Sunday, April 29, 2012

Surviving the Game Changers

Too often, I stay so fixated on the day-to-day that I forget to stop and look up. As I paused to step back and reflect on the big picture that I call my life, I realized something that got me thinking...

It's been almost exactly one year since probably the biggest game changer that I've experienced in my life [so far]. At first, it seemed unfair that one decision could create such a domino effect of consequences, reality checks, and unimaginable re-directions. As time has progressed though, seems ironically inspiring that the same decision and subsequent domino effect can form a beautiful new path equip with a refreshing outlook and revised attitude.

Ultimately, I find myself in a position of giving thanks. Without the past, I wouldn't be where I am today. Without the consequences of the unexpected game changers, I would be unchanged, unknowingly unhappy and unaware of the potential waiting at my doorstep. Thankfully, that's not the case.

At the end of the day, we all have times that require us to dig deep and find the inner strength that lies within. It's during these times that we are given the greatest opportunity for positive change. We must fight through what often feels like getting caught in a sandstorm of damage control, emotional chaos and personal remodeling; we must admit to ourselves that something isn't working; we must surrender to the uncomfortable truth that old habits die hard and change is needed... serious, personal, committed change is truly needed.

So where does that leave us?
It leave us in control of how we respond to challenges, changes, and unforeseen turbulence. 
It leaves us at a crossroads where we must choose our priorities and stick to them.
It leaves us in a position of self discovery.
It leaves

Friday, April 27, 2012

Quick Food Fix

Sometimes (or most of the time), the idea of cooking your meals at home versus grabbing a bite at the drive-thru can seem absolutely ridiculous. After finding time to balance work, school, family, kids, exercise, sleep, errands, and everything else you're loading on, setting aside an hour or two a day to prepare meals is borderline laughable. Since I frequently overbook my calendar while still wanting to maintain focus on eating right, I did some research to find some fresh new ideas... thank goodness I found these two eat right keepers from my friends at GLAM GRAD and Homemade Ginger:

I LOVE this recipe! Why? Oh, for many reasons...
I love the Crockpot - meals that will last the whole week and require little to no effort?? Score!
There are only 2 ingredients - that makes grocery shopping and calorie counting easy breezy!
I can make it while I'm sleeping and wake up to a delicious smelling house and food that's ready to go!
I've been really into salsa lately, and that's new for me. So, the idea of chicken smothered in salsa... wow, yes please!
I learned the recipe from the amazing Lila Kooklan, which means it must be fantastic!

Tried this, loved it... And yes, I'm going to tell you the reasons why...
I am totally and completely obsessed with Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bags as you have learned (see Tricks & Tips Tuesday). More ways to use them equals more to be obsessed about!
I LOVE eggs - they're perfect little protein packed goodies!
I even pre-packed a bag with all my omelet fillings except the eggs, then I took my pre-packed bag and 2 eggs to work, cracked my eggs into the bag when I was ready I microwaved it for breakfast - Amazing!

Tip from my experience...
Depending on the amount of fillings you put into the bag, you might have to check to make sure the center is fully cooked. For example, I put lots of veggies in mine so I had to cook it for an additional few minutes to get it just right.


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Re-Balancing Act

After the last few weekends of traveling, splurging, and making wonderful memories, I’m feeling a little off balance. Yes, it was amazing to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest, but with all of that comes consequences. For instance…. I’ve been eating out a lot more than usual so my body and wallet are upset… I haven’t been exercising like usual so I feel tired, yucky and sluggish… I’ve been on the go and bad about addressing my daily healthy living items… and so on and so forth. All feelings that I’m sure you’ve experienced at one point or another (or something similar).

(No, that's not me, but I wouldn't mind having her legs and being able to balance on a log so easily...)

I used to let times like these get me down and turn into self pity parties on the couch. This time though, I refuse to fall into that same pattern. I might be hanging on by my toes, but I HAVE NOT and WILL NOT fall off the wagon (as they say). It’s time to get motivated, make a plan, and most importantly, follow through to accomplish my goals!

Step 1: Weekly Goal Setting
  • Food Journal everyday
  • 30-60 minutes of (GREAT!) exercise 5 days of the week
  • No alcohol Monday-Thursday
  • 35 minutes of meditation (divided throughout the week as desired)
  • No less than 8 hours of sleep per night
  • No soda
Step 2: Daily Check-List Items
  • Take vitamins
  • Drink 60-80 oz. of water
  • Food Journal everything
  • Floss (this is a new goal for me - I anticipate it will be challenging, but its something that needs to be done!)
  • Nightly reading (no particular amount set)
Step 3: Review & Follow-Through!
  • Re-read my weekly goals every morning to make sure I’m on track
  • Decide on a good treat to reward myself for a week of successful goals and completed daily check-lists (Maybe a cute shirt? Or a massage? Or a secret dance party to jump around screaming how awesome success feels? So many options to choose from…)

Enjoy your week while
seeking balance,
striving for success, and
reminding yourself that change will always require action!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Relief Remedies

Let's admit it, life hurts sometimes. It doesn't matter if you're a student, busy bee in the workforce, parent, spouse, traveler, unemployed, or anything else... it all catches up to you at some point. Instead of fighting it and complaining about how much better it would be if my body, muscles and mind never got exhausted or warn out, I embrace it as a sign of hard work and accomplishment. Give yourself a break. You work hard and it all comes down to having the right tools when exhaustion, injury, illness and more decide to strike. 

The oh-so-budget-friendly Epsom Salt! 
Muscles in pain? Body feeling exhausted? Caught that bug going around? Don't you worry... just add 2 cups of Epsom Salt to your bath and soak for at least 12 minutes - you'll be on your way to a road of recovery and increasing your body's levels of magnesium and sulfate! Not quite sure why that's so splendid? According to the Epsom Salt Industry Council, some of the health benefits of proper magnesium and sulfate levels include:

- Flushed toxins and heavy metals from the cells 
(easing muscle pain and helping the body eliminate harmful substances)
- Improved heart and circulatory health
- Relieved stress
- Pain and muscle cramp relief by reducing inflammation
- Improved oxygen use
- Improved absorption of nutrients

What are you waiting for? Soak it up!

The oh-so-hydrating Coconut Water!
If you've never tried Coconut Water before, you'll probably make one of those "what crazy person told me to drink this?!" faces when you take your first sip. Yes, it tastes a tad different than most beverages you've tried... but give it a chance! Not only is it great for you, but once you've tried it and gotten over that initial taste shock, it's quite delicious and refreshing! Hint: If you're new to the Coconut Water world, I recommend trying the flavored options like mango, pink guava, pineapple, etc... to get your feet wet (the original/plain flavor can taste a little hardcore if you know what I mean). Still need convincing? Here's some of the reasons why I love Coconut Water:

- It's sold at most grocery and convenience stores
- It's Fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie and ultra hydrating
- It's full of potassium (more than a banana) and electrolytes
- It's a fun and healthy alternative to all the things you shouldn't be drinking like soda, juices with lots of sugar, etc...

What are you waiting for? Drink it up!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CoacHELL(Y)A [recap]

Peace, Love, Coachella

After a weekend of living young, wild and free at Coachella 2012, I'm exhausted, but feeling surprisingly well! It was an invigorating and lively 3 days full of bouncing to the beats, walking the Empire Polo Fields,  laughing with friends, exploring new music and having an unforgettably wonderful time. To my delight, there were lots of health and fitness highlights throughout the weekend... and in the end, I think it's completely possible to lead a fit life while enjoying fantastically fun adventures like a music festival. 

Grubbing Guide
I experienced 2 main kinds of eating at Coachella:

(1) Off-Time Eating:
This is the eating you do when you're not at the Empire Polo Fields getting your groove on. Whether you're camping, staying in an RV, house or hotel, or otherwise, you'll likely be eating sometime before and/or after you're at the fields. I was lucky enough to go with a group of amazing women who also maintain healthy lifestyles, so bringing a variety of good snacks was surprisingly easy! Granted, I finished pretty much an entire bag of peanut butter M&M's in addition to a variety of healthy treats, but I'm only human, right? Some of the stuff we had on hand and enjoyed was:
Turkey Burgers
Apples and Bananas
Quinoa Salad (homemade by the incredible Brooke Merlo @mizmers)
Mixed Bean & Veggie Salad  (homemade by the incredible Brooke Merlo @mizmers)
Granola Bars
Trail Mix
Whole Cooked Chicken

(2) On the Scene Eating:
This is the eating that you do while at the polo fields enjoying a long day of music and madness. Luckily for you and your fit life, everything is a complete rip off, so it's easy to avoid overeating if you're watching your money at all. Same goes for alcohol... don't want to drink too much? Don't bring so much cash! I love simple solutions! In terms of the food choices themselves, I was most excited and impressed by the wrap options! One day I got a Tofu Wrap and another day I got a Tempe Wrap - yum!

In Motion
Oh man did we get a workout outside the gym this weekend! Between getting from your resting place to the polo fields, standing for endless amounts of time, and dancing until you can't dance anymore, I'd say Coachella is a pretty great way to get exercise. If I make it there again next year or any other, I'm going to wear a pedometer just for fun. After all the dust settled, I counted at least 9-10 hours a day for 3 days straight of intense walking, dancing, and general movement... beats sitting behind a desk for any number of days, that's for sure!

Hydrate & Rejuvenate
It's no secret that staying hydrated is critical. Thankfully, our group fully understood and embraced the hydration requirement and kept a cooler full of water bottles next to our cooler of alcoholic beverages. Not only that, but we also brought refillable water bottles to the fields with us and filled them up at every opportunity possible. It doesn't stop there though! In addition to hydrating, we all took our vitamins, which helped us wake up each morning feeling fresh and ready to go! 

Letting Go
Letting go and having fun was by far the best health feature of the weekend. I often get caught up is the hustle bustle of life, and forget the importance of balancing all of that out with a good time. I never want to get so extreme into eating right and working out that I forget to have fun and let loose. Yes, you should indulge in moderation and keep yourself in check to some degree, but you owe it to yourself to live and feel YOUNG, WILD & FREE!

...until next year...
Happy Coachella!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Total Body Toning

If you don't want to workout, then you don't really want a toned body. If you don't have time, put some serious thought into what you do seem to have time for: 
Do you HAVE to browse the internet or Facebook for a half hour or more everyday?
Do you HAVE to watch that television show?
Do you HAVE to hit the snooze button... even if you really want to?
Do you and your loved one(s) HAVE to sink into the couch right when you walk in the door?
The choice is yours. Yes, it's easier to make excuses and settle for the same routine you've always had. However, it's also incredibly worth it to actually make changes and find time for your health and fitness.

This is a workout routine that I put together for myself that I love. It works my entire body in about 30-45 minutes and I've noticed great results. I try to do it 2-3 times a week depending on how much time I have. 


- 2 Dumbbells (@ a weight that you can do all the reps with as little rest as possible)
- Resistance Band (I LOVE the BodyWorksBand which is the link I provided because you can do so much with it and it even has a whole exercise routine printed right on it - perfect for traveling or taking it wherever you need to!)


Biceps (front of arms): Bicep Curls 
3 sets of 12 reps each

Triceps (back of arms): Tricep Extensions
3 sets of 12 reps each

Deltoids (shoulders): Overhead Press
3 sets of 12 reps each

Pectorals (chest): Dumbbell Fly on Swiss Ball
3 sets of 12 reps each

Lats & Traps (upper back): Lat Pulldowns (with Resistance Band if you're not at the gym)
3 sets of 12 reps each

Lower Back: Back Extensions (on the floor or on a Swiss Ball or at the gym)
3 sets of 12 reps each

Abs & Obliques (the tummy): Bicycle Crunches
3 sets of 16 reps each

Quadriceps & Hamstrings (legs): Squats
3 sets of 16 reps each

Glutes (the booty): Bridge
3 sets of 16 reps each

Calves: Calf Raises
3 sets of 20 reps each

Want to kick it up a notch and add some cardio? In between each exercise, do 1 minute of jumping jacks or phantom jump rope. Supposedly, doing these 1 minute additions will burn 66% more fat!

I also want to note: I switch up the exercises and increase my reps as my body adjusts and I perform the routine with as little rest as possible to keep my heart rate up.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Food Journal Journey

I can't even remember how many times I've heard the advice of starting a food journal to accomplish my weight loss and fitness goals. For me, the concept of going from extensive mindless eating all day everyday to recording every single thing I ate, when I ate it, how many calories it was, and how I felt as a result was like climbing Mount Everest in a wheelchair. I tried several times and failed miserably, until I decided to make my food journal a journey instead of an overnight implementation. It's gone something like this...

Phase 1: Finding my journal...
I started by going through a trial and error process to find out what the best "food journal" was for me. I tried using my calendar, but that didn't give me enough space to write down everything. I tried using the notepad on my phone, and while I liked it because I always carry my phone, I didn't like that I couldn't see my entire day of eating in one quick glance (which I wanted). So, I settled on a spiral notepad that I now carry in my bag/purse throughout the day. I found that physically writing down the food I ate was an important part of making me think about what I was doing - as opposed to typing something in my phone that I might do more mindlessly. 

Phase 2: Just write it - all of it...
Once I was set on my perfect food journal, I wrote down everything I ate throughout the day, in the most basic form:
 "toast and fruit" 
No quantities, no calories, no times... just the food as I saw it.

Phase 3: Adding specifics...
When I was comfortable writing down everything throughout the day, I began paying attention to the quantities and food brands/specifics that I was consuming and when:
 "2 slices of San Francisco Sourdough bread with 1/2 tablespoon of Smart Balance butter/margarine @ 8:15am"

Phase 4: The calorie count...
After I was writing down everything I ate including the specifics, adding in the corresponding calories was a lot easier. I bought a small and easy to carry book by The Calorie King that lists tons of foods and their calories, carbohydrates and fat content. However, as often as possible, I stick with what the label of what I'm eating says (because calories vary a lot depending on the specific brand). 
"8:45am: 1 slice of Ezekiel bread @ 80 calories; 1 tablespoon of Trader Joe's Almond Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds @ 100 calories; 1 banana @ 100 calories"

Phase 5: Even on the weekends...
It was easy for me to food journal when I was making my own meals, but eating out was a whole different ball game. Usually I don't know all the specifics of what I eat when I'm out, but I started writing down what I did know:
"Friday night @ Dog Haus Biergarten: turkey dog in a King's Hawaiian roll with arugula, pickles and mustard; side of tater tots with ketchup; 1 glass of white wine"

Phase 6: Adjustments as necessary...
Since my food journal is a journey, I frequently make adjustments as needed. For instance, once I started calorie counting, I thought it would be best to set a daily calorie intake goal and show myself my remaining balance after each meal. The problem with that, for me, was I felt restricted and I would get discouraged if I was going over my intake goal, etc... So, I switched to making a running calorie total throughout the day, while keeping a general intake range in mind for the day as a whole.

Phase 7: Commentary...
Just last week I started adding commentary to my food journal. Either at the end of the day or throughout the day (whichever is more convenient), I scribble notes all over my food journal:
"So glad I ate this for breakfast - started my day right and wasn't hungry at all until lunch..... Caved in and ate some candy, not super happy about it but proud of myself for recording it anyway and glad I gave myself a treat I really wanted..... Protein snack after my workout - GO ME!"

Phase 8: Consistency...
Sticking with my food journal could be the toughest phase of all. At first, it was new and exciting; it was something I had to work to accomplish and improve. Once I worked out the kinks and got into a good pattern though, it was all about keeping it up consistently. For me, I have to coach myself through it:
"Don't forget to write that down, Rachel. If I don't have my notepad, I'll write it in my phone and transfer it over when I get home... Just do it."

Phase 9: Review and reflect...
Go back and review what you've been eating, how you felt, and if you're reaching your goals as a result. If something isn't working, make a change. Some of the areas I had to review and reflect a lot about were breakfast and snacks throughout the day. I realized that I wasn't eating the right foods to keep me full and satisfied for long enough periods of time until my next meal. I changed my snacks from unnecessary calories like crackers and candy to healthy low calorie ones like fruits, veggies and protein. I also reviewed and reflected my eating out a lot. Now, I try as much as possible to go somewhere that I can find the nutritional facts for, whether they are provided by the eating establishment or somewhere on the Internet or in my calorie book.

Phase 10: SUCCESS!
This process is not a fast one and it requires patience and persistence. You can do it, and always remember that you'll reach the finish line if you don't give up. Missed recording some meals or a whole day or an entire weekend? It's not the end of the world. Grab your journal as soon as you can and start back up again. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Prep for Success - Plan It, Live It, Love It.

Priorities and the process of change are funny things. While we know what our priorities should be, we often perform the tasks that fall into the pleasure category. We ask people for advice about losing weight or being healthy, but we refuse to change our habits and actually follow through to advance in a different direction. Complaining and making excuses comes so easily, continuously allowing endless amounts of time to be spent in the ditch that we've put ourselves in. What it ultimately comes down to is when you choose to say "enough." 

Since I started my fit life journey, it's been challenging for me to sit back and watch people talk and talk about change, but maintain the same priorities... or lack of priorities, for that matter. While I'm no saint, I am proud that I have implemented positive new priorities in my life and allowed myself to change my state of mind and ability to follow through on the goals I set... and it dawned on me - I was ready, REALLY READY for change, and some people are not... yet. We have to take a personal stand for ourselves and accept the responsibility that can only be our own to take. When will you be ready to stop talking about change and actually do it? When will you be committed to a shift in personal priorities? When will you look in the mirror and decide to improve the person staring back at you instead of complaining about it? When will you really be ready?

This week, I'm ready to step it up. I'm ready to reach my goals and end the roller coaster of yo-yo-ing. I'm ready to take personal responsibility. I'm ready to give as much advice as I can to others without trying to change or accept what they need to do for themselves. I'm ready to plan, live, and love my life without looking back. Are you?

Spring is here, the sun is shining (in Southern California, at least), flowers are beginning to bloom, and I don't think there's any better time to reach you own "enough" point. We have to stop planning on "I'll do ________ when I get some free time," because that point might not come. Do it now; Commit to yourself now.  Want help? Great! Stay tuned for a week of my go-to workout, daily eating regimen, and some tracking tools that helped me transition from a life of talking about change while sitting on the couch to a life of being in control of my health, daily activity, and overall personal well-being. 

Friday, April 6, 2012



This weekend... strong...
...don't let your goals get away from you...
...make healthy eating choices when you meet up at the restaurant... an apple before you go out...
...set a drink limit and stick to it...
...find time each day for at least 15-30 minutes of exercise...
...take initiative with your family and friends on Easter and go for a group walk...
...remember why you want to succeed and reach your goals...
...take notes on your successes and failures so you don't forget... confident that long term health and happiness is the right decision, even when it's challenging... something productive...
...find a new workout buddy while you socialize...
...have fun and never forget that you deserve the best!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

We're Walking, We're Walking...

I don't get out and "just walk" enough... do you?

Tuesday was a day similar to most...

I woke up early and instantly wanted to go back to bed, I felt like I was being pulled in too many different directions all day, and I sat at my desk continuously thinking "I really need to take my lunch break" as the clock went surprisingly fast from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and beyond. At 3:30 p.m., I finally stood up and said to myself, "Ok, it's now or never." I had a new exercise class planned for after work (which was great, by the way - you should definitely check out Cyclelates if you're around the LA area!), so I didn't want to go for a run, and since I had been snacking all day, I didn't really need the hour break to prepare and eat a meal. "Uh oh," I thought, "This is the Rachel Recipe for driving aimlessly around town for an hour and spending money I don't have..." Not Tuesday though, no no no. I grabbed my workout bag that I had packed for my new exercise class after work along with my phone and headphones, and I hit the pavement walking. From the first step (as usual), I was upset at myself that this wasn't a habit. It was the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air while practicing better posture, tightening my core, taking advantage of a beautiful day, and listening to Coachella 2012 playlists on Spotify. Furthermore, since I've found that I really need a destination when walking or running outside, I decided that my halfway point would be Garfield Park, which is a lovely little spot about 20 minutes (walking distance) away from my office. Unfortunately, there were some lip-locked teens occupying the peaceful resting place I had in mind, but a spot nearby proved to be more than sufficient (pictured above).

As hard as it was to pry myself away from all the tasks at hand, I realized how important that seemingly minuscule break was. Patting myself on the back for a choice well made, time well spent, and inching closer to overall health and balance; Looking forward to another walk again soon!

"You're writing the story of your life one moment at a time."
- Doc Childre and Howard Martin

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Home Stretch

Word on the street is, a lot of you are hitting that plateau and having trouble getting past it. I definitely understand that! In fact, that's where I am right now. I've come so far and I'm almost there... I'm eating well, exercising, balancing my body and mind... so why can't I quite make it to my goal?? What gives, man?! According to what I read and the things I've experienced, it takes time and a lot of minor tweaks to an already working engine.  

That's Good... This is Better.

Thinking of eating right, staying active, and obtaining overall balance as something to do everyday... Embracing a healthy and fit lifestyle and taking pride in positive changes.

Cardio 4 or 5 times a week... Interval training 3 times a week.

Walking around during the day... Standing for at least an hour a day & wearing a pedometer.

Lifting weights... Doing bursts of cardio in between lifting weights (i.e. 1 minute of jumping jacks or jump rope in between strength training exercises)

Decreasing your intake of unhealthy fats... Decreasing your meat intake.

Taking half of your meal home for leftovers... Eating an apple 15 minutes before a meal.

Watching portion sizes - most of the time... Watching portion sizes - all the time and especially on the weekend!

Taking mental notes of what you're eating... Writing down everything you're eating.

Having a go to workout spot and a consistent routine... Switching up your workout spot and keeping your body guessing.

Semi planning your eating for the day... Making a task list of your meals for the day and checking them off as you go.

Generally knowing how many calories you consume and burn... Knowing exactly how many calories you consume and burn. 

Stepping on the scale once a week or once in a while... Stepping on the scale every day or two to track minor changes (i.e: impact of going out the night before, or splurging on that burger and fries... just once...).

Thinking you're smaller because your clothes fit better... Knowing you're smaller because you use a tape measure to track how your body changes.

Acting happy... Being happy.

Hungry for more? These are good for...

Lots of various information tailored (a bit more) for your last bit of weight loss needs: 

A great step by step breakdown of losing your last 10 stubborn pounds: 

All you handsome fellas that need love too: 

Re-assessing your weight goals and general tips for getting your goal: 

Motivating real life stories and what got others to their goals: 

Realistic daily tricks and changes to get rid of the last few pounds: 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Prep for Success - Paving the Path to Better Decisions

The Mental Shift
The time has come. I need to commit to the right mentality - 100%. Leading a flourishing, fit and happy lifestyle takes a positive and committed mindset. For me, that means digging a little deeper to find my tipping point. This week, let's just get it out of the way... we all have issues, we all tend to make unhealthy decisions, and deep down we all know why. It's cool. Let's just acknowledge, accept, and adjust accordingly. We can think of it like cleaning out the closet and making room for a new positive way of thinking!

Finding Comfort
Changes make most of us feel uncomfortable; it's not what we're familiar with and it means plunging into the unknown. It's time to get a grip though... committing to being active, eating right, finding balance and being happy is not something that will end badly. I think it's safe to say this is a good set of changes to fully commit to - after all, the worst that will happen is I'll live longer, enjoy my life more fully, sleep better, have more natural positive energy, lower my chances of illness and disease, have a healthy family that will also lead longer healthier lives, etc....

Taking Responsibility
Yes, there is a lot that is outside my control, but ultimately, I decide how and what I eat, when and how often I exercise, and how I balance myself. I've seen what happens and how I feel when I've behaved as the "victim" and denied responsibility for making smart decisions... now, it's time to be in charge of my decisions.

Time is of the Essence
This week especially, I'm going to be very busy. My calendar is full of after work engagements, which means my fit life will be tested. Perfect timing! I was totally hoping I would be challenged to workout during a week of seemingly no time, eat well outside of my home the majority of the week, and keep myself fully charged from start to finish! 

Ok, but seriously, I've been wanting to try morning workouts more consistently, so this is a perfect trial week! My nights are busy and that's usually when I exercise, so I'm getting myself organized ahead of time to jump out of bed in the morning and get my blood flowing. I've also been wanting to test out my restaurant willpower and finally make that transition from choosing fries on the side to fruit! 
Soo many good opportunities!

The week is ours for the taking. 
Remember who's in charge of you.