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Alissa

Recipes

Cheesy Mac{ros} n’ Broccoli

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I’m a true sucker for Mac n’ Cheese. Growing up in an Italian family, we knew how to use up pasta and veggies in any kind of sauce you could imagine.

My dream dinner is a big bowl of random ingredients topped in some sort of cheesy wine sauce. With french fries on the side.

Today I’m on February break, it’s not even dinnertime, and it’s a balmy 20 degrees outside. My friends are all posting pics of their vacations and I’m over here craving a warm, hearty bowl of cheesey goodness.

I decided to create a much lighter, macro-friendly version to satisfy my craving. #treatyoself

And it was delish. So…I’m sharing. ūüôā

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Advice Food

Tracking a Big Breakfast in 2 Minutes

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Ok, so. I eat a huge breakfast every morning. I measure it, I track it, and I like starting my day that way. I pretty much eat the same thing every day: Hash browns, egg whites with cheese and sometimes veggies, and turkey bacon. {Although sometimes I’m in the mood for something sweet & I eat a mug cake.}

I also go to the gym in the morning, and I have to be to work by 8.

Am I going to let that stop me? No way!

Have I cut it pretty close to 8am getting to work? Um yeah. But it’s so worth it. A big breakfast puts me in a good mood & prevents me from getting hangry. {Combo of hungry + angry = not pretty}

Someone once asked me how I eat this big breakfast and track it in such a short amount of time.

So I decided to challenge myself to a race! How quickly could I make breakfast and track it?

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I had everything tracked and on the stove in 2 minutes. Plated in 5 minutes.

Here’s the proof…but first…a few disclaimers.

1. I sped the video up…so it shows me moving at lightening speed in 1 min. ūüôā I can’t actually move that fast…that I know of.

2. If I’m in a real rush I throw the eggs and cheese and bacon in a mug, microwave for 2 mins, and eat it in the car. I’m serious about this hangry issue.

3. My zero button is not working on my scale- that would’ve cut time down even more.

4. I couldn’t enter anything in my app for obvious reasons. I did that after the video. Add 30 seconds?

5. I had 3 dogs watching me.

See? Tracking isn’t too bad. If I can do it, you can do it! Crazy to think I was just guessing about what I was putting in my body for 30 years…

 

FAQ Food

Please Don’t Ask These 5 Things.

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As I’m starting my journey with fitness and flexible dieting, I love the questions I’m getting from friends and family. It’s fun to talk about, and it’s exciting to spread the word about these healthy choices.

On the other hand, there are things people keep saying over and over that force me to take DEEP BREATHS before I respond….mostly because they are widely misunderstood beliefs. If people took the time to really think about them and break them down, they would fall apart.

So, here’s my sound off. Ready? Please don’t ask these 5 things:

1. Can you have {insert food} on your diet?

That’s kinda the whole point. I can have whatever I want to have. It’s not a restricted diet,¬†it’s a flexible diet. I’m not “on a diet”.¬†Here’s a few of the meanings of the word diet according to dictionary.com:

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The thing is- the way I’m eating is not a list of prescribed foods. It’s not even a limitation on my selection or the amount I eat.

It’s a diet {the food choices I make each day} based on the needs of my body at that current moment in time. The needs of my body are calculated by my coach- he considers my amount of activity daily, my goals, my food preferences, and the way my metabolism is used to functioning. Based on his calculations and closely watching my body’s reactions, I aim to meet certain measurements of macronutrients {protein, fat, carbs, fiber}. These numbers are changed or adjusted constantly.

2. Aren’t you going to measure that? Do you have to bring your scale with you?

Yes, when I’m home- I measure. When I make meals ahead of time- I measure them. I want my macro count¬†to be as close and accurate as possible to my daily goal. Am I going to immediately gain weight if I don’t measure something once in a while when I’m out? No. That’s the part that makes the most sense for my lifestyle. I measure so much every day, and I know my body so well now, I can make choices about my food and portion sizes based on my own understanding of the science behind my food decisions.

There’s no such thing as “falling off the wagon” because I always make a conscious decision, even if it’s the decision to eat a huge bowl of french fries at a pub. I know exactly what’s happening in my body¬†if I eat something that doesn’t fit into my day, and I know how to account for that.

3. Oh, so it’s kind of like Weight Watchers?

Ugh. No. I don’t know. I’m not a Weight Watchers expert- but to me, it seems like a lot of money to have someone give you information you should be able to figure out on your own with a little time and dedication. The figuring it out on your own is exactly what makes this a lifestyle. It’s not a subscription that expires. It’s a way of life- a way of getting to know what YOUR body needs and wants, not what works for some people. It teaches you to listen to the needs of your body and gives you the knowledge to meet those needs appropriately.

4. Well, I’m doing the Arbonne/Beachbody/AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge, have you tried that?

I didn’t believe in that stuff before I started tracking, and I don’t believe in it now. Any company that wants you to fork over money with a promise of losing weight is functioning on a few basic, accurate beliefs that will lead to results, even without their product:

1. If you stick to anything for more than 21 days, it becomes a habit.

{That’s why it’s a 24 day challenge- you’re more likely to keep buying after sticking with it 21 days. You could achieve the same effect by sticking with tracking your food for 21 days.}

2. If you have the support of a community of like-minded people, you are more likely to remain successful.

{You will feed off of talking to other people doing the same thing, whether it’s one of these programs or not. So find other people thinking about the science of food!}

3. When you make a drastic change in your eating choices, you will see a change in your body’s reaction.

{Many meal replacement shakes and supplements force you into a caloric deficit. Of course you’ll lose weight! You’ll also gain it back when you’re done. You may pick up on some healthy habits along the way, which is great. But it seems to me that making a change in your choice and knowledge about food science will be more lasting, more meangingful, and it will cost less! Not to mention if you train your metabolism, you can eat the foods you want and add calories back in, forcing your body to use up all that energy.}

4. When you spend money, you are more likely to work toward a goal to get your worth out of your investment.

{You can get your motivation from another source. Motivate yourself by reading about successful people. Find out what they’re doing, and do that! And by the way, they probably aren’t drinking meal replacements. They might promote supplements, but you better bet they’re using them alongside educated food choices and hard work at the gym, just like your coaches do with these programs. Education first, supplement later…if needed.}

5. If you have the mindset that you CAN make changes in your eating and exercise, you will.

{Tell yourself you can do it. You got this! You don’t need some fancy schmancy powder to do it. Set your mind to it, and learn about what’s best for you.}

All of these 5 things can be achieved without any supplements at all. Find a community of like-minded people, online or anywhere. Read and research about the science behind food. Believe you can make a change, and do it. Then, if you want to add a supplement to increase your protein or fiber or whatever your goals are, make that choice based on your knowledge, not on a sales pitch.

5. All I see people posting with the IIFYM tag is junk food. Don’t you think about the health of your body? Shouldn’t you be eating clean?

A. Doesn’t one definition of eating clean vary from another? How would your body define “eating clean”? B. Of course they post junk food! They find ways to fit the foods they love into their food choices without the guilt. That’s worth celebrating.

YES. I do care about the health of my body. That’s one of the best things about counting my macros- I can read and research about processed foods and make choices that I feel comfortable with. I don’t have to rely on a list of predetermined foods- the choice is all mine. And if I want to eat ice cream, be it soy or fro yo or full fat Ben & Jerry’s, I know how it fits into my day, and my body will utilize every calorie.

Making the choice to eat more whole foods with ingredients you understand and know is a popular choice that I happen to agree with. But that doesn’t mean that mindlessly eating two heaping bowls of broccoli and quinoa for dinner or throwing a scoop of almond butter in a smoothie is a free-for-all because it’s “clean”. You’ll want to know what the breakdown of the food is and how much your body needs of each macronutrient. Many times that may mean adding in more of a different food, like a lean meat or even full fat yogurt.

I love you for asking me questions, I really do. I love answering them! But these are arguments that are engrained in people based on what they read online or watch on TV. Most of them are money-making arguments for big companies. I’d like to see¬†people use their own discretion and education to make choices that make sense for a lifetime based on their natural tastes and habits. Now that makes sense.

Advice Food

Behind the Scenes #porncakesundays

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Since I’m just starting my fitness journey, I started following a lot of fitness people on Instagram. I was quickly launched into a world of new hashtags.

That’s when one, simple, amazing hastag came across my feed: #porncakesundays

If you’re not familiar with this hashtag, do a quick instagram search for #porncakesundays or @fitness_iq.¬†You’ll find picture after picture of pancakes stacked up a mile high with frosting and chocolate syrup and pretzals and candy and Oreos crushed over the top. Peanut butter, bananas, Nutella.

I’ll give you a minute to stop drooling over the pics.

So…I decided to try my hand at one of these! What better way to have a delicious Sunday breakfast and gain a few new followers?

Not so easy. Here’s the real truth behind #porncakesundays.

I spent the week thinking of an idea that would be new and fresh for the hashtag. I wanted to really stand out. Everyone seems to be excited about Red Velvet Oreos- so I planned the perfect pancake. Red Velvet pancakes with white cream cheese frosting and crushed RV Oreos on top…drizzled with chocolate, obviously.

I went out & bought all the ingredients. I was ready.

That morning:: Wake up:: Check my Instagram:: Someone posted those exact pancakes:: They looked phenom.

Oh well. Back to square one.

I didn’t have time for the grocery store, so I checked my kitchen stash. It was Valentine’s Day, so there had to be some sort of pink.

Strawberry syrup? Nope. Pink food coloring? Nope. This was starting to look hopeless.

Luckily, I happened to have marshmallows, fluff, and pink sprinkles.

Perfect!¬†I’ll melt it all together. I’ll make some baby pink frosting layered with white/pink pancakes covered in pink sprinkles. It’ll be so cute…no one will be able to resist. Then, we can eat ’em.

Fast forward. Two hours later.

The kitchen’s covered in sticky, pink marshmellow:: The pancakes are close to falling over:: I have fluff:: Everywhere. Dishes:: Everywhere. Matt fell back asleep an hour ago:: My stomach is growling:: The dogs need to go out:: I feel like I’m on an episode of Cupcake Wars.

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After some careful stacking, about 5 batches of pancakes, and playing around with toothpicks, I was finally able to snap a few pics of the delicious mess.

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I think they turned out pretty cute, and it was fun to try. But, they were MUCH easier to make in my mind. And…by the way….we couldn’t even come close to eating them all! Happy #porncakesunday!

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Food Products

Grocery List

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I am lucky enough to be able to grocery shop with my nutrition & strength coach. We spend a ridiculously unnecessary amount¬†of time in the grocery store because we’ve made a game out of reading labels.

The challenge? We’re trying to¬†find the best foods that will taste good¬†& help us get the most enjoyment out of our macros. But seriously. The employees there must think we’re nuts. We literally spend hours- it’s very exciting stuff. Like the time we discovered Fat Free Cool Whip.

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But, don’t worry. You don’t need to spend hours at the store. We’ll help you!

We do have very different opinions¬†when it comes to choosing food.¬†I tend to pick foods based on their health benefits & macros while Matt goes for taste & macros. There isn’t one food list out there that will work for everyone. You’ve got to figure out your numbers and buy what works for you.

So. If you promise you won’t think this is what you MUST eat and that this is some sort of MACRO DIET THING…then I suppose I can share some of our favorite grocery store staples. Hopefully you’ll see something you like!

{If you still think this is a diet…please go back to my Flexible Dieting Overview!}

Produce

We basically live off of “taco bowls” because we can fill huge bowls with the stuff & it hardly shows up ¬†when we track macros. So we always stock up on peppers of all kinds, onions, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. We also eat a ton of zucchini– zucchini with pizza toppings, zucchini lasagna, spaghetti squash- you name it. I’m a huge fan of sauteed brussels sprouts, Matt…not so much.

Deli

We buy Boar’s head turkey or chicken– no slimy stuff for me! Nothing out of the ordinary here.

I love my sandwiches on these tasty wraps– low carb, high fiber. Perfect.

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{www.tumaros.com}

Matt is more of a bread guy. He likes Country Kitchen. 0.5f/17c/4f/4p in 2 slices

Turkey Pepperoni also makes the deli list- high in protein, low in everything else. Processed, but I don’t really care. It’s tasty. And we can make pizza with it.

Meat

In the meat section, we stick to lean meat. Fish, 99% lean ground turkey, turkey breast, chicken breast, and once in a while we treat ourselves to 96% lean ground beef.

Al Fresco chicken sausage is YUMMY in the morning and for dinner. They have WAY more to choose from online than they do in our local store. {Hey, Hannaford, can you stock up? Thanks.}

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We like turkey bacon.¬†I make it everyday for breakfast & throw it on my turkey burger too. It takes some getting used to if you like regular bacon, but it’s delicious and packed with protein. Check the label for the best macros- Applegate Farms has 1.5f/0c/6p in a slice.

Canned Goods

I generally like to stay away from anything super processed. But, there are a few items I can’t live without.

Salad Dressing. Gotta have it. It also makes a good marinade. Our fav? Maple Grove Farms.

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0f/3c in 2 tbsp

While we’re at it, we like Maple Grove Farms¬†syrup, too.

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0f/12c in 1/4 cup

Grab some tuna, some hot sauce, I like bubbly water, quinoa’s good, now let’s talk about pizza sauce.

TIME OUT. This has nothing to do with macros! I just wanted to tell you that this is the best canned pizza and spaghetti sauce I’ve ever tasted.

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www.donpepino.com

Moving on to the Freezer section.

We stock up on Fat Free Cool Whip because it is delicious in between 2 chocolate graham crackers with mini chocolate chips! Just be sure to stick to a few tablespoons, and that’s a pretty macro-friendly dessert.

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For nights we won’t have much time to cook, we get our french fry fix with¬†Alexia Sweet Potato Fries.

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I’m a HUGE french fry fan, but not a big fan of freezer fries. No matter what I do, they always seem to come out soggy instead of crispy…but not these! They crisp right up & taste¬†gooooood.

On to Dairy

We pick up Simply Potatoes for breakfast along with egg whites. I love my nonfat, plain Greek Yogurt for a snack. (Mix in some mini chocolate chips & protein powder…tastes like cookie dough.)

Full fat cottage cheese is my go-to after-school snack. I throw it on some lettuce with grape tomatoes, fresh ground black pepper & balsamic dressing to hold me over until dinnertime.

Cheese is debatable. We buy both fat free mozzerella and reduced fat cheddar. This gives us some choice and control at the end of the night about how much fat we want to use on cheese.

…last, but not least- I Can’t Believe its not Butter spray butter! I’m not sure about the health benefits of this stuff, but adding a buttery taste without the fat content of real¬†butter works for me.

Online

Our local Hannaford is a pretty good source for everything we need, but we do buy a few things online. Check out www.bodybuilding.com¬†for protein powder & Quest Bars. I can’t seem to find Kodiak Cakes¬†locally, although they do list Target as a retailer. If you love oatmeal, check out www.myoatmeal.com.

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Checking Out

I’m certainly not a nutrition expert, but this is my starting point. For the first time, I’m not grocery shopping based on random recipe lists. I’m making conscious choices about the foods I’ll be putting into my body that week.¬†The more I shop, the more¬†foods I fall in love with. It’s about becoming aware of a food’s impact on your daily functions and making smarter decisions.

Happy Shopping!

 

Flexible Dieting Food Overview

How I Got Started with Flexible Dieting: The Long Story

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Well I’m going to go ahead and blame it on this guy.

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The Back Story

Matt & I went to the same elementary school, the same high school, and even the same college…but managed to miss each other until last year.

What does he have to do with this? Well, Matt is a Personal Trainer, and he asked me to go on a bike ride for our second date. Ummmm. That’s intimidating.

My thoughts:

Just no.

How am I going to keep up?

What if I fall off?

I’m never going to make it that far.

How am I going to look cute in a helmet?

See, my background with fitness was totally different from Matt’s. I grew up in an Italian family. Food came first, and there was plenty of it. Wine too. I love to cook, and I love my olive oil. I definitely worked out- when I felt like it. My attitude about myself was that I was just the right size, and I didn’t need to be any different. I thought maybe I could be a little more toned…whatever that was. I certainly wasn’t going to let my very cute, very fit new date make me feel like I should eat differently or work out more.

But, of course,¬†he didn’t make me feel that way. We did ride bikes that day, we had an amazing time, and I was just fine. {I was going¬†to spin class a few times a week at the time, I don’t think I gave myself enough credit!}

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My Previous Beliefs About Food and Fitness

As the months went on, we started having conversations about food and the fitness world. I was curious about his eating style, and I wasn’t sure how to cook for him.

I believed in what I read about online- clean eating. I stayed away from processed foods and junk. I tried cutting sugar out, and I wasn’t a big fan of dairy. Mostly this was because I have terrible skin and stomach issues, and I figured¬†my food choices had something to do with that.

I had never really changed in size. I was skinnier in high school, obviously. I had gained a little weight during college (I mean, who doesn’t?). And I started “eating clean” and running almost daily about 4 years ago. I went to a workout class¬†3 times a week, and I had lost a little weight¬†over the years, remaining consistently about the same¬†size.

I didn’t think much of my weight, but I definitely wasn’t gaining muscle or getting any more lean. I figured that was the size I was supposed to be, and I really didn’t think I’d ever be any different.¬†

I thought I was doing all the right things,¬†but my body didn’t seem to be responding anymore. I was completely stalled and running in neutral. {Running HARD in neutral. To the tune of a few sweaty miles a day.}

Matt ate completely differently. Pizza. Ice cream. Pop tarts. And he ate….like….a lot of food. AND he had muscles. He’s kind of a walking advertisement for science. {He’d kill me for saying that- but it’s true.} To be fair, he didn’t eat junk all the time, but he seemed to know how to fit it in.

I wondered how he could eat like this and look the way he did, but I wasn’t really interested in eating junk food. I was much more of a big bowl of rice and brussels sprouts in olive oil with cheese on top kind of girl. {What I¬†didn’t know was that my body had no idea¬†I was consuming a big bowl of rice and veggies and oil. It thought I was eating a greasy cheese pizza. So…maybe I should’ve went with the pizza.}

Matt explained that he tracks what he eats. He could eat whatever foods he wanted- as long as the “macros” fit his “numbers”. He talked about it so passionately claiming it made so much more sense as a lifestyle, that it was so much more educational than¬†some yo-yo diet or any product people are trying to sell.

I got that. But I was still pretty mystified. You really measure everything you eat? So for my whole life I’m going to put my food on a scale? What about when I have more than one person to feed? At some point I’m going to give up and stop measuring…just like a yo-yo diet.¬†And. PS. I’m NOT giving up olive oil. It’s a healthy fat, right?

He didn’t push me to change, but soon I started reading on my own. I wanted to know more.

I saw these transformations people were posting online¬†that were pretty darn inspiring, and it wasn’t just men. There were girls. And they weren’t, you know, muscle-y in a scary way. They were lean and strong. And some of them¬†were posting pictures of food…YUMMY food. My stomach was growling, and my interest was peaked. How were they doing this?

Here’s Corina Nielsen. She’s a regular girl, a mom- with an amazing fitness & food blog. Because of flexible dieting, she was able to work her way to eating more food- food she loved, while maintaining muscle. Reading her blog is what really drove me to get started. She’s so relatable.

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Could I look like that? It really hadn’t occurred to me before. I thought I was doing everything I could do short of depriving myself of food.¬†I was eating clean! I was running! I was spinning! I was bootcamping! I could hold a plank for 2 minutes. I was even tracking my food in an app on my phone. Isn’t that what tracking is? Why didn’t I look this way already?

I’m Ready to Try It

When I brought my thoughts to Matt, he helped me come to my own realizations about my choices. Like a true coach, he frustratingly told me to measure what I would normally eat for a week.

“But I’m ready to start eating better! Today! Just take me grocery shopping and tell me what to get.” I argued.

He maintained that he would not give me an eating plan. He insisted I cook normally and log all of my food measurements into the My Net Diary app. The measurements. With a scale. Not just a guess. And I had to measure the oil too.

So, I did it. I complained a little. {A lot.}

“I don’t need to measure. I’m a good cook. I can eyeball it.”

I put my pan on the scale. Poured in some olive oil to coat the pan really well so the chicken wouldn’t burn.

2 tablespoons of GOOD, HEALTHY fat, though, right?

Insert shocking gasp here. That’s¬†28 grams of fat. Sure, it has health benefits. But if I should only be taking in 40 grams of fat a day, wouldn’t I rather have just a teaspoon of olive oil and save the rest for something more substantial?

In Matt’s case, he’d rather have a nice bowl of ice cream after dinner. I’d rather have an avocado or some cheese. Doesn’t matter what you choose, it’s more about “spending” those macros differently.

Macro=Macronutrient

We track 4 macros: Fat, Carbs, Protein, Fiber.

We keep an eye on sodium and sugar for health benefits, but those are personal health choices. You can literally eat however you want- clean, Paleo, whatever- if it fits your macros. (IIFYM)

It was a slow start. I tracked my food for a week, and learned A TON about my food choices. Now it was time to figure out what my macros were- in other words, during this start-up phase, what numbers should I be hitting for fat, carbs, protein, and fiber?

Matt showed me how inaccurate and inconsistent online macro calculators could be. He sat down with me, went over my eating preferences, went over my numbers from the week before, and coached me on a good starting point. I am lucky enough to live with my coach, but he consults with his clients and checks in on their progress daily, adjusting as needed- so I do recommend you get a coach too. There are many coaches available, even if you just want some consultation online.

They can watch your progress, help answer questions about tracking, and can adjust things as needed. Its just so much more personal than a calculator. Of course, I have to send you over to Matt or Rob for this. ūüėČ

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{www.truepotentialpersonaltraining.com}

Eventually those numbers will change. The goal is to be able to eat more and have your body use up every single calorie it takes in, even when that number increases.

Case in Point. 

I’ve been tracking my food for a little over a month now, and I am working out in the scary part of the gym {the place I used to think was just for boys} 3 days a week along with off day workouts that I change around all the time.

First- a note about the scary side of the gym.

I knew how to use machines, but I had no idea what to do with the free weights on the side of the gym where it seemed like only the boys went. It is SO worth your time to take a strength training class or to read up about how to venture to this part of the gym. That’s why everybody is there! Because it works.

I’ll get into this at length in a different post- but you do not need to run miles and miles every day or lift 5, 10, or 12 lb weights for 100 reps. If you enjoy running or the class you joined, that’s totally fine.

There’s a lot of false information out there, people trying to sell something. Just look at those who are really gaining muscle definition. They are all pushing themselves to more challenging weight each time they go to the gym.¬†If you’re easily completing 12 reps, it’s time to increase the weight. If you’re going to spend an hour working out, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck- and that comes with proper form and pushing yourself to your limit every day. That does not mean sacrificing good form- it means marrying the two together. Take the time to read and look for resources at your local gym to help you master this.

ANYWAY. Back to food.

So I’ve been tracking and strength training and doing the off-day thing for about a month. Every single person will have different results, but here are mine. The girl who literally stayed the same weight for YEARS is seeing weight come off at a rate of about 1-2 lbs per week. I saw muscle definition in just a few weeks. {Pictures to come soon…I haven’t seemed to master the gym selfie yet.}

But the biggest a-ha moment for me was last weekend. Matt and I hadn’t been out to eat for a while, and we decided to test out a new place. Italian. I think you know what happens next.

I am pretty aware of macros by now. I tried looking for a macro-friendly choice on the menu. SERIOUSLY. I tried.

But…the only seemingly good option was a salad loaded with junk that I knew would add up to the same macro break down as one of the unhealthy main course options. So I ordered one of those unhealthy main course options. chicken. and cheese. and butter sauce. and pasta. and it was really good.

It¬†didn’t end there. The next night, we went to a hockey game. We tracked our macros all day, but then decided to hit up a local pub after the game. I proceeded to order a huge basket of fries- with cheese and gravy. I fell off the tracking train last night, why not do it again?

So, when I stepped on the scale the following week, I knew I wouldn’t see progress.

I was wrong.

I had actually eaten way more- and I still lost weight.

Will I do it every weekend? NO! I’m not there yet. Should I have tried to make better choices? Probably. But the point is, if I keep working hard, eventually I will be able to add more food back into my diet and maintain what I’ve worked toward.

No more “falling off the wagon”. If that wagon is sturdy enough, if you get your metabolism working the way it should, your body will utilize every single bit of food energy you put into it.

One More Point

If I didn’t feel passionately that I was onto something, I wouldn’t have taken the time to share it. In just 5 or so short weeks, my body is changing in ways I didn’t think it could. I made the decision to journal this progress on my blog to share it with you. As I start get¬†questions from friends and family, I’ll be able to have all those answers in one place. Follow along-¬†I’d love to hear about your experiences, too!

The Relationship Archives

Chapter 2: A Much Happier Beginning

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Well. I owe myself a big I told ya so! Turns out on the other side of a huge life change, on the other side of a winter of lonely nights watching repeat episodes of Modern Family, is a happy ending. Or maybe a happy beginning.

Someone once told me you should believe what people say about love because when people talk about their stories of love and heartbreak, it’s probably the truth.

People gave me plenty of good advice about my situation. “You’re doing the right thing. It feels terrible now, but you’ll be thankful one day. Just when you stop looking, when you think you don’t need someone, that’s when it will come.”

I honestly didn’t believe them.

Now here I am, on the other side, and they were 100% correct. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times before, and let me add my story to that list. My life is absolutely, every single day so much better than it ever was before.¬†

This blog was my therapy. I wrote in it almost daily during the worst part of my breakup- after I had taken the plunge and blamed myself for turning everyone’s life upside down. On days where I wanted to turn around and run back into a completely toxic relationship, I wrote instead.

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I’m almost 2 years out of that¬†destructive¬†relationship I wrote about, and I can see clearly that getting out was the best decision I ever made in my entire 30 years of life. It was good for everyone involved. If I had stayed, things would have ended eventually, but the damage could have been worse.

Looking back on my writing is difficult because I confused my loneliness and fear with positive feelings about a relationship that shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. I thought about deleting the blog altogether, but I came to a different conclusion.

1. I’m going to leave my old, painful posts up. Why? Because if they help one person get out of a bad situation or help one person hold onto strength during a lonely moment, then my journey will serve its purpose.

2. I’m ready to start a new blog, writing about the newest adventures in my life. They have to do with fitness and becoming the best ME I can possibly be, which still fits with my theme of fighting my fears and doubts.

SO. If you’re here to find out the real truth about what its like to turn your life upside down because you know its not right, head over to the Relationship Archives to read my journey.

If you want to read about my newest adventures, visit my new pages to follow along with Chapter 2.

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Life Lessons in Fear Fighting Mindfulness

I Have a Hangover.

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I love this title because luckily I’m not sitting on the couch, curled in a ball with a tall glass of OJ and an Aspirin.

I have a different kind of hangover.

An expectation hangover doesn’t begin with any Cranberry Vodkas and Champagne. It begins with tiny seed thoughts planted into your mind.

I first read about this concept in one of my favorite books, The Twenty-Something Manifesto.

It’s when you live your entire life thinking you need to follow a certain path because, well, it’s what everyone else is doing.

And then one day it hits you. These aren’t your expectations! This isn’t what you wanted at all. Yet here you are, basking in them, finally having that college degree/house/job you THOUGHT you always wanted, somehow feeling a pit of emptiness lingering.

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It hurts. It’s confusing, and your head is spinning with possibility. If this wasn’t your path, what is? You think, “How can I be (insert age here) and still not have it figured out?”

You stumble on this hangover, so you try explaining it to a friend.

“I think I’m meant to do something more with my life. I think there’s something else out there for me.”

She squints at you as if you’ve just grown an additional head, but manages to spurt out something kind-hearted. “Well, what is it you want to do?”

“Um. I’m not sure exactly. Maybe something with children, or writing. Or maybe lobbying? Maybe a non-profit. Yeah. You’re right. This is weird. I have no idea what I’m saying. Nevermind.”

I’ve been lost in this expectation hangover for a while now, but The Universe has given me an amazing gift.

The Universe has connected me with new friends, old friends, and random acquaintances who aren’t following those rules. I’m meeting people like me who understand exactly what I mean when I say everyday life isn’t for me.

Tonight, through a series of coincidences, I reconnected with a friend from High School who recently spent 6 months in Africa. She and I sat in the booth of my local coffee shop, something I’ve done every day since I was in the tenth grade.

Here I was, in that same booth, listening to her tell stories of a place and an experience I couldn’t begin to visualize.

Surrounded by my comforts, I suddenly felt the thrill of the same possibility that terrified me before.

I told her about my expectation hangover, and her eyes said she knew what I was talking about.

She followed with one piece of advice.

Jump into something you love, do it with passion, and wherever that takes you is where you should be.

 

Life Lessons in Fear Fighting Love & Friendship

Letting Go of Someone You Love

You know how sometimes you think about if your life would’ve lined up a little bit differently, you might have missed out on something wonderful?¬†

The stars aligned for me back when I was 22. I was still in college at the time, and I was working just a few hours at the Gap. (Spent all my money in the store, but that’s not the point here.)

I had some extra time in my schedule, and I decided I would stop in to Big Brothers, Big Sisters to see what it was all about. I’ve always had a love for volunteering, and since I was studying to be a teacher, this seemed perfect.

It was summertime, and although I don’t usually wear skirts, I had this white flowy one I’d been saving for a hot day. You’ll see in a minute why it played into the whole stars aligning thing.

I walked into the building and was greeted by an older woman. I explained my interest, and she sat me down to complete the screening.

After a while of talking, she said:

“I think I have the perfect child for you. We’ve had her on the list for a some time. We’ve been waiting for someone really girly who can help her with those types of things. She lives only with her father and brother. Her mother recently passed away.”

I looked down at my skirt, realizing I must have given off just the right impression, and quickly agreed.

“There’s one problem. You may not want to be matched with her because she lives about twenty minutes away, out in the country. Would you be ok traveling back and forth?”

As a [broke] college student, I did hesitate. It would be a lot of gas money, especially bringing her into town to spend time doing an activity and bringing her all the way back. But how could I turn this down? 

Fortunately, that’s only the beginning of our story. My “little sister” and I have been matched since that summer day 7 years ago. If I wrote about all the lessons she’s taught me over the years, you’d get tired of reading.

So, I’ll say this.

She is the most remarkable, resilient, intelligent, thoughtful, responsible and kind little girl I’ve ever encountered. Everyone who meets her is impressed, saying she is wise beyond her years.

She’s had to be.

I have a million stories like this one where her advice made me think, but I’ll start with this from yesterday.

**

I still travel to pick her up, bring her into town, and return her home. The long car ride always gives us an opportunity to catch up. I ask how school is going, how is her family, how are her friends, and I listen as she updates me on her life as a teenager. {Still can’t believe she’s a teenager now!}

She starts telling me about her dog.

“Well, we have to get rid of the dog. I wrote an ad yesterday for Craigslist.”

“Really? Why do you have to give her away?”

“She’s been aggressive, and it’s hard to predict. She bit me one time, and I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I didn’t want to tell anyone, but I had to. Then she bit me again, and I knew it was time to let her go.”

“Oh,” I replied, thinking if I were her age, I probably wouldn’t have told anyone about the biting to save myself from having to lose my dog. “Won’t you miss her? You love her so much.”

“Yes, I love her. But, I know it’s time to let her go. When she bit me the first time, I thought maybe we could fix it. Even after working with her, she bit me again. I don’t have the resources to train her. It doesn’t matter how much I love her, it’s becoming dangerous.”

At this point, I half chuckle to myself thinking about how, once again, she’s proving she is even more brave and wise at 15 than I am at 29.

Here, all this time, I’ve been absolutely clinging desperately to a relationship even as it becomes more and more dangerous, claiming love will save it.

She goes on to tell me she included information in the listing about how the dog would be better off with special attention and training, and she would love to remain in the country where she could run and get exercise.

I think to myself how selfless it is to consider her dog might also be happier somewhere else.

Sometimes all the love in the world isn’t enough, and sometimes love means letting go.

 

The Relationship Archives

Maybe I Should’ve Tried Harder & Other Anti-Love Stories

Warning. This is not inspirational at all. In fact, it’s controversial and you may completely disagree with me.

OR¬†I might make you say, “EXACTLY! That’s what I’ve been thinking.”

I’m writing this post for the second person…and for myself.

**

First, there’s this story about a love letter Brad Pitt wrote to Angelina Jolie being shared around social media sites. It’s a lovely story about how Angelina was feeling really low, she was depressed and¬†sleeping all the time. She didn’t seem to¬†love herself anymore.

http://couplesandco.blogspot.com/2013/12/i-lost-hope-and-thought-that-well-get.html

What did Brad do? Well, of course, he showered her with more love. He spoke highly of her wherever he went, he paid her lots of attention, and he told her constantly how much he loved her.

And she came right out of her funk and loved him back with all she had. They lived happily ever after. ūüėČ

[Not to ruin this love story, but according to one website, this letter didn’t actually exist.]

So, there’s this story, plus some other quotes floating around the Internet. They give a clear message to anyone in a troubled marriage:

Try harder. Don’t give up. If it’s broken, fix it. Pour all of your love into it.
That’s the key to a lasting marriage.

And here’s my argument.

Sometimes someone’s lows go deeper. Often, you can’t fix this, hard as you try.

You put every effort into making things fit, you try changing yourself, and finally, you decide all that’s left to do is to¬†tiptoe around quietly, trying to stay out of their way.

You can’t fix another person with all the love in the world.

(Yes, if the issue is a lack of love and affection in your relationship, a little kindness and compassion can, and should, go a long way. A marriage isn’t a union to be taken lightly.)

But, if this depression and anxiety is brought on by something deeper, something that’s never been addressed or healed, a missing piece¬†in this person’s life (or an addiction), no amount of¬† your care is going to change it.

Showering someone with love when they have deeper-seeded issues isn’t a duty of love and marriage,¬†it’s codependency. And it doesn’t work.

Codependency is a type of addiction itself, in which you become obsessed with trying to fix your significant other with your care taking.

{Not sure if your problems are normal relationship problems or codependency? Read more here. I was searching for this answer for years. When I finally realized¬†I was in a cookie-cutter codependent relationship, I also finally realized why trying harder wasn’t working for us.}

It’s as if your partner is already holding the sinking anchor, and you’ve grabbed the rope. It sucks both of you in, makes you both depressed and anxious, all the while¬†dragging you toward the bottom¬†as you grasp¬†desperately with every ounce of energy at the water surrounding you.

When this happens, the answer isn’t to dive in deeper.

The answer is the opposite. One of you has to detach and force your partner to face the reality of their addiction or anxiety.

They¬†absolutely must¬†have the desire and the capacity to change for themselves. They’ll never do it for you or¬†because of you, and that has nothing to do with how much they love you.

(Because you love each other very much, or you wouldn’t have made the choice to enter the rest of your life with this person.) This is for the naysayers. I don’t have to tell you about love.

{Dislike.}

None of us has¬†any idea¬†what cards we’ll be dealt.

People in abusive, explosive, unhealthy, dishonest relationships who have tried painstakingly to make things work shouldn’t feel as if the answer is to work harder.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t put your absolute all into your marriage- because you should.

I’m saying if you’ve put your all in, and you’re¬†exhausted from trying to change deep issues that won’t budge, and you know in your heart something’s¬†still not right, don’t let these quotes bring you down.

Make your decisions for you, not based on viral, judgmental Facebook posts.

If¬†the issues you’re dealing with are beyond normal marital problems and have¬†transformed into unhealthy or abusive,¬†further attachment won’t help.

Detach and heal yourselves. If it’s right, you’ll come back together as two healthy, whole individuals complimenting one another.

**

And detachment doesn’t always¬†mean divorce. I believe you can work through addiction and codependency with the right tools, understanding,¬†and commitment from both parties.¬†In these cases, though, love isn’t enough.

I stumbled across this amazingly honest story about a love that worked through addiction and deep issues. It’s a long read because, of course, the fix wasn’t as easy as giving more love. But, the end result is worth it, and the struggle is relatable.

http://www.vintagerevivals.com/my-real-life-story

PS: I found Mandi’s blog while searching for a sugar cookie recipe. It’s one of the only recipes she has on her blog, it’s actually a vintage furniture DIY site, which is right up my alley. So, instead of clicking away or leaving to make¬†my cookies,¬†I searched around, reading her blog,¬†and I found the story of her marriage, which taught me so much about my own. How’s that for fate?

If you’re interested in finding out more about codependency, I highly recommend Melody Beattie’s books, especially the daily meditations. They’ve gotten me through some difficult days.