This ONE thing could help you lose weight

Did you know that 80-90% of weight loss is based on nutrition? Essentially, you could eat healthily, not work out, and still come in at a healthy weight.

Even though I workout 5-7x a week, I haven’t seen any big changes in my physique or movement on the scale. And, I’m not going to lie, it’s so freaking annoying.

If I have to pinpoint a date, everything went downhill around Thanksgiving. Afterward, I just kept fumbling around trying to find a nutrition program that worked for me. Once the new year started I jumped on the Keto bandwagon to help me get back to a comfortable place (weight-wise). While the meals were super yummy and filling, and I was only eating 3x per day, I still felt stuck, bloated, and miserable. I gave it three weeks and decided to move on.

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Keto-approved.

Then I went back to basics with Beachbody’s Portion Fix Containers – they’ve helped me slim down in the past, so it made complete sense to give ’em another go. Still, nothing. Do you know how maddening, that is?

I was literally ready to give up. Then I stumbled on a Pin that would change everything…

It’s so obvious, you’ll roll your eyes

It was one of those photos that looked like a scam – “The steps I took to lose over 100 pounds” or something like that. But I clicked on it anyway – because why not? To my surprise, it was actually legit and took me over to a woman’s weight loss blog. There, the author mentioned tracking her food – which I reluctantly do digitally anyway – but via MyFitnessPal. The app showed her calorie and macronutrient counts and gave better insight into how much food she was actually putting into her mouth each day.

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Loaded Oatmeal – under 300 calories and keeps you full for hours!

I’ve never had much success logging every little detail like that because it takes more effort and consistency than I can handle, but I figured I’d try again. I first tried using the Samsung Health app on my phone and immediately, the results were eye-opening!

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Dinner was literally a glass of water, half a Reuben, coleslaw, pickle sliver, and few fries. OH. MY. God.

I couldn’t believe how many extra calories I was consuming and how many vitamins and essential nutrients I wasn’t. Everything adds up – even those little 50 or 100 calorie bites or condiments. I cook or bake with EVOO because it’s a healthier alternative to some fats, but it has a whopping 120 calories per tablespoon. YIKES! Once I knew this tracking thing was gold, I decided to download the MyFitnessPal app to access more features and insights.

A few chips here, a cookie there, a little butter in the pan, a bit of cream in a cup of tea – when you write the words down on paper, it doesn’t seem so threatening. When you see the calories, carbs, sugar, etc. broken down, it’s another story.

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Still learning to reach my targets.

In the last few days of logging nutrition on MyFitnessPal, I’ve noticed I feel so much better (and thinner!) when I have a great workout and keep my calories under the recommended target. It’s really been as basic as that: burn more calories than you consume.

Let thy food be yummy

Because I’m not a fan of boring food, I checked out a few Hungry Girl books from the library. They are filled with healthy, low cal meals and that punch of flavor you crave. Some items on the menu for the coming week: Chocolate-Chippy Cheese Danish, Devilish Eggs, Shrimpylicious Egg Rolls, and Buffalo Chicken Taquitos. Is this real life?

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While this method of calorie and macronutrient tracking might not work for everyone, I’m sure it could help some. Sometimes it just takes little adjustments to make BIG changes!

How to find a workout that sparks joy

I am probably one of the very few who didn’t fall head over heels for Transform:20, the new workout by Beachbody Super Trainer Shaun T. I tried a sample workout before launch and just wasn’t feeling it, so I knew I wouldn’t be motivated to complete it.

Many people who say they hate working out just haven’t found the right workout…yet.

Personally, I hate going to the gym. I’ve tried it time and time again, but I just don’t feel comfortable in that scene. Last year, my husband and I started building our own home gym, and I feel like it’s pretty complete now. The great thing is that it doesn’t even have to be expensive! We found a barely used NordicTrack treadmill on Facebook Marketplace for $150, picked up a barbell set from DICK’S Sporting Goods, and scored a nice spin bike from Bath and Beyond (coupon eligible!).

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Said bike! Isn’t it great?

The above, coupled with a dance floor, huge projector, and many other odds and ends, makes our gym my happy place.

What works for me

After years of experimenting with different workouts, I’ve found a few that stand out as favorites. Instead of just sticking with one workout program, I decided to create a schedule incorporating all of my favorites. Two days a week I’ll do pure cardio, in the form of dance or step. (I’ve found that I’m better suited for longer cardio sessions in the evenings, so if I plan it right, I can bust out my workouts after work while my husband goes to the local gym.) Three days will be cardio/resistance in the form of spin and weight lifting. Two days are reserved for light workouts such as yoga, or just an old fashioned rest day.

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Some of my favorite dance workouts!

My current schedule looks like this:

  • Mon/Wed – 60 mins Cardio (Evening)
  • Tues/Fri/Sat – 15-30 min Spin & 30 mins Strength Training (Morning)
  • Thurs/Sun – Rest/Yoga/Meditation

How can you find your perfect workout?

  1. Do more of things you already enjoy. Like hiking? Plan outings with friends or take your fur baby for extra long walks on a local trail. Love dancing at the club? Bring the energy home. YouTube has some fun workouts, but you could also opt for something more regimented, like Beachbody’s Cize or Country Heat (pictured above) – both amazingly fun!
  2. Try something new. A lot of gyms and online classes offer free trials or discounts for first-time members/users. Keep your eyes peeled for deals. I just scored great ones from the Sweat app (3 months for $1) and Peloton Digital (3 months for $19.49 plus tax).
  3. Take note of what your friends are doing. A friend of mine is into spin class. I did some research and found out that local classes are pretty expensive – like $150 a month. It ended up being cheaper to buy a bike and pedal away in the comfort of my own home. One of my friends loves yoga, another does MMA, a few others are runners. Ask to join a workout and see what you think.

Really, it’s just about experimenting. Not everyone will love every workout. If a workout doesn’t spark joy, kick it to the curb and say “thank you, next.”

I tried the Commit30 Planner. Here’s what happened…

For almost the entire month of December, I was OBSESSED with the Commit30 Planner. I visited the website an excessive amount of times, downloaded a few of the free PDFs and challenges, and I had it sitting in my cart for a really long time.

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The, 2019 Weekly Day Planner, which I eventually purchased (above), comes in 5 colors and 2 convenient sizes. I opted for the larger 7″x10″ in gold for an affordable price of $34.99. Compared to most other planners out there – some only designed for 30-90 days – this is a steal!

Features

  • Full-year planner with monthly and weekly views
  • Yearly vision board (and space for a monthly vision as well)
  • Notes section for each month (bullet journal style)
  • 30-day challenge template and goal planning for each month
  • List of US holidays for 2019 & 2020
  • Bullet journal in the back
  • Pocket folder on the back flap
  • Bookmark and sticker
  • BONUS: Super-fast shipping (I ordered it on 12/28 and it arrived on the 31st – just in time!)

Stickers

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You can purchase stickers for the planner on the Commit30 site, but I’ve found Michael’s craft store to have more variety and cheaper prices – plus, you can’t beat those 40% off coupons! I loaded up on stickers to add dimension to my plans: budget, fitness, and random little things. Life is better in color – rainbow colors!

My Experience

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February’s looking good with a trip to Peru, Valentine’s Day, and snow tubing!

While I love this planner so, so much, I need to keep reminding myself that I’m not a planner girl. A sticker girl for sure, but I always end up preferring a digital (or mental) account of my plans and to-do list. The only section I’ve used religiously is the monthly layout, where I can track EVERYTHING that’s important to me:

  • when bills are due
  • how many times I fill up my gas tank
  • what I spend on groceries
  • number of workouts
  • starting and ending weight
  • weekend plans
  • meal prep
  • housework
  • and pretty much everything else

I’ve never been a fan of keeping a detailed daily workout log (it records on my phone) or writing down my meals (for the most part, I follow my weekly meal plan). I thought this planner would make those tasks more fun, but daily tracking will never be my cup of tea.

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Each month has a few words of wisdom at the start. 

The Bottom Line: This planner/journal is amazing and I love the idea of it. It’s perfect for someone who loves keeping lists, planning EVERYTHING, tracking food and workouts, and carrying around a journal to make note of random things. It would also be great for people looking to set and track goals, keep a physical schedule, or replace an unfavorable planner.

Warning: Unpopular opinion shared below. 

At the end of last year, I decided to cancel my Beachbody Coach account. After toying with the idea for a while, I had a few revelations that culminated in one huge Eureka moment before my 29th birthday: it just wasn’t bringing me joy. And like Marie Kondo says, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart.” I feel like this is true with material objects AND every other aspect of life.

I’ve completed so many fitness programs and so, so many reviews, but at a point, I feel like it just gets old. You drop pounds, you gain them again. You restrict your diet, then you add in cheat days, and finally, life just becomes one big feast. At this point, I should look and feel like a fitness competitor (insert laughing so hard I’m crying emoji). But instead, like many other loyal Beachbody groupies, I’m right where I started, ready to “begin again” with the next program launch.

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The beginning of LIIFT4.

While I’ve loved programs like Shift Shop and LIIFT4, I could only complete them so many times before they just got…well…stale. So, after four years of Beachbody, I’ve decided to bid adieu to coaching and BOD. Don’t get me wrong, $99 a year is a great price for what you get – if you use it.

In the last few weeks, I’ve tried classes from Sweat by Kayla Itsines, AKT (Kelly Ripa’s trainer), Jillian Michaels, and BodyBoss. While good, none of them are really worth the $20+ a month, in my opinion.

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Calorie burn from a Body Step workout.

This year, I’ve decided to DIY my own fitness plan, incorporating all of my favorite things – dance, HIIT, strength training, and biking. Stay tuned for future posts on what that looks like and how you can create your own!

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New gym equipment coming soon!!

How Yoga is Making Me a Better Runner

Dee Dee is a New York based freelance writer, fitness enthusiast, and bibliophile. We’ve know each other for about 25 years, and I’m so grateful she volunteered to guest post this week! Read on to see how she developed a yoga practice after running her first marathon. Then go follow her on Twitter @cityofdeedee.

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First came running…

I started running in 2013 after moving back to New York from Florida. I was interning in New York City and struggling to find a full-time job, so I thought picking up a hobby like running would be a nice way to boost my self-confidence and distract me from obsessing over my job search. Well, long story short, it worked. After my first 5K, which felt like a marathon, I signed up for more races and trained for longer distances before running my first real marathon in 2016. After crossing the finish line, I decided to try it one more time, so I signed up for the 2018 race.

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Crossing the finish line in 2016!

My goal for the second time I did the marathon was to do better than the first because I knew I wasn’t gonna be doing this again anytime soon, but that goal got deterred by shin splints. Anyone that runs knows that shin splints can completely suck and your training can be severely compromised when you have them. I tried everything I could think of (or Google) to reduce the pain, but nothing worked fast enough. It didn’t help that I had a job that had me on my feet most of the day despite it being a “desk job” so taking a break from running didn’t make a difference.

Then came yoga…

Eventually, I figured I’d give yoga a shot because it felt like it was the only thing I didn’t try. Plenty of blogs recommended yoga for recovery, but I never cared for it, even after trying it numerous times. I was a runner. I liked going my version of fast (I am actually really slow compared other runners) and hard, and yoga felt like the exact opposite. But I was desperate. The NYC Marathon was less than two months away, and I needed to be able to cross that finish line. So with all of that in mind, I reluctantly began my yoga journey.

I started each morning with a few poses I found online that I could easily incorporate into my morning routine. I got some relief from them, which made it more tolerable to do, so I worked my way into 5-10 minute routines. By late October I was doing it twice a day, in the morning for pain relief, and in the evening to help me sleep. It took a lot of mental effort to persist through a workout that forced me to slow down and pay close attention to my body, but as the benefits revealed themselves week by week, I couldn’t see a reason to stop doing it.

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A little backyard yoga.

By the time the marathon came around, the pain left, but my desire to continue with my yoga practice was only beginning. I decided to hit up my best friend from college who had experience with yoga and together, we decided to offer each other encouragement and support from a distance as we pursued our journeys.

So, what comes next????

Since the marathon, I’ve done a good job at keeping up with my yoga practice and making an effort to study it off the mat too! Even though I haven’t been running as much, I like to think that yoga is making me a better runner. I’m learning that so much about yoga is letting things go, good or bad; being stuck on either prevents progress, and no one wants to be held back by dwelling on an especially tricky move or continuously thinking back to that ONE time you did an especially good down dog. Focusing on any one of those things don’t help you move forward because they bring you back into the past.

I used to spend a lot of time beating myself up if I couldn’t run as far or as fast some days; especially during marathon training. Now that I’m working running back into my routine (I stopped for nearly two months after crossing the finish line), I’m a lot more forgiving of myself and where I am. I acknowledge where I am, promise myself to work harder and not give up, then pretty much leave it alone.

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Personally, the mental/emotional changes that are taking place due to my new workout are way more valuable for the physical changes because I’ve always had a hard time letting anything go, but I am excited to have an exercise that’s helping me change my mindset just in time for the new year!

Have you ever started something that you didn’t think you’d like but ended up loving? Or, do you have something that worked out for you in 2018 that you’re taking into the new year? Let me know I wanna hear from you!

The Productivity Project

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I’m not one to write a review prior to finishing a book, but the thing is, I could base my entire rating on just Part One. This has been one of the best books I’ve read all year and the absolute best (ever) on the subject of productivity. If you’re looking for a great read to start off the new year, The Productivity Project is a perfect choice.

Title: The Productivity Project
Author: Chris Bailey
Genre: Personal / Professional Development
DS Rating: 4.5/5

When I was younger – maybe high school age – I thought it would be a great idea to maximize each day. If I could get by on just 6 hours of sleep, I’d have 18 to accomplish everything on my list. I’m pretty sure Chris Bailey would cringe at that rationale. What I didn’t know then was not all 18 hours are equal.

In one of the most helpful exercises I’ve ever done, Bailey suggests plotting out your energy throughout the day for a minimum of a week. Then, once you find your “Biological Prime Time,” you only complete your most important tasks during that window. Wow. Mind blown. It turns out that I’m at my prime between 7 and 11 am, and again from 5 to 7 pm. It all goes down hill after that. (Something I’ll be working on in 2019.)

Why it’s great…

Bailey spent time after college working on A Year of Productivity (which is also a blog). He read so many books and articles and studies (oh my!) on productivity and time management and shares the best in his book. He also performed some self-experiments like watching 70 hours of TED talks in one week, working 90-hour work weeks, and waking up at 5:30 am each morning to see the impact on his productivity. Basically, he does the dirty work for us. And thank God, because, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Each chapter is filled with a wealth of information to make you look at time and productivity in a whole new light. The exercises are helpful, and in between, you’ll be graced by tidbits of info that will make you a trivia all-star. Speaking of, did you know that prior to 1883 there were hundreds of time zones used in the United States? I didn’t.

But, what I love even more is that each chapter has a small summary at the beginning and estimated reading time. I’ve seen more and more articles list reading times, but never a book. It’s truly awesome.

What now?

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I fully intend to be more focused and efficient in 2019, and The Productivity Project is just what I needed to get started. I was even inspired to pick up a new planner to document my list of goals and accomplishments. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on that experience too.

Happy New Year, friends!

Count Your Blessings

2018 was filled with many great experiences, memories, and fun times spent with friends and family. My husband and I rode our first hard-core roller coaster, we traveled to California for the first time too, bought new cars, went back and forth to Florida (our second home) to be kids in Universal, we set up and broke down so many campsites, put hours on our jet ski, trekked to Canada twice, got our fill of haunted houses in October, celebrated a year of marriage and then a year of homeownership, went to see the tree in NYC, and have more plans for December.

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This was the best tree I’ve seen – so pretty and full – and it was cut locally!!

On my own, I finished a 21-Day Sugar Detox, a 21-Day weight loss program, a round of 80 Day Obsession, and am currently in round, two week 3 of LIIFT4. I all but eliminated my migraines, started up a crochet shop, perfected a recipe for macarons, found out that baking really is my superpower, and learned which foods aren’t my friend.

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A shop in honor of my granny.

I could keep going because, in all, it was a great and productive year. But I’d be remiss not to mention the not so good. I mean, I don’t live in storybook land (although sometimes I wish I did!).

You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain…

For a while, I was feeling depressed and sad and just overall emotional about half of the time. HALF. OF. THE. TIME. There were moments when I didn’t want to do anything but stay in my pajamas. I didn’t want to go to work, wash my hair, work out, or do any of the things I actually love to do. And when I did, I was just going through the motions – there wasn’t any joy to it. After months of misery and monotony, I decided to talk to my doctor.

Thankfully, it was an easy fix. Long story short, my body couldn’t handle the drastic dip in hormones during my menstrual cycle. My doctor suggested I skip the placebo pills, and within days, my mood – and life – did a 180.

Side Note: I don’t need to get into all the details, but I will say one thing on the matter of birth control pills. It’s a personal choice that I fully believe in because of my own experience with hormone regulation. For some, the problem is The Pill itself – the side effects can be brutal – but for me, it was the lack of one – the side effects of which were also brutal. Moving on.

29 and feeling fine!

Yesterday I turned 29, something I’ve been dreading for a while because it’s so close to 30, which is even closer to 40, and it feels like the prime of my life is over, and what have I even accomplished?

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Birthday present from my husband – a “Rooster” tribute bear. Because binge watching The Ranch is one of my favorite activities.

Now that I’m feeling better, I’m able to coast into my 29th year with a positive outlook and some pretty big goals to tackle including reading 12 quality books, saving more money, traveling to three new places, and completing a round (or two) of Shaun T’s new program, Transform:20.

The power of gratitude.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember all of the good when things feel sucky or unfavorable. This year, I’ve decided to journal a little bit each day so I can focus more on the positives. In the morning I’ll write down five things I’m grateful for and at night I’ll record the best thing that happened during the day. Super simple! I’m sure it will take less than ten minutes, and the compounded results will be invaluable.

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I love the play on words. And this mug. And pretty much everything about this snarky photo.

Daily reflections serve two main purposes:

1) Long Term – At the end of the year, it will be fun to look back at accomplishments and happy moments.

2) Short Term – When skies are gray, it helps to reflect on the good and know that a sunny day is just around the corner.

I encourage you to start a gratitude journal or practice. You’d be surprised by the magic that happens when you start counting your blessings.

Peace, Love, Zen
DS