5 Super Easy Ways to Stay Healthy this Memorial Day

Memorial Day, Happy Memorial Day, Animated Graphics, Animated Gif, Animated Gifs, Keefers photo: Memorial Day, Happy Memorial Day, Animated Graphics, Animated Gif, Animated Gifs, Keefers 673990b9.gifIt’s the unofficial start to summer which means cookouts, beach trips, and a food-filled weekend!

It can be easy to get caught up in the fun and slip off the health wagon once the summer parties begin. From high-calorie eats at barbecues to boozy afternoons at outdoor beer gardens, you can quickly fall off track with your health goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are many simple ways to substitute typical summer party fare for healthier alternatives that will keep your celebrating while in shape, all season long.

Here are five tips to stay healthy this Memorial Day weekend and onward:

1. Skip the ketchup. It may seem like sacrilege to forgo the ketchup on a hot dog or burger during a barbecue, but think about how much of it you’re eating throughout the day. Ketchup, as yummy as it is, usually has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. No need to load up on all of that added sugar each time you reach for that bottle. Mustard is a great alternative, in moderation. It’s much lower in fat, calories, and sugar, but can be high in salt. If you’re not a mustard fan, get your ketchup fix with thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes. They’re naturally sweet, and are nutritional powerhouses with fiber, vitamins A, C, K, B6, and lycopene which protects your skin from the sun and supports strong bones. Better choice, no?

courtesy MyRecipes.com

2. Greek yogurt is all-purpose. Greek yogurt is a familiar breakfast staple, Throw in some granola and chopped fruit, and you’re good to go. But did you know that you can also use greek yogurt for savory dishes? If it’s your turn to bring the potato salad, swap the mayo for the low-fat and protein-packed yogurt instead. I’ve tried this before, and I can guarantee that your salad will still be delicious and creamy without weighing you down. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

Potato Salad
courtesy Shape magazine

3. Treat yourself with dessert. And by dessert, I mean fruit. LOTS of it. One of the best things about summer cookouts is that its perfect timing for some of the best fruit in season. Berries, peaches, plums, mangoes, pineapples, watermelon; there are many different varieties available that are both healthy and delicious. A slice of cake may seem tempting, but wouldn’t you rather snack on this instead?

Courtesy TheBetterMom.com

4. Hydrate the smart way. Let’s be honest here. Most barbecues have some kind of alcohol, whether it’s beer or fruity cocktails. It’s a holiday and you want to kick back and have some fun. I get it.  I’m not going to rain on your parade, BUT if you’re looking to go the healthy route this year, be mindful to keep your alcoholic drinks to a minimum, one for women and two for men. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re spending the day outdoors and playing games. How about you throw in some of the dessert in your water, like these fruit-infused waters?

courtesy TheYummyLife.com

5. Don’t just sit there. After a long and terrible winter, don’t you think it’s time to get up and move around a bit? Go for a swim or hang up a net and play a friendly game of volleyball with your friends. Do all of the things you told yourself you were going to do once the snow melted. Get those potato sacks out of storage. The weather is finally right, so put on that sunscreen and have some fun!

courtesy of Univision

 What are your plans this holiday weekend?

How do you stay healthy during cookouts and summer parties?

Please feel free to share your comments or questions below or on FB and Twitter.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY EVERYONE!

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Introducing…Me: The Liebster Award

liebster-award1

I owe Annie of Strong Brees a HUGE hug for nominating me for the Liebster Award! Here it comes Annie:

<HUG>

Thank you times a million!

What I love most about these awards is the opportunity to get to know new bloggers who are doing some pretty awesome things on their sites and to spread the love. This also gives us a chance to pull back the curtain and share a bit of our origin story for those of you just tuning in.

It’s a great time all-around. So without further ado, let the share-fest begin!

First, let’s go over some of the rules:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  • You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award.
  • You must create 10 questions for your nominees.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

Got it? Good.

Here’s my Q&A courtesy of Annie:

1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
There’s no one simple answer here, but the tipping point for me was back in 2009. I’d reached a point where I was really frustrated with my weight and overall appearance. I started to change my eating and exercise habits, researching (I’m obsessed with research!) nutrition and different workout routines, experimenting and ultimately found a pattern that worked. By 2012, I’d hit a lot of my goals but I still felt like I had so many questions about health and nutrition that I wanted to figure out. Why do some diets work for some people but don’t for others? How can we change our environment to be more accepting of different body types instead of emulating an unrealistic beauty standard? What can I do to help people overcome issues with ED and unhappiness?  At the suggestion of several of my friends I decided to start writing. I spent a week in London during the Olympics in 2012, and was so inspired that I spent the entire flight home writing out what would become Food4ThoughtNYC. I never looked back after that.
2.  What is your favorite piece of workout apparel?
me and Underarmour gearI’m obsessed with anything by UnderArmour, especially their leggings. They offer the perfect amount of flexibility and compression without feeling bulky or too tight. Plus, they look awesome! I’ve also learned over time that nothing beats a cotton top. I used to love all of those high-tech sweat-wicking materials but quickly realized that they smell pretty awful mid-workout. Invest your money in the shorts or pants and stick to inexpensive and comfortable tops- just a tip!
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
There’s two- Zumba and Crossfit. Talk about polar opposites! I’m a powerlifter and usually prefer workouts that are a bit more slow-paced with heavy weights. This year I’ve created some new goals around increasing my endurance which means I need to start embracing workouts that are fast-paced with a cardio component. One of my best friends is obsessed with Crossfit and I can’t go a day without coming across a blog post talking about whatever WOD they crushed. I want to drink the Koolaid too! And Zumba just looks like crazy fun. I can shimmy with the best of them, so why not make it a workout?
4.  What did you eat for breakfast (be honest, no judgement here!)?
Ah, you caught me! I just had a giant cup of coffee, but I’m working hard to minimize the extras I throw in. So, only a few teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, a few drops of half-and-half, and a bit of coconut oil. That’s right, I put coconut oil in my coffee! I’ve read that it’s great for your digestive health and while the science behind the benefits of all things coconut is still a bit murky, I personally find this little addition pretty great for me. I like experimenting! And I also had a slice of whole wheat toast. I’ve got a green smoothie on tap once I finish writing this post.
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence?
Great question. I’m gonna go with writing. It’s a funny answer for me because writing also gives me a lot of anxiety. I worry if what I’m sharing will resonate or fall flat or if my grammar is completely screwed up. Sometimes I run away from it altogether, and I’ve taken some long breaks from my blog as a result. But I find the ebb and flow of my writing journey the past two years to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are times when I’m literally bursting at the seams to sit down and get my thoughts down either on paper or on my site. It’s been cathartic, especially when I wrote about my issues with disordered eating or racial identity. And as much as it terrifies to put that out there for the world to read and potentially criticize, I always feel like I’ve triumphed in some way. It’s a roundabout way towards feeling confident, but nevertheless it’s been the most effective.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Impossible to answer! I’m a travel nut and my bucket list is way too long. I was in Moab last summer and while there I experienced some of the most serene moments in my life. Sitting there and staring out at these massive rock formations and the valleys between just made me feel so small and so huge at the same time. me and moabThose are the emotions I like to go for whenever I visit somewhere new. I suppose the next place I’d like to feel that would probably be the antithesis of Moab, so a forest comes to mind. I’d love to see the Sequoias in California or some of the old-world forests in Europe. My second choice would be somewhere mountainous. Clearly, nature wins for me!
7.  If time and money were no issue what would you do for a day?
Only one day?? Take a long walk in the early morning to a new neighborhood in NYC. Have breakfast (calories don’t count in this dream right?) and coffee at a slow pace. Visit a museum or go to the park for a few hours to read. Go home and experiment with a new recipe. Watch a movie. Call up a friend and go to a beer garden or outdoor restaurant to enjoy a meal, a few drinks, and a conversation, again at an unhurried pace. Eat dessert. Go home and play with my dog. Then go to bed. Nothing fancy or crazy. And completely unplugged from the digital world. I spend nearly every waking hour online for myself or for work and as much as I enjoy it, there are days when you just need to detox. This would be one of those days.
8.  Cardio or weights?  Why?
WEIGHTS. All the way. I’m a powerlifter, so yeah, weights.
Maribel- 195x2 Deadlift 5-17-13
Every time I tried losing weight in the past I’d go the cardio route only to quit pretty soon after. I don’t blame the exercise so much as a lack of understanding on my part of what really worked for me. When I started lifting with my personal trainer a year ago, something clicked. It’s a difficult challenge, but it was something I actually enjoyed doing, which was very different from every time I’ve hit the pavement attempting to run a couple of miles. This is why I make it my mission to tell everyone to ignore whatever workout trend is currently making the rounds and to quit believing that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Some of my friends are avid runners who get the high and love the feeling they get from hitting the pavement each day. Others swim, hike, dance, do yoga, spin, kickbox- or lift like I do. And even still, I’m not locked into one thing. This afternoon I’m going swimming and I’ve got a yoga session in store for tomorrow. I choose weights, but that’s not my only choice.
9.  Do you drink coffee? If so, how do you like it?
Ah, scroll up to read my answer to #4, lol. Yes. Coffee and I are old old friends. I even wrote about it here.
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In no specific order: hitting my 230lb deadlift before my 30th birthday last December when I originally aimed for 225lbs; being featured in Latina magazine this year as a top blogger; conquering my fear of bikes by learning to ride last year; getting healthy and fit for me and not for anyone else which was a MAJOR life lesson; traveling through 4 continents and living abroad more than once; nailing an internship with a startup whose mission I actually believe in that inspires me everyday; letting go of some of the pain from my past by embracing gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation as part of my daily practice; starting this crazy blog that led me to meet some truly incredible people out there who are proudly sharing their stories and constantly inspiring me with their honesty, passion, strength, and creativity. Thank you for all that you do!
I’m honestly gobsmacked by the amount of support and encouragement I’ve been lucky to receive from people I’ll probably never meet in real life, but who come here and find something that strikes a chord with them. I do this for me, to leave my mark in the universe in my own way. But really, I do this for you too.
I’ve said it from the beginning: my intention here is to start a conversation. I want to connect and learn from you to see how even the smallest exchange can create waves of change in our corners of the world. A million thank yous to each and every single one of you who’ve laid eyes on my page and the sites of all the bloggers out there that are working just as hard to create something truly unique.
The world needs more unique. 🙂
Alright, now the fun doesn’t stop here. It’s time to nominate what I consider to be truly incredible blogs that I’ve recently discovered and to continue paying it forward (my motto!).
And here are my questions (keeping some of Annie’s because they were great!)
1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
2.  How do you feel about social media and being “connected”?
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
4.  What is your favorite healthy recipe?
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7.  What song, movie or book inspires you?
8.  Do you practice meditation or have an interest in trying it out?
9.  Why do you write?
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Congrats to all of the nominees. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Happy Easter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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The Day I Fell in Love with Soul Cycle

Soul Cycle NYC review

Let me begin with an admission: I have never gone to a spinning class. I’ll take it one step further and say that I don’t get on any bikes at all, stationary or not. You’ll usually find me by a squat rack or bench press in the weight room, powerlifting my way through a workout. Spinning, like many other cardio-intensive classes, just never called out to me. I prefer to lift heavy and workout alone. That’s just me.

I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to people wax poetic about the amazing workouts they’ve had at Soul Cycle, the premier spinning studio in New York City (with additional studios in California and most of New England). The trainers, their heart-pumping music playlists, and the party-like atmosphere were among the most popular comments I heard from Soul Cycle devotees. It all sounded pretty great, but I wasn’t convinced.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year and I found myself reconsidering my strict strength-training routine in favor of new fitness challenges, especially the fast-paced, heart-pumping kind. I took the ongoing construction of a spin studio in my gym as a sign that maybe I should broaden my horizons, namely on a bike.

Soul Cycle: me and you? A date? Okay, let’s go for it!

My first stop was on Soul Cycle’s website to pick my class and to find an instructor. Instead of offering a typical membership plan with monthly or annual coverage, Soul Cycle has a pay-as-you-go model with an option to pre-purchase any number of classes you want. The only fine print is that you must use those classes within a certain amount of time. Just keep that in mind, if you decide to buy several classes at once.

After spending a few hours perusing Soul Cycle’s excellent website and reading online reviews, I decided to pick Akin as my instructor. Each instructor gets their own page with a running feed of their social media networks and a current playlist of their favorite music. I like to know what I’m getting into before I sign up for anything, especially if it’s fitness related, so I really enjoyed the fact that I could compare different instructors to figure out who would be a good fit. Akin had a lot of thumbs up from both beginners and advanced spinners, and his mix of hip-hop, r&b, and pop was right up my musical alley. I suggest you take some time to do this for yourself. You also get to pick which bike you want to reserve, so if you want to hide out in the back, sit next to a friend, or burn it up with the pros up front, you have that option.

Arriving late to a Soul Cycle class should be avoided, especially if it’s your first time. I got to the studio with about ten minutes to spare and I wish I had some more time to get settled. The front desk staff was very friendly and efficient, even offering me a complimentary water for class. Once I signed off on the forms and picked up my shoes, I headed to the locker room to store my stuff. The studio itself is beautifully designed with the white, yellow, and black theme running throughout the space. The locker room was fairly small and co-ed, although there are separate bathroom facilities for men and women if you prefer to change in privacy. No need for a lock either. Each locker has its own digital lock that you can configure with your own code.

Once my stuff was safely stored, I ran upstairs and put my shoes on outside the doors. I didn’t understand the need for a rental until I got to the studio. Each shoe has a special clamp that locks onto the pedals. This ensures your stability and keeps you safely on the bike as you transition from one move to the next. I didn’t really get it at first but I quickly saw the need for this as the class got started and silently thanked the genius who thought of this little invention. That said, it should be noted that the shoe rental is required for each class. First rental is free, thereafter rentals are $3.

Note: Let me get this out of the way now: Soul Cycle is pricey. It’s $20 for your first class, $34 thereafter. That’s a bit of a splurge, especially if you’re a New Yorker trying to balance a limited budget. Then again, I know people dropping hundreds of dollars on Crossfit boxes and personal trainers, so to each their own. I say this now to cover my bases, but let me tell you about my class before you write it off completely.

If it’s your first time at Soul Cycle, be sure to inform one of the staff so that they can help you get set up. They adjust the set height, ask about lower back issues, and explain how to lock your shoe on the pedals. There are small two-pound hand weights located underneath the seat and a knob that increases or decreases resistance by the handlebars. The class was completely full and the music was already streaming out of the speakers. It’s a bit cramped with each rider within inches of each other in the dimly lit room, but already there was a lot of buzzing energy coursing through the studio.

Photo courtesy of www.purposegeneration.com
Photo courtesy of http://www.purposegeneration.com

The doors close and the class starts at a running sprint. With the music pumping and my fellow riders spinning their wheels like maniacs, I felt a bit overwhelmed within the first five minutes. It gets hot, fast, and then to make matters worse, my towel fell to the ground with no easy way for me to pick it up. I had to leave it behind and just keep moving. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to dress appropriately, with a loose cotton tank and lightweight tights. This is NOT the class to wear sweats and a hoodie, Just a tip.

I’m not going to lie. I consider myself pretty fit so I thought I’d handle this class like a boss pretty well. It’s just a bike right? And I’ve got rhythm. I can dance. What’s so hard about doing a little shimmy to some awesome music while pedaling? I just squatted 125lbs the week before, so really, how could this be that tough?

This is where the date got kind of ugly.

You could tell who’s done this before as they expertly wove their bodies on the bike from side to side. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time trying to figure out how to move without losing pace on the pedals. Within the first fifteen minutes I thought there was no way I could ever get it and that this would be my first and last spinning experience. My heart was in my throat and my legs felt like they were on fire. I slammed headfirst into a wall and wanted nothing more than to collect my abandoned towel off the ground, wipe off the sweat, and head home with my tail between my legs.

I have to give a lot of credit to Akin. He led the charge with motivating speeches, encouraging us to let out great big yells to help release the tension. I’m a big believer in energy transference- sounds new-agey but I think that the tone of a room can be greatly influenced by the people in it, and that studio was no exception.

My bike was smack dab in the center, so I got to see all the riders around me, whenever I was able to tear my eyes away without losing my balance. Some were rocking it out, dancing like their lives depended on it. Others were just like me, figuring out their pace and struggling to get their coordination down. But the really awesome thing is that ALL of us were into it. There were no bored expressions and you got the sense that everyone was pushing it to the max throughout the workout.

Then came the breakthrough. Maybe it was Akin’s encouragement to dig a little deeper to beat back our fears that roused a familiar sensation deep inside. I am very familiar with the self-defeating talk that kept me from exercising so many times before. The person I am now, who embraces fitness and healthy living as a lifestyle, took years of soul-searching and half-hearted attempts at changing my habits.

Suddenly I found myself actually smiling. I even closed my eyes and let the rhythm wash over me, as silly as that sounds. I realized that it was a little ridiculous to walk in there expecting to be an expert without ever having tried it before. Even the 2lb weights I sneered at when he pulled them out during the workout, kicked my butt. I was utterly humbled.

 I’d forgotten what it was like to be truly challenged during a workout. Powerlifting is not easy, but sometimes I get caught up in the routine of it all, mentally checking out along the way. Switching it up with an intense spinning class woke me up and got me truly jazzed about making it through the class. I felt proud of myself, which I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.

I can thank Akin and Soul Cycle for shaking me out of my fitness rut and reminding me that how important it is to test my boundaries.

That’s one of the reasons I started working out in the first place: to fall in love with how much my body is capable of, even when my head tries to throw me off stride.

Not too shabby for a first date. Trust me, I’ve had worse.

What did I take away from my date and what tips can I give you? Check your ego at the door. And please don’t drop your towel on the floor. You’ll need it.

Here’s more info on Soul Cycle and the studio I visited:

Soul Cycle Tribeca, 103 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007
Classes: 1st class $20; Each class thereafter $34
Shoe Rentals: 1st class FREE; Rentals thereafter $3
www.soul-cycle.com
 

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy. 🙂

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