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Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Monthly Archives: April 2016

Getting ready for the Jay Cutler Classic this season was very different than getting ready for the New England Championship in November 2014. Here are some of the obvious reasons:

This time I had a coach.

Coaches can be a big investment, both financially and mentally. Not only are you paying for someone’s expertise, but you’re trusting that they will keep your best interests in mind. You have to be able to communicate openly with them about you feel about the process and trust your gut. You are investing in your own progress by working with a coach, but I believe the mental investment is just as important to look at as the financial.

My current coach and trainer is Alaina Sanders and her pricing is reasonable. She’s an online coach and she’s young. She acknowledges that, which is another reason why her prices are reasonable. When I started researching last summer for coaches knowing I wanted to compete this spring season, I made sure to look at more than 1. do they win, 2. do they look good. I wanted to know their story because I wanted them to understand mine.

I haven’t always been heavy. This was an extreme weight gain in college, and then an extreme weightloss after college. I developed binge eating disorder and worked through it in talk therapy. I had been able to identify my triggers: events and foods and could analyze my feelings better to be able to prevent binges – for the most part. Many coaches that I had spoken with didn’t understand eating disorders and one even said it would be the clients fault if they developed an eating disorder. This goes to my point that you are trusting another person for their expertise to guide you through a prep that can be considered successful, regardless of how you’re gauging success. On Alaina’s web site, she explained her story broadly and briefly, but I knew that she had been a survivor of an eating disorder. I didn’t know which one, but I figured she had a personal experience and would ultimately understand mine.

My first season I didn’t have a coach and this was soley based on cost. many of the coaches I had come across were very expensive – this sport as a whole is expensive. I hadn’t found a coach I believed would get me during my first season and I came to the conclusion that if they had learned how to do this and were coaching people, I could probably learn too.

So this season I had a coach and I knew more about exercise and nutrition.

Since I had competed on my own before, I had read a million articles about all the ways you could go about dieting for this kind of competition. I had followed a clean eating focus of IIFYM. Over a 22 week prep, I had lost 24 pounds. I felt great about my progress the whole time and I was never starving. I did, however, feel like I was missing something. I prefer to have a “dry” season of prep so I can eat my carbohydrates and while I thought this would be an issue the first time, it wasn’t. I found myself missing things like Oreos or deli meat. I wanted a damn sandwich. These are things that can be easily tracked and portion control, but at the time I thought the best way to go about this was clean eating. Post-November 2014, I am much more flexible. I have my macro goals and within that I have a fiber goal and I try to aim to have at least 3-5 veggies/fruits a day. I don’t always hit between 3-5, but I do hit my fiber goal. I had learned that the body, or my body at least, like carbohydrates and will effectively use these for fuel – doesn’t matter the source. I also learned that sugar makes me break out, so I do limit my sugars to around 60g a day. For perspective, a 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola is 39g of sugar. So I can kill it with a soda or I can consume a few different things and spread my sugar throughout the day. I also learned that protein keeps me full and even something like a protein shake in the mid-afternoon could count as a snack.

As far as workouts, I knew about HIIT, Intervals and Steady cardio before ever working with my coach. These three different styles of cardio can truly make a difference in your progress. They also work your body in different ways. For me personally, having these different style incorporated at different points of the week keeps it interesting.

Knowing what I knew from before has helped me tremendously in this prep. It’s helped me ask the right questions such as what is the purpose of a refeed scientifically and will a short term refeed over 24 hours really do anything for me? The answer: it’s supposed to help speed up your metabolism, you may hold some water for 1-3 days post a refeed, but essentially it helps you drop weight a steady pace. While a 24 hour refeed doesn’t have a great success with everyone, one day of refueling is good for the body. Some suggest refeeding for a week or two, obviously this isn’t something that would be conducive to a competition prep, but I will take a day of extra carbs and not complain.

I’ll admit as a lover of carbs, I was nervous the first refeed I tried about a  third of the way into this season. It was new and scary, but I aside from asking my coach questions, I took initiative and researched what I could. I found this article on the blog Kyle Hunt Fitness. This helped further explain to me what I could expect after my refeed.

I was confident in the weightroom and it didn’t matter if Alaina  changed up my workouts as the season continued. My first season I was learning to lift on my own, from scratch. I watched a ton of videos about form and how to increase weight and when to, I didn’t necessarily always feel comfortable increasing and it wasn’t until this past fall that I really started pushing myself with my squats, going from 125 to 150 pounds in a few months. This time I knew what exercises were for the most part. Sometimes I do look up an exercise to check on form and movement, but mostly because there are three names for practically every exercise.

Aside from learning to lift, I was 174 pounds and female – I felt like I would be looked at when walking into a weightroom. That’s not necesarily the case. Mostly, gym goers are trying to get their own exercises done and if they are looking at you it may be because they’re thinking “good for you” not “why is she in here”.

I have never had an issue taking a selfie in the gym, but this time I really didn’t care if people saw me videoing or taking a photo. This is my journey an my progress, I want to document it. I do try to not get other gym goers in my photos because before 6 am that’s just not a nice thing to do.

I know how to present myself on stage. Aside from a coach that guides you through your workouts and nutrition, posing coaches can be costly too. I watched more YouTube videos than I had ever before during my first season. This season, Alaina asked me if I had considered getting a posing coach and she suggested hers  -Lisa Nobles of Perfect Posing by Lisa. Lisa is a judge for a few natural leagues in the midwest and has been involved in the sport since the mid-90s. Her clients typically place high and I think she pulls greatness out of people. Working with her has helped me figure out what posing works well for my body. In the NPC, there are standard front and back poses, but they don’t necessarily emphasize the best parts of people on stage. Working together she identified a few poses that highlighted my best features and also made me feel good. Feeling good on stage is reflected in your posing. If you don’t feel good and aren’t having fun, then you’re posing will suck and it doesn’t matter how good your body looks.

In some ways this prep is the same as the last prep.

My goals were never about winning. They have always been about being the best me and bringing the best package I possible can. The first time that meant a six 6, 150 pounds and 22 weeks of learning and hard work. This time it means a size 2, 131 pounds and 17 weeks of learning and hard work. I wanted to be better than my last package and I’ve already done that. My external goal, one that I cannot fully control, is to get as close to the Top 10 as possible. Last time, there were 34 women total in my height class for bikini. That is a lot of women. I tied at 15 with 19 of them. While it’s subjective and you never know who will show up that day, I don’t want to tie for last this time. I know I have a better body now and that with my posing I can be competitive.

I am learning every day just like I was before. I now know what a refeed is and how my body reacts to one. I’m basically a human science experiment and I’m ok with that. I know new lifts like Arnold presses. I now know that I am a much happier person when I get to bed between 9 and 9:30 for the gym at 5 am, otherwise you should stay out my way. I understand better the importance of a higher water intake and balancing your sodium.

I’m enjoying the process and watching my body change. It was exciting to see inches come off the first time and while I’m thrilled I’ve lost almost 20 pounds this time, I get more excited about new lines and more definition in my muscles. I love seeing what my body is capable of and how it’s adapting to different situations such as refeeds, variation in cardio and more structured lifting. I know that this is going to set me up for a successful off season to be able to develop the muscle a little further, lift heavier when not in a deficit, but more in a maintaining structure.

I’m having fun and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. Maybe it’s because I can see the progress happening and it’s because of my effort. I have been doubted in the past and there’s nothing worse than caving and believing those who doubt you. I have done a lot of soul searching this season, some I’ve talked about and some I haven’t. I feel like I am in a better place now than I was in January and definitely a better place than where I was four years ago when I was decided to get healthy. I have continued to impress myself with how far I’ve come the past four months and the goals I’m ready to establish and take on after season.

I wish anyone who has the desire to compete the best, just remember to ask yourself why you’re doing it and make sure that’s it’s genuine. It’s more than the trophy for me and I hope it is for some others out there too.

Three days until stage day, let’s see how this goes!

 

❤ Cristina

 

 

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Here’s a link to Tuesday’s blog post to elaborate more what I talk about in the video.

Some of my ideas to combat these urges are:

  1. take a nap
  2. go for a run or go to the gym

if these aren’t possible, then I’m going to try:

  1. taking a break and reading a book; either a few pages or a chapter. I have bought a new book and it’s something I can keep in my purse.
  2. go for a walk, I work in an area where going for a walk will be pretty easy. I can set an alarm for 10 or 15 minutes.
  3. find a podcast, video or put on some music. I did try to watch Grey’s Anatomy, but maybe searching for something will also take off some of the edge.

I don’t see this as a set back, but as a learning experience. Something to help me figure out new strategies for how to better handle my emotions. What are some of the ways you cope with your emotions that don’t include food?

 

❤ Cristina


I’ve been doing this weightloss thing for over four years now, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about science and nutrition, I’ve learned about weight lifting and endurance, I’ve learned about myself and more importantly, how what you’re doing can attract both positive and negative people.

The past few days I’ve gotten a lot of direct messages on Instagram about my weightloss. I’d rank them like this:

  1. Most messages – asking if I want wraps to “fix” my stomach”

No, I don’t want your wraps. I don’t want your creams. I don’t want to be solicited. Many of these messages are coming from people who either don’t follow me/know my story or have been following me for a few seconds before determining they should message me about wraps. Clearly, almost all of these people are trying to get my business, don’t really care about my journey and truly don’t understand weightloss and the affect it can cause on the body.

  1. Many messages – asking how I’ve done, what’s the magic secret

First, these people are looking for a quick fix and think I have the answer. Most of them don’t follow my journey or haven’t follow for very long so they don’t realize that I have worked for over 4 years and that my journey has taken many turns, has had ups and downs and that I’ve had to change my approach many times to fit my lifestyle. The beauty about weightloss is that there is actually a science behind it. Everyone’s body reacts differently to different methods. There is no cookie cutter plan that will work for everyone because of a variety of factors. So when these people message me, I’m honest and I tell them I’ve focused on my nutrition plan a lot and that I’ve added cardio and weights as necessary. That I started with just getting moving and that I’m constantly setting new goals. For most, this isn’t what they want to hear and that’s ok, but that’s my story to tell.

  1. Some messages – thanking me for sharing my story, telling me that they can relate to parts of it and that I’m brave

Well, kiddos, let’s get one thing straight, I am not brave. There are a million accounts out there sharing their lives, sharing their weightloss, sharing their meal plans. This isn’t new. I use social media as an outlet to share my journey to:

  1. Hold me accountable to my goals. If I say it aloud then it’s reality.
  2. Show others that I’m a normal person, with a job and goals. I want to show people that to reach their goals, you can’t make excuses. I travel for work and I show how I plan for those times that it’s not convenient to be concerned about being healthy and my goals.
  3. Show others that weightlifting is one of the best things that have happened to me. Not just physically, but mentally. I can quantify weightlifting easily – I can tell you that when I started squatting I was using a 25 pounds pre-weighted barbell and that last Sunday I PR’d 150 pounds. That progress that makes me excited about lifting. It shows me how strong I am and that I am capable of more than I thought I was.
  4. Show others that every journey is different and mine happens to include flexible dieting. That I believe in true balance – even though by my dessert photos you would never know it. I believe in the powers that are pancakes, asparagus, chicken breast, protein ice cream and guacamole. I don’t believe in restricting and that progress is very possible with this balance.
  5. Maybe change the minds of those who believe that beauty is a thin figure without imperfections. I may be the most fit I have ever been, but I have a number of imperfections. Those that are visible are my loose skin, stretch marks, and deflated breasts from large weightloss. Those that can’t be seen are the negative thoughts I have about my stomach, the concern I have about going back to binge eating, and not thinking I’m good enough or strong enough to accomplish the goals that I created for myself.
  6. I want to change how we talk about weightloss, weightlifting, body expectations placed on us by ourselves and others.

I use social media to face my own fears and to help others as well – maybe they’ll embrace their imperfections or think differently about what it means to be healthy.

I’ve made a few posts that are really vulnerable, but that’s how I face my fear. I am going to be stepping on stage in 3 weeks. It’s not the first time, but this time there’s more loose skin. I do have a much better package, but that doesn’t make me any less frustrated that I don’t look as fit as I feel. There are 4 posts that truly stick out me that have received some positive feedback and as well as some nasty feedback. They’re pretty much the reason for this post and it’s length.

  1. Video of my stomach from April 7th

This video was taken post-gym and post-breakfast, but really shows how much loose skin I have in my middle. It’s received over 13,000 views and over 300 likes. The positive comments are:

  • how brave I am
  • how women who have had babies also look like this and hope that one day they are as comfortable with their bodies like I am
  • people are proud of me for the hard work I’ve put in
  • I am still beautiful with the loose skin.

The negative comments are a lot more fun, so here are some screenshots.

negative 1

not so bad

There are a few things I want to address with this video and the comments, even some of the positive comments.

  1. I have never said that I’m not beautiful. I know I am because my boyfriend tells me every day. Most days I feel beautiful. Some days I think I look like hot shit in my clothes and some days I don’t. We should not equate our weight or skin with beauty because you will constantly find imperfections and reasons as to why you are not as beautiful as the girl whose profile you just looked at.
  1. I have never compared my loose skin to someone else’s. Telling me that it could be worse only makes you looks like an asshole. I am 5’4”- my profile says so. I have lost 107 pounds over 4 years; length of the time of the loss doesn’t make it any less dramatic. Yes, I weightlift, but where I hold my fat and weight affects how my body looks. My loose skin is mine, it’s a reflection of my journey and at first I didn’t think I would want surgery because I did this to myself. However, over the last few months it’s been a bigger conversation because I have truly fell in love with competing and I want to be able to win in the fall season. I also become very self-aware when I’m active such as running, bending over and yes, being intimidate with my boyfriend. There are some clothes that fit funny because of how the skin sits on my body. So yes, maybe there is someone out there who has it worse than me and maybe they are coping better or worse than me, but I would never make them feel like they shouldn’t feel good about how hard they’ve worked or bad about how their body looks just because there’s a possibility of someone, somewhere working harder than them or with more imperfections.

There’s a lot I’ve learned going through different phases on my weightloss journey and the biggest one is that being fit can mean a lot of different things and weight is relative. I feel sorrier for those who think that how my midsection looks is funny because they have a skewed view of the world. This is my reality, it’s not pretty and it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. I gained weight and now I’ve lost it. This is the effect of that loss. Yes, it makes me sad sometimes and yes, it frustrates me, but that’s why I’ve decided to have surgery. Many choose to do that too. Does that mean that we can laugh because I’ll have a scar or a new belly button? No. Comments like this almost don’t deserve to be acknowledged, but at the same time its society that has led so many to believe that women specifically can’t have imperfections and must look a certain way. Men have their own standards too, but they’re not talked about as much and there is certainly not as much emphasis on them.

I would say: think before you comment. Read the caption to gain understanding of the post.

  1. Comparison of side profile – before lifting and last week’s check in

side by side

Please don’t compare your body to mine – I will forever say this over and over and sometimes to myself even. The comment has since been deleted, but a woman commented that she had the body I used to have and she wants the one I currently do. Again, I’m short so my fat is relative and so is my muscle. I’m in competition prep and that’s a very different lifestyle. I weightlift and I track what I eat just like I breathe. Everyone has different goals and methods. We are all at different stages of our lives. I’m 27 years old and I don’t have children – I never intend to. I travel for work and to me health and fitness is more than a hobby. This is my lifestyle. I have embraced it with wide open arms.  Comparing your chapter 2 to my chapter 50 is only going to make you feel like you’re never going to accomplish your goals.

Have patience because it’s going to take time.

  1. Morning ab shot

ab shot

Two things. 1 fat doesn’t turn into muscle. That’s not how science works.

I’ve gotten messages in response to this photo and I’ve seen some photos where people, both men and women, talk about how they want to turn their fat into muscle. Well, I believe some of you failed health because fat and muscle are two totally different things. You can maintain, gain or burn fat just like you can maintain, grow or burn muscle, but fat cannot physically convert into muscle. When you burn fat, you are just now able to see the muscle you already had. Loosing fat means that the number on the scale will go down. Gaining muscle also means that the scale will change. It may go up because muscle takes up less space than fat, but a pound of muscle still weighs a pound. This also means that if you lose a pound of fat and gain a pound of muscle you may appear thinner or fitter or whatever word you want to use, but the scale will be the same. At this point in my weightloss, if I wasn’t in prep, the scale wouldn’t matter much if at all. At this point, my coach asks me how I feel about how my body looks, how do my clothes feel and how do I feel during my workouts.

When I first started losing weight, it was 100% about the scale because at 5’4” and over 240 pounds, I needed that number to go do to see progress. At different points of my journey, different methods to measure progress have had more or less weight – per say, than others. Don’t tell me that the weight I currently am is your goal weight because I remember saying I wanted to be 150 pounds and a size 10 because I didn’t think I was capable of more. Well at 180 pounds I was a size 10, I knew I needed to reevaluate. I’m 133.6 and a size 2 right now.

  1. Stop being so surprised at what the body can accomplish. I need to be better about this too.

According to a post on Built Lean, there are a few things that should be considered when discussing abs definition and visibility. First, your body fat percentage. If you have a lot of fat, you’re not going to see a lot of definition or any at all. For women to start seeing ab definition they need to be between 20-22% body fat. This is typically the fit category and there will be some definition on the arms and legs. Women with 15-17% body fat, many bikini and fitness models, muscle definition will be apparent and there will be some vascularity as well. Women with 10-12% body fat, bodybuilders for example, will show striations and separation between muscles. Second, where is your fat place? If you hold your “weight” in your midsection, you’re less likely to show abs, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We all have abs, some may be less strong than others, but when there’s no fat over them you can see them clearly.

For me, I have skin over mine. My body fat was tested a few weeks ago – I know we’re all so sick of me talking about my stomach and my body fat, but I was in the extremely fit category at 16.2% at 135 pounds. I’m 133.6 pounds as of this morning, so aside from skin, there should be ab definition. So don’t be surprised that you can see it. Also, on that matter, don’t be surprised at your own accomplishments. NSV’s and all, you set your own goals, if you accomplish them then be excited, not shocked. You know how much effort you are putting in, there should be no shock. Again, I need to be better about this because most days I wake up and I’m like “yep, wow, this is my body. Yep, I lifted that weight.”

  1. Comparison of my backside – before weight lifting to last week’s check in

butt

Time is usually on your side. Most people aren’t trying to win a trophy or medal. Most have goals to just live a healthier lifestyle. I am not trying to necessarily live a healthier lifestyle right now. This comparison like the side profile is almost a 2 years difference. It shows what weightlifting and tracking my macro nutrition has done for my body. This was not an overnight change. The day I started lifting and tracking was with the goal of competing 5 months later. I did take a break from the prep lifestyle, but I never stopped lifting or tracking my meals. Since January this year, I have been training for another bikini competition. I will have been in prep for 4 months when I compete.

Don’t say because my backside changed someone else will. The commenter below doesn’t follow me and didn’t look through my other comparisons that day, all he saw was that my backside is smaller, tighter and there’s definition in my back. My motivation is probably different than his friend’s motivation. My methods and body are my own. Comparing what I’ve been able to accomplish to what he believes his friend can accomplish is not the best way to go about supporting and motivating his friend.

comparison

  1. Protein gelato sandwich with a Complete Cookie

ice cream cookie

I don’t believe in cheat meals. I believe in flexible dieting. I also believe in balance – saying not right now, but maybe later. The moment you start using terms like cheating is the moment that you start to creative a negative relationship with food. I used to binge and it would be from being too restrictive. There are also emotional triggers, but that’s something a little differently – but still reflects a poor relationship with food. I admit, in the beginning eliminating things out of my daily consumption was necessary. These eliminations included chips, pasta, soda and random candies. They have no nutritional value anyway and aren’t very filling. It was easy to eliminate them. But when I log on, I see people who are almost apologizing for enjoy dinner last night or indulging in a cupcake. I think we know how I feel about cupcakes so indulge on. The problem comes from having a cupcake every day if it doesn’t work for you plan. You can’t get upset at your own results if you own actions prevent you from reaching your goals. That being said, if you can eat the cupcake every day and still reach goals then eat the damn thing and celebrate. I count macro nutrition (fat, carbs and protein) because it allows me to be flexible in what I want to eat day to day; it also helps me reach my goals effectively. I’m nourishing my body with specific amount necessary – no more, no less – for my goals. I do look at some micro nutrients as well such as fiber and more recently potassium and sodium, but not as closely. If I can eat gelato and cookies every night I will, but I also know that during the day I need to eat some veggies too.

Have I gone over my macro goals before? Yes, definitely. I eat out for work and while I track and make the best decisions possible, it’s hard when you’re not preparing the meal. Have I under eaten? Probably, again, if I’m not making the meal it’s hard to be perfect. Hell, it’s hard to be perfect anyway, but I’m usually within my goals. I’m dedicated to my sport and to my goals and that’s why prep hasn’t be hard for me, but my journey as a whole, has been up and down with both workouts and eating. That’s normal, that’s human. But I call it what it is, balance and life.

I’m probably going to start rambling, but I want to say that what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how good you’re doing there will always be someone there to bring you down. I believe that you need to learn all you can because science doesn’t lie, just read everything. Treat yourself well because no one will treat you better – for me that means what you say to yourself and what you “allow” yourself to do, say or eat. Own your journey, be proud for others’ accomplishments, but don’t beat yourself up for not being farther along than you are. Evaluate your goals and create high standards, dream as big as the moon, but keep in mind the chapter that you are in. Lastly, put sprinkles on everything.

❤ Cristina


Whenever I’m at a nutritional store, I look to see what’s interesting, what’s new and to find what I walked in for. When I was at Vitamin Shoppe recently, I came across another fit cookie, as I’ll call it. The Cookie Department calls their line of cookies fully functional, each one with the capability to help your body in some way. They have six flavors: Cherry Bomb, Tough Cookie, Snap Back, Great Full, Awaken Baked and Chocolate Chip Nookie. They have two sizes of cookies: break size, which is a single serve cookie and the original, which has two servings. I haven’t seen the original size in person, and who the hell thinks putting two servings in one package is a good idea anyway? That’s why I like pre-packaged things, so I can portion control easily!

Anyway…

The first one I had found was Awaken Baked. This was the first cookie that company created. It has caffeine equivalent to one cup of coffee and it very chocolate-y. I loved the flavor of this cookie. I love coffee and chocolate, so putting them together like this is genuis. The fact I could use it as an afternoon pick-me-up on the way tot a work function was even better. No one wants to smell coffee on my breath when I’m trying to shake hands.

The only issue I had with this cookie – I do believe I found a few coffee grounds in my teeth. Thankfully, I was able to get them before someone else saw them.

 

 

The next cookie I found and tried was the Snap Back. This cookie’s purpose: natural detoxifiers will “snap” you back to your normal self. Whether that’s true or not, we’ll let science take the lead on that one. This cookie was super soft and if you like the spice of gingersnaps or gingerbread this cookie is perfect for you. It’s sweet and spicy and it was a sad few minutes when I realized I had eaten the whole cookie.  This was actually one I brought with me to my Saturday ritual coffee outing. It was perfect with a cup of medium roast. This one is my top favorite out of all the cookies made by The Cookie Department.

My third experience of The Cookie Department was their sweet potato and oatmeal cookie called Great Full.  This one accompanied me on a business trip and it was a perfect close to a long day of driving. This was my second favorite and if I believed in tying for first, this would tie with Snap Back. This is the cookie you get if a sweet potato eyed up oatmeal at a party and said “I want to take advantage of you.” Similar to Snap Back there’s a little spice from the molasses in the cookie. This was super chewy and instead of raisins, there were cranberry pieces baked in.

The fourth cookie I tried was the Cherry Bomb. Sadly this little guy was crumbled in its packaging, but that made for a very interesting addition to my chocolate gelato sundae the other night. It had pieces of cherry in it, which I thought was a great addition. I love things that bulk up a cookie – nuts, chocolate, fruit. I like things with a little texture, but not a lot. This cookie, however, was dry. It could’ve been close to the expiration date, but I know that the Snap Back was actually a few days after its proposed date and it was super soft and chewy – it tasted homemade. It could’ve been the batch, but regardless this was my least favorite cookie that I tried.
I’m in search of the last two flavors: Tough Cookie – a peanut butter cookie, and Chocolate Chip Nookie – I think you know what that one is. These are only found at Vitamin Shoppe and the web site only allows you to buy full boxes. So I’m on a quest to find the last two – sadly, I’ve checked three different stores, but I may call another one near me. Desperate times, call for desperate measures!

If you find yourself in need of finding something to fill up your carbs, this is a cookie to consider. They’re low in protein because that’s not their function, but they’re also lower in fat. Most of the cookies are 5f, but the Tough Cookie appears to be the fatest cookie with 9f – reasonable though since peanuts have healthy fats in them.

I have plenty of other things I’m excited to try. If you want to know about protein bars – check out my instagram on Saturday mornings – that’s my favorite time to try new bars, but I do post about new ones often!
Talk to you soon!

❤ Cristina


I can’t remember the last time that I actively bought a box of pasta and had an Italian night in. Even when I go out, I stay away from pasta. It’s not that I eat low carb or don’t like pasta, but I don’t feel satisfied when I eat it. I do feel full when I eat it, but within 30 minutes I’m staving again; this could be because a serving size isn’t very big or that there isn’t much nutritional value in pasta. Regardless, I’ve sought out alternatives that are lower carb and higher volume so I can stay fuller longer. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable that I’ve used multiple times with a variety of ingredients to keep it interesting and provide a similar taste to my favorite pasta dishes.

Basic how-do cook spaghetti squash

What You’ll Need:

  • large pot
  • water
  • spaghetti squash
  • ice cream scoop

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot about 75% of the way with water and set to get it boiling.
  2. Wash the outer skin of your spaghetti squash and pat dry with a towel.
  3. With a large and sharp knife cut the squash down the middle, length wise.
  4. With an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop out the seeds.
  5. Place the squash in the pot and cook until tender. Depending on the size of the squash this could take 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once it’s full cooked, drain the squash and with a fork scrap out the meat of the squash. it’ll cook out in strains, which is where it gets its name from.

Buffalo Chicken Bake

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • cream cheese
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cooked chicken
  • casserole dish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray casserole dish with a little bit of cooking spray. I used a mini bread loaf pan because I was making this for one serving, but you can use any size that you believe will fit all of your ingredients.
  3. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. I used left over chicken that I had already baked. *Make sure your chicken is already cooked.
  4. In a bowl weigh out your spaghetti squash. Since this was one serving, I used 100 grams of squash.
  5. Mix in each ingredient one at a time so they are all fully mixed.
  6. Add in Frank’s Red Hot to taste. I used 3 tablespoons because I like the kick.
  7. Add cream cheese. I used 1 table spoon of fat free cream cheese just a store brand.
  8. Add shredded cheese. I used Mexican cheese blend, but you could use cheddar or Monterrey Jack.
  9. Pour mixed into casserole pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350.

 

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Newman’s Own pasta sauce
  • cooked ground turkey
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • small pot

Directions:

This recipe is for one serving so adjust the ingredients as you feel is necessary to make a larger quantity.

  1. In a medium pot  heat up 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pasta sauce. I used Newman’s Own because it has less sugar than a lot of other brands and therefore less carbohydrates.
  2. Add 150g of cooked spaghetti squash to the sauce and mix. Make sure that the squash is completely covered.
  3. Add in 4 ounces of cooked ground turkey. I cook my ground turkey like I do for Sloppy Joes, nice and crumbly. Also, make sure to drain the grease.
  4. Lastly, add in shredded cheese and mix so the it melts and is stringy.

I add spices to this recipes like basil or oregano. I also will add cooked onions, peppers and mushrooms too if I want more volume. Obviously, it doesn’t fully replace spaghetti, but the flavor is pretty darn close.


I’ve also tried Alfredo sauce and spinach with spaghetti squash, but I wasn’t that big of a fan. These are definitely my top two ways to cook it. It’s also good plain with a little bit of salt as a side too.

I love playing with alternatives and veggies. I hope you get inspired by these two combinations and get creative in the kitchen to think of your own!

 

❤ Cristina