fitlifer

Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding

It happens. It’s 4 PM and you’re PMSing hard. You’ve done dynamite all day, have an itch you want to scratch, but don’t want to drop a bomb down a well. It’s OK. This pudding is dairy free, high in iron, high in calcium, and can be sugar-free if you prefer that. It feels and tastes every bit like pudding while being a bit lighter than your store-bought counterpart.

  • 3 TBSP cornstarch (curious to try arrowroot powder)
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk
  • 3 TBSP dark cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup sweetener (I used stevia)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½  tsp espresso powder

Directions: Dissolve cornstarch in water. In a large saucepan, combine all the ingredients including the cornstarch slurry and stir frequently until it begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring until it begins to thicken. Let it cool for a few minutes before transferring to the fridge and letting it cool and thicken more. Split with a friend or keep it all to yourself.

Tips For Improving Sleep Hygiene!

We all know that nutrition and fitness are tall, tall pillars of wellness, but both of those are exponentially more difficult without the linchpin–sleep. It goes like this. First, you sleep like absolute donkey turds. Next, If you’ve managed to get to the gym you’re more likely to underperform or you may just succumb to skipping it entirely! Then, you’re more prone to food cravings and your hunger-satiety cues aren’t coming across as clearly. Your irritableness and fatigue make comfort eating seem that more appealing that day. You wonder, “Can you replace sleep with food?” Only very temporarily, and then you’ll be stuck in that loop until you get some shut eye.

We’re all sleeping fewer hours it seems, and there’s reason to believe it plays a crucial role in maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle. Many mental and physical aspects of the body take a hit when we’re running on empty. That’s why sleep is so important! So–here’s a list of some lifestyle adjustments that can make falling asleep a little easier.

Limit What You Do in Your Room: This can be difficult depending on your living arrangements, but the more you can limit your room to just sleeping and being intimate, the more you’ll be able to relax and wind down. Your brain gets the message! If you’re living in a dorm, try to spend wakeful hours in the common areas or at the library. If you’re in a less than ideal home situation and your room is your only haven, try to find activities to keep you out of the house more often. I used to go to the public library and just chill!

Ditch the Phone: Look. I get it. You tell yourself “what if there’s an emergency?” and I totally understand you’d want to be there. Problem is, how many times do you whip out your phone and play a level of that game? How many times do you shoot a quick text or check social? Shoot, how many times do you just glance at your clock and moan about not being asleep yet? I have a solution. Leave it outside the room but within earshot. If you get your 3 AM emergency you can be there but you’ll be significantly less tempted to check it every 5 minutes. If you can go all the way, shut it off. OFF.

Limit Blue Light at Night: About TV. About computers. About phones (again). They emit blue wavelengths of light and these are very stimulating for the brain. Sort of like daylight!  Not only are these entertaining, they wake up the brain. There are various apps and extensions on the market (f.lux) that will change the wavelengths of light to redder hues and I highly recommend them. I’d still advocate against bringing these devices into the bedroom, but if you’re finishing up some homework or responding to an email before bed it may be helpful to use those warmer colors. If for nothing else, it will reduce eyestrain.

Use White Noise: It helps us sleep because the changes in other environmental noise will be less noticeable. Also, anyone who suffers a ringing ear will be driven less to insanity. I’m a light sleeper, a very light sleeper. Events like a toilet flushing upstairs or even just the A/C switching on will wake me up. After buying a white noise machine I have significantly fewer issues with this. I recommend this machine. There are apps as well but I found the noise to be really tinny and unnatural. We’re also trying to use the phone less in the room! Remember? Of course, many people are pretty content with the noise from a fan as well. I personally find that the crappier the fan, the better the white noise. The ol’ faithful $20 Lasko fan is the best white noise IMO.

Avoid Eating Late at Night: Or, whenever “late” is for you. I haven’t forgotten about third shifters! Again, there are circumstances that make this difficult for some to commit to, but if you’re prone to any sort of gastrointestinal turbulence eating close to bedtime can be awfully distracting and uncomfortable. Likewise, eating your last meal a little too early and winding up hungry at bedtime can be as issue for some, so find your Goldilocks!

Make Your Room Cool at Night: I avoid running the A/C during the day, but I’m sure a lot of us find sleeping in a hot room miserable. If I had it my way I’d make it Hoth in my room at night, but that’s a little on the expensive side so I use a little bit of A/C, a fan, and sleep with fewer blankets; at least in the summer. In the winter I just turn the heat down a couple clicks and get to bury myself (yaaaaas). Keep it dark in there, too!

Make Your Bed in the Morning: Keeping your room tidy and the bed made will make for a welcoming and less chaotic environment. There isn’t much to this! We experience the world with all our senses, after all.

Limit Caffeine Use to the Earlier Portion of the Day: OK, so I know there are people who can drink a cup of coffee before bed and pass right out, but I am not one of these people. In fact, if I drink it anytime after about noontime I’m going to be wired and howling with the coyotes. Many recommendations suggest 3-4 PM as an absolute cutoff time, but if you’re more sensitive like I am you may want to consider leaving it to the morning only.

Sleep and Wake at Roughly the Same Time: Routine is everything. There will be times we need to deviate from routine, and that’s fine! Just try not to flip-flop too severely and all the time. Your rhythm will start to associate these times of day with rest and wakefulness.

Stop Drinking Water Roughly Two Hours Before Bed: It’s undeniable that water is the most healthful thing we can put into our bodies; however, if you slam it right before bed you’re setting yourself to need a mighty wee in the early hours of the morning. Limit water intake close to bedtime and take a good wiz before hitting the hay.

A Few Things Worth the Try

  • aromatherapy (especially lavender based blends) 
  • shower before bed (wet hair will lower cranial temperature)
  • melatonin and valerian root
  • chamomile tea (just like water, limit this a few hours before bed to prevent midnight bathroom breaks)

I’ve noticed lately that the key to succeeding and pushing closer to my goals is self discipline. I’ve gotten in the habit this year of not even giving myself an option other than to get what I’ve got to do done, so even on my worst weeks when all I do is dread the gym, I still get it done through every last complaint because it’s just not an option to take the lazy way out anymore.

2

2015 > 2017
175lbs > 105lbs
Tan > no tan

Two summers ago we went to Hawaii, and these “before” pictures are old remnants of that vacation. I don’t even keep them saved to my phone because I was so humiliated by myself; my mom had to send them to me for this. 

I wore that sweater in sweltering heat because I was ashamed of my upper arms. I remember walking back to our resort one afternoon and my inner thighs were sweating and chafing so badly that they bled, which caused me to waddle-walk in a ridiculous way. My family kept asking me what in the world I was doing, but I couldn’t stop because it hurt so badly otherwise – I was embarrassed and in pain. 

I was categorically obese, and the years I spent like that were some of the most unhappy and unhealthy years of my life. I was anxious and depressed, I had abysmal self-esteem, and I had no idea what to do. 

This past year, I changed my entire life. I overhauled my eating habits and I got active. I honed in on personal growth and made big, huge adjustments to my lifestyle and my social circle. I have achieved more than I thought would ever be possible. 

Today I am a significantly happier, healthier, more confident woman. I feel proud of my achievements and I feel more capable as an individual. I have fought hard to get to where I am; this is a battle that never stops, but I am happy to continue. 

If you are wondering if it’s possible: it is. 
If you are tired of being stuck: make the change. 
If you’re in a bad place and you want out: take the reins.

Attention!

Part of your health and fitness journey should include becoming an informed consumer!

I recently received a message from an MLM seller pushing their wraps, teas, shakes, and pills to “help me lose weight” (as if I haven’t already figured this out at -170 lbs). I thought this was a great opportunity to remind everyone that there are very few instances where one needs to spend any money to achieve their health goals. The only “additive” I’ve purchased is my gym membership and that’s not even a requirement! It’s only helpful because of how I enjoy working out.

  • Superfood is a completely meaningless and made up marketing word. Common greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, etc are as nutritious and often more nutritious than the hip, trendy foods grown in the loamy soils of Demeter’s mythical garden. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need to! The ingredients we’re already familiar with will provide you a balanced and healthful diet. 
  • As a horticulturist, I’ll be first to say that plants are beyond cool and can be beneficial medicines. BUT–be careful. Some plants do have promising health benefits (and many need more research), but there are outrageous claims out there; especially by predatory lifestyle brands in a notoriously unregulated supplement industry. Any herbal supplement should be discussed with your doctor and cannot replace your doctor’s expertise. No matter the effect they actually have on your body they are still compounds. Natural is not a synonym for inert.
  • Natural and its variants is also a meaningless marketing word. Natural is also not a synonym for healthy, just as is not a synonym for inert. 
  • Anyone selling you a wrap, a “fat blocker,” a “carb inhibitor,” a detox tea, an herbal tonic, or whatever is selling you snake oil. No one needs to buy a “product” to get healthy and fit.
  • Shots of apple cider vinegar is a really easy way to screw up your teeth and esophagus, and it won’t help you burn fat. 
  • Anything that promises to boost your metabolism is too minuscule to matter at best and completely made up at worst.
  • Your body already knows how to detox. It’s not dumb. Drink a glass of water and eat foods that keep you regular. Go for a walk and take a shit. Any detox product is just an expensive way to starve or induce a bout of diarrhea. 
  • A food manufacturer can claim there is “0g Trans Fat” as long as there is less than .5g. Turn the label to the ingredients. If there is “partially hydrogenated oil,” there is trans fat. 
  • A food manufacturer can slap “whole grain” on the label even if the first ingredient is “enriched bleached flour.” Read the ingredients on the loaves of bread and boxes of pasta you pick up. 
  • Read the label in general! Sugar and salt make appearances in strange places. Keep an eye out for added salt and sugar! Keep an eye out for bleached grains! Keep an eye out for trans fats!

Do your homework. Much of what entails food, health, fitness, and supplements are wildly unregulated. They can print whatever they want and there is little to stipulate what they can and cannot print. Be skeptical and examine if it’s really effective, safe, and beneficial to put a substance into your body.

A lot of headaches can be avoided if you do most of your shopping on the outside aisles and buy ingredients, but that doesn’t mean everything on the inside is crap! We all enjoy a branded product or two. There’s nothing wrong with that! There’s also nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of junk food every now and again, but it never hurts to be an informed consumer. There are good and honest products out there but there is certainly no shortage of companies trying to skim a dollar off people making an effort to do things a little bit better.

Rough Week?

We’ve all been there. Last week didn’t go so hot. It was one thing after another and we reached a bit of a breaking point. Sound familiar? I sort of had the mother of all bad weeks. Convenience ruled supreme. Motivation came to an absolute standstill. Shit hit the fan. The closest occurrence to exercise was pushing myself up from the face plant on my couch. I could go on and revel you in the 7-part saga that is this week, but let’s not because I’m ready now!

It Happens to Everyone: Before we get started on anything else just know that nothing is wrong with you, you weren’t weak, you didn’t fail, and while the emotions you feel might be intense you are neither alone nor wrong for having them. There are usually only so many red alerts we can have flash before our eyes before something has to give. But–there is no music to face. We’re all relating here. Just know that one day or one one week cannot undo several weeks, months, or years of taking better care of yourself. It’s totally normal. We’re all human.

Advise Against “Making Up” for Lost Ground: Treat the next day or week like it’s simply the next one succeeding the last one. Avoid eating and exercise behaviors that are too far removed from your typical habits. You’re trying to get back on track, not repent. OK? Not only does it tend to keep someone in a negative head space, but trying to pull out a massive comeback via overexertion or severe restriction can get you stuck in a feedback loop. You need to satisfy your hunger and workout normally. It’s just another normal day.  

Detox Products are Not the Answer: Your kidneys and liver do that. If they do not, be admitted to a hospital immediately. Detox products only empty your wallet and probably induce diarrhea. Drink plenty of water and choose foods high in fiber to work out the excess waste and water retention. Your body came equipped with all the goods it needed.

Choose Some Foods That Make You Feel Refreshed and Pampered: A huge part of the game is mental, so pick something that makes you feel a bit spoiled and frivolous. I’d probably be one to argue that putting slices of cucumber and lemon in your water is pretty gimmicky, but if that makes you feel revitalized and special; frickin’ do it. Try something new and make it about how fun fresh food can be! Be excited by something!

Do Exercise: Pick one of your favorite workout activities. It can be a bit overwhelming to get back into our routine after having a rough week, so it needs to be a fun one. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed or yucky, opt for some walks or low impact activities to ease back into it. Just like fresh foods, getting some activity and some sweat out will help with the mental and physical symptoms of going off-road.