Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Giving up Lent for Lent

Lent came up pretty quickly this year in my opinion. I typically try to narrow down one or two things in my life that I feel I could eliminate and would lead to positive lifestyle changes - last year, I gave up french fries and pizza; the year before it was peanut butter and cookies; in college, many times it was fast food.

Well, this year, I decided not to sacrifice anything for lent. Why? There's really not much in my life that I over-indulge in these days. I hardly ever eat fast food, and when I do it's a grilled chicken go-wrap from McDonalds with a small fry (this is kind of a once in 2 month thing for me if Brent and I are en route somewhere, and I need a quick hunger-fix on the road). I hardly ever eat pizza, and when I do, it's one measly slice. French fries will always be a weakness of mine, but they've been more absent in my life as of late. Peanut butter is the only thing I consistently eat EVERY DAY, and changing that will not benefit me much - the1 tablespoon I consume with breakfast keeps me energized all day and is a great source of protein in the morning.

Consider the foods that we give up for Lent. Very rarely do you hear someone say they're giving up vegetables or fruits (except for maybe my child-age self that thought she was smart by giving up zucchini for Lent one year - yeah, mom didn't find that one too funny when the roasted vegetable went out on the table for dinner one night, and I refused to eat it...) And while yes, people sacrifice foods for religious reasons, we also do it for health reasons, hoping to maybe lose a couple pounds along the way.

Well, I don't know about you, but once Lent ended, I would eat my weight in whatever I gave up - and not just on Easter day. I would purposely seek out my given up food the entire week following Easter, using the excuse that I had succeeded in giving it up for 40 whole days and that I deserved to indulge now. So those 3 lbs I lost during Lent by giving up cookies and pizza? I gained them back in the following week. Sad, sad story.

What I resembled the week following Easter...

So while I understand the purpose of Lent and am completely supportive of those who choose to partake, I'm pretty sure I will never participate in the sacrificial aspect of it again. In the end, I'm just not a believer of complete elimination. I'd much rather live by moderation all year round than give up my precious peanut butter for 40 days! :-)

What are you giving up for Lent this year??

Friday, February 24, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Stuffed Tomatoes

These are super easy to make and SO yummy! The fresh basil and parsley bring a little taste of summer with every bite, and I can't wait to make these when it's 80° out come July! These are perfect if you ever have left-over rice, couscous, or quinoa that you need to use up.

The recipe was adapted from Giada de Laurentiis's Everyday Italian. I substituted the rice for quinoa to add some more protein into the dish, I added some corn to add a crunch, and I doubled the garlic, basil, and parsley. Feel free to adjust according to your preference. Enjoy!

Stuffed Tomatoes

makes 2 stuffed tomatoes
2/3 cup cooked quinoa, rice (Arborio or other medium-grain rice), or couscous*
2 ripe, firm large tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra for drizzling
3 Tbsp cooked corn
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
*Cook the quinoa, rice, or couscous beforehand. Once cooked, wash with cold water, drain, and set aside.

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Cut a 1/2-inch thick slice off the top of each tomato, and reserve the tomato tops. Cut and scoop the seeds pulp, and juice from each tomato and place into a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of this tomato mix. 
  • Oil the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking dish with 1 tsp of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the baking dish.
  • Toss the quinoa/rice/couscous with the reserved tomato juice and pulp. Add the corn, garlic, basil, parsley, Parmesan, remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Combine well.
  • Spoon the mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Place the reserved tomato slice tops on top of the tomatoes. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature - I personally prefer them at room temperature!

Nutritional Info: (using quinoa)
Serving Size: 1 stuffed tomato
Calories: 310 | Fat: 19.8g | Protein: 10g | Fiber: 3.5g | Carbohydrates: 23.4g | Sugar: 5.9g

New Favorite Breakfast!

I'm doing two posts today because I just discovered the most delicious combo for breakfast, and I'm dying to share it with you!

Do you have a secret love for Greek yogurt?
Could you put peanut butter on anything and eat it?
Are sliced bananas a favorite addition to a bowl of cereal?
Do you like that little bit of crunch in every bite?

If you have answered yes to all of the above, not only are you my soul mate, but you will love this super easy and delicious breakfast concoction:

1 container Chobani Champions honey-nana yogurt*
1/2 ripe banana, sliced
1/4 cup of Kashi GoLean Crisp Toasted Berry Crumble cereal*
1 Tbsp Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter Chunky*
*Of course, feel free to substitute with your preferred yogurt, crunchy cereal, and peanut butter. And I bet this combo would be good substituting the yogurt for oatmeal or grits, for those who aren't yogurt fans.

This breakfast is not only filled with protein to jump-start your morning, but it is only 320 calories and will leave you feeling full and totally energized!

Seriously, go try this now. You can thank me later. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Exercise of the Week: Get GaGa's Abs!

Say what you want about Lady Gaga and her fashion, but girl works hard for her amazing body! She knows what it takes to maintain a fit bod, and here are 5 of her favorite moves that will bring your closer to having abs just like her:

The Bicycle Crunch
  • Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Pull your abs down to also target your deep abs. Interlace your fingers and put your hands behind your head.
  • Bring your knees in toward your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
  • Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left as you exhale, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
  • Now switch sides, inhaling at the center, and do the same motion on the other side to complete on rep, which creates a peddling motion. Perform this exercise with slow and controlled motion.
  • Do 10 reps.

Ab Rotations

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about two feet from your bum.
  • Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It's really difficult but IMPORTANT to keep your back straight, don't let it curve.
  • Place your arms straight out in front of you with you hands one on top of the other. Your hands should be level with the bottom of your ribcage.
  • Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right as you exhale. This completes one rep.
  • Do 16 full rotations.

Reverse Crunch

  • Lie on your back on the floor. Place your hands on the floor beside you. Bring the knees in toward the chest with your feet together. 
  • Use your abs to slowly curl the hips off the floor and into your chest as you exhale. Inhale as you slowly lower them back to the starting position to complete one. 
  • Don't swing your legs to create momentum, use your abs - after all, this IS an ab exercise.
  • Do one set of 25.

Double Crunch

  • Double the return on your efforts in the Reverse Crunch by adding an upper abdominal curl while you curl up your pelvis. 
  • This will work your upper abs as well as your lower abs. Go slowly and feel as if you are curving around your belly button from both the top and the bottom of your spine. 
  • Do one set of 25.

Dumbbell Side Bends (GaGa's favorite!)

  • While holding dumbbells, bend side to side, engaging your core sides in a controlled manner. 
  • Don't go too heavy on the weights. 
  • Do 25 on each side. 

Try this exercise as part of a 25-minute cardio circuit: in between each ab exercise, perform 5 minutes of high-intensity cardio, such as running, jump rope, fast walking, high knees, jumping jacks, or even dancing, for a total of 25 minutes of cardio.

Doing a mix of these ab exercises along with some high-intensity cardio, you will be burning off fat in no time! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is Winter Over Yet?

Sorry I've been a little MIA the past few days, I've been battling the typical winter cold, and for whatever reason, it has hit me particularly hard this time - I HATE not being able to be active! I actually can't remember the last time I was sick, so I feel like maybe this was overdue?

My sick-day perch, fully equipped with tissues, Vitamin C tablets, Dayquil, Nyquil, Green tea , and HONEY! 

I always heard that following a healthy diet with regular exercise can help reduce your risk of colds and flu. And I have to say, I think I'm going to have to go ahead and agree with this. The previous two years, I recall coming down with a cold a good 3 or more times through the course of the year, mostly during the changing of seasons. Since having revamped my lifestyle to include a more balanced diet and incorporated regular exercise, this is the first time I've experienced a cold. Kind of cool, huh? Well, unfortunately confirmation cannot be based off of one subject, so here's some results from a much larger research study showing the benefits of exercise in building your immune system:

Professor Nieman of Appalachian State University in North Carolina studied two groups of women. One group walked 5 days/week for 45 minutes. The other group remained sedentary and did no exercise. The group of women that exercised got sick HALF as much as the group that did not exercise.
Recommendation: if you're sick right now, don't go run 5 miles and expect to get better. Exercise while you are healthy and you will stay healthy.

Regular exercise appears to have the advantage of being able to jump-start the immune system which can help reduce the number of colds you get. With exercise, the number and aggressiveness of certain immune cells increase by as much as 50% to 300%. If you exercise regularly this temporary increase can help make the immune system more efficient at destroying intruders that cause illness such as colds.

I haven't been able to exercise since Sunday, and it's slowly eating away at me. Now that I'm feeling somewhat better, I think I might try to go for an easy walk since it's so warm out today and indulge in a little yoga after.

What will you do to try and avoid getting sick this winter?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Chicken with Corn & Black Bean Salsa

This is a super quick (seriously, less than 30 minutes) and healthy meal. Not a meat-eater? The salsa alone is a great side dish to a vegetarian meal! Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Cooking Light

Chicken with Corn & Black Bean Salsa


1/2 C canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 C corn kernels
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 tsp chopped seeded jalapeno pepper
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground coriander
4 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 tsp butter
Cooking spray
1 (6 oz) boneless chicken breast, cut in half
Ground pepper
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Dried parsley

  • To prepare salsa, combine the first 9 ingredients, tossing well to combine.
  • To prepare chicken, sprinkle chicken halves with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried parsley on both sides. 
  • Coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat butter.
  • Add chicken to pan and cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. 
  • Serve with salsa and lime slice, if desired. Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional Info:
Serving size: 1 chicken breast half (6 oz) + salsa (3/4 C)
Calories: 425 | Fat: 12.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.7g | Protein: 48.4g | Carbohydrates: 29.1g | Fiber: 9.2g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 867mg | Iron: 4.6mg | Calcium: 69mg

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Exercise of the Week: Cardio Kickboxing

As much as I love running, I love cardio kickboxing even more. It is by FAR my favorite workout and certainly the one I look most forward to doing every week. One of the best things about it is it's a total body workout: you get your arms, legs, and core burning, and hence, it's a great calorie-melting exercise.

For those who have experience with kickboxing, go straight to the workout. For beginners, below are some detailed descriptions of the primary movements involved in kickboxing. If you're a visual learning like myself, this video is a great review for the punches.

Fighting "Boxer" Stance
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent, rear heal lifted
Bring fists to chin, elbows in near ribs, palms facing each other.

1. Jab: this is a straight punch targeting the nose of your opponent. From fighting stance, stand with right foot forward. Extend right arm, twist forearm so the fist is parallel to the floor at full extension, arm in line with shoulder. The power of this punch should come from your shoulder, not your elbow. Recoil fist back to chin immediately. These are fast, surprise punches, so strike quickly with control.
2. Cross: this is a straight punch thrown from the rear hand targeting the nose of your opponent. If your right foot is in front, then your left hand does the cross. Stand with your right foot forward in fighting stance. Pivot your left back foot so that your knee and hip twist forward, followed by the left shoulder and left arm. Twist your forearm so your fist is horizontal at full extension, without locking your elbow. The power of this punch should come from your hips and core. Recoil and return to fighting stance immediately.
3. Hook: punch in a circular motion with your lead hand targeting the ear and cheek of your opponent. Stand with your right foot forward in fighting stance. Pivot on the ball of your right foot, turning your right knee, hip, shoulder, and arm simultaneously to the left as you punch from right to left. Bring the right forearm parallel to the floor, thumb up, and your left fist stays by your face. The power of this punch should come from your hips and core. Recoil immediately and return to fighting stance.
4. Uppercut: punch in an upward thrust with the fist pointing at the ceiling targeting the chin of your opponent. Stand with your left foot upward in fighting stance. Drop your right hand slightly and bend both knees, then twist your hips to the left as your thrust your right fist straight up and slightly forward with knuckles facing the ceiling and palm facing the body. Keep your left fist by your face through the motion. The power of this punch comes from the legs and hips. Recoil immediately and return to fighting stance.

1. Front Kick: this is a quick kick with the heel of the foot targeting the knee, groin, or chest of your opponent. Stand with your right foot forward and fists by chin in fighting stance, then shift your weight to the left foot. Bring the right knee up to the chest, foot flexed, heel close to the glutes, and core tight and slightly bent back. Kick straight out from the hip as if you were punching with your heel. Retract immediately and return to fighting stance. Picture slamming a door open with your foot.
2. Side Kick: this is a strong kick with the power coming from the glutes, so keep your foot flexed as you kick out targeting the torso or chest of your opponent. Stand with your right foot forward in fighting stance. Turn your hips to the left and pivot your left foot out slightly. Lift your right knee toward the chest, keeping your foot flexed. Forcefully extend the right leg out to the side, pushing through the heel while counterbalancing by leaning your entire upper body toward the left. Keep fists near chin. Retract and immediately return to fighting stance.

Cardio Kickboxing Routine:
Warm-up: 20 jumping jacks, 10 squats, 30 jump ropes, 20 alternating lunges (10 each leg), 20 small jumps
Upper-body part 1: 20 right jabs, 20 left jabs, 20 right hooks, 20 left hooks
Cardio Interval 1: 1 minute high knees, 30 seconds squats, 30 seconds jumping jacks
Lower-body part 1: 20 front kicks, 20 left kicks
Cardio Interval 2: 1 minute jump rope, 30 seconds alternating lunges, 30 seconds small jumps
Upper-body part 2: 20 right crosses, 20 left crosses; 20 right uppercuts, 20 left uppercuts
Cardio Interval 3: 1 minute high knees, 30 seconds squats, 30 seconds jumping jacks
Lower-body part 2: 20 right side kicks, 20 left side kicks
Cardio Interval 4: 1 minute jump rope, 30 seconds alternating lunges, 30 seconds small jumps
Upper-body Combo 1: right jab, left cross, right hook, left uppercut (repeat 10X)
Upper-body Combo 2: left jab, right cross, left hook, right uppercut (repeat 10X)
Cardio Interval 5: 2 minutes jumping jacks
Lower-body Combo 1: right front kick, left side kick (repeat 10X)
Lower-body Combo 2: left front kick, right side kick (repeat 10X)
Cardio Interval 6: 30 seconds high knees, 30 seconds alternating lunges, 30 seconds squats, 30 seconds small jumps
Upper-lower Combo 1: right jab, left cross, right hook, left uppercut, right front kick, right side kick, squat, rest (repeat 5X)
Upper-lower Combo 2: left jab, right cross, left hook, right uppercut, left front kick, left side kick, squat, rest (repeat 5X)
Cool-down: 10 jumping jacks, 10 small jumps, 10 jumping ropes, 2 minutes walk in-place.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My first half marathon

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day! Brent and I didn't do much since we're off to New Hampshire this weekend for a little winter getaway - which was supposed to include some snowshoeing but not sure that's going to happen since snow is pretty much non-existent! We tried a new recipe that I'll be posting as the Recipe of the Week on Friday, and we hung out with the mastiffs over some quality TV. Perfect V-day in my book!

I also realized yesterday that I have less than 3 weeks until training for my half marathon begins - YIKES! I'm participating in Boston's Run to Remember on May 27th, and as excited as I am to compete in my first half marathon, I'm also kind of high-anxiety about it: not so much the race day but the 12 weeks of training that come before it.

Through the course of those 12 weeks, I will be covering a total of at least 266 miles - that's close to 40 hours spent running! That's also 266 miles of being prone to injury, which is probably my biggest fear. I run a decent amount now at about 15-20 miles per week, but not the 20-28 miles per week that the training will consist of. It's going to require a lot of dedication on my part, but I'm really excited to experience it. Plus, it will be a great way to make sure I stay in-shape for my summer wedding!

Have any readers competed in a half marathon? If so, feel free to provide some training recommendations!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's that time of year again...arrival of Girl Scout Cookies

Yeah, three boxes of these bad boys have taken residence at my desk as of last week...

And can I just emphasize how much will-power it is consuming for me to not reach over every 15 minutes and snag one?! 

I do this to myself every year, so thank god they don't come along more frequently. These sugary, calorie-packed delights peek out of the shadows as often as Santa and the Easter Bunny, so to not indulge would be utterly impossible in my mind. I probably didn't need to purchase 3 boxes of them, but it's too difficult to choose just 1.

On a positive note...last year, these would've been gone in about a week - but not this year! So as much temptation as these fabulous cookies might spark, they've got nothing on my dedication. Bring it on, Girl Scouts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What does it take to achieve title of Sexiest Woman Alive??

So...Jennifer Aniston was voted Sexiest Woman Alive in 2011 and jump-started 2012 with the "sexiest body" award.

Did I mention she just turned 43 the other day? How is that even fair?!

Well, the answer is simple: a LOT of hard work and dedication to a healthy lifestyle

She'll be featured in an upcoming issue of InStyle magazine where she shares some of her ultimate fitness secrets, and here is some of what she offered up:

"I work out almost every day, at least five or six times a week. I do 40 minutes of cardio: spinning, running, the elliptical, or a combination of all three. Then I do Pilates one day a week, and I do yoga in addition to that, three days a week. I try to mix it up. I take 8 pound weights with me whenever I'm staying in a hotel. It's always good to do arm exercises when you're watching television or talking on the phone. I also love to stretch before I go to bed,and usually throw in a couple of sit-ups.

"Most of the time I eat things like salmon or other fish, quinoa, lentils, and green vegetables. You're told to avoid fried food, but I don't always. I had Mexican the other night and ate everything you can imagine! I also take Omega Cure liquid fish oil and resveratrol, which is supposed to be good for your heart."

Wow, hello dedication...it's kind of intimidating! By rough calculations, she must exercise 2-3 hours per day, depending on how long her yoga sessions are - the ones I've taken are usually 60-90 minutes. Talk about time commitment! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Quinoa Burgers

Image from Eating Well...Living Thin

I stumbled across this recipe on foodgawker's most favorited all-time list this week and decided to try it out. Holy goodness am I glad I did because this recipe was SO FREAKING GOOD! Brent is kind of turned off by "health food" and is very much a "slab of steak with a side of chicken" kind of guy, so I wasn't sure how he was going to feel about these vegetarian burgers. To my very pleasant surprise, he put down a good 7-8 of these bad boys, admitting how he can't believe how good a burger can be without meat in it, and concluded dinner by asking when I was going to be making them again. Can we say SUCCESS?

The featured ingredient of these burgers is QUINOA . This gluten-free seed contains a balanced set of amino acids and is therefore considered a complete protein source. It's also a really great source of dietary fiber and phosphorus. It has a fluffy, creamy, somewhat crunchy texture and nutty flavor when it's cooked. It makes for a great substitute for rice or couscous, especially as a gluten-free option.

I'm sure some of you have tried quinoa before, and maybe you weren't such of fan of it plain - neither was I - but this recipe is the PERFECT way to eat it! This recipe is courtesy of Eating well...living thin, and if you're looking to substitute a meat dinner for a vegetarian meal every now and then, this is a perfect alternative. Enjoy!

Quinoa Burgers

2 rounded cups cooked quinoa**
3/4 C shredded cheese (I used mozarella but cheddar would be great)
1/2 C low-fat cottage cheese
1 medium carrot, finely grated (or 1 C shredded zucchini, squeezed of most water)
3 eggs
3 Tbsp flour
2 green onions, diced
1/2 tsp Splenda, or sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Olive oil, for frying

**To cook quinoa:
1 C uncooked quinoa
2 C water
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat. Add quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, carrot, eggs, flour, green onions, Splenda, pepper, cumin, salt, and garlic powder.
  • Heat a frying pan and a couple teaspoons of olive oil over medium-low heat.
  • Burger mixture will be slightly sticky, so using a 1/4 C measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick.
  • Fry until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Makes approximately 10 burgers
These are even more enhanced when served with your favorite condiment. I highly recommend a yogurt-based ranch dressing - the flavors went really well together!

Nutritional Info:
Serving: 1 quinoa burger
Calories: 132 | Total Fat: 5 g | Protein: 8 g | Carbohydrates: 14 g | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 0 g | Sodium: 200 mg

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Exercise of the Week: Speed Intervals

Interval training is an exercise that consists of activity at high intensity for a period of time, followed by low intensity exercise for a period of time, and these sets are repeated. Interval training really enhances your fitness, metabolism, and fat loss. 

This High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout mixes very high intensity bursts of exercise with moderate intensity recovery periods - and it's not meant to be easy. So why should you do HIIT?

  • This kind of workout is the fastest way to get fit, lose fat, and enhance sports performance
  • Interval training burns an incredible amount of calories DURING the routine, but its secret to success is really the number calories you burn AFTER the exercise. 
  • It also focuses on increasing your anaerobic threshold, which allows an athlete to be able to go further faster without experiencing muscle failure. 

In spirit of winter, this is a TREADMILL workout I developed, and I try to do it once a week, likely on a day where I'm more limited by time, since it's only 25 minutes. If you are a beginner runner, the speeds may need to be adjusted based on your running pace. And if you are a beginner to HIIT, you might want to also try speed walking for the moderate activity parts until you build up your anaerobic threshold. If you do adjust speeds, try to maintain the 1:3 work:active-recovery ratio.

Have a great workout!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I was doing my usual scan of People.com this morning and almost spit out my coffee when I saw an article titled:

Model with 20-inch Waist Makes Waves on the Web


Is that even human???

Unfortunately Somehow, yes it is. This woman's nickname is "Human Hourglass" with her Barbie-like 32-20-32 figure.

And she makes a point of reassuring everyone she snacks on chocolate and "crisps" - whatever those are - along with 3 big meals a day.

Also, when she was a teenager, her waist was 15-inches...some people could put their hands around her waist, their fingers would touch, and there would still be a gap of air in between.

And no, the picture of her is not photo-shopped. 

I'm almost speechless. In a way, I feel bad for this woman, whether she maintains a healthy lifestyle or not. But it also really angers me that she became a model. She does not represent even close to 1% of the female population when it comes to body shape. She practically makes Adrianna Lima look overweight. Is this really the best message to be sending to the female population? Hmmm...


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Before::After 1.0

Back around the holidays, I was looking in my closet for an outfit to wear to my friend's holiday bash, and I stumbled across this red blouse I got at H&M back in college. I figured hey, red is a perfect holiday color, so I tried it on. Much to my surprise, it was very loose-fitting and transformed into an entirely different looking shirt than it had 4 1/2 years ago, when I remember barely getting my arms through the sleeves - and I won't even go into how hard it was to button my chest into that thing!

Sometimes, it's difficult to see the hard-work you have accomplished. You wake up, go about your daily life, do the best you can to succeed in every day tasks, and it can become easy to overlook the little things. Behind the scenes, you may be pursuing your goal of a healthy lifestyle, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to be selfish every once in awhile - acknowledge yourself.  This small moment with the red shirt forced me to take a step back from the daily grind and be proud of the changes I have made along the way. 

I really hope you get to experience a red shirt moment, whether it be with that little black dress or old pair of skinny jeans.You deserve it. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Repairing Setbacks

Alright, so if you watched the big game last night, chances are you consumed your entire day's worth of calories between the hours of 5 and 10pm last night. And if you are a Pats fan like myself, you probably feel like $%*! - that game was pretty bad. At least if the Pats had won, all those hours of food and beer binging consumption would have been worth it...right?

So if some of you feel like you completely jumped ship last night from your weight-loss routine, and now you are doomed, get that thought out of your head. Sure, you may feel guilty this morning but the best thing you can possibly be do is accept it and move on. What would you typically do if you were in a situation where your actions filled you with guilt? You would find a way to resolve it so that you emerge a better person.

Don't let one event become an excuse to give up on all your hard work. 

When you wake up this morning and are driving past Dunkin Donuts, some of you might think, "well, since I already ruined my diet yesterday, what hurt can a delicious multi-grain bagel with cream cheese cause?" Well, 540 calories and 23 grams of fat, that's what. That's about 4 servings worth of chocolate ice cream. It would also take the average person walking a brisk pace over 2 HOURS to burn it off.

Don't make that decision this morning. Try the following instead to help get you back on the bandwagon:

Reach for that healthier breakfast you were eating last week. Yogurt, oatmeal, banana. All of these would be over 400 calories less than the Dunkin Donuts bagel.
If you go out to lunch, opt for a salad.
Make today a cardio day. Add 10 or more minutes extra to your workout. You can burn 100+ more calories by doing this.
Try to reduce your carb intake after dinner. Go for a lean protein and vegetable at dinnertime and avoid snacking before bedtime. You did enough snacking last night.
Focus on your goal(s). Sometimes for me, that takes looking at old pictures that made me want to change my lifestyle in the first place - or take a look at newer photos that highlight how much your hard work is paying off.

Believe me, if you can try at least one of these tips today, you'll feel a LOT better. It's called a weight-loss journey for a reason. Conquer this part of it and move on. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Exercise of the Week: Quick 5 Ab Exercise Series

This quick set of 5 ab exercises by Mike Donavanik (fitness correspondent for Fitperez) works wonders on your core and is a great alternative to standard crunches. This ab routine will work your entire mid-section, especially lower abs and obliques. I recommend starting out doing 10 reps per movement for 2 sets and work up from there. I try and do this ab routine 1-2 times a week after running, and I've noticed tremendous changes in my core strength and tone.

Remember, ab-work alone is not going to result in definition - you also need to maintain a healthy diet and become friends with some good cardio workouts in order to zap the flab covering those core muscles. I recommend performing this routine AFTER a 30 minute cardio workout while your core muscles are still warm and engaged. You'll feel the burn, but I promise it's worth it!

Recipe of the Week: Quick Chicken & Wine

My fiance (hi Brent!) has figured out through the years that for him, monitoring his carb intake works best for weight loss and maintenance. I, on the other hand, was always a carb fanatic - kind of hard to avoid when you come from a family of amazing Italian cooks. So Brent and I adapted our eating routine to meet somewhere in the middle: I enjoy my carbs during the daytime, and our dinners consist mainly of some form of protein (mostly lean meat) with a side of veggies; and I have to say, this method of cutting carbs at night worked wonders during my weight loss period. I am extremely lucky that Brent is the outstanding cook he is and is constantly finding new recipes to conquer so we don't get bored eating the same things over and over again.

This week's recipe is one Brent found on Allrecipes. He made it last night for dinner, and I was shocked to find it consists of only 7 ingredients and took less than 30 minutes to make. Enjoy!

Quick Chicken & Wine

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - you can cut into strips or intact
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, fresh grated
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine (we used cooking Sherry)
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. 
  • In a shallow plate, spread grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Dip chicken into egg then coat well with Parmesan cheese.
  • In a skillet, heat oil or butter over medium high heat. Cook chicken, stirring frequently, until golden brown.
  • Reduce heat to medium low and add white wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

...And seriously, that's it. Done!

Nutritional Info:
Serving: 1 chicken breast 
Calories: 336;  Total Fat: 18g; Protein: 34.4g; Carbohydrate: 1.7g; Fiber: 0g; Cholesterol: 213mg;  Sodium: 445.5mg

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Myth: Spinning is a powerful weight-loss tool

My first issue with stationary ANYTHING...whenever you remove having to support your body weight from the cardio equation (i.e. spinning, elliptical, arc trainer), then cardio suddenly becomes a whole lot more ineffective for weight loss. When you have to carry your entire body mass with each step - like in running or on the step mill - the logical adaption your body will undergo is to DROP MASS.

Like you, I have heard in the past how beneficial spinning is for you - I was told it can burn up to 1,000 calories in an hour, which is probably the main reason I gave it a shot. I stuck with it for months, going twice a week to hour-long classes, and much to my dismay, it did not enhance my weight loss. Week after week, the routine started to feel easier, so I thought maybe I wasn't working hard enough. So I would push harder the next class, increasing my resistance - and STILL no significant loss on the scale.

I stopped spinning a couple years ago when I changed gyms, and though I miss the fun group setting - and walking into a class to find it was 80's music night! - I came to my own conclusion that i just wasn't my favorite cardio exercise for all the effort.

So when I came across this article this morning, it all suddenly made sense. So for anyone out there who has experienced the same issues with spinning as me, this article is enlightening. And for those who do spinning exercise often and have experienced major weight loss from it, then that is absolutely wonderful. Just keep this in mind if you ever encounter the same issues.

Can Spinning Make You Store Fat?

Key point of this article: 

While spinning is very tiring, it is not as productive as it may seem.

The high velocities of spinning exhaust a particular point in the neuro-muscular junction responsible for the rapid firing rate of the motor units. Therefore, you perceive great fatigue even though little work has been done.

You could have experienced the same fatigue in your triceps if you were holding a pair of fly swatters and asked to swat imaginary flies for 30 seconds. Your triceps would get tired, but they would not improve significantly in terms of conditioning because the resistance is not high enough to obtain the hormonal response needed to create adaptive response that would result in positive body composition changes.

Do those who frequently partake in spinning classes notice they have a difficult time getting lean legs? Here's why:
During spinning, the body adapts by storing both intra-muscular and subcutaneous fat in the thigh and hip areas in order to provide a more readily available source of fuel for the aerobic recovery periods. The body figures out "hey, if I store fat there, it reduces the time it takes to get to the muscles to provide energy." The result? Legs that look like this:

So why no significant weight loss?
Graeme Thomas Online explains that initially, spinning presents a challenge so you expend a reasonable number of calories while doing it. However, you rapidly become better at biking and learn how to effectively move your legs in a fashion that conserves the most energy possible. For a competitive cyclist trying to win a race, conserving energy is a major positive. But for people trying to use exercise as a weight loss tool, it is not ideal for your body to learn to be conserving the most energy possible.