Smoothie Style Coming up Strong

So if you’ve been anywhere near a social media site the past few months I’m sure you’ve seen the smoothie bowl craze. To say I am a fan is an understatement. Whatever simple minded genius came up with the concept of putting a smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon instead of a straw deserves a major shout out. Somehow my brain seems to almost believe it ice-cream and in the hot summer weather who can turn down a refreshing, delicious and healthy summer treat!?

Here’s my favorite smoothie bowl recipe! breakfast, lunch or dessert!

1 cup berries – whatever kind you like

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 /2 cup kefir or plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup vanilla protein powder

1 tbsp peanut butter – bonus points if you use trader Joe’s chia and flax seed one!

sprinkle of cinnamon

1 tsp Acai berry powder (optional)

Blend and pour into a bowl. Then you can dress is up with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, chia seeds, honey, granola, whatever floats your boat!

 

 

Fitness as a Democratic Practice

Fancy, I know, gotta put that college degree to work.

So a few months ago I was meeting with a professor about a thesis I was writing about the inherent naturalization of the fit body and the resulting sense of alienation this can cause and my professor referred to fitness as a democratic practice. As soon as I heard this phrase I was like “YASS GIRL YASS”, except my professor is a 40-year-old Bulgarian women who has a dog that looks alarmingly like her, so I just politely nodded instead.

But the more I thought about it, the more I was like, this is exactly what I love about fitness. Fitness truly is for just about everybody. Anyone can participate in it, whether they are fat, thin, white, black, Asian, rich, poor, republican, straight, gay or some kind of mix. Anyone can get out and reap the benefits of exercise. Anyone can strive towards the fitness ideals, better their bodies, better their minds, and quite frankly better their lives.

Sure maybe that’s a touch idealistic, everyone is sadly not afforded the same opportunities and there are always politics and social dynamics at play within workout spaces, but the fitness community is expanding. Look at the plus size yoga movement, a movement that features bodies that are not typically seen as yogis now breaking that mold and embracing the practice for themselves. So at a time when our political democratic rights are being put through the ringer with the 2016 candidates, (straight outta options, am I right?) why not embrace a different kind of democratic practice and get that body moving!

What happened when I stopped working out

honestly – a lot, brace yourself for a long post.

About a month ago  I underwent surgery, so I knew in advance I would have to take it easy for about 4 weeks in terms of exercising. To be honest I was terrified to stop working out. I haven’t taken more than a day or two off since I made the decision to live a healthier life about 4 years ago. I’ll bust out HIIT in hotel rooms if I have to. But I was afraid if I let myself break my routine, something terrible would happen, I would like taking time off, like really like it. I’d love watching an episode of Freaks and Geeks (which if you haven’t seen, do yourself a favor and Netflix binge it, who can resist young James Franco?) before dinner instead off working out then, or getting an extra hour of sleep instead of a morning workout. I was afraid I’d slip right back into a lazy pattern and lose the motivation to work out that I spent so many years cultivating.

So what actually happened? The first week off I was pretty medicated with little appetite and an inability to stay awake. So I did not immediately gain 10lbs as soon as I stopped working out, which I’m ashamed to admit was a very real thought that crossed my mind. But the first week off actually felt good for my body despite being forced to be so sedentary. I de-bloated quickly and overall felt better than I thought I would.

The second week my appetite came back and I was itching to get moving. I’ve never walked by dogs in the entirety of the time I’ve had them as much as I did these past few weeks as I tried to incorporate gentle exercise.

Week three I started to lose it, I just wanted to move by body! To run! To sweat! I went for a hike, took a few yoga classes, tried some light weights only to be told by the doctor I had to wait another 2 weeks. Frustrated and bored that’s when I started noticing other changes. I started sleeping in more, like a lot more, even when I shouldn’t have been worn out. I craved sugar and junk food more than I have in the past. I’ve never thought I needed pizza in my life so bad. I wanted to eat all the time but I wasn’t hungry and I had so much less energy than I usually do.

But more than all that I felt puffier, I felt the muscles I worked so hard for slowly disappearing. I felt strange and alien in my body. I felt like all my clothes fit wrong and uncomfortably. I didn’t feel like myself in my own skin. In short I just didn’t feel anything like the person I usually am.

So I needn’t have worried, because right now I can’t wait to get back to the gym, 4 days until I’m cleared and you better believe I’ll be the first one at bootcamp that morning. From this time off I learned just how fundamental health and fitness are to who I am, how much they’re part me. The couch has far less appeal than I thought I would. It also became so clear that the effects of fitness stretch far beyond just bodily aesthetic. Finally, I realized that I should chill a bit, take a week off if I need to and it won’t undo something that has become so much a part of who I am.

So if you can, run while you can. Working out shouldn’t always feel like a chore, it’s also an amazing gift. Okay that was way cheesy, I think gym withdrawal is affecting my brain.

Guess who’s back…

Back again.

Sorry it’s not Slim Shady. I know I’m disappointed too. It is however your favorite inconsistent blogger! In my defense it’s been a crazy few weeks. I graduated college, hauled my life out of Ohio and back to Massachusetts (thank God), and now I’m attempting to figure out how to adult. Tips are appreciated.

I also recently had a small surgery, I’m fine no need to send flowers; I’m sure you all want to, but it means I can’t work out for four weeks. Six days in and I already convinced my muscles are melting. I haven’t gone more than 4 consecutive days without working out in years. While some rest was probably due for my body, it has still been difficult. When I first heard I’d have to take a month off my first thought was dear God how? Which was quickly followed by the internal declaration that I’ll just be very careful with my nutrition until I can resume my regular high intensity grind.

But after a few days of rest I began thinking about fitness and wellness and why exactly I care so much about my health and fitness. Sure I started my journey to shed that pesky freshman 15, but it’s evolved so much from there. Embracing my body for what it can do, pushing my limits, feeling my muscles work, paying attention to the food I put into my body and how good they make me feel is something I truly love.

Furthermore, learning to take care of my body physically also led me to a much healthier mindset. While the endorphins sure don’t hurt, I can honestly say that since I started working out and paying attention to my health, my overall wellness, both mental and physical has improved so much. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my passion for health and fitness being so interwoven into my life.

So as I take a few weeks hiatus from fitness I want to spend some time focusing on wellness, on why I love working out rather than just being determined to get a sweat on everyday. With beach season upon us it is high time for body scrutiny and self-dissatisfaction. So take a second and instead of running for the treadmill dreading the impending bikini weather, take time to appreciate your body for everything it can do for you, and what you can do for it, aesthetics aside.

Guilt-Free Ice Cream?!

This is not a drill.

IKDE2359

Hey guys, I’m taking a quick break from the finals work and job search that has become my entire life to bring you this crazy find. Ice cream is my all time favorite dessert, 8 degrees or 80, I’m down for a cone. For a while the fitness and health community has been buzzing about these newer low-calorie ice cream alternatives, most notably Arctic Zero and Halo Top. While I have not personally tried Arctic Zero yet, the general consensus seems to be that Halo Top is the better option. I for one can absolutely vouch for Halo Top.

I picked up the mint chocolate chip flavor and I was skeptical, I won’t lie. It all sounded too good to be true, 240 calories for the entire pint? 60 calories per 1/2 cup serving, 2g of fat, 5g fiber, 4g sugar and 6g protein, what kind of sorcery is this? I actually think there might be a little bit of magic involved because this stuff is DELICIOUS. I was expecting a lack luster, flavorless, icy, slushy imposter pretending to be the holy grail of ice cream, but I was so wrong! It tastes so much like real ice cream. Short of actually comparing two spoonfuls of regular mint chip and Halo Top mint chip I doubt I could tell the difference. It’s creamy, sweet, flavorful and just all around awesome. Skip the bowl, eat it straight from the pint guilt free. Bad break up? Long day? PMS? Have no idea what you’re doing with your life? Halo Top understands, all you need is a spoon.

They currently have 7 flavors out and it’s become my new goal to try them all. Okay maybe not so much as a goal as a deep fundamental need, I mean 280 calorie pints of chocolate mocha chip? That needs to be in my life ASAP. So thanks Halo Top for fixing ice cream for all the health lovers out there and just in time for summer!

P.S. I was not paid for this review in any way. But if they wanted to send me free Halo Top I’m not saying I would be opposed…

Sugar, Gluten, Soy and Caffeine free?

What the hell do you eat??

This is a question I’ve gotten a lot since having to reset my system and eliminate all those things from my diet. When I first heard this plan my first response was, nothing. I can literally eat nothing. I’ll be eating celery and cotton balls for the next 30 days for sure. While turns out this isn’t totally true. I’m about halfway through the 30 days and once I figured out the kinds of meals that I actually could eat, it was way, way easier. Once I finish the 30 days I’ll do a post reviewing my experience with these diet modifications, but in the meantime here’s what a typical day looks like without any sugar, gluten, caffeine or soy just incase you’re tempted to give it a try.

Breakfast: I almost always start with oatmeal. It’s a great whole grain that is full of fiber. I usually top it with Chia Seeds, a great source of protein and fiber which helps keeps you feeling full longer as they digest slowly, unsweetened coconut which has lots of healthy fats, almond butter, because Justin’s almond butter is the best thing to happen to food ever and its adds some protein and good fats and finally cinnamon which not only tastes good but also curbs your appetite. Of course I also have a mug of (decaf 😦 ) coffee with milk and a big glass of water with lemon.

Morning Snack: Since breakfast is so full of fiber and protein I find I usually don’t need a midmorning snack, if I do I usually stick to more water and maybe a handful of nuts.

Lunch: I love eggs at lunch, they are a perfect little bundle of protein. I usually make lunch salad based, so I tend to go for something like a hard-boiled egg or two over spinach with chickpeas, which are good carbs and added protein, avocado for healthy fat, some kind of cheese, because I’m only human, and any other vegetables I might have lying around topped with a little olive oil and pepper. (it’s usually a bit more elaborate than the above picture..) Don’t forget the glass of water!

Afternoon snack: an Apple and nut butter was my go-to, but since I’ve had to remove all sugar I’ve traded that in for a whole grain rice cake and high quality nut butter or plain greek yogurt with some almond butter and cinnamon.  If I’m really craving sugar I go for half a Larabar, I know they have a little sugar but they’re still a clean eating snack so at least the sugar is natural from the dates not added, and of course a bottle of water on the side.

Dinner: Surprise more protein! Shocking I know. I keep dinner pretty simple with either baked chicken or fish and some kind of grilled vegetable and maybe a small baked sweet potato. I tend to keep dinner lighter because I have a hard time digesting food at night. My other favorite is tacos! I like natural turkey meat cooked with peppers onions and black beans served over spinach with avocado and a bit of cheese and hot sauce on top. (Pro tip this meal preps super well, it makes a ton, and its inexpensive and easy)

After dinner: If I’m hungry later or I ate dinner on the earlier side I’ll have Chia seed pudding for dessert. It’s just milk, chia seeds topped with cinnamon, a touch of almond butter and shredded coconut (all the good stuff from breakfast) for a no sugar dessert!

So not terrible right? While I’m excited for the 30 day reset to be over, I really really really miss fruit, it’s actually pretty doable. Just don’t go to a restaurant. That’s actual hell. But preparing meals within the diet limitations is totally doable. Try it for a day or two. I dare you.

Hi again!

I know I know, so inconsistent. I blame myself. In my defense my semester got real busy real quick with balancing school work, trying to figure out post-graduation plans (hire me please) binge watching house of cards and experiencing my last few weeks of college life.

But no more excuses, I do have a lot of cool stuff planned I promise. I’ve been testing out all those trendy new fitness programs, like Kayla Itsines and Tone It Up, so I’ll have reviews of those coming out soon. I’m also getting slightly obsessed with my nutrition book so I’ll have some actually legitimate nutrition posts coming out soon too. Also, after a string of fun digestive issues I have been advised to go completely gluten, soy, all forms of sugar (natural and added) alcohol and caffeine free. I know. Doesn’t that just make you die inside a little? But I’ve made it 12 days so far so I’ll have some thoughts on that coming soon too.

Last but certainly not least, I made a Instagram page for this blog! I’m also using it to track progress along my journey with the Kayla Itsines biking body guide workout program (it has an awesome social media community) but check it out for pictures of healthy food and workout motivation! @health.heart.huslte or click on the picture in the side bar and then that user name to access it.

I is for Integrity

Dear Trail Mix,

It’s time to break up. At first I thought you were so healthy for me, so full of variety and fun, so enjoyable to spend time with. I could turn to you when I was emotional or bored. I liked having you around, you were a great addition to any meal or movie, or even just afternoon 😉 And yet, you’re no good for me. You’re full of junk, you’re pretending to be something we both know you’re not. I don’t feel good after I’m with you and I heard you were letting yourself be picked up by other people at the store. It’s time to part ways.

no X’s or O’s,

Natalie

I’ll admit it, trail mix was one of my biggest vices, filled with nuts and dried fruit or seeds it has all the makings of seeming healthy, but most kinds are actually just full of fat and sugar. I’m guilty of having a bag in the kitchen and just grabbing a handful whenever I walked by, even though the serving size for trail mix is ridiculously small and writing it off as insignificant.

So on the issue of integrity, a lot of times when we think we’re eating so well and making healthy choices at meals, we forget to factor in all those little stops in the kitchen. I’m not saying ditch your favorite foods completely, that’s not conducive to sustainable healthy lifestyle changes, just maybe consider having them around less often. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight despite feeling like you’re making healthy choices I challenge you to check your integrity. Write down everything you eat over the day, and I do mean everything, even that quick handful of potato chips or pit stop in the cheese drawer that somehow tends to get overlooked in the larger scale of healthy eating or weight loss efforts. You might just notices some surprising patterns that can help you make some helpful changes!

HIIT it!

HIIT, the handy acronym for high intensity interval training. Personally I love it, discovering it a few years back was my holy grail, my ultimate motivation to get off the couch and get moving. If you’re like me the idea of spending 45 minutes on a treadmill is synonymous with say, cleaning your ears for that amount of time. Boring, unappealing, and honestly probably not all that effective. (I’ll be the first to admit it, that was a weird metaphore) But HIIT is totally different. It’s gained more notoriety over the  years and has become known as one of the most effective ways to burn the most calories in the least amount of time. 20 minutes of HIIT can actually be more effective than that 45 minute treadmill struggle.

So just in case you haven’t jumped on the HIIT bandwagon yet here’s how it works. It’s short periods of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest, say 30 seconds of burpees followed by 10 seconds of rest. You can do just one exercise, 20 seconds on 10 seconds off for a total of 8 rounds in 4 minutes for a true tabata workout or you can do longer intervals of lots of different kinds of exercises. The word is your oyster. I love it because it encourages you to go all out but it’s also a very manageable interval of time so it’s not daunting and with all the different kinds of exercises you almost never get bored. It’s even, dare I say it, fun.

HIIT is supposed to up rev up your metabolism so you can burn burn burn baby burn throughout the workout as well as get that after burn happening, so your burning more calories while your glued to the couch the rest of the day. Not too shabby if you ask me. A little advice though, to get all the benefits of HIIT you gotta go hard, really give it your all and that can be taxing on your body so I would be a little cautious of jumping right into HIIT if you don’t have a somewhat solid base of exercise already. I actually just wrote a paper on this and the potential of HIIT to change the way we approach exercise on a larger scale. I’m sure all you guys want to read that right? What’s that? No takers? I’m shocked.

Go HIIT it and HIIT it hard.

G, that Gluten-Free Grind

Ah gluten-free. I’ve been wanting to address this for a while, and after having some experience with it, I finally feel like I can.

First and foremost I want to clear up some misguided conclusions about a gluten-free diet. The gluten-free lifestyle seems to somehow get lumped in with other diets like juicing, paleo or Veganism, but it’s not just a new diet fad. It is a way of life for people who have Celiac disease or gluten intolerance that has become a trendy way for people to try to lose weight.

So lets back up, unless you’re truly Celiac, and in that case gluten intolerant, gluten isn’t really the devil it gets made out to be. Yes, gluten does tend to cause inflammation in one’s digestive system but decreasing that inflammation by removing gluten won’t really help one lose significant weight. When people cut out gluten from their diets they consequentially end up removing things high in carbs or sugar like breads, bagels, pasta, pizza, cupcakes, cookies, etc. So yes, removing those things from your diet should help if you’re trying to lose weight, but it’s not just the removal of gluten that’s doing so. Furthermore, people have this misconception that gluten-free products are healthy. unfortunately not so much, sorry, put down the box of gluten-free cookies. A lot of the times gluten-free breads, cookies, muffins, whatever, are actually worse for you because they have been pumped full of all kinds of other unhealthy ingredients to cover up the lack of  gluten and make them taste ok.

After a lot of personal digestive issues and a leaky gut (cute right?) It was suggested that I remove gluten from my diet to avoid the inflammation and help my gut heal. It’s not easy, it seems like gluten is in everything! But ultimately I feel better, and a little de-bloated. However, I do want to caution you, removing gluten from your diet can make you somewhat gluten intolerant overtime. I tended to not eat much gluten before, mostly some whole wheat wraps and crackers here and there, and I do find that when I did stray and grab a piece of toast it doesn’t sit as well as it used to.

So that was a lot, sorry I know, I prefer to keep it short and sweet (and not just because I’m  5’0 ft.) It’s just so easy to get caught up in all these trendy diets and forget all about the bigger picture. I hope this was helpful and if you stuck with me the whole way I give you permission to go have some toast! Maybe just make it whole wheat with avocado on it. 🙂