Wednesday, October 31, 2018

WHY I am deciding to become a Non-Vegan Vegan: Part I of a series

You know what disgusts me the most? More than massive amounts of animals being shot up with hormones, standing in their own sh*t and then being slaughtered inhumanely in massive amounts?

The dairy industry.

Ever since I became a {nursing} mom 4.5 years ago, I stopped drinking cows milk cold-turkey. My kids also never drank cow's milk, even when the doctors were saying it was the only way (I found a new doctor). No, I didn't give up conventional yogurt or cheese or butter or chocolate. Yes I see how that makes zero sense.

In order for milk to be taken from an animal, that animal needs to be a mother. In order to make it a mother, it is usually artificially inseminated. Then, since the milk is obviously for us humans, not the baby calf (duh, humans are better), the calf is taken. If it is male, it is slaughtered and sold for veal. If it is female, it is destined for the same life as its mother. The animal is then milked, literally almost to death, by a machine, it's entire life. Once it's too old or useless, it's slaughtered and sold to fast food chains (which is probably why you can get a burger for $1 at McDs...)

ANYWAY, I digress, because my reasons for trying to be a non-vegan Vegan actually have much more to do with the environment than ethics...though ethics are a solid 2nd place.

What the hell is a non-vegan Vegan anyway? Its my own term referring to someone who wants to reduce their impact by about 90%, while never fully committing to never ever eating an animal product ever ever again. Because you see, I believe humans are meant to eat meat. We are omnivores. We have sharp teeth for cutting {meat} and flat teeth for chewing {plants}. I also believe that Velveeta cheese is a gift from the universe and the thought of boycotting it forever makes my heart twinge. Thirdly, I believe that the circle of life is natural. Animals kill and eat other animals. It's part of life. However the WAY in which humans kill other animals, with such superiority and disrespect, is cringeworthy (I am referencing factory farming - hunting is, in my opinion, natural and humane).

And the even BIGGER problem is what this is doing to the Earth, and what it could mean for the future of our species. Literally.

So there are a sh*t ton of human-issues surrounding climate change. We already know that. Trash, transportation emissions, energy use, etc etc. But according to a recent study, "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use." (; Referencing this study:

One of the main reasons factory farming, beef and dairy in particular, is such a problem is because of the methane is produces. "Over 37 percent of methane emissions result from factory farming. Methane has a global warming potential 20 times higher than carbon dioxide." (

Here's another fun fact:
The transportation sector - I'm talking cars, planes, boats, trucks, ALL of it - is responsible for about 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Factory farming emissions are responsible for 14.5-18%.

Yes, factory farming has a greater impact on climate change than all of our transportation impacts COMBINED.

And what's at stake? Literally, life on earth. As of now, if the rate of over-fishing continues, we could have a complete collapse of the world's stock of seafood- COLLAPSE - by 2050. Guys, THAT'S IN OUR LIFETIME.

Anyway, I could sit here for hours giving you quotes and statistics and copying reference points but...I don't want to. It takes too much time and I need to go shopping for some veggie sausages and pick up my kids from Kita (where it's sausage day for breakfast by the way...liverwurst and ironic). I also want this topic to be in manageable-sized reading chunks for you.

My point is this: turning off the lights when we leave a room, not letting the water run, recycling and composting, biking more and buying hybrid matters, don't get me wrong. But we could make a GREATER impact, a MUCH GREATER impact on our world, our species, and the future of our children and grandchildren by eating FAR LESS MEAT AND DAIRY. And imagine if we could raise little {possibly non-vegan} vegans? They're the real future - let's educate them and set them up on the right path. I want to do better. I want to ACTUALLY make an impact, not just stand by. This is how I am choosing to do it.

Future posts on this topic will include:
- HOW I am working towards being a non-vegan Vegan
- Other {health} benefits of being a non-vegan Vegan
- How to get enough protein and nutrients while living the non-vegan Vegan lifestyle

It's too much for one post guys. It's just too much.

By the way, disclaimer: I am using the term non-vegan Vegan for fun. I don't like labels. I feel like they're restricting. Who knows how this will evolve for me, but for now, I am just trying to do better. If I can reduce my own family's impact by 80ish% while still sometimes enjoying chicken parm in Italy, brisket tacos in El Paso, Velveeta mac and cheese in the winter and salmon occasionally because I love it, then I will feel so damn successful. The thought of going cold-turkey into a vegan lifestyle has caused me to do NOTHING, so this, at least, is sustainable. However, that's a topic for another post :)

Leave me some love! What are your thoughts on eating less animal products? Is it something you want to do? If so, what is the biggest obstacle in your way to taking that first step? 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Getting Your Kids to Love Reading

Our babies are young, only 2 and 3, but they already LOVE to read. This is something that's been important to me from the start, and so I've intentionally put things in place to encourage a love of reading in our kids from the start. As a former elementary school teacher and lover of children and child development, I know the importance of reading ability in our society - and giving children the tools they need to build a love of reading EARLY will greatly benefit them in the future.

Here are some of my top tips for instilling the love of reading in your kiddos - I'm sure I will have many more tips to add as my children grow! In order of importance, here we go:

1) Create a cozy space just for reading in your home.

From the day our daughter was born we had a book nook. Our first one was behind our couch in our old home, right next to the window so we had natural light and could always see when Papi came home from work. In our current house, it's on the second floor in this empty space under the stairs, still with a window and natural light (cuz that's my thing). It doesn't matter where you have it - it could just be a corner of a bedroom. The important elements are a bookshelf or baskets with a variety of age-appropriate books, and blanks, pillows, stuffed animals and/or chairs and beanbags...anything to make it cozy and inviting. The options here are limitless!

Another tip that ties into this one is to start asking for books as gifts. Research some good ones, make an Amazon wishlist, and start sending it out when a birthday or holiday is approaching. You can also keep an eye on your local libraries - about 1-2 times a year, libraries clear their shelves and sell books very cheaply! Likewise, keep an eye on yardsale pages on Facebook, or simply ask friends with kids older than yours if they have any old books they'd like to pass on.

2) Make time for reading, every day.

For us, our daily reading time is before bed. It's routine, so when we don't have time for it the kids are naturally upset. Every night we all snuggle up in the book nook and read a variety or books with the kids. Sometimes they take turns choosing books while one parent reads, sometimes they each go with a separate parent and get to listen to all books of their own choosing, it really depends. The point is, it happens. Every night. Also, since I stay home with the kids, often times we will read together during the day also.
If your children are a little older (think 4 and up) you can start implementing independent reading time. This would be a time where everyone, you included, drops everything and sits down to read. In school this is often called DEAR (Drop Everything And Read, duh). This can range in time, from 10 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on you, your children's ages, and so many other things. It also ties into step 5 below, which is having your child see you read.

3) Go to the library regularly

Almost all libraries offer story time - if yours does, and you are available at that time, make it a priority! It is seriously one of the best ways to get your children familiar with the library in a way you can both share. I know this isn't a reality for every parent though, so just getting to the library, browsing the selections, and letting your child chose books he/she is interested in s a great motivator for kids! Bring some books home and have a special basket in your reading area for library books. Your child will be excited to exchange their books each week/month.

4) Be developmentally appropriate, but not too much. 

As stated above, it's super important to provide children with developmentally appropriate books. This means board books and repetitive language for toddlers, more involved stories with lots of pictures for young children ages 2-7, chapter books for ages 7 and up, etc. HOWEVER, children's auditory comprehension develops far faster than their ability to read, so what's also important is that whe you read books together, try to chose books one or two bar above where they are independantly. For example: My daughter is 3.5. She can't read on her own yet, but she can flip through pages and tell a storyin her head based on the pictures, and she can memorize books with short, repetitive language so once we've read them together enough times, she can "read" them on her own. However, she is now at the level where she can comprehend much more, and so we have started reading more folktales and fairy tales together, including ones with less pictures and longer text - sometimes even chapters. This provides a lot of opportunity to talk about new words, explain new concepts, and basically answer all of her "why' and "how" questions (which, I know, can be exhausting...but that's your child LEARNING, so do your best to answer their questions the best you can and never stop exposing them to new material!).

5) Love to read

I put this one at the bottom because, while it's important, I know some people just don't enjoy reading as adults, and I 100% believe that this won't necessarily impact your child's love of reading, IF you apply the above 4 steps. Also, "reading" to us looks different than it does for kids and different than it used to. With the use of tablets and eReaders, our children aren't always seeing us read books, they are seeing us staring at a screen. To them, it's no different than us using our phones or staring at a computer. So take note: SHOW them your eReader or tablet. Explain how it works and show them how to flip the pages. You may also want to download a children's digital book on Amazon and read it with them on your eReader or tablet so they understand the concept of reading using technology.

Obviously some of us are still using old-fashioned paper books ::gasp:: and that's fabulous - no extra work needed.

The point here is to read, something, anything, and have your children see you do it. Be a role model. Trust me, they are watching.

So that's it! My 5 top tips for creating readers. Have any to add to the list? Drop a comment below!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

9.5 hours on a plane, plus a layover, solo-parent style, with two toddlers = hell...

...except it wasn't. Like at ALL.

But setting my expectations insanely low {read that title again for an example} means that I set myself up for success. It can only go UP from the expectation that I'd be essentially wrestling two alligators with differing directional objectives for 9.5 hours straight (thanks to my neighbor and friend for that awesome analogy).

So I am writing this to help others who may be debating embarking on this same journey, to give ideas and tips and a reference point, and also for memories sake, as most of my personal blog posts are. I'll start my giving pictures and descriptions of all the activities I prepared beforehand, and how they fared keeping my tots occupied...then a rough time table.


We had a 3-week trip to the states planned. 2 weeks in Maryland for the kids and me, with my husband planning to meet us there for week two. Then, off to El Paso for another week, back to Baltimore for a day, then back to Germany. So of all those flights, only the first did I do alone (the first and hardest, since our last one would be overnight and with the whole family.)

Flight at 9:20am from Frankfurt to Charlotte (9.5 hours) where we had an extremely brief layover involving having to collect and recheck luggage and make it to our gate all within 45 minutes (did I mention I was solo with a 3 year old and an almost-2 year old? Just rubbing it in for effect), then a flight from Charlotte to Baltimore (1 hour). We arrived at 4pm B-more time.
We got super lucky and ended up with the very front seat (i.e. extra leg room and no one in front of us - that extra space on the ground also makes a really nice toddler bed) and our own row. We chose NOT to take carseats on the plane for a few reasons...MAINLY, they are huge and annoying to lug around. I know they make special wheely things to pull them like a stroller but, nah. Also, if the kids chose to get out of their seats or weren't happy in them, then we were stuck with only one seat as the other would be taken up by the empty carseat. Also, Joaquín didnt have his own seat so that wasn't even an option. Lastly, I figured stretching out was the most surefire way of getting a good sleep out of them. I know many people bring carseats onboard and swear by it but that's just not how we roll  ;)

Also, for reference, we only had two seats - my son is just under 2 and so is still able to be considered a "lap infant". Both their little butts fit in one seat so when they were awake, they mostly shared a seat, especially when watching a movie. They each had a set of headphones and a headphone splitter so they could watch the same movie easily. They also shared a meal, since only one of them technically qualified for one (and they still didnt finish it).


Dr. Zarbees - I'll go ahead and get this controversial topic out of the way...this is an all-natural cough syrup made purely of honey, some other flavor, and the kicker...melatonin. We discovered the sleepy powers of this cough syrup accidentally when Camila was sick with a cough when she was close to 2. Within 20 minutes of taking this syrup she was barely able to keep her eyes open. After two nights I took a peek at the ingredients and was like "OOOOOH ok ill remember that for emergencies..." liiiike 9.5 hour plane rides. We ALREADY knew this product was safe, we ALREADY knew its effects on our kids, and we ONLY used it to help them sleep on the airplane so they would be better adjusted on the trip.

Snack boxes - Basically a little pill box filled with teeny snacks. This is a super-exciting thing for kids and their little fingers can only get one at a time, so...perfect.

Uno JR., toy cars and Play Doh (not pictured) - Uno was AWESOME for Camila. She's at the perfect age for it (3) and I really enjoyed engaging with her in that way. Joaquín loves cars so those are mainly for him. We also had 5 mini Play Dohs (like the kind you give Trick-or-Treaters if you wanna be boring and not give candy, ha!) and even though I have no pics, those were GREAT. Basically I could pull out Play Doh in any dull moment and it would keep their fingers busy.

Bracelet making/bead threading - this was a hit. Camila ended up making bracelets for all of her friends she'd see in Maryland and Joaquín got in the ZONE threading both the buttons and the beads. A huge bonus - the beads don't fall off if you use pipe cleaners. So easy to put together and a definite hit for BOTH. 

Felt doll kit - this was a hit also. I found an easy template online to cut some dolls and clothes. I glued white felt to foam and made a tri-fold felt board. For Joaquín I made a black background and cut out a bunch of different shapes for him to play with, as well as a huge face with eyes, a nose and mouth for him to practice where the parts go  :)

Random shape maker activity thing - this ended up being a dud because those little beads are just too damn small. When you make the shape and spray them with water they stick together to make a solid shape, but you have to wait an hour or more and that just doesn't work on a plane. 

Water painting - My cousins gave this to the kids, Melissa and Doug makes many different styles. Basically you fill the paintbrush pen with a little water and the water reveals the picture underneath. It dries within minutes back to white so they can be used over and over. The kids love it!

Art kit - the only thing that held their attention was the glitter glue, which Camila made a MESS with! Also, the scissors OBVIOUSLY set off the security thing and they had to search my that was dumb of me. However they told me if I just remove the bag and put it in a bin like you do with shoes and laptops its fine. So I did that on all the other flights and it was a non-issue. **HOWEVER you know what ALWAYS sets off the security thing with us?! Dang medications we keep in the diaper bag. So I kind of always assume we will be pulled aside. But its fine, it goes quick. 

Headphone splitter - Essential for having the kids watch the same thing, which they needed to since we only had one seat for both kids. 


Not pictured: iPad, pillows and blankets (the pillows I am glad we brought ONLY because we made the floor bed with them - if you're not going to do the floor bed, the pillows would just be in the way. The blankets we used but didn't need on the plane - on overnight flights the plane provides small pillows and large blankets so keep that in mind - most likely your child DOESN'T need the comfort of his/her own things - unless its a specific special blanket - so just save yourself the room. The iPad, however, preloaded with Netflix shows and apps not needing WiFi, essential :D )


The first two hours were basically taken up by the excitement of being on the plane and the meal service. We did a few of the activities I had packed, took a walk around the plane and played games. We also had two other toddler boys sitting near us, so Joaquín spent some time in the isle and on the floor sharing toy cars and trucks with the other toddler boys - that was really awesome!

The kids watched Beauty and the Beast while I tried to finish my meal in peace and started my own movie (which shocked me - I was like, really?! Am I really going to attempt a movie?! Ok I guess I will...Ill TRY. No expectations.) I was up and down taking Camila to the bathroom and going myself, and was also getting the kids ready to take a nap when the movie was over. "getting ready to take a nap" encompasses putting pillows and blankets on the floor to make a bed, putting fresh diapers on, and giving them each a dose of Dr. Zarbees.

Nap time - Camila usually doesn't nap but being that we would arrive at 4pm I needed them to be able to stay up until bed time...and 4pm Baltimore time would be 10pm their time...and I knew I couldn't get them to stay up until essentially 2am or later without a decent nap, which is why I chose to use Dr. Zarbees... when the movie was over Camila exclaimed, "Ok, nap time! And climbed right down to her floor bed and within 20 minutes she was asleep. Yup. Too easy. Part of that is due to the melatonin really taking effect and so she was legit tired. Part of it was the excitement of this "bed" and part of it was also that I had prepped her for the idea that she would be taking a nap on this flight, and more specifically, after the movie. **that was a huge reason for the success I had on the flight - lots of prep, for myself, in packing, and prepping the kids** Joaquín was also pretty tired, as he still naps during the day AND he had melatonin so he snuggled right in and slept on me the entire time. I was able to steal maybe 30-45 minutes of napping myself, and then I finished my movie. YEP. FINISHED IT. I successfully WATCHED AN ENTIRE MOVIE. That, in my eyes, is the symbol of a successful flight with toddlers.

Another movie - the kids absolutely love Boss Baby and so when they woke up I already knew what I was going to put on. We are actually extremely lucky that Joaquín enjoys watching TV and movies. I wouldn't ever have thought I would say that, ha...but on a flight its great. Camila didn't start actually watching any sort of TV until past 2 years old, so having a movie keep your toddler still for close to 2 hours is HUGE. The only thing is it has to be the RIGHT movie. Camila will sit and watch a new movie or a semi-boring one but Joaquín will only watch a movie in its entirety if its one hes already seen multiple times and can predict whats going to happen every step, keeping him engaged. Some movies he will definitely sit and watch beginning to end are Moana, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Trolls and Boss Baby. So, perfect. We also busted out the snack boxes and had another mini meal service during this time.

After the movie the kids were alert, the cabin lights were on and we were basically working backwards from where we began. Joaquín played with the other toddler boys with their collective cars and trucks while Camila and I played Uno Jr., we made bracelets, did felt dolls, took a walk around the plane, colored, revisitied the snack boxes, basically burned through all the activities I had. The only time the kids and I actually started getting antsy was that last hour. The activities were now all boring, they had watched the only two movies Joaquín would sit through, and we were being alerted that we were starting to descend so staying in the seats was greatly encouraged (slash mandatory), even though we still had like 45 minutes to go. This is the point where I busted out the iPad where I had predownloaded some shows from Netflix (LIFE SAVER!) They watched Peppa Pig and Curious George while we descended into Charlotte.

The 50 minute layover was crazy - I realized as we were landing that I would have to get my luggage and recheck it (this must be a new thing because ive NEVER had to do that). Our luggage was 2 car seats and a huge suit case, on top of the two toddlers, two carry ons, pillows and stroller I already had. Yea, I asked someone for help. We made it on the next plane with only minutes to spare. The next flight was cake - I gave the kids the iPad and took a successful nap and had a hot cup of free coffee. It was only an hour and the kids sat zoning on the iPad the whole time. When we arrived, my parents were there to greet us which was amazing, and the kids were alert and excited despite it being 10pm Germany time.

By the way, they adjusted to the time change within a day and we had an amazing trip.


So this one was cake. Ill keep it brief - we boarded, got delayed, busted out activities for about an soon as we took off the kids watched Beauty and the Beast and Boss Baby back to back while we had another meal service, spent basically trying to shove food in their mouths because they were NOT. INTERESTED.

We did the floor bed again for Camila even though this time we were in middle-of-the-plane seats but it still worked well and allowed her to sleep literally 5-6 hours straight. Joaquin unfortunately woke up after only about 3 hours but he watched Toy Story and ate was still pretty groggy. Camila literally didnt wake up until we landed - even when the cabin lights came on and it was loud and bright and meals were being delivered, she was out. I mean I expected it, she was now on Baltimore time and it was like midnight.

That's it! So pre-trip, I was thinking this was something I would brave and probably never do again. Post trip, I'd say I would and definitely WILL do it again. The kids did amazing and it was totally worth it to spend time with friends and family. Hope it helps!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How tracking my macros HELPED my relationship with food

Tracking calories.

What do you automatically think of when you see that phrase? Maybe "weight loss". "Obsession". "Unhealthy".

These are some of the things that used to come to MY mind when I thought about tracking my caloric intake. I did it here and there and always found myself obsessing over it. In the past, Ive mostly stuck to the "clean eating with a cheat meal slash day slash WEEKEND each week". Pretty standard, and its what a lot of people follow. I also suffered with an eating disorder and an array of unhealthy habits surrounding food and exercise for a long time.

So let me start this all by saying that I am not a fan of the "clean eating" and the cheat meal.

First of all, the cheat meal. The NAME ITSELF propagates an unhealthy relationship with food. If you are cheating, you're obviously doing something bad. How is eating food that you enjoy "bad"? What message does that send to our subconscious? And more importantly, how does that message we are sending ourselves impact our behaviors in the future?

Clean eating - this refers to eating whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Of COURSE I'm not telling you not to do that! You absolutely SHOULD. However convincing yourself that your diet should only consist of "clean" foods except for that weekly cheat, and that any small bit of candy or ice cream or heaven forbid WHITE PASTA is bad and should be avoided completely, could be a slippery slope, and in my opinion, is not sustainable. Key word here: sustainable. If you don't know already, that's what I am all about. I believe in a diet full of healthy and nutritious foods, but also eating fun things that you enjoy but that aren't necessarily chock full of nutrients also. I know for me, it keeps me mentally and emotionally healthy as well as physically. A little later I will talk about paying attention to what nutrients your body needs and filling up on those things, which is important.

Ok that was summary-time, now its personal-story time. I'll try to keep it quick because I really don't like talking about this. And honestly, this will be my first time sharing it in written form even though I have no problem talking about it in person. Weird.

I used to have an eating disorder. Bulimia to be exact. It kinda-sorta started when I was 16 and ended when I was about 21/22. However that was just the binging and purging. The unhealthy relationship with food and exercise and my distorted body image started way before then, probably in my preteen stages, and still lingers in the background of my life now at 32 (though I have an amazing grasp on it and definitely consider my current relationship with food to be healthy AF).

I also had slash have ADHD and was misdiagnosed as bipolar and depressed (stupid psychiatrists...thats a whole other story) when I was 18 and in a turmoil of not knowing what was going on with my brain. I mention the ADHD only because, often, people with ADHD have obsessive and addictive personalities and can easily get lost in things like drugs, drinking and eating disorders, and consequently, get misdiagnosed as something else when those unhealthy habits mixed with the ADHD brain comes across, to others, as a seriously disturbed individual needing medication and life intervention pronto.  I say "to others" but this is how I viewed myself - seriously disturbed and looking for validation of my self-worth in anything I could find.

I would often find myself binging in the worst ways, locking myself in the closet at work stuffing my face with goldfish crackers or opening cans of soup in my pantry only to take one bite and throw it away. I would then purge, because of course that got rid of all the calories (NOT) and then I would cry, workout intensely, and make myself a nice "clean" meal so I could end my day feeling better about myself. I even remember one of my best friends and roommate at the time made me a sugar-free Jello "cake" for my 20th birthday party because she knew me and knew I wouldn't touch real cake. Weird right?! Gosh I hate it. I don't even want to talk about it anymore. Moving on.

You see, many people will say that tracking calories and/or macronutrients leads to viewing food as a tool for making your body look a certain way. That it can LEAD to an unhealthy relationship with food. I'll tell you right now, I don't disagree with that. It can certainly happen.

For me, the opposite is true.

You see, as long as Ive been aware of how I looked compared to others, I've viewed food as a tool to control that. As long as I can remember, food has been "good" or "bad". When I was 11, eggs were fine... but eggs with cheese? Oh hell no, yous gonna be fat. In high school, breakfast was ok I guess but lunch? Nope. I mean I was hangry so I'd take a bite of YOUR lunch, but buy my own?! Too many calories for that, I'll pass. I was once so proud of myself when the only thing I ate that day was peas. A cup of peas. Then I weighed myself, felt happy with my weight, so I decided to eat dinner. After dinner, I calculated that I had eaten 800 calories that day. EIGHT HUNDRED. Hey, as long as I was under 1,000 I was good. PSYCHO.

Timeline-time (you like that? those little paragraph intros? You're welcome.)
When I was 18, strength training entered my life. I didn't start taking it seriously until I was maybe 22. And honestly, this is what helped turn around my disordered thinking. I was able to focus on the number on the bar and less on the number on the scale. And for the next 7 years I chose strength training as my main source of exercise - but I never really gained much strength beyond beginner gains because I was always afraid to eat too much. I literally spent 7 years lifting the same weight. How does that even happen??! I met my amazing husband when I was 25, who also lifts, and working out together kept us both motivated (and still does). Finally around age 29 two things happened that pushed me to the healthy path I'm on now: the birth of my daughter, and learning about macros. *cue heavenly music from above*

The daughter thing is obvious - there was no way I was gonna raise a little me. She was going to see me as beautiful, and see me SEEING MYSELF as beautiful. No question about that.

And here we are, at the point of this blog post. After ALL THAT I'm just now arriving at the point. But everything else is so valid and so its worth all the reading to get here. Are you still here? I hope you are.

MACROS! Macronutrients. Carbs, fats and proteins. All food has em, in different amounts. And everybody needs them, again, in different amounts. Tracking daily macronutrient intake via an app like MyFitnessPal or MyMacros is more time consuming and requires more thought than tracking calories alone, but it is much more effective and healthier all around (if tracking is the route you're gonna take - there are certainly other options, like intuitive eating and/or portion control).

Our bodies need a certain amount of protein to build and maintain lean muscle mass. We need carbohydrates for energy, and we need fats for nutrient absorption and healthy brain function. The point of tracking the grams of proteins, fats and carbs each day is to make sure we are getting enough of each to reach our goals in the gym and maintain overall health, as well as fitting in foods we love within the overall context of meeting aesthetic goals.

Now obviously there is still some restriction involved. For example, when you want to lose body fat, you do need to eat a smaller amount of calories than someone who is trying to gain muscle mass. In order to meet the goal of fat loss it is important to make sure your calories are consistently lower than what you burn each day, living and exercising (your TDEE). However, even in "restriction" mode, tracking macronutrients is insanely helpful because I can still eat whatever I want, so long as it fits within my range. Ice cream is nothing but fats and carbs and a little protein. All three of those things are things that I need. I have a little chocolate every day with my afternoon coffee. When my kids and I want mac and cheese for lunch, we have it. It doesn't matter if its a Tuesday afternoon or a weekend evening, it doesn't matter if the day before was a crappy day of eating - there's no "catching up" or feeling guilty with this type of lifestyle.

Fun stuff aside, our bodies also need tons of micronutrients to maintain health and longevity. Things like fiber, vitamins C, B12 and D, and minerals like calcium, potassium and sodium. A diet with a wide variety of fruits, veggies, legumes and proteins is essential for meeting an acceptable intake of these micronutrients daily, and so just eating junk all day because "it fits in my macros" is not the way this works. My plan of attack is to always fill up on a meal of nutrient-dense foods and finish off with something I want that has little to do with nutrients after that. Example: a big salad with beans for fiber and lean protein and lots of veggies with a small tuna melt with american cheese on the side.

When I tracked calories alone, it was because I was trying to restrict myself (hello 800 calories). Tracking macronutrients and paying attention to micronutrients has helped force me to see food as fuel for my body and my muscles. It has forced me to look at food and instead of seeing "good" and "bad" I see a combination of carbs, fats, proteins, fiber and other micronutrients. I can look at a cup of lentils and think "carbs, protein, and lots of fiber. I need that to fuel my muscle recovery and keep my digestive track healthy". I also look at ice cream and think "carbs, fats, and a little protein. I'm set on protein today but have carbs and fats to kill, so I'll have some." See, ice cream is no longer bad. Its a tool within the grand scheme of my goals. And I LOVE that.

So yes, tracking these things can be time consuming (usually in the beginning when you're getting the hang of it - it takes me 5-10 minutes daily now). However it is totally worth it to me because I am reaching my aesthetic and strength goals while eating the foods I want and never restricting myself from certain foods. This is HUGE for me because it has essentially rewired the way I think about food which has helped my relationship with food and my body so much.

So yes, this works for me right now. Maybe one day it won't. Maybe one day I'll do something different, for a variety of possible reasons. But until now, tracking macros (combined with strength training) has literally has set me on a new path, for the better. Interested in trying it? You know where to find me!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Truth About Toning!

SO many people, I mean so, so many people (mainly women), say they want to tone.
“I just want to tone up.”
“If I could just tone my abs I’d be happy.”
“I wish my arms were more tone.”

Little do these people know that they actually have the same goals as most women in the lifting room at the gym.

“Toning” refers to being able to see some muscle definition. It doesn’t matter if you mean a large muscle or a small muscle, women want to see a little skin on muscle. They want to feel and appear tight and toned.

Before I tell you how to achieve it, I will tell you what WON’T work:
  • Long, drawn out sessions of cardio
  • Lifting light weights for many repetitions
  • Restricting your eating

These habits described above may lead to fat loss (keyword - MAY) but they will not get you the desired tone look you are looking for. And even MORE importantly, the attitude leading towards these habits is NOT sustainable or mentally healthy (and that shit’s IMPORTANT).

So now that I’ve told you what won’t work, let me tell you what WILL:

Step 1) Accept and love yourself as you are
I know this does not sound like what you want to hear but it’s important. You can LOVE yourself and APPRECIATE your body and be PROUD of who you are on the inside and the outside while still wanting to change it. I believe this because I live this currently. It took me awhile to get here, and insecurities still pop up (don’t they with everyone though?). It is quite a delicate balance, a walk on a tightrope if you will, but it is possible and doable and sustainable. I promise.

Step 2) Take control of your nutrition
In order for ANY change to happen physically, you must take a look at your diet first. Your body needs a solid blend of macro and micro nutrients in order to function properly and do what you want it to do. Start big and then narrow down. Make sure you are eating a ton of veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains. Then, consider getting a professional to do an accurate calorie/macronutrient breakdown for you so you can be sure you’re getting in everything you need without going overboard. Your body can not change if you don't properly fuel it. Eating less and less and less will not work - it will simply slow your metabolism to the point where any fat loss is practically unnoticeable and you eventually give up, eat a ton, and the cycle starts all over.

Step 3) Lift some heavy stuff 2-4 times a week
Women: you will not get bulky. Let me repeat: YOU WILL NOT GET BULKY. Well ok, you will if you eat at an insane surplus and take steroids. My guess is you aren’t going to be doing that. Women are built differently. We don’t pack on muscle as easily as men do. We don’t have the testosterone for it. The reality is lifting weights leads to muscle breakdown and regrowth. You need to eat enough of the right stuff in order to fuel your body for muscle repair. This process naturally speeds up your metabolism, and not just an hour after your workout. 24/7. Like an engine, leading to long-term weight management. It’s AWESOME.
So when you are lifting, shoot for somewhere in the 8-12 rep range per set. And this doesn’t mean that by 12 you stop regardless of how fatigued you are - it means the weight should be heavy enough that doing a 13th rep with proper form just isn’t happening. Yes, you need to lift heavy. Light weight will not cut it - it’s a MYTH that light weight and high reps will “tone”. Your muscles need to be stressed and fatigued in order to grow and change. And by heavy I mean what I just stated above. Its different for everyone - for some, 25lb dumbell bicep curls might get them to 11 MAYBE 12 reps with good form. For others, it might be 10 lbs. It depends on you!
Speaking of bicep curls, sure, do them - but the focus should be on compound movements during your workouts. Compound movements are exercises that work more than one or two muscle groups in your body. Think squats, deadlifts, bench press. Again, consider hiring a professional to walk you through these movements with proper form. I happen to know a few good ones ;)
Another tip: try shortening the time between sets, or even doing an active rest of jumping jacks or kettle bell swings, in between sets to keep your heart rate pumping and calorie burn high. You can hit two birds with one stone using this method (though I don’t recommend it long-term).

Step 4) Get active
This can be intentional cardio a couple times a week - a jog or time on the elliptical. But it doesn’t have to be. If you already have an active lifestyle then there is no need to stress yourself by adding more. You heard me: you don’t need cardio in order to “tone”. Strength training and diet control will give you everything you need. Of course, moving and breathing heavy and sweating is just plain good for your heart health and longevity, and it burns extra calories, so try to find ways to be more active in your daily life. Take your bike to the grocery store, go for a long walk after dinner, stand at your desk while at work, take the all adds up.

So that’s it folks! With a healthy mind-set, solid diet, proper strength training utilizing progressive overload (slowly increasing the weight and/or reps over time) and just a little more activity built into your life, you can both build muscle and lose fat to show the muscle you’ve worked hard to build.

Go get strong. And look like a bad-ass while doing it. :)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

3 going on 30...

  Yesterday our baby girl turned 3. We celebrated exactly how she wanted - papi took off work, pancakes, eggs and sausage for breakfast, extra TV, lots of snuggles, a trip to the pool, and a small dress up tea party at our house with only her cousins and neighbors in attendance (we gave her options of where to have her party - the pool, bowling ally, Rambazamba...she wanted home, with only a few people). We ended by letting her sleep in our bed.




And now its over, its Saturday and she's three and life is the same but I am still in awe of this little human we created, and the person she is becoming. She is so unique, and I know she will grow and change but it is so fun and amazing to watch.
I feel like as much as we want to say we see personality traits in our babies, many times TRUE personality doesn't start showing itself until around age 2, when they show preference for colors and start talking and expressing themselves more. So I feel like this last year, from 2 to 3, has been such a Camila-discovery year. Before I had a daughter I always imagined a little me, but darker skin and hair like Donovan. She could NOT be any more different. She looks nothing like me (some expressions here and there and her lightness but seriously, thats it, she's all Donovan). I assumed a daughter of mine would be extroverted, tomboyish, flighty, distracted, attention-seeking... Camila is none of those things. Many of the traits she's showing are very similar to Donovan. And, well, she's just...HER. I guess that's how it goes, doesn't it?
When she was 12 months, I remember so vividly pushing her stroller into a packed elevator and her smiling and waving to everyone and saying, "HI! Hi! Hi!" We laughed with pride of course, but now she couldn't be more different. She's slow to warm up (but when she does let you in, she loves HARD), a little introverted, and very attached to her mami and papi. She doesn't like attention to be on her, prefers small groups and being home many times (though often when we are out and about she asks "Where are we going next?! I don't want to go home yet!") She loves to swing and swim, loves her cousins and her family, loves the colors pink and yellow and sometimes blue because Elsa wears blue. She loves to read and hates going to bed and loves her brother so much she wants to hold him like a baby even though he hates that. She loves to wear dresses and hates ponytails and loves to sing but hates when people look at her. She loves to paint her nails ALL BY HERSELF and loves to snuggle on the couch and watch TV and loves to play soccer but really doesn't like it when we try to get her to practice her balance bike. She's very dramatic when she falls and gets the tiniest scrape but doesn't want anyone to touch it or look at it or react to it in any way. She loves strawberry flavored everything, pasta, fruit, fish and olives and playing with her dolls and hiding from papi when he comes home from work. She has the biggest most intense imagination and she talks and talks and talks and asks why and why and why and we are absolutely obsessed with her.
Here's to going on 4 baby girl... we can't wait to discover who you will be by then, and every year onward.

Monday, June 5, 2017

7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Diets

How do you know if you're considering an ineffective diet?

Not all diets are created equal - look out for these 7 clues that a diet will not get you the long-term results you are looking for.

7) It has the word "diet" in the title
As a general rule, anything with the word "diet" in the title is not going to be effective long-term. When you see the word "diet" think "short-term", "drastic" or "buy me". Don't get me wrong, not all "diets" are BAD. Some can be great for short-term jump starts, such as the South Beach Diet or even Keto for a small population of people -  But many are simply dangerous, will crash your metabolism, and a money scam, which brings me to my next point...

6) Anything claiming to cleanse
Did you know that your body is a powerhouse?! EVERYTHING needed to digest, extract nutrients, and yes, CLEANSE, is already contained within the walls of your muscles and bones. The body has been a well-oiled machine for much longer that you or I have been on this planet. Yes, a poor diet can make you sluggish, slow your digestive system, cause you to retain water and make you feel like you need a cleanse. But the best cure for this feeling is to simply clean up your diet. Eat more nutrient-dense foods, drink tons of water, exercise, all that healthy stuff, and I promise your body will take care of you.
Oh but your friend did a cleanse and lost 5 lbs in a week? That's all water weight, not fat loss. It is impossible to lose 5 lbs of fat in that short a time. So yes a cleanse might give you an immediate weight drop, but as soon as you start eating normally again, it will come right back. 

5) Claims to give you results without knowing anything about you
We are all different, We have different body types, metabolisms, heights, weights, exercise intensities and lifestyles, likes and dislikes, mental and emotional battles...this must all be taken into account when making a dietary lifestyle change. Yep, I said it, dietary lifestyle change.

4) Promises desired results in an unreasonably short amount of time
I often see advertisements for diets use before and after pictures that depict the .01% of people who's bodies responded immediately. Or, they use pictures of people that didn't actually do the diet at all and so its a lie. Or, they promise your dream results in a time period of weeks. Guys, it doesn't happen this way. It just doesn't. 

3) Restricts an entire food group
This one is simple - unless you have a medical condition or ethical reason keeping you from eating a certain food group (think: celiac disease, or vegans/vegetarians, in which case you may need to supplement - message me if you need guidance on this) you should steer clear of any diet that restricts an entire food group, such as carbohydrates, which are needed in the body to create energy. Or fats, which the body also uses for energy and hormone regulation. You will find yourself vitamin deficient, sluggish and unhappy really fast. If you find yourself feeling like you have to cook separate meals for yourself and your family to accommodate your new diet, something's off. 

2) Restricts or demonizes "bad" foods
Do you have a weakness for ice-cream? Chips? Popcorn? Whatever it is, EAT IT! Mental health is just as important as physical health, and I can guarantee you, labeling foods as "bad" and never eating them is a one-way path to obsession, binging, and self-hate. Don't do it. Of course I'm not telling you to eat those things all day every day - in general many of those fun foods we crave are not nutrient dense and are high calorie. So work them into your diet in small amounts. I like to follow the 80/20 rule - 80% of the food I eat in a day is nutrient dense and fuel for my workouts and my life. 20% is simply fun and enjoyable, like an ice cream bar or a giant soft pretzel.  It'll keep you sane. And agin, this bring me to my most important habit of an ineffective diet...

1) It effects you mentally
This is the most important one, the most raw one. If you are following a new diet and find yourself depressed, obsessing, binging, or in any way feeling messed up mentally, stop. This diet is definitely not for you and most likely, you need to work on eating intuitively before making any physical-results-based changes to  your dietary lifestyle. Like I said, mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health, and I would even say they all tie in and affect each other. 

So there you have it. Pretty simple. Does it seem like I just eliminated any diet you've ever heard of? I probably did. That's because my belief is that your diet (your diet, not a diet) should support and enhance your lifestyle. There are ways to manipulate your food intake to get you physical results without prescribing to many of the fad diets that are out there. Start by eating body-appropriate portions and getting in more greens. 

Stay strong!!!