Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Cost of Comparison

One of my biggest responsibilities as a health and fitness professional is to find ways to motivate people to make healthy choices. This responsibility can be as surfacey as a reminder about the dangers of sugar, and this burden can go as deep as inspiring a soul-search. It's probably the most rewarding part of my job, and it's what makes my work kingdom-worthy instead of just worldly.

Truth be told, most of my readership and resources come and go from social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. I'm sure you're aware that you have your friends, and then you have your social media friends. And let's be honest, a lot of my inspiration comes from scrolling through pictures on these sites. And that's how I do what I do. But, no matter how many #fitchicks or #chickswholift I follow, I'm constantly barraged by feelings of insecurity.

The question of inspiring others (and how to do it better) has me thinking ... Which of my posts are truly motivating and which of my posts are self-seeking (you know the kind that are simply looking for a high five or compliment)?

#SweatySelfies are the only kind I know how to do.
I hope that the more mature I get (in age and in Christ), the less trivial, self-serving, vain posts I have and the more genuine, wisdom-bearing posts I have. It's you guys that keep me accountable, in the same way I hold my students, clients and class participants accountable. That being said, I feel the need to address one of the most dangerous pitfalls to health and wellness — comparison.

There are two kinds of comparison. One is positive. When comparing yourself with your former self, it helps us to learn from our past and differentiate right from wrong. The other is negative. When comparing yourself with someone else, it causes us to engender either pride or inferiority.

Self-comparison is a legitimate way to become teachable, coachable. For example, as some of my Transformation Challenge participants send in progress photos, I'm comparing their bodies week to week. This kind of comparison reveals how they've grown, succeeded, and exemplified discipline. It allows me to praise them for their progress and encourage them in their weakness.

My burden for this post is to encourage you to stop scrolling through social media and picking out what you want to be like and what you don't. Stop following people who post daily selfies and ask you to love yourself at the same time. That's simply contradictory. My other burden is to ask you what would be motivating for you to keep discovering the beauty and strength inside of you that makes you who you are, unique to all other creatures? How can I help? Which of my Instagram posts are helpful and which are not? 

Your Attitude Reflects Your Attention

I've been told real-life pics remind folks we are only human too.
What are you paying most attention to? Is your constant self-loathing and match-ups to thrice-filtered IG celebs to blame for your feelings of insecurity and discouragement?

We trick our brains into thinking that the more chiseled abs we see, the more we're going to want to diet and exercise. It couldn't be farther from the truth. 

I don't know about you, but pictures of half-naked models do not motivate me to work harder at being healthy. In fact, I've noticed the more time I spend scrolling through pictures of bathroom selfies featuring badonk-a-donk barbies, the more crappy I feel about myself. The more crappy I feel, the less I want to work out, and the more I want to sit on the couch with low-fat ice cream. (I have no idea what this logic is ....)

Your Frustration Reveals Your Fixation

Whatever you concentrate on is what determines your mood and attitude. Your frustration reflects your fixation. 

Fixing your mind on your feelings (reflection of the soul) is dangerous. Feelings are fleeting and often sculpted by our situation. Your mind will deceive your heart, leading to the betrayal of your deepest core principles.  Fixing your eyes on your situation is dangerous too. Instead, feed your mind with the Word of God and His promises. They never fail and are unconditional.

So, this is my real responsibility — to fill you with light, a light that reminds you the cost of comparison and the value of denying the flesh. When you choose something based on feelings, your chances of doing the right thing are 50/50. But when you make a choice with knowledge based on a kingdom-vision, God's faithfulness will sustain you in all things, independent of your feelings and situation.

For more resources on health and wellness, follow me on social media (tabs above), and check out my Services tab. Please like, share and comment below. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

16 Ways to Spice Up Your Oatmeal

It’s common knowledge that oatmeal is one of the “safe” foods to eat while dieting. Even in my own transformation, I remember religiously eating my oats and egg whites every morning for breakfast. What I also remember is the desire to turn those oats into something much more aesthetically and tastefully appealing. 

'Oat-Cakes' pictured above — one of my favorite breakfast items to make.

Oats are a great source of B-vitamins, as well as a premier source of carbohydrates, which are needed to fuel the body for activity and the brain for thinking. Oats and quinoa both help to keep you feeling full, since they’re higher in fiber. And, despite their high count of carbs, they are extremely low - almost none - in sugar, our arch-nemesis. ;)

Instead of sloshing the daily grind of oats made with hot water or milk, try some of the following Oatmeal Mash-ups for the ultimate breakfast, sure to light your metabolism for the rest of the day.

Savory Oat & Egg Muffins
If you’re not up for something sweet when you awake, try using the oats as a crunch-factor/filler for an egg muffin to-go! In a mixing bowl, blend 1 cup oats, 2 tbsp flax, 1 carton of egg whites (or a dozen), 1/2 cup chopped peppers/onions, 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, 1 cup spinach and garlic/salt/pepper to taste. Once all ingredients are blended, pour the mixture into a greased muffin tray. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden on top. These are great to freeze/refrigerate, so you can grab one on-the-go with an apple or other piece of fruit. 

Quinoa-Berry Breakfast Duo
Opt for a whole different grain. Quinoa is a complete protein and is packed with nutrients to keep you feeling full and prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Soak your quinoa with part hot water or unsweetened almond milk, similar to how you prepare oats. However, add a teaspoon of cinnamon, stevia, vanilla extract, and 1/3 to 3/4 cup oven-roasted blueberries (tossed with coconut oil/cinnamon), and your mouth will be watering for days. Make for one or prepare in bulk in the crockpot.

Oat-Cakes
Grind up your old-fashioned oats into oat flour (with blender or food processor). It takes less than two minutes. Use 1/2 cup oats, 2 tbsp flax seed, cinnamon/stevia to taste and 3 egg whites. For an added protein bonus, toss in 1/2 scoop protein powder. Mix in a bowl, and cook over griddle like pancakes. Drizzle with some sugar-free maple syrup like the kind by Walden Farms or mix half of that with 2 tbsp powdered peanut butter, and top ‘em off. The amounts above make for 1 serving (about 3 small pancakes). 

For some easy add-ins to your normal oatmeal routine, check out the list of super-flavor ingredients below. Be sure and use my discount code at Vitacost.com to get $10 off.

Assorted Extracts: vanilla, almond, coconut maple, etc. - Just because a recipe calls for vanilla extract doesn't mean you have to use that particular flavor. Experiment and have fun! Stay a while on the baking aisle, and look at all the glorious flavors abundant in extract form. Change it up, mix 'n match… just don't add too much. While they're very low in calories (an entire teaspoon of vanilla extract has about 10 calories), overdoing it can give your food an alcohol-y flavor! Yikes!

Fresh or Frozen Fruit - This will have you feeling so fresh and so clean, clean! I especially like to add fruit to my oats when I make them in the crockpot. It's so easy! You can add frozen and use less water, or fresh too. Cook it with chopped peaches, apples, pears, figs, dates, berries, or wait until they're cooked, and top it with fresh varieties. The calorie count varies depending on the quantity and variety, but everything in moderation.

Protein Powder - If you're looking to add lean muscle mass, you're familiar with whey protein powder. This add-in is especially important if you feel hungry midmorning. Your morning oats will last you a lot longer with a spoonful of protein powder! Look for kinds with 0-2 g sugar and 100-120 calories per scoop. A 2-tbsp. portion is all you need -- about 35 calories, 0.5g fat, and 6.5g protein. Try vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter cookie... the choices are endless!

Powdered Peanut Butter - Peanut butter, to me, is heaven. And so is this PBslim by Vitacost.com! It's made from defatted peanuts, so you don't have to worry about the typical 16 g fat and upwards of 200 calories per 2-tbsp serving. A 2-tbsp. serving of powdered peanut butter has about 50 calories and 1.5g fat.

Almonds or Pistachios - Instead of peanut butter, add the real thing. The heart-healthy fat count in almonds and pistachios may actually help you feel more satisfied. Still, add these nuts in small doses, 'cuz the stats do add up. A quarter-oz. serving is the perfect amount, with 40 calories and 3.5g fat.

Mashed Banana - One of the easiest ways to sweeten up your oatmeal and make it creamier is to you add some mashed banana. A quarter-cup adds 50 calories and 1.5g fiber. Add a little cinnamon and you're done.

Canned Pure Pumpkin - Pur√©ed pumpkin adds fiber and will make your oatmeal thick and creamy without a pumpkin pie flavor — unless, of course, you add pumpkin pie flavoring like nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. A quarter-cup serving of pure pumpkin adds about 20 fat-free calories and 2g fiber. Just be sure to get the kind with only "pumpkin" listed on ingredients, not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling, which is higher in calories and sugar.

Unsweetened Cocoa - For those of you who don't like chocolate, watch out. If you do, then you'll love adding unsweetened cocoa powder to your oats. Each tablespoon of the powder has 15 calories, 1g fat, and 1.5g fiber. Don't forget to add a little stevia to really bring out the flavor.

Egg Whites - Like you saw in my go-to recipes above, liquid egg whites are one of the easiest ways to dress up your oats. Stirring liquid egg whites into the mixture while it simmers gives you a slightly larger serving with extra creaminess and a nice protein boost! A quarter-cup adds about 30 calories and 6.5g protein.

Sugar-Free Maple Syrup- A drizzle of this sugarless sweet stuff will perk up your oats and your mood in the morning. My favorite brand, Walden Farms, comes in several flavors like maple, chocolate, caramel, blueberry and strawberry. Swirl in 1 tbsp. for 0 calories and 0g fat.

Nonfat Plain Yogurt - I actually prefer this one on top of my oats instead of mixed in. Layer some yogurt on top of some chilled oats for an extra-creamy, whip-like experience. Sprinkle with cinnamon/stevia. Mmmm! (You can also just add a dollop on your hot cereal.) Awesome! A 1/2 cup has about 80 calories.

Sugar-Free or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips - This one's for my chocohaulics ... Because what makes the morning more bearable than knowing you're eating chocolate for breakfast? A little goes a long way with these lil suckers. Add a teaspoon for around 25 calories and 1.5g fat.

High-fiber bran cereal - You can totally add cold cereal to your hot cereal. Yes, it totally makes sense. And once you try it, you will agree. Look for high-fiber, low-sugar varieties. Cold cereal adds a crunch-factor when sprinkled on top of your oatmeal, not to mention a major dose of fiber. A quarter-cup on average has 30 calories, 0.5g fat, and 7g fiber.

For more recipes, workouts and wellness tips, follow me on social media (links above) and view my other services

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How to Finally Make Peace with Your Body


A few weeks ago, I survived a week locked in a lodge with my family. Some may call it a vacation. Others may call it a question of one's sanity. Nah, I'm just exaggerating (one of my many flaws). But, really, my spring break vacation began with a series of physical and emotional challenges.


Eight of us piled in a van for 18 hours to Breckenridge, Colorado, where we planned to snowboard. After a day of falling on my rear, I traded in my board for skis. That same day, I had to trade my pants for a new pair because ... well, let's just face it. Mine were too tight. To top off that day, I woke up to a negative pregnancy test, of which was the third one I'd taken, only to confirm my suspicion that my body was failing me again.

For a girl who resists change and resists failure (with everything in me), I was not having such a great first day of vacation. In my mind, I saw myself as someone who wasn't good enough to pick up snowboarding and wasn't thin enough to fit into a pair of pants I wore only one year ago. The facts of the matter are: 1. I'm a WAY better skier, and actually, I skied faster than anyone else in our group. And 2. All of these squats I've been doing have actually worked. Over the last year, I've turned my back-with-a-hole-in-it into a bootylicious butt. 

My experience was just confirmation in that we tend to see ourselves through the most critical lens. Instead of seeing my body as stronger, faster, curvier and in my husband's eyes, more beautiful, all I could see was that I was bigger. And that I must be worse because I'm bigger. Actually, my waist is the same size. My butt's just bigger. And then, I remember that's what I've been working on all year, so obviously, pants will be tighter. Duh!

Although the heartbreak of still not being pregnant is a little heavier, it's one I'm learning to bear in hopes that God will provide in His perfect timing. Every time a negative thought crosses my mind regarding my body and the fear of not having children, I recall how God has brought me through other painful times. When I am weak, God is strong. 


Summing up that afternoon with some very emotional tears and realizing how easy it is to fall back into a posture of self-hatred, I finally chose to enjoy the rest of my trip and appreciate the health of my body. Not only has my body gotten stronger physically, but the fact that I could bounce back like I did was proof that I've gotten stronger emotionally. With the support of my faithful husband and family, we rallied together to descend down black diamonds and zoom through half pipes. On our long and quiet drive home, I reflected on several lessons I learned.

1. Rest before Vacation. Recreation on Vacation. God shows us the value of rest in creation, when he rested on the seventh day. To me, this indicates that rest needs to be a part of our daily lives. Unlike my initial view, we can't wait until we have a week off of normal routines/work to rest. We must learn how to integrate balance and rest into our daily lives. Vacations are meant for fun and adventure. If we want to relax on vacation, that's different. I feel like relaxation is simply an attitude that you can maintain, not necessarily a lack of activity. I learned that it's better for me to try to integrate more rest periods from my normal schedule, so that I don't feel like the recreation part of vacation is stealing my energy — or like I'm going to have to pay for it later.

2. Work What Your Momma Gave Ya. When I traded in my board for skis, I'm not going to lie, I felt a little disappointed in myself. After some deep thinking, I realized that I could care less if I learned the skill of boarding ... what I really feared was other people's disappointment in me for not getting it, or for giving up. I remember my husband Micah grabbing me by the shoulders, looking me square in the face, and saying, "Babe, I don't care if you snowboard or ski or do nothing at all. I just want you to be happy and have fun. That's what makes me happy." As sappy as it sounds, I think it finally clicked that I needed to stop trying to impress everyone else and start trying to enjoy myself — my body and soul. I started embracing my ski skills and before I knew it, I was climbing to the top of Peak 6 with the GoPro on my head like a rockstar. Boom! It felt good to finally be free of the pressure to be the best. I started thinking about other areas in my life where I need to have the same change of perspective. I'd encourage you to focus on your strengths and learn to rock them too. In your fitness life, it may be that you've got long, lean legs and are insecure about your tummy... dude, show off those legs. Maybe you've got a bubble butt and have a hard time finding jeans to fit ... I bet your butt looks good in some leggings, eh? Instead of focusing on what you hate about your body, choose to see what you like and then rock it.

3. Fuel Up and Become an Intuitive Eater. When I got home from Colorado and resumed my workouts, I didn't feel like I was playing catch up. Although I hadn't picked up a dumbbell in seven days, I had been moderately active, getting in a light sweat each day. More importantly though, I had maintained a healthy nutrition, focusing on vegetables and lean protein. That being said, I didn't count calories or think about every little thing I ate. Instead, I tried to listen to my body on what it was craving. I remember one night, I really wanted a burger. That same night, I ate a burger with lots of veggies and half the bun. Normally, I'd beat myself up about it, thinking that I could have ordered "leaner," but instead, I was satisfied and didn't overeat. Throughout the week, I tried to follow my senses. Since I fueled my body correctly, I was able to bounce back in my workouts and maintain my lean muscle mass post-vacation.

4. Attitude is Everything. One of the most important lessons I learned early on in marriage was that love is a choice, not a feeling. I should say I'm still learning that .... We have a choice to change our attitude despite our feelings. Although I felt like having a pity party after boarding busted my butt every three seconds (literally) — and that was just on the bunny slopes — I told myself I'd give it until the end of the day before I gave up. When the end of the day came, and I still wasn't having fun (or rather making everyone else's trip horrid too), I changed my mind about what it meant to turn in the board. It wasn't giving up; it was simply changing gears. When my pants wouldn't snap and I feared I'd suddenly ballooned out like Violet on Willy Wonka, I chose to remember the gains I'd made in the gym and the womanly shape I'd added to my physique — not to mention the fact, I'm training to prepare my body for creating a miracle instead of training for a show. When my pregnancy test came back negative, I chose to trust in the Lord and know that it wasn't my body's fault for not being pregnant yet.

Every season of our life, we're faced with decisions, conflict and hardships that challenge our self-confidence, and more so, our confidence in God. I urge you to step forward into the challenge, instead of back in fear, and remind yourself of where you came from and how you've progressed since you first began whatever kind of journey you're on.


For more resources on health and wellness, follow me on social media (tabs above), and check out my Services tab. Please like, share and comment below. Thanks!

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