Friday, November 21, 2014

Dessert group think


Yesterday, my office had our Thanksgiving celebration; a potluck, of course. I brought the veggie and fruit trays, which, to the surprise of no one, went basically untouched next to homemade biscuits and mac and cheese.

I was able to stick to my 24 Day Challenge plan pretty well, filling my plate with turkey, ham, veggies, and a taste of sweet potato casserole. I even turned down the wine. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty solid about my willpower muscle, when one of my coworkers turns to me and goes “I think I want dessert.”

I actually didn’t want dessert. One, because I’m solidly committed to completing this challenge with as few cheats as possible and two, because I was pretty full and honestly had no room for pie.

So, I respond with “The dessert table looked pretty great!” And she immediately counters, asking if I’m going to have any. When I shared that I was going to pass, she looked disappointed and agreed that she probably wouldn’t have any either.

Obviously, I made that trip to the dessert table with her, and indulged in a half of a pumpkin truffle, while she filled her plate with the goodies she wanted.

Women of America, we need to have a conversation about Dessert Group Think.

Why is it that women are incapable of making their own decisions about dessert? Or fried food, for that matter? Why does it seem to be impossible to form our own dessert opinions?

I think a lot of us attach intense emotions, like guilt, to food. And so, we feel less guilty if other people are eating the “bad” foods because more people choosing to indulge automatically makes it okay.

Let’s think about that for a second: the same emotion that is attached to a car accident or missing a friend’s birthday is associated on a daily basis with eating – something you have to do every day. It’s unhealthy, and it’s got to stop.

If we learned to listen to our bodies – rather than obsessing over calories or what other people might think – we’d probably live healthier lives. We’d order what we actually wanted to order and recognize when our body needs vegetables instead of chocolate. Instead, we’re constantly obsessed over that food we can’t have, and we despise broccoli because it’s not a cupcake. And, news flash: broccoli is never going to be a cupcake.

Ya'll. The only person’s hunger/desire you get access to is your own. If you want the piece of pie (or the entire pie), eat it.

Even if you’re the only person at the table who is getting dessert. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making peace with the process

Last week, while on a walk-and-talk with a new friend, we got to talking about our respective websites/blogs and what was stopping us from taking it to the next level. And for me, it was that I was afraid to blog about health and nutrition because I felt like I had failed. And to be honest, blogging about it felt like a joke.

Ya'll, I have fallen off and gotten on to the fitness and nutrition wagon more times than I'd like to admit. And I am beginning to realize that that's okay -- Life happens, and maybe that's part of my story.

Maybe my roller coaster of a fitness journey exists to be able to share -- to let other people know that even people who run marathons or blog about fitness or hashtag all of their nutrition pictures on Instagram struggle to stay on the health bus. 

So, in all honesty and sincerity, here is where I am: 
  1. I run slow. Like, real slow. A 9:30 mile is an accomplishment, and my knees bug me when I run more than three miles. So I signed up for a half marathon -- the only way to get better is to practice.
  2. I already told you how I'm conquering the sugar monster and the freak Sour Patch Kid-fests. It's getting better every day. 
  3. I've got about 15-20 lbs I'd like to lose. And I realized that while I was upset about it, I wasn't actually doing anything about it. So I fixed it, and I jumped into Advocare full on. I'm seeing great results, and am amazed at what can happen when you actually try.
  4. Strength-wise, I haven't lost much! I'm loving working with my trainer, Kelly, and improving on my power lifts (bench, squat, deadlift) every week. Kelly thinks I could be a powerlifter if I wanted to.. I'm not sure yet, but it's certainly fun to think about :)
It's a process, and it's one that lasts a lifetime. Hopefully, wherever you are in this process, my posting helps you to find that wherever you are, right now, is okay. It's okay to love the journey and to make peace with the process, no matter what stage you're in.

That's where I'm at, at least.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The sugar struggle bus

Today is Day 15 of my Advocare 24 Day Challenge. While there have definitely been visible results, I'm waiting until the very end of my challenge to take measurements, weigh myself, and post before and after pictures (I actually haven't decided if I'm posting those pesky before pictures yet), one of the best parts of the challenge is that it's killed my sugar addiction.

Ya'll, I was on the sugar struggle bus.

Like, "Oh, I'd like a snack. Sour Patch Kids sound good," kind of struggle bus. Every day.

It's no wonder I had gained a little bit more than I'd like.

Anyways, thanks to this Challenge, I've reclaimed my adulthood, and probably added about ten years to the life of my teeth.

I figured I'd share some of my favorite easy sweet snacks that curb cravings without killing my (mostly) sugar-free streak. This post is part one, and I'll be sure to post a few of my favorite sweet recipes this week!

Spark: Spark is pretty much adult Kool-Aid. With no sugar. Yes, really. Since having my first Spark, I haven't felt the need to eat any sugary gummy candy (my weakness) OR drink soda. It's filled with vitamins, and, as someone who works a desk job, I can honestly say it keeps me focused through that 2-3PM post-lunch slump. If you want to try it for yourself, you can purchase it here (my favorite flavors are Fruit Punch and Grape!): Try Spark here!

Chocolate Banana Nice Cream: 
I did not invent this recipe, but my Vitamix certainly perfected it :) I honestly think this tastes as good as real ice cream -- but you've got to freeze your bananas once they're ripe! Make sure they're pretty spotty before peeling and freezing.

1 large ripe banana
1 Tbs. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Unsweetened almond milk (to desired consistency)

1. In a Vitamix or blender, blend all ingredients until smooth, adding unsweetened almond milk until desired consistency is reached.
2. Top with whatever toppings you please -- my favorites are sprinkles and chocolate chips!
If you're feeling super fancy, make your own vegan chocolate magic shell! Melt 1 Tbsp coconut oil in the microwave, and add chocolate chips to your desired chocolate level. Pour over nice cream, let harden, and enjoy!

Baked Quest Bars:
The first time I tried a Quest Bar, I thought it was dis. gust. ing. Turns out, the secret is to bake it! Once baked properly, it transforms into a magic protein cookie, best dunked in unsweetened almond milk or topped with pb2.

Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter Supreme Quest cookies topped with PB2 and a side of Nice Cream.

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Unwrap Quest Bar of choice (I love White Chocolate Raspberry, Peanut Butter Supreme, Vanilla Almond, and Chocolate Brownie).
2. Microwave Quest Bar for 20 seconds.
3. Divide Quest Bar into three parts. Form into balls.
4. Flatten balls of Quest dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 350 for seven minutes. 
6. Flip cookies and press down to flatten.
7. Bake for an additional two minutes, let cool, enjoy!

What are your favorite sweet treats? If you could "de-junkify" anything, what would it be?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why I picked Advocare

If you've been following me on Instagram, you've seen quite a few new hashtags: #24daychallenge and #advocare being chief among them.

So, yes. I am doing the 24 Day Challenge. Yes, I bought the supplements. Yes, I'm now that crazy chick not drinking a beer with my Georgia Football.

I've actually been curious about Advocare for a little over a year, and, after not liking how my jeans fit for the last time, I bit the bullet and signed up for the 24 Day Challenge once I noticed a friend selling it.

After a week on the challenge, I'm pretty happy with how I'm feeling, eating, and - yes - shrinking. I'm not weighing myself or measuring myself until the end of my challenge because I think the scale is stupid, but I am definitely already noticing changes.

Here's three reasons why I picked Advocare (and why Advocare may be a great pick for you):

1. I'm competitive. As I explained to my distributor, Cari, I feel like I'm competing with the Challenge every day. I feel accomplished when I exceed my water total or turn down the fries I'm not supposed to have. I feel like I'm winning when I prep my meals or kill a tough workout. The nature of the Challenge, as well as the length, makes it a perfect fit for my competitive nature.

2. I needed a kick in the butt, but not a quick fix. While the 24 Day Challenge requires you to adhere to a supplement program, it doesn't promise a get-fit-quick scheme without also changing your diet and incorporating consistent exercise. This forces me to acknowledge and change my habits in order to be successful on this program.

3. The suggested nutrition is solid, and it doesn't require you to starve yourself. This is big. Advocare advocates (that's fun to read out loud) a whole foods, primarily plant-based, non-processed approach to nutrition. I. Love. This. This means the nutrition plan can be tailored if you are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, whatever. It teaches you to eat whole, nutritious foods, a nutrition strategy that is both widely accepted and easy to maintain.

I'm looking forward to posting some of my favorite recipes, observations, and success. Mostly the success part :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New chapter, same story

Just over two months ago, I packed up my life and moved to Charleston, South Carolina.

It was one of those things that happened quickly -- I hit a streak of luck when it came to job searching, and within two weeks, I had applied for, interviewed for, and accepted a new job in a new city. The same day, I had signed a lease on an apartment.

I think it was just the kind of adventure and life change I needed. A new city, a new job, and a chance to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

In a way, I sort of feel like a freshman in college again. I'm just getting settled, but I really feel like I'm learning new things about myself. Just like freshman year, I moved out of my parent's house and into a place of my own. Although this one has faux granite countertops, a big upgrade from the locker-closet of my Russell dorm room.

So here I am, blogging again. I thought about deleting some of my old blog posts, but realized that this blog has chronicled all of my post-college life: the places I've been, things I've felt, and challenges I've kicked in the butt. My new adventures in Chucktown fit perfectly -- a new chapter in the same story.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I no longer believe in Miss America

In May of 2012, I was completing my year as a Collegiate Development Consultant for Delta Gamma of Fraternity. That year was the most challenging and fulfilling year of my life because it allowed me to work with and learn from women throughout the country, as a representative of a values-based organization.

Later that year, in September, I entered (and won) the Miss Greater Springfield pageant, a preliminary to Miss America. I competed in that pageant because I saw Miss Virginia as an opportunity to work with and learn from women throughout the state of Virginia. I believed that being Miss America could mirror my experience as a Collegiate Development Consultant, by allowing me to represent another values-based organization that empowers college-aged women.

Needless to say, I am now in a unique position in understanding and processing the Miss America hazing situation (I’m not going to say scandal because she’s admitted to it).

Miss America has admitted to hazing (which is, oh by the way, a crime in the state of New York). She has now somewhat famously told us that what she did “maybe fit into the broad definition of hazing,” but implied that it wasn’t really that bad.

Sure, as a general rule, female hazing doesn’t look a whole lot like male hazing. Women tend to verbally and emotionally abuse one another, whereas male hazing is typically more physical. But honestly, is either one better or worse than the other?

This is what the Miss America Organization has failed to understand: all hazing is bad. All hazing is illegal. All hazing requires the forced subordination of one group by another group or individual.

That sure doesn’t sound like women’s empowerment to me.

How can an organization that claims to empower young women continue to blindly support a brand ambassador who has admitted to hazing other young women? Hazing is by definition the very opposite of empowering; hazing involves forced subordination of others.

I understand and believe that hazing was very much a part of the campus culture at Hofstra. But the problem with Kira’s insinuation that she made a mistake is that she has yet to show any sort of remorse or even acknowledgement that what she did, while “not real hazing,” was wrong. That people may have been hurt by her actions. That, at the very least, her chapter expelled her because what she did was not in line with the values of their organization. In order to admit you have made a mistake, you have to understand why it was a mistake. And Kira has yet to identify why what she did was wrong and what, ultimately, she learned from it.

The other thing that Miss America fails to recognize is that Kira not only represents the organization, she represents each and every one of us who competes or has competed at the local, state, and national level. Her actions, past and present, and the National organization’s inaction in dealing with this situation reflects not only on them, but on every single one of us, too.

I competed in Miss America because I believed in the mission of the organization. I believed that Miss America empowered young women by giving them the opportunity to serve within their communities, advocate for causes close to their heart, and helping them to finance their college educations. I believed that Miss America was one of the best organizations for women to grow – right up there with Greek Life. I believed this because it was true; I had seen it in my own life, and I had seen it in the incredible caliber of women that surrounded me when I competed at Miss Virginia.

I no longer believe in Miss America. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What is normal?

Why can't both of these women be "normal?"
Since the Miss USA pageant this past Sunday, the majority of the commentary surrounding the pageant has involved Miss Indiana, Mekayla Diehl and her “normal” swimsuit body. Feedback has ranged from praise that Diehl’s body is realistic for a “real woman” (at the expense of criticizing the more thin contestants) to outraged pageant girls who feel that it is ridiculous that a woman who “didn’t train like she was competing for Miss USA” beat out other women who "trained harder."

Needless to say, I have several opinions. And criticisms. But they all boil down to one thing:

Why are we so obsessed with criticizing other women’s bodies?

First of all, none of us knows how Mekayla (or any of the other contestants) prepared for Miss USA. We don’t know what she ate, how often she worked out, if she took diet pills, or what her relationship with food/exercise looks like. We don’t know her unique genetic make up, her body fat percentage, or her hormonal composition.

We have no idea what “normal” looks like for Mekayla’s or for any of the other contestants’ unique biological make up and body type.

And while we’re at it, what the heck does normal even mean? Why are we so obsessed with finding the perfect comparison? And why does identifying one woman as “normal” equate to then putting down every other woman in the competition?

I watched the Miss USA pageant on Sunday (duh), and I was impressed at how many of the top 20 looked healthy. They looked toned, they looked happy, and they looked proud of what they had accomplished.

Each of us has a unique body type, unique nutritional needs, and a unique relationship with food and exercise. What is normal for one woman is not normal for another.

Which is why it is so ridiculous, and equally wrong, that other women are criticizing Diehl for being “not fit enough” for the Miss USA competition.

Swimsuit at Miss USA accounts for 33% of the score. Maybe Mekayla could have been leaner, or maybe she was as lean as she could get. Regardless, if a contestant decides that she does not want to (or cannot) follow the sure-fire no-carb, high cardio approach to get that last bit of fat off of her body to score higher in a category that accounts for one-third of her score, it’s her prerogative. It’s not our place to criticize her.

If Miss USA was chosen solely based on her fitness level or body fat percentage, we wouldn’t need a pageant. We’d just need measuring tape, a scale, and a notepad.

Why aren’t we capable of celebrating the unique, powerful, and special individuals that exist regardless of their weight, BMI, or body fat percentage? Our inability to do this reinforces to the younger generation that their worth is based on their outside packaging, rather than what is on the inside.

The issue is not “what is normal?” but rather, “why do we need to define normal at the expense of ‘abnormal?’”

It’s time to change that conversation.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On #Huddle14, happiness, and that moment of "wow."

There I was in the middle of the dance floor at Senor Frogs. Surrounded by new friends who had spent the last two days inspiring me, smiling in a moment of reflection and realization, with some overplayed pop song (that I can't remember, but can guarantee I totally love) in the background.

This past weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to attend CAMPUSPEAK Huddle in Orlando, Florida. Some of you may know that I've joined the CAMPUSPEAK family as an Interactive Workshops facilitator. This past weekend was an opportunity to be trained on the workshops I will be facilitating, attend breakout sessions, and interact with other CAMPUSPEAK facilitators and speakers.

So anyways, we were at Senor Frogs, enjoying each other's company, and I just had this moment of "wow."

One year ago, I worked for a company that I believed in, but in a role that bored me. I wasn't challenged, and I wasn't growing, and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get out. My passion had drained, I stopped working out as much, and I'd come home and binge watch old TV series on Netflix (not a terrible idea, just not a super great every night activity). There I was, making enough money to live comfortably and do the things I loved, and I wasn't doing them. I was existing, not thriving, and I was unhappy.

If you had asked June 2013 Jen where she would be in exactly one year, the answer would not have been "Surrounded by some of the most inspiring people I have ever met, pursuing my passion, and impacting lives." No way. 

And yet, here I am. It is June 2014, and I am happy. Genuinely, authentically, happy. 

What I have learned in the last year is that we have complete control over our own lives. Sure, we don't necessarily have control over what happens to us, but we always have control over how we choose to react. We control how we view our situation. And we control whether or not we remain complacent or if we do something about it.

So there I was in Orlando, surrounded by people who inspire me and people who have been my mentors since I was an undergraduate, and it hit me. My life right now is remarkably different from my life one year ago, and in ways I never could have imagined. Somehow, through a year of choices - some super significant, and some not as much - I have ended up here. My choices determine my life -- I am in complete control of designing it to be exactly how I want it to be. And how freaking cool is that?

Monday, May 26, 2014

You vs. You

Life is good, ya'll.

So good, that I have neglected this blog for (if we're being honest), about seven months. I've been busy with work, traveling all over the Southeast and Southwest, and I've been doing well! I'm back in the industry I want to be in, and I'm in a role that is both challenging and fulfilling. I've also been lucky to have just a few incredible people fall into my life.

But, if I'm being honest, I've gotten a little out of shape. Not fat, not completely out of shape, just soft. Slower. Not at my peak.

I'm coming back. Back to weightlifting, running, Bikram yoga, intermittent fasting, and blogging. I'd like to be an athlete again. And this time, I want to be better than I was before. 

So, you've heard it here first: I will be competing in Miss Virginia Beach USA on July 19th, and I will be competing in Miss Virginia USA in late November. I am going to beat myself at my peak - Summer 2012; me vs. me.

In the spirit of transparency, I'll be posting about my running, workouts, and nutrition here. And on Instagram, because, let's face it: I love Instagram. I'll also be sharing some of the books I'm reading, the goals I'm setting, and things that I'm learning (that you may also be interested in!).

Thanks for reading and for the continuous support. You all rock.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

People are judgy

People are judgy.

They're judgy about other people's clothes, their opinions, their jobs, and their diets.

I don't know if you've noticed, but people are the most judgy about what other people eat.

As a former diet-a-holic, I get it. It's human nature to get yourself psyched up about your new eating plan. I mean, the process lends itself to it -- you decide you want to lose weight/get fit/look like a supermodel, you do your research (or watch commercials), and you pick your diet of choice.

Then, once you've picked, it's time to throw yourself in 110%. You read the books, you buy the food, you toss out everything with sugar or calories or carbs from your fridge. And then, you feel want to share the new plan that you've found with everyone you know.

I love when people get excited about making healthy changes to their lives. Letting other people in can be inspirational to them and serve as accountability for you -- if everyone knows you're working to improve your health or fitness, they'll be able to share in your excitement, which will help you stick to your plan. Plus, it's always awesome to share articles, research, and results. Teaching others and sharing articles of substance isn't something we do often enough.

But what about when all-or-nothing approach leads us to cast judgement on the eating choices of others? Whether it's on social media, in a friend group, behind the backs of strangers, or just in our own heads, why do we so often cross that line between teaching and judgement?

You know, the "she's not actually eating Paleo because she eats Greek yogurt," or "how can you call yourself a vegetarian when you eat fish."

I'm going to drop some truth here: There is not one "correct" diet. 

There are expert opinions both for and against nearly every existing diet plan or diet choice. You could literally justify nearly every nutrition plan you could create with research from "the experts." And, just because you've been highly successful eating Paleo or following Weight Watchers or cutting out all meat does not mean everyone else will be too.

Each of us has unique nutritional needs and unique experiences that shape our ability to respond positively to any sort of diet change.

Since it's National Nutrition Month, I'm going to challenge you to focus on your own nutrition and discover your perfect diet (as in, what you eat on a daily basis). Be open-minded, and try out an eating style you've never tried before. Learn from others. Test different eating plans, listen to your body, and figure out what makes you function at the highest possible level for your needs.

And take off your judgy pants when it comes to what other people eat -- unless they are living on Oreos and Reeses. I'd challenge them to find expert research on that one.

It's National Nutrition Month, so it seems as good a time as any to kick off a series about food: what we eat, how we eat it, why we diet, and what's really the best food for you. This post is the first in this series.