Creating Your Healthy Lifestyle

Hey there, lovelies!

Today I want to offer a post focused on some of the ways I have created my own healthy lifestyle that I believe can help you create one for yourself. I think it is so important for women to understand that there are so many ways to create a healthy lifestyle specifically for you. In order to make something that is going to be sustainable and realistic, we need to create something specifically designed for you and only you. The schedule that I use and the routine I personally stick to may not necessarily be the best thing for you, simply because we are different people with different preferences and priorities. So below I have laid out some great guidelines for anyone who is seeking to reinvent their lifestyle and take charge of their health and fitness. I hope that this post will leave you feeling motivated and ready to take the first steps in creating a healthy lifestyle that will work for you. And don’t forget, while the idea is to create something designed for you, there are so many of us here to help you figure it out! ❤

Make Your Health A Priority! 

Without a doubt, the very first step before you take on anything else is to make your health and fitness a priority. I mean really think about that for a minute and commit to taking good care of your body, mind, and soul. Without that commitment to yourself the rest of this will be a whole lot harder to maintain! Make a list of all of the reasons you can think of for why you should be making a change and why you are committed to making it happen. But don’t forget to keep it positive! Like I talked about in my last post, it is so important to do things for the right, positive reasons, and this is no exception. Take a look at my previous post, “Strong, Not Skinny” for more on that topic.

Set Realistic Goals

One of the most common reasons why women end up giving up on a routine is because it wasn’t well-suited for them to begin with. In other words, they set goals that are not attainable based on the rest of their life and responsibilities, and end up feeling like a failure for not being able to keep up. So I say let’s avoid that situation altogether by starting off on the right foot and setting challenging, but realistic goals. Here’s an example of what I mean from my own experience: I work a full-time job, I have a husband, I have an apartment to keep clean, meals to cook, my sanity to keep, etc. Taking all of that into account I can say that it’s probably not realistic for me to expect myself to workout every single day. So what did I do to achieve my goals, remain consistent and avoid being in a situation where I feel like I’ve failed? I decided to workout 3-4 times a week, consistently. Being of the “give it your all” mindset most of the time, that was a hard thing for me to do at first because I felt like I could be pushing myself harder than that. But what happened was something so exciting to me that it was one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place! I found that in sticking to that routine I was not only reaching my fitness goals (these are goals like doing 20 push-ups, for example) without getting burned out, but I was becoming more and more motivated as time went on. Before I knew it I had accomplished my first set of fitness goals and was on to working out 4-5 times a week simply because I was having so much fun with it! It became one of my greatest forms of stress relief and something that I genuinely looked forward to rather than seeing it as one more thing to get done. It allowed me enough structure and consistency to make progress while still allowing enough wiggle room for the things that are bound to come up. As I’ve had to learn the hard way, you don’t always have to suck it up, get it over with, push on through. I’m a big believer that there are ways to create a routine that you thrive on, no matter the rest of your life’s duties.

Listen to Your Body

Having a routine that fits you well allows you to do one of the most important things you can do when it comes to health and fitness: listen to your body! Similar to what I said above, so many women end up giving up because they ignore the things their body is telling them and end up running themselves into the ground. A huge point I want to stress in this blog is to not only listen to your body but to work with your body. Allowing yourself that little bit of wiggle room keeps you from missing your body’s messages and helps you stay balanced. If you’re feeling under the weather you can hear those messages and know that maybe you should take it easy that day and let your body rest. Or, on the other side, if you’ve had a particularly good and energetic week you can add on another workout if you feel like it. All of this is just to emphasize the power that you can have from listening to and working with your body to achieve your goals, rather than trying to force progress while drowning out the noise of your body’s messages.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

So many girls have come to me and asked what my secret is, what I do to not only remain toned, but to continue to gain strength. My answer is always summed up in this one point right here: be consistent. That can sound intimidating because life happens, right? But in my points above I’ve explained some of the ways that I am able to be consistent while still being balanced. The truth of the matter is that you’re not going to lose weight, get defined abs, tone your thighs, get a booty or any of those goals you may have if you aren’t consistent. The beauty of it is that being consistent and maintaining a routine doesn’t have to be all-encompassing and daunting. When you find the right balance for you it will transform not only your body, but your mindset. The trick is developing a routine that is challenging without being overwhelming, that allows wiggle room without dismissing the need to stick with it.

Don’t Say Goodbye to Cheeseburgers Just Yet…

“People who are fit and ‘healthy’ are miserable and deprive themselves! Why would I do that to myself?” Behold, a comment I hear now and then (that honestly makes me really upset) from people who are skeptical about this whole healthy lifestyle thing. It always makes me really sad when I hear stuff like that, because unfortunately, society has given them reason to say those things. It doesn’t have to be that way! There are too many people out there who simply don’t know the foods they should and shouldn’t eat, the ways they can be active to fit their body, the ways they can assist their body to function properly. Living a healthy lifestyle should be all about educating yourself in the things your body does and doesn’t need and working with it to provide or avoid those things. Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself 24/7, it means you try to fuel your body with the things you know it needs most (from food to exercise to sleep, etc.). And guess what? Eating unhealthy food now and then isn’t going to suddenly negate all of your progress! Just like missing a workout every now and then isn’t going to somehow make you gain ten pounds over night. In fact, I think it’s great to have a treat here and there. All things in moderation, it’s all about balance. There are also so many ways to make healthy foods in a way that you’ll genuinely enjoy! No need to eat salads all the time or munch on carrot sticks even if you hate carrots, people. Don’t fall for this sad narrative that taking care of your body is a miserable way to live, it doesn’t have to be that way! There are so many people out here along with me to help you create a healthy lifestyle that will work well for you.

There you have it, those are the main points I think are a great starting point if you’re trying to take charge of your health and fitness. Even if you’ve been sticking to a routine for a while, these points can be great reminders of what’s really important! I want to encourage you, to motivate you and help you achieve your goals. Feel free to contact me if you need help getting started and we can work together to find a routine that is realistic and sustainable for you! ❤ Thank you for reading!

 

xoxo, Mary.

 

Strong, Not Skinny

Hey there, lovelies!

Today’s blog post is all about self-love and healthy forms of motivation. The message that I want to put out there for other women is to be healthy and strong, not skinny and weak. There are so many ways to maintain a lean and mean physique in a way that strengthens and nourishes your body. That being said, even if you’re someone who loves to work out, I think we all have moments when we slip into some dangerous thoughts and negativity regarding anything from lack of motivation, to lack of noticeable progress, or (maybe most dangerous of all) what the scale or the mirror tells us. I’ve been there… I still go there sometimes, unfortunately. But I’m here to share the things that have turned my attitude around in ways I never could have imagined.

First, some background: I know I’m not the only girl out there that’s struggled with her body image and I know that a lot of you can probably relate to what I’m about to talk about. I’ve been down some dark and dangerous roads in the ways I used to treat myself, all because from a very young age I would look in the mirror and see someone who I thought was ugly, worthless, and just plain wrong. For a long time I didn’t properly take care of myself, in part just because I was young and didn’t really understand how yet. Heck, I’m still learning! 😉 But with time and a whole lot of help from God and loved ones, I conquered some of the most aggressive demons I had been facing for so long. I realized that I had been hurting myself in more ways than one, and hurting those who cared for me in the process… I didn’t want to do it anymore, I couldn’t keep hurting myself and those I love. I found that I was desperate for more information on how to properly take care of myself, and I found ways to fight those negative and harmful thoughts that still attack me today. So all that being said, below are the things that have helped me to overcome and thrive.

  • Redefining Myself – Trying to See Myself Through God’s Eyes

I remember one night I was crying on my sweet husband’s shoulder, asking him  why I was so broken and wrong… downer, right? He responded, “If only I could make you see yourself the way I see you, or, better yet, the way God sees you.” In that moment something clicked. I knew that God loves me and that He made us in His own image. I remembered my Mom quoting Psalm 139 where it says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I knew that God doesn’t make mistakes, He didn’t mess up when He made me! Looking back now I’m somewhat ashamed that I even truly thought that the way I turned out was a mistake… but it’s honestly what I thought. I could feel a burden lifting off of my shoulders as I realized that I could be free from this horrible weight of self-hatred if I could try and see myself through His eyes. So what do I do? Every day when I look myself in the mirror I reaffirm what I know to be true: that God loves me and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The same is true for you! ❤

  • Do It For The Right Reasons!

I’m sure you’ve also had that moment when you come home from work or school, you’ve had a long day and you know you still have a lot to do… including working out. If you’re like me, you start to spiral out of control and get more and more overwhelmed until you’re in a really negative place mentally and emotionally. I remember one night in particular when I was exhausted and down, I looked in the mirror as I changed into my workout clothes and BAM! The thought of “yuck, of course I have to workout to fix that!” came into my mind and I found myself pushing through a workout that I was much too tired for, only to finish it feeling resentful toward myself for not doing a better job and not working out harder. Not cool, not cool at all. As I talked with my hubby about it in all of my anger and frustration that evening, he made another really good point (I swear, I’m married to the sweetest man alive!). He said, “Have you ever thought that maybe you’re doing this for the wrong reasons? You workout to ‘fix’ what you see to be wrong with your body instead of working out to take care of it and strengthen it. You have to do it for positive reasons!”. He was exactly right, negativity only breeds more negativity. You’re never going to find yourself enjoying your workouts and taking care of your body, soul and mind if you’re doing it for toxic reasons you’ve gotten stuck on in your head. The next day when I went to workout, I felt once again like a huge burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. I decided to listen to my body and train according to what I knew I could handle instead of pushing myself to an unhealthy extent. I felt refreshed and genuinely proud of myself at the end of each session, and I couldn’t wait for my next workout! With this new mindset I could challenge myself and make noticeable progress in a healthy way, knowing that it was okay for me to have an off day now and then. This, my friends, is a huge part of what makes a healthy lifestyle sustainable!

  • Don’t Listen to the Scale or the Thigh-Gap

I personally have a rule that I do not step on a scale to track my progress. Of course, there are reasons why you may need to track your weight (maybe your goal at the moment is to lose a certain amount of weight for health reasons or maybe you’re tracking your weight in pregnancy, etc.) and that is totally fine! In my case I personally avoid the scale because I’ve seen the power those silly numbers can have over me and it just isn’t necessary. The same goes for trends and #bodygoals like the thigh gap or any others you can think of. I’m a short girl, I’ve got short legs, in order for me to have a thigh gap I would need to have pretty much no meat on my bones! No thank you, I’ll stick to having my muscular thighs that touch together. 😉 What really matters is how you feel and whether you’re happy with the progress you’re making according to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Which brings me to my next point.

  • Set Realistic Goals for Yourself

This is a topic that I’ll be going into more detail about in another post coming soon, there’s a lot that I want to share that I think will be really helpful! For this post I’ll say that you don’t need to push yourself to extreme lengths to get results and maintain a fit and healthy body. Working out 3 or 4 times a week, for example, is far more sustainable, realistic, and better for your body and mind than pushing yourself to workout every day. More than likely you’re in a situation like me where you work full-time, you have family responsibilities, etc. So set goals that challenge you to work hard and be consistent, but there’s no need to go to the extreme.

  • Don’t You Wanna Be a Badass?

I want to encourage and empower other women to strive for more, to be strong, to be healthy, to be fit, to show that you can kick some butt! A huge turning point for me was when I realized that being skinny doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy, it doesn’t mean you’re strong. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be a tooth-pick, I want to be strong, lean and mean! 😉

So there you go, ladies! I have so much exciting content that I cannot wait to post in the near future, including more in-depth information on my workouts, goals, and ways to achieve a healthy and fit lifestyle. I wanted this post to come first before all of the rest because I really feel like it lays the groundwork for everything that is to come in the future. Thank you so much for reading!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now go out there and kick some butt!                                                                                      xoxo,

Mary.

My Very First Post!

Hello!
I’ll start off by welcoming you to my blog and saying how excited I am to have this platform to share the things I am most passionate about. I hope that everyone who reads my posts will be encouraged and enlightened by what I have to say. In this initial post, I want to lay out for you a little bit of my background and my plans for the content to come.
My name’s Mary, I’m a 21 year-old Christian wife who hopes to encourage women to nourish and strengthen their body, soul, and mind. I currently reside in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with my hubby/best friend/high school sweetheart, Alastair. We’re both originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, where we met back in the Fall of 2012. We got engaged in March, 2016 and were married on December 29th, 2016. I work as a full-time nanny while my fella goes to school at Calvin College. As we’ve taken on this adventure of being on our own here in Michigan, I’ve had the opportunity to hold onto and grow closer to God. Starting this new and beautiful life with my husband has come with the hardship of homesickness, but there have been so many blessings and so much positivity that has come from that struggle! While I’ve drawn closer to God in this time I have also enjoyed diving deeper into my passion for health and fitness. I truly believe that women have such a unique and beautiful strength that deserves to be cared for and nourished. I’ve named this blog “Strength, Faith, Positivity” because I believe these things reflect what I strive for in order to have a balanced life: a strong body, a deep and profound faith, and a positive mindset. I’ve come to believe that a healthy and balanced lifestyle can be attainable and realistic no matter the craziness you may deal with daily. I hope to share these things with you as I continue to learn and grow, and I hope that you’ll join this journey with me!

The content of this blog will include the following categories:

  •  Health and Wellness
    • Fitness
    • Hormonal Health and Balance
    • Mental Health
  • Beauty
  • Faith
  • Homemaking
    • Cooking, Baking, and Meal Prepping
    • Organization
  • Marriage and Relationships

Look out world, this lil’ lady has a lot to say! 😉 I’m so looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned and discovered on my journey so far, and I’m sure there will be plenty of new lessons and thoughts to share as my journey continues.

xoxo,
Mary Van Maren.

Answering Your Frequently Asked Health and Fitness Questions – Part 2

Hey there, lovelies!

Today I’ll be continuing my FAQ series with a few more questions from my Instagram (@maryvm.fitness). Feel free to reach out and let me know what questions you would like featured in this series!

“How do I make a healthy lifestyle last long-term? How do I stick with it?”

  • Rule number one: make it realistic. I wrote a lot about this in my post “Creating Your Healthy Lifestyle“. If you’ve never really worked out consistently before, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re not going to be able to consistently workout 5 or 6 days a week, let alone every single day! So be realistic with your schedule and your goals. If all you think you can really commit to (for now) is 3 or 4 days a week then go for that! Better to do a solid 3 or 4 days a week consistently than to do every day for a couple weeks before burning yourself out and quitting.
  • Know that it takes time and results don’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and consistency, results only come to those who put in the work! If you focus entirely on when you’re going to start seeing the results I can guarantee you won’t last long. Instead, focus on the process and make the most of it. Take progress photos when you start your journey, put them away and forget about them for a few months. In the meantime, focus on giving your all in your workouts and stick with it. You WILL get results and you WILL make progress if you work hard (find a trainer or a guide that will ensure you are working out properly and effectively), stay consistent, and maintain a positive mindset. Then, before you know it, you’ll remember those progress pictures and finally be able to make some comparisons and see the progress you’ve made over the months. It’s a process and a journey so focus on the here and now. You’ll never make it if you’re obsessing about the speediness of your desired results.

“I know I need to workout… but I hate it! What do I do?”

  • Not everyone can workout in the same way, the same frequency, etc. Everybody is different and has their own preferences, so take time to figure out what types of activity work best for you! Some people love lifting and working out in the gym like I do, some people like rock climbing, cycling or swimming. I have friends who hated working out in the gym, but found that they love kickboxing or martial arts! There are so many fun and interesting ways to get a good workout, so get out there and try new things until you find something you really enjoy. This comes back to the point in the previous question as well, you’re not very likely to stick with a routine that you hate and that doesn’t fit you well. Most importantly find something you enjoy. Get creative, find your passion, get excited about the workouts you’ll be doing on a regular basis.
  • Given what I’ve said above, keep in mind that if you have specific goals (ex. building muscle, getting abs, those kinds of things) you have to do more specific workouts to accomplish those goals. So while I absolutely recommend that you try things until you find a workout you love, keep in mind that swimming won’t build a booty, cycling won’t get you a six-pack, etc. So if you have specific goals you may need to do a combination of different things (some of which may not be enjoyable to you) to accomplish those goals.
  • Finally, while I am a big believer that everyone can find some form of effective workout that they enjoy, it is important to remember that fitness is hard work. To some extent this depends on your personal goals – for example, someone who is trying to build muscle will have to work a lot harder than someone who is aiming for general health through something like yoga. It’s important to be okay with being uncomfortable sometimes as your body will be challenged and pushed to new limits. To get amazing results and progress you have to commit to the journey and expect to work hard!

“Can I eat whatever I want and just workout to get results?”

  • While working out consistently can get results despite a bad diet, those results will be extremely minimal because of the unhealthy, fattening foods you’re consuming and the lack of nutrients that your body desperately needs. There’s a saying that “you can’t out exercise a bad diet”… and yes, that is true. You have to provide your body with healthy macro and micronutrients to help it reach your goals. Proper nutrition works so closely with your workouts and your recovery post-workout. In fact, there are lots of specific ways to time and work with your food to maximize your results.
  • Remember that eating healthy does not have to be an extremely strict and miserable thing! Just like I talked about in the previous post of this series (Answering Your Health and Fitness FAQ’s! Part I) you can still have occasional treats and you do not have to cut out a thousand yummy things forever. It really comes down to your priorities and your commitment to your body and your health. Commit to taking care of your body and use healthy, nutrient-rich foods to work alongside your workouts to not only get results, but to help your body function the best it possibly can.

There you have it, another addition to this series that I hope you found helpful! I’ve really been enjoying sitting down and addressing these common questions, so many of these topics are crucial for developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As always, feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns!

xoxo, Mary.

Never forget, we want to be strong, not skinny! Contact me for one-on-one personal training and follow my Instagram @maryvm.fitness for regular fitness motivation, tips and workouts. 💪

 

Answering Your Health and Fitness FAQ’s! Part I

Hey there, lovelies!

It’s been a little while since I last posted, I’ve been buckled down and focused the last several months as I was finishing my in-depth personal training education. Now I’m free as can be for the rest of the summer and I can’t wait to spend more time writing. I’ve also got some very exciting projects in the works that will help make my personal training services even more accessible… more on that later. 🙂

Today I decided to start a series based on the frequently asked questions I get on Instagram. Since I answer these questions on the regular, I figured it could be helpful to dedicate a few blog posts to them. Heck, I remember having these same questions a long time ago and I didn’t know where to look for answers. So here you go! Feel free to let me know about any questions you have to be featured in this series.

#1 How do I get abs???

This has to be the most asked question I get… ever. Everyone wants that flat, toned and tight tummy look. But actually achieving it can be so much harder than you think. Fear not! I love training abs, and I’ve gotten great six-pack results on my own using the following guidelines. The photo below shows my 6 month ab progression, the top left-top right, followed by the bottom left-bottom right.

  1. Doing a million crunches won’t get you abs that you can see… not without cardio. You have to burn the fat layer on top of the muscle first and foremost. The same is true of any body part or muscle group you’re looking to improve, tone, or tighten. Cardio is key for this part of the process (I always recommend HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training).
  2. Abs really are, at least partially, made in the kitchen. Lots of unhealthy foods end up getting stored in tummy fat, especially if you’re predisposed to a lot of tummy fat storage to begin with. So don’t ignore your diet, eat clean and lean, and work on detoxing your body.
  3. As a general rule in fitness, as well as when your goal is to get strong abs, always combine resistance training AND cardio. You need both to get results! Studies have shown that regular resistance training done along with cardio is the most efficient way to get a leaner physique. Cardio alone won’t get you the toned look you’re going for. You have to combine it with strength and resistance training. An example schedule would look like this: resistance and weight training in the 20-25 rep range, 3-5 days a week. Plus cardio (treadmill, HIIT, cycling, etc) in the morning or after weight training, 3-6 days a week.
  4. Perform ab-specific circuit training at the end of your workouts. I train my abs 4-5 days a week, using a circuit routine made up of 4 exercises (20 reps each exercise, 5 rounds)
    when I’ve finished my main workout for the day. That way I can focus on leg day, for example, and still get a kickass ab workout in at the end.
  5. Know your body type and focus on your trouble areas. If you naturally store a lot of your fat on the tummy, you’ll need to spend a little more time on it. For me, my arms and abs don’t store a lot of fat. However, my thighs and booty looove to hang on to fat all too well. Knowing this, I spend more time training lower body because that’s my trouble area.

With those basic guidelines you can not only make great progress towards your abs, but also develop a routine that will help you blast fat, gain strength, and develop a great beginning fitness level. And remember, you engage your core when properly performing most exercises and lifts, so really you’re training abs during just about any workout, not just ab-specific ones! 🙂

#2 Can I still have treats or do I have to eat exclusively healthy?

I’m a big believer that occasional treats are a huge part of making a healthy lifestyle sustainable. If you restrict yourself too much all the time you’re bound to burn out. I personally have a weekly treat (usually a cheeseburger… or fries… or icecream… or candy…) and I encourage my clients to do the same. It keeps you sane! The key is to keep it as a treat. Do not binge eat. Enjoy the treat for what it is and then get right back on the healthy food. When the majority of what you eat is nutritionally dense and good for you it’s okay to have an occasional treat. It’s all about balance and moderation, people! And hey, it’s always helpful to try to find healthy alternatives that you crave! 🙂

#3 Can/should I workout when I’m sick, sore, or on my period?

The answer to all three is yes. However, it is so important to listen to your body!

Sickness: If you have a fever or an illness that causes any kind of dizziness, muscle aches or extreme fatigue… take it easy! If you have something more simple, like a cold, I say go for it. Take it slow and stop if your body can’t handle it. Lower the intensity of the workout a bit to take it a little easier on yourself. I find that when I’m under the weather, working out is one of the best ways to feel better and recover quickly. I’m not saying to go crazy with something intense like HIIT while you’re sick, but some basic resistance training can be really refreshing.

Soreness: What kind of sore is it? Are you just feeling that normal, “I worked out hard yesterday” kind of sore? Then go for it. Make sure your training schedule allows for proper rest and recovery between workouts (ex. alternate upper and lower body days). But if you’re training hard and effectively, you’re probably going to be sore a lot. That’s okay! On the other hand, if you are in pain, having twinges, joint issues or something that doesn’t feel normal, go see a doctor before continuing your training. Better to get it checked or let it rest than risk serious injury!

Period: we all know the awful side effects that can come along with that time of the month… not fun. But working out (even if all you can manage is a long walk or some basic lifts) is a great way to help reduce those symptoms. Studies have also shown that women who workout regularly have less intense PMS! Cool, right? 🙂 I find that getting in the gym and reminding myself what I’m capable of is a great mental and physical boost during that time.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and I hope you’ll start implementing these guidelines into your routine. As always, feel free to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns. I’m always happy to help however I can! Keep an eye out for the rest of this series, we’ve got a lot of questions to go! 🙂 There will also be many more posts on lots of topics as I get into a regular posting schedule.

xoxo, Mary.

Never forget, we want to be strong, not skinny! Contact me for one-on-one personal training and follow my Instagram @maryvm.fitness for regular fitness motivation, tips and workouts. 💪

How to Properly Fuel Your Workouts

Hey there, lovelies! 😄

Been a while since I last posted! Today I want to talk briefly about the importance of proper fueling and meal timing before and after your workouts. It really is true that abs are (at least partially) made in the kitchen! 🍎🍑 These simple tips and rules can make a huge difference in the results you achieve. 💪

PRE-WORKOUT: As a basic rule, you want to fuel your weights and strength training, but don’t fuel cardio.

-Your body needs energy and fuel to get through your lifting or resistance training sessions. Eat a power snack 60-90 minutes before your session to make sure your body has what it needs to kick ass during the session and protect and build muscle mass. My pre-lift snack usually consists of egg whites, rice cakes and a spoonful of almond butter. And don’t forget to drink your BCAA’s!
– The reasoning for not fueling cardio: cardio is your main way to burn fat. 🔥 Fasted cardio means your body has no other fuel in its system to burn other than fat, so it makes for a super effective and efficient way to burn a lot of it! The catch here is that it also can break down muscle… but as long as the session doesn’t exceed 30 or so minutes and you drink BCAA’s throughout, this shouldn’t be a problem. 💪 A 30 minute HIIT session in the morning with BCAA’s is ideal. 🔥

POST-WORKOUT: fuel, fuel, fuel. I tell clients all the time that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, the leanest and most muscular I’ve ever been, and I’m eating more than ever! 💪 It’s all about what you’re eating, how much, and when. Make sure to drink a good serving of protein powder within an hour after your workout to replenish your body and fuel those gains. It’s great if you can time your workouts a couple of hours before a meal, that way you can refuel with a big meal of lots of lean protein, healthy carbs and a little bit of fat. 🍗🥑🥕

Important note about losing weight: Never deprive yourself excessively if you’re trying to lose weight. Yes, you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, but do this carefully with the help of a dietician. If you deprive yourself too much you can make it HARDER to lose weight! 😮 When your body feels it doesn’t have what it needs to run smoothly it goes into starvation mode. Which means it will store the little amount of food you’re consuming as FAT. And it will break down muscle for energy… No good. Of course, you will still burn some fat, but not in a very healthy way. People seem to think that you have to go to extremes to achieve big goals… not true! It takes hard work, balance, consistency, and time. Give your body time to make the change and consistently help it along without going to extremes.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll start implementing these rules for better progress. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated, a basic understanding of the way your body works and what it needs is a great place to start.

Xoxo, Mary.

A Beginner’s Guide to Nutrition

Hey there, lovelies!
This week’s post is a crash course in the basics of nutrition and healthy eating. You guys hear me talk all the time about what you should and shouldn’t eat, but now I want to do an educational post about why you should avoid certain foods and consume others. With this groundwork in place you’ll be able to make even better decisions on your own and know more about what you’re putting in your body.
First, let’s talk food groups. You’ve all probably heard about the five food groups since you were a kid, so let’s use that as our starting point.
The Five Food Groups:
-Fruits
-Vegetables
-Dairy
-Grains
-Meats

The main point I want to make in sharing these five food groups is that you want to have balance and variety in your diet. Maybe you’ve heard people say that they try to “fill their plate with all the colors of the rainbow.” I recommend filling your plate with lots of fruits, veggies, and protein first. Then add small amounts of dairy and grains since the body has a harder time digesting them and they tend to be more fattening. Go for lean meats, low fat dairy, and whole grains. I’m intolerant to gluten so I don’t eat wheat and avoid most grains because things like brown rice don’t do well with me either. I have also found that dairy makes me break out, so I avoid dairy whenever I can. If you’re like me and don’t really eat dairy or grains, try to consume more healthy fats like avocados and almonds, and healthy carbs like sweet potatoes and bananas. Below I’ll tell you a little bit about each group along with some tips about proper consumption:
– Fruits: Fruits contain so many vitamins, minerals and fiber and absolutely should be a staple in your diet. The thing to be aware of with fruits is that they do contain lots of natural sugars, so make sure you’re consuming them in moderation. Obviously, natural and healthy sugars are good for you in moderation so no need to be paranoid when you hear the scary word “sugar”! I like to use fruits in smoothies or have an apple or orange for a snack in the morning (try to consume fruits in the morning so that the sugars in them don’t keep you from sleeping well at night… it might not make a difference for you but it sure does for me!).
– Vegetables: Again, you’ll get lots of your vitamins, minerals and fiber from your veggies. Go for variety: ex. you can use zucchini and mushrooms with eggs in the morning, lots of leafy greens and sprouts in a chicken salad with lunch, and broccoli and carrots with your dinner. As much as possible, try to eat veggies raw so they retain all of their nutrients. I recommend baking them or sauteeing them in olive oil or coconut oil when you can’t eat them raw.
– Dairy: This is an area to watch out for fat! Of course, not all fats are bad for you (a topic I’ll go into more detail about below). But in general, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or get lean and toned, it’s a good idea to go for the low-fat options when it comes to milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant or you avoid dairy for other reasons like me, you can use almond milk alternatives – they’re super lean and a great source of healthy fats.
– Grains: Grains are a rather controversial topic for a lot of people today, many believe that humans are not made to digest grains and therefore should avoid them. And honestly, they’ve got a point! I’m not saying everyone should go gluten-free or paleo, absolutely not… girl, you know I can’t live without a little bread. 😉 But I do recommend paying attention to the kinds of grains that work best in your body. I bet that the bloating or indigestion you may experience can be tied back at least partially to the grains you’re consuming. For me, I cannot handle gluten at all and rice tends to not sit well either. So instead I go for quinoa if I really need a grain, or breads made with almond flour. Honestly, consuming fewer grains means I fill that gap with way more veggies. Listen to your body and find what works best for you. If you do stick to wheat and other grains, make sure to use whole grains and avoid the processed crap that makes up most of the baked goods in the grocery store.
– Meat/Protein: When it comes to meats I’m a bit more laid back in the things I recommend my clients eat. The main thing here is to focus on lean meats, things like chicken, turkey and salmon. Proteins or “amino acids” are your building blocks for muscle growth, so it’s so important to be consuming plenty of healthy protein so that your muscles can be properly fed and strong (especially if you’re working out regularly, which you are, right? 😉 ).
Next, let’s go into a little bit more detail about the actual nutrients in your food. This is something I could go on and on about because it’s such interesting stuff, but for the purpose of this post I’ll keep it pretty simple.

Macronutrients: These are your “big nutrients”, the ones that make up the bulk of what you eat. When you hear body builders and athletes talk about “counting macros”, these are what they’re talking about. Below are the three macronutrients and things to know about each:
1. Carbohydrates: Carbs get a lot of negativity since people tend to think they’re mainly to blame for making people fat. The reality is that there are lots of yummy, unhealthy carbs out there that are being consumed in huge and unhealthy amounts – therefore contributing to (not causing on its own) what is already an unhealthy lifestyle and weight gain or unsuccessful weightloss. There are lots of healthy carbs in fruits, veggies and grains that are perfectly healthy in moderation. I want to clear up some of the negativity and let you know that you don’t need to be terrified of carbs, you just need to know which kinds to eat.

Here’s the basics: there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The body burns up the energy from simple carbs fast, and burns complex carbs more slowly (simple= quick energy; complex= long-lasting energy). You want to consume more complex carbs because they’ll be better used by the body for lasting energy. That’s not to say that simple carbs are bad at all, they can be a great addition to your short-term energy when eaten in moderation. Energy is good, you guys! Properly consuming the right types of carbohydrates can help you maintain balanced blood sugar levels and keep you energized all day.

Here’s some examples of healthy simple carbs: lots of fruits, especially bananas, mangoes and grapes; natural fruit juice and lactose containing products like milk are also good sources of these short-term energy carbs. Things like processed baked goods, chips and snacks that include white flour and refined sugars are the simple carbs you do not want to consume. Keep it clean and plant-based as much as possible!

Finally, here are some healthy complex carbohydrate examples: leafy greens, whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and peas. Again, avoid processed foods, white flour, and refined sugars.

2. Protein: I’ve already covered the main points about protein above, but I’ll add that protein is another way to give your body long-lasting energy and fuel. Make sure to use an organic, plant-based protein powder after your workouts to feed your muscles and help them repair and grow.

3. Fats: This is another macronutrient that gets a lot of negative talk, and like carbohydrates, it’s really a matter of knowing what type to consume. Here’s the basics: the “bad fats” are saturated and trans fats, these are usually solid at room temperature (ex. Butter). Once again, avoid processed and high-calorie products like butter and goods that contain refined sugars and white flour. Pastries, chips or crackers, processed meats, canola and hydrogenated oils are examples of foods that contain the unhealthy or bad fats. The “good fats” are unsaturated fats, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Examples of these would be avocados, almonds, eggs, salmon, flaxseed, olive oil, coconut oil, and leafy greens.

Micronutrients: These are the smaller components in your diet that play a huge part in keeping you healthy. Basically, vitamins, minerals and a few other small compounds make up the majority of your micronutrients. The goal should be to get as many of these from your food as possible and take organic supplements for the rest. You can google which foods contain which vitamins and minerals, there are plenty of tables online you can print and hang on your fridge for reference to make sure you’re getting all of the necessary micronutrients.

Okay, now that we’ve gone through the basics of food groups, macro and micronutrients, let’s talk a little about the big things to avoid. You know now that there are good and bad types of carbs, fats and proteins. Now you can fill your plate with the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff, eating all things in moderation. I want to take a minute to talk about sugar and alcohol, the two big things you should also try to avoid and consume only in small amounts. I’m not saying you have to give them up completely, having a little sugar or a glass of wine now and then won’t kill you. 😉 However, added sugar in treats and processed foods you eat put a strain on your immune system, your liver and your body in general. Alcohol does the same thing, and really alcohol can be seen as a type of poison in your body. There are no nutritional benefits to be gained from eating lots of sugar and drinking alcohol. Both of these put stress on your body and count as “empty calories” which are never a good idea. When it comes to sugar and sweeteners, grab sweet, yummy fruits and berries for snacks and natural sweeteners like stevia. Avoid added sugar, corn syrup, and especially unnatural/chemical sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame.

Fill your body with things that will nourish and help it to properly function and perform at its best. Always read the nutrition label and practice recognizing the things that should and shouldn’t be in your diet. Food is an amazingly powerful thing and can be used as both a preventative and healing medicine for your body.

There’s so much more to the topic of nutrition, it can be very complicated and cool! But for now here’s the basics, I hope you’ve learned a lot and will start applying these lessons to your healthy lifestyle.

Xoxo, Mary.

Detox Your Home – No More Chemicals

Hey there, lovelies!

Today I want to talk about the importance of ridding your home and environment of chemicals, along with ways to go about this is in a budget-friendly way. The average home today contains anywhere from 500-1,000 chemicals. I’m sure many of you have heard or read scary stories about the way chemicals in our plastic, our cleaning agents, even our deodorant and makeup have been linked to an alarming number of health problems. These health problems range from issues of the immune system, endocrine system, reproductive system and many more. Cancer and other serious/life-threatening conditions have been linked to the use of plastic containing BPA, and to many of the chemicals found in things we use around the house. So many things in our 21st century environment are not as safe as they may seem… why take the risk? There are so many natural options on the market today that can be trusted and used without putting a dent in your budget. Let me take you through what I did in my home to get rid of unnatural products and replace them with things I can trust. Look for products that have basic ingredients you can pronounce, usually they’ll be labeled with things like “Plant-Based”, “Chemical Free”, or “Organic”.
• Food Containers: While many plastics today say on the box that they are “BPA free” this cannot always be trusted. Many plastics with this claim still contain small amounts of the chemical and should be avoided. A great alternative is a set of glass food containers. I purchased mine off of Amazon for under $30 and said goodbye to my plastic Tupperware (they were getting a bit worn out anyway). I also went through and replaced plastic cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups, utensils… just about any plastic I could find was replaced with glass, metal or wood alternatives.
• Cleaning Products: When you think of chemicals in your home, things like your cleaners probably come to mind as the obvious culprits. Harsh chemicals are being used to clean so many areas in our homes, chemicals which we then touch and inhale all day long. There are lots of natural cleaning agents out there that do just as good of a job and are safe for our bodies to be around constantly. The Honest Company makes so many great products that are totally affordable, so does Method. Mrs. Meyer’s products are my personal favorite, I love the lemon verbena scent (their ingredients are derived from plants and essential oils). You can also use good old vingar diluted in water for cleaning many different surfaces. I replaced all of our cleaners, towels and sponges with natural ones for under $30!
• Makeup: Ladies, listen up. So much of the pretty makeup we wear contains nasty chemicals that are then absorbed into our bodies through our skin! Yuck! As a lady we have our hormones to keep in check, and you know what can make a huge difference in the health of your endocrine system and hormones? Having a clean, natural, healthy and chemical-free environment. Brands like Almay and Physician’s Formula carry organic and chemical free lines, and they can be bought at your grocery store or Target for no more than you were already paying for other brands like Covergirl or L’Oreal. I actually like the natural stuff better than what I used to use!
• Hygiene: Now think about personal hygiene… shampoo, conditioner, facewash, bodywash, deodorant, perfume, tampons… all of these contain ingredients that can be harmful to your body, and just like makeup they can be easily absorbed by your skin. Luckily, most stores today have clearly labeled sections for natural products. I was amazed at how easily I found natural and organic options for little more than what I paid before. Or you can just do a little digging online if you can’t find what you need in the store.
• Fresh Air: Open your windows as much as possible (not an easy task this time of year) to keep air flowing and clean. You can also use plants in your home to clean the air. Get your diffuser going with essential oils to refresh, and try to use a broom as much as possible instead of a vacuum to avoid stirring up dust in the air.
• Water Filter: This is one I still need to implement myself. Filtering the tap water you drink is a good idea for obvious reasons, but can be easily forgotten. Make it happen so that you can know the water you’re using is fresh and clean.
• Packaging: You know those plastic bags they have at the grocery store for your fruits and veggies? Try to bring your own paper ones, or take your fruits and veggies out of their plastic bags and wash them as soon as you get home. Also be mindful of the plastic packaging on other foods you may be buying. Paper bags (basic, natural ones) are a cheap alternative, and you can always store things in your new glass containers.

There you have it, now you have a basic guideline for detoxifying your home of chemicals that can and do cause your body harm. Taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle goes beyond eating right and working out. Put in the effort and your body with thank you!

xoxo, Mary.

Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

Hey there, lovelies!

The holidays are a crazy, fun, exhausting and fattening time of year. I’ve found that a lot of people tend to throw their healthy lifestyle out the window this time of year and say that they’ll hit it hard when they get off of break or vacation. Don’t! It isn’t necessary to just give up on taking care of yourself in order to have a good time and eat yummy food. The break is a fantastic opportunity to continue kicking butt! 💪 In this post I’m going to give you a survival guide for the holiday break, that way you’ll have lots of tricks up your sleeve to take good care of your body while still enjoying the festivities. If you’re travelling like me, a lot of these will be especially important for avoiding germs and sickness at dirty airports.

Fill Your Plate Wisely: So you’re surrounded by yummy food that you know is probably not that great for you and eating a lot of it might make you feel bloated, yucky and guilty later on. It’s so important to maintain a healthy relationship with food! Having treats and indulging in yummy things you don’t normally eat is totally fine and probably good for you mentally. It’s all about moderation, my friends! A great trick is to fill up your plate with whatever fruits, veggies, salads and lean protein that may be available, then add some of the yummy not-so-healthy stuff when you go back for seconds. That way you can fill up mostly on good stuff and treat the unhealthy options as just that, a treat.

Emergen-C and Vitamins: I drink Emergen-C every morning this time of year, especially if I’m travelling or on vacation. Don’t forget to pack your vitamins and drink some Emergen-C throughout your break! Set an alarm in your phone to help you remember to take them if you need to, your body will thank you! 

Resistance Bands and Sliders: One of the many awesome things about these pieces of workout equipment is that they’re small and portable. You can easily throw them in your carry-on and have them ready to go for workouts wherever you are. Don’t forget to pack some pre-workout fuel, BCAA’s and protein powder. It’s super easy to throw some in a Ziploc and bring it along. 

Healthy Essentials: Head to the store and grab a few healthy essentials to bring in your carry-on for healthy options while you travel. I always have RX or Kind bars in my bag, along with things like almonds and raisins. You can also grab an assortment of fruit and other healthy snacks to have on hand throughout the break. Keep unhealthy treats out of sight as much as you can, and keep the healthy options easily accessible. I like to lay out my Emergen-C, supplements, snacks and water bottles right where I can see them wherever we’re staying, that way it’s easy to grab them and make good choices. 

Stay Hydrated: Water is always, always, always an essential. Keep a water bottle on hand and don’t forget to drink throughout the day! Staying well hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, especially if you’re travelling or have a crazy week of festivities.  

Wash Your Hands: I sound like your mom right now, but seriously, wash your hands! That little bottle of hand sanitizer that gets lost in the bottom of your purse? Now is the time to break that out and use it whenever you think of it. Germ filled airports and ubers and hotels, not to mention germs your family members might have been exposed to during their travels… wash your hands. 

Sleep: It’s so easy to get lost in the parties and the vacation fun, but remember that your sleep is important too! It’s a super fun but super exhausting time, so if you have the chance to take an earlier night, do it. You’ll be glad you did in the morning, and you’ll be glad you did when you’re headed home and haven’t completely worn yourself out! 

Get Everyone Active: Find fun ways to stay active and go on adventures, get your family or friends in on a hike, ice skating, or even sledding is a surprisingly good workout (it didn’t feel like it as a kid, but man does going up and down those hills wear you out).

Workout When You Can: Again, take advantage of the time you have! Your body and post-vacation you will be so very glad you did! When you have the time, don’t hesitate, just do it. Grab those sliders and resistance bands and have fun with it! Or go for a HIIT session to burn off those holiday treats and get rid of bloating from the night before.

HIIT Sessions: HIIT stands for “High Intensity Interval Training”. These types of workouts are fabulous for so many reasons: you can do them anywhere, you need little or no equipment, they work lots of muscle groups and you get cardio at the same time, they’re extremely efficient and effective, and they burn tons of calories. I love doing HIIT a few times a week for fat burn, they’re a great option for squeezing a quick workout while on break or travelling. Below is a basic HIIT session that can be done in less than 30 minutes and will leave you dead (in the best of ways).

You’ll do each exercise below for 30 seconds, back to back, taking as little time in between as possible. At the end of each set of six exercises you’ll rest for 1 minute. REPEAT for a total of 3-5 sets/rounds.

Jump Squats, 30 sec.

Star Crunches, 30 sec.

Lunge Jumps, 30 sec.

Push-Ups, 30 sec.

High Knees, 30 sec.

Mountain Climbers, 30 sec.

There you have it, with these tips and tricks in mind you’ll be able to stay active, healthy and feeling good throughout your holiday break. 💪 Never stop working to be the strongest, healthiest and happiest you that you can be! It’s all about balance, too much partying and unhealthy eating will leave you feeling yucky, just like too much of a good thing can burn you out. So do what you can to take care of yourself and stay fit while enjoying the most wonderful time of the year! 😄 It doesn’t have to be complicated, your body and mind deserve the care. 

Happy Holidays! ☃

Xoxo, Mary.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Digestive System

Hey there, lovelies! 

Today’s post is going to be focused on meals and digestion, a fitting topic given my upcoming meal plan release! My four-week detailed meal plan is coming soon, so keep an eye out. 😘

Many people don’t realize just how important having a healthy digestive system is for your entire body. It may seem like no big deal to be irregular in the bowel department or to eat meals at random times of the day. But having a good meal schedule and a healthy digestive system works wonders throughout your entire body. There are so many toxins that need to be able to be eliminated efficiently in order for the rest of our body systems to function smoothly. For us ladies, having an efficient system of elimination is a big part of maintaining healthy and balanced hormones (the build-up of excess estrogen in the body can lead to all kinds of hormonal issues). So don’t underestimate the power of your tummy! That being said, here are a few tips to help you establish a healthy digestive system and a healthier you overall as a result.

Hydration: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times, being well  hydrated is so important for your whole body, and digestion is no exception. Have a tall glass of water with lemon every morning when you get up, this will wake up your digestive system and get it running for the day. Then be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your day to keep things running smoothly throughout all of your body’s systems. I drink 8 ounces right when I wake up, 40 ounces before noon, and 40 ounces after noon. The difference it makes is incredible! 

Regular Meal Schedule: A sporadic and inconsistent diet leads to a multitude of problems, including messed up blood sugar levels and digestive irregularities. Stick to a schedule with your meals and keep your body well fueled throughout the day. For me that means eating breakfast at 7 a.m., a snack at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack at 3 p.m., and dinner at 6 p.m. You’ll feel better and more energized throughout your day from more balanced blood sugar levels, and your body will be able to better handle the things it needs to digest and eliminate.

Fiber: This one probably comes to mind for most people when they think about having regularity in the bowel department. Start your day with a good amount of fiber in your breakfast to start the day on the right foot. Outside of the obvious fruits and veggies, chia seeds are a great source of fiber and omega 3’s, plus they’re easy to incorporate into just about anything. I like putting a spoonful of chia seeds in my oatmeal, on top of my eggs and veggies, or in a breakfast smoothie. 

Probiotics: Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is so important and often neglected. When people think of bacteria they tend to think of bad bacteria, but there’s an amazing group of healthy, good bacteria that reside within the digestive system to help neutralize toxins, assist in the absorption of nutrients, and discourage bad bacteria and yeasts. These good bacteria are not only huge helpers in the digestive process, but are crucial for keeping your immune system strong. Taking a probiotic every day and drinking kombucha are great additions to your routine that will help keep this aspect of digestion running smoothly.

Eat Simply: The more complex the meal the harder it’s likely to be to digest, especially if it contains lots of unhealthy fats. Stick to clean, simple meals filled to the brim with nutrient-rich veggies and lean proteins.

Be Nice to Your Liver: Your liver probably gets forgotten about when you think of stomach issues, but it plays a huge role in digestion and needs to be taken care of! Your liver plays the role of processing the nutrients absorbed by your small intestine, and it provides bile which is a key helper in digesting fat. So try to be good to your liver by eating foods like carrots and leafy greens, and by limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. Cutting down your alcohol intake is beneficial for so many reasons, but this is a good one to start with.
That concludes my tips for healthy and regular digestion, I hope you found them helpful and will begin incorporating them into your routine. Your body will thank you! 
Xoxo, Mary.