I Work Out Because __________ .

Why do you exercise?

Is it because you feel like you have to or because you actually enjoy it? Do you have goals? What are they? Aesthetic goals? Health goals? Performance goals?

The reason I ask, other than my general nosiness curiosity, is because the reasons that you choose to exercise can play a huge role in whether or not you stick with it in the long run, and ultimately, it can either prevent you from or enable you to reach your goals.

I’ll start by describing the two types of motivation that continue to drive people to the gym, track, box, studio, garage, or wherever their exercise venue of choice may be.

Motivation Hierarchy

The first is extrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is all about external goals and can include rewards, guilt, coercion and health and social benefits. It is doing things because we feel like we have to in order to achieve some sort of physical or social benefit.

Most people (including myself) begin to exercise because of extrinsic motivation – you want to lose weight for the summer, fit into your jeans, become more attractive, be thin, get abs. Your doctor may have told you that you needed to start exercising for the sake of your health. You may like the fact that exercising allows you to eat more of what you want and not feel guilty. Maybe there’s a cute guy or girl at the gym that you enjoy staring at and hope to have the courage to talk to one day. The list goes on.

You may be thinking, ok, at least I’m getting my butt to the gym. Why does the motivation part matter?

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Unfortunately, extrinsic motivation does not always persist in the long-run. It may get you to the gym, for a bit, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything worthwhile during your time there and you may not see the results you want. Or maybe you did get results, but then the summer comes to an end, and somehow your schedule is suddenly too busy to make it to the gym anymore. The fact of the matter is that you’re much more likely to stay motivated and reach your goals if you truly love what you’re doing.

Enter: intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is based on internal goals. It is the desire to do things because we want to, not because we feel we have to. We exercise because we truly love and enjoy it. Intrinsic motivation is usually tied to a performance goal, like mastering a skill or sport.

But how do you find it? Well, you need to find some form of exercise you actually want to do. A skill or sport that you want to master. You may not know what it is right now, but try a few things out. Work with a trainer. Try out a Crossfit box. Sign up for a Spartan Race or a half marathon or anything that requires you to train for it.

Trust me, I didn’t hop out of bed one day thinking, I want to lift heavy weights! And do double unders and handstand pushups and pull-ups and…no. I just wanted to look good and after doing a ton of cardio and not seeing any sort of change in my body, I was fortunate enough to start working with a trainer who changed my entire outlook on things by making fitness fun and literally introducing me to a whole new world. And that’s when I knew there was no turning back. I was hooked.

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For the first time, a new level of intensity was brought to my workouts, and soon I wasn’t able to settle for anything less. I became motivated to work harder on my own. I wanted to learn new skills and to get stronger because I finally had goals. And those goals were not tied to a number on the scale or a pant size. They were performance goals. And I reached those goals. And I set new ones. And the more I continue to learn about this whole world of fitness and all of the different things I have to learn, the more excited I get to step into the gym each day.

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Why do you think people are so obsessed with Crossfit? Think about it, there are always new skills to learn. New PRs (personal records) to hit. And once you hit those, you set new goals for yourself, and you go after those. You focus on your performance. And guess what? Combined with a little healthy eating, your body changes and you forget about the scale. You’re focused on your goals and one day you look in the mirror and think, “holy crap, where did these muscles come from?!”

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Ok, that was a little bit of an exaggeration. Apologies for the shameless selfie.

But really, I encourage you to find what you love. It might take some exploring, but you’ll never know until you try. I can’t tell you how many people think they could never be into fitness until they’re introduced to it in the right setting and with the right attitude, and then they couldn’t get enough. I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone in my life that has made it fun for me and been a key factor in finding my intrinsic motivation. And there are people, or activities, out there that could do the same for you. You just have to go out there and find them. That’s the first step. The hardest and scariest step. The rest is easy 😉

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Dining out and Getting back to Human

I love food. Especially eating out. And living in NYC, there are ENDLESS places that I want to try. Part of the reason that I eat clean most of the time is so that when I do choose to treat myself to a meal out, which usually happens about once or twice a week, I can order whatever I desire and not feel guilty about it. Let’s face it, I’ve never been the girl to go to a famous burger joint, and order a salad. That’s just boring.

That’s why I follow the 80/20 rule, for the most part. Eat 100% clean 80% of the time, and use the other 20% to treat myself. (Except during the a2a 25 day challenge, of course).

That being said, I also hate the feeling of leaving a restaurant feeling so full that you can’t even walk, or worse, having to put up with a stomach ache for the rest of the night. So lately, I’ve been trying to make some healthier choices. Or at least work on portion control…

One of the new places that I tried today was Hu’s Kitchen. Here’s what they’re all about:

We started with the question, “how should humans eat?” The more we studied and experimented, the more we came to understand that we are primitive bodies living in modern times, that getting back to a pre-industrial way of eating was the best thing we could do for our health. But we knew we wouldn’t be satisfied until we figured out how to make our food not just nutritionally superior but also genuinely delicious.

Seriously, why don’t more places like this exist? Everything is gluten free, grassfed, organic, and their prices were very reasonable! Still not convinced? Check out their pillars.

Today I went with two eggs over easy, sweet potato hash and grass fed bacon. Everything is cooked in coconut or olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. My meal even came with a biscuit made from veggies, flaxseed and olive oil – how cool is that?

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And I ate every last bite, obviously.

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I will definitely be going back once the a2a challenge has ended to check out their Jordy cakes, juices and sample some of their sweet treats! Check out ChekMark Eats review for more on Hu Kitchen.

Ok, back to the main event. Although for me eating out is a semi-rare occasion, I know that many people eat out much more often than I do, either because they don’t like to cook, they travel a lot, they have to take clients out for work, or they lead a way cooler life than I do. Regardless of the reason, we’ve had a few requests for tips on making healthier choices at restaurants, so I thought I’d give my two cents.

1. Play an active role in restaurant selection. If your friends are deciding where to go for brunch on Sunday, do some research yourself and suggest a few places where you know you can find something on the menu for you. If your suggestions get shot down, well hey, at least you tried.

2. Stalk the menu before you go. If you check out the menu ahead of time, you’ll be able to select something healthy and be less likely to make an impulsive, unhealthy decision at the restaurant.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for modifications. You might feel awkward for the two seconds that you’re asking your waiter what type of oil they cook their vegetables in, but your stomach will be happier later.  If you’re trying to eat gluten free, order your sandwich or burger without the bun rather than having it sit on your plate staring you in the face while you try not to eat it. If the chicken in the dish that you want is fried, ask if they can substitute grilled. If your dish comes with fries, ask for a side salad instead. There are tons of tiny modifications that can make the unhealthiest of meals clean!

4. Split meals. Ask your friend if they want to share something with you. Not only will you feel less guilty later after not polishing off an entire plate of french toast by yourself, your wallet will thank you too.

5. Order a salad to start. This will help fill you up before your meal arrives and also keeps you from munching on the bread in the middle of the table.

6. Choose a main dish with protein and veggies. These tend to be less processed with less hidden ingredients.

7. Stop eating when you’re full. You don’t have to clean your plate! You can take the rest home with you. Or in most cases, there is someone else at the table that will be willing to clean your plate for you.

8. ENJOY! Yes, it’s important to eat healthy. And yes, we all feel better when we do. But sometimes you just have to indulge. There are just too many foods out there to eat protein and veggies 100% of the time. Life is too short, live a little!

Finally, moving away from restaurants and back to cooking your own food, I’m going to walk you through my meal prep from last week to show you my lunch that was a2a challenge approved.

Julia’s Power Lunch

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– Sauteed kale – grease skillet with olive or coconut oil, add kale, sautee until starts to turn brown and crispy

– Roasted sweet potatoes – cut sweet potato into cubes, toss in olive oil, place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

– Roasted portobello mushrooms (from NomNom Paleo)

– Grape tomatoes (raw)

– Turkey meatballs – Combine 1/2 diced onion with 1 lb of lean ground turkey, roll into balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until thoroughly cooked

I portioned everything out into 4 tupperware containers and ate them for lunch Tuesday-Friday. As a “dressing” I used a very ripe avocado that I could mash up and stir into the mix.

Enjoy your week everyone!

– Julia

Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Clean Eating…and Stuffed Bell Peppers!

“You are what you eat.” “Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

You’ve all heard it in one form or another. And it’s true, unless you have an amazing metabolism (in which case I’m super jealous of you), you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your exercise program without eating well along with it. Plus, we like our bodies, right? So why not be nice to them and give them things that will make them happy?

So what does this mean? What should you eat? Should you eat less? More? High protein? Low carbs? No fat? With all of the diets and products out there, it’s no wonder everyone is confused…who wouldn’t be?

Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you what I eat. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, but this is what works for me. And guess what, I feel good AND I enjoy what I’m eating. Isn’t that what really matters?

But before I get down to business, I have something VERY IMPORTANT to share. Ok, not really. I just needed an excuse to embarrass my friends by posting these pictures that I received via text on Saturday.


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Oh, yeah. That happened. Oh, and I’m supposed to be very clear about the fact that they are making fun of people who take “gym selfies.” Because apparently that makes this acceptable.

What’s a “gym selfie?” You know, those people who should be working out but instead are too busy taking pictures of themselves in the mirror. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Well don’t worry, I took one of my own.

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 Not laughing yet? How about  now?

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can focus on the real subject of this post, which was…oh yes, eating. Ok, here goes. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, I’ve buried it all the way at the bottom so just keep scrolling.

I’m going to list a few (relatively) simple rules of thumb that guide my eating habits. I will probably link out to other articles, especially as it regards to more “scientific” subject matter, because I do not have a science background and would probably only confuse you (and myself) more.

Eat REAL food. What does this mean? Try to avoid anything that is processed. How can you tell if it’s processed? Well, first off, if you see a commercial for it on TV, it’s probably not natural. Check the ingredients. Is there a long list of things that you don’t understand? Is sugar an ingredient? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s most likely processed. Real foods include fruits, veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc. Basically, if you stick to the perimeter of the  grocery store when you do your shopping, you’ll be able to avoid the processed things. I realize you can’t do this 100% of the time, but if you do it 80% of the time, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel. I promise.

Don’t fear the fat. This could be an entire post on it’s own. People think that in order to lose fat they need to eat fat free foods. This is simply not true. Fat plays several important roles in our diet from making us feel full to improving our mental states and energy levels. Fat is especially important if you’re on a low carb diet, because while protein will help to build muscle, your body needs something to run on for fuel! If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, I would recommend reading this.

Grain or no grain? Avoiding grains, particularly gluten, seems to be an emerging trend, and some may wonder whether or not they should jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Basically, gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, even in those who do not have Celiac disease One of my favorite bloggers, the Petite Athleat, gives a great breakdown of the benefits of not eating gluten as well as a breakdown of the alternatives to wheat flour – almond vs. coconut – here. Well, I decided to give the whole gluten free diet a whirl and have been avoiding gluten, for the most part, for the past 3 months, and I can say I’ve never felt better. My digestive issues have gone away (that alone is enough for me to never eat wheat again), I have more energy and fewer cravings and as an added bonus, I’ve leaned out a bit. 

Drink more water. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s very important to stay hydrated. This will help keep you full, give you that youthful glow you try so desperately to achieve through bronzer and blush, keep your muscle energized and mostly importantly, keep you “regular.” Need I say more? For those stuck behind a desk like me, I recommend keeping a glass of water at your desk and getting up to refill each time it’s empty. This also serves as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs every once and a while.

Limit your alcohol intake. We all know that excessive alcohol consumption leads to weight gain. Remember the Freshman 15? Yeah. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol altogether would maximize your results. But we’re all human and after a long week, we need a drink. Or two. Or three… If we’re going to drink, why not choose something that has some health benefits? I actually stumbled upon a useful article the other day that outlines the health benefits (or lack of benefits) of each type of alcohol. All I can say is, bring on the red wine and whisky.

So now you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what do I eat?!

Well, your grocery cart might look something like this.

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Ok, so what do I do with all this food? Won’t it go bad? Don’t you spend a lot of money on groceries? Have no fear! I have a solution!

Prep your meals in advance. This is crucial if you don’t want to waste food and money. I usually do my grocery shopping and prepare my lunches for the week on Sundays. I’ll cook all of the fresh food that I buy (because there’s nothing worse than wasting food), and then portion everything out into tupperware containers. Voila, 5 days of lunch! It can get a little boring eating the same thing every day, but I try to include a variety of veggies/proteins and change up the “dressings” that I use – alternating between avocado, hummus and salsa – to keep my taste buds happy.

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Freeze food. If you are afaid that something will go bad, just pop it in the freezer! No food wasted!

Portion out your snacks. This is a great way to avoid eating that entire container of mango that you bought in one sitting.

Trader Joe’s is a godsend. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but if it weren’t for TJs, I would be seriously broke. Their prices are absolutely unbeatable.

Get creative. There are TONS of easy recipes out there that you can make with just a few simple ingredients! Google is your friend people, use it. 

People often ask what I eat in a typical day. While food and nutrient intake is dependent on a million different factors (body mass index, basal metabolic rate, body composition, allergens) as well as your goals – do you want to lose fat, build muscle, maintain – here is what an average weekday of eating looks like for me. Keep in mind that I workout at 6:30am every morning (crossfit or HIIT) and then sit at a desk from 9am-6pm each day before walking the mile home to my apartment.

5:30am Pre-workout pancake + cup of coffee
8:00am Post-workout protein shake (1 banana, 1 scoop whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk/water)
9:30am 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 small sweet potato, 2 slices Applegate Farms turkey
11:00am String cheese
1:30pm Bowl of assorted roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, mushrooms) on bed of spinach or kale, 5 roasted sweet potato “chips”, 4 turkey meatballs (I make mine without the oats), topped with hummus/avocado/salsa
4:00pm Apple with almond butter
7:30pm Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and goat cheese or pancakes topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries

And finallyyyyyyyy, a recipe!

Last Friday, I had a couple of friends over and we made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. They were absolutely amazing so I thought I would share this delicious recipe with you.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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You will need:

3 large red bell peppers

Filling:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Splash of vinegar (white or balsamic both work)

Seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Wrap in foil, place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook ground turkey in skillet until browned. Remove from skillet and sautee onion, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Once veggies are cooked, combine with turkey. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to turkey/veggie mixture. Remove peppers from oven and stuff.

Place stuffed peppers back in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!

Until next time,

Julia