Conquer this.

It’s been a while.

I made my way through 14 countries and over 30 cities in Europe for two months over the summer. It was a crazy ride and something I’ve always wanted to do.

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Have you ever completed something that you’ve always wanted to do or see or experience? Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have it be everything you’ve imagined. This trip was that for me.

The one downside to having the life experience you’ve always wanted… What do you do after it’s over?

I went through a weird stage for a couple of weeks where I didn’t feel part of the picture back home. I was there, but I was just going through the motions. It was as if I wasn’t fully committed to anything I did because I knew I would wake up and be back on a rock in Loch Ness or free diving for sea urchins in Cinque Terre.

But this reality of being back home IS really life. One day, in a haze of under-appreciation of my current situation, I snapped out of it. I needed to get my life, my REAL life, back together.

I didn’t have much of an opportunity to workout while I was in Europe and eating healthy was a constant struggle (except that the app Happy Cow definitely saved me a few times) so I was out of shape. This probably contributed to my ghostly presence back home. I forgot about my passion for everything health, fitness and competition.

I slipped on my running shoes that had mostly only been recently used for traversing foreign streets and headed down to the strand for my first run.

It.

Was.

Miserable.

I haven’t been this out of shape since I started seriously working out 7 years ago. My chest was on fire and my muscles ached. I stopped after only a mile and nearly fainted on the ground.

Plenty of people have similar experiences like mine where you lose your way and try and find it back again. Whether it be having kids, a family loss, a big move, divorce or a new job…The initial struggle is discouraging and makes you wonder how you ever got past this in the first place. The important thing to remember is that you got past this before, you can do it again.

That was my mantra during my sad little one mile runs for the first few weeks. And then one day I pushed myself to two miles. It was hard, but I made it. And then a week went by, and I added in an extra half mile. My legs were screaming, but I pushed through it. My mom told me that while she was getting into running shape, she used me as her inspiration(click here for the full story). She said that if I could run 26.2 miles with no food, no sleep but a whole lot of will and determination, she could finish her extra 6 blocks of running.

My mom’s a smart lady. What’s that quote? Something about half the battle is with your own mind? I’m probably getting it terribly wrong, but you get the idea. My mom reminded me in that moment, yes, the pain is real and yes, it is going to be hard… but you can do it.

I’m not back into the shape I was before I left, but I decided to challenge myself and start training for speed, not distance. I signed up for my first 5k in a very long time to set the time bar and start my competition with myself again.

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I’m competing in this weekends “Conquer Our Run” 5k in Manhattan Beach. For any of you locals, come run with me or cheer me on as I attempt to get my groove back! And for any of you who have lost your health and fitness way, come join me! The first step is the hardest but making any move (whether it be graceful or not!) is better than no move at all.

See you at the start line 🙂

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“Clean” iced vanilla latte sweetened with dates

I get by with a little help from my French press….

I’m in my last semester of college and I definitely rely on coffee to get me through those tough days and nights of studying and writing papers. It’s just a necessary evil sometimes. When I was a freshman in college, I had a friend who was 24 years old and he was coming back to school to get a second degree. We were both in science major classes that had three hour labs twice a week and tests that averaged out at 55%. I was struggling with my transition from high school studying to college binge studying and he was my study partner. I didn’t really drink coffee then but he was addicted and always had an ice coffee whenever I saw him. One day, he came to study with and had brought me an iced vanilla latte. I wanted to seem cool and pretend that I drank coffee all the time, so I downed it. All of the sudden, my mind was focused, my heart was racing and my head was determined to memorize the genus, class and species of every damn animal that we needed to know for our animal bio class. Needless to say, I got hooked on the beneficial effects on productivity that coffee provided me. I spent my first three years of college guzzling down pumpkin spice, vanilla and hazelnut lattes. All that junky crap that you’re not supposed to have on the daily because of the added sugar and processed carbohydrates.

Now that I’m much more health conscious but still in need for that caffeine boost, I’ve started making my occasional habit a little healthier. And I introduce to you the clean iced vanilla latte!!

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clean iced vanilla latte
ingredients
1 cup black coffee (preferable from freshly ground and organic beans)
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or less if you like your coffee stronger)
2 dates, pitted
Ice optional

1. Combine all of the ingredients other than the ice in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds.
2. Pour over ice in a cup and enjoy!! If you prefer it sweeter, just add more dates to the mixture.

**you can also blend in cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices for a little extra kick! Enjoy!

Quinoa for breakfast?!?!

When I was at the Tone It Up Retreat last week, I ate a lot of quinoa. I mean a LOT of quinoa. I’ve always been a fan of quinoa because it’s a complete protein and a good grain alternative (because it’s actually a seed, not a grain). I have quite a few recipes on my blog already that use quinoa as a staple but I’ve never really used quinoa for breakfast before until this morning.

Well, actually, technically I tried it for the first time at the retreat. I was definitely skeptical when I saw “oatmeal” made of quinoa. It seemed like an odd pairing, quinoa and breakfast. But I gave it a whirl and I’m glad I did! Having quinoa for breakfast really helps fill you up and keep you satisfied throughout the day (probably because it’s high in protein). Plus, it doesn’t really taste like anything, so it’s extremely versatile and you can add whatever you want to it.

I pre-made the quinoa last night so that it wouldn’t take as long to prepare. I suggest everyone do it that way too since most people don’t have ample time in the morning to leisurely cook quinoa for breakfast.

Try it out and let me know how you like it!

**OH and by the way… along with this quinoa oatmeal dish this morning, I made a “clean” latte. And holy mother of all delicious food… it was incredible. Don’t you worry though, I’ll be posting THAT recipe soon enough!**

Don’t forget to follow me on instagram at @healthyfoodylifestyle for more recipes, fitness and health updates. And be sure to post your creation and tag me in it so that I can see how yours turned out!

So what are you waiting for… go eat some quinoa for breakfast!

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Superfoods and Strawberries Quinoa Oatmeal

serves 3

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1.5 cups almond milk

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped strawberries

3 tablespoons cacao nibs

3 tablespoons goji berries

3 teaspoons honey

1. Pour the quinoa, almond milk and cinnamon into a pan. Raise the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cover. Let this cook for 20 minutes. If the quinoa dries up before it is cooked all the way through, just add 1/4 cup more almond milk to moisten it again.

*This step can be done the night before. Once the quinoa is cooked, just wait for it to cool off and put it into tupperware and into the fridge. When you are ready to reheat it, take out the desired amount, put it into a pot, add 1/4 cup almond milk and put it over medium low heat while you prepare the other ingredients*

2. Separate the quinoa out into three bowls. Sprinkle the strawberries, goji berries, cacao, and honey on top of each bowl. Serve hot!

Coffee: evil devil worshiper or angel of all that is wonderful?

We’ve been hearing some mixed messages lately on whether or not coffee is good for you. Plenty of people are praying to all that is holy that their addiction will some how prove beneficial to their health. But then there are also those that swear off coffee and blame it to cause a variety of diseases ranging from insomnia to stroke.

So what’s the deal? Is coffee good or is it bad?

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Unfortunately, there’s not really a straight forward answer. But let me give you some facts and you can decide for yourself…

Things that make coffee a pretty healthy drink…

1. Coffee can boost your metabolic rate by 3-11%, helping you lose weight.

-However, this diminishes the more often you drink coffee. Like anything, you can build up a tolerance and I          have yet to find a study regarding whether or not your metabolism slows down to even lower than you were before drinking coffee once you’ve stopped drinking coffee altogether.

2. Coffee contains a decent amount of vitamins B2, B3, B5 and Magnesium, Manganese and Potassium.

-And that’s just in one cup of coffee (8 oz). If you were to have about 16 oz, which is what most Americans have, you can get up to 1/4 of your daily RDAs for those vitamins and minerals.

3. Coffee may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.

-Observational studies have found that coffee drinkers have up to 65% lower risk of developing the disease.

4. A cup or two may help increase endurance during your workout making it feel easier.

– There may be up to a 5% increase in endurance during your workout following a cup of Joe.

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Why coffee should be avoided like the Plague…

1. Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.

-Lots of pesticides is not good. Its a bunch of chemicals that kills bugs. Some even cause the buggies to explode after ingesting the pesticide and those pesticides have been found to have similar effects on stomach and intestinal cells. So… you might want to avoid that.

2. Coffee is a diuretic.

-This means you pee a lot and lose water. Most people don’t even get enough water to start with so dehydrating yourself further is never a good idea.

3. Coffee depletes your body of Potassium,

-This causes muscle cramps (which hurt like a mother, especially if you’ve ever gotten a leg cramp that wakes you up in the middle of the night.. not fun), digestive upset, irregular heart beat and lack of energy.

4. Surprise, surprise… it can also cause insomnia and anxiety.

-I don’t think this one is much of a shocker, considering most of us drink it to wake ourselves up anyway. But it can also cause anxiety or increase anxiety in those who already experience it.

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My opinion

If you’re going to drink coffee, try to limit it to only a couple of times a week and drink it without any sugar. If you can get your hands on it, buy some organic coffee beans and freshly grind them yourself each morning. It tastes more fresh and it causes the beans to not go rancid. Just don’t go making a habit of getting the sugary dessert lattes from Starbucks, Coffee Bean or where ever else you go. Just read my girls article about the Pumpkin Spice Latte and maybe that will help you get over your addiction.

When I have coffee (and it’s a very rare occurrence), I get organic beans, freshly grind them in the morning, make it in a french press and I only add a little bit of organic almond milk and maybe some cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices. It’s an acquired taste but once you’re used to it, it’s actually pretty tasty! Trust me, it’s worth getting used to instead of risking your health drinking sugary 300 calorie drinks everyday.

A quick side story…

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**The picture above was of a coffee I was drinking in Florence, Italy while writing in my travel journal. Those were most of the places that I visited and wrote on the back of my journal. Everyone should travel!!! But I digress..

When I was in Italy this summer studying abroad, I drank a LOT of coffee. However, I was drinking straight espresso without anything added to it so I tried to tell myself it wasn’t that bad. Through my 5 weeks of traveling and drinking espresso, I experienced 6 excruciating muscle cramps that woke me up in the middle of the night and caused me to lose a lot of sleep… which ended up with me drinking even more coffee the next day. I attributed my muscle cramps to the excessive amounts of coffee that I was drinking and the potassium that I was losing. So, If you choose to drink coffee, try to limit it to just a few cups a week of sugarless coffee.

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(Above) Me drinking my 1,115th coffee (roughly give or take) while in Nice, France.

References:

1. http://authoritynutrition.com/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee/

2. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/07/11/6-coffee-pre-workout-benefits.aspx

3. http://www.livestrong.com/article/519356-coffee-potassium/

Workout Wednesday: ladies, stop fearing the weight room!!

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I know that really big buff guys with their equally enormous weights can be really intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that it causes you to avoid the weight room all together and modify your workout to use lesser amounts of weights that can be found in the “stretching” area. But it’s time to overcome this fear. In order to get an awesome and diverse workout, you’ve got to start hitting up that heavy weight area.

NOTE: lifting weights or doing exercises with weights will NOT make you big and bulky. That seems to be every woman’s number 1 fear but it will just make you more defined. Women don’t have the testosterone to build up muscle the way men do. Also, you would have to be lifting REALLY heavy weight to see results even close to that. So don’t be afraid of the bulk. It won’t happen.

Anyway, yes I realize the weight room is intimidating. I go to University of Arizona and we were just rated the number 1 campus recreation in the nation. Aaaaand cue all the really large meat heads and weight lifters… So trust me, I know it’s intimidating. But once you get over that fear, it’s a piece of cake and you see that most of those “meat heads” are large freshmen who don’t really even know what they’re doing anyway.

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I recommend starting off with the smith machine. It’s a guided bar that allows you to do squats with the extra weight and form but without the instability of a free bar. It’s a good first step. It looks like the picture above (with me performing a squat on it). I would recommend adding ten pounds to each side first and then do one set of ten reps of squats. If you feel like you can, add five more to each side and do two more sets.

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The benefits of the extra weight of the squat rack are immense. It’s a totally different workout and you’ll start feeling yourself getting more toned, faster!

Don’t be afraid. If you need support, take a guy friend and have him show you how it works. Go during a time when it isn’t busy and that’ll help your nerves also. Maybe go when your school has chapter for the Greek life because that seems to eliminate a lot of the surrounding gym go-ers.

Good luck and have a happy workout Wednesday!

Some days, you just need a little bit of pasta… garlic veggie pasta over whole wheat spaghetti

Does anyone else have the extreme issue of attempting to make pasta for just yourself and ending up with enough pasta to feed a family of five? It happens. Thank god for tupperware. Or hungry roommates.

I’m not a big pasta eater, mostly because when I eat a lot of it, I start to feel bloat-y and overly full. But every now and then, a nice big plate of pasta is the only thing I can imagine eating. An occasional carbo-load never hurt anyone.

I especially like this pasta dish because there’s no cheese and it mostly just consists of vegetables. I like to imagine the pasta as a grain replacement (like quinoa or rice) and it makes me feel better about it. That, and when it’s whole wheat, organic, nongmo, etc….

For those days when you just need to fill your belly with some comfort food… try this out!

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Garlic Veggie Pasta over Whole Wheat

serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked whole wheat spaghetti

1/2 cup chopped cauliflower

1/2 cup chopped zucchini

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

1/8 teaspoon dried chili flakes

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

OPTIONAL: a tablespoon of parmesan (for a little extra flavor)

**Note: for this recipe, it’s easiest if you have the pasta already cooked and all the vegetables chopped before you start.

1. Put a pan over medium heat and add 1/2 teaspoon. add in the cauliflower and saute for about 5 minutes. After five minutes, add in the zucchini and tomatoes. Sprinkle the salt on top of all of the veggies and saute for 5 minutes.

2. Remove the veggies and add in the garlic and the rest of the olive oil. Saute until you can start to smell the garlic or until it starts to turn slightly golden. Sprinkle in the chili flakes and add the cooked pasta. Turn off the heat and toss the pasta until it is fully coated in olive oil. Add the vegetables back in as well as the thinly sliced basil. Toss to combine everything. Add parmesan on top at the end if you like!

Enjoy!

Fall time treats: cinnamon apple crisps

Apple pie and fall go hand in hand. Unfortunately, apple pie also goes hand in hand with love handles. Just the thought of the cinnamon-y, apple-y, crispy flavor of apple pie just makes you want to cuddle into a warm blanket by the fire with you’re very own slice while you watch the red and brown leaves fall from the trees outside. As romantic as that sounds, it’s also how you start to gain that winter weight. Now, I’m not trying to take away that sweet, delicious pleasure, but I am going to make it a little more friendly to your figure!

I bring to you, chewy crunchy cinnamon apple crisps! It only has 4 ingredients and it completely satisfies that apple dessert craving. Plus, it only has 78 calories per serving!!! So crunch away and enjoy your sweater wearing, leave changing, and apple picking season that is fall!

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Chewy crunchy cinnamon apple crisps
serves 4

ingredients
2 apples
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Cut the top part off of the apple and carefully cut thin slices of the apple. When you’re done slicing, cut out the middle core of each apple.
3. Combine the remaining three ingredients by stirring together until it is all combined into a semi liquid form.
4. Put the apple slices on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Gently rub the cinnamon mixture onto each slice using either a knife or a cooking brush.
5. Put into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let the apples sit for 5-10 minutes before eating. The longer they sit after cooking, the crispier they’ll get.

Enjoy your fall treats!!