health

#thisisnotavalentinespost #butitcouldbe

today was a bad day. and it isn't often I have a bad day. I can vividly remember…only two?

my therapist would probably disagree and say that I have bad days, I just choose not to acknowledge them. that I tuck the sad, bad and the ugly emotions away in my head somewhere and keep doing what I'm supposed to. keep feeling what I'm supposed to. because, for some reason, being a vulnerable human being with needs, wants and emotions feels like I'm letting someone down, falling short of expectation. God only knows whose.

…we're working on that.

but today, today was pretty bad.

it started when my alarm went off (yes, this is the start of a bad joke.) I rolled over, cranky and with sleep still in my eyes and thought, "I'm not ready for this day". not a great start. hungry from the night before - due to a packed work schedule and a poorly planned evening meal - I groggily stumbled into the kitchen where I was greeted with a cheerful, "good morning sleepyhead" by my beautiful very-much-a-morning-person boyfriend. I think I mumbled something back (at least I hope so) and started preparing breakfast, because, the day would get better after breakfast. only to realise 10 seconds later that I had to make my feta +  spinach omelette...without feta. it's worth mentioning that I knew we had used the last of it the day before - so this shouldn't have come as a surprise to me - but for some reason, being reminded of this fact in the dark hours of the morning was more than my mind was ready or able to handle. after assembling my spinach omelette (no feta, just to be clear.), complete with avocado toast, I stare at my plate only to mumble on of those four letter words I will advise my future children against adding to their vocabulary.

you see, ever since my brother died my grief has been eating away at me in the form of prescription strength acid reflux. It's something I've been working to manage (and have done reasonably well with…except when distracted by blinding hunger), but if I don't religiously take a probiotic at least 30 minutes before breakfast each morning I can pretty much bet on my stomach burning it's way through my body until I'm face down in a bottle of TUMS. big sigh. so, I pop a probiotic, leave my breakfast to get cold and crawl back into bed, because, I've only been up for 15 minutes and I already want this day to end.

at this point, I'm upset with the circumstances, but I'm more upset with my attitude and my start to the day because, I AM JOY. I can ooze happiness on command. why is this happening!? I set my alarm to go off in 30 minutes (who needs to shower anyway), hoping that I can wake up on a better side of the bed this time. after watching this all unfold my loving boyfriend comes in to cuddle me, untucking my face from the sheets to ask me what's wrong.

we both know what's wrong. instead of coping with my stress, grief and loss in healthy ways, I pretend it doesn't exist so I can be "normal" and bottle it up until one day - at the end of a long, taxing, in-demand week, the sadness just starts seeping out of my eyeballs, screaming for recognition. but, because he's the greatest, he asks anyway. and then proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes of his morning drying my tears and reassuring me that we, everything, will be okay.

after kissing his face and apologising for allowing my sadness to leave a mascara stain on his pillow, I decide to recommit to the day with a hot shower (and a cold breakfast). but, little did I know, I'd withstand a few more blows to the body before the day was done.

- I hadn't planned to use the phrase "what the hell!?" when delivering a presentation to the entire HR department of my workplace. gulp. my brain just sort of barfed and it happened.

- because it's Friday, and Friday is grocery day and I planned poorly for how much food we would need for the week, I didn't have lunch to pack or time to go grab lunch…until 3:30pm. that guy in the snickers commercials? yep. totally.

- I thought a quick workout might be a good pick-me-up until I got to the gym and realised I forgot my sneakers. ever seen someone deadlift in ballet flats? yeah. because, this day was not getting me down dammit! 

- after having gone almost 6 hours without food, I stopped to get a salad and kindly asked to have the standard goat cheese substituted with feta (because, as you know, I didn't get any earlier). ** side bar: I've been allergic to milk and have avoided dairy for over 10 years. my belly revolts at the first bite, so I simply stay away. unless, it's feta. feta is the exception. I don't understand it and don't want to. I just enjoy it. ** halfway into my otherwise delicious salad I realise that my requested substitution went unfulfilled. and thus began a very uncomfortable ride home...

at this point, I'm finally headed home and the end is in sight. I have exactly one hour and fifteen minutes before my sweet boyfriend (who at this point, had just texted me an uplifting, "I love you" because he knew I was fighting an uphill battle) gets home and we head to his parents for a family dinner (a family dinner the has been planned for at least 2 weeks. because, you know, schedules.) he walks in the door at 6:30pm only to find me back in bed (after having popped a few TUMS), trying to start this day over for the 3rd time. he takes one look at me and says, "hey. why don't you stay home? maybe journal a little and get some of those feelings out. you're hiding and it's eating at you. let it out." cue the tears. again. after a blubbering argument about not wanting to disappoint his parents, he smiles, assures me that's nonsense and tucks me back in with a kiss and his promise to be home soon.

I don't know what on earth I ever did to deserve this man. and despite just how bad this day was,

this man is completely and unconditionally good.

after seven months of suffering hard days, managing overwhelming sadness and learning how to pick up the pieces, he is always there. constant and unyielding. always.

and it's because of him that I can wake up every morning and face another day.

Patrick, I love you. #thisisnotavalentinespost #butitcouldbe

 

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.

grief is an irrational #*%$!

 

today, I am thankful for:

being able to drive with the windows down. 

washing my hair, finally. 

setting a bench press PR. 

peach baked oatmeal for dinner. because, I felt like it. 

there it is. a glimpse into my gratitude journal. and while some of those things may seem menial to you, believe it or not, I haven't washed my hair since Saturday. and I'm writing this on Tuesday.

because, life is a bitch. despite the fact that I know my life is beautiful, I now have to make an intentional effort to remind myself of the bright spots; the tiny wins. like a child, I'm reduced to outlining daily positives. because these days, it all gets drowned out by the darkness far too easily. 17 weeks ago my brother lost his battle with addiction. died. alone. in a cold hotel room. without a "goodbye" or an "I love you", and ever since, my world has been an unpredictable hurricane of emotions.

some days, it's easier to drown out the noise. distraction, obligation, entertainment, they all help me to pretend my life is normal; unchanged from that day. but then there are those days. days that feel endlessly dark. days spent swarmed by a cocktail of unwanted emotions. fear. anxiety. anger. sadness. angst. and others that I've never felt before and would've been happy never having known.

I like to think I'm getting over it, those initial feelings, and that I'm healing. but, every bad day reminds me of just how devastated my heart really is.  sometimes there's an obvious trigger, a special date, a memory, or a few minutes spent looking at old photographs. but then other times the trauma strikes without warning. one minute I have myself (seemingly) together and the next minute...I'm a sloppy wet mess, curled into a ball in a dark room because the world just seems to be too much. the grief is like a disease that has spread to every part of my body, infecting every corner of my life.

some days I'm able to recognise and appreciate that he's no longer suffering. that addiction no longer has chains wrapped around his soul, cutting off his very will to give sobriety another try. I will forever be thankful that his dark days are over. But what about my selfish soul? How do I get over the fact that my mom has lost a child and will mourn forever? or the fact that my dad has lost his only son and along with that, the Cascio name? or that my future children will never know the "fun uncle" we always joked he would be, living in our basement and feeding them junk food. or that the world will never know him as the genuinely sensitive person he was, but merely another statistic of a devastating epidemic.

the answers to those questions escape me. but, I'm doing it. getting by day by day, highlight the good bits like a middle school librarian. surviving some days requires a three hour nap and a stern talking to, but I'm doing it. because, I refuse to let the drug that took his life, also take mine. He would've hated seeing the darkness seep into my life. He would have stood in opposition at the very thought.

trust this my fellow grief-stricken friends, the waves will lessen in size and intensity as days pass and the memories remain. and so, until then, hold tight to the blessings. find the light in the darkness. and be forever grateful that you had something so undeniably special that saying goodbye feels like the worst possible thing ever.

 

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.

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. 

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. 

the absolute worst 35 days of my life.

the past 35 days have been the absolute worst thirty-five days of my life. some have been devastating, others, empty and lackluster. some have been quite lovely and yet, I can't seem to find any joy in the hours that consume them. some days fly by with a numbness attached, while others are full of emotions - the kind you never want or hope to feel. the past 35 days have been the absolute worst thirty-five days of my life. my eyes have never been more sore or swollen from tears. my stomach has never been more disinterested or in such turmoil. my sleep has never been less satisfying. and the only answer anyone has for me is, grief. it's a small word, but it's quite possibly the most vile and unwelcome word I've ever experienced.

I'm told that grief looks different for every person, and so, this is only just my story. I can't speak for you, or for anyone else involved in the cautionary tale that is now my life. I'm not telling you this so that you can better understand me, I don't need you to. and I'm not telling you this so you can look upon me with sympathy or sadness. I need that even less. I'm telling you this because maybe, just maybe (although I hope and pray it's untrue), one day you will find yourself grieving for one reason or another and you will remember that you are not alone. despite everything you may be feeling, or not feeling, you are not alone.

exactly thirty-five days ago, on my twenty-sixth birthday, my 23 year old brother died from a heroin overdose. it was the best day until it was the absolute worst day. people say that life goes on, and yet, for me, I'm still stuck on the end of a horrific phone call I received just thirty-five days ago.

 

18 things I wish someone had told me about grief: 

1. grief doesn't come in stages. it's not sculpted into 5 neat little steps. grief happens when and how it wants to without a single regard for your self preservation or emotional existence.

2. time doesn't heal all wounds. some wounds - deep, graphic, and terrifying in nature - are never meant to heal. I think we simply absorb the pain and they carve us into different people.

3. grief ebbs and flows. grief can sometimes be calm. and it can sometimes be overwhelming. and despite just how good of a swimmer you are, some days you just may get swallowed up.

4. you'll never know what hurts worse - the shock of what happened, or the sadness for things that never will.

5. grief is a lonely road. despite just how marvellous and brilliantly supportive the people around you are - being there, listening - you will be forced to walk down your own path, at your own pace with your raw rounds and your gaping heart, your bitterness, anger, denial and fear. but you'll find your own peace…hopefully. in your own time.

6. you can't control it. there are days when the last thing you want to do is acknowledge another tear, or withstand another painful rationalisation, but all you can do is let yourself feel it when it comes, and let it go when you can.

7. sometimes it's okay if the only thing you did was breathe today.

8. friends will want to console. family will want to regret and rehash. and you'll want to do nothing but sleep. for hours, for days, for months. and when that happens, say *#%$ it all and just sleep.

9. the world doesn't stop for your grief. "life goes on", they say. but for you, it doesn't. you'll pretend it does, because it has to. bills need to be paid, so you'll go to work. errands need to be run, so you'll go through the motions. people need to be acknowledged, so you'll paste on a smile and nod. but don't for one second think, that life will ever just go on the way that it was before.

10. people will ask you if you're okay. over and over and over again. there's no socially acceptable answer to this question. trust me, I've tried.

11. hold tight to the people who know to say, "no your not" when you claim you're okay. those people are a healing balm to your soul and the only comfort you'll find in this messy dark hole.

12. grief is like a heavy fog. and sometimes that fog will cloud everything else. and all we can do is be patient.

13. remind yourself that, "I will be okay. maybe just not today." often.

14. grief has physical symptoms. constant nausea, heartburn that was never there before, headaches, pains, etc.. I've read that when you stopped feeling so worked up, your body will too. but, I haven't yet been able to see if that's true.

15. grief extends beyond the today. you will grieve for the past, the present and the future. the things that will never happen again and for the things that will just never happen.

16. there will always be regrets. no matter how much, or how little time you had, you will always want more.

17. grief can make you question your faith. your life. your purpose. and your goals. and that's not always a bad thing.

18. grief can look however the hell you need it to. this is your hurt, your pain and your loss. and no one else can tell you how that should look. grieve as you need to, when you need to, and however you need to.

 

how lucky I am to have loved something so much that makes saying goodbye so hard. 

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. 

 

Food Facts that'll make you wish you hadn't read this:

1. A 20oz bottle of Coca-Cola has more sugar than a large Cinnabon. 2. Drying fruit depletes 30-80% of its nutrient content.

3. Grass-fed beef contains 2-5x more Omega-3s (the good stuff) than it's grain-fed counterparts.

4. Grain-fed beef has an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio that's 5x higher than grass-fed beef. Omega 6s promote inflammation, heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases.

5. Free range cage-free eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2x more Omega-3s, 3x more vitamin E and 7x more beta-carotene than the commercially produced variety.

6. In 2011 29.9 million lbs. of antibiotics were sold in the US for meat + poultry production - nearly 4x the 7.7 million lbs. sold to treat sick humans.

7. In an average day Chipotle uses 97,000 lbs. of avocados, using 70 avocados for a single batch of guacamole.

8. On average, gluten-free foods are 242% more expensive than regular food products.

9. A 14 year long study found that diet soda drinkers were 60% more likely to develop Type II Diabetes compared to those who drink an equal amount of regular soda.

10. Aspartame + MSG - chemicals found in many processed foods - are exitotoxins, which cause neurons in the brain to excite themselves to death. Evidence suggests that they promote cancer growth and it's propensity to spread.

11. Many frozen dinners contain more than several days worth of sodium. For example, the Hungry Man turkey dinner lists salt 9 separate times on the ingredient list and contains more than 5,400mg of sodium (over 2 days worth)!

12. There's as much sugar in half a cup of Prego's tomato sauce as there is in…three Oreo's (two whole TBSPs). Sugar is listed as the second ingredient, after tomatoes.

13. Cheez Whiz does not list cheese as an ingredient.

14. Corn dextrin, a common thickener used in junk food is also used as the glue on envelops and postage stamps.

 

 

Just thought you should know! Don't be an uneducated consumer. Know what you're feeding your bodies and serving your children. Because you really are what you eat.

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

feeding a {healthy} family without breaking the bank.

how can I feed my family of 5 fresh, healthy food without going broke?  help! I cook for my family, but then I'm too tired to make something healthy for myself. 

it's easy to cook for 2. but what about an entire household of tiny mouths and sticky fingers? 

 

over the past week I've received more than a handful of requests for a blog post on how to healthfully feed + fuel a family. so ladies (and gents), here it is.

but first, let me ask you this: do your children eat healthy food? real food? unprocessed food? do they eat what you eat (assuming you eat real, whole foods)? if your answer is yes, please go start a bath for yourself and relax. because you are doing something very right. if your answer is no, why the hell not? I know, I know, I'm not a mom. I don't understand. kids are picky, selective and tiny little monsters that only eat finger foods. you can say I told you so someday. but for now, let me say this:

you choose to eat healthy, why? because you know that choosing whole foods and real ingredients will help prevent disease and premature death? because eating well makes you feel good? because you know that your body operates and performs best on real foods? so then, why would you not want those same things for your children?

despite how you might feel, you are more than a sous chef. you are the boss. you dictate what will be eaten. I may not be a mom, but I do have one. and I can vividly recall having to sit at the dinner table for over an hour, eating salmon whilst plugging my nose because I hated it. it was the grossest thing in the world. but it was good for me, and I was not leaving the table until it was finished. and now…I love salmon and look forward to eating it! if all children were allowed to eat only what they wanted, we would all have grown up on mac and cheese and been blissfully unaware that leafy greens even existed. be the adult. make one menu and adapt as necessary.

#1. Learn The Art Of Meal Planning 

You can save a lot of money by knowing what you need and how much you need for each recipe you intend to make during the week instead of buying impulsively at the supermarket. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and pull up Pinterest. Pick 7-14 recipes you want to make (choose some that incorporate the same ingredients - money saver). Write down all the ingredients needed, along with the quantities appropriate for the number of mouths to feed in your house. Budget for leftovers. ta-da! your grocery list is made. cross off anything you already have in the pantry and you've just created your weekly menu.

Breakfasts are usually easy. Pick one or two staples and stick with them. Have time to make eggs every morning? Great! Start your day with an egg and veggie scramble. If not, pre make egg muffins with chopped veggies, bacon, ham and/or cheese. Make a batch of protein pancakes and keep them in the fridge. Keep ingredients on-hand for yogurt parfaits.

Snacks just require some shopping and chopping. Veggies with hummus or guacamole. Hard boiled eggs. Homemade trail mixes. Protein balls. You want something transportable for those trips in the car to and from school, or those after-soccer-practice snacks. Again, make sure you've got the ingredients and then make a batch big enough for an army. Keep the leftovers in the fridge so there's always a healthy snack option at your fingertips.

Lunches and Dinners can be a bit more involved. I'd choose one to make in the crockpot or a wok - something super easy that you can just throw together and make enough for everyone to enjoy. If you have a bit more time to spend in the kitchen, feel free to get creative. Just try to incorporate a protein, a non-starchy veggie, a healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate.

#2. Buy + Prepare in Bulk

It's 2015. Everyone has a Costco membership, right? It should be mandated if you have 2 or more children. because seriously. buying in bulk is the greatest thing ever. Sure! A gallon of olive oil seems excessive, but it'll last you forever and you'll probably pay the same amount for a few ounces at your local grocer. You can get 6lbs. of chicken breast and make it 3 or 4 different ways! Preparing in bulk allows you to repurpose an inexpensive piece of protein in order to get the biggest bang for your buck. Toss some in the crockpot to season and toss on top of salads. Make a soup. Use it in a casserole. and don't forget, once upon a time we ate the same thing every single day. I don't' know where we got the notion that eating something more than once a week is a terrible idea, but scrap it. leftovers are your best friend.

#3. Fresh Is Best - Frozen Can Be Better

Vegetable prices can vary tremendously based on the season. Cabbage and squash tend to be affordable year round, but some of your other colourful veggies can be pricey depending on the time of year. So check the frozen selection! Frozen is just as fresh as fresh…and sometimes even fresher (because it hasn't been sitting on a truck for days on end). Make sure it doesn't have added sauces or salt, and then stock up!

#4. Get A Pet Chicken

I'm only sort of kidding. this wouldn't fly in my house. but seriously. grow your own stuff. shop local. and if you know someone with chickens, ask them if you can buy their eggs.

#5. Don't Buy Drinks

No, your kids don't need juice. Give them an orange instead. and no, they certainly don't need sodas and other sugary beverages. consider it an investment in their dental health. Drink water.

I only have one mouth to feed, but for those superheros among you, you are not alone. Here are some links to great moms who do it all:

http://www.thebettermom.com/bi-weekly-meal-plans/

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/healthy-eating-planner-31-days-of-superfoods/

http://wellnessmama.com/1612/full-week-meal-plan-recipes-shopping-list/

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

the gift that keeps on giving: Fat Loss Cookbook

writing and nutrition are two of my favourite things. this past fall I decided to mush the two together to create the Fat Loss Cookbook. after hearing "I'm so tired of eating the same things all the time. how can I add variety and still eat well?" more than a million times, I decided to write a book that compiles a bunch of really great recipes, adjusted for the most fat-burning potential. there are so many delicious and mouth-watering recipes out there…but if you're going to spend the time to make them, you want to know that a. they taste damn good, and b., they're not adding to your waistline. am I right? I made it as easy as 1,2,3. I found the recipes. I adjusted and modified where necessary to promote fat loss and cut excess calories. I taste tested the recipes. and then I computed the macronutrients so you know EXACTLY what you're putting into your body. can it get any easier? aside from me coming to your house to cook for you, I just did it all little fitness bunnies. 

If you like to eat. or you know someone who likes to eat. and likes to eat well. the Fat Loss Cookbook is probably one of the best gifts you could give them this year. I know everyone in my family will be getting one!

Here are a few of the comments clients have shared with me thus far:

"Made the slow-cooker black bean tacos…fantastic! The whole family loved them. On the menu this week…balsamic pork roast and unstuffed cabbage rolls. Great work Nicole. You're the best!"

"On the menu this week: quinoa stuffed peppers, crunchy top apple baked oatmeal, creamy broccoli white bean soup, turkey burgers and quinoa chicken parmesan! Love the book!"

"I absolutely love the cookbook. I bought one for our household and then bought two more to gift to my family! What a great idea!"

I'd love to hear what you think and which recipes your family loves!

Cookbooks are available for purchase! Give the gift that keeps on giving. Contact me at nnmarie@gmail.com if you're interested!

 

Eat well. Live well. Be well. 

 

 

 

 

Lower Your Body Fat % With These 10 Easy Steps:

1. Drink a glass of water with every meal and snack.

Depending on your age and gender, your body is made up of somewhere between 55-65% water. If that’s the case (and, I just told you that it is) it confuses me as to why people think it’s okay to ignore hydration. And no, alcohol doesn’t count. And neither does fruit juice (because, let’s face it, that stuff is just less-fizzy soda pop).  You know what does count? Water. Drink it.

 2. Eat more.

Our bodies were designed to receive fuel and run efficiently. Know what happens when we’re forced to run on minimal amounts of food for long periods of time? Your metabolism slows down in order to conserve energy and fat storage is switched ON. Know what mechanism is a big freaking deal when it comes to fat loss? Your metabolism. So, yeah, you need to eat adequately (and nutritiously). start by adding a cup or two of vegetables at every meal if you want to be a lean, mean, fat burning machine.

 3. Make it a priority to get 7-8 hours of sleep.

When sleep is shortchanged, your hormones get all out-of-whack. Cortisol and stress hormone levels are elevated and can lead to cravings for comfort foods. Grehlin (the hunger hormone) is increased and leptin (the satiety hormone) is decreased. All that to say, you on little sleep, turn into one cranky little comfort-food seeking monster, who, if left unchecked could turn into a chubbie little comfort-food seeking monster. Prioritize your sleep and you positively change your progress.

 4. Lift weights. Lift heavy weights.

Imagine this: if you added a little over 3 pounds of lean muscle to your frame, you would have the potential to burn an additional 1,050 calories a week, workouts unaccounted for. That’s crazy! And no, just because you have muscle doesn’t mean you need to get “big”. Replace body fat with lean muscle tissue by eating right and lifting smart and you’ve basically just turned yourself into an incinerator. Burning calories like it’s your job.

** Likely side effect to lifting weights: you’ll get stronger. Be warned.

 5. Get cho’ fiber.

Studies show that increasing fiber consumption can encourage fat burning by as much as 30%. Yowza. And all from eating more veggies and flaxseed! Shoot for about 25 grams of fiber per day. Keep things running smoothly, in more ways than one (yep. I just went there).

 6. Develop a liking for green tea.

Green tea is the most natural fat-burner available. Toss in a little lemon and you’ve just blunted your bodies insulin response – meaning your body is less likely to store food as fat. BAM! Can your cup of coffee do that for you?

 7. Stress less.

But seriously. Remember that hormone cortisol we were talking about? Well when you have high amounts of stress, you have high amounts of cortisol. And when you have cortisol in large amounts, you can pretty much bet that you’ll have belly fat in large amounts too. Do yourself a favor and de-stress. Take a long walk or a soothing bath. Delegate a task and learn how to say "no". Don’t try taking on the world, let’s face it - you don’t have time for that anyway.

 8. Do what your momma told you, and eat your veggies.

We’re always looking for the “magic pill”, the “quick fix” that will make us all lean and beautiful. Well folks, the secret is staring you in the face every time you walk through the produce isle. Vegetables: loaded with antioxidants, filled with fiber (see point #5), and chock full of healthy good-for-you vitamins: potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C...you get the idea. There’s absolutely no reason for you not to eat them. They can be made a million different ways, you have a million different options to choose from and they give you the biggest BANG for your calorie BUCK.

3 red peppers = 100 calories.

the consequence: 300% of your vitamin C intake, great source of vitamin B6 and magnesium, support night vision, help to prevent certain types of cancer (e.g. prostate and lung).

8 peanut M&Ms = 100 calories

the consequence: sweet tooth satisfaction and an increased risk for diabetes, obesity and cavities.

 9. Stop pointing your finger at stupid stuff.

“Eggs are bad for cholesterol”, “milk makes you gain weight”, “fruit makes you fat”. No sweethearts, those things have been around forever. Stop blaming the old stuff and start looking at the new stuff. We didn’t have an obesity epidemic before things like McDonalds, Krispy Kreme, Lays, Coca Cola and Entenmanns came along. So maybe those extra pounds we’re holding onto as a nation aren’t from starting our day with healthy fats and protein, but rather, from finishing our days on the couch with our greasy fingers in a bag of {insert snack of choice here}.

 10. Be consistent.

There are a million ways to get from point A to point B. No one RIGHT way to lose weight, no one RIGHT way to lower your body fat percentage. If you want to lift weights, lift weights. If you want to keep taking zumba classes, take zumba classes. Don’t try something only to bail a week later. Don’t change your life so radically that it never becomes a true habit. Just find something that makes your life better and do it. Then, keep doing it.

 

Do these 10 things and you'll have a lower body fat percentage. you'll also probably be the healthiest, happiest version of you you've ever been. if it doesn't work, well, it'll work. #promise.

 

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 nnmarie@gmail.com 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. 

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. 

I wear a size 6 and I couldn't care less.

awhile ago I decided to go through my closet and get rid of everything that a. no longer fits, or b. I no longer wear. because, you know, my mother raised me to be one of those good-steward kind-of people. thanks mom. what I intended to be some brief menial task ended up being a rather emotionally taxing chore. by the time I had waded through my denim and corduroy collection I was feeling like a hormonal adolescent teen. I was that girl laying on the floor, trying to wiggle my size 6 ass into pants that no longer fit over my thighs. I was tempted to keep a few pair that I could [barely] button, but if you can't sit down in them…or form complete sentences…okay, or breathe, what's the point? what the heck!? have I recently put on an obscene amount of weight? no. did all of my clothes shrink multiple sizes due to a laundry catastrophe? nope. I had just never gotten rid of my clothes from when I was a sickly size 00 because some little monster inside my head kept feeding my thoughts that maybe someday I'd get back into those clothes. I'm not proud of it.

don't get me wrong - on most days, I like what I see when I look in the mirror. I love what my quads and glutes can do for me and I wouldn't have it any other way. but somewhere deep inside, a small part of me still associated that smaller size with success. with beauty. with perfection. despite years of education and healthy living, some part of my brain is still that sick, skinny little girl who wants to be accepted for her XS size.

so I got mad about it for awhile. and then I grabbed a bag, dumped all those 0's, 2's and XS's, gave them away and got over it. Because:

1. Size means absolutely nothing to me. 

2. This booty can deadlift 205# and I wouldn't trade that for the world.

I am not committed to some arbitrary number written on the back of my jeans. I am, however, committed to feeling good about my body regardless of what I'm wearing or what size it may be.

Exercise changes your body. Muscles grow, measurements change, and if you're doing it right, you get stronger, and probably leaner too. Yep, my butt got bigger. But you know what? So did my lifts, my body-image and my confidence. All that is worth so much more than a pair of jeans. Muscular quads? own them. because that is super sexy. a toned tush? rock it. because your body can do things that no number on a tag will ever do for you. the sizes in your closet mean absolutely nothing.

 

Approximately 91% of women in America are unhappy with their bodies and resort to extreme dieting or other unhealthy methods to achieve their ideal body shape.

Only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by women in the media.

81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat. 

Who are we serving? What are we dedicating our time to? And who is watching us? How do you want your children to feel about their bodies when they look in the mirror? Learn to celebrate your body for what it can do. Be comfortable in your own skin and remember that comparison is the thief of joy. Be compassionate with yourself and recognise that a body you respect is one you will take care of.

Your body is amazing. Respect it. Fuel it. and be proud of what it can do.

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: nnmarie@gmail.com.

 

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.