The Lost Art of Saying “Yes”

This post is distinctly not about health and fitness, but in a lot of ways, it’s the best wellness lesson I’ve learned in a long time.

Just about two months ago my husband and I decided to move to Singapore for his job, and a month ago he left to start working there.

For the past month, I’ve been alone in L.A. and I’ll admit it – for the first week or so, I moped a bit.  I missed my man.  I felt lonely.  Nights that used to be full of movies, meals, and cuddles were just…empty.

I mentioned this to a coworker, who looked at me and said: YOLO.  And we laughed.

But then I thought about it a bit longer, and I realized something – she was right.  So completely right.  You only live once.  And what is the point of moping around L.A. – the city that has literally witnessed the entirety of my coming-of-age experience – when I could be getting out there, loving on L.A., meeting new people, and just killing it?

Since that moment of realization that my 16 years in L.A. were coming to an end and I had a finite amount of time to see a finite amount of people that I love, I’ve been determined to say “yes” to as many invitations/suggestions as possible – big or small, frivolous or important, old friend or new – and here’s an abbreviated list of where those “yes-es” have already taken me:

11149342_10100349910698036_7315816280914708047_n

My friend and I (I’m the one with orange shoes!) at the NTC Tour

And here’s some upcoming stuff I’ve already committed to in hopes of more YOLO moments:

The excitement and “newness” in my life – magnified by new friends, new experiences, and the generally new attitude of just saying YES has been completely reinvigorating – I’ve been getting less sleep than ever but feeling more energized than I have in years.

It’s wonderful – and at the same time, sad.  Why now?  Why not every single day?  Why did I wait?

I am trying so hard to live in the moment and not think a month ahead to the inevitable goodbye.  I am trying to make the “yes” my focus and not consider the consequences.  I am living my best life and feeling my most joyful. And I know that I will always have this (albeit short) memory of a time in my life when I was truly, honestly free – and happy.

What are you saying “yes” to right now in your life?

Advertisements

Would Amanda Eat It? KICKSTARTER Edition.

Not to break any hearts here, but the product I am looking at for today’s Would Amanda Eat It? doesn’t actually exist yet – but with the success of its Kickstarter campaign, it looks like it will very soon!

My (very savvy and plugged in) cousin alerted me to Torani Plus Ups via text this morning – and it makes for a perfect review.  Check the basics:

The Torani Plus Ups are powders – they come in three flavors, Harvest Veggie, Green Veggie, and Green Coffee – that you mix with water or your favorite beverage for an extra nutritional boost.  The issue with my review today is that I can’t yet see the nutritional information and ingredients – but  I will do my best to offer up a decent review!

The good: 

  • these appear to be basically pared-down veggies, converted to shelf-stable powders that rehydrate and provide a heavy dose of nutrients (something like juicing, but dry)
  • there are no preservatives, additives, or artificial colors in any of the products
  • the coffee doesn’t taste like coffee per se, so it can add a “clean” caffeine boost to your regular green juice or smoothie

The bad:

  • do we really need another way to eat veggies more “conveniently”?  One might ask why one can’t just blend their veggies into a shake and get the full nutrient value…
  • similarly, do we really need another way to supplement caffeine?
  • again, I don’t know what all is in the powders so there may be some element of sugar content or caloric value that isn’t exactly clear yet

The verdict:

  • guys, I’d be way willing to try these – and may even support the Kickstarter in order to do so!
  • the fact that they are shelf-stable and portable means they’re really convenient for travel, which is a huge priority for me, and if they are in fact JUST veggies converted to powders – no problem!
  • the recipes they post on the Kickstarter sound amazing – and truly clean & healthy

The alternative:

  • well, again, if you want to eat more vegetables – how about just EATING MORE VEGETABLES?  You can easily blend a mixture of greens into a smoothie or shake just as “quickly” as you can scoop a powder into one, and a big salad at lunch will likely hit more veggie servings than a powder anyway – but again, if the buzzword is convenience, this product has it in spades – and powdered veggies are still better than none!

Would you be willing to try Torani Plus Ups?  How do you get your daily veggies?

Workout Wednesdays: Triple Play Spin Class

Hey guys – happy Wednesday!  Remember to check me out over on FB today for #AskAmanda (where you can ask me anything about health, wellness, and nutrition – and if I don’t know myself I will find you the answer!).

For now, I just finished putting together my weekly Spin class playlist – and it’s a triple play!  I like to segment my classes into manageable parts so my students feel like they’re going on a journey – and making progress throughout the class.

Before I go further, check this week’s song list:

TriplePlayWhat I’m doing here is building sets of three songs (after the warmup) that start with rolling hills, go into the “flats” (double time pace), and then build back up into a hill climb (third song in each set). 

At the end of the ride, I offer a 3-minute (get it? triple play?) riders’ choice sprint where students can choose whether they want to work on tempo or resistance for three bursts of 40-second maximal efforts – heart rate bonanza!

I can’t wait to ride this one out with my class on Friday and next week!

What are your fave workout songs right now?  Anything you’re Spinning to?

Would Amanda Eat It? Jamba Juice Oatmeal Edition

Oh, Jamba Juice.  My main memories of you involve being in college, trying to fit in with the older girls in my sorority house by getting those trademark white styrofoam cups filled with Orange Blast or Berry Dream or whatever the smoothie du jour was around campus…

…but let’s be real.  Back in 2000, Jamba Juices were basically giant milkshakes disguised as “healthy” choices because you could get a fresh wheatgrass shot on the side (or one of the many vaguely-named “boosts”).  My favorite one (not being a fan of all things green back at that time) was something called Peanut Butter Moo’d, which contained a whopping 770 calories and 109 grams of sugar – and not a single vegetable.

Fast forward to today’s “modern” JJ stores, where there are definitely menu choices that fall on the right side of the healthy divide (still alongside the “classic,” more-like-a-milkshake items).  A TFB reader asked specifically about the oatmeal and the cold pressed juices, but since I’d already done a piece on cold pressed juice, I figured I’d just attack the oats.

The good:

  • steel-cut oats are the healthiest form of oats you can eat
  • there’s only 180 calories (pre-toppings), which is totally reasonable for a small meal or snack
  • the bowl contains 8g of protein, which is more than you get from a hard boiled egg

The bad:

  • could we do without the 5g of soymilk-based sugar?  Yes.
  • could we also do without the 35g of carbs (about as much as two slices of bread) first thing in the morning?  Sure.
  • again, water would be a healthier (if blander) choice than defaulting to soymilk

The verdict:

  • hell yeah Amanda would eat this – and can’t believe I never have!  I avoid Jamba Juice like the plague because of the high-calorie smoothie options, but knowing this oatmeal is available (along with a TON of fresh fruit topping options) all over the U.S. makes me happy – I now have another “go to” for a healthy meal/snack in a pinch

The alternative:

  • guys, other than just making a bowl of steel cut oats at home and saving yourself a few bucks, this is already a great on-the-go option just as-is!  No need for alternatives here – this is the real deal.

You’d think this was a sponsored post – but it wasn’t!  I just love what Jamba Juice is doing with their healthier options and applaud them for making an oatmeal that is just that – oatmeal (unlike the horrific sugar bombs over at McDonald’s…).

What’s your breakfast grab-and-go?  Are you an oatmeal person?

Weekend Roundup: Sunday Edition

You know how the Sunday paper is bigger, thicker, and full of more stuff?  Well, this is kind of the opposite – a slightly shorter, lighter roundup for your lazy Sunday reading…

Nothing more gangsta than being owned by your girlfriend’s dad…on Instagram.

Training for a mud run or obstacle race?  Try these six moves in rapid succession.

I’m all about that frequent flier mileage right now – and here’s my fave way to get miles.

I am SO overdue for a “spring edit” of my makeup vanity.

Woke up too late this morning to get my Lilly fix at Target – but at least a girl can dream.

One of my closest friends IRL opened the most thuggish ruggish shop on Etsy – check it out and spruce up your digs with gangsta attitude.

I adore the old colorful shophouses in Singapore, and this photo essay does ’em right.

Speaking of Singapore, I love tips on packing – even though I consider myself a darn good packer already…

I think any girl who works out is continually on the search for the perfect black leggings – here’s one (albeit pricy) contender.

And finally, before I head to brunch  – a delicious, healthy grain salad you can batch prep over the weekend and enjoy for lunch all week!

What’s going on in your part of the blogiverse this Sunday?  Leave me a comment!

Would Amanda Eat It? Quinoa Pasta Edition

When a client approaches me wanting to lose weight – and particularly wanting to lose body and belly fat – my first piece of advice is almost always to cut out sugar and white carbs.  “White” carbs are those made with white (refined) flour, such as bread and pasta, as well as the refined versions of whole grains (white rice and quick oats, for example).

That said, I encourage clients to keep healthy, whole and unrefined grains in their diet, including steel cut oats, farro, and quinoa – which then brings us to the confusing issue of quinoa pasta.

Realizing now that this popular brand of “quinoa pasta” is actually “supergrain pasta,” there is a bit of a misnomer at hand – the Ancient Grains brand of pasta actually contains corn flour (!).

Now all that being said, it’s still ONLY corn and quinoa flour.  And it’s all organic.  So I’m going to treat it as a legit Would Amanda Eat It product and analyze accordingly:

The good:

  • only two ingredients (quinoa, corn) – and both of them organic.  Me likey.
  • calories are modestly lower (205 versus 215-225) than white pasta
  • less than 1g sugar – very low for any processed/boxed food

The bad:

  • so…it actually has LESS protein than white pasta (4g versus 7-8g) – not good
  • for being whole(ish) grain, it doesn’t give you that much more fiber (about 1g) because it’s still flour made from grains versus the grains themselves
  • and because it is still made of flour, you’re still looking at a heavy dose of 46g carbs per serving (!)

The verdict:

  • because there’s really no strong advantage to this pasta over a regular white (and let’s face it – damn delicious tasting) pasta, I’d have to say no – I wouldn’t spend the extra cash to hit up some quinoa (and corn) pasta

The alternative:

  • that said, it doesn’t mean I’m going around downing loads of white-flour spaghetti.  I know lots of “reformed” fettuccine fans who swear by Shirataki noodles, which are made of tofu, gluten-free, and virtually CALORIE free (!) – at 20 calories per 2 ounces.
  • if soy/yam noodles aren’t your game, then I have to recommend “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) as the tastiest veggie-based noodle out there (made using a spiralizer right in your own home!) or baking up a spaghetti sqaush (aptly named) and dousing it in the most decadent and delicious sauce you can find (because, hey – you’re saving about a million calories and carbs from NOT eating flour-based noodles!).

Are you a pasta person?  What’s your favorite noodle/sauce combo?

Workout Wednesday: Spin Class Playlists

A student of mine came up to me after class and asked me if I post my Spin playlists on my blog.  I realized that I didn’t….but I easily could!

And so a new TFB tradition has been born.  Each Wednesday (which, by the way, is ALSO #AskAmanda Wednesdays on my Facebook page!) I will feature a recent playlist I’ve been working on with my Spin classes, along with some notes on the ride.

This week’s theme?  BOOTY WERK.  Check the tunes:

BootySpin

As you can imagine, this ride gets HEAVY toward the end to emphasize the “pull” part of the pedal stroke and increase activation in the hamstrings and glutes.  I like to start off with some double time running in the saddle and out (songs 2/3) and then hit it into a steady climb to build resistance (song 4).

From there I go to power climbs (starting students on beat, asking them to pick up tempo for short bursts, then add more resistance; songs 5-6) and a single/double (aka uphill/downhill; tempo AND resistance changes; song 7).  Song 8 is low resistance recovery, followed by a 2-song build to finish with full turns, all-out power pushes, and one-minute sprints (songs 9-10).

The full ride is 45 minutes long and turned my class into a sweaty, legs-burning mess this past Monday – and we’re ready to do it again on Friday!  Who’s with me?

What are your favorite songs to Spin to?

Would Amanda Eat It?

This post was going to be about juice – orange juice, Juicy Juice, unsweetened cranberry juice – you know, the stuff that comes in big jugs at the grocery store with labels like “all natural!” and “not from concentrate.”  The juice of our childhood, folks.

But then the more I thought about it, the more my comments boiled down to one general conclusion: juice is basically soda without the carbonation (no, really – there’s so much sugar in juice it may as well be soda).

Even fresh-squeezed OJ has tons of sugar

Scratch that one.  Amanda wouldn’t eat (drink?) it in a million years.

However, the idea of looking at an even bigger juice “trend” – cold pressed juicing – is still relevant.  With juice bars and juice shops popping up on every corner, and juices making their way as far into the mainstream as your neighborhood Starbucks, what exactly is fresh pressed juice?  And how is it different from the Jamba Juice we all overdosed on in the 90s?

Juice shops like Pressed Juicery, Nekter Juice Bar, and Kreation tout “cold pressed” juices (and juice cleanses, which warrants another post all its own), which are juices that are extracted from their “host” fruit or vegetable using a high-pressure masticating blade that produces less heat – and reputedly preserves more nutrients – than a traditional spinning juicer (like a Breville, the one you probably got as a wedding gift at some point).

So what’s the nutritional down low on these fresh extracted juices?

The good:

  • it’s about a billion times healthier than “box juice” in that it is actually made from fresh fruits and vegetables, without additives, preservatives, or flavors
  • the cold pressing extracts every last drop of juice from the produce, meaning nothing is wasted and all vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are kept intact
  • if you aren’t into eating fruits and vegetables, cold pressed juicing can be like your non-synthetic daily multivitamin

The bad:

  • when you extract juice away from its skin/pulp, you know what you’re left with?  Sugar.  And the (naturally occurring) sugar content of cold-pressed juice is no lower than it would be if it was extracted another way – and in some cases, is much higher, since it takes lots of fruits and veggies to make a 16 ounce glass of juice (at the juice bar I have at work, they put a full beet, two carrots, two stalks of celery, and an entire apple into one “small” size)
  • you know what else you lose when you lose skin and pulp?  Fiber.  And that’s why juices in general are a poor substitute for whole fruit.
  • you gotta drink fresh juice quickly – typically within 15 minutes, or it oxidizes and loses a lot of the antioxidant power for which you’re drinking it

The verdict:

  • YES, Amanda Would – and does! – Eat It.  I choose fresh pressed juice in a pinch – when I’m hungry but in a rush, when I know I am low on my veggie count for the day, or when I am in an airport and I know it’s a healthier breakfast option than a bagel and OJ.
  • But let’s be honest, people – it’s still just extracted sugar, to some degree, and it keeps me full for about a nanosecond – not worth it for me as a regular/daily dietary choice in terms of the calories ingested versus nutrients gained (think zero protein, fat or fiber).

The alternative:

  • what’s cooler than being cold?  BLENDING!  Yep, putting actual full fruits and vegetables – skin and all – into a high-speed blender and then drinking the smooth, thick, creamy result is a much more satisfying and healthy way to get your fruits and vegetables – and it actually counts as a fruit and vegetable serving since you’re preserving every part of the produce (no wasted pulps and skins)
  • you know what else is really underrated?  Just eating fruits and vegetables, ideally with a bit of protein and fat to keep you satiated as well.  An apple with almond butter, some turkey slices wrapped around celery sticks, or carrots and amped-up hummus (my version of homemade hummus mixed with Greek yogurt) are all lower in sugar and calories than most pressed juices and will keep you fuller longer – without the $12 price tag, either.

Are you a juice addict – fresh or otherwise?  What’s your favorite blending recipe?

The Privilege of Exercise

As I was out running today (64 and sunny, light breeze, sun behind me to the west – a perfect L.A. day, by the way), a thought hit me:

G*ddamn I’m lucky.

There were so many things going on as I ran that made me realize how lucky – or, to use a more accurate term, privileged – I am for having the ability to exercise.  What do I mean?

How many people do you know that have the motivation to exercise but are not physically able or capable due to injury, weight, or disability?

How many people do you know that have the time to exercise but not the will, due to depression, fear, or shame?

How many people do you know that are physically able and motivated to exercise but can’t find the time, due to family, work, or other competing commitments?

Because of my job, my life stage, my body, and my mind, I am able to put together all the “moving pieces” of a consistent and effective exercise routine – and I realize how rare that really is, especially in today’s world.

Our daily lives are full of these little – and big – realizations of privilege.  Something as simple as being able to feel the breeze on your face, having comfortable clothes and shoes to wear, having the ability to go outside in a place that is safe from harm, knowing you can come home to a place with clean water and healthy food – all of these are truly life’s gifts – and not ones to be taken for granted.

Next time you’re thinking about skipping your workout, consider this: what if the privilege – or even the option – of exercise was suddenly taken away from you?  

How wistfully would you look back and wish you could have done it while you still could – while you had the time, the youth, the motivation, the health level, the whatever-it-is that you have NOW that is allowing you to move your body freely and beautifully?

Get out there and move, readers.  Exercise your privilege…to exercise.  It’s worth it.

What workouts make you feel grateful?  What “everyday” privileges are you thankful for?

Why I Love & Defend (Crazy) Stylish Gym Clothes

Sorry to usurp my weekly Would Amanda Eat It? entry (it will bump to Thursday this week!) but a dear friend (and loyal reader!) of mine brought an article to my attention yesterday and said, “I think your full response to this will have to be a blog post.”

And she was right.

The article in question was about Nike’s new sportswear collection, which, the author claims, “looks more appropriate for a fashion runway than a gym.”  My first thought?

Finally!

But nope, lovely readers, in fact the full title of the article suggests that women are “insulted” by Nike’s new line.  The new collection, designed by Japanese powerhouse Sacai, features billowy skirt-pants and semi-sheer tops, among other street-inspired silhouettes (think lacy camisoles sewn into sweatshirts and mesh-front leggings).

Nike’s new Sacai line of activewear

And now, after seeing all this, I think:

Finally!

I have long lamented the absence of true fashion-forward style in fitness fashion, and the insinuation that just because something isn’t suited to “competitive sports” means it isn’t functional for a fit woman’s lifestyle is erroneous.  Also, what exactly about adding a sheer panel to the back of a T-shirt makes it less functional?

Nike has a long legacy of making actual sportswear for actual sports – there’s no disputing that, and about 80% of what’s in their current women’s activewear line is definitely made with exercise in mind.

So why does a brand who does so much “traditional” activewear get crucified when they theorize (rightly) that an active, fit woman might want to clean up and look kind of cool for a minute – without sacrificing comfort or movement?

And let’s be honest, critics who have seemingly just jumped on the Nike-griping bandwagon – were those popular Nike wedge sneakers ever remotely functional?

Nike Lunarwavy Ski Hi – adorable, yet horrible for actual sports

Where’s the outcry there?  There should be none, because I for one support the shifting of high-fashion ideals from the impossible-to-wear (and physiologically unhealthy) sky-high stilletto “norm” to a more activewear-focused, girl-on-the-move sense of what is fashionable.  This is a move in the right direction, ladies – not the wrong one.

And what of this Nike women’s short-sleeved poncho (again, not from the Sacai line)?  If you tried to work out in this plastic-covered bad boy, you’d suffocate, and the shortness of the sleeves means it’s not even really “functional” as a cool-weather jacket, much less an activewear staple.

And yet I think we can all agree that its purpose is not for playing sports; rather, its purpose is to emphasize a sense of style that doesn’t rely on skin-tight, crop-top, short-skirt, bare-all ideals of “high” fashion.  Pieces like this – puffy, the opposite of fitted, and a far cry from neon or sparkles – say to the world, “Ain’t nobody got time for bullsh*t,” and yet say so in a powerful, self-determined, athletic voice.

When it goes on sale (or makes it to the outlets), you can bet I’ll be one of the first ones lining up for the NikeLab x sacai line, because I am also the first one lining up for a new, more empowering vision of what a fit, fashionable woman can look like – and to me, that looks a lot like comfortable windbreaker skirts and cute, baggy sweatshirt dresses.

Do you think fitness and fashion are compatible?  Do you like – or hate! – designer “styled” athletic wear?