2 Best Dietary Habits to Help You Reach Your Goals

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Everyone struggles with weight loss; there is so much information available via the internet, experts, etc. that it can become overwhelming. Achieving and maintaining your weight loss goals is a lot easier than you think and 100% within your reach! Thanks to these two simple dietary habits, my clients are dropping weight like crazy without overthinking, giving up the foods they love, or depriving themselves. When you read what they are, you may be a little surprised at just how obvious it may seem!

Drink More Water
I don’t mean a little bit more, I mean A LOT more! Tracking your water intake will not only help in keeping yourself accountable, but you’ll notice just how little water you are probably drinking. Figure out how many ounces you should be consuming daily by multiplying your current body weight by (2/3). On average, people consume up to 48 oz. of water per day. The average amount of water for a normal 150 pound person sits at about 100 oz! Figure out how much water you should be consuming, start keeping track, and get drinking!

Why is Water so Important?
Water is not only the building block to virtually ever vital function and organ in our body, but also acts as a dietary tool for weight loss, gain, and maintenance. Our bodies signal that we are thirsty in the same way that they signal we are hungry. This is called “false hunger.” Feeling hungry soon after eating? Gulp down some water and see how it makes you feel – I guarantee your body is just craving water!

I Have a Hard Time Drinking Water because of the Lack of Taste
This is fairly easy to overcome – if you really want to achieve your goals, I promise you’ll get past this. Flavor your water with lemons, limes, cucumber, and more to give it that extra pizzazz! Feel like making it a little sweet? Squeeze a few drops of liquid stevia into your glass and see how you like it (I recommend going with natural flavors like vanilla, the regular stevia is an acquired taste).

Eat More Vegetables
You’re probably thinking a giant “DUH” but you’d be surprised how keeping a consistent mindset of “I should eat more vegetables in this meal” will work wonders for your body. As I’m always experimenting with my diet, lately I’ve been PILING veggies on my plate at every meal, accompanied by a portion of complete protein and slow digesting carbs. I have found that I am more satiated, I feel better, and you can do SO many creative things! Salad should never be boring, it should be packed full of amazing things (check out my recipe accompanying this blog for an excellent fajita inspired salad)!

I Really Hate Vegetables…
I am not trying to condemn you to eating more of a food you dislike, however, are you positive you dislike veggies or have you just never had them prepared to suit your liking? Vegetables do not have to be boiled, steamed, and bland! If you prepare veggies in this fashion (especially when trying to get the most nutritional value out of them) – add seasoning! Try roasting your veggies in some seasoning; roasted butternut squash is not only delicious on its own but is also the first step toward making some tasty squash spaghetti! The kitchen is the place where you should be getting creative, so get crafty with your greens!

But I REALLY want the Burger…
So get the burger! BUT on the side, instead of those salty, greasy fries, opt for a side salad or some green beans. Get all the veggies on the burger (they enhance the flavors anyway) and just be more conscious of the choices you’re making. By no means should you completely write off french fries, they’re amazing. However, just be conscious of what you’ve eaten during the day and make better choices accordingly.

By increasing your intake of water and including more veggies in your diet, you’ll be amazed by the results you see. Life is not about deprivation or saying “I can’t eat that.” Life is short so it is meant for LIVING! Be conscious of your health, make better choices, and don’t let it completely consume your life. 🙂

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Reading Your Nutrition Labels

pexels-photo-811108.jpegDo you pay attention to flashing road signs when you’re behind the wheel? How about directions for when you’re putting together a new product? The food we choose to put into our bodies is one of the most important aspects of our lives as food is our fuel! Why would we be neglecting or skimming over the “directions” or “warning labels”?

Know what you are eating

My #1 rule when it comes to food: KNOW WHAT YOU ARE EATING! If you pick up, for example, a box of delicious Cinnamon Toast Crunch because you got the craving (which is totally acceptable, everyone does!), read the label. Calories aside, it looks pretty harmless, right? This is where the next rule comes into play…

Read the INGREDIENTS along with nutrition content

Many people skim over an ingredient list because they mentally say “Oh this is in my calorie limit!” or “The protein to carbohydrate ratio is in my target range for my specific goals!” but there could be more lurking in products than our eye is trained to see.

Going back to my example of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, everything seems pretty straight forward…until about the 8th ingredient. Maltodextrin is casually hiding on that label. What is Maltodextrin? Simply put, it is a thickener put into many processed foods that is not only artificial but can also spike blood sugar and suppress healthy probiotic development in the gut. There is a number of body builders who will consume Maltodextrin post workout to restore the body’s stored energy (glycogen) through simple carbs (AKA the type you should normally avoid).

Bottom line? Maltodextrin by no means will kill you, but you should avoid it when you’re trying to maintain your health goals.

Another example of a secret ingredient hiding on this label is BHT – a preservative added for freshness. While humans normally do not consume enough of this for it to be a concern, BHT was classified as a carcinogen by the FDA and should ultimately be avoided. Besides, if you’re trying to eat right, why would you want to consume anything artificial and full of preservatives?

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So what should I look for on my labels?

My rule of thumb is simple: If I cannot pronounce an ingredient, I will not eat it! There are some ingredients out there that sound a little intimidating but are actually okay. An example (still from our cereal label) would be Lecithin. Lecithin is an essential fat needed for cell production in the body – it can also be found in foods like soy or egg yolks.

If you even have a doubt for a second, like decision in this world, you probably shouldn’t go for it. It’s like the common “IS this an appropriate outfit to wear to work?” …If you have to think about it, give it a solid no.

Improving your diet is a constant process of trial and error – if something works for you, stick to it! If you’re not really feeling it, try something new. 🙂

The 3 Super Powers of Collagen

pexels-photo-339620.jpegYowza! It’s been quite the month, I’ve missed updating this blog with so many adventures, traveling, and readying myself for the next major life step!

During this last month of beautiful chaos, I stumbled upon a little thing called Collagen. As you probably know, collagen is naturally produced by the body and is used in various bodily activities such as wound healing and improving the health of your joints. But, what exactly is collagen?

Collagen: Collagen is the most abundant protein found throughout the body, that is found throughout in skin, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, etc. There are 10 types of collagen in total, each with their own purpose; the most abundant type found within the body is Type I, which helps to form bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin.

Why is Collagen so Important?
As we age, our collagen production begins to decline – this happens at a faster rate for those with Diabetes and other chronic illnesses as well. While aging is the main reason for a decrease in the production of collagen, lifestyle habits such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking will also contribute to this (which is why smokers tend to suffer from deeper wrinkles in the skin as they age).

But WHY Exactly should I Care?

Healthy Skin & Hair

Collagen assists in improving skin elasticity and health; with more collagen, your skin will be firmer, smoother, and all around healthier! This is due to the increased ability to regenerate cells and shed dead skin cells as new ones begin to form. Suffer from dry skin? Try boosting your collagen intake – I bet you’ll start seeing some awesome results (paired with a daily moisturizer of course)!

A common occurrence, especially in women, as we age is the development of more cellulite. With a sufficient amount of collagen present in the body, skin will not thin out as quickly or as drastically, making the cellulite less visible than it would be with a depletion of collagen production in the body.

Suffering from chronic split ends or hair that just won’t grow? The culprit behind these ailments could be a lack of collagen. You’ve heard of adding keratin and biotin to the diet through chewable gummies or pills, I’m sure you’ve tried it at one point (I have – I cannot lie, I DO have a favorite hair, skin, and nails supplement! Comment if you want to know which one!) but still may not be getting the results you want. Collagen is not only an essential protein in building healthy hair, but can also increase your body’s number of hair building proteins.

It’s Great for Your Joints!

Seeing as our bones, joints, and ligaments are all made from collagen, it’s no wonder why collagen degeneration leads to such intense ailments as we age. When you think collagen, think “gel”; it surrounds our bones, joints, ligaments, etc. and allows for smooth movement and even less pain in these areas. While collagen can aid in motion and a reduction of swelling, this is where Type II collagen comes into play, as this type of collagen mostly surrounds our connective tissues and cartilage. Having people very close to me impacted by degenerative diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, I am a BIG fan of supplementing with collagen and have seen the effects first hand, if you take nothing else from this article, know that it will help your joints.

Stuck in a Rut from Leaky Gut?

If you find yourself running to the bathroom every hour or so, you may be suffering from a condition such as IBS or Acid Reflux – both results from leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut is a condition where negative toxins and bacteria are able to pass through the digestive tract, where they otherwise would not be able to. So, how can collagen help here? Seeing as it is a building block protein, collagen will actually begin to heal the tissue lining in the gut by forming more connective tissues, ultimately “re-sealing” the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract.

While collagen is referred to as one of the body’s natural adhesives, it also aids in absorption. We all know we should be drinking plenty of water, but if that water is not being absorbed by the right parts of the body, it isn’t doing much good. Collagen will pump up the body’s ability to absorb water, and therefore keep things moving and solvent.

How can I Add Collagen to my Diet?
There are various ways to supplement collagen into the body, the two most popular methods being bone broths and powder. Personally, I like to use the powder – I put a scoop into my coffee each morning and it dissolves immediately, I don’t even know it’s there (my brand of choice is from Sports Research: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00XQ2XGAA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1)! But one of the more tried and true recipes for bone broth can be found in my recipe section for today 🙂

There are TONS of other benefits to consuming collagen such as boosting metabolism and strengthening teeth, but you might just have to discover them for yourself 😉

The Ketogenic Diet & What You Should Know

pexels-photo-885465.jpegGaining immense popularity in the world of nutrition is the “Ketogenic Diet” which focuses on lowering your carbohydrate intake and increasing your fat intake. This is a very loaded subject with thousands of differing opinions on why this type of diet is beneficial vs. why it is harmful. At the end of this blog, I will give you my own educated opinion but encourage you to form your own! Let’s take a look into a low carb. diet to start:

What Can Happen When I Cut Carbs?
Very low carb diets can be beneficial for an individual in the short term. If executed for a longer term than recommended (say, for over 3-4 months) it can lead to carbohydrate depletion and poor daily performance (physically and mentally).

Why Exactly Are Carbs Essential?
There is a critical link between carb intake and:
– Body fat content
– The concentration of Insulin in the body (Insulin is a hormone produced by the Pancreas that regulates the amount of Blood Sugar found within the blood – under production or poor utilization of Insulin is the #1 cause of Diabetes).

The body’s preferred form of calorie comes from carbs as it is the body’s natural preferred form of energy. It is essential that an individual has a well-balanced diet with the proper macronutrient (proteins, carbs, and fats) percentages to assist them in achieving their goals, while allowing the body to maintain homeostasis.

What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Keto diet focuses on a higher protein and fat intake vs. a balanced macronutrient diet with a higher carb. intake. With this, the body will transition from burning carbs for energy to burning excess fat for energy. Sounds ideal, yes? So why is there so much discussion in the health and wellness community?

  • FACT: A large amount of weight will be lost as Glycogen (stored carbs) is depleted in the muscle and liver, HOWEVER this is NOT due to fat loss, but rather water loss.
  • FICTION: The body will rely more on free fatty acids for fuel when Glycogen is depleted. While this is the case in a small scale, the body will more-so rely on the amino acids (protein) supplied from the breakdown of lean muscle tissue.

Conclusion?
While the body will in fact burn more fat, it is also burning more muscle. This is a particular diet that is safest to follow for a maximum of 5 weeks (if you are not an experienced athlete) and up to 4 months for someone in bodybuilding competition preparation. Beyond this, it can cause various health risks such as vitamin and mineral deficiency, acidity of the blood, high blood pressure, and kidney complications.

At the end of the day, consult your physician or nutritionist before considering the Keto diet to ensure there will be no adverse health effects due to a preexisting condition; once you have the clearance, feel free to give it a try! The short term health benefits are a great way to kickstart your heath journey, but remember, this should not be a permanent lifestyle change.

Have you experimented with the Keto diet? Let me know about your experience in the comments!

Overcoming the 5 Hurdles of Eating Right

hurdles-track-race-competition-159745.jpegYou bought brand new Tupperware, kitchen appliances, and running shoes – you’re ready to begin your journey to a healthier you…right?

It takes more than just the gear and the desire to achieve to really reach your health goals. You must commit to the journey, not just dream about it!

When it comes to a proper diet, there are various circumstances that may stop you in your tracks to becoming your best self, and it goes far beyond tempting food choices that are readily available.

Here are the 5 hurdles I want to help you “clear” in order to stay on track:

  1. Travel: If you travel often for work or pleasure, it can be challenging to make the right food choices for you while on your adventures. Ways to combat this:
    -Bring a small cooler full of pre-prepped meals you can grab on the go
    -Bring healthy choices with you to snack on while driving/flying/training/etc.
    -Always pack a resistance band or jump rope! I know, not food related, but keeping these handy little fitness tools with you on your way will entice you to get a small workout in even if you’re short on time and can’t get to your hotel gym!
    -Bring shakes along with you. Blend together some of your favorite protein shake recipes to bring as a grab-and-go snack
    -Avoid concessions and fast food on the way. Stopping for gas? Avoid walking into that fast food restaurant or grabbing that chocolate bar off the shelf – opt for a granola bar, turkey wrap, or a smoothie (careful on the ingredients) instead.
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  2. Eating Out: This is unavoidable a lot of the time, but not impossible to handle! It is possible to eat out and still make the right choices for you – it will take A LOT of commitment, but that’s why you’re here, right? Ways to handle eating out:
    – Opt for the chicken or fish
    – Instead of fries or potatoes, see if there is a vegetable alternative as a side
    – Skip the dessert! And if you must go for dessert, split it with someone else at the table as opposed to getting a whole dish to yourself
    – Order tea/coffee/water and avoid added sugars with your meal and skip the soda!
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  3. Busy Life: Having a busy life is no excuse for letting your diet and exercise slip into the wind! There is always time if you make the time for things that matter. Ways to combat a busy schedule:
    – Take a day to prep your meals! If you allot the time on a day you’ve got spare time to prep your meats, chop your veggies, and throw them in Tupperware, you’re golden for the rest of the week
    – Keep healthy snacks in the house. Having fresh fruit or a bowl of nuts readily available for those grab and go moments is essential to staying on the right track
    – Prepare pre-packaged protein shakes and smoothies. Throw solid ingredients like protein powder, berries, fruits, etc. to a Ziploc baggie so all you need to worry about is adding your liquid ingredients super quick! Keep pre-sliced produce in the freezer for longer periods before you use them to keep them fresh
    – Always bring your own lunches to avoid the habit of constantly eating out! This is a major one I’m ALWAYS trying to emphasize! By prepping a healthy meal and having it with you, not only will you be less likely to choose an unhealthy option but you’ll also be saving your wallet
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  4. Boredom: Boredom is one of the most difficult hurdles that people have a hard time hopping! Feeling peckish because you’re sitting with a book or relaxing in front of the TV? Resist the temptation!
    – Oftentimes when we start to feel hungry, it is an indicator that we’re actually a little dehydrated! Pour a tall glass of water and squeeze a little lemon in it to satiate those cravings
    – Get up and do something. Head to the gym for that workout if you’re bored and feeling hungry – if you’re actually hungry, you’ll enjoy a fasted workout with a large protein packed meal after
    – Get lost in a task you love. Whether it’s getting lost in your favorite book, coloring with gel pens (personally, I love the sparkly ones), or sewing, letting your mind drift to an activity you’re doing will not only prevent you from bored eating but will also activate your cognitive function
    Should you succumb to the whispers of your stomach:  opt for healthy snacks like nuts, nut butter and celery, carrots and hummus, cheese sticks, or bell peppers
  5. Social Life: By far, I find this hurtle to be the most difficult to overcome. Heading out for a night with friends for ONE drink never works out – it turns into a few drinks, some wings, some mozz. Sticks, and OHMYGOD are those potato skins?! Hm…
    – Eat a meal before going out for the night. When you arrive to a social event and you’d already eaten you are less likely to indulge in the unhealthy snack foods and copious amounts of beer
    – If you ARE going to drink, stick to one beer or order a light mixed drink that’s not too heavy on the sugars or carbs
    – Encourage your friends to do activities that aren’t centralized around drinking. Sure, it loosens you up and it’s easier to make conversation with a little bit of a buzz, but it should not be essential to having a good time! Try activities such as hiking, seeing a movie, mini golf, or visiting a smoothie shop

Accepting a Healthy Lifestyle & Leaving Room for FUN!

pexels-photo-225228.jpegBefore you begin your journey for a healthier lifestyle, you must think about what exactly you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to feel better in general? Are you looking to get competition ready? Are you just trying to feel comfortable in your own skin? These are all factors you must take into consideration – someone that is just trying to improve their general health is not going to apply the same lifestyle changes as someone who is prepping for a competition!

More often than not, people are led to believe that they must give up the things they enjoy in order to achieve their goals; this is never the case! Sure, you may be in the middle of a shred and trying to decrease your fat, but depriving yourself of those carbs 24/7 for too long will lead to a crash (fun fact: did you know that the safest amount of time to make a drastic diet change, such as a calorie or carbohydrate cut is 3 months?). It is so common for people to torture themselves by giving up the foods they love because they are body obsessed – there is a difference between body conscious and body obsessed. Be aware of what you put into your body and how you treat it, but don’t make it something that runs your life in a negative way.

Here are my top 5 secrets to maintaining a happy, healthy lifestyle and leaving just enough room for fun along the way:
1. Pay Attention to what You Put into Your Body: Remaining conscious of what you are consuming on a daily basis is the first step toward success.
• How much sugar are you eating?
• Are you aware of your portions?
• Are you eating your daily portion of fruits and vegetables?
• How is your water intake?
These are some examples of the questions you should be asking yourself on the daily so that you can figure out the areas which need improvement!

2. Limit Your Alcohol Consumption: Whether you are in your early 20’s and still a social butterfly or love that glass of wine after work to decompress – I will never ask you to completely give up on alcohol. Like with most things, moderation is key! If this is the difficult part for you because you’re a beer drinker like me or still trying to figure out your limits, take baby steps. A glass of red wine a night won’t kill you, but an entire 30 rack will – allot one night a month for your real partying if you must, other than that, make it a personal goal to have ONE glass of wine.
• Replace alcohol with other drinks like protein shakes, power coffees, and teas. My personal favorite type of tea is green tea with lemon and ginger during the day, and chamomile with a splash of coconut milk and a tsp. of honey at night.
• Drink water! I know, it’s not as fun as alcohol, but when the craving hits sometimes it’s just to DO something and not REALLY because you want a drink! Squeeze some fresh lemon in there to make it 100% natural lemonade!

3. Indulge in Cravings with Healthier Options & in Moderation: If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a little bit of a sweet tooth (chocolate is my guilty pleasure!)Instead of going crazy in the kitchen with tons of sugar and butter, opt for healthier ingredients:
• Oats
• 100% Pumpkin
• Carob Chips
• 100% Pure Maple Syrup or Organic Honey
• Stevia
Don’t feel like going all out and baking? Experiment with new protein shake recipes! Use natural ingredients along with the above such as:
• Whey protein (chocolate and vanilla are my favorites) – experiment with plant based proteins too!
• Coconut Milk
• Instant Coffee

Smoothies and teas are always a good option here too; not in a chocolate mood? Opt for a smoothie of coconut or almond milk, frozen berries, and bananas!

If you’re really craving one of those caramel covered double chocolate brownies, absolutely indulge! However, with treats like this, it’s best to limit yourself to one and accompany it with a hot cup of tea or black coffee to ensure you’re satisfied. 🙂

4. Move Every Single Day, if Even Just a Little: Not everyone has 30 minutes to an hour to spend in the gym every single day, but do yourself a favor and get moving! Our bodies were built to move; I work a sedentary desk job during the day, so by the time I leave my body is begging me to get moving. When you move, your spinal fluid will be able to move freely and traverse the span of your body, allowing for healthy joints and ligaments; sitting for too long leads to a buildup of this fluid and increased back issues! Examples of how to move every day, even a little bit:
• Park far away from your destination and walk
• Take the stairs
• Take a lap every hour if you work a desk job
• Participate in a yoga routine as  you are winding down from the day
• Do a 15 minute ab circuit
• Do jumping jacks, sit ups, pushups, or body squats

5. Have Patience with Yourself: You may be displeased with where you’re currently at, but if you’ve taken on a healthy lifestyle there is no end in sight. You have the rest of your life to reach your goals and I promise you’ll meet them before then! This is a learning experience through and through; you will not get your nutrition down the first time you try, you will not master the gym within your first month, and you certainly will not become a guru because you gave it ONE attempt! Keep at it, stay positive, and all things shall fall into place.

For more tips, recipes, and encouragement hit that subscribe button to receive weekly emails for when I update this blog!

Need some inspiration for achieving your goals this year? Check out my blog from the MS Connect website The Endless Possibilities: http://www.msconnection.org/Blog/January-2018/The-Endless-Possibilities.

Love Food, Love Life, Love You

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In the beginning of my journey, I was not only trying to reach (unhealthy) impossible goals, but I lacked the proper education to safely maintain a healthy lifestyle. When I thought about food, it made me cringe. I would think to myself “I can’t eat that, it’s just going to make me fat.” I would eat something and then beat myself up about it after; my relationship with food was love-hate and nothing in between. I would constantly think about all of the other people and how good they looked and how hard it must have been to get where they are.

Now, my relationship with food is 100% LOVE-LOVE! Education and determination have given me a newfound appreciation for all things food (beyond how tasty it is). I no longer surround myself with negative thoughts about where I should be, but how proud I am to be where I am. The people I used to envy, I now understand that it WAS hard to get to where they are! But every second was worth it because at the end of the day, they feel 100% themselves.

Many people are led to believe:
• Eating less will make you thinner
• You must restrict calories in order to lose weight
• You must give up on the foods you love in order to lose and maintain weight

This is not the case! By eating well portioned, nutritionally dense foods you will lose weight and not even think about it as it happens. Filling your diet with protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits, and VEGETABLES – it will happen naturally. Give up on the thought of “dieting” and make it a lifestyle! You can truly achieve anything you put your mind to, so make the change and love yourself enough to stick with it.

With all of the social media, maintaining a decent level of self esteem is an unfortunate challenge that most of us (or all of us) have to face at some point in our lives. There is just too much exposure to the world around us; while this is awesome for keeping connected, seeing faraway places, and networking – it can also be suffocating. How can we help but see these miraculous photos on Instagram and not melt out of envy and wonder “how do they make it look so easy?”

Let me tell you the reality: what you see on social media is 99% of the time NOT what is real! There are incredible photo editing apps that make anything and everything look like a professional photo.

BUT! This is not the case for everything you see either and it would be unfair for me to say it was; by no means am I saying these people are not naturally beautiful from head to toe – they most likely are and usually have inspiring and innovative stories to share too! Next time you’re scrolling through your feed take a second to ground yourself and do yourself a favor:

Stop. Comparing. Yourself. To. Others.

True happiness exists when you 100% believe in yourself and all of the truly amazing things you are capable of. I guarantee, when you are looking at the person next to you and enviously thinking “wow, I wish I had her waist” or “dang, I wish I was as big as that guy”, that they are looking at you and thinking something along the same lines about you! You may like her legs, but she may love your triceps; you may pine to have calves as big as him, but he may be working to have abs like yours.

At the end of the day, take care of yourself and love yourself along the way. Do everything you can to live your healthiest life and embrace who you are, no matter what. You may not have achieved your goals yet, but you will get there. Love the journey and love yourself. Your smile, your laugh, your arms, your sense of humor, your booty, your mind, everything. Because YOU are YOU and that is something to be happy about.