How I Stay Fit

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A friend I grew up with, a gorgeous young mother, asked me today if I have any other workout regimen other than yoga, and how do I stay fit. This opened up a can of worms, at least in my own mind 😉 To answer that question: I mostly practice yoga and walk our 2 doggies for exercise. A jog once in awhile is a nice supplement, but that’s pretty much my cocktail of exercise right there – yoga and walking.

So, I decided it might be helpful to provide a list of tips that I use for maintaining balance and a healthy lifestyle, without restricting myself. Disclaimer: this is by no means a comprehensive list! But I’ll throw out some ideas that help me find balance, and add more in future posts as they become available to my memory (haha).

Keep an abundance of healthy foods in the house.
This may seem self-explanatory. But if you allow yourself to become ravished, chances are you’re going to go for the quick and convenient, which often means fatty, sugary, salty snacks. I always have oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, peanut butter, carrots, apples, and more on hand in my house so that I have the opportunity to fill up on healthy stuff. Alternately, and this is important, do not keep crummy foods in the house! By crummy foods I mean processed gunk. Packaged cookies, cakes, and snacks are typically a no-no in my house. Just check the ingredients. If there are many ingredients you can’t pronounce, or high-fructose corn syrup, or trans fats, chuck ’em. Or don’t buy them in the first place. If you have a sweet tooth, try making oatmeal with bananas, cinnamon, and some pure maple syrup. Another favorite of mine are smoothies! Or make your own dessert from scratch. Pinterest has tons of amazing recipes for healthy desserts made with pumpkin, applesauce, greek yogurt, black beans, etc. Give them a whirl!

Use Cinnamon.
I don’t know how I missed the boat on this for so long, but cinnamon is truly a miracle spice. Cinnamon is my new bestie. I put it on EVERYTHING. Well okay, maybe not everything. But truthfully, I use it in my coffee, chai or spiced tea, on cereal, oatmeal, rice cakes topped with peanut butter & banana, apple slices, you name it. It is so warming and comforting. It tastes delicious. And I haven’t even told you about the benefits yet. It has been known to stabilize blood sugar and reduce sugar cravings, and may be effective in treating Type 2 Diabetes by lowering blood sugar. It can be a remedy for headaches and migraines. In Ayurveda, it is believed to aid in proper digestion. It fights E.coli and inhibits bacterial growth, which means it’s a preservative. Honey and cinnamon together are said to alleviate arthritis pain. Simply the scent of cinnamon can boost memory and cognitive function. Isn’t that unbelieveable?! I know, I really nerd out when it comes to nutrition. But seriously. Start using cinnamon.

Eat Mindfully.
This is one of my favorite practices, and quite frankly it’s probably the most potent for stabilizing weight and staying fit. Most of us have busy lifestyles, I totally get that. But eating without paying attention to our food is wreaking havoc. I invite you to at least try mindful eating once. Maybe start on a weekend morning when you can actually sit and enjoy breakfast. Begin by sitting with a long, tall spine. Posture is important. Next, observe the food in front of you. Really look at it – colors, textures, elements. Where did the food come from? Did you prepare it yourself? Think about where the fruit/vegetables/eggs came from. Are they local? Think about all the effort it took to get this food to your plate, from cultivation to transportation, to you buying it, chopping it, etc. Now smell your food. Really take in the scents wafting into your nostrils. What feelings do these scents evoke? And now taste your food. Chew it slowly. Take sips of water or juice in between bites. Be with your food and the experience of eating it. Give thanks. This is a simple practice of mindful eating. It makes such a difference to eat this way, than to gobble our food down…sometimes not even remembering what we consumed. A consistent practice of mindful eating will naturally allow you to eat less, and actually be more satisfied.

Nix Liquid Calories.
The primary beverage we drink should be water. And a lot of it. Like, more than you thought possible. Our bodies need and want it desperately. If you hate water, try flavored seltzer. There are some pretty delicious flavors out there…black cherry is my personal favorite. If you need to have beverages with calories, let that be a special treat. Like a cup of hot cider or chai in the fall, hot cocoa in the winter, an occasional glass of wine, a freshly-made margarita with only tequila, lime, and triple sec (sour mix is the sugar devil!), or whatever your poison is. Just let it be in moderation. (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?) Seriously though. I like beer, trust me. It takes awhile to wean off. But now I can have one beer and be truly satisfied.

Well my friends, that’s all for now (this post is getting quite lengthy). I do have many more ideas and practical ways to stay healthy and balanced, I’ll post more soon!

Namaste, Jai Bhagwan, Om Shanti –

Steph
xo  (P.S. for more fit tips and to follow my journey/be in the journey together, enter your email address below – thank you!)

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Mission: YOGA

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Soon I’ll be going off on an adventure. What type of adventure, you may wonder? Well, I’m chasing my dreams. They’ve been beckoning me for some time now. In a mere month, I’ll be living and learning at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. I’ll leave my hometown behind for awhile, as well as my corporate job (hopefully forever), to pursue what my spirit wants and what the world needs. This 200-hr program for my yoga teaching certification will be intense. From 6:30 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days a week, I will be quite literally living and breathing yoga.

Embarking on something like this ignites passion in my heart, and inspires me to draw on all my faculties to soak in all the knowledge and wisdom I can. As I draw more and more inward to prepare for this experience, I continue to consider my personal values and mission.

Completing the application for entrance into Kripalu’s Yoga Teacher Training program required much self-reflection and deep thought into why I want to pursue this path. I wanted to share some of my answers to the questions on the application. These will help me in the future, as I compose my vision and mission statements for a studio one day.

Why do you want to be certified as a yoga teacher at this time in your life?

There is a great deal of suffering in the world, and in our communities. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of yoga, and its ability to create a sense of peace, understanding, compassion, and love in people of all walks of life. If I could offer a small piece of solace through yoga practice, and a safe space for people to gather and feel welcomed and accepted, that would be an invaluable life skill to me. I would be living a life of true purpose and meaning, and helping people on a level where they could empower themselves, and find comfort in the deepest part of themselves that perhaps they didn’t even know existed.

I’d like to help others let go of perfectionism, quiet their inner critic, and feel able to live as they were intended – free of anxiety and discomfort. And when they are feeling anxiety, discomfort, depression, and anger, they should be able to use yoga to validate these feelings and perhaps be able to let them go.

When I walk through the hallway of the insurance office I work for, I’ve observed that many people hang their heads low, struggling to make eye contact, or smile, or say “hello.” These people can benefit from yoga. Almost anyone can. If I can offer the gift of potentially guiding someone to find peace in themselves, easing their tension and anxiety, that is awareness I’d like to create for people. Manifesting the peace that is within us, bringing it to the surface, and sharing it with others contributes to an outpouring of kindness in our communities that I hope to see more of.

How do you plan to apply your yoga skills to your life and work?

I’ve always had the innate desire to reach people in a healing sense. Ever since I was a little girl, I struggled with an anxiety that I didn’t understand. As a result, I was shy, awkward, and just felt different, or somehow separate. I want to help people understand that what makes us different is what makes us beautiful.

I suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager and received outpatient treatment; in the rehabilitation center I attended, I met many wonderful, talented, lovely, spirited young women who unfortunately buckled under the pressure of society’s skewed standards of beauty. It was heart-wrenching to be surrounded by these young ladies (and gentlemen) who to me, were gorgeous inside and out, but weren’t able to see it through their own eyes or hearts. I’m grateful for that experience, because a deeper sense of compassion was born out of it. It became my mission to help people find their beauty and truly accept themselves and be kind to their bodies.

Yoga fosters self-love. Yoga helps us cultivate understanding, patience, poise, and presence (among innumerable other benefits). It is a powerful tool that largely contributes to self-actualization, and gently leads us to becoming the best version of ourselves. Applying yoga skills to life and work comes naturally when we nurture a lifestyle of devotion and dedication to practice. The application of yoga comes through our countenance and in the way we carry ourselves, the way we communicate with family members, coworkers, strangers; it changes our perspective on daily life, allowing us to let go of trivial issues and focus on the bigger picture.

Om Shanti

Namaste.

xo Steph

This Morning

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This morning as I drove to the office, I felt opposing forces at work inside me. A certain magnetism pulled me to the place I report to in order to receive a paycheck. The need for money is as unfortunate as it is pertinent. I felt a familiar sadness wash over me, as I realized I wouldn’t be seeing my love, my boyfriend John, for the next 5 days (we now have opposite work schedules and no longer see each other during the week), and that my life right now is dictated by a job that has, in my mind, no meaning.

The other magnet pulling me was activated by a delicious thought of a lazy drive through the Connecticut country – Litchfield county, to be accurate. Nothing but me, the road, some great tunes, open air, and a steamy, rich, coffee. This thought freed my mind and senses, and the dark melancholy looming over me loosened up and drifted off on the waves of newfound positivity. My want to step off the treadmill and explore my own unchartered terrain is incredibly strong, as is my inherent need to live actively, and in nature. This morning is something divine, as patches of sunlight dance on the emerald leaves, and the all the dewy fields on my commute to work glisten, and look so inviting.

To leave the morning outside in all its glory and enter the world of gray cubicles seemed sinful. Even my car was reluctant as it rolled into its parking space. I paused after turning off the engine, and gazed out over the lawn in front of me. I imagined myself in Warrior pose out in the field – solid, grounded, unwavering. I smiled to myself at the passing thought; it was a comforting moment with just me and my conscious mind.

I took a breath in, sipping it in through my nostrils in the same way I would during my yoga practice. Although the uncomfortable knowledge of the stressful and tedious day ahead felt intimidating, I gathered up the same strength that I feel in Warrior. Using that same quiet confidence and renewed energy, I stepped into the office, ready to face an army.

My Monday Mantra: Live Like a Warrior.
Namaste.

xo Steph

4 Day Cleanse

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Happy Monday friends! I hope you’re ready to kick Monday in the rear and keep that positive momentum going throughout the week. Buds are budding, flowers blooming, and warm weather on the horizon. Spring is the perfect time to cleanse your body, mind, and spirit. So to honor myself and rid it of the toxins I’ve likely accumulated from the long winter, I’m doing a 4-day kick-start cleanse.

I’ve done this cleanse before, and will tell you exactly how to do it and where to find more information so you can always have this effective method of healthy eating at your fingertips. It’s gentle, and fantastic for beginners or those who have never tried a cleanse before. Disclaimer: you WILL be hungry. But if you space out the allotted foods throughout the day and drink a massive amount of water, you’ll do great and 4 days will go by in a flash.

Credit: I found this cleanse in a book by Dr. Ian Smith (you may remember him from the TV show Celebrity Fit Club) called The 4 Day Diet. He calls it the “Induction Phase” in his book, which you can find on Amazon or at your local bookstore. The first time I tried this cleanse, I lost 8 pounds in 4 days and felt brand new. It really works if you follow it precisely. This time, I will be making some slight modifications, and will let you know the result of those adjustments and whether it’s as effective.
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DAY 1
-2 cups of coffee. Limit sugar to 1 packet and cream or milk to 1 tsp per cup
-2 cups of raw or cooked green leafy vegetables (i.e. spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade with no more than 1 tbsp sugar
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder*
-4 servings of fruit (1 apple, 1 banana, ½ cup berries all count as 1 serving)
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-1 medium-size green salad (about 2 cups – veggies only) with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans (chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
-1 ½ cup of cooked brown rice (measured after cooking)
Unlimited water or seltzer. Be sure to drink 1 cup before each meal
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio (can break up if needed with a 20 min session in am and 20 min session in pm)

DAY 2
-2 cups coffee
-2 scrambled eggs or egg whites (can add ¼ cup veggies if you want)
-1 cup of freshly squeezed juice (I substitute Naked juice I got at the grocery store since I don’t have a fancy juicer…sad face)
-3 servings of fruit
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of vegetable juice from the cooked vegetables
-1 cup of cooked brown rice
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 3
-2 cups of coffee
-One 6-oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
-3 servings of fruit
-2 cups of green leafy vegetables
-1 cup of freshly squeezed lemonade
-1 tbsp psyllium powder
-1 medium-size green garden salad with 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of cooked beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc
-1 cup cabbage soup**
-Unlimited water or seltzer. Drink one cup before each meal.
Exercise – 40 minutes of cardio

DAY 4
Unlimited fruit of any kind
-1 cup of green tea or regular tea
-1 large-size (3 cups) green garden salad; add garlic, and 3 oz. of walnuts, cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds; also 3 tbsp low-fat dressing
-1 cup of freshly squeezed carrot juice (can substitute pear, apple, or orange juice)
-1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
-2 cups of cooked brown rice
-1 cup of cabbage soup**
-2 servings of cooked or raw vegetables
Unlimited water or seltzer.
Exercise – Rest Day

*Psyllium husk powder can be found at Vitamin Shoppe. It can be mixed with water or lemonade. I recommend trying to get psyllium-enriched cereal instead. I believe Whole Foods carries it. I personally hate the powder version, it can kind of be difficult to get down just because of the texture. But it definitely works and is known to mop up and remove toxins in the body.
**Cabbage Soup:
1 tbsp oil 3 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium onions, diced 1 ham hock (can omit if vegetarian)
1 medium green cabbage, shredded 3 tbsp wine vinegar
1 ¼ quart chicken broth ½ tsp sage
3 small potatoes, cubed ½ tsp thyme
In a large pot, heat the oil and cook the onions until softened. Add the cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, ham hock, vinegar, sage, and thyme. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper as desired.

So there you have it. The 4-Day Cleanse. I will let you know how it goes…wish me luck!!

Bubblegum Smoothie Recipe

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So, this was one of those happy accidents…you know, where you throw most of what you have in the fridge directly into your blender and see what happens? Yeah, well it turned out amazing. Just like that chewy, fun confection that reminds us of our carefree childhood: bubblegum!

Ingredients:

-1 cherry-flavored Chobani greek yogurt
-3/4 c. frozen strawberries
-1 cup fresh diced pineapple
-a few fresh blueberries
-1 1/2 ripe bananas
-1 scoop Herbalife french vanilla healthy meal shake (or any vanilla protein powder you like)
-About a cup of orange juice
-Handful of baby greens (or spinach)

Blend to desired consistency and enjoy!

*There are no rules when it comes to smoothies – that’s one of the many things I love about them! So add what you have and adjust to your taste. Smoothies are tailored to you, so create the flavors that excite you.

xoxo Steph

Guilt-Free Penne alla Vodka

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Who doesn’t love a decadent pasta dish? Only problem is, the calorie count tends to get a little scary. I’m here to tell you that you CAN have the best of both worlds with this dish. The satisfying comfort of rich pasta, without all the cream, fat, and bad feelings. I can’t believe how much this tastes like the real thing! And so, so unbelievably quick and easy.

-2 cups store-bought marinara sauce
-1 7 oz container plain Greek yogurt (Fage will forever be my favorite)
-whole wheat penne
-pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-fresh basil
-Parmesan cheese

Boil water, add a generous amount of salt to water and throw in your desired amount of penne pasta. Meanwhile, heat marinara in a separate saucepan over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper if desired. Place yogurt in a bowl. When sauce is heated, add a small amount to the yogurt and stir well (this will temper the yogurt and keep it from curdling). Then add yogurt mixture to the rest of the marinara (off the heat) and stir well.

Drain pasta. Add sauce to pasta. Place in serving dishes and tear some fresh basil over the top. Grate Parmesan cheese over as well. Enjoy!

xo Steph

Healthy Fried Rice Recipe

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Fried rice is a great way to use up any leftover veggies you have rolling around in your crisper. This version is made with brown rice, so it’s good and good for you.

Healthy Fried Rice Recipe

-2 cups cooked brown rice
-1/2 cup chopped carrot
-1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
-1/2 cup chopped asparagus
-1 cup chopped onion
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1 tablespoon vegetable oil

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I used the microwaveable brown rice shown above as a short cut. In a few minutes you have perfectly cooked brown rice! So much easier than waiting 40 minutes for it to be ready.

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chopped veggies and sauté until almost tender. Season with salt as desired.

Create a well in the center of your vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and soy sauce. Add egg mixture to pan in the well you created. Cook the egg until opaque/scrambled. Add the rice, stir everything together and heat through.

Yum!

xo Steph

Glowing Green Smoothie

Get Glowing!Glowing Green Smoothie

If you want glowing skin, you really want to work from the inside out. Glowing skin starts with proper nutrition, and getting all those lovely nutrients and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables into your body. It will thank you in many ways, and will be reflected on your face.

I can’t say enough about smoothies. Smoothies are the perfect way to pack a punch of vitamins and minerals. They are quick, easy, convenient, portable, and allow you to get as much vitamins as possible into a small package. Sometimes the sheer volume of a giant salad is not appealing to me. Enter smoothies. Plus you can drink them at your desk. Did I mention I LOVE smoothies? 😉

Glowing Green Smoothie Recipe

Place into a blender:

-1 cup frozen fruit (I used a mixed bag of strawberries, peaches, and mangoes)
-1 cup almond milk
-1 tsp honey
-1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (Fage! Try it – you won’t regret it!)
-1 ripe banana
-1 scoop Herbalife Healthy Meal in French Vanilla (use any vanilla protein powder you like)
-1 big handful fresh greens (I used spinach in this)

Blend away, pour into a chilled glass, and slurp the frothy goodness from a straw (if you’re a kid at heart, like me).

Glowing yet?? 🙂

xo Steph