The “F” Word: We All Do It

Bodies change, but life goes on

Bodies change, but life goes on

It’s true. The nasty “F” word affects most women. Sometimes we love it; sometimes we hate it.

I’m talking about “fluctuation,” of course. What were you thinking?

For the majority of us, our weight goes up and down with the seasons, with our hormones, depending on what’s going on in our personal and professional lives, and for countless other reasons. Sometimes the difference is just five or ten pounds; other times the change is even more significant.

But here’s the thing: it’s normal. Don’t let that 5-10 pounds scare you. Don’t let it get you down and don’t let it derail you.

Right now I’ve lost some muscle (sad face) and gained some fat. Overall, I’m a bit smaller than I was just a few months back, but I have less definition. What gives? Life happened. I bought a house (stressful), moved away from my gym, got caught up in the moving and unpacking process (more stress), and didn’t have time to workout and cook as much.

I was pretty damn close to having a six pack, too (okay, it was like a 4-pack, but you know). But then poof, it was gone. Yeah, I wallowed in self-pity. For a minute. Then I realized it didn’t really matter! Here’s why:

  • I’m not about to compete nor am I a fitness model
  • My pants still fit
  • I can still climb mountains
  • I’m in good health
  • My husband still loves me
  • I’ve created healthy habits through my journey
  • This “break” is temporary
  • I’m happy
  • I enjoyed the nachos I ate on movie night and the wine I drank with my girlfriends!

The list goes on, but the point is that your body fat percentage doesn’t define you. And there’s a danger in thinking that it does. It’s easy to feel that way—I know. Especially with the slew of super fit chicks on Instagram who seem to have it all. Guess what? They don’t. That’s not a judgement on their way of life, either.

I know what it feels like to go to the gym six days a week, carefully monitor everything you eat, avoid social gatherings because you can’t eat any of the food there anyway, etc. Yes, with social media you do get to see more of what goes on “behind-the-scenes” in a fitness model’s life. But you don’t see it all. Their images are carefully crafted, no matter how “real” they appear to be.

This is why an Insta-star’s following is always so shocked and heartbroken when a ‘fit couple’ breaks up. “But you guys were SO perfect together!” “You two were so in love—I hope you can work through it!” “OMG, if they can’t make it, my relationship has no hope.” Hmm…

You don’t see it all. You don’t see the bad side of a relationship and you don’t see the extra time they put in on the stairs to burn off those cookies they ate. You don’t see them struggling to get out of bed—crusty-eyed and covered in cat hair—so they can get a jump start on meal prep and avoid cookies altogether for the next week.

I applaud those who do show you more of these kinds of struggles (there are a few), but I urge you not to fall into the Insta-trap of thinking there is some secret to a perfect body that nobody is telling you.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes your fitness idols do more throwback photos than usual? Or recycle old videos? Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe, their abs aren’t on-point that week and they’re doubling down to get back on track?

Life happens. Your weight will go up and down. Once you realize and accept this, you will be much happier. Don’t let a few pounds destroy your pride in the progress you’ve made. Don’t let it derail you from striving to live a healthy lifestyle, because if you do, eventually those 5 pounds turn into 20, 30, or more. And more importantly than the pounds, you will lose the happiness you’ve found in being able to walk a little farther, climb a little higher, dance a little longer.

Regardless of your personal body goals, remember, we’re ultimately seeking happiness and contentment through balance, strength, and health of both mind and body. A six pack has no bearing on any of those things.

Dinner Idea: Tuna Patties, Sweet Potato Fries, and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Whether you’re cutting calories, trying to make healthier choices, or just looking for an easy, yummy dinner idea, this one is for YOU.

I just entered a cutting phase of my journey last week (I’ll share more on that soon), and an integral part of that is, of course, diet. I’ve been pretty consistent about staying on top of food prep, but I was out of prepped meals by last night. I was wracking my brain trying to come up with something quick and easy, yet healthy. Here’s the gem I came up with!

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It’s so easy it’s not even funny. Below, I’ve included the tuna patty recipe, along with directions for making the entire meal.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Tuna patties

  • 2 cans of tuna (I use White Albacore in water)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP rice flour
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese (optional – can reduce/exclude)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste

You can also add diced onion, garlic, and other ingredients, like celery, as desired. But this is the quick-and-dirty version.

Drain tuna and place in a mixing bowl. Add other ingredients, mix, and divide to make four patties. Spray a frying pan with oil, or brush with just a bit of olive oil, and turn to medium heat. Cook patties for about 10 minutes, flip, and cook for another 10 minutes. That’s it! They’re ready to eat.

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Sweet Potato Fries & Brussel Sprouts

  • 1 serving frozen sweet potato fries (I used Ore Ida straight cut)
  • 1 cup Brussel sprouts (about 8)
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • Lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Halve or quarter the Brussel sprouts and place in bowl. Add olive oil, lemon, and other seasonings; mix to coat the veggies. Place them on one end of a baking sheet; on the other end, spread out your fries. Bake for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 10.

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Seriously, that’s all there is to this meal! If you don’t have (or don’t like!) Brussel sprouts, you can use whatever vegetable you have in your fridge (broccoli and zucchini taste great oven roasted as well). Just make sure you add a veggie, whether that’s peas, salad greens, whatever. You can also chop up a whole sweet potato and make your own fries, but like I said, this is a simple meal for those days when you’re short on time or energy and have nothing prepped.

Pro tip: if you keep staple foods like these on-hand, you’ll always be able to throw together a nutritious meal. More on this in a future post.

Nutritional information

  • 545 calories (445 without cheese)
  • 44 g protein (37 g without cheese)
  • 42 g carbs (same with or without cheese)
  • 26 g fat (17 g without cheese)

Depending on your calorie and macro needs, you can adjust the recipe. For example, you might want to reduce or exclude the cheese (it helps the patties stick together, but isn’t necessary), or replace the egg with egg whites. I rarely eat cheese; as you can see, it drastically adds to the fat and calorie content. Removing the cheese from the recipe also makes it a dairy-free dinner, which is great as I’m not big on dairy. And, as always, the entire meal is gluten-free.

Would you try this? What are some of your go-to meals when you need something quick and nutritious? Share in the comments!

Eat up!

My Supplement Stack (I’m not a nutritionist!)

Supplements

Love opening my order from Bodybuilding.com!

Before I go into specifics, I want to point out my headline…in case you missed it. ^^^ I’m not—I repeat—I am not a nutritionist. The supplements I take are based on my personal activities, goals, and other factors, like age, gender, and geography. I did not see a nutritionist or coach to build my stack; everything I take I selected from my own research (and hours of it, I might add). I suggest you do the same. Now that we’ve cleared that up…

Here’s a bit about me:

  • 31-year-old female
  • 136 pounds
  • Work out 6 times a week (15-20 HIIT cardio + 45 minutes of weightlifting)
  • Hike/outdoor activities ~weekly
  • Live in the Seattle area (yes, this matters – we don’t get a lot of sun)
  • Current goals include: fat loss, muscle maintenance, energy, overall immune health

Vitamins

I’ve had trouble with vitamins in the past. No matter what I did, I had terrible heartburn after taking them. I would take them with food, chase ‘em with a warm drink, consume lots of water…on and on. Nothing helped. Finally, I read that some people take them at night for the same reason, so I started popping my vitamins before bed and never looked back. Here’s what I take:

  • Multivitamin for women
  • Vitamin C with rosehips (immune system, connective tissues)
  • Time-released B-Complex with folic acid and biotin (energy – helps convert food to fuel)
  • Vitamin D3 (due to Seattle’s lack of sun – see, told you geography matters!)
  • Cod Liver Oil (anti-inflammatory, skin health, brain health, depression)

Pre-workout

IMG_0527I drink my protein shake (25 grams of protein) and take 2100 mg of creatine an hour before my workout, followed by my pre-workout drink with 5.75 grams of added branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) about 30-45 minutes prior to working out. And yes, I have to pee like crazy as soon as I get to the gym!

  • Labrada Lean Body for Her (muscle growth and healing)
  • Optimum Nutrition unflavored BCAAs (protects muscles against catabolism)
  • Prime Nutrition Max HP (energy/endurance/strength/pump/fat burner)
  • MET-Rx Creatine (increases muscle strength/size and improves recovery)

Post-workout

Of course, I drink lots of water all day, throughout my workout, and following the gym. Gotta stay hydrated! I also make sure to have some carbs and protein, along with another dose of creatine (2100 mg). Splitting your creatine pre- and post-workout is probably bro science, but whatevs, it’s what I do.

Other

To help with digestion, I take probiotics with meals (when I remember!) because I’ve always struggled with stomach problems (i.e., celiac, IBS).

I’m a research nerd, so I feel that this stack is appropriate for my current situation and personal profile—and it’s been serving me well. I’ve added things over time since I first started my journey in October of 2014, and other things I’ve changed. I don’t like artificial sweeteners (and they don’t like me!), which is why I chose the above supps. Max HP has stevia, which I’d prefer it didn’t, but it’s the best thing I’ve found so far, and at least it doesn’t have Splenda or aspartame. Green tea is a great natural pre-workout with thermogenic fat burning properties, but unfortunately, it gave me massive migraine headaches, so that’s a no-go.

FullSizeRender (2)There are a ton of options out there and it can be confusing and overwhelming. I know. My recommendation is that you start with what you feel your biggest need is (Not getting enough protein? Find a shake you like. Need better endurance during your workout? Choose a pre-workout with great reviews.). And DO YOUR RESEARCH. Additionally, whenever you can get your nutrients from your diet, do it! I try to eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods daily in an attempt to meet my needs through diet alone, but I choose to supplement in case there are gaps. If you’re eating a balanced diet (you are, right? RIGHT??), you shouldn’t have to worry about micronutrients like zinc and iron, for example.

And finally, my obligatory gym rat statement: yes, I think supplements are a great tool to help you reach your goals. But more important than any supplement is whether you PUT IN WORK and EAT RIGHT. All the supplements in the world will not help you if your fitness and nutrition aren’t on-point.

Okay, I’ve shown you mine, will you show me yours? What supplements do you take?

 

Note: I have no affiliations with any of the above-mentioned brands and have never received payment or compensation of any kind for including them in this post. They don’t even know I exist. But hey, if ya’ll are listening…my stock is running low :-p

Nutritious & Delicious Buffalo Chicken Salad

IMG_0332When it comes to salads, I need lots of flavor, but I’m not a huge fan of dressings (condiments in general, actually. Goopiness – blech). That means whatever goodies I put on my salad need to be flavor-rich, yet nutritious. For example, if I’m making a sweet salad, I like adding things like berries, nuts, and pumpkin seeds.

As I move into a (short) cutting phase in my journey, I’ve turned to big salads with lean protein for dinner most nights. A couple of nights ago, I was craving a savory salad—preferably something with warm toppings since it’s cold and rainy in the Pacific Northwest right now! I also love spicy food, so I decided to try making my own buffalo chicken for my bed of greens.

Here’s what went into my salad:

  • About 3 cups of tender baby spinach and romaine with radicchio
  • ¼ of medium avocado
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (~10)
  • 8 oz. chicken breast (I was behind on protein, but 4 ounces is about right)
  • Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce (enough to coat chicken)
  • 1/4 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS Greek yogurt ranch dressing (I dip, and didn’t use the full serving)
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Image credit: T-Nation, www.t-nation.com

Since I’m sure you know how to make a salad (pile veggies on a dish!), I’ll jump right into how I made the Buffalo chicken. After washing and trimming the chicken breast, slice as desired. Pro tip: the smaller you cut the pieces, the more flavor you’ll get. Coat chicken pieces with olive oil, followed by Frank’s sauce. You can marinate the chicken overnight or for a couple of hours for even more flavor, but you’ll get plenty of flavor without marinating as well. Place chicken pieces on a cookie sheet and cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly. That’s it! Remove from oven and place on top of your salad.

Of course, you can add other veggies as desired, and you can mix in your dressing or eat it on the side, whatever you prefer. I used Bolthouse Farms brand dressing (pictured); it was the first time I’d ever tried it, and I must say, I approve! But your choice of healthy dressing will do. For my exact salad listed above, I’ve provided the calorie and macro information below.

Nutritional content:

  • 460 calories
  • 55 grams protein
  • 11 g carbs
  • 19 g fat

If you’re not cutting carbs, this is still a yummy, hearty option for lunch or dinner. Just pair it with a whole grain roll or incorporate a complex carb like quinoa.

I’ll write a post soon about my decision to start cutting, my approach, and how it’s going so far. Until then, try this salad and let me know what you think!

Eat up!

I Stopped Caring About a “Goal Weight” and Started Focusing on What Matters

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January 17, 2016

I thought I’d write a short, feel-good post since my posts inevitably end up longer than anticipated. I tend to be long-winded…just ask anyone who knows me personally :)

As you all know, I’ve been hitting it hard in the gym and the kitchen for about 15 months now. When I first started—overweight and out of shape—I punched my goals into MyFitnessPal and tracked everything I put in my mouth. My goal? 125 pounds.

It seemed reasonable. I spent my late teens and early twenties at about 120-125 pounds, consistently. I was thin, wore a size 2, and everyone always said how “tiny” and “skinny” I was. I figured, hey, why not shoot for that again?

Initially, I lost about 25 pounds (pretty quickly, in fact) and thought, “yes! I’m making progress! I’m so going to hit my goal!” But it slowed. Then it stalled completely at 136 pounds. I spent a bit of time trying to adjust my diet and wondered why I was seemingly doing everything right, yet not making further progress. *Gasp* This is what all those ladies’ fitness magazines call a plateau! Oh, the horror!

But you know what? I got over it. And damn fast, too. Why?

January 3, 2016

January 3, 2016

I felt fantastic and looked better than ever. And despite my weight “plateau,” I swore my body was still changing and improving. I figured I should eat for health, fitness, and happiness and who cares about the number on the scale? What a concept, right? I started eating intuitively (still making healthy choices, of course) and kept pushing in the gym.

Last week, I noticed my abs were starting to pop through…for the first time in my life…EVER. I hadn’t been on the scale for ages, so I thought I’d do a weight check. Surely I’d lost a few pounds. The result? 136 pounds! I’ve literally been the same weight for months, yet I’m looking better every day.

Moral of the story? Fuck the scale. At least when it comes to “vanity pounds.” Weight doesn’t tell the whole story, and it sure as hell doesn’t determine your worth. Make healthy choices and live happily ever after.

Do you weigh yourself regularly? Are you obsessed with the number on the scale?