Would Amanda Eat It? – Double Dose Edition

Oh yes, my friends – even on a short holiday week, we here (ok, me here) at TFB know you have to get your weekly dose of Would Amanda Eat It?  And in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to give you a second helping of information – two foods for thought!

First up: KIND bars.  I feel like these things are ubiquitous these days; I get them in every race goodie bag, I see them in the hands of kids at the mall; I watch yogis pop them open after class.  So what’s the appeal?

There are a plethora of KIND bars/products out there, so for the purpose of this entry, I’m going to focus only on the one I see the most – the bar – in the flavor Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond.

The good:

  • I can pronounce every ingredient in the bar, and sugar doesn’t come in until #3
  • Fiber is sky-high (7g)
  • Protein is decent (6g, though for 200 calories you could get nearly 50g, to put it in perspective)

The bad:

  • The ingredients include three (!) types of sugar – sugar, honey, and non-GMO glucose
  • The bar contains palm kernel oil, which is basically condensed saturated fat, in addition to cocoa butter, which is another form of saturated fat
  • 5g sugar doesn’t seem like a lot compared to, say, a Snickers bar – but consider that you’re only supposed to have 40g (MAX) added sugar in a day, and 5g isn’t fabulous

The verdict:

  • Sorry, KIND.  I have yet to find a processed food bar (i.e. one I didn’t make myself) that I would eat or recommend to clients.  The calories, sugar and saturated fat are too high to provide such a low amount of protein, and let’s be honest – you’ll be hungry 2 hours later (if that).  Try making your own bars for a whole food alternative – and save some money to boot!

Up next – round two – one my clients claims her daughter loves this product but was wondering about my take on its contents.  Consider next Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Cake:

You may have seen them in Whole Foods or Sprouts and wondered hmmm – are these really a decent alternative to potato pancakes and/or grain sides?  Here’s my take.

The good:

  • The first three ingredients are all actual whole foods (spinach, potatoes, onion)
  • There’s no saturated fat and only 80 calories in the whole cake
  • 3g of protein is actually not bad for something primarily made of vegetables

The bad:

  • A little higher in sodium than I’d prefer – 160mg for one cake (though not terrible)
  • A cup of actual spinach has 56% of your daily Vitamin A; this little cake only has 20% – so it makes you wonder how much spinach is actually in it
  • It contains canola oil, which isn’t the healthiest oil (by a long shot)

The verdict:

  • Heck yes I’d eat these – and I’d recommend them to moms struggling to sneak veggies into their kids’ diets.  They come in other varieties (though, beware – not all as awesomely healthy as the Spinach Cakes) and are made with whole, clean ingredients and minimal additives.  A definite win in the “creative veggies” department – though they’ll never replace a good old-fashioned spinach salad. 😉

That’s it for this week folks – leave a comment or visit my Facebook page to make your request for next week’s Would Amanda Eat It?

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Sunday Special: On My Radar

I swear my brain is programmed to desire shopping more during the holiday season.  We’ve been indoctrinated from a young age that the holidays are for gift-giving, and with Black Friday less than a week away, my urge to shop is rising.  And I’ve been giving in.

Case in point?  This weekend brought mini-splurges at the Bella + Canvas sample sale, a friend’s Chloe + Isabel show, and even Bed, Bath & Beyond (where I found this amazing hashtag light-up sign for the wedding!).  Sigh.  Who am I to fight the power of the season?

That said, I haven’t done an On My Radar post in a while, so here we go – a special holiday edition of OMR – perhaps more like a Dear Santa?  Enjoy!

Is there anything more calming than the scent of chamomile?  I was recently tipped off to an amazing eye makeup remover that smells of it, and I am now obsessed with slowly making every scent in my bathroom include some hint of chamomile (even better: with honey!) by the end of the year.  Come to find out – the Body Shop has a whole line of the stuff, in varying levels of intensity.  Just say ahhhh…..

I’ve gotten so used to my old, stinky, black gym backpack that I forget there are actual cute, stylish options out there.  This one is deceptively glam, with a Birkin-bag look and amazing functionality (yes, it actually holds a water bottle, gym clothes, and shoes in there!).  I have no idea how much shipping would be as this one’s only available across the pond, but dang, is it nice to look at.

I’ve been really hooked on this metallic teal eyeliner I’ve been wearing lately, and it’s got me thinking: what other colored eyeliners would really pop?  Cue the Dior Addict-It liquid eyeliner in hot pink – I am pretty sure I need it, whether I layer it with black (the subtle way) or lay it on thick across my eyelids (the Manda way, let’s be honest).  I found it once at Sephora but haven’t seen it again since, and I fear it will be discontinued before I actually get up the courage to bite the bullet.

Of course I love jewelry – my favorite mug (given to me by a dear friend) reads, “Accessories are Necessities” – and it’s true!  But what I don’t have is the perfect simple-yet-statement necklace that is versatile (gold-plate goes with everything!) but creative enough to actually make a statement – oh, and did I mention it’s cheap to boot?  This is a total find and would be adorable for any world traveler – or those with world traveling aspirations.

If any of you out there reading are my personal training clients, you know I love me some Bosu.  The Bosu (which for the rest of you is that weird half-ball thing you see floating around gym floors) comes in one color: blue.  That is, until recently.  They introduced a beautiful hot pink one (priced almost 50% higher than the original, natch) to raise money for breast cancer research and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it.  Who wants a plain ol’ blue Bosu when you can have PINK?!?!  I mean, come on.

I just realized that pretty much everything I’ve posted here is either a beauty or fitness product (what does this tell you about my life?).  Let’s break the mold here with something really wild – home decor!  Ok, maybe not so wild.  And I just realized that I already have the map theme established with the necklace above – but whatever, I love maps.  And this Cost Plus 6-Canvas Map Set is such a cool way to display a map in your home without looking cheesy or overdone.  I can totally see it on the massive white expanse that is our living room wall.

And finally – the piece de resistance – even though I just bought two amazing pairs of sneakers from the Adidas outlet sale, I can’t get my mind off the sweet sweet kicks that are Nike Flyknit Free 3.0.  They just look so dang light and socklike, yet still functional and appropriate for both work and looking awesome on the street.  One day I will have you, my pretties (and hey – they’ve already marked down from $140 to $99, so anything can happen).

That’s my Christmas list in progress, guys, but I’d love to hear what you’re looking for this holiday season!

What’s on your Dear Santa list?  What can’t wait for Christmas – i.e. what’s on your Black Friday list?

Weekend Roundup

The weekend is here – hurrah! – so before I head off to run errand after errand, I wanted to check in with you readers about some of my favorite things going around the internet this week:

STOP – before you go on living, behold the new Beyonce video.  It’s absolutely amaze.

Sometimes you want a little beauty luxury, but your pocketbook says no go.  These cheapy treats make it possible.

I am obsessed with texture in decorating.  These ideas make it look cool and not cheesy.

I don’t typically wear calf compression sleeves when I run – but I could start.

Oops, I just went double-Yonce on this b*tch.  But this other new video sparks a little controversy and I like the beat to boot.

There are ways to have a “healthier” Thanksgiving – but starving yourself and using low-fat products aren’t it.

Can’t we all use a new, super-tasty green juice recipe?

Want to get massively depressed about life?  This student loan calculator breaks down how long it’ll take you to pay back your loans – based on your major.

What’s buzzing in your corner of the internet world?  Share in comments!

Five (Healthy) Things I Worry About – And Five I Don’t

After writing Wednesday’s post about the whole skinny vs. fat debate, I started having thoughts about some of the other things in my life that either a) drive me bananas, or b) I let completely go in favor of peace and serenity.

Unfortunately, the former list is longer, but still I try to maintain that there are some things in a healthy life that are worth the trouble – but many that just aren’t crucial enough to sacrifice even short-term happiness.  Like what, you ask?

(HEALTH/FITNESS RELATED) THINGS I WORRY ABOUT

5) Getting enough sleep.  If I don’t get six-and-a-half hours of sleep, I’m a monster.  I forget things.  I’m cranky.  All I can think about is when I can sleep again.  I’m starving.  It’s like the worst possible version of myself, all because I didn’t sleep well. I make it a huge priority in my life to sleep early, sleep well, and sleep often.

4) Getting my sweat on.  In addition to the above, I make sure to exercise six out of the seven days of the week (see below).  Exercising is a non-negotiable in my life; even if I am the aforementioned sleep-deprived monster, I can always make myself feel better with a workout – and I truly believe in the now-cheesy line that “exercise is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant.”

3) Getting my rest on.  Just as sacred as my workouts are my rest days.  I plan my rest day ahead of time, treating it like a special event that I look forward to all week.  On rest days, I get massages, take long baths, lay supine on the couch, and just chill.  My body thanks me for it, and the workouts on the day after rest days are always the best ones.

2) Eating enough vegetables.  Rather than count calories, I worry more about nutrient balance (my “macros,” if you will) and how to get the 7-9 recommended servings of produce into my life.  If I am eating vegetables, I am well – my body functions efficiently, my sleep is better, my skin looks amazing, and yes – I poop.  If I am not, it all goes to pot – starting usually with a breakout and ending with weight gain.  Boo.  Veggies 4 life.

1) Staying lean.  Don’t get it twisted – this is definitely not a skinny thing.  I keep my body fat under 20 percent because that is where I feel my best – my most powerful, my most fit, and my most attractive.  My clothes look their best.  My abs look their flattest.  When I am lean, I can see my muscles and muscles make me happy.  I couldn’t give half a crap about the number on the scale (again, see below) but I monitor my body fat like a doctor.

(NOT AS HEALTH/FITNESS RELATED) THINGS I DON’T WORRY ABOUT

5) Body weight.  I am a person with a “medically normal” body weight and BMI (if you aren’t sure where you fall, check out this easy calculator), and I don’t stress over the scale.  If your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, resting heart rate, and glucose levels are in order, you shouldn’t either.  Body weight is a relatively useless measure for healthy people; rather, check your body fat percentage, get a blood panel, or simply try running a mile to check on your actual health markers.  It’s liberating to step away from the scale and find out which numbers actually mean something for your overall health.

4) Being perfect.  If you know me, you know I like beer.  Beer and fine food.  Ok, beer and fine food and the occasional bowl of ice cream.  But what I mean by not caring about perfection is that I don’t strive for it – I know that I will eventually order a pizza, or cave in to a fro-yo craving, or eat to explosion on Thanksgiving – and I have already forgiven myself for it.  No person is truly healthy that eats and behaves like an ascetic 100% of the time; I’d rather live my life than wonder what it might feel like.  So I do.  And I’m happy.

3) Getting older.  Especially in L.A., there is a horrible stigma attached to getting older.  Not only the apperance of age; no, people here freak out about the absolutely normal signs of aging (OMG!  my knees crack when I wake up!) and outright refuse to acknowledge either a) their harmlessness or b) their inevitability.  I’m 31, and so far, each year has been better than the last.  I look forward to each and every birthday because I am so confident that the years ahead will bring even greater gifts – I don’t even have kids yet! -and I really do believe that with age comes wisdom – and we could all use more of that.

2) Other people.  As my absolute favorite meme of all time reads, haters gonna hate.  I’ve had people tell me I am too muscular (shoot me), too fat (nope), too tall (hmm, maybe they’re too short?), too happy (seriously!), too smart for my own good (what, exactly, is the good in being dumb?), and too “into” fitness (hi, it’s my job).  And to each and every one of them, I have a four-letter word for the level of interest I have in those critiques.  Live your life, make yourself happy, never harm other people, and do your best.  It works.

1) Money.  Of course I care about money – it makes the world go ’round, right?  But unlike some people, I don’t let it rule my life, make my choices, or most of all, determine my worth.  I am lucky enough to have a fantastic job where I call the shots, I control how much income I make versus how much time I work, and I actually love what I do. The sacrifices I would have to make in the face of cold, hard cash just don’t justify losing the happiness, security, balance, and passion that I have now.  So I do the best with what I earn and remind myself, when the wallet gets thin, that what I have going in my life is all the stuff money can’t buy – and I will never be poor because of it.

What do you worry about?  What things have you learned to just let go?

The Skinny on Fat

Let’s have a chat.  A chat about fat.

All day long, I hear (primarily) women (though also some men) go on and on about being fat.  “I’m fat,” they’ll say, and they’ll point to someone across the gym, “and look at her, she’s so skinny.”  Then, almost like clockwork, she’ll sigh and say:

“I just wish I was skinny.”

There are so many things about this statement that drive me nuts, as a trainer of course, but also as a woman and as a health professional.  The (wrongheaded) idea that thin is in and fat is bad is so deeply ingrained in our culture that I don’t know if we (again, as health professionals but also human beings living in a reasonable society) will ever be able to fully reverse the black-and-white nature of that message.

But today, I’ll try.

Let’s start with the idea of fat.  What does it mean to be fat?  For a lot of women, especially women in L.A., being fat means having anything more than the medically necessary bone and skin layer to sustain life.  I’m not joking.  It does not matter if the “skinny” person in question is bone-thin, greying under the eyes, losing her hair, yellow of tooth, and bent-over in a pre-osteoporotic hunch – if she’s thin, she’s idolized.  That’s it.

I have a client that is a dead-honest size zero who has pinched some part of her skin in front of me, and claimed that she, indeed, is fat.  A strong, fit client of mine that can bench press over 100 pounds and leg press over 400 has a BMI that is above the normal range, which makes her “fat” by certain standards.  One client of mine was a full eight months pregnant (!) and honestly lamenting the fact that she had “gotten fat.”

I am not having this.  Any of this.

What matters to your overall health, and what should matter to your overall psyche, is not some weird, ambiguous definition of fat – or skinny, for that matter.  What matters is that you have a strong body composition – i.e. ratio of fat to muscle – and that you attain and maintain that composition in a healthy way (i.e. no starvation diets, cleanses, hypergymnasia, orthorexia, or any of those other “health trends” that are actually mental-health problems in disguise).

Moreover, being skinny in and of itself is not something to be idolized unless it is the naturally occurring shape of a body that is also muscular, well-fed, calcium-rich (since the thinner you are, the more at-risk you are for osteoporosis), and happy.  Nothing drives me crazier in the gym than seeing someone who is conventionally “skinny” listlessly working out on the elliptical for 20 minutes, hitting that weird and pointless abductor machine for a hot second, and then maybe throwing in a few crunches for good measure – all the while not being able to do a single bodyweight push-up, pull-up, or run a single mile.

Being healthy isn’t something that can be discerned from observing someone’s weight or body type – in fact, people who are overweight (BMI 25-30) actually have longer lifespans than people who are normal weight (and much longer than the obese or underweight).  And don’t even get me started on skinny-fat (people whose BMI is in a normal range, but whose body fat is dangerously and unhealthily high).

What, then, does it mean to be skinny?  First of all, I reject the word skinny.  In my opinion, It’s not a compliment for women who work out – it simply means you aren’t building visible muscle, and you just look weak.  If you’re trying to describe someone’s body type in a positive way, let’s be more accurate.  How about good old-fashioned thin? Better yet, fit?  Can I get a muscular?  Lean?  Healthy?  Strong?

Or how about we stop commenting on the shape of women’s bodies entirely?

I always tell my clients to focus less on numbers on a scale (although numbers from a body fat read can definitely be helpful – for more on how to do that, click here) and more on how they feel after we’ve been training together.  Do you feel more powerful when you work out?  Do you sleep better when you’re exercising?  Do you have more energy when you eat clean foods?  Do you love yourself more when you take care of your body?

If the answers to the above questions are yes – maybe the numbers on the scale and/or the labels you slap on your own body don’t matter so much anymore.

What terms do you use to describe yourself – and your body – to others?  

Would Amanda Eat It?

Welcome back to my brand-new Tuesday blog feature: would Amanda eat it?

The idea is this: you submit a photo of / link to a food product you’re unsure about health-wise, and I will give it an honest assessment of whether or not I would include this food in my own diet.

Caveat: I am not here to dismiss and/or judge whether something is healthy or not; usually a quick look at the label can do that for you.  I just want to give you the pros and cons of a given food and let you know if it would have a place in my lifestyle mantra – which is, in case you missed it – healthy living with a side of indulgence.

Without further ado, this week’s contender – Dave’s Killer Bread.

The good:

  • Dave’s is a fully certified organic, GMO-free bread with no artificial flavors, colors, or additives, which means you can feed it to children without feeling like you’re poisioning them
  • Speaking of children, they may actually eat this healthy bread, because the texture and taste are very similar to “normal” bread (though there is still not a “white” option)
  • No matter what, you’ll find a variety you like – they have everything from rye to sprouted to honey wheat – and thin-sliced options too if you’re really watching calories and carbs
  • Dave’s has a lot of protein (for bread) – up to 6 grams per slice in some varieties – and a good amount of fiber, too (5-6 grams per slice)

The bad:

  • I can’t help but compare Dave’s to my preferred/recommended bread, Ezekiel Low-Sodium.  Whereas ELS has ZERO milligrams of sodium OR sugar per 80-calorie slice, Dave’s breads have between 100-160 milligrams of sodium and 3-5 grams sugar per 110-calorie slice
  • Most of Dave’s breads contain sugar (honey) and flour, two ingredients that most of us don’t need any more of
  • Bread is, of course, still a huge source of carbs – 21-23g per (non-sprouted) slice for Dave’s, and in my macros, that’s too “carb-expensive” (ELS, by the way, has only 15g per slice).

The verdict:

  • If I was at, say, a family cookout, and the choices were Wonder Bread, hamburger buns, and Dave’s Killer Bread – it’s a no brainer – Amanda would eat it!
  • But in my home, when I’m doing the shopping, we choose Ezekiel Low-Sodium Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, which I still believe is the healthier choice overall

Would you eat Dave’s Killer bread?  Why or why not?

Short & Sweet: Reader Poll

There are days when I have both the time and the inspiration to write a great blog post. There are days where I have one or the other and I make do.

Then there are days when I have neither.

So tonight, I am giving myself a free pass on writing about macros, body fat, kettlebells, organizing, fashion, and/or all of the other scintillating topics featured on this blog to ask a simple question:

Does anyone have a great recommendation for a fitness/gym backpack?

Not a bag, mind you – a literal backpack, something I can wear on my back and walk far distances (keeping in mind I walk about 10 miles per day and need something comfortable, padded straps would be great) while hauling such items as Spin shoes, clean AND dirty gym clothing, a large clipboard, and at times up to two water bottles.

This is not UNlike my current stinky bag.

And can I even ask that it be kind of cute?

Right now I am carrying a black backpack that, while functional, is starting to fall apart, smells like feet, has been soaked through by water and other liquids at least thrice, and would only appear stylish to a teenage skater boi and/or his emo girlfriend.  So help me.

My price point is “open” right now – because fitness is my full-time job, I’d be open to spending more money on a really nice/adorable bag, but I’d rather keep it in the under-$100 range if possible.  So help me out here, people:

Please leave me a comment, Facebook comment, or #instagram tag of a fitness backpack you love!

Sunday Special: Building a Home Gym on a Budget

Very nice condo gym

As many of you know, I am an independent personal trainer.  What that entails is this – I work in various locations, ranging from actual gyms (where I “rent” the gym space for hour-long intervals) to people’s home gyms (think shared condo spaces) to outdoor parks and private backyards.

Because of my diverse client needs, I carry a lot of fitness stuff in the trunk of my car.  Like, a lot.  At any given time, I am hauling:

  • three kettlebells
  • two sets of dumbbells
  • a Perfect Pushup set
  • two jump ropes
  • various resistance bands
  • a medicine ball
  • two yoga mats
  • ankle weights
  • boxing gloves & pads

Let’s not even get into my gas mileage when it comes to driving all this equipment around Los Angeles.  But that said, given the large amount of stuff I bring all over town, I had a client ask me the other day which items I find essential – what I would recommend for building her own home gym – on a budget.

What a fantastic challenge.

First, make sure you have a designated space to set up and store items for your home gym.  Whether it’s just a nice, flat piece of pavement and a Rubbermaid box or a garage with some shelves, you want to feel like your home gym is a separate, contained space – not an afterthought or just another mess to worry about.

Next, I suggest finding a bencha sturdy, padded bench, 18-20″ high, adjustable if possible (but flat works, too).  This will run you between $100-200 (more if you want bells and whistles) and can also be found all over Craigslist with a simple search for “weight bench.”

Myofascial release is the best release

Equally important is a mat for your floor work (and for stance stability, if you need it) – but all you really need here is a yoga mat, unless you want to go all-in with a gym-quality mat or rubberized interlocking tile.  If you tend to get tight muscles (and honestly, who doesn’t?) I recommend keeping a foam roller nearby your mat as well.

Once you’ve got your mat and bench, you can build around it with resistance.  Think about your intended results – are you trying to build muscle (heavier weights)?  Maintain flexibility or work on range of motion (resistance bands)?  Lean out (lighter weights)?  Work on balance and strength simultaneously (resistance trainer like TRX)?  Dominate your workout with a combination of strength and cardio training (kettlebells)?

Whatever your primary goal, make sure you purchase the resistance equipment to match it – and then add on from there once you’re progressed.  For most, dumbbells are the cheapest and most convenient option – I recommend purchasing three pairs in increasing weights (for women; 5, 8, and 12 pounds; for men; 10, 15, and 20 pounds).

Next, consider your cardio.  This is where your lifestyle and fitness goals really come into play.  Are you a runner?  Skip the treadmill and head outdoors – it’s free, better training, and the variable terrain gives you limitless workout options.  Need to be home while the kids are napping?  Consider investing in a single cardio machine, such as a rower (my personal pick), treadclimber, or stairmill, and commit to using it regularly.

Jump for joy…and pain

Can’t commit (or afford a large machine)?  Then consider a cheaper – and more portable! – option: the jump rope.  I am always encouraging clients to “rediscover” the jump rope of their youth because it’s cheap, goes anywhere with you, burns more calories per minute than running, and has tons of variations to keep you progressing and getting more fit.

If you have all of the above on hand, you’ve got yourself a pretty decent home gym – and any trainer you work with will be able to guide you through safe and effective workouts with just those items.

Of course, there’s always the “extras” – the luxury upgrades, if you will (hey, Christmas is coming, right?). In my dream home gym, I’d also recommend the following add-ons:

Pinchy pinch

Oh yeah – one more thing.  If you are truly committed to home fitness and want to make sure you’re making measurable progress, invest in a decent home scale and a pair of body fat calipers.  This way you will know exactly where you stand fitness-wise and can easily keep track of your goals and make adjustments to your program on a regular basis.

Do you work out at home?  What are the must-haves in your home gym?

Weekend Roundup

Ah, early Saturday mornings – a cup of coffee from my new Keurig 2.0, the sound of the fiance snoring soundly, and a solid cloud cover to settle my mind form a busy week.

But before I head off to Detox/Retox (a running/yoga/beer-drinking hybrid class), it’s time for me to share what I’ve been looking at this week:

They’re not healthy or anything, but these four-ingredient cookies are endlessly customizable – which makes them endlessly tempting.

It actually rained for one second in L.A. this week!  So of course I feel justified in breaking out the rain-related running posts.

If you aren’t an outlet mall shopper, you’re missing out.  Here’s how to up your game to outlet mall NINJA.

My new mommies out there are always looking for ways to flatten out the “baby pooch” of the lower abdomen – this print & go guide is a good place to start.

If I wasn’t so lazy sometimes, I’d do a Fashion Fitness Friday myself on TFB.  Until then, here’s a dose from The Fitnessista.

Listen, I love healthy eating as much or more as the next guy.  But seriously – nutrition is NOT a religion.

What are you guys looking at / reading / watching this week?