Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness Lovers

My Favorite Health & Fitness Products

Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness LoversLooking for new ideas to elevate your wellness or shopping for a gift for a health enthusiast? I thought it would be fun to share my favorite health and fitness products on the market today!

Exercise:

The Sling Band: I’ve used several exercise bands throughout the years, but this one is the king of them all. It’s great to pack in your suitcase for travel too. Since it’s thick material, it doesn’t snap like the rubber bands and it adds way more intensity! My favorite exercises: squats, glute bridges, knee-banded hip thrusts, lateral band walks & band hip abduction.

Squat Sponge: The pads at the gym just don’t cut it for hip thrusts. This pad is thick and allows perfect cushion when performing hip thrusts or weighted glute bridges for your body.

Jaybird Wireless Headphones: I own Jaybird headphones, but any wireless headphones is an upgrade from your standard pair, especially if you are doing a strength training workout. I definitely don’t miss my arm band to hold my iPod. They also work great for interval training, running, rowing and more!

Lululemon Align Pants: I’m obsessed with these pants and I own them in 5+ colors. The fabric is great and they are the most comfortable pants I’ve found. They don’t get the best reviews online due to some piling issues, but I haven’t found it to be a problem.

Lululemon Yoga Mat: I’ve owned a few yoga mats in the past, but this one from Lululemon is my favorite. I’ve had mine for years and it still looks brand new.

Fitbit: I received an upgraded band about six months ago and I find it to be much more stylish than the other products. My Fitbit gets me up out of my chair every hour at work, creates that mental awareness of how much I’m moving and gives me a daily goal to hit my steps. I’ve found I still want to get them in, even if it’s late at night.

A Go-to Water Bottle: While I used to love my Starbucks water bottle with a straw, I’ve found I prefer one that doesn’t have a straw. It makes it much easier to travel with and doesn’t accidentally spill. I created a habit to fill my water bottle right when I get up and focus on drinking 4 bottles a day. This link has reviews on the best from 2017.

Fitness Journal – I’ve talked here or here why you should track your strength workouts. While I don’t own this journal, it would fit all my needs!

Look for discounts: Look for discounts at your favorite workout studio. For the holidays, my yoga studio discounted their 10 class punch card by $40. I treated myself early by stocking up on classes.

My Favorite Food/Products:

Balsamic Vinegar: I’ve said this before, but I will never buy cheap balsamic vinegar again. The taste with this one from Williams-Sonoma is by far worth the price, plus it lasts for months since I mainly use it on salads. This can fit in a stocking stuffer or act as a great gift!

John Boos Cutting Board: So, this isn’t food, but it certainly has helped me with all my food prep in the kitchen! This sits on my counter 24/7 and has been so convenient for chopping vegetables.

Fourth & Heart Ghee: I started using this brand a few months ago and love it. I use it to saute zucchini noodles, onion/garlic and cook plantains. Other people use it with everything they cook! It’s a great alternative to those individuals who don’t tolerate dairy products well or are looking for a dairy-free option.

Rx bar: I only eat these in emergency situations or if I’m out hiking. I find they can trigger sugar cravings if I eat them too often, so when I do, it’s a nice treat. It could be a great stocking stuffer too. Since they are made with whole foods, they can be a sticky in texture. I still enjoy them and have found them at most grocery stores.

Fran’s Salted Caramels: The best caramels I have ever eaten and they are right here in Seattle! I always give these as holiday gifts to my family members who love them. They are not cheap, but eating just one is satisfying.

Health/Travel:

Favorite Books: I’ve written a blog about my top books here. I’ll add a few others below.

Tiny, beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed – This advice column book is easy to pick up and read a few pages at a time, but most of all, it’s so inspiring to read her feedback on every unique story. It’s helped me find the positive in any negative situation.

Annual National Park Pass – This is a great gift for your outdoor lover, especially if some National Parks plan to increase their entry fees in 2018.

Strong Curves – For a new way of training, I bought this book at the end of last year and completed the 3 month program. It’s great. I’ve continued this style of training for the entire year. Be sure to ask for a squat sponge too 🙂

Passport Holder– I love this for traveling. It acts as my wallet when I’m on the road with the credit card sleeves.

Need other health ideas? try gift cards to Whole Foods, other health food stores, favorite restaurant or the spa! Many restaurants give bonuses this time of year with a gift card purchase.

How I Know It’s Time for a Diet Reset & Ideas for What to Eat

I did a Whole30 in January of this year. I recap my experience here. Since then, I have felt pretty good! In Melissa Hartwig’s new book, Food Freedom Forever, she states that everyone will eventually fall off track. It happens to everyone whether you are dealing with stress, the holiday season, post vacation blues, etc. I didn’t really notice myself “falling off track” until recently returning home from my 16 days in Europe. I practiced what I preach while I was on vacation by splitting meals, getting in my veggies, packing workout gear and more. Read my tools and tricks here.

When I returned home, I got back to cooking my go-to food in the kitchen and doubling my water, but I still struggling with sugar cravings. I found myself needing a sweet treat daily. This didn’t surprise me because I was enjoying a sweet treat daily in Europe. Cravings will sky rocket when you are doing this (and I knew this) so I accepted the consequences and enjoyed every bite of what I was eating on my trip.

After finding myself caving into cravings for one week post Europe, I knew it was time for a hard reset to feel back to normal again.

Nothing does the trick better than completing a Whole30. While I intended to start on Tuesday, September 5th, I ended up starting on Wednesday, September 6th. A week has passed and I’m already starting to feel like my normal self! I’d thought I’d share what’s working for me and what I’m cookin’!

My Whole30 Keys to Success

1.) Always cook enough for leftovers. 

As you will see in my example meals from my first full week of my September Whole30, I always make enough for at least one leftover meal. I cook for two so each meal makes at least four servings. Leftovers don’t always have to be for lunch or dinner. I’ve used them for breakfast too! If you cook for one, think of meals that freeze really well so when the times come when you don’t want to cook, you have a single serving meal ready to thaw from the freezer. Leftovers also help decrease the amount of time you have to cook throughout the week.

2.) Find new fun projects or things to do. 

While my weekends are filled with different activities or commitments, I always enjoy going out to a favorite restaurant on Saturday. It’s something I look forward to. Therefore, I knew for my Whole30 this month I would need new things to look forward to. To replace going out for a meal or drinks, I’ve planned a hiking trip & I started working on putting together my vacation photo albums. So far it’s been a great replacement.

3.) Seek out new recipes.

The Whole30recipes page on Instagram is my favorite resource for new recipes. Each week they bring on a new food blogger to share their favorite ideas & tricks for doing a Whole30. Like I have mentioned before, sometimes your go-to recipes get old so it’s key to introduce new recipes when you are getting bored.

4.) Don’t forget it’s okay to stick with the basics. 

If I tried to cook a new, fancy meal every night, I would burn out quickly. So, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to eat a can of tuna fish or just grill up a chicken breast for a meal. Have some go-to staples ready in your pantry or refrigerator for those nights when you really don’t want to cook. You’ll see some meals that easily fall into the “basic meal” category below.

Example Meals & Recipe Links

I usually eat 4 meals a day. One meal is usually a snack that consists of whatever I have available. A lot of the time I use deli turkey, veggies, fruit, nuts or nut butter. Here is a week worth of meal ideas!

Wednesday, September 6th 

  1. Breakfast: Chicken Skillet (spinach, ground chicken, bell pepper, onions) + a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Roasted Chicken thighs with Brussels Sprouts & Roasted Sweet Potato
  3. Dinner: Turkey chili with a side salad

Thursday, September 7th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 Chicken thigh + 1 fried egg + 2 cups spinach and a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Leftover Turkey Chili with a side salad
  3. Dinner: Salmon Cakes (From the Whole30 cookbook) with a side salad

Friday, September 8th 

  1. Breakfast: 1.5 Salmon cakes + 2 cups romaine + a side of berries
  2. Leftover Chili with 1/2 salmon cake on the side + 2 deli turkey slices (eating up what’s left in the fridge!)
  3. Picadillo with a side salad. For this recipe, click here! I don’t make them as tacos, but just as a meat sauce.

Saturday, September 9th 

  1. Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 2 cups spinach + a side of roasted red potatoes (spinach not pictured – I eat it out of the box sometimes!)
  2. Lunch: Leftover Picadillo + a side salad
  3. Dinner: Whole Foods Hot Bar. This is great for a Whole30 because they list all of the ingredients used for each hot bar entree. I picked the pork carnitas, butternut squash, two strawberries and a salad

Sunday, September 10th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 fried egg, ground chicken, leftover bacon & roasted red potatoes + a side of spinach
  2. Lunch: 2 sausages, asparagus, berry salad
  3. Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, roasted sweet potato & steamed broccoli

Monday, September 11th 

  1. Breakfast: ground chicken, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green wrap with tuna fish & homemade mayo + a side of roasted sweet potato (not shown)
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Vegetable soup

Tuesday, September 12th 

  1. Breakfast: leftover ground chicken + 1 fried egg, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green deli turkey wrap with homemade mayo + roasted butternut squash + 1/2 apple
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Sweet potato curry. For the recipe, click here! This was my one new recipe for the week, but my husband and I loved it! It will make the monthly go-to rotation in our kitchen. I followed the slow cooker instructions.

What to Pack for Food for Your Day Hikes or Camping Trips

I haven’t made the time to get in the amount of hiking or camping I normally like to do this year. Last weekend was my first hike for the summer season and it couldn’t have been a better day at Mount Rainier National Park. Since the hike we chose was a big one (4,600 elevation gain, 8+ miles round trip), I knew I needed to bring enough food for several hours of exercise. Now, the old me used to bring a lot of convenient options. But, after doing the Whole30 earlier this year, I’ve actually eliminated those old go-to choices like Quest bars, Think thin bars, etc. So, I had to brainstorm what other whole food convenient choices I could bring.

Note: this will require a little bit of food prep, but it doesn’t take long and it makes plenty of servings to freeze for later or share with a friend/family member. I packed a small cooler that easily fit in my backpack for the hike. 

1.) Salmon Cakes & Egg Muffins

It’s too easy to just buy a bunch of protein bars for hikes so you can keep your protein intake up for the day. But, I wanted to find a more whole food option. I use the “No fuss” salmon cake recipe from the Whole30 book. For a person who doesn’t love fish, this recipe is fantastic. They freeze well and are actually really good cold. It’s how I always eat them for leftovers. Egg muffins are actually good cold too. I usually throw together a recipe with whatever I have in my refrigerator. This time I used spinach, bell pepper and chicken sausage. Grease your muffin pan (I used ghee) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Make sure they are cooked all the way through. Grilled chicken could also work for camping trips or hikes, since that can be good at a cold temperature.

2.) Roast Sweet Potatoes

If you don’t mind eating a sweet potato cold, this is a great source of energy for your hike! I packed half of a sweet potato with 2 egg muffins for a pre-hike meal and stayed energized for 3 hours.

3.) Nuts & dried fruit 

Another easy thing to throw in a ziploc bag. Measure out a serving because it’s easy to overeat if you are just eating from the big bag it comes in. If buying dried fruit, read your ingredient list and make sure it doesn’t have added sugar. For a great dried fruit bar try That’s It.

4.) Bananas and Apples 

Any piece of fruit works, but these are my favorite & they don’t require any chopping. I had a banana with two salmon cakes at the top of my hike for lunch and saved my apple in my car for when I returned from my hike.

5.) Chopped Veggies

Fruit will always be more convenient to pack because it doesn’t really require any pre-chopping. But, I feel vegetables are almost the most important thing to put in your body! Choose vegetables that won’t get soggy easy. I like bell peppers, carrot sticks or celery. Throw them in a ziploc bag and place in your small cooler.

6.) Rx bars or Epic Bars

When it came to replacing my normal protein bars, I needed to find something that didn’t have any junk in it and I actually could read every single ingredient on the nutrition fact label. Rx bars & epic bars have minimal ingredients, a good source of protein, and can be found at many grocery stores or health food stores. The Rx Apple cinnamon is my favorite! Lara bars are also a good source of energy for hiking with good ingredients for a bar, but it lacks protein.

 

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the Wagon

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the Wagon

Four Ways to Prevent Falling Off the WagonBeing accountable to staying on track with proper nutrition habits and consistent exercise can be challenging. If you don’t have a deep reason why you want to stay on track to begin with, it’s even more difficult! It’s so easy to indulge in food temptations at work, choose takeout over cooking at home or skip a workout. It can happen to anyone. If you are finding yourself struggling to stay accountable, try any of these following suggestions:

1.) Weigh Yourself Once a Week

I started tracking my weight weekly at the beginning of 2016. While I don’t let the scale dictate my entire success, it does help me learn how my eating habits and exercise program affect my weight. Plus, it acts as a tool to see if I am seeing the results I want. While tracking your body weight is good, I highly suggest taking measurements of your waist, hips and thighs too. This is an extra tool to use to see if your body is changing even if your weight isn’t budging.

I weigh myself on the same day every week (usually Friday or Saturday morning on an empty stomach). I keep a monthly calendar and simply write down the number every week. This way, I can see a trend if I’m maintaining, losing or gaining weight. If my weight and measurements are down, I know I’m doing something right. If my weight is the same, but measurements are down, I’m still doing something right. If both numbers are up, I know I need to make adjustments with my nutrition or exercise.

Note: if your weight slightly goes up, but your measurements/body fat stays the same, there is no need to worry. There are a few factors why your weight slightly increases but your body fat stays the same like retaining water from too many carbs or salt the day before, completing a hard strength workout the day before, elevated stress or lacking sleep the night before. 

2.) Invest in a Tracking Device 

I’ve talked about this before, but I LOVE my Fitbit. It’s helped me stay consistent with getting in 10,000-12,000+ steps a day. Overall, I just move more than I normally did. I also use the Fitbit app to track my weight/body fat so I can scroll through the months to notice any trends. The sleep app is a nice perk too.

3.) Keep a Journal 

Keeping an exercise or food journal is crucial so you can understand if what you are doing is actually working. If you’re looking to get stronger through your strength program, stick with the same program for four weeks in a row and log your reps/weight after every workout. After four weeks, switch up your routine. After completing your four week program, look over it to see if your weight or repetitions improved over the course of the month. By tracking your workouts, you will easily pinpoint progress. This is the same if you are seeking weight/fat loss. Is your current program giving you results? If you don’t track, you don’t know.

Action Steps: Invest in a notebook and start logging your workouts. You can do this for endurance goals too such as improving your sprint time, 1 mile run time, or simply increasing your intensity/duration for something specific.

Many people also find logging their food in an app or journal helpful for staying accountable. It works! While I find it a bit tedious, it does have many benefits like preventing you from indulging (you have to write it down!) or simply eating less.

Action Steps: download MyFitnessPal or any other food app or get a notebook and write it down. If writing down everything seems overwhelming, start with a few items like how often you are eating out, indulging in sweets/alcohol/calorie dense foods OR positive changes like how much water you’re drinking or tracking vegetable intake.

4.) If You’re Finding The First Three Are Not Working, Hire a Coach 

The first three suggestions will not work for everyone and that’s okay. If you have tried the first three suggestions on your own but are struggling to see success or stay on track, you may want to consider hiring a coach to help you. I suggest searching for a good trainer or nutritionists in your area. Online coaching is becoming popular as well. Feel free to reach out to me directly at info@jenniferwyss.com for guidance.

How to design your own strength program

How I Design My Strength Training Workouts

How to design your own strength programStrength training can be challenging for many people, especially those who are new to exercise. If you have a gym membership, how easy is it to just jump on a treadmill? The weight room can be very intimidating too, especially when you’re around others who are fit or men who are muscular. Surprisingly enough, I am starting to see more and more women in the weight room. Last week when I was doing a strength workout, all four squat racks were being used by women. It was awesome!

My Top Five Reasons to Strength Train

  • More Mental Energy. My favorite days of the week are my strength training days. Lifting weights clears my mind the best out of all the exercise I do.
  • It Changes Your Shape. Nothing changes your shape better than lifting weights. Cardio will help decrease the number on the scale, but if you just focus on cardio, you have a good chance at losing muscle mass.
  • It Increases Your Metabolism. It’s simple, more muscle = more metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, therefore helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
  • It Increases Your Self-Confidence. I lift weights for many reasons, but a big reason is feeling strong and confident. I can carry all my groceries in with one trip. I don’t hesitate trying new things. Most of all, I feel like I have the strength to protect myself or others in any situation.
  • Your Clothes Fit Better. Have you ever noticed that your weight hasn’t changed, but your clothes fit much better? This happens because you have you have lost body fat, not necessarily body weight. Muscle simply takes up less space.

How many days should I strength train? 2-3 times a week.

To truly see your body change it’s shape, you need to strength train at least two days a week. Your workout should target your entire body instead of just focusing on leg exercises or arm exercises. Ideally, 3 days a week can give you the best results.

How I design a program:

1.) Dynamic Warm Up (5 minutes)

2.) Core Exercises (5 minutes)

3.) Total Body Strength Exercises (30-60 minutes)

4.) Finisher (5-15 minutes)

1.) Dynamic Warm Up: Can you warm up by lightly moving on an elliptical or walking on a treadmill? Sure. But, that doesn’t necessarily prepare your body for a strength training workout. You should focus on all areas of your body: ankle mobility, hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility, shoulder mobility, as well as stability exercises to truly prepare your body for lifting weights. Your warm up is also a great indicator of how your body is feeling. If something isn’t feeling right in your warm up, it might be a sign you shouldn’t do a specific exercise that day. Read here for a basic warm up. 

2.) Core Exercises: I pick 1-2 core exercises to start my strength routine. Complete at least 2 sets of each exercise. For ideas, click here. 

3.) Strength Exercises: Now, on to the best part of your workout! This is where you can truly see your body change. Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your program:

  • Choose a weight that you can do with good form, but challenges you. If something is easy, most likely your body won’t change. However, if you are just beginning a strength training program for the first time in years, pick up a weight that feels comfortable and make sure you are doing the exercise correctly before trying to challenge yourself.
  • Do you feel the exercise in the right place? When coaching clients, it’s easy for them to add weight to an exercise. But, if they aren’t feeling it in the right spot, it could be pointless. For example, if you are doing a lat pulldown but feel it all in your arms, you aren’t working the main muscle, your back. Most likely your weight is too heavy. Be sure to listen to your body movements and make sure you are feeling it in the right place.
  • Choose compound exercises over isolating exercises if you can only make it to the gym three or less times a week. EX: do a squat to work your legs vs. a leg extension machine. You’ll work more muscles and stabilize your core.
  • Add isolating exercises at the end of your workout if you have more time.

Each strength exercise is constructed on five main movement patterns: push, pull, squat/lunge, hinge and single leg exercises to work on your stability. This is a simple approach to creating a total body workout. Push and pull exercises have two movements: vertical or horizontal. For example, a push up or bench press is a horizontal push where a vertical push is an overhead press. You can choose one movement or both when designing a program.

Choose 1-2 strength exercises in each category:

Push: bench press, push ups, overhead press, dumbbell bench press, incline press, landmine press.

Pull: pull ups, cable rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, lat pulldowns, body weight inverted rows (using a TRX)

Squat/Lunge: back squats, split squats, elevated split squats, front squats, walking lunges, reverse lunges

Hinge: hip thrust, barbell glute bridge, deadlift variations, cable pull through, good morning

Intermediate-Advanced Exercises add a Single Leg Movement: Step ups, single leg deadlift, single leg glute bridge, single leg squat

4.) Finisher: If your schedule only allows you to exercise 2-3 times a week, I’d suggest doing a 5-15 minute interval workout at the end of your strength workout. Not only will you get the benefits of the higher intensity exercise, but it will help create more of a metabolic afterburn so your metabolism is elevated several hours after your workout. If you can exercise 4-5 times a week, you can complete an interval workout on a non-strength training day and complete a few isolating exercises for a finisher. For the past few months, I have been focusing on glute finishers where I’ll do several isolating glute exercises to finish my workout with a band.

Looking to start strength training? Try a basic workout here!

Dynamic Warm Up

Core Exercises

Strength Exercises

  1. Hip Thrust – 3 sets of 20 reps
  2. Dumbbell Single Arm Row – 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Squat – 3 sets of 10 reps
  4. Push Ups – 3 sets of 10 reps
  5. Step up – 3 sets of 10 reps

Finisher: 8 rounds of rowing (30 seconds work/30 seconds rest)

Popular personal development books

Six Books That Have Changed My Life – Better Health & Relationships

I have been drawn to personal development books for the last five years. As a matter of fact, until recently, it’s all I read! Out of all the books, I wanted to share six books that have ultimately changed my life for the better.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Stick to a budgetThis book has completely changed my life as far as my relationship with money. While I always valued saving money every month for a rainy day, I often would spend mindlessly. I wasn’t very aware of prices at the grocery store, constantly dined out and I spent money at Nordstrom every single month…just because. After reading this book, I realized I never really knew where my money. How much was I spending on groceries, dining out, the mall or putting into my savings account? I also realized I wanted to start traveling more, but how could I afford it? Read how I transformed my budget to start traveling more here.

I read this book in 2011 and ever since then, I have made time to create a monthly budget every single month. In my monthly planner, I write down how much money I want to save in my savings account and travel savings account, as well as calculating how much money goes towards groceries, paying bills, gas, restaurants/shopping & misc. spending like toilet paper, dog food or unexpected expenses. I know where every penny goes every month. I’m not perfect with my budget and I don’t follow all of Dave’s tips. He’s a firm believer in an envelope cash system. I use my credit card for everything since it’s a cash rewards card, but I make sure I pay it off every month. Since I have unlimited bank transfers, I track my expenses as they come in and simply transfer money to my credit card from my checking account as if my credit card was a debit card. If you are wanting to learn how to be on top of your finances every month, read this fantastic book.

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The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

This book has changed my relationship with my husband and loved ones. It’s so intriguing how the author breaks down the five ways individuals receive/”feel” love. My love language: acts of services. I love it when my husband cooks dinner, washes my car or helps around the house. This is where I feel love the most. My husband’s love language: quality time. He loves it when I give him my undivided attention. We used to get in small arguments because I have a bad habit of playing on my cell phone or computer. I actually used to get mad at him because he would get mad at me. I always thought, “what’s the big deal about being on my cell phone?” After reading this book, I understood the deep meaning behind his frustration…he just want to spend quality time together! Now I make a conscious effort to speak his love language every week.

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The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

how to break bad habitsThis book has helped me in many ways in life but mostly my relationship with food. You’l learn how a habit starts, turns to autopilot then how to break the bad habit. The author explains it’s all about identifying your habit loop (cue-routine-reward). Your cue & reward will never change, but it’s your routine that needs to change in order for you to change your behavior.

What causes my food cravings? I learned a few things that pinpointed why I get cravings for sugar or comfort food by identifying the cue, my routine and reward. What’s my cue? The two most common things: what’s my mood & who am I with? Most of my young adult life, I always searched in my parents’ pantry for junk food when I was bored. I also usually consumed junk food with my family. It’s something we have always bonded over…and still do. What’s my reward? My reward was usually the desire of doing something fun together (good food = good time) or if I was eating out of boredom, I was looking for a distraction. Find a new routine – I had to ask myself what other things could I do when I’m bored that doesn’t involve eating & what other things are fun that don’t involve food with my family? I learned we could save our favorite foods for special occasions.

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Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig

I’ve blogged about my Whole30 experience here. But, what happens after you complete a Whole30? How can you introduce your favorite comfort foods back into your life without them causing negative side effects or worse, feeling out of control with your eating? Melissa creates a guide for success. What I enjoyed most about this book is it teaches you how to identify when you are starting to slip back into old habits. This will happen to anyone. She provides the four most common ways people fall off track with their healthy eating, but offers great tools to get back on track. When I completed the Whole30 in January, I felt great for three solid months. I didn’t have any strong urges for sweets, but enjoyed something when I really wanted it. It wasn’t until after my trip to NYC (aka dessert paradise) where I noticed I had moments when I was eating food that really wasn’t worth it. Sure, the food choices tasted good, but they truly fell into the average category instead of the “wow” category. Plus, the more I continued to put these things in my body, the harder it was to control my cravings. Once I noticed my cravings were really starting to elevate, I knew it was time to do a Whole30 reset to get back into check.

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The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

how to improve your willpowerThis was one of the first personal development books I read and it still is one of my favorites. A Stanford professor, Kelly McGonigal, provides the science behind willpower, the mental traps most of us struggle with and other factors that relate to our self-control. Best of all, she gives practical steps on how to become more mindful of your actions & how to strengthen your willpower for lifelong changes. Each chapter has a recap of action steps. This book doesn’t just focus on weight loss or better health, but hits all aspects of life.

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The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

As it states on the back of the book, the author “reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us joy and create needless suffering.” He explains the four agreements: don’t take things personally, be impeccable with your word, don’t make assumptions and always do your best. It’s true, when you follow these agreements, you simply feel happier. I related to all four agreements. What happens if I don’t make assumptions about a relationship? What if I told myself I did my best? What happens when I don’t take things personally? This book was an eye opener and has really helped me transform my thoughts about myself, my relationships with friends & family, my work environment and even being around strangers.

Bath, England

How to indulge yet stay healthy while traveling

How to Indulge, Yet Stay Healthy While Traveling

Note: If you travel often for work and simply want strategies to eat healthy on the road, read here. If you are like me and want to enjoy some great food on vacation, but not feel like you’ve put your healthy habits on the back burner, continue reading. 

How to Stay Healthy Traveling, While Still Indulging I work to travel. Period. When I travel, I actually seek out the best restaurants and bakeries! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten whatever I want for an entire vacation and then wanted to continue to indulge once I’ve got back home into my routine. “Lets just go get pizza tonight because I don’t want to cook.” This is common. When you indulge often, food cravings skyrocket, even when you are back in your normal environment. If I could pinpoint an area where I struggle with nutrition, it is always related to traveling. I’m a foodie at heart. Sometimes the first memory of a trip is simply meals I have eaten!

So, why should you try to stick with your healthy habits throughout your vacation? To keep the momentum going for when you return home. This has been my biggest learning lesson over the years of traveling. I had to start finding workarounds so I could indulge in amazing food, but still keep some healthy habits during the trip. This has helped me return home feeling motivated and ready to get back into my routine instead of wanting to continue to indulge. Here are my strategies!

For Flight Days:

1.) Pack Your Go-To Food

I spent most of the day on the airplane for my recent flight from Seattle to Scotland. To be prepared to stick with my habits, I packed snacks and a full dinner onto the airplane. On my recent trip to NYC, when we landed at 5 PM EST, all I really needed was dinner once I arrived. So, I packed a breakfast and a lunch for the airport. I ate the breakfast scramble as I waited to board my flight and I had my salad on the flight during my normal lunch time. My energy was good, I didn’t feel too full, I consumed at least 5 servings of vegetables and I didn’t arrive to my destination starving wanting to eat whatever was in sight.

Action Steps: Pack Your Most Satisfying Healthy Meal

This is the best way for me to avoid caving on comfort snacks or food at the airport/airplane. You might have go-to healthy, satisfying items in the airport! If so, even better. Some other go-to items I like to pack: chopped celery, carrots or bell peppers, nuts or a RX bar. These work great for shorter flights and I can even save them throughout my trip if I find myself hungry.

My Other Strategies

1.) Make Time for Strength Training in the Morning 

I don’t strength train every day, but I do find a way to move daily. On vacation, on days I don’t strength train, I look to hit at least 15,000 steps. Some days I’m right at it, while others I hit 25,000-30,000. If I have access to a gym, I might do 15-20 minutes of interval training on a bike, elliptical or treadmill at an incline. Keep it short and sweet. My goal with strength training on vacation is to simply keep my momentum going with workouts for when I return home. It helps me maintain my strength while I’m on vacation versus feeling like I’ve taken two steps back. I don’t strive to create a perfect strength workout, but focus on simply doing something.

Action Steps: Look to see if your Hotel Has a Gym.

If not, do you have a gym close to the hotel? When I was in NYC, I found a gym about 10 blocks from my hotel with free access. I was actually able to continue my normal strength routine since I had access to everything I needed. I loved it! In England and Scotland, I didn’t have access to my normal equipment so I put together a basic workout.

Option Two: Pack a Few Go-To Items.

For me, I simply packed my Sling-Band and a few other mini bands. They work great to add more resistance to simple body weight exercises like squats, push ups, bridges, overhead presses or isolating glute exercises.

2.) Split Meals

Splitting meals allows you to do just what you want, taste the meal! In the past, every time I would order a pizza/pasta/{insert other comfort food here} for just myself, I always felt tired and too full after the meal. Not only does splitting meals save money, but it also allows you to eat less. This is one of my favorite strategies when traveling. I also do this when going to a bakery. NYC is a dessert paradise. We split some of our absolute favorites: a mini banana pudding, cupcake, croissant or the amazing babka bread throughout our stay in the city.

3.) Ask Yourself, Does it Look Amazing? 

This is my new go-to strategy for my bakery obsession. I love to peek my head into any bakery that catches my eye. Throughout my entire trip in England, I practiced asking myself this question, “does it look amazing?” I’m quite the dessert critic, so if a piece of cake looked dry, I easily passed. I found myself walking out a lot of bakeries empty handed! What if it looks good and it isn’t? When this happens, I ask if someone who I’m traveling wants it or simply throw it in the trash and eat the cost. This is my same strategy for ordering meals. Unfortunately, you can’t see the food first like a bakery, so splitting meals is always helpful.

Action Step: Be picky! If you’re not sure if it looks good, choose to split it with someone. 

4.) Seek Out Vegetables 

This can relate with number two, splitting meals. While in NYC, I found ways to split meals with my mom (like a lovely pasta dish) but ordered a salad to go with it. Since your dinner portion is much smaller, adding the salad acts as a great filler to keep me full after the meal was completed. Another option: find a local grocery store. Since our hotel room had a fridge, I also stocked up on some pre-washed greens from the grocery store. This worked well for adding a vegetable with breakfast.

Action Step: Every meal, scan the menu for a serving of vegetables. You’ll get the nutrients from the vegetables, which also help you stay full, while still leaving room for something you really want. 

5.) Start Your Morning With a Go-To Healthy Meal

I can’t emphasize this enough. Not only do you start your day with good energy, but it also keeps you full for hours! My normal go-to Europe breakfast has been something on-the-go like a delicious morning pastry. I found that it didn’t keep me full very long and it also affected my energy. Plus, I was eating something sweet to start my day, which lead me to want to continue to eat something sweet throughout the day. While traveling throughout England and Scotland, I found their “English breakfast” was a perfect meal to start my day. It consisted of eggs, ham/sausage/bacon, baked beans and a vegetable like mushrooms or asparagus. It was perfect! It’s large and I couldn’t eat it all, but I shared some with my husband. I often skipped the beans because nothing beats my Grandpa’s recipe 🙂 If your hotel has a free breakfast, load up on your protein options and pair it with a piece of fruit, vegetable or potato. In NYC, I had spinach, scrambled eggs and a piece of sausage every day to start my morning. It kept me full for at least 4 hours.

Edinburgh

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We spent three nights in Edinburgh, but if you are fast travelers, you could easily do two full days. Since this was the start of our trip, it was nice to have an extra day to relax. To save money on our flight, we actually flew into Glasgow and took a train to Edinburgh. Google flights is a great tool to use to find opportunities to lower your flight cost. Here are the highlights of our trip!

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Hotel: Fraser Suites

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This hotel was right on the Royal Mile, making it an ideal location for sight seeing. Plus, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station so we didn’t need to take a taxi to our hotel.

Cost: including tax was $126 a night. This might be because it was during the off-season, but it was so spacious and clean! It included a living area with a couch and chair, large bathroom, small kitchen setup (without a stove) and a decent gym! I would definitely recommend staying here.

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Stroll & Shop the Royal Mile

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This strip is in the heart of Old Town and filled with restaurants, bars and shopping. We also paid for a short tour at Gladstone’s Land, a 17th century merchant’s residence.

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Edinburgh Castle

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It cost about $21 a person to enter, but if offers great views and history of the city. You’ll be able to see the crown jewels, great hall, one of the largest cannons used in Europe and receive a free Scotch whiskey tasting! This was a short walk from our hotel.

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Palace of Holyroodhouse

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This palace was the residence of the King and Queen of Scotland starting in the 16th century. They still use this palace for entertaining. We enjoyed strolling through the royal apartments, chambers, great hall and more. The gardens were unfortunately not open during our visit.

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Hike Up to Calton Hill

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Along with Arthur’s seat, these two short hikes offer some of the best views of the city. It’s opposite of the Edinburgh castle. We walked up here in the morning then headed straight to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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Stroll Down Victoria Street

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Especially if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will love this cute street! It’s filled with shops and restaurants, but I enjoyed the bright buildings. Since J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh during the time she was writing the first few books of Harry Potter, she used this street as inspiration for Diagon Alley. As you walk from the bottom of the street, it slightly curves up as you walk up. It also has a joke shop!

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Other good sights to see

National Museum of Scotland

St Giles’ Cathedral

Dean Village – this is a beautiful place to walk around!

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Memorable Meals

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La Locanda – this is located right off the Royal Mile. It’s a great family owned Italian restaurant and they served up the best lasagna I have ever eaten.

The Elephant House – great coffee and desserts. We split a salted caramel brownie (twice!). This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few books of Harry Potter. It’s a cute cafe with a great view of the Edinburgh castle from the back room!

Wildfire – a  Scottish steakhouse. Be sure to make a reservation. It’s a small restaurant and located in the New Town, about a 15 minute walk from our hotel.

The Devil’s Advocate – we enjoyed a great cocktail here. It’s tucked back in an alley off the Royal Mile, but the bartenders dress in fancy aprons and you feel like a local.

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The Secret to Success With Diet and Exercise

My Biggest Secret To Success with Diet & Exercise

The Secret to Success With Diet and ExerciseOver the course of my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of people looking to improve their diet or stick to an exercise plan. It’s hard for anyone to truly make a change, especially if they have years or decades of less than stellar habits. I’ve written about my own journey here.

So, what’s the secret for actually making a lifestyle last…well…forever?

Make your meals satisfying and enjoy what you’re doing for an exercise program. 

For diet: If you are cooking healthy meals that you don’t enjoy, your journey at cooking healthy will be short lived. The common American comfort foods are popular for a reason – they’re satisfying and they keep us wanting to come back for more! So, how can you make your home cooked meals or healthy meal dining out satisfying?

  • Add fat for flavor. Fats tend to get bad press. Remember in the early 90’s when everything needed to be low fat? All fats are not bad fats. My go-to fat choices are olive oil, ghee, coconut oil or even butter. I rarely eat vegetables raw or steamed because I simply don’t like them as much (except carrots, leafy greens & steamed green beans because they are enjoyable). I roast or sauté almost all of my vegetables with my choice of fat. This is what keeps me eating vegetables every single day. My current top four veggies choices: sautéed zucchini noodles (garlic powder, salt, pepper in ghee), sautéed mushrooms (with minced garlic, salt, pepper in ghee), roasted sweet potatoes (chili powder, salt, pepper in olive oil), roasted Brussels sprouts (garlic powder, salt, pepper, in olive oil).
  • Find healthy snacks you love. Every week, I buy a container of fresh almond butter from my local PCC grocery store. It’s expensive but it’s a 10 on a satisfaction level and it helps me from wanting to eat sugar. Sometimes I eat it on celery, while most times, I get out my tablespoon and a tiny spoon to eat it with. I eat two TBs slowly and savor. Other things I enjoy: roasted nuts, Pink lady apples, whole carrots, bell peppers, a plain rice cake with almond butter + fruit spread or my Trader Joe nitrite-free ham. All great healthy choices, but most of all, they tame my sugar cravings because I find all these snacks very satisfying.
  • Choose a variety of protein choices. Yes, there are many benefits to white fish, chicken breast or 99% ground turkey. I have many go-to meals where those choices are delicious, but I don’t eat them 24/7. Egg whites also fall into this category. I incorporate eggs, chicken thighs, pulled pork or steaks a few times in my weekly meals. Since they have more flavor because of the slightly higher fat level, they keep me on track instead of wanting to get takeout Thai, pizza or burgers. Plus, it’s a nice balance between the leaner choices I make throughout the week. Example: A few meals a week for breakfast I’ll make two fried eggs, I’ll choose the carnitas at the Whole Foods buffet for lunch and for the past month, I’ve been roasting chicken thighs for one meal a week. Since my satisfaction level is so high with these meals, I don’t find myself with sugar cravings afterwards or wishing I had gone out for pizza instead.

Bottom line: I prefer to make the healthy choices over my favorite comfort foods because I learned how to make them really satisfying. I still love going out for pizza, but I no longer want it as much as I used to.

For exercise: Ask yourself if you look forward to your next workout? If exercise feels like a chore, you might not have found what you like yet. I realize there are some people who simply don’t like exercising, but there has to be a reason to keep them doing it every week. Do they like the increased energy? Do they like how it relieves stress? Do they like how their clothes fit? Do they enjoy the personal satisfaction of completing a workout? Regardless, there needs to find a deep reason for exercising every week, otherwise it won’t truly stick as a lifestyle. Here are some my go-to workout choices and the reasoning behind it.

  1. Walking. I walk at least 30 minutes every day. For me, I have to move daily to release the small stressors in life that build up. Walking allows me to clear my head, resets my intentions and truly makes me feel better. I also like the personal satisfaction of hitting my step goal of 10,000+ steps. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to spend time with my dog. He loves his walks and when he is happy, I’m happy.
  2. Strength Training. I commit to three full body workouts a week. I try to stick to the same days every week for the habit (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday). These are usually my favorite days of the week for exercise. Lifting weights makes me feel strong physically and mentally, plus I like the challenge of trying new movements. I switch my strength program every four weeks to prevent boredom, but also to keep my body from adapting to my program.
  3. High Intensity Intervals. Again, I try to stick to specific days of the week for the habit. I take a boxing class every Thursday morning. Nothing feels better than hitting and kicking the crap out of a punching bag. I also enjoy incline walking. Recently, I’ve set the goal of trying to climb 2,000 feet in less than 30 minutes. It’s my latest challenge! I also love completing sprint intervals. All three of these workouts leave me feeling happier after ever session.

Bottom line: if you haven’t found something you like to do for exercise, be open minded and try new things. Maybe you’ll learn you love to exercise in a group setting or in the comfort of your own home.

If you are currently working on building lasting healthy habits, pay attention to what may cause you to fall off track. Are you not enjoying your workouts? Are your meals satisfying? After years of practice and learning, I’ve finally found what works for me. Don’t give up on your journey. The more your work it, the easier it gets! Remember, you don’t want to strive to be perfect. 80-90% compliance gets great results and truly helps a habit stick forever.