Monday, April 21, 2014

What is Precision Nutrition and 10 Success Tips - Part 1

In my quest to give up calorie counting while still maintaining my weight loss, I chose to follow the Precision Nutrition Plan.  I am just beginning this new way of thinking about food, so I thought I would share my discoveries along the way.

What is Precision Nutrition?

It is a plan designed to help you:
  1. Look better.   (Improved body composition.)
  2. Feel better.  (Improved health.)
  3. Play better.  (Improved athletic and everyday performance.)
Sounds good, right?

The goal of any diet plan (and I use the term "diet" to mean lifestyle eating plan, not necessarily a weight loss program) is to hit all three of those markers.  If you need to lose fat and build muscle, that's improved body composition.  Oh, and you'll look better in your jeans too!  Everyone wants to have energy for life and we certainly want to be able to rock our workouts in the gym. 

My huge Precision Nutrition binder begins with 10 Success Tips.  I was tempted to just start writing about the what and how much to eat, but since Dr. John Berardi, creator of the program, felt it was important to begin the program with these Success Tips perhaps I should start here too.

10 Success Tips

Tip 1:  Maybe you don't know.
I love this one, probably because it speaks right to me.  This is when we shut off our brain to new information saying (out loud or to ourselves), "I know, I know."  If you're overweight and your doctor suggests you need to eat less and move more, we say "I know."  Or when I read that I need to make veggies a larger part of my diet, I always say "I know."

Automatically dismissing advice or information is a way of shutting off our brains and avoiding action.

Ouch.  Maybe I don't know it all.  Perhaps I need to listen, withhold judgment, and act.

Tip 2:  Match your behaviors and goals.
An example from my own life illustrates this one.  For months I have been saying my goal is to build muscle and lose some body fat.  I don't need to lose scale weight, but I do need to change my body composition just a bit. 

What do I need to do to build muscle?  Have a focused strength training program that challenges my muscles.  Work on actively lifting heavy things three to four days per week. 

And to lose fat?  I need to eat less.  Damn it.  Not much less, or I won't be able to build muscle, but I need to eat at a slight deficit.

Do my behaviors match my goals?  Uh, apparently not.  When I look back over my monthly fitness planners (download your monthly planner HERE or sign up for weekly blog updates to download the entire year of calendars plus other freebies) I see that most weeks I have only done two hardcore strength sessions.  Oops!  And without reviewing my calorie diaries, I can say without a doubt I have been eating too much. 

The fact is, my behaviors are not consistent with my goals.  Like it or not, I can't achieve those goals when my behaviors don't match up.

So as not to write an entire novel, I'll wrap it up with those two tips today.  Think about  your own health and fitness goals.  Do you tend to say "I know, I know" when you read or hear fitness advice that you know, in your heart of hearts, you should follow? 

Do your behaviors match your goals?  Do you have any goals set?

Until next time....

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Is Calorie Counting a Crutch??

Is calorie counting a crutch?  For me, I think it has become one.  Now it's time to just say "no" to obsessively counting those little units of energy.

I’m approaching the sixth anniversary of what I call my “final weight loss journey.”  The weight came off, but the journey of self-discovery and maintaining my weight continues.

Part of that journey was learning what types of foods to eat and, most importantly, how MUCH to eat to fuel my body for normal daily activity as well as physical exercise.  The bulk of my weight was lost by calorie counting.  Except for the odd break here or there, I still count calories.  I log them into MyFitnessPal every day. 

Now it's time to rethink this practice.

I had a sweet young lady email me recently asking how to find that elusive balance with respect to health and fitness.  How to focus on diet and exercise enough in order to get results and maintain those hard-earned results, but not so much as to take the joy out of life.  Or how not to make weight loss and exercise a part-time job.   I hope I was able to give her some helpful advice, but her email was actually a nice wake up call for me. 

I haven’t found that perfect balance. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Make Quest Bar Inspired Sugar Scrubs - Three Delicious Recipes!

On April 1st I was delighted to read on the Quest Nutrition blog that they were Introducing Q-Logne - cologne scented like Quest bars!  Immediately I noticed the date - April Fool's Day - so I assumed it was a joke, but why not?  Is it so outrageous to want to smell like a Quest bar?

The article asked the question, and I quote:
"Let’s face it – who wouldn’t want to smell like a white chocolate raspberry Quest Bar??"

My thoughts EXACTLY. 

I absolutely hate traditional perfume.  I'm a girly girl, but flower scents make me gag.  I prefer the aroma of fruit, candy or cookies.  When I hit Bath & Body Works I always buy scented lotions and soaps that smell like food.  Coconut, raspberry, vanilla, McIntosh apple??  Yum!  Philosophy's line of three-in-one body wash feature the delightful fragrance of cinnamon buns, vanilla birthday cake, berry lime martini, mango tango ice cream, gingerbread and raspberry sorbet.  Those flavors get my attention.

I repeat.  Why not smell like a Quest bar?

I'd totally dig smelling like white chocolate raspberry, a gooey chocolate brownie, or lemon cream pie.  I'd bet other ladies would too.  Maybe even guys, IDK.  Who wouldn't be attracted to the scent of cinnamon roll, strawberry cheesecake or cookies & cream?  It wouldn't be a turn-off for my man to smell like a banana nut muffin.  But I digress...

Are you listening Quest Nutrition??

Until the Quest company branches out into the skin care business, I've taken it upon myself to bring the beloved flavors of Quest to my shower and to my person.

So I present you with Quest Flavored Sugar Scrubs!

I chose to make sugar scrubs because:
  1. sugar scrubs are simple to make; 
  2. sugar scrubs smell delicious;
  3. sugar scrubs are a great natural exfoliator;
  4. the oils in sugar scrubs keep your skin moisturized for hours; and
  5. using a sugar scrub in the shower is incredibly indulgent.
And perhaps the best reason of all is that you - or I - can dive into a tub of sugary-scented happiness with absolutely no caloric repercussions.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Get More Than a Rockin' Body: 10 Unexpected Ways Running Will Improve Your Life

Yes, running for exercise can give you a rockin' body.  Running has a lot of amazing and obvious benefits like improving cardiovascular health, blasting calories, helping to maintain a healthy weight and raising endorphin levels.  Running will no doubt help you fit into your skinny jeans.

However, during my years as a runner I've discovered 10 TOTALLY UNEXPECTED ways that running improved my life. 

1. You will experience peace and quiet. 
I love running by myself. No kids or spouse to nag me. No urgent business or household chores to attend to.  I am blissfully alone with my thoughts and hopes and daydreams.  I can brainstorm and plan and problem-solve with no interruptions.  For a mom this quiet time is a little piece of heaven!

2. You will experience the wonders of nature.  
I'm not an outdoorsy girl, so running forces me out of the house and into the sunshine.  Actually it forced me to endure weather conditions of all sorts.  Brutal winds (always in my face, mind you!), rain, snow and sleet.  Without running I probably wouldn’t be aware of the subtle changes in seasons, the smell of blooming trees, the shadows the sun creates on the pavement as it crosses the sky.  Only a group run or a race on my calendar could drag me out of bed to witness the sun peeking over the horizon at the crack of dawn.

3.  You can choose your own playlist. 
There is nothing better than plugging in my earphones and rocking out to my favorite tunes. At home my background music is either the hubbie's TV or the sounds of the kids’ video games.  Running is time for me and MY music.  Creating playlists for runs and races is one way to hear those guilty pleasure songs that I would never admit to listening to!

4. You will conquer your fears. 
Being a runner forced me to conquer some of my biggest fears. I really dislike driving to new places because I always get lost (yes, even with a GPS), but I had to woman up to find my way to group runs and races. Before my first 10 mile run I was absolutely terrified of running that distance (it seemed so FAR), and I experienced the same terror with my first 20 miler and full marathon. But I survived.  Running has given me many opportunities to face my fears and become a stronger person.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gluten-Free Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Breakfast Cookies

Breakfast cookies are a delicious way to start your morning!

Weekday mornings can often be hectic so I love to have a grab-and-go breakfast option.  These Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk cookies fit the bill.  They satisfy my sweet tooth and are filling and healthy for rushed mornings. 

I often prepare a batch of these delicious, nutritious breakfast cookies and store them in the freezer.  In an instant I can grab two (or more!) cookies for a quick and yummy meal. 

The cookies also make a tasty snack and are a great accompaniment to a cup of coffee! 

Gluten-Free Note:  If you eat gluten-free as I do, make sure you check ALL of your ingredients, including oats, baking powder, protein powder, etc.  Use products specifically labeled "gluten-free."

Gluten-Free Banana Oatmeal Dark Chocolate Chunk Breakfast Cookies

2 cups gluten-free oats
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (I used Syntha-6 Vanilla Ice Cream)
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas (about three small)
1 egg
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (or approximately four squares dark chocolate bar, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using blender, grind 1 cup of the oats into flour. Combine with remaining 1 cup oats, protein powder, coconut flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl. 

Using blender, purée bananas.  Add egg, coconut oil and vanilla to blender and pulse until mixed. 

Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate pieces. 

Use large cookie scoop to scoop 12 portions onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Slightly flatten cookies since they will not spread.

Bake 10-14 minutes or until set and slightly golden on bottom. 

Cookies may be stored in the freezer and pulled out one or two at a time for breakfast or a quick snack. Microwave on a paper towel or plate for approximately 20 seconds. 

 What's your favorite grab-and-go breakfast option?

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This recipe is linked to The Gluten-Free Homemaker, Lynn's Kitchen Adventures,  Gluten Free Easily!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Too Many Peanut Butter Eggs but Monday Brings a Clean Slate!

The past few weeks I've been experimenting with some protein treat recipes, making chocolate covered peanut-filled Easter eggs and sandwich cookies.  To my surprise, hours of experimenting in the kitchen, photographing the goodies, editing pictures, writing the posts, etc. did not tempt me in the slightest.

Until Saturday.

Saturday was one of those rare days that I didn't track my calories in MyFitnessPal.  I'm not sure why - probably because I ate my normal breakfast and then didn't really have an official lunch.  I snacked on a few Banana Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies that I was photographing.  Oh and a few Double Chocolate Chip Cookies too.  But still, a few cookies doesn't equal a lunch, right?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

QUEST BAR Easter Egg Cookies, Filled Sandwich Cookies and Chocolate Covered Cookie Eggs

Easter is almost here and I really don't want to blow my diet eating sugary cookies or chemical-laden marshmallow peeps.  As usual, I turned to my favorite Quest bars for inspiration.  I had a blast creating THREE different Quest Bar mini Easter Egg treats. 

Here's a preview:

 1.  #CheatClean QUEST BAR Easter Egg Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Quest Mini Egg Cookies
These cute little cookies were cut out using a mini Easter egg cookie cutter.  They are TOTALLY HEALTHY.  Use 85% dark chocolate for the drizzle and add antioxidants, vitamins & minerals!  (Don't believe me?  See this article on the health benefits of chocolate!)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - 4 Steps to a Healthy Week Ahead!

Sunday is a day of relaxation.

I love Sundays.  Generally I wake up at the crack of dawn 10:30 or 11am (yes, I'm a bum), sip on coffee, check Facebook, browse Pinterest and otherwise putz around the house in my sweats until lunchtime. 

Sunday is a day of preparation.

I've always used Sunday as a day to prepare for the week ahead - AFTER my morning lazy @ss time.  I pull outfits for the work week and hang them on one side of my closet.  I look at my calendar and map out my workouts for the week.  I make sure I have enough Quest bars for my breakfasts-on-the-go!

Sunday is also a day of reflection.

Sunday is also the day I have a little more free time to plan and think and dream.  Not only about what I will wear or eat, but I use this downtime to evaluate my health and fitness goals, see if I'm progressing appropriately, and decide if I need to make any changes.

I often do this planning and evaluating in my head.  I could be on Instagram  folding laundry and mentally reviewing my workouts for the past week. 

Whatever the context, I ask myself questions such as: 
  • Did I take too many unplanned rest days? 
  • Was there a good reason to skip a workout?
  • How was my diet?  Did I eat more calories than I need?
  • Did I have a decent intake of fruits and veggies?
  • Did I get enough sleep?  (Honestly the day I can answer this "yes" will be a cause for celebration!)
  • And so on.
Such reflection and questioning can happen in an instant, but I thought I would share the process with you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

April Fitness & Exercise Printable Calendar
Print your April motivational calendar!


It's time for the April Fitness Calendar! 

It's a new month and time for a shiny new printable exercise calendar.  I have my calendar on a table in my exercise room and I jot down my workouts each day.  It's easy to see at a glance whether I'm rocking my workouts or whether I'm slacking.  If there are lots of blank spaces (aka rest days!) then I know to get my butt in gear and get my sweat on!

Use my printable exercise & fitness tracker to help you set AND achieve your health and fitness goals this month.

1.  Set your goals.

  • What are your goals for the month?  Think realistic and achievable - you want to succeed!
  • What is your motivation?  An upcoming special event? Vacation?  To improve your overall health?
  • How will you reward yourself?  This is the fun part!  If you walk five times per week this month will you treat yourself to a massage?  If you eat six servings of fruits and veggies each day will you purchase a new pair of running shorts?  Celebrate your achievements.

2.  Plan your workouts.

  • Use the spaces on the calendar to plan your workouts in advance.  Some people are fitness free spirits, but most of us benefit from a little structure.  I like to what my workout will be before I change into my exercise gear!
  • Give yourself a gold star when the workout is completed.  Use actual stickers or just draw a star or a smiley face.  The point is to show mission accomplished.
  • Jot down little notes.  I like to note my energy level, rate my workout, and if I experience any unusual aches and pains. 

 3.  Keep your calendar in plain sight!

I can't emphasize this enough - make sure you see your calendar every single day.  Out of sight is literally out of mind.  I cannot tell you how many times I have made grand resolutions, wrote a well-thought-out plan and then somehow forgot all about it.  What??

If you are making the effort to set goals, please keep your goals and your motivation in front of you at all times.  See Keep Your Goals in Plain Sight for some ideas.

Download your April Fitness Calendar now,
and have a fabulously healthy April!

Be sure to share this calendar if you have friends who would like to set and achieve goals of their own this month.  And I would absolutely love your feedback on the calendar.  Is there anything else you would like to see?

Printables for Runners and Walkers:

If you are a runner and would like printables to track your race schedule and race results, please see:  Race Planning Calendar and Race Results Tracker.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Make EASY Protein Peanut Butter Eggs - Only 3 Ingredients!

Simple and delicious protein peanut butter eggs.

I love the annual visit by the Easter Bunny and my favorite Easter treat of all times is a big 'ol chocolate-covered peanut butter egg.  Preferably EGGS plural.  Chocolate and peanut butter have to be one of the best flavor combinations ever invented.   Since I'm always trying to modify recipes with maintaining my waistline in mind, I came up with a slightly healthier option.

Even I can't say healthy and candy in the same sentence with a straight face, but I will offer you a quick, easy chocolate peanut butter treat packed with a protein punch. 

Pretty similar!  I used dark chocolate coating instead of milk chocolate.

I bought a Russell Stover's peanut butter egg to do a side-by-side comparison and taste test.  To me they taste exactly the same - the protein powder is undetectable.  The secret is using a delicious protein powder.

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