Inspiration

raising my middle finger to perfection, because I. am. worthy.

I've always been the good one.  the one who always did what she was told. 

the one who always followed the rules, got straight A's and was home by curfew. 

the one who always lived up to expectation. 

the one who always impressed, pleased and perfected. 

but I've recently come to learn, with the help of my therapist and Brene Brown, that perfection is a twenty-ton shield we carry around - that carry around - hoping it will protect us, when in actuality, it's the very thing that keeps our feet from ever leaving the ground and taking flight.

striving for "good" and "perfect" is all I've ever known. it's how I've defined myself for too long. always trying to disown the difficult and brush off the falls, as if it made me more worthy. as if the success of my person somehow rested in the weighted hands of my onlookers.

but as I grow, dragging my broken body; bloody and bruised, from a fall I'll never quite recover from, I'm realising this: the people in the stands - watching your and my life as if it's some Hunger Game - they don't mean shit. those people don't determine my worthiness. they never did. and I'm done hustling for something I deserved all along.

I am enough.

yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable. and sometimes, I might even get scared and break a little. but I am also, and equally, brave and worthy of love and belongingness. this process, of learning how to let go of who I think I'm supposed to be and embracing who I am through the uncomfortable vulnerability - it sucks, it's scary and sometimes it even hurts.

but I'm doing it. I'm choosing to surround myself with people who are able to bend with me, accepting my struggles and my strengths. I'm closing the door on the critics. I'm done wasting my time on winning over your worthiness - as if I ever could. I am willing to risk disappointing you, falling short and exposing myself emotionally.

because I'm committed to owning my story and learning to love myself in the process.

I'm showing up.

I'm being seen.

I'm sharing my feelings. even the not-so-pretty ones. 

I'm having the hard conversations.

because the pursuit of perfection has only effed me up this far, and because, I. AM. WORTHY.

running from pain + my crockpot meltdown.

those of you who have been following Big Hips Little Hips know that it used to be a place that helped make us all healthier by way of nutrition and exercise advice. "eat this, not that. be physically active, or else…", but these days, it's really just serving as my grief journal. it's what I need at this season in my life. and while the most recent posts aren't discussing workout strategies or nutrient content, I do hope that it makes me - and you - healthier in some regard. that being said, if reading about my morose grief story isn't what you're here for, I completely understand. please check back later.  as for the rest of you, read on...

 

step 1. add chicken breast, chicken stock, diced tomatoes, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and pepper to the crockpot. set to LOW for 3 hours.

step 2. remove chicken from crockpot and set aside. add brown rice and black beans. cook on HIGH for 30-45 minutes, or until rice is fluffy.

step 3. place the chicken breast back into the crockpot and serve when ready, topped with avocado or shredded cheese.

 

it sounded like a delicious, fairly simple recipe. who doesn't love a crockpot chicken burrito!? never having tried it before, we decided to add it to our Sunday kitchen prep ritual. it was a busy weekend - a grocery store tour, a wedding, dinner with friends, a work project, blah blah blah. and I was already sort of freaking out  about getting it all done and not having a second to relax, recompose, and reset for the week ahead.

I'm an introvert. big crowds of people don't do it for me, and regardless of how "chill" a hangout may be, I'm not completely at ease unless I'm curled up at home with big fuzzy socks on and a good book in hand.

but back to Sunday. step 1 is done. the chicken is in the crockpot and the work project begins. approximately 5 hours later (2 hours too late if you're doing the math) we're headed out the door to meet up with friends for dinner (running 5 minutes late because, well, something about a shirt and being too matchy-matchy).

needless to say - we're running out of the door at exactly 5:07pm. down the first flight of stairs when I'm prompted with, "wait. what about the crockpot? will it be okay while we're gone?" shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. I was supposed to take the chicken out 2 HOURS AGO. and now everything is ruined. I mean, life might as well be over. the worst thing that ever could have happened, happened. I forgot about the chicken in the crockpot. if judging my by reaction, you would've thought the world really was coming to an end. I huffed, puffed, pouted and almost cried. over a stupid crockpot!

later that evening: "so, maybe we should talk about the real reason why you were upset earlier. I know it wasn't the crockpot." bless his heart. he knows exactly how to tread around my vulnerable heart.

I hide my pain. I run from it. because why would anyone want to put their vulnerability - their weakness - their flaws - their open wounds on display? I know I certainly don't. because, well because, ew. it feels icky and uncomfortable. like wearing pants that are a size too tight, cutting into your sides with your belly rolling over. and a wool sweater that rubs against your skin the wrong way in all the wrong places. nobody wants to put that on display for everyone to see.

but, what if we were able to take ease the pain? to soothe the discomfort and unload the guilt. if sharing, if opening your heart and your soul up to someone - anyone - would take away some of the darkness, would you?

yesterday, I spoke with a man who lost his mother to substance abuse at much too young an age. today, I met a woman by happenstance who tragically lost her husband only 7 months ago. and while our conversations were much too short, void of many details, just knowing that someone out there knew my pain, and that they're still surviving - standing tall despite the massive hole in their hearts, it was almost comforting. and it got me thinking…what if we sat with our pain instead of running from it? what if we let it bulldoze us over, knowing that there were others who could help us back up, teach us how to walk again, and start over on new legs?

running from pain will only take you so far. one day, your legs will give out, your lungs will fail, or maybe you'll have a melt down over a missed crockpot opportunity. but, I don't think peace is found there. so, here's to trying something different. something uncomfortable and icky. I'm sitting with my pain. no more running.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

hurting with hope still hurts.

why? what was the purpose? where is redemption? 

over the past three months, thoughts like these play through my head like a broken cassette tape.

I believe, undoubtedly, that we are - each and every one - designed for a unique custom-built purpose. There are things that God intends for each of us to do that no one else has been chosen for; words we are called to speak, distinct - one of a kind - marks that we are to leave on the universe.

But then, what was his mark? How could someone do all they were called to do, say every word they were meant to say and be all who they were designed to be in a shortened life? why did he only get 23 years? and what about those of us who live to be a hundred? why? how could his words, his actions and his mark possibly be done? finished? sure, his life story will be passed on, touching the people who hear. But why is that life worth more than his? why wasn't he given a second chance? why were his efforts not enough?

I don't know. but what I do know is that I should care for those people, the ones who are touched and affected. love them and be thankful, that his story changed theirs. that's what Jesus would want. sorry guys, I'm not there. I truly hope to God that someday I am. maybe it's too soon, too raw. maybe right now I'm too hardened. but I can't love those faceless people more than I love my baby brother.

and with the help of Levi Lusko, author of Through The Eyes Of A Lion: Facing Impossible Pain Finding Incredible Power, I know that God doesn't expect me to be happy about what has been torn from my hands. I'm waiting for my trash to turn into triumph. But let me tell you, some days the trash just feels like it's piling up and triumph has forgotten to stop at my door.

when your heart is broken, you don't know where to go. colours lose their brightness, and the world seems so gray. the ground is unsteady, and food tastes like ash. your stomach flutters in a free fall that doesn't stop. your fists ball up, but there's nothing to fight. a screaming, heaving, sinking panic rises in  your chest. it can't be outrun, won't be shut down and refuses to be put out. 

and the only thing left is to stand where you are, accept the shock and the loss and cling to the promise of resurrection like a drowning man holds onto a wood plank in the middle of a shipwreck. and, in order to keep from going completely insane; drowning in the depression and anxiety that is grief, hold onto this:

hurting with hope still hurts. 

I will never get over it. there will be something missing forever, for the rest of my life. but,

"what the thief has stolen will be restored sevenfold" Proverbs 6:31

so, for all who are suffering, hurting, weary and bone tired, take heart. because taking something is an action. it's a choice. it's your choice. but losing, happens on its own. and your heart will get lost if you let it.

because when you have hope, gale-force winds can blow and tsunami waves can smash into the hull of your life, but you are buoyed with the belief that the best is yet to come, that brighter days are ahead, that not all is lost, even as storms rage. 

Take heart. Proverbs 16:33

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

move, you are not a tree.

if you don't like where you are, move. you are not a tree.  - Jim Rohn

- have you ever been so deliriously happy that you pinch yourself to make sure your blood is still circulating?

I have.

- have you ever been so paralysed with grief and fear that you start to question everything you've ever known?

I have.

if life's an ocean, I've been trapped in the surf, trying to find which way is up between being tossed into the sand and broken shells pieces with each capsizing wave.

if you've ever lost a piece of yourself, then you know, suddenly all of the other parts feel…unbalanced, like they're suddenly not quite enough, despite the fact that everything worked perfectly fine before. but before is gone and after brings something quite different to the surface.

recently, thanks to the love and support of my beautiful boyfriend, I've been asking myself some hard questions in order to get that balance back. Together, we've decided to make our lives - and our life together - more purposeful. because, when faced with a loss so great, you have to ask yourself who you are when you wake up every morning, change needs to happen. sorrow can only drag you down for so long before you start to suffocate. anxiety and fear can only steal so many days from you before you have too few left. and as Patrick continues to remind me, again and again, there is no victory in letting the same drug that killed my brother take my life as well. 

so I've been challenged. questioning who I am, what I want my mission to be and how my life's actions can honor my brothers life. and for the past three months, every single one of those answers has been followed up with a "but…", "what if…", or "I'm afraid of…"

not anymore. after weeks - months - of helping me sort through the waves, Patrick finally looked at me and said, "Nicole, I know what I want for you. but you need to know what you want. If you could make your decision without fear, what would you do? What does your life look like?" 

yes, he is the best thing God has ever given me (in addition to parents who are always on my team, and a brother who will always be looking out for me) and he's helping me make my - and our - dreams come true by leading by example. I have been blessed with the amazing opportunity to support him in what he loves. Next week, Patrick takes a big step toward making his career dreams come true, and I couldn't be more proud of, or amazed by him. but enough bragging about the boyfriend.

what are you afraid of? are you living the life you want to lead? is this how your story ends? because, when it comes to making big changes, I've recently learned, that growth only begins when you want something more than you fear it. "It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan" - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

I'm baaaack!

guys. I've been MIA and for no good reason at all…aside from the fact that I've been studying my butt off to get my Precision Nutrition Certification! ahh! so hard but so worth it! I mean check it out, I'm official! you're not truly a fitness professional until someone else says you are, right!? but enough about that. I'm returning with a new monthly feature I want to start, starting TODAY.         (drumroll please)…P+N's menu of the month! have any of you ever scoured the internet to find new and exciting recipes to make because you're just so damn tired of the five things you always make? have you ever tried something new from a cookbook in an effort to be innovative, only to discover that it didn't really pan out, or wasn't all that great to begin with? after hearing comments like, "I'm so bored of what I'm making", "I need new recipe ideas", "what do you eat?" "can you just come cook for me?" day in and day out, I've decided that the next best thing - aside from me coming to your kitchen and food prepping for you (which, might one day be arranged) - is giving you a look into my daily menu! I'm giving you healthy, simple and taste-bud-approved recipes that will keep you lean and super satisfied. 

disclaimer: this meal plan is not for everyone. those of you who need variety - eating something different every day of the week, sorry guys, you gotta look elsewhere. that's just too fancy for me. or those of you looking for decadent French cuisine…yeah, no. I'm a working progressional that wakes up at 4am to get to work by 4:45am. some nights I'm not home until 7:30. and as much as I'd love to eat like a Frenchman...

you'll see below that I'm including recipes, as well as portion sizes. you'll notice that Patrick eats a helluva lot more than I do, because his goal right now is to maintain his muscle mass and drop his BF%. it takes an awful lot of food to maintain those biceps. my goal is specifically fat loss. I've taken a break from my strength gain goal to take 6 weeks and focus solely on fat loss. how does my diet differ? currently, I'm eating very few carbohydrates and focusing heavily on lean proteins and healthy fats.

so without further adieu….here's the MENU of the Month:

Breakfast. 

Patrick (+ Nicole on my non-4am days): Feta + Veggie Egg Scramble

ingredients: 6 eggs for him/3 eggs + 3 whites for me, 1/4 cup feta cheese, 1/2 cup red pepper, 1/2 cup onion, 1/4 cup spinach, 1/2 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP salsa, 2 pieces of whole wheat toast (for him)

directions: heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. dice veggies and sauté until soft and tender. once translucent, add spinach and pour scrambled eggs on top. add feta cheese and sprinkle with black pepper (if desired). scramble until eggs are cooked to your liking and remove from heat. top with salsa (or hot sauce) and enjoy. Patrick enjoys his with 2 pieces of whole wheat or pumpernickel toast, smeared with 1 pat of butter.

Nicole: on 4am days (+ afternoon snack for Patrick): Vanilla Toffee Berry Protein Shake

ingredients: 1.5 scoops of vanilla pea protein powder for me/2 scoops for him, 3/4 cup frozen berries, 1.5 cups unsweetned almond milk, 1 TBSP natural peanut butter, 12 almonds (+ 1 banana for him)

directions: blend until smooth and enjoy!

Lunch. 

Nicole: Shrimp, Feta + Avocado Salad

ingredients: 8oz of shrimp, 1/4 cup feta, 1/3 avocado, handful of chopped baby carrots, 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar, served over 3 cups of mixed greens.

directions: I buy my shrimp frozen from Costco. once defrosted I cook them in 1 TBSP of butter with minced garlic, paprika and black pepper. once pink, remove from heat and store in the fridge. I pile all of my other ingredients on top of my greens first, and finish with a drizzle of balsamic. basically, pile this on top of your greens and top it off with shrimp, or, try this delicious recipe for a bright summer salad.

Patrick: Garlic Shrimp + Bell Pepper Stir Fry

ingredients: 10oz of shrimp, 2 cups of red/yellow/orange peppers, served over 1.5 cups of brown rice.

directions: shrimp is cooked the same above (guess who does the cooking). peppers are sliced thin and sautéed in 1 TBSP of olive oil with minced garlic, Mrs. Dash salt-free herb/garlic seasoning and coconut aminos. boil brown rice in low-sodium chicken stock for a more flavourful side. try this at home if you'd prefer quinoa in place of rice.

Snack: 

Nicole: roasted salted almonds (24 pcs.) or 2 TBSP of natural peanut butter on a salt-free rice cake (fat loss isn't always glamourous!)

Patrick: (1) two Double Chocolate Protein Cookies  with an apple. yep. we're still stuck on these. we do use pea protein powder and dairy-free chocolate chips instead (warning: don't try these with egg white protein powder, they turn out really spongey.) (2) Protein Shake (see above). you think I'm kidding the boy never stops eating.

Dinner: 

Nicole + Patrick: Ground Beef Burrito Bowls

ingredients: 7oz of ground beef for me/10oz of ground beef for him, 1/3 avocado, 3 cups of romaine, 1/2 cup chopped peppers, 1/4 cup feta (we're primarily a diary-free household, so we stick with sharp cheeses, but you can use cheddar or mozzarella), 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup black beans (for him), 1/4 cup corn (for him), 1 cup cooked cilantro brown rice (for him), 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar.

directions: cook ground beef to your liking. I use paprika, black pepper, basil and oregano. you can also use steak like this recipe, but our little home doesn't have a grill. top all veggies over your bed of rice (if applicable) and serve hot ground beef on top. drizzle with dressing and enjoy! it's like going to Chipotle…only without 5000mg of sodium and less guacamole (sad face).

 

as you can see, Patrick gets to enjoy a lot more yummy carbohydrates than I do, but we choose to eat according to our goals and according to our body types. most of all, we choose to eat well - in taste and in nutritional value. this works for us. we prep all of our proteins on Sunday and re-heat throughout the week. it's easy. it's effective. and it keeps our bellies happy.

stay tuned for next months edition! feel free to request or suggest recipes - or send reviews!

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

let's close the {thigh} gap.

in an effort to become a better trainer, nutritionist and woman, I regularly thumb through the blogs of Jen Sinkler and Molly Galbraith - super strong, amazing women in the industry. I mean, I'm pretty sure you get stronger by simply being in the presence of these women. and I'm into that. so, I stumbled upon a blog post by Jen entitled, "closing the (thigh) gap" in which she referenced Molly: so if your feet are together and your thighs don't touch, that's called a Thigh Gap

what's it called if your feet are 4 inches apart and your thighs still touch?

oh yeah. 

Dem Quadz...

and couldn't stop thinking about it. because, yeah, quads are super sexy and this Thigh Gap trend really should be put to shame. Instead of focusing on the spaces between our muscles, shouldn't we be focusing on our muscles? Instead of trying to make ourselves smaller, what if we spent the same effort making ourselves stronger? I'll tell you what would happen, truly amazing things. Imagine the feeling of pride when you look at your body and see strength, instead of shame when your masses fill the spaces that society told you should be there.

hear me on this: bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. some thighs touch, and others don't. some collar bones are naturally defined, and others aren't. some hips are wide and others, not so much. and that's beautiful. shame doesn't belong here. whether it's fat shaming or thin shaming. let's work to remove it altogether. because real women have bodies. a certain size or shape does not make you superior. There is no wrong way to have a body (Glenn Marla).

And if we break it down, for some of us, the Thigh Gap is an absolutely ridiculous goal. this seemingly desirable space between ones legs is determined, not only by what we do in the gym, or what we eat in the kitchen, but by our God-given (mom + pops get credit here too) body type, our pelvic structure and tendon length. So by all means, work hard. kick ass in the gym. eat salads, eat burgers, eat WELL. but don't waste your goals on something as demoralising and aesthetically foolish as a larger space between your legs. because, let's face it, the Thigh Gap is all about reducing the mass - muscle and fat - that holds up the rest of your skeleton…and yeah…walking around with two toothpicks for legs sounds like a super smart idea. Don't let your self worth be determined by the circumference of any part of your body. pick a goal that a. makes a scrap of sense, b. lifts you up, c. and makes you a stronger athlete/woman/human being.

have you seen those "are they legs or are they hot dogs" illustrations?

ladies, I think we can do better than striving for shapeless casings of meat for legs. a whole hell of a lot better.

in my world, big, strong thighs are coveted. because stronger quads means a stronger squat. and a stronger squat means a better booty…but we'll save that for another post. what's that you say? you don't care to squat? don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying everyone needs to squat with a barbell on their back. in fact, I wouldn't recommend it for some. but, I can assure you. whether you know it or not, you squat. when was the last time you sat down to eat? squat. when was the last time you got in or out of a car? squat. when was the last time you went to the bathroom? squat.

I don't' know about you, but I want to be going to the bathroom on my own two feet for a very, very long time. so excuse me if these thighs touch, but I couldn't care less. #demquadz

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

calm the F down.

this week I've been stuck inside my head. so stuck that I'm almost tired of listing to the running commentary that is my inner dialogue. let me tell you, this brain can take overanalysing to a whole new level. I'm gearing up for this crazy thing that my boyfriend is making me do. just kidding, I signed up for this myself (with more than a little coercion). buuuut I'm freaking out just a little. on paper, my job is to serve people in such a capacity that I can help them make their health and fitness goals become reality. but really, my job is mostly to tell people to get over their sh*t and start believing in themselves. we all have those sabotaging tapes that play over and over in our heads that tell us we're not good enough - strong enough - thin enough to accomplish X Y + Z. and when a client tells me something to that extent, I am the first to call BS and say, yes, yes you can. you ARE good enough, strong enough…you just have to be brave enough. and while I'm very good at calling other people on their sheeeeeit, sometimes I need someone to call me on mine.

and well, that happened. I may have voiced some idea about not being good enough at a certain something and I got put in my place. and rightly so. because you don't get better at something by being great at it. no one is born a champion. champions are made. they are ordinary people who decide to be extraordinary by putting in the work; committing to the grind, day after day, and getting back up after they fall. again and again. the best things come from failure, from trial and error, from fear and bravery and practice. practice, practice, practice. I once heard someone say, if you're not willing to look stupid, nothing great will ever happen to you. so here it goes. bring it on. failure, success, fear, nervous urination (this one's for you ladies). because dammit, I want great things to happen to me. no, I want to make great things happen.

so, in an effort to get out of my head, I'm finding strength in the words of others. maybe they will speak to you as well.

 

 

so, team, let's go do this thing. I'll be the one in the singlet. and for everyone else, go do something that scares you half to death.

and babe, thank you for believing in me, even when I don't have the strength to believe in myself.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

 

"you are disgusting + fat", a familiar story.

when was the last time you looked in the mirror and admired the form staring back at you? when was the last time you could stand to look in the mirror? when was the last time you felt truly beautiful in your skin? have you ever?

it's Valentines day. many of us expect big displays of affection, grand gestures made up of roses and fancy candlelit dinners, looking for a sense of true belonging and love from that special someone. but here's a question - what if, this year, that special someone was you? and what if. that sense of true belonging, acceptance and unconditional love was directed toward your body? crazy, right? I'm not so sure.

I know I'm not alone in saying that there are times I feel as though I'm not good enough. if I could only lose those last 10 pounds, or work a little harder on my ______ than my ______ will look better. I would look better. if only I had her legs/her butt/her ___, I would feel better about myself. The pursuit of the perfect body is something so many of us spend our days pursuing day after day. but what if - hear me out - what if we loved our bodies now as opposed to 10 pounds from now?

we beat ourselves up over every nutritional indulgence, over every workout we didn't complete. trying to shave off a few calories here and burn a few more there…because that's what will make us happy. but, is it really? let's play this through for a second. once you reach that arbitrary goal (being a size X, looking like so and so, having a flatter belly, etc.), will you truly be happy? will you wake up one morning, finally liking what you see in the mirror? I really don't think so. Because, I've been there. I've been 10  pounds lighter, and I wanted 20. and at 20 I wanted 50. and you know what? with obscene amounts of deprivation and excessive training, I got to where I thought I wanted to be. and let me tell you, I still didn't love what I saw staring back at me in my reflection. negative self-talk was constantly occupying my thoughts. I wish I looked like her. I need to be a size ____ and then I'll be happy. Ugh, I can't eat that…I'm so disgusting. are you willing to go to bed with a grumbling belly? passing on social functions because you know wine and dessert will be served, and you don't want to field the questions as to why you aren't having any? punishing yourself on the treadmill for that one little bite you snuck? This, my friends, is the road to misery. you'll exhaust yourself trying to obtain something that's always out of reach. I know this because, that was me. wasting precious time on a goal that was seemingly always out of reach; unhappy, empty and punishment-driven.

I'm over it. I can honestly say that I love what my body can do, and how it moves. I have found my value and self-worth, prioritising strength and health above some skinny ideal. sure, there are things I want to work on and improve, but I can now acknowledge that it's a process and those things won't make me any more loveable of a person. and I want that for you too. I want you to want that, for yourself. Self-acceptance is so much more than just a number on the scale, or a percentage of body fat. Learning how to love yourself starts now, not 10 pounds from now or two dress sizes from now. You. Are. Enough. You are imperfectly perfect. The image you've painted for yourself inside your head, the doubts and shame, have no hold on you. Can you love your body, while simultaneously wanting to improve it and make it stronger? absolutely, yes! but just as your love for another person should not be conditional, neither should the love you show for yourself. I'll say it again, you are enough. right now, as you are. just imagine how much more satisfying the pursuit of strength, fitness and a transformed body will be when you are comfortable in the skin you wear. Hating your body into submission is simply not a sustainable or life-giving option. to know that everything you need to thrive is inside you right now is a powerful thing. but harnessing it and finding that power of self-acceptance isn't an easy task.

Loving yourself takes work. you will have to fight against many forces telling you that you are not good enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough. But darlings, you have to set yourselves free. body-shaming will get you nowhere. when I tell a client that he or she has gotten stronger/leaner/fitter, 9 times out of 10 the compliment is rejected, dismissed. and my answer is always, "let me believe it, see it and remind you of it, until one day you start to believe it's true". Train yourself to speak kindly. not only to others but to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and state a positive affirmation. Be intentional. Be consistent. and one day, self-loathing will give way to self-love. and then, losing 10 pounds will simply be an improvement on something already worthy, something already beautiful, instead of a stipulation for acceptance and worth.

so go ahead, learn to love yourself this year. look at yourself in the mirror, fight against those poisonous self-doubts and criticisms and find something you love about yourself. and let that love grow and take shape, until one day, you are proud of what you see staring back at you. because, that, is worth more than your weight (whatever it may be) in gold.

 

happy valentines day lovers.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

"I hate my body" is keeping us fat.

91% of women are unhappy with their bodies + resort to some form of extreme dieting/exercise routine in pursuit of the 'ideal body',   and only 5% of women naturally possess the body type most often portrayed by Americans in the media. 

 

ladies, we have a problem. it's called positive body image. we have none.

body image: how one sees herself when looking in the mirror; encompassing ones beliefs about her body, how one feels about her height, weight and shape, and how one feels IN her body.

negative body image: a distorted perception of ones shape. the belief that ones body size/shape is a sign of personal failure and unattractive when compared to others, often accompanied by feelings of shame, self-consciousness and anxiety.

positive body image: a clear, true perception of ones shape. appreciation of ones body along with the recognition that physical appearance does not dictate personal value, often accompanied by feelings of confidence and comfort.

we are surrounded by the message that our bodies exists purely for the envy and pleasure of other people. as women, our job [according to the media] is to satisfy our significant others, look great in clothes off-the-rack and make other women jealous. and because that's the case, we spend our lives making choices that promise to make us "thin", "skinny" or "attractive". forget about doing something because it will keep us healthy and agile well into our grey-haired years, or because we might actually enjoy it. there is the occasional "confidence is sexy" message touted to the masses. it's allllll about the bass, right!? but are we pursuing confidence because it's appealing to other people and makes us more attractive in the eyes of those around us? or because it's good for our minds, bodies, and our hearts?

on a regular basis we are bombarded with messaging that tells us that our main duties [as women] are to be desirable, please others and attract men. get rid of all of your body hair! keep your skin wrinkle free! get rid of those love handles! do everything humanly possible - and maybe even some questionable inhumane things - to fit into those skinny jeans! because oh my goodness, otherwise someone might think you're less than worthy. of what? I have no idea.

your relentless pursuit of that 'bikini body', 'beach ready butt', or 'supermodel legs' probably won't lead to a fulfilling relationship with your body image, and it probably won't lead to a sustainable and effective workout routine either. eating grapefruit for 47 days straight or drinking only green juices won't give you a greater sense of self or do anything for your confidence. you'll just be a cranky lady whose pooping her brains out every other hour. all in the name of beauty! I don't know about you, but that's not the definition of beauty that I aspire to live up to.

so where to go from here - try establishing your goals: fitness, nutrition, health and otherwise, based on your own objectives, not those society wants for you. forget eating for a six-pack and just eat well. don't workout to get skinny, just workout to feel well. don't live your life in the pursuit of a magazine cover body, just live well. you just might find that you feel better about who you are, how you look, and what your body can DO. Our culture has conditioned us all to believe that being healthy is no fun at all. well no kidding! starving yourself and being a slave to the elliptical sounds absolutely terrible! what do you love? what feels good? hiking? do it. swimming? yes. lifting weights? go for it girlfriend! having a body, respecting your body, and maybe even one day loving your body, feels really damn good.

so let's stop looking outside of ourselves to accept what we should look like, what we should do to get there and how we should feel about ourselves. look inward. find things that are fun, rewarding and life enhancing and do more of THAT.

your body is amazing. your body can do amazing things. yes, it's imperfect and might wobble a little at times, or maybe your legs get little bumps and ripples when you walk, or your belly rolls when you sit down. but that's okay. your size doesn't dictate who you are, but your strength, that does.

"what are you going to do, diet every day to make people happy? that's just dumb."  - Jennifer Lawrence 

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

leaner + sexier by 2015. the 30 Day Challenge.

how many times has "lose 10#", "eat healthier" or "go to the gym" been at the top of your New Years resolution list? and just how well has that worked out for you so far? if it's been a resolution for more than a few years running, chances are it's too lofty of a goal and will never happen. #sorrysweetheart #coldhardtruth. so what are you going to do about it? well, first, I'd suggest tossing New Years resolutions out the window. don't get me wrong, I'm all for self-improvement, but waiting for a new calendar year to start all the tens of things we want to change about ourselves, our lives, our careers, etc. is just…well, foolish. why not adopt a resolution right now? if we gave ourselves one resolution each month (instead of trying to tackle all 12 on January 1st), we'd see quite a few more of our goals become actualities. but the New Year just seems like the perfect fresh start, a new beginning…I'm a very linear person, blah blah blah. well, New Years Day is a Thursday this year and tomorrow's a Monday, so ha! there's no better time to start than the present.

but more to the point. I'm embarking on a 30 Day Challenge, inspired by Molly Galbraith from Girls Gone Strong, and I'm inviting you to join me.

the purpose: to start 2015 healthier and happier!

the proposal: each week you adopt a SINGLE healthy habit and commit to mastering it for 7 days. by December 31st, we'll be lean, sexy, and confident people who have adopted sustainable diet and mindset techniques.

but here's the thing…we're not all starting at the same place. there are those of us who struggle with eating fast food, and those of us who don't. there are those of us who have already adopted healthy diet strategies, and those of us who haven't. there are those of us who know what cruciferous vegetables are and those of us who don't…you get the point. your starting point might be different from mine, or the person reading this after you. so, in an effort to meet everyone where they are, I'm introducing levels to the 30 Day Challenge.

Level No. 1: you are new to nutrition. you don't regularly practice healthy eating behaviours and may or may not know when the last time you ate a vegetable was. but you're willing to work for change!

Level No. 2: you have mastered the basics. you try to eat vegetables, you know that spinach trumps iceberg lettuce, but you still have a lot of room to grow when it comes to lasting lifestyle change.

Level No. 3: you practice good nutrition. you eat well, preparing most of your own food, and try hard to make whole foods a priority. but let's face it, there's always room to grow. nobody eats kale all the time.

What level are you? Which category can you best relate to? As we race through December, your job is to choose the nutrition goal that will most successfully impact your dietary behaviour in a positive way. if something is too difficult, the challenge won't be successful. conversely,  if something doesn't present you with a challenge, it won't present you with any change.

The 30 Day Challenge 

Week 1. 

Level No. 1. Eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full

Level No. 2. Eat when you're hungry and stop at 90% fullness (you're satisfied).

Level No. 3. Eat when you're hungry, stop at 90% fullness, and take at least 20 minutes to consume every meal/snack.

When was the last time you ate something simply because it was put in front of you? or because it looked good? Learn to listen to your bodies hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly, savour every bite and stop when satisfied.

Week 2. 

Level No. 1. Eat a fist-size of vegetables with every meal.

Level No. 2. Eat 4-6 fists of vegetables every day.

Level No. 3. Eat 1 fist (1 cup) of each colour vegetables daily (green red, white and purple)

Raw, roasted, steamed…as long as it's not breaded or covered in butter,  you can eat it! Make taking your vitamins fun and easy. Add spinach and broccoli to your eggs in the morning, toss something new in your salad at lunch (radishes, cabbage, etc.) and swap a starch for a veggie (e.g. cauliflower-rice, spaghetti squash).

Week 3. 

Level No. 1. Eat a palm-size of protein with every meal.

Level No. 2. Eat a palm of protein with every meal AND snack.

Level No. 3. Eat 1g of protein per lb. of body weight daily (e.g. 150# person consumes 150 grams/day).

Poultry, fish, red meat, eggs, protein powder, Greek yogurt, whatever! Protein keeps you satiated and helps fuel your lean, sexy muscle, which, in turn burns fat! The palm of your hand is roughly the size of 4-8oz of protein…the bigger the person, the bigger the palm, the bigger your protein needs!

Week 4. 

Level No. 1. Eat healthy fats daily.

Level No. 2. Eat 3 servings (1-2 thumb-sizes) of healthy fats per day.

Level No. 3. Eat 1-2 thumbs of healthy fats with each meal and snack.

Flaxseed, beef, fatty fish (e.g. salmon), coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, avocado, etc. Fat is filling and helps your body absorb vitamins and reduce sugar cravings. You have to eat fat to lose fat!

By the end of the month you will be:

- eating 3-5 cups of fibrous, leafy vegetables per day

- eating quality sources of protein with each meal and snack

- choosing healthy fats to pair with each meal

- listening to your bodies hunger and fullness cues, and no longer falling prey to overeating or emotional eating

- eating fewer, high-calorie, processed foods

So who's with me? Do you want to be healthier, leaner, feeling stronger and more confident by January 1st? Don't be a victim of holiday malaise and weight gain. That's so cliche. Let's be advocates for our health and start 2015 healthier (and sexier) than ever.

Make sure you check in with the Big Hips Little Hips Facebook page. I'll also be posting 30 Reasons to Love Your Body - one each day - for the month of December. Because if you don't love your body, why would you expect to value fuelling it and feeding it appropriately?

Email me at [email protected] if you want weekly updates/accountability throughout the 30 Day Challenge. accountability is everything. if no one knows how you feel, if no one sees what you do, if no one hears what you think…why change?

tell someone. find a coach. be accountable.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

today, I'm thankful for:

yep. you guessed it. we are one of those ridiculously sappy families that isn't allowed to dig into the turkey + the mashed potatoes until we all go around the table and share [at least] one thing we are thankful for. growing up, it was weird, because family members would get choked up and I just wanted someone to pass the stuffing, but you know what? now, I think it's pretty awesome. because as you get older [and wiser] you realise that despite what life throws at you, there is always, without a shadow of a doubt, something to be thankful for. because the very things we take for granted are the same things someone else around the world is praying for. we. are. blessed. and to fail to acknowledge that is unthinkable. so I challenge you - tomorrow -as you sit down to your feast with your family, suggest sharing the blessings you're thankful for. warning: someone will huff, puff and groan about it, but in the end, you will all be reminded of the reasons you have to smile and savour every breath. and I can't think of anything bad about that. today, I'm thankful for:

the ability I have to start each day as if it were my first, or my last. fresh, new and covered in grace. because His mercies are new every morning. 

the struggle. life is one hell of a ride and no matter how cucumber-cool you try to be, you can't avoid all the bumps and the bruises. but I can't think of a single struggle that hasn't bloomed into strength. I'm a survivor. you, you are a survivor. and that is something to be [more than] thankful for. life is sweeter when we slow down, enjoy the seasons, embrace the struggle and focus on our strengths.  

the fact that I have absolutely everything I need. my heart is so full. my family is all close enough for me to hug and hold. and healthy enough to hug and hold me back. my beautiful boyfriend makes me stronger every day. in more ways than one. and my life is spent coaching people I respect and admire toward happier, healthy lives of their own. that purpose - that blessing - is something I can be thankful for every. single. day. and I'll happily spread that around the dinner table. 

so tell me, what are you thankful for?

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Ditch the Diet.

it's Monday and you're starting a cleanse. or, it's the New Year, and you're going on a low-carb-eat-only-vegetables-and-grapefruit diet. heck, it's a new day and you've decided to cut out all of your guilty pleasures and sweet obsessions. read as: no more drive through stops or late-night dates with a gallon of ice-cream. we've all been there. that pivotal moment where you go on a diet overhaul only to all-too-soon veer off course and land yourself in one of the following scenarios: a. you, binge eating every sweet and salty thing you can get your hands on. sticky fingers, check. guilty conscience, check.

b. you, hating yourself. but seriously. now you have to start all over again…tomorrow.

c. you, overweight and over dieting. it's too much work, amiright?

 

when was the last time you became awesome at something overnight? case and point. but I'll expand on that for those of you who still believe you should be able to go to sleep with motivation and wake up to perfection. if we can't rely solely on motivation and will power (both of which are finite things, that will wane over time), what can we rely on? habit. by incrementally changing one small thing at a time, we take small, consistent steps toward our goals. will it happen quickly? not a chance. but let me ask you this - would you rather reach your goals quickly and be happy with yourself for a second before inevitably falling off the wagon, or would you rather be happy with yourself forever, regardless of how long it took you to get there, because you adopted a different way of living altogether? either answer is okay. if you want to keep yo-yo dieting and trying every up-and-coming trend, go for it. but I'm tired for you. I'd encourage you to instead chose one small goal. maybe you start with drinking more water, maybe you center your meals around protein sources, perhaps you'll start by taking a multi vitamin…whatever it may be, it needs to be small and sustainable.

before starting anything, you should ask yourself: can I do this for the rest of my life? if the answer is no, why are you doing it now? temporary satisfaction? okay. but wouldn't you rather have long-term gain?

 

Here are a few small, but great lessons from Fitness Professionals around the web, courtesy of Girls Gone Strong:

Nia Shanks: Learn to let go. "I stopped focusing on the minutiae and instead focused on the few basic principles that produced the majority of results." Like eating more veggies, eating only when hungry, etc. Keep the big things big, and the small things small.

Emily Socolinsky: Start your day with a glass of water with lemon and you've only got 7 to go! Staying hydrated is critical to optimal performance and weight loss!

Julia Ladewski: Timing of carbohydrates is important when focusing on body composition and athletic performance. "I place my carbs around my workouts - before and after." Carbohydrates are our bodies main energy source, so when we eat a bowl of oatmeal around a workout, our body will pull those carbs for energy…energy we don't need if we're just sitting around doing the sedentary thing.

Jen Sinkler: "The smallest habit change I made was upping my protein intake." Protein will keep you fuller for longer, encourage muscle growth and put you on the fast track to fat loss. Protein should be a vital component to every meal.

Jilian Teta: Shedding the "all or nothing" mindset and not allowing oneself to be a victim of ones beliefs about food. The world becomes a lot kinder when you lose negative mindsets surrounding nutrition, such as "I can't eat that", or "this will make me fat". Live your life in the 90/10 zone. 90% of the time you're on your A game, eating well and feeling proud. 10% of the time you make room for those unplanned meals and spontaneous treats.

Joy Victoria: "Chill the f- out." Step back and take a look at the bigger picture. If you aren't enjoying the process in some capacity, you're doing it wrong.

Sirena Bernal: Slow down and eliminate distractions when you're eating. If you honor your food, your food will honor your body. Eating mindfully helps to encourage fullness queues and aids in digestion.

 

So, more water. eliminate distractions. and chill out. Sounds sort of…easy, no? I'm not claiming that it is, but it's a heckuva lot easier than crashing and burning a half dozen times a year only to be 5# heavier by Christmas. stick with small and sustainable and you'll be feeling better, looking better, lifting better and living your life. not dieting. not starving. not restricting. but rather, it will just be what you do, how you eat.

Ditch dieting. Ditch deprivation. Stick with small and sustainable habits and you'll find success.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

yoga is good for you. like, really really great.

yoga. n. that class bendy people take wearing really tight pants.  sort of. but there's a heckofa lot more to it than that.

regardless of how tight you like your trousers, yoga is good for you. yes, YOU. and here's why:

1. yoga is a great form of active recovery. 

it allows you to encourage movement on your non-lifting days without compromising your rest. you should always feel better leaving yoga than when you walked in…sometimes that can't be said after a muscle crushing strength workout.

2. yoga encourages kinaesthetic awareness. 

very few things allow you to connect with your body as much as floating through poses, barefoot and unassisted. yoga forces you to listen to your body, which will only beget stronger lifts at the gym.

3. yoga improves mobility and flexibility. 

when was the last time you tried to touch your toes? can you? if not, you've got a major situation going on that your 70 year-old self will wish you had corrected, like, yesterday. it's all about movement efficiency. and that's what's great about practicing yoga - it's not about how much you can lift or what the plates on your bar say…it's about mobilising your body in a way that facilitates longevity of movement.

4. yoga mandates moderation. 

"moderation is key", right? you can't give 100% in the gym every day. that's not going to result in anything good. lifting is hard. sprinting is hard. working out in general, is hard. high-intensity work needs to be balanced with lower-intensity training in order for you to be truly well and healthy. slow down. find the balance. take a rest day.

5. yoga encourages belly breathing. 

take a deep breath. now look down and take another one. chances are good that your chest rose on the inhale and fell on the exhale. am I right? as we age we worry about "keeping it sucked in" and we lose the art of belly (diaphragmatic) breathing, and expand through our chest as opposed to our abdomen. yoga encourages belly breathing - a healthier way to breathe - and reduces cortisal levels (a belly-fat producing hormone), lessens anxiety and depression, and, encourages pain-free movement and proper body alignment. who knew, right?

6. yoga keeps you humble. 

but seriously. have you ever tried balancing on one leg? with your arms in the air? holding that pose for 10 deep [belly] breaths? that's what I thought. in yoga, you can't cheat yourself out of anything. yoga challenges you to appreciate what your body can do while accepting what it can't…currently. It cannot be forced. you have to listen to your body and practice, practice, practice.

7. yoga breeds a non-competitive environment.

now hear me out. some of you read that and thought, "not for me!" I know, I know, you're all, grrrr. hear-me-roar, and that's great! there's a time and a place for a little healthy competition, but yoga encourages an atmosphere of acceptance that eliminates negative comparisons. I strongly believe that if we all accepted that comparison is the thief of joy and practiced self- and body-acceptance, the world would be a better place. that's what I'll say in my Miss American speech anyway…competition can be blinding. yoga centers you on ease of movement and personal progression.

8. yoga makes you strong. 

you can deadlift 2x your bodyweight? do a set of unassisted pull-ups like a pro? great. how are you with crow pose? yoga might surprise you by making you stronger as it encourages multi-joint movements and wakes up muscles you might not use on the regular. be functional. be mobile. be strong. be someone who can bench press like the best of them AND hold chaturanga.

If you're looking to try a class - or just looking to further your practice - emPower is starting a yoga class on October 18th. Saturdays at 9am. what better way to start your weekend!? I'll be there. all are welcome! feel free to email me for more information: [email protected]

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Time: the [not so] secret to healthy eating.

A new study conducted by  The American Journal of Preventive Medicine (if you don't know already, they're a pretty big deal. #crediblesource) revealed that people who spend more time preparing and cooking meals are more likely to have healthier diets. Those who spent the least amount of time in the kitchen also spent the most amount of money on food away from the home and were more likely to eat out at restaurants and fast food chains. Not exactly rocket science. If you aren't cooking and preparing food at home, you'll have to get it elsewhere. But the cool part - when it came to weekly food spending (grocery shopping, eating out, etc.), those who prepared more meals at home spent, on average, $7 less for each family member per week. sooo…all that talk about healthy eating being more expensive is trash. BAM! excuse destroyed.

The study highlights the need for more nutrition education and teaching on how to prepare meals quickly and more cost effectively. I get it, you've got more important things to do than watch quinoa boil, but hey, if it keeps you healthier and saves you money, it's pretty hard to turn down. Take an hour or two out of your weekend and sit down and decide what you want to eat for the week - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks - then make a grocery list. Hit up your family owned supermarket, or, you know, wherever you get your food shopping on, and stock up. Then, don't' just unload the groceries, but start the prepping process…wash and chop veggies, cook up some easy proteins, pre-package snacks, etc. And make BIG batches, so that you can have meals readily available for leftovers. Think of it as an investment in your week.

Fortunately for you, because I love this stuff, I've created a Kitchen Workout tutorial:

What Do I Need?

-       Use of an oven/grill

-       Pots + Pans

-       Cooking utensils

-       Groceries

-       An hour or two of free time

What should I make?

The easy answer: whatever healthy food you want to eat!

Step 1. Go grocery shopping.

Step 2. Get rid of your family members and all other distractions. Lock yourself in the kitchen for at least 60 minutes.

Step 3. Make a plan. What meals do you want for the week? How much do you need to make to last you until your next food prep?

Step 4. Get to work!

 

Suggestions:

PROTEINS:

-       Grilled chicken breasts (marinate with balsamic/Italian dressing)

-       Salmon (season with dill + lemon juice)

-       Flank steak

-       Shrimp (marinate with pesto + olive oil)

-       Ground turkey breast (season with basil, oregano + coconut aminos/low-sodium soy sauce)

-       Hardboiled eggs

-       “Undeviled eggs” – hardboiled egg whites stuffed with hummus and/or guacamole

-       Pre-portion Greek yogurt + cottage cheese into Tupperware containers

 

CARBS:

-       Brown rice (made with low-sodium vegetable/chicken broth)

-       Quinoa (made with low-sodium vegetable/chicken broth)

-       Sweet potato fries (season with olive oil + paprika)

-       Overnight oats (place oats in a sealable jar with milk, Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts and honey. Refrigerate overnight.)

 

VEGGIES:

-       - Wash + chop veggies used for breakfast scrambles + salads (e.g. onions, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.)

-       Roasted asparagus/broccoli/brussel sprouts/cabbage (season with lemon pepper + olive oil)

-       Stir fry (e.g. peppers, onions, carrots, snap peas seasoned with coconut aminos/low-sodium soy sauce)

-

Easy Recipe Ideas: 

Slow Cooker Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

-       4 chicken breasts (4oz each)

-       2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

-       2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

-       1 cup chicken broth

-       2 garlic cloves, minced

-       1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

-       1/3 fresh basil, finely chopped

-       Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions (to cook):

  1. Place all ingredients into a slow cooker and place lid on top. Cook for 4 hours. Serve.

Directions (to freeze):

  1. Combine all ingredients and put into a gallon size freezer bag.
  2. Freeze.
  3. Defrost overnight in refrigerator and pour contents into slow cooker.
  4. Cook on low for 4 hours.

Servings: 4 Calories: 415 Fat: 3g Protein: 57g Carbs: 36g

 

Fall Flavors Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

-       1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to package instructions

-       2 TBSP honey

-       ¼ cup lemon juice

-       1 tsp Dijon mustard

-       3 TBSP olive oil

-       1 cup Granny Smith apple, diced

-       1/3 cup golden raisins

-       1/3 cup dried cranberries

-       ¼ cup red onion, diced

-       1/3 cup parsley, chopped

-       ½ cup walnuts, chopped

-       2 cup chicken breast, cooked and chopped into 1” pieces

-       Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together honey, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Slowly whisk olive oil until blended.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together cooled quinoa, dressing and remaining ingredients.
  5. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves: 6 Calories: 487 Fat: 14g Protein: 52g Carbs: 38g

 

Apple Streusel Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

-       3 large green apples, chopped (aprox. 2 cups)

-       3 TBSP warm water

-       1 ½ TBSP butter (or coconut oil)

-       9 large eggs

-       3 TBSP coconut milk

-       1 ½ TBSP coconut flour

-       ¼ tsp baking soda

-       2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium skillet, sauté the apples, water, 1 ½ tsp cinnamon and butter until the apples are the consistency of chunky applesauce or apple pie filling.
  3. Allow mixture to cool before combining with egg mixture.
  4. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, coconut flour, ½ tsp of cinnamon, baking soda and salt until well combined.
  5. Add cooled apples, reserving ¼ cup for garnish.
  6. Spoon egg and apple mixture into parchment lined muffin tips (approximately ¼ cup each).
  7. Gently spoon about one teaspoon of the remaining apple mixture onto the top of each muffin.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves: 12 Calories: 100 Fat: 6g Protein: 5g Carbs: 6g

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

"I don't want to get bulky"

Ladies, this is akin to saying, "I don't want to get prostate cancer". Well, yeah, that might suck, but just like you don't have the right bits to get prostate cancer, you don't have the right hormones to get bulky either. So unless you accidentally find yourself double fisting anabolic steroids, that just isn't going to happen. But you know what will happen? Training and eating like a healthy athlete will make you look like (and perform like) a healthy athlete. If that's not something you're after, then by all means, put that barbell down!

Can women develop strong, powerful looking muscles? Yes. Have you ever seen Stacie Tovar? Lindsey Smith? Christmas Abott? I promise you that those women work their assess off for every teeny tiny muscle fiber, killing themselves day after day in the gym. Not to mention, they eat like vikings. They have earned those muscles! Will you look like that after strength training a few times a week. Psht. Not a chance. Unless it's your career, the volume of your training couldn't begin to compare, not to mention they eat your days worth of calories for breakfast. No one ever became a weight lifter or a bodybuilder by accident.

If you want to look skinny or achieve the "thigh gap", well then, perhaps strength training isn't for you. Feel free to hit up the recumbent bike or the elliptical for 3 hours a day and let me know how that works out for your bone density a few years from now. Looking like a 13 year old girl is great…if you're a 13 year old girl. Looking like a strong, fit and capable women sounds like a much better goal for most of us to have, don't you agree?

"But I just want to get toned" 

Toned isn't a thing. Someone made it up. Muscles change as a response to exercise. That's it. There's no secret. Your muscles do not become more defined without one of two things happening: a. fat loss, b. lean mass gains. So when you say you want to get toned, you're really asking for BIGGER MUSCLES. The second half of the battle is pristine nutrition.

"I don't want to get too muscly"

Ladies, listen up. You do not possess the necessary hormonal profile to bulk up under heavy weight. Do you know what the 1st ingredient is in BULK? Testosterone. Part of what makes us female is the absence of one hormone in particular. Testosterone. Without the use of some secret supplements, it can't happen. Men have 15-20x more testosterone than women. Women who sport strong muscles are that way BY INTENT. They care more about the number on the bar than the number on their pants. They care more about functional strength than the size of their waist. and they lift heavy things with the intention of lifting heavier things. It's powerful. It's invigorating. and it's not something everyone will understand. I'd rather have muscular quads that allow me to squat, lunge and box jump over a thigh gap that allows me to…well, yeah. Strong isn't the new skinny. Strong is just stronger than skinny. But even if squatting your bodyweight isn't a goal of yours, that's no reason to avoid functional movements like squats, lunges, pushups and pull-ups in lieu of colored dumbbells. Put those down.

"My boyfriend/husband doesn't want me to get any bigger" 

Lose him. Seriously. If he has an issue with something that allows you to feel confident, strong, healthy and fit, he's not the one for you. A few years ago, I went out on a date with a friend…around the same time I decided that being strong and fit was a better goal for me than being frail and thin. Midway through our conversation he paused and said, "but you're done right? I mean, you don't want your muscles to get any bigger, do you?" That date was over faster than you can say D-BAG. He's since moved on and found a fairy of a wife who allows him to feel strong, and I've continued lifting. I guess we both won.

Here's the bottom line girls - if you think you have too much muscle, you don't. If you're using words like "bulky" and "muscly" as deterrents to avoid the gym, stop. Lift something heavy and allow yourself to feel like a badass. Heck! Forget how good it feels for a second and do it because it will decrease your risk of osteoporosis and improve your insulin sensitivity, encourage better posture and a healthy blood pressure. Forget body composition and physical appearance altogether (it's vain anyway - Proverbs 31:30), do it for the feeling you'll get when you realise you just did something you couldn't do years, months or even weeks ago. Chase performance. Learn dedication. Be strong.

Eat real food. Lift real weights. Get real results.

PS. If you're a guy reading this and you don't want to get bulky, please don't ever say that out loud.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

Make Your Life Healthier RIGHT Now:

If you could make your life healthier by doing one small thing in the next 5 minutes or the next hour, why wouldn't you? You don't have time to exercise, watching what you eat is a pain in the tush and your kids prevent you from getting 7 hours of quality sleep a night. Does that sound like you? While all of those answers fall under the 'lamest excuses in the book' category, I'm going to give you a few, fast tips on how to make your life healthier RIGHT now…and because it's 2014 and I'm part of the millennial generation, I've included hastags for your amusement.

 

1. Wash your linens. Dust mites are a major allergy trigger and they love to hang out in your bed. Zap 'em by laundering sheets and pillowcases every week in hot water. We'd all do well to follow through on this one. I'm as guilty as the next college kid of only washing my sheets when absolutely necessary, but how much better would it feel to drool on fresh linens at night? #nothingfeelsbetterthancleansheets

2. Fly right. For those of you who travel, I'm sure you've heard that airplanes are one of the germiest places. Just for a second, think about how many people cough, sneeze, barf (sorry, but true) and use that teeny tiny little bathroom in the confined space of a plane. Now imagine your face smooshed up against the seat that hundreds of thousands of other people have sat on as you try to catch a few zzz's before landing. yeahhhh. Next time you fly, turn on your air vent and angle it so it blows filtered air down in front of your face— it will create a little bit of a barrier to keep the germs going around the cabin from getting into your nose and mouth. #passmeafacemaskplease

3. Do 25 jumping jacks. Right now. No joke. Moving your body acts as a huge stress reliever and helps put you in a more positive mood. The worst that can happen is you do 25 jacks and still feel like crap. Either way, you'll be better off for it, but I'd be willing to bed you feel a little bit better and brighter. #moveitorloseit

4. Power down. How many times have you been in that stage of almost-but-not-quite-asleep when your phone vibrates or dings with an incoming text message? I know I am guilty as charged, and while sometimes the person on the other end of the telephone line might be worth a few minutes of sleeplessness, usually it's something that can wait until morning. Power your phone off or at the very least silence it during bedtime hours so as not to disturb your precious REM sleep cycles. #sweetdreams

5. Go commando. yup. I seriously just said that. Going without underpants, even if just at night reduces bacteria growth that could otherwise cause infection. This is particularly important if you're prone to UTI's. #ditchyourpanties

6. Plan to be prepared. Keep a card with all essential medical information (allergies, medications, etc.) in your wallet at all times. This is one of those things that seems superfluous until you actually need it. Better to be over prepared then underprepared in the case of an emergency. #savealife

7. Ditch the dish sponge. Sponges are the dirtiest thing in your house. THE dirtiest. As in, nothing is grosser and yet you wipe down your kitchen counters and eat food off of them after using that germ-invested thing. ew. Once a week throw your sponge into the dishwasher or microwave on high for 30 seconds to kill off any potential illness-causing bugs. #papertowelsalldayeveryday #donthate #Irecycle 

8. Do a skin check. This particular topic is near and dear to my heart. Early detection saved my life. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer among women and the key to treatment is early detection. Check yourself out! Are there any changing or unusual spots? Asymmetrical freckles or moles? If so, or if you have a family history of skin cancer, it's a good idea to get checked out by a dermatologist on a yearly basis. #cancersucks

9. Say yes to puppy videos. Pets are a proven stress buster, but I'm sure you knew that. Go cuddle your pup or at the very least give yourself permission to watch a few funny cat videos. #mansbestfriend

10. Go coocoo for cocoa. No, I'm not talking about those little chocolatey balls of corn oil and sugar. The real, cocoa from the bean stuff. Research shows that even a little bit of chocolate can improve mood. Try adding a teaspoon of cocoa to your oatmeal or budget for a square of dark chocolate after dinner each night. #happinesshappensinmoderation

11. Get outside! Fresh air is full of feel-good negative ions, which boosts oxygen flow to the brain. If you can combine being outdoors with exercise (even just a brisk walk) that's even better as activity boosts endorphins and energy. Just make sure you're staying coated in SPF and hydrated with H2O. #getupandgetout

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

10 Things You Can't Do On Crutches:

I hope very few of you can relate to this post, but for those of you who can... 1. Stairs. I have suddenly found myself behaving like my grandmother - taking every possible avenue, despite how out of the way it may be, to avoid stairs at all costs. Navigating stairs on crutches might as well be a death trap.

2. Sneaking up on someone, or…privacy. No can do. Everyone knows where I am at all times, and at what pace at which I'm hobbling.

3. Shower. More importantly - wash your hair. Next time you're bathing just try to navigate the slippery cubicle on one leg. Lather, Rinse, Repeat on only 5 toes. I DARE YOU. And don't even get me started on shaving. It's quite a balancing act.

4. Getting anything from Point A to Point B. One of the first days I was free from bed rest confinement I made my way (slowly) to the kitchen, grabbed a glass, filled it up with ice and water, and then…well, realised I was stuck. With only two arms and a need for two crutches, nothing is going anywhere unless it fits in a pocket or sports bra. I have since created a system by which anything can be transported if placed on a cookie sheet on the floor. It's like hockey…with a really big puck. Push, take one step forward. Push, another step. It's genius.

5. Carpet. Most of my home is hardwood flooring, which is a crutch users dream. Gliiiiiide and step. No problem. But then you get to fluffy carpet and $£*! gets real.

6. Spontaneity. If I'm going to the effort of relocating I need to know how many steps it takes to get there, if I will encounter any obstacles along the way, and if there will be a vacant high-seated chair once I arrive. If I don't know you're coming and you ring the doorbell, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm staying put 'cause you'll be gone before I'm halfway there.

7. Hugs. I want to. Really I do. And that doesn't mean that you shouldn't hug me. But just realise, I can't crutch all the way into your chest. And I can't even really open my arms up wide to indicate that I want a hug (my armpits are essentially molded to my crutches). You hug me. And when I'm back on both legs, I'll hug you back. Promise.

8. Take the simple things for granted. I miss my independence. I miss sleeping in my own bed (although not badly enough to survive 2 flights of stairs 4x a day), making my own meals, showering without someone else in the house (you know…just in case the flamingo dance takes a nose dive), driving, walking, walking quickly, doing anything quickly really.

9. Be Prideful. Life on crutches is a terribly humbling experience. I've learned to accept help when it's offered because there are just some things I cannot do on my own (this applies to everyone, not just the physically impaired). At one point I tried opening a door with such force that I had enough time to grab my crutches and hobble through before it hit me in the ass. It sounded doable in my head, but in execution...not so much. Sometimes in life you just need help. I've learned to accept it.

10. Complain. I mean sure, you can. And trust me, I had my moments, but you know that saying, someone always has it worse off than you? It's really hard to argue with that. I am not in a wheelchair. I still have both legs. My limited mobility is temporary. That can't be said for everyone. Case closed. Pity party over.

 

So, life on crutches has taught me a thing or two…I can only imagine what the next 8 weeks of recovery will bring.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

10 Habits for a Healthier Life:

We've all heard the age-old saying that it takes 21 days to make a habit, right? So imagine for a second, just how much healthier and happier you would be 12 months from now if you added one of these healthy habits to your life every month for a year. Think about it - what would you look like? are you leaner? wearing a smaller size? is your skin more supple? What would you feel like? do you have more energy? are you less lethargic and more active? Who would you be? I ask because - get this - you are completely in control of that person. It's entirely up to you to create who you desire to be 2…10...12 months from now. Start small. Don't expect to revamp your entire diet in a day. Don't plan to suddenly start working out 6x a week. That's not realistic. My grandfather likes to say, All good things take time. After all, I took 9 months. Pick one goal to master this week and then continue to focus on that same goal next week…and the following, until it's no longer an obligation but a habit. Once you feel confident with your compliance, add something new. Wouldn't you rather make slow, steady progress over the course of a year than to dive head first into a new health plan onto you fail a month later and try again? We've done that. I'm over it. Aren't you? Let's do it the healthy, sustainable way.

10 Habits for a Healthier Life:

1. Drink More Water.

Studies show that as many as 75% of us are dehydrated. Assume you are among them. Dehydration can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, toxicity, digestive issues, pre-mature aging and high cholesterol. Symptoms that then go on to pose more serious health risks. Hydration is important on a cellular level - every single one of your cells needs to be properly hydrated in order to flush out toxins. And no, drinking coffee, soda and alcohol doesn't count - all of those dehydrate your body. Drink water. You know, the 0 calorie stuff.

2. Eliminate Soda. Even Diet Soda.

As mentioned earlier, soda dehydrates you…but that's the least of your worries if you're a fan of sugary carbonated beverages.  Sodas are loaded with sugar and sugar consumption is a major cause of degenerative diseases such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. Diet sodas are NO better and in most cases worse as they contain cancer-causing artificial sweeteners such as Splenda and Aspartame. I recently had a chat with a fellow at the gym and he said, "I made the healthy switch to diet soda because my wife made me." To which I responded, "Well sir, with all due respect to your wife, she's not doing you any favors. Diet soda is worse than the regular stuff." "But there aren't any calories! How can it be bad? There's nothing in it." Ahhhh, how uninformed and misguided are we? There's nothing in it but chemicals and artificial ingredients. Avoid it. Find something else to quench your thirst like unsweetened tea or sparkling water with fruit.

3. Forget Fast Food.

McDonalds, Burger King, Subway….yes, even Subway. With a slogan like "Eat Fresh" you shouldn't be able to serve processed meats and bread with the same ingredients used to make yoga mats. If you never ate high-sodium nitrate processed meat again you'd be better off!! Fast food is not food. It's dead. Eat real, live food. If it doesn't go bad, it's bad for you. and what you eat is directly correlated with what you feel. All together now, if you eat BAD food you will feel…B A D. Now, for those of you who are fast food junkies, realise that because your body is addicted to the sodium, starch and sugar used in fast food you will feel worse before you feel better as your body goes through withdrawal. Stick with it. Your future self will thank you.

4. Read food labels and eliminate harmful ingredients.

Eliminate foods containing synthetic preservatives, artificial flavors and/or coloring, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, Aspartame and Genetically Modified ingredients. If you want to make this really easy, simply start avoiding processed and packaged foods in general. You are what you eat so don't be cheap, greasy or fake. Ask yourself these questions:

- are there more than 5 ingredients?

- can I pronounce all of the ingredients?

- what is it made from? do I even know what it used to be?

Minimally processed and fresh whole foods is what’s lacking in the Standard American Diet which is, in part, why the majority of the US population is sick and obese.

5. Make a weekly grocery list with at least 10 different fruits and vegetables.

Load up on those greens. If every individual in your household is to be consuming 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day, that means your grocery list better include those items! Buy from local farmers markets first whenever possible. The less your food travels before it ends up on your plate, the more nutrients it will provide for you. PLUS it will carry a lower carbon footprint for the environment! Additionally, buying from farmers markets and local produce stands is usually much more cost effective and pesticide-free.

6. Shut down the screens and MOVE.

Have 'active hour' - an hour a day without screen time (computers, cell phones, iPods, etc.) where you go DO something. Go for a hike, walk the dogs, take a yoga class, etc. Whatever you choose, do something that motivates you and releases you from the daily grind. Exercise helps us reduce stress, increases metabolism, boosts mood and promotes self-esteem. Who doesn't want those things? Get your family involved and be active together.

7. Make 90% of your meals at home.

Eating healthy turns a hill into a mountain when you choose to eat out. There are so many hurdles you have to watch out for - high sodium counts, calorie-laden sauces and dressings, large portions sizes, etc. When you cook at home you are completely in control of what goes into a recipe and into your body. Spend time on the weekend preparing meals for the week, pack lunches the night before, make large batches to store in the freezer for leftovers. Don't just be an ignorant consumer, be an active eater!

8. Get rid of the negative self-talk.

BING BING BING. This is a big deal so listen up. In my experience, both in the lives of my clients as well as my own life, I've found that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is our own mental dialogue.

"Well, I've already messed up so I might as well just eat the whole thing…"

"I feel like I'm always restricting myself. This is no way to live! This diet doesn't' work for me." 

"I can't lose weight. I've tried so many times, it's just not fair." 

Have you ever caught yourself saying something similar? You are your own worst enemy. Negative self talk turns to negative energy which brings you down on a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level. First, become aware of these thoughts as you move throughout your day. You might be surprised how down on yourself you are. Next, ask yourself if you would want your child/spouse/friend/client to speak to themselves that way. If the answer is no, then you would do well to eliminate those thoughts from your mental vocabulary. Lastly, combat those negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Positive thoughts have 10x the energy of negative thoughts, so be uplifting (yes, even inside of your own head). Everyone blossoms in the face of encouragement, so compliment your own efforts and let that set the tone for future behavior.

9. Nurture Your Relationships.

Stable, loving relationships, not just with a spouse or partner but also with friends and relatives, have been shown to result in fewer doctor's visits, less anxiety, depression and substance abuse, lower blood pressure, better pain control and stress management, and a longer, happier life. Make an effort to improve your communication skills, learn how to manage conflict, talk out negative emotions instead of letting them fester, engage in challenging and exciting activities regularly, get and give hugs, and celebrate successes and failures together. If you have the power to impact someones day for the better, do it.

10. Take Time to Breathe.

Regular meditation changes the structure of our brains and how our neurons interact with each other resulting in better stress management, anxiety reduction, addiction control, decreased depression and better cognitive function. People who take time for themselves to breathe deeply and meditate also often have improved blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and cellular health. Breathing is important as it maintains our oxygen levels for energy production. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us use only about 20% of our breathing capacity. Take time to slow down, focus on the present moment (not on what's for dinner or that student loan you forgot to pay), and tell your body it's okay to relax. Perhaps it's spending a few quiet moments in the mornings with a cup of coffee and your Bible; maybe it's just sitting outside by yourself, soaking up the sun, or taking some time before bed to journal…whatever meditation means to you, make time for it.

One new, healthy habit each month and you'll be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself come Christmastime.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

#FitGirlProblems

- counting calories becomes unnecessary when the foods you eat don't have labels.

- when you're caught wearing something other than workout clothes, friends and family ask why you're all dressed up.

- when you're forced to wear a real bra. trust me, it's a problem. 

- eating more than your date, because, a girl has to feed her muscle!

- having "man hands". those calluses are earned. 

- laundry frequency. jeans can be worn at least 4 times before washing. workout leggings cannot.

- your girlfriends are going out for martinis in stilettos and you're just like, pass me a protein shake and some Nike frees. 

- it's going to suck, outliving your friends who don't eat well and exercise.

- social life. workout. sanity. pick only two.

- getting excited to sleep because...breakfast is coming.

- you arrive at the gym. WITHOUT YOUR IPOD. life ruined.

- go shopping for a dress. buy running sneakers instead.

- only having time for a workout or a shower. yeah, there's still a decision to me made. 

- just wanting someone to look at you the way you look at the peanut butter jar.

 

ladies, what would you add? share your #fitgirlproblems with pride.

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

Don't Break My Heart.

I've thought about writing this post for a long while, and every time I sat down to compose a draft I decided against it for a myriad of reasons. However, due to the uproar resulting from the latest Biggest Loser finale, I can't help but feel led to share a bit of my story with you in hopes that it might resonate with some, or even just one, and help you on your journey to true health and happiness. I'm a little hesitant to rip my chest open and lay it all on the floor, but here goes…be gentle. I think I'm a pretty normal girl. Whatever that means. I pride myself on being good at a lot of things, while not excellent at any one thing in particular. To look at my life now, I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on the concept of moderation. I'm active whenever I can be. I enjoy the sense of accomplishment and strength I get from finishing a workout but I also appreciate my rest days. My diet is squeaky clean most of the time, but there are those days when I treat myself to a big bowl of popcorn or enjoy a "cheat" meal. I'm healthy.

I. am. healthy. To you, that might not seem like such a big deal. But to me? That's not something I've always been able to say with truth and confidence. Three years ago I was a far cry from where I am today. I was consumed with anxiety. Anxiety about working out. When can I get my run in? I need to go to the gym twice today. Exercise first, everything else can come later. Anxiety about eating. I'm hungry but I've already eaten too much. I can't go out with friends, they'll expect me to get food. It sounds sad, and compulsive, but those were the thoughts swirling around in my head for a few years of my life. I became obsessed. By nature, I'm more than a little bit of a perfectionist. And while that allows me to be successful in many aspects, at times it also handicaps my ability to be flexible and forgiving. And when you can't learn to forgive yourself, the only option is to exert such strict control that you never provide yourself with the opportunity to mess up. I was unhappy. Mentally destroyed if I didn't get at least 5 miles in on the treadmill every day. I was overexercised and under fed, starving myself with fewer than 1,000 calories a day. At 5'9.5'', 111lbs with a BMI of 16.2, I was severely underweight.

You can calculate your BMI here.

"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?" - You've all heard that before, right? Well, let me tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth. While I was looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places, my body wasn't getting the nutrients it needed to survive, let alone flourish. I constantly felt faint, lightheaded and exhausted. My body stopped functioning like it should. I was forced to sleep with a pillow between my knees because my bones hurt so badly. Hugs from family members would result in long, heated discussions about underfeeding and bony bodies. My friends were constantly asking me if I was sick or unwell. And the worst part? Those comments only fuelled my disillusioned ideals. I remember looking in the mirror and still finding things to improve upon, happy that I could slide myself into my size 00 jeans. But I was exercising and eating fruits and vegetables every day, so technically I was "healthy", right?. At least that was the story I told if anyone asked. But I had lost all sense of reality somewhere along my quest for control.

Did I have an eating disorder? I would tell you no. Did I struggle with disordered eating? Yes. Is there a difference? I'm not sure. Why did I do it? Sometimes I'm not even sure I can answer that question. I just took something so good, health, and turned it into an unfortunate extreme. What made me change my behavior? There wasn't one particular moment in time when I had an epiphany and decided to take my life back an ironic catchphrase for someone who thought she had such unyielding control over her life to begin with, but at some point, with the help of my family and friends (who supported me at every size) I thought, Nicole, this is ridiculous. Your life is currently defined by a piece of exercise equipment and the size of your pants. This doesn't feel good anymore. Become someone you're proud of. I've always known that, outside of my relationship with Jesus Christ, perfection is unattainable. But choosing to relinquish that control wasn't and still isn't easy.

As I look at Rachel Frederickson, the winner of this years Biggest Loser I see my former self. A girl so wrapped up in the control and illusion of her self worth that while winning the competition she lost so much of herself (weight excluded). I am certainly in no place to judge Rachel or anyone else, and I ask that you don't either, because that doesn't help her, you or me.

I'm not proud of those selfish years, but I am proud of where I am now. Are there days I'm not happy with what I see staring back at me in the mirror? Of course. But there are more days when I look at my reflection, both literally and figuratively, and think, damn, I'm pretty freaking amazing. I know now that my self worth has absolutely nothing to do with the number on the scale or the size written on the back of my jeans. I've learned to love my body. I love what it can do. I love how I feel and I love that I've given up on finding perfect. Outside of Jesus, it doesn't work.

I have this one body and I'm going to feed it and train it for a life worth living. Because I promise you,

strong feels so much better than skinny ever felt.

Eat well. Live well. Be well.