New Strength Training for Beginners Series Begins Soon…Contact Me to Register!

You know you’re supposed to be lifting weights, but need help getting started? This series is for you. I’ll make sure you know basic exercise names and that you’re using proper form, and introduce you to different types of gym equipment. As the weeks progress, you’ll find your coordination will improve, and you’ll be able to use different muscle groups within a single exercise to make your workouts more interesting and challenging!

Contact me for details, or sign up via the Classes tab on this website. Can’t wait to get you STRONG!

Strength training for beginners… & thinking about going veg?

It’s so cliché, but this is the perfect time of year to think about making a big change. Sometimes we just need a flip of the calendar to switch us into a new gear! If you know you need to lift heavy things once in a while but have no idea what to do with a set of dumbbells, I’m offering a 6-week workshop this January just for you. It won’t be easy, but it will be basic. We’ll take the time to correct form and make sure you’ll know how to venture into the free-weights area of your gym by February.

And if you already do plenty of exercise but need a little tweak to your diet to make a change, try going meat- and dairy-free. Or at least eat less of them. You think you can’t live without cheese, but guess what, not only can you live, but you’ll live longer. And much happier. There are so many (SO MANY) reasons to let go of those animal products, and your weight is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be fooled by the meat and dairy lobbies that try to brainwash you into thinking you need animal protein to be healthy. Educate yourself about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I’m not saying it’s all or nothing. But trust me: eat more plants.

If you follow me on Instagram (@karenthefitnessgirl) you’ll even find a weekly menu, complete with recipe sources, that shares what our family is eating…posted in time for you to hit the grocery store before the week begins!

Reading This Might Change Your Life

I’ve been feeling antsy lately. More like amped up. I feel the need to go deeper with my clients—which will be no easy task since for many we’re already treating our sessions like therapy. But I’m screaming inside and can’t contain it any longer; the evidence is just too great, and so I’m going to have to talk more about the plant-based diet. Maybe even nudge a bit.

The results I see in my gym are astounding. My core-focused strength training program is undoubtedly successful—lives are changing with the exercise component alone. But the cholesterol might still be high. The blood pressure. The fat around the middle. I say I don’t judge you for eating animal products, and I don’t, but hear me now: If you truly mean what you say when you tell me you want to see change, you need to switch to a plant-based diet. I am convinced that you will see the results you want, and your overall health will improve.

Why plant-based as opposed to vegan?

I’ve never been a proponent of all-or-nothing choices. Deprivation doesn’t work because it causes pain (read: diets don’t work because they include deprivation). So “vegan” is extreme and not really necessary unless you decide it’s right for you. (Remember, vegan equals no honey, no leather, not even some wines.) Plant-based to me means that I eat a mostly vegan diet, but that I’m not a drag to have over for dinner (I won’t refuse to eat your birthday cake just because there’s butter and eggs in it).

But where will you get your protein?

If I had a dime for every time I’m asked that freakin’ question… So here’s the hard truth: you’ve been brainwashed by the agriculture and dairy industries to believe that you need mega amounts of protein to be healthy/have energy/be full. How is it then, that a protein shake is used by both the bodybuilder looking to gain weight and the middle-aged mom trying to lose weight? I know, right? Think about it. This might blow your mind, but there is protein in plants. I do not eat meat or dairy and I have so much energy I can’t even contain it.

The problem is, you’ve been planning your meals around a “protein” for so long, thinking about planning a plant-based meal is intimidating, even overwhelming. My suggestion is to dip your toe in and go slow. Maybe one or two nights a week you experiment with a plant-based meal. See how you feel, how you sleep. How your stomach doesn’t feel so heavy—or worse, reject your meal. Maybe you could pack your lunch and snacks a couple of days, too. Meanwhile, you can look into some new cookbooks, perhaps find a few new items for your pantry. Just test the water—you absolutely do not need to dive right in.

I will share our planned meals week to week to give you ideas. I’ll offer snack suggestions if you’d like, and will be glad to help you locate the weird ingredient you’ve never encountered in a recipe before. Slowly but surely, I almost guarantee you’ll fall in love with your new lifestyle—because that’s what this really is, a change in lifestyle. I always tell people, far from having less to choose from when we cook, we have more. So much more. Our plates are colorful (as you know if you follow me on Instagram), and so incredibly full of flavor. And the best thing is we stay inspired. We feel so good and love our food so much, we can’t wait to dig into the season’s latest offerings. I won’t lie—it takes some effort—but if it makes you feel amazing and leads to a greater enjoyment of life, isn’t it worth a try?

In our house, my husband is the chef. On Saturdays he flips through cookbooks and chooses our meals for the week, writing up a shopping list as he goes. He leaves two nights open for dining out or being spontaneous. Sometimes he bases his choices on leftover sauces or veggies, and sometimes he just feels like trying something brand new. Bowls are great for weeknights. It takes time to find a rhythm when you’re serious about this new lifestyle, but we did it, and you certainly can, too.

Here is the menu Mike planned for this week (clearly we’re way into our new Minimalist Baker cookbook!):

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Buddha Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/sweet-potato-chickpea-buddha-bowl/

Smoky Tempeh Burrito Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/smoky-tempeh-burrito-bowls/

Plantain & Black Bean Tacos

http://minimalistbaker.com/spicy-plantain-black-bean-tacos/

Mediterranean Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/the-ultimate-mediterranean-bowl/

Roasted Butternut Alfredo

http://www.theppk.com/2012/10/roasted-butternut-alfredo/

 

Fat. And Happy?

Lindy West has decided to “come out” as a fat person. She told the world about it on This American Life last week, so she’s sticking by it. Rather than feeling like “a thin person who has been failing her entire life,” she’s just fat. Not overweight—just fat. And she’s okay with it.

I really do get that on a certain level. It must be some kind of difficult to feel anxious about your body and diet every single day of your life. Yet, as a fitness professional, I can’t help but think, “But I can help put you on the right path! Don’t give up!”

I have heavy clients with the energy and enthusiasm of thin people. I also have heavy clients who talk more than they (literally) walk, which is frustrating for both of us. Some say they don’t care how they look, just want more energy to do normal daily activities. Some really, really care how they look. Everyone is different, with different motivations, and yet, I wonder, what must it be like for someone who is overweight (sorry, I’m just not ready to say “fat”) to really truly give up the fight? Or maybe I’m asking, is it really truly possible to give up—for real?? To just ignore the extra weight?

I’m going to go on doing what I do, because my passion is helping people learn to live a healthier lifestyle—whether it’s initially for weight loss or not doesn’t even matter because a healthier lifestyle leads to weight loss in the end. I really do see overweight people turn into smaller versions of themselves in my work, and that always pleases both me and my client. But I’m open to listening to people like Lindy West, and trying to be less judge-y, and learning from those who fight that fight every day. I can’t imagine what it must be like. I might be able to understand why a person would want to find peace with who she is right now rather than always striving to be someone else, saving that peace for a time that, honestly, might never come.

Is That a Sunbeam on Your Face?

Man, I’ve been putting in some major hours. Waking up early, making strict lists, doing a lot of reading. I didn’t get a new job. I’m working on my happiness.

My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I'm being a good role model!

My 8-year-old just made this. Hopefully this means I’m being a good role model!

Recently I made the startling realization that I do A LOT of things in a day to keep me happy. Not just to keep me alive—but to keep me happy. When I made an off-the-top-of-my-head list of things I do on a daily basis…well, it was shocking. Staying happy—really happy, not just content—is sort of like a job.

Here’s some of my list:

  • Doing yoga/stretching
  • Meditating
  • Reading (fiction, motivational, educational, news)
  • Watching (informative shows, staying up-to-date shows)
  • Reading Notes from the Universe email
  • Eating super consciously (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, parsley, veggies, vitamins, probiotics, oh my)
  • Drinking water
  • Keeping a one-line journal
  • Noting moments of gratitude
  • Drinking tea
  • Keeping everything in moderation (exercise, fun, food)
  • Getting good sleep
  • Balancing work-life
  • Exercising
  • Spending focused time with the kids
  • Having a conversation or two with my husband

The thing is, it’s a heavy world we’re living in. It would be very easy to give in and let cynicism and depression take over. But there’s a lot of beauty in the world, too, and I choose that side. But like an arm-wrestling match, many days the gloomy side is pushing awfully hard against the sunny side, and it takes great effort to keep sunny in the game.

What do you do to stay happy?

My list works for me—you can’t just copy it, because drinking lots of water and knowing you’re healthier for it might not make you feel happy like it does me. So where you might need a chat with your mom or best friend, I might choose a quiet 30 minutes curled up with my book. Either way, both of us will have boosted our happiness chemicals (e.g., serotonin and dopamine). The neurochemicals are a real thing, as fluffy as this subject sounds, and just as insulin is necessary to regulate blood sugar, dopamine and serotonin are necessary to regulate our happiness, motivation and feelings of self-worth.

If the idea of making your own list and introducing a few new happiness-inducing action items into your daily life makes you feel—well—unhappy, try to add just one new habit at a time. “Start exercising” might be too big, too vague. So maybe you can start with a gratitude journal, and I give you permission to make just a bullet list of 3 things you are grateful for each day. Try that for 2 weeks and see how it makes you feel. If you’re enjoying it, add in another action item. Maybe it will be to sign up for a once weekly yoga class. See there? Happiness is creeping in.

It takes effort to keep our minds peaceful, our attitudes playful. In fact, if you just go about your daily existence giving no thought to your happiness, you are pretty much guaranteed to be less than a happy person. Try to see the list you create as an antidote to a ho-hum life. Positivity is empowering. It makes you walk taller. As Roald Dahl said, If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

May you always look lovely.

 

 

 

 

Breakfast Is Included

Just got back from a glorious week-long vacation. One thing I love about vacation is NO DISHES! It is challenging to eat healthfully on the road, though. Especially when you’re a vegetarian. A little easier out west, maybe, but it was still a “thing” every meal. Most days, breakfast was included at the hotel—you know, the buffet line, where everyone pads down pre-makeup, kids in jammies, to fill up their plates with eggs, biscuits, sausage…have to get their money’s worth. Well we did fine with our other meals, but those breakfasts—they just make me sick. I literally made a note in my phone: “Blog about depressing hotel breakfasts.”

So here I am, and just thinking about the breakfasts—and there were several different hotels’ worth—still makes me feel gross. The unhealthy food, the gluttony, the WASTE!! We made do, we always do. My kids chose “treats” they usually don’t get, a bagel for Bella, a bowl of sweet cereal for Davin, and Mike and I always head straight to the oatmeal, often scraping the last bit out from the bottom, adding raisins and some brown sugar, good enough to get us through to the next meal. But ohmygoodness, the plates of the people around me! Piled so high with cheesy eggs, sausage AND bacon, biscuits, MORE butter. I’m doubting their plans for the day included a long hike in the mountains.

You don’t have to eat everything on the buffet to “get your money’s worth.” But say you do. Who wins then?

Energy for the day? More like ingredients for a stomach ache.

Energy for the day? More like recipe for a stomach ache.

The Skin You’re In

You know how you start worrying that your brand-new house will one day start showing its age the moment you move in? Of course not! You revel in the new-house smells, the extra space, the tiny quirks…because it’s yours, all yours.

So why would you behave differently about your new body? If you’re just starting on your weight loss journey and seeing some progress, you might be noticing that there’s skin hanging where there used to be more “filling.” So it’s natural that you are going to start worrying about the saggy skin. But don’t jump the gun. It’s not necessary or useful to worry about the next phase of the game yet. Continue to focus on your weight loss, and look at the loose skin as a badge of honor. Who made that fat disappear? You did!

One thing to keep in mind is that it’s much healthier to lose weight slowly. When you lose slowly, say 1 pound a week, maybe 2 some weeks, your skin has an easier time adapting, and you are much likelier to keep the weight off long-term. Slow weight loss means you’ve changed lifestyle behaviors, like reducing sugar, beef, processed foods, fast-food, etc., instead of trying a fad diet like juicing for a week. It takes patience to lose the right way, but it’s worth it because it will last.

When it’s been a while and you’re still keeping up with your new healthy lifestyle, okay, maybe you can think about what to do next to tighten up the skin. Our skin is elastic, full of cells, and grows and shrinks over time to fit our body size(s). Given time, maybe a couple of years, your skin will begin to shrink back over your new body. The older we get and the longer you’ve been heavy, however, the less elasticity the skin has. You can help the process along by drinking plenty of water and eating a proper diet, and also—very important—strength training to continue developing lean muscle. So far it’s still all in your control, and you’ll still be seeing that healthy slow progress.

Surgery is an option if you get all the way to this point and you’re still carrying too much loose skin. But please keep in mind that while you’re recovering from this intense procedure, you won’t be able to exercise, and you can easily lapse into those old, poor behaviors. Think about how much better you look now, loose skin and all. See what you’ve accomplished already? Don’t worry about the next step until there’s something to worry about. Use that energy to go grab another workout!

How Deep Is Your Love?

You’re a really great person. You do everything you can for your family. You work hard at whatever you do, you are there for your spouse and your kids, you know they know how much you love them.

But if you aren’t taking care of YOU, you’re not doing enough.

I could end this right here by saying: What good are you to your family if you drop dead of a heart attack that you absolutely could have prevented?

If you really, truly love your spouse and your kids, your parents and your friends, you will get up out of that chair and go take a walk. You will quit that smoking nonsense. You will eat more spinach and less fried chicken. You will just say no to soda. If you don’t, you’re just plain selfish. Yes, selfish—because if you don’t take these simple measures seriously, you are basically telling your loved ones that you care just a tiny bit less than 100% about them. You don’t care quite enough to ensure you stick around—without being a burden on them—as long as possible.

It’s February, not too late to get your resolutions in gear, and also the month when we celebrate love. Think hard about the people you love (hopefully you’re including yourself here), and think about all you do for them. You would do anything for them, wouldn’t you? So get the help you need to make yourself a healthier parent, spouse and friend. Show them how deep your love is.

Enlightened Miso Power Bowl: A Vegan Dish That Proves That “Rabbit Food” Really Can Be Filling

We are loving our new Oh She Glows cookbook! I’ve been telling people about some of the recipes, and it sounds like you might like to try a few of our new favorites. This one looks light, but boy, does it fill up the belly! Don’t worry that it’s not enough food!

As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

Ingredients
(Comment from the Fitness Girl: Trade out veggies as you like. We used red peppers and broccoli once. And we leave out cilantro, green onion, hemp seeds and sprouts, so use what you’ve got!)

1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil, melted
Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 medium carrot, julienned
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1/2 cup sprouts

For the Orange-Maple Miso Dressing:
3 tablespoons light miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup

ASSEMBLE:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sweet potato rounds on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle them with the oil, rubbing it on both sides to coat. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then flip and roast for 8 to 10 minutes more, until tender and lightly browned.

2) Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Cook for 20 minutes or so.

3) To assemble, divide the cooked quinoa evenly between 2 plates or bowls and season it with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted sweet potato rounds, edamame, carrots, green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, hemp seeds and sprouts. Drizzle with Orange-Maple Miso Dressing and enjoy!

MAKE THE ORANGE-MAPLE MISO DRESSING:

In a mini or regular food processor, combine the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, orange juice, water and maple syrup and process until well combined.

Source: Oh She Glows Cookbook

Go ahead. Be lured by the clean slate.

This is the time of year when you should feel motivated and energized, pumped up by the promise of a fresh start and all the sweet wonderfulness that your resolution successes will bring. If you don’t feel that, you might want to take a look at why.

I know resolutions aren’t for everyone—and actually I think that’s a good thing. I always say that resolutions can be made any day of the year. But you can’t deny that clean slate that January 1 offers. There’s just something about starting a new year that makes even the non-resolution-makers feel like making a fresh start.

If you aren’t moved by that feeling, aren’t remotely inclined to try a little harder, then ask yourself what’s going on inside. What’s dragging you down and allowing you to live the Groundhog Day kind of life?

If it’s the drudgery of your job, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new one, or maybe take a class to learn a new (and hopefully marketable) skill. If it’s the morning routine of getting your kids up and out the door (I don’t choose that one randomly), do some research or have a family pow-wow and come up with ways the morning can be made more enjoyable (or least less horrible!).

And wait for it: Try adding exercise to your life. The hamster wheel you feel like you’re on might release you if you have the bounce in your step, the extra burst of confidence and energy that can only come from 30 minutes of exercise every day. I am so confident that you will be a happier—more resolute—person, I’d be willing to bet you on it. You will never, not ever, regret exercising. And it truly might be that one thing that will make aiming higher in a new year seem like a great idea.