Friday, August 18, 2017

Product Review: NeuroGum

I don't know about you, but I almost always consume some sort of caffeine or energy booster before a run or a workout. I'm sure its 97% placebo effect, but I continue to do it nonetheless.

Pre-workouts can be hard to find one that works for you and tastes good. Energy drinks can be full of sugars or artificial ingredients (not to say I don't use these things XD).

In comes NeuroGum! It's the #1 Nootropic Energy Gum engineered to give energy, clarity, and focus. It contains caffeine (40mg), L-Theanine - the major amino acid in green tea, vitamin B6 and B12 for a combination that is supposed to give you sharp and focused energy 5 times faster than other methods of energy. It's also Non-GMO, vegan, gluten free, soy free, aspartame free and sugar-free clocking in at 2 calories per piece.

So how does it hold up under test by a self-proclaimed caffeine junkie? With only a meager 40 mg of caffeine, can this gum actually do anything for me?

I put it to the test first at work. I work a desk job and was really dragging. I decided to chew a piece of Neuro gum and it definitely helped perk me up and keep me focused. I also feel like the mintiness and chewing help stimulate me.

The second time I tried it was before a run. I have recently been dealing with shin splints and took time off of running but I decided to try a fairly flat run and see how it went so I wasn't expecting my fastest pace. I have to admit, I had my morning caffeine along with the gum before my run and I can't say I noticed any additional enhancement. I actually chewed it  throughout my run and was pleasantly surprised that it didnt A) become hard as a rock, or B) completely dissolve.
My first run in weeks, with Neuro Gum to help!

I think this would probably be a good substitute for grabbing that energy drink from the gas station. However, if you already consume stimulants on a regular basis, I wouldn't expect any more of a boost than an energy drink.

Overall, I like this product and will probably continue to use it when I feel sluggish at work!

How would you use this? Do you have caffeine regularly?

 Check it out at NeuroGum.com




Monday, August 7, 2017

Mental Health: Endurance

from Pinterest.com

Endurance. What does it really mean?

In the past, when I was in the hospital, my friends and family would tell me I was so strong. I was enduring so much. However, I didn't feel strong or brave. I felt helpless and simply without choices. What could I do?

“Endurance: It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope. It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal.”


― AnonymousCome Be My Follower

I needed, and often still need to, adjust my perspective. 

Yes, right now, things may seem horrible. Things may be horrible. But it is not the end. There is always a hope. I personally find hope in the Bible but no matter who you are or what you believe, every cloud has a silver lining. Change your perspective. 

I often think of a small child who drops their ice cream. They might cry or scream and seems to be the end of the world. In their eyes, it truly is horrible! If they could see that there will be more ice cream in their life, that a dropped ice cream cone is not that bad, that some children don't even know what it's like to have such a luxury, then they would be able to endure it. This is not to invalidate their feelings. Their disappointment and upset is very real and genuine. 

It's the same no matter our age. Whatever we're going through is, in our eyes, horrible and not without merit. However, when we reflect on our hope, on the grand future, we can bear up under hardships with JOY. Can you imagine it?


“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”


― Anne Frank

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quest Hero Bars Review!

I can be your hero baby. I can kiss away the pain.

Too far?

Can Quest live up to being a hero??

I've been a long time fan of Quest bars. I liked (and still do) the original style protein bars they made that are chewy and chunky and can be baked into cookies. They've definitely improved on having consistently good texture and chunkiness. The newer flavors are fantastic too! But they didn't stop there. Quest recently came out with a "Cereal Bar". This bar was a lighter bar with a crunchy cereal type texture. Many people really enjoyed these bars, myself included. At about 100 calories, these are a nice light snack that packs a pretty good protein punch. (Alliteration much?)

THEN, Quest did it again. They came out with the Hero bars and they really hyped it up on social media. Could it live up to the hype?

I, personally, really enjoy them! The interior of the bars is just like the cereal bars. It is layered with a caramel, or blueberry coating and then finally a chocolate or vanilla coating all over the entire bar. So basically, it seems like a candy bar.

Blueberry: 170 calories 17p/7f/30gc (4g net carbs)*

The center tastes like the waffle cereal bar which basically tastes like a sweet waffle. It has a nice crunchy texture. Then, it had a very sweet blueberry gooey middle and was finished off with a very sweet white chocolate protein coating. I noticed no weird aftertastes. I think the combination of gooey, crunchy and sweet coating makes a really good combination. I really liked it, but beware, it's very sweet!

Vanilla Caramel: 180 calories 16p/9f/29c (4g net carbs)*


The center cereal bar in this one also tasted like the waffle cereal bar. Instead of the blueberry filling, it has a gooey caramel layer. This is also very sweet. It also has a white chocolate protein coating. I felt that this and the blueberry were quite similar. According to the description, there are almonds somewhere in there, but I honestly haven't noticed. I still enjoyed it though!

Chocolate Caramel Pecan:  200 calories 15p/11f/27c (4g net carbs)*

Snickers, watch out. This bar has a chocolate crunchy cereal bar center with pecans studded throughout, layered with ooey, gooey caramel and finished off with a chocolate protein coating. This bar is still pretty sweet, but I find chocolate things are often less sweet than vanilla things, in my opinion. I actually noticed the tiny pecan pieces in this bar (versus the almonds in the vanilla caramel) and I think it was a really tasty bar overall.

Overall, I think Quest did a great job coming out with something new and very different from their original type of protein bars. These are similar to a candy bar alternative, can satisfy a hardcore sweet tooth, and provide a symphony of textures!

Have you tried the new Quest Hero bars - which is your favorite flavor? Do you prefer the OG Quest bars, cereal bars, or Hero bars?

Endnote: These bars are sweetened with a combination of allulose and erythritol. Allulose is a new sweetener that has .4 calories per gram (1/10 the calories of sugar). It is found in small quantities in nature in things like maple syrup, figs, and raisins. The FDA requires all sugars be listed in the sugar section on the nutrition label despite it having 1/10 the calories. The net carbs provided by quest subtract the erythritol, allulose and fiber.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rainbow Falls Hike, NC

I finally went on a new hike!

Rainbow Falls - 150 ft falls
I really enjoy hiking but sometimes it's hard to find new places to hike within driving distance to my house. Last weekend, my mom and I took a little trip to Asheville, NC. We started our day with paddle boarding on the French Broad River which I highly recommend. The river was peaceful and it was so much fun! After paddle boarding, we decided to go for a hike! We quickly took to Google to find a relatively close hike. The tricky thing is, if you google hikes near Asheville, websites list hikes up to 100 miles away! Um, no thank you, Google.

However, we found a hike about 50 minutes away which is doable! The hike was Rainbow Falls! I love a good waterfall hike. This actually had two sets of waterfalls!

Rainbow Falls is the larger set of falls, about 1.5 miles from the parking area at Gorges State Park. The hike is mostly downhill and stays pretty close to the Horsepasture River. There are a lot of places you could probably get down to the river and sneak a peek at the falls or a dip in the river.


When you arrive at a platform, you have a great view of the falls and we felt a much-needed mist! We took our selfie and moved on to the smaller, second set of falls.

Turtleback Falls is the second set of waterfalls, about .25 miles further. This portion is mostly uphill but nothing too hard. People slide down the falls and jump into the swimming area below. It looked really fun but we weren't equipped for that. I would recommend taking water shoes, a towel, and wearing a bathing suit. You could even bring some snacks or picnic to relax because there are a lot of places to sit and swim.

Turtleback Falls and Swimming Area
Since the way there was mostly downhill, the return is mostly uphill. There are only a few stairs in the whole hike and I didn't think it was crazy difficult anywhere, although I certainly worked up a sweat.

Overall, I would definitely do this hike again and hopefully remember swim shoes!

Do you like hiking? Would you slide down those falls?


Just watching today!



Between the Falls
 P.S. I didn't see a rainbow. :(
Check out this site for directions and details about this hike: https://www.romanticasheville.com/rainbow_falls.htm

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tips and Tricks for Awesome Daytrips!

I absolutely love just taking off for a day trip! I often don't have the time or money to spend the night and make a whole vacation out of a trip but that doesn't mean I can't explore new places and travel often.

I have the benefit of living in the Piedmont region of North Carolina so the coast is 3-4 hours away and mountains are 2-4 hours away so both options are feasible for day trips! I also enjoy visiting different urban cities! You'll find them to be full of culture, cuisine, entertainment and sometimes, history!

So just how do I prepare for successful day trips? Well, my mom and I have it down to a science! Here are a few tips and tricks for your next day trip, whether it be spontaneous or more planned out:

1. Pick your location based off of weather and your main activity.

This can be tricky because the weather can change on a whim but try to avoid massive disappointment if at all possible. Choosing based off of main activity is fairly obvious but if I want to hike, we head for the mountains, if I want to soak up the sun, maybe the beach. If I want to explore and shop, maybe a city! But you have to pick one! Sometimes, trying to be spontaneous, we can't decide where we want to go and we waste time. Be decisive! It may also be helpful to review directions beforehand in case of bad signal for your GPS.

2. Check public parking, entry fees, etc. 

It's nice to know where you can park, what the cost is, where the most central location is, etc. It's also good to know the fees of places you may go to such as state parks. Keep in mind that these places may have seasonal rates and may only accept cash. 

3. Pack food and water!

Jerky, dried fruit, nuts, and protein bars make great on the go snacks. Fresh fruit and cheese sticks, etc are great snacks if you're bringing a cooler (recommended). Be sure to also pack plenty of water and any other drinks you may want. Gas stations have a hefty price tag for convenience so be prepared. Also, you will need to decide if you want to take meals, eat out, or try to be there and back with no meals, just snacks! We often visit a chain sandwich shop for dinner on our day trips because it's a fairly quick and inexpensive option. If we leave before lunch, I'll typically take something to eat in the car. Don't overthink it or you'll waste precious time!

4. Bug sprays, sunblock, first aid, etc. 

Be prepared for anything! We go hiking often so we have these basic items stored in our hiking backpack. Use your judgment what things like these will be applicable to your destination. For instance, I wouldn't take bug spray to explore a city!

5. Pack spare clothes and think of places to change. 

Weather can change on a dime. You can get sweaty as all get out. The crusty swimsuit can start to chafe. I ALWAYS bring an extra set of clothes. Maybe I want to wear something nicer to dinner or perhaps I want to be more comfortable on the ride home. Spare clothes come in handy. I also usually bring extra layers (i.e. jackets, flannels, hats, gloves, etc.), especially in the winter just in case I should feel cold! On the same note, you don't need to pack for a week. It will be a pain to lug around unnecessary baggage so be moderate but be prepared. 

6. Have a basic plan. Check hours. Have fun!

Overall, just have some sort of plan as to where you're going and why. If you plan to visit a specific park, specific thrift shop, a specific restaurant, etc. make sure to check their hours. Nothing is worse than planning on going somewhere, driving several hours only to find out they are closed for repairs. Most importantly, have fun! Relax, ride the roller coaster of the unknown, be it getting lost or getting rained on. The fun is in the journey. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you're sure to make lasting memories and experiences!

Do you like to take day trips? What tips do you have?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

China Grove Main Street Challenge 5K

Will Run for Pizza and Donuts!

The China Grove 5K is one of my favorite 5K races!

  • It's in my town, just down the street!
  • It has a fun post-race spread of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Pizza Hut pizza and fresh watermelon!
  • The atmosphere is fun and family friendly!
  • It's at 9pm at night which I think is pretty fun!
  • Flat course! This means people come from far and wide to set PRs and it's very competitive!
Photo by Aaron Cress - Facebook The China Grove 5K Main St. Challenge 
This was my first race since my diagnosis of iron deficient anemic which had really affected my running - in fact, that's what prompted me to go to the doctor! My running got so bad that I couldn't even run half a mile at a ten-minute pace! I've now been taking prescription iron supplements for about two and a half months and have seen much improvement, however, I'm still not at my all time fastest, so I was very apprehensive about this race!

Thankfully, my age group is very small so I had a fighting chance. The weather was fantastic - about 70 degrees! I had some freeze dried fruit, an energy drink and endless amounts of anxious adrenaline to fuel my run. I started at the front of the crowd but many people passed me in the beginning as they always do. I particularly had my eye on one girl because I thought she may be in my age group and she looked like a runner! I gave it my all and about halfway through, I was cruising past a lot of people who didn't properly pace themselves (including my competition). I began sprinting when I felt the end was near but that was a little too soon! The cheers of the crowd actually really encouraged me! I couldn't slow down that close to the Finish line! 

I was SO EXCITED for a pace of 7:07 - my fastest by far since my issues with iron. My finish time was 22:05 and I was first in my age group. I love bettering myself and there's just some sort of adrenaline rush I get from running in 5ks and it's something my mom and I enjoy doing together!

Have you ever run a 5K? Would you run for pizza or doughnuts?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How I Survived a Week Without Sugar

One week, Seven days, 168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds

Without sugar.

Wait, that's too easy. The internets tell me I must eliminate ALL sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, and yes, even stevia) to really change habits, curb cravings and discover how my body reacts.

So I tried this once before but I crashed and burned! I made it one day and I felt miserable all day. What was wrong? Maybe I was just having a bad day anyway but I simply felt irritated all day and that was not fair to the people around me lol! So I quit.

However, about a week or so later, a #healthspo account on Instagram did it and I regained my motivation and determination. This time, though, I had a new mindset! I focused on the fact that this was my personal choice. I am in control. I am choosing not to consume these things because I want to be kind to my body. I want to see if I will feel any different/better. I choose not to consume these things versus I can't, I'm not allowed, etc. This shift in mindset seemed to make all the difference.

Some of the biggest changes I had to make:

Breakfast was: oatmeal with loads of stevia and nut butter that was sweetened

Breakfast became: eggs with potatoes, eggs with fruit, eggs with cheese and spinach, plain rice cakes with cream cheese and smoked salmon

I honestly didn't mind switching up my breakfast but I did find that having a few strawberries at the end made me that much more satisfied. It was like a breakfast dessert lol! I also discovered that smoked salmon (at least the brand I purchased) has sugar in it, however on the nutrition facts, it reads 0g sugar, so it must be a trivial amount. Since I had already eaten it, I let it slide. These breakfasts were perfectly satiating to get me to lunch.

Caffeine was: coffee with stevia, Monster energy drinks, diet soda
Caffeine became: cold brew coffee black

Well black coffee is not my favorite thing in the world, I much prefer the flavor of the cold brew. It did the job of giving me my daily dose of caffeine!

Snacks were: protein bars, protein ice cream, beef jerky which had sugar in the ingredients, yogurt with sweeteners in the ingredients, etc.

Snacks became: sweet potatoes with no sugar added sunbutter or peanut butter, popcorn, rice cakes with tuna, protein smoothies (fruit, coconut milk and protein powder with no sweeteners), natural almonds (watch out for added sugar in smoked or roasted varieties), larabars, kind pressed fruit bars and fruits and veggies

This was a bit of an adjustment but I actually found it easier as I went out of town for the weekend because I only brought appropriate snacks and didn't snack as much. I enjoyed getting to eat more fruits and veggies and larabars which I haven't had in a while. The smoothie was a little disappointing because it was far less sweet than my protein fluff but I guess that's the point lol!

Unsweetened Smoothie Bowl topped with Unsweetened Coconut, NSA Sunbutter and Cinnamon
Supplements were: creatine, protein, BCAAs and pre workout all sweetened with stevia or sucralose
Supplements became: NADA, yeah I just drank water at the gym!

Takeaway: I honestly do not regret doing this because I didn't notice any negative effects. I felt much better about myself knowing I was eating more vegetables and Whole Foods. It also really affected my habits, at least for now. I used to DUMP stevia in my oatmeal. I haven't had oatmeal yet but I'm hoping now, I will be able to be more moderate.  I'm not sure how many long-term studies have been done on stevia but too much of anything is too much. Also, during this time, I didn't notice any headaches which I get if I drink too many monster energy drinks or diet sodas in a row. I also drank a lot more water and I think this may have benefited my regularity in bowel movements. (TMI? Lol!) Besides that, I didn't notice too much of a physical effect. I'm hoping now I can find a happy balance. That's always the goal, right?

What do you think about added sugar and sweeteners and doing a "detox"? How insane is your sweet tooth?

Disclaimer: I don't think that this is something you need to do, it was simply an experiment I wanted to do to see how my body reacted. Eat yo sugar if you like!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Finds!

Hey there! I've decided to share a few products, services, podcasts, etc. that I've been enjoying lately!

First up is a practical one: Yes to Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes (can be found at Target)

I don't know about you, but when I go to the gym (especially if I hit the StairMaster or bike!), I get SWEATY. I had bought some cheap facial cleansing wipes from the Dollar Tree but they just weren't cutting it. I felt like I might as well be using a dampened paper towel. I've also recently been breaking out in little bumps on my face so I decided to try something different. I haven't been using these long but they feel really good on my skin. They have cucumber, aloe vera, and other natural ingredients to cleanse and nourish your skin. I'm hoping the breakouts will stop!
target.com

Workout Apparel: Kitty Gains

Who here is addicted to buying workout clothes? I'm guilty. I just recently got a Kitty Gains crop top to workout in. It says "Purrfect Form". They have a ton of fun tops with different sayings and other cute apparel as well. Check them out: Kitty Gains








Next up is a new-to-me podcast: Girls Gone WOD Podcast

I've been listening to the Mind Pump Podcast for a while now and they recently did an episode featuring Joy and Claire from the Girls Gone WOD Podcast. I started listening and I might be hooked. They are very down to earth, relatable, fun and easy to listen to. They do Crossfit (thus, the WOD) but you don't have to do Crossfit to enjoy listening to them. They tackle real life subjects like anxiety, nutrition, and more. Give them a listen! Girls Gone WOD Podcast


healthyhelperblog.com

Healthy Helper's Savory Banana Flour Breakfast Bread

I saw this originally on Instagram and was immediately intrigued. You may already know my love of NuNaturals products, and this recipe utilizes their Banana Flour. It's a flour made from green starchy bananas (i.e. not sweet). It's high in Prebiotic R2 Resistant Starch which helps grow probiotics. It's gluten free, has 3g of fiber per serving and 330mg of potassium. I happen to have some on hand so I'm excited to try this savory bread recipe! I need to get my hands on that Everything Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joe's! I think this bread would be great with some cream cheese spread on top! Yum!

What are your current obsessions, interests, and finds?






Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fit Frozen Faceoff!


Have the countless posts on social media of this healthy ice cream and that healthy ice cream left you scratching your head wondering which (if any of them) are worth the hefty price tag? Maybe with summer temperatures on the way, you want to know which frozen treat is best! I'm here to help! Here are some pros and cons of several "healthy" frozen dessert options!

Enlightened Ice Cream is probably one of the more scarce options. Thankfully, a grocery store near me recently started stocking the pints! You can also order online at icecreamsource.com and submit product request forms to your local stores. I really like this brand - they have a lot of great flavor options and when they say they have swirls they're not kidding. I have been told that the company has made arrangements with retailers that if the product has been damaged (ever open up a half filled pint?), you can return it to the point of purchase!



 Arctic Zero - ah, some love it, some love to hate it. I've even heard it referred to as frozen toilet water. It definitely has a much more subtle flavor and is not super sweet. I, however, do enjoy Arctic Zero. I don't think of it as ice cream, though. The brand refers to it as a fit frozen dessert, so they don't claim to be ice cream. I enjoy Arctic Zero for a cold, sweet snack and I think they've improved in both taste and texture over the years. Many people enjoy the chunky pints (300 calories) more. These are a great option if you are lactose intolerant!











Halo Top - my first protein ice cream love. It typically has a good ice cream texture and very rich flavors. I personally like their vanilla flavor better than the Enlightened Vanilla. I have experienced a pint or two with a bit of iciness but you win some, you lose some. Overall, I love Halo Top and would choose this or Enlightened if I wanted ice cream. Another bonus is that they are now sold at Walmart!













Edy's Slow Churned has long been hailed as the "macro friendly" dessert option in the fitness community. It's very inexpensive in comparison to Halo Top, Arctic Zero and Enlightened - typically costing loss for a carton than for a pint of the others. If you're looking for protein, this has a bit less than Halo and Enlightened. Another downside is the ingredients list. It's higher in sugar and if you opt sugar-free, it utilizes sucralose which has been said to alter gut flora. Honestly, though, sucralose is in so many things, I'd say this a great budget friendly, "macro-friendly" option for once in a while. 



Breyer's No Sugar Added is another cheaper option. It has the ice cream texture you'd expect from Breyer's Ice Cream. The No Sugar Added Vanilla clocks in at only 90 calories per serving. However, this brand utilizes aspartame as their zero calorie sweetener so I would use this option sparingly as I try to avoid aspartame. They also make fat free and 1/2 fat varieties if you want to explore those options as well.













Last but certainly not least is Protein Fluff. I make this so often! You choose the protein powder so you can choose the flavor, how much protein, and what sweetener is used. I most often use Slap Nutrition which is sweetened with stevia. The only other ingredients are a banana, ice and xanthan gum. I bought a jar of xanthan gum for about $5 and it is lasting forever. Bananas are very inexpensive so this is another inexpensive option. The only downsides are that it takes time and effort (clean up) and you need a blender. Also, this is certainly not an ice cream substitute but it is voluminous, cold, and sweet!






When I want ice cream, my top choices are Enlightened and Halo Top. When I want cheap, I typically go with Protein Fluff. When I'm just feeling it, I go with Arctic Zero lol! When I'm craving ice cream but also on a budget - Edy's or Breyers. I hope this helps some of you to decide which option is right for you!

Have you tried any of these? Which is your favorite? I still need to try ProYo's new pints!



Graphics created with the Canva app. https://www.canva.com/ Photos from their respective owners. 
Breyers: http://www.breyers.com/product/detail/113881/vanilla
Edys: https://www.edys.com/
Enlightened: https://www.eatenlightened.com/pages/store-locator
Halo Top:https://www.halotop.com/where-to-buy/
Arctic Zero:https://www.arcticzero.com/e-products

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Is This Legal? A Jerky Review

I'm a jerky lover. Who's with me?


It's such a convenient snack that I like to take on hikes or on trips! It lasts a long time and I personally think it tastes delicious.

I first tried Lawless Jerky from SnackNation, and I have to say it seemed a bit dry. I know it's dried meat but this was a bit tough. The company told me this was not right and they sent me a new batch!
It was mailed from the company and it was noticeably better! It was chewy and tender and so delicious! I love the fun flavors they have. They have:

Sweet Sriracha Beef Jerky - this one is pretty spicy, true to it's name!

Aloha Teriyaki Beef Jerky - tastes like your typical teriyaki flavor, a classic.

BBQ Spare Rib Pork Jerky - okay, this one is so delicious! It really tastes like it's namesake and it was so tender!

Mango Habanero Beef Jerky - This one is probably one of my favorites because I love how the sweetness perfectly balances out the spiciness. (They have a heat rating on their website if you're interested or sensitive to spicy things - I have high spicy tolerance! lawlessjerky.com)

Pho Beef Jerky - I have yet to try this flavor but it says it has herbs (cilantro, mint, basil) and spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves and the kick of jalapeno) for Pho on the go. I've never had Pho either but this certainly sounds delicious.

Honey Chipotle Beef Jerky - The final flavor offering is another I have yet to try. This Mexican - inspired flavor is another sweer-meets-spicy flavor that sounds delicious. It has ingredients like smoked chiles, paprika, garlic and honey!

Why Lawless? It's called Lawless because it was founded by an attorney who left his practice to pursue his passion for crafting delicious jerky for people's enjoyment. Lawless breaks the "laws" of jerky by using no added chemicals and tasting like real meat!

Lawless Jerky is:

  1. 100% grass fed beef and hormone free, antibiotic free pork
  2. No added nitrites/nitrates, MSGs or corn syrup 
  3. Made with quality ingredients and made in small batches 
  4. Convenient 
  5. Delicious
  6. Great source of protein and iron (important to me as I'm iron deficient anemic)
Which flavor sounds best to you? Do you like jerky?





Monday, May 8, 2017

Eating my Way through Italy!

Normally, I try to eat a lot of whole foods, vegetables, fruits, etc. I honestly can't remember the last time I had pizza or spaghetti and I rarely eat non-"diet" ice cream (but seriously, Enlightened and Halo Top is so good anyway...).

However, when in Rome...

Hazelnut Gelato in Florence




















Did I go completely crazy and eat everything in sight? Just a little at the end! XD

In all seriousness, I did try to be somewhat conscious of getting in some nutrients, and water. Thankfully, my travel companion was alright with hitting up the local markets to have meals that we weren't eating out. I got yogurt and fruit for some breakfasts and snacks, along with popcorn and chocolate because, well, I love chocolate.
Shrimp and melon salad in Rome

Sometimes, when we went out, I got salad, or fish and vegetables, etc. Then, in Naples, I had to get pizza! They invented it! I finished my entire pizza myself, but if you looked around the pizzeria, everyone, young and old was finishing their own pizza. Also, I could tell the ingredients were so fresh and I didn't feel greasy and disgusting after eating it. Full, yes, but not greasy and gross.

Cookies and Caramel Gelato in Cinque Terre
I did eat gelato almost every day but I'm a huge gelato lover. Portion control is pretty easy when you're paying a pretty penny. I also indulged in a traditional Sicilian cannoli when we went to Taormina, Sicily. It was hands down the best cannoli I've ever had.

Coffee and I forgot the second flavor! Florence, again. 
It was a very fast paced trip as we started in Florence, then moved on to Cinque Terre, where we hiked along the coast from town to town (only partially because part of the Blue Trail is closed due to rock slides and erosion so you can't hike to each town). From Cinque Terre we went on to Taormina, Sicily which is hilly but beautiful! Then we took a long train ride to Rome where we saw the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, among other things! It's truly an amazing city full of history and architecture and culture and good food! We took a little day trip from Rome to go to Naples. Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of Naples outside the pizza lol! I truly love traveling and trying the different foods! There's no need to feel guilty for "going off track" or indulging in less nutritious foods than normal while on vacation. It's short term and I would really regret letting guilt over gelato ruin my precious travel memories. So the lesson is, eat, experience and enjoy. Be balanced.

I'm not super thrilled to be home, but I do enjoy routine. I had this Monday off work so I went to the gym as usual and am getting prepared for the rest of the week!

What's your favorite part of vacation? How much pizza would you eat in Italy? LOL!



Cannoli in Sicily

Magherita pizza in Naples

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Brief Synopsis of my Journey

 A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC

During my high school years, one of my friends challenged me to a contest to get a six pack of abs. As silly as it sounds, this sparked my research online as to what it took for a female to achieve a six pack of abs. What I read indicated that women would need to be at a very low body fat percentage and to limit carbohydrates, so that's what I began to do.

At this point, I did not count calories - I simply began to cut carbohydrates from my diet, with the exception of fruit. The six  pack challenge with my friend came and went (neither of us really achieving a six pack either), yet I was now on an unhealthy path. My weight began to drop. My parents and I both noticed it and noticed the need for me to make an effort to gain weight. This is when I began to count calories. It's ironic that I began to count calories to gain weight but this led me to an obsessive, unhealthy relationship with food and tracking my intake. When my weight continued to drop, I felt a sickening pride. I knew it was twisted, I knew it was wrong but I couldn't help it. I was warring with my own mind. I knew that it was not good for me to be losing weight but it pleased my eating disorder very much.

Finally, my weight got so low that my parents were telling me to seek treatment. We approached several different facilities. Due to liability reasons, no facility would accept me for an outpatient program and we had complications with insurance and finding an open bed for an inpatient program.

In July of 2014, I was admitted to the hospital for extreme iron deficiency and treated with three rounds of iron infusions. The medical staff no longer had any "reason" to keep me there so I was discharged, still with no treatment options available to me.

Soon thereafter, insurance approved a residential program about an hour from my home. This was an experience I will not soon forget. It was not completely enjoyable and I felt very humbled being required to count while I used the bathroom. However, I do believe that treatment was good for me. They helped me to restore my weight relatively quickly and safely. At this point, I wanted to recover. I had already begun to gain weight on my own and even believed that I could do it on my own, but treatment was a safer option. It saddened me so deeply, though, to see the other patients who were not committed to recovering, still enslaved to their eating disorder and blinded to the fact that they were killing themselves.

I left the program AMA because insurance was not going to cover it any longer, I had been weight restored and I felt that I was ready to move on with my life. I maintained my weight for a while but as calories dropped (I had been consuming about 4000 calories in treatment - not sustainable) and activity increased just due to my active lifestyle, my weight began to drop again.

Around the time when I began to see a need to make a conscientious effort to gain weight again, I experienced a traumatic injury. I was attending a concert and a stage diver landed right on my head. I was on the ground. Everything was a blur. I felt as though I was being trampled but I was unsure. Finally, someone slung me over their shoulder and got me out of the crowd. The security thought I had simply passed out. I couldn't talk, couldn't move, couldn't feel. When they realized it was something more than just passing out, they called an ambulance and laid me in the dirt outside the venue.

When the ambulance came, one of the EMT workers assured me that I was just stunned and I would be surfing the next week as I had planned. Some part of me believed him. When I arrived at the hospital, I was taken immediately to the trauma center. So many things were happening, needles, tests, and scans. At one point, the nurse tried to give me morphine and then I went unconscious and she was afraid that she had killed me.

I believe it was the next day (it's quite hazy) I underwent a neck surgery where they put a metal cage in my neck. I had suffered a broken neck and a spinal cord injury (Central Cord Syndrome) that affected primarily my upper body. The doctors could not say if I would walk or walk normally ever again.

It was a very slow process and again, I was humbled as I relearned the simplest of tasks such as walking and writing. My hands were probably the most affected and I still do not have full feeling in them to this day. It was not easy and I spent many nights in tears wondering how I could ever live a normal life when I couldn't even use the bathroom on my own.

I spent about a month total in the hospital and the hospital's physical therapy unit before being discharged. I did not feel ready. I had made a lot of progress but still couldn't dress myself and to make matters worse, I had lost even more weight during my hospital stay. I began to do outpatient therapy and I followed my therapy exercise program religiously. Every day, I went through my exercises and my mother and I would go on a mile long walk. My mother and my faith in God helped me through this time so much. I cannot fully express my gratitude.

As I was recovering from my spinal cord injury, I also struggled mentally with my eating. The physical therapist recommended 3000 calories to facilitate healing and recovery. As I was in a neck brace, and very limited as to my physical activity, this was very hard for me. I managed to get up to 2500 calories and to restore my weight.

I continued to make progress and now I appear almost normal to the unknowing spectator. My gait is still not quite normal but I run and hike again. My hands still don't have feeling but I can dress myself and even type (which is vital to my job!). I am so grateful.

After the spinal cord injury, all my muscles had completely atrophied. I could not even lift a dinner plate. A lot of this was helped by my physical therapy exercises but this led me to the desire to become strong. I began resistance training after my neck brace came off and in January of this year, I joined Gold's Gym. I love the feeling of getting stronger both mentally and physically.

Sometimes, the destination of a journey is not in sight, but that's okay. I believe it's important to enjoy the journey. I will continue to change. I will grow mentally and physically. I will persevere.
2013- Pre Eating Disorder Treatment



2014 - Post ED Treatment

2015 - Post ED Treatment
2015 - Post Spinal Cord Injury

Left - After getting out of neck brace (2016) Right - Current, resistance training, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Clean.Fit Box Review

Clean. Fit.



Pretty simple. Clean.Fit Box is a monthly subscription box full of products for people who want to live a clean and fit lifestyle! Sign me up!

They included a note in my box stating that they started out of a passion for healthy: eating well, staying fit, and practicing self-love. I love that! The products in the clean.fit box never include artifical preservatives, flavors or colors, trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils, fake sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup.

I love what the clean.fit box is promoting here because so many "healthy" or "fitness" products do not keep these high standards. Some snack that may be promoted as a diet/health food may very well be loaded with artifical sweetners, flavors and who knows what else!

Clean.Fit Box provides products that promote sustainable fitness, health and overall wellness!

Let's see what was in the March Box:


  • Evo Hemp Bar: a snack bar made of fruits, nuts, seeds and tumeric, I can't wait to try this one!
  • Buff Bake: Rocky Road peanut spread with hormone free whey, I love Buff Bake spreads but I haven't had the chance to try this flavor yet.
  • Leap Smoothies: organic fruits and veggies for smooth-ease
  • Salad Power: a drinkable salad? I admit, I'm a little bit skeptical of this one!
  • Natural Citizen Organic Vegan Protein: non-flavored makes it easy to add to anything, I've tried bad vegan protein so I'm curious to try this. 
  • The New Primal: Free range cilantro lime turkey stick, this sounds like a slim jim's healthy cousin and I'm stoked about it. 
  • MRM: 100% natural pre workout!
  • Motion Matcha: green trea powder with a great tropical taste, excited to try this as well!
Overall, I think there are some great products in here and I think the clean.fit box is a neat way to discover brands that align with these standards. I also think it's neat that they included a vegan supplement to try!

I will update as I try the products inside!

Do you have any subscription boxes? What kind? 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Healthy Peanut Butter Blondies

What is a blondie? It's the nonchocolate counterpart to a brownie, duh!

Blondies have more fun. Topped with NuNaturals Cocoa Syrup (0 cal)
I know that blondies still don't seem to be as popular as brownies, but these babies are pretty tasty! Don't worry, I added mini chocolate chips because chocolate is necessary.

Now what makes these "healthy"?

  • No refined sugar (aside from chocolate chips)
  • No refined flours
  • No oil 
  • Extra protein and fiber 
How? Chickpeas. Bean there, done that, back again! My father taste tested it and after I revealed that they were made with no flour, rather, they were made with chickpeas, he said he couldn't tell! Success!

They're pretty simple, but word to the wise: My blender is not a high powered food processor so the batter became pretty warm as I blended to a good consistency so when I folded in the chocolate chips, it turned the batter a bit brown as some of them melted. They were still delicious but if you're going for aesthetics, you may want to cool the batter before folding in the chocolate chips!
So fudgy and dense!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used a natural variety)
  • 1/4 cup honey 
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp imitation butter flavor
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cashew milk (or milk of choice)
  • additional sweetener to taste (I used NuNaturals No Carb blend stevia packets - I used 6 if I remember correctly)
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a 8" baking pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. 
  2. Rinse, drain and dry the chickpeas. Most of the "skins" came off as I dried. 
  3. Combine the chickpeas, peanut butter, honey, milk, and sweetener in a high powered blender or food processor.
  4. Blend until smooth. 
  5. Allow batter to cool and fold in the chocolate chips. 
  6. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the edges pull away and/or the top is golden brown. 
  7. Allow to cool and dig in! Store in the refrigerator. 
My dad described these as "rich" which he attributed to the peanut butter. He's been known to strongly dislike my "healthy" recipes so I counted this as a success and I enjoyed them a lot myself! How can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate?? 

Let me know if you try these! Have you ever made a dessert with beans? Can you believe I still haven't tried black bean brownies?

Recipe adapted from Joyfoodsunshine.com

Monday, March 20, 2017

LiveLovePop Review


If you know me, you know I love popcorn. I've tried many brands, even skinless popcorn! I can't really say I've hated any! However, I do have my favorites. One brand that caught my eye taking the social media world by storm is LiveLovePop! 
What's really awesome about this brand is that they're a mission based brand so each flavor gives back to a different charity. You can learn more about their mission on their website: livelovepop.com.
They also use simple, wholesome ingredients for healthy snacking you can feel good about! 
Not to be forgotten is the medley (yes, cornucopia, if you will) of flavors! The current flavors are honey bbq, lime fresco, sea salt, truffle salt, and salt and vinegar. So far I have tried honey bbq, sea salt and truffle salt but lime fresco may be my next victim!
Mix up of Honey BBQ and Sea Salt
The truffle salt flavor has a nice subtle truffle flavor lightly salted. At first bite, I will say I wasn't blown away but it definitely is addictive. The more I ate it, the more I liked it! 

The sea salt, again did not astound me, and is comparable to other brands that offer a sea salt flavor. There's really only so much one can do with sea salt but it's a classic flavor that I'm glad they offer! 

The honey bbq is a different story! I have never tasted popcorn like this! The flavor hits the nail on the head like a honey bbq chip but in the form of popcorn! I loved it so much, but sadly, so did my dad! lol! 

I can't wait to try the other flavors! 

Have you tried this brand of popcorn? What's your favorite popcorn? Sweet or salty?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Mini S'mores Bites!

Want a s'more?

S'more what?

"You're killing me, Smalls!"

-The Sandlot

If you haven't watched the Sandlot, I recommend you go do that right now and then come back, read this recipe, and make some (healthier) s'mores bites!

They are seriously so easy, I'm not sure it even counts as a recipe! These little bites have all your basic components of a s'more: graham, chocolate, and mallow - without packing a calorie punch!

Here's how:

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp imitation butter flavor
  • 1-2 packets stevia or sweetener of choice
  • 5 tbsp graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tbsp brownie batter Gbutter spread (the gbutter spread is a very unique spread so may not be substituted - learn more about it: gbutter review)
  • 18 mini marshmallows (I used My Dandies vegan mini marshmallows but you may use any brand)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a mini muffin pan (you will only use six compartments). 
  2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, egg white, butter flavor* and sweetener. Press this mixture into six compartments of the mini muffin tin. 
  3. Scoop half a tablespoon of gbutter spread on top of each.**
  4. Place three mini marshmallows on top of each. 
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, then broil until the marshmallows puff and become golden. 
Enjoy!

*If a richer base is desired, you may use melted butter in place of the egg white and butter flavor. 

**For an alternative, you could try mini chocolate chips. 

Macros per bite:
68 cal 2.1f/8.9c/3.4p

Let me know if you try these! What's your favorite way to have a s'more? Are you a marshmallow burner?