Saturday, April 23, 2011

Low-Calorie Meals & Snacks I'm Currently Obsessed With

1). First, we have one of my favorites: Protein Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal!!! This stuff is so amazing. It is healthy, has protein, is low-cal, and super fast and easy to put together. To make: put 1/2-3/4 cup instant oatmeal in a bowl with adequate water according to oatmeal container. Microwave the oatmeal, then add 2-3 spoonfuls of canned pumpkin, a splash of almond milk, 1/2-1 scoop of protein powder, a bit of brown sugar (or sweetener of choice), and some cinnamon. Stir all the ingredients together and enjoy!

2). Next, we have an iced coffee treat. I often need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and am frequently craving something sweet. This iced coffee will wake you up, without the huge calorie content that most iced coffee drinks have. I brew some regular coffee, add some almond milk & sugar-free vanilla syrup (Torani brand), and then add some ice.

3). Now, if I'm craving something like chips or popcorn, I often turn to baby carrots. I can eat a ton without the guilt I would normally get from eating a whole bunch of potato chips. If baby carrots lack enough flavor for you, try adding some sea salt on top or dipping in a bit of hummus.

4). An egg white omelet is a super healthy and filling way to start your day! If I wake up pretty hungry, I usually make an egg white omelet with a piece of wheat toast on the side. I'll chop up some vegetables such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini, and spinach and cook those for a little bit in a pan. Then, I add in some egg whites from a carton and finish up my dish with a little feta cheese or a bit of ketchup on top for added flavor! 

5). Finally, I like to make a good vegetable stir fry on days where I feel like I have indulged a little too much the day before. I cook up broccoli, carrots, peppers, bean sprouts, snap peas, onions, and mushrooms with some soy sauce, garlic, and a dash of lime juice. It is so good! If I feel like just vegetables won't fill me up, I'll add in some shrimp and a small portion of brown rice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What's the Skinny on Cinnamon?

I have been reading so much lately on the health benefits of cinnamon, and how it can help trim your waistline as well. I finally decided to give it a try, and here's why you should too! The main reason why taking cinnamon in spice or capsule form can aid in weight loss is the benefits it has with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance in the body can lead to increased fat storage because it reduces glucose uptake in your fat and muscle cells, thus resulting in storage of glucose as glycogen and triglycerides. The higher your body's insulin resistance is, the more insulin will be needed to be secreted by the pancreas. Effects on the body associated with insulin resistance include:
-High Blood Sugar
-Bloating (when your body does not efficiently digest carbohydrates and glucose, intestinal gas is produced)
-Weight Gain, Storage of Fat (mainly in the abdominal region), & Difficulty to Lose Weight
-Increased Appetite 

Tests have been conducted to determine the benefit of cinnamon with aiding in lowering insulin resistance. Test subjects were given around 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day, for 40 days. The results showed that blood sugar levels were lowered, the body's natural production of insulin increased, and cholesterol levels were lowered as well. Cinnamon was shown to improve the metabolic action of insulin resistance through increasing the uptake of glucose from the cellular level, as well as revamping the insulin signaling pathway within the muscles. 
You can incorporate cinnamon into your diet by sprinkling the spice on your favorite foods, or by picking up some cinnamon in capsule form at the grocery store. I have been doing a little bit of both. So go out and get spicy!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Healthy Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe

I just made this recipe the other day and it was amazing!! It did take a little while to assemble and cook, but it was so worth it (especially for the leftovers). I did make a few changes to the recipe: I substituted half the tofu for ricotta cheese (thus making it vegetarian and no longer vegan), I also added cooked zucchini and spinach to the eggplant mixture to get in some more vegetables, and tried to use a lot less olive oil than what the recipe called for. If you're craving italian food, but don't want the added calories or fat, this is recipe is for you. After my additions, I calculated calories to be around 250 per serving (not bad eh?). My boyfriend also had no clue there was tofu in there instead of all cheese. Ha! Hope you enjoy :) You can find the recipe at:

My Favorite Ab Exercises

Abs are definitely my favorite muscle group to work out. I am always on an endless search for the best and most effective moves to give me that signature burn in my midsection. I have compiled a list of my favorite exercises to get you that trim tummy you've always dreamed of!

1). Here is the Arm Pull Over Straight-Leg Crunch. I love this move. It is a great lower ab toner. I do this move with an 8 lb. weight, 20 reps, 2-3 sets.

2). Next, we have the Bicycle Crunch. This is a classic move which is regarded my many experts as being one of the most effective exercises to work you entire core. I usually do 50 reps, 2-3 sets.

3). This is called the Prone Oblique Roll. I must say, this move is hard because it involves you engaging your entire core in order to keep you balanced and prevent you from falling off the ball. Boy does it work though! I tend to do 20 reps, 3 sets.

4). The Back Rollout is another good move to feel the burn in your lower abs. When I first started trying this move out in the gym, I would get so sore the next day! I have since had to increase the number of reps in order to feel the burn again. I currently have been doing 25 reps, 3 sets. The more horizontal your body gets with the ground, the greater the burn! Also, make sure to really pull your abs in when rolling out to avoid lower back strain. 
5). Finally, we have the Plank. The dreaded Plank! This is probably my least favorite (and most effective) ab move. Don't you love how the moves you hate the most, work the best? I try and do this at the beginning of my abs circuit so that I'm not too tired to get it done at the end. I usually hold the Plank for 60 seconds, 2-3 times. I am trying to work up to 90 seconds, but it is proving to be quite difficult!

A Work in Progress...

One of my main fitness downfalls is expecting too much, too fast. I want to see results way sooner than physically possible. After an exceptionally grueling workout, I tend to get a little disappointed when I wake up the next morning and don't see a new muscle popping out. Don't worry, I'm aware of how ridiculous this is! The point is, I am constantly having to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a day, and my ideal body won't be either. 

Lately, I have been trying to follow the age old rule of decreasing my caloric intake by 500 calories per day through diet or exercise. According to this rule of thumb, a 500 calorie a day deficit will equate to 3,500 calories a week, which equals one pound of fat. Since I know all of this, I figure I should be losing one pound a week. Not always the case. In fact, I actually gained a pound this week. Normally this kind of thing would completely discourage me. I would think: I did everything right, I ate properly, I worked out, why didn't I lose that damn pound?! That mentality has led to me constantly having to remind myself that I am a work in progress, and that most likely my fitness goals will be reached in 6 months rather than 6 days.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Inaugural Post!

As my first post, I thought I'd take the time to explain why I decided to write this blog. Let me tell you about my long and winding road to discovering a love for fitness. As a child, I was always extremely thin. Healthy eating choices, fitness, and weight were the last things on my mind. I ate whatever I wanted and was still rail thin. I know, you hate me, right? Well, as all good things must come to an end, so did that phase of my life. After hitting age 17, I gained weight. Fast. I went from being 5'9" and about 120 lbs. to 145 lbs. in a matter of months. Now I know that is by no means an undesirable weight, but for a 17 year old who never thought twice about food or the scale, it was a bit of a shocker. I had to buy all new clothes, which was not fun at all (as it should be!). And the worst part was that I was horribly embarrassed to have gained so much, so fast. Despite so many changes, I slowly became adjusted to my new weight because I still felt that I looked good. Then college hit.

College was easily the most unhealthy period of my life. I had always been force-fed extremely healthy foods by my mom, so I became a little carried away with my new found food freedom. I ate everything. My roommate and I would eat cupcakes, entire pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, huge bags of chips, pizza, grilled cheese, soda, and anything else unhealthy you could think of. When I finally came up for air, I realized I had packed on another 15 lbs. Let me tell you, the "freshman 15" is certainly not a myth! I knew what I was doing. I knew how terrible my eating habits were. I knew how to fix them. But I didn't. I used food as a comfort and a sort of rebellion from the healthy eating ways of my past. While the change in my body wasn't evident to my new friends (I was good at hiding extra weight with clothes), my family definitely noticed. They weren't very quiet about it either. I started to feel more and more ashamed of the extra weight I was carrying. I had a naturally thin body type, and with the increased weight, my figure just looked wrong.

Next came an even more unhealthy period. I figured that I had to do something about the weight I'd gained, so I turned to extremely unhealthy methods to do so. I wanted to see results, and I wanted to see them fast. I went through about six months of not eating for a day, then binge eating the next, extreme calorie counting, extreme exercising, and at my lowest point, using laxatives. It was terrible, and none of it worked. I had begun to wear only sweats and big t-shirts to hide the fact that I kept gaining, and my extreme diets weren't working. I can't say what the exact cause of change in my mentality was, but one day I just got too fed up with feeling so uncomfortable in my own body. I had known all along what really needed to be done for me to lose weight. I also knew it would be hard work, and wouldn't involve me getting to eat half a pizza whenever I wanted. Good old fashioned healthy eating and exercising. No matter what any fad diet or exercise program tells you, good foods and good work outs are the only thing between you and that bikini.

So I did a complete 180. I went full force on my new program because I knew that if I didn't see results quickly, I would give up. I completely overhauled my diet. I went from eating probably about 2,500 calories a day (I know how terrible that sounds), to trying to stay around 1,500. I stopped eating almost every meal out, to cooking for myself. I ate mass amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. I looked through hundreds of blogs and websites about healthy eating and fitness to gain tips and ideas. And boy did it all work. I felt great, and I started looking great. In the first two weeks I lost about 7 lbs. Over the next two months, I lost another 15 lbs. I was down to 140 lbs. and couldn't have felt more confident. I had joined a gym and was working out 6 days a week. I also began logging my meals and workouts in a diary. I was shocked at the rapid changes I was seeing in my body, energy levels, mood, and confidence. I was able to wear all the cute clothes I had been avoiding. The best part was that people noticed. My family, boyfriend, and friends all gave me the compliments and encouragement I had been starved for. Other people were asking me what my diet and exercise secrets were. I was thrilled to say the least.

In conclusion, my path was a rocky one, but I wouldn't know so much about the right ways to eat and exercise if I hadn't experienced all the wrong ones (and their effects) first. I became so pleased with the positive results I saw, that I devoted a huge part of my life to discovering the best ways to eat, exercise, and be happy with my body. I decided to write this blog because my journey isn't over. I still want to improve my diet, improve my workouts, and continue to tone up! I also figured that since I had spent endless hours searching for the best methods, that I might as well share them with others who are in need of some ideas, tips, secrets, inspiration, or just plain fun reading material. So I dedicate this blog to anyone out there who has struggled with their body, and who wants to make some healthy improvements to it! I hope you all enjoy this blog :)
-leila xxoo