Monday, April 28, 2014

Bikini Series 2014!!!

Good morning and happy Monday! Today is no ordinary Monday though, it is the first day of Tone It Up's annual Bikini Series!
I've talked about Tone It Up in the past, and how their nutrition plan has helped me shed over 20 pounds over the last several months. The Bikini Series comes around once a year, and is an 8 week health and fitness challenge to get you into shape come summer! The best part is that it is open to everyone, you don't have to purchase their Nutrition Plan to participate (although, I HIGHLY recommend it). Last year I joined Tone It Up right in the middle of the Bikini Series, and although I didn't participate, it looked amazing! I knew this was something I wanted to be apart of in the future, so I'm so happy to dive in head first this year. 
I wanted to share my goals for the Bikini Series to help keep me accountable, and to have a place to look back and motivate myself if need be!

Goals for the Bikini Series 2014:
  • Lose at least 10 more pounds
  • Complete 100 By Summer (or more!)
  • Follow Tone It Up's eating guidelines
  • Morning workouts (aka Booty Calls) 3x a week AT LEAST!
  • Stay on track through my vacation in Texas
  • Limit my processed sugar intake
  • Do more yoga
My biggest downfall when it comes to living an active and healthy lifestyle would be consistency. I'm great at starting out, but as time goes by I find myself getting more lenient about what I eat and when I work out.  I'm also notorious for hitting the snooze button one too many times. I want to break this habit and get up in the morning to get in that workout! I know how great I feel when I do, despite the actual process of waking up so early.

How I'm going to improve on these bad habits:
  • Plan out a weekly schedule that is relevant to me specifically.
  • Reward myself at the end of each week for sticking to all of my planned workouts with a healthy treat or small gift.
  • Meal prep! I'm more successful when there is less I have to do in the mornings.
  • Sleep in my workout clothes before my Booty Call workouts! This always gets me more excited about hitting the gym in the wee hours of the morning when I'm already dressed for it. 
  • Keep my phone  a good distance away. Like I said, notorious snoozer. My boyfriend hates it. So I'm going to keep my phone out of arms reach so that I HAVE to get up to turn it off, and if I'm up, might as well work out!
5 Things I Have Already Accomplished (so far!)

  • Lost 20 pounds
  • Completed my first cleanse
  • Stuck to a vegan diet for 5 months
  • Ran 1 mile in under 10 minutes
  • Got a raise at work
Listing out my accomplishments actually makes me realize how far I have come and the great things I can do when I set my mind to them. I want to really push myself over the next 8 weeks to complete all of the goals I set, and look fabulous come summertime! They don't call it the BIKINI Series for no good reason!

Today I'll be taking my "before" pictures, weight, and measurements so that I can compare my results at the end of the challenge. 

It is not too late to join me and the thousands of women across the world participating in this challenge. What is stopping you from looking your best this summer?! It is free and they offer so many chances to win amazing prizes. Plus, you'll never find a more loving, supportive, encouraging group of women anywhere else. This is where you want to be! Sign up here: BIKINI SERIES

I'll be doing daily check-ins on Instagram to document my journey. Follow me @plantbasedmelissa

Friday, April 18, 2014

Going Vegan: Resources That Helped Me Transition My Diet

In light of a few close friends and family members of mine deciding to give veganism a go, I thought I would compile some resources for them to have to ease their transition to this amazing lifestyle!
I was absolutely that person that said phrases like "I could never give up bacon!" "But I love cheese soooo much!" I never thought that one day out of the blue I would make the decision to stop eating animal based foods. My biggest reason for eliminating all of those foods was my health. I've read countless articles a few books that all determine eating a plant based diet is one of the healthiest things you could do for your body. There is no cholesterol to worry about, you will lose weight, ward of diseases, lower blood pressure, plus so much more. But for those who worry that it may not come so easy to them, here is some extra resources to help ease your transition to a plant based diet.

First and foremost, I would recommend doing your research. I'm not the kind of person who jumps in to things blindly, I like having my facts straight and being able to weigh the pros and cons of any decision. Also, as a disclaimer, if you have any major health concerns, always a good idea to consult with your doctor before making any major changes!

Here are several things that I have found useful as a new vegan :) 

Forks Over Knives
Food, Inc.

All of these documentaries primarily focus on the health aspects of veganism, but they do include graphic images regarding the nature of how our food is acquired. If that is part of your concern, I would also suggest watching Earthlings. I couldn't finish it because of how violent it was. I don't need more than a couple of minutes of watching that to know I made the right decision for myself.

Main Street Vegan

 I loved this book because it appealed to your every day person. The author approaches veganism in a way that anyone could relate to, vegan or otherwise.

I have also just started reading "Living Among Meat Eaters: A Vegetarian Survival Guide"

  I thought the title was silly, but it is actually very relevant. I won't lie, sometimes the social aspect of being a vegan can be difficult. Friends start apologizing for eating meat in front of you, family thinks you're totally bananas, people get defensive for no reason because they think you're going to lecture or judge them for their dietary choices. All of this comes along with the territory, unfortunately, so you need to find the best way to answer politely and not become "that vegan".
Here is the description provided by the author's website. 

"An invisible meat eater/vegetarian dynamic exists. Left unacknowledged it traps both groups in social interactions that can be painful and upsetting: conversations that become arguments; interactions that become confrontations; meals that exclude vegetarians; friends who sabotage them; nonvegetarian lovers who alienate them. Living Among Meat Eaters guides vegetarians through these sticky situations with friends, relatives, co-workers, waitstaff, and partners. Whereas meat eaters may be surprised that such a book is necessary, vegetarians will understand immediately. Nothing prepares us for the reactions our vegetarianism prompts from the larger meat-eating culture. Nothing, that is, until now."

However radical they are, have some great resources on their website for your viewing pleasure.

Vegan food and lifestyle bloggers save my life every day when it comes to finding delicious recipes to make that are totally vegan as well as providing other kinds of information and useful tools!
Oh She Glows
The Blonde Vegan 
Logical Harmony

NxtNutrio - Bar code scanner that you can customize to your dietary preferences, and will alert you if the product you scan contains any of the restricted ingredients you choose.

Is It Vegan?  - Similar to NxtNutrio, but not as extensive

VeganFinder - Locates vegan or vegan friendly restaurants near you! (SO handy!)

Cruelty-Free - Extensive list of companies who are cruelty-free 

 Looking at this list, I can see how it could be easy to get overwhelmed with the copious amounts of information your brain needs to process, but my best advice is to take it one day at a time. If you slip up at first, don't beat yourself up! You're learning a completely different lifestyle than one you have led your entire life. Do not get discouraged.

Do not let others influence your decision on way or the other. You're doing this for YOU and only you. However, DO be open and honest with those closest to you about your new adventure, and let them how much their support means to you and your success.

Know that you have OPTIONS! There are TONS of vegan alternatives to everything you love and hold dear. There are vegan alternatives to: cheese, chorizo, chicken, beef, milk, chocolate, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, doughnuts, muffins, pastas, pizzas, and the list goes on forever. That doesn't mean you should eat all of this all the time obviously, though. Focus on eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans.

Finally, if someone offers you a bite of their steak, or your boss brings in doughnuts for the office, just smile and politely say "no, thank you :) "

For my fellow vegans, what helped you make the transition? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, April 11, 2014

10K Training Plan

Back in December last year I ran my first 10K. I was in no way prepared for it because I lacked the discipline to train consistently. I paid for it dearly afterward because I was in so much pain! I decided that I'm ready to give it another go and I signed up for the Mermaid Series 10K scheduled for May 10th.

 I have almost exactly 4 weeks to prepare myself! Thankfully, I haven't totally been slacking since December and have been doing other races and jogging in my free time. It's time to kick myself into gear though and get ready for this upcoming challenge! (PR anyone?!)
Here is my schedule for the next 4 weeks, and I will be posting updates to keep myself accountable.
(Adopted from
Week 1:
Day 1: 30 min cross-train
Day 2: 2 miles easy run
Day 3: rest
Day 4: 2 miles easy run
Day 5: 30 cross-train or rest
Day 6: 3 miles long run
Day 7: 2 miles brisk walk or rest

Week 2:
Day 1: 30 min cross-train
Day 2: 2.5 miles easy run
Day 3: 30 min cross-train or rest
Day 4: 2.5 miles easy run
Day 5: rest
Day 6: 4 miles long run
Day 7: 2 miles brisk walk or rest

Week 3:
Day 1: 30 min cross-train or rest
Day 2: 3 miles easy run
Day 3: 30 min cross-train or rest
Day 4: 3 miles easy run
Day 5: Rest
Day 6: 5 miles long run
Day 7: 2 miles brisk walk or rest

Week 4:
Day 1: 3 miles easy run
Day 2: 30 min cross-train or rest
Day 3: 3 miles easy run
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: 2 miles easy run
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Race day!

What is the best way you have found to prepare for a race? Let me know! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chocolate! Do I Need to Say More?

Hello Blog Universe!

It has been a pretty intense past couple of weeks. Between working two jobs, moving, running a 5K, and unpacking/shopping for the new place I have just been so overwhelmed! Finally we are getting settled and work has calmed down a bit. Last night was my first real night of being able to relax! I made myself and my best friend the Spicy BBQ Chickpea Burgers from Oh She Glows, and we chatted over some wine for a couple of hours. I feel lucky to have so much going on, but it really makes me appreciate what little down time I get! It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of your life, so it is extra important to find a balance and make sure you're taking care of yourself.

One of the ways that I look forward to treating myself with is, of course, chocolate! Not just regular ol' Hershey's milk chocolate either (yuck!) I'm talking about the wonders of cacao: chocolate's purer, healthier relative.  I have always had a major sweet tooth growing up, and throughout my whole journey of getting healthy and weight loss, I never lost it. When I found out that chocolate could be beneficial to your health (in moderation, of course), you know I jumped right on that train. I was able to find healthier ways to satiate my chocolatey cravings with the use of cacao. You can find it at any health food store in a variety of different forms.  By (one) definition cacao is: the dried seeds of a tropical tree that are used to make cocoa and chocolate. In the simplest terms, it is the raw base of what we all refer to as chocolate, before the sweeteners and preservatives are added.

In this form and in the minimally processed forms like certain dark chocolates, cacao provides a number of health benefits. I found this great little chart that explains it pretty well!

Now you're absolutely craving some yummy chocolatey goodness, aren't you?! I honestly add cacao nibs to a ton of things like as a topping on a smoothie, sprinkled on top of my waffle in the morning, mixed in with yogurt, the list goes on. Luckily for you, I've also found and tested some pretty amazing (and healthy!) recipes to curb my craving and provide me with all of these wonderful benefits.

Chocolate Chia Seed Superfood Pudding - Gluten-free and Vegan
serves 2 from Free People Blog
1 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (like almond or coconut)
1/4 cup chia seeds
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
Dash of pink Himalayan sea salt
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup or raw honey
Dark Chocolate shavings for garnish

Add all of the ingredients to a large glass jar with a lid, give it a quick stir, then put the lid on. Shake it like crazy to mix it all up. Refrigerate until very thick and pudding-like, at least 4 hours or overnight, shaking or stirring occasionally. Serve the pudding chilled with whatever topping you’d like.

100% Raw, Clean, Guilt-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
recipe courtesy of The Blonde Vegan 
Serves 9-12 (depending on how big you make them)
Peanut Butter Portion:
-       ½ cup natural peanut butter
-       ½ cup natural almond butter (you can also do 1 cup of one or the other)
-       1 tbsp organic agave syrup (may substitute with maple syrup or honey)
-       2 tbsp organic coconut oil (melted)
Chocolate Portion:
-       ½ cup cacao powder
-       1 tbsp organic agave syrup
-       1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
-       ¼ cup organic vegan chocolate chips
  1. Whip out your trusty muffin trays, and if you don’t have them, buy them, because they come in handy for just about every yummy treat.
  2. Combine the nut butters, coconut oil and agave syrup in a bowl and stir until the ingredients are well mixed.
  3. Place a spoonful of the mixture into each muffin cup until you have used it all.
  4. Place in the freezer until hardened. Now time to start on the chocolate portion!
  5. Combine the cacao powder, coconut oil, agave and chocolate chips in a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  6. Place a spoonful of the chocolate mixture over the hardened peanut butter mixture.
  7. Pop them back into the freezer and harden. Now comes the hard part – wait until they are hard so you can nom on those puppies!

Both of those recipes are certified delicious, and boyfriend approved. Just try typing in "cacao" on Pinterest, and you'll see how diverse this amazing superfood can be!

What recipes using cacao have you tried and loved?