Monday, December 30, 2013

Love Your Body

New Years Day marks the beginning of Tone It Up's annual "Love Your Body" series. It is a 6 week fitness challenge designed by Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up to inspire you to strive for your goals of getting lean and healthy. This is actually the first year that I am participating in this particular series, and it strikes a chord with me more now than I ever think it would have before. We are given these choices and opportunities in our lives for a reason; to either teach you something, or remind you of what you already know (even if you didn't want to admit it yet!) . This challenge for me is the latter.
Loving my body is not something I have ever done. I have always managed to point out everything I hated about it when I looked in the mirror. (As many girls do, unfortunately). With the help of the constant and amazing support from Tone It Up, the girls I have met through the program, and deciding to pursue a vegan diet, I can say that I have truly learned to love my body. I'm not even at my goal weight or where I want to be yet, but I have learned to appreciate myself on a whole new level.
My life has changed for the better. I'm happier with the way my body is looking, the sharpness and clarity of my mind, and simply for knowing that I'm consuming the best possible foods for my health. While prior to deciding to eat vegan I was still eating "healthy" as far as I was concerned but didn't realize there was a much better option out there for me. It was something I had never even considered. Now, with nearly 6 weeks of vegan eating under my belt, I truly do have a greater appreciation for my body. Within those 6 weeks, I ran my first 5k and 10k both! I've lost a good deal of weight, and I've realized how amazing our bodies truly can be when you treat them right.
So this challenge really couldn't have come at a better time. Loving my body is a whole new concept to me, but I feel more beautiful and confident than I ever have. I know now that I CAN push myself, and I CAN absolutely love myself no matter what that damn scale says. I have the diet portion of it under control at this point, so with the challenge my goal is to stick to the workouts as best as I can.
I can't wait to see what this series, and this year will bring :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Getting ready for the New Year!

Hope everyone had a beautiful holiday season with family and loved ones!

I don't really have a ton to say, so enjoy your vacations (if you're lucky enough to get a few extra days off). As for me, I'm back in the office and it is SLOW! Spending most of today catching up on celebrity gossip and making plans for the next couple of weeks :)

Exciting things that are coming up in the beginning of 2014:

Jan 1: Resolution 5k run!

Jan 6: The Blonde Vegan 5-Day Cleanse program that I'm starting with a few other girlfriends (check it out here:

Jan 9: My 5 year anniversary with my boyfriend <3

and a little bit later on...

March 15: The Color Run 5k

March 22: Dirty Girl Mud Run 5k

I can't wait to see what amazing things this new year will bring !

Monday, December 16, 2013

Having a Healthy Holiday

Every year around the holidays my grandma gets to work and makes the most amazing food. There is an endless amount of pastas, meatballs, crab, cookies, candies, etc. Her most famous is a savory bread roll (think the size of a small cinnamon roll) stuffed with seasoned ground Italian pork and caramelized onions, baked to golden perfection. My great-grandma made up the name for it (which I won't even attempt to spell) but it is pronounced "bean-yah-notty".  For as long as I can remember, my grandma has made every year for the holidays,  and all of my family, neighbors, friends, and coworkers LOVE them. She makes hundreds and hundreds every year! Since they are nothing short of amazing and a favorite of mine growing up, I had absolutely dreaded the day she was going to start making them this year.  I knew this would be the one thing I would let myself "cheat" on and go to town.
Instead, I decided to veganize her classic recipe so that I could enjoy them without feeling guilty and knowing I made the right decision for myself at this point in my life. Yes, I could have said "Okay, just one" but that would turn into two, three, and so on. I just didn't want to do that to myself. 

SOOO I drove my butt down to Whole Foods yesterday and picked up a pack of Lightlife Smart Ground veggie protein to sub for the pork, and some gluten-free cinnamon roll/hot roll mix. In order to make the hot roll mix vegan, all I had to do was substitute the egg it calls for with an egg replacer.
To be honest, I didn't even care if they were going to come out well because  I was having such a fun time drinking wine and spending these moments with my grandma.
To my great delight, they actually came out pretty well. Obviously not the exact same, BUT it definitely got my fix taken care of. It made me realize that while there are certain limitations with a vegan diet, I'm in no way doing myself a disservice by not eating meat or other animal products.  I can still enjoy things that I once enjoyed and indulged in before, it is just in a different way now.
No matter which way I look at it, I'm becoming healthier with every meal. I'm notorious for having a sweet tooth and I for sure would have gone to town on those cookies and fudges before; I did it even just last year when I was trying to be "healthy".  I didn't want to give up all of the things I love to be 5 pounds lighter.
I see it very differently today. I now understand that I'm not "giving up" anything. I'm replacing things I once considered a treat with healthier substitutes.  I'm most definitely not treating my body to anything when I shovel processed sugars and refined carbohydrates down my throat. There's always the argument of "You only live once, you might as well eat what you want and enjoy it!" But there's no way I'm going to fully enjoy my life while I am still unsatisfied with my health and how I look. So until I'm there, I'm going to suck down my green smoothie and substitute the hell out of all the products that did me dirty for so many years.  Not to say that once I'm there I'm going to revert back to all of my old habits, because clearly that wasn't working for me, but I refuse to think of it as a punishment or an obligation that will end once I reach my goals.
I'm  happy every day with my decision to pursue a vegan diet. I've actually lost about 8 pounds and was FINALLY able to overcome the plateau I've been stuck at for months. So yay for that!

Tell me your thoughts: how do you make your holiday a healthy one?

Monday, December 9, 2013

My First 5K!

Happy Monday :)

This weekend was exciting because I FINALLY got to run my first 5K! My first was supposed to be in October, but it got rescheduled until March next year, so I was super excited to be able to do this one. It was the Ugly Sweater Dash 5K in Pleasanton. It is considered a "fun run" because they don't time you, and you can choose to walk it if you like. Since it was my first time participating in a race, I wanted to do my best and time myself to get a starting point and see where I can improve for next time.

 I set a goal for myself of finishing in under 40 minutes, at about a 12.5 minute mile, which is the pace I have been lately.  I came in well under that at 35 minutes! I was so thrilled with my results, and I'm excited to keep training and beat my time for the next race!

Since this was my first race, I had no clue about preparation, or what to eat the night before/morning up to the race. I looked to the advice of my friends who had competed in races before and they gave me wonderful advice. They suggested I have some carbs the night before, so my dinner consisted of quinoa fusilli pasta, with a light tomato sauce and mixed vegetables. Super easy, simple, and very filling. The morning of the race I had some old fashioned rolled oats with a bit of agave, 1/2 a banana and a piece of Ezekiel toast. This was the PERFECT amount of food to have because I was totally satisfied, and had the energy to make it through the whole race, and  even went a bit faster than I normally do!

I'm so grateful to have a group of women who are on the same journey to health and fitness as I am. They provide unconditional support, motivation and love and are a crucial part to my success! Just wanted to give a shout out to them for being amazing ladies!! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bikram Yoga

Over a year ago I purchased a  Groupon for 10 classes at a Bikram Yoga studio. I went twice, maybe. I didn't hate it, but  I didn't love it either.  I just found it hard to want to dedicate an hour and a half to being in a hot room, so I didn't go back. That same Groupon became available again recently, and I made the decision that I'm actually going to go this time to give it a fair shot. A friend of mine also decided she wanted to try it out with me, so last night was our first class together.

A little bit about Bikram yoga:

It is 26 sequence postures developed by Bikram Choudhury. You do each pose two times, and the duration of the class is 90 minutes The room you practice in is 105 degrees. states:
"Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want.
Hatha Yoga flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body. It provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishments to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. Bikram Yoga also employs heat to further that cleaning process: When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin."

It is very challenging to stay in the room the whole time as a beginner. Most of us are dehydrated to begin with, so many people feel dizzy or nauseated.  This is to be expected, and they prefer it if you don't leave the room, but to instead sit or lie down until it passes. They recommend having double the amount of water you normally drink during the days leading up to your first class.

Not only is it hard enough to be in the room, the poses are also difficult. However, I found that the second time through, they were much easier and some poses I was actually able to do all the way!

After 90 minutes, lots of stretching and breathing, and a couple of dizzy spells, I felt great. Leaving the "Torture Chamber" I felt refreshed and energetic. My friend mentioned she developed a headache, but wanted to come back again to get the full benefit of the classes (plus she paid for it!). If you want to challenge yourself whether you're a beginner in yoga or an old pro, I would recommend trying Bikram at least once.

Tips before you go:
  • Drink LOTS of water. At least double the recommended amount
  • Wear minimal clothing. Bathing suits, shorts, tank tops, sports bras, etc. You're going to be super sweaty. Stay away from cotton and stick to clothes that will breathe.
  • Bring water, a yoga mat, a full sized towel, and a towel to wipe your face
  • If you feel dizzy or nauseated at all, sit or lie down. Don't do more than your body can handle. It will pass.
Have you done Bikram? What are your thoughts? How does it compare to regular yoga?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Easy Vegan Recipes!

Happy Tuesday! I wanted to share a few recipes that I have thoroughly enjoyed making  as well as what an average day looks like for my meals. As someone who is just starting out, this is what is working for me so far.

If you're trying to get healthier and shed some weight, it is important to have 5-6 small meals, spaced out during the day. I try to eat every 3 hours or so. This is what a typical work day for me looks like:

Breakfast: Overnight Oats, or a Van's Gluten Free Waffle with almond butter and an apple
(Check out LaurenLivesHealthy for a few great ideas for overnight oats!)

Morning snack: Coconut milk yogurt/soy yogurt with fresh berries

Lunch:  Spinach salad with chickpeas or kidney beans, tomatoes, red peppers, onion, whatever other vegetables I have on hand, with balsamic vinegar and lemon as dressing

Afternoon snack: Baby carrots and hummus, or sometimes a Lara bar *not all Lara bars are vegan! The ones with chocolate chips may have traces of dairy. Which sucks because the ones with chocolate are obviously the best ones.

Dinner: Roasted Brussels sprouts or asparagus, (some kind of green veggie) with quinoa, and a tofu veggie patty. (this is my go to!) Other times I will make Vegetable Quinoa (recipe below)

Now on to the good stuff:
I fell in love with these recipes the first time I tried them, and can't get enough!

Cinnamon Apple Chia Porridge  
(from Tone It Up)  It is sweet and filling and makes enough to have it a few days in a row.
  • ½ cup white or black chia seeds
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup diced apples
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup of agave

Pour chia seeds in a large mixing bowl. Add apple juice and stir until well incorporated. Continue to stir for about 5 minutes off and on to make sure no clumps form. Set aside for 10-15 minutes to let the chia absorb the liquid. You will know it is ready when the consistency is of porridge. Next add remaining ingredients to the chia mixture and stir until powders and sweeteners are well incorporated. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional fruit or your favorite topping.

Vegetable Quinoa
Seven-vegetable couscous for Jewish New Year
(Thank you to Veg Kitchen for the initial recipe. I changed a few things for my own preferences)
Gluten free, vegan and super delicious!  It makes a lot so you'll have leftovers for a few days, or bring it to a family gathering to share.
8 Servings
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 heaping cup thinly shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup carrots cut in medium pieces
  • 1 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced l/4-inch thick
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced l/4-inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt

Cook quinoa as directed on package, fluff with a fork when done.
For the vegetable stew, heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over moderate heat until translucent. Stir in cabbage and sauté until both it and the onion are lightly golden.
Add remaining stew ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then over and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. Add water as needed to produce a moist, but not soupy, consistency. The vegetables should be tender, but still firm.

Once done, serve the stew over the quinoa and enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Bites

(Photo cred: @waytogohealthy)
This was absolutely perfect for a post dinner anti-oxidant rich sweet treat! Thank you to @waytogohealthy on Instagram for the idea!

Makes approx. 12 pieces
  • 2 cups vegan dark chocolate
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Chopped walnuts
Honestly I didn't even measure the seeds or walnuts, I just sprinkled them on top as I saw fit.

  1. Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler (If you have one.  I don't have a double boiler, so I just brought some water to a simmer over the stove in a small pot,  stuck a heat-proof bowl in it and melted the chocolate in the bowl.)
  2. Prepare cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper
  3. Spoon dollops of the dark chocolate onto the parchment paper
  4. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and walnuts over the dark chocolate
  5. Put whole cookie sheet in the freezer to set.
  6. Enjoy!
Let me know your thoughts on these recipes! What are your healthy go-to meals?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Product Review: Tarte High Performance Naturals

Happy Monday! I hope you had a lovely weekend and got to spend time with family and stuff your face. I definitely did. At least it was mostly veggies, right?!  On Black Friday I decided to venture into Ulta Beauty because I had wanted to try some of Tarte's cruelty-free vegan products. I picked out three items that I thought I would enjoy, and here are my thoughts on them!

Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 ($36)
smooth operator tinted moisturizer oil-free tinted moisturizer with SPF 20
I was REALLY hoping to fall in love with the BB cream because, like all of the products I tried, it is vegan, cruelty free, and contains no parabens or phthalates. I was a little disappointed with it though. It didn't give me the coverage I was hoping for. It says light/medium but it was definitely more on the light side. It also is only a SPF 20, and I generally try to use 30 or higher on my face to make sure my skin is thoroughly protected. It did have a matte finish, which I did like very much. For the price though, it wasn't worth it to me to keep using it. I personally think $36 is very steep for a tinted moisturizer.

Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder ($29)
smooth operator™ micronized clay finishing powder with PM20™
I wanted to try this because of the great reviews I saw on their website and what it promised to deliver.  Here is what they claim: "Amazonian clay acts as a total skin balancer, by hydrating all skin types, reducing the appearance of dry, flaky skin, improving clarity and texture, and removing surface oil to mattify skin for a soft focus and flawless finish. " It did deliver! I loved the texture of it, very soft and silky, and immediately took away my shine. It also gave like a blurred effect to my large pores. That being said, I didn't feel comfortable paying $30 for a supplemental product. If that was the BB cream or a foundation providing these effects, then I would have no problem paying that much. It would be great if this was a powder foundation, that way it had all of these benefits, plus coverage, all in one! I would buy that!

MultiplEYE Liquid Eyeliner ($22)

I had really high hopes for this one! I have been looking for the perfect eyeliner and thought for sure this would be it! Unfortunately, it was not. :(   While I did love the felt tip for precise lining, it didn't go on very dark. I had to go over it several times before I achieved the look I was going for, and even then I don't think it was that dark. (I like intense eyeliner) My NYX liquid liner actually performs better than this one, and for less than half the price.

To sum it all up, their products are expensive. Granted, they are a reputable company that delivers great for your skin, cruelty-free cosmetics, I feel like if I search hard enough, I can find something with those benefits and not break the bank.  If you don't mind paying that much, I would recommend giving them a try! They have MANY more products that I will consider in the future for my personal use.

Have you tried any of Tarte's products? What did you think?
Can you recommend any other products that you had success with? Let me know!

Confession time!

So I have a confession…

 Friday night I worked at my part-time restaurant job. It had been a while since I picked up a shift, and was absolutely craving their pizza. It was an artichoke and feta pizza (no sauce) with onions, red peppers, and Kalamata olives. This was my first divergence from a vegan diet since I began on November 21st.   To be honest, I felt a bit guilty eating it since I had been doing so well, even over Thanksgiving! I guess it wouldn’t have been enough to just feel guilty about it, because that wasn’t even the worst part.

The worst part came Saturday morning: cue stomach ache! My tummy was NOT happy with me! I had been feeling so great since I cut out dairy and everything else, so this was a very unwelcome feeling. I felt heavy and bloated all day, so I made sure to stick to a clean diet for the rest of the weekend. Despite my efforts, I still felt sick up until Sunday evening.

This morning I am feeling much better. I prepped all of my meals for today to help me stay on track and avoid having to go buy lunch somewhere. I find that when I am prepared and have options, I am much more likely to stick to my meal plan. I won’t lie; the longer I go, the harder it is becoming to stick to a vegan diet. Some days are better than others, but that is to be expected with any sort of lifestyle change. You have to just keep pushing through!