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!













September 4, 2016

What I Do As a Coach


First and foremost, my purpose as a health and fitness Coach is to help other women create a healthy lifestyle centered around faith, with the ultimate goal of being fit from within.

In September 2015, I was the heaviest I have ever been, couldn't stick to a healthy eating and workout routine to save my life, and a very tired new mama to my precious baby boy. I was tired of being tired and knew I was on a slipper slope to quickly moving from out of shape to unhealthy.

One year ago this month, I began shedding those feelings, weight, and inches.
With support of other women in a Challenge Group focusing on similar goals, I realized that God cares about my preventative health; it is POSSIBLE to dig out of a hopeless hole; and I care for those around me better when I care for myself.

After being a Challenger for a few months, I decided to become a Coach. I felt it was a calling from God that I was supposed to share this experience with others! I just wasn't ready to step out of my comfort zone yet, and my infant son wasn't even sleeping through the night. Finally, I took a leap of faith and shared openly about leading Challenge Groups. Palms sweating and all, I posted on social media and prayed I was doing the right thing. Almost a dozen Challenge Groups later and having the opportunity to support over a 100 women invest in their health in less than a year, I am humbled and grateful for taking that leap!

Coaching allows me to share my gift of supporting and nurturing with others. I love being able to share how including faith in my health transformed me physically, and more importantly spiritually.

Each month, I take at least one group of women and work with them through a 30 day challenge group. I begin with helping my Challengers identify a workout program that aligns with their style and goals. During each challenge group, I teach everyone how to create a balanced meal plan. Positive accountability is a very effective way I encourage and motivate everyone to remain committed to their goals. I absolutely love helping each of my Challengers achieve what their individual success!


In addition to leading my own challenge groups, I am one of the coaches on Team Take Heart which is a part of the Dream Team, the most successful team within Team Beachbody. Something I love dearly about Team Take Heart is how we all come from different backgrounds but share a common goal of supporting others through health, fitness, and faith. Our team verse is "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." (Psalm 31:24)

We aren't a bunch of fitness instructors that work out all day long or have it all figured out. We are a group of women that strive for progress in our own health and have a passion for sharing that with others. I am blessed to serve with the coaches on our team!

Being a health and fitness coach is an amazing opportunity to share your gifts, passion, and support your own health journey.
If you are interested in learning more about what it's like being a coach, email me at soulfitmama@outlook.com or click HERE to complete my Coach Application.

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