Eating Like a Body Builder to Lose Weight? Sign Me Up!

I know I’m not alone when it comes to being confused on how to put together a great “macro-friendly” meal. For years, I would throw together as many veggies and proteins as possible and wonder if I’m eating the right thing.

I used to make meals by starting out with a foundation of vegetables, and I felt like I didn’t have “room” for protein or fat. I would panic and try to make my next meals based on proteins; eventually burning myself out on what I needed to eat. There is a simple formula that helped me break down each meal by macro, without panic or hassle. This formula came from “Burn The Fat; Feed The Muscle,” which is a great book to read or listen to. In this book, Tom Venuto breaks meals down in this fashion:

  • 1 Protein
  • 1 Starchy Carb (or Whole Grain)
  • 1 Fibrous Carb (Fruit or Vegetable)

Where does fat fit in? If you’re eating a plant-based diet, the fat can come from one or more of these foods. Plants contain a combination of each macro, so you may need to mix-n-match. If you get protein from animal-based sources, the fat is already built into the protein. I’ll give examples of each type of meal.

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled tofu (Protein)
  • Potato (Starchy Carb)
  • Kale (Fibrous Carb)
  • To add fat, cook the potatoes in 1tbsp olive oil, or serve with avocado.
  • Protein powder
  • Oatmeal (Starchy carb)
  • Fruit (Fibrous carb)
  • You can add peanut butter, flax seed, chia seed, hemp seed, pretty much any nuts or seeds to increase fat content.
  • Eggs (Protein and fat)
  • Toast or potatoes (Starchy carb)
  • Fruit or any non-starchy vegetable (Fibrous carb)

French toast:

  • Egg wash (Protein and fat)
  • Bread (Starchy Carb)
  • Fruit (Fibrous carb)

Lunch/Dinner:

Seitan and broccoli:

  • Seitan (Protein)
  • Rice (Starchy carb)
  • Broccoli (Fibrous carb)
  • Add sesame seeds or oil to add fat.

Simple salad:

  • Protein (Chick’n, seitan, tempeh, tofu, edamame)
  • Leafy greens (Fibrous carb)
  • Grains, beans, lentils, legumes, potato, pasta, etc. (Starchy carb)
  • You can use salad dressing to add fat.

Taco:

  • Protein (Beefy crumbles, beefless tips, seitan, tempeh)
  • Fibrous carb (Onions, peppers, sometimes the tortilla [Mission Carb Balance Tortilla])
  • Starchy carb (Tortilla, potatoes)
  • Fat (Sour cream, avocado)

Sandwich:

  • Protein (Deli slices, temeh, facon, etc.)
  • Fibrous carb (Non-starchy veggies, sometimes the bread can be high in fiber)
  • Starchy carb (Bread)
  • Fat (Avocado, animal-based protein)

You can apply this to a majority of common dishes. Try it out with your favorite ones! This formula is super simple because it is easy to remember and you can adjust the amount of each food to perfectly fit your macro requirements! You can build almost any meal with this approach and not have to use an excessive amount of ingredients. This helps people lose weight because when keeping track of food intake, it is much easier to calculate meals with 3-5 ingredients rather than those with more than 5 ingredients. Building meals with fewer ingredients can also help people save money!

How is this related to bodybuilding?

This method of breaking down meals by macros has been practiced by bodybuilders. It’s used to ensure that they get the proper amount of each macronutrient to reach their physique goals. You’ll notice that the typical body building meal will be something like chicken, rice, and broccoli. One protein, one starchy carb, one fibrous carb. This is a very customizable approach that can help eliminate decision fatigue.

How do I calculate my macro requirements, though?

I have tried a few macro calculators, and the one by Legion Athletics is my favorite so far. If you use a macro calculator and the total number of calories looks too low, go ahead and add more. I say this because when I put in my stats (4’9″), macro calculators always tell me that I need to eat around 1200 calories, when I should be eating at least 1400-1500. You can always adjust your macros to a ratio that works best for your body and lifestyle. A simple and easy to remember approach would be to divide macros into a 40/40/20 split. 40% Carbs and protein, 20% fat. This is a good baseline to start at if you are new to tracking macros. You can always adjust these numbers based on your needs.

Philly Cheesesteak Quesadilla Recipe!

I have combined everything I love about a Philly with the portability of a quesadilla. (Nothing about the constituent recipes are close to the traditional versions, I am using these names and ingredients as a baseline for identification.) This is a simple and short recipe. I would not eat this every day, just when I want something cheesy for the soul. It’s a good source of protein and fiber (depending on the tortilla used).

Ingredients

  • Sweet Earth foods seitan strips
  • Mission Whole Wheat Carb Balance tortillas (they have TONS of fiber.)
  • Dairy free cheese (I love Violife, it melts well)
  • (Optional) Siete blanco cashew queso
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • Garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Filling before it’s cooked down

Directions

  1. Slice veggies and seitan.
  2. Heat oil and sauté the seitan until warm. Add veggies. Sauté until onion is translucent and bell pepper is soft.
  3. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Feel free to add any other seasonings you love. Turn off stove, but don’t let filling get cold.
  4. Prepare quesadilla: gather your tortilla and cheese(s).
  5. I like to cook my quesadillas on either my griddle or grill pan. Heat up your cooking tool of choice.
  6. Take your tortilla, fold it in half to create a crease in the middle. Use this line as a guide for laying down your cheese(s). Lay down cheese until you get to the line.
  7. Scoop some of the filling onto the cheese. If the filling is still warm, it will get the cheese melting process started. This is important because dairy free cheese can be difficult to melt sometimes.
  8. Lay some cheese on top of the filling and fold the bare side of the tortilla over it, closing it.
  9. Lay quesadilla onto heated pan. Cook until cheese is melted and tortilla is crisp.
  10. Let cool and cut into cute little slices.

Quick Bite: A Basic Introduction to Behavior Change

If you have dabbled in the world of health, fitness, weight loss, etc, you’ve most likely heard of the following:

  • I haven’t worked out in ___ days, I need to push myself during next workout.
  • I ate ___ yesterday, so I need to fast/eat less today.
  • I haven’t reached ___ goal, I’m failing at this.
  • I wish I looked like them, I don’t like my ___.
  • I’ve been doing ____, why am I not ___?

None of these thoughts are healthy. They will not get you to the goal that you want. These ideas are toxic and are borderline disordered. If you do struggle with thoughts like the above and its affecting your quality of life, please seek a professional. These ideas are rooted in our love of instant gratification and comparing ourselves to others. It’s not intentional, it is human nature. These are two of many examples of behavior patterns that helped us survive, thus evolve. Today, humans have access to everything. Shelter, food, water, technology, anything you can think of. We no longer need to spend the majority of our time searching for these resources, we are now living comfortably with “nothing to do,” other than work, raising a family, school, hobbies, etc. We are living in an advanced world, stuck with the thought processes carved into our neural pathways by millions of years worth of successful evolution. What does any of this have to do with health? We’re in 2021???? It is helpful to identify the thoughts and behavior patterns of the primitive brain and use the modern brain to overcome these barriers.

What is this *~secret~*?? It all boils down to switching our mindset to that of self-love before making changes to our behavior. Take the phrases from above and ask or say them to the next person you see. It is not what people say to those they love. We can change our behavior, which stem from our thoughts, once we love every inch of ourselves. Our aspirations are the end result, it takes behavior changes that turn into habit to “set them in stone.” When it comes to implementing a new behavior, motivation is a flake and most of the time there are no “overnight” results.

Before implementing a new behavior, keep these concepts in mind:

  • Bodily processes move much slower than psychological processes; You can think about what your health goals are while not seeing results over time. Change takes time. Pay attention to more subtle changes within the body and mind.
  • The human body is not a machine. The body is a living, breathing entity to house the soul. It cannot push through workouts every day, it cannot function without sleep, it won’t malfunction after two or three “unhealthy” meals in a row, and it won’t follow through with what you want it do to without showing it love and respect.
  • A healthy life is not a sentencing. Most people turn their health around because they would like to have a better quality and quantity of life. It is a permanent lifestyle change. It is not a punishment. It should be sustainable and fun. Thinking of it as a punishment or restriction will not make someone want to do it. Make it fun. Eat plants you like, move in ways you enjoy. Do these things because you love your body and want to take good care of it.
  • Cancel out negative thoughts. It may feel awkward at first. You may need to “fake it till you make it.” Any negative thought that comes up, say the opposite back.
    • “What if it doesn’t work out?” What if it does?
    • “____ is unhealthy.” ____ is a treat.

When you start to think of healthy habits as self-care, it makes them less daunting. Feels less like chores. It’s easier to change our behavior when we are happy! Now that we’re aware that our goals will take some time, let’s change our behavior. A behavior occurs when Motivation, Ability, and Prompt converge at the same time! Motivation refers to how much we want to reach our goals and prompts refers to “setting the stage” to complete the desired behavior. We need to make sure that we can easily access the tools needed to complete the behavior, are physically capable of completing it, and want to complete it. If someone has a goal of working out, but the nearest gym is 30 miles away from home, this person may consider getting some home equipment. Going to the gym in this case will lack ability and prompt. If the same person works in close proximity to this gym that’s 30 miles from home, they may consider going to the gym before or after work. In this scenario, going to the gym will have all three requirements to go through with a behavior. The ability to go to the gym comes from being close by. The prompt is the fact that this person already has a daily habit of going to work. This is a very basic example, I recommend reading “Tiny Habits” by Bj Fogg. He is great at breaking down this process.

Did you enjoy this snack-sized chat? Would you like to see more in the future? Let me know if you want to know more about psychology!

Simple Protein Packed Asian Inspired Green Salad

When thinking about protein, salads usually don’t come to mind. I’m here to change that with this basic recipe. I have a simple salad that is full of protein and will leave you feeling full for hours! Did I mention that this has 41 grams of protein?

Ingredients

  • Ginger Sesame tofu (or a plant based chicken like MorningStar farms or Gardein)
  • Shelled edamame
  • Romaine
  • Broccoli slaw
  • Sliced almonds
  • Ginger Sesame dressing
  • Won ton strips (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook the tofu and edamame according to instructions. I will do this step last if I want my salad to be a little warm.
  2. Chop romaine
  3. Mix veggies together, garnish with sliced almonds and dressing.
  4. Allow some time for the tofu and edamame to cool. Add on top.

Reducing Waste Room-By-Room #2: Bathroom

The next room in our waste-reduction adventure is the bathroom. It is the next hardest for me. I never realized how much waste can be produced in a single room until I had to take a step back and evaluate my habits room by room. The best ways to keep waste out of the bathroom are switching to reusable versions of a product, and to purchase products that come with little or recyclable/upcyclable/compostable packaging. Everyone has different circumstances, these are just suggestions.

#1: Oral Hygiene

Lots of toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss and their containers and plastic toothpicks end up in landfills daily. Here are some basic swaps for each.

I like the medium bristle Humble Brush.
  • Toothbrush: Bamboo toothbrush, toothbrush made from recycled plastic, they even make toothbrushes out of upcycled materials (the head is replaceable in this model, however the heads are not recyclable). I prefer bamboo because it grows quickly and you can compost it when you’re done with it. You just need to remove the bristles to recycle them separately.
  • Tooth paste: If you can’t stomach the thought of using tooth powder or tabs, you can use regular tooth paste! This toothpaste comes in a recyclable tube and a turn key to make sure you get all of the product out. You can also have your toothpaste with less packaging, Georganics has a “regular” toothpaste, but in a little jar!
  • Floss: You can upgrade to floss that doesn’t come in a plastic container, or you can use a water pick. They can be used at your sink, or you can install one in your shower. You just need to unscrew your shower head, screw on a diverter, screw the showerhead back on and screw the shower pick onto the other side of the diverter.
  • Plastic toothpicks: There are many plastic toothpicks on the market, some of them will be at the end of little single use flossers. I would recommend standard wood toothpicks, or go back up to my “floss” category and use one of those options. If you need something more portable, you’re in luck! Water picks can be portable, too! They make a handheld where you fill the little tank with water, and you’re good to floss!
  • Tongue cleaner: Lots of people choose to have a tongue-cleaning routine when they practice oral hygiene. There are bamboo tongue cleaners, similar to brush. There are also tongue scrapers.
  • Mouthwash: The typical swaps for mouthwash are tablets (put them in some water do dissolve, then swish) and oil pulling.

#2: Hair Care

  • Shampoo: There are many “low impact” shampoos on the market.
    • Shampoo bars. They make them for dogs now!
    • Refillable shampoo. Mail in your used bottle to have it refilled!
    • Compostable and recyclable packaging! This brand also includes seeds with the majority of their products! You could probably go a step further and plant the seeds in the cardboard packaging!
  • This blog post by Plaine Products may help people with wavy/curly hair. I have no experience with properly taking care of my wavy hair, so I’m no help in this department.
  • For other hair styling needs, there are swaps that exist. Badger, Plaine Products, and Seed Phytonutrients are examples of brands that have great swaps.
  • Hair is compostable! It is a great source of slow-releasing nitrogen. When I clean out my brush, I put the hair in my backyard compost pile.

#3: Hair Removal

  • Shaving: This razor by Albatross is really cool because you can send your used razors back to them (or a local razor takeback program) to be recycled or upcycled. The razor itself comes with no plastic packaging! To “lubricate” the blades, I just use bar soap instead of any fancy shaving creams.
  • Waxing: This blog post talks about a great alternative to waxing. The only downside is that you are waxing yourself.
  • Laser Hair Removal: Just like professional waxing, laser also produces some waste. You can do at home IPL treatments, they’re more mild than professional laser. They still come with packaging, but if you make a one time purchase that comes with waste instead of 6 (the recommended amount of treatments for “permanent” results), you’re cutting back waste by 5 opportunities of waste creation.

#4: General Hygiene

  • Body cleanser: My favorite low-impact options are a bar of soap (by any natural brand really, as a bar of soap in itself does not have a lot of packaging) and a Sud Stud. It’s a silicone cover for soap, it turns your soap into a scrubber. It’s advertised as a device that makes your soap last longer, I feel like there is some truth to that. I’ve had 1 Dr. Bronner bar of soap outlive 2 Dr. Squatch soaps that were not in a Sud Stud. Unfortunately, like with making any purchase for your own good, there will be packaging and travel associated with that item. Just keep in mind that there is only one set of packaging and one set of travel required for the one item to replace many.
  • Hand soap: Again, I use bar soap.
  • Cotton Swabs: You can either switch to biodegradable or reusable swabs.

#5: Skincare

  • I am underdeveloped in this category, I have purchased and wasted many skincare items over the years. This is a category that I am still working on. I am still looking for the “perfect” product and routine for my skin. I am currently using Curology, unfortunately they do not have a recycling/takeback program or sustainable packaging. Its plastic bags and containers. The bottles themselves are recyclable (you can recycle the prescription cream bottle as long as you wash out all of the product that’s left in it). On the bright side, there is a small petition aimed at Curology to incorporate more sustainable packaging materials or methods.
  • There are a few brands that have more sustainable packaging, I do not have any recommendations beyond the scope of a brand overall because our skin is one of the pickiest organs we have. It is up to you (and/or a professional) to find what works best for your skin. Badger, Pacifica, Seed Phytonutrients, Moon Valley Organics, Earth Harbor, and Plaine Products are some examples of brands who have less impactful packaging.
  • For treatments like masks, I have cut a sheet mask out of an old cotton shirt. All I do is take the serum I want to use and soak it in the sheet mask. There are recipes for different skin care concerns for this method.

#6: Cosmetics

Reusable cotton round.
  • This is another weak link that I have. I am in the process of using up the makeup I purchased when I went through my “I’m going to be a beauty guru!” phase in 2014. When I run out, I will replace the item with a less-impactful option. Earth Hero has a pretty good makeup selection, but I’m also very basic. They have the basic neutral eyeshadows, eyeliners, a few lipsticks, some brow balm, etc. The only swap for lashes I can think of would be magnetic lashes. You can use them multiple times and they don’t require glue.
  • Makeup Removal: I use coconut oil and a reusable cotton round to remove my makeup. Coconut oil may not work well with your skin as it may clog pores.

#7: “The Business”

  • Toilet paper: When reducing environmental impact, bamboo toilet paper is a better option than the conventional choices. Bamboo grows quickly, unlike the trees we typically make it from. I do not use wet wipes because they come in plastic and I have a septic tank. I’m very skeptical about items that claim to be “septic safe”. Instead of toilet paper every time, I use a bidet and pat dry with family cloth. They are very easy to DIY (warning: the into to this video has partial nudity) if you have a sewing machine. The video I linked is the method I use to make mine! You can also purchase family cloth. I ran into this really cool concept of a “roll” of family cloth! This shop owner also has a ton of “unpaper” products! They have reusable pads, unpaper towels, maternity pads, nursing pads, and more!

#8: Feminine Hygiene

  • Pads: Period underwear works well for a light flow. Reusable cotton pads are good for anywhere from light to a heavy flow. I use Charlie Banana pads and they’re nice. They have sizes ranging from liners to overnight pads. The only downside of these pads is having to change them somewhat often when experiencing a heavier flow and having to carry an additional bag and all the pads you left your house with, instead of “lightening your load” as the day goes on. Pads are usually designed to fold in on themselves so you can save space in your bag. Take a shot of water every time I say “bag.” I will carry mine by having a bag that has my clean pads and another bag for the used ones. My used pad bag can fit inside of my original bag, so I have them all in one bag. Bag.
  • Tampons: I am very biased when I say I don’t like tampons. I do not appreciate the fact that they’re typically grown with pesticides that remain in the cotton, packaged in plastic, and come with a plastic applicator. They can cause an infection when not used properly. Despite all of the downsides, they are pretty convenient and are great for heavier flows. I would instead use a menstrual cup or tampons that are grown without pesticides and don’t come with a plastic applicator.
  • Cleaning the bits: I do not use anything special. I used to use this personal wash, it is a great wash, but I did not want to keep using one soap for one specific purpose. The packaging is recyclable plastic #4 if you live near a recycling facility. I now take some Dr. Bronner unscented Castile soap and dilute it in water, I eyeball it so I’m not sure what the ratio is. I would guess it’s 1 part soap: 3 parts water. This gentle soap cleans without any irritation.

#9: Water Usage

We use lots of water in the bathroom, almost everything we do in there is related to water! I may expand on this in a future post, but I wanted to include this in the bathroom category because saving a little water may go a long way! You can take a quiz and get an estimation on how much water your household uses. I take the results with a grain of salt because some of the questions are a little vague or difficult to answer. Its a really good idea to “see” how much water you’re using, and ways you can cut back on how much is wasted. Some basic examples include:

  • Turn off the sink while brushing your teeth and washing your hands/face.
  • Take “Navy” showers. You get yourself wet, turn off the water, soap up, rinse it off. I started doing this to save hot water because I always run out in the middle of showering, now I do it out of habit.
  • Save the water you “waste” while waiting for shower or sink water to warm up. Put a bucket/cup in the shower/sink and use the water for something else. Some people may use the water to flush the toilet without having to use “new” water. You can also water your plants with it.
  • If you have the tolerance, jump straight into the shower before it warms up. With this tip, you will save gallons of water from being “wasted” if you start showering sooner rather than later.
  • If you have finished water picking your teeth and have leftover water in the tank, you can water a plant with it or use that water to rinse off the tip of your water pick.
  • “If its yellow, let it mellow…” Skip on flushing liquids until you make a solid.
  • A more advanced tip is to install a greywater filtration system. You can use water “twice” this way.

This is it (so far) for the bathroom! Have you tried any of these swaps? Which ones speak to you? Let me know if you have any questions or are interested in more advanced swaps!

2021 Vegetable Garden!

I may have given up on taking care of my health back in 2013-2014, but I never gave up on gardening. It started as a way to save money. If I eat ____ every day, I’ll save money if I grow it! Now that I’m older, wiser and plant based, it has turned into much more! Gardening has been one of my favorite activities, it is very therapeutic and I can get some much needed sun in. I can really connect with my food because I know exactly where its coming from, what kind of creatures come in contact with it, and what is and isn’t being sprayed on it. You’re creating a little plant life to fuel your own. The great thing about plants is that they reproduce themselves (sometimes with the help of external pollinators like bees, bugs, animals and wind) in the form of seeds or parts that can be grown (example: green onion). It is a magical experience, not to mention the flavor! You may never buy a tomato from a grocery store again after eating one you’ve grown. I personally don’t, I will wait all winter to eat tomatoes.

I always look forward to starting my annual garden, its what takes me “out of hibernation”.

February 21st, I planted kale, spinach, zucchini (I’m very early), bell pepper, tomato and cucumber!

February 27, 2021.

5 Ways to Make Food Tracking Easier

I’ve talked about the importance of why tracking food intake is important. The least I can do is share some tips that make it easier. Trust me, its not as easy as it sounds, it takes some practice. Before diving in, here is a list of food tracking essentials:

  • Food scale: This is the most important tool because estimation will hinder the desired results. Here is a basic scale.
  • Food tracking app: I like Cronometer because it breaks down many micronutrients in addition to macronutrients. I am currently using MyFitnessPal because its the app that can sync to the fitness app that I have set up through my personal trainer. Keep in mind that when picking a food tracking app, if its not popular, it may be harder to share your diary with the people or apps you want to see it.
  • Measuring tools: Measuring cups, spoons, scoops, etc. These will help with your accuracy.
  • Food storage: Storage containers are great for people who like to meal/ingredient prep.

Now that we have covered the tools, lets get into the tips!

  • Weigh food as you go. Tracking my food intake was a pain until I realized I was making it too much work. I would weigh my food, chop it and prepare it. Now, I weigh as I chop, and at the same time. I will chop, weigh my food, chop my next food, tare the scale and weigh it. Instead of separating the two actions, I do it all at once.
  • Prepare your own food! If you are cooking for yourself, you will know exactly what is going into your food! You can control the contents. When you go to a restaurant and log the meal you ate, there may be additional ingredients not accounted for and you may think you’re eating a 600 calorie meal, when in reality, its closer to 900 calories. A high-calorie meal is not bad, but making your own food lets you be more accurate and accountable when it comes to your lifestyle goals.

  • Write down the measurements of your most common dishes. I used to measure my breakfasts every day, and I was eating the same thing. This tip works if you use the same amount of ingredients every time you make it. A dish that you can cook with your eyes closed. Write down the weight of each ingredient so you can quickly type it in, or most food tracking apps will let you create meals and recipes. You will plug in your ingredients and measurements once, and you can add the whole meal with one tap! I have a weekly meal planner featuring a recipe card template that is perfect for keeping track of your favorite meals!
  • Do not let “counting calories” keep you from having fun and living life! I know I just said that ordering a meal from a restaurant might not be the best idea for losing weight. You know what? One meal, or a whole day of derailing from your preferred eating style will not suddenly “undo” all of your work. You can either edit the menu item to better fit your lifestyle/macros, OR log the meal as best as you can and enjoy it! It is impossible to eat “perfect” all the time, it is our reaction to it and preceding steps that make a difference. Enjoying the meal with your family, feeding your soul, eating something you actually enjoy is more important than “oh my goodness, I ate ___, I’ll never be healthy! I’ll never see my goals! I cheated, I might as well eat like this for the rest of the day/week!” Eating healthy is important, but please put mental health first. Your journey to a healthy lifestyle should be a fun and pleasant experience!
    • This step is important because you might need more calories than you think! My personal trainer had me log my calories, the first week I did not change anything. I would eat 900-1200 calories (I am 4’9″) a day. I was eating a lot, but I was getting headaches and I looked bloated. The next week, my PT instructed me to go for 1500 calories and gave me specific macros to follow. At first, I was skeptical, shouldn’t I eat less to lose weight? After eating 1500 calories a day, my headaches went away, I can fit into clothes a little better and I have more energy than before! Keeping track of food intake is all about finding a way of eating that works best for you and your health goals. It is also a good idea to see what’s going inside so you can make changes accordingly.
  • Get to know your favorite (Insert macro) food! What do you mean get to know my food? I’m very familiar with it! How well do you know it? When counting macros, it takes a little more creativity to hit goals than a lifestyle that includes eating animals. Animal-inclusive diets have very distinct macro categories. Plant-based foods will have more than one macronutrient. This is important because it may be hard to hit a specific macro goal without the other two being disproportionate. Beans are typically considered a protein source, but they contain more carbs than protein. I used to think that peanuts were a protein source until I learned that they have more fat than protein. Seitan is a great source of protein, it’s very low in fat and carbs.
Like what you see? Click on the picture to purchase my printable décor!

Do you track your food intake? What are your food-related health goals?

6.5 Things I Wish I Knew About the Gym!

Do you struggle with gym anxiety or not sure what to do when you’re there? I used to be terrified of going to the gym. I knew nothing about equipment or how to structure workouts (which I’m still new to). I was worried about what the gym rats would think about a fresh, clueless member, especially during the new year. I hired a personal trainer in December so I could learn all of these things and not be so lost. I wanted to be ready to be released into the wild by the time my contract was over. Here are some things I have learned so far about the gym. These are things I wish I knew years ago, I may have walked into a gym much sooner.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Are people watching me? What will they think? In my experience, people will see and acknowledge you, but no one is staring at you. They don’t care, they just want to work out and go home. People at the gym typically mind their own business, and are sometimes willing to help when asked. There may be communication in situations where you and someone else need the same piece of equipment, just be polite like you would in any other situation; they will be polite back.
  • Weight machines are your friend. I used to be intimidated by the weight machines. I had no idea how to use them, and what if I had bad form while using them? I was told by a personal trainer to not worry about form, because a machine is supposed to assist you with proper form (as long as the settings are proportionate for your height).
  • Plan accordingly. If you have a strength and cardio regimen, you may want to look into the cardio classes at your local gym and plan do to them both in one trip. I have a spin class that I go to three times a week, and I will do my strength training before the class. Its easier for me to go to the gym three times than four or five. I like cardio after strength because you use up glycogen (fuel) stored in the muscles while strength training; after glycogen is used up, your body will burn fat as energy when you do the cardio. So, when you put these two together, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
    • Getting to the gym on time and early enough to get my full workout in required some changes. It’s not simply “Go to gym, workout, go home,” there’s a couple more steps. The night before my gym session, I will pack my necessities. The contents of my bag depend on what I’m doing at the gym the next day. I will always pack two 32oz water bottles, a protein shake or BCAAs, earbuds, a pack of LastTissues (perfect for the stationary bike), and a sweat towel. If I am going to yoga or doing cardio that’s not cycling, I will bring my big gym bag that can hold a yoga mat and a spare pair of shoes. Speaking of shoes, you’re going to want to use different shoes for different activities. For strength training, or exercises that your feet need to feel grounded, go for shoes with a more flat sole. Think of skate shoes. For cardio, you will need a shoe that has arch support and some type of shock absorption. I use running shoes because that’s the only other cardio I do. For something like Zumba, there are special shoes for it with an anatomy that can withstand the dance-like moves. You make lateral movements (side to side), pivot on the ball of your foot, etc. Please look into the equipment needed before starting a workout to avoid injury!
    • After my bag is packed and everything is ready to go, I will go to bed early so I make it there on time in the morning. When I have a 1/2 hour workout planned, I try to get there an hour before cycle class starts. I take into account the time it takes to get there, warm up, complete each set, time between sets, cleaning off equipment when I’m done and be there early for class so I can adjust my bike to my preferred settings. It is always a good idea to show up early to a cardio class, especially if its your first time. You can get to know the instructor, the equipment being used, and get a quick rundown of what you’ll be doing.
  • Check out the classes they offer, if any! Fitness classes are great because they are a welcoming and supportive environment. They are a fun way to get a great workout in, the instructor may have a bangin’ playlist and a variety of challenging sequences! They also go by faster than doing cardio by yourself. 50 minutes in cycle class does not feel like a long time compared to 30 minutes on a treadmill by yourself.
Not only do you need to look into shoes for Zumba, but there are also special cycling shoes. They attach to the pedal of a spin bike! They’re not mandatory, but they’re pretty cool.Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Your strength workout does not to be a complicated one hour event. I used to think that I had to perform 32 exercises that worked exactly 47 muscles all the way to failure for two hours to get a good strength building workout. A workout doesn’t have to take forever, and you can do anything from eight to ten exercises with 10-12 reps per workout. An effective workout is one that helps you get to your goal, and it doesn’t take that much to build muscle when you’re brand new to the game. When I started to workout “properly,” I felt a bit of culture shock because I was used to doing 30 reps of something per set. When I work out now, I feel like it goes by fast and like I’m not doing much, but I will feel just as sore as when I would overdo it. I have noticed that I’m getting stronger, and I’m doing less reps than before! If you want a little extra in your workout, you can always do the move slowly and increase the amount of time muscles spend under tension. “Pulsing” is also an option.
  • Your split does not have to be complicated. Your split is how you split up your exercises for the week. I used to guess, I would plan out 4-5 days to workout and made a YouTube playlist for that day. I collected so many videos and I was so overwhelmed. I would get sore, rest for two days and get confused on which workout to do next. If I did an arm and ab workout two days ago, should I do the full body scheduled for today, or the leg workout I had planned right after? I would get decision fatigue and fall off the wagon. Now, I typically do a push day, pull day, and body weight day. You can keep it this simple without much guesswork because of push and pull. Each muscle has one job, to flex and move your bone in the direction you need it to. Your “pushing” and “pulling” muscles are usually opposing on the same ligament (biceps pull, triceps push). This method has been effective for me so far.
  • If possible, get a personal trainer. They are very helpful for not only learning how to use the equipment, but some may offer nutrition advice. When working out by myself at home, I never pushed myself as hard as my trainer has, which is why I never saw results on my own. They can also act as a “gym buddy” if you’re scared to go to the gym alone, its make a great training wheel for others who are scared to go. A personal trainer will have the tools to help you expedite your results. If you can’t get a personal trainer, YouTube has a lot of videos showing how to use equipment and example workouts. Some gyms will have employees who are qualified to show you how to use equipment too!

If you are still intimidated by going to the gym, keep in mind that it is filled with likeminded individuals who most likely have similar goals. They, too, have faced their worries and doubts about going for the first or second time. Remember to have fun with it! I hope these little tidbits help you feel more prepared for the gym, whether its your first, second, fifth, tenth or hundredth time. [The exercise tips will be the depth of my fitness “advice,” I am not a professional, I am not qualified to assist with working out.]

Photo by Leon Ardho on Pexels.com

What is your experience with gyms? Are you just starting out, pretty experienced? Is there anything that is holding you back after reading this? Let me know!

Reducing Waste Room-By-Room #1: Kitchen

When you buy foods in bulk, there is no trash to take home with your item! Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Room #1, the kitchen. I have always had the philosophy of starting a mission/assignment/journey with the hardest tasks first. This one has been the most daunting for me, I feel like the majority of waste comes into, and is produced in the kitchen. Whether it be plastic produce bags, plastic shopping bags, plastic bags that produce is sold in (like grapes), stickers, those little twisty ties for the produce bags or around greens, and food waste. Don’t forget about packaging for snacks, non dairy milks, and other necessary staples. I do not have a recycling program where I live, so it’s very difficult to avoid packaging. I find other ways that I can cut back on waste in the kitchen. I hope to find a store where I can buy food “in bulk” in the future. Bulk means to buy food in larger quantities without a package. How? 1. Bring your own container to the store; jar, tupperware, bag. 2. Weigh your container either at home or at the store. This allows the cashier to tare the scale so you only pay for the weight of your food, not the container. 3. Bulk foods will usually be displayed in bins that you can scoop from.

1. Don’t let it come into the house in the first place.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I think I will start off each room this way. It just feels right. Please keep in mind that sometimes keeping waste from entering your home may include carrying more items on you (reusable bags, cups, cutlery, handkerchiefs, pads/cups, tupperware), it is a hard pill to swallow at first, but each time you bring one thing at a time, you’re still replacing what would have been destined for a landfill. I will bring reusable shopping and produce bags to the store. I love ChicoBags! They can fold into themselves into a little ball with a carabiner for easy travel. You can pop them in your car/purse/backpack and be ready to carry groceries, or anything you would need additional storage for! I will take a traditional reusable shopping bag and put several ChicoBags into it so I don’t need a lot of real estate to carry many bags. I try to find produce that does not have a sticker on it, the cashiers have a list of produce codes so the stickers are obsolete. Unfortunately, they are placed on the food while still at the facility it came from. I try not to buy too much food. If there’s excess, it will go bad and be thrown out. If your local grocery store has a bulk foods section, check it out. Sometimes they have nuts, grains, or pasta. If you can’t avoid packaging for necessary staples, try to recycle or upcycle it. Upcycle means to reuse an item in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.

2. Try to avoid single use items.

Two silicone bags.
(re)zip bags

This would include plasticware, paper plates, plastic cups, saran wrap, parchment paper, muffin cups, coffee filters, K-cups, baggies, single use food storage (like tupperware, but disposable). If you don’t have access to reusable versions of these items, don’t stress yourself out over using them. If you do have a reusable swap, get into the habit of implementing them into your daily routine. Washing dishes is pretty lame, but so are plastics that don’t degrade and leech out the materials they’re made from. I really like Stasher and (re)zip bags. I also use Rubbermaid containers to store food in, I don’t like the idea of using plastic, but I do not need to purchase more because of what I already have. A good swap for clingwrap is to either put it in a container with a lid, or using wax paper wraps. They’re similar to saran wrap, but you can clean them and use them over and over! Another way to stay away from single use items in the kitchen would be to buy coffee in a metal can or in bulk, instead of K-cups. Then, you could either use a French press, which does not require a filter, or a coffee maker and a reusable filter. Yes, there are reusable coffee filters! They are so common now that they are made in different sizes and for different models of coffee makers. If you only have a Keurig-type coffee maker, some models will come with a plastic “K-cup” that you can scoop your own grounds into. You can still have the convenience of making one cup at a time without the waste! For paper towels, you can use “unpaper” towels. Kitchen towels/rags are perfect if they’re absorbent. Instead of using foil or parchment paper for baking, you can swap to a silicone baking sheet. They’re non-stick, so they are very handy for cooking. There are silicone muffin cups that you can bake in!

3. Avoid food waste.

Juicing kale stems after taking off the leaves. I will just keep the stems in the fridge until I juice them.

Try not to buy too much food. If you do, you could freeze it until you’re ready to use it, depending on what it is. If you plan out your meals and ingredients, you will be more likely to avoid wasting food. One source of waste created by food is scraps. You can take veggie scraps and boil them, strain it and you’ll have broth! You can also take the scraps from juicing and the aforementioned broth and make it into almost anything! When I’m juicing, I like to separate the veggie pulp from the fruit pulp so I can save them for savory or sweet recipes, respectively. If you can’t avoid throwing out a food or food scrap, you can always compost it! One specific example of using the same food multiple times is kale. I take the leaves off to eat, and I will save the stems to juice. I then take the pulp from the kale stems and freeze it for future recipes, like broth. I not only try to avoid throwing away (or composting when I can get a few more uses out of) food, but I also try to stretch the dollars I used to buy that food item. With my kale example above, you can use a food more than once, and use all the parts of the plant you’re eating. In addition to using it before going bad, you can learn new ways to store food properly. You can put wilted greens in water to perk them back up, put a ripe avocado in the fridge to “pause” the ripening process for a day or two, or freeze bananas if you love having them on hand, but don’t eat them often.

4. Upcycle!

I have mentioned ways to upcycle scraps in #3, but I have a couple more up my sleeve. If you have vinegar and eat citrus, you can soak the peels in the vinegar to make a citrus-scented all-purpose cleaner. You can also make your own apple cider vinegar from apple scraps! You can use ACV for many things like cooking, dressings, scalp rinse, all-purpose cleaner, and many more!

If you can’t avoid packaging, you can either compost, recycle (which includes mailing into TerraCycle, more information in my intro post!), or upcycle them. The goal is to reduce waste, so any action taken in that direction is a win.

Have you tried any of these swaps? What about the swaps from the introductory post? Let me know which is your favorite!

Room-By-Room Guide DISCLAIMER

I’d like to kick off the start of the guide with a disclaimer.

  • You do not have to incorporate these swaps into your life, I am just putting some ideas out in the open for anyone who is curious about reducing their impact.
  • Everyone has a different situation, so find the swaps that fit with your life, budget, and ability.
  • Budget: I am sharing links to many items, and the initial cost may seem steep at first. Let’s say we pay $4 for 500 cotton swabs, and one reusable one costs $10. The reusable swab is supposed to replace the single-use ones and will start paying for itself after several hundred uses. On the bright side, you may never have to buy reusable swabs again!
  • A lot of items I will link will be from Earth Hero. I am not affiliated, I just really like their products and the way they package orders. They use paper and don’t use too many packing materials.
  • A lot of swaps will require you to carry more items on your person, try to get into the habit of having some of these items on hand: Reusable water bottle, coffee cups, tissues, cutlery (if the place you plan on eating at does not have silverware or you’re getting takeout), feminine hygiene products. I really like my jansport “half pint” backpack, its big enough to fit these items and still have room for my phone, wallet, keys, chico bags, etc. If I don’t need to bring many items with me, I can fit my 32 oz water bottle in it.
  • I am not perfect. I am nowhere near “zero” waste, nor am I strict with the swaps I use. A lot of these swaps are ideas that I have either tried, implemented, or have looked into and plan on implementing in the future.
  • I may miss a lot of swaps and behavior changes. This guide is based on my experience (which will definitely differ from yours). There may be very basic ones I don’t have, and some might be very advanced.
  • Everyone’s lifestyle and journey are different.
  • This is all about sharing simple ways that people can make a change in their lifestyle to improve the health of the planet and themselves (by using non-toxic reusable versions of toxic single use items eg. tampons).

The lifestyle change should be fun and come from a place of love.

With this out of the way, let’s get started! I’ll see you in room #1!