of water a day - that's approximately 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water per day!

Bonus points: Throughout the competition each of us will have an opportunity to add a surprise challenge for points. For example, during the first week, I may post: “Get 2 points by practicing a handstand today! To claim your points, post a picture!” The second week someone else will have an opportunity to submit their extra credit idea to the group.

Free days: Every participant is allowed three full free days where they're allowed to eat and drink whatever they want and not receive a point penalty; however, please note those days should be marked as 5 points - you don't gain or lose any.

Participants are strongly encouraged to keep a log of their daily point tally because they may be asked to submit it to show how they came up with their weekly total. Below is an example of daily point logging.

Daily Point Log:

July 1, 2013:

  • +1 for posting a picture of my salad to the group!
  • +2 for one hour of working out (CrossFit)
  • -2 for that second glass of merlot with dinner! :p

Total Daily Points: 6

July 2, 2013:

  • +1 for posting an encouraging quote to the group! 
  • +2 for one hour of working out (CrossFit)
  • -5 for eating Five Guys for dinner

Total Daily Points: 3

July 3, 2013: 

  • Free Day! 

Total Daily Points: 5

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The weight loss winner will be awarded based on percentage so that it’s fair! For example:

170 lbs and lost 4 lbs - 4/170 = 0.0235 x 100 = 2.35%

140 lbs and lost 2 lbs -  2/140 = 0.0142 x 100 = 1.43%

In this case, the person weighing 170 lbs lost a greater percentage and therefore would be the winner!

Even if none of us lose weight, I think it's pretty cool we could win back our money for giving it our best effort. Not only that, but I think all of us will start some pretty healthy habits through this challenge and best of all, when we're together, we'll make better choices! :)

Have you ever done a weight loss challenge with your friends? 

Do you have any healthy summer goals? 

Crowding Out & 11 Healthy Swaps

Hey guys! How are you? It's pouring rain in DC in today and I'm totally bummed the spring weather has abandoned us once again! Come on!!! I'm so ready for tank tops, flip flops, and driving with the windows down! Did you hear temperatures are supposed to get into the 20s tonight? Ugh! I'm having some technical difficulties with Karlye's weekly post, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share this concept of crowding out - have you heard of it? My friend Stephanie, a health coach, told me about it when I consulted with her about my husband's lack of interest in eating paleo. I explained to her that in his mind, cutting out grains, dairy and legumes didn't leave room for much else! Aaron's not a big vegetable eater either, and that was another concern. Stephanie explained the trouble newbie-health goers have with restrictive diets and suggested the "crowding out" approach instead. Here is the definition from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition:

The theory of "crowding out," is an effective way to overcome habitual consumption of unhealthy food. The principal of crowding out suggests that you add more to your diet, instead of taking away. By adding healthy, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains, you will crowd out the unhealthy foods. The body can only take so much food. If you fill the body with healthy, nutrient-dense food, it is only natural that cravings for unhealthy foods will lessen substantially.

I truly believe in this now, guys! And recently, I thought back on it when I realized there were certain foods I just didn't want to give up - namely, my coffee creamer, margaritas, and ice cream. :)

The crowding out concept says I don't have to give up those things- I just have to find healthy swaps! I remember when I used to think I had to have pasta and then I discovered spaghetti squash. I used to think I had to have store-bought salad dressing, until I discovered some healthy homemade versions! And ice cream? That's what mocha shakes and banana ice cream is for!

The same has been true for milk, until I discovered almond milk; PAM until I discovered coconut oil; and white potatoes, until I found sweet potatoes! Over time, in exploring healthy food alternatives to my favorite treats, I've learned that sometimes - most of the time - I like the healthy food better, which means I don't have to feel like I'm giving something up, but rather, just choosing the option that I enjoy just as much and that makes me feel better.

With this in mind I made a list of my favorite healthy swaps and challenge you to test out a few!

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I'm also challenging myself to find healthy alternatives to some of those lingering unhealthy parts of my diet, and find alternatives. Here's my list of must-haves:

  • CoffeeMate Creamer
  • Egg salad or tuna salad with mayo!
  • Margaritas - is there such thing as a healthy version?
  • Brownies
  • Donuts

I'll be back with the swaps for these things, as I'm making it a mission to replace them with healthier alternatives... I'd love your ideas for a healthier donut! Lol! :)

This might seem like a ridiculous exercise but I truly think it will help me. By identifying the things in my diet I'm holding on to, I can begin to explore alternatives and starting crowding them out!

What are some foods you don't want to give up?

What are your favorite healthy swaps? 

Have you heard of crowding out? 

Fun & Useful Health Tips from Magazines

Earlier today I shared that sometimes I take pictures of stuff I see in magazines for reference later... well, correction: I do that ALL the time! I found this bunch of photos in my phone this weekend and it's clear I have a problem!

I thought it'd be fun to go through and actually share the information I store, since that's the reason I take these photos in the first place!

Let's start with this fun fact about jumping rope curbing appetite! Does that mean if I don't have a jump rope handy and I'm fighting a craving I should just jump up and down? :) 

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I've been meaning to blog about Strivectin for awhile - it's a skin-firming cream that's also been shown to reduce fine lines and stretch marks! It's a little pricey but powerful! 

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This fact about baking soda working as a hair detox didn't surprise me! Have you heard of the campaign against poo? (Shampoo, that is!) Some people just use baking soda to wash their hair! Baking soda seems to have a multitude of awesome uses- I've heard it's great for teeth whitening, too. 

2014-04-13_0011I really liked this 7 Days of Slimming Workout Routine to incorporate strength training, cardio and flexibility:

2014-04-13_0015 I also love that it included these FAQs about popular workouts and how they should be fit into the routine! Of course I was thrilled to see CrossFit mentioned! 

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I can't say I agree 100 perfect with the notion that a lighter workout day should follow a CrossFit day. I actually feel my best when I string CrossFit workouts together- going 3 days in a row and then having an active rest day. But that's just me!

Speaking of CrossFit, there was another advice article with some things to expect at your first CrossFit workout. I thought these insights were spot-on! 

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I also like this piece of advice to "Let yourself suck." A year into CrossFit and this is still my mantra! 

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Alright, so, am I the only one who knows apple cider vinegar is really good for me, but still hasn't started taking daily shots of it? OK, good. Thought that was just me! I know Karlye (our resident fit-mom) adds a shot to her morning tea! I think that's an excellent way to sneak it in! 

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Again, am I the only one intrigued by DIY beauty treatments, like this fruity face peel? Don't be surprised if you see a post on this soon! 

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I always take photos of recipes I want to try and since I've been a major mint kick lately, this mint + ginger tea really jumped out at me! 

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I also had to snap a picture of this bit of science that backs something I've encouraged on the blog! Read "Write on" and you'll see that our challenge to log food is for a good cause! Although, this suggests journaling - not just logging - has a big impact on weight loss! I've always thought journaling was helpful, hence, this blog! :) 

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And, probably the most important bit of information I have to share with you: eat more chocolate.

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Joy to the world, indeed!

So there you have it: eat chocolate, drink apple cider vinegar, do CrossFit (well, suck at CrossFit), wash your face with berries and your hair with baking soda! :)

Haha! Good thing I gathered all this important information for you guys. Lol!

Tell me, have you ever tried a DIY face mask? 

What's your workout regimen like? Do you follow the heavy-light pattern or do you go for several days and then rest for several days? 

Did have your 1.5 ounces of chocolate yet today?

3 Small Changes to My Weekly Routine

Sunday Rituals to Transform Your Week Hey guys! I'm popping back in today to share a few small changes I implemented last week, when I started my new job, that helped tremendously with the transition.

As you can imagine, with a new job comes a multitude of changes - my commute is different, the work is different, and my hours are different! Also, no longer having salad club or the chance to go to the gym at lunch are big changes. :(

I have to admit: my life was SO simple before! Work was 10 minutes away and I actually only went into the office 4 days a week... I didn't have to think about lunch (salad club) or plan workouts (personal trainer)... you could definitely say I was spoiled!

But just because things have changed, I can't let my healthy habits fall to the wayside. In fact, I think being healthy is even more important now more than ever before! I need more sleep because I get up earlier, I need to eat better foods to give me energy because I'm busier throughout the day, and I have to be more determined and deliberate to get my workouts in!

Something else I've noticed: when I have to be organized and prepared is really the only time I am organized and prepared! With that said, these 3 small changes have had a big impact in my life this week, and I wanted to share them because I think they might help you too!

1.) Laying out my clothes the night before.

I LOVE THIS! I've always thought about doing it, but never actually did, until recently, because I have to wake up so much earlier. I love not having to think about what to wear in the morning! It makes getting ready quick and easy, and I've been dressing a lot better too! No more trying on 3 or 4 different things in the morning, and throwing clothes all over the bed. I figure it all out the night before and it only takes about 5 minutes.

Laying Clothes Out

2.) Prepping Food on Sundays.

Again, I've wanted to do this for awhile, but it took me having to do it to actually start! Now that I don't have the convenience of salad club, I have to figure out lunch ahead of time. I don't want to eat processed, store-bought foods, so that means I have to meal prep on Sunday.

Last week I made PaleOMG's Tex Mex casserole, divided it into containers, and ate it throughout the week. I switched up snacks day-to-day so that I didn't get bored or feel like I was eating the same thing all the time, and it worked out great! This week I prepped a big batch of butternut squash-apple soup for the week.

3.) Shopping on Sundays, too!

We recently implemented a budget to help us save for a house and we've had to significantly cut back on the amount of money we spend on food. The new plan only provides $50 a week for groceries! It's really hard to stay within $50 when I go grocery shopping because I love trying new products and recipes, and I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to food, but I'm already seeing the benefit of scaling back and just shopping once a week! We're actually eating the food we buy now, and prepping is so much easier because I'm only thinking about the week ahead!

This week, for instance, I'm going to happy hour on Tuesday and then to a friend's house on Wednesday for dinner so, I don't need to prep as much! My husband requested oranges, raisin bran, and overnight oats so I was able to get the things he wanted, and splurge on snacks for me (I love these vegetable root chips).

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All of these changes are incredibly small, but they're make a HUGE difference in my week.

And, just because it feels like there's no good pictures in this post, here is some puppy cuteness to make your Monday a little brighter! :)

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Isn't he cute?

Do you lay out your clothes the night before? 

Do you grocery shop weekly or less often? 

Get Motivated March // Week Two

AWESOME, EASY WAYS TO GET MOTIVATEDHey guys! I hope you had a fabulous start to the month of March! I know I did! :) I've found the Get Motivated March daily challenges very inspiring! During the first part of the week I meal prepped, then I got busy with each challenge, taking a picture in a bikini, measuring, planning my reward, and making a vision board!

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I actually resisted doing these things at first, but let me tell you, once I did, it started working immediately! Making the vision board especially - hanging up the bikini I wore on our honeymoon and writing out my goals + rewards - has me pumped to have a healthy day!

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These CrossFit shoes on my rewards list might have something to do with my motivation as well! :)

I put these quotes on the board as motivation as well:

You can't because you keep saying you can't!

People are what they do, not what they say!

Since we're getting ready to start week two, I wanted to briefly explain each of the challenges that you'll see on the calendar this week. Remember, you can jump in at any point or just do one challenge per week if you prefer!

Get Motivated

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March 9: Buy a Healthy Mag! 

Healthy magazines are full of awesome health tips, new recipes, and workouts. My favorite get-motivated magazine is Oxygen, but I also love Self, Running, and Health magazine too! Start your week off this week looking through a healthy magazine and if you learn something, try to incorporate it right away!

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March 10: Add a Veggie a Day!

If you can, for the rest of the week, add a vegetable a day to your diet! That could be bell peppers or spinach in your breakfast omelette or carrots in place of chips with your lunch. Vegetables are incredibly versatile and can usually be worked into breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

March 11: Park Farther Away! 

Park your car farther away than usual to encourage a little extra walking today! Walking is the easiest form or exercise, but guess what? It's just as effective! If you're running errands or park

March 12: Make a Pinterest Board! 

I looooooove Pinterest, if you couldn't already tell! The ideas and images are endless! Make a Pinterest Board to inspire you and the goals you want to accomplish this year. Call it "New Me," "2014 Makeover" or, like mine, "2014 Health Goals." I already got started my board and it really shows off what I want more of this year -- more health-food reading, more weight lifting, and more time trying to do things like rope climbs and pull-ups.

March 13: Just Water Today! 

It's just one day - you can do it! :) Ditch the soda, tea, and juices, and just drink some water! Even ditch the coffee - today, replace it with warm water with lemon! It will instantly energize you and though you may miss your beloved morning-time friend (coffee!) you'll survive - I promise!

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March 14: Tell a Friend!

Whether it's your spouse, coworker or best friend of 10 years, share with someone the your goal. Talk through why you're doing this - why you want to do this - should do this - need to do this!! And, if you're really feeling motivated, ask that friend to help hold you accountable! Ask that they remind of you this conversation if and when they see you grabbing for the wrong things!

March 15: Read or Watch Something 

I got a head start on this challenge, too and started watching Forks Over Knives on Netflix last night. Wow! What an eye-opener! As I went to make my coffee (laden with creamer), eggs, and bacon this morning, I couldn't help but think back on the movie. Aaron has been texting me all morning with his thoughts on what we learned from the movie as well! GET KNOWLEDGE people! Watch and read about healthy living, soak it in, and begin your baby steps towards a better tomorrow! Knowledge far outlasts motivation, and can be a much more helpful tool for life than a jolt of "I want to wear a bikini!"

I'd love to hear or see how your challenges are going! Post photos to Instagram with the hashtag #FFABMarch! 

How's March going for you so far?

Have you seen Forks Over Knives?

Mental Tricks to Combat Emotional Eating

Good morning and happy hump day! Today I wanted to share a tidbit of health information that pertains to my friend Karlye's story. So often we link our weight woes to our diets and our workout regimens, which, sure, play a big part. But those of us who experience emotional eating know there's a major mental component at work as well.

Those us who grew up overweight also know food as comfort, not just fuel, and have to change the tune in our minds that leads us to food to feel better. Otherwise, we fall victim to the slippery slope that goes stress-emotional eating-weight gain.

This mental/behavioral issue is why the more weight you've lost, the harder it is to keep it off. Not to mention, most weight loss programs focus on what we eat and when we eat it, not why we eat it.Did-you-know

The good news is that researchers recognize the difficulty once-overweight people have keeping weight off and are working to find mental tricks that empower us to overcome stress eating.

According to a study by Temple University, the key is managing the emotions behind eating. Temple researchers sought to develop a weight loss program that addressed emotional eating by helping people recognize the triggers that make them eat and "break that cycle of reaching for food every time they feel bored, or frustrated, or sad." One technique mentioned in the study is the "conveyor belt." I love this idea and had to share it!

When you feel overcome with a specific emotion, recognize it, take a step back, and before reaching for chips or cookies, put those feelings on a mental "conveyor belt" and watch them go away.

Conveyor Belt

A mental trick Karlye suggests is:

When you feel like you just don't care and want to eat to feel better, tell yourself "your body cares."

Thinking of her body as separate from her mind and her current emotional state has helped Karlye take a step back from eating, overeating, and eating the wrong things, and may help you too.

Of course, everyone is different and the mental trick that works for me may not work for you, but I think mental tricks in general are worth exploring.

Are you an emotional eater? 

What mental tricks to you use to combat emotional eating? 

Read more about this study on Science Daily or on Temple University's Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) website.

It's March! Get Motivated with this Printable Calendar!

Hey friends! Happy Friday! I hope you had a fabulous last week of February! Can you believe it's March 1st tomorrow? Summer is fast approaching! Which is one reason why I've been working hard behind the scenes to put together weekly challenges that I hope will help all of us implement small, healthy changes. Before we get there, though, we need to get motivated. The winter blues are probably settled in and the realtiy of holiday weight gain might be setting in too. It's time to take charge! Below you'll find a printable calendar with daily prompts to get you motivated for change. If you're like me, you've been stalling to get started, but let me tell you friends: there is no better time than the present! That's why you see the quote "A year from now you will have wished you started today" printed at the very top of this calendar - as a reminder that now is the time. RIGHT NOW! Let's do this!

Get Motivated

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Here's a breakdown of what's required this first week. These small steps will lead to big changes if you follow them and get motivated! Next Friday I'll post more details about the prompts for week two. I'll also do a few check-in posts because I'm doing this challenge with you! Let's go!

March 1: Plan your day!

Really, really plan your day. Go ahead and write down what you're going to eat on Saturday, and make it healthy! Log it in MyFitnessPal or just write in the notes in your phone - however you do it, just do it! Be in control! Don't let the weekend start (the month start!) and you're midway through pancakes and mimosas at brunch, putting off your goals yet again!

It might sound tedious to log your food before you eat it but this will start your month off on the right foot! Take CONTROL of you diet, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, and remember: Fail to plan then plan to fail! Planning your meals for this first day will set the tone for the rest of this month! Do it!

Here's what I'm eating Saturday:

  • Breakfast: scrambled eggs, a banana and green smoothie
  • Lunch: sweet potato hash with chicken sausage and tomato slices
  • Mid-afternoon snack: A lara bar and protein shake, maybe an apple and/or almonds
  • Dinner: I'm going to an event at Golden Corral - YES! The buffet! FML! - But, the plan: grilled chicken, greens, and a sweet potato! I can do this! If I have a sweet tooth, I'm hitting up the fruit bar!

March 2: Get Ready

Print this calendar, weigh-in,  go to the grocery store, get the healthy food you need to stay on track this week, and meal prep! YOU HAVE TO MEAL PREP! This is key to your success this first week. If you don't have healthy foods on hand, you'll eat something easy, which usually means something processed, sugary, and without a lot of nutritional value. Even though grocery shopping and prepping will take time of your day Sunday, it will save you time this week. It will make eating clean feel effortless, especially if you have the healthy foods you LIKE on hand.

Here's a quick rundown of my meal plan for the week:

  • Breakfast: Egg casserole
  • Morning snack: Apples + almond butter
  • Lunch: Sweet potato hash with chicken sausage
  • Dinner: Pizza spaghetti squash bake from PaleOMG
  • Other dinners: Chicken, veggies, and cauliflower mash / Salmon salad
  • Afternoon snack: Almonds + raisins or hard boiled eggs or a lara or quest bar
  • Dessert: Banana "ice cream"

Want a more specific meal plan? Try this one.

March 3: Take a Picture

- Here's what works for me: taking a picture of myself in a cute bikini at Target and then SAVING THAT PICTURE AS THE BACKGROUND ON MY PHONE. Do I want to look at my body in a bikini, the way my body looks right now? No, not really... I'd prefer not to think about bikinis or my diet at all! But, by saving the picture as the background on my phone, it's a reality check! (It's a little "ahem, reminder, you have goals!")

March 4: Plan your reward!

We need rewards to movitate us to stay on track. Brainstorm incentatives to stay the course - what is your timeframe? Is there an anniversary or trip coming up? If not, plan one! Make that your first benchmark! Another idea is to set-up weight-loss rewards (at 10 lbs, I'll treat myself to a manicure; at 15 lbs, a new pair of shoes, etc.) I also love the idea to buy the rewards ahead of time, wrap them, and put them in plain sight as motivation!

March 5: Measure 

Take your waist, hip, and thigh measurements as a starting point. Sometimes you lose inches before you lose weight (fact) and in my book, that's just as exciting (if not MORE exciting) because it means my clothes fit better!

March 6: Get Visual!

Print pictures and post them around your apartment. Create a calendar on your wall. GET VISUAL. Make your goal the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror that says, "A year from now you will have wish you started today." Anything to keep your goals ever-present in your mind! (Here are some motivational tactics on Pinterest!)

weight loss motivational wallimage via eat-healthy-train-hard-tumblr

March 7: Journal for 10

Take 10 minutes and write down why you're doing this, why you want to do this... what's your motivation? How bad do you want it? What's holding you back? What usually works for you? Write it all down!!!

March 8: Start the day with a healthy breakfast.

With the weekend, it's all about getting off on the right foot! Keep your motivation strong by starting your Saturday with a healthy breakfast! That will set the tone for a great day and another awesome weekend!

I'm so excited for those of you doing these small challenges with me! If you can't start tomorrow, feel free to start Sunday or Monday, or whenever! I'll post more details about week two next week! In the meantime, GET MOTIVATED!!! And happy March! :)

What motivation tactics work for you? 

What's it take to motivate you?

 

New Series: Did you know?

One of my goals for the blog this year is to bring you more health and wellness information that can be sourced back to scientific studies. These new posts will be either be titled "Did you know?" or "Wellness Tip" and they'll be short and sweet, like this one, with a little tidbit to motivate your healthy lifestyle! Did-you-know-square

Source: Circulation, A Journal of the American Heart Association

Read more from the American Heart Association Newsroom

Have you had any strawberries or blueberries this week?

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?

”The

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.

nutty4nutrition

@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!

sarah griff fit

@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!

average2athlete

Are you on instagram?

Who do you follow? Share your favorites!

My Weight Loss Story Through Photos

Most of you know that I grew up overweight. I shared my story when I first started this blog because I wanted my readers to know I get it. I know what it's like to feel depressed by my appearance, completely consumed by my size, and in search of a lifelong solution to my biggest problem. YET, only able to find comfort in the foods I know are bad for me. I get it. I really, really do. But, since most of you know me the way I am now - a CrossFit-salad obsessed fool - I thought pictures might illustrate my understanding better than words. So, here's a look back through my life, and my own personal weight loss journey.

HomecomingHomecoming in 9th grade.

In middle school my first crush called me fat and by High School, not much had changed. I didn't have a date to Homecoming so my friend Holly went with me. I vividly remember this night and all that led up to it. Shopping for a dress was a disaster because everything was so tight fitting. As you can see, we made a way with control top pantyhose (read: the most uncomfortable thing, ever for bigger girls) and a body suit. YES, that means I'm wearing a body suit AND pantyhose in this photo. What a mess! I also vividly remember us ordering a pizza that night and me eating the entire thing; I think Holly had one slice. Clearly, I hadn't connected food with my weight issues, and external contraptions, albeit uncomfortable seemed like the best solution at the time.

SVA 1Eleventh grade.

I left home to attend a boarding school in 11th grade and on this particular day, we had a mini-photoshoot on the rooftop of the dormitory!! There's a bunch more pictures from this day and in all of them, I have this same mean look on my face!

Ghadeer_Country

This was also in 11th grade. I can't believe I thought it was acceptable to wear that tank top and those shorts together! Ugh! During this time I was a heavy smoker. I smoked at least a half a pack of cigarettes a day.

SVA Dorm 1Same dorm. Same mean mug! 

As for the cornrows? I can't really explain it! Haha. I wore them all. the. time. I think it was my way of separating myself from my peers more so than my lack of athletic ability did. I wanted to be athletic so bad and I tried out for several sports teams - basketball, cheerleading and soccer - but never made any of them. In eleventh grade, they put me on the junior varisty team even though all my peers were varsity. Allowing me to play junior varsity was a favor, but sadly, we lost every game that season and I don't think it gave me the self-confidence I so desperately needed.

Creation Fest

These pictures are from a trip I took with my mom at the end of eleventh grade. I think I gained a lot of weight that year in particular because the school I attended was strictly vegetarian and didn't serve meat. I can only imagine I loaded up on carbs and a lot of fake stuff. It's no wonder I got so big.

Creation Fest 2

Below is a photo of me the day I left for college!  When I look at this picture I seriously can't believe how big I was. Or how long my fake nails were...

SVA Graduation

It's interesting because within the first year of college, unlike so many other college-goers, I LOST 15 lbs. We were walking everywhere, and back then, my school had the worst cafeteria. I never ate there. I was pretty poor, too (no job, just school + money from home), so that meant surviving off dorm room delicacies like chips and gushers.

saramichellesroomSophomore year of college.

Don't be decieved: a smaller waistline does not mean healthier!! In fact, I was probably the UNHEALTHIEST I've ever been in my entire life during this time... I smoked a pack of Newport cigarettes a day (sometimes more), drank often, and ate like crap.

I did, however, have my first elliptical experience in college around this time. But we never stayed at the gym longer than 30 minutes. I usually got on the elliptical to occupy myself while my friends flirted with the basketball players (they weren't interested in me). I never touched the weights or really pushed myself though. I think I did the elliptical a total of 10 times. The weight loss came from the drastic change in my environment, walking a lot, and probably smoking a lot too.

Party3

The night before graduation from college, 2003.

By the time I graduated college I looked completely different.

A lot better, I think.

SaraMichelleSMILES

Of course, some of that can be attributed to learning to dress better and ditching the cornrows, but I still had no concept of working out or eating healthy. In my mind, healthy meant either eating less or choosing fat-free sugar-free foods. (I know better now!)

After college it didnt take long for the weight to creep back on. When I was back in a cozy living environment, I ate the only way I knew how: a lot!! Breakfast pizzas and microwavable burgers were the norm, and I remember having the hardest time not giving into the Dunkin Donuts I'd walk past every morning on the way to the bus.

I was still smoking too.

Then, in 2008, I started to get the bug. I went on a trip to Miami with some college friends and around that time I decided I didn't really want to smoke and drink and go out any more. One of my good friend's brother's was just beginning to get into weight lifting and had a bench press setup at his place. I tried it out (just the bar of course) and loved the feeling. I picked up an Oxygen magazine for the first time that same weekend, and started to get the crazy idea I could become a bikini model (ha! still not there yet). I started to think about getting healthy, getting in shape, and getting strong. When I got home, I went straight to the grocery store and then cooked up three Oxygen recipes. That's when I discovered the egg white casserole, and loved it!

Of course, nothing happens overnight and I was quickly realizing that losing weight and getting in shape now was a lot harder than it seemed to be in college (when I wasn't even really trying)! Around this time I started back on the elliptical at my work gym and started drinking protein shakes. Slowly, I saw progress.

An interruption occurred when I got engaged!! Woo hoo!!

WeddingshowAt our first wedding vendor show.

Around the same time I got engaged I got a new job and that really helped solidify my interest in working out. I joined a nearby gym with some coworkers and eventually, we all chipped in for a personal trainer (Melissa). I think this story goes back to why I believe in personal training and set out to become a personal trainer.  When I met Melissa, I wasn't that overweight, but I definitely wasn't where I wanted to be. I'd gotten engaged and knew I had a wedding coming up at some point (we had a long engagement). I also knew I did not like the way I looked in my engagement pictures. In fact, I was mortified!

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(Thankfully we took some other pictures later I was happier with.)

I worked out with Melissa two or three times a week doing mostly weight lifting, and on the other days, we'd run or do the elliptical (some form of cardio). Melissa and my two coworkers taught me everything I know about exercise. It was with them that I started lifting weights for the first time (I remember HATING lateral raises with the weighted bar - it was so hard!) and started doing a consistent amount of cardio. I was starting to realize I really liked cardio! If you asked me to chose between the weight machines or stairs, I'd chose the stairs! They all liked weights, though so I kept doing them and I'm so glad I did! My body started to change. I was leaning out. And Melissa was working with me on the right foods to eat, too. I remember her writing out a simple meal plan that went something like: oatmeal, veggies + chicken for lunch, sweet potato + fish for dinner. She also told me to drink a chocolate protein shake if I had a sweet craving, and so that's just what I did!

I got really into running around this same time and starting picking up 5ks, and eventually 10ks and 10-milers. Having an upcoming race seemed to help me stay consistent in going to the gym.

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In the weeks leading up to my wedding I became more disciplined on my diet, but it wasn't easy. I remember having a very tough conversation with Melissa. I was complaining (and whining) about not having lost more weight and not seeing the results I wanted, and she basically told me it was my own fault; it certainly wasn't her program! That was hard to hear, but I'm glad she was straight forward with me because I left determined to get it together, and that I did! I finally started tracking consistently and eating a lot more veggies. My go-to lunch was 1/2 cup of brown rice, a bag (a whole bag!) of steamed veggies and grilled chicken. I'd have greek yogurt in the afternoon and then something simple for dinner.

When I got married, I was an all-time low of 147 lbs. I also had sleek shoulders and flat stomach! I couldn't have been happier with the results of my hard work.

Getting Ready Wedding

Oh and, for the first time in my entire lift, I wore a bikini on my honeymoon!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can't believe I'm putting this on the internet - shoot me!

When we returned from our honeymoon my coworkers and personal trainer and gym were all still there, and for that, I'm so thankful. We continued our workout routine but challenged ourselves with the goal to run a FULL marathon. I already loved running but knew a marathon would take serious dedication. I knew it would bring immense satisfaction, too, so I signed up. Every weekend we got together and ran the long runs. I experienced some knee problems, but when race day came, I showed up and finished in about 5 and a half hours.

Memememe

Training for a race was tricky because I did what most running experts suggest - carb loading. I also would feel extremely hungry after long runs (not to mention feeling like I deserved to reward myself for the 16 miles I ran that morning). Even though I wasn't eating as clean as I could have been, I do think I was a lot better off than I ever was in college or years prior. Of course, with marriage there were many changes - moving and making dinner for two instead of one - but one thing remained consistent - my will to TRY to eat healthy, and to keep working out.

After the marathon I decided to take a break from running (I hear that's normal). I've done a few 5ks since then (the color run and electric run), but nothing big. Next year I'm hoping to get back into running by maybe signing up for a half marathon. (I never did a half! I jumped right to the full!) I still run sometimes at CrossFit but it's shorter distances. I think having started CrossFit when I did was really good for me because I was becoming a little disenchanted with the gym.

Melissa moved gyms and isn't as accessible now. I do have access to a gym at work (which most of you probably see photos of on instagram), and I have a trainer there, but I was getting to the point where I wasn't challenging myself enough; I was just going through the motions and not seeing results.

Of course, like many newlyweds I gained some weight after the wedding and with my work gym, my new personal trainer, and this blog, I definitely wanted to get that last little bit of weight off once and for all. But, then something odd happened... I started CrossFit.

I've shared how Crossfit has brought results, both weight-wise and strength-wise, but mostly, it's drastically changed my goals. Even though I still think it'd be nice to lose a few pounds, I'm much more focused on getting stronger and conquering a lot of non-weight related goals, like doing a handstand!

IMG_6559

My other big focus is consistency (i.e. not diving head-first into chocolate cake when I'm not doing challenges). I want to stop the yo-yo dieting and just get in the habit of eating clean, and do that for years and years to come (not for the next six months till summer).

I think eating clean is the hardest for me because it's easy to revert back to the old me (the one who grew up eating cinnamon toast crunch for breakfast and five guys for dinner), but I'm trying and I have amazing tools - like salad club. I love to cook and try new recipes, and I realize that nobody's perfect 100 percent of the time.

Did I mention I finally quit smoking? THAT was definitely a huge step in the right direction.

Clearly my weight loss (or rather, fitness) journey isn't over but I'm thankful I have this blog to navigate the way. As you can see, it's been a lot of ups and downs thus far, but I like to think I'm making strides.

Have you struggled with your weight your whole life?