Bulking is the Worst

I mentioned a while back that I had been bulking, see that blog post here. I was trying to build muscle and thought I should try bulking because to gain weight as muscle or fat, you must eat more. So I figured the best time to try it out was over the holiday season when I would be eating more anyway. Unfortunately, I do not have the healthiest relationship with food, particularly sweets.

From indulging in sweets over the holiday season, I went right back to my sugar addicted ways. Worst part was I was trying to hide it from my partner. Granted I did not try hard hide, all he would need to do is walk out into the kitchen and there I would be standing over the pint of ice cream. These unhealthy habits were not aided by the anxiety I was feeling from the transitions going on in my life.

Thus, my digestion has been up and down all 2017. I say bulking is the worst mainly because I did it wrong and allowed myself to develop a mindset of, “oh it is ok if I have this extra food because I am bulking.” The extra food should have been extra produce or grains or protein, not cupcakes, pints of ice cream, cookies and fried foods. I am not sure if I will try bulking ever again. I really just want to get back to eating when I am hungry and stopping when I feel satiated.

When my cycle is back to being regular and I feel I have regained a healthy relationship with food I would like to gain muscle again, but we shall see when life takes me. ūüėČ

 

Farmer’s Market Inspiration

Since my move, I have been enjoying the local farmer’s market a lot more. This farmer’s market is open 3 – 4 days a week YEAR-ROUND! I love it! Plus, it is so close to our apartment that I can bike to it in about 20 – 25 minutes. With this amazing resource, we have been eating plenty of vegetable-heavy meals and I thought I would share them with you this week.

Baked Beans on Roasted Potatoes with a Soft Boiled Egg

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For this, I roasted 2 potatoes sliced into wedges, soft boiled an egg and made Brand New Vegan’s Baked Beans in our new Instant Pot, but I substituted 1/4 cup maple syrup for the 2 sweeteners in the recipe. It was plenty sweet for us with half the amount of sweetener and we both felt that the Costco maple syrup was a great addition to the flavor. I picked up the potatoes ($1/lb), peppers (50¬Ę), onion (50¬Ę) and free range eggs ($1.75) from my farmer’s market. The navy beans I was able to grab from the co-op down the street from the market. All you need to do is pour 3/4 – 1 cup of the beans over your potatoes and slice your egg over the top.

Peach and Blueberry Chia Seed Pudding (as seen on Instagram)

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Chia seed pudding is so easy and perfect for the days I commute 2 hours to work. To make it I just grabbed an old glass peanut butter jar I use for storage now and put one chopped peach, an ounce of almonds, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup unsweetened soy milk and filled it the rest of the way with blueberries. Shake it up really good and let it sit in the fridge overnight for a great breakfast in the morning. The peaches ($2.75 for a peck), blueberries ($3/lb) and raw almonds ($5/lb) are from the market.

Mixed Fruit and Yogurt

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Another way we have used the new Instant Pot was to make yogurt. We could not believe how easy this was, nor how much better it was than store bought yogurt. Yes, it does take time, but it is mostly hands off time and you can make it while you sleeping or are at work. I enjoy taking a cup of yogurt and adding in peaches ($2.75 for a peck), nectarines ($2.75 for a peck), cherries ($3/lb), blueberries ($3/lb) and whatever fruit I get my hands on at the market.

Chinese Five Spice Veggie Balls with Zucchini Over Ramen Noodles

This is the one dish took work, mainly because it was the first time I prepared it and I made it up from different recipes I found online. I was trying to make veggie balls like the ones you can get at IKEA, but with an asian flare. I used 1 cup leftover brown rice, 1 cup cooked beans, 1/2 cup nut meal (this, oats and rice are great options to make meat ball or meat loaf type things gluten-free by the way), a chopped onion, a chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup corn, 1 cup chopped kale steamed, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1 tablespoon garlic, a lot of spices and salt and pepper to taste. I recommend picking up a Chinese 5 spice mix to simplify things.

Then, I saut√©ed the vegetables with the spices and then combined the beans and vegetables in the food processor for a few pulses. Using a cookie scoop, I made 1 inch balls and baked them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, making sure to rotate/flip them half way through. I placed them with some roasted zucchini over ramen noodles tossed with hoisin sauce, sesame seeds and green onions. Its not the prettiest, but for my first try at making these they were not too bad. I have some adjustments I plan to make. I picked up the onion (50¬Ę), pepper (50¬Ę), corn (5 ears for $1), zucchini ($1 for a 2 ft long zucchini), green onion ($1 per bunch) and kale ($2.50 per huge bunch, its double the size of the bunches I have picked up from Whole Foods) from the farmer’s market.

Chickpea and Eggplant Burger Salad with Tomatoes, Beet Hummus and Chèvre

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I picked up romaine (3 heads for $1), eggplant ($1), tomatoes ($1 for a basket of 5 medium sized tomatoes), beets ($1 for 5) and locally produced chèvre ($8 for 8 oz) from the market to recreate the burger I told you about from Atlanta. I decided to put it into salad form though because they were out of the bread I love and I got a sweet deal on some romaine.

I started by soaking 1 cup dried chickpeas for at least 24 hours. In a food processor, I pulsed my well soaked chickpeas, 1 cup nuts, handful of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of fresh mint, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt and pepper. I formed the mix into 6 burger patties and baked them on a lightly grease baking sheet until golden brown on each side, I think it took 20 min on each side.

While the burgers were baking I made beet hummus by steaming 1 lb. of beets in the Instant Pot. Then I added the peeled steamed beets to a food processor with 2 tablespoons tahini, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon cumin to blend until smooth. I then assembled the salad with the romaine, chopped tomatoes, dollops of beet hummus, crumbled chèvre, balsamic vinegar and the burger crumbled on top.

Mushroom and Kale Dip

The market has a great mushroom ($4 bag which varies in size based on type of mushroom) stand so I saw this as a brilliant opportunity to recreate a dip my friend brought to one of my last bingo nights before I moved. We had this with cheese and crackers for lunch one day. To make this I tossed cooked beans and lentils, lemon juice, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and sautéed mushrooms, kale and onion in a food processor and pulsed until it was a gritty hummus like consistency.

I will try to add the other picture on Instagram or to this post this week. I would love to hear and see your farmer’s market creations in the comments below or tag me on Instagram! ūüôā #FarmersMarketInspired

To end this post on a very real note, there is also a Jamaican vegan bakery one day a week at the market and this week I enjoyed a bag filled with mango passionfruit goodness in the form of something they called Caribbean tear drops. YUM! No picture because I inhaled before I even left the market. ūüėČ They reminded me of these Cuban pastries my mother-in-law gave us once, a pocket of juicy flavor in a small pocket of crispy pastry. ‚̧

 

Travels – Atlanta

Recently, we traveled to Atlanta to meet the newest member of our family, our nephew. It was a great trip. We really miss this little person we just met and hung out with for only a few days. ‚̧ He loves to be sung to, found ice shaken in a cup to be the funniest thing in the world, and is growing way too fast. We are in love and have to get back to Atlanta ASAP! So glad we were able to make the trip and focused on getting to know the little one. Here is the break down of this trip.

Fitness

Walking and a little yoga or stretching was mainly the only exercise during this trip. Our nephew loved to just be carried around in a upright position, but you had to keep moving! I walked hundreds of circles around the varies levels of my in-laws home just to keep him smiling. Additionally, we took a short walk as a family, I took a morning walk one day (the beautiful flowers above I spotted everywhere that morning), I stretched before bed each day and yoga one morning. The trip was an active rest break from my typical workouts.

Activities

With our nephew being so young and hating being in the car, we primarily hung out at the house or did things close to the house. We arrived in the morning on the first day. We ate lunch at the house, went for a short walk, played with some toys, picked up take-away from an Asian fusion restaurant and then passed out early from waking up at 3 AM to catch a flight.

Day two, I went for a hour long morning walk and returned to enjoy breakfast with the family. Until lunch we mainly just chatted and played with baby in between each of us getting ready for the day. We went out for lunch and to Target, then returned home to chat and play more until baby’s bedtime. We ended the day playing Wits and Wagers and chatting before getting some sleep.

Day three was pretty chill as well. I did about 20-30 min of yoga in the morning, ate breakfast with the family, helped my sister-in-law keep baby distracted in the car while we picked up groceries, ate lunch, played and chatted with baby, ate dinner, and played card games before bed.

Last day, I only had enough time to enjoy breakfast with everyone before heading to the airport. I took the MARTA, which offered me some beautiful views of Atlanta on the way to the airport. This trip is a good example of different priorities than most vacations. I was there to make memories with our newest member for our family and loved every bit it! He has already grown so much since he was born and we cannot wait to see him again this Fall during a family wedding in New Orleans.

Food

Thankfully, my sister-in-law is a nurse and keeps things pretty healthy. Breakfast was hard boiled or scrambled eggs with avocado/cheese and salsa. Lunches at home were simple salads and our lunch out on day two was at Grub Burger Bar where I got the Hippie Chickpea burger. It tasted like falafel with all the Mediterranean sides on top, YUM!And yes, I also got a combination of onion rings and sweet potato waffles fries because it was my treat while I watched others down milkshakes. ;^P

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Dinner was homemade from scratch bolognese over spaghetti and buffalo chicken and black bean nachos loaded with more veg than you would expect (corn, olives, greens, etc.). Day one, we picked up Doc Cheys, where I chose a sesame noodle special they were having at the time. It was very delicious and I was able to get it with tofu as my protein.

We did not really eat dessert or snack while we were there, since the meals were so filling and we were busy with getting to know our nephew. I felt like the chill environment and focus on creating memories as a family kept me from doing the typical vacationing with family eating… a combination between loss of appetite, over indulging too much and eating when you are not hungry because they are relentlessly offering you food no matter how much you say no. Any one else have this problem?

Trying to Maintain Balance with Visitors

Recently, my sister visited. Visitors mean I can not stick to my plan as well as I usually do when solo or with my partner because I want to show her a good time. Not that my plan is not exciting, I just want to show her things around town that are incredibly delicious! However, I do not let a visitor turn my whole life upside down.

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I woke up before my sister as I typically do before most of my guests. I have always tended to be the only early bird in my family and group of friends. So I was able to workout like usual. Even if my guests wake up at the same time, I either offer that they can join me or they are understanding and use that time to get ready for the day. I have never had anyone question me on why I chose to workout while they are visiting. Exercise is important for your health and I would never expect someone to pass on something so valuable to hang out with me an extra 30 – 90 min.

My sister was in town for a conference, so she had lunch meetings planned. We had some meals at home because she did not feel up to eating out for every meal. Thankfully not too many of my friends and family can afford to eat out every meal. I like to show my guests the town in the way I enjoy it, on a budget! So we might splurge on a special meal, but mostly we hop around from place to place grabbing an empanada here, a vegan biscuits and gravy there to enjoy bites from the best places in the city.

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I try to find a balance between my daily life and showing my guest a good time. For instance, if someone wants to visit you and they plan their trip during a work week, they can not expect you to just take those days off. You want to be a good host, but people can entertain themselves. I never want to turn a friend or family member’s life upside down when I visit and actually prefer to experience them in their natural habitat and state of life. So that is how I play things when folks come visit me. You want to listen to what they want to do, while also letting them know when you have your own things going on.

Do share how you try to maintain some balance when people are in from out of town in the comments below!

Eating Seasonally

The farmer’s market is alive with fresh produce and I enjoy exploring all of it! My farmer’s market is open year round, but during the winter months (December – March) the options dwindle to apples, potatoes, kale and squash. While those are delicious items, having the sudden increase in variety allows you to create dishes you have been without for months. It also naturally leads me to a bit of weight loss.

When I had a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a couple of years ago it helped me get into better eating habits. That was the same year I dropped 30lbs! I had never eaten that much fresh food before, which is just plain WRONG! Though I did not know any better yet. Since then I have made it my goal to move away from a grain and fat focused diet to something that is much more colorful.

For instance, watermelon season has started and I have been blessed to have enjoyed 2 satisfyingly sweet watermelons already this season! Plus, the 4 lbs of strawberries I bought helped make the best unsweetened strawberry rhubarb chia jam, which I heaped on top of some cinnamon scones this past week. ūüėȬ†I was also fortunate to pick up a lot asparagus for extremely reasonable prices at the farmer’s market, 3 lbs for $5. I used them as the side to our¬†Bet It All On Black Garlic burger.

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Eating more seasonally is more sustainable and healthy for our environment, communities and economy. Having every type of produce fresh year-round does not make sense. Each item has its season. When produce tastes better, I want to eat more of it and that is why it is included in my Spring Goals!

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Since every produce is available year-round, so check out this Seasonal Food Guide! What is your favorite produce right now? What seasonal recipes are you cooking up right now?

Post Bulk Update

Currently, I still feeling stronger than before the bulk, but tired from all my work trips. And although I have indulged a bit during these work trips, I have maintained weight and size since I last spoke of my bulk. My digestion feels much better from the switch to more produce than grains. The focus on protein and carbs through fruits and vegetables has me not experiencing bloating so regularly.

I have also stepped up my cardio routine and am up to running 4 miles instead of 3 every weekend. I was getting in 5-7 miles per week when I last spoke to you and now it is 6-8 miles per week. In addition I am doing a circuit of HIIT once or twice per week with my strength training.

Now with the conferences I have been able to keep up with workout out and doing yoga, but I have been also able to get in a lot of walking which likely has helped with any extra calories consumed due to the snacks provided.

I feel like I am on a good track to maintain my strength even with all the unhealthy opportunities over the past 2 weeks. However, I am looking forward to returning home today and eating as gut friendly as possible for a while. This week I am planning to consume sauerkraut, tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha and maybe yogurt. Plus, I am going to try to not eat outside my meal times.

Hope you had a great week!

Traveling Again

Sorry, short post this week. I am amidst a lot of work travel again so I am hitting trains, planes and the road with my yoga mat and a new set of resistance bands. I will be staying with family or at AirBnBs for all my travel so I will get to prepare some of my own food as well as go out to eat. I love trying the local grub and staying active, especially when attending conferences.

Meals

Out

Confluence Kombucha: I meet up with a dear friend for a walk and gut healthy lunch. We shared a Kombucha flight and I had Kimchi and Thai Green Curry soup! AMAZING! If you love fermented food, you should try this place if you are in St. Louis, MO.

4 Hands Brewing: Guava King beer and Mussels

In Minnesota, I am not quite sure yet where I will go, please do let me know any suggestions you may have!

Home away from home meals

Breakfast: Oatmeal made with whole milk, cinnamon and dried fruit

Lunch: Tuna with flax seed and rice crackers

Afternoon snack: Mango and kiwi

Dinner: Tofu tacos or Garlic asparagus pasta

Fitness

I’m looking forward to playing around with these bands so I can better add them into the workouts I make up myself!

Fun

While in St. Louis for a conference, I have the chance to meet up with family and friends. Then in Minnesota I get to check out a Twins baseball game and maybe a musical performance. On top of these fun things I get to visit all the local museums, which I love to do!

Check out my Instagram for travel posts!

Lesson Learned: Spring Slim Down Challenges Do Not Support Me

I have debated a post like this because I do not like to focus on appearance or size. Why? It causes me to have pretty negative thoughts, but slimming down is an important part for many folks to get healthy. I like to promote doing what makes you physically and mentally feel good. When I feel good, I like the way I look. So for me its all about feeling good. Getting to that state happens when I take care of and support myself.

Knowing what does not serve me

April typically kicks off all the challenges for Summer and media ploys toward looking your best in your swimwear. I loved participating in these until I made the connection that the language used by these challenges¬†had me being unfairly negative and harsh toward myself when I did not meet “my goal”. A typically¬†an¬†unrealistic goal which was generated by the expressions from the challengers. I believe for many they can be a great way to kick start getting healthy, but I question how some of these events may be designed.

The wording specifically could be used to market products to you, while hindering you feeling good about the progress you have made. This is what I noticed in myself. I wanted all the stuff they were selling and the body they said I could have if I follow everything they instructed me to do, but then the statements made caused me to feel like the amount of progress made was not enough. So no more Summer body challenges for me. Lesson learned.

Coming off my bulk

If you do not know, bulking means that you eat more calories than you need to maintain your weight so that you gain weight. This weight gain can be in the form of both muscle and fat. I was bulking from November to February. The time of the year you typically eat more any way due to all the winter comfort foods and holiday get togethers, so I figured it to be the best time to bulk.

I am currently changing how I eat after my bulk during the Winter. I took about a month and a half to focus on eating when I felt hungry to halt any over eating habits I had developed during the bulk. I have definitely put on muscle, but also fat. I gained about 6-7 lb. during this time. I now want to stop gaining weight though to see how much muscle I have really put on. I notice I am stronger, but this was really the first time bulking so I am trying to learn what process works best for me to gain strength and hopefully maintain it without becoming over weight again.

I am taking a step back from all added sugars, as well as changing up the distribution of fat, carbs and protein. My calorie in-take will remain the same now that I am back to maintaining. I have seen in the past that when I focus on eating my carbs in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduced the amount of fat by more frequently skipping out on fatty additions (mainly the fried foods, extra cheese, sauces, dressings, nut butters, etc.) and get out of the habit of consuming dessert, I see a more lean body. So to summarize, same amount of calories, but replacing the more frequent treats with high quality, real food.

I will plan to do an update in a month to let you know what I have learned from my first bulk and especially whether or not my strength was maintained. Hope you have a beautiful Earth Day!

Protein without protein powder

Since I last ran out of the Promix Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder that I mentioned using in My Guide for Choosing a Protein Supplement, I have been trying to get my protein just from whole foods. I have been consciously trying to add meatless protein to my meals, remember I follow a flexitarian diet. There is protein in more than you think.

Now lets remember, though these items may not be healthy for you, this list is not for you to follow per se. I am not lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant nor do I have an allergy to any of these items. Now on to the protein items I consume regularly:

Milk

8-13g of protein per 240 ml serving depending on the brand you buy. I mostly consume organic unsweetened soy milk, but love to treat myself to grass-fed, whole dairy milk. Milk is my favorite beverage and I love to drink it on its own ūüôā

Greek yogurt

20-25g of protein per 1 cup serving. I love it plain so that I can add fruit, nuts, cinnamon or cacao powder to it for flavor. I also just love the tartness of plain Greek yogurt.

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Greek yogurt with a Golden Delicious apple, walnuts and cinnamon

Cheese

6-9 g of protein per 1 oz serving. I stick to a single serving unless I am eating out or treating myself, to keep my fat levels in check for my IBS. However, cheese is definitely one of those foods where while I am eating it, I think to myself, “This is life!”

Eggs

7 g of protein per egg. I like to buy free range eggs from vegetarian-fed chickens and then add egg whites for extra protein. Eggs can be a great way to add protein to your oatmeal too. RXbars use egg whites and nuts to provide you 12g of protein without any supplemental powders added and they taste amazing!

Nuts and nut butters

6-8 g of protein per serving. I love chopping up nuts to add to breads or oatmeals, eating whole, salty or spiced mixed nuts and drizzling nut butter over slices of apple dusted in cinnamon. Most of my go to afternoon snacks involve nuts.

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Apple nachos = 1 apple + cinnamon + nut butter (this is almond butter) + cacao nibs

Legumes

6-9 g of protein per 1/4 cup dry legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, etc.). They are so easy to add to meals in place of meat; hummus, chili, sloppy joes, shepherd’s pie, soups, veggie burgers, etc.

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Chana masala over cauliflower rice with a Stokes sweet potato roti

Grains and Seeds

4 – 7 g of protein per 1/4 cup dry grains. Oatmeal, whole wheat, buckwheat, Farro, Quinoa, brown rice, etc., can be a heart healthy way to get in some protein.

Now I know some of this seems carbohydrate heavy, but when you move as much as I do and workout to build muscle you need those carbs! I also eat a lot of organic non-GMO soy products like tofu and tempeh, which pack 12 Р20g per serving, but some folks would argue with me about them being considered a whole food. I try to purchase the brands that have the fewest ingredients, so I believe they are good for me.

Please share how you get in your protein naturally in the comments below!

 

No Added Sugar Treats

Given my digestion issues with processed sugar and still wanting to be able to have something sweet, I have found some go to items without added sugar. So I thought I would share them with you this week. It was not easy getting use to going to these options, but I am glad to have options!

  • Fruit! A food that is naturally sweet. I usually enjoy a piece of fruit everyday in its whole, ripe or unsweetened, dried state. Lately, I have be eating golden delicious apples, navel oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, coconut, prunes, dates and raisins. You can also do amazingly delicious things with fruit, like apple nachos or almond butter stuffed dates!

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  • Herbal tea. Celestial Seasonings offers many AMAZINGLY sweet and delicious teas without a single sweetener! During the holidays, I stock up on Gingerbread Spice, Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride and Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland. The rest of the year you can enjoy flavors like Caramel Apple Dream, Sangria Zinger, Coconut Thai Chai and many more! I have been drinking their tea my whole life and still find new flavors to try all the time. If you are ever in Boulder, CO I recommend taking a tour at their factory!
  • Cacao shell tea with dried fruit. During a trip to Guatemala, my partner and I took a bean to bar class at the ChocoMuseo, where we were introduced to an amazing herbal tea made from cacao shells and cardamon. While they did sweeten most of the things they gave to us with processed sugar, I have chosen¬†add hardened dried fruit in the hot tea to provide sweetness. It makes for a lovely, sweet treat¬†at the end of my day.
  • Homemade chocolates. All chocolate sold at the store has added sugar, with the exception of the rare unsweetened bars and baking chocolate. However, I feel chocolate is necessary for life and therefore can not live without it. Thanks again to the bean to bar class, I understand very well how chocolate is made and have been able to make simple chocolates at home using raw cacao powder, coconut oil and dried fruit. Yes, I do use a lot of cacao powder and coconut oil. This is why I buy it in bulk. If cacao butter was cheaper I would buy that for a more authentic chocolate experience, but coconut oil works quite well as a replacement and is very affordable at Costco in an unrefined, organic 84 oz jar for under $20. I usually use homemade¬†date paste to sweeten my chocolates. Then use spices and extracts to flavor, but when you make your own chocolates you can really do whatever flavoring your heart desires! I actually do enjoy unsweetened chocolate as well, the more bitter the better.
  • Homemade ice cream and sorbets. I am allergic to bananas so I am not talking about banana ice cream here folks! I make ice cream with coconut cream and prunes/dates/raisins blended with a little water into a paste. Then I add vanilla extract or peppermint oil or cacao powder to flavor the ice cream. Its lovely! So easy to make and cheaper than the pint at the grocery store. I also have made ice cream from sweet potatoes and cashews, but without coconut cream I find the texture does not quite replicate the ice cream I grew up consuming. Sorbets are so simple! Just freeze some sweet fruit and blend until smooth in your food processor. Fruit is pretty sweet to me so no need for date paste or anything else to add sweetness in my sorbet.