Day 224, Quote 24:“I just don’t get art”

My boyfriend says the darnedest things like “I just don’t get art.”

These Days of Maiuma, 2013 by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison

Whenever we go to an art museum he says this. He may not realize that he says it every time, but he does. I don’t mind because there are many things that I don’t get, but he does.

And in the case of art, there are concepts I just don’t get and that’s okay too.

As far as what we like for art, well, that’s tricky.

He knows it when he sees it and I know it when I feel it.

I know I like French Impressionism. I know Monet, I like Renoir. I like Degas.

Degas’s The Star is what I think of when I think of myself at 12 years old. I had taken ballet and pointe classes, and while I didn’t enjoy leotards because of my own shame about my body, I loved how I felt going through the movements – how crisp or fluid they could be. When I took art classes in high school, this was the painting I also went back to – to find my calm.

When I see these paintings, I have this rush of overwhelm and my eyes fill with tears. It’s the joy from the colors, the fluidity of the brush strokes – how you see the images, but the lines slightly blur with the background.

There is something fun about Pop Art and Warhol, but in some cases the vibrant colors can be too much for me.

Regardless, I don’t usually see myself attracted to pieces where the lines are perfectly clear.

So, this weekend we went to the Worcester Art Museum – it’s free for August and I think that’s something that should be taken advantage of.

One of the rotating galleries had James Dye on display. I’ve never heard of him, but he’s an American artist a few years older than me.

I prefer oil paint and acrylics layered on canvas, but his India ink on Bristol board pushed me out the door thinking.

Temple of the Burdened Host appears to be symmetrical at first glance, but as you get closer to the smaller images you see that what’s being balanced by the being in the middle only minimally resemble each other. Some images are strikingly different whereas others have subtle changes.

The details of each image made me question how small could a brush get while still absorbing enough ink to create on this medium.

I walked away thinking that balance isn’t what we’ve grown up to believe it is.

I hate to break hearts, but there’s no work-life balance, no matter how bad you want to create the divide – you just can’t.

And in a society like ours, I think it’s comical for us to think it could be achieved. We’re still living in a place where many don’t have affordable health insurance or the ability to take vacation days (even if it means a staycation), mental health days or self-care is still viewed as taboo or selfish even though the conversations are changing.

I’ve had co-workers who have had to use their sick time because their child was sick and couldn’t be home alone with supervisors who were sometimes understanding and sometimes not. I’ve also used my sick time for mental health days because sometimes you just need a break, but have had to force myself to ignore dozens of emails streaming through.

Our work lives bleed into our personal lives, and in many cases I think it’s appropriate.

Our personal passions can push us in our professional endeavors.

How we handle our personal battles can help us fight professional ones – even if our personal handling isn’t always perfect.

Trying to keep the divide will just make us frustrated and feel defeated.

Balance is a tight rope – it’s not always steady, it’s not always symmetrical.

This drawing shows that from a distance balance is appealing and looks ideal, but as you approach and get a closer look at the details we can see that balance doesn’t truly exist, but that doesn’t mean the piece is less beautiful.

 

 

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Day 223, Quote…s…were overrated this week: Stress and Anxiety Coping Mechanisms This Week

My emotions this week were more varied than normal and for good reason – that’s what I need to remind myself.

I had four anxiety attacks, two ended up in tears and three ended up in 30 minute naps followed by a trip to the gym for my planned workout, one ended up with just a trip to the gym because I didn’t have time for the nap.

I’ve scheduled an alarm to go off at 4 pm every day for the next two weeks so I can sit down and journal whether I think I need to or not. I’m trying to get better about journaling when things are going well, not just when shit hits the fan because I also don’t want to associate it with something negative.

I’ve journaled four out of five days this week.

I’ve meditated before bed each night too.

My appetite hasn’t been impacted, but that’s not always the case. As I’ve shared before, times of high stress that trigger many anxiety attacks and episodes with my PTSD have also led to binge eating and blackouts – thankfully, I have a much better handle on my anxiety now and have for the past six months. If I’ve eaten something, it’s been mindless snacking, but not mindless binging or looking for emotional gratification in the food.

This week I’ve successfully used napping, journaling, meditating and the gym to cope through stress.

The stressors are different than they have been in the past, which means that the reactions are different.

In both cases of tears – I didn’t expect them to happen, it just happened. Sometimes I can tell when it’s going to happen and I can mentally prepare myself, but there was no preparation for this.

In all cases where napping took place, it was well needed and helped me get on with the day. I then tried to get into bed at a decent hour so I could get enough sleep to feel ready for the next day.

While this week I didn’t turn to food for comfort, I know what it’s like to do that or have the urge to do that. I know what it’s like for all the coping mechanisms to not work.

I go through a pretty analytical process to determine what I need to “fix” how I’m feeling and some of the questions I ask myself are questions I then ask clients when we’re breaking down their emotions and reactions.

Even when I’m alone, I’ve gotten in the habit of talking to myself out loud. I’m sure that sounds crazy, but sometimes talking about it in an open space helps me think more clearly through the steps to solve the problem.

When I’m talking out loud I’ll ask myself a series of questions like what is going on right now that I can control? What is going on that I can’t control? 

If I can at least start here, then I can be more start to figure out what will help me cope going forward.

I’ve said things like I’m really stressed right now. I want to cry. I’m hungry. I’m frustrated. I’ll try to determine what is specifically causing those specific reactions.

If I say that I’m stressed or frustrated, I try to figure out what I need to do to get the energy out. I used to always choose the gym, but more often than not, I’ve found that it’s not the best first choice. While it’s helpful, if I’m too worked up I won’t be in great headspace and I won’t be able to put my all into my workout, which causes me more frustration. Instead, I’ll check the time to determine if laying down is a good answer. Napping isn’t for everyone, but sometimes laying down doesn’t mean napping, sometimes it means laying down and looking at the ceiling and just have a moment of stillness. Sometimes it’s for meditating.

If I say I’m hungry, my next question to myself out loud is what do you want to eat – if I can’t answer this clearly then I say, you’re not really hungry let’s try another answer. 

Going to the gym used to be the cure all, but sometimes when my headspace isn’t there, it’s not the right choice.

There have also been times that I’ve cycled through different coping strategies including watching a movie, coloring, taking a shower as well as the ones above and found nothing to work. Sometimes letting things run their course is the answer.

Now, I’m not always alone when I’m talking out loud – sometimes JP is here and sometimes he’ll have this conversation with me. Sometimes he’ll help me figure out the answers. Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes I tell him I need to figure it out on my own.

I know not everyone has someone who gets it, but I would argue that JP doesn’t really get it, but I’ve tried to communicate enough with him about how I need to work through things and he’s tried to listen.

Since I know we all cope and problem solve differently, I reached out to those in the RSER Accountability Group about what their coping mechanisms are and here’s a list that we came up with.

  • Text a friend
  • Go for a walk
  • Do a puzzle
  • Read a book
  • Listen a podcast
  • Take my son to the park
  • Mediate
  • Write
  • Read
  • Run
  • Workout
  • Nap if I can
  • When your mind is clear and your stress is low, it may be helpful to think about potential strategies and coping mechanisms for when you need them.
  • As I said before, what works changes over time and as the stressors change, but ultimately our reactions to the stress is what is important about becoming a healthier version of ourselves.
  • I know it’s easier said than done to say to not let it consume you (whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, etc.), but know that many people out there are hiding and dealing with their own battles too. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18.1% of adult Americans are affected and of that population just over a third get some form of treatment.
  • An invisible battle is hard to share, but I’m not ashamed and I hope it helps someone else. I am not alone, you are not alone.
  • ❤ Cristina
  • Recipe: Eggless Banana Brownies Round 2

    OK, so round 2.

    Recipes should be played with, that’s how they get better. A couple of weeks ago, I made Eggless Banana Brownies because I wanted to change it up and not make banana bread.

    The first round I wanted to work with a base recipe and build it up. I was focused on flavor and partially texture. The flavor was good, but as JP declared – “this is a fruit, so it’s healthy”. You could taste hints of banana, which I don’t think is a problem, but at the same time when you bite in hoping for a strong chocolate flavor and get some banana it’s a little awkward. They did, however, come out FUDGEY and moist, which was a little surprising, but without a leavening agent the texture wasn’t completely where I wanted it to be.

    This round was to find the balance of leavening agent because it really is a fine balance. Too much or too little and you can ruin the texture and the taste. This recipe adds both baking powder and baking soda, which adds carbon dioxide and a little bit of acid to the batter to cause a rise.

    Another adjustment that I made, but not completely intentionally – the protein powder used this time was a whey isolate instead of a whey casein blend, which can also contribute to texture changes because it’s not as thick.

    Here is the updated recipe:

    What You’ll Need

    • 3 small or 2 medium bananas  (~220g)
    • 1 scoop of chocolate whey protein isolate powder (I used Optimum Nutrition)
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 tablespoon of almond milk (optional)
    • 2 tablespoons of Hershey’s cocoa powder
    • 1/3 cup of chocolate chips
    • cooking spray

    Directions

    1.Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

    2. Peel and mash bananas in a medium sized mixing bowl. Three small bananas should do, if you have two medium bananas that’s also fine. If they’re a bit larger you may need to add slightly more cocoa powder later.

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    3. Add protein powder to mashed banana mixture. I used Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate Whey Isolate because it’s what we had in the house, it’s also my chocolate protein of choice because it’s very chocolate-y.

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    4. Add 1 tablespoon of milk or milk alternative. I used almond milk.

    5.Once you’ve mixed the protein powder and banana, add cocoa. I use Hershey’s, but you can probably use any baking cocoa powder of choice.

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    6. Mix in baking soda and baking powder thoroughly.

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    7.(optional) Mix in chocolate chips. I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao. They’re a bit larger chips that I usually use in baking unless melting, but these were a good choice. Again, like the cocoa, you can use any chocolate chip you want to.

    8. Spraying a standard brownie pan, I spread the batter as evenly as possible. If you use a smaller pan, the baking time will be slightly longer so it cooks thoroughly. Bake for 20 minutes. I set a timer for 15 minutes and after checking on them kept them in for another 5 minutes.

    9.After cooling, cut into pieces. I cut the brownie sheet into 9 mostly equally pieces.

    Tasting and texture notes: Adding baking powder and baking soda increase the volume of these brownies and changed the texture. They were still fudgey, but more cake-y. The former minimal banana flavor was gone. JP also declared “these don’t taste like fruit” so clearly, we’re winning with round 2.
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    Day 218, Quote 23: “If you believe in something, believe it firmly.”

    “If you believe in something, believe it firmly.” – Argo

    You know what’s weird – photos.

    I have no issue with candid photos at parties, I have no issues with photos in the gym and I had no issues with my photo being taken on stage, but having JP take my photo for the workbook was super nerve racking.

    I’ve been thinking about this photo for months. I knew what I wanted it to look like in my head. I’ve been thinking about the outfit and the poses, but I had trouble communicating it to JP.

    These photos are  the final thing that Jillian needs to finish the book. We used JP’s Canon Rebel T3i and she’s going to do the touch ups.

    We took probably over a hundred photos – many of them are from him messing with different settings and then snapping shots when I wasn’t paying attention, but did also get some really good ones as well.

    I did two different shirts because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about myself in the photos and I wanted options. I know what I want to accomplish with the workbook, but I’m also nervous that it may be hard to communicate me with a single photo. I know Jillian is also doing some other imaging as well that I think will help tie everything together – that’ll be a good surprise.

    I promise the photos I sent to her were a bit better than those above, but I thought these were still fun even though they weren’t great or publication quality.

    I’m excited about this workbook and I can’t believe it’s coming together. It was six months of writing – on and off – as I got through the spring semester of school.

    I believe it truly reflects the style of coaching that I do; it encourages the reader to look at both the big picture and the small pieces that make it up. While work-life balance is something that many people believe in, it’s something I really don’t think exists.

    We can’t separate everything in our lives. We can’t live in boxes or bubbles.

    It is possible for each thing to have a different category like gym or work or parenting, but there’s no boundaries or not in the ways we wish at least. Everything we do impacts another event or triggers another action, and we need to organize our goals in that way, which is what this workbook does. We go through roles, environment, goal setting and timelines, creating meetings with yourself and scheduling.

    My hope is that scheduling and making time (not finding time, we know the time is there) for goals and tasks will become easier. I also hope that the reader develops an appreciation for everything that they are accomplishing even if it’s not everything they want to.

    When I skim through what I wrote and how it came out on the screen, and then compare it to how I coach and how I want to help people, I have this overwhelming sense of satisfaction.

    I can’t change the whole world, but if I believe in what I’m doing, I can make a difference one person at a time and maybe they can make a difference in someone else’s life too. That chain reaction of change is how we shape our environments and make our communities better. Knowing that’s a possibility is satisfying.

    ❤ Cristina

    Recipe: Grilled Chicken Wrap with Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce

    Last weekend we bought a bag of avocados and while I am all for eating half an avocado with a meal, I’ve also wanted to find some new recipes. I found a number that looked intriguing, but many were salads. I’m not anti-salad, I freaking love salad, but I also really love sandwiches and this seemed like the perfect summer dinner.

    This idea is a combination of a few sandwiches I came across. I picked what I liked from each and married what I thought would pair well together: bacon, avocado, honey mustard, grilled chicken.

    What You’ll Need

    • 1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
    • 1/2 tablespoon of honey
    • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
    • splash of red wine vinegar
    • dash of salt
    • 8 ounces of chicken breast
    • Sliced avocado
    • Sliced tomato
    • Slice of bacon (I used peppered bacon)
    • Joseph’s lavish bread or Flatout wraps

    Directions:  Honey Mustard

    1. In a small bowl combine stone ground mustard and honey.

    2. Add lime juice a quarter tablespoon at a time. I ended up using about a tablespoon, but it’ll depend on your tastes.

    3. Add a splash of red vinegar and a dash of salt.

    4. Set aside to cook bacon and chicken.

    Directions: Baked Bacon

    1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

    2. Cut bacon strips in half with kitchen scissors then place on a baking sheet. You can use a standard sheet for cooking or a sheet that has a wire rack set inside. Either would be fine.

    3. Bake bacon for 7 to 10 minutes or until desired crispness.

    4. Remove bacon from baking sheet and place on a plate with paper toweling to remove any excess grease.

    *Let baking sheet cool down before removing grease. The grease will solidify and you can easily wipe it up with a paper towel.

    Directions: Grilled Chicken

    1. Trim excess fat off and season if desired, I left the chicken plain.

    2. Grill chicken until fully cooked, then cut into strips/slices. I grilled it on a George Foreman because it was raining – this took only a few minutes. I would suggest avoiding charring the chicken because that will change the taste.

    Directions: Plating 

    In the middle of a lavish bread, make a layer of sliced avocado and sliced tomato. Then place grilled chicken breast in the middle of the first layer. Top with honey mustard sauce and roll up.

    Depending on the wraps you use, adding lettuce and onion could be really good with this wrap. If you’re going to add onion, consider the taste – a red onion may be more bold than a yellow onion, which is more sweet.

     

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    Recipe: Paleo-ish Zucchini Bread

    I feel like many people who utilize Pinterest and other platforms to get inspiration for recipes there will never truly be enough days to have time to make them all. As someone who also appreciates fitness and living a healthy lifestyle, it can also be hard to find a way to balance the competing ideas.

    Two stories.

    Years ago, I tried paleo. There were things I liked: bacon, learning that food is fuel, flexibility with healthy fats. There were also things I didn’t like: no peanut butter, no grains, expensive (at least for me).

    I bought a few books and cookbooks so I didn’t dive in blindly. I picked up a few books that were targeted for kids because I figured that would be a good place to start. I also got a fancy paleo dessert book and sadly I haven’t made anything from it – some of the ingredients aren’t your everyday ingredient and I need to order them. It’s an investment for some of them as well. I followed a few blogs and observed how people adapted. I’ve been following PaleOMG for about six years now and it seems like it was so much longer ago than it was.

    When I found her she was much more strict with paleo, but she calls herself paleo-ish, which is something that I appreciate because I love food and while I did try this style of eating years ago – I’ve learn that nutritional protocols that call for unnecessarily elimination don’t do me any good.

    Anyway, I love her recipes and have dabbled with a few. I’ve kept some paleo and I’ve changed up some ingredients. Like, are you really a foodie or cook if you don’t fuck around with the recipe?

    For her original recipe click here.

    But what really inspired me to make this recipe is the CrossFit Games. CrossFit leaves me torn.

    I’m not sure I like the idea of doing a WOD. There’s a time and place for being told what to do and with the program I just completed I felt I was able to make some changes if energy or mindset wasn’t where I thought it should be.

    I do however, love some of the lifts and the fire in these athletes. Like, some of these women are just bust deadlifts three times their bodyweight. THAT’S NUTS. 

    So while I don’t want to start CrossFit I do following a few YouTubers and blogs of those who do CrossFit as well as powerlifters. It’s just a different kind of mindset towards working out and raising the bar on what you’re capabilities.

    Want to be mind blown? Google some of these names:

    • Lea Malo
    • Sara Sigmundsdottir
    • Laura Horvath

    One of the I was watching followed around Mat Fraser – he’s the “fittest man on Earth” – two years in a row. He’s competing this year again in the CrossFit games with the hopes to take the title again. His girlfriend, Sammy, cooks for him and in the video they captured footage of her cooking and taking photos of the food. They showed her cooking Instagram, which is public, called Feeding The Frasers. This led me to the Facebook page by the same name where she reshares those photos of food and recipes.

    She gave me the push for the zucchini bread. She took PaleOMG’s recipe and made a change – almond flour instead of coconut flour.

    I made two changes – peanut butter instead of sunflower butter and decreased honey.

    What You’ll Need

    1 medium zucchini, shredded (equal to 1.5 cups shredded zucchini)

    • 2 eggs, whisked
    • 3/4 cup peanut butter*
    • 1/4 cup honey*
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons Almond flour*
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • pinch of salt
    • baking pan
    • parchment paper
    • cheesecloth

    *Original recipe called for sunflower butter, peanut butter has a similar consistency. Just be mindful that almond butter may bake a bit different because of the consistency.

    *I used less honey because while I do love my sweets, I always try to see if I can get away with decreasing sugar content. I thought it was perfectly sweet with a little less honey.

    *The original recipe called for coconut flour, and the

    Directions

    1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    2.Peel and shred zucchini into a bowl covered with a cheesecloth. Gather up the cheesecloth and tightly twist it closed. You want to squeeze as much water out as possible. In the original recipe, she used paper towels, however, I find cheesecloth to be a lot easier to work with and you get less waste.

     

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    3. Once you’ve drained as much water out as possible, discard liquid and pour shredded zucchini back into the bowl.

    4. Add all other ingredients to the bowl and mix well.

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    5. Place a large piece of parchment in a standard bread pan. I prefer this because the bread is going to be moist and can be hard to get out of the pan without falling apart.

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    6. Pour batter into pan and bake. Keep an eye on your oven. The original recipe said to bake it for between 20-25 minutes, so I set a timer for 20 minutes to check on it. I set two additional 5 minute timers and took it out at 30 minutes.

    7. Remove from baking pan and place on cooling rack. After a few minutes peel parchment paper down from the bread loaf.

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    This was super easy to make and was ridiculously moist – which is why I think I had a hard time determine how cooked with was. It may have been able to be in a for a few minutes less, but rather safe than sorry because the top still jiggled a bit at the 20 minute mark. The peanut butter flavor was pretty strong, so I’d be interested to see how another nut butter is in it and see if the chocolate could shine through more.

    This recipe is naturally gluten-free, but I would check some of the ingredients (like cocoa because you never know).
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    Day 213, Quote 22: Trust Yourself

    “Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.” —Isaac Watts

    I like new things. They bring mixed emotions – excitement, fear, shock, joy.

    Changing up my routine isn’t new, but I guess the way I’m going about it is a bit different and that’s going to make it interesting for the next few months.

    The past few weeks as I was tracking my food less and focusing on my lifting – focusing on being capable of lifting heavier, I started to think about the next step.

    Every goal has and needs a different approach and while it’s not hard to talk about that with others, it can be difficult to fully take that advice.

    The past 13 weeks I focused on growing strength and for some lifts it wasn’t about necessarily growing my strength to surpass old maximums, but getting back into a routine and working in the direction to at least meet old maximums.

    I was in a caloric deficit the last time I hit some of these maximums, but I had to remember that I need to look at each goal in its own box. My stressors are different, my schedule is different, my goals are different (not competing). Mindset really is everything. I had started with being in a slight deficit at the beginning of this program, but I ended up dabbling on maintenance, which overall I feel okay about mentally. It’s okay for goals to change and to change during the process don’t ever let anyone tell you any different. Physically, I’m pretty okay with my size.

    Transitioning to new programming is always exciting. There’s also a routine I go through in my first week – locate equipment, determine how much I want to be utilizing for specific ranges I’ve set for myself, make notes if that’s reasonable (before and after), calculate how long it takes to complete the workout. I like this routine. It helps me set the tone.

    I enjoy the gym and if there wasn’t anything else to do in the day I wouldn’t have an issue spending time there, but since there are other things to do – my goal is to have fun and work hard, but be strategic. If I’m spending an hour and a half to two hours at the gym then I know I need to reevaluate what I’m doing and why it’s taking me so long.

    My lift on Saturday took about 45 minutes, which I think is a completely reasonable amount of time and honestly, with how much total volume I lifted, I could’ve taken a little bit longer rests – that’s noted for this coming week.

    This next block or section of time or months, or whatever – isn’t just getting a change up in programming.

    MFP

    Last Thursday was the last day that I tracked my food using MyFitnessPal. This tool has been tremendously helpful the past four years – as I competed, as I tracked macros. It’s a tool I recommend to anyone who is getting started.

    Before any clients start a new nutritional or eating style with me, I ask them to track their food for a week. We need to know what we’re facing. Do they lean towards one macronutrient over another? Do they easily overconsume calories in general? Maybe they’re not eating enough at all. How much sugar and salt are they consuming? What about fiber?

    Knowing these factors allows us to determine more strategically a better first step than diving in – not everyone can go balls to the wall on the first day and that’s okay.

    This tool will always be something I recommend so don’t take this post as a diss to tracking #that90slife. But for my goals right now, it’s not necessary.

    Also, taking this step with my nutrition isn’t me saying that I don’t believe in counting macros. I fully believe that this style of eating helped me focus on creating flexibility and allowed me to participate in social settings, which is something that traditional diet culture discourages or can discourage. I believe that it allowed me to not only create a healthy balance of diverse foods, but during competition season I was able to lean down for the stage without depriving myself. In between seasons, I felt that I was able to grow my strength because I was able to increase my nutrition to match my movement and goals. I didn’t feel the guilt that I had when I was focusing on clean eating.

    My purpose for this break is that 1. I want a break from numbers 2. We shouldn’t want to count for the rest of our lives 3. It’s important to learn to trust ourselves. 4. Health is more than just size, it’s also about feeling.

    This is truly the first time in four years that I won’t be tracking my macronutrients. I won’t be tracking calories either. However, what I will be tracking is my portion size and the specific foods. However, I would argue that after a few years of extensive tracking and understanding labels, I have a pretty good idea of where I can and should be with the food consumption in a day.

    The notebook that I’m using for my workouts will also double as my notebook to journal my food intake.

    I think this is the compromise to work towards tracking less and living a more normal life after weightloss. I don’t believe you can go cold turkey. Mentally it’s a hard transition from one behavior to another, just like going into weightloss to begin with, so this is an intermediary.

    I’m looking forward to changing up my workouts and to focus on feeling good. Whether it was for my health or it was for competing, I was body focused – and there’s nothing wrong with that either, we should like how we look and be proud of that. However, I’ve been liking my body more at this size… even though this size is technically not a big change – recomposition is a weird thing.

    What’s been eye-opening for me is the emotional connection to numbers. I’ve noticed I’ve felt less guilt for having foods like avocado or eggs – both are foods that I have always enjoyed, however, I’m not stressing out about having them in larger quantities. I always say that I’m terrible about hitting protein, but I’ve noticed that I’m more willing to consume even more fats than before. I was consuming ~60g a day, while I don’t think I was going much over that if at all, I wasn’t paranoid or too picky about my food selection this week.

    Looking at the foods as whole items and working to create diversity in my day so I’m still getting the vitamins I need is definitely a bit tricky, but at the same time, I do feel like I’m getting enough calories and micronutrients overall.

    I’m enjoying the foods I’m eating because they’re not really any different than before with the exception of salmon in the freezer and a few more avocados for a recipe later this week.

    One “strategy” I have for tracking in this way is making sure that I’m eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables – not all dense (sweet potato/squashes) and not all volume (asparagus/broccoli). I’m making sure that I don’t consume too many grains in a day like if I have waffles for breakfast, I’m mindful of crackers, pitas, pretzels, oats throughout the rest of the day. Like before, I want my carbohydrate sources to be varying. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m changing up my fats and protein sources a bit, but still aiming for about 4-5 servings of protein in a day (eggs/red meat/poultry/fish/shake).

    Tuesday was probably one of my favorite days. Here’s what I ate that day:

    Breakfast

    • cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted with 10g of reduced fat cream cheese + 1 ounce of smoked salmon and 1/2 cup of egg whites
    • hazelnut coffee with whipped cream

    Lunch

    • 4 ounces of 93/7 ground turkey + 70g of avocado (half an avocado) +100g of diced fresh tomato + 30g of Bolthouse Farm ranch dressing

    Snack

    • 100g of blueberries + Oikos Zero mixed berry yogurt
    • 1″ brownie with walnuts

    Dinner

    • Pita with 40g of roasted pepper spread with a whole egg

    Dessert

    • slice of paleo-ish zucchini bread

    My fats were a bit higher, protein a bit lower and carbohydrates were probably pretty moderate. I felt like I ate enough and woke up on Wednesday ready to go, but not starving.

    As far as measurements, I think a good plan would be to check in with myself every few weeks until I adjust. It’s one thing to not look at the scale or take measurements when you’re tracking all or a portion of your food, it’s another to completely eliminate specific food tracking patterns.

    I’m sure some of you think this is crazy and others are waiting to see what happens next, but really as some who gained the quickly and then lost it steadily and hasn’t lived in this body for long –  I think it’s reasonable to want to find normalcy and have a better relationship with myself and with food.

    A step was to explore healthier options and lose the weight. Another step was creating the competitor and adding in the exercise. Another aspect is how to trust myself to not regain the over 100 pounds I lost. While I truly don’t believe I would ever regain that weight, I also know that I’ve never allowed myself to trust myself fully in the decision-making process.

    In the future, macro counting will be utilized for other goals, but right now, I want to focus on trusting myself and where I can go in the gym riding on that.

    ❤ Cristina

    Recipe: How to poach eggs and Salmon Benedict

    I had never poached eggs until this weekend and holy moly – it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be.

    If we had to rank egg styles in order of what I think is easiest to hardest to prepare the list would go:

    1. Scrambled
    2. Frittata
    3. Over medium
    4. Over easy
    5. Sunny-side up
    6. Hardboiled
    7. Omelet
    8. Poached

    I never seem to get the timing just right on hardboiled eggs and I’ve ripped a number of omelets in the flipping process – trust me, it wasn’t pretty.

    On Saturday, JP and I went to BJ’s Wholesale for our biweekly grocery haul and I had decided to change up some of my fat sources as well as my vegetables. We typically get our vegetables and fruits based on what’s on sale, however, going to the wholesale club drastically decreases the cost of items like blueberries, avocados and bell peppers. We still try to be mindful of how much we’re investing into our groceries in cost as well as our taste buds – when you buy bulk you are dedicating many meals to these items.

    This haul resulted in whole eggs, avocados and smoked salmon as new fat sources. Blueberries, potatoes, green beans and bananas as newer vegetable and fruit carbohydrate sources.

    After I got the haul home, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with the parts I bought. Since I’ve changed my first rest day to Sunday, the first thing I thought about was breakfast and I got to searching.

    First of all, I looked at a few different sites to poach an egg and I wish there had been more consistency because some were just awful. The first one resulted in an egg in the trash – so sad. Thankfully, after reading through more recipes I was able to get it right.

    What You’ll Need for Poaching

    • Water
    • Vinegar
    • Whole eggs
    • Medium pot
    • Slotted spoon

    Directions

    1. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and set to medium high heat. You want to get the pot to a low boil.
    2. Once, the water is at a boil, add 1 to 1 and a half tablespoons of white distilled vinegar.
    3. Crack an egg into a cup or small container that you can use to help slide the egg into the boiling water and turn the temperature down a little.
    4. Once the egg is in the water, set a timer for 2 minutes.
    5. Using a slotted spoon, gently scoop the egg and shake off any water.

    The vinegar helps prevent the egg whites from separating and as the water boils the whites start to cook into themselves and appear as though they were cooked in the shell of the egg. 

    What You’ll Need for Hollandaise Sauce for 2

    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon of water
    • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon of  butter
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Small pot
    • Whisk

    Directions

    1. In a regular bowl (what I call a cereal bowl), beat egg yolks only with 1 tablespoon of water and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Mixture will be a bit fluffy and frothy.
    2. Transfer mixture into a small pot over medium heat. Allow pot to warm up and then start stirring or whisking. I have a small whisk, a traditional size whisk may be too big and you may want to use a fork.
    3. Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes or until yolk mixture has appear to slightly cooked. As your whisking, the mixture will become more fluffy and increase in volume. The coloring will also darken.
    4. Once it appears that is has cooked, remove from heat and mix in butter.
    5. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add cayenne for spice – JP tops his with hot pepper sauce instead.

    Assembly

    If you want to add a grain, I would recommend toasting it so that it’s sturdy. You could also eliminate the grain and add starch like a baked red potato or sweet potato. If you’re interested in keeping it lower carb you can have the egg without a grain or starch.

    1. Layer sliced salmon on top of toasted English muffin.
    2. Gently place poached egg.
    3. Finish off with a spoonful or two of Hollandaise sauce.

    Notes:

    Keto/Higher fat diets: for those who do follow a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet and are looking for healthy fats to incorporate into breakfast, the poached egg with smoked salmon may be a good option. The Hollandaise does also have yolks and butter, which do contain saturated fats so moderation should be practiced – this isn’t a meal I would necessarily recommend for every day, but if it’s balanced with other lean proteins and other unsaturated fats, I don’t think it’s a problem.

    Paleo/Whole Foods approach: Eliminating the grain and substituting for a different base (if desired) could be a good approach. You can also change out the butter for a paleo/whole foods approach approved butter or ghee.


    Day 208, Quote 21: “How do you measure, measure a year?”

    In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee….

    Well, it’s more like 518,057 pounds.

    I’ve backed off tracking my weight weeks ago, but there are a few numbers that I’ve been watching: measurements, weight lifted, steps…

    In the spring I had said that I wanted to get a few pounds off, but I had also said that I wanted to see a change in my measurements in my lower body and feel better in my clothes. I had explained that while I knew what my weight had been with previous smaller measurements, I knew that I had regained fat in different places and some muscle as well, which meant that fat loss could look different and reflect differently on the scale. So while I periodically checked the scale, I relied on how I physically felt in my clothes and focused more heavily on my measurements.

    As someone who has only been their ideal size for just over two years, it’s still weird to think that the scale isn’t the only measurement for progress. It’s easy for me to tell clients that we need think about energy levels, weight pushed and pulled in the gym, how they feel in their clothes – but it’s still a pep talk I have with myself too.

    Thirteen weeks ago I restarted the PH3 program by Layne Norton. It’s a power and strength program and this was the second time I’ve done it. I like the program because it is strength based and I like the lifting splits. One thing I don’t like about it is that I have found it hard to add other movements to it such as running or yoga without feeling like I’m doing too much.

    I’m a big believer that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to reach your health goals – I’m sure Cristina a few years ago didn’t believe it, but there’s more to life than the gym.

    I did change up the accessories in the program because at some point calf raises just aren’t exciting and there’s more to engage your hamstrings than curls. Outside of some accessories tweaks I’ll call them, it was difficult to much else.

    The big three – squat, bench and deadlift.

    I like two of the three – squat and deadlift. However, I had never had access to bumper plates and I found myself struggling to trust myself with heavier (relative) weight in my deadlift so I don’t believe I ever really saw my true potential until changing to this gym.

    After surgery I also feared the pull movement because of how it engaged my core. While I have strong core muscles and am capable of other lifts, I still find – two years later – that hitting the breaks hard in the car bothers my stomach, laughing or sneezing the wrong way causes a slight pain every now and then – go figure there’s a wrong way to do those things.

    Just for baseline.

    • My squat at its heaviest a year ago was 205 pounds.
    • My deadlifts at its heaviest this past spring was 155 pounds.
    • My bench at its heaviest a year ago was 85 pounds.

    My lifting was inconsistent from last June to this past March. I found routine with my running and yoga in the fall. I continued yoga into the late winter until I felt that I wasn’t able to commit to the classes because of the change in my academic schedule. I created a new routine with getting to the gym, but not necessarily having a strict structure. I restarted PH3 just before graduation because I found a shift in my schedule again and was able to find the time and not feel rushed.

    On day 1, I knew it would be unrealistic to utilize my old max for my squat. Like all things, without practice you’re going to be rusty. I utilized 190 pounds, which was a 15 pound decrease to develop the percentages needed for programming. I really didn’t know where my bench would be, and since I don’t enjoy it and practice it much, I knew it would be low. Deadlifting is something I worked on this spring a little bit so I knew that I could handle 155 pounds, but I also believed I was holding back out of fear, as well as proper equipment (bumper plates v. standard plates).

    From day 1 to day 90

    Squat: 1RM of 190 to a triple for 195 pounds.

    Bench: 1RM of 80 to a double of 85 pounds.

    Deadlift: 1RM of 155 to a triple of 185 pounds.

    Again, I believe the reason I had such growth in my deadlift was letting go of fear to pull the weight. I also believe that I was just finding routine again and I wasn’t expecting much growth in the other two lifts.

    I totaled 518,057 pounds over 90 days. My lightest day being around 2,200 because it was upper body accessory work and I cut out a few exercises because of timing. My heaviest day was just over 14,000 pounds and included a combination of accessories and a focused compound movement. 

    Nutritionally, I tracked my macros…mostly. But slowly shifted to focusing on the weights lifted and how my body was feeling. So not everything was tracked #sueme. After tracking for a long time, I do trust myself to eyeball things and that happened a lot.

    My measurements have decreased slightly. I’ve seen a quarter inch drop in my waist, a third of an inch in my hips and my bust has maintained. I have a few blouses that are big on me again and my size 2s are fitting perfectly. I feel good in my clothes.

    Physically, I’m feeling really pretty good with the exception of the heat from the summer. There are some days I feel I can’t drink enough water. My sleep has been a lot better since getting back into a lifting a routine and I haven’t had to go to the chiropractor as much – the regular stretching has helped tremendously. My energy has been pretty good, which I know is in relation to my sleeping, but also to my stress levels.

    I’m excited to work on my own programming and add running back into my routine. There’s a lot of different equipment at my gym like sleds and kettlebells and rope – it’ll be good to change up my routine and add some other movements.

    Seeing how heavy I could lift was one way to measure progress, but there are plenty of other ways too. I’m ready to see what else I can do.

    I’m keeping a five-day split because I think that works well with my schedule, but I’m shifting my rest days from Tuesday and Friday to Sunday and Thursday. Those days I may go for walks or runs depending on how I feel, but I don’t want to be in the gym those days.

    I’ve got a new notebook, new routine and a smile on my face. I think this is a pretty good way to close out July and jump into August.

    ❤ Cristina

     

     

     

    Wellness Refocused Education: Does your menstrual cycle impact your strength?

    Ladies – can you pin point specific phases in your menstrual cycle by your symptoms? I know, it’s not exactly dinner talk, but I’m being serious.

    Do you have any varying level of these symptoms?

    –        Fatigue

    –        Cramping

    –        Bloating

    –        Breast tenderness

    –        Fluctuations in body temperature

    –        Energy

    –        Hunger

    –        Moodiness

    Have you noticed a difference in your workouts around your period?

    If you need a refresher about your menstrual cycle – and trust me I did after I stopped taking hormonal birth control here it is below:

    *Menstrual phase – days 1 to 5

    *Follicular phase – days 1 to 13

    Ovulation phase – day 14

    Luteal phase – days 15 to 28

    *In some texts, the menstrual phase and follicular phase are grouped together

    These are average lengths of time, every woman is different, which means every cycle may be shorter or longer (Reed & Carr, 2015).

    The first day of the menstrual phase is when “your period” starts. A healthy period can last between three to five days. During this phase, the hormone progesterone declines. You may have some low energy and depending on how you respond to low energy levels, you may be a little irritable.

    During the follicular phase your body is making itself ready for a potential guest #baby. The lining of the uterus grows and becomes thicker, the vaginal environment changes and is more welcoming to sperm. During this phase, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is released by the pituitary gland to cause the egg/ovule to grow and matures inside a follicle. Breasts may become tender because of enlarging milk ducts. After the release of FSH from the pituitary, there is a decrease in FSH, while there is also an increase in estradiol (a form of estrogen) and testosterone (Reed & Carr, 2015). You may have more energy, but a decrease in appetite because of these hormonal shifts.

    Ovulation occurs for up to 24 hours. During this phase, the egg is released in response to luteinizing hormone (LH). This 24 hours is crucial for someone wanting to become pregnant. Estradiol and testosterone are at their peak levels.

    The luteal phase is the final phase of your menstrual cycle. If the egg has not become fertilized it dies, then the endometrium sheds its lining (your period). Progesterone decreases during this phase, which also can cause a rise in body temperature. During this phase you may also have cramps due to muscle contraction to rid the body of nutrients that had been stored in preparation for a fertilized egg. You may have cravings for carbohydrates during this phase as well as other symptoms like bloating, anxiety, moodiness – these are going to be similar symptoms as experienced during menstrual phase.

    Quick recap: luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulation hormone (FSH), estradiol (E2) and progesterone (Prog) and testosterone fluctuate during menstrual cycle. Estrogen and testosterone reach their peak prior to the menstrual cycle or at the time of ovulation (Sung, et al., 2014). There are also other hormones like prolactin (stimulates the production of milk in the mammary gland) that change during the menstrual cycle that we won’t be talking about in this post (Marieb & Hoehn, 2016).

    Hormonal changes during different phases of the menstrual cycle can cause changes to energy levels, hungry levels, mood, etc., but can hormonal levels impact our training?

    Is it possible to be strategic in your training schedule other than picking days that fit with other priorities?

    Much literature discusses that changes in female steroid hormone levels can affect the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and metabolic functions (Pallavi, Souza, & Shivaprakash, 2017).

    According to a 2014 study that examined about 20 women in their mid-20s, it’s probable that the rise in testosterone prior to (in the follicular phase), or at the time of ovulation could “account for differences in strength, muscle diameter and muscle cell characters between follicular – compared to luteal phase-based strength training (Sung, et al., 2014).”

    This is a small study, which means that while the findings are interesting, there needs to be further investigation to determine their validity and ability to be found in a larger group. One limitation that the study does mention is that researchers compared phases such as the follicular phase to the luteal phase, rather than analyzing hormone concentration in different parts of the phases like the early follicular phase when menses occur versus the later part of follicular phase when both estrogen and testosterone hormones are close to peak.

    Another study conducted in 2016, utilized 100 healthy volunteers – again a small study, but larger than the first in 2014. Three trial periods were conducted to test muscle strength and throughout the courses of the study all participants were “oriented to not ingest any kind of energy drink including caffeine and alcohol as well as not to perform any sort of physical activity one day before or on the day of the tests (Pallavi, Souza, & Shivaprakash, 2017).” Similarly, this study found work done was significantly greater during the follicular phase with the same phase having the least amount of fatigue. Participants showed the most fatigue during the menstrual phase followed by the luteal phase. Researchers concluded that changes during a normal menstrual cycle could indeed affect exercise performance and should be considered for training (Pallavi, Souza, & Shivaprakash, 2017).

    Let’s talk hormones. The body secretes about 50 different hormones – each one with distinct functions. Hormones are released from glands in the endocrine system.

    The major glands that release the hormones we’re discussing in this post are: anterior pituitary gland (FSH, LH), ovaries (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) (Marieb & Hoehn, 2016).

    Just to give you a little background on hormones so you can find your way out of the rabbit hole later. Structurally, there are different kinds of hormones: amines, polypeptides, glycoproteins and steroids (Marieb & Hoehn, 2016).

    Please note, that steroid hormones are made from cholesterol (fat), which is why it’s important to consume enough dietary fat in your diet. It’s also another reason why there can be fluctuations in menstrual cycle when a female reaches a significantly low body fat percentage.

    Looking at the hormones that may impact your training – Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are steroid hormones. While estrogen and progesterone are known to be in women, testosterone is also naturally produced in women, just at much lower levels than in men. Both LH and FSH are glycoprotein polypeptide hormones.

    Testosterone is classified as an anabolic steroid hormone, which stimulates protein synthesis and muscle development. This is one reason why men may have an easier time developing muscle and losing weight. Like some research has shown, it may also be one reason why strength increases during the middle of the follicular phase.

    Now, while it’s possible that hormonal fluctuations can make us feel like superwoman, other studies have also examined the frequency of training during menstrual phases and how that may impact hypertrophy and strength.

    A small study (14 women with regular periods) found there were no major differences in muscle hypertrophy and strength when comparing a structured “menstrual phase-dependent” program to any other training protocol (Sakamaki-Sunaga, Min, Kamemoto, & Okamoto, 2016).

    However, like all studies they’re were holes or aspects that could’ve been approached in a better way. Researchers examined arm curl strength over 12 weeks, having participants perform three sets of eight to 15 repetitions during different phases of menstrual cycle. However, the biceps are a small muscle, which means that the load they can handle may not be capable of great change in a 12-week time – other factors like other accessory movements would need to be considered before determining the viability of this result. Examining a deadlift or squat movement may have more telling results.

    I do think a combination of factors need to be considered to see if you can push your strength at different times of cycle.

    Consistency will always be queen. Regardless of your hormones, if you’re training is consistent then you will see progress over time.

    Nutrition and sleep are also important factors to consider when training and seeking to develop strength. If you’re exhausted, you have a higher risk for injury. Sleep also can impact hormone levels, which can have positive or negative impacts on other organ system function. If you’re not fueling appropriately then you’re going to feel fatigued and have a harder time recovering from intense workouts. Time of day may be an impactful factor that you want to consider.

    While my cycles are still irregular – even after being off of hormonal birth control for a year, I do notice a difference in my overall energy levels during the follicular phase, which impact my lifts. I also have significant breast tenderness, which can impact how I feel during certain chest-focused exercises like bench press or movements laying facedown. These are the times that I look to different carbohydrate sources and focus on what helps me feel good – usually more fiber, less simple sugar foods (natural and added). I’ve moved training around and also changed up my training times to ensure that I’m at a peak energy time, which means not too late in the day.

    I would ask yourself are you able to be this in tune with your body and are you noticing a difference overall that should be considered when creating your programming?

    References

    Marieb, E. N., & Hoehn, K. (2016). Human Anatomy and Physiology. New York: Pearson Learning Solutions.

    Pallavi, L., Souza, U. D., & Shivaprakash, G. (2017). Assessment of Musculoskeletal Strength and Levels of Fatigue during Different Phases of Menstrual Cycle in Young Adults. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, CC11-CC13.

    Reed, B. G., & Carr, B. R. (2015). The Normal Menstrual Cycle and the Control of Ovulation. In B. G. Reed, & B. R. Carr, Endotext. South Dartmouth: MDText.

    Reis, E., Frick, U., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (1995). Frequency variations of strength training sessions triggered by the phases of the menstrual cycle. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 545-550.

    Sakamaki-Sunaga, M., Min, S., Kamemoto, K., & Okamoto, T. (2016). Effects of Menstrual Phase-Dependent Resistance Training Frequency on Muscular Hypertrophy and Strength. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 1727-1734.

    Sung, E., Han, A., Hinrichs, T., Vorgerd, M., Manchado, C., & Platen, P. (2014). Effects of follicular versus luteal phase-based strength training in young women. Springerplus.