Bringing Your Body Into Balance

My 100+ pound weight loss is what grabs people's attention. However, my weight loss was merely a side effect of finally taking my health and happiness into my own hands and finding that perfect balance. Body, mind, spirit. It all matters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

COUNTING CALORIES 101: My List of Low Calorie HEALTHY (yet, tasty) Foods and Other Tips for Easier Weight Loss

Once upon a time, I lost a crap ton of weight and lived happily ever after. The end....

Nope not quite. Over the past few years my weight has slowly crept up until I was 35 pounds up from all time low weight. This was my wake up call that something was not right. At 175 pounds (30 pounds up), I announced that I was done trying to lose weight and I was just going to maintain...then I gained 5 more pounds. So I went back and looked to see what in the world I was doing so different then. And, SURPRISE! I was actually paying attention to what I put in my mouth! Every single day!

I am shocked at how far I had come from these basic principles that led to my huge weight loss. I am a total science nerd and am always researching the latest studies that prove this and that about nutrition and fat loss. I had become my own science experiment. Going from Frutitarian (all fruit, Lord help me!) to no carb because there is REAL science that backs all this up, and everything in between, I kept creeping higher and higher up.

In the process, I had stopped eating as many unprocessed, whole foods. HOW does this happen?!

Well, it does and all you can do is get back on track and try again. So now I'm 7 pounds down from my (post-weight loss) all time high of 180 pounds by just doing these annoyingly basic things that I began my blogging career screaming from the rooftops. 

Now that I'm all hardcore back into counting calories, I want to share my list of foods that I rely heavily upon (along with a few other tips). And I want to start by saying that these are NOT all perfect foods!! Not by a long shot. However, all have some redeeming quality that makes them a staple in my diet.

A huge rule with any eating plan is that you not only want to feel good but actually enjoy the food you're eating so that you can do this for life! The other side of this rule is to find foods that you don't enjoy TOO much to the point where you're tempted to overeat on them. Those are best left out of the house and reserved for special someone else's house perhaps.

I'm going to leave off the most obvious list of all and that's non-starchy veggies! Find at least a small list of low calorie veggies that you love and put them into rotation. At the moment, I am digging a sliced cucumber with Pink Himalayan Sea Salt on it for only 45 calories. I love to make giant salads with pickled veggies mixed in for a punch. I splurge on some tasty dressing, even if it costs me 120 calories because I know it will make my giant (and I mean GIANT) salad delicious and I am a creature of pleasure. If it's not tasty, I'm not going to keep eating it.

Proteins are so important for weight loss. They satisfy you for little calories and help you body hold on to muscle (and even sometimes still build it) instead of burning it during weight loss.

-Shrimp. Love it!! Something like 85 calories for 10 of the medium ones.

-Sunwarrior Blend Protein. 100 calories of clean, vegan protein that is quite tasty! Sometimes I like to mix it up in the blender with a tbsp. of natural peanut butter, water and ice for a delicious, satisfying shake that's under 200 calories!!

-Boring Old White Meat Chicken. I honestly am not a huge fan of white meat. I prefer dark meat but ooooomg!! It's so many calories. So, while it's actually a very healthy choice from a nutrition standpoint (healthy fats), it can make creating a calorie deficit kind of hard so save the dark meat for special occasions and when you're in maintenance mode. In the meantime, you will need two things to make your boring old chicken pretty darn tasty: a super yummy seasoning mix (I'm really digging Adobo at the moment) or cook it with hot sauce for buffalo chicken. Add it to a salad with carrots, celery and sprinkle of blue cheese and you have "hot wing salad". The second thing you need is a meat thermometer! I promise you, chicken is waaaay tastier when you haven't overcooked it to the point of work boot material.

-Cottage Cheese. A lot of people turn up their nose at this one and, trust me, plain cottage cheese makes me gag. But mixed up in a salad with a little ranch dressing, I've got a protein packed, AMAZING tasting salad. Don't be my 7 year old....try it!

-FARM Eggs!!! There are a lot of foods that I will tell people to just buy regular but this is one that, if there's any way you can, you want to splurge on the farm fresh eggs. The creamy orange yolks will be an entirely new experience for you if you're used to conventional eggs. Not to mention they are packed full of Omega-3's which have been shown to assist in weight loss. My favorite way to have my eggs is over easy and on top of a giant plate of cooked veggies. Yes, right over top, so it's like a warm, creamy gravy. Again, don't knock it 'til you've tried. A giant plate of cooked, non-starchy veggies with two eggs on top is around 200 calories and will make you SATISFIED!!

Always watch your portion sizes on carbs! All people are different but most people with weight problems have a hard time consuming a lot of carbs and keeping their blood sugar regulated. Always pair complex carbs with protein. At the VERY MOST, you want no more than 3 times the carbs as protein. So 10g protein, max 30 g carbs. But a 1:2 ratio is even better! Find your "carb tipping point" by starting with just a couple bites of COMPLEX carbs and see how you feel. You can slowly add an extra bite or two at a time during the coming weeks. You know you've passed your carb tipping point when you feel tired and/or hungry almost immediately after a meal.

-Ole Low Carb Xtreme Wellness, High Fiber Wraps. Okay, this is officially the ONLY mention you'll see of wheat on this list. As a general rule, I think wheat greatly hinders weight loss efforts and I try to avoid it. Now, that being said, I have been known to slide these babies in from time to time and here's why. First, they are only 90 calories and pretty freakin' big! Second, they have NINE grams of fiber!! Fiber helps satisfy you (not to mention, exercise is not very fun when you're constipated). If you just NEED to wrap something up, use these gems.

-Boiled Sweet Potatoes. This is not the most amazing thing in the world but it's pretty darn tasty for the amount of work it takes. Cut a sweet potato into 1 inch slices. Put it in boiling water until soft and then salt it with some Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Very tasty! It's also great to go on top of salads the next day to add and sweet and creamy texture.

Because this is real life!

-Attune Probiotic Chocolate. Here's what I love about these dark chocolate bars (other than the fact that they are AMAZING tasting). They have 80 calories, only 6g of sugar AND 3 grams of fiber! Bonus? They have live probiotics!! Don't know what probiotics are and why you WANT lots of them now??....educate yourself immediately! Unhealthy guts make for dumpy butts....Oh! I am SO coining that phrase! Don't you guys steal it!

-Zen Evo Dark Chocolate. These little bars are around 40-45 calories and a little pricey. But I love them because they have things like green tea extract and raspberry ketones in them (depending on the version you get, like "Energy" or "Fit"). So I always feel like they curb my appetite a little and the caffeine seems to offset the slump I sometimes feel after eating sugar.

-Full fat ice cream!! Mind your portion size, but a 1/2 cup serving usually runs 150 calories. I emphasize full fat because the fat and protein in ice cream will actually slow the absorption of the sugar which helps prevent cravings for seconds. With all these types of foods, chew slow. Let the food roll around on your tongue. This helps start the whole digestion process and sends signals to your brain and belly that you're satisfied WAAAY sooner than if you're just inhaling without chewing!

-Raw macaroons. This has been one of my favorite finds lately! Find macaroons with really good, healthy ingredients. Most of these will range 75-100 calories. What I love about them is that, in addition to tasting amazing, they have protein, fat and fiber, and less sugar than most desserts. This helps that sugar crash AND (for me anyway) it is so satisfying I can actually eat only one and not want more....this is nothing short of a miracle for someone like me! Find a flavor you love but don't LOOOOVE to the point where you need more than one to be satisfied.

Drinks (when you're sick of good old fashion water!)

-Kevita. I loooove my Kevita! Starting as low as 5 calories per serving, it is full of live probiotics and all kinds of other health boosting goodies. Sweetened with stevia leaf extract, it has a subtle sweetness that's all natural. Best part (other than being healthy)? Due to the fermentation process, it is naturally carbonated. I will warn you, things like Kevita and my next recommendation are acquired tastes but most people grow to love and crave them after a while.

-Kombucha. You want to be careful with this one because a lot of manufactures will add sugar. I generally go with the brand Synergy because their kombuchas start as low as 30 calories per serving. This is another gut healthy, naturally carbonated drink.

-Water w/ REAL stevia leaf extract. You can experiment with this by adding mint leaves, lemon, cinnamon, cucumbers, etc. Just watch out for sugars in things like fruits and fruit juices. Even though it's natural it will still affect your weight loss either by extra calories or cravings.

Extras and Things to Make Everything Tastier

-Feta Cheese. Okay, definitely not a perfect food but that's okay! 1/4 c of feta is 70 calories or less and will make any meal amazing while adding some protein!

-Parmesan Cheese. Just like feta, parm can make any meal amazing and it takes even less calories to accomplish this with Parmesan. But, keep in mind, you want to use these cheese as a garnish for a giant meal of veggies! The veggies will be what will fill your body, nourish you and keep you satisfied. The cheese just makes your mouth happy while you get those veggies in.

-Fresh Garlic! It's a pain to chop so I will do a whole one at one time and put it in a tiny mason jar. It makes anything delicious and you can top any veggies with fresh chopped garlic and Parmesan cheese, stick it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes and you'll be in heaven!!

-Egg Drop Soup. I'm so glad I finally tried this. The calories seem to range from 50-75 per cup and it's soooo good and filling because it has some fat and protein.

-Bone need to just look this one up! It can become your new best friend!

-Spices!!!! We know this but it's like we don't KNOW this!! Look for fairly clean ones with words you can recognize in the ingredients list and then invest in some good spice mixes (I mentioned earlier, Adobo is one I really like at the moment).

-Pink Himalayan Sea Salt....again, look this up! It's healthy!

-Real Vanilla Extract (and other 100% pure extracts)

-REAL (ceylon) cinnamon...Know the difference!

Things That WILL Make You Hungrier

-Artificial Sweeteners...even too much stevia can cause cravings because, even though it's natural, it still is sweet and sends the message to your stomach that food is on the way so approach with caution.
-Excessive Carbs
-Stress or lack of sleep
-Commercials about food!!!

...avoid these things whenever you can

Things That Can Curb Your Appetite

-Exercise (especially high intensity)
-Fiber! Fiber! Fiber!
-Moderate consumption of healthy fats
-A good night's sleep
-Small amounts of natural occurring caffeine
-Big bulky foods like leafy green salads and broth based soups
-Getting enough nutrients!!! This one is HUGE! Your body will keep sending you the hunger signal if you're not giving it what it needs in terms of nutrition.
-Spicy foods (for some people)
-Sour foods (for other people)

Other Calorie Counting Tips for Weight Loss

-Really pay attention to those carbs! They can destroy your efforts. 
-Find big foods w/ little calories to keep you full and nourished! Stretch that calorie budget! Make it a game!
-Aim low! Only aim to lose about a pound a week. Creating too big of a deficit WILL set you up for disaster! Don't be the hare, be the tortoise.
-Speaking of aiming low, enter all your exercise in at 50%. Meaning, if you did Zumba for 60 minutes, only log 30. This is something that was just recently brought to my attention! Machines and apps drastically overestimate the amount of calories you're burning because they don't deduct your BMR (as in, the calories you would burn anyway, even if you didn't work out, which are already factored into your daily calorie allotment).
-Stay hydrated. Adequate water will give you energy, help you exercise harder and prevent false feelings of hunger.
-25g of fiber per day
-PLAN AHEAD! Try using an app like to log your calories. Plan all your calories the day before whenever possible.
-PLAN YOUR CHEATS TOO!! Twice a week, plan to eat those extra 500 calories that you're usually creating a deficit with. This will do two things, it will give you a chance to eat those things you've been resisting AND it will help keep your metabolism high. You don't want to go long periods of time with a calorie deficit every single day. Your body will lower your metabolism and burn more muscle to compensate. So, yes!! Absolutely cheat, but plan it ahead of time and only eat as many calories as you can while not changing weight in that day. Want more calories on a Saturday? Get up and work out hard so you can bank those calories and eat them later! I went for a 5 hour hike last Saturday and burned an extra 1000 calories!!! I enjoyed pizza and ice cream that night and still had a calorie deficit when I went to bed. 
-Don't lie and don't guess. In the beginning you need to measure everything. 501 calories is all it will take to move from losing weight to gaining it in any given day. And 500 calories is way less than you may think! It could be a couple packets of honey mustard from Bojangles and some salad dressing you didn't eyeball very well.
-Eat small, frequent (protein and fiber rich) meals. There is actually some controversy around this one lately to the point where I stopped doing it. And, guess what!....I gained weight!! Yes, eating frequent causes your body to always have some insulin present. But guess what going too long without eating does to an overweight person....makes them eat everything in sight! You need to eat BEFORE you get very hungry. However often that is! Sometimes I eat 8-9 times a day! Just don't eat dumb, non-food items like 100 calorie snack packs or you WILL overeat your calorie limit at the end of the day.

And most importantly....

Count ALL Calories....SEVEN DAYS A WEEK!!!!!!

This is the number one reason people counting calories don't lose weight. You can eat perfectly for 4 1/2 and COMPLETELY destroy all your efforts and even GAIN weight for the week by throwing down on the weekend with no regard for what you're eating. Plan your weekends too! Count those calories. Want to pig out?! Go for a 5 hour hike!!! Realize that the calories still count, even when you don't feel like counting them!

Monday, August 17, 2015

The "100% All Natural" LIE

Do you pay extra of your hard earned money to buy 100% natural for yourself and your family? If so, please take 4 minutes to watch this easy to understand and entertaining video that will open your eyes to what the food industry is doing to us! Get informed. Get mad! Change! Knowledge is power!!

Friday, August 14, 2015

No More Fear: Living Wide Open

I read an article yesterday about tick bites and how horrible they can be. And I get it! I totally believe they can be horrible! However, much more horrifying to me were the responses by readers saying things like "this is why I never go outside"and "guys, PLEASE don't go outside or into the woods, it's just not worth it!" 

It got me thinking all day about this mentality that seems to be rampant (in America especially). We have become SO afraid! I am convinced this is mainly because of the constant news coverage on all things horrifying. It skews our perception of just how often those things actually happen! So many of us are walking around in this chronic state of fear that SOMETHING is going to kill us! 

Here's the scariest part of all....we are so busy being afraid of dying that we don't even realize that we are in hiding. We are actually hiding from truly LIVING!

How do I know this? Because it's how I used to spend my life. By the time I turned 20, other than work, I spent my life almost always indoors, watching tv, eating and....hiding. I didn't want to get hot. Or dirty. Or stung by a bee. I always felt confused when people talked about how miserable the temperature outside was because, I thought, "it's a short walk from the indoors to your car and back again. What's the problem?" 

Finally I reached a point in my early thirties where my fear of dying (or discomfort in general) was replaced by this overwhelming fear that life was passing me by while I stared at various screens and hid from anything uncomfortable....and the discomfort had snuck into my life anyway! I was morbidly obese, in chronic pain, always depressed and could barely climb steps without feeling like I was going to pass out. I couldn't hide from death anymore, it had found me and was circling around me like a dark, menacing shadow. And it would be a death of the most miserable kind. Slow, maybe over years. Whether it would be heart disease, diabetes or some other preventable disease, I KNEW it was coming. I could feel. 

Well, one thing is for certain. When death finds me now (if it can even keep up with me), it will have to take me out hard and fast because I am living the shit out of life! I crave sunshine and sweat and dirt and even bee stings! I crave feeling alive. I push my body to the point of exhaustion and every muscle in me screams "I am alive!". 

I am done with hiding. I am standing in the great big wide open where life can take me out at any moment and, when it does, I'll have no regrets about whatever causes it because I am living from my heart now and every second is precious. 

So my message to anyone reading this. Stop hiding, start living. Cause, guess what, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Until that day, be the boss. I know that fear of discomfort. Push through it. When you make yourself uncomfortable you grow in ways you can't ever imagine and you are too busy being fully immersed in your own life to think about the "what ifs" very much. In the beginning I always asked myself the following questions when I thought about doing something and then fear started to bubble up inside of me and threaten to stop me....

Is it likely to kill me?

If the answer was no, my next question....

How soon can I do it?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Always Sleepy? Always Hungry? Can't Lose Weight?....Here's Your Checklist

Not at your best? Sleepy? Constantly hungry? Not losing weight? Answer these questions to help you figure out why…

Am I sleeping enough? Other than the obvious, feeling tired, lack of sleep can increase hunger, cause depression, erratic mood swings, digestive problems and increased cortisol which will cause the metabolism to slow and your body to store fat, especially around your midsection.

Am I drinking enough water for my needs? Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle weakness and/or cramps, sluggish metabolism, “brain fog” and digestive problems.

Am I consuming too many carbohydrates? Especially in the form of simple sugars (which includes things like fruit juice, fruit snacks, bottled teas and many forms of bread and crackers). These break down quickly in your bloodstream resulting in insulin spikes followed by fatigue, digestive upset, cravings and headaches.

Am I consuming too little healthy fats? Healthy fats can actually contribute not only to weight loss but improved brain function, better skin, hormonal balance and feelings of satiety after eating.

Am I eating too many processed “food like substances”? When we eat close to nature, our bodies know exactly what to do with these foods. When we eat science experiments in packages, not only does our body not know quite how to process this fuel or any vitamins or minerals it may claim to have but it also is busy processing the toxins in this stuff. Yes, occassionally we all will grab something less than ideal. But if you find yourself constantly exhausted, not able to use the bathroom (or, on the flip side, not able to stop using the bathroom) or completely stagnated in your weight loss efforts, try turning to nature for the solution and start eating more of the good stuff.

Am I always stressed out? If you are chronically stressed out this results in cortisol always being present in your body which results in lower metabolism and encourages your body to store fat, especially around your midsection.

Am I tending to my emotional and spiritual needs? If you aren’t taking time for yourself, to do things that bring you peace and happiness, you are sending the message to your subconscious mind that you are not worthy of the effort it takes to make these positive, lifelong changes.

Am I fueling my motivation? We all have those days where we just don’t feel like doing the right things for ourselves. This is when we have to step up our motivation. Online support groups, motivational media (movies, youtube, podcasts, magazines, etc.) and your trainer (that’s me) are excellent resources to keep you inspired. Use them!!

Am I consuming artificial sweeteners? This is HUGE mounting evidence that artificial sweeteners actually cause our bodies to store fat! It is a combination of lowering our metabolism, spiking our insulin and actually assisting our bodies in recovering more calories from every meal to store as fat. I have stalled on my weight loss and/or actually gained weight every single time I’ve fallen off the wagon and gone back to these sweeteners. Oh! And they are absolutely toxic for your body and brain.

Still not convinced? So did you find the item on this list that is responsible for your troubles? And maybe you still don’t feel quite motivated enough to do something about it? That’s where educating yourself on that subject comes into play. Knowledge is power! The more you know, the harder it is to bury your head in the sand so get to learning!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Weight Loss Success Story: Kellie

Kellie has become one of my most dedicated clients over time. And what I love best about her is her evolution along the way that has enabled her to embrace the process and love herself right now in this moment. That's why she will continue to succeed. Confidence is a beautiful thing!! Here are her own words...

 "I was depressed and unhappy with myself. One day I met this woman who stated she could... help me change my life; she did just that. I took this picture today after working out..[].I was shocked at the change. I am happier and healthier. I'm feel beautiful! I'm as confident as I've ever been and I'm not stopping now! I'm sexy and I know it!! I pray this encourages someone! I'm loving the skin I'm in!"

Weight Loss Success Story: Sherry

Here's another one of my amazing clients. Sherry has been with me since January. In that time she's lost almost 10 pounds, reduced her body fat by 3%, waist 1.5 inches, chest 2 inches and hips 2 inches. The change in overall shape and firmness of her body are mind blowing to me! She's reduced aches and pains and drastically increased her confidence. I am beyond amazed and inspired by her progress! Go Sherry!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

175 and Holding!! Why I'm Done Trying to Lose Weight

The other day I took a bunch of pics that were meant to be my "before" pictures as I had gotten up to 174 and decided to get serious about counting calories again and losing weight. I religiously counted calories every day for a a couple of weeks and I....gained a pound! I tried to find a picture that reflected the true disgustingness of my situation and couldn't seem to find one. Everything was a lot smaller, firmer, less crinkled than I was seeing it. I've got some less flattering ones that show my belly but, in light of my decision of how I choose to approach my body from here on out (outlined below), I've decided to go with the more discreet ones.

This last Saturday I started my morning in one of my favorite ways, a super intense workout with my boyfriend. I began my workout with a grueling HIIT session on the elliptical for 35 minutes until I felt like I would vomit. We showered and changed there and I walked out of the gym feeling self-conscious in my jean shorts that were way more snug than this time last year. My boyfriend scanned me up and down and said "are those shorts new?" I hung my head and said "no, they just look different because they were baggy last year." He asked, "are you thicker than last year?" I looked at him surprised. How could he not see how horribly repulsive I had become?! I said, "Um, yeah, definitely." He said, in complete sincerity, "Babe, I have to tell you, I like you thicker."

Now, let me stop here and say this: I won't lie, having my hard bodied, unbelievably fit and attractive boyfriend, literally the sexiest guy I've ever laid eyes on in real life, validate my current body and tell me it's my effort and drive that's more sexy than anything, did have an impact on the shift in my thinking that took place in the hours following the aforementioned conversation. However, it was merely a catalyst to the change that has since taken place in my mind.

I started to think, "Why am I trying to lose weight?" The answers I came up with were less than healthy and noble. Here's the entire list:

-I feel that, as a personal trainer, I should be hard-bodied and perfect for current and future clients to take me seriously.

-I have cute clothes that I can't fit into.

-My stomach isn't flat.

-I have cellulite

-I used to weigh 145 pounds....

That's the whole list!!!

When I really thought about my reasons I realized that they were a little absurd. So I created a new list of reasons why I have, for the first time in almost 30 years, decided to simply try to maintain my weight instead.

-First and foremost, I'm naturally a thick girl! At 5'7 1/2 with a lot of muscle mass, 175 pounds is so unbelievably easy to maintain!! I'm not constantly hungry and I'm full of energy. At 145 I was constantly starving and exhausted and COLD!! I was constantly cold!

-175 pounds seems to be my sticking point. Coincidentally, it is the weight I settled in at when I was 18 and became physically active for the first time. It's also the weight I almost attempted to settle into when I was originally losing down from 275 but felt like I needed to keep losing for various reasons. I will add that, when I was 175 pounds coming down, it looked way different because I hadn't really started strength training yet so my actual body fat was a lot higher than it is now with the added muscle mass.

-I am absolutely SICK AND TIRED of not just being content with who I am! I have never ever considered myself worthy of just being where I am. I just want to, for once in my life, not consider myself "not there yet."

-On a more shallow note, I HAVE BOOBS!!! And A BUTT!!! I have a nice shape now. Because of all the weight I lost, I had some excess skin at 145 pounds. At 175, with the extra fat and muscle, everything is firmer. And, yes, I have boobs again. And, I have to say, I actually really like the way I look right now.

Okay, so here's my new goal. First and foremost, to love myself!! ? And then, to add more muscle mass but not to move the scales in one direction or the other. Anyone who knows much about this will understand that this is a little bit of a tricky statement because I actually AM aiming to reduce my body fat with this goal. However, there is something psychological about saying "I am, in this moment, perfect," that is unbelievably liberating. I feel loved. By me. And here's the absolute crazy part!!! As soon as I made the decision to stay where I am, my urge to cheat with a bunch of unhealthy food went away! That's not to say I won't be enjoying my wings and beer anymore but it no longer feels like some kind of self-abusing compulsion.

So I have new advice for others who seem to be struggling with self-love and can't even figure out how to lose when they are constantly fearful that they are going to gain....

Stop!!! Stand still for a moment and love yourself exactly where you are.

I am not saying that I want to stay at 175 forever. I may someday resume my efforts to see a (slightly) smaller number on the scales. But that moment is not now. Now my effort is to be the absolute healthiest person, physically AND mentally that I can be so I've liberated myself from the weight game for a while.

Here's the best part. I was sharing my decision with a client today and here is what she said in a nutshell. "Tammi, you look amazing already. And what drew me to you in the first place is that you are a 'real' person. Someone I can relate to instead of some hard-bodied fitness model that I would just feel uncomfortable around." And when I really think about it I know that's how all my clients feel. They feel loved by me, because they are. They feel inspired by my own humanity and my own struggles. I am done trying to fit a mold. I am done staring at my cellulite before I walk outside to enjoy a beautiful summer day. I'm done fearing the scales. Oh, and I'm officially a size 10 for quite a while anyway so I guess I'm getting rid of all my size 6's if anyone is interested.