healthy hacks

The Swap

The meal prep swap. How does it work?  What are the benefits?

This is another blog that is just a tidbit for anyone who can benefit.

Each week meal prepping can be boring or tedious. Time constraints could limit what you can make forcing you to eat the same chicken recipe for multiple days. Things could be worse, but what if there was a way to switch up the ordinary?

Grab yourself four friends who eat healthy. Set a side a day and place for the swap. Pick your menu and start your meal prep.

Instead of meal prepping 5 chicken dishes for yourself, you keep one and bring the other four to the swap.

One friend makes spaghetti squash and turkey meatballs with marinara. One friend makes Greek chicken with a cucumber, tomato and onion salad. One friend makes a chicken bowl with black beans, corn, riced cauliflower and veggies. And the final dish is a shrimp and avocado dish. These are just a sample but the picture above actually has egg salad full of veggies, turkey sausage and cabbage with cucumber side, riced cauliflower with beef sausage and hard boiled eggs, and spaghetti squash seasoned with Everything but the Bagel seasoning (a must have) with turkey.

You basically bring you 4 meals and trade with the other four participants. You end up with 5 different meals for the next few days (yours plus the other four). Variety is in front of you.

You may even try something you never would have made and loved it. You could also get a dud meal. That’s the little risk you take for escaping the ordinary. This may be too much planning week after week but here and there it can easily break up the cycle of boring meal prep.

Be sure to set expectations in your group about capturing all ingredients, measurements and of course sharing the recipe. For me it works great when a friend messaged me the details from Myfitnesspal. I just copy and paste and move on to the next meal.

Just a fun way to spend some time with friends, promote heathy eating and maybe even keep a friend accountable for tracking their eating or meal prepping.

More healthy hacks coming your way in 2020 from 2 Chicks and a Pen.

healthy hacks

Tough Days Call for Easy Bagels

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Posted in honor of National Bagel Day.  Here’s how I celebrated!

Several of my friends and I are trying to tighten up our nutrition, and our belts, as part of our 2020 goals.

This may mean limiting certain treats, even eliminating some of them. For most of us it means upping protein and being careful to count nearly everything else. It’s a daily set of choices…maybe more of a battle some days.

But it also means finding new ways to enjoy some of our favorite things in ways that don’t derail us from our goals.

Transition in nutrition can be challenging.  Even after just a few days, moving to prepped food and protein can try both patience and palate.

Enter Skinny Taste Easy Bagels.  5 ingredients, quick knead, roll them into a bagel shape, top them, 25 minutes in the oven and voila! Bagels.

Are they just like iconic New York bagels?  Not quite.  But, covered with your favorite topping (Everything But the Bagel for some, sesame for others), toasted or warmed, maybe filled with a lightly scrambled egg, and tightening up your nutrition doesn’t seem quite so bad.  They have almost 10 grams of protein each.  

I learned quickly that these make my friends happy.  So, when meal prep was running short lately, it was pretty simple to put them together on a Thursday night and bring them to see everyone at the gym Friday morning.  Even though they were a little crispy, they brought a smile and some great pics of pretty plates later that morning.

A little pick-me-up doesn’t have to be expensive or hard.  It can be as easy as a note or a homemade treat.  It can even help friends meet their goals while letting them know they matter and are cared about.

Think you’re not a baker?  Give these a try.  Another healthy hack from the 2 Chicks!

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fitness and nutrition

Working Vacation (or, Making Vacation Work)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a whirlwind whiplash weekend in Pennsylvania with friends watching our daughters play lacrosse.

I could have completely tossed my diet and exercise habits out the window.  But driving over 10 hours both ways in the course of a few days left my body screaming for exercise and good food.  (Craving those things is a good sign.)

We stayed in a hotel with a gym.  I brought my workout clothes and got up at my usual crack-of-dawn hour. The weather was amazing!  When I went outside, the air was a crisp, cool change from the warm humid mornings in Atlanta.  Then, we just happened to be staying in a complex with some health care buildings.  As I was walking to warm up and get moving, I noticed a trail with some fitness stations along the way.  So, that became my plan.  A little jog and some step ups, incline situps and leg lifts, hanging leg raises, all while jogging station to station. Sweat happened.

Then, I went into the gym and did a quick 21-15-9 of burpees, dumbbell clean and jerks, and sit-ups.  It wasn’t the extreme race or marathon workout that many were doing back home, but it was enough to feel like I had worked my heart and muscles. It felt good.

Of the 3 days away, that was the only true workout I did.  We did some walking at the tournament fields and Hershey Park, but otherwise the two days were rest days.  I worked out all the other days around the trip so it was enough.

The other challenge on the road is eating.

I packed snacks…a few bags of turkey and beef jerky, protein water, chunks of grilled chicken, protein chips, and some random protein bars.  I ate some but not all. I also drank lots of water and sparkling water.

For the most part, I just tried to focus on protein and keep other things to a minimum. Examples:

For quick breakfast on the road I had a Chick-fil-a breakfast bowl with chicken and no hashbrowns.  I ate a 2 good yogurt for snack.  The chicken chunks came in handy on a long stretch of road with few options beside gas station food.

Eating out in Harrisburg, PA, at a local tapas spot – Kale and beet salad, Brussel sprouts with bacon, a small slice of pizza, charcuterie board with meat, cheese, pickles, flatbread, mustard.  Probably over on fat and salt but I could have done worse and it was delicious. Not enough protein but options were limited.

For hotel breakfast (twice): Eggs, spinach, cheese, salsa, light and fit yogurt, coffee with milk. For me, when I’m basically eyeballing things, not really planning eating, and going with my gut, I try to start the day with as much protein as possible and just keep going from there.

It’s not necessarily easy…the options I skipped were many: waffles, Froot Loops and other cereals, bagels, bread, crumb cake, juices, granola, muffins, peanut butter, etc.  None of these seemed worth it and the eggs looked decent.  (I would definitely eat crumb cake, for example, if it was from a bakery.  I look forward to bakery crumb cake at the Jersey Shore later this summer!)

It’s not always a simple win.  The amusement parks we went to the last two weekends were especially challenging for both cost and food quality reasons.  At Hershey Park, after long searching, I settled for a few chicken tenders (more bread than chicken) and a few fries.  Thankfully this was late in the day after decent eating before we got to the park.

An afternoon at Kings Dominion was more challenging.  I could almost stomach the idea of eating Panda Express, but the $15.00 price tag was a deal breaker (and for just one entree!)  I held out until we left, late afternoon, and quickly scarfed down my turkey jerky, protein water, some fresh cherry tomatoes, and Quest protein chips when I got to the car.  Sounds crazy to many, but it works for me.  I felt satisfied and not weighed down.  I was grateful I had packed a few things to have on hand.

And when it was worth it, I did treat myself across the two weekends.  I had top-notch street tacos (although I did skip all but one bite of tortilla since they were not special), I had a great meal with meats, cheeses, an amazingly fluffy buttered roll, and cucumber salad at a German restaurant called Fest, and I had a scoop of homemade strawberry swirl ice cream topped with toasted fluff (the specialty of the house) at Charm School Social Club.  Totally worth it.  And four days later, I’m not mad at myself or the scale. So I’m learning it is possible to keep it sane on the road, get some sweat in, feel good, and indulge when I really want to.  Let’s see how I do on my next journey…

 

 

fitness and nutrition

3 am Nachos

I sure do love nachos. Well they are not my favorite food but if I have a craving for nachos I definitely want to devour them.

I prefer nachos piled high. Lots of gooey cheese. Some onions. Maybe some peppers. For meat I favor fajita chicken but I wouldn’t say no to beef as in taco meat or some nice fresh shrimp. Diced tomatoes sprinkled on top. A sprinkle of shredded lettuce. Topped with avocado for a bonus. Black beans are a bonus too. I can tolerate a small amount of jalapeños but I would probably just go without. I’m sure I’m missing some topping but if I write any more of a description here it might just make me crazy.

I think I just described a mountain high pile of my dream nachos that should have my name on it. You see I was going to eat those nachos as a celebratory meal after my 5 kickass weeks in the CrossFit OPEN.

As fate would have it, the Mexican restaurant I went to was full. No bueno for me. No nachos. No oooey gooey cheese. Talk about a major let down. I moved on for sure, I lived another day or so.

Then Monday hit and I realized I’m back on my macro counting food plan. The macros that are limited to keep me on track with my health and fitness goals. So you wonder what that has to do with nachos, right? EVERYTHING!

Nachos are not your friend. Chips are not your friend. Beans are full of carbs. Cheese is okay but the oooey, goooey kind and quantity I refer to is just off limits. Nachos do not fit in my macros and I can’t have a cheat day on the first day of macro counting. Grrrrrr……

3am hits and I awake from a damn dream. A nacho dream. That’s it folks a dream about nachos and how I missed my chance at nachos last Friday. Then the dream became a nightmare when I realized I have some plans coming up that entail visits to my local Mexican eateries. Ugh, this is a real world issue.

Does anyone else have a nacho issue? I guess I am going to have to find a healthier version of nachos to fuel my desires for now and exercise my restraint and discipline. I will be digging deep to my core on this one.

Can you believe I woke at 3am because of nachos and actually wrote a blog about it? I sure did because it helped me defer and deflect my desire to eat those nachos. It may be a temporary win but it’s a win nonetheless.

Nachos are not a friend of this Chick. And I’m pretty sure my nachos are my counterpart’s tacos. Hehehehe, maybe she will write about her taco dreams one day. And for this girl, it will be a protein shake for breakfast possibly. No pancakes. No nachos. No surprise here.

I hope that I made you hungry for some yummy Mexican food. Remember there are some options that can be macro friendly when you eat out at Mexican but tacos, nachos, chips and margaritas are probably not on the list. And of course all of those are on my list of faves.

I am going to go back to bed now and hope for a dream of rainbows and unicorns or anything non-food related so I don’t wake up again hangry. Or I can celebrate my shoe addiction and the fact that I’ll be lacing up my brand new shiny pink, white and black Nike Metcon 4xds in a just a few short hours. Defer, defer, deflect those nachos. Moving on to my shoe addiction which I will have to save for another post.

I bet you never thought or expected my post-OPEN post to be about nachos. Since I am not your typical chick, nachos it is. My content is real. My content relates to my experiences, my relationships, my opinions, my adventures and of course my challenges and celebrations.

Enjoy my ride. Some days will be full of sunshine while others may be darker in nature. That’s why it’s called life. And what is life without temptation. Today’s temptation came in the form of nachos. I overcame this temptation and a few other speed bumps in the past 24 hours. 

Nighty, night or rise and grind peeps. Its technically Taco Tuesday and I may have just inadvertently annoyed my writing partner with this food post or maybe even you. Be sure to tag a friend today in honor of Temptation Tuesday. Instead of spreading joy today, I’m spreading nacho/taco dreams!

What could be a better way to start your Tuesday?

fitness and nutrition

The Difference Between Simple and Easy

I hit another milestone number on the scale today.

Today I weigh the same as I did when I got married.  Just shy of seventeen years later.  I am sure my weight went straight up just after the wedding, and I haven’t seen this number since.

Is my body the same?  No. Pregnancy and many other things have happened since then, not to mention just a lot of time being very overweight which leaves its mark.  But I’m working on shaping this body into the best it can be right now.

This was also the weight I randomly put into myfitnesspal when I started tracking last year.  I had to choose something, and 185 seemed good enough.  I don’t really know if I ever thought I would get there. Goals are not my strong point.

This week I’ll think about a new number and other goals.  I’ll try to be more mindful about it. But in the mean time…a quick reflection on one thing I have noticed lately.

As I’ve gotten further into tracking, my eating has gotten simpler and simpler.  My shopping list has gotten shorter and shorter.

Basically, most weeks look like this:

-Chicken (lots – ground / boneless skinless breast / tenderloins / rotisserie)

-Lean ground beef

-Vegetables for roasting (butternut squash, brussels sprouts, broccoli, onion, etc.)

-Yogurt – low to no fat, high protein

-Creamer

-Lowfat Cheese

-Sparkling water

-Then, if I need to replenish: extra thin corn tortillas, garlic & seasoning, carbs like PopCorners or Captain Crunch (yes, you read that right!), Fairlife milk,  protein shakes Yasso bars, etc. These are more accessories than essentials.

Sunday morning meal prep starts with roasting a huge pan of vegetables (see above).  I make my Mike Nuggets for my whole week’s lunches. Then I make one or two other varieties of chicken – crock pot fajitas, Mason’s Naked Tenders (great for the girl who chronically overcooks chicken), etc.  I also cook some ground beef to season as needed.

Most dinners during the week are just measuring and assembling these building blocks.  Veggies, meat, maybe some cheese if it works with my numbers (although my numbers are pretty much the same each day when I get to dinner, unless I am super hungry in the afternoon and have half an ace bar.) Nothing too fancy.  If I go out I have Chick-fil-a or Zoe’s Kitchen or an omelet with veggies and wheat toast, butter on the side.  End of story, most of the time.

Is it simple?  Yes.

Is it easy? No.

Simple and easy are very different things, I’m realizing.  I used to think they were synonymous.

Simple is keeping the moving parts minimal.  Staying in a routine.  Welcoming boredom, even.  Leaving little room to think about it. Deciding to stick with the plan.

Easy is more about effort and choice, I think.  I still pack my same breakfasts and lunches every. single. day.  Simple.  But, it would be easy to hit the drive-thru on the way to work. It would be easy to indulge in the staggering amount of food – mostly fat and carbs – I am offered working at my school in a given week, and have to resist.  (Someday I will blog about that.)  It would be easy to take it slow on Sunday mornings instead of cranking up the oven and meal-prepping like mad. It would be easy to drive-thru (again) in one of the hundred restaurants I pass when I am hungry on my way home. It would be easy to grab a beer when I am stressed or frustrated or anxious. It would be easy to sleep in or skip the gym when I have it scheduled but I’m tired.

All these things are easy but, ultimately, they make life more complicated. They distract me from my goals.

Will doing what’s simple most of the time ever come easy?  I have to think so. I am getting closer to seeing food as fuel and not entertainment or comfort. The gym is hard for me to resist unless I simply cannot make it.  Still, I am not always successful at resisting what is easy.  Sometimes I give in and just do what’s right in front of me, even if it goes against what I am trying to accomplish in the long run.  But I am working on it. Until then, I’ll simply choose the harder path as often as I can.  And set a new goal to shoot for, so I can earn my confetti again.

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fitness and nutrition, hustle

What’s Around the Corner?

My birthday for starters! Just a few more days and I’m officially the big 4-7! I should be older and wiser but I feel younger and bulletproof on most days. It’s ironic that I feel my best years are in front of me for so many reasons.

I’m not expecting any big birthday gifts as that is not what my day, week or month is about. It’s about celebrating where I am now, what my life experiences have been about, and what’s around the corner.

What’s around the corner is the best part. It’s a surprise! It’s like a new gift each day, each week. You make the adventure. You are the key ingredient. Just you!

I will be starting my birthday week the same way I have for the past three years. In the OPEN. The Crossfit OPEN.

This is an adventure in itself. I get to pull the measuring stick out to see how my fitness measures up those around the world in my age category. Some workouts I may lift more, while others I get the reality confirmation that I need to put more work in to master a skill.

Body weight movements are harder for me than loading up a bar and pushing. Running I can tolerate but it’s not my best performance. The OPEN is designed with diversity and depth in mind. Workouts are challenging and designed to test limits. Sometimes you are stalled at rep one. Do you fight for that one rep or do you quit? That’s a mental game. Maybe it’s balls to a target and your legs are burnt out. Can you push through fatigue? These are just a few examples of the OPEN. Mental and physical challenges. Can you endure? What a test that can be applied to so many life situations. Can you endure all that life throws at you? Can you push through the fatigue? Do you have the mental strength to level up in life?

Why the OPEN? For me, it’s a great health check. One, can I do it? Two, am I improving each year? Three, it’s part of my story. This list could go on and on. The point is, the OPEN is here and I have trained six days a week for the chance to participate. I have focused on my training and my eating to make my body ready to perform the best it can. I won’t be at the top of the leaderboard but I will be at the top of my game for this fabulous 4-7 year old mom. Thick thighs, sharp mind and positive attitude in tow. A bonus this year is that I get to experience the OPEN with oldest son, building upon the value of the event. He has snubbed CrossFit for years but finally took the plunge last November and hasn’t looked back.

I am also grateful to compete in the open with some fabulous fabulous ladies at my gym. Some are new this year while others been around a while. We have been practicing extra weights and trying to perfect movements and challenge ourselves. It’s been a fun road to the OPEN with my girls. Some are even just getting the confidence to compete and check their progress because it’s scary to hold yourself accountable. But, we build each other up. We cheer for each other. We push each other. We celebrate the successes and we laugh at the failures or roadblocks. It happens just like life happens. And sometimes we say “but did you die?” If you can answer, then you endured.

Making memories is easy. Living large is fun. Conquering the unknown or unexpected is my fuel to life. I am harnessing my self power this week, this year and I am cataloging most of it in this blog and the rest will be unveiled in a book project that is underway.

What do you want to be known for? I want to be known for my individuality, my kind spirit, my smile, my ability to empower others and my perseverance. I try to live and breathe this mantra daily. This is why my best years are ahead of me. I know me and I show me to others. Nobody defines me. Nobody decides for me. Just me!

Stay tuned, people. It’s OPEN season. There will soon be some pics posted as a visual representation of my efforts. Let’s see how I measure up to myself this year and compare to years past.

The OPEN is public information. Follow along if you are curious. People compete in the OPEN worldwide. If you are reading this, invest in yourself and compete this year. Not a CrossFitter? Not an excuse. Follow the OPEN online and scale a workout to get yourself started. A walk. Some sit-ups. A pushup challenge. A bike distance over five weeks. Get up and get moving. You can give me a virtual birthday gift this year by starting a journey to a fitter version of you.

Celebrate the OPEN your way. A fit life is a fabulous life, I promise.

As a closing note, the significance of the lone picture above in this post has so many hidden meanings. One, my coach Alex took it mid-workout. He captured my strength in a way I never see it. All the way down to my breathing. He caught me in a mind battle with myself: should I drop the weight in round 5, or should I suck it up and forge ahead? I was finishing last in this workout not by design but it does turn out as a testimony to one of my recent blogs about finishing last.

I was last because I challenged myself to lift a 53-pound kettle bell 120 times over my head. I had never used a #53 in a workout, let alone for 120 reps. The list could go on but the moral of the story is I did it. I conquered this movement and the other movements as well. 44 minutes later but I did it and I had fellow gym-mates supporting me along the way. One of the big benefits of CrossFitting is the community. Check out the pic below so you can see what my six rounds looked like. Thanks to coach Alex for the inspiration and push that Saturday.

 

hustle

31 Days

31 days have come and gone in January 2019. I already feel like it was 365 days. Crazy I know.

January just seems like the longest month ever. Add the cold and that equates to another whole level of awful. Or maybe January just seems so long because I am always waiting for February to arrive. Once February comes and goes it’s time to think warm weather, sunshine and vacations on the horizon.

As a memory tracker I decided to write down 31 significant or interesting things that transpired in my life in January. Here is my 31-day reflection to start this month with a bang.

1. I survived a high speed car crash.
2. I completed my first weighted CrossFit workout.
3. I got a tattoo.
4. I drove 4 different rental cars within 5 days for stupid and annoying reasons.
5. I drove from Boston to Atlanta in under 19 hours as a solo driver.
6. I had a career change.
7. I gained weighed and lost weight.
8. I tracked my food journal every day.
9. I did manual labor work a few days.
10. I ate chowda while traveling.
11. I went ice skating.
12. I started a push-up challenge for 30 days.
13. I joined a coed spring softball team.
14. I signed up for the CrossFit open 2019.
15. I took an Olympic lifting class during the month.
16. I used “WTF” notes for various events in which WTF applied.
17. I shoveled snow.
18. I spent time with family and friends.
19. I flew on a plane.
20. I made new friends.
21. I tried new foods.
22. I cheered my daughter on during basketball games.
23. I ate out with all my boys this month despite everyone’s crazy schedules.
24. I dealt with drama full days.
25. I got a hair cut.
26. I got a massage.
27. I went to the doctor.
28. I didn’t have any alcohol.
29. I blogged.
30. I got some new shoes.
31. I completed tax checklist items.

As I look back on the month, I can safely say it was busy. In addition the time had many ups downs and everything in between.

Even when life tosses you to the wolves, we are still empowered to find our inner sunshine and really just seize the day, the week, the month.

Don’t ever let one negative take away all your positive mojo. We are each capable of defining our own path to success. We decide for ourselves. We put the work in to reap the benefits.

Keep on keeping on and take a moment to reflect on your January. Did you make the most of it? If you had a “do over” button, what would be different? If you had only one day left on earth what would you do with your day?

Spend some time thinking about what you can do or can’t do. Remember all can change in the blink of an eye so savor every moment and don’t wait for life to pass you by. No adventures happen while you are sitting still.

Happy February all. It’s my birth month and I accept gifts and celebrate all month long. Every day. All day. Happy b-day month to me!!!

I cant wait to see what my 47th birthday month has in store for me. Counting my blessings and anticipating life challenges along the way. No day is perfect but I’m going to tackle each day with enthusiasm.