Mexico Mode!

I am officially in Mexico vacation mode! I will be jetting off to Tulum in less than 4 weeks, and am heading full throttle into training hard and eating clean. I feel way more bikini-comfortable than I did a few months ago, but I definitely have a ways to go before I get to where I want to be!

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This morning I started off this new-found beast mode with my first attempt at drop-setting my lifts on my own. For those of you who don’t know what a drop-set is, it’s basically a pyramid style workout . You can begin as if you are doing your regular workout (ie. 4 sets of squats at specified reps, beginning small and adding weight as you go). However, when you reach the top of your workout (the heaviest), you are far from finished!

The drop-set starts at your heaviest weight. You do as many squats as possible until your muscles have reached failure. You then rack the barbell, reduce the weight quickly (20-30lb increments if squatting), and immediately begin your next set without resting. Again, you don’t stop squatting at this level until you literally cannot squeeze in another rep. You do this until you have reached the lightest weight (barbell, 45lbs). Essentially, the goal is to prolong your exercise by ending at a lower weight once you have pushed yourself to failure with the heavier weight. Ideally, each set includes many more reps than what you typically do.

The first time I gave this concept a shot was with the trainer/boyfriend. We did this with chest presses and side laterals, but he handed me the weights as I went, making the system much faster. If I had done today’s workout with someone there to help me switch out my weight, it probably would have been even harder than it was. But I am too much of a chicken to ask for help.

I went to LA Fitness at 5am, and my workout was as follows:

Warm up on cross ramp

Push ups (real ones, yay!) 4 sets/10 reps
Squats, 5 sets beginning at 75lbs and ending at 145lbs/ super-setted with 15lb dumbbell curls
Drop-set Squats, 135lbs to 45lbs
Military press, 30-50lbs, 5 sets
Drop-set military press
Hamstring Curls, 65lbs, 4 sets/12 reps

Cool down, quick 5 minute bike ride

By the time I finished, all I wanted to do was chop my legs off and lay right there on the floor for the rest of the day. People can work around me, I thought. My legs were wobbly, I was walking into things, and I probably looked like a lunatic.

20130826-125721.jpgIn addition to confusing my body and challenging myself at the gym, I am eating even cleaner than I had been in the past! Way more fruits and veggies, structured meals, “calorie counting” – but not neurotically (just to have an idea of just how much I am consuming), and even more water and green tea (if that’s even possible.

Mexico, here I come!

Morning Burn

I had another successful gym session at the ass-crack of dawn this morning! I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get up because I fell asleep no earlier than 1AM last night (this morning). Why was I up so late if I was waking up at 4:30 you ask? Oh, you know, just agonizing like a maniac over what I was going to do at the gym at 5AM. WHY. Who loses sleep over that??

Lucky for me, my oh-so-wonderful trainer dropped everything he was doing to come up with a really hard workout for me to do so that I could stop stressing like a freak and get some shut-eye.

And hard it was.

I have been trying to incorporate more super-setting into my workouts, so today I was assigned just that. I super-setted dumbbell rows with push-ups, pull-downs (probably not the technical term, but I don’t know what is) with bicep dumbbell curls, and squeezed assisted pull-ups, single leg deadlifts, hamstring curls, and a weighted ab workout in between.

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By the time I got to the pull-down/dumbbell curl combo, I felt like I was walking on death row. WHAT IS HE DOING TO ME?? THIS IS HOW HE IS GETTING RID OF ME?? I thought.

Despite the feeling of my muscles tearing and an impending puke, I trucked through it. I lifted a decent amount of weight and was psyched when I would hop on a machine and have to add-on some pounds to what was left there from the last person. That’s always an exciting feeling!

In addition to the extreme exercises, I am concentrating more on my diet. I am eating a lot more fruit, and eating small and frequently.

I am at my lowest weight… almost 26lbs down. My goal is to hit 30-32 by the time I go to Mexico mid-September. I hope I can do it!

MEXICO! Time to get my Ass in Gear!

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Just booked a trip to Mexico in September!

SO EXCITED, I COULD HAVE A HEART ATTACK.

Now, if I am going to look like these lovely ladies by the time I hit the sandy beaches of Tulum, I am going to have to REALLY get my ass in gear.

Having something to look forward to is very exciting! It will definitely be great motivation to work even harder at the gym, and eat cleaner! Time to kick it up a notch!

I think I can do it. I have three months! By then, I will be a little over six months into my fitness program. Based on how much I have accomplished since I began, it shouldn’t be too difficult… hopefully!

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Right now I am still in weight-loss mode. However, I am not too far from toning mode! A few more  pounds and I think I will be in a good place.

I haven’t felt super comfortable in a bathing suit in quite some time. I don’t want to feel self-conscious, and I don’t want to be covering my stomach with a towel for the whole trip. I want to strut my stuff and be confident while doing it!

The goal is to look great and feel greater! Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait!

Asian Lettuce Wraps Recipe

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ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS

I am crazy for these things! They are so flavorful and addictive, I could eat them every week. Using large lettuce leaves as your wraps instead of tortillas, and cooking with ground turkey instead of beef makes this a nice and healthy meal! If you are cooking for more than 3-4 people, or if you are like me and enjoy packing leftovers for lunch the next day, I would suggest doubling the batch.

Ingredients

Boston Lettuce

1lb ground turkey (or beef)

1 large onion

1 bunch of scallions

2-4 garlic cloves (I am obsessed with garlic so I tend to eyeball it until it looks like enough to meet my needs. I would suggest 2 if you aren’t as big of a fan)

2 teaspoons pickled ginger

1 can (8oz) water chestnuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup hoisin sauce (this is another one that I eyeball. I usually end up adding a little more than 1/4 cup)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

Asian chile pepper sauce (optional, but recommended for the spice!)

Peanuts, halved

Carrots, shredded

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First things first: chop, shred and process everything that needs chopping, shredding and processing! This will make your life easier once the skillet is hot. I chopped my onions and scallions, drained and chopped the water chestnuts, shredded the carrots, and used a food processor on the garlic and ginger. Also, take WHOLE lettuce leaves from your bunch and rinse and pat dry for later.

Over high heat, warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the ground turkey (or beef), stirring often. Drain, remove from the pan and set aside for later.

Using the same pan (without wiping out any leftover juice from the meat) cook your onions over medium heat until slightly brown. Add the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce and chili pepper sauce (optional), and stir. Reduce heat if necessary.

20130523-100021.jpgMix in your chopped scallions, water chestnuts, and sesame oil. Your mixture should look like the image to the right. Nice and saucy!

Next, add your shredded carrots and peanuts before finally mixing in the cooked ground turkey or beef. Stir until evenly coated.

This is when I get a little wild and throw in a little more here and a little more there. I tend to drizzle in more hoisin and chili pepper sauce for the texture, flavor and color. This, of course, is based on preference. I prefer a little bit of a spicy kick. If you don’t, stay away from the chili pepper sauce!

While this steeps for a few minutes on low heat, arrange your lettuce leaves on a plate. Pile large spoonfuls of the meat mixture in the center for presentation and you’re ready to eat!

Yummy Banana Bread Recipe

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I LOVE BANANA BREAD! Yum yum yum.

Banana bread is pretty low cal and totally delicious. Have some especially brown and ripe bananas that you are thinking of throwing away? Don’t! Save your money and make something out of them!

Ingredients

– 4-5 ripe bananas, mashed

– 1/3 cup melted butter

– 3/4 cup sugar (many recipes call for 1+ cup but this is not necessary)

– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

– 1 egg, beaten

– Salt

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (substitute whole wheat flour if preferred)

– Chopped walnuts (optional but DEFINITELY recommended)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a wooden spoon or a potato masher (easier), mash the bananas until goopy (sorry but that is the only way to describe the texture).

Mix MELTED butter with mashed banana in a mixing bowl. It is very important that the butter is melted! Next, add your sugar, vanilla extract and egg to the mixture. Once combined, evenly sprinkle the salt (just a pinch or so) and baking soda and mix. Add your all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour) and combine until your mixture is creamy. If there are a few small chunks here and there, that is ok!

Mix about 2/3 – 3/4 of your chopped walnuts into the mixture before pouring it into a 4 x 8 loaf pan. I suggest lightly coating the pan with crisco or butter, and sprinkling a little bit of flour on it to prime the pan. This will make it easier to remove the loaf later. Top the mixture with the rest of your chopped walnuts.

Bake for about 1 hour and let cool before serving to avoid crumbling.

I like to slice and toast my banana bread for the extra crispiness. It’s good plain, with a little bit of butter or even cream cheese on top!

Another plus? Your house will smell AMAZING.

Bon Appétit!

Healthy Quinoa & Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I have been thinking about making stuffed peppers for weeks now, and I FINALLY did it tonight. Best decision ever. This was one of the yummiest meals I have ever made.

I perused a whole lot of recipes online and finally came up with a combination of many that seemed satisfying to me. The end result was to die for. I am already daydreaming about the leftovers I packed for lunch tomorrow.

Oftentimes people make stuffed peppers with beef. I substituted ground turkey. I also substituted regular rice with a quinoa and brown rice combination. This makes for a healthier meal.

Ingredients: Bell Peppers, Ground Turkey, Quinoa (with Brown Rice, optional), Chopped Onion, Garlic, Canned Diced Tomato, Tomato Paste, Worcestershire Sauce, Olive Oil, Cheese (optional), Salt & Pepper.

First and foremost, preheat your oven to 350-375 degrees. I often forget to do this and kick myself when I am halfway through food-prep and realize that I am going to have to wait while my oven heats.

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Heat your quinoa in a sauce pan. I used a quinoa and brown rice combination. Many recipes call for oil or chicken stock, but I just used water. Quinoa is a seed (rather than a whole-grain) and is a great substitute for rice, with a higher amount of protein and fiber.

In the meantime, cut the tops of your bell peppers off and remove any additional seeds. Place each hollowed-out pepper into a dish… I would suggest spraying the bottom of your dish with a cooking spray. Be sure not to toss the tops of the peppers, because what’s left can be used for the meat mixture, depending on your taste. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté your garlic. While your quinoa is heating and your garlic browning, chop up your remaining pepper tops and onion. I chopped mine up pretty small so that I wouldn’t find any huge chunks in my mixture. Add your pepper and onion combo to the garlic and let sit for about 3 minutes, stirring every so often.

20130501-214631.jpgNow you are going to want to add the ground turkey, the worcestershire sauce (at your discretion), salt and pepper to your garlic, pepper and onion mixture. Many of the recipes that I came across required 1/4-1/2 cup of the sauce, but I would adjust that depending on your taste. I ended up using a little less than 1/4 cup and used a sauce that was low in sodium.

Once your meat has browned, add your tomatoes and tomato paste. I used Hunt’s Tomato Paste and Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies for a little bit of a kick. If you don’t like spicy, I would advise against this. If you do, Rotel is the best!

Once all of the liquid from the meat and the tomatoes is absorbed, add the quinoa (and brown rice if you so choose) to the mixture. Make sure to stir it thoroughly so all of the tomato paste is evenly distributed. 20130501-214420.jpg

When all of the above is complete, fill your hollowed-out peppers with spoonfuls of your mixture.

I cooked my peppers for about 20 minutes before switching it over to convection bake for 5 minutes. I then added the shredded cheese to the top of each pepper (I was careful to be light on some, regular on others) before heating the dish for another 5-10 minutes. Cheese is optional for this recipe. Because it is relatively healthy as a whole, I figured… why not?? I used a 6-cheese Italian Combination that included Parm and Asiago. The total cook time is about 30-35 minutes, depending on how brown and crisp you like it.

The final product was AMAZING and filling! I was sure that I was going to have to eat more after I finished my first pepper but almost didn’t make it through one! This is such a yummy meal and I am definitely going to have to save it for future reference. Let me know if you try it!!

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Bad Katie! Cheating On Myself and Making Up For It

I was bad this weekend. I cheated BIG TIME on my diet and deserve a big ol’ spanking. I know that it is OK to treat yourself from time to time but I more than treated myself and felt absolutely disgusting by Sunday afternoon. Just goes to show that in-the-moment “wants” may not be worth it at the end of the day.

My recommended daily calorie intake is 1,200. Boy did I surpass that. I went out of town for the weekend and because I was staying in a hotel, I ate out for every meal. In addition to eating out, there was an array of wine and cocktails. And you know I enjoy my wine.

On Friday night before my misbehavior ensued, I squeezed in a quick workout substitute for my regular routine. The gym at the hotel was smaller than my freshman year dorm room and was extremely limited, but I made do with what was available. I did a quick warm up on the elliptical, deadlifts maxing at 60lbs (with dumbbells rather than my regular bar), and weighted lunges. Better than nothing, I guess.

I have learned just how easy it is to think that you’re eating healthy by choosing the green item on the menu, only to find that oftentimes… you’re doing the exact opposite! We went to PF Chang’s on Saturday for lunch and I ordered the Thai Beef and Noodle Salad. I knew that it would likely be a little high in calories, especially due to the toppings and the dressing (I usually get the dressing on the side and use very little of it but forgot to ask this time), but didn’t realize how bad it actually would be.

I had eaten about half of the bowl before I thought to check and see what the calorie count was on the MyFitnessPal app. It was enough to make me full then and there. One of these salads totals to 870 calories… GROSS. More than 2/3 of my daily “allowance” in one meal. I don’t use this app religiously – it’s mostly so that I can have a general idea of what I am consuming. I told myself I wouldn’t be a calorie counter. But, I am very happy that I checked before scarfing that whole bowl down.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I am a sucker for the bad stuff. The rest of the weekend included nachos, wings and burgers. I had a regular salad and a grilled chicken caesar wrap at other points but those unfortunately did not cancel out the aforementioned high calorie meals and appetizers.

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When I got home on Sunday afternoon I was NOT in the mood to exercise. I felt so full, exhausted and just plain yucky from the weekend that I just wanted to veg out on the couch and watch Netflix. But I figured… what is an hour of my time? If I can find the time to watch TV for an hour then I sure as hell can kick my ass into gear and do SOMETHING that gets me on my feet and moving.

This weekend was the first Saturday I had skipped in two months and I would have felt so terrible if I went two days in a row without exercising. SO, with my future 5k in mind, I set out for a run. Well, it was more of a run/brisk walk but I think I did alright for my first time out for the season.

Using my MapMyRun app, I mapped out a route that is just a little further than a 5k. I think I will use it to train for ColorMeRad because it has a good flat:hilly ratio. I went 3.47 miles in 44:19 at a 12:45 pace, burning 511 calories. I reached 3.1 miles (5k) in 40:26. Now, I know that the time doesn’t sound too impressive, but I am not exactly in the best running shape… yet. I imagine that my running mile is probably between 10-11 minutes. Not too terrible for someone who is just getting back into the swing of things! After my run I did 4 sets of 12 push-ups, alternating between diamond and regular.

All in all, I will definitely be paying for my slip-ups this week! I plan to kick it to the next level at the gym. Wish me luck!

Cravings

Don’t you hate when you are on a health kick but you have one of those days where you would like nothing more than to dive head first into a pool filled with saucy buffalo wings, greasy pizza and maybe even some cheesy nachos? Yea, me too.

I would kill for a plate of wings for dinner tonight but I know that tomorrow’s Katie will be kicking herself. I know that it’s OK to spoil yourself now and then but I promised myself that I would save the bad calories for the weekend.

20130424-155510.jpgSO, I headed to Pinterest (obviously), and found a cheater’s “buffalo wing” recipe. The kicker? The chicken part is actually cauliflower. Now, I know this probably doesn’t sound very appetizing to the saucy fried chicken lover. Trust me, I am one of them and would be lying if I said I am not a tad weary to try this mysterious recipe and taint my love for the buffalo-y goodness of real wings. But I am picturing my beach bod and am crossing all fingers and toes that this may actually be halfway decent.

Wish me luck!