March 17, 2014

cheat days, midterms, and the Marine Corps

So...

It's been a while.

No?

I have been hiatus lately because of three main things:
1) Full-time college classes (midterms? Ugh. Don't remind me)
2) Work (2 jobs at once? Ugh. Don't remind me)
3) My love left for Marine duties last week, so we were spending quality time

our last hug before he left


Can I just say that being a marine girlfriend is the best, worst, most wonderful, most stressful, hardest, easiest thing ever?

Anyways, since he's been gone, I have been doing 3 things... crying, watching The Walking Dead, and eating a lot of fries. I'm definitely feeling the lag, people. As of now, I am back on track with paleo and exercising, and I am so happy to be back.


January 23, 2014

cow's milk vs. almond milk: which is better?

You're probably reading this because you are trying to decide which milk you want to buy the next time you go to the grocery store. First off, the most important thing to do is to take good care of your body. Know your body, what nutrients it needs, how it reacts to certain foods, and how you feel after consuming certain foods. Make an educated decision based on the facts of both milks or experiment with both.

Cow's Milk


Alright, let's be real. No milk tastes as wonderful as cow milk. However, cow milk does tend to have a higher calorie count than coconut milk and almond milk per serving -- especially if it is not skim milk. Skim milk is only slightly higher in calories than coconut and almond milk. It also has almost twice the protein, so that is mostly where the extra calories come from. Those who cannot (or choose not to) consume lactose tend to opt out on drinking cow's milk.

Organic cow's milk is not processed with pesticides, hormones, or anything else of the like. It hasn't yet been proven to have any nutritional superiority over processed cow's milk.

When it comes to eating healthy, it is perfectly fine to drink skim milk. A common misconception is that even skim milk is unhealthy, but this is simply a dieting trend. Nothing can compare to how a cold glass of skim milk tastes after a fresh, juicy peach! Now I want to snack.

Almond Milk


This delicious milky milkness is composed of ground almonds mixed with water. It has a slightly more nutty taste, and some brands sell it in different flavors (vanilla, chocolate, sweetened, and unsweetened). The unsweetened almond milk still has a slight sweetness to it.

One cup of non-dairy unsweetened almond milk only contains around 35-40 calories. It is rich in nutrients and good for your heart. If you are a diabetic, it has a very low carb rate (1), so this may be a good choice for you. Almond milk usually (depending on the brand) has lots of added calcium.

It doesn't contain very much protein at all, so if you choose to drink almond milk, be sure that you are getting plenty of protein from other sources! When I first discovered that it doesn't have much protein, I was surprised because it is made from ground almonds, which are little protein powerhouses. It turns out that one cup of almond milk only contains about 4 almonds. That explains it! Some brands will add protein to their almond milk.



Bottom line -- when it comes to choosing between cow's milk and a dairy-free option, it is all up to you. Almond milk and I get along great. I love the taste and the fact that it is a very light beverage. Cow's milk feels a bit more heavy, but tastes amazing and has brilliant nutritional advantages, as well. Of all cow's milk alternatives, almond milk is my favorite and the only one I drink.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I am not an expert, but I have done a lot of research and have been in love with nutrition for a long time. I would love to help!

January 8, 2014

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

My diet consists of mostly paleo and clean eating (and by "diet" I don't mean a weightloss diet, I mean the food that I eat regularly). One thing that I have noticed when I speak to friends and family who ask for advice on healthy eating is one common concern:
"Eating healthy is so expensive!"
I thought that, too, before I switched up my eating habits and became healthy. Budgeting is huge, especially for a college student like me. However, I decided that keeping my body healthy and feeding it the proper fuel was more important than having a little extra money in my pocket. I was willing to sacrifice a bit. What I learned was that I don't have to sacrifice at all.

In fact, I learned that clean eating is way cheaper.

How is this? All of the low-cost foods are so cheap! Freezer meals can be bought for only a couple of dollars and can be bought in bulk. A whole pizza that is only five dollars can feed a family.

To me, healthy eating is all about making your food at home from scratch, where you choose the ingredients, and all (or most) of your ingredients are not processed and packed with preservatives. It's the "making it from scratch" part that scares people into thinking that buying all of the ingredients adds up.

What you don't realize is that making things from scratch is always ten times cheaper. You can make food in bulk yourself, while saving dozens of dollars. How do you think pizza businesses make their money? They make the pizza from scratch and then need to make a profit for it. If one pizza was $5 retail, it had to have costed significantly less for them to make it.

Yes, they get their raw food products wholesale at killer prices. But the principle still applies: Making it from scratch is round-about cheaper for more. You could buy all of those same ingredients for $10 total and make three pizzas. On top of that, you can choose healthy ingredients, and make a pizza that you know will be completely good for you--because you were the one who made it, using all healthy and natural ingredients!

For example, I bought all of these groceries this week for less than $20 (I am single with no children):


This was my grocery list:

- Whole grain oatmeal
- Raw chicken tenders
- Natural peanut butter
- Bananas
- Apples
- Avocados
- Frozen mixed vegetables
- Eggs

Almost all of these are generic brands, and the apples I got were the cheapest kind. To me, an apple is an apple. There are only three kinds: green, red, and kinda red. I like the kinda red.

In addition to these, I already had blueberries, almond milk, whole wheat tortillas, spinach, whole wheat pasta, and strawberries at home.

With some creativity, I have learned to make dozens of different recipes with these ingredients, all of which are regulars in my kitchen. My entire grocery list every 1 1/2-2 weeks costs an average of $25. That's only about $50 a month, for food that keeps me healthy, strong, and fit.

Of course, according to your personal taste or how many people are in your household, your grocery list will look different. However, this is proof that you can eat healthy on a budget, and you can actually make more food than if you eat the quick-grab processed foods in the freezer aisle.

My wallet is happy, my tummy is happy, and my abs are happy! Hooray!

January 5, 2014

new year resolutions

New Year's Fireworks


I guess I'm a little late to hop on the blogger bandwagon of posting my New Year resolutions. I have a love-hate feeling for New Year resolutions because a, I usually forget about them come March, and b, I always set completely unrealistic goals for myself.

Example: Last year I had a goal to go on a big road trip to somewhere new. Did I consider the fact that I am tied at the ankles by college, my job, and my pageant queen duties? Nope.

I have learned this year that if I want to make my goals, I need to set them on a smaller scale, yet keep them effective and exciting.

1. Get straight A's.
2. Always put things away immediately after using them to keep my room squeaky clean.
3. Never miss a day of working out unless I have a crazy good excuse.
4. Volunteer more for community service.
5. Work out a carefully constructed budget and stick to it.

Happy New Year!

December 30, 2013

7-Day Lifestyle Makeover Plan



I am constantly striving for a better me, whether that means fitness, happiness, eating habits, college GPA, work ethic, or whatever else I find. In the beginning of 2013, I made a decision and went through a series of actions in one week that changed my life. Previous to this decision, my confidence was running low. I wasted away a lot of time doing things that didn't matter and thinking about things that were counterproductive. I struggled to eat healthy and I felt that I lacked control of my life.

I am going to map out that week that changed my life for you here, so that you can follow the exact steps I took. I will do it for free. I don't want your money. I just want to share what made me into a better person so that you can do the same. 

I promise that if you closely follow this routine, you will be happier, fitter, healthier, more productive, and your daily diet will improve.

This plan I am laying out for you is more than just a fitness plan--it is a lifestyle change for the better. This is why I have called it "7-Day Lifestyle Makeover Plan." Follow this schedule to the best of your ability. I recommend printing it out and sticking it on your mirror, above your desk, on your door, or wherever else you can see it often. Feel free to modify it to your schedule if you need to, but I recommend following the skeletal structure of the plan.

Note: I am not a professional. This is simply advice from a 22 year-old girl who is excited about life, health, fitness, and productivity, and how I enhanced my life dramatically in a week.


Day 1: Monday 

Get to bed early--between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night--so that you can wake up refreshed, around 5:30. Wake up with the sun and know that it is going to be a good day. You are fresh, you are new, and the last week is behind you. This day is your baby, and you will shape it however you choose.

Have a piece of fruit and a tall glass of water. Stretch your calves, your back, your shoulders, your arms, and your hamstrings. Rotate your ankles a few times. Relax your neck. Let your body wake up.

At 5:45, put on something comfortable and some running shoes, and go run/jog/walk for 30 minutes. Do not worry too much about measuring your distance. Simply enjoy being outside, breathe in the fresh air, and watch the sun begin to rise as you are getting your blood pumping for the day.

At 6:15, when you arrive back home, go through your own morning routine to get ready for the day. Hopefully, you woke up early enough that you are not rushing. Enjoy the morning, as it is one of the most beautiful parts of the day, when everything is quiet and waking up.

Eat a healthy, clean breakfast. Keep it moderately sized. I like to have two eggs, two pieces of whole-wheat toast with honey, and an orange. Drink another glass of water with your breakfast.

*How you spend the first two hours of your morning will affect the rest of your day. Your morning is crucial.

Go about your daily business. Carry a water bottle with you, and constantly sip it throughout the day. Water will keep you hydrated and give you energy. It will also help to keep cravings low.

At around 10:00 a.m., have a light, healthy snack. Some examples a granola bar, another piece of fruit, a rice cake topped with preserves or a bit of natural peanut butter, or a cup of popcorn (no butter). 

For lunch, Between 12:00-1:00, refresh your body with natural, whole foods with minimal preservatives. Make sure your lunch consists of a vegetable, a complex carb, and a protein. For example, I love to make turkey wraps with whole wheat tortillas, spinach, turkey breast meat, and the tiniest amount of mustard for flavor. Add a small handful of nuts and another of a raw vegetable on the side. Sometimes, to satisfy my chocolate cravings, I will add one square of a dark chocolate bar to my lunch. Drink plenty of water with your lunch.

At around 3:00, have another light snack with some water. Eating lightly every few hours rather than large meals will keep your metabolism evened out, digesting your light meals and snacks efficiently and keeping your energy consistent. This is also a proven strategy for weight loss if you want to shed some pounds, or if you just want to trim down a bit.

Dinner around 6:00-7:00 should be kept lighter than you are used to. Dinners tend to be more protein-packed than the rest of your meals. Have a main meat dish that is light, such as chicken, turkey, or fish. Add some vegetables, raw or steamed. Limit your carbs this late in the day. One whole-wheat dinner roll is fine, if you so wish. If you do have carbs, always stick to complex carbs. Add something sweet to the plate, like some fruit preserves on your roll, but stay away from things with processed sugars. As always, drink a glass of water with your meal.

Do you homework, spend time with friends, practice an instrument, clean your apartment/room/house, and do whatever you like or need to do around this time of day. Before bed, have a cup of herbal tea for some late-night hydration and nutrients. Chamomile is my favorite.

Around 8:30, settle down for the night. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and freshen up so you can slip in bed, clean and relaxed.

Be in bed between 9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Let your mind relax and find peace. Think about all that you accomplished that day, how well you treated your body, and how blessed you are with all that you have in life.


Day 2: Tuesday

5:30 a.m.: Wake up, have a piece of fruit, have a tall glass of water.

5:45 a.m.: Put on something comfortable, and go for a 15 minute run/jog/walk. Measure your distance, if you so choose. Push your limits a bit. Recognize your mind's power over your body.

6:00 a.m.: Arrive home, and if you have grass, lay a towel down and do some ab exercises. You can just as easily do these indoors if it is cold or if you have no room outside. Do 3 sets of 20 sit-ups and abdominal twists. If you have any favorite ab exercises, do those. Hold a 60 second plank. If it is hard for you, don't worry--you will get better as you get stronger. Make sure to breathe deeply and make the most of these 15 minutes.

6:15 a.m.: Go through your usual morning routine to get ready for the day. Enjoy this beautiful morning. Watch the sun rise with the rest of the world as you go about your morning. Eat a healthy, clean breakfast.

Go about the rest of the day with your usual business, drinking plenty of water and eating at the same schedule as you did on Monday. You will follow this eating schedule every day, to the best of your ability. Switch up different ingredients in your meals for variety, but stick to the same general structure. Healthy people tend to stick to the same meal plans.


Day 3: Wednesday

5:30 a.m.: Wake up, have a piece of fruit, have a tall glass of water.

5:45 a.m.: Put on something comfortable, and go for a 15 minute jog. Enjoy the scenery. Listen to your favorite music. Recognize your mind's power over your body.

6:00 a.m.: Arrive home. Just as the day before, lay down and do some exercises. This time, work on your upper body. Do some push-ups, stretch your arms to the sides and rotate them in circles, curl some small weights, and do whatever other arm/shoulder/back exercises you enjoy. Breathe deeply and enjoy challenging your body.

6:15 a.m.: Go through your usual morning routine to get ready for the day. You have a great day ahead of you, and you have control over how productive you are.

Go about the rest of the day with your usual business, meals, and snacks. Learn something new today. Try playing a new instrument, researching a question you have, or any other way to expand your mind. Go to bed excited about all that you did that day, ready for some deserved rest.


Day 4: Thursday

5:30 a.m.: Wake up, have a piece of fruit, have a tall glass of water.

5:45 a.m.: Put on something comfortable, and go for a 15 minute run. It's amazing what your body is capable of. Breathe deep and enjoy the world around you.

6:00 a.m.: Arrive home. You guessed it--exercise time. Today, work on your lower body. Do some squats--3 sets of 20. Feel your muscles burn and picture your strong, healthy body that you are working for. Press on with any of your favorite leg exercises, making the most of your fifteen minutes. If you do it right, that is all you need.

6:15 a.m.: Go through your usual morning routine to get ready for the day. Watch the sun rise. Listen to the sounds of the morning. Eat a healthy, clean breakfast.

Go about the rest of the day with your usual business, meals, and snacks. Enjoy your day. The weekend is almost here!


Day 5: Friday

5:30 a.m.: Wake up, have a piece of fruit, have a tall glass of water.

5:45 a.m.: Put on something comfortable, and go for a 30 minute jog. You have proven your dedication all week, and now, enjoy a nice run in the fresh air, listening to music, and getting carried away from the world.

6:15 a.m.: Go through your usual morning routine to get ready for the day. Prepare to finish your week strong. You are feeling healthy and proud of all you have done throughout the week so far, and you are almost at this week's finish line.

Go about the rest of the day with your usual business. As always, eat clean, eat light, don't skip any meals or snacks, and drink plenty of water. Keep your mind sharp and optimistic. Whatever happens today is a result of your choices. You have complete control.

Tonight, enjoy yourself. Spend time with friends. Be proud of your week. You worked hard and earned this weekend to play hard. Stay out later, and get to bed around midnight, if you can make it that late. Your biological clock will have shifted, and your body will want to slip in bed earlier than usual.


Days 6 and 7: Saturday/Sunday

Let yourself wake up without an alarm. You will find that you naturally wake up earlier than before.

Eat a light breakfast, and go about your daily meals and snacks as usual. Take a break from exercise, as your body needs today to heal. Run errands, deep clean, check your bank account, plan your meals for the following week, and do everything else you need to do to ensure that you are on top of it.

Your life is completely in the palm of your hand and you are two steps ahead of the game. Spend time with loved ones, and equally importantly, spend time with yourself. Your weekend should be a balance between preparing for the next week ahead of you and living in the moment, enjoying your relationships, interests, and spirituality.

............

Continue this routine each week. It takes 14 days for this to become a habit. That's only two weeks. You will feel a rapid change in your energy, your happiness, your productivity, and your general health.

December 26, 2013

i bought my sister a hamster for Christmas

cutest little Russian dwarf hamster. 

I think I'm more in love with the little puff ball than she is.
I want one. So bad.

That is all.


December 23, 2013

how to sing with a cold


I don't care how long you have been singing for. I have been a dedicated singer since I was very young, and I still have trouble singing through a cold. It's tough to hit a beautiful, clear, smooth note when you're packed down with mucous in your throat and your sinuses feel like they are about to implode (sorry for that gross mental picture I just gave you). 

Especially during this winter Holiday season, while I have been sick with a cold that just won't go away, I have had to buck up and sing at various Christmas events as the main entertainer. Spending thirty minutes to an hour and a half on stage can be hard enough on your voice, especially if you are sick. This is why my wonderful voice coaches have taught me invaluable lessons on how to "sing through the sick," as well as things I have learned on my own through experience.

First of all, it is so important to be extra careful with your voice while you are sick. Singing too much and to rigorously while your voice is weak could cause nodules, which run the risk of permanently scarring your vocal chords. This is a singer's worst nightmare. To avoid damaging your voice while still performing well, you must follow a few rules.

1. Vocal rest prior to performance. Whether I will be performing in the morning or at night, I rest my voice at least 24 hours before my performance. This means either not speaking at all, or speaking softly when you do have to speak. Your voice is a muscle. Don't tire it out. Let it rest to keep its strength for your performance.

2. Drink tons of fluids. Your throat may feel dry, and drinking as much non-carbonated, non-dairy fluids as you can 24 hours before you sing could be your saving grace. It's always an awful thing to breathe between phrases in your song and end up coughing out your next note instead of singing it. I carry some minty herbal tea around with me all day to soothe my throat.

3. Get plenty of rest the night before. Your body will feel a difference in stamina and energy more distinctly when you are sick than when you are not sick. Being well-rested will give you an overall feeling of improvement when it comes to performing while you are sick.

4. Get rid of as much congestion as possible right before you sing, whether that means medication, blowing your nose, or nasal sprays. Trying to resonate your voice correctly with a congested nasal cavity is miserable, and will give you the mother of all headaches. 

5. If you are performing more than one song, hydrate between songs. Keep a small water bottle on stage to clear and soothe your throat. If you are swift and discreet about it, your audience won't care.

6. Do not over-sing. Keep your voice lifted and light. Go into your head voice where you can if you are a belter or a speech-level singer. This will help to keep up your voice's stamina, and it will help to make your notes sound more clear and less pushed. You will be less anxious about hitting those high notes with a sick voice if you keep them light and easy. Over-singing and singing too often while sick is what gives singers nodes, and this could be one of the most important tips to remember.

7. Lightly warm up before your sing. This is the second most important tip to remember, in my opinion. Don't do the whole nine yards with your warm-up, as you don't want to wear out your voice before you even start singing. It is crucial, however, to give your voice a little bit of a light pre-workout so that it is warmed up and stronger for your performance. Just play around with octave scales in different keys, vowels, and vocal placements. If your leg is hurting before the race, don't run a mile to warm up, just stretch and bounce around a bit to get your leg limber and warm.

8. Be confident. Every singer performs while they are sick every once in a while, and if you follow all of these tips, it's likely that nobody will even notice. Letting your nerves get to you will only hinder your beautiful voice unnecessarily. 

9. Never apologize. It has been drilled into my head for years that you never get up in front of an audience and say, "I'm sorry, I'm sick, so if I mess up, you know why." It will distract from your song, and your audience will end up trying to pick out every imperfection in your voice because they now know you are sick. It is also considered unprofessional. 

10. Enjoy your performance anyway. When I sing while I am sick, I like to let myself get carried away in the melody and the message of the song, and it's almost as if I am not even sick. Have fun on stage. Let the audience feel comfortable with your performance. If you are enjoying yourself, they will enjoy you.

Break a leg, singers!