Fitness Success Story: Meet Heather

One of the things I love most about the BetterU program is seeing the major improvements in how the ladies look, feel and perform in only 12 weeks. Even in just 30 days of following The 4 Keys to Real Fitness consistently, they see significant changes in their bodies.

Heather, one of this year’s BetterU participants, is a perfect example of that. She and her husband had started a fitness journey together last summer. She lost about 15 pounds over the summer but hit a plateau while he continued to see results. They were doing the same things but they were no longer doing Heather any good. While it’s not unusual for women to need a different fitness approach than the men in their life, the reality of it can be frustrating. It can be inspiring but demotivating at the same time. When you’re not seeing results it’s much harder to make the effort and put in the work.

Heather heard about the BetterU program via my appearances on the Kevin & Liz show and my Facebook page. What a perfect opportunity to figure out what she might be able to do differently as a female trying to get fit so she move one step closer to a to a very important goal – starting a family. She and her husband have been trying but without success. Fearing that weight might be holding her back, her husband agreed that if she were able to reach a healthier weight he would do whatever else needed to be done to help them start a family.

I would love to tell you that particular goal had been met – but not yet. Heather has made great progress towards preparing to be a fit momma by losing almost 13 inches off her body! Her clothes are fitting better and her co-workers are telling her how great she looks. She’s also able to run and do things that remind her of her high school athlete self.

I love them (the workouts)!! I like how they are all different and it brings me back to the times that I was really active in high school cheering.

I (recently) finished the 5K in 39:35. This was the first time that I was able to do in less than 40 minutes. I was so happy I was fighting back the tears. I was so surprised when I was getting close to the finish line and I could see that the time was under 37 minutes and I started running as hard as I could. I want to run a full 5K without walking.

Admittedly, food has been challenging but Heather’s love for fresh whole foods put her two steps ahead of many clients. I helped her figure out how to bring balance back to her plate and treat sweets like TREATS not habits.

Seeing these results from a few simple changes has renewed Heather’s motivation and resolve to be a mom. While I can’t guarantee THAT I can help set her up with a healthy body to give her a chance at a successful pregnancy. Perhaps by the BetterU reunion next year she’ll have checked that goal off her list.

Why It’s Okay to Say NO to Extreme Fitness

Why It's Okay to Say NO to Extreme Fitness

The phrase “no pain no gain” has been around for a while but with “insane” workouts and fitspiration photos of ripped bodies it seems to have gone to a new level. When did the gold standard of a good workout become dropping with exhaustion or pain so bad you can’t bend your arms?

I am not a bad ass.

I don’t go into beast mode.

I don’t believe puking should be a badge of workout honor.

I am not ripped. I do not have a six-pack. I admire them but I also know what has to be sacrificed to obtain a chiseled mid section. I don’t want to do figure competitions and strut my stuff on stage in a tiny bikini and high heels. I have a hard enough time wearing a bikini in front of my family much less an auditorium of strangers. I don’t think I have ever posted a selfie of myself flexing. If I’m wrong, call me out. I am sure if I did it was more for humor than to actually show off.

I have no desire currently to train for a marathon. I never say never but right now it’s kind of NEVER. I like having my Sunday mornings to eat pancakes with Brian and go for a bike ride. I may chose to run but I’m not sure I want it to be a requirement. I don’t relish the idea of a 20 mile run in Ozarks humidity.

I have NO desire to do a Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder or Spartan run. I’ll train clients who want to do them. I admire their dedication. I just don’t like to get that dirty or face the prospect of electrocution.

I have HUGE respect for people with competition ready physiques or race every other weekend. (Maybe not as much for the people puking after a workout. Yuck.) They have a level of determination and discipline that we could all learn from. Their consistency and commitment is something we should all strive to achieve. They are comfortable with their bodies and know who they are.

I know myself. I have no issue with challenging workouts. I have no problem doing pushups to failure or lifting a weight that is hard to move on the eighth repetition. I like trying to beat my run time. I like to sweat. I am okay stepping out of my comfort zone. I want to feel tired after a workout but still want to feel good at the same time.

I believe there is a middle ground of fitness, somewhere between the mall walker and training for an ultra marathon. There is a level of athlete that is somewhere in between American Ninja Warrior and WipeOut. I am proud to be at that level. It’s certainly not where I saw myself in high school as I was plotting how to get out of P.E. It makes me feel good and let’s me live a full and active life. I’ve been mostly injury free (knock on wood) and can do pretty much anything that I want. It’s a life that is healthy and it’s balanced.

May I also say I am entitled to change my mind. I may take up marathons in my 50s or decide that my 40s is the perfect time to challenge myself with a mud run. Today I am happy lifting, running, biking and doing yoga in my living room.

Be proud of where you are and who you are. Don’t let anyone else make you feel less than because your longest race has been a 5K or you’ve never run at all. Your modified push up is just as valid as their one handed one. Touching your toes is just as big of an accomplishment as their clean and jerk.

I am not a badass. I am not ashamed to admit it. Can I get an AMEN?

Farmers Market Finds for July 2014

Farmers Market Finds for July 2014Farmers Market Finds for July 2014 by Pamela Hernandez

Where has the summer gone? Don’t let it pass you by without taking advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruits your local farmers market can provide! I feel like I’ve only been able to visit the farmers market a few times, certainly not as often as I have wanted to. When I have been able to visit, it’s always been in a rush. I always get there just before the close of the market or when I am trying to beat the rain. This past Saturday, however, I finally got to have a have slow stroll through the Farmers Market of the Ozarks.

I arrived with a list and a plan. Not only did I need veggies for our normal weekly meals, I also wanted to get fresh fruit and veggies for a Sunday picnic with visiting family. I wanted to show them that the summer produce of Springfield was just as good (or better!) than Central Valley California.

Summer PeachesSummer Peaches by Pamela Hernandez

While I had time to stroll, I was late to the party. I believe the best time to go to the farmers market is right when it opens. You get the best selection and you can get in and out before the crowds hit. I was lucky to get some peaches before they were all gone. The Red Haven peaches made the perfect compliment to our simple Sunday indoor picnic of quinoa salad, hummus, veggies and crackers. I had hoped for raspberries but I guess I was too late because none were to be found. I did find the other ingredients I needed to create a simple but satisfying picnic.

The quinoa salad was the main event. Grain based salads are perfect for picnics because they can be made ahead and almost always taste better the second day. They can be eaten warm or cold, making them easy to pack and go.  The recipe I made was one from a holiday cooking class I attended last November. It was a big hit with the family at Thanksgiving so why wait a whole year to make it again? The recipe is from Glow Nutrition but unfortunately it is not on her web site. This spring quinoa salad is very similar, swapping out the asparagus and berries for dried cranberries and chickpeas.

Sweet Basil $1Sweet Basil $1 by Pamela Hernandez

Holy Moly Hummus is my absolute favorite recipe from How it All Vegan. Nothing says summer to me like just-picked crisp cucumbers and hummus. If you love hummus as much as I do just remember to measure out your portion. Hummus has a lot of great things in it but you can sabotage your fat loss be eating too much.

Notice I didn’t prep dessert for the picnic? Fresh fruits like peaches are a perfect summer dessert. You can also do fruit salads or Greek yogurt parfaits instead of cookies or cake.

White Bean BurgerWhite Bean Burger by Pamela Hernandez

Besides the picnic ingredients I also brought home onions, kale, mushrooms and basil for other recipes I wanted make for dinners. I have a recipe from Oxygen Magazine for white bean burgers that tasted extra amazing with fresh Portobello mushrooms. The kale, along with zucchini Brian brought home from work, are for a modified version of the Veggie Frittata from Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats from Around the World cookbook that I plan to make this coming weekend. Fresh basil is perfect for almost any pasta including the baked ziti I’ll be cooking up this week.

I make my meal plans two weeks at a time but I won’t let that stop me from going to the market again if I have time this Saturday. There’s a block party this weekend and I am sure they would love some fresh cucumbers to go with their hummus.

What’s your favorite picnic dish?

What is plentiful at your local farmers market right now?

The Best Cookbooks To Help You Eat Your Veggies

We have been so fortunate in the Ozarks to have a nice balance of rain and sunshine this summer. The temperature so far has also been fairly mild. While I am not an expert, these conditions seem to be perfect for growing produce. I am greeted at the farmers market with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Home gardens are also starting to overflow with cucumbers, squash and tomatoes. The excess is showing up in office break rooms and being gladly shared with neighbors. This boon brings about the enviable question….

What do I do with all these vegetables?

You can of course make a big green salad with dinner every night but that can get old quickly and besides, where is the adventure in that? When you have things like bok choy, mustard greens and spaghetti squash that look so amazing it should inspire you! It should make you want to get creative in the kitchen and try something new. I understand free style cooking can be a little scary so I’m here to help. I’ve got tried and true sources for veggie recipes that will leave your whole family asking for more.

  • How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
    Before Mark Bittman was known for his Vegan/Flexitarian ways, he released a basic primer for those new to the kitchen. I had a first edition of this cookbook and it helped me become less scared of the kitchen. While not every recipe is healthy, it does explain basic cooking terms and lets you browse by food. The chapter on vegetables and fruit will help you create healthy sides or you can explore other chapters for ideas. The sauce chapter will help you out with your bumper crop of tomatoes or the condiment chapter can help you use up those peppers.
  • The Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian Cookbook by Tosca Reno
    Of course you would expect a vegetarian cookbook to be a good source for vegetable recipes. Just because a vegetarian cookbook, however, doesn’t make it automatically a healthy cookbook. This is the best of both worlds – plant based and clean whole foods. She does include a seafood chapter just in case you’re more flexitarian than vegetarian.
  • The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Mari Newman
    Vegan cooking can provide you with great recipe ideas for mushrooms (burgers and fajitas), butternut squash (for vegan cream sauces) and filling veggie/grain/bean salads. It’s a handy reference too for gluten free recipes.
  • Vegetarian Times Website
    Forget Pinterest for vegetables recipes. The pictures are pretty but unfortunately the results are inconsistent at best. The Vegetarian Times web site has a huge recipe database that you can search by ingredient. The recipes are from past issues of the print publication and many have reader reviews. Type in “eggplant” and you’ll get recipes way beyond Parmesan.

What do you have a bumper crop of this year? How do get creative with the surplus?