Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Do You Know Your Partner Is THE ONE?

I recently stumbled upon such a thought-provoking article from A Cup of Jo - if you're looking for a neat blog that covers topics ranging from food, fashion, relationships and more, you must check out Joanna!

The article, How Do You Know Your Partner Is the One, surveyed folks on the age old question - How did you know he/she was the ONE? Immediately after reading the article, I began reflecting upon my own relationship. Despite having met my boyfriend a few times over the past few years, the timing was never right. We had both been dating others and we lived on opposite ends of the country. However, when our mutual friends re-introduced us last year things were different. I was different. My wants and needs were different. I was finishing up a long fitness competition prep, I had recently bought a home and was in the midst of renovation, and more than anything - I finally felt like I had become the person that the person I was looking for was looking for. 

At the risk of sounding cliche, everything changed when I began dating Ken. He is quite literally one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever known. He's kind and patient when I need it most. He takes control and leads the way when I'm lost. He treats me like a partner and a priority, eliminating any doubt that could have easily crept in as we embarked upon a loooong distance relationship. With all that said, and with Jo's article in mind, there are still more than a handful of other reasons I know I've met the one.

His happiness is mine. Is he having a good day? Ohhhh, look! M&MS. He loves M&Ms. I should buy these for him. A new superhero movie is opening this weekend. I better buy us tickets before it's sold out! I can't wait to hear how he crushed a workout or how well he played golf. Seeing his smile in person, over FaceTime and hearing it on the phone all brighten my day and bring my heart happiness.  

Home is no longer a place. Home is with him. Sometimes we're spending weekends in Atlanta. Other times we're spending weeks or a month on end in California. We've done a weekend in Vegas and we're going to Hawaii next month for my birthday. The common denominator in all of those places is US. Our relationship has taught me that I don't really care where I live (so long as there's a Lulu and Whole Foods within driving distance - DUH!) so long as we are by each other's side. 

I'm softer and sweeter. Let's not forget - I'm a born and raised spitfire Jewish girl from NYC. Where I grew up, we took public transportation. We cursed. We spit our gum out in the middle of the street while walking to the neighborhood 7 Eleven to buy slurpees and play handball. And while you can take the girl out of New York, you can't always take New York out of the girl. I'm still short tempered (despite my best efforts) and a bit feisty. I don't do small talk and I rarely smile at strangers. Since Ken came into my life, I've become.... softer. I've become sweeter. I'm not even sure when it happened - maybe slowly, maybe all at once. But all I know is I wish people a nice day, I smile at strangers and I wave cars in while I'm stopped at street lights. I don't preemptively hang up on customer service representatives and I'm just a much more patient and understanding human being. 

I miss him from the other room. Literally. As soon as he leaves the room, I miss him. 

I see our future. No, not in the weird fortune teller way. But I see it. While I feel zero pressure to start a family right now, I can't help but completely swoon when I watch him - sometimes he's wiping off Lucy's paws from a walk... other times he's laying on the floor playing with his nephew or holding a friend's baby. Sometimes he's just shaving in the bathroom mirror - and I can't help but smile at the idea of him teaching our son how to shave (or letting or daughter slather his face with shaving cream!). When I look at him, I see a whole life ahead. 

I have zero doubts. Our distance has never made me doubt the fate of our relationship. I don't lay in bed wondering how I really, truly feel. I don't wonder if I could see myself as a member of his family or him in mine. I don't question whether he'll be the strong husband I want or a loving father to our children. I don't fear that one single disagreement or argument will end our relationship. My heart is still and my mind feels at peace. 

And this peaceful feeling is how I know. How I know I've met my person. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

32 Life Lessons in 32 Years

Well, it’s almost that time! I cannot believe my 32nd birthday is around the corner. Where does the time go? Considering the next few weeks will be jam packed with travel, I decided to sit down and give some thought to life lessons I’ve learned so far in my {nearly} 32 years. I posted something similar last year – if you haven’t read it yet, check it out! As always, I'd love to hear from you. Any words of wisdom you've learned in your life thus far? Let's hear it!
On Life:
1.    Whenever possible, choose kindness.
2.    Do more of what scares the shit out of you.
3.    Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen. Have faith and be patient.
4.    Stop playing the victim to the circumstances of your life. You have the ability to shape the life you want – so if you don’t like where you are, do something about it.
5.    The only constant in life is change. Get good at change.
6.    Live simply. Unsubscribe from junk promotional emails. Donate the clothes you haven’t worn since college. Stop collecting things simply to have them.
7.    If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
8.    Don’t allow yourself to stumble on something already behind you.
9.    If you want something, but are overwhelmed with how long it’ll take to accomplish it – GO FOR IT. The time will pass anyway.
10. Be proud of your life. If you’re not, be courageous enough to change it.
11. Practice forgiveness. To yourself and to others. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you need to keep them in your life – but forgiveness is one of the fastest ways to inner peace.
12. The way people treat you usually speaks more to who they are then who you are.
13. There is never a “right time” and there is no sense in waiting until you’re ready. You want something? Go after it with all you have.
14. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
15. Never underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note.
16. Abandon destination-addiction. Stop wishing for the future and start embracing today.
On Self-Love/Self-Awareness:
1.    Forgive yourself as easily as you’d forgive others.
2.    No one can “make you happy.” That’s an inside job.
3.    Invest in timeless fashions. Quality over quantity always.
4.    Believe you can do it and others will believe it, too.
5.    Get good at saying no. Martha Beck said “When it comes to saying yes or no to something or someone, choose the answer that feels like freedom." If it feels like a burden, just say no.
6.    Pretending everything is perfect does not, in fact, make everything perfect.
7.    Focus on your strengths while nurturing your weaknesses.
8.    Take pride in your appearance, but realize that NO amount of physical beauty will be as valuable as a beautiful heart.
9.    The only way to let love in is to be vulnerable. Let down your walls so love can flow freely.
10. Speak your truth – even if your voice shakes.
11. Being OPEN is just as important as being honest.
12. You can be the juiciest peach in the whole world. And there will always be someone who doesn’t care for peaches.
13. Learn to cook wholesome, healthy meals. Eat the rainbow. Savor your food.
14. Start a gratitude journal. Begin and end every day with a grateful heart.
15. Whether it’s strength training, yoga, running… find a workout regimen you love and make it a part of your daily routine.
16. Trust the timing of your life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

7 Must-Haves for a Stocked Pantry

Over the years, I've learned that in order to ensure I'm eating healthy at home I must have go-to ingredients to make it easy to prepare my meals. Below are just some of my favorite items I ALWAYS have on hand to prepare healthy meals that don't pack on extra pounds!

  1. Yogi tea! Used in traditional Chinese and Native American medicine for centuries, dandelion root is known for its detoxifying properties, constipation relief, soothing an upset stomach, and helping shed water weight. In the days leading up to my NPC Bikini Competition last year, I drank dandelion tea three times a day truly believe it helped me shed water weight and helped with overall water retention. In addition to dandelion tea, I love ginger and lemon tea. Ginger tea isn't too popular here in the US, but it's quite common in other parts of the world. The benefits of drinking ginger tea include: improved circulation, reduction in arthritic inflammation, PMS, and overall stress. I also happen to love Chai Spice Mate tea by Guayaki, but it has since been discontinued! If you drink tea as an alternate to coffee (i.e.: for the caffeine boost), check them out. They have tons of other tasty flavors.
  2. Chia seeds. Chia - the acient Mayan word for strength. These little seeds are a nutrition powerhouse! High in quality protein - meaning they contain a ton of amino acids - and provide a great alternative for non-meat eating folks to get a little extra protein in their diet. Additionally, chia seeds are 40% fiber, by weight. What does that mean? It means they'll expand in your belly and help you feel fuller, longer - which means you'll ingest less calories. The fiber also feeds the "good bacteria" in your intestine AND have more Omega 3 fatty acids than salmon! I know - who knew?!? I love putting chia seeds in my morning oats or mixed into non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Since they've become increasingly popular, it's easy to find them at any grocery store near you! 
  3. Healthy baking staples. I can't lie - I get cravings to whip up some tasty treats just as much as the next person. So when cravings kick in and I decide to bake up something yummy, I always am sure to have the best quality ingredients to make small, relatively guilt-free treats. My go-to items are: almond flour, coconut flour, and enjoy life mini chocolate chips (they are dairy, nut and soy-free).
  4. Coconut Secret Organic Raw Coconut Aminos. That's a mouthful! This has become a staple in my pantry ever since being diagnosed with a soy allergy. If there are any fellow Jewish New Yorkers out there reading this, you'll know Chinese takeout is a 3x a week staple in most homes. I was so sad to hear the days of chinese takeout, soy sauce on my sushi and snacking on edamame were long gone however once I found this, I've been able to replicate my favorite meals and they honestly taste even better than before. Even if you're not allergic to soy check this out. It's 100% organic, gluten-free, vegan, and 65% less sodium than soy sauce. 
  5. Walden Farms Pancake Syrup. Traditional syrup has WAY too much sugar, so this condiment is a great way to top my protein pancakes with the maple syrup taste without all the calories and sugar. 
  6. Coconut Oil Spray. I do not cook with oil at all in an attempt to limit my fat intake, so this coconut oil spray helps ensure my food doesn't stick to my pans. 
  7. PB2. For those of my fellow peanut butter/almond butter lovers, the struggle is real. Nut butters taste delicious and are so versatile (I mix them into greek yogurt, dollop a tablespoon on plain egg whites, mix into smoothies, spread on half a banana, eat out of the jar, bake with it... you get the idea) BUT they are fat-laden. PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that has all the taste without the fat. I limit myself to a few tablespoons a week - but all you do is mix it with water and BOOM! Healthy alternative to nut butter. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

What’s in My Grocery Cart? Part I

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: Abs are Made in the Kitchen.

So what if you’re not interested in ripped abs? What if you’re looking to possibly lower your cholesterol, shed a few pounds of winter fluff, or simply feel good in the skin you're in? 

Regardless of your health and fitness goals, eating clean, nutrient dense food is critical for your overall health and well-being. Since I’ve been asked quite often what I buy and how I eat clean during the week, I thought I’d start a new series “What’s in my grocery cart?” – to give you an idea of what to buy each week to ensure you stay on track eating the critical nutrients needed to fuel yourselves for a busy work week ahead. 

So let’s get started!

Where I shop: Sprouts, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Costco

Yes, I tend to hit almost all four on any given week. Sometimes I really go nuts and hit all four in a day! I personally like certain products at each store, although for those less picky I’m sure 1 or 2 of these would suffice.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast: Organic is ideal, although sometimes I purchase chicken free or added hormones and antibiotics.
Ground Turkey Breast: Breast is key here. Ground Turkey includes dark meat and has a higher fat content.
Egg Whites: I buy enough egg whites to feed a small village. They are literally one of the best ways to get in additional protein (I mix them into my oatmeal, eat them alone, in omelets, in protein shakes, you name it!) without any added fat or sugar and minimal calories.
Non-fat plain greek yogurt: I love the Fage brand, but any will do. Just ensure it’s plain and non-fat. This can be made into sweet snacks (mix some fresh fruit and chia seeds in for an awesome pre-workout snack) or savory (mix with lime zest and fresh lime juice to replace sour cream). Tons of protein, minimal sugar and it’s fat-free. Winner winner!
Whey/Casein protein powder ( I am quite obsessed with PEScience Peanut Butter Cup protein powder. In my shakes, in my morning oatmeal, mixed into egg whites, you name it. Low calorie, fat, carbs AND sugar… all while high in protein #winning. Whey protein is quick to digest, while casein takes quite a bit longer (leaving you fuller longer!) so a blend seems to work best for me - but there are PLENTY of proteins on the market - including plant-based and egg based, so my best advice is experiment until you find one that works best for you. 

Roasted unsalted nuts: Be sure they're unsalted otherwise you'll retain water and take in way too much sodium. Always be sure to weight or count out your portions. Unsalted nuts are good for you, but too many are not. Fat is fat. 
Buff Bake Snickerdoodle Almond Butter (I buy this online): Literally my favorite tasty treat. On toast, in oatmeal, on an apple, out of the jar with my bare hands... you catch my drift.
Avocado: Again, watch your portions here. 2 ounces of avocado is considered a nice, healthy amount.

Sweet potatoes: Cut into "fries" and roasted at 400 with a sprinkle of cinnamon is my favorite way to prep these bad boys.
Gluten-free oat cereal: BE SURE any cereal you purchase has less than 9g sugar
Old-fashioned oats from Costco: Again, enough to feed a small army. I cannot get enough of these!
Ezekiel bread: I loooove the cinnamon raisin English muffins and consider 1/2 to be one portion. These are hearty and thanks to a ton of various grains, will keep you full so much longer than your regular 'ol slice of bread.

Apples: I’m a total brat and only will eat Honeycrisp or Pink Lady. I love storing them in the fridge and keeping them nice and cold and crunchy!
Berries: Give me all.the.berries!
Bananas: I try and limit the amount of bananas I eat as they're very high in sugar and carbs, so stick to 1/2 of a large or one small as a single portion. They are great sliced with almond butter or frozen and thrown into protein shakes!
Lemons: For my water and cooking
Limes: Same as above :)
Frozen cherries: Perfect for protein shakes! Love the combo of chocolate and cherry!

Frozen riced cauliflower from Trader Joes: Great for stir frys, homemade pizza crust or as an easy substitute for rice in any dish!
Spinach: Try throwing a handful into your next protein shake. It may change the color but I promise you won't be able to taste it!
Red and Yellow Bell Peppers: Because I'm a weirdo and don't like the taste of the green ones
Fresh garlic: Makes everything taste better!
Fresh ginger root: I LOVE grating this into my food - it adds such a burst of flavor!
Snap Peas: Dip these bad boys in hummus for a tasty (and healthy) afternoon snack
English cucumbers: Because I'm too lazy to peel the waxy layer off of regular cuces! Love thinly slicing these for water or dipping in hummus. 

Keep fresh fruits on the counter to encourage yourself to eat them! 

If you work in an office and don't have time to cook, try prepping meals in advance. Overnight pr-oats are easy and delicious - truly giving you NO reason to skip breakfast (YES - it's one of the most important meals of the day!).

Have FUN. Use romaine leaves as wraps for sandwiches and tacos. Experiment and come up with creative substitutes to your favorite meals. My blog has quite a few healthy swamps (more to come!) and when all else fails, Pinterest is a great resource!

I hope the list above was helpful! Remember that eating well is all about finding what works for YOU and your family. If you don't like asparagus, don't buy it! Eat what you enjoy and cook for those you love. Food is fuel and your body is the machine but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. If my contest prep taught me anything about nutrition, it's that elimination diets don't work for the long term. That's why a lot of us fitness competitors end up developing food allergies/intolerances (after eliminating a certain food group for long enough our bodies stop being able to process it!), we lose our menses (not eating enough healthy fat!) and we become downright miserable eating the same 5 foods over and over. Life is short - live and enjoy. Treat your body as a temple and you'll see the rewards in no time. 

I'm also excited to share with you all that I have some more nutrition-related posts coming your way - so expect to see some fun new articles about:
  • 5 Diet Rules You Should Break Right Now
  • How to Deal with Impossible Cravings 
  • Meal Prep Made Easy
  • 5 Tips for Succeeding at Your Health and Nutrition Goals!
  • 7 Must-Haves for a Stocked Pantry
  • How to Develop a Proper Vitamin and Supplementation Plan 
Anything new you want to see?? Other topics you're interested in? Let me know!! I want this blog to be a useful resource for you as you strive to live a balanced, active and healthy life!


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lately I've Been: March Edition

Cooking: All sorts of fun recipes! Last month in Cali, I made Julie's Beef Bulgolgi for the boyf and I honestly think it may have been the best, most flavorful meal I've ever made. I ALWAYS get too lazy to make everything a recipe calls for. 9 times out of 10 if it calls for some "special sauce" to top the dish with, I always skip it thinking eh, I'm sure it'll be fine without. But this time, I cut no corners. I pickled my own cucumbers, marinated the steak, prepped my cauliflower rice (although OMG - if you're near a Trader Joes, do yourself a solid and pick up the frozen ready to roll cauliflower rice - such a time saver!). If you like Asian flavors at all, definitely make this dish and let me know what you think. It's a new favorite for us!!
Drinking: Starbucks Komodo Dragon Coffee. It's dark and rich and oh so delicious. The stores don't always have it brewed, so it's become somewhat of a game for Ken and I - we get so excited when we find it! 
Reading: I just downloaded Kate Hudson's new book: Pretty Happy. The book appealed to me because of the topics: Cultivating an intuitive relationship with your body, eating well, and being mindful in your own body. I'll let you guys know what I think once I dig in. 
Wanting: This GORGEOUS Prada Saffiano purse in Camel. Ladies, do you all cycle out your purse by season? I'm a total supporter of quality over quantity and believe in having just a few key pieces. But I've totally been feeling as though all my purses are black/navy/dark brown. This gorgeous purse would be perfect for Spring/Summer. The big 3-2 is coming next month, so if Prada could start offering a birthday discount, that'd be ggggggreat.
Looking: Forward to some vacations!! In April I'm doing a girl's trip to Austin (never been - any suggestions, please send!!) followed by a two weeks in Cali and a week in Kauai for the big 3-2. I try to live in the present and enjoy every moment, but it's hard when you have fun things to look forward to!!
Wishing: That freakin La Mer would magically be cheaper. I have been telling myself I'm going to pull the trigger on their amazing moisturizer, but with so much going on I haven't been able to bring myself to drop the cash. I LOVE their eye concentrate and have used this moisturizer in the past. Despite the hefty price tag, I honestly feel their products are worth it. I've been experiencing dryness and hormonal breakouts, so I think it's time to make some investments in a solid skincare regimen again.
Enjoying: Working out!! I was pretty open about my struggles to enjoy the gym after my competition at the end of October... I totally burnt out on the same 'ol lifting routine but now I've been back at it - leaving the gym dripping in sweat every day and LOVING it. I'm not doing it to get super cut or to lose a specific amount of weight... I'm simply doing it because I enjoy it. And that feels fan freakin tastic. 
Wondering: How I'm going to get out of paying my nearly $500 speeding ticket I got in Cali. UGH! I was just driving home, minding my own business when a moto cop pulled me over. I literally had to ask him WHY I was being pulled over - I totally felt as though I was going with the speed of traffic. Womp womp.
Loving: Silk's Vanilla Almond Milk Coffee Creamer. I've been trying to drink my coffee black for years but this stuff let's me have that creamy (good lord I hate that word) taste without having to buy the terribly unhealthy synthetic creamers on the market.
Needing: THIS!!! I'm mildly obsessed with buff bake - and they just released Birthday Cake Almond Butter. I need it, but I don't. Testing my willpower to see how long I can hold off buying it... but the current jar in the fridge is getting low - so the time is coming near!
Following: JazzyThings. I love her Instagram account and reading her posts. She's a bodybuilder turned power lifter... and her recent post really hit home for me, and I wanted to share: "Perfection is NOT a real fucking thing. So try this: instead of plastering what you see on social media all over your mind, how about you take each day and work toward YOUR goals. Feel good. Stay active. Define your purpose." Definitely check her out - she posts such motivational stuff including tasty protein-rich recipes and creative workouts. 
Thinking: I need to revisit the whole cauliflower pizza thang. I tried it a few times (unsuccessfully) and also gave a quinoa crusted pizza a shot while in Cali (it was just meh....) so now that Trader Joes has a pre-riced cauliflower, I may give it another shot. I've saved Tina's new recipe which happens to be diary and gluten free... thinking I'll need to make it soon!
Feeling: Elated. Is that an obnoxious way to describe how I'm feeling?? It's true. I spent the month of February in Cali with the boyf and it truly feels like things get better and better as time goes on. I've literally never felt like I'm falling in love AND making a best friend at the exact same time. I have moments where I look at him and my heart melts. Then he has me laughing so hard I swear I'm going to pee my pants. I just feel so... happy. My family is healthy, work is consistent, Lucy is crazy as ever. My friends are wonderful and I'm building amazing relationships with Ken's friends and their wives, too. My cup runneth over.
Bookmarking: TurboTax. Ugh why are my taxes so complicated this year?? I bought and sold homes last year and for some reason, it's throwing me completely off. Too many papers coming from too many places! Thinking it's time to bite the bullet and ask for help.
Planning: To pursue my NASM personal training certification. I absolutely love health and fitness - and the only thing even better than pushing myself to my limits are pushing others to theirs! When I taught Barre, I loved hearing my clients come to me saying they found confidence they never knew they had.. or that they finally fit in their skinny jeans.. or that their husband's notice how they've changed physically and emotionally. I think I was meant to help people with living healthy, active and balanced lives - so the time has come and I'm ready to pull the trigger on obtaining my next level of certification! Can't wait - stay tuned, definitely more to come on that front! 

Okay, enough about me! What have you been up to lately? Read any good books? Try any new healthy recipes or taste some good wine? I want to hear from you!