An Attitude of Grattitude

For a while, I wasn’t really grateful. For anything. A lot of things sucked and it seemed like the more I felt sad or mad or miserable, the worse things got.

From a young enough age, I’ve held on to anger. Anger towards my bio dad who was never present in my life. Anger towards my stepdad who could have been decent, but chose a different path. Anger towards a boyfriend who left me bruised physically and mentally. So much animosity.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “count your blessings.” Would you believe it if I told you the first time I tried I couldn’t think of anything? I had to write down “I’m thankful for sunny days and rainbows because they make me smile.” All good, of course. But I couldn’t think of anything in my actual life to feel thankful for.

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My newest gratitude journal and gratitude “rock.”

Then I picked up a copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which talks about gratitude being magic. It was actually one of the first personal development books I’ve ever read. Rhonda believes that saying and truly feeling the words “thank you” can turn your life around, and after practicing regularly, I have to agree. When you take a few minutes each day to write about things you’re grateful for, you can feel the love inside of you. You can feel the energy shift.

Each morning as part of my daily ritual, I write down at least five things I’m grateful for. I do the same each night. The only rule is they have to be detailed and heartfelt. It literally takes less than 10 minutes twice a day.

  • Poor Example: I’m grateful for my mom.
  • Awesome Example: I’m grateful my mom kept me company and helped with directions on the drive to NYC to pick my husband up from the airport. I didn’t feel comfortable going alone, but she made the trip enjoyable. I really appreciate her!
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My nanny and mom – the two greatest women in my life.

I also like to take a minute each night to remember the BEST thing that happened to me during the day so I can fall asleep happy. This is another one of Rhonda’s practices – The Magic Rock (found in her book The Magic), where you hold the rock in your palm while you recall the memory. I actually use a small paperweight with my favorite flower in it (above)!

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My love – I have this picture on my desk at work.

When you start feeling happy and grateful, you’ll attract more good things. That’s the energy you want to have!

Tell me, what are you grateful for?

Peace, Love, Zen
DS

Fitness Junkie

About a year or so ago I thought I’d start another blog focused solely on the books I read, which is about 50 a year. It was fun at first but quickly became a full-time job to manage two completely different blogs. Clearly, I need more hours in the day.

Then I realized that Diary of a Snacker is the perfect platform to blog about books related to personal development (PD), fitness, health, cooking, and more. So I give you Little Book Bites – posts about books worth sharing.

And without further ado…

Title: Fitness Junkie
Authors: Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Genre: Fiction
DS Rating: 3.5/5

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Maybe you’re not into fitness. I can respect that because five years ago, I wasn’t either. And that’s why Janey Sweet, the protagonist, is like my soul sister. Okay, I’ve never had to drop 30 pounds to keep a job, I’m not a divorcee in my thirties, and I’ve never had a guy take me dumpster diving on a first date. But I can relate to the desire to fit in at the gym, I’ve choked down a glass of green juice just to be healthy, and I’ve demolished a tower of French toast in one sitting (last week, not kidding).

On the other hand, maybe you’re totally obsessed – a true fitness junkie. I’m sure you could laugh at yourself for all of the times you’ve tried the latest fad cleanse, overpaid for fitness classes, and went to the extremes to lose five pounds. I know I’m guilty.

Sometimes you just need a light read and this is it. I finished Fitness Junkie in less than 48 hours because it was so addicting and fun. I just HAD to know what happened next in the saga of Janey. Put this one on your book list right now!

Back to Basics

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you purchase from Beachbody via my links. Please do not feel obligated to do so!

Anyone else sick of being sick and tired? Come on, raise your hands.

This time last year I was wrapping up my first round of Shift Shop, a mind-body workout program that would change the way I thought about exercise. I felt AMAZING afterward and even lost over six pounds and nine inches. That’s huge.

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Last year’s results.

Then, like it always does, life happened. I’m not sure how I lost my groove, but I did. Even though I was working out every day, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’d wake up, struggle through whatever program I was doing, and leave the house in a pretty foul mood.

Let That SHI(F)T Go

Last month I came back from vacation with a renewed sense of self, a greater appreciation for life, and a more positive outlook for the future. I was so tired of being jealous of other people’s accomplishments and progress and was looking for a fresh start.

I decided to turn to my good pal Chris Downing, creator of Shift Shop to help me get my groove back. It’s been the one program that produces consistently amazing results for me – when I stick with it. It challenges me to my absolute limits, but always lets me know that “I can do hard things.”

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I guess I really like these leggings…

For those not familiar with the program, the workouts follow a ramp-up schedule, which means each week they increase by time and intensity. The nutrition plan incorporates the Portion Fix containers ass a guide. A simple formula can help you figure out how many of each container you get per day. My plan is based on a 1,200-1,499 calorie diet.

K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, sweetie)

This year I learned one of the most critical nutrition lessons: don’t let someone else dictate your meal plan. Everyone tells you how you “should do” this or “should try” that. It drives me freakin’ nuts. There’s keto and vegan and gluten-free and paleo…and I could be here all day listing all of the different diets and ways of eating.

Every source says they have the secret. They promise you’ll lose 10 pounds in 10 days or some other crap to get you to buy a book or a program. Meanwhile, on day two, you’re sitting on your couch eating mint chocolate chip ice cream out of the carton with a spoon. I can’t be the only one.

We overcomplicate everything instead of just taking a little time to see what works for us. Here’s how I found the right plan for me.

First, I had to identify the problem. For me, it was snacking at work. I’m a HUGE snacker (as if you couldn’t have guessed by the name). On the weekends I’m lucky if I even get in two full meals. But during the week? I’m scouting the vending machines for peanut m&ms, kettle chips, and pretzels.

Next, I had to understand why I always wanted to stuff my face. Boredom and stress are huge factors with this one, but so is being nutrient deficient. FYI honey nut cheerios is NOT part of a well-balanced breakfast.

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Shakes are just TOO easy.

Then, I had to build more satisfying meals. I decided to modify the Shift Shop meal plan to create something easier, affordable, and more sustainable.

My Secret Sauce

  • 4 substantial meals, instead of the suggested 6
  • All food eaten between 9 am and 7 pm (most days, anyway)
  • Purple (fruit) and yellow (carb) containers are limited to one per day, eaten before noon
  • Dairy limited as much as possible (some yogurt and cheese okay)

Here’s an example of a menu that keeps me FULL all day:

Meal 1: protein shakeΒ w/ veggies & fruit
Meal 2: two hard-boiled eggs, 1/2 sweet potato, cucumber & tomato salad
Meal 3: kale salad w/ tuna, and summer vinaigrette
Meal 4: chicken stir fry

The Power of Habit

It takes 21 days to form a habit, and it helps to have a set routine that you can commit to daily.

Each day I wake up between 5:00 and 5:10 am, shake up my pre-workout, and head downstairs to the gym. Depending on the length of my workout, I’ll have anywhere from 30-60 minutes to spend reading, meditating, or praying, while sipping my pre-workout. Then it’s time to bang out my workout, foam roll, shower, and get ready for the day.

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My daily devotional.

I absolutely love my routine and the quiet of it all. It helps me set good intentions for the day, and it’s something I can repeat daily.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes you just need to take a step back, assess where you are in life, and make some positive and lasting changes. When you arrive at a peaceful and grateful state, everything just feels…better. Of course, life will always have its ups and downs, but we’ll be in a better place to handle challenges. We only get one life, and it’s better when we’re happy.

If you’re interested in trying Shift Shop, click here.

Peace, Love, Zen

DS

Going to Universal Studios FL? You NEED an Annual Pass!

I’ve been wanting to do a write-up on Universal for ages. My husband and I love it there, and I mean LOVE in every sense of the word. We’ve gone 1-2x a year since 2014 and it’s like our second home….1,000 miles away. Sometimes we drive and other times fly (they both have their benefits), but we always end up spending a good chunk of our vacation time in the sunshine state.

Actually, in four days, we’ll be on a plane headed back. I just can’t live without frozen Butterbeer and few dozen rides on The Mummy.

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This is, hands down, my FAVORITE ride!

In the past, only Florida residents were able to invest in an Annual Pass. But, not this year! Get this: for less than the price of a 2-park 3-day ticket*, you can get access for the ENTIRE year. Sign me up and take my money!

The Preferred Pass**

This one right here is your ticket to fun. It’s the mid-tier annual pass that gives you a year of access to both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

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The Perks:

  • 10% off all restaurants, photos, and select merchandise
  • 15% off at Hard Rock Cafe
  • 20% off Blueman Group & City Walk Party Pass
  • $3.00 off Admission at AMC Universal Cineplex 20
  • Free self-parking (after your first visit; a $22.00 savings each visit)
  • And so, so much more

Be aware that Universal Express or Express Unlimited passes need to be purchased separately at each visit.

Is a Universal Express Pass upgrade worth the price?

Universal Express grants you one-time front of the line access for each ride, while Universal Express Unlimited lets you go again and again until you toss all that carnival food you just ate. (Sorry, not sorry for the visual.)

The first time we went, we were novices. I was shocked by the prices; a 2-park 1-day base ticket will set you back $170*, so we decided to forgo the upgraded Universal Express passes, which were almost the same price as the tickets.

Oh, what a rookie mistake. We ended up standing in some lines for over an hour in the hot sun. It sucked a lot of the joy out of the day and I left with a mean sunburn.

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That step count, though…

If you want a truly enjoyable experience, it’s ESSENTIAL to splurge for the Express Unlimited pass, even just for one day of your stay. Imagine all of the rides you could take if you weren’t standing in line all day. We always get our money’s worth. Last month we went on every ride at least twice (some as many as 25! Not joking.), spent over 11 hours walking around, and racked up almost 30,000 steps. Per day.

Now go out and get your annual pass. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
*Ticket prices change almost daily. Please visit Universal’s site for up-to-date pricing.
**Other pass options available, visit Universal for more details.

2B or Not 2B?

DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you purchase from Beachbody via my links. Do not feel obligated to do so. I hope you enjoy the review!
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Gimme all the fruits and veggies!

If I’m honest, this isn’t how I saw this post going. I was really excited about Beachbody’s first nutrition program, 2B Mindset. There was so much hype surrounding it, and the weight loss examples were HUGE. I thought this would be the key to whatever mind/body problem I was hoping to fix (see post from earlier in the month). I even purchased the kit in advance of the actual release, was able to save $10, and gained access to an “exclusive” coach test group.

There are four basic principles to the 2B Mindset: Water First, Veggies Most, Weigh Yourself Daily, Track Everything. That’s it! The secret sauce. The basic formula for weight loss.

And, perhaps the biggest draw to the program (for many) is that working out is extra credit. Yes, you read that right, you don’t have to work out while doing this nutrition program.

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I tried new things – like endive.

Water First – Drink at least half of your body weight each day, including 16 oz before each meal.

Veggies Most – They help keep you full and promote weight loss when added to each meal.

Weigh Yourself Daily – This helps you understand what contributes to weight loss or gain.

Track Everything – Goes hand in hand with the above.

What’s in the 2B Mindset Kit?

For $119* you get 44 videos that explain everything you need to know about the program, a physical program guide, tracker, recipe guide, as well as food lists and meal planning tools. You also get a 30oz plastic water bottle with a reusable straw to make it easier to get your ounces in.

If you have an iPhone or Apple device, you’ll have access to the Beachbody Nutrition app, which makes tracking a breeze. (Sorry my Galaxy peeps!)

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Breakfast: egg & cheese on a homemade bagel w/ a side of mango and strawberry

My Experience

Before I began I took my weight and measurements. Then, over the next two weeks I would:

  • drink more water than I ever wanted too (and pee every 30 minutes like clockwork).
  • eat so many veggies I thought I would burst (cauliflower rice in scrambled eggs, turnip fries, and buckets of cucumber and tomato salad).
  • religiously step on the scale each morning in my birthday suit.
  • diligently track every bite and drink I had (even that stray cracker or grape).

At the end of said time, I was up two pounds and had a bad case of the blues because of it. How could this be if I followed everything? According to plan, I should be down 4 pounds. Or more!

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Did you know purple carrots taste better?

I continued over the next 10 days or so and the strangest things happened. I noticed that when I pigged out on carbs and “bad stuff,” I would weigh less the next day. When I drank less, I felt less bloated. When I didn’t step on the scale every day, I felt more content.

I took a step back and evaluated the last month with the program. I WAS following the guidelines, but I was also working out really hard. Hard, as in burning over 500 and sometimes close to 700 calories per workout. I was using a pre-workout before, BCAAs during, and a post-workout shake after. Since I have a pretty slim build, I have a high confidence that the weight I gained was from muscle thanks to Insanity and weightlifting. But in the moment, when doing a program that sets a hope of a 2 pound weight loss per week, it’s pretty annoying.

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This must go on record as THE smallest brownie I’ve ever eaten.

At this point in my life, I workout 6-7 days a week and meal prep every weekend. I mean, I write about this stuff! Because of this, I found a lot of the videos and the recipes super basic and geared towards the absolute beginner. The recipe book was marketed as “one of the best” I’ll ever buy, but I can’t agree. The tracker was helpful, but I was able to find another that I really liked at my local craft store for $3.99, so I bought two! The water bottle wasn’t for me – it wouldn’t fit in my car’s cup holder and it sweat so much I always had to put it on a napkin.

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Tried a healthier pasta. Look at that protein.

I do think that at least 3 of the 4 principles are useful for losing weight or just being healthy in general. 1) It’s so important to drink more water, as I learned almost five years ago when I had a kidney infection that nearly killed me. 2) Who couldn’t benefit from eating more veggies? And seasoned just the right way, they really are delicious! 3) As for the tracking, it’s so helpful to write down what you eat and when because little things add up and before you know it, you’ve eaten a brownie sundae, bowl of nachos, and half a pizza by Sunday afternoon. As for the scale, if you absolutely must weigh yourself daily, might I recommend one that tracks body weight composition? Like this one. If the overall number is going to either increase or remain the same , it would be so much more beneficial to see body fat percentage decrease.

Why didn’t it work for me?

This 28-year old version of me is very fitness-minded. When I miss a workout, it hurts. When I’m interrupted during a workout, it annoys the hell out of me. When I set the day with a great calorie burn and a soaked through sports bra, I’m in my glory. Right now my focus is on toning my body and building muscle – in other words, gaining weight.

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This tea is delicious. A nice stand-in for dessert.

 

Bottom Line: I don’t regret my decision to return the kit after giving it a fair chance, and I do appreciate Beachbody’s return policy. I’d recommend 2B Mindset to someone new to nutrition and getting healthy, someone with a considerable amount of weight to lose, or someone who hates working out. If you have a basic nutrition foundation, regularly meal prep, or have access to Google, I’d say you could skip out and save yourself some cash.

 

* Price current as of 7/14/18, does not include tax or shipping, and is subject to change at any time. Visit teambeachbody.com for current rates.

Pre-made meals. Too good to be true?

Before I go away for an extended period (as in more than a weekend), I try to empty the house of all food that could spoil and wreck havoc. That means there are slim pickings the day before we leave and even less upon return. I’ve always thought about making a batch of chili or other freezer meal that I could thaw when I get back, but um, that hasn’t worked out thus far. It’s the thought that counts, right?

This time, though, I was proactive and started researching a few delivery services that specialize in pre-made meals. Because as much as I love my Plated boxes, I knew I wasn’t going to be in any shape to whip up a fancy dinner after 20 hours in the car. Unfortunately, 95% of said services don’t deliver to my area.

With persistence, I stumbled upon GoReadyMade, a company that lets you choose the meals you want while leaving them the dirty work. And, lucky for me – there was a Groupon* that came with a significant discount. This first box included eight meals for $35 (regular price $79.92).

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Milla was so excited to check things out

What I Loved

The Plan – There are several options to fit every need – anywhere from 4-10 meals per delivery.

The Schedule – Pick the delivery days that are best for you and skip the ones that aren’t.

The Options – Select different recipes or all of the same – there are so many choices. Dishes include yummy concoctions like cauliflower mac & cheese, smoky chicken fajitas (pictured below), and sirloin steak with peppercorn sauce.

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The Ease – Many of the meals take less than 5 minutes to heat in the microwave. Just dig in!

The Taste – The dishes were wonderfully seasoned and bursting with flavor. Also, not salty.

The Rewards – You can earn credits when you invite friends to join the service.

What I Didn’t Love

The Calories – Many of the meals are upwards of 700 calories. I try to keep my meals (especially dinner) around 400 calories, so I ended up splitting up several of the meals into two portions and adding a side salad or extra veggie to my plate.

The Size – The meals are advertised as enough for one adult or 1-2 children. The tortellini with tomato sauce was barely enough to keep a toddler full (even my husband remarked on this!), yet had a whopping 750 calories.

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#stillhungry

The Inconsistency – I ordered two portions of the cauliflower mac & cheese, and while one container was nearly full, the other one was only half full. It was disappointing that they weren’t evenly distributed.

The Price – Understandably, you’re going to pay more for convenience, but at this rate, I could pick up burgers and fries for around the same nutritional value and a lot less cash.

Bottom Line: I think there is huge potential for this service, but it just wasn’t for me. While I did like a lot of the features, the calories and price weighed heavily in my stomach. This purchase served as a trial for a long-term solution of incorporating healthy, cost-effective pre-made meals into a weekly rotation. Unfortunately, this service will not be “the one” and the search to give myself a cooking break continues.

 

*Groupon may not be available in all areas and may be subject to change after this posting. Check your local deals for more info!

Hey, I’m still here…

This post is months overdue, but it’s been a challenge to find the right words (even for a writer). Recently, I’ve been struggling with some things – both physically and mentally – and I just felt that if I couldn’t get my shit together, how could I possibly offer fitness or lifestyle advice with any semblance of authenticity?

So far my husband and I have had a summer full of beautiful experiences. We’ve traveled to California and Florida, camped in Upstate New York, rode our jet-ski around the Statue of Liberty, and went to the drive-in on at least three different occasions. We installed a hot tub in our backyard, put the final touches on our basement gym, and planned a few future renovations. I also perfected a cookie recipe, developed a matcha addiction, and have read over ten enlightening books since the beginning of May.

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Anyone else think of Full House when you see this?

Most people would think “wow, she’s living the dream!” am I right? Well, even with all of that good stuff, I’ve still felt empty, drained, unhappy, and stressed. I’ve had bouts of anxiety about being 28 years old without any real career direction or goals. I’ve struggled to do simple things like laundry. I’ve failed at so many fitness and nutrition programs. And don’t get me started on being too tired.

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Poolside in Rancho Mirage, CA

You see, there was no way in hell I could encourage someone to spend 2% of their day working out when I couldn’t even spend 1% washing the freakin dishes. I would have told myself off.

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Roughin’ in on a camping trip in Upstate NY

It’s so easy to look at social media and see all of the good things, the fun. When you’re feeling down, it looks like everyone else is having the time of their lives. Meanwhile, the black cloud is following me on every adventure and delightful moment. That, in itself, is so draining. But social media isn’t really meant to show the other side of things. Who really wants to stare at Debbie Downer all day?

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Fresh-squeezed orange juice in Miami, FL

So here I am telling you that nothing is ever going to be perfect. A picture is worth a thousand words, but how many are actually true? If you’re struggling with something too, know you’re not alone. Just keep swimming, keep on keeping on, keep trying to find something good in every day. It will get better.

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Lady Liberty herself. Look – no people!

If you need some extra encouragement, check out the Finding the Balance series I posted earlier in the year.

Look for me on Mondays again – I’ve got some catching up to do.

Peace, Love, Zen
DS