Paleo Banana Bread

I’m back!! A confession is an order right about now. I neglected my blog (sorry!)  for over a year to focus on cell biology and mechanical physics. Ugh gross. I know.  Anyhow, back to the blog.

Now that I’m back, I plan put it all out there; my whereabouts, rants, workouts, meals, cooking, experiments, gardening, things I love, things I hate, hikes, terrariums, food finds, pictures of puppies/kittens/goats/chickens, restaurant reviews, wine tastings, travels, love, hobbies, crafts, all this in no specific order 🙂

For this entry, I will tell you all about a recipe I recreated from PaleOMG. The Cinnamon Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread was just perfect for this lazy, sunny Sunday. I previously  hesitated on this recipe because of the baking component. These past few weeks here in Portland have been hotter than usual (scary, global warming kind of scary), so turning on the oven was just not an option. However, this past week, finally, the weather turned and there’s now a cooler breeze that waffles through the air making it possible to bake without the house being an inferno. For this one recipe I just happened to have ALL of the ingredients needed. Plus, the bananas I had were starting to brown, so I took that as a sign to start baking. This is definitely a treat since the macros are so high. But, nonetheless, since I know exactly what went into making this delicious treat, I would rather eat this all day long  vs a prepackaged alternative.

Here’s my review of this recipe.

The availability of ingredients: easy. If you eat mostly paleo and/or ‘healthy’ you will most likely have all the ingredients in hand. If by any chance you don’t have that specific brand of chocolate chips, I’m sure you can use any other dark chocolate chips brand. Heck, you can even break a dark chocolate bar into smaller pieces and use that instead.

Expense: $. The priciest ingredient in this recipe is the almond butter. You can, however, get a large jar at Costco for around 11.00. That jar will last you a good while. The only problem is that it isn’t organic, but what the hell, a little won’t hurt. The process: easy. I used a food processor for the mixing because I’m too lazy to mix it by hand. I also subbed the double-broiler for the microwave in  the chocolate melt part.

Technique: fairly easy. Unless, you like me, suck at swirling the chocolate. I also didn’t thoroughly read the instructions and only swirled the top of the bread, not the whole loaf pan. Another of ‘my bad’ was that I forgot to add the honey to the chocolate topping. Oops, it’s all good though.

Result: moist, rich, and delicious. I’m kind of glad I got overly excited and accidentally omitted the honey because the sweetness in it is just perfect. I’m thinking it’s because of the ripe bananas.

Macros: wait, before I tell you, I ask you not to judge; fit women (and men) need some good calories in their diets too.  Ladies don’t be afraid of high cals and fats! Oh and just FYI, I used MyFitnessPal to track the macros. This same recipe comes up on this app, but the macros are different than mine. This could be due to using different brands of ingredients and/or the serving size. I cut my loaf in 6. Serving size: 1 slice. Totals calories per slice: 218g, Protein: 13g, Carbs: 39g, Fat: 32g, Sugar: 19g, Fiber: 10g

Proof:

Gather all your ingredients

Gather all your ingredients before you start

The wet ingredients

The wet ingredients

my lame attempt at the swirl

my lame attempt at the swirl

beautiful

beautiful

 

Yum! Enjoyed my slice with Blue Lotus Star Anise Chai and cashew milk.

Yum! Enjoyed my slice with Blue Lotus Star Anise Chai and cashew milk.

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The Pity of Tight Shorts

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the culprits

This past Monday, as some of you might know, the weather here in Portland was just amazing. There were clear blue skies, the sun was shining up high and bright, and there was amazing crisp breeze flowing through the air. Pure bliss!

I had decided that day at work, that it would be a true shame if we spent that amazing afternoon indoors in a gym. So instead, we decided to take the pup for a neighborhood hike. Sounds amazing right? It was, that was until I put on my favorite pair of jean shorts. Well what do you know, those darn leg holes fit tight. Really tight.

It had been little less than a year since I had slipped into them, and now they were tight on me. What a bummer! My high spirits quickly dissipated, and for the rest of the hike all I can think about (and feel) was my tight shorts-which I kept on anyways, hoping they’d loosen up lol

As I was wallowing in self-pity thinking, “I’m NEVER going to eat again for the rest of my life” and “I shouldn’t have eaten those crackers yesterday,” then it finally dawned on me that those shorts fit tight because I am healthy.

Well of course those darn shorts are going to be tight when I dedicate a 1x week leg-day, do 2-3 sessions of HIITs/conditioning work a week, and do plyo work in between weight training sets!! I instantly felt better.

But that also made me realize that I let something so insignificant affect my mood on that beautiful day. Right until I slipped on those stupid pair of shorts, I was feeling great. I didn’t think anything different about my body, I wasn’t self-conscious about myself at all, and I certainly would have never of thought I was going to ‘quit’ eating “forever” (ha!), yet those jean shorts had such an impact on me.
What I’m getting at is that the most important indicator of your happiness shouldn’t be dictated by an inanimate object such as a scale or a pair of smaller jeans (or shorts in my case), but on trying your very best on anything you want. Be satisfied that you have put in your work and trust yourself along the way.

Repeat to yourself what you know about yourself every day. It’s so easy for us to forget all of the positive things we already do, so do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day!

Here’s my example:

I know that I work out hard in every one of my sessions, I know that I eat healthy, I know that I lead a balanced life, I know that body weight is insignificant, I know that cheat meals are ok, I know that I am healthy, I know that I have amazing friends and family, I know that I am loved, I know that I try to be my best every day, I know that I am my own person, I know I try to enjoy the little things in life.

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Sitting the New Smoking?

It’s time to get up and start walking around!

..just sitting.

..just sitting.

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health risk factors including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

This certainly is a serious matter if you happen to be physically inactive and have a desk job.

From an evolutionary stand point, we were not made to sit for long periods of time. Our ancestors were hunters and gathers, not ‘sit in front of a computer all day’ kind of people.

Today’s demanding workforce has forced us to become much more sedentary than ever. According to the New York’s Times, we now sit for an average of 12-16 hours a day (50-70%). To put this into perspective, if you sleep anywhere between 6 to 8 hours and sit for the next 12 to 16 hours, you’ve only been active for a maximum of 6 of the 24 hours in your day! The same article points out how diabetes comes into play. It states, “When muscles don’t contract they require less fuel, and this surplus of fuel in the form of blood sugar accumulates in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes risk and other health concerns.” (HOLY MOLY!)

My best advice is to get up every 20 minutes and move around. If you’re at work, take a quick break by walking to the water fountain, drop off mail, or stretch. If you find it hard to do this, set a timer on your phone or your calendar; it only takes a few days to form any habit. If you can, invest in fitness ball to sit on at work. From personal experience, I can tell you that I tend to sit less when I’m on my fitness ball at work. I’ve noticed that I stand up more when I use my ball than when I sit on my normal chair. When sitting on my ball, I’m constantly balancing myself thus recruiting more muscle activation.

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

At home, it’s equally important to stay active. Keep in mind that your days off of work are certainly not a hall pass for sitting around watching tv all day! The Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded, “Recreational sitting, as reflected by television/screen viewing time, is related to raised mortality and CVD risk…. inflammatory and metabolic risk factors partly explain this relationship.”

In conclusion, strive to stay active and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Add to your good health by staying active even on the weekends. Make it a point to stand up as much as you can, take walks, play outdoors or indoors, practice yoga, stretch, foam roll, or simply do housework. Whatever you decide to do, I can assure you that it will be better than sitting around!

References:
Stamatakis E, et al. Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:292.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/

Strongman

Prowler

Prowler

Structural balance should be a goal in everyone’s workout routine. With that in mind, I decided to add strongman training and yoga into my own fitness routines-I’ll get more into the yoga part in a later post. But, for those of you who don’t know what ‘strongman’ workouts are, allow me to explain.

The word, strongman, primarily took shape in the the 19th century as part of a circus act. Strongmen and/or strongwoman would perform incredible acts of power, strength and balance, which of course, would draw the attention of many spectators.

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Modern day strongman, is not much different, than those of the circus. However, it has been formalized as a style of training. Strongman training requires you to lift, push, carry, flip, or throw heavy things which are anaerobic in nature. Meaning you create tremendous exertion by generating a ton of force against the ground.

Some examples of strongman training include: sled pushing, farmer’s walks, tire flips and medicine ball throws. Most importantly, the strength gained in this type of training is easily transferred to everyday activities such as walking heavy loads of groceries home, or picking up heavy items off the ground. Strongman training=strength and functionality.

Next time you’re at the gym, try a strongman workout instead. A simple Google search will give you a myriad of strongman workouts. Or you can also add strongman components into your workout routine. Such as pairing weighted squats with farmer walks, or chest press with medicine-ball wall slams.

My new favorite conditioning workout is pushing the Prowler for 15 minutes 1-2 times/week. I’ll set my timer for 15 minutes in which I’ll push the Prowler (sled) as fast as I can using the low bars for about 20m, then I’ll switch to the high-bars and drive it back to my original spot. Repeat until the timer goes off. Breathers will be necessary but they should be short; just enough to calm your breath and keep going. In other words, rest enough time to get rid of the black spots in your vision. 🙂 Or if you prefer a formal style of training, then do an allotted amount of sets for 20-25m and rest 1-2 minutes in between sets. Try 6-8 sets x 20m then rest 1 minute, and repeat.

This style of training is not easy, but it’s certainly fun and challenging. For optimal fat loss, try a strongman workout twice a week on non-consecutive days. Break a sweat and reap the benefits of working hard!

Goals and Resolutions

I’ve always felt like there’s a gap between saying what you want and actually achieving it.

It’s not uncommon for people to become disappointed mid-way their New Year’s Resolution and drop what they once had said they were going to do.

That’s why you see gyms so full in January, everyone and their mamas want in on the fitness bandwagon. People, with the best of intentions, set fitness resolutions/goals, yet they have no idea how to follow through. Without fault, many think that by showing up at the gym, the goal will automatically realize itself; they’ll be soon shedding those layers of fat! Unfortunately, without a broken down process on how to achieve the goal, they ultimately drop their resolution.

Goal setting is easy, anyone can say they want to do this or do that, but how do you follow up? How do you achieve your goals? It’s simple, let me explain.

  1. Determine what you want for yourself.
  2. Break down steps needed to achieve your ultimate goal.
  3. Be realistic. Evaluate where you are now in terms of your goal.
  4. Set a due date.
  5. Plan out what you need to do to get to your goal.
  6. Set up a timeline with approximate improvement marks.
  7. Keep a journal of some sort of your progress (calendars, phone, apps, etc)
  8. Be patient with your progress.

Since this is a fitness blog, let’s use weight-loss as an example…

 If you know you’re really on the bigger side, and then set a reasonable weight loss goal to start off with.

Set a timeline. If your resolution started in January, then set a date that you can work with, be patient with yourself.  This can look like; lose 5 pounds in 3 weeks.

Journal your meals (in detail, this will help you become conscious of what you eat) and your sleep. Make a grocery list. Avoid processed foods. Set a day in which you cook healthy foods for the week.

Set 1-2 workout days a week. If you have to skip a day, make it up the next day. Work your way up in number of workout days. Stay active on days you are off. Plan walks. Mark it in your calendar as “To-Do”. Don’t make it an option, but something you NEED to do.

Every week set a reminder in your phone to weigh yourself. Record your weight. Compare your weights, evaluate your improvements. Take progress pictures. Recognize your improvements, and be patient with your progress.

Most importantly, is that you don’t have to wait for a new year to start taking care of your own needs. If you want to lose weight, you can do this anytime. If you want to save money or spend more time with loved ones, or read more, or whatever resolution/goal you have set for yourself, you don’t have to wait for New Year’s! You, and only yourself, can make these changes at ANY given TIME. Take responsibility to take care of your wants, needs and desires because you deserve them!

Top 10 Holiday Fitness and Eating Tips

With the holidays upon us, it is easy to get caught up with the festivities including all of the unhealthy eating involved!

Here is what I think; I think you should enjoy yourself! Yes do so! Do enjoy those high fat, high carb, high sugar treats, but, but, but, but here is the key, do so in moderation. Moderation is crucial; you should strive to at least clean-eating 80% or more of the day.

Here are some my fitness tips for this Holiday season:

  1. Eat a high protein breakfast first thing in the am such as a piece of chicken or beef with a handful of nuts or low-glycemic berries. You need to start the day right.
  2. Get your fish oil in. No questions just do it.
  3. Don’t skip your workouts! If you must skip (note: valid reasons include, snow storm, Armageddon, zombies, or you meet Brad Pitt), replace it on your day off or do a daily double.
  4. Eat your protein first in every meal. The idea is to get full on the healthy/good stuff first.
  5. Choose your desserts wisely. Always choose the organic, gluten free or raw desserts that might be available. Nothing wrong with having a taste of the grocery bought cookies…a taste I said. Have a bite/slice, and throw it away or give it away.
  6. Get your fiber in. Yes, you need that extra help to push out all that food.
  7. Limit your alcohol to red wine. Avoid the sugary stuff. Eat your calories, don’t drink them!
  8. Drink lots of water!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  9. Alkalize with lemon water and apple cider vinegar.

10. Take some Epsom salt baths. Get rid of some of those toxins that are trapped in your body!

Wish you all a very Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

íFelices Fiestas!

Happy Holidays from little Vi

Happy Holidays from little Violet

My Pixie Haircut

So I did it! I cut my long hair into a pixie cut!

It has been a drastic change, but I must confess that I have been thinking about it for some time now and I’m so glad I did it.

Now that my hair is this short, I feel great. Contrary to what had been culturally instilled in me, I didn’t change who I am or how people see me. I’m freed.

I realized that I spent too much time and energy on my hair. With work, working out, cooking/food prepping, and my friends/family, I just didn’t have time to tame my hair every day, which I would anyway and it would stress me out. So much wasted time!

I feel even more self-confident and self-empowered with my short hair. I don’t need my hair to cover up or to hide me. I am my own person, with or without long hair.

Since my short hair has inspired me so much, I can only advise that no matter what you do, try to find that something that scares you a little and just do it! The feeling is like no other.

My long hair

My long hair. Yep, it’s in a ponytail, and it’s still very long.

Before the hair choppin'

A little nervous before the hair choppin’

Scissors are in

Scissors are in

Stylin' it

Stylin’ it

End result

End result

p.s. If you have over 10″ of beautiful hair and want to donate it like I did, please do so for Locks of Love.

 

 

 

Conditioning and Tabata

Don’t let yourself go this holiday break, instead try a Conditioning or Tabata workout if you’re strapped for time or gym access.

Conditioning is fun and challenging. It’s not your traditional cardio, or even high intensity interval training for that matter. Conditioning can be done mostly anywhere!

When I’m feeling bored with my high intensity interval training, I change it up to a conditioning routine. For example, I’ve done Kettlebell Conditioning in which for 20-30 seconds I do as many kettlebell swings as I can, then take a few breaths and repeat until my 10 minute timer goes off. You wouldn’t believe the workout you get! And just like that I’ve competed a ‘cardio’ session!

T-Nation said it best in this Body Conditioning article. The article explains how conditioning work can be done with ropes, sprinting (all variations), jump roping, medicine ball throws and sled work. Or in my case, you can always use a kettlebell to get that conditioning workout in.

Something similar to Conditioning is doing Tabata. If you’re really strapped for time, doing Tabata will be your best friend.  Tabata is about 4 minutes total workout time–so no excuse here! You perform 20 seconds of intense training, 10 seconds of rest for 8 sets totaling 4 minutes. I suggest downloading a Tabata timer app for your smartphone for easy timekeeping. My fitness idol, Erin Stern, has this great video demonstrating Tabata workout.

Don’t get discouraged by the intensity. You have it in you to do this workout and so much more!

This type of ‘cardio’ will melt that body fat right off! Don’t waste your time on that treadmill, instead chose a conditioning program that you’ll enjoy! You will de-stress while battling those ropes or pushing that sled, or as in the wise words of TNation Predator Conditioning on Heavy Bag work, “Beat it like it’s wearing an Affliction T-shirt.”

Abs

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Let’s talk abs. Everyone wants them, but not everyone gets them….

The first thing most women tell me is that they only want to lose the fat in their midsection. That they don’t care about the rest of the body, it’s all good, as long as they have a flat stomach.

Everywhere you go, there’s great emphasis on sporting six-pack abs.  It’s like abs are a synonym to fitness. From magazines to infomercials, I can assure you there’s a good looking couple with rock hard abs promoting “30 minutes for chiseled abs” or “the magical electric ab belt” or some type of baloney of that sort.

It’s no wonder that when one thinks of  being in ‘shape’ or ‘fit,’ we automatically think of a statuesque person with a six-pack bulging from their midsection. But is that reality? Certainly not, at least not mine.

You might be asking yourselves how can someone who has a blog called “Confessions of a Fit Girl” possibly make such statement. Well I’m realist. That’s how.

I can tell you from personal experience, and from experience of many fitness competitors, that having abs is usually not an everyday thing. Although, most men are ‘blessed’ in that department, we women have a much harder time keeping that midsection trimmed and tight. But before I go on, let me break it to you, there is no such thing as “spot-reduction.” Meaning, you won’t lose the belly fat by doing ab crunches. Sorry!

Hang on for a moment; let’s think about this a little more. Do you really want abs? Is that something you personally desire? I’ve been told, by both men and women, that they think a full set of abs on a woman looks way too masculine. Others have said women with six-pack abs are very sexy (e.g. the woman from above). And some have shared their preference for a defined midsection-kind of an in-between….Seems like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

Abs are the product of strict clean eating, and for those freaks of nature, pure genetics. They are usually the last show up when dieting and the first to go away after a eating a heavy meal. Temperamental little things.

But, if having a six pack is something you really, really, want, I can only suggest clean eating for weeks on end. That means you won’t be eating cheat meals anymore. The reality is, the leaner you are the more prominent those abs are going to be. I wish I could say there was some magic pill or formula to get you that six pack abs, but there isn’t.

  1. Now to give those abs more definition, you have to work them. If you do a simple google search for ab workout, you’ll encounter a myriad of options. They’re all great. Just remember proper form-no excess extension of the neck when doing crunches/curl-ups! Research shows that because the abdominal fibers are mostly fast-twitch, you should try to overload them and do lower repetitions.
  2. Those abs won’t show up if you can’t manage your stress. “Oh shoot! Here’s another thing to stress about!” Reality is we live in a high-pressure world and the hormone, cortisol, thrives in this environment. Cortisol is released when you go through physical and mental stress, and it, unfortunately, shifts your body into “fat storing mode” right onto your belly area.
  3. You need fiber. I cannot stress enough the importance of this!  You need to eat at least 25-30 grams of fiber a day to reduce intestinal inflammation and visceral fat. And by the way, visceral fat is the worst type of fat anyone can possibly have. Basically it’s the fat that wraps around your organs and heightens the risk of diabetes, heart disease and strokes. Really nasty stuff!
  4. Train your whole body. “What? What they heck, I just want abs!” Let’s think about this, when perform squats, Olympic lifts, deadlifts, and chin-ups, you use your abs…and you use them hardcore! You need your abs to stabilize your body when doing these types of exercises. In fact, you can do heavier loads if you consciously tighten your abs when you perform, for example, a squat.

So now that you have some prominent abs…

Make sure to condition them with some sprints. My favorite is 6-8 sets of 400m all out with a 4 minute rest or you can do 6-8 sets of 200m with a 2 minute rest.

Now, here’s my opinion in all this…

I appreciate abs. I think they look amazing on both men and women alike. Do I have a set of six pack abs? No, not always. Is that something I strive for? No, not really.

To tell you the truth, I hardly ever work out my abs- I simply don’t have time for it. I have to rationalize my time effectively between my family, working, lifting, conditioning/cardio, cooking, packing meals, socializing etc.

Ab work=

nobodytime

I consider sprinting the best ab workout ever. Basically you get more bang for your buck! I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m a firm believer of this.  I also do a lot of compound lifts. I love deadlifting and squatting and I eat clean 80-90% of the time. That itself is enough to keep my tummy flat and tight, and in the morning I have indentions on the sides of my abs. I’m happy with that, I need no more.

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Reliving the ab days…

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling

I cannot say enough about foam rolling. No matter if you work out or not, foam rolling is essential to maintain your body’s functionality.

For those of you who are unfamiliar to foam rolling and are asking yourselves what the heck it is, I will explain to the best of my ability. It’s a foam cylinder that you roll on; it’s the poor man’s massage therapist. There is it, described at its finest!

In all seriousness, when you roll your body weight onto a foam roller, you basically induce self-myofascial release technique.  This simple piece of dense foam, can greatly improve your body’s flexibility, function and performance. When you roll onto the foam roller, you massage all muscular restrictions back to the normal soft tissue the way it is meant to be. And the best part of it all is that this can be done in the privacy of your home, no need for gym!

On to the science-y part of foam rolling…

Myofascia is the combination of muscle and fascia. The superficial fascia is the soft connective tissue that is right under the skin and is what connects and/or wraps the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels all together. And with age, lack of use or injuries, the muscle tissue can get ‘stuck’ causing much pain/discomfort and soreness. This affects your flexibility and range of motion. When you roll against a foam roller, you roll out any muscle knots by applying direct pressure (body weight) on to them—kind of rolling out the lumps in dough. It may be a little painful at first, so ease into it.

Myofascia Release Technique with a foam roller can, among many, help with:

  • Improve range of motion
  • Release stress
  • Reduce soreness
  • Prevent injuries
  • Aid healing

When I had an ankle injury from playing indoor soccer, my chiropractor had me roll on the affected area for two minutes, twice a day. Doing so massaged the tensed muscles and allowed blood flow into the injury which helped speed up the healing process. Not only that, but I also went through a period of severe shin splints from sprinting—so bad that it would keep me up at night!. And guess that my chiropractor suggested…that’s right, foam rolling my calves! So you see my point, foam rolling can only benefit you.

Oh and did I mention they’re usually under $20 online? I bought mine off of amazon, but you can find them in most sporting goods.

Spend just a few minutes a day Foam Rolling to feel the difference! Click here for a list of foam rolling exercises.

Here are some key points for Foam Rolling:

  1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60-90 seconds.
  2. Roll the injured area at least 2 times a day.
  3. Roll everyday if possible.
  4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
  5. Breath-exhale and inhale to manage discomfort.
  6. Drink tons of water after foam rolling.
Limber as it can be!

Limber as it can be!