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.

Five Exercises to Do With a Step Box or Bench

 

Plyo boxes, weight benches or aerobic step boxes are great pieces of equipment to use for strength training. You don’t always have to go to the gym to use this type of equipment. You can get creative with what you have at home or invest in a box or bench for a home gym.

Here are some exercises I incorporate into my strength training every week:

 

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Step Ups (8-10 reps each side, 3 sets)

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  • You can hold a weight at each side or hold a heavier weight in front of your body. Both challenge your body in different ways.
  • Focus on making sure you feel the exercise in the leg that steps to the box first. As you can see in the video, my left foot steps on the box first. I should feel all the work in my left glute and entire left leg.
  • If you feel any knee pain, check your position. You should see a 90 degree angle with your knee stacking over your ankle. Sometimes it helps if your knee stays slightly behind the ankle too. 
  • Brace your core and don’t use momentum to get to the top of the box. Simply step to it. If you find yourself forcing yourself up, the weight is too heavy. 

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Step Up + Reverse Lunge

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  • This is a nice combo to tax the glutes and legs even more. 
  • When you step up, drive the entire foot into the step box. As you step back into a reverse lunge, push the entire front foot into the floor, making sure you feel your glute work. 
  • Don’t forget your 90 degree angles for both exercises. 

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Hip Thrust (10-15 reps, 3 sets)

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This is my favorite exercise to do right now. It’s great at targeting your glutes!

  • Find the right size box for you. The benches don’t work for me because I’m too short, but an aerobics box with 4 risers works or this plyo box in the video. The box should hit you just under your shoulder blades. 
  • Tuck you feet under your knees and keep your shins vertical as you drive up the weight.
  • As you drive the weight up, keep your chin tucked and eyes forward. Don’t look up towards the ceiling. 
  • Squeeze your glutes hard at the top. Your knees should slightly push out to make sure your glutes are turned on. 

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Elevated Glute Bridge (with or without weight) 20 reps, 3 sets

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I have been doing this at the end of my strength workouts lately. It’s a great finisher!

  • Drive through your heels to make sure your glutes are working. Squeeze hard at the top. 
  • If you feel more in your hamstrings, check your foot position. Your knees should stack mostly over your hips. 
  • For more of a challenge, use a mini band for this exercise. Place above your knees. 

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Box Jumps (5-8 reps, 2-3 sets)

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  • This is a great explosive exercise for advanced lifters. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone with joint issues or new to an exercise program. 
  • Complete this after a thorough warm up. I don’t recommend doing this after or during your strength exercises. 
  • Land soft on the box. Imagine you can’t make a sound as you land on the box. 
  • Stand all the way up to finish the exercise. Once you land on the box, stand all the way. I see many people jump right back down after landing. 

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Diet or Exercise? What’s More Important When Seeking Results?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my journey is that you can’t out train a bad diet. In my early twenties, I always tried to exercise more to compensate for my poor nutrition choices. It wasn’t until I focused on eating the right food where I started to see my body change. When I committed 30 days to my nutrition at the start of this year for my Whole30, I saw great results without adding more exercise or even changing my exercise routine.

As a health and fitness professional, both diet and exercise are important. But, if I were to put a percentage on both, nutrition is much more powerful. As many of us say, it’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. It’s true! Some people who just focus on their nutrition and put minimal effort into their exercise can see great results. If you find you’re putting a lot of effort into your workouts, but are not seeing your body change, it’s time to take a look at your daily nutrition.

Three Key Nutrition Habits To Focus on

2.) Eat at least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day

– this isn’t breaking news. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables to live a healthy lifestyle but it’s certainly important if you’re seeking results. Most Americans eat more fruit than vegetables. When seeking weight loss, focus on eating more vegetables than fruit. I like a 4:1 ratio (for every four servings of vegetables, eat one serving of fruit). This equals out to probably one serving of fruit a day. Everyone is unique, so you can start there and add more if you need it.

How to do it? If you’re a visual person, look at a meal plan visual here.

Make a Switch. First, take a minute to think about what you’re eating for meals or snacks. If you notice you eat crackers, chips, granola bars or cookies on a regular basis, start to replace those items with a fruit or vegetable. When I first started changing my diet, I was eating a lot of crackers, granola bars, pasta, pizza, frozen dinners and bread. I slowly started replacing my snack foods with vegetables or fruit and for my meals, I replaced grains with more vegetables.

Pair a Vegetable with Every Meal You Eat. It’s easy to eat fruit on-the-go, but vegetables are a little bit more work. To help yourself eat more vegetables, buy conveniently already chopped vegetables from the store or commit a few time each day to chop. Of course it’s more expensive to buy already chopped vegetables from the store, but if that’s going to help you eat more vegetables, go for it! I also buy a lot of pre-washed bagged salad. It’s not that much more in money but it’s a time saver! Every meal, ask yourself what your vegetable choice will be. For breakfast, maybe you throw in spinach into a breakfast smoothie or make a frittata loaded with vegetables.

2.) Protein

Protein helps you build and maintain your muscle mass, helps you stay full between meals and stabilizes your blood sugar. It plays a big role in seeking body change. So, how much protein should you eat a meal?

Focus on the size of your palm. This is a good start for the average person, but some people who are very active will need more. Start to read your labels to see how much protein is in the food you’re eating.

Protein Choices I buy every week at the grocery store 

  • Chicken breast (1-2 packages)
  • Boneless chicken thighs
  • Ground Turkey
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Chicken
  • Tuna fish
  • Canned chicken
  • Mahi Mahi or some type of white fish
  • Eggs
  • Breakfast Sausage Links

* I eat most meals from home and cook for two. This always gets us through the week!

3.) Water – at least 8 cups or half your body weight in ounces.

When I first started dating my now husband, he always teased me that I never drank any water. It’s true! I was always drinking diet pepsi, diet peach Snapple or Propel. Wow, have things changed! Not only does water keep your body hydrated but it plays a role in healthy skin, improves energy and of course, helps with weight loss.

Two things that helped me drink more water:

  • Buy a nice water bottle and carry it everywhere you go. Every time you leave the house, be sure to grab your water bottle. I have two water bottles that I really enjoy, but when I first started trying to drink more water, I found having a water bottle with a straw really helped me.
  • Add flavor when you are tired of plain water. Sometimes I get tired of plain water so I always have lemons or limes on hand to add a bit of flavor when I need it. There are many options you can use besides lemon or lime: berries, cucumber, mint, etc. Sparkling water is also a nice treat, but I always open one once I’ve already had my filtered water goal for the day (75 ounces).

If you feel like you are working hard in the gym, but aren’t seeing the results you want, it might be time to assess your diet. How many times a week are you eating out? How many desserts? Alcohol? All those factor into seeing the results you want. Most importantly, remember why you want the results you’re looking for. My biggest goal this year is to watch my sugar intake. I want to enjoy it when I want, but not let it get out of control with cravings. Sugar can be a slippery slope for me, but still a month after my Whole30, I feel good about my relationship and it’s helped me see better results.