Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Chapter

Yesterday I celebrated my 1 year anniversary of moving to England. I have to say, it's been quite a year. From packing up my belongings and saying good-bye to the country I got used to calling home to settling down in a new country -- so much has happened. The biggest change has definitely been shifting from teaching in a university to teaching Jiu-Jitsu. As I continued to get more involved in Jiu-Jitsu training it was definitely something I wanted to do, but it wasn't something I saw becoming a reality so quickly.

celebrating my 1 year anniversary - I thought it would be fitting to wear a traditional Kuwaiti dress as a reminisced about Kuwait and planned for my future in London

The move and my adjustment to this new life has been good. I've taken it all in stride and I'm happy with where things are headed. That being said, I don't really feel like I've been myself over the past few months. I was kind of moving from one day to the next without really feeling fully focused. I'm hoping that now that I've moved into the new house and things are finally starting to fall into place that all that is about to change.

Today was the perfect day to start that change.

My 2nd year in England started with a renewed commitment to myself. I've spent a LOT of time trying to get the house sorted, doing tons of cooking, and running errands. While that aspect of my life will not change, what I want to do is reorganize how I'm handling everything. I found too many days to just pass by without me taking the time I need to get my own things done (studying, lesson planning, blogging, etc.). I also spend so much time prepping food for D and the household that I don't often take time to prepare proper meals for myself. I need that to stop. I am committed to eating 3 proper healthy meals a day. No more snacking as meals, even if it is on healthy foods. I need to eat properly.

In addition to all that, I joined a new gym! I actually went and signed up last week but today was my first day there. It felt good to be back to weight training.

The new gym is close to my house so that's quite convenient. It's fairly large - huge cardio section, a spin studio, an aerobics studio, several resistance machines and an ok size free weight area. They've got a lap pool as well as an indoor basketball court. It definitely has all the basics for a good workout. I think what it's lacking is a bit of character and atmosphere, but I'm going there to get in my workouts so I guess that doesn't matter too much. I'm also not too keen on the fact that I have to wear a wristband while I'm at the gym -- but that's a minor inconvenience too.

 a glimpse of part of the cardio section
I didn't want to take too many photos on my 1st day. 

 the wristband - is it really necessary?

I started off with a basic workout today -
dynamic stretching
warm-up on the treadmill
45 minutes weight training
cool down on the treadmill
cool down stretching

decided to wear a new pair of trainers to my new gym

It felt good to be back in the gym.

I'm hoping that this renewed focus and commitment to myself will help me reach my next set of goals.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Gym Membership

I haven't been feeling like myself for the past month. There's just been too much going on and I feel like I've just been scraping by.

My food has been on point - but I've been so tired, stressed, and distracted that I haven't really been enjoying cooking or eating. I'm glad the Whole Life Challenge has been helping me stay on track and forcing me to cook/eat at home otherwise I know that there would have been many, many takeouts ordered over the past month.

My exercise has been regular but minimal - This week was definitely better in terms of exercise as I got back on the mats for Jiu-Jitsu training and have been attending more classes to assist with coaching. It's felt great. My wrist injury is holding me back from joining in full force, but I'm taking steps to improve it. I've definitely felt lost without my weight-training and as much as I have been trying to take advantage of working out outdoors, I have to admit that unless the weather conditions work in my favor, I've stayed indoors and haven't done as much as I would have liked. Not having a gym membership has felt weird. I don't think I've ever gone for any period of time over the past 8 years without a gym membership -- so not being anchored to a gym has felt strange to me. Thankfully that changed from today!

I signed up at a local gym (membership starting from Tuesday). The gym itself is pretty good, but what was most appealing was the fact that it has yoga/pilates class almost every morning, and that works really well with my schedule - I just hope the instructor is good.

I've only signed up for a one month membership at the moment. I want to see how I like it before committing to this particular gym for a year. The location is really convenient for me so I hope it works out.

I've found that it's so easy to get distracted with daily errands and little tasks that other, possibly more important, things don't get done. I've realized that by losing myself in the set up and organization of the new house that I've been neglecting my own overall well-being. That's had an impact on my sleep, my mood, and my overall enjoyment of things in general. I really do think that with a gym membership and yoga classes to look forward to, I'll feel more like myself. I need to get back to basics and focus on my long-term goals.

I can't wait to get started!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Settling In

I've been absent from pretty much everything for the past week or so as I've been packing up one house and moving into another. It's been busy to say the least. I've been trying to take things in stride and not let myself get too overwhelmed with things -- but I've been exhausted. On my feet from 5 am until the late hours of night packing, moving, unpacking, etc. I'm happy to say that things are coming together, slowly but surely. I just need to remember to be patient.

Although I have a lot of work ahead of me in terms of the house, I've made a promise to myself that from this week I would try as much as possible to get back to my normal routine. Last week, as a stroke of luck, because of the elections in England, all the Jiu-Jitsu classes were cancelled. As a result, I didn't have to go to work all week, which meant I could focus solely on the house. It was not that I didn't want to teach/train, but I knew that I wouldn't have been able to (definitely not in the capacity that I would like) if I was dealing with that plus the move -- so it was kind of a blessing that I could focus solely on the house.

I have to say, being on the Whole Life Challenge is what has helped me stay the most on track during this stressful time. On more than one occasion it would have been very easy for me to give in and order a pizza or grab a croissant for breakfast. However, the food parameters of the challenge helped me stay on track. I prepared meals in advance and had healthy snacks on hand if needed. The exercise and stretching portion of the challenge was a bit more difficult as I was SO tired. However, I got in small workouts during the day (at home) and even though I felt lazy in the evening to stretch, I made sure I did it and was always thankful as it felt great after a long day of running around and lifting boxes.

So all in all I've been doing ok, but to be honest, it hasn't been 100% focused effort. From today, however, that changes. Even though there's a lot to do, I need to get back to some sort of routine and make sure I carve out some time for myself that doesn't involve sifting through boxes to ensure I keep my sanity!

I haven't really gotten off to a great start as my sleep broke just past midnight and I haven't been able to get back to sleep (it's almost 5 am). I know that rest is important so I will try and catch up on some zzz's during the day if I can. Things don't always go according to plan -- but you gotta make the best of your circumstances anyway.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hello May

I knew that things were serious when I wrote sat down to write a list and 'Must Do' was the heading instead of 'To Do'. Yes, it's come to that point in time where there are tons of things that must be done, and they all pretty much need to be done NOW!

My instinct is to panic, procrastinate, and pout. However, my attempt to adapt a new calmer, much more mature perspective on life (which I wrote about in a past post entitled: Living a Good Life) has been a great help.

Instead, I'm just trying to take things in stride. There's a lot going on so it's natural to feel a bit stressed, but I'm not letting it overwhelm me. I just have to tackle things one task at a time and not let myself get distracted by things that are out of control.

Moving house is a lot of work, but it's not impossible.
Starting the Whole Life Challenge will require discipline, but it's not impossible.
Getting my chapter edited for publication will require time, but it's not impossible.
Preparing for my classes will require a few hours of prep, but it's not impossible.
Getting in my daily exercise and stretching will require getting up a bit earlier in the morning, but it's not impossible.

You get the picture.

It's taking this more laid back approach that has enabled me to not freak out when a dollop of dark blue paint fell on my brand new cream carpet or when only part of my furniture delivery arrived with the other part not to be found anywhere.

I've realized that there are so many opportunities each day to freak out and panic ... but there are also just as many opportunities to stay calm and be productive.

It's still a challenge, but each time I succeed, I feel happy.

It's a new month. I'm going to do my best to make it a good one!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Exciting Changes

So many things have been going on lately that it's been quite tough to keep up, particularly with my blog. Here's a quick update:

Earning my Pink Belt
In addition to my Jiu-Jitsu training, I completed my Women Empowered training - which is the Gracie Academy's official self-defense program for women - and earned my pink belt! Although I've already earned my Blue Belt, doing this program and focusing on self-defense for women was really enlightening and empowering.

me and my pink belt

Women's Self-Defense Class
On April 10th I launched my women's self-defense class. It's an amazing curriculum that's based on the Grace Academy's Women Empowered curriculum - focusing on defenses to the 15 most common attacks on women. I had no idea how many people were going to show up for the first class or how it would go. I am super thrilled to say that it was awesome! We had 13 women on the mats, and everyone left full of enthusiasm and eagerness to continue with the program.

it's not just about learning defenses - it's about having the right mindset as well

our first class

Whole Life Challenge - Participant & Ambassador
Once again I'll be doing the Whole Life Challenge. I still swear by this challenge as it always helps me refocus and work on tweaking my routine in a supportive environment. Knowing that there are thousands of others around the world doing the same challenge, at the same time, as me really helps keep me motivated.

In addition to doing the WLC, I've actually been invited to be an ambassador for the challenge. This gets me more involved in the challenge itself as well as gives me an extra bit of motivation to really stay on track and be a good role model/motivator to my team members as well as everyone else who is out there trying to live a healthier lifestyle!

Want to know more about the challenge? Watch this: https://youtu.be/xbicemIo-Sk
Ready to join my team? Sign up via this link: http://www.whole.lc/wlcmay15/pt/plumpetals

Want to join but you're not 100% sure about paying -- I've got 2 FREE login codes ... write a comment below or send me an email (plumpetalsfit {at} gmail.com) and I'll get in touch with you with your code. The challenge starts on May 2nd, so don't wait too long!

Sweat Pink Ambassador
I received an unexpected email from the Sweat Pink team telling me that I had been chosen to be an ambassador. I'm thrilled to be part of this active community network! Check out more at Fit Approach.

Eating and Training
I've got to be honest here, my eating habits have been slipping a bit. My main meals have still been spot on, but I've snacked and it has not been good. It's another reason I'm really looking forward to having the structure of the Whole Life Challenge. I've started to detox off the caffeine and sugar (my biggest weaknesses) - slowly but surely. At least my water has been on point. I've been drinking 3 - 4 L of water a day - the warmer weather has definitely helped!

my favorite meal this past week: avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, and a poached egg over whole grain toast with a beet, carrot, apple, and ginger fresh juice -- delicious! I'm going to have to try it without the bread to make it WLC-compliant for the challenge

My training lately has involved outdoor cardio and Jiu-Jitsu. I haven't been to the gym for a weights session in a long time. I miss it, but right now this is what I'll be sticking to. We've been doing weapons defense in our Jiu-Jitsu class this month. It's been a blast -- as you can see, us girls have been taking it really seriously ;)

the Jiu-Jitsu version of Charlie's angels ;) 

A New House!
The final bit of news is that D and I closed on our new house this month!! It's the first time either of has ever owned property. We're looking forward to making it a happy, healthy home!

Thursday, April 2, 2015


When I was heading to Bangladesh back in February, my mom asked me what I could/couldn't eat as I would have been on the Whole Life Challenge during my visit. I sent her my list and she said to me, oh, you can have gram flour. I had totally forgot about gram flour - which is basically flour made from chick peas. It's actually the main ingredients to one of my favorite dishes that my mom makes for me, which was a total bonus for my trip home.

It's been many, many years since I've used gram flour in any of my cooking/baking. The fact that it's gluten free and vegan added to its appeal. I decided to give it a go. I'm definitely pleased with the outcome.

You can easily make gram flour at home by taking 2 cups of dried chick peas and putting them through a food processor and then running them through a sieve to separate any large chunky bits. You can also pre-roast the dried chick peas in the oven (200 C for 15 min) before putting them in the food processor.

I always associated the use of gram flour with traditional Bangladeshi dishes. However, one of my friends forwarded me an article about Socca which is basically a gram flour based pancake. It's incredibly simple to make.

1 cup of gram flour
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil - plus extra for the pan

1. Pour the gram flour and salt in a bowl
2. Gradually whisk in the water and olive oil
3. Heat a pan and add some EVOO, enough to coat the pan. Add some of the socca batter. Cook for 6-7 minutes then flip and cook the other side for around 5 minutes.

I did a couple of variations of this.

My 1st attempt: pouring 3/4 cup of the batter and making a single pancake.

My 2nd attempt: I added some spices to the batter - 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, garlic, ginger, and turmeric powder. I mixed the batter again to combine all the spices. I then put smaller dollops of the batter in the skillet -- about 2 tablespoons of batter for each. This turned out smaller pancakes.

mini socca pancakes

My 2nd attempt was definitely tastier. I guess it all depends on what you want to garnish the socca with. I added slices of avocado and sweet cherry tomatoes -- it was delicious!

I found the meal to be quite filling and hearty. I'm sure you can experiment with different combinations of ingredients - both to add to the batter as well as for the toppings.

Nutritional info (for the entire batch - makes about 20 small pancakes - based on the original socca basic recipe and not including the extra oil for frying)

475 calories
20.6 g. protein
53.2 g. carbohydrates (9.9 g. fiber)
20.2 g. fat (2.6 g. sat fat)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Back to Basics

I've been getting quite a few emails asking for advice and strategies on how to lose weight. The basic premise of living a healthy lifestyle is something that is commonly addressed nowadays. A single search on the internet will lead you to thousands and thousands of sites talking about how to eat healthy and how to exercise efficiently. Perhaps this is the problem. There's just too much information out there and for someone who wants to get started, it can get overwhelming.

When people ask me what I did to lose weight, they're not happy with my answer. I talk about staying away from refined sugars and starches, not drinking soda, not eating anything with preservatives or artificial ingredients ... and the most common reaction is a look of horror followed by asking 'So, what do you eat?' When I add on my resistance training routine along with my Jiu-Jitsu, they shake their heads and say that it's impossible. That it's too much.

There are a few things I have to say to this:
1) I'm happy with the way I eat and the way I train.
2) The changes I made to my lifestyle did not happen overnight. They took time. They took discipline. They took deliberate thought and action until they became habits.
3) I do these things because they work for me.

While I do believe that the basic premise of living a healthy lifestyle is the same for everyone, the exact details will vary ... after all, it's your lifestyle.

You need to figure out what works for you -- what suits your tastes, what suits your routine. That being said, you also need to accept that changes will probably need to be made. You may need to cut a few things out of your diet, step up the intensity of your exercise, and rearrange your routine. You can't expect to continue to do the same thing and expect different results -- it's going to take some work.

There is no 'one size fits all' outline for how to live a healthy lifestyle. You really do have to sit down and figure out what works for you.

The first thing to do is go back to basics --
1) Set your goal(s)
2) Start eating a bit less
3) Start exercising a bit more

From there, come up with a food and fitness based plan on how to reach your goals. What you eat and how you train will differ depending on what your fitness goals are. Do you want to run a marathon? Enter a strong man/woman competition? Excel in MMA?

What you want to achieve will determine your actual plan.

Once you've figured that out, make changes in a way that you know you will be able to sustain. If you don't think you can cut out sugar, dairy, gluten, and red meat all at once, then don't. Set yourself up for success -- don't choose impossible goals or tasks that you dread. Remember, this is your life. You are in control. You make the choices -- and you have to own up to the consequences.

I really think it's important to start with small, simple changes, and then keep modifying as you go along.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with going all in from the very beginning. I cut everything out all at once and it worked for me -- but I'll be honest, it's not easy to sustain. I'm now trying to come up with a better balance that will suit my lifestyle.

When in doubt, keep it simple. Here are a few basic tips to get you started:

1. Drink more water (cut down/eliminate soda, juice, alcohol)
2. Eat more fresh foods (cut down/eliminate processed foods that are filled with artificial flavors and preservatives)
3. Move more (take the stairs instead of elevator, walk instead of drive, find a fun activity to participate in)
4. Eat less and chew more
5. Get enough sleep

You can do it -- just keep trying.