Meal Prep/Planning Keeps Me Accountable

Meal prep/planning has been really important for my healthy lifestyle journey. If I plan what I am going to est for the week, I tend to have more self control. Do not get me wrong, I can still get distracted and eat things that I should not, but I can get back on track or remain focused if I know how many calories I am supposed to eat for the day and how I have decided to divide them up throughout the day.

I will give you an example below of what I like to do during the week. By no means am I perfect and I am still trying to improve. Let me know what has worked for you.

Morning workout: I start most mornings in the gym on an empty stomach. I have a hard time working out after a meal and find my gym sessions to be much better if I have fasted. I spoke about this in a previous blog – Why I Like To Fast Before My Morning Workout.

Personally I do not use BCAs, pre workouts, or supplements. I just drink a bottle of water before a workout and head out the door.

Breakfast: I don’t end up eating breakfast most of the time. I would not say that I am necessarily practicing intermittent fasting, but in general I tend to not be very hungry in the mornings. I think that my circadian rhythm has it that I tend to be hungrier in the afternoon and in the evening. So in someways I do intermittent fasting by eating dinner and not eating again until late morning/early afternoon, but this is because I listen to when my body is hungry, which I believe we should all be doing. Who came up with the rule that we have to eat three meals per day? If I do eat breakfast, I tend to stick to protein bars with coffee as I usually get hungry if it has been an intense workout and I like that the protein helps with building muscle and keeps me hungry for longer.

Lunch: I go through phases with my lunch. I can sometimes get bored with my meals and have to change things up quite frequently. I always pack my lunch since my days can get quite busy and you never know if you will have the time to pick something up. I like that I always bring something from home since I know what exactly I am eating, but this can cause a dilemma about what exactly to bring.

Since I was a vegetarian for a long time (over 2 decades), I tend to not be a heavy meat eater. I tend to only eat meat at dinner and this is not every day. So for lunch I will eat something like a morningstar blackbean burger or soy chicken patty without bread. I know soy is not great for you and these are very processed, but I like how easy they are and convenient. I have ventured into meal prepping my lunch on the weekends by making Nigerian jellof rice or a meat dish like pulled chicken, but I find these tend to be less healthy and I don’t like them as much.

Dinner: Number one rule that my husband and I have decided on is to not eat out during the week. We have such little time during the week between commuting and work that it is much better for us to cook at home plus we want to try to remain as healthy as possible during the week. It is nice to be able to spend time cooking together and know exactly what we’re eating. This may not exactly sound like meal prep since we’re making food each day, but we prep in the sense that we are planning for each day.

We make meals that take less than 20 minutes to make since that keeps us from spending too much time in the kitchen. For example, I spoke about my love of gnocchi cauliflower in a previous blog – Carbohydrate Alternatives: Add Vegetables to Your Meals Without Missing Carbs, which is very easy to make. He will also make lean meats like turkey burgers and tilapia for himself. None of these take a long time to make. We usually add a side of vegetables such as kale or a starch like sweet potatoes.

So this may not sound like meal prep because we are not making food in bulk, but it is meal planning and I think that is very important in your lifestyle journey. You have to know what you are feeding your body and the best way to do that is to make a plan for how you will tackle the week and know each ingredient that you are eating. It is easy to get lazy and find something convenient, but how is that treating your body as a temple, the way it should be treated.

Gymshark Energy Seamless Leggings Review

If you are anything like me, you are always on the hunt for reasonably priced athletic clothes that can withstand multiple washes. I go to the gym on average 4-5 times per week and quickly cycle through clothes. However, it is important to me that the clothes do not completely disintegrate as soon as I put them through a wash cycle. I am willing to spend a little more on gym clothes if I can get more wears out of them.

So I have ventured into the online fashion world. I do not normally support fast fashion, but I have wanted to be able to build somewhat of a fitness wardrobe that I can use on a regular basis.

One of the brands I discovered was Gymshark. I had been seeing many Youtube videos and Instagram images of their products. I wanted to give their clothes a chance to see if they could compete with popular brands such as Adidas and Nike.

What I bought from Gymshark includes two shirts and leggings.

These are my impressions:

1. Quality is not as good as Adidas and Nike, but also not that bad for what you pay. I have been able to wash the shirts and leggings several times without much loss of structure or deterioration in material. I will admit that I have found a few pieces of loose thread in the leggings. I have been worried that this marks the beginning of the pants falling apart, but so far they have withstood the test of time. I have now had them for about 3 months.

2. Lives up to advertisement. The leggings are said to provide compression and they really have. There are quite tight and seem to suck everything in. Not the most comfortable, but I do not think that they are meant to be lounge wear. You are meant to do significant workouts in these shirts and leggings. They work even during my high intensity cardio workouts and during hot yoga.

3. Durability. This goes back to the first point, but I think these have leggings have provided good use for the price. It is still early on so we shall see, but so far I am pleased.

4. Trendy. The clothes are trendy. You can find a lot of nice pieces with variety in shape and design. However, they tend to cater to younger buyers. Not that there is an age limit on what you can wear. We are all fabulous at any age.

5. Caters to women. There are definitely more options for women then men. The website seems to cater to women’s clothes, which seems to be the direction for many online fashion websites. However, I will give them credit for providing more options than the usual for men.

Overall, I think for the price the quality is pretty good and the clothes are trendy. Not sure if I would start buying all my workout clothes from them, but it is good to have multiple options out there.

Carbohydrate Alternatives: Add Vegetables to Your Meals Without Missing Carbs

I love carbs! They have been a staple in my life for several years. I was a vegetarian for over two decades and most of that time was spent eating carbs and less about vegetables. So you can say that actually I was a carboterian – if that is a thing.

I had to really stop and think about what I was doing to my body. I realized I was not providing my body with nutritious food and needed a change. I needed to find a way to incorporate more vegetables in my life, but did not know where to start. I do not generally like the taste of vegetables, but I think it is because I do not know how to cook them properly.

So while I try to work on my cooking skills, I have tried to add vegetables in less expected ways. Since I love carbs why not change some of those foods to ones that already have vegetables in them.

Here some examples of alternatives I have tried and my thoughts on them:

Favorites:

  1. Gnocchi cauliflower: I actually really love this! I already like gnocchi so it was bound to be a good fit. The consistency is very soft and doesn’t have the firmness of pasta gnocchi, but it still contains potatoes and interestingly cassava (the one I buy from Trader Joe’s). It is very filling without having as many carbs as normal pasta gnocchi.
  2. Zucchini noodles: these are especially good with stir fry sauce. I tend to buy the frozen ones and they have a high water content. Because of the water they tend to work better with sauces on them that are heated. They don’t neccessarily have the same texture as the dry noodles you may be used to eating, but aren’t a bad substitute.
  3. Lentil/zucchini noodles: these are pretty good. Again the texture like the gnocchi cauliflower is not that firm, but works with olive oil, spices, and parmesan cheese. They also tend to have a higher protein content because of the lentils. I sometimes struggle with getting enough protein in my day.

Not my favorites:

  1. Cauliflower rice: not my favorite. However, I am a rice snob. I love love rice. I can eat rice for every meal. I love any dish that contains rice. So there is probably no way that anything but the real thing would work for me. But the nice thing about cauliflower is that it does not have much flavor on it’s own. So if you’re not that particular about the rice you use then I think this could work for you. It definitely doesn’t have a the same texture or taste as rice, but if you are looking to add some texture to your meal this can work.
  2. Carrot noodles: these are not at the top of my list. They taste a lot like carrots. Well I guess because they actually are carrots. All I can taste in the dish is carrots and I am not a fan. It can be very overpowering. I would probably pass on these.
  3. Cauliflower mashed potatoes: not a complete flop. They actually can work for mashed potatoes.  I bought the frozen type and that might be why they were kind of watery. However, you can season them how you like and not notice that you’re eating cauliflower.

 

Let me know what you have tried and if there is anything you would recommend. I am always on the hunt for new foods.

Tips For Success

My motivation tips for the week.

Path to Success

1. Set a goal.
2. Make a plan.
3. Stay focused.
4. Don’t take no for an answer.
5. Persevere.
6. Believe in your dreams with your entire heart and soul.
7. Make mistakes. Learn from them.
8. Keep moving. Never stop. Momentum will get you up the hill.
9. Mind over matter. Think positively and attract the things you want in life.
10. Enjoy the journey.

Design Your Dream Job

If you have been reading about work-life balance as I have, I am sure you have read a lot of articles about burnout. There are countless stories about people leaving their corporate jobs to follow their true passions. This can include from becoming an entrepreneur, life coach, or teaching yoga/meditation. Careers that feed the soul. But I have started to think, is there anyway to still continue to do what I love without the everyday stress.

I read an interesting article this weekend in the New York Times about preventing burnout. A Deceptively Simple Way to Find More Happiness at Work.  This article talks about how often times the focus is on the career path chosen rather than the details associated with the job and what may be leading to career dissatisfaction.

The number one recommendation was to write down the things that bring you pleasure at work and those that are less favorable. The belief is that if you can concisely define what you like about your job you can start to showcase your strengths in these things and dedicate more of your time at work doing the things you like rather than the things you don’t.

I thought this was  a unique perspective because I often forget the trees for the forest. I want to think about the big picture and ignore the details that got me to that point. It can becoming frustrating to feel overwhelmed and burnout at work making it difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

We have chosen our said careers for a reason – that is if we have the social mobility to do that. Not everyone has had the opportunity to pick careers that they want, but for those that have I suspect there must be reasons this path was chosen. I want to believe there is a chance to save what you think may be lost.

I have personally started to write down the things that I love about my job so that I can start to design the job that I really want. I made a conscious decision to do this because how else will I really know what I want without concrete examples. It is not enough to have an enigma of my wants. I have to be able to present a plan that can be executed. This may not guarantee that I get what I want or that I can prevent burnout, but these are steps I can take to try to prevent it.

One study found that for physicians all that it takes to prevent high burnout rates it to provide a job that is 20% satisfying. Do not get me wrong, I do not advocate only getting 20% satisfaction from your job, but I think that says a lot about how little people enjoy what they’re doing on a day to day basis.

Keep track of your days. The more details the better. Each day is valuable. Even if you are not where you want to be today, start to formulate a plan to get you to where you want to be tomorrow.

Let me know what your lists include and if it has helped you change your outlook on your career.

First Impressions of “Hot Yoga”

So I went to hot yoga for the first time and let me tell you….it was quite the experience. I don’t think I was really prepared for what I walked into.

The first class I tried was Hatha. So this is not the traditional hot yoga practice, but rather a yoga class held in a heated room to warm up muscles and release toxins both mentally and physically. Well at least that is what they told me.

I must say that the majority of the class was spent with me trying not to pass out. I admit, I am no yoga expert but this was class was really hard for me. The heat plus my lack of balance and flexibility made this class especially difficult. I tried so hard to focus on my breathing, but all I could think about was trying not to lose more water than I was taking in. The nice thing about the distraction was that I did not waste any time comparing myself to the more experienced people in the class. I was truly in the moment with each movement. I did not wander off thinking about work or stressing about all the things I need to get done.

So my first impressions:

Pros:

1. Muscle relief: I will say that I truly think the heat does loosen up your muscles. I have had terrible back pain these last few weeks and my back finally started to feel better by the end of the class (my husband jokes that the room is a giant heating pad).

2. Focus: I had no time to concentrate on anything but the movements because the difficulty and heat. I could not stress about my day to day worries.

3. Rest: I had such a great night’s sleep after yoga. I was so exhausted and had used every muscle – even ones I did not know I had and as soon as I was in bed I fell asleep.

Cons:

1. Dehydration: I was legitimately concerned that I would pass out. I was sweating profusely and did not think I could keep up with enough drinking. I started to get very hot and dizzy. I probably need to hydrate better before class and keep up with drinking more during class.

2. Big class: This is probably unique to the class I attended. It was very crowded and did not feel that I could get attention on my posture and movements.

3. Stressful: So this may seem in contrast to what I said earlier. Even though I was focused on my movements and not work, I was very stressed about staying upright and hydrated. I like that in yoga I can usually focus on my breathing and clearing my mind. I was not able to do that during class, but likely this gets better with time. This might be because I’m a beginner and first time attendant of hot yoga. I also did Hatha compared to other forms of yoga.

Overall, I think I enjoyed my experience and will be going back the rest of this week. I will give you an update and compare the different forms of yoga in the heated room and see if there is one I love. Let me know what your experiences have been.

 

Celery Juice: Real or Fake

I have been thinking a lot about this celery juice craze and have come up with some of my own thoughts about the fad. I should give the disclaimer that I have not personally tried the daily cup of celery juice, but a lot has to do with my hesitation about whether something like celery can really have a huge impact on my health. You can call me skeptical, but I would rather say that I like to do my research before incorporating a new habit into my life.

I do believe that like many vegetables there are benefits from eating celery. Celery contains many micronutrients such as potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. However, when celery is juiced it loses the benefit from its fiber content because the fiber is disrupted with the mechanical process of juicing. Fiber is important for digestion and blood sugar regulation. Also there is sodium in celery that must be accounted for, especially in those who are on a low sodium diet for health reasons.

Despite the great micronutrient content and low calories, I do not think it is the panacea to all health problems. I do not think suddenly all your ailments will be cured with celery juice. I am still a true believer what you put in your body is one of the most important things you do for your health, but that does not mean there is one food that can cure all.

To be honest, despite my skepticism about celery juice I love that it has really caught on because it promotes drinking pure foods that do not contain multiple additives and preservatives, but it is not a good state of mind that suddenly all your health problems with disappear just by eating or drinking one “superfood”.

I have thought about starting a segment where I try a health “fad” that I believe is safe for one week at a time and chronicle the results. Would you all be interested in that?

My favorite leg stretches

I strongly believe in the importance of stretching before and after exercise. It helps to prevent injuries and should not be skipped during any exercise. It is just not worth the risk of hurting yourself. This is a lifestyle and not a quick fix. In order to have longevity we can have to take care of ourselves from the inside out. These are some of my favorite stretches. Let me know what works for you!

 

We are cutting our meals in half

My husband and I have been cutting our dinners in half over the last two weeks. I have previously written how I have plateaued in my weight loss journey and I have been trying to find ways to gain momentum again.We both sat down and calculated how many calories we eat in one day and realized we eat far too many. As many of you already know, in order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. However, rather than making a complete overhaul of the meals we eat for dinner, we thought we could start with cutting meals in half. Since most of our calories come from dinner we made the decision to cut our dinners in half.

At first I was very resistant to the change. My husband was the one who recommended we make the change. I thought that we would be very hungry and would not be satisfied with half the dinner amount. Much to my surprise I was not as hungry as I thought I would be. My relationship with food has been complicated and in the past I have eaten more than I needed because I love the taste of food and the feeling of being “full”. What I was really feeling was overindulgence.

As I have taken time to think about what it means to be “full”, I now see that I am overeating. You are not supposed to feel stuffed all the time. I also have learned that if I put less on my plate I will not be as tempted to eat as much. Plus I am a natural snacker and by eating a smaller meal I do not feel as guilty about my snacks. There are a lot of people say that snacking is not good for weight loss, but I find that it helps me temper my hunger and I prefer to eat smaller meals to allow me a few snacks. I always try to keep in mind that I cannot indulge in snacks though. Otherwise, that defeats the purpose of having the smaller meals.

Another trick I have used with cutting my dinners in half has been adding green leafy vegetables in order to give me more volume with my meals. I am not the first to say I love vegetables, but the more I learn how to cook them and eat them the more I have come to enjoy them. Plus the greens helps me not feel as hunger after a meal.

I am still not sure if I will lose weight with this change, but I look forward to seeing if I make any progress.

Exercise on a Busy Schedule (5 Easy Steps)

If you are anything like me, you have a pretty busy life. Before I would struggle with how to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule and would stress about not getting enough exercise into my day. This was because I spent a lot of time watching fitness gurus online or attending exercise classes that were anywhere between 1-1.5 hours. For someone that likes to workout everyday this was too much of a commitment for me.

Initially I tried to workout for 1-1.5 hours per day, but it became harder and harder for me to sustain. The later I got home from work the more I would find an excuse not to go and I was not waking up early enough to do it before work. I had to be realistic about what I could accomplish in a day without burning out and that length of time did not work for my life.

Setting unrealistic expectations led to disappointment and self blame. One day I woke up and decided that enough was enough. I am going to find a way to integrate exercise into my life without driving myself crazy and sacrificing all my free time.

I think some of the problem with the fitness movement has been the amount of time recommended for gym time. The current American Heart Association recommendation for exercise per week is 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio. This would equal about 30 minutes 5 days per week. Not nearly as much as I thought based on the videos I was watching. I personally prefer to workout in the mornings because it improves my mood and energy for the rest of the day, but there was no way that I was going to wake up 1.5 hours before work to go to the gym or attend a class. To be honest, many in person classes were not nearly early enough.

My new approach to exercise is to listen to my body. I am not going to be strict about following a 1-1.5hour workout routine. I feel that the joy was taken out of my fitness journey and I felt very restricted by the rules. Now I exercise for about 30 minutes in the morning because that is what feels best to me and allows me to be consistent with my workout routine. The rest of the day I spend trying to incorporate a little movement and I remember not to be too hard on myself.

  1. Commit to an exercise routine. Schedule exercise in based on how much time you have or how you prefer to workout. Be specific about what you will do while working out. You can exercise daily for short periods of time or fewer days per week for longer stretches. This depends on what you prefer. I like short exercises on a daily basis because it helps with my mood and energy. Whereas I know people who prefer longer runs or exercises because it is used as meditation time.
  2. Incorporate activity throughout your workday. Take the stairs. Walk during your lunch break. Use a standing desk.
  3. Short bursts of weight training or cardio while watching commercials on TV. I try to do a rep of weights during commercials as I despise ads and it keeps me moving.
  4. Try wearable technology. You can use a basic step counter or the more fancy wrist watches like FitBit, Apple Watch, or Garmin. Some people like to count their steps per day. It is a good way to make sure you have not been sitting all day and that you reach a minimum number of steps per day.
  5. Substitute an hour of TV with an audiobook or podcast walk. I love walking while listening to a great book. I get more steps in during the day and I still feel like I am relaxing because I’m usually listening to an entertaining book or podcast. This is especially great when the weather is nice outside. Nothing beats the fresh air. I spend 99% of my time indoors and this gives me an opportunity to appreciate the surrounding nature.

I hope some of these tips help you to add exercise into your day. I want to dispel the idea that you need to spend hours in the gym to be fit.