Overcoming a Negative and Toxic Mindset

Hey lovelies!

This is a topic I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, but it requires a lot of vulnerability and realness on my part so I’ve been too scared to do it. But it’s something that I feel explains a lot about me and who I am as a person, so I want to share that with you all. I also think this topic of positivity versus negativity is very important and could potentially help a lot of people… I hope you’ll be able to relate and understand where I’m coming from. I wrote this post more like an essay, so the structure is a bit different from my typical posts. I hope you’ll find some kind of encouragement from my story. Thanks for reading!

There was a time when I was an incredibly negative person, very pessimistic and a “glass half-empty” type thinker. I was horribly annoyed by positive and optimistic people, I thought that they were naively stifling their feelings and not looking at reality. The idea of “choosing joy” was so far out of my reach and I simply couldn’t understand how someone could be intentional like that in their mindset… I was completely at the will of my runaway thoughts and feelings.

Some people say that they’re just not wired to be a positive person, I used to say the same thing. But what I’ve come to believe is that everyone has the potential to change and be a more positive person, they just have to see the need and be willing to change. Part of the disconnect comes down to the way people think of these negative thoughts and habits. Is it really such a big deal to be pessimistic and cynical? Yes! I truly believe that negative thinking is a poison, it is toxic to your life and to your soul. It allows darkness to creep into your life in tiny ways all day long. It makes you miss out on so much of the beauty and joy that we can enjoy in this life. It makes you see other people in a more judgmental light. It steals your joy one day at a time. Now, let me be clear, I am absolutely not saying that you should ignore or stifle your feelings. It’s absolutely okay to be sad or angry sometimes, to feel those more “negative emotions” that are really very natural. The difference is that instead of dwelling on the negative, you feel those emotions and give them their due, then you move on. You recognize the things you’re feeling and seek to understand and learn from them as best you can without wallowing in them; the goal is to be intentional about seeing the good in the situation and to focus on the good instead of the bad. Being a more positive person does not mean that you force a fake smile and pretend that things are fine. It means practicing thankfulness while looking for the beauty and the good in everything. In doing so you can find true joy!

For me, I think a lot of this negative thinking came from deeper rooted issues in my young life, issues that I still have to fight today. Before I can move on in explaining how I overcame this negativity, I feel it is necessary to talk about how it arose in the first place. Throughout my teenage years (especially in high school) I truly hated myself and thought I could never be good enough for anyone or anything… I even thought that God hated me. Why wouldn’t He? I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, good enough, cool enough, fun enough, interesting enough… I wasn’t enough for myself or for other people, so how could I be enough for God? I thought I had nothing, absolutely nothing to offer Him or anyone else, and I carried that overwhelming sense of worthlessness with me constantly. I was used to thinking of myself, others, and life in general with this very negative and depressing attitude. I was the first person to speak up about how something wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, everything was a disappointment, everything had a bad ending in my mind. I was constantly building up expectations in my head of how things should be, how I was supposed to be, how life was supposed to be. And I was always disappointed because all of those things I was expecting to be perfect were very, very flawed. I had no grace for myself and truly expected myself to be able to flip a switch and not mess up anymore! It’s crazy to say that now, but looking back it’s no wonder that I turned to horrible outlets for my anger, frustration and despair.

When I would look in the mirror, I saw a thousand things that weren’t what I thought they were supposed to be… it was all wrong and I was disgusted. I remember getting very upset one Sunday morning when I was trying to get ready for church and my Dad had come in to tell me to hurry up. My response was a very exasperated, “You don’t understand, I’m trying to FIX THIS!”, meaning I was trying to fix my face. In moments when I felt I was fat and disgusting (I’ve always been a toothpick, but somehow I thought I was fat) I would tell myself I wasn’t allowed to eat that day. When I would look in the mirror I would see an ugly face, then get angry because I guess I expected it to be different, and punish myself with cuts. Something about hurting myself felt right, I wasn’t what I was supposed to be and that was (in my mind) my fault, so in my head the logical thing to do was to hurt myself as a punishment. It felt just and right. Then I’d feel guilty and my conscience would speak up, so I’d cry and get angry at myself for crying and “being weak”.

This is me being very, very honest about just how messed up my thinking was for a long time. I know I’m not alone, I’m not the only girl who has struggled like this and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought those things or acted that way. The point in me sharing all of this is so that you can see just how amazing the Truth I’ve found truly is. Now for the resolution and how I’ve come to be much more positive, joyful, and no longer self-hating.

First is the concept of managing your expectations in life, something that has proven absolutely crucial in my own journey. When you believe at your core that you aren’t at all what you should be, it’s easy to look at the world and be disappointed with the way it is, too. Going through life with very specific ideas of how things are supposed to be (basically expecting perfection) will always leave you disappointed and confused. There’s a big difference between having hopes and having expectations. Expecting things to be a certain way can very quickly lead to entitlement, and when you find that things didn’t go your way… well, then you’re left confused and angry. Looking at the world with hope gives peace that you can make the most of whatever situation you’re given. Rather than expecting things to be a certain way and then finding yourself scrambling when they’re not. What if you could look at yourself with hope? What if you could give yourself grace? Wouldn’t that change the way you think about yourself? Maybe then you could strive to improve in a healthy way! It’s all about your mindset.

I talk about the need for a healthy and positive mindset all the time in the fitness industry. As a personal trainer, I have clients come to me all the time saying the things I used to say. Things like, “this is the thing I hate about myself and I need to fix it,” or, “I don’t think I can even do this, but I hate the way I am so I might as well try.” Notice something about those statements? They all start with a very negative, put-yourself-down kind of attitude. I know what that feels like, hating yourself and wanting to change, but having absolutely no faith in yourself to achieve it. Maybe you don’t even know where to begin. In fitness, if you go into a workout program thinking that you’re just there to try it, probably fail, and still hate yourself, you are going to fail. And no wonder! If you go into something challenging and you’re already giving up on yourself, then why even start? The same goes for just about every situation in life. You have to do things with the right intentions and the right focus, otherwise you’ll just be spiraling from one negative and disappointing situation to the next. Instead of working out to “fix” whatever you see is wrong with your body, workout because you know it’s good for your whole body and your wellbeing long-term. Eat right to work with your body to help it function the best it can, not only because you need to lose weight or you want to look different. Workout to get stronger, to practice self-discipline, and to challenge yourself, not to finally feel confident in a bikini. Now, of course, it is absolutely okay to have goals! You can absolutely seek to mold and shape your body in a healthy way, but I always recommend that you look at things with a bigger picture mindset. Take care of yourself first and foremost because your body and mind deserve to be cared for properly, the positive changes and progress you make physically are a bonus.

Now, the greatest changes I made in my mindset (that then overflowed into every aspect of my life) came through my faith. I grew up in a Christian home with amazing parents and lots of brothers and sisters, we’re all very close. I grew up going to church on Sunday, reading the Bible and praying. I knew all of the in’s and out’s of the faith from a very young age, and I knew all too well the reality of sin and the need for a Savior. The whole concept of me being a sinner who needed a Savior made so much sense to me! Of course I needed Jesus to save me, I was worthless and had nothing to give! But what I missed was the concept of grace. The core of the faith that says that we can never do enough, we can never be good enough, and that is okay. That’s exactly why Christ died for our sins! That’s exactly why what He did for us was so amazing, because He loved us and saved us when we were hopeless and completely lost. God wasn’t expecting me to be good enough or to do a certain number of things right in order to go to heaven! Instead, He loves me unconditionally and sent His own Son to die in payment for my sins! What amazing grace! If only I could have really understood this sooner… if only I had soaked up His amazing grace from the start! I could have saved myself a whole lot of anger, sadness, and pain. The freedom that comes when you really discover and accept God’s grace is unbelievable. It allows you to live your life as an act of worship, a constant prayer of thanks to the God who saved you. You no longer have to feel like you have to earn His love! His love is freely given and all you have to do is reach out and take it. It blows my mind to think of all the times God would reach out to me in my deepest, darkest days, and instead of reaching out and taking His hand I would look away and dig myself deeper in darkness.

For so long I was a slave to negativity, I had horrible habits in the ways I would think. That’s truly what negative thinking is at a very basic level: a very bad habit. The good news is that it’s a habit that can be broken, I’m living proof! So how does one break this habit of negativity? How do you develop a healthy mindset and have grace for yourself? By immersing yourself in Truth and practicing every single day. Surround yourself with positive people who will support your endeavor to see the world and yourself differently. Practice thankfulness, even in small ways throughout your day. When I first started trying to conquer my own negative thinking, I would write down five things I was thankful for every single day. When it came to my body image issues, I would look in the mirror and tell myself three things I appreciated about myself and the way God made me. My passion for health and exercise science has also played a huge role in giving me a healthy outlet for challenging and strengthening myself. Celebrate everything, appreciate even the little things around you! Slow down and take it all in and really be intentional in seeing the beauty that surrounds you. In time you’ll find yourself saying “Thank you, Lord, for…” throughout your day, out of habit and true appreciation, instead of judging everything and being constantly disappointed. You’ll find yourself telling those around you how much they mean to you because you’ll be seeing their beauty rather than their weaknesses. You’ll see things with new eyes.

I owe so much of what I now know to my husband and high school sweetheart, Alastair. He happens to be one of those annoyingly optimistic and positive people. 😉 He helped me so much in the midst of those dark days when I would hurt myself out of anger for not being the way I thought I was supposed to be. Or when I was angry about a situation that I thought was supposed to be different, so I’d take it out on myself. Everything was gray in my world, everything pointed toward darkness, death, and hopelessness. Alastair showed me that the God I had been so afraid of was actually the One trying to reach down and help me. I remember telling Alastair a long time ago that he had helped me finally see the world in color. And I don’t know if I’ll ever get over how beautiful it all is… how could I have missed this for so long? And not only missed it, but fought it and chosen not to see it.

Beautiful souls like my Momma set an example for me of someone who chooses joy every single day, no matter how bleak things get. In the most trying situations my Momma would be there with a smile on her face, joking and laughing because, as she always says, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” I remember seeing friends filled with the joy of the Lord and I wanted to be like that, but I didn’t understand how. And all along the answers were right there, reaching out to me, ready to help lift me out of the pit I had dug for myself… yet so often I just kept on digging.

I think our world wants us to keep on digging ourselves deeper and deeper in negativity. It’s the popular thing now to be a victim, to wallow and stay stuck in your problems and your past. Everyone has some sob-story to share, but so few people actually have a story to say how they overcame those demons. Why get pity and attention from people who feel sorry for you when you could get respect for all you’ve overcome instead? I’ll tell you why, I’ve been there: because it’s easier than working to make a positive change. It’s so much easier to tell a sad story and be showered with pity… it’s hard work to get up and seek out light every single day. Of course, it’s very hard and exhausting and overwhelming to constantly carry around your past. But at least then you’re used to it, it becomes a kind of comfort zone in which you’ve just accepted that “this is just the way I am.” It’s hard to change the way you think, it’s hard to break bad habits. It’s hard (sometimes it feels impossible) to conquer your demons. But I don’t see any other way to go through life. A life lived as a victim is no life at all. Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone in your past (I know I have), but by living your life as a victim of what happened you are giving that person and that situation the power to ruin your life and steal your joy. You can choose to not be controlled by your past, you can choose to move on and to get stronger. You can choose to stop digging yourself deeper in that pit and instead reach up, take His hand and climb out.

Some people say that sounds too simple, they would argue that it can’t possibly work for them (just like I did not too long ago). But nobody said it would be easy, the things in life that build character and make us stronger never are. And isn’t it so much better to try to climb out of the darkness and into the light? It doesn’t matter your situation, it doesn’t matter how complicated it is… I have to believe that with God’s help you can climb out of any pit, no matter how deep. I want to inspire and encourage people to strive for more and to choose joy. No matter what you’ve been through or done, you can change. You can step out of the darkness and into the light. You can start seeing the world in vibrant, beautiful color.

xoxo, Mary.

8-12 Week Upper Body Program: Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders, Back and Chest

Hey lovelies!

I’m so excited to announce the release of my first 8-12 week workout program! The hope is that these 8-12 week programs will make my training more accessible for those who need it. Future programs will include lower body training, fat burning/weightloss, and more!

This program includes workouts, in-depth instructions and guidance for training the upper body (specifically the biceps, triceps, and deltoids, as well as the back and chest muscles).

  • Within the program you’ll find a gym option and a home workout option.
  • The program can be easily customized for your fitness level and goals. Whether you’re new to working out or a seasoned athlete, this program will help you achieve the upper body you’ve always wanted!
  • In addition to having the guidance and instructions within the guide, you’ll also have my help whenever you need it via my private personal training email address and my Instagram DM’s.
  • You will also have access to my own demonstration videos to help you see exactly how to perform each exercise.
  • There are also several bonus topics, such as: how to avoid plateau and maximize progress, nutrition tips for your goals, a killer ab routine, and more!

Goals of the Program:

  • To provide 8-12 weeks of guidance for gaining strength, definition, and muscle for the biceps, triceps, and deltoids, as well as the back and chest muscles.
  • To teach the user confidence and proficiency in basic exercises and lifts so that they can develop a healthy and active lifestyle that will be sustainable for them.
  • To help the user learn how to safely and effectively make positive change for their overall health.
  • To show the user that they can achieve their goals if they work hard, follow directions well, and stay consistent.

You’ll receive in-depth guidance, full-time support, and detailed instructions to help you achieve your goals.
To order the program:

For now, please use the instructions below this message to purchase your copy of the program. I apologize for the inconvenience of not having an online store available… the store is a work in progress and I decided not to delay the release. The store should be available shortly. Thank you for your patience and support!

1. Complete the payment of $30.00 to my Paypal (if you don’t have Paypal contact me and we’ll use something else) at m_stephens_96@yahoo.com (please put a note with your full name and preferred email address with the payment).

2. Once payment has been processed through Paypal you will receive an email from my private personal training email with your copy of the program in a PDF, along with all of the information you’ll need to get started. You’ll also then be able to contact me any time via that email address.

I can’t thank you all enough for your kindness and support, I hope you’ll love the program! I’m really proud of it and can’t wait to share it with you all.

xoxo, Mary.

Refunds may only be completed prior to receiving the program to protect the program from unauthorized copying or misuse. Once the program has been emailed to you the sale will be considered final. Thank you! ❤

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. 💪

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.