December 30, 2016

Clean Chicken Teriyaki


If you love Asian inspired food, try this clean chicken teriyaki recipe. It is simple and tasty!

Earlier this week, we cooked the chicken and quinoa-rice blend as a family. My husband cooked the chicken, while my son and I put the rice blend in the Instant Pot and mixed up the teriyaki sauce.

We intentionally limit the amount of soy in our diet, so instead of traditional or even gluten free soy sauce, I use coconut aminos by Coconut Secret for recipes like this. If you're not familiar with coconut aminos, it tastes nothing like the drupe. Yes, it comes from coconuts but is extracted from the blossoms of the tree. I prefer coconut aminos over soy sauce, because it much less salty tasting.

As you can see in the picture, I portioned the quinoa-rice blend using the starch container from my Beachbody Portion Control containers. I only ate the portion plated but wanted to show you how much rice is included in one of those little yellow containers! If portion control scares you, don't be! If you are eating the right foods, your portions are plentiful.

Let me know if you try this recipe or have other quick and easy Asian recipes. My husband could eat this kind of food every day and will appreciate your ideas!

INGREDIENTS
1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken (breast, thigh, or combination)
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil
Salt and Pepper

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup Coconut Palm Sugar (substitute for brown sugar)
1/4 cup Coconut Aminos
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour

Additional if desired:
Quinoa, Rice, Broccoli, or Stir Fry Vegetables)

INSTRUCTIONS
1. If serving w/ quinoa or rice, go ahead and get that started cooking in the Instant Pot, rice cooker, or on the stove.
2. Cut chicken into bite size pieces.
3. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet.
4. Place chicken in skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook until no longer pink, stirring frequently.
5. In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and whisk until no flour lumps.
6. Add sauce to chicken and cook, stirring constantly until thickened and sticky.
7. Serve with additional ingredients of your choice.

December 21, 2016

Seven Ways to Make Hot Chocolate Healthier

Stop! Drop that packet of pre-packaged, store bought hot chocolate!!
Instead, try this healthier recipe for hot chocolate and one of these seven ways to make it even tastier.

Healthy Hot Chocolate
Serves: 1 serving
 
Ingredients
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage (or unsweetened almond milk)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. raw honey (optional)
 
Instructions
  1. Bring coconut milk, cocoa powder, and honey (if desired) to a boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking frequently.
  2. Pour into a large mug; serve immediately.
 
Ok so now that we have the basics covered, tantalize your holiday taste buds with one of these delicious variations.
 
1. Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
With two common spices, you can create a unique flavor for your hot cocoa that will really hit the spot during the holidays.
Add a pinch of cinnamon (up to ½ a teaspoon) and just a dash of ginger (⅛ teaspoon) to a cup of hot chocolate.

2. Peppermint Mocha Hot Chocolate
If you like your chocolate with an espresso buzz, this version is for you!
Add a shot of espresso and dash of peppermint extract to a cup of hot cocoa. Not a fan of extracts? Use a few leaves of fresh mint instead.

3. Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate
Are you one of those people that just can’t get enough of the fall-favorite? Enjoy it year-round with this recipe. You’ll find that because pumpkin puree is thick, you’ll likely drink this slower than your typical.
Whisk two tablespoons pumpkin puree into a mug of hot chocolate using a whisk or a fork. Then, add a pinch of pumpkin pie spice to give it that iconic fall flavor

4. Bananas Foster Hot Chocolate
Chocolate and bananas are a sweet combination that works whether it’s in a smoothie, a campfire dessert, or hot chocolate. Instead of using chunks of a ripe banana as you would with the original Bananas Foster, use dried bananas.
Place a few slices of dried banana in the bottom of a mug, then fill with piping hot chocolate.

5. Tahini Hot Chocolate
This twist of the traditional drink, contains sesame, which makes it richer, creamier, and just a bit nutty.
Simply add one teaspoon of tahini paste into the basic recipe.

6. Mexican Hot Chocolate Cocktail
Whip up a hot version of Chile Mocha Hot Chocolate to keep you warm this winter.
Mix ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of Ancho chile powder to a mug of hot chocolate.

7. Hot Chocolate Martini
Here’s how to enjoy a chocolate martini with less sugar.
Just add a shot of vodka to the basic recipe above. If you want a richer chocolate flavor, try a dash of chocolate extract.

Original recipes by Ariane Resnic and posted on The Beachbody Blog.

December 9, 2016

My Fitness Fan Favorites List

When I find something I really like, I'm one of those people that loves sharing all about it. So, that is what I'm going to do - share my fitness fan favorites list with you!

I already own or will receive many of these as Christmas gifts. For the items that aren't a personal favorite, I have friends that recommend, or they caught my attention when thinking about great fitness items.
Each item is linked, so you can check it out in more detail and maybe purchase as gifts this Christmas for a fitness fan in your life or yourself !

Reebok Women's Yourflex Trainette 8.0L MT Training Shoe
Right now, I'm doing Core De Force workout which is MMA style, full body workout. Cross training shoes with flat soles are needed, instead of running type shoes, to make sure your feet don't slip. I love how colorful the fun design is! Definitely a Christmas list item!

Old Navy Leggings
My BFF Haley Willis Little turned me on to Old Navy leggings. I will tell you what she told me...I can workout just as good in these $20 leggings as I can in $45 leggings! Holla.
Old Navy offers both full-length and crop compression leggings. I like how they fit around my waist and provide great support.

Mama Bear Workout Tank
Of course, SOULFITmama needs a Mama Bear workout tank. Mama, I think you need one too! There is no such thing as too many workout tanks, but this one has my heart. Even better, it's a great price. Another Christmas list item of mine!

S'well Bottle
I received my 25oz gray woodgrain S'well bottle as a gift and love this thing. I drink a lot of water, so my reward is making it a point to have pretty water vessels. S'well keeps drinks cold for 24 hours, hot for 12 hours, and they do not condensate. I like the smaller mouth opening on this bottle much better than some of the other stainless steel vessels. Oh yeah...when you're not using it for water, it can hold an entire bottle of wine - just sayin'.

Motivational Bottle
These are too cute! A fitness mama can't have too many water vessels, so I may spring for this one next when I'm ready to change things up. These 32oz bottles feature a motivating quote and timeline to keep track of daily water intake. Super cute.

MyCustomYogaMat
Surely these are made in the South, because we will monogram any and everything - even a yoga mat. If you practice yoga regularly or have a pal that does, this is great. These monogrammed mats are available on Etsy and have been featured on the Today Show, as well as Oprah's holiday gift guide.


Nutribullet
So as you likely know by now, I drink Shakeology every morning for breakfast to get my vitamins, and quality protein. I use this Nutribullet model every single day. It is a compact high-speed blender/mixer that comes with 12 pieces. Super easy to use, quick clean-up, and takes up very little space. This is always the blender I recommend to my Challengers.

Spiralizer
If you are following a clean, lower-carb, Keto, or Paleo diet, you need a Spiralizer in your life. This one is the best - because I say so and pretty much everyone agrees. It comes with five blades and super easy to use. You can replace wheat/grain pasta with veggie pasta. Sweet potato hash browns are a favorite, and I use my Spiralizer to make them. Since I received mine a few years ago, I don't think we have eaten traditional spaghetti noodles with marina. Instead, we use this to make zoodles.

Shakeology
Shakeology is one of my favorite things relating to my health and fitness. It is packed with 23 vitamins(!), 17g protein, and more than 70 whole foods that are dehydrated then ground…still whole – not extracts like a lot of other shakes. Everything is natural, no refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives, and yet still tastes so good. So, yeah - it's on my favorite list for myself, and I give it as gifts!

Core De Force Workout
This is my current workout program and already on the favorites list. It is Beachbody's newest program. If you're planning to start a new fitness program at New Year's or know someone else that is, this workout program will make a GREAT gift.

Commit 30 Planner
Raise your hand if you love a good planner...Me too!! I just found this one and going to use it in 2017. If you are familiar with vision boards, this planner is like a traveling vision board. It is designed to help you attain goals, not just keep up with your appointments and such. Also, customizable for your specific goals, dreams, and passions. The planner has month and weekly spreads, motivational quotes, add-on sticker pack available, and comes in gold. It speaks my goal love language!

Apple Watch
It took me a long time to get on the Apple Watch wagon, but now I'm sold on it. It's my big Christmas list item this year. The new Series 2 has a GPS, is water resistant, and will track fitness activity. It features a workout app that will accurately measure your movement. Bonus - I can screen texts and calls right on my wrist. Get out!
 
This is a less expensive fitness and even sleep monitor that has a great design. It tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned during the day, and by night, it tracks your sleep quality and wakes you in the morning.
 
Hopefully, out of all these items, you have found something that will support your health and fitness lifestyle. If so, let me know. I would love to hear which items are already or hopeful future favorites!

-SFM

December 8, 2016

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

This is one of my favorite healthy and delicious meals!

It is such a go-to for me. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that we just had it last week, and the Big Guy will not appreciate back-to-back weeks of spaghetti squash since he really only tolerates it rather than embraces it.

Here is the best thing about this recipe - you can use it as a guide only. Mix it up with ingredients you like better than these. Often, I throw in some random leftovers or produce that will soon expire. Another reason it’s a favorite!

So, here’s how I usually go about making this recipe in phases.
I cook the spaghetti squash in the Instant Pot on a Sunday, maybe the chicken that day also.
These are the two ingredients that take the longest, so I try to get them out of the way. It makes my life easier, and who isn’t about easier?

Then, the night we are planning to eat the stuffed spaghetti squash, I cook the remaining ingredients, combine, sprinkle with some cheese and finish baking in the oven. Tadah!
 
For purposes of this post, I will provide instructions as if you were cooking the recipe at one time.

INGREDIENTS
2 medium-small spaghetti squash [+/- 6 inches long]
2 chicken breasts, large, chopped in 1/2 – 1 inch chunks
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup pesto, extra to taste
1-2 cups fresh baby spinach, torn/chopped
1 extra large carrot, shredded
1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms
salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz shredded cheese
1-2 Tbsp parsley to garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Cook spaghetti squash in the InstanPot or Oven. For Instant Pot instructions, click HERE.
If cooking in the oven, follow IP instructions except bake on 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

2. While the squash roast, cook chicken in skillet with grapeseed oil and garlic powder until chicken is no longer pink.

3. Remove cooked chicken from skillet and toss with pesto. Set aside.

4. In a small pot, heat a small amount of grapeseed oil to medium-high heat. Sauté the shredded carrot and mushrooms (or any other veggies except spinach) until tender.

5. Add the spinach and pesto chicken to sautéed vegetables. Stir until spinach is wilted.

6. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Now, add half of the cheese to the chicken and vegetable mixture.

8. Cut the spaghetti squash halves in half again to create 1/4 piece of squash. Then fluff the squash with a fork to loosen the strands.

9. Once fluffed, top the 1/4 piece of squash with the pesto chicken and vegetable mixture. Go ahead, just pile it on!

10. Lastly, sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over each piece and place in the oven long enough to melt the cheese (or warm thoroughly if your spaghetti squash was cooked in advance).

Recipe adapted from Peas and Crayons.

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Spaghetti Squash


The Instant Pot was somewhat life-changing for me and my relationship with spaghetti squash.
It's faster and IMO better texture than cooking in the oven.

INGREDIENTS
1 spaghetti squash, medium-small

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, crosswise.
2. Scoop out the seeds in the center of the squash using a large spoon.
3. Place the steamer insert in the Instant Pot.
4. Add 1 cup of water.
5. Place the squash halves in the Instant Pot on the steamer insert.
6. Place the lid on the cooker and turn the valve to allow it to pressurize.
7. Press the Manual button and press until it changes from 30 to 7.
8. Let it pressurize and cook for 7 minutes.
9. When the squash is cooked, release the valve to rapidly lower the pressure.

November 19, 2016

National Adoption Month: His Story (Week 3)

When I realized God was calling me to share about adoption throughout November, National Adoption Month, I didn't think through the weekly topics. I have been going week to week and listening through scripture, how readers respond to the topics, and thinking through our personal experiences.

This particular topic is very personal. Not that all of our adoption story is, but this post is about our son's story. And mostly, how my husband and I plan to keep much of his story private. 
Don't be offended. Instead, place yourself in his shoes - the ones that are almost too small because his sweet, long, thick, wide toddler feet are growing. When you squeeze yourself in those tiny shoes, think of this - It is his story to know first and decide how, if, and when he wants to share it.
Of course there are plenty of details about adoption, and even our personal experience, that we share publicly. There are also some more detailed experiences relating specifically to the adoption process that we share one-on-one with other couples considering adoption.

Then, there are the things that we will not share. Do you know how awkward it is for someone to ask how much your child cost? There is so much that goes into adoption expenses, like counseling with licensed social workers, legal counsel/documents, securing a safe home for birth mothers, and so much more.

While adoption has changed through the years, some things remain very private. Specific details are pretty much off limits for our family. We must respect the privacy of our son, first and foremast. I am his protector. I must protect him from information until he is ready to know. He will know every detail at the right time throughout his life, as he is mentally and emotionally able to comprehend. We also have the utmost respect for our son's birth mother's privacy. It is not our place to share her story.
However, if any of these details have been proactively shared with you, that's different. There is a reason we felt it important for you to know. There is a big difference in being told than asking.
So, here's a list of topics I encourage you to never ask any adoptive parent: 
Reasons for adoption (either from the birth parent or parent viewpoint)
Birth family history
Birth family appearances
Birth locations

I'm sure there are others, but these are the biggies. These topics can cause a mama bear to react by stumbling over her own words, giving you the stink eye, being very direct and shutting down the conversation, or even conjure up raw emotions. Any of these reactions will leave everyone in the conversation feeling awkward.

Much of this is an educational process. As a family, we are still learning! Thankfully, we have our Christian Adoption Consultant (CAC) consultant. She graciously provided us with guidance and wisdom all through adoption journey. I am still actively engaged in our private Facebook group made up of CAC consultants and other parents. We ask each other for insight and share our personal experiences.

This is very serious stuff but that doesn't mean it can't be shared in a light-hearted way. When we were in the early part of our adoption journey, I was totally schooled by a hilarious video about the right and wrong ways to ask certain questions and questions that should never be asked. The title of the video is actually, "If you wouldn't say it about a boob job..." That title though! But it makes so much sense the way this guy says it. Watch it here!

But really, this is my son's story we are talking about. Think about if everyone knew everything about you, before you did. This is my son's story and meant for him to share how, if, and when he wants. Thank you for respecting our son, our family and all adoptive families.

Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Dinner

Raise your hand if you love a meal that doesn't dirty up multiple dishes, cooks on one or two pans, tastes good, and requires minimal clean up. Am I speaking your meal prep food language?

Cooking really doesn't have to be complicated, and pan roasted chicken and vegetable dinners are proof of this! Repeat after me, meal prep does not have to be complicated. Ok, now believe it.

I prepared part of this recipe while holding my phone and doing a Facebook Live video in one of my Challenge Groups. The most prep required for this meal is peeling and cutting the butternut squash. So instead of waiting until time to cook dinner, I went ahead and cubed the squash during my meal prep time on Sunday, one day before cooking this meal, and refrigerated in an airtight container. You could cube the squash at least 2 - 3 days in advance of cooking.

For the primary seasoning, I used Wildtree's organic and gluten free Rancher Steak Rub. The name is misleading. Rancher Rub is great on most all meats and some vegetables. This stuff is kinda like my version of salt & pepper.
There are a ton of pan roasted chicken and vegetable variations that you can create. Let this recipe be a guide to try it out and then make up your own combinations with your favorite seasonings and herbs. Depending on the quantity of vegetables you cook, this may require more than one pan.
*The most important piece of advice for this recipe is to use thin pieces of chicken.*

INGREDIENTS
2-3 Chicken Breasts
1 Small to Medium Butternut Squash
1 Bundle of Asparagus
1.5 Tbsp Wildtree Rancher Rub, divided in third
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder, divided in half
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, divided in half
1 Tbsp Parsley, Dried
1 Tbsp Grapeseed Oil or Avocado Oil
Grapeseed or Avocado Oil Spray

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Peel, deseed, and cut the butternut squash into small cubes
3. Chop off the bottoms of the asparagus spears.
4. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create 4-6 thin pieces of chicken
5. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with oil
6. Place thin pieces of chicken in a bowl or storage bag, season 1 Tbsp Rancher Rub, 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir or shake to cover all pieces.
7. Place chicken in a single layer on the lined pan and sprinkle with the dried parsley over it for a subtle pop of color.
8. Add cubed squash to the pan and around the chicken.
9. Bake at 400 for about 15-18 minutes. You may or may not have enough room to add the asparagus later. If not, go ahead and line a smaller baking pan with foil and spray with oil.
10. If there is room on your single pan, add asparagus and cook for another 10 minutes.
11. Lastly, turn on the broiler for 3-5 minutes to give your chicken a nice, golden color.

November 13, 2016

National Adoption Month: Meant to Be (Week 2)


Today, I read Matthew 11:28-30 and had a vivid flashback that caused silent tears to stream down my face as I relived an incredibly difficult moment in my life. I was sitting on our sofa in our little cottage in Memphis and reading this verse over and over and over and over. The phone was sitting right beside me. I could hardly breathe. I was tired. I was scared. I was waiting on the fertility clinic to call and let me know if I was pregnant.
When the phone rang, I could hardly say, "Hello" through the tears.
I was not pregnant.
I was devastated.
I was heartbroken.
I knew it was not meant to be.
I was having a hard time dealing with that.

Today, I know there was something else meant to be.
I am meant to be my son's mama through adoption.

My husband and I actually knew this was meant to be a few weeks after that devastating phone call.
We didn't know how, when, son or daughter, but we knew we were meant to be parents.
Instead of spending another $13,000 on IVF, we talked about how there were so many children in this world that will be placed for adoption. We decided to exhale from infertility treatments and pray about adoption.
That was in 2009. Our son was born in 2015.
We had a whole list of reasons why we waited. We wanted to move home, near family. We stashed a lot of cash for adoption expenses. We built a house for stability. We researched all the ways one can adopt domestically. We cross our t's and dotted our i's.
But you know the real reason?
God had already selected the most perfect, precious, happy baby boy for us. We just had to wait on him to enter this world.

During those six years, I never really wavered in my belief that God intended for us to be parents and that we were to adopt our child. Of course there were moments of doubt, impatience, heartache, and very candid conversations with God. Adoption is many things, but it is not easy.
Adoption is beauty from brokenness.
Adoption is a world of its own.
Adoption is something that will bring you to your knees and closer to God than you may have ever imagined.
Adoption is worth it.
If God places the desire in your heart to be a mama, cling to it. Do not let go.
If he calls you to adopt one of his children, embrace it. Consider it an honor.
You may experience heartache. You may not know how or when it will happen, but God does.
God will make good on his promise.
Our primary role as mamas in waiting is to trust. Trust God with his plan. Trust our partner when he expresses his desires. Trust our own heart.

If you have not yet considered adoption, I encourage you to open your heart and mind to it. Ask God specifically to guide you to it or away from it.
Back in 2009, we confidentially shared with those closest to us that we had "decided to adopt". That makes me laugh now. We didn't decide; that's not how it works.
God calls you to adoption.
This is his work, not ours. These are his babies, and he moves mountains to make sure they are placed in their chosen mama and daddy's arms.

If you are interested in learning more about adoption, I would love to talk with you, soulfitmama@outlook.com, and/or connect you with our consultant, Katie Fenska with Christian Adoption Consultants (CAC), katief@christianadoptionconsultants.com.

(So...this is being posted in the third week of National Adoption Month. I appreciate all slack you can give for recognizing that I have a toddler, about 34 balls in the air right now, and am behind. Also, please recognize the fact that my OCDs require that I include Week 2 in the post title to keep things flowing instead of Week 3  Part 1. I promise to work my hardest to get the real Week 3 posted in the real Week 3. *Smile* Sincerely, SFM)

November 4, 2016

National Adoption Month: Love (Week 1)

November is National Adoption Month.
As a mama through domestic adoption, I would like to share some thoughts from my family's experiences with the hope of positively influencing impressions and knowledge of adoption in today's culture. Let's start with a beautiful side adoption that not many people don't consider and may even find hard to believe. Trust me when I share this with you.
Birthmothers love their babies.
If she didn't, she would not have chosen life for her child and followed through with what is nothing short of God's miraculous master plan in choosing parents for her son or daughter. You and I know the options she has available to her. My heart drops at the thought of what my son's birthmother could have chosen, but she didn't. I have actually become weak in the knees and sick to my stomach thinking of one alternative. One night when my mind jumped to that one specific alternative, I went straight to my son's nursery, pulled him from his crib, held him, and thanked God for his life and for his birthmother's choice for his life.

After being matched with our son and his birthmother and right before his birth, my fleshly insecurities became increasingly controlling over my faith. I came across a website with a post titled, "10 Things Every Birthmother Wants Adoptive Parents to Know" by Patricia Dischler. Ms. Dischler is an author, speaker, child care professional, and birthmother.

Dischler wrote, "There are 10 things every birthmother thinks about, wishes for, and hopes for when placing their child for adoption. If you are in an open adoption, you may have heard some already, if not, they are important to know."  This is her list:

  1. I did not place my child because she was “unwanted.” I wanted her so much that I continued a pregnancy filled with unanswered questions.
  2. I chose adoption because I loved my child. This parental love allowed me to put his needs before my own when making my choice.
  3. This choice affected more than just me. She has a Grandmother, a Grandfather, and Aunts and Uncles who love her as well, and she will be missed.
  4. I wish for the day I can look into my child’s eyes and tell him I love him one more time.
  5. I hope that you will teach my child about her beginnings – about where she was born and who I am.
  6. I hope you will teach respect to my child by showing respect for me in your discussions.
  7. I wish I could be there to answer my child’s questions about adoption, but I trust you to answer them truthfully as best you can.
  8. I will never stop thinking about my child. She will always be a part of who I am.
  9. I would never try to disrupt my child’s new family with you. I put too much emotion and suffering into making this choice to allow anything to disrupt it – including me.
  10. In my eyes, you will always be my child’s Mom and Dad. And that thought brings me happiness.
Source: The Cradle

I will never forget reading this list and then this sentence that she said her son's mother once wrote to her, "Children are never really ours, they are just entrusted to us for a time by God.”
I cried like a baby while sitting in my car and reading her words. God broke me down right there, humbled me, and helped ease my insecurities. I won't pretend that day was the last time my human instincts consumed me, but when they have and do, I always come back to this list and pray for love to conquer any fears.

So when you begin your adoption journey or learn of a family member or close friend's dream of becoming parents through adoption, I encourage you to make a special place in your heart to love birthmothers and consider the journey she is walking and will walk the rest of her life. It's easy to conjure up ideas of how and why. Regardless of the details, know that she loved her baby.

As my son's mama, I love his birthmother in this exceptional, special way that can't be described in words. I will raise him to love her too.

To read Patricia Dischler's post in its entirety, click here or visit her website, Patricia Dischler.

October 25, 2016

Coach Retreat Recap

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was giddy about going to the beach for our team’s Coach Retreat.

I had never met some of these women in person, was supposed to lead a devotion (had never done that before), and was curious about what we would actually do. The coolest part about those things is that each of them were outside my comfort zone. You know what usually happens outside our comfort zones, right?
Progress
Growth
Broadened Horizons
That’s just what this Coach Retreat did for me.

Rachel did an amazing job planning the retreat. The casual setting in the most adorable beach house was perfect for us to relax and focus on how we want to lead our Coaching efforts over the next year.

There was even a Shakeology Station set up for us!
The theme of the retreat was Love and Hustle. We poured into this theme through scripture, talking about how every single thing we do for our Challengers is to be done with love at the center, and the hustle and effort it takes to be a Coach.
You see, we hustle because we love.
When we all arrived, each of us received retreat swag! Each Coach received the sweetest bundle of gifts including a Love/Hustle workout tank with our Team Take Heart logo on the back, a lovely book titled, "You are Already Amazing", and a binder full of coaching resources.
We did all of this over dinner on the beach, morning workout together, brunch relaxing on the beach, a devotion about our God-given dreams, shrimp boil feast, and finally creating vision boards that capture our spiritual, coaching, and personal goals. We made the most of our time together!
Committing to goals can be intimidating, but everyone was so encouraging. It also felt so good to get the ideas I have for the next year of my life out of my head. My vision board will be hung right above my computer as a daily reminder of some big, big dreams!
It really was an amazing experience to see women from very different backgrounds, family life, careers, and personalities come together. Regardless of how different we may be, we surely have one thing in common.
That common trait is love.
We love helping others.
We love our Challengers.
We love everything that being a Coach provides for us.

One of my goals is to mentor other women that are interested in learning what it’s like to be a Coach. If you want to know more about why being a Coach is so rewarding , I would be over the moon excited to talk with you about it!

Coaching may be a fit for you if:
You are passionate about living a healthy life
You have a gift of supporting others
You are looking to be part of a group of caring, motivated, and encouraging women
Before I became a Coach, I prayed about it and discussed the idea with my husband. If you feel a tug that this may be a great opportunity for you to pursue, then pray and ask for guidance.
You can read more HERE about what it's like to be a coach, and a coaching application is below for you to share more about yourself if you're interested in more information.

As your mentor, I will provide you with guidance, resources, and support needed to be a successful Coach! You just have to bring your passion and motivation!

Our Team is growing, and I am praying for every single person God leads to it!
- Christie
Fill out my online form.
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October 1, 2016

Year 1: Getting Fit from Within

My hope is that as you read this very personal post that you don't judge or take my words out of context. Know that I am a firm believer, and that I know as a child of God I am perfect in His site. Only my relationship with Him and my actions define me. Having said that, I am a female with a high estrogen level that felt my increasing weight and the lack of accountability for my health was preventing me from being the best me that I can be.

It's been one year since deciding that I was fed up with being out of shape. I was tired of starting and stopping when it came to trying to be healthy. It was an emotional roller coaster. I was at the age when many women realize they are no longer considered young, life events get real (I now understand some memories of that show my mom watched in the 90s called 30 Something), and the realization sets in that we only have one body and it will not take care of itself. That's where I was, so I joined a fitness accountability Challenge Group and prayed for the ability to make lasting changes.
I had no idea how much this Day 1 sweaty selfie in my first Challenge Group would mean to me 1 Year later!
For the most part, I have done decent job of not letting my body define me. That doesn't mean there haven't been moments of feeling defeated, awkward, or down right grouchy about it. The lower half of my body has never matched the top half. I used to dread looking in full-length mirrors.  Even asked people to take my picture from the waist up....If they didn't, I usually cropped the picture. The size of my lower body made me feel insecure. Aside from my emotions, the extra, fatty weight on my smaller frame was beginning to take a physical toll. I had little to no muscle in my hips and legs. I was mushy. I felt sluggish and achy. These were some of the things preventing me from being the best me that I can be.

When I joined my first Challenge Group in September 2015, I wanted to change my body and mindset. I didn't have a goal weight. I had three overarching goals: 1) Learn how to include faith in my health, 2) Create long term, healthy habits for my family, and 3) Address the disproportioned lower half of my body.

Within the first month of starting this journey, I realized my physical, mental, and spiritual states are connected. When I read Lysa Tyrkeurt's words about this in her book, Made to Crave, I thought "YES! Yes, Jesus I needed this!" I needed to connect my spiritual well-being to my physical well-being before I could make those lasting changes. This made me work even harder and realize WHY I wanted to be healthy. Yes, it was partly to address specific areas of my body but mostly to respect this body God gave me, have peace with my body, and do all that I can to be in the best state of mind, body, and spirit to better care for my husband, son, and loved ones. If we don't care for ourselves, how can we give our best care for others?
Before including faith as a part of my desire to be physically in shape, I never thought it was possible to change my body and be content. I remember thinking, "oh well, you just have to deal with it. This is how you were made." But see, here's the problem with that thought - I was a victim of my own excuses and inhibitions. I made that up. I told myself it was impossible to shave off those saddle bags (gracious - their name is as terrible as they made me feel!). Because of all my failed attempts of riding the emotional roller coaster of starting and stopping, I told myself it was impossible. Well, that was a lie that I told myself for too long.
Going back to those three open-ended goals I set in September 2015 - Nailing them so far! *smile*
For the first time, I have more peace about my physical state than ever. Of course, I'm a work in progress, but that's where my spiritual and mental state take over and guide my choices, motivation, and commitment.

Yes, losing 16 pounds and 20 inches in one year is an awesome feeling and accomplishment. I would only be telling part of the story if I didn't share that honesty with you. But guess what...It pales in comparison to all that I gained!
The real celebration of this year is about growing in my faith and the intangibles:



  • Respect and gratitude for my body
  • A voice to share my faith
  • Respect from my husband, because I didn't quit
  • Confidence in my ability to achieve personal goals
  • Dear, precious, golden, and new friends
  • A desire to support other women committed to fit from within
  • Strength, physical and emotional
  • Increased knowledge about eating healthy
  • New clothes that make me feel comfortable

  • So, how did it finally find a way to make it work and keep pushing instead of another failed attempt?



  • I sought God's truths relating to health, trials, and His desires my life. 
  • Surrounded myself with other women seeking those same things.
  • Relied on God's strength when I was weak.
  • Decided that I controlled food choices for my family instead of letting food control me. 
  • Stayed up late some nights meal prepping to avoid drive thru food after long days at work.
  • Woke up most mornings before my Guys to pray about it and work for it through exercise.
  • Stopped making excuses and telling myself only other people can do it.
  • Held myself accountable for my choices.

  • And lastly, why do I share all of this - the words, the honesty, and the pictures? Two reasons - 1) give God the glory for my health and 2) encourage other women that feel defeated, insecure, and those who want to be at peace with their mind, body, and soul. I pray these words resonate with the women that need it most. For women that felt hopeless like I did, know that it is possible to find your peace. I intentionally waited to publicly share my starting point/before picture. I believe this is the right time. Not because of where I am currently physically, but mentally and spiritually.
    I want to remember this past year as Year 1, because my WHY remains the same.
    We can't get healthy and stop working for it. You/I must press on. I hope you continue on this journey with me, and we walk alongside one another in Year 2!

    Dear Lord, please let this message reach the women that need it. Let her realize that you are the only true source of peace, even with her body. Give her the courage to invite you to be at the center of her health. Thank you for the promise to love each of us for who we are. Help us live an abundant life full of joy through you. Amen.

    Fit from Within,
    SFM

    September 14, 2016

    Clean Eating and How to Start

    A few years ago, I first heard the term and had to google. What were these people talking about and why was it such a big deal? I Googled the term, read about it, and learned how much junk and artificial ingredients are in most packaged foods. I was appalled and fascinated together. Appalled that companies include some terrible ingredients when unnecessary. Fascinated that I never stopped to educate myself on what I was consuming before this time.
    So, I started doing just what it's called - cleaned up my diet. I decided that it was high time and my responsibility to make conscious decisions about the food my family consumed. There was something very freeing about shifting my focus on food from calories to ingredients.
    Chart Credit: Prevention Magazine

    A clean diet includes whole foods - vegetables, fruits, and grains, as well healthy proteins and fats. There should be very little to no processed food; no ingredients that you can’t pronounce; and refined sugar is definitely a no-no. Some packaged foods pass the clean test, but typically the main stream, big name brands fall flat when it comes to clean ingredients.
    
    For me, I think about it as the natural way of eating. Like we are going back to our roots and eating real food from a garden. I’m not saying you have to grow a garden, but whole food was grown on a farm whether it be a local farmer’s or a commercial agricultural crop. Unfortunately, convenience and low price is king in our culture today. There are cheaper, quicker meal options lining the shelves on more than half of the grocery store. Most people are even so accustomed to these cheaper, quicker options that it seems the opposite of natural to prioritize the time to prepare real food and be motivated to eat it. I think these are all reasons that people think it is too complicated and not worth it. Yes, there is a learning curve, but goodness gracious it is worth it for long-term health.

    Now that you know what it means, how do you start to eat clean?
    Everyone has their own style when beginning something new. Based on my experience, three critical areas will help you transition to a clean diet.

    STUDY
    • Find a few credible food bloggers known for clean recipes and whose personality attracts you. Begin to follow these experts. Seek out clean eating focused Facebook pages with a large presence. These pages usually share informative blog posts and food articles from credible sources. Understand the benefits of different vegetables and fruits (not all are created equal). Learn about whole food alternatives (honey instead of sugar). Ask questions of these sources and anyone else you know. Educate yourself on the food you eat and stop assuming its ok if the FDA approves it.
    • When I first learned how eat clean and began exploring alternative ingredients (such as almond flour), I read every label, read food blogs, bought cookbooks that were like food encyclopedias, studied recipes, read the comments about recipes to learn from others’ trial and error, and started following a Facebook page called “Just Eat Real Food”. I also have a couple friends that were ahead of me in learning. I asked them so many questions. I was fascinated at how powerful food can be - for us or against us. I also felt like such a ding-dong for trusting mega brands to look out for the quality of food I put in my mouth that goes on to digest into my fibers. Knowledge is power - even with food.
    • Check out Clean Eating Magazine for much more detail on clean eating and recipes. Also, Danielle Walker's Against All Grain is a great site to learn more about alternative health food ingredients.
    EXPERIMENT
    • Try foods that are new to you. Introduce a new recipe to your family once a week. I find it best not to overwhelm the entire family with an entire week’s worth of meals with all new ingredients or recipes. They will turn on you faster than you can blink. And don’t give up on a new recipe just because it didn’t turn out great the first time. Step back to make sure you followed the instructions correctly and even get creative by putting your own flavor into it.
    • So, here’s how far I have come. Five years ago, your SOULFIT mama here (me) didn’t know what any squash was except a yellow one. I didn’t even know at that time it was referred to as Summer Squash. My husband and I were fascinated by the Butternut squash texture and how savory it is. Then, we fell in love with the Acorn squash. Now a-days, if I see a unique squash at a market, it’s going home with me. We didn’t even know these vegetables existed and now they are staples for my menus.
    • To experiment, checkout some of my Pinterest boards for recipes!
    STICK TO IT
    • Don’t quit after a few days or weeks. Commit to it. It will take at least 30 days to get the all junky toxins out of your body. You will begin to feel more comfortable with new recipes and ingredients the more you prepare them. If it seems like cooking takes up too much time, you will get more efficient in the kitchen and/or find less complicated recipes. Give your body time to reap the benefits of whole foods.
    • My husband and I did a 30 day jump start. We purchased a book with a menu and grocery list included. This approach is daunting to some. Know that many people have withdrawals from sugar if you are eating a lot of processed food - I’m not even talking sweets. Sugar is in almost all processed food. This seems to hit the dudes harder than the mamas. My husband felt like he was getting the flu on day 3. It was actually his body craving Capt’n Crunch cereal and sodas that he previously consumed each morning before his first sales call. (I know right…). Within a few weeks, it was like my body started thanking me for changing what I ate. I felt better all over, bloating was gone, and I wasn’t having mood swings from glycemic crashes.
    Hopefully, this helps explains what it means to eat clean and supports your efforts in cleaning up your diet.
    If you are interested in learning how to create balanced, clean meal plans, send me a message at soulfitmama@outlook.com or comment here.

    Fit from Within,
    SFM

    Five Strategies to Eliminate Unhealthy Eating

    As a health and fitness coach, I support others in learning how to create healthy meal plans with the mindset of nourishment, not deprivation. Healthy does not mean starving. It’s quite the contrary. It is absolutely essential to understand how food can either build us up or tear us down, physically and emotionally.

    Of course exercise is critical and has its specific purposes, but poor nutrition will prevent you from achieving long term health goals. Unhealthy eating habits affect more than your weight. Over time, the food you consume impacts your heart, metabolism, intestinal track, gut (lovely word – gut), gallbladder, blood pressure, and much more. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for developing: heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing problems, and even certain cancers. 
    Not to consider that it is expensive to be overweight and obese. For even more information about impacts of being overweight and obesity, click here for an article on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website.
    These are very real reasons, it is important to eliminate unhealthy eating. 

    So HOW do you eliminate unhealthy foods?


    1. IDENTIFY THE JUNK
    Ask yourself these questions:
    • What are foods that provide little to no nutritional value (protein, complex carbs, vitamins) yet you are eating on a regular basis. Make a list.Is there a time of day or month that you are more likely to crave certain types of foods high in sugar and/or sodium?Are leftovers a weakness for you, because throwing food away makes you feel guilty?
    • This alone will likely not prevent your unhealthy eating habits, but it makes you aware which is the first step.
    2. AVOID IT
    • Clean out the pantry. Donate if it significant quantities. Throw it away. Get it out of your space.
    • Stop buying it. Don’t make excuses that you can’t keep your family from eating junk. You have a responsibility to influence your family’s nutritional intake as much as you have the responsibility of keeping them clothed, bathed, and safe.
    • If it’s a time of month thing, then stay away from those foods like the plague during that time.If it’s the leftovers guilt from throwing away food, reduce the recipe portions. This will also save you money. Win-win.

    3. SWAP IT
    • Go back to the list of foods you identified in #1. Swap those foods with healthy alternatives.
    • If crunching is your thing, you need apples, snow peas, carrots, heart-healthy nuts.
    • Craving some chips and dip? Pair the apple with natural peanut butter or hummus with the veggies.
    • For an after dinner/before bedtime snack, don’t eat stand in the pantry and eat boxed cupcake that has a laundry list of ingredients – many artificial. Microwave a banana for 45 seconds and drizzle with raw honey. (Then call and thank me for that tip. I’m just saying…you will love it.)
    4. STICK TO IT
    • Don’t half-heartedly try to eat healthy. Tell yourself ARE going to succeed.
    • Get it out of your mind that you can do this for a set timeframe. We’re talking long term. You want to live healthy long term. You must eat healthy long term.
    • Make the list of identified junk food the exception. Are you going to have some packaged cupcakes in your house ever again? Likely. Just don’t let them be a staple in your pantry.
    • Stay strong during your real and perceived withdrawals. True story – people have withdrawals from sugar. You may want to buck like a wild bronco at the thought of giving up something, but keep your eye on the prize – health.

    5. MAKE A PLAN
    Saved the best for last. A meal plan takes the guess work out of dinner after a long day at the office or ball field with your kiddos. It also encourages you to avoid skipping meals.
    • Choose balanced meals and snacks for the week.
    • Track the portions you planned.
    • Include multiple snacks during the day, so you’re not famished before lunch or dinner.
    So, these are strategies. All good words and guidance, but you have to take action for them to work. 
    If you would like more support in learning how to eliminate unhealthy eating habits or how to meal plan, let's chat! You can email me at soulfitmama@outlook.com or comment here.

    Meal Prep 101 – Basic Steps to Get Started

    What does it mean to meal plan and prep, and how do you it?
    Meal prepping is when you prepare and store your meals in advance. Some people prepare for an entire week and others simply portion individual fruit and snack servings for the week. Meal prep is what you make it.
    I started meal prepping about five years ago and learned tips and tricks along the way. For me, I alternate between prep methods often on a weekly basis. Based on my Sunday schedule, is how I decided what and how much prep will occur. Some weeks, I have time to prepare entire meals for multiple days. As a mama to a very active toddler, lately I’m doing good to get veggies washed, chopped, and portioned.

    The most important piece of advice I can give is keep it simple and do what works for your schedule. Do what you can do, when you can do it. Every little bit helps you get ahead of the coming week!

    Here are basic meal prep steps to get you started. It will get easier the more you practice, and you will learn as you go.


    Plan Your Menu and Prep Day
    • In order to know what you are going to prep, you must first plan a menu, shop for your groceries, and then decide when you will prep.
    • Next, determine what day you will meal prep. A very effective meal prep session can be done in 2 hours. Maybe not complete for the week, but you can a lot done in that time.

    Grocery Shop
    • Once you set your menu, hit the grocery store like a stealth ninja…with a list. Ha! Seriously, I recommend focusing on your list and even setting a limit on how much time you will spend in the grocery store. If I have a solid list and don’t get distracted with all the flashy sales signs, my average grocery shopping time is 45 minutes.  
    • Only shop 1 – 2 days in advance of Prep Day to avoid food spoiling.
    Clean Out the Fridge
    • Hopefully, you did a good job planning portions for the previous week and don’t have a ton of unplanned leftovers. If you do, it’s time to make the call – freeze or trash.
    • You need that valuable real estate to store your next week’s menu items.

    Clean Up Everything Else
    • Get all the dishes out of the sink, empty the dish washer.
    • Clean off your counter tops, and make sure essential kitchen utensils and items are clean and readily available.

    Create a Workspace
    • Kitchen islands and the space on each side of your sink are great areas for a prep workspace. I love my kitchen island. It’s my preferred workspace.
    • Choose a space close to your trash can or have a dedicated bowl or bag on the counter for scraps and packaging.
    • This will be home base for chopping, measuring, and portioning.
    • Cover your workspace with parchment paper to make clean-up a cinch!

    Work Efficiently
    • If your meals for the week include like ingredients, then focus on ingredients and not so much the meal.
    • For example, two of my meals last week included zucchini – Squash Au Gratin (Recipe Here) and Meat Marinara over Sautéed Zucchini (Recipe Here). I washed enough zucchini for both recipes, sliced the amount needed for the Au Gratin and cut rest in large chunks for the Meat Marina. I then placed each in separate Ziploc storage bags and stored until time to cook.
    • The same thing can be done for meats. If your meal plan calls for ground beef, go ahead and cook double or triple for future use.
    Stock the Fridge and Freezer
    • Package based on the type of food and when you plan to eat it during the week.
    • Divide fruits into individual servings using storage bags.
    • For cooked meats and vegetables, store the amount needed for the current week in the fridge and freeze any extra prepped portions in 1-2 cup increments for recipes in the next couple of weeks.
    • Fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, and quinoa keep fresh in the fridge for the week.
    • I recommend freezing raw and cooked meats if you plan to eat the second half of the week.
    The most important piece of advice I can give is keep it simple and do what works for your schedule. Do what you can do, when you can do it. Every little bit helps you get ahead of the coming week!

    I hope this helps with your meal prep!













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