Tales From Beyond the Lounge

Oh hey there readers and friends (and pardon my lack of commas apostrophes and semicolons as this keyboard somehow does not have them).  I am writing you from inside one of the most beautifully designed rooms in which I have ever been…

The Turkish AIrlines Business Lounge.

Believe me, I am not brand new to the idea of an elite airline lounge…that is not to say that I frequent them but this is a whole new level.

From the completely insane exterior to the high design concept of the interior this is truly a sight to behold.  Dont believe me?  Check out some pics.

TV lounge

Upper deck observation area

What you cannot see of course is the fact that as of this minute Nick and I have been IN this lounge for 14 hours (!) – and our flight does not take off for another 16 (!!).

We slept here last night huddled on the couches – we ate dinner here – we ate breakfast here – and as I write Nick is preparing to shower here so we can free ourselves from its (admittedly lovely) confines and try to find some local Istanbul flavor before we go.

You may be wondering at this point what one could possibly do to entertain herself during a 14-plus hour stay in an airport lounge.  Well let me enlighten you…

  • first thing we did was hit the free booze.  Hard.  It is literally a self-serve of anything you want from beer to wine to hard alcohol and all free mixers to boot.
  • next thing we did was go bananas on the Mediterranean food.  After taking several scout missions we found a mezze bar full of cheeses hummus and baba ghanoush followed by Turkish pizza and kofta kebab.  Desserts like baklava and chocolate cake washed it all down so nicely.
  • we sat and conversed by the player piano for a while which made us feel classy even in the context of the aforementioned overpouring of free booze – and we moved on from wine to scotch (for him) and Baileys (for me)
  • as we sat we saw a woman walk by with Massage Therapist printed on the back of her shirt and we nearly pounced on her like cats to a rodent.  Free 10-minute massages felt like luxurious one-hour rubdowns and we were grateful.
  • next up was finding somewhere decent to sleep.  We pushed a couple cushy chairs together joined with a cocktail table and laid across it like a (crappy) bed.  Neither of us is exactly short so this was no small feat but we managed to eke out a couple hours each.
  • the key word there is a couple of hours.  I couldn’t make myself sleep more than that so I began to wander – drinking two STRONG Turkish coffees to fuel my journey – and people-watch the two-thirty am lounge crowd.  I scanned for American accents and found one although I now think she was actually Canadian.
  • my wandering lasted so long that I actually made it through the overnight food service stoppage and into the breakfast service which included Turkish pastries flatbreads eggs and panini – all of which made their way onto my plate and into our stomachs
  • finally I retreated back to our makeshift bed zone to read from my Kindle (downloading a couple new books since the free WiFi is fast and readily available) and two (short-ish) books later brings us to now.

It doesnt seem like a lot really but let me tell you – with literal blizzard conditions outside and a flight to a tropical destination (and the REAL start to our honeymoon) just dangling in front of us like a carrot on a very long and sharp stick this is as productive a use of my time as I can determine right now.

Have you ever been stuck in an airport for over 24 hours?  What are your tips and tricks to stay sane?

Would Amanda Eat It?

My final Would Amanda Eat It? of the month (don’t worry – I’ll be back in March!) focuses on one of the humblest, most unassuming of foods.  It’s not from a package, processed in any way, or sold in a convenience story.

It’s a potato.

Yep, just plain ‘ol white (Russet) potatoes.  When Atkins came on the scene in the late 90s / early 2000s, white potatoes got thrown into the “devil foods” list along with white rice, white pasta, and white bread.  Avoid the white stuff, went the message, and you’ll lose weight.  It sounded like a good plan, but…

Could something from the earth truly be that bad for you?

I remember growing up and going to restaurants where your side options were french fries, mashed potatoes, or a baked potato, and being told that the baked potato was the “healthy” option.  I also remember entering the fitness industry and hearing the message that anyone who “still eats” white potatoes versus sweet potatoes was a fat idiot.

So what’s the deal with our old friends, white potatoes?  Here’s my two cents:

The good:

  • a medium sized white potato only has about 160 calories, which is less than a Quest bar, two slices of cheese, or 1/2 cup of pasta
  • white potatoes contain flavonoids (which aid in immune system function) and potassium (an essential mineral)
  • if you eat the skin (which you absolutely SHOULD!), you’ll get a bonus 4g fiber

The bad:

  • sure, white potatoes still “count” as a major carb serving – 29g in a medium size, which is like two slices of bread, two small apples, or 1/2 cup of pasta
  • white potatoes, despite being tubers in the same class as sweet potatoes, have significantly fewer vitamins to offer than their orange-fleshed brethren
  • this goes without saying, but outside a “baked” preparation (where only heat is applied), there are a lot of easy ways to make a white potato unhealthy (adding butter, cheese, sour cream, or frying in oil, to name a few)

The verdict:

  • Peeps, I’ve been eating white taters for years and ain’t no way I’m gonna stop now.  They are an excellent source of natural (read: unprocessed) carbohydrates, which are great for active, healthy adults, and eating the flesh and skin together makes for a super-filling, super-tasty, super-satisfying snack that won’t break the calorie bank.
  • Make sure that when cooking white potatoes you boil, bake, or steam them – and add fresh herbs rather than salt, butter, and oil – and if you’re a “white potato only” type of person, read on for why you might want to come over to the sweet side…

The alternative:

  • Per the above…sweet potatoes still come out the nutritional winner here.  They have similar amounts of fiber and protein (again, eat the skin!) but give you an extra boost of vitamin A and beta-carotene, all with fewer calories and carbs than the white stuff
  • If you’re simply trying to watch the carbs and calories, mashed cauliflower is a fantastic potato substitute that gives you the same satiety and “mouthfeel” without any of the aforementioned “bad” parts – so it’s worth a try if you’re watching your macros really closely

Do you eat white potatoes – or do you prefer sweet?  What’s your fave way to cook ’em?

Weekly Roundup

Whew – it’s only 12:41pm and already it’s been a whirlwind Sunday.  Alarm off at 6:30; client at 7:30; run club, 90-minute yoga sesh, and now a quick lull until a dear friend’s baby baptism this afternoon.

Hey, at least it’s keeping my mind off the wedding! (SIX DAYS OMG)

For now, let’s check in on what other people are doing with their time online:

Like making (and eating) these amazing 100-calorie chocolate desserts.

If they look that good nude, their tips must work for someone who stays mostly clothed – right?

WTF should you do with your life?  Find the answer ASAP, with just one click.

Don’t even ACT like you’re not intrigued by the possibility of making (and eating) your own Velveeta cheese.

Zero to hero in five minutes – at least makeup-wise.  The rest, I can’t help you.

Did you guys know I was a Comm major?  Well, now you do.  So STOP saying these things.

I’ve been eating super clean for the wedding.  After the honeymoon?  Might roll down on THIS.

COLORS!  PRINTS!  OMG I love Lilly Pulitzer’s new line of exercise clothes so much.

Even more good news?  Starbucks is finally catching up with, oh, 2009 and offering a non-dairy alternative to soy milk – coconut milk!

I’ll be coming back tomorrow with a Grammy red carpet fashion update – so for now, leave me a tip about your favorite link, video, or tweet from this week!

Crazy Sh*t I’ve Done to Prep for My Wedding

If you’ve been following me on almost any social media outlet, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I am getting married soon.  Like, real soon.  Like, a week from tomorrow soon (!!!).

There is a lot of preparation that goes into a wedding, not the least of which pertains to the specifics of the bride’s body, face, and hair.  Lucky for me I work hard to maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage, so I didn’t feel the pressure to drop pounds and “tone up.”

That said, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have a sh*tton of fine tuning to do on this here bod.

I went back and forth about actually posting this entry, because I didn’t want to come off like a bridezilla, a vain idiot, or an absolute sucker – and I think, to some degree, you might think I’m all three if you stick around to read the whole thing.

But I also wanted to be completely transparent about what lengths I personally have gone to in order to feel like my best self on my wedding day and heck – some of you might even empathize (or at least get a hearty laugh).

So here we go:

About six months ago I started zapping my face.  No, not zit-zapping, more like wrinkle-zapping, with the NuFace by Carol Cole system.  My sister-in-law uses and swears by it, and she bought me one for my bridal shower – turns out, the thing’s addicting.  Once you get used to the tiny but somewhat painful microcurrents shooting into your face, it’s actually kind of relaxing, and it leaves your skin feeling tighter, softer, and yes – younger-looking.  You do have to commit to using the thing – I didn’t start noticing results until about two weeks in – but I really like it and will continue with it long after the wedding is over.

Around the same time I decided to fry my face off, I also got into waist training.  Yep, you head me, Kardashian-style waist training – the thing where you wear an increasingly tight corset to help shrink your waist (and note: although I am not overly concerned about my weight, I am concerned about my proportions, which I often find bordering on masculine due in part to my lack of waist-hip ratio).  Did it work?  Well, despite being a huge pain in the ass and completely uncomfortable, yes – my waist went from 28 inches at my first dress fitting to 26 inches at my last.  Win!

Speaking of being strapped and tightened, I also started wearing a back brace to help straighten out my posture.  Sure, I lift weights, do yoga, and generally maintain proper posture, but I also have scoliosis, which means I never really look “right” from a side view (which, if you guys have been to weddings, is often the sustained view you get of the bride when she’s saying her vows).  Please note if you are actually attending my wedding that I busted my ass to stand up straight so if it looks like I am slouching, you know I’m doing my best.

Not crazy enough for you yet?  How about the $40 custom spray tan that I (along with many of my bridesmaids and my own dear mother) am getting?  If you’re wondering what  a custom spray tan is, well, listen up: they customize a color for your skin tone.  They spray and contour your “trouble zones” (I always ask for double triceps and triple abs).  They sometimes apply a light fragrance so you don’t smell like stink tan.  And best of all, they spray into all the little nooks and crannies a misting bed will miss, resulting in a super smooth, even, and amazing-looking tan.  Badda bing.

The spray tan, though, wouldn’t mean nuthin’ if I wasn’t already trying to “up my cuts” by lifting weights and working out, a regime which for the past two months has also included sessions in the hot Pilates pod known as Iobella.  It is exactly what I just said – they put you in a plastic pod, photo 4 (2)crank the heat up to 103 degrees, and make you do Pilates-inspired movements (in excruciating sets of 40) inside.  Despite sounding hellish, it’s actually quite wonderful, and has done a ton for any outstanding pockets of cellulite I was not so thrilled to show off.

Ah yes, speaking of cellulite….most women hate it; I tolerate it, knowing that the places it usually falls are the ones I can hide out of sight most of the time.  Except when your wedding involves a pool party.  And except when that pool party involves wearing a bathing suit in front of all your wedding guests (who just saw you look like a pretty pretty princess in the warm and comforting confines of a boned, fitted wedding gown).  So I bit the bullet and added an element to my cellulite-fighting bath routine (which already includes dry brushing and exfoliating massage): fatgirlslim products.  Yep, the caffeine-jacked, peptide-potent gel products from the bliss line of beauty supplies now line my bathroom shelves, and I massage those bad boys into my arms, butt, abs, and legs on a daily basis – and again, believe it or not, I swear it’s helping.  The skin’s appearance is taut, firm, and smooth – and even feels tighter to the touch.

Speaking of products, a client of mine gave me Beautycounter products for Christmas and whoa – are they ever spectacular!  The standouts for me – again, used in conjunction with the Clarisonic I already commit to religiously and the Nu Face mentioned above – are the face oils, which have literally transformed the way makeup goes on my face as well as the way my skin looks without makeup.  They smell divine, last a long time (thank God, since they’re expensive as all get-out), and will literally retexture your face.  No joke.

You know what else isn’t a joke?  How seriously I take my dental hygiene.  I have never missed a 6-month checkup in my entire adult life, I floss daily, brush twice, use Listerine, and don’t f*ck around with cavities (never had one).

But what I do do is drink coffee and red wine, both of which are horrific for the enamel and coloration of the teeth – and I know it.  So the last step in my pre-wedding beauty regimen has been using a combination of baking soda and peroxide paste (homemade) and Crest Pro Whitening Strips to help restore my natural whiteness and address some of those pesky stains.

Whew.  Just typing that wore me out; I am surprised I was actually able to do all this crap over the past 6-12 months leading up to the big day!  I didn’t voyage too far into what I perceive to be the “crazy” stuff brides these days do – Botox, liposuction, surgery, bleaching/dying of various body parts, and so on – but I feel like I definitely went above and beyond my normal routine (which is, let’s be honest: wash face.  bathe.  apply makeup.  leave house.) to try and be my best bridal self for February 14th.

Married readers – how did you prep for your big day?  Single ladies and gents – what do you plan to add to your “glam squad” routine when wedding bells are ringing?

A Weight Training Breakdown

The secret is out: I love lifting weights.  I always have, or at least since my dear friend (and soon-to-be bridesmaid!) Marilyn took me to the gym our freshman year of college and showed me how to properly lift them.

Immediately I was enthralled – goodbye, cardio body, hello, strong, fit body (well, stronger, fitter body – in college I was still quite soft what with the all-beer-and-booze diet).

I dragged through 20 minutes on the elliptical (hey, it was the early ’00s) just so I could be warmed up enough to power through my favorite part of the workout – weights!  I loved picking them up, feeling their heavy weight, slogging them around the weight room and feeling like a warrior princess when I progressed to the next level.  I was hooked.

Fast-forward nearly 16 (!) years later, and the love story continues.  I lift weights most days of the week, taking one rest day during the week (usually Tuesdays, when I teach a high-intensity interval class at the gym) and one yoga day on the weekend (usually Sunday).  I lift in splits, I lift in supersets, I lift with drops, I lift with intervals.

But I always lift with purpose.

I wanted to share with you guys a few of my favorite moves, the weights I use to do them, and one of the ways I structure my sets, just to give you some ideas for your own weights workouts – and I am happy to hear what you do in the gym too!

TFB Fave (Shoulders & Triceps)

Key Moves (3 sets, 12 reps):

TFB Wedding Dress Workout (Back & Biceps)

Key Moves 3 sets, 12 reps):

TFB Lean Legs Day

Key Moves (3 sets, 15 reps):

What are your favorite body parts to lift?  What exercises do you like best?

Would Amanda Eat It?

One of the things that drives me craziest in the nutrition side of my business is questions about processed food.  If it comes from a box, has a label, or has a shelf life of over a couple of weeks, it’s probably not great for you.  Sorry kids, that’s the cold, hard truth.

As you know from past Would Amanda Eat It? posts, that’s not to say I don’t understand why someone would need to eat a processed food from time to time – Quest bars being my own convenience food of choice when I’m running from client to client.

It’s just that I get a lot of submissions asking about this type of chip or that kind of fruit snack, and the overarching answer is usually – skip the junk, make it yourself, or find an alternative.

That leads us to today’s Would Amanda Eat It? – not technically a processed food (I mean, it does come in a bag, typically), but not technically a fresh one either.  The product in question today is dried fruit.

But it’s fruit!, you may cry, wondering how I could even question the merit of nature’s candy.  Sure, it was fruit.  But does it still count as fruit when it’s been dried, (often) sugared, and packed up?  Here’s the info:

The good:

  • At its best, dried fruit is simply a dehydrated form of fresh fruit – when it has no added sugar, you are getting most of the benefits of the fresh fruit (for example, fiber and iron from prunes, vitamin E and B6 from figs, or beta-carotene in dried apricots)
  • The portable, long-lasting benefits of dried fruit mean you can take it anywhere, pack it in purses or bags, and/or mix it with unsalted raw nuts for a powerful protein and carbohydrate combo

The bad:

  • let’s be real, peeps – a lot of the dried fruit you get at the grocery store has a ton of added sugar – and even if it has none, the concentration of the sugars natural to the drying process means that you’re getting a big dose of fructose – and calories – with every (tiny, tiny) serving of dried fruit (you only get 4 dried apricot halves, and even that has quadruple the calories of a nice, fresh apricot)
  • beware of course the “commercial” dried fruit (i.e. not the nice, natural kind from Whole Foods or the farmers’ market) – one meager 1/4 cup of Craisins has most of your sugar for the entire day (29g out of a total 40g) – and you know those little bad boys are so addictive it’s hard to stop at 1/4 cup!

The alternative:

  • Um, no brainer here – the alternative to dried fruit is fresh fruit!  Delicious, skin-on, water-filled, healthy and delicious fruit.  Sure, you may have to think ahead a bit more (you can’t just stash bananas in your car for a week), but it’s way worth it to grab an apple rather than an apple chip, an apricot rather than a Turkish dried apricot, or a big bunch of grapes rather than a tiny 1/4 cup raisins.
  • If you must get your dried fruit fix, look for those with no added sugar, use them sparingly (like sprinkled over a salad, rather than a big handful), or just bite the bullet and dehydrate your own fruit (in the oven – no extra gadgets needed!) – that way you know where it’s from, what’s in it, and how much you’re really eating.

Are you a dried fruit fan?  What’s your favorite kind, and where do you get it?

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

My dear (and very funny) friend over at This Is Why You’re Single recently posted a letter to her younger self on her blog – and it got me thinking I should do the same.  So, with absolutely no apologies for blatantly stealing her creative idea, I was inspired to copy her.

Dear Manda (enjoy that cute little nickname for now; soon you will have to revert to your actual full name “Amanda” for grown-up professional reasons):

It’s me!  Well, it’s you! Surprised?  Well, you shouldn’t be.  A lot of cool stuff happens in the future, mostly computer and technology-related, but also some other neat stuff like dark chocolate peanut butter and these cool running shoes that glow in the dark.  I mean, mostly you’ll care about your smartphone and your laptop (both of which, by the way, are about a decade away for you, so don’t hold your breath), but the future is full of amazing conveniences and improvements (invest in Amazon now.)

Speaking of a decade away, this might shock you, but in less than four years you are going to meet your husband.  YOUR HUSBAND!  Is that some crazy sh*t or what?  I know you haven’t even had one single boyfriend yet (sigh), but don’t distress – sow your wild oats and have your drunken shenanigans and wake up wondering where you left your (awful, platform-soled, regrettable) flip flops – and he will be waiting at the end of that hot mess parade, just for you.  You are not destined to be alone.

(Oh yeah, there’s one other guy before you get there.  Dump him as soon as you can.)

Love life aside, I know you’re wondering how college is going to turn out, and if you’re going to get a job right after you graduate.  Good news on both accounts – you graduate magna cum laude, on time, and are fully employed upon return from your postgrad Europe trip (make sure to thank Mom & Dad profusely).  Life is pretty rad so far, right?

Did I mention you are about to get a dog?  I know, I know – you’re still in college and can barely take care of yourself, much less another living thing.  But you visit a shelter next year and fall in love with one special little pooch – and he will be by your side for over a decade.  Don’t think about how it all will end.  Just make sure you never take any of his little licks, barks, snuggles, even his little poops for granted.  You will miss him every single day when he is gone.

You’re going to spend the better part of the next decade doing grunt work in grad school (yeah, you go back – twice –  even though you swore you were done with school), and by the end of it all, you’ll be five digits deep in debt with two semi-useful Masters degrees – it’s up to you if you want to go through all that, but if I were you, I might just shortcut to what you’re actually DOING at my age…

...which is personal training.  You’re good at it, really good – remember when you used to be an athlete?  That part of your life becomes relevant again.  Don’t worry about your current state of physical disarray; you’re at your heaviest weight of your adult life, so it only gets better from here (stop putting half and half on your cereal and dumping cheese and ranch on your “salads,” by the way).  You end up pretty darn fit, strong, and happy in your career – so if you want to just get your certification NOW and skip the whole grad school thing, I won’t complain.

By the way, you should probably start running (another thing which I know you’ve never tried, but listen, you’re gonna be good at that, too).  You’re going to run the Boston Marathon – and I won’t offer any spoilers on that, but know it’s not exactly what you’re expecting.  You just need to be there.

Despite owning your own business and running all these marathons and getting married and all that, what’s weird about being me now is that I was so much more confident when I was you.  I suppose when you’re young, you’re so hopeful about the possibilities that lie ahead, but when you’re my age, you start to just settle into established, easy patterns.  Remind me (you) to break free!  Stay excited!  Be crazy!  You’re going to jump out of a plane in a couple of years, so harness those balls and bring ’em over to me.

You know what else is crazy?  You’re gonna want kids.  YOU HEARD ME.  Don’t tell me how awesome you are and how you’re going to grow up without being tied down and get tattoos that say “fearless” and “freedom” and all sorts of other stupid mantra sh*t (you didn’t, thank God).  I mean, that’s fine for now, but when you get here, you’ll realize that you do want a tiny little human(s), you want it/them with your aforementioned adorable husband, and you’re actually kind of excited about being a (hopefully kick-ass) mom.

As far as moms go, yours is the best.  So is your dad.  Value your time with them and get home to see them as much as your budget allows – but worry not, they’ll eventually retire in California, near you, and you have years of amazing Oktoberfests, Disneylands, and all sorts of other shenanigans waiting.  Don’t forget that family time means everything.

And finally – I know you’ve only been out of the country twice (really, once – Cancun barely counts), but travel is going to become a really big deal for you.  You’re headed to Australia sooner than you realize, studying abroad in Scotland, watching a vow renewal in Ireland, and will have jaunted all over Asia by the time you’re me (including one very special trip to India – uh, spoiler alert?).  Your mind is going to expand and your tastes are going to change, and with it, your stubborn heart will open.  It’s a good thing.  Embrace it.

That’s about it for now, little one – just a few minor things to make the next few years a bit easier.  Watch the drinking.  Save your money.  Go to Sephora and learn how to apply makeup properly.  Stop buying cheap clothes.  As said, get outside and run.  The best of everything is yet to come.