Committing to Health

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Lately, I’ve questioned exactly how committed I am to being healthy. My approach for years has been that as long as I cook clean, workout when I can, and make smart choices during the day, that I’ll be OK. Now, I wonder if that’s enough.

I grew up in a household that unintentionally embraced body positivity. My mother constantly told my sister and I how smart and pretty we were – my sister may have taken it more to the head than I did but I digress. I say unintentionally because feminism and body image were never topics that we talked about outright.

My advice to them as we’ve all aged and experienced changing metabolisms was to add physical activity and be more careful about what they put in their bodies. This can be tough to do even though it seems simple. For me, it comes down to commitment. How focused are you in your long term goals and the things you want? My long term goal was always just to look good and feel good. I think it’s dishonest to say that even though I have a positive body image, that I don’t want to look good. Everyone does.

Commitment can be impacted by a lot of things – time, interest, your friends/family, access. financial status. Let’s look at time. In a perfect world, I would wake up at 5:30 AM, go to an hour long yoga class and make it to work by 8:30 AM everyday. In reality, I do this maybe twice per week and  I usually get to work by 9 AM on those days. The evenings are just as bad. Again, in a perfect world, I would alternate evening between running, biking, and boot camp. That’s just not real  life though. I leave the office, really committed to working out or making that group fitness class and BAM – I get a text, “dinner?” or “coming to watch the little league game?” and all of a sudden I’m weighing the importance of being present for my friends and family against my own health and physical needs. It’s tough.

Having a support system is also really important. I’m a bit of an introvert so I don’t mind taking a fitness class alone. I can admit that anxiety sets in when the instructor shouts, “grab a partner,” but usually it works out in the end. That’s not the case for anyone else that I know. One of my coworkers invested in a high-end bicycle but only uses it again once a week because she has no one to motivate her. Handling food can be the same. If all of your friends and family eat fast food five days a week, you are going to have to put in some serious mental power to eat your homemade, fresh food. I mean, really, who wants to turn down french fries?

Access is also an important factor. It’s true that you don’t need a gym to get fit – walking, running, doing crunches are all things that are free and don’t require equipment. But what if you just don’t know that? It seems simple but the truth is, a lot of people consider working out to be something that happens at the gym. They don’t think that doing a few laps around their neighborhood really counts. Access also means having resources and knowledge. I can find workout plans and meal plans everywhere – pinterest, facebook, instagram, flyers in Starbucks (seriously!) – but if you don’t know those things exist in that platform or you can’t get to a grocery store that sells fresh vegetables then you’re back where you started.

Financial status also ties into this idea of access impacting commitment. If someone needs to work 12-14 hours a day to support their family or meet their career goals, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find time to do a push up, much less make a fresh meal every night or commit 2-3 hours to meal prep on a Sunday. Unfortunately, if this person is also in a lower income neighborhood the ratio of fresh grocery to fast food is extremely skewed. Even if it is there, they may not be in a position to spend extra time and cash on it.

There are so many other factors that may never even cross my mind. In my own life, I’m lucky to be able to control a lot of the things that challenge my commitment but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you just can’t say no. The answer is figuring out what works best for you. Maybe that’s only taking  a fast-paced walk on your lunch break or going for the grilled nuggets instead of the fried ones. Even though these are small changes, they can make a big difference.

What impacts your commitment to being healthy? How are you figuring out what works for you?

 

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Sunrise Breakfast Quesdillas

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Breakfast is one of those meals that always makes me really happy – if it’s done well. When I first started meal prepping, breakfast always involved tortillas. Something about a tortilla made me feel less like I had added eggs to a Pop Tart.

These are quick and easy and you can add anything to it. If I have a lot of left over veggies, I’ll add onions, peppers, even tomatoes. So good. Great kitchen sink dish – toss everything in and it still tastes good.

Feel free to use non-dairy egg substitutes and vegan cheese if you’re looking for a dairy-free option.

Meat: Dry: Dairy:
Sausage (1 package) Tortillas Eggs (1/2 dozen)
  1. Warm a small frying pan to be used for the sausage and eggs
  2. Cut the sausage into thin slices and cook according to the package instructions
  3. Lay sausage out on a paper towel and blot grease
  4. Crack eggs, whisk with pepper
  5. Pour the eggs into the warm frying pan, scramble
  6. Remove the scrambled eggs from head
  7. Warm a medium to large frying pan on low to medium heat (big enough to fit the tortilla or use a griddle)
  8. Place the tortilla into the pan
  9. Begin layering
    1. Cheese – thick or thin depending on your preference
    2. Add a layer of sausage
    3. Add a thin layer of cheese
    4. Lower the heat just a bit
    5. Add a layer of eggs
    6. Add a slightly thicker layer of cheese (this is your glue layer)
  10. Put the second tortilla on top
  11. Take a small (glass or ceramic) plate and lay it on top of the quesadilla
  12. Allow the cheese to melt for about 30-40 seconds
  13. Put on an oven mitt – seriously – hold the pan handle with your non dominant hand, place your mitt-hand on top of the place. Flip the pan over so that the plate remains in your hand with the quesadilla in the plate… Please be careful. I’ve never burned myself doing this but it would be really easy to do it. This does not work with the griddle 🙂
  14. Gently slide the quesadilla ( back into the pan and allow the opposite side to brown slightly – you can use the plate method again to get it out of the pot. I think it’s the less messy option.
  15. Allow to cool a bit before you slice it

Enjoy!

Did you try the plate method? What other items did you put in the quesadilla?

Run and Eat or Eat and Run?

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Prior to this year, running was something that 20-something Courtney did not do. During high school, I ran the cross country summer miles then promptly forgot my running shoes for a week straight and would have been so far behind in 5 AM make up runs until I gave up. That outlook changed in January. It wasn’t a new years resolution. My new years resolution was to be happy no matter what. It sounds cheesy but at the time my mood was so inconsistent until all I wanted was happiness.

I started running in late January. I had a huge life change and  I desperately needed something to distract me from how much of a mess my life had become in just a few short days so I started running. It was cold. Georgia has relatively temperate weather, but my tolerance is low.

Let me be clearer – If it’s under 60 degrees, I’m an ice cube.

So I realized that while running outside actually made me feel better emotionally, I couldn’t handle the cold. I also needed a plan. I set a goal to run one one time race per month. In just about everything that I do, I need something to look forward to – a goal, a vacation, even dinner plans. I’ll admit that I’m a planner but my inner optimist just can’t handle anything with no twinkle in the distance. Now you understand that opening statement about being happy.

I brought my runs indoors. Running on the treadmill worked for almost a full month. I felt like I was getting stronger, my ability to increase the speed and keep going was improving, yet every time I did a race, all the improvement I’d noticed on the treadmill disappeared. At first, I assumed that it was because these races were so early in the morning. Maybe my body isn’t awake, maybe my muscles are cold, maybe I need to eat.

I spent a few days eating fresh fruit immediately before a run. It was OK. I felt as though my endurance was slightly better but I would always have a stomach ache at the end. I switched to Kind bars. Some improvement – no stomach ache but I felt a little sluggish. Tried smoothies but I could literally feel like the liquid in my stomach which made me nervous about the next logical step when you feel things moving around. I knew I couldn’t run on a full stomach – I can barely walk on a full stomach. I started to research what other people eat before running and the resounding answer seemed to be nothing unless you are absolutely starting. I even read a few articles about committed runners who planned all of their meals around their running schedule. I’m not there quite yet, but I did start to notice that I wasn’t hungry before those timed races so food probably wasn’t the answer.

I continued Googling for answers and stumbled on an article offering advice to new runners – run outside. Not only run outside but vary the terrain. When I read this,
it jogged (haha, get it?!) my memory of a friend once saying that he believed treadmills weren’t nearly as useful because it causes you to use less effort since it’s moving. The ground, obviously, doesn’t give you this kind of assistance. I stopped eating immediately before a run and started running outside. Here’s what I learned:
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1. My mind clears so much more quickly when I’m running outside.
2. Food is not an issue if I run in the mornings, but I have to plan ahead in the evenings.
3. Pre-planned evening runs help me to avoid sugary snacks at work.
4. Consistency is key.

I have to eat something at least a few hours before if I go running in the evenings. If I don’t, about 30 minutes into the run, my stomach declares war on the rest of my body and I begin to get light headed.

I finally nailed down a good schedule and returned to the Kind bars a few weeks ago. As long as I’ve got breakfast in by 9:30 AM, I’m hungry for lunch between 12:30 – 1:30 PM. In the evenings, I never go running before 6 PM so that gives me 4.5 hours to get some digestion going if I don’t eat. Again, that whole not eating thing doesn’t really work for me. So around 4 PM, I have a Kind bar or a banana.

Something about bananas work for this purpose. They are just heavy enough to keep me full and light enough to not weigh me down. Then right after I run, I do a cool down stretch, and head home for a real dinner.

Meal prep makes this so much easier. I pick up the box of Kind bars and a few bananas on Sundays when I’m at the grocery store and then when I’m ready for dinner all I have to do is warm it up. For me, the warming is a big of a process since I’m using the oven but it gives me a chance to get out of my sweaty running clothes, maybe do a 15 minute yoga session, and wind down before the meal.

How do your meals impact or change based on your workouts?

Vegan Ramen Bowl

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I realized about halfway through this meal that I really wished I had made enough broth for it to be a full-on Pho. Pho is Vietnamese soup and my Ramen bowl is more of a Pho light… as in light on broth.

Today’s meal prep felt longer than usual. I was distracted by the beautiful weather and the dismay of the weekend being over. I also got started a lot later than usual so that didn’t help. I stopped by Publix and Whole Foods to get the items on the grocery list from the Best of Both Food Worlds meal plan. Luckily, I had a few on hand already so the actual shopping part was relatively quick. I tweeted the trip and picked up a few extra items like tofu.

Here’s what you need for this dish:

Produce: Dry: Optional:
Bell peppers (2 sliced) Vegan Ramen Noodles (1 bag) Tofu
Sweet Onion (1/2 sliced) Vegetable Stock (16 oz) Sriracha
Broccoli (about 1/2 cup, florets and short stems only) Soy Sauce (8 oz)
Fresh Ginger (palm sized, minced) Sesame Oil (8 oz)
Garlic (2 tbsp)
Green onion (1 bundle)
Edamame (8 ounces)
Carrots (matchstick bag or one fresh, about 1/4 cup)
Bean Sprouts (1 fresh container)

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  1. Start with the broth. Warm a medium sauce pan. Add 6 oz of the Sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. Allow it to simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the onions. When the onions start to brown, add the vegetable stock. When the mixture begins to boil add 4 oz of the soy sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes
  2. After 15 minutes, stir the mixture and taste. Add more soy sauce if needed. Return to a low simmer.
  3. Chop the bell peppers, onions, and carrots. Saute in the remaining sesame oil for 3-4 minutes. Avoid letting them lose their crispness.
  4. When the vegetables are done cooking, remove them from heat, sprinkle the edamame in the pan and allow them to warm through the residual heat of the vegetables.
  5. Bring water to boil for the Ramen noodles. Cook according to the package instructions – if it says cook for 2 minutes, it’s because they cook incredibly fast and also turn to mush incredibly fast.
  6. If you’re using pre-seasoned and/or baked tofu, warm it in a pan.
  7. Stir and taste the broth again. Add more soy, stock, or garlic to taste, if needed.
  8. Strain the noodles.
  9. Rinse the bean sprouts.
  10. In a bowl, layer on the noodles, sauted vegetables, broth, tofu, and bean sprouts.
  11. Add Sriracha, if wanted and only if you’re eating/serving it now.
  12. Serve and enjoy! OR take a bite and pack in your meal prep containers for the week.

This recipe was inspired by The Minimalist Chef. I made it almost exactly following her recipe last week for my brother who is vegan. It was amazing. Then I used my left over ingredients a few days later to make it again and realized I actually really liked the simplified version. It felt good to spend less time in the kitchen and still get a great ramen bowl. After all, I am a lazy cook.

How did yours turn out? Did you decide to add meat? What did you change?

 

Last Minute Gift for your Fit Mom

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As I get older, I’ve come to realize that Mother’s day is a tough holiday. I want to get my mom a physical gift, but I also want to spend time with her and, you know, I’m on a budget. This year, I splurged a little – well, a lot. I’m also buying my sister a mother’s day gift so I decided to just hold my breath and swipe my card.

I never do that… let me be clearer: YOLO spending is not my life. Buyers remorse is real!!

Both my mother and my sister are moving toward a healthier lifestyle. My mom, in all of her southern charm, has drastically cut back on her sweet tea consumption – just one glass a day. This is a giant step for her. She’s also putting a lot of effort into eating breakfast.

My sister has developed a love for cold-pressed, organic juices. This is replacing her previous addiction to Coca Cola. She is also always willing to workout with me or take free class when she can even though she has a crazy schedule. She recently started managing a bakery, she has four year old son, and she’s very active at his learning academy. (Learning academy is a fancy word for a daycare that actually teaching your kid). Time (and sleep) is not something she has a lot of.

So I’m really proud of both of them for taking a few steps toward improving their health. Last week, during FitBit’s Mother’s Day sale, they both decided to buy one. To be honest, they are going to kill the 10K step goal. My mom babysits my nephew when my sister works in the evenings and, as I mentioned, my sister is basically jogging the length of a bakery for 10+ hours, 5-6 days a week.

Obviously, the choices are endless for a fitness related gift. Since my family is just getting started, I’ve included the basics:

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light weight cotton top from Target ($6.00 each, in stores, slightly more online)

basic hand towels from Target ($6.99 each, in stores, slightly more online)

Additions for my sister’s pink fitbox:
1. Fitbit Flex pocket key chain (she can’t wear bracelets to work, so this can go in her pocket and still count her steps) from Amazon ($6.99)

2. Spandex workout pants from Victoria’s Secret ($34.75, 50% off this weekend)

Additions for my mom’s purple fitbox:
1. Fitbit HR charging cable from Amazon ($7.99 for a two pack)
2. Sports bra from Victoria’s Secret ($25, on sale this weekend)
3. Sweat pants from Victoria’s Secret ($34.75,  50% off this weekend)
I may a few more items after a trip to the store today. I’m thinking of adding a little bottle of fragrant hand sanitizer and maybe facial wipes to both boxes. Do you use those two items after a good workout?
Check in tomorrow for the recipe for Vegan Ramen Noodles and some info on my grocery shopping trip.

Meal Prep Planning: Best of both worlds

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This week’s meal prep is designed around feeling lighter. Consider the exact opposite of the feeling you have after Thanksgiving. Last week, my brother visited from California. He’s Vegan so I spent Monday-Wednesday only eating Vegan food. It was a great experience and I loved the light but satisfied feeling I had after those meals. I was then invited to Korean BBQ with a few friends so I unintentionally reverted to a meat-heavy meal about 4 hours after taking him to the airport. That’s just my life. Do you ever find yourself right in between two very different food lifestyles?

Check-in throughout the week for details on the recipes below! Follow me on IG for pictures of these meals and everything else I’m tasting.

Meal Plan: The Best of Both Food Worlds

Breakfast: Lunch/Meal 1: Dinner/Meal 2:
Sunrise Quesadillas Vegan Ramen Bowl Shredded Mango Chicken
w/ Cauliflower rice and asparagus

Grocery List: 
For this week, you may need to visit two grocery stores or expect a slightly higher grocery bill if you decide to only shop at any organic/vegan friendly store. Because I’m also budget conscious, I’ll pick up my vegan and tougher to find items from Whole Foods, then visit Publix Supermarket for everything else. I prefer to avoid canned products as much as possible, so that means I probably can’t get something like bean sprouts from my regular grocery store (Publix) even if I wasn’t doing a fully vegan ramen bowl.

Produce: Meat: Dry: Dairy:
Bell peppers (4 any color) Sausage (1 package) Vegan Ramen Noodles (1 bag) Eggs (3)
Sweet Onion (2) Chicken (1.5 lbs) Vegetable Stock (16 oz) Cheese (16 oz)
Broccoli (1 head or pre chopped) Soy Sauce (8 oz)
Asparagus (2 bundles) Sesame Oil (6 oz)
Green onion (1 bundle) Salt
Edamame (8 ounces) Pepper
Carrots (matchstick bag or one fresh) Complete Seasoning
Bean Sprouts (1 fresh container) Wheat tortillas (10)
Cauliflower (1 head or pre-made)  Coconut Oil (3 tbsp)
Mangoes (2 very ripe)  Flour (1/4 cup)
Fresh Ginger (palm sized)
Garlic (2 tbsp)
 Sriracha (2 tbsp, optional)