Time is not the problem

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And neither is money. Prioritization is the problem.  I always hear people blame time and money for their unhealthy habits and I am here to tell you that you CAN find time for the gym and you CAN eat healthy on a tight budget, it’s just not your priority.  People often like to use time and money as an excuse to feel better about their decisions.  This pertains to any goal in life, not just fitness.  Would you ever starve your puppy because you didn’t have time or money to feed him/her?  Yes I went there.  But you get the point.  If you have a health goal, or any goal that is truly important to you,  I promise you you will find time.  When I tell people that I workout at 5am they always tell me they could never do it because they are not a morning person.  Well let me tell you that neither am I.  In fact, I have to set my alarm 30 minutes early so that I can press snooze 3 times until I forcibly roll out of bed.  I then proceed to take pre-workout, aka a shot of caffeine magic, and it is not until the magic kicks in that I feel like a human.  I do this because my work hours are unpredictable and getting my work done is also a priority so in order to make sure I tackle both, I choose to workout in the morning.  I am not saying that working out at 5am is something that anyone else needs to do.  My point is that there are 24 hours in the day and a lot of ways to get your workout in.  Even if it’s a 20 minute at home exercise video.  Find whatever works for YOU.  People are always looking for the “quick fix” when it comes to getting in shape and the reality is you actually have to put in the work.  Make some sacrifices.  No “quick fix” is maintainable. All the skinny teas, 10 day detoxes etc may give you a temporary “weight” loss which will probably consist mostly of water but keep putting the money you don’t have for your healthy diet towards quick fixes instead of nutritious foods ;).  Okay so that was harsh but it just drives me crazy when people continue to buy into these marketing gimmicks.  Once you start taking the time to plan ahead, you’ll realize that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive.

This goes back to prioritization.  Unless I am doing a major stock up, I typically spend anywhere from 60-80 a week on groceries which consist of lean protein, veggies, fruits, whole grains etc and this covers my meals for a full week.  So lets take $80/7.  That’s $11.42 a day for ALL meals.  I typically eat 8 small/medium sized meals a day so that’s $1.37 per meal.  So just to put this into a bit more context… I’ve spent more money on 1 salad from a local shop downtown for lunch (shout out Roche Bros salad bar) than I spend on a full day of food that I pack.  Now I am not someone that buys everything all organic/gluten free etc which I realize can be more expensive but I would bet that one would still get their bang for their buck if they simply take a few extra minutes to plan ahead and be smart with their grocery shopping.  This is, if it’s a priority.  So moral of the story here… be honest with your priorities.  Did you really not have time for that workout or was it just not a priority at the time?  And let’s be clear I am not lecturing people to go get their workouts in and go grocery shopping, just start being honest with what’s truly important to you at the time.  Try this: “No, I didn’t get my workout in this morning because I prioritized margaritas with friends last night and I am too hungover”(said by yours truly). But hey, nights out with friends are important too and at least I am being honest with what’s important.  If I have money for a night out at the bar, I have money for egg whites and chicken.  So before you decide you don’t have enough money or time for something, think about if time and money are the real problem or if you simply don’t want it enough.  I wanted to end this post on a lighter note but someone needs to tell it how it is, especially in a society where for some reason people are afraid to be honest, and instead make up excuses upon excuses, justify their decisions and just wait for things to be handed to them.  With a topic I feel so strongly about, you will always get tough love from me.

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My Experience With Bodybuilding

I mentioned in the spring that I would write about my experience after my first show and then just never got around to it because life happened and then before I knew it I was back on prep.  Two shows later, I am ready to reflect on my overall experience with bodybuilding.  I have a lot to say so bravo to you if you actually read this entire novel.  Before I get into too much detail, I want to reiterate that this is obviously just my PERSONAL opinion (hence the title) and everyone’s experience with competing is unique.  I took a difference approach when prepping for each of my shows.  In fact, I would say they were almost totally opposite approaches.  For my first show I followed IIFYM (if it fits your macros).  My coach provided me with the amount of protein/carbs/fats I should be reaching per day and I filled them as I pleased.  I lifted 5-6 days a week and did minimal cardio.  The most cardio I did was 4, 30 min HIIT sessions per week.  My second show followed a specific meal plan.  My coach told me what to eat each week and adjusted as necessary.  I lifted 7 days a week and reached 2 hours of cardio per day by show time.  I wouldn’t say there is a right or wrong approach as there were pros and cons to each of these approaches.  Now, with that background, I am ready to dive into the good, the bad, and the roller coaster ride that is competing.

PROS:

Show Day

Getting up on stage was one of the most rewarding experiences.  You put blood sweat and tears into transforming your body and get to show off all of your hard work.  I really love setting a goal and actually following through with it so competing was a really satisfying accomplishment for me.  Also, I am typically not a girly girl so it was fun for me to get all dressed up for the day in sparkly shit and have my makeup done beyond a layer of eyeliner.

Meeting New People

Aside from all the glits and glam, I got to meet a lot of really great people with that same passion that I have.  I not only developed new friendships but also have learned a ton about fitness and nutrition from a lot of really smart people.  There will always be a firehouse of information out there related to this industry but I feel that my experiences have taught me a lot about what my body needs to be healthy and I am so grateful for that.

Inspiring Others

The amount of positive feedback I have received is amazing.  Selfishly, I went into bodybuilding to focus on myself, not realizing how much my journey would impact others.  No I am not a sponsored athlete with 50K+ followers on Instagram,  but having just one other person tell me that I inspire them is pretty frigen cool.  I’ve recently been getting asked a lot of questions about my opinion on certain training and/or diet topics and while I am no nutritional coach, I could talk about this stuff for hours and love that I can share my opinions with others in hopes to motivate,inspire, or just provide some sort of direction.

 

CONS:

Show Day Part 2

This is literally the longest effing day of your life.  You put so much time, effort, and money into preparing for the stage.  I am talking food prep, training, posing, money spent on suit, accessories, tanning, hair, makeup, the list goes on. And guess what?  You spend 99% of the show day sitting and waiting.  You get about 30 seconds on stage to convince a panel of judges that all of your hard work and dedication was worth it.  When really at the end of the day the only persons opinion that really matters is yourself.  You could be in the best shape out of everyone in your class but if you don’t present “the look” that the judges are looking for that day then no hardware for you.

Post Competition

Self image is something that I personally struggle with (shocker) and that goes for a lot of other females, and males.  So for me, I am not sure the whole competing process is the best way to heal that.  I am super competitive so when I walked away from my first show with nothing, as much as I like to pretend I wasn’t upset about it, I was pretty bummed.  I walked away from my second show with two trophies including winning my open class and in the moment this was extremely gratifying.  But guess what?  My body isn’t going to stay stage lean forever and now I have to deal with the mental battle of accepting my body at its “normal” state.  And depending on how you plan your post show diet, your metabolism can get super effed up.  My last show ended right before Thanksgiving and I was on a pretty tight meal plan so my body was not happy with me going from 0 to 100.  I did not reverse diet like I did with my first show and it resulted in a pretty quick and heavy weight gain.  Do I regret not reverse dieting?  Sometimes.  However, I told myself after this show that I would give my mind a break from feeling like it was on a diet and that is exactly what I did.  This “lifestyle” can become obsessive and I found myself missing out on a lot because I didn’t want to have a drink or eat food that I didn’t personally cook.  I was constantly feeling the pressure to keep my body in the best shape it can be in because I made the decision to share my journey with friends, family, social media, etc.  There have been times that I feared going out in public because I thought I was going to get judged for my actions or image.  In general, the whole “off season” “on season” bodybuilding cycle really messes with my head so I’ve personally set a goal to break that cycle this year and find a comfortable balance with my body where I am happy and healthy.

 

SO NOW WHAT?

Will I ever compete again?  I currently have no plans to.  At least not in the near future.  Right now I am just focusing on enjoying life in my mid twenties.  Working hard in the gym.  Working hard at my job.  Spending time with the people I care about.  I found that prepping for shows sometimes interfered with my focus at work and my relationships with friends and family.  For me, if I can’t balance my relationships and my job while preparing for a show, it’s simply not worth it.  Competing is something you really have to be all in for.   I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, health and fitness is a huge part of my life, but it’s not my entire life.  There is a reason it is called a “lifestyle”.  For some, competing is a part of their lifestyle and I fully respect that.  For me, I see bodybuilding as a piece of the puzzle, a key milestone, in my journey to being the healthiest version of myself that I can be.

Spicy Turkey Chili

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This is one of my absolute favorite fall recipes!  I have shared a version in a previous post “5 Healthified Superbowl Sunday Appetizers” but thought it deserved it’s own space 🙂  I recently cooked a big batch for a potluck dinner party so I will share the party size ingredients!

What you will need:

1.5 packages of ground turkey (I typically use extra lean)

2 cans zesty jalapeno diced tomatoes

2 cans dark red kidney beans

1 package chili seasoning (I use Old El Peso or McCormicks)

Dash of chopped jalapenos

Dash of chopped onion

1/2-1 small can tomato paste

Here is what you need to do:

Cook ground turkey in large skillet

Once cooked, drain skillet and add 1/2 cup water

Add chili mix and stir

Add beans, diced tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, and tomato paste (to desired thickness)

Mix and let sit on low for AT LEAST 5-10 minutes.  I like to let mine simmer for 30

This makes about 8-10 servings!

Pumpkin Spice Protein Coffee “Coolatta”

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Coolatta#BecauseFALL.  Actually, I enjoy pumpkin spice flavor all year round!  This tastes exactly like a coffee coolatta from Dunkin Donuts except cheaper and better for you.  I am all about simplicity with good taste which isn’t always easy so whenever I am successful I love to share!  In order to make this shake I used my blender bottle and put a cup of ice then brewed a kcup (smallest size), added 2 Stevia, shook up then added 1 scoop protein (I used vanilla egg protein), a little pumpkin spice, shook again and then transferred to my Magic Bullet, blended and boom!  If your blender has a big enough cup to brew in then you save yourself the transfer step.  The key to adding protein to your iced coffee is to wait until after you brew because otherwise the protein will cook up and be clumpy!  I also advise setting your kcup to the lowest degree.  Lastly, depending on the protein flavor you use you may not need the extra Stevia I just happened to have a never ending sweet tooth. 🙂

Enjoy!

Bikini Competition Prep, What I Have Learned So Far.

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So as a lot of you may know at this point, I have decided to compete in a bodybuilding show.  No, I am not trying to transform myself into Hulk Hogan.  I am competing in the bikini division.  Give “bikini competitor” a Google if you don’t know what that means.  I have always been focused on being healthy and took the next step to change my lifestyle about a year ago.  As I started to really change my diet and pick up those heavy weights, I noticed a big difference in how I looked and felt.  I decided I really wanted a challenge and to see just how far I could push myself.  I made the decision last summer that I wanted to compete.  And after several months of building muscle, here I am, half way through my contest prep diet.  So, here are a few things I have learned throughout this whole process:

1. It is a lot easier said than done to have a balanced social life while on contest prep.

It just is.  I can’t drink and it is really difficult to go out to dinner if the restaurant does not provide nutritional information.  Even if the restaurant does provide nutritional information, there is a good chance that the information is not 100% accurate.  I am sorry but if I am spending thousands of dollars (yes thousands) to bring my best package to the stage there is a good chance that I am going to do everything that I can to make sure my diet is on point.  Yes, there is the possibility of me taking my tupperware container to the restaurant but I have to admit I feel slightly rude doing that.  And let’s backtrack to the part when I said I can’t drink.  This is probably the most difficult part of prep for me.  And I say that in full confidence that I am not an alcoholic.  I am however, a 25 year old woman who enjoys a night out with her friends in the city every once and a while, or a wine night here and there.  But can’t I still have fun going out to the bar and not drinking? Yes, sometimes, but when you workout at 5am everyday it’s hard to put on your “turnt up” face on a Saturday night as you wait for last call.  I will say, if I ever decide to compete again, this is an area that I certainly need to work on.

2.  Not everyone will understand what you’re doing, or why you are doing it, and that is perfectly okay.

I try to avoid explaining why I am not drinking or why I am avoiding the cookies in the office as much as I can but I am truly bad at lying.  So I have had to explain to a lot of people that I am on a contest prep blah blah blah and there are two common reactions I have received. First, “wow that’s awesome good luck”.  Second , “so, you can’t just have one cookie? one drink?”.  I used to get super frustrated with response number two.  I quickly realized that they aren’t trying to bring me down and that they probably just realize that I do in fact want that glass of wine and they just really wish I could have one with them.  I am still learning all the ins and out of prepping for a bikini competition, so why should I expect that others understand what I am even doing?  I have received a ton of positive feedback throughout this entire journey from family and friends and I know they want nothing but the best for me.  I’ve concluded that my lower carb intake bitch is just taking over from time to time and it will eventually pass. 🙂

3.  It is important to engage with other competitors or people within the industry.

A lot of competitors will work with a local coach, be a part of a local team and have teammates by their side throughout their entire prep journey.  I on the other hand am working with an online coach who is located out of the state.  Now, I wouldn’t change my coach for anything but I realized quickly that this meant I would really have to go the extra mile to do a little extra research in finding out what the right show was for me and getting additional in person posing help.  More importantly, I feel like having people that you can connect with about the process is really important.  This really goes back to my first and second points listed above.  Not everyone is going to fully understand what you are going through, and that is okay.  In fact, even your fellow competitors will most likely have a totally different prep journey than you.  However, despite the slight differences in your diet and exercise leading up to the show, you’re all reaching for similar goals and will most likely all be spending more Saturday nights in chugging BCAAs and protein shakes.  At least if you choose to spend most of your weekends in you’re going to want someone to bond with over your mutual grandma-ness.  It is also important to point out that this prep feels like a second full time job (a very expensive second job), so I can’t help but talk about it more than I would like.  I am sure people are sick of hearing me talk about food and the gym which is why having others in the same boat to vent to that can directly relate makes things a little easier.  This is actually part of the reason that I started to blog, so that I had a platform where I could share all of my thoughts throughout my fitness journey and whoever wanted to read it can and those who don’t care don’t have to read it!  My last point here is that you may actually learn something from speaking to someone else.  There are A LOT of opinions out there when it comes to bodybuilding, dieting, what to eat, what not to eat, and you may not agree with everyone but you can gain some valuable knowledge by talking to people that have either competed in the past or are involved with the industry somehow.

Now, if you’re still reading this then I am thoroughly impressed.  I’ll be sure to follow up after my show in 5 weeks to give a full reflection of the experience.  My opinions that I stated above may even completely change by the end of this week 🙂  That’s just what this prep has done to my brain!

5 “Healthified” Superbowl Sunday Appetizers

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Will you be attending a Superbowl party February 1st?  If so, you are most likely going to encounter a lot of yummy snacks and drinks.  Wings, chips, nachos, pizza, beer, you name it.  I bet these foods aren’t a part of your New Year’s resolution diet.  With that said, if you are feeling like you are finally getting on track after the holidays and don’t want to destroy your progress in one day, don’t panic.  There are many ways to create healthier versions of your favorite football snacks to avoid “inflating” that waistline.  Below I have shared 5 healthy recipes for my favorite football appetizers.

1. Baked Buffalo Tenders

Ingredients:

Boneless skinless chicken breast(1-2 breasts cut into tenders)

Whole wheat bread crumbs

4 Egg whites

Franks buffalo sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven at 350F

Cut chicken into thin slices

Dip tenders into egg whites and then coat in breadcrumbs

Place tenders in nonstick baking pan/sheet

Coat tenders with Franks Buffalo Sauce

Bake tenders for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through

I like to enjoy with a side of Bolthouse Blue Cheese Yogurt dressing!

2. Zucchini Nachos

Ingredients:

1 large zucchini

2/3 cup fat free shredded mozzarella

1/ cup black beans

2 tbs salsa

1/2 avocadoFullSizeRender (1)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400

Cut zucchini into very thin wheels

Spray cooking sheet with non stick and spread zucchini evenly

Bake zucchini in over for 10 minutes

Remove tray, flip zucchini, add cheese, and place back in over for 10 minutes, add cheese for the last few minutes

Add beans, salsa, and avocado

3. Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts (I use shredded chicken)

8 oz low fat cream cheese

1/2 cup Bolthouse ranch dressing

1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce (or Texas Pete hot sauce)

1/2 cup low fat shredded cheddar cheese

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix all of the ingredients into medium baking dish

Bake for 20 minutes

I like to serve with celery or Blue Corn Chips!

 4. Baked Sweet Potato “Fries”

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato

1 tbs olive oil

Garlic powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 415F

Peel and slice potato into 1/2 inch strips

Toss potato in salad bowl with olive oil and garlic powder (add salt and pepper if wanted)

Spread potato evenly onto baking sheet

Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping fries 1/2 way through.

5. Turkey Chili

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Extra lean ground turkey (1lb)

Red Kidney Beans (1 can)

Chili Mix (I use Old El Paso or McCormicks)

Diced tomatoes (I use 1 can Del Monte with zesty green chiles)

Dash of chopped onion and jalapenos

Tomato paste (1/2 small can)

Directions:

Cook ground turkey in large skillet

Once cooked, drain skillet and add 1/2 cup water

Add chili mix and stir

Add beans, diced tomatoes, chopped onion and jalapenos, and tomato paste

Mix and let sit on low for 5-10 minutes

This makes about 5-6 servings!

Wishing you all a happy Superbowl Sunday and let’s go Patriots!

5 Reasons Why Thanksgiving is the Most Challenging Holiday for People Working Towards Fitness Goals

Okay so as I was brainstorming things to write about that relate to this upcoming holiday I initially thought I would post several healthy appetizer recipes.  I realized quickly that I have never actually contributed to Thanksgiving cooking.  My parents have always hosted and my mom has it covered, and she has it well covered.  There is no reason for me to mess with her system.  Instead I thought I would reflect on why this holiday is so challenging for those trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

 

1. The Obvious

The whole purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks and the way we celebrate is by EATING.  Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, casserole, desserts galore.  You are surrounded by delicious food all day.  Some of us are required to partake in multiple Thanksgiving dinners in order to make sure you celebrate with the extension of your family.  If this is the case, well you can’t be rude and not eat at location number two, right?  Now, you can plan ahead here so that you don’t go overboard with the food, however, that rarely seems to work out.

 

2. Booze, Part 1

Like most holidays, Thanksgiving is not only celebrated with food, but also with booze.  Lots of booze.  If you are a young adult, you are most likely getting a head start with the drinking on Thanksgiving eve.  You will get together with your hometown friends, catch up, drink, potentially run into people you have not seen since last Thanksgiving eve, and end up drinking more than you initially planned because you are just too awkward to have a mature conversation with your peers without some liquid confidence.  So those 2-3 beers turned into 7-8 and you are already off track before the holiday begins.

 

 

3. Booze, Part 2

Okay so things got a little out of hand last night, it’s Thanksgiving day and it’s a new day.  No big deal you have a fresh start to the day.  You quickly come to the realization that you are no longer 20 years old and hangovers are no joke.  The only thing that could possibly nurse this hangover is a large plate of food, or more booze.  If you were a responsible adult last night then you still have a chance.  You just need to dodge challenge #1 with some portion control, then you are in good shape!  That is, until you remember “that relative” or “those in-laws” that you have to entertain and if only you had a bottle of wine to get you through.  If you don’t have “that relative” or “those in-laws”, but simply a family that likes to celebrate hard, well, you can’t not live up to the family name right?  Okay so maybe you do stay in on Thanksgiving eve, wake up feeling great and get through Thanksgiving day without eating yourself into a food coma.  You are in the clear.  That is, until you remember that your favorite NFL team is playing a big game tonight and you don’t have work tomorrow.  Sure, you can watch the game cozied up on the couch with your tea (which is totally something I would do), or you can respond to your friends text with a “yes I will come over for the Pats game and help you finish your leftover food and drinks”.  After all, aren’t we all thankful for the existence of football?  So realistically, this challenge could easily be broken out to booze part 3 and 4 to round out my 5 reasons.

 

 

So how does one stay on track through this celebratory holiday full of food and drinks?  That is up to you.  It is definitely possible with a little portion control and taking it easy or avoiding booze all together. Perhaps get a workout in that morning, or later that night depending on your gym’s holiday hours.  For me, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I am choosing to enjoy the festivities and all that it entails without putting myself into a food coma.  I’ll give portion control a shot and not really stress about it.  It is one day out of 365 days in a year and I am sure that those potatoes will be great fuel for my Friday squats.  Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful, so enjoy the things that make you thankful!  However you choose to express thanks, just do simply that, and do it well.