6 Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles

This week I started a new set of workouts. For the past several weeks, well months really, I’ve been doing mainly my killer bodyweight exercises from the program I designed. Why you ask?

Well for one thing, I don’t have a gym membership right now. There’s a gym at my office but I don’t know… It’s a little strange to me working out at the same time as some of the senior execs. To me, the gym isn’t really a place to socialize while I’m working out anyway. The gym is more of a place to #gsd and get my butt in shape.

[#gsd = get stuff (or whatever version of "stuff" you choose) done]

The other thing? The gyms in the city that are in my budget that I’ve seen are pretty nasty looking. And the nice ones are all waaaaaay out of my price range.

Plus, I haven’t had tons of time to devote to my workouts, so the 15 min workouts in that program have been perfect for my schedule recently.

This all means that my apartment and the surrounding sidewalks/playgrounds/Central Park are now my gym. And seeing as how I have less than 100 sq ft in my apartment to workout in, I’ve had to get creative with bodyweight exercises.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s been fun making up workouts that I can do basically anywhere, but the whole not using dumbbells recently is getting to me.

I miss lifting heavy things!

So I’ve embarked on a new set of workouts over the last week that made use of my PowerBlocks (freaking awesome adjustable dumbbells) and creative use of my apartment space.

And ooo wow! The workouts have kicked my butt and made my body, especially legs, ridiculously sore! The reason for the sore body is largely because I’m using dumbbells suddenly after quite the dumbbell hiatus AND because I’m challenging my body in different ways than I have the past several months.  Wins all around!

My guess is that my body started to adapt to those “no equipment necessary” workouts since I hadn’t really changed it up in a few months. So it’s a good thing I switched up my workouts!

Sore Muscle Relief

By switching things up, not only am I employing the power of muscle confusion to help aid body change, but I also have a real sense of accomplishment after I lift. Especially after I lift something heavier than I thought I could! If you have never lifted weights before (or only done the light weights for 20-30 reps at a time) you are MAJORLY missing out on all sorts of physical and mental benefits.

But anyway… :)

Oh!  In case you hadn’t heard of it before – muscle confusion is a training approach that helps avoid plateaus when your body has adjusted to workouts. By changing up workouts frequently, you keep your body guessing as to what challenges it will have to overcome next. This helps you avoid plateaus in your body change goals – be it fat loss or muscle gain.

But anyway, my muscles are so sore from these new workouts that I’m feeling the pain in my legs within 24 hours. And if you have ever done any sort of weight lifting you know that the pain/soreness usually peaks at about 48 hours out from the workout. So when you’re extremely sore at only 24 hours out, you know you’re gonna be hurting bigtime at 48 hours!

But why? Why is that new movements create such discomfort in the body? (As a chemist, I tend to always ask “why”. It’s helpful for science related things sure, but not always for other stuff like people and relationships, lol… but that’s a discussion for another time…)

Back in college, I remember a common explanation for ridiculously sore muscles, that I felt like I always had during preseason, was the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. Another explanation for sore muscles was – “micro-tears” occur in the muscles leading to painful inflammation.

But you know what? The actual causes of DOMS at the cellular level are relatively unknown.

Let’s pause here and talk a bit more about DOMS for a minute. DOMS is short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is a soreness that creeps into muscles usually 24-48 hours after muscles have been worked in ways that are different that what they’re accustomed to and tends to last for several days – sometimes up to a week.

The types of movements that lead to DOMS can be active, passive, and can also be the result of pressure (this is why you might feel sore after a deep tissue massage – hurts so good, right?). But often for us former athletes (and really anyone), it is initiated by movements that involve contraction of muscles while the muscle is actually stretched or lengthened.

Now as much as I hate being so sore that I can hardly walk down stairs, or have to plop into my chair from a high altitude, or stifle shrieks of pain as I gingerly make my way down the stairs, and struggling to stand up from the toilet (sorry for the visual but it’s true, isn’t it?!?!), I have to admit I really like knowing that I challenged my body in a new way.  I EARNED this pain, baby! :D

But after a few days, the soreness is annoying and I’m tired of hurting. Too many days of pain and it’ll be more than just my muscles that are suffering. The intensity and frequency of my workouts might suffer, too.  And less intense workouts are the last thing that I want when keeping my workouts under 30 minutes!

To get around this, recovering faster and reducing soreness are key.  That way, I’m able to go “all out” in my workouts as soon as possible.

What are the solutions for sore muscles? Back as a student athlete, they made us sit in an ice bath for 20 minutes after each preseason training session, but I can’t quite do the whole ice bath thing anymore for 2 reasons. 1- I don’t have the time to sit in an ice bath after I workout and 2- I don’t have a giant tub and unlimited ice to make one with!!

So what’s a former athlete to do??

6 WAYS TO RELIEVE SORE MUSCLES

1. Get moving even if you’re super sore and the last thing your muscles want to do is MOVE.
Resist the urge to not do anything because you’re crazy sore.  Go out for a 30 min walk or a light intensity jog or spin on the bike.  Getting the blood flowing will help circulate the nutrients your body needs to recover and flush out any toxins that are chilling in the muscle fibers.

2.  Drink plenty of water.
In case you’re not already drinking tons of water, you should definitely do it when you’re really sore.  Technically, your muscles are injured after a workout, and your body needs more fluids when sick or injured.  Adequate water intake means your body is well-hydrated and your circulatory system is effectively running on all cylinders moving blood throughout the body.  It’s going to be able to get rid of any metabolic byproducts that might have resulted from an intense session at the gym.  This is the main reason your massage therapist tells you to drink plenty of water after a deep tissues massage.  Gotta flush out the garbage!

3. Stretch after your workout.
It doesn’t hurt to take about 10-15 minutes while your muscles are still warm to do a bit of stretching.  While lifting, your muscles are doing all sorts of contracting.  Why not do a little lengthening, too?  You know, yin and yang??  Contract and stretch?  Get it?  J

4. Supplement with L-glutamine and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Supplementing with amino acids can be a huge help in aiding muscle recovery and decreasing soreness.  In fact, I wish I’d known about these supplements back in college!  They would’ve been a lifesaver!  If you’re already drinking a protein shake post-workout, you may already be taking in enough L-glutamine and BCAAs in the protein powder itself.  If not, consider adding them to your post- or even pre-workout routine.

I prefer BCAAs pre-workout for the little jump of energy they give me.  The L-glutamine?  I like to take it post-workout because it’s especially helpful with muscle recovery.  You can typically buy these online or at any vitamin or health shop.  I usually just get the unflavored kind of both then stir into water with a couple squeezes of fresh lime or lemon juice and chug.  Not the most pleasant flavor but they get the job done!   And don’t forget that the key to supplements is CONSISTENCY.  I don’t notice an effect from the L-glutamine if I take it one day, but if I take it 3 days in a row, then I totally notice.

5. Foam rolling.
You’re gonna hate me for this one but I promise it’s effective once you get past the pain.  What you’ll want to do is grab a foam roller – pick one up on Amazon or TJ Maxx for a high quality roller at a good price.  Put the roller on the floor and the sore muscle in contact with the roller.  Then you’ll use your body weight to push down on the muscle (this is why it’s soooo painful – cause sore muscles don’t like pressure!) and roll the muscle BETWEEN the joints over the roller.  Do not roll OVER any joints.

Repeat a down/back process usually about 10-15 times per sore muscle, and you can repeat this several times a day.  It’s not comfortable at first but I find it most helpful before and after a workout.  Essentially it’s a deep tissues massage, so that’s why it’s probably not comfortable….  If you’ve never done this before, there are tons of great resources on the web.  Just google that!

6. Epsom salt bath
I absolutely LOVE a good soak in a steaming hot bath.  One of the few “must-haves” when I searched for my NYC apartment was a full size tub that I could sink into at the end of a long day.  And these hot soaks come in particularly handy when I’ve got sore muscles.  The hot water helps circulate blood to muscles that are trying to recover (therefore bringing nutrients and getting rid of any garbage), and the Epsom salt is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that also aids muscle recovery.  So next time you’re crazy sore, turn on some steaming hot water (don’t burn yourself though!) and throw in a half cup of Epsom salt while the water’s still running.  Sink in and relax for the next 30 minutes… you’ll be so glad you did!

 

Hopefully, you all love the workouts currently on your calendar.  But if they’re leaving you with DOMS of any kind, then consider trying at least one of the techniques above and let me know how it works for you by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

And by the way, it’s perfectly fine to use ALL of those techniques at once…  Ok, well I don’t recommend trying to foam roll in the tub… I see that ending in disaster!  But anyway, you get what I mean!  Combining all of my suggestions can be even more beneficial than any one on its own.  But the important thing is to do what works for you!

<3, Lauren

These are a Few of My Favorite Fats

I’m not quite sure why the title of this blog is a play on The Sound of Music.

Hmmm….

Ummm….

Oh ok I remember now!  I was watching How I Met Your Mother yesterday and it was the episode in Season 7 where they’re talking about how it’s not uncommon to end up with someone like your parents.  Then there’s a scene where Barney’s mom (in the past) and girlfriend Nora (in the present) are both singing that “Favorite Things” song.

So that’s where that came from…  Makes sense!  I know you were dying to know… :)

Anyway, on to the ACTUAL words I was planning to share.

Fat’s got a bad rap.  So many of the products we see in grocery stores these days are advertised as low-fat or fat-free.  If you are the type that looks at labels for the macronutrient breakdown (grams of protein, fat, carbs), calories or ingredients, you’ll see that these low/no fat items are often peppered with extra carbs (usually added sugar) or salt in an effort to make them palatable.

Many times, this also means they’re high in calories or other weird added chemicals, too.  So don’t be fooled by the hype – just because something is low fat, it doesn’t mean that it IS better for you.  So read the labels carefully!  Of course, I prefer to buy foods without labels or with labels that list 1 ingredient and that I can guess what the macronutrient breakdown is… but that is for another post on another day.

Ok food labels was a small tangent, but no worries.  Tangents are fun and you never know where they’ll lead.  But for the 2nd time, back to the actual subject…

Fats are not ALL bad.  I think they first starting getting looked down on in the 1990′s (someone please correct me if my timing is all off, thanks)  but in reality, they’re super important to eat when you’re trying to get the fat cells on your body to burn baby burn.  I know it seems counterintuitive but let me fill you in.  Get ready cause here at Once An Athlete, we’re in the business of blowing minds… :D

Brace yourself… Here are a few knowledge bombs for you…

– Body fat (you know, the fat that’s hanging out on your body and cushioning your vital parts like your liver and kidneys and so on) is an active, hormone-secreting organ.  Yup!  It’s true!  It can release all sorts of intense hormones like leptin, estrogen, cortisol, and inflammatory molecules into your body.  When the powers of these 4 hormones combine, the result can be the perfect storm for additional fat storage.  Crazy huh??

– Depending on where fat is stored on your body, it acts differently (in the active, hormone-secreting way).  Example – belly fat releases more “garbage” into your body than fat on your thighs does.  That’s why you hear about apple shapes being more likely to have various health issues.

– Even though dietary fats are calorie dense, meaning they have a lot of calories per serving, if you look at their hormonal effects they can be REALLY good for you!  Omega-3 fats eventually cause an increase in fat metabolism through gene regulation (remember we want to metabolize/burn the fat on our bodies… we don’t just want our body burning stored sugars).  You can get Omega-3s from supplements (like fish oil), flax and fish!

– Dietary fats help with satiety at meals because it causes the release of a hormone that helps lower hunger.  When I’m not eating as many starchy carbs (ladies tend to burn more fat when eating less starchy carbs and that approach works for me!), I’ll eat an extra serving of healthy fats each day to help me feel fuller and more satisfied at my meals.  If I have a giant salad with some chicken on top, I am sure to dice up half an avocado and throw that on top, too (I love avocados almost as much as I love bacon).

Take away message??  Consuming dietary fats is important to reducing the amount fat on your body.  So which fats do I like to eat and how much?

As I already mentioned, I like avocados, fish, and flax.  I also like nuts (almonds are my favorite and walnuts are good too), nut butters (make sure you don’t get the kind loaded with sugar – try making your own!), olive oil, seeds, and grass-fed meats.  Typically, I’ll go for 2 servings of healthy fats in addition to 4g of fish oil supplements a day (2g in the morning and 2g at night).

FYI – you get what you pay for in fish oil supplements.  The lower quality, lower purity fish oils will be more likely to result in fishy burps… so this is a supplement worth splurging on a little.  My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals.

In your quest to lose weight as an ex athlete, don’t forget that burning body fat requires that you take in healthy fats like the ones mentioned above (and a fish oil supplement wouldn’t hurt either!).  Tell me what your favorite fat is in the comments below!

<3, Lauren

Apple-icious Recipes that You’ve Gotta Make Today

The arrival of Labor Day typically signals the end of summer, and while I’m not happy to see the end of the season, I’m still pretty excited for the next one!

To me fall means many things – sweatshirts, back to school shopping (it’s the perfect time to go buy more pens!  –> if you don’t know this yet, I’m obsessed with ink-based writing utensils), the return of football season (GO COLTS!!), leaves changing colors, and Thanksgiving — which means all sorts of delicious foods!!

Something else that fall brings is apple season, and guess what??  I went apple picking for the first time ever this weekend!!  Sooo much fun and definitely something worth doing again!

Anyway, after spending a few hours wandering the orchard, I ended up with more apples than I knew what to do with.  So into the kitchen I went!  I made some applesauce that can be used in all sorts of ways, apple chips (dried them in the oven), sautéed apples & onions,  strawberry jam and apple fries.  There was no way I could keep the tasty info to myself, so I thought I’d share it with you all.  The results, recipes and a few photos are below!  Try them and let me know what you think!

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All Apple Applesauce  (SUPER versatile recipe!)

[Confession:  For many years after high school, I hated applesauce cause I had it in my lunch every day.  But I got over it when I made my own for the first time using this recipe].

What you’ll need:
Apples – any variety, up to ~5lbs

Put about an inch of water in a large pot and add a pinch of salt.  Core, peel (if you don’t have a food mill or you don’t like peel in your applesauce), and chop apples.  Place in pot, cover, and turn heat to medium.  When water is boiling, remove the lid and cook until apples are soft, about 30 minutes.  If you want a smooth applesauce, pass the mixture through a food mill; otherwise, mash the mix with a potato masher and let cool.

Image-2

Random thoughts for you:
You can add so many things to this basic recipe to jazz it up a little – not that it needs anything cause it’s beautiful the way it is!  But if you want to try something a little different my favorites are roasted garlic and then use as a topping/sauce for your protein at dinner, or you can add dried chipotle powder for a little spicy/smoky/sweet deal.  And of course, cinnamon is always a classic addition.

My favorite way to store whatever I won’t use in the next few days?  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze solid.  This can be especially useful if you want the appley goodness in your protein smoothies.  Just substitute ice for applesauce cubes!  They’re also a great way to keep the A-sauce cold in your lunch box – toss a few into a container the night before and stick it in the fridge.  The next day you’ll have your delicious applesauce no longer in cube form. ;)

A couple of uses for this applesauce:
-Spread onto toast (if you eat toast)
-Mix into cottage cheese or yogurt for a quick breakfast/snack – a favorite of mine!
-Put into your protein shake
-Side dish at lunch or dinner (play with the flavors to match the meal)

 

 

Apple Chips

What you’ll need:
Apples – as many as you’d like
Lemon water (1:10 mix of lemon to water to keep apples from browning)

Preheat oven to 225F.  Core and cut the apples into thin, even slices using a mandolin if possible.  Toss the slices into lemon water while you lightly oil a baking sheet (I used coconut oil).  Remove the apples from the lemon water and pat dry.  Place slices on baking sheet and dry in the oven for 2-3 hours until crispy.  Turn the oven off/on to keep apple slices from browning.  Once completely dry, store apples in airtight container.

Apple Chips
Pshh, who needs a dehydrator??

Random thoughts for you:
Sooo this was less of a success than I’d hoped for for a couple reasons.  #1 – I didn’t use a mandolin, so some slices were done way before the others.  If you’ve got a mandolin, I’d take the time to use it.  #2 – I didn’t keep a close enough eye on them so they ended up way more brown than I’d like.  Thankfully though, they still taste great and the brown color doesn’t bother me.  So if you’ve got a dehydrator, I’d use it, but otherwise, the oven is a fine substitute.  Just watch the slices if you don’t want them brown.

 

 

Sautéed Apples and Onions

What you’ll need:
1 apple (any variety), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
~2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 5-7 min until translucent.  Add apples and cover, stirring every few minutes until apples are soft.  Remove from heat.  Use this sweet and tangy combo to top your favorite protein or salad.  Sooo good!!

Sauteed apples and onions

Random thoughts for you:
I’ve got nothing.  Just make it and eat it!

 

 

Apple Fries

What you’ll need:
2 apples, sliced into matchsticks or “fries”
1 c coconut flour, plus 1 c for dredging
1 tsp baking powder
Salt & pepper
1 egg
3/4 c sparkling water
Coconut oil for frying

In a bowl, combine 1 c coconut flour with the baking powder and S&P.  Whisk in the egg and sparkling water until the mixture resembles pancake batter, BUT DON’T OVERMIX (trust me on this one….)  Heat 2 inches of coconut oil to 350F.  Dredge apples in flour, then dip into batter and place in oil.  Be sure not to over-crowd the pan; you may need to work in batches.  Fry the apples for 2-3 minutes or until golden.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.  Season drained fries with a touch of S&P and serve immediately.

Apple Fries

Random thoughts for you:
This recipe was less of a success than I’d hoped it would be.  The batter didn’t cling to the apple slices very well, so I ended up with apples slices with a few specks of flour/batter on them and tons of batter in the oil.  The fries still tasted delicious but in the future I might forego the batter all together and do a coconut flour – egg wash – coconut flour  breading.  I think that might stick to the fries a little better.   Last thought – instead of S&P, you could always add a little xylitol to the coconut flour to sweeten it up and make them dessert fries instead of savory.  Now THAT sounds yummy!

 

 

No-Sugar Added Strawberry Jam

What you’ll need:
2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 c grated apple (use biggest holes on a box grater)
1/4 c water

Heat the berries, apple, water and a pinch of salt in a wide, shallow skillet over medium heat.  Once the mixture boils, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until mixture thickens (about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher and continue to cook for another 10-15 min.  Remove from heat and let jam cool.  Mixture will thicken on standing.  Store in airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Random thoughts for you:
Wanna know a cool thing about this recipe?  The pectin in the apple acts as the thickener for the jam!  That’s why there’s no need to add any powdered thickeners!  I’m all for using as few processed ingredients as possible, so when I got this recipe to work, I was pretty pumped!  Oh also, this recipe can be made with or without added sweetener.  I prefer to make it without but if you like it sweeter, I’d toss in a 1/4 c xylitol or other natural sweetener like stevia into the skillet at the beginning.  But I think the way it’s made is plenty sweet enough :)

 

Well that is all the deliciousness I have to share with you today.  I hope as summer turns into fall you can give one of these a try and let me know what you think!

<3, Lauren

Scales are from the pit of hell & other ways to track your progress

So word has it around the fitness industry that September is becoming more like January – people are paying more attention again to what they eat and wanting to workout more.  Basically, people are renewing their resolutions to get healthier.

My guess is that it’s due to school starting up again, vacations ending, and most of the summer holidays being over.  So it’s time for a fresh start with the new school year (kinda like a fresh start with a new year!  seeing the January connection?? :D ).  Totally makes sense to me!

I think I’m kinda doing that too, actually.  I’m planning on enrolling in THIS AWESOME PROGRAM from Metabolic Effect cause honestly, my nutrition could use a little more structure right now.

Between vacation and being a permanent tourist in NYC (hello unlimited bars and restaurants to try!!!), I’ve allowed myself more “treats” than I have in probably the last year.  I’m not going for a drastic overhaul – my breakfast and lunch tend to be fat loss friendly choices… but snacks and dinner have moved to foods that won’t get me to my fat loss goals.

Anyway, so the program will give me a little more structure and accountability, which I think is a critical component to any fat loss program.  I’ve done this program before back in January, and it truly was a jumpstart to my fat loss efforts.

One thing that I struggled with during the program though was keeping track of my progress.  It wasn’t that I didn’t have ways to keep track of my progress, but the way I was tracking wasn’t helping me attain my goals and creating mental tornadoes.

 Tracking your progress

No doubt, it’s important to be able to measure your progress.  As a chemist, I’m a data girl through and through.  [I can analyze the $h*t out of anything! Lol!]  I KNOW the importance of having data to analyze so that you can make adjustments if what you’re doing isn’t working.  Plus, doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity!  So you need a way to track progress.

My issue is that when I or anyone else wants to measure their progress on a new diet/exercise plan, the first thing they turn to is the bathroom scale.

Why do I have a problem with the scale?

Because it lies.

It is a number that too often gets tied to our self-worth or whether or not we’ll feel beautiful for the rest of the day or how confident we’ll feel in our afternoon meeting.

Not only is it feeding into all this negative self-talk, when used alone, it’s not an accurate way to measure fat loss or muscle gain.

All the thing does is measure your relationship with GRAVITY.  A basic scale will not make the distinction between whether you have lost fat, muscle, water or a combination there of.  All it says is that you’re exerting more/less force on the ground.  That’s it.

Too often, it’s easy to get hung up on the number on the scale.  Say for 2 weeks, I’ve been eating fat loss friendly foods, done my workouts, slept enough, and are doing cortisol lowering activities.  I feel great, I’ve had an increase in energy and I just *feel* tighter/smaller.  My attitude towards how this meal plan is working for me is SUPER positive, so I can’t wait to jump on the scale for “proof” of how well it’s working.

So I hop on and look down… and then BAM!  To my horror, the scale only reads 1 pound lighter… or worse yet, it hasn’t budged.

That’s when the mental tornado starts.  ”But I’ve been working so hard!!  I HAD to have lost more than that!  This is ridiculous!  I’ll just have to eat less/workout more…  But I have so far to go; at this rate it’ll take forever.  I’ll never get there.  Oh who the hell cares, I’ll go eat a family size bag of potato chips since eating strict isn’t getting me anywhere – besides potato chips taste WAY better.”

Ummm, has anyone else ever done this??  If you have, you know it’s a miserable feeling.  You go from super jazzed about what you’re doing to rock bottom.  Your motivation is gone and your confidence is likely shot.  One moment you felt like you could do what you were doing forever, now you’re ready to dive into a bucket of ice cream and never leave the couch.

All this because some flat, square electronic device showed a higher number than you weren’t expecting???  I say screw it.  It’s time to stop giving the scale all the power in your relationship (because yes, you are giving the scale the power to squash you and your confidence).  

There are MANY other ways to measure your progress to your health/fitness goals, so if the scale can crush you just by stepping onto it, then it’s time to choose other methods.

While I’ve never been addicted to the scale (e.g. daily weigh-ins), I found I was still addicted to what it had to say.  The thing had too much power over me, so I stopped.

Yep, you read that right.  I stopped weighing myself.  I no longer use it as a way to track because I don’t have a healthy relationship with the scale.  And why set myself up for mental tornadoes when I can use other ways of tracking?

So since September is becoming like January and there may be some of you out there deciding to eat better/workout more efficiently, you’ll likely want to track your progress, and I’m going to give you my top 3 ways of tracking that DON’T include the scale.  One thing to remember is consistency – for the things that require measuring, try to do it at the same time.  So if you measure weekly, try to do it at the same time on the same day each week (makes it more reliable).

1.  Photos of yourself in the same outfit.
I LOVE this method of tracking!  I usually pick a swimsuit or spandex shorts and sports bra, set up the self timer on my camera, and snap away!  Used to be that I took photos weekly, but I found that I got too critical too easily if I “couldn’t see progress” from last week.  So I started doing it 1x a month.  It’s really amazing to see how much your body can change over the course of a few weeks!  Definitely my top choice for tracking progress.

2.  How do my clothes fit?
Another favorite tracking method of mine!  And you can do it a couple of ways.  One is to just pay attention to how your clothes are fitting.
Good questions to ask yourself
– Is there more room in the waist than the last time I wore these pants?  Are the sleeves looser in this shirt?  How does the back of this jacket pull when I cross my arms in front of my body?  Eh-hem… Am I no longer filling out my bra?? (ALWAYS a way for me to tell I’m making progress – sorry guys!!)  –
So that’s one way to do it – just pay attention to what you’re wearing every day.  Another way is to have a single piece of clothing that you try on once every few weeks and gauge how it fits (use a scale of 1-10, 1 being crappy fit and 10 being awesome).  For me, it’s this pair of gray work pants.  Since I can get too easily hung up on the numbers, I actually put the pants on and take pics of how they fit/look.  It’s a very objective way for me to track progress.  Do they feel looser/tighter?  How do they fit through the thighs? Etc…

3.  Circumference measurements.
This was something I had to give up after a while because I started *expecting* to see certain inches lost based on how I felt that week, but for most people this is a great way to track progress objectively!  All you need is a flexible tape measure and something to write with/on, and you literally measure the circumference at different spots on your body.  The ones I say that are best for gals are the fullest part of your bust, your natural waist, the fullest part of your butt, and the fullest part of one thigh (use the same thigh each time).  I find that I tend to see changes also in my arms, so I’ll measure my right bicep at a certain freckle (helps with consistency).  Also, I measure right under my bust (where the band of my bra would sit).  For me, those tend to be good spots for tracking.  Measuring once every 1-2 weeks can be very helpful and much less mentally taxing than the scale.

There you have them!  My top 3 ways to measure your progress WITHOUT the scale.  Let me think here… Pretty sure the last time I weighed myself was mid-June.  Before then, sometime back in February or March.  It was more for curiosity’s sake, not a “I HAVE to know what I weigh”.  There were no expectations or wishes or hopes for a certain number when I got on.   The whole idea is that the scale is just a number.  I mean, you could get even more creative and not focus on something related to your size/shape at all!  Maybe you just start focusing on how much weight you’re able to throw around in the gym now.  You did your metabolic circuits a month ago with 12 lb dumbbells and now you gotta use 15′s to get your B’s and H’s?  AWESOME!  That is HUGE progress there!  The point is - No matter what method you choose to monitor progress, remember that the key is focus on your wins and be grateful for them.

Now here’s a challenge for you – toss the scale for 3 months.  Put it away in some corner of your apartment, buried in your winter clothes and stash that box under tons of other boxes so that you’re not tempted to use it.  Choose another of the 3 methods above (or all of them at once, that’s fine too!) and track your progress that way.  Then I want to hear from you how much more free you’re feeling mentally/emotionally since you’re no longer chained to a number.

If you’re with me, in the comments below say “I’m gonna #tossthescale” and then we’ll start this awesome journey to freedom from the scale together!

Super excited!!  <3, Lauren

Take it Off, Girl! How I Moved Beyond my Insecurity About Being in a Bikini

A few weeks ago I experienced something that can make many women cringe.  It’s the moment you have to remove the cover-up when you’re at the beach or the swimming pool and you’re not super thrilled with your body…

Let me describe what happened to me recently…

So my man and I had decided that we wanted to get away for a bit this summer.  He lives on the West Coast and I live on the East Coast, and so our summer vacation was going to be a great way to unplug and spend some much needed time together.

We decided that we wanted to hit up a beach and spend the time laying in the sun (or under an umbrella) and drinking refreshing adult beverages (possibly garnished with a tiny umbrella).  We also planned to do a lot of reading, and since we’re both bookworms, it is the perfect way for us to spend our vacation.

Our destination was Cancun, Mexico, and we ended up at this FABULOUS resort called Excellence Riviera Cancun.  –BTW if you want to spend some time in Riviera Maya, then you HAVE to stay here.   This place was absolutely amazing!–  We went with the all-inclusive package for the week that we were there, which took all sorts of stress off since we didn’t have to worry about how much food/drink cost at every single meal.  Decisions make me tired, and I basically didn’t have to make any that week (the most complex decision was do I stay in the pool or go in the ocean right now?).  We could just relax and enjoy the whole resort.

 A gorgeous view from our hotel – Excellence Riviera Cancun.
We’ll definitely be going back!!

There was one teeny tiny catch in this whole plan for me.  In order to fully enjoy gorgeous/massive swimming pools and the warm waters of the ocean, I was probably gonna have to wear a swimsuit…  As you may or may not know, I still have a ways to go on my physique goals.

After college I put on a good 50 pounds.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been slowly working on changing how my body looks through smart nutrition (eating more of the right foods), efficient workouts (shorter, more intense workouts like these have been extremely important), managing stress and getting enough sleep.

By doing these things, I’ve been able to shed about 20 lbs in a little over a year   I’m super excited with my progress, but at the same time still have a ways to go and am not super comfortable exposing a lot of skin for all the world to see.

And to be honest, I was scared to death of having my man see me in a swimsuit for almost a whole week straight.  He has been incredibly supportive of my goals and efforts to get healthy again and encourages me however he can.

I so much appreciate his support, and I know that he never would judge me or say anything that would make me feel anything other than beautiful.

But I was still kinda freaking out cause I didn’t look as good as I thought I should look.  [And I have abandonment issues so I'm constantly fighting the urge to do everything that I think makes the people around me happy (yeah, people pleasing is a struggle for me).  But that's another post :) ]

Anyway, that was my biggest mistake right there.  Telling myself “you should look different” does absolutely nothing in the moment.  All that means is that when it was time to finally remove the cover-up, I was slightly panicked, nauseous, and drowning in insecurity.


Basically I was miserable
.

That first day when I was pulling off the cover-up, I was feeling all those things all at once.  Then I thought to myself — Um hello Lauren!!  Miserable is the opposite of what you want to be on this trip!!  Sure you aren’t as far along in your journey as you want to be, but you’re further than you were last year.  On top of that, this is how you look RIGHT NOW.

So dear self, you have two options.

1. You can continue to panic, feel miserable, say horrible things to yourself about how your thighs are massive and the girl across from you has tiny thighs.  Then you’ll miss out on all the things you could enjoy with your man because you’re too freaked out about how you look to have fun.  Oh, not to mention you’ll be wrapped up in thoughts of yourself and what other people are probably thinking about you instead of engaged in the present moment and what all is going on…

OR

2. You can choose to be HERE, in the NOW.  Acknowledge that the body that is here in this moment is the only body you’ve got.  In this moment, you can’t do anything at all to change it, so you are free to enjoy the moment instead.  You can’t do anything about it so why stress and shame yourself over it?  Plus, you think people are looking at you??  Well trust me, they are more concerned with how THEY look in THEIR suits to be paying any sort of attention to how you look.  <–  This is soooooo true!

So I thought about it for about, ummm, 2 sec?

I decided I wanted to enjoy my time and NOT be miserable.

So I went with option 2.

Each time I felt insecure, I told myself, “This is my body; I’m gonna own it.  I can’t change it right now, so I am going to choose to focus on what’s happening with me and my man and what’s happening at this gorgeous resort.  Instead of focusing on myself and worrying what others think, I’m gonna have a good time.”

I wish I could say that I only needed to tell myself this once, but I didn’t.

It came up several times over the first couple days, but every time the feelings of insecurity surfaced, I called them out (in my head of course… it might be a little weird to literally call them out :) ), and then I chose to think different thoughts about me and my body.  By the middle of the week, those feelings were surfacing less and less and I was able to completely enjoy my time.

Looking back now, I know I would’ve missed out on soooo much if I’d spent my time in my bikini freaking out about how I looked.  In short, letting go of my insecurity was FREEING.  I was FREE from self-doubt and worrying about what other people are thinking.  I could go into bikini situations totally relaxed and just be myself.  That made the trip so relaxing and fun.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

 
Letting go of insecurity and the negative beliefs
let me be FREE to enjoy and let go.  I got to me 100% me :)

I wish I could say I know I’ll never have to worry about these feelings popping up again, but the journey to accepting your body in the moment, in every moment, is lifelong.

[Note: just because you accept how your body is in this moment doesn't mean that you can't have body change goals... but it's important not to try and guilt or shame yourself into changing... that doesn't work longterm... accepting your body in the moment allows you to approach your body change goals from a place of love and gratitude for all your body is capable of instead of "ugh I hate how I look and can't wait to look different"].

So in the future, when these things come up for me, here are a few condensed steps of what I’ll do to address the insecurity.  I hope you’ll find them helpful, too. :)

1.  Be aware that you’re feeling insecure.
This is a toughie.  Calling out your emotions AND being able to connect them to underlying beliefs/feelings takes a while to start doing and is a process.  One way that I know I’m feeling insecure is that I get a tightening in my stomach/I get nauseous, I can feel my pulse quicken, and I get thoughts of “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I don’t think I can do this” or “holy crap I just want to run away” or “omg EVERYONE is looking at me and they’re probably saying ______”.  These are ways I know my emotions are probably coming from some feeling of insecurity.  I like to acknowledge this around the time it’s happening, if I catch it… but I don’t always catch it.  That’s why I like to journal – I can write out the situation and what I was feeling.

2.  Connect those feelings to thoughts/beliefs.
This is the 2nd most difficult part – figuring out what thought the emotion is connected to.  One more reason journaling is important to me because this step is really difficult in the moment.  When I’m journaling and removed from the heat of the situation, it gives me a chance to say “ooooh, this is what was running through my head but I was so caught up in the emotions that I couldn’t see my thoughts.  This is what those thoughts are.”  This step helps you separate the panic/emotions/physical reactions of insecurity from the associated thoughts.  Once you acknowledge the thoughts connected to the feelings/behaviors, you can choose to replace the crappy thoughts with better ones.

3.  Give yourself an alternative.
Jill Coleman (my mentor) asks this all the time, “What’s the alternative?”  In this situation, I could continue to dwell on how I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in yet and how everyone was probably looking at me.  OR I could choose the alternative.  The alternative would be to focus my mental energy on being grateful for the progress I’d made and that I had a body that would allow me to lounge in the sun, swim, and walk along the beach.  I could also focus my energy/thoughts on the man and how much fun we were having together.    SO basically I could continue to be miserable by continuing to think the same thoughts, or I could choose the alternative – gratitude and focusing outside myself.

4.  Expect that you’ll have to remind yourself of this again and again and again and again….
You probably know this already – old habits die hard.  You’ve probably been mentally beating yourself up for yearssssss.  I know I sure have!  Suddenly changing what you say about yourself, and getting those positive thoughts to be the first things you think, will take a while.  So don’t get discouraged when you remind yourself of all the wonderful things about your body, and then 20 min later you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window as you walk by and go “ugh”.  Take that as another chance to reinforce to yourself all the positive things you’ll choose to believe about your body.

This is what I want for you (and me) – that the next time you experience feelings of insecurity over anything, you’ll be able to call out those feelings, connect them to some negative thought or belief, and replace the garbage with some beautiful truths about yourself.  So to get you thinking about this —  Tell me in the comments below, what situations create feelings of insecurity for you?

<3, Lauren

If this resonates with you or you think someone else would glean a teensy bit of knowledge from this post, please share!  Email it, like it, tweet it, whatevs… just get the message out there that us gorgeous former athletes can choose how we talk to ourselves and what we say about ourselves and that they CAN be positive thoughts.

Inspiring Interview of the Month

What’s up everybody??  Today I bring you the newest thing at OnceAnAthlete, AlwaysAnAthlete and that is…drumroll please….  an inspiring interview!!  Yes, that’s right!  I’m out there finding other awesome people who are just as excited about fitness and health (physical, emotional, mental) as I am.  Once every month or so, I’ll interview one of these awesome people and post their answers for you awesome peeps to read.  This week is a dear friend of my, Michelle Engberg.  Read her bio then the interview THEN go check out her blog!

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Bio: Michelle has been a physical therapist for almost 2 years.  She discovered a love for writing during an internship in Niger, Africa when the team decided to keep a blog of their experiences in the desert providing physical therapy alongside missionaries in the capital city of Niamey. She has since started a blog called Everyday Blessings: Seeing God in the Big and Smalls Things so she will never forget the many blessings God provides when her heart and eyes are open to see them. Feel free to check it out at:

http://everydayblessingsbigandsmalll.blogspot.com/

1a. What sport did you play? How long did you play for and what was the highest level you played at?

I played soccer from the time I was 4 years old until a few months ago. I was blessed to play at the division 1 collegiate level, earning a partial scholarship for my education.

1b. Without betraying your age if you don’t want to - how many years ago did you play your last “career” game?

Almost 5 years ago.

2. Where are you employed now and what is it that you do there?

I work at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, MN as a pediatric physical therapist.

3. What was the most poignant lesson you learned from playing sports?

Playing sports provides ample opportunity for character development and lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. One of the most poignant lessons I learned was the importance of putting the needs of your team above the needs of yourself. I was blessed with soccer talent, but earned a scholarship more because of my work ethic than because of my natural ability.

Most of my teammates were more talented than me, and even with my hard work, come game time, they were the better choice to compete in the game. It was frustrating at times to put in a lot of work with inconsistent return for my investment, but looking back it was an important part of my athletic experience. Even if my hard work didn’t earn the playing I hoped it would, I learned about discipline and leading by example.

In life, you are often more effective and productive in whatever you are doing, when you can encourage those around you to reach their potential and realize their talents.  Sometimes this happens through verbal affirmation and a positive attitude, but it also occurs when you work hard for the people around you, for the good of the team and not for your own personal gain.

4. What does your workout routine look like now? Is this different from how you trained as a college athlete?

At this time in my life, the routine part of workout is non-existent. In college, we had workouts scheduled for us, teammates to push us and workout with us outside of practice, and a goal to work towards to motivate us.

There was more time and flexibility with my schedule.

I currently work 4 “10” hour shifts (meaning I am usually at work for 10.5-12 hours depending on the day) with a 45-60 minute commute each way (or 2 hours if there is snow).  I have an active job where I am lifting patients, imitating exercises, and constantly searching for entertaining ways to motivate the kids I work with, leaving me pretty tired at the end of the workday. I try to get in workouts on my days off but due to 5 knee surgeries over the course of my soccer career, those exercises look different than they did in college.

I do a lot of yoga, riding a bike, elliptical, or going for long walks. I recently started the 100 consecutive push-up challenge, a 7 week training program. I find I am most motivated to work-out when I have something I’m working toward.

5.  Is it even possible to sustain an “in-season training mentality” now that you’re out of the college bubble and into the real world?  It can’t be done, can it?

I find it very difficult to maintain an “in-season training mentality” in the real world. When I was in college, soccer was an all-consuming part of my life. I trained like it was my job because essentially it was. Now with a full time job plus other responsibilities, the 2-hour training sessions just aren’t realistic.

6. What did your transition from your career as a student athlete to the “real world” look like?  What challenges did you face?  How did you work through them?

Initially after graduation, I went into training for a half marathon. I thought it would be a great way to stay in shape and motivated to workout. Unfortunately, a knee surgery interrupted that plan. I worked hard to rehab my knee and fell into a routine to make sure I gained back my strength.

Once that I happened, I joined rec soccer leagues to feed my competitive drive and tried to stay active. A marathon or half marathon was no longer an option if I wanted to preserve the cartilage left in my knee, so I started walking and doing yoga and was able to fall into a workout routine. Once grad school started, there was a gym on campus so I found time after class and before taking the train home to get in a workout.

It wasn’t until I started my “real job” that the workout routine became less routine. I’ve worked through it by not beating myself up about not working out, but celebrating when I do workout (and not with a big bowl of ice cream J)

Beside the change in my workout routine, one thing that struck me about my transition from student athlete to “real world” citizen was how much my life had revolved around soccer. Much of my identity was wrapped up who I was as a soccer player and when that ended, there was a bit of shift to figure out who I really was. I started to surrender that part of my identity to God, allowed him to remind me who I actually am, and watch God show up in amazing ways.

It’s been an absolutely incredible experience. I learned that my worth goes beyond what I can contribute to my team or the pleasure I took in playing a game I love. I am a dearly loved child of God, bought at a price, and capable of so much more than what can be accomplished in a 100×60 yard space. I had a small sense of this as player but was often so focused on the task at hand to embrace it. I will always be an athlete, but that is only part of my identity. I’m enjoying the life God has given me as I continually discover new parts of my identity and take on new challenges off the field.

7. What is one thing you wished someone had told you about transitioning to life after college sports?

It would have been great to get counseling on nutrition. I think education on nutrition while competing would have been great, but more so once we were done training. Most of us ate “whatever we wanted” because we’d likely burn it off at practice. That mindset became tricky when there was no longer a practice to burn off those extra calories. Sure I could go run for 30 minutes and burn off some calories, but it didn’t compare with my in-season training regiment. Plus, this girl has a sweet tooth and I would have loved to find healthier ways to satisfy those cravings than chocolate chip cookies after every meal.

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Hope you enjoyed hearing from Michelle!  Tell me in the comments below, what did you struggle with as you transitioned out of your high school or college sport?

<3 Lauren

Eating Out? 10 Tips to Keep you on Track

Well, I am officially a resident of NYC!  It is some craaaaazy stuff, let me tell you!  I can hardly believe I’m actually here!  I’ve been in the city a few days now, and I’m still without all my household goods – the big thing for me is that I have basically no cookware except for the frying pan I bought yesterday.  They’re currently somewhere in transit between here and Michigan…  The first estimate was that I’d see them by June 24th at the latest, but I’m hoping for earlier [fingers crossed].

What to do when you can't cook My sad, lonely skillet… I also realized I have no knife to chop veggie with! Lol

Anyway, this whole being without a kitchen (and groceries) for the first few days has presented some unique challenges.  It means that I have been eating out every single day for each meal.  Not that I’m too upset about this… you see, I’m living in Hell’s Kitchen, and there are tons of amazing restaurants and bars in this area that I’m dying to explore.  However, it is going to present a challenge when it comes to my fat loss goals and not going completely broke my first week here, lol.

Challenge: If I want to at least maintain my current physique, I’m not going to be able to treat this lack of a kitchen as an excuse to eat anything I want.

Which brings up an interesting topic…

I’ve noticed something about myself– anytime I travel for work or pleasure, or am just out of my normal routine, I feel like all bets are off and I can eat absolutely anything I want AND as much of it as I want.

In thinking through this a bit, I figured out where this attitude came from.

Back in college and during tournaments for my club team, anytime we traveled we were playing a LOT of games in the course of a couple days.  For my club team, if we advanced to the finals, we’d easily play five 90 minute games in 2 days.  That’s a TON of energy expenditure, so it was important to replenish our fuel stores between games.  Processed carbs (grains like pasta, breads, granola bars, etc.) were a staple of the “replenish before the next game” diet because they give a quick burst of energy.

So I learned the habit that anytime I was away from my normal routine, I didn’t have to worry about what I ate.

It’s no one’s fault necessarily that I carried this attitude into adulthood.  I’ve just been doing what always worked for me in the past – when I’m away from home, replenish with calorie dense foods that are lower in nutrients.   However, that approach no longer works for me.  It doesn’t help me attain the physique I want.

Because I want something different, I have to start DOING something different.

 Therefore it IS my responsibility to change this behavior now that I’ve recognized it.

In trying to change a behavior, I gotta change how I think about the situation (it’s really all about your mindset).  So I look at each meal/stop for a snack as a chance to practice making better choices than I would have before.  Instead of thinking just about what will taste good (old habits), I think about what the food will actually do for my body – will it help me get results I want or keep me from results I want?

Sometimes it’s tough to know whether what you’re eating will help you get results or not.  So here are some tips that have helped me the past few days and when I’ve been on business trips.

These tips are useful anytime you’re not cooking at home – whether you’re out to dinner with friends, traveling for work, when you’re on vacation, or when you’re trying to get settled into your new place like me!

Remember – do your best in the current situation and cut yourself a little slack. :)

1.  DO drink plenty of water.

Anytime I’m out of my regular routine, I know I’m not drinking enough water.  The past few days I’ve been wandering around the city a ton and not carrying a water bottle.  Big mistake.

You need water for all sorts of crucial body functions, so don’t let this fall by the wayside.  Each time you sit for a meal or stop for a coffee, drink a huge glass of water.  This will keep your digestive system on track, help offset any increase in sodium and/or alcohol consumption, and keep pseudo-hunger away (often times when we feel hungry, we’re actually dehydrated).  So drink up!

2.  DO eat protein and fibrous veggies at each meal.

Make these the foundation of any meal you eat, and eat them first when possible. Save the starchy or processed carbs for last.  The idea is that you’ll have started to fill up on the protein/veg and won’t need to eat all the other carbs now.

If you’re getting a wrap or sandwich, be sure to pick a sandwich that comes with plenty of lean meat and veggies.  Other meal ideas – salads with lean protein, omelets with veggies, fibrous veggies or fruit for sides over baked potato/fries, eat your hamburger with extra lettuce, onions, and mushrooms on top (and tossing the bun would be even better).

3.  DO decrease portion sizes.

Often time restaurants serve massive portions of food.  As much as I WANT to eat that huge burrito all in one sitting, I probably don’t actually need to.  I can eat half and take the rest back to my hotel.  Or if I can’t take it back with me, order something smaller or order off the ala carte menu.  As much as I hate to say it, you can also leave food on the plate.  My parents taught me well to not waste food, so I hate doing this.  But sometimes it’s the only reasonable option so that I don’t leave stuffed and ready to slip into a food coma.

4.  DO be smart with the booze.

Often times my travels mean that opportunities to drink alcohol come up more frequently.  I do two things that help me out – 1) for every adult beverage I have, I drink a glass of water before I order more booze, and 2) I try to stick to either red wine or vodka/soda with lime.  They’re good options for drinks that are lower in sugar (a huge culprit especially in mixed drinks).

5.  DON’T reach for the bread basket.

Let’s be honest, at very few restaurants is the bread at the start of a meal actually worth the calories it contains.  And the resulting insulin spike is never worth it.  So ask the server when they come for your drink order to NOT bring the bread.  If others in your party want it, then tell yourself you can have some after your meal if you still really want it.  Don’t eat it mindlessly.

6.  DO pack snacks like almonds, jerky, protein bars to hold you over between meals.

To avoid the crazy hunger that almost always drives me to eat the bread from the basket at the restaurant, I like to snack on friendlier things between my meals to keep me from getting ravenously hungry by the time I make it to the restaurant.  Stuff like almonds, jerky and protein bars can be picked up at most convenience stores.  A lot of times, convenience stores also carry fruit too.  An apple is high in fiber and can keep you from going crazy on the appetizers.

7.  DO get in a workout, even if it’s a quick one.

This isn’t exactly about the food, but it’s something that helps when my eating patterns are weird.  I always feel better when I’m out of my routine if I can at least get in a 15 minute workout.  It gives my metabolism a little boost, plus I like the feeling of a good sweat even when my nutrition isn’t exactly on point (it almost feels cleansing to me… weird, I know).  I love the workouts in my 6 Week DIY exercise program.  All the workouts can be done basically anywhere, and there is no equipment needed.  Plus, they get a good sweat going!  That makes them perfect for hotel rooms/fitness centers or empty apartments.

8.  DO decide what you’ll eat before you get to the restaurant.

I know this isn’t always possible, but if you know where you’re going, check out the menu before you leave or on your way there.  Decide on the lean protein/fibrous veggies dish you’ll have before you get there so that you won’t be tempted when someone else in your party orders the fettuccine alfredo.

9.  DON’T stress over small stuff (butter on veggies, the sauce on the meat).

Seriously, the whole point of your trip is not related to your fat loss efforts, so don’t get too hung up on small things.  Your goal is to maintain where you are now, so a few little things aren’t going to wreck your progress.  They put the dressing on your salad instead of on the side?  It’s ok!  Eat and enjoy!  The tacos you ordered came with 2 corn tortillas each instead of one and you ate them anyway?  Oh well, it’s really ok!  <– I did that 2 nights ago… Make sure you don’t stress over the small stuff.  You’ll be back to normal soon.

Tips for Eating OutThis was my lunch today – a stuffed chicken breast (breaded) and veggie stew.  I didn’t let the breading on the chicken bother me; instead I focused on how much protein I was getting in and that the veggies were delish!

10.  DO watch out for “dangerous” food combos.

Whenever you’re eating out, there are a couple food combinations you should try to avoid because they’re a hormonal and therefore fat loss nightmare.  Combining fat and starchy/processed carbs is a no-no (sadly fried foods fall in this category).  Also, combining booze and carbs is the kiss of death.  When you’re metabolizing booze you can’t burn fat, so either have the starch and forget the booze or drink the booze and forget the starch.

There ya have em – my tips for eating when you’re traveling, out to eat, or just generally out of your routine.  Any of you have a chance to use these soon?  Let me know what your favorite one is!  I plan to enforce smaller portion size, protein and veg at each meal, and no starch/fat at the same meal today!

<3 Lauren

A Short Break… But I’ll be Back Soon!

Whew!  It is hard to believe that my move is almost here!  I’m putting the finishing touches on projects, drastically simplifying my life, and getting ready to move next week!  Eek!

I even sold my car since I won’t be needing one living in NYC!  That was SUPER weird to me, because I’ve had a car since I had a driver’s license.  It’s definitely an odd feeling being officially without wheels (even though I have a rental until I leave).

Anyway, with all I have left to do over the next week or so, it’s going to be pretty tough to be 100% sure I get a post up next week.

I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten you, so I wanted you to know ahead of time that you may not hear from me until mid-June.  I’m hoping to have an interview with another former student athlete ready for you by June 12th.  Then by the following week, I should be back at it.

Please try not to cry…  Seriously, keep it together… If you start crying, I’ll start crying and then we’ll both be one big crying mess. 

Plus, I tend to cry more when I’m stressed anyway so it won’t take much for the waterworks to start…

Going a week or two without a post from me is going to be EXTREMELY difficult to handle, I know ;)   So, to help distract you from the pain of disconnection, I’m providing you with some fantastic blogs and websites full of generally awesome stuff to go check out.

I know a few of these folks personally, and I can vouch that 1- they’re legit and 2- their stuff is awesome.  Some have been blogging longing than others, but they’re ALL worth checking out!

Enjoy!  I’ll be back soon, y’all!

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FUN and AWESOME places to go.  You can find most of these peeps/groups on FB and Twitter, too, so be sure to Like and/or Follow them!

Jill Coleman (my mentor – seriously awesome stuff – she’s all about fitness and getting in the right frame of mind when it comes to deal with your body and life in general)
Blog:  www.jillfit.com

Metabolic Effect (have you noticed I love their stuff!?  LOL)
Website and blog:  www.metaboliceffect.com

Neghar Fonooni (she’s good friends with Jill, lifts heavy and does yoga – I am jealous of her strong legs, btw)
Blog:  www.negharfonooni.com

Jen Sickler (another friend of Jill’s and awesome gal!)
Website:  www.jensinkler.com

Cut the Fat Podcast (they have great podcasts and a blog, too!)
Website: cutthefatpodcast.com

The Smarter Science of Slim (all sorts of good info via blogs, podcasts, etc.)
Website: thesmarterscienceofslim.com

The Sweaty Betties
Website: www.thesweatybetties.com

LifeHacker (all sorts of random info – love it)
Website:  www.lifehacker.com

Brain Pickings (more random info that’s gear more towards art, literature, etc.)
Website:  www.brainpickings.org

Ink Young (she has all sorts of info on raising healthy kids)
Website:  www.healthygrowingkids.com

Robb Wolf
Website:  www.robbwolf.com

Susan Cain (she wrote the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” and I loved it!  Give it a read if you are an introvert or know one… it’ll give you massive insights into introverts)
Website:  ThePowerOfIntroverts.com

Recipe of the Month: Happy Summer Salad

Oh man, I’m SO excited!  Memorial Day is finally here, which means we are on the cusp of a 3 day weekend!  Yayayayay!

For a lot of people this 3 day weekend means they will be cooking out, and this can present all sorts of challenges for folks trying to eat for fat loss.  There’s always so much tasty food at cookouts, and no one wants to feel deprived by not eating anything while you’re there.

I know my FAVORITE part of cook-outs are the hot dogs… and potato chips… OH and the beer!

One of my strategies for NOT stuffing my face with hot dogs, chips and beer till I’m full (which is what I really want to do) is to bring something that I know I can eat tons of.  Then I can have plenty of that and piece on the other stuff.

My mentor Jill Coleman (@jillfit – go follow her on Twitter cause she shares tons of good info!) likes to talk about playing “dessert defense” where she brings a fat loss friendly (and tasty) dessert to parties.  I think the principle can be applied to any food, and it works for me so I use it  :)

Today I give you a modified version of a favorite salad from my childhood.  I’m calling it a Happy Summer Salad because, well, my mom usually made it in the summer!  And it tastes good.  And makes my belly happy.  Therefore, Happy Summer Salad.

It makes 8-10 servings, if your portions are on the small side.  If you have dairy issues, use almond cheese (I personally like the Daiya brand) instead of the mozzarella.

Also, this recipe is for a salad as a side dish.  If you want to make it into a main dish, dice 3 cooked chicken breasts, increase the coconut milk to a full can, and now it’s a main dish!

Make it and enjoy!  Then let me know if/how you tweak it :)

Recipe for a Happy Summer Salad

Happy Summer Salad

-1 head cauliflower, grated with biggest holes on box grater
-1 large broccoli crown, diced (you want about a 50/50 mix of broccoli and cauliflower, so you may need a 2nd broccoli crown)
-1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
-1 cup mozzarella cheese or 1 cup Daiya almond cheese mozzarella flavor if you’re watching dairy
-3/4 of a 16oz can light coconut milk
-packet of Hidden Valley ranch dressing seasoning mix

Add the light coconut milk (start with 3/4 of the can) to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the entire packet of ranch seasoning.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

The mix should seem “damp” – I’m not using the word “moist” cause I know it freaks some people out… but oops, just said it :D .

Serve immediately, but it’s best if you stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors really seep into the veggies :)

Happy Memorial Day!  And don’t forget to thank the men and women who serve our country – the reason for this season ;)

Remember, let me know how you like the Happy Summer Salad!
<3, Lauren

10 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies

I have never been one to like vegetables, especially when I was growing up.  And my mom was always great about making some sort of vegetable with dinner.

Unfortunately for me (or so I thought at the time), mom and dad were also great about not letting me leave the table until I ate a pre-determined amount of the particular veggies served at dinner that day.

I distinctly remember one time sitting at the table for what felt like 3 hours after everyone else had finished their food because I did not want to eat the potatoes and carrots in the stew mom had made.  But as they should have… my parents won that battle, and I ate the veggies.

On that occasion and on several others too…lol 

For years, the only vegetables I really liked were corn – but not on the cob cause it got stuck in my teeth/braces – and sautéed peppers and onions.  If you want to count it as a vegetable, I liked Prego tomato sauce a lot too.

And FYI, Prego is soooo much better than Ragu!!  But I digress…

There were only a few veggies I liked and were willing to eat.  The list of veggies I didn’t like was even longer.

One veggie in particular that I hated with a passion was cooked broccoli.  I could do raw broccoli if dipped in Ranch dressing, but steamed was awful.  Still is.  I share Newman’s feelings on the subject (you know, the postman from Seinfeld)…

Hahaha!  ”Vile weed!”  SO true!

So yeah, vegetables and I don’t have the greatest history, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to recognize their health benefits.  Also, the fact that they help keep me feeling full between meals, keep my HEC (Hunger, Energy, and Cravings) in check, and that I can eat large quantities without consuming tons of calories have encouraged me to eat them more often.

So because I love ya and want you to live a long healthy life, I’m gonna share with you what this vegetable hating gal has done to increase her vegetable consumption.

1.  Don’t assume that what you hated as a kid you will still hate now.
I hated sweet potatoes growing up.  It was only 3 years ago at Thanksgiving that I finally tried them again and WHOA!! Delicious!!  My favorite way to cook them now is to peel, cut into wedges, season with cumin and plenty of chili powder and bake till crispy.  Mmm mmm!  Earthy, spicy, sweet potato-y, french fry goodness!

2.  Be willing to try new veggies.
I tried brussel sprouts for the first time ever last fall at this restaurant in downtown Detroit called Roast.  Word on the street was they had these KILLER brussel sprouts that even haters would love.  So I had to try em and ended up loving them!  Moral of the story?  Restaurants use tasty recipes that may open you up to other veggies you might not like otherwise.  You can recreate them at home and modify if they aren’t quite fat loss friendly.

3.  Eat vegetables at every meal – including breakfast!
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  And while most people wouldn’t think it, breakfast is also a great time to get in some veggies.  I find that when I incorporate plenty of vegetables into my first meal, I stay fuller longer than when I don’t.

There are a few ways to get them into breakfast.  You can make up a veggie egg white omelet – stuff it full of onions, mushrooms, peppers, and spinach.

Another idea is to blend up 1-2 handfuls of spinach or chard into your protein pancake batter or your protein shake.  I PROMISE you – the greens only change the color, not the taste.  Honestly, this is one of the best ways to get more veggies in cause you don’t taste them and you don’t have to chew them either.  <– Yes, I have a lazy jaw sometimes, lol  :P

4.  Ease your way into eating fat loss friendly versions of veggies.
So you’re a huge fan of peas slathered with butter and salt but you can’t do just plain peas yet?  That’s ok.  Each time you make them, slowly decrease the amount of butter and salt you use.  Also, invest in Mrs. Dash seasonings.  They’re fantastically delicious and salt free.

5.  Substitute veggies for other refined carbs in your diet.
This can help you not only get more veggies but decrease your refined carb intake.  One of my FAVORITE substitutions is to use spaghetti squash in place of regular spaghetti noodles.  Also, I love my snacks and dips, so I slice cucumbers nice and thick and use them as “crackers”.

6.  Use them as convenient, on-the-go snacks.
Chop a bunch of raw veggies for the week or buy containers of pre-chopped vegetables and bring a bag with you to work each day.   Some great options are celery, carrots, baby tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers and thick sliced mushrooms.

7.  Try paleo versions of foods you love since they often substitute vegetables for grains.
The internet is FULL of great ideas for paleo-izing your favorite recipes, so take advantage of it!  A couple of things I’ve tried?

Using zucchini slices as “noodles” in a lasagna (I also used an almond mozzarella cheese so it really was paleo and it was SO good).

My favorite paleo-ized recipe I’ve tried so far though was a cauliflower hummus, and it was the perfect dip for all my raw veggies!  You can get the tasty recipe from Paleo Plan here, and this is what it looked like when I made it…  YUM!

 10 Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies

8.  Make pureed vegetable soups.
This is a great way to mix it up a little.  Last time I did this, cauliflower was my vegetable of choice but lots of other veggies can work.  Get creative!

Start out by seasoning and roasting some chopped cauliflower (a tiny bit of salt, pepper and cumin).  When it’s about done, saute some onion in olive oil until translucent, add no sodium chicken stock and the cauliflower.  Blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth.  Season with s&p to taste and cook over medium until heated through.  Easy peasy.

9.  Keep fresh and frozen vegetables in your house.
When you have plenty of options in your fridge and freezer, it makes it much more likely that you’ll actually cook them.  If you have everything else for a meal except the veg, then you’re probably not going to run to the grocery store to pick some up.  I know I sure wouldn’t!!

10.  If at first you hate it, try try again.
Translation: try a vegetable more than once.
Just because you don’t like a vegetable raw doesn’t mean you won’t like it cooked.  Plus, it helps if you cook them different ways and give other recipes a chance to win you over.

Steamed broccoli is still a “vile weed” to me.  But if I coat broccoli in a little olive oil, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper, just a smidge of parmesan cheese then roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 min?  Oh it becomes divine…

 

So there you have them!  Ten ways this veggie hater learned to eat, like, and eventually love [certain] vegetables!

Let me know in the comments below what veggies you love to eat!

<3, Lauren