Demystifying the Muffin Top

Ever since skinny jeans were embraced by designers and clothing stores everywhere there has been a huge eruption of concern over muffin top among us. You know the fat that spreads over your pants due to the seam digging into your hip? High waist pants have attempted a resurgence, but who wants actual material hovering their mid-section? We have been spoiled by the freedom of getting to sit with nothing around the waist! Big score for comfort. However, our pants do have to stay up somehow. Now they dig into our sides and create that topper we all dread.

Clean eating and avoiding highly inflammatory foods is a big part of keep the muffin at bay of course. However, working the core and abs in a specific fashion is also highly important. Performing crunches until the cows come home will not do it folks. It is not about quantity – it is about being smart.

Up until recently I was saving ab, core and low back exercises for the end of my workouts. Expect I started noticing that I was skipping them fairly regularly. I would run out of time or begin to feel tired and want to call it quits for the day. A girl can only be at the gym so long! So this emphasis is now a part of my warm up to make sure it happens.

Here are a few pics of the last time I trained with Scott along with a few suggestions:

Stretching is so important. Below is one of my least favorite stretches and the one I am sure I need the most. I work in a lot of yoga-inspired stretches to help to open up my body. Flexibility is very much a challenge for me.

IMG_0288

I see so many women at the gym doing all kinds of ab variations, but I see very few working their low back unless they work with a trainer. It is actually simply enough to start on your own, but I think these machines have a set up that can feel a little overwhelming. In our gym, we simply take the 45 degree hyper and elevate it to make a reverse hyper. You will start and finish in the same position and elevate your legs like I am showing below.

Rev Hyper 01 Start & Finish

Rev Hyper 02 Middle

A reverse hyper is super expensive – you can check it out here to see a picture. It can typically be found in a lot of gyms, but you have to seek it out. It was inspired by the pummel horse from gymnastic routines. The old Soviet Union (current day Russia) transformed it into a weightlifting tool. Living in poverty, they had to become incredibly creative with what little equipment they had available to them. These exercises are tough and work very effectively. When I workout at Lifetime I will often use a glute ham developer because that it what is available to me. At an outside track you can use a bleacher to create the same effect.

Ab exercises are still vital of course. I try to work my abs four times a week and switch off between a low ab focus and rotational or side oblique. I am lowering and lengthening by holding my back tight and flat while lowering my legs in order to put the muscle under tension while lengthening. Tension creates tone.

Single Leg Low Ab Leg Negative

As shown in the picture below you will raise your one leg and lower it to the ground while maintaining tension in your abs. You will then return to the beginning position. These are brutal!

1-Leg Low Ab Neg 02 Start 1-Leg Low Ab Neg 03 Finish 1-Leg Low Ab Neg 04 Reset

Reverse Ab Crunch

I often do these on a bench at the gym, but we created the same set up with an ab mat. They can be found for super cheap on Amazon so they can be done at home. You will set up your feet as displayed below and draw both knees into your abs simultaneously. Hold and then return to the original position.

Rev Crunch 02 MiddleRev Crunch 01 Start & Finish

 

 

 

Definitely consider these facts if you feel frustrated with your workout or you feel like you need extra help keeping your muffin top at bay.

Have a great Tuesday friends! I am off to sign up for the Precision Nutrition Coaching Certification. It was designed by Dr. John Berardi and I am super excited to jump in…

Question of the Day: What core exercises do you include in your workouts?

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Easy Dinner Salads

“It is not a beauty pageant it is a scholarship program”….Gracie Hart, Miss Congeniality

Good morning! Hope everyone had a lovely weekend. The temperatures dropped here in Austin and it was so nice to get outside and enjoy a long walk. I love to walk and I can usually only do it first thing in the morning typically before it skyrockets to 110 degrees. I usually wake up and make coffee and then I realize I should eat breakfast to go with the coffee. While I am eating, I pretty much get drawn into my computer. Before I know it my walking window has closed. So I made sure to get outside and enjoy some walks over the past few days. Scott worked most of the weekend and I went to the gym yesterday afternoon after church. We typically eat dinner on the fairly late side most nights which is usually around 8:30. However, last night we had plans to start watching the biggest pageant of them all – Miss America.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post Scott coached Caitlin Brunell, Miss Alabama a few years ago when her father was a quarterback for the Jets and their family was living in NJ. Monique Evans, Miss Texas was one of Scott’s students when he working as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Texas. So we needed a fast dinner so we could tune in and watch!

I cook quite often during the week, and it has been relatively easy to do since I have not been working full time. However, just making a sweet potato in the oven or roasting veggies can seem like an eternity when you work or are out all day. You want to come home and pull something together quickly. Salads are often viewed as more of a lunch food, but I think they make a really good solution for a quick dinner as well. They are healthy depending on what you include, and it is an opportunity to eat more vegetables – hooray! Also, they are easy to customize if want them a little different. For example, I prefer tuna fish and Scott likes anchovies. To each his own. Unless you have a protein already available I find that using canned saves me a ton of time.

Tuna and Sardines

Scott was working out so I started to put the veggies together…

Spinach for Him/Romaine Lettuce for Me:

Greens

Organic English cucumber, red pepper and radishes:

Veggies

My tuna salad is very easy to make and dairy free:

  • 1 Can Wild Caught Tuna
  • ½ of an Avocado
  • 1 Tablespoon Mustard
  • 1/8 Cup Chopped Organic Celery and Purple Onion
  • Salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried parsley

Tuna Items

We topped our salads with olive oil and white wine vinegar:

Dressing

All in all the process took about 20 minutes. I was not watching the time too closely. We slowed down considerably when the pageant started since we were assembling and trying to watch the TV simultaneously. We settled in by the TV as the boardwalk montage was coming to a close.

IMG_2516

The pageant was a little different than I remembered, but I felt like you could feel the excitement from the girls. There were multiple eliminations which I am sure kept them on their toes! Jasmine Murray who was recently on American Idol performed beautifully. Congrats to Caitlin who made it to the top ten! Her dance talent was well crafted and set to “Let It Go” from Frozen.

Caitlin

In other news around here…

The Well Being Podcast reached over 115 subscribers over the weekend! Very exciting for Sumair and Scott. If you are interested in reading more about my involvement you can visit it this post.

A new drop down menu…

I took some time this weekend to work on a new drop down menu – Bikini Eats. It explains a bit of my thoughts on food and diet. I wanted to share my philosophy on getting healthy and fueling our bodies through nutrition.

Discount Offer…

Chase Infinite contacted me about offering TBE readers a discount on their fitness apparel. Their company is committed to empowering women and fighting domestic violence. They donate $1 from each shirt they sell to charity.

Chase Infinite

You can check out their t-shirts and tank tops at www.ChaseInfinite.com/women and use the code: strength. Items are $20 plus shipping.

Question of the Day: What is your best way to battle time constraints when making dinner at night?

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FFT: Trader Joe’s Edition

Hello! Does anyone have fun plans on the horizon for the weekend? Scott and I have very low key plans since he is working, but promised each other to make time for a date together at some point. Sunday night we will be glued to the couch watching the Miss America Pageant! I have not seen the show since I was a young girl, but Scott knows two of the ladies competing. He coached Miss Alabama, Caitlin Brunell, when her father was playing for the Jets and their family was living in NJ. This was right before she competed in Miss Alabama for the first time and she was 2nd Runner-Up. Miss Texas, Monique Evans, was one of Scott’s students when he was teaching anatomy lab last year at the University of Texas. What are the odds?

Miss America

Today I am mixing it up a little with Friday’s Favorite Things and going to share the reasons Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places. Despite the bell, the overly loud music and the constant food recalls I cannot seem to keep away. I did not even know there was a Trader Joe’s in Austin because I was so busy getting settled. It is located about 20 minutes from our apartment, but yesterday we were low on produce and a few specialty items so I decided to go for it. Whole Foods would have had these items too, but buying all of my groceries there is too expensive. During a recent drive home from a job interview I spied one out of the corner of my eye.

Outdoor Sign

Scott frequently rolls his eyes and claims I have mentioned Trader Joe’s once a day since I moved down here. Untrue! However, I have brought it up frequently. My mom is also very fond of the Joe’s….anytime I could trick her into going when I lived at home she would grab her beloved raspberry all fruit jam and hightail it to the cash register hoping I would follow suit just as quickly.

During my trip yesterday I snapped some pics and pondered what it is I like so darn much!

Bag Sign

Presentation

Personality! Trader Joe’s has a sense of humor and originality that is always on full display from outside the curb to inside the store through their promotion and signage. There is something homey about the way they create a feeling of personalization. This store which was way bigger than I am used to had awesome signs supporting Texas and their commitment to food quality. They also had some signs and decorations just for show. I also love all of the herbs and flowers even though I rarely buy them. It’s all in the presentation folks!

Frame

The store is also very organized no matter what the size. It is easy to navigate and I can be in and out in 15 minutes if there are no lines.

Wine Sign and Display

Branding

In addition to the signs, I am simply lured in by all of the food items have the matching Trader Joe’s label.

Match Name Display

They do carry a few brands, of course, but they are a select few. Most items are their own. Perhaps it is my quest for coordination that pulls me in. One of my personal quirks is that I love everything to match so I feel like Joe totally gets me.

Food Quality

I know some of you may be wondering about my food quality reference. Trader Joe’s is committed to avoiding all of the below ingredients:

GMO

However, Trader Joe’s experiences quite a few recalls on their products regularly. In all honestly, their nut butters are often a huge issue. I could not find my almond butter when I was there yesterday, and I am assuming there was a recall on it. However, I find that by and large Trader Joe’s advocates quality food, meats and produce. I respect that they are quick to announce if there are any issues via the news and signs at the cash register. In the signs, they always urge you to not eat the items and to get a full refund by bringing in your receipt. They also pull them from the shelves immediately.

As with any processed foods, make sure to read the labels. Even I am not naive enough to assume everything at Trader Joe’s is healthy simply because it is sold there. Read this article by The Food Babe to learn which foods you should avoid.

Prices

Their prices are pretty darn amazing. The Trader Joe philosophy is that quality food should be affordable for everyone. Scott and I eat through a ton of fresh vegetables and fruit in a week. I have found some of the prices for organic produce to be very expensive at our local food store. For some reason zucchini and peppers are very pricey. Maybe it is this whole land-locked state thing? I am not sure. I bought everything below yesterday for $79.12. Not too shabby! I walked out the door with Wild Caught Salmon, Grass-Fed Beef, Brown Rice Tortillas, Goat Cheese Crumbles, Coconut Oil and Grass-Fed Cheese along with a ton of fruit and veggies so I considered it worth the extra drive.

Frame Price

Buyer Responsibility

Sometimes you just have to jump and take that leap of faith that Trader Joe’s will be safe. I am just kidding of course, but as always read your labels to be on the sure side and know what you are buying. We all have the responsibility to take care of our own health.

Have a happy and healthy weekend everyone! See you Monday.

Question of the Day: What are your thoughts on Trader Joe’s? Love it or hate it?

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The Well Being Podcast

“Show up on time, know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture”…Spencer Tracy

This was the quote I included with my high school yearbook photo many moons ago. It really reflects the simple attitude I brought to acting. I loved it and nothing phased me whether it was hours of rehearsals or driving all over New Jersey looking for tiny theatres to audition. In short, I was totally swept away by it, and the challenges it presented to me. I remember family and friends would show up at some of the hole in the wall places I would perform and marvel at how I put so much time into learning lines and developing a character. That is what passion will do to you my friends. It is like having blinders on whether it is a craft, a relationship, or a cause. You can see nothing else.

IMG_2395

Throwing it back with the cast of Moon Over Buffalo at the Summit Playhouse.

While I felt like acting was in my bones I have always had a dislike for public speaking. To be honest, it always qives me anxiety. I would plow through presentations and other events for work, but I never enjoyed it. It was forced because it was a requirement of my job that I would dread. My fear? I always feel like I am going to forget what I am going to say next and the room will be intensely quiet with all eyes will on me. This may sound ridiculous because I never worried about forgetting lines in plays or filming. However, as we all know fear is often not based in any real logic.

When Scott asked me recently to come on his podcast to guest host I put him off for quite a while. Earlier this summer he started The Well-Being Podcast with his friend Sumair of Train Life Fit. They usually meet once a week at our apartment to record a half hour episode of talk entertainment which focuses on training, health, wellness and the projects they are currently developing.

Scott and Sumar chatting about wellness.

Scott and Sumar chatting about wellness.

When Sumair and Scott could not match up schedules this week Scott asked me again if I would like to jump in. Again, this is not really my thing, but I figured there was little harm in giving it a chance. The fact that it was recorded live gave me a few butterflies, but it was also in the confines of our apartment and just the two of us. I figured if I became lost Scott would sense it and step in to help me out.

Last night after cleaning up from dinner we set up a podcast area on our kitchen counter with a microphone, filter and computer.

A very sophisticated operation!

A very sophisticated operation!

We did a quick sound check and then started to record. What do you know, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and I felt completely relaxed. I think there were a combination of factors at play which helped – I was with someone I trusted, had an interest in what I was discussing and felt all around more confident. We were both happy with the end result and if you are interested you can check it below. It is a 30 minute podcast, but You Tube will not allow videos longer than 15 minutes.

 

 

If you like what you hear, you can follow on Spreaker by going to this link.  If you would like to listen on your phone via the Spreaker App or iTunes App, learn how (what to search) by going here.

The message I want to share here is that you should not be so quick to label yourself in anyway. Do you ever claim “I am not athletic” or “I am a helpless cook” or perhaps “I have no talent”? No one needs to limit themselves in that fashion. Maybe if you found the right gym or sport you would be athletic or if you found that passion within yourself you would not be able to claim that you have no talent. No matter what your age or background always test the waters. You may surprise yourself in ways you did not think were possible.

Question of the Day: When is the last time you pushed yourself to conquer a fear?

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WIAW #9: Action Shots

Good morning! Hope your week is going well. Can you believe it is already Wednesday? Maybe it is me, but this week seems to be going be in a flash. Wednesday means that you can get a breakdown of what I ate yesterday since I made sure to capture pictures of my meals, snacks and drinks for the day.

wiaw-fall-into-good-habits-button

I use the term action shots loosely in my title here since I do not consider photography to be a strong suit of mine. I think it is slowly improving, but I want to learn so much more. In fact, I saw an article the other day on aperture that I might check out. I know so little! Cameras and the art of taking amazing photographs is somewhat daunting to me. However, I think the i-Phone has really helped me get more comfortable with taking pictures in public. They are so ubiquitous that it is totally common to take out your phone anywhere and start snapping up pictures – easy to practice! When I first considered blogging I did not think there was a way that could ever be my comfort zone. Taking a photo of a meal in a restaurant or in front of people? No way. Now it is not a big deal to me at all. Honestly people do not pay that much attention. Case in point…when I paused to snap a pic of my protein shake after my workout at the gym yesterday no one gave me a 2nd glance.

I did a harder workout yesterday since I just recently changed my routine and the food I consumed probably reflects that shift. I ate slightly more carbs than usual, and really made sure to fit in enough protein. Not easy to do!

Breakfast – Oatmeal has always been one of my favorite breakfast foods. There is something soothing about it. I sort of burnt myself out on overnight oats so now I have been eating them hot. I always buy gluten free oats either on Amazon or at Trader Joe’s. I whipped a bowl up with raw almond butter, MCT oil, cinnamon and stevia. Not a ton of protein here unfortunately, but I figured I had the whole day to fit it in. The oats were hot so the coffee had to be cold. If you have both simultaneously in Austin you feel like your body is going to hit the ground due to the wave of heat that ensues. No joke.

Morning oats by the computer.

Morning oats by the computer.

Lunch – I was hungry by the time lunch rolled around and decided I needed a more substantial meal. I chopped up a mix of veggies (organic zucchini, red pepper, spinach and conventional purple onion) and sautéed them in coconut oil. I then cooked a lamb sausage from Whole Foods which was a Greek style with feta cheese and various spices. During my last Whole Foods expedition I saw that they offered these Grass-Fed so I snapped them up. I topped the bowl with two pasture raised eggs and some avocado plus salt and pepper. It was all quite filling – I am not sure if that was the meal or all the bubbles in the La Croix sparkling water. I drink these all the time, but I have found the Grapefruit flavor is my favorite.

Lunch box with a side of La Croix.

Lunch bowl with a side of La Croix.

However, I wanted something sweet after so enter a few organic strawberries and some dark chocolate. This is one of the best combos EVER.

Chocolate & Stawberries = Awesome.

Chocolate & Stawberries = Awesome.

Afternoon Snack – After an afternoon of writing and some work on the computer I decided to shut down and head out to the gym. I grabbed a Kind Bar since I knew I would be gone for a bit and ate it en route.

The usual Kind Bar snack.

The usual Kind Bar snack.

I think one of these pop up every week when I do one of these posts. Yes, I really do eat them that often. They are one of the healthier bars available and they are easy to find in all grocery stores.

Protein Shake – I have realized that my protein shakes all look the same – I think it is because I always include Amazing Greens powder and it totally takes over the show. I find it impossible to get all the vegetable servings they recommend daily. I also am not super awesome about taking vitamins so I feel this hedges my bets. This was a banana flavor and included organic unsweetened almond milk, vanilla Sun Warrior protein powder, ½ of a frozen banana, Collagen Powder, Amazing Greens and MCT oil with some ice. After a good workout it hit the spot.

Post workout protein shake.

Post workout protein shake.

Dinner – I had mentioned in a recent Friday’s Favorites post that I love my new rice maker from my mom. It is so easy and I use it at least a few times a week. I threw in the rice to cook before I headed to the gym. It automatically switches off and goes to “stay warm” so it is a little bit like a crock pot. I got home around 7:30 and since that was already done I cooked a Grass-Fed steak which I cut up and mixed with the rice as well as organic spinach and grape tomatoes. I added some Kerrygold butter, olive oil and oregano for extra flavor. I enjoyed a Blue Sky soda on the side and rounded out the day with a few more pieces of chocolate.

TV Dinner.

TV Dinner.

I do like to eat in front of the TV which I know is not the healthiest habit. I wanted to catch up on a little Orange is the New Black – almost done with Season 2!

If you liked this WIAW post, head over to Peas & Crayons to view lots of others or to add your own!

Question of the Day: Do you feel comfortable taking random pictures in public?

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Be Our Guest

“Be our guest! Be our guest! Put our service to the test.”…Beauty and the Beast

Who does not love Beauty and the Beast? The castle surrounded by snow, the brunette heroine who constantly reads, and the overall theme of love conquering all.  Below is the actual song in the movie if you want to sing it all day like I did.

Be Our Guest Image

Be Our Guest

These lyrics popped into my head the other day as I was shopping and preparing to have guests over for dinner. I had mentioned in yesterday’s post that Scott and I had friends over for dinner last Saturday night. As I was putting together some ideas for appetizers I thought about how it can be hard to walk the fine line of those who want to eat healthy and those who have a “taste first” mentality. In my opinion you should have not have to sacrifice the yum factor for health. There are so many more options available now than there ever were. You also do not have to make everything from scratch. I love to try out and develop new recipes, but sometimes resources and time just prevent that from being possible. If you overwhelm yourself you will never want to invite people over! When you have to clean up, food shop and then get together the items for the actual dinner – sometimes appetizers have to require minimal effort.

So what did I serve?

Laney w. Snacks

It was only another couple otherwise everyone ends up eating way too many snacks and getting full before the meal. My family has made this mistake on holidays and get-togethers many times! In fact sometimes, we look at each other and ask if anyone is still hungry for the main course. No joke.

Dips and cheeses are wonderful to pair with fresh vegetables and seasonal fruits. Sometimes a chip or a cracker is what you have to have. I cut up organic cucumber and celery as well as conventional carrots to enjoy alongside a hummus dip. It is important to follow the guidelines for buying organic fruits and vegetables so you can save a little money wherever possible. The last lists I saw released indicated cucumber and celery is best to buy organic, but carrots are fine either way. Even that little bit adds up over time so I go regular with my carrot selections. I also buy organic hummus and Cedar’s is my favorite. The ingredient list is very minimal so there are not a lot of additives and thickeners. It also has a very nice flavor. I usually go with original, but I have seen garlic and other choices while I have been at the food store.

My other easy go-to option is chips and salsa. Who does not love this combination? I stick to organic brands since tomatoes are essential to buy organic. I have never seen more salsa selections than at the grocery stores in Texas. When I am shopping, I will simply skim the ingredient list to make sure there are not any preservatives or the like that should be avoided. Choosing a chip is a rough area too. Corn is one of the biggest GMO crops in the world so I only buy them if it is very clearly labeled that the product is Non GMO Verified. Blue Chips by Garden of Eatin’ are really tasty and were suggested by Rich Food Poor Food as a good snack selection. I did a review on this book awhile back, and it is full of information about food quality. It also has some really convenient food shopping recommendations too.

Organic almonds rounded out the array of appetizers. I buy them raw and then add my own Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Raw nuts are better for you and the salt adds an extra dimension, but you can stick with unsalted if that is your preference.

Snack Spread

Those are just a few snack suggestions in case you have any party plans in the future. I am off to eat a quick lunch and get to the gym for a workout. Hope your Tuesday is going swimmingly!

Question of the Day: Do you serve guests healthy snacks or stick to what you think will be popular?

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