Weekend Roundup

Ah, what a week.  My wedding is two weeks from today.  As in, TWO WEEKS.  So please cut me some slack on the frequency of posts – believe me, I’m trying.

What’s happening this week around the web?  Let’s check it:

I cannot tell you how many of my clients request workouts to pop dat booty.  So here’s a month of ’em.

I wish L.A. still looked like this.  In my mind it does.

A “V-steam” is exactly what you think it might be.  And it sounds painful to me.

Almost as annoying as having to be “skinny yet muscular” is the plus-size ideal of having to be “slim yet curvy.”  How is anyone IRL supposed to figure it out?

Apparently you can run on a treadmill without dying of boredom.  I mean, I won’t ever try it, but hey, go for it, readers.

Looking at NFL players’ weddings is somehow calming for me this week.

Awesome, simple tips from a celeb stylist that you can actually apply to your real life.

And finally, the definitive list of leggings brands that don’t let your butt crack see the (stretched-out) light of day.

What are you guys reading and talking about?  As always, I love a good link share!

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Where Do You Shop & What Do You Eat?

I showed up to a private client’s home today and after a few minutes of punches and kicks (yep, we were boxing), she stopped dead and asked me:

“Where do you shop and what do you eat?”

It was an honest, if charged, question – and it made me think.  Where do I really shop? oatmealshop What do I really eat?  What am I willing to disclose about both of these habits (and yes, I definitely consider shopping for exercise clothes a “habit” of mine)?

I mean, you think it would be simple enough to answer – but it got me thinking about what I consider my “staples” – both of fashion and food – and I wanted to share them with you, my faithful readers, should the rest of you have the same questions.

If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars), I’d probably shop 99% of the time at lululemon*.  Let’s be honest – their pants do for your legs and buns what the Wonderbra did for boobs in the 1980s, and their prints, cuts, and styles are at the absolute forefront of fit fashion.  I have a great deal of lulu stuff, mostly pants, although I have been known to splurge on the occasional jacket, built-in bra top, and headband.

That said, I am not in fact a millionaire, and so I do about 40-50% of my activewear shopping at Old Navy.  Whereas many women my age used to scoff at Old Navy, convinced their clothes were shapeless and low quality, I have turned many of the former haters onto the “dark side” of amazing savings and high-quality workout clothes at the O-Nave.  If you haven’t poked around their site in a while, it’s worth your time – and believe me, the sales and prices you can get are unmatched anywhere else (even Target).

Speaking of Target, I put them in my “filler” category – meaning if I can’t get a quality lifetime staple from lululemon or a low-cost trendy piece from Old Navy, I “fill in” my wardrobe with stuff from Target C9, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, Lucy, Under Armour, NIKE, Adidas, and even the occasional Puma.

Lest we neglect some of the cutest workout wear out there, I used to be a subscriber to both Fabletics (Kate Hudson’s apparel company) and Ellie, two of the best sources for new, creatively-designed active apparel.  I couldn’t sustain the monthly memberships to these fine resources, but rest assured that they are awesome and really well-made.

And now, onward to food.  What does a typical day of eating look like for me?

Well, I start almost every day with eggs or egg whites – hard-boiled if I’m on the run, scrambled in the microwave if I get a spare second.  If I know I have a long stretch of work ahead (i.e. like yesterday, where I went 6am-noon straight with no breaks), I’ll have a big bowl of oatmeal with a banana, flaxseed, cinnamon, and peanut butter stirred in to make sure I have the energy to get through.  Sometimes I do Bulletproof coffee but I can’t say I’m religious about it.

Once it’s time for a snack, I go for one of three combinations – an apple/pear with cashew butter, pitted Medjool dates with peanut butter, or 2% plain Greek yogurt with a Quest bar crumbled in.  These high-fat or high-protein snacks keep me going through the midday since I rarely have a proper “lunchtime,” so to speak.

If I do get to sit down and enjoy a lunch, it’s usually leftovers (whatever I made the night prior) or a salad of arugula, tuna, goat cheese, chopped apple, and walnuts, tossed in olive oil and lemon juice.  Again, real “meals” at lunch for me are rare.

For dinner, if you guys follow my Instagram you know it’s coming three nights a week from Blue Apron!  I love cooking with new, fresh ingredients and getting new ideas for healthy and tasty meals, so I’m a devotee there.  But I almost always cook for dinner – rarely does a night go by when we do “lazy dinner” (canned tuna, chili, or pasta) – I make it a point to cook fresh meals for myself and my fiance, and I think it’s a crucial part of our commitment to health and wellness in our own home.

But wait – doesn’t she ever have a sweet treat?  Yes, of course – but I only keep dark, dark chocolate in my house.  I used to keep ice cream, cookies, or other “indulgent” treats and promise myself I could portion them out appropriately – but after hundreds (thousands?) of failures to do just that, I gave up – and I don’t allow those foods in my home anymore.  I can control myself around a square of dark chocolate; I can’t around a creamy pint of Chunky Monkey – so I “block” myself from bringing it in the house.

Where do you shop (for activewear) – and what do you eat regularly?  Tell me

*you should know that during the writing of this post I actually went over to the lululemon website and purchased a jacket and pants.  #addict

Would Amanda Eat It? Simply 7 Hummus Chips

Ah, chips.  Bane of my existence.  Love of my life.  What’s better when you’re hungry than a crunchy, salty, satisfying chip?

…which is exactly why I can’t keep them in my house.

I haven’t kept chips in the house (save in the few hours DIRECTLY before hosting a party) in years, but when my parents recently visited and left half a bag of tortilla chips, you better bet those little triangles of pure (carb-y) joy were gobbled with whatever dip/sauce/cheese I could get my hands on.  And I was ashamed.

My point is, chips are addictive.

Enter Simply 7 Hummus Chips.  They come in four varieties (sea salt, red pepper, spicy pepper, and tomato basil) and are billed as “a richer snacking experience” compared to hummus in its non-chip, basic b*tch form.

Let’s have a deeper look-see into these bad boys (the sea salt version, at least).

The good:

  • the website will list off the great points of the chip straight away – they’re GF (gluten-free, for those of you living under a rock), non-GMO, preservative-free, and contain no artificial flavors – not too bad from a “real food” point of view
  • you get a full 30 (admittedly tiny) chips for only 130 calories, which feels like a solid snack
  • they’re super low sugar (only 2g per serve)

The bad:

  • besides being low in sugar, they’re also low in fiber (like, none) and protein (2g) – so don’t be fooled, these guys are still a refined carbohydrate serving tied up with a prettier bow
  • the sodium is too high for my liking – 290g per serving would buy a one-way ticket to Bloatville for me (but I keep a very low-sodium diet, under 1400mg daily)
  • chickpea flour, potato starch, and rice – again, these are not a low-carb snack.

The verdict (and the alternative!):

  • yeah, I’d have them as a “sometimes” snack (and they’d make a great snack for kids!).  Granted, per the above, I could not have these in my house for fear of eating the whole bag in one sitting (which I would easily do, especially with the flavored kind), but if I were asked to bring “chips and dip” to a party I’d surely bring this with a Greek yogurt dip or similar to up the protein content of the whole snack.
  • alternatively, if you need a chip fix but can’t spare the carbs, have you guys tried making kale chips yet?  Skip the weird superdry versions you get in the store; a batch of really hearty kale makes for a delicious chip (and you CAN eat the whole batch!) with no guilt (or sodium bloat) to worry about.

Are you guys shameless chip addicts like me?  What quells your crunch cravings?

Reflections on The Biggest Loser “Tell-All”

I know, I know – I should be using today to issue a full review of the SAG awards red carpet.  And believe me, that post is coming!  But for now, something that’s been on my mind since it was posted (and re-posted, and re-posted…) on my wall a couple weeks ago.

As some of you know, I love the TV reality competition show The Biggest Loser.  Caveat: I’m not saying the show is perfect, or realistic, or a model I use for my own training career, or anything of that sort.

I am just saying I am a fan, I watch the program, and I have watched every episode since Season 2 (cut me a break, I didn’t have a proper TV when Season 1 aired).

Lately, there’s been all this hubbub about the “extreme” methods used to lose weight on the show and the “fat shaming” aspect of the entire franchise.  Former contestants are claiming “abuse” and noting that they’re all “fat again anyway.”

So what do I think of it all?  Well, some of it’s bullshit, and some of it isn’t.  

Here’s what’s bullshit:

  • the “only things eaten” are foods sponsored by the show.  Not true.  What IS true is that they have to demonstrate ways to cook with the sponsors’ food, which is why you see so many Jennie-O turkey tacos on the show.  But the kitchens on the ranch are stocked with healthy, whole, real foods – not just sponsored products – and contestants learn to cook for themselves (there are no chefs/cooks at the ranch).
  • the trainers get pleasure from watching clients suffer.  This is offensive.  Personal trainers are health professionals that use a variety of tactics to help clients push through their self-imposed boundaries – tactics that vary by trainer, but are never intended to humiliate, hurt, or shame clients.  Reminding a client that she is susceptible to severe health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome is not “shaming” – it’s being upfront and realistic, which many of these folks aren’t getting from their enablers back home.
  • the contestants are “forced” to work out too much.  I work out about two hours a day (granted, because of my job) and I am not even overweight.  The contestants work out 4-6 hours per day, primarily walking or low-impact cardio like swimming, and learn to build a schedule that is consistent and well-balanced and includes weight training, high-intensity intervals, and stretching.  Sure, 4-6 hours daily is not sustainable in the long run – but as a kickstart tactic to lose weight over a period of five months, it is completely reasonable and manageable.
  • the contestants don’t address the underlying issues surrounding their weight.  All the contestants attend therapy sessions in addition to their workout sessions to help them get a grip on both their personal problems and the stress and fatigue of being on a show like BL.  I’m not saying they leave the ranch with their problems solved (and the “competition” part of the show means each contestant’s journey ends somewhat abruptly anyway), but it’s not like they’re being brought there, yelled at, and left for dead.

On the other hand, here’s what I think is questionable and/or not so great about the show:

  • you rarely see the contestants cook or eat.  I think it’s important to watch these people prepare and consume their own food, so those watching at home can get a sense of what truly clean eating (NO processed food, NO carbs outside of fruit and veggies, NO alcohol, LOTS of protein on the plate) actually looks like – and what portions look like, both in the beginning and toward the end when their weight starts to stabilize and their muscle mass is significantly higher.
  • many of the contestants DO gain the weight back.  Why?  The same reason any of us would – there’s not $250,000 riding on your success anymore.  There are a lot of habits I could form (or break) in the short-term if someone was going to pay me for them – but true success comes from a lifetime of moderation, which many of the people on the show aren’t prepared for when the dollar signs aren’t backing them.  Again, are they bad people for it?  Nope.  Is the show bad to offer them money?  Nope.  But a paradigm shift and a lifestyle change is harder than it seems, and lots of people (on Biggest Loser and in real life) aren’t up for the challenge.
  • the level of exercise necessary to achieve fast results is not realistic.  Read this clearly: I am not saying that the methods to lose weight on the show are bad, I am saying they’re not sustainable.  No one has time to work out 4-6 hours per day, sure.  But that’s why this is a TV competition show and not a documentary series.  The thrill is in the results; the challenge is in maintaining them on a smaller scale with 1-2 hours of exercise per day and a consistently clean, well-portioned diet.

To the writers at Jezebel (should you be checking out small-time bloggers like myself) or the producers at The Biggest Loser (should you be looking for new trainer talent), I am not saying either one of you is entirely correct nor entirely blameless.  Weight loss is a sensitive, multifaceted issue, and one that tends to polarize even otherwise calm people.

But what I will not stand behind is criticism of the overarching concept of The Biggest Loser, which is that if you work out (intensely, consistently, and with a professional) and eat right (clean, low-sugar-and-sodium, with a focus on lean protein and vegetables), you will lose weight.  That’s the message that more people need to hear, and it’s the only one that will get Americans to reverse the pattern of sedentary behavior and processed junk food diets that have gotten us to the obesity epidemic we have today.

*drops the mic*

Do you watch The Biggest Loser or weight loss competition shows?  Why or why not?

Weekend Roundup

So I’ve just had to reason with myself about the amount of finite time there is in a day – and sometimes, I just need sleep in that last half hour of the day (sorry, loyal readers).

That said, I want to make sure I’m staying current with what’s going on around the internet world, too, so I put together this quickie little roundup to holler at the awesome and useful things you guys might want to read until I’m back up and running at full capacity.

You can now shop Spring 2015 trends according to your astrological sign (spoiler: mine’s a jumpsuit, and I love it!).

I go through about a jar of (natural unsalted) peanut butter per week.  I think I’m going to need to up that to two jars.

Do you exercise on an empty stomach?  If your diet is, shall we say, inconsistent, it may be the way to go.

Running and walking at night can be terrifying, but for some of us, it’s a must-do.  This stuff can help you stay safer as you run into the wild dark beyond.

If you don’t love Victoria Beckham, then I can’t love you.  It’s pretty straightforward.

I’m not gonna lie and say I take a cold shower, but I WILL tell you that my hair is about 80% shinier when I cold-rinse it at the end of said shower.  So that’s something.

These now-ancient celebrity MySpace pages are AWESOME in their horror.  So bad.

My “lady” issues could fill a short textbook, but for now, know that I am very interested in FAM and how to track the natural cycles of the female body – and would love to know if any of you readers out there are doing the same!

What’s on your mind this week?  What are you watching/reading/laughing at online?

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

My girl The Keen Peach nominated me for this fun award and I am honored – this is the first blogger-type award I’ve received and it’ll be fun to pass on the accolades.

Part of the nomination is to fill out this supershort and fun questionnaire, so here you guys go – a bit more fun about ThisFitBlonde!

In one word, how would you like your readers to describe your blog?

Must-read (hey, a hyphenated word is still a word).

Which is your most favorite among your blog posts and why?

A lot of my posts are fun, fab, and fitness-oriented in vibe, which is exactly what I want from this blog (and for you, my readers!).  But I wrote a piece back in August 2014 about body image and what it feels like to work in an industry focused so much on bodies, weight, and perfection – and I still think it has a lot of value.

What inspires most of your blog posts?

My own professional life as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor is the best motivating force for me to keep writing, but I am also inspired by current events (hello, red carpet posts!) and other bloggers (my Weekend Roundup entries).

What do you aspire to accomplish this year?

This is going to be a big year for me – I’m getting married, considering a big move, and working on building ThisFitBlonde into a more comprehensive brand.

What do you aspire to learn this year?

I need to learn more about blogging as a profession and industry rather than just a hobby, and I am taking an advanced prenatal fitness certification course to deepen my knowledge of working with pregnant women in a gym setting.

What is your favorite book? Why?

Even though I think she’s a crazy person in real life, Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers is a powerful, motivating reminder of why it is important for us women to keep running – no matter what life brings.

What is the most courageous thing you have ever done?

Move from Chicago to L.A. at age 16 to start college early.  Oh, and I jumped out of a plane once.

If you could be a superhero, what would be your super power?

To be able to fly, because then I could travel anywhere I wanted for free.

Who is your female role model?

I have lots – my mom, Hillary Clinton, Jamie Eason, Jillian Michaels.

And that’s it from me!  Now comes the time to nominate other bloggers.  For those of you reading on from other blogs, here’s how you “pay it forward” with the sisterhood:

  • thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
  • put the award logo on your blog
  • answer the ten questions sent to you (the same questions above)
  • nominate seven blogs

So come and git it, somedaysunny, The L.A. Good Wife, O at the Edges, We killed the American dream, Blonde Ponytail, Maria Mind Body Health, and This Is Why You’re Single.  You’re nominated!

Would Amanda Eat It?

Spoiler alert: Amanda already ate it.  But wait – don’t go just yet!  The question here is – would Amanda eat it again?

Last night I found myself in a position lots of us face – I’d had a biggish lunch and wasn’t super hungry for dinner, but knew that not eating from roughly noon until the next morning was horrific for the metabolism.  Couple this with the fact that I was facing a 2+ hour drive back from Palm Springs and didn’t want to stop to chow down on something along the way.

What’s fast, portable, and relatively healthy, I asked myself?  And then I saw the display:

I’d of course heard about Quest bars from every single health and lifestyle blogger on the face of the Earth.

I have a bodybuilder friend who breaks them up and eats them with unsweetened almond milk for breakfast.  I have friends who crumble them over Greek yogurt and call it pizza.  I know people who Amazon order these in CASES to their private homes.

It’s threat-level red on these damn things, and here I am never having eaten one.

Don’t worry, Quest fans, I threw it down in the 7-11 last night.  And here’s my report:

The good:

  • 1g sugar.  ONE.  That’s plain-Cheerios-level low.
  • 17g fiber.  SEVENTEEN.  That’s more than FOUR CUPS of blueberries.
  • 21g protein.  TWENTY…ok you get it.  More than 4 oz. canned tuna.
  • Lower in calories than almost any other comparable-protein bar out there – 190 cals
  • I gotta hand it to ’em, the chocolate chip taste and texture is on point

The bad:

  • Lots of “unpronounceables” – think fake sweeteners like sucralose, erythritol, and isomalto-oligosaccharides (yep, that’s a single word and thing)
  • The overall taste of the bar is a little…off.  There’s a persistent metallic-y aftertaste that doesn’t really go away until well after you’re done eating the bar.
  • At the end of the day, this is a processed lump of a bar built to resemble food without actually having any food ingredients to speak of (which is why it didn’t, to be polite, “sit well” with me for the long drive home, if you get my drift)

The verdict:

  • Let’s be honest – this is one of the healthiest things you can buy at a 7-11, outside the obvious (hard-boiled eggs, apples, low-sodium beef jerky).  So  if I was in a situation like I described above, or on a road trip, or a busy mom needing a quick snack, or looking for something to hold me over until my next meal – YES, I would eat a Quest bar (although I’d like to try other flavors, too).

The alternative:

  • Should you want to stick to real food (something I recommend to all of my clients and try to do myself), you can make a pretty decent high-protein bar, shake, or snack without the powder with this handy-dandy cookbook
  • You can also make your own Quest bars, which doesn’t eliminate the chemical nature of the bar, but does lessen the impact on your pocketbook (these things ain’t free, people)

I know Quest fans far and wide are breathing a sigh of relief (ha) – their addiction is TFB-approved!

For those of you who eat whole and clean – what’s your favorite label-free protein source? (mine is hard-boiled eggs for SURE!)

Welcome to Team SunRype!

Hey y’all – did I mention that I get corporate sponsors from time to time?  #humblebrag I know, but for real, it’s a sweet deal – you agree to be sponsored by a given company, and in return they give you swag, product, and the occasional free race entry (though this “perk” is becoming more and more rare).

I’ve been through the sponsorship track many a time, starting with Aquaphor in 2006, Toyota Hybrid Vehicles in 2007, Goody Hair Products in 2008, Bear Naked Granola in 2009, Snickers MARATHON Bars in 2010-11, a brief hiatus in 2012, Wheaties in 2013-14, and now: Team SunRype USA 2015!

For those of you who are thinking, “I know the name SunRype, but what exactly do they sell?” here’s your answer: fruit snacks, fruit juices, and fruit & grain bars.  Our sponsorship focuses on using the SunRype Fruit Strips (only 50 calories and all fruit sugar – a great alternative to the chemicals in GU or gel packets!) during runs and endurance events.

If you are lucky enough to know me in real life (suckers), get ready to be bombarded with free fruit – I am going big on promoting these tasty, natural products and I want to share the wealth!  I also need to put some races on the calendar to make sure I’m wearing out my SunRype kit in style – so, any suggestions?

Local SoCal athletes – what are you racing this year?  What are your favorite races?

Five Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions

Ok, I get it.  Not everyone is a “resolutions person” to begin with, and all of the science surrounding the concept of resolutions suggests that a third of people give them up within 30 days; almost all (four out of five) give up by 60 days.

resolutions

That being said, there are stories of people who set new year’s resolutions and actually stick to them.  The trick might just be not calling them resolutions at all.

In my line of work, I am constantly goal-setting (and reassessing goals) with clients.  Many clients come to me with sweeping generalizations (I want to lose weight!) which I try and funnel down to specific action items (I want to lose one percent body fat in the next month!).  Whether or not they consider their statements “resolutions,” the fact is that people who define and structure their actionable steps toward reaching a goal are more successful than those who do the minimum possible and just hope for the best.

There are; however, lots of alternatives to the age-old “resolutions” practice.  Here are my top five (and you can check out even more here!):

Mission Statements.  These have been getting a lot of press lately and with good reason – the most successful businesses have them, so why shouldn’t you?  Writing your personal mission is not just a great exercise in values-based living, it’s a way to realize what matters the most to you about a certain goal or practice, and focus on how to make the life you’re living match those values most closely.

Smart Lists.  Even a full sentence can be intimidating for some folks, so why not write a bullet point instead?  “Smart things to do” lists can be this simple – a line of bulleted reminders about how to be your best self and live your healthiest life.  Rather than constraining to you what you can’t do, smart lists encourage you to do the best you can.

Mantras.  Borrowing a bit from yoga and new-age philosophy, sometimes a life change can come from something as simple as a repeated word or set of words.  Whether it’s reminding yourself to “just breathe” in times of stress, or working each day on finding something to “let go,” mantras can be comforting and encouraging, without a hint of judgment or failure toward the person using it.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals.  These are my favorite types of goals – the ones that actually have a chance of being accomplished.  The acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, realistic/relevant, and time-bound, and it means business.  This is how we were taught to set goals at my first job and I still use this model when trying to focus a client toward something really meaningful and lasting.

Letter to Yourself.  This one I love.  Simply sit down and write a letter to yourself to be opened on January 1, 2016.  Write as you would to a friend, wishing the best for him/her, offering advice, and congratulating her/him on a job well done this past year.  Be specific – thank yourself for finally taking those yoga classes, for example – and be reckless with praise.  When you open it up next year it will be a wonderful reminder of your hard work.

What do you do for new year’s resolutions – if anything?  What strategy works for you?