My aching back!

When my muscles start screaming, I know they are overworked and need a little TLC. In my earlier days, I would have popped a few Advil and called it a day, but now I rely on natural methods of pain relief. Here are a few things you can do to ease muscle tension and discomfort.

Drink more water


Don’t like drinking water? Make it into an hourly game or buy fun water bottles like this one!

I think the girls in my challenge groups must be sick of me saying “drink more.” What happens when flowers don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when lakes don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when your body doesn’t get enough water? You literally dry up – flaky skin, brittle hair, chapped lips, etc. Hydrate your body and your muscles to help increase your energy and prevent muscle cramping.


Never underestimate the power of the cool down. I used to hate this so much. Once I was done with the meat of the workout, I was DONE. That meant no extra time to stretch out those muscles I just literally worked to the bone. It hurt, and I quickly learned my lesson. Think of it as your reward for finishing a tough sweat sesh – your muscles and body deserve it. I also recommend stretching or light yoga just before bed to prevent cramping at night.

Eat up post-workout


I love Icelandic yogurt with berries and pistachios post-workout. It’s a nice treat!

I never miss an opportunity for a snack! After working out, you’ll want something to fuel the day as well as calm inflammation, aid in muscle repair, and improve mental focus. I have a brand of gluten free post-workout bars that I absolutely LOVE, but you can also opt for eggs, a protein shake, grilled chicken, oatmeal, bananas, cottage cheese, berries, or a handful of nuts.

Take a warm bath

Nothing is more soothing than a warm bath with lots of bubbles. Add some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil and take a deep soak. Both help to ease the tension in your muscles and joints.

Rub on some essential oils


I use these two oils post workout and also diffuse the lavender one throughout the day.

There are a host of oils that are good for post workout – cinnamon bark, wintergreen, and basil (for sore muscles and joints), grapefruit (lessons mental and physical fatigue), lavender (eases muscle tension), and peppermint (clears breathing). Diffuse in the air or rub directly on your skin. For sensitive skin, you’ll want to use a carrier oil or cream. Just mix a drop or two of your essential oil with your carrier and apply. I only use 100% pure essential oils of high quality so I know I’m putting the good stuff in my body.

Try a foam roller

Foam rollers improve flexibility and also help to massage tired, achy muscles. For this reason, it might be painful at first, but after prolonged use, it will feel oh so good! Benefits include the reduced likelihood of injury, better sleep, boosted energy, and soothed muscles aches.

Get some rest

wp-1501720797577.If you’re feeling sore, don’t overdo it. Curl up with a book or find something on Netflix and then get a good 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body needs time to recharge and create energy, so don’t skimp out on those old fashioned zzzs!

How do you relieve your achy muscles?

I’d never do another Whole30 again!


Whole30 gets a lot of press – good or bad, it’s still attention. Last year I completed my first and only Whole30. After a month without dairy, grains, legumes (including my beloved peanut butter), sugar, alcohol, daily superfood shake, and baked goods, I felt accomplished and proud of myself for completing such a huge feat.

If I’m fully honest, I didn’t experience any of the earth shattering changes that others have. I didn’t lose a ton of weight, the headaches I was experiencing almost daily didn’t decrease, I still wasn’t sleeping well, and I didn’t feel like a completely new person.

In one respect, the Whole30 was a total eye-opener. Prior to starting my month-long journey, I didn’t realize how much sugar and hydrogenated oils were in EVERYTHING. I took many of the “healthy” grocery store items for their full-face value. I never thought that ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressings, mayo, and even bacon and diced tomatoes would be laden with every form of sugar that you can imagine. I was blind to the fact that what I was putting into my body was actually doing more harm than good. I took “good” food for granted.

On the flip side, I believe that the Whole30 can facilitate an unhealthy relationship with food. Now, I might get a lot of crap for saying this, but hear me out.

Where it went wrong

When I did my first Whole30 in July 2016, I thought it was the greatest idea since sliced (paleo) bread. I followed the rules and when other people were posting Whole30 meals that weren’t quite compliant on Instagram and Facebook, it made me angry. I started buying foods in the spirit of the Whole30. I stocked up on the books and even gave the new cookbook for a Christmas gift. For a good six months, I was a self-appointed Whole30 police officer. After a while, it was giving me so much anxiety, that it got old.

In the last year, I’ve tried to complete a second Whole30 multiple times. I planned menus and grocery lists, I tossed all of the unapproved items from my kitchen, and even set up a 30-day calendar. I was ready. Then, multiple times, it just didn’t happen. I really beat myself up about it. Seriously, how hard is it to START something? Something that I was supposedly obsessed with not too long ago.


Typical meal prep Sunday.

I turned to Whole30 Facebook groups for support or guidance, but that just made it worse. There is so much cattiness, rule breaking, and unsupportiveness that I found the groups to be the opposite of encouraging. I left each one and decided to find my own way.

After playing with my diet for a couple of months, I realized that I don’t want to cut out so many foods from my diet. I enjoy mixing a spoonful of raw local honey into Icelandic every morning, I love making pancakes for Sunday breakfast, I look forward to sushi date nights and a nice burger with a bun every so often, and I will never miss another National Ice Cream Soda Day! They key isn’t cutting out all the foods that make you happy (unless medically necessary, of course), the key is moderation.


Anyone else LOVE creamsicles??

Everything in moderation

I’ve finally comfortably settled into a “diet” that seems to work for me: portion-controlled and mostly keto/paleo. What does that mean? I consume around 1,400 calories a day (it’s PLENTY), and eat a diet high in fat and low in carbs and protein – pizza, chocolate, and dessert included! It’s satisfying, it’s yummy, and although it restricts HOW much I pile on my plate, it doesn’t restrict WHAT I can eat. I never go to bed hungry.

How does this work? Well, because I’m not limiting myself, I don’t have crazy cravings for sugar or carbs. In fact, I’ve actually all but eliminated peanut butter (one of my favorite things!), alcohol, and several other unapproved Whole30 items at will – not as a direct result of my Whole30 experience. I’m just making healthier choices and looking at food as fuel.


A typical breakfast – hella yum!

The 80-20 Rule

No one eats 100% healthy 100% of the time – it’s just not sustainable. A lot of health coaches and fitness-minded individuals practice the 80-20 Rule, which means that you eat 100% healthy for 80% of the time. That other 20%? That’s when you fit in the donuts, chocolate, wine, nachos, cake, ice cream sodas – all the stuff that makes your soul sing. It works because you don’t feel deprived, because you know that you can have your cake and eat it too, and because you won’t feel guilty for indulging a little when out with friends or on the weekends.


The right size treat.

The (New) Bottom Line

Every once in a while I’m really, really wrong. This was one such time. The Whole30 taught me an important awareness about food that continues to this day, but it also made me a little neurotic. I’m no longer recommending or endorsing the lifestyle. However, I will say that if you are interested in learning about it, check out the book “It Starts with Food” from your local library. Written by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, creators of the Whole30, it breaks down the science and why behind the bad foods we put into our bodies. It is relatively easy to understand, even to non-science-y types and will give you a very granular view of the program.

If you have questions about finding a diet or way of eating that is right for you, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you find a good fit!


Get your dance on

Let me just say this – I never knew dancing to country music could be so much fun! At first I was really unsure about Country Heat. A lot of Beachbody coaches and friends of mine were posting great things about the program, saying it was easy enough for people who can’t dance (AKA me). I tried a preview track online (Routine 1: Country Swing) and was hooked from the very first move. You don’t have to be a dancer to start or rock this program, but you will be a better one by the end of it.


This Beachbody workout is for you if you don’t really like putting the “work” in workouts, you want something with minimal commitment, you like to dance like a fool when no one’s watching, and/or you’re a country girl (or guy!) at heart. I honestly can’t think of any reasons why you wouldn’t want to try it. If you’re new to working out, this would make a great first program.


Country Heat lasts 30 days with a rest day on Sunday to give your body a break – so technically it’s only 26 days, which is totally doable. If you get the Deluxe package, you get a couple additional workouts to help you burn more calories and get fit faster.


What’s enticing about this program is that it’s so much fun that you don’t even feel like you’re working out. even so, you’ll still work up a sweat be the end. Most days the routines are approximately 30 minutes. You also have the option to add a quick line dance before or after your workout for an extra challenge. After your first week there are 7 days that include a second, 25-minute workout called Dance Conditioning.


This is the first program I’ve purchased digitally from Beachbody on Demand (BOD). My reason was simple – I did NOT want another set of portion control containers. (At the time of purchase, Beachbody had not released a DVD only set.) I couldn’t be happier with my BOD subscription. I stream the workouts on the big screen with my Amazon Firestick. I can easily access my purchased programs and try others that are available in the member library. Since the Firestick is portable, I can virtually take my workouts with me wherever I go – even on vacation.


  • •Country Heat Base DVD Package w/o containers – $39.90 + s&h
  • •Country Heat Base DVD Package w/containers – $59.85 + s&h
  • •Country Heat Deluxe DVD Package – $119.70 + s&h
  • •Country Heat & Shakeology Challenge Pack – $140 + s&h

Before You Begin

Make sure to track your results! Take measurements, weigh yourself, and figure out your container breakdown (more details under “Nutrition”).

Watch the move breakdown videos; trust me – they will come in handy.


Start each day off right – with breakfast. This can be a shake or another healthier option like sweet potato hash and eggs. I’m a fan of eating non-traditional breakfasts. Sweet potato chocolate chili, anyone?

A little Sunday meal prep can help you stay on track!

The program recommends eating small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day. I’ve gotten into the habit of eating 3 filling meals with minimal snacking. Do what works best for you. The included recipe booklet has fun meals such as Double Chocolate Cookies, Smoked Baked Beans, and Southwest Breakfast Scramble. You can even have a glass of wine a couple of days a week!

I love that the newer Beachbody programs all use the same container breakdowns. It makes it super easy to stay on top of your nutrition as you move through the programs. Use a simple formula to figure out how many of each container you get per day. Mine are based on a 1,200-1,499 calorie diet: 4Red (protein), 3Green (veggies), 2Purple (fruits), 2Yellow (carbs), 1Blue (healthy fats), 1Orange (nuts and seeds), and 2Teaspoons (oils). This turns out to be plenty of food, but if you’re still hungry, and a glass of water doesn’t do the trick, add another green or red. This plan can also be designed around a vegetarian or gluten free lifestyle.

The fix containers help you eat just the right amount.

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water during the workouts and throughout the day – at least half of your body weight. It will cut down on hunger and keep you hydrated. It might not seem like you’ll need it, but these workouts get you really sweaty.

My favorite way to keep hydrated – with my Healthy Human water bottle.

Optional Equipment

Yoga mat / towel for Dance Conditioning workouts

The Workouts

(In the Deluxe Program) there are 7 workouts that are alternated between the weeks. Each has 22 moves total and they are broken into pairs. You do the first move for 8 counts, the second move for 8, you put them together for 4 repetitions and then you move on to the next set. You might not get them down right away – I didn’t – but, by the end of the week, you’ll be good to go.

Dance Conditioning makes an appearance in week 2 and is only done 7 of the 26 working days. This is more about stretching and bodywork than it is about dancing, but it’s still fun and feels really good.

There are also two bonus line dances that you can add before or after your workout. One is a complete routine set to a song called “Night Crawl,” which was developed by Jody Messina specifically for this program. The other is a routine set to Jill Johnson’s “Cowboy Up.” At the end, Autumn will show you how to do the turns required in “real” country line dancing.

The dance routines feature well-known music tracks such as “Footloose,” “That’s My Kinda Night,” “5 1 5 0,” and “I Like It, I Love It.”

The Trainer

Image is the property of Beachbody, LLC.

Autumn Calabrese – Celebrity Fitness Trainer, creator of the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix EXTREME, co-creator of Hammer & Chisel, and author of the Fixate cookbook. She’s a doll and her upbeat attitude will motivate you to finish every rep.

The Results

A lot of people seem to love this program – and I can definitely add myself to that list. I read a ton of positive reviews online. You can definitely expect to see results in week two if you follow through. This is one of my favorites. I looked forward to my workouts every day. Overall I lost a few pounds, but for me, the biggest victory way realizing that I actually enjoy working out. I honestly never thought I would be the type of person who worked out every day. Since starting Country Heat in October, I’ve worked out 5-6 days a week. And most recently, I’ve been on a 7-day streak since January 2nd.

The Beachbody app makes it easy and fun to log and track workouts.

Bottom Line: I have and will continue to recommend this to all of my friends and family. Try it out for yourself. What’s the worst that can happen? If you decide it’s not really your thing, Beachbody offers a 30-day money back guarantee (less s&h). If you do like it and you see results, be sure to submit your before and after photos, weight, and measurements to the Beachbody Challenge and they will send you a FREE t-shirt. Either way, you really can’t lose.

I know you know, but I have to say it anyway…always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise, fitness, and/or diet program.

*Other package options available online. Team Beachbody Club members save 10%, coaches save 25%. Prices valid as of 2/1/2017. Visit for more information on programs, to sign up for Beachbody On Demand, and to request me as your FREE coach!


Keep on blazin’ on

What is the Fitbit Blaze? A smart watch that, in addition to telling time, allows you to track your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and log daily exercise, among other things.
Who is it for? Anyone who wants to track daily activity, up their fitness game, add challenges, and look stylish while doing so.

Price. Starts out at $199.95, but can be caught on sale.

Why I like it

Stylish. The watch has received criticism for its 80s-like retro feel. (As if that were a bad thing!) I prefer the Fitbit’s rectangular shape over a circular watch face. But really, it’s just about personal preference.

Comfortable. I’ll admit that when I first saw the watch in person, I wasn’t sure I would be able to sleep with it. It’s pretty large in comparison to my small wrist. BUT, like (un-itchy) clothing, once you have it on, you don’t really feel it anymore. The band is soft and flexible and there are plenty of holes to find the right fit. I don’t even notice it while sleeping.

Awesome App. The app is very user friendly and automatically syncs to the watch to provide you with updated stats upon launch. You can see your steps, miles traveled, calories burned, time exercised, sleep quality, and so much more. You can even look at trends for the week or month. It also shows you how much battery is left and when you need a recharge. It’s really awesome and gets an A++ from me.

Move Reminders. If you have a desk job, you’ll appreciate the hourly reminders to get up and move. Small movements throughout the day add up – if you take 250 steps each hour while at work, you will have taken 2,000 by the time you quit for the night. Take a walk to refill your water, grab a cup of tea, or, like I prefer, walk to the farthest bathroom and back.

Sleep. Easily track your sleep quality and habits, and awake to a silent alarm each morning. I wasn’t sure that the slight vibrations would wake me up. They do. The problem is hitting snooze!

Customizable. There are so many fun ways to switch up your style. Fitbit sells a variety of interchangeable bands, but some cost upwards of $75. Check eBay for many bands under $5. You can also change the way the clock displays – there are 9 digital and analog styles to choose from.

Battery Life. The battery lasts about 4 days, which is fantastic (and a lot longer than other smart watches). You also get a pretty long warning before the system shuts down. Mine blinked red for over 8 hours and I was able to plug it in before it flat lined (not ideal, but it happens).

Why some people don’t

Display. The Blaze has been criticized for NOT having an Always On display. I can tell you that I’m not a fan of always on for two reasons – it drains the battery faster and it is kind of annoying. With the Blaze, you click the left button to turn on the screen and it stays on for a few seconds – long enough to check the time, the date, and your stats. You can also raise your wrist (as if to check the time) and the display will appear. If that’s a total deal breaker, you might want to look into other smart watches.

It’s not waterproof. I’ve had other activity trackers that you can shower and swim with. It would make it more convenient, but it’s not a must for me. I just remove it with the rest of my jewelry before I hop in the shower and put it back on when I’m done. No big deal.

Charging. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the method of charging. You have to pop the device out of the band / unit and put it into the charging “dock.” I would much prefer wireless charging, or another method that doesn’t require disassembling the unit. But it does only take about 2 hours to get a full charge that lasts 4 days – I definitely can’t complain about that.

These future upgrades would be totally awesome

Notifications. You can get multiple notifications – text, email, calendar appointments, etc. sent straight to your Blaze. I wish you could respond to them with a touch of a finger, but you can’t. While the watch is smart, it’s a smart FITNESS watch, with fitness being the top priority. Future models could include the ability to respond and I’m sure the ratings would be off the charts.

FitStar. The watch comes with a built-in module called FitStar, which helps you to get fit anywhere through body weight workouts. You can do a warm-up, 7-minute workout, or 10-minute abs. The problem? If you don’t use the application, you can’t remove it. Is it annoying? Not to me, but I’ve seen a few complaints about it. Future models could suppress this feature.

Camera. Typical smart watches include the ability to point the camera with the phone and snap a picture from the watch. What an awesome feature this would be on the Blaze. The technology to make a shutter button is out there – think Bluetooth selfie sticks!

The icing on the cake (AKA why this is my must-have fitness gadget)

Heart Rate

  • I started tracking my stress levels and heart rate a few months ago to see if they were migraine triggers. I know that my resting heart rate is between 68 and 72, so when I’m feeling stressed or upset, I can check the watch and see if there is any elevation. Of course there usually is. I know that when my heart rate is elevated I need to practice some relaxation techniques to bring it down.
  • I can also track my heart rate during exercise to see what my average and max heart rates are and when I’m in the fat burning zone. This is also really helpful if you are looking to lose weight.

Calories Burned

  • I had another fitness tracker that wasn’t so great at the calorie tracking. I was getting so discouraged because my morning cardio workouts were only registering as 33 calories burned. I felt like I was just wasting my time. With the Blaze, I can see that I’m burning over 200 calories for every 30 minutes of exercise. That really motivates me to keep it up!

Smart Features

  • This is not just your typical fitness tracker. You can see your texts and calls, and control your music with the tap of your finger. This comes in handy at work when I need to pause my music or audiobook to take a call or if someone stops by my desk – it’s faster than pausing through the phone.


  • You can earn different badges for exercise milestones and then share them on Facebook or Twitter. When I was in Colorado in early December and we hiked up a gigantic mountain, I got a Stadium badge for climbing 150 floors in a day! I’ll probably never get close to that again, but it was a pretty awesome achievement.


Bottom Line: This is, hands-down, the best investment you could make for your personal health. Why? Because you will either see your fitness efforts paying off, which will push you to keep going OR you will realize how inactive you really are during the day and form better habits. I would totally recommend this to a friend.

Cut those cravings 

Talking about your…*cough*…time of the month…*cough*…used to be really taboo. It was kind of like discussing your salary – something you kept private and maybe only shared with one or two people close to you. Now there are products and commercials galore related to women’s health, including everything from vitamins and pain reducers to all things feminine hygiene.

But what about those brutal cravings? You know, the ones that hit you when you’re just minding your own business watching Netflix? Suddenly, chocolate covered sea salt and vinegar kettle chips with a side of strawberry cheesecake ice cream sounds like the best idea EVER. The guilt, the shame, the horror.

Well, ladies (and guys who have rollercoaster PMSing ladies at home) your prayers have been answered.

PMS Bites is a company founded by Boston entrepreneur Tania Green. The idea for her healthier chocolate treats developed from her own desire to curb PMS cravings, or better yet, satisfy the feeling without the guilt. Tania’s products have been featured on Shark Tank and in the Huffington Post and Allure.

PMS Bites are gluten free, vegan, all, natural, and great-tasting. They also contain herbs (chamomile, Siberian Ginseng, dandelion root) that are used to ease PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramping, and mood swings. One PMS Bite (Plain Crazy) is only 70 calories and contains just 7 grams of sugar. It’s a satisfying and healthier option – one you don’t have to feel guilty about.

Bites are affordably priced at $9.99 for a six pack and shipping is FREE! There are three flavors: Coco-Nutty (rolled in coconut), Plain Crazy (dusted with coco powder and coconut palm sugar), and All Kinds of Nuts (made with yummy pecans). If you want to try them all, you’re in luck – just go with the variety pack and try two of each.

For more information or to purchase a pack for yourself or a special someone, visit

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PMS Bites. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.


Peas, please

When I saw an ad for dairy-free milk made from peas, I just had to try it. I mean, doesn’t that sound interesting?

Ripple Milk is high in protein and low in sugar. In addition to dairy-free, this plant-based milk is also vegan, gluten-free, and lactose-free. And the best part? Ripple is allergy friendly – free of the top 8 allergens, including nuts, which makes it a great alternative to almond or cashew milk for those with dairy AND nut allergies! All products are certified non-GMO.

I love that this company puts a focus on sustainability. Ripple is doing its part to help the planet one bottle at a time, following the principles of the Butterfly (or Ripple) Effect – how one small movement can produce a mountain of change.

Yellow peas are better for you and the earth. The“bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic that can be recycled by 99% of US households.” Check out their site for some pretty impressive environmental statistics.

But, it’s made from peas. Does it taste like peas?

No way! Two of the toughest food critics I know (my mom and grandma) gave this beverage two thumbs up. “It tastes like a milkshake.” And that it does.  Dairy-free never tasted so good!

Ripple Vanilla

This recipe is completely delicious and tastes just like a creamy vanilla shake. Each serving is packed with 8 grams of plant-based protein and it has less sugar than other flavored milk and more calcium than dairy milk. Add Ripple Vanilla to cereal, stir it into recipes, or drink alone. I prefer mine with a side of gluten-free cookies!

Visit for more information and check out their store locator to see where you can get your own bottles of this delicious drink!

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Ripple. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

Get snacking!


Austin Banach, Culinary-Trained Private Chef and Independent Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle Coach, is here to talk about all things snacking (my favorite subject!). And who would know better than a professional? See what Austin has to say about finding healthy snacks, avoiding office vending machines, and looking at snacking in a whole new light. Enjoy!

You can’t out exercise a bad diet. I sneer at this saying – because it’s right. I love snacking. I used to say to myself, “its ok if I eat this (insert sweet or salty snack of choice here), I’ll just do 10 extra pushups tomorrow.” Well, that didn’t work out very well!

I learned a couple things along the way:

  1. The word “snacking,” alone, is getting a bad rap these days.
  2. Healthier snacks can actually improve your overall energy, health, and nutrition.

I recently created a poll on Facebook and asked my friends to call-out the first things that came to mind when they thought about the word “snack.” Most of the answers included pizza, cake, cookies, Cheez -Its, Goldfish Crackers, and other salty, decedent, or seemingly guilty pleasures. I only saw three healthier options: carrots (with no cake at the end), mangos, and castor oil (uhhh..ok).

But, what if instead of the word “snack,” we retrained our minds to use the word “energy”? Would it then be possible to think: “Man, if I eat this, I can do 10 fewer pushups tomorrow”?

Now I know what you are thinking: “Healthy snacks aren’t as fun or enjoyable.” Just as I would never completely give up a cookie, cracker, or piece of cake every once in a while, I wouldn’t expect anyone else to stop snacking. That’s just absurd!

Let’s face it, we can’t get rid of snacking, we just need to rethink the choices. It is a known fact that most humans can’t go 4-5 hours at a time without a snack or meal because our bodies start to fatigue and crash. Boost it up with a trifecta of nutrients to keep you going even when the toughest slump or temptation hits!

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

It’s true. You’ll need to make an effort to pack these snacks ahead of time because there’s a slim chance that your office or break room will have a big plate of carrots and hummus or a smoothie fountain (at least not where I work). I know that when I’m stranded with a growling tummy and no back-up plan, I’ll eat the first treat in sight. I always put aside an extra 15 minutes or so in the morning to get a few snacks ready for the day ahead of me. When the snacking alert goes off in my body, I’m super pumped that I took the time to prepare for it!

Give any of these a try and see what happens to your mood and energy:

  1. Trail mix (avoid sugar if possible), dried fruit, nuts, seeds
  2. Fruits or vegetables with almond butter (Ants on a Log – that’s fun, right?)
  3. Protein bars – there are a lot of good ones to choose from, just watch the added sugar
  4. Fruit!
  5. Greek yogurt (with nuts, honey, fruit)
  6. Avocado
  7. Smoothies

You can’t out exercise a bad diet, but your body can make that exercise easier with a good diet.

This post was written by Austin Banach. For more information, tips, or to sign up for health coaching, visit