Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Piña Colada in Paradise

Since I'm getting ready to go to a wedding in Cancun, Mexico, next week, I thought I'd share one of my new favorite cocktail recipes. It's fat-free and low in sugar and calories — especially for a piña colada!

I found a similar recipe through the Hungry-Girl e-newsletter, but changed it up a little bit because it called for a syrup you could only buy online, and it was expensive.

By the way, if you haven't checked out Hungry-Girl, you are really missing out. She is an ordinary girl who loves health and nutrition (kind've like me), and she recently launched her own food show on The Food Network. She's published several recipe books and is full of healthy eating tidbits and tips.

Ingredients:

  • Canned pineapple (chunks, slices or crushed)
  • Fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream
  • Coconut Rum
  • A few ice cubes
  • A cherry or fresh slice of pineapple for garnish

Directions:

  1. I like to take a shot of the rum before starting to make sure it's good ;)
  2. Add all ingredients to a blender
  3. Blend until smooth
  4. Enjoy
It really is that simple. I don't measure anything, so sorry if you were hoping I'd tell you specific amounts. I like to go by trial and error. ;) 

Let me know what you think in the comments, please!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What to Know When You Plateau

It's a great feeling to see results after hard work in the gym. Whether you lose pounds or inches, or your energy levels have risen, or you're sleeping better, those results are rewarding. Knowing you worked your little booty off sweating, pushing through the pain, and that it's making you stronger — well, that's when it's easy. But what happens when you stop seeing results?

The very same thing can happen in your spiritual life. You've been having your quiet time, uncovering the layers of your flesh and becoming more and more intimate with God, and suddenly, you plateau. What does that mean? How do we move past it?

It happens to everyone.


Know that you're not the only one who plateaus. It's not necessarily something you've done or haven't done that's stopped you in your tracks. When you first begin working out, you can drop weight and get healthier than you were so quickly. You make progress so easily. The plateau happens when you've been doing everything right. Your body adapts to that level of activity and catches up with your mind. You don't gain weight, but you don't lose any either. You don't make any more progress, and it can be very frustrating.

Spiritually plateauing happens to everyone too. That's why the Bible says to renew our mind each and every day. Even doing that, you can still reach a point where you feel bored or stagnant in your relationship with God, and in turn, with others. 

You're ready to move to the next level.


This one's pretty obvious. So you've plateaued, and you've got two options: to slip back, do less work, and get less healthy OR do better and get more healthy. The choice is easy. The problem is how do we do better? 

The good news is that when you realize you've hit a plateau, you can be sure that you're body is ready to go to the next level. Now's the time to really dig deep and explore why you've plateaued.

Physically speaking, is it because you've been doing the same workout routine for months on end? Have you been running and sprinting like an Olympic marathoner but haven't touched a weight in years? Do you need to focus on strength? Endurance? Flexibility? 

Spiritually speaking, these questions can be a bit more tiresome, because our flesh resists change. We resist reflecting on how we may need to dig deeper into our souls and ask those hard questions because that requires us being vulnerable. We live in a world that encourages self-sufficiency, but to get past the plateau, we must ask ourselves: Are we hurt? Are we disappointed? Do we have regrets? Which areas of our life are we not letting God in?

Either way, the only way to do better is to ask these hard questions and make a change.

It's time to change it up.


This part of the journey is just that — a journey. Experiment with different activities for your mind, body and spirit. It's trial and error. After you've asked those questions, sometimes you still don't hear a clear answer.

My only answer is to try something different.

Physically, try swimming. Try yoga. Try group exercise. Make a workout buddy. Go outside. Go inside. Take a week or two off.

Spiritually, make a change too. First of all, wake up. When I've hit a wall spiritually, it's usually when my eyes open to the things I've been ignoring for a long time. Maybe I've been neglecting an area of my life that I really need to pray about or surrender to God. Maybe I've been sweeping some kind of hurt under the rug or stuffing some of my feelings, and this plateau is happening because they don't all fit inside me anymore. They're beginning to overflow. Let me tell you, this plateau can be very overwhelming, but there is hope.

With any plateau, know, more than anything, that you are moving forward. You are growing. You are healing. God is working when you feel like you are not.

Personally, I struggle in a plateau because I tend to think of myself as a strong woman, and when I hit this wall, I feel weak. And I hate being weak. I like to take care of other people. It's hard to let God take care of me.

What kind of plateaus have you experienced? I'd love to discuss this more with you in the comments. Thanks in advance!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Low Fat Cake Batter Dip


Can you believe you can actually stay headstrong with your healthy streak and get the full flavor of a delicious birthday cake at the same time? I can't take the credit for coming up with this delicious recipe (if you even call it a recipe). There's 3 ingredients to the dip, people. If I can make this, anybody can. Your 3-year-old can.

I found this fun and guiltless dessert on Pinterest — of course. :) Check out the original blog at Eat Yourself Skinny. The girl's got a lot of healthy recipes.


First, you need some low-fat or fat-free yogurt. I always eat Dannon's Light & Fit yogurt. It comes in vanilla, strawberry, blueberry and plain versions. I chose the vanilla kind, but I bet this dip would be fabulous with one of the other flavors as well. Each tub of yogurt has 4 servings, with each one rounding out at 110 calories and 0 grams of fat. That's pretty darn lean, friends. I used about 2 servings.


Take your box of cake mix and pour 1/2 to 2/3 of the box into a big bowl. I prefer Pillsbury's Funfetti cake mix, but I'm curious as to how the sugar-free vanilla or devil's food cake mix would do. Less calories equals more fun! Stir in the yogurt. Oh, and try not to make a big poof of cake dust like I did.


Stir in your fat-free, lite or sugar-free Cool Whip. Kraft Cool Whip comes in three different healthier versions, so you really don't have an excuse. ;) If you've stored it in the freezer, be sure to let it thaw out before adding it to your bowl. I used about half this size container.


Whip it. Whip it good! Stir it all up until there's no more dry cake dust. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour (although, it's pretty darn good right off the spoon at this point). 


Serve your yummy dip with some naturally low-fat cookie/crackers like Stauffer's Animal Crackers. I almost bought the chocolate kind, which they make, and they're still low-fat. I guess I'll just have to make this again, and swap out all different flavored ingredients. :) 

I hope you try this out, and let me know what you think in the comments. Have a fun-fetti time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

10 Simple Changes to Be Healthy

Why must I change, you ask.  Well, of course you don't have to, but you'd be surprised how our everyday decisions affect our health and wellness. The choices we make day-to-day especially affect how we live 10, 20, 30 years from now. And, me? I want to be a rockstar when I'm 70, so I'm getting on it as quick as I can!

My ultimate goal is to help others feel better, look better, keep their priorities in line, save time, prevent stress and be less anxious. Please know I'm trying to walk this walk, myself, just sharing what I learn as I learn it.

Here are 10 relatively easy changes you can make to your lifestyle that will greatly increase your energy, your mood and overall health.



1. Take the road less traveled.

I'm sure you've heard it 100 times, but if you still take the elevator every chance you get, you're missing out. Take the stairs. Walk to lunch. Park a little further away from the entrance. Actually climb the stairs on the escalator. Take a break from your day job and walk around the office. You won't have to spend two hours at the gym because you won't feel like a complete lazy bum.

2. Cut back on the bubbly.

Try to limit your intake of any carbonated beverages. While I get a good craving for a Diet Dr Pepper every now and then, I've seen an outstanding improvement in the way I feel after cutting back on carbonation within the last couple of months. I used to drink 1-2 carbonated beverages a day — whether it was a diet soda or a flavored water. After substituting those choices with iced tea, regular water or flavored water minus the bubbles, I feel less bloated all day. Plus, my thirst is actually quenched.

Try some of my favorites:
  • Minute Maid Lemonade and Peach Juice (Only 15 Calories)
  • Crystal Light (and store-brand) Sugar Free Bottle Mixers (Peach Mango Energy Blend is my fave)
  • White Peach Tea from QuikTrip gas station (I probably get one every other day)
  • Vitamin Water Zero
  • SoBe Water (sugar-free versions)
  • Diet OceanSpray juice (Pomegranate Bluebbery and Cran-Grape are awesome)
3. Stretch throughout the day.

Stretching is probably one of the hardest things for me to actually implement into my daily routine. I'm like, I don't have time for this! But, I have to make time. Do a few "reach-and-pull's" when you wake up. Touch your toes and swing your arms. Get loose before taking on your day.

As you go about your normal schedule, try to stop every couple hours and stretch. A neck roll here, a calf stretch there. You might not feel like Superman after you stretch, but studies show it greatly reduces your risk of injury before and after exercise. And, stretching without exercising still elongates your muscles and improves your flexibility and balance.

4. Read rather than watch before bed.

One of the best decisions my husband ever made for us was choosing not to buy a TV for our bedroom. He says, "The bedroom is only for two things, and one of those things is for sleep."

Both of us value our sleep very much. That being said, we're usually so tired by bedtime, we don't have a problem with falling asleep. However, I know from experience of leaving the TV on in my room in college and when I lived with my parents, I missed out on a lot of good sleep. Research suggests that watching TV or even a lit-up screen like your computer, tablet or smart phone, can prevent you from getting as much rest as you might without it.

Now, I'm a huge fan of a late-night movie, so don't get your panties in a wad. All I'm saying is try not to make it the last activity you do before falling asleep. Whether you read a little in your Bible, a magazine, a good book, or even if you do a few stretches ;) before bed, it will be better for your body and mind than watching TV.

5. Sport some sweet shades.

Who knew swag like sunglasses served a purpose other than making you look like a celebrity? Believe it or not, many people actually wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun — not just to look cool. Know that you can do both. Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun. They also prevent you from squinting, thus preventing wrinkles. So, when you're out and about, and even exercising outside, don't forget your shades!

6. Lather up with lotion.

All my friends and family know some sweet-smelling body lotion is a safe choice for a gift. Why? Because I love it! A good body lotion keeps your skin soft, smooth and smelling delicious all day. Not only will your skin look better if you use lotion on a daily basis, you'll feel better because you smell better. Confidence is sexy, people.

When choosing lotion, I have a few different kinds I try to keep in my bathroom cabinet.
  • Something basic with SPF in it (Suave is cheap and comes in bulk)
  • Something with aloe, Vitamin E, shea butter and antioxidants (Burt's Bees)
  • Something that just smells good (Can you say Bath & Body Works?)
  • Something sparkly or bronzey — only for women, of course (Victoria's Secret)
By the way, if you want a cheaper version, you can find all of these varieties at your local supermarket.

7. Fix yourself fresh foods.

I've explained what it means to eat clean before, but ultimately, it means to eat mostly raw and unprocessed foods. When shopping, go to the produce first. I find that when I start at the back of the store and wait to get to the produce last, I don't have room (or money) left to get all that I need out of the fresh foods section. If I go there first, I can load up on clean foods and leave less room in my buggy for the stuff in boxes, bags and cans.

Here are some of my favorite clean foods:
  • broccoli
  • baby spinach
  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • baking potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • squash
  • onions
  • hummus*
  • yogurt*
  • berries
  • pineapple
  • oranges
  • apples
  • bananas
  • almonds
  • granola*
  • oats*
  • avocados
  • beans
  • walnuts
  • pecans
  • feta cheese*
  • chicken breast*
  • tuna fish*
*Signifies that it can be purchased organically, low-fat, fat-free or sugar-free, and although it's been slightly processed, it's still a good choice.

8. Pack your lunch.

Now that your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy foods, eat them. Don't let your fruit rot. Take it to work to eat for lunch. You'll ultimately save time by bringing your lunch to work. Think about how long it takes you to either walk to the restaurant or to your car, drive there, fight traffic, stand in line, scarf it down, and then, drive or walk back, park and come back inside your office. When I bring my own healthy lunch, I have time to write a blog post (like this), read my book, run around town here when the weather's nice (getting my exercise in), call my mom, or my favorite lunchtime activity, take a nap.

9. Close your eyes and pray.

Nothing is more refreshing than getting a good conversation in with God. Taking time out of your day to clear your mind and get away from distractions is healthy by itself. How much more can you get out of doing those things, and then opening up to the Lord in prayer? A lot!

When you pray, worship him for your health. Thank him for your body and giving you the responsibility to take care of it. Honor him by doing just that. Staying in constant conversation with the Lord is vital to staying spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically fit.

10. Bless somebody else every day.

One of my favorite ways to lift my own spirit is to try to lift someone else's. When I went off to college, I had a really hard time breaking away from my family and boyfriend. I used to get depressed and stay in my cave/dorm room until my mom finally got through to me with her words of encouragement.

"When you feel like that, Amber, think about how you can bless someone else. Take your focus off yourself, and think about how you can bring joy to someone else's life," she said.

I've kept that tidbit of wisdom with me from then on. You never know how much a smile can mean to someone. Here are some ideas anyone can easily do to bring a smile to someone else's face:
  • Leave a note on someone's car in the parking lot
  • Open a door for someone and greet them
  • Ask a co-worker if there's anything you could help them with today
  • Extravagantly compliment someone
  • Call a friend who you haven't talked to in a while just to say "hi"
  • Write on someone's Facebook wall just to say you were thinking of them
  • Offer to do a chore you normally don't do for your spouse
  • Buy a little $3-5 gift for your neighbor or someone at your gym or office
  • Pay for someone else's lunch
  • Pay for the car next to you at Sonic or behind you at the drive-through
  • Tweet something nice about one of your followers and tag them in it
I hope these 10 easy lifestyle changes will enhance your mood, health and overall wellness. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know in the comments. :)
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