Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Please note: I will now be posting at www.plumpetals.co.uk

The website still needs tweaking and refining, but the basic structure is up and running. Hope you'll follow me there! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Açai Smoothie

Açai is a berry that grows in the Brazilian rainforests. Having roots in Brazil, the Açai bowls and smoothies are popular among the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community. It's something that I have become quite fond of! You can read more about the berry here.

Açai berries are normally found in frozen fruit packs. Some of those fruit packs contain additives and preservatives, so when you're looking for one, make sure to read the ingredients so that you find one that has just the frozen berries with no additives.

There are many fruit combinations you can have to create an Açai bowl/smoothie. I keep mine quite simple though. However, by adding 3 bananas to it (yes, I know, 3!!), it becomes quite filling and is the perfect breakfast or post-workout meal.

açai, bananas, grapes, and raisins - pure and simple 

blended in a glass

poured into a bowl and topped with some homemade granola

1 Açai pack
3 bananas
1 cup of frozen red grapes (I wash them right after buying and then put them in the freezer so they're ready to use)
1/4 cup raisins (rinsed)

1. Slightly thaw the Açai pack and then add to a blender/smoothie maker
2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend.

I sometimes sprinkle coconut flakes on top or some of my homemade granola.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Garlic Shrimp with Zoodles

During the Whole Life Challenge I eliminate a lot of foods from my diet. With no grains, starches, dairy, etc. it can seem like my food will be boring and tasteless. However, it was because I gave up all those things that I have been able to actually taste the foods. A few fresh, organic ingredients prepared simply = a great tasting meal.

This was tonight's dinner.

garlic shrimp with zucchini noodles (zoodles) 

3 zucchini, spiralized
600 g shrimp
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of red chili flakes (optional)
1/4 cup of parsley leaves (optional)
salt to taste

1. Heat a pan, then add 1 tablespoon of EVOO
2. Saute the garlic in the oil until lightly colored
3. Add the shrimp to the garlic, saute for 3-5 minutes until tender and then remove the shrimp from the pan
4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan and then add the zoodles. Cook for about 5 minutes, until tender but a little crispy. Add the salt.
5. Add the shrimps back to the pan and combine well
6. Add the chili flakes and parsley if using


Friday, June 5, 2015

Adjustments and Attitude

My week feels like it's been sandwiched between positivity and stress. The most frustrating part for me is that I know there were things I could have done earlier to help avoid or at least minimize my stress.

Earlier this week I wrote about making necessary adjustments to my schedule in order to accommodate what was important in my life at that point in time. I do believe this is important. After all, we can't control everything, so it's good to be flexible so as not to feel like you're not getting things done or making progress (towards whatever you hope to achieve). At the same time, I have to admit that sometimes it feels like making adjustments is something that I'm always doing.

I'm trying to stay positive and optimistic, but there comes a time - like this morning when a sudden burst of coughing had me up at 5 am - when you think, 'Enough is enough!! I just want things to be normal.'

So this week didn't go as planned, but it definitely had some good outcomes.

- I enjoyed my yoga class at the new gym. I'll definitely be continuing.
- I passed my driving theory test with flying colors. I'll confess, I found it tough. Even though I studied hard (crammed for 72 hours to be honest), I walked out of the test room not feeling very confident at all. I was super relieved when I got my results. I could literally feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders. Now to prepare for the practical test.
- I've been on eBay and various other sites trying to sell furniture and other things that I realize are just not needed anymore. It's tedious, but people have been buying. It's been great to see things go!

Things to work on:
- This week, dinners were a struggle for me. Aside from Monday evening, I found myself just throwing things together without taking much time to cook, which is something I love to do. I spend a lot of time making food for D and so I get a bit burnt out and don't focus on foods for me (we're doing different levels of the Whole Life Challenge). I need to find more time to cook proper meals for myself. Mindless eating, even if it is eating healthy foods, is not something I want as part of my routine/life anymore.

- Lack of planning and major procrastination is what led to my mega cram session for my driving theory test. Part of me is glad I did it this way as I don't know how I would have retained so much info over a longer period of time. That being said, I was upset at myself for not being a better planner. I knew that this test was coming up - I should have made daily studying a priority (hmmmm I remember telling myself this years ago when I was in school). It was an unnecessary stress I put on myself.

Even though I do have a lot going on, I need to be better at prioritizing and working efficiently. I don't want to get so bogged down in things that I neglect to do things that make me happy -- focus on my own training, cooking good meals for myself, sorting through my things (and not just things for the house). I guess it all sounds a bit selfish -- need to focus on me, me me. I don't plan on neglecting all the other things, I'm just don't want to lose myself in the process. Does that make sense?

The biggest challenge with this will be for me to actually be at peace with my choices. I don't want to take an hour for myself for yoga class and then be lying on the mat thinking - Oh man, I should be home unpacking more boxes.

I wish it was easy - after all, I'm the only one putting these pressures on myself. You'd think it would be simple for me to tell myself to relax. I just need to remember that doing things that make me feel happier and calmer lead to overall productivity and satisfaction.

I'll say that again: Doing things that make me feel happier and calmer lead to overall productivity and satisfaction.

Ok. That's my mantra for the upcoming week. Let's see how it goes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Coriander and Chili Chicken Curry

I had a craving for coriander - isn't that a strange thing to crave? I just couldn't get the smell of coriander out of my mind, so I decided to include it in our dinner. The spicy kick from the jalapeno balanced out the sweetness of the coconut milk and carrots. I added lots of fresh coriander towards the end, which gave it great flavor as well as fragrance.

the curry simmering in the pot

on a plate with a small baked sweet potato 

1 onion, medium size, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapeno peppers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

400 ml coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons curry powder
salt to taste
pinch of cinnamon

4 chicken breasts thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 bunch fresh coriander

1) Sauté the onion and garlic in the extra virgin oil until slightly colored
2) Add the jalapeno to the onion and garlic mix and sauté for 1-2 minutes
3) Add the chicken to the pan and lightly brown the breast strips
4) In a separate pot, add the coconut milk, coriander, and spices. Mix and bring to a simmer.
5) Add the chicken and onion mixture to the coconut milk mix. Cook for 5 minutes.
6) Add the chopped carrots and coriander leaves. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes on low heat.

I would have loved to have had this with a bowl of rice or some warm naan, but since I'm on the Whole Life Challenge, I opted for a baked sweet potato instead. Again, the spice from the chili helped cut through the sweetness making it a nice mix of sweet a savory.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hello June!

Last week's enthusiasm about joining a gym was thwarted by the onset of a chest infection + hay fever. It was mega-frustrating to deal with, but by now I'm totally used to things not going according to plan. The thing is, even if I can't get through my day doing exactly what I want to do, I know by now how to stick to the basics -- drink lots of water, get in some exercise, and take care of what needs to be taken care of.

In the past I would really let setbacks get in the way of my overall progress. Now I know that I don't need to do that. One setback doesn't mean failure - it means that the plan for that day needs to be adjusted.

Realizing this and being able to follow through with making necessary changes has really benefitted me - not only in terms of me taking care of my health but also in terms of how I approach things in life in general.

Today was a much better start to my day and to a new month. To be honest, when I looked outside and then looked at the calendar I was a bit taken aback that it was June. Seeing the wind, rain, and overcast skies did not make it feel like summer was approaching at all! It was a bit disorientating. Nonetheless, the weather is the weather, and whether it feels like it or not, June is here!

I feel like the months have just passed me by, but when I take a look at it, it's not like I wasted the days away.

From my trip to Los Angeles for my Jiu-Jitsu instructor certification in January to earning my Pink Belt to starting to teach my own Women's Self-Defense class to buying a new house ... the days have been busy and productive.

At the same time, things like my weight lifting and my blogging have not been given as much attention as I would have liked. I hope June is the month for me to turn that all around and it started off right with a lovely yoga session at the new gym.

Although the yoga session itself was great for my stretches, it sometimes felt a bit overwhelming as it was an hour full of instructions -
'Now lie down, point your toes towards the mirror, raise your arms above your head, point your fingers towards the back wall, look right, stretch left, inhale, exhale ... ...' so on and so forth for a whole hour! Kind of made my head spin. Still, the instructor was good and I will definitely be back to her class.

I've found that no matter how much food prep I do on Sunday, some of the prep tasks spill over into Monday, so I spent most of the day in the kitchen plus doing errands around the house before heading out to teach our Bullyproof class. It's so great seeing the kids progress!

So, June started off well. My big task of the week is to pass my theoretical driving test. To say that I should have started studying sooner is an understatement! That's going to be my focus for the rest of the week - with stretching, lifting, running, and Jiu-Jitsu-ing whenever I can :)

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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Lifestyle Challenge: Intensity

We're two weeks into our lifestyle challenge. If you're just hearing about it now and want to join, feel free to jump in -- it's never too late to start making little adjustments towards living a healthier lifestyle. You can read about the challenge details here.

For the first 2 weeks the focus has been to increase your water intake and decrease the intake of other beverages, particularly those with sugar (e.g. juices, sodas). Although we're starting a new focus, you should still continue to drink your minimum daily requirement of water.

The focus for the next 2 weeks will be on increasing the intensity of your activity. This doesn't have to be an aggressive increase - just a bit more to challenge yourself.

I've often found that my biggest accomplishments have been when I've made a 'mistake' -- I miscalculated the weight I put on the barbell and ended up lifting more than I thought I was; I got distracted while on the treadmill and ended up running for longer than I thought I could ... so many times it's our own belief that we may not be able to accomplish something that prevents us from trying.

If we don't try, we won't ever know how much we can do.

So, the challenge is to try and push yourself a bit more this week. Some suggestions of how to do this:

1) Add a few extra reps to your sets or even add an extra set to your workout routine
2) Add more resistance to your training -- increase the weight on your lifts, when stretching use a resistance band, hold that plank for a bit longer
3) Workout for longer -- if your step goal is 10,000/day, try to make it 10,500; if you go for a 30 minute walk, try to walk for 35 minutes
4) Speed it up -- if you walk, quicken your pace 30-second stretches; if you're doing walk/run intervals, try and increase your pace during your run

Since I don't think I'll have extra time this week, what I'll be focusing on is adding more resistance weight to my lifts and quickening my pace during both my walks and my jogs. I know that my plank pose holds suck, so I should probably work on increasing my hold time with those too.

Figure out what you can do to increase the intensity of your workouts (if you're not working out at all, use this challenge as a time to start, even if it's just 15 minutes a day). Make a plan and then starting from Monday put it in motion.

Here's a short article on 'The Afterburn Effect' -- describing how the body continues to burn calories following high intensity workouts.

Steps and Stops

I'm usually good at just getting on with things, but I find that I've spent most of this week 'talking to myself' and constantly having to stop, take a moment, evaluate (and reevaluate) my choices and almost scold myself into action. Okay, scold is a bit of a strong word. It's just that things this week just haven't fallen into place naturally like they usually do. It's strange.

I've spent the past 3 years getting into good habits, and for the most part they really are part of my lifestyle, but every once in a while I stumble. Perhaps it's about getting bored with my routine - eating and doing pretty much the same things day in and day out. Still, in the end I'm kinda just being a baby about it. The choice to do things differently and change things up is always in my hands. It basically boils down to two choices -- do something to change your routine or suck it up and just get on with it.

I've done a bit of both.

I've been doing a weekly step challenge through the FitBit app. I have to say it has really motivated me to get up and moving. I get my workouts in daily - whether it's at the gym or on the Jiu-Jitsu mats, but this step challenge has added a new dimension. The bit of friendly competition gets me to go out and take a walk when normally I would have just stuck to my basic workouts. It just goes to show, when you've got the right motivation, you will make time to keep moving! So I'm happy with my step count. I have a relatively low daily step goal (only 5,000 steps), but that's because Jiu-Jitsu doesn't involve any steps, but it sure is a workout! I'm happy that I've hit over 10,000 steps on all days this week except for 1 day. That's more than I've done in a while and I'm happy with that!

I've also been stepping away from the treadmill. The cold has kept me indoors. Yes, I know that compared to other places, it's not that cold in London, but for me it's cold. I chose not to confront the cold this time and just workout indoors. However, now that it's finally warming up (I would have never called single digit weather 'warming up'), I've been going for outdoor walks. The brisk air is refreshing, and the lovely natural scenery around me makes it much more enjoyable.

So my steps have been good this week. Despite craving sweets and bread - I don't normally crave bread so this is strange for me - I haven't given in, and I've been sticking to my veggies and proteins. Overall, the week has been going well -- now it's just about getting rid of that nagging voice in my head that keeps saying - Take a break, stay in bed. Be lazy and order in a pizza.

Will that voice ever disappear? I'm not sure -- in the meantime, I've got to keep my ultimate goals in mind and keep powering through.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Getting Ready for Another Week

The weekend definitely goes by way too quickly. After unwinding a bit and getting a chance to catch up with a friend from back home, I'm ready to tackle this upcoming week!

Now on to some grocery shopping and food prep.

This week's menu: 
Breakfasts: Açai, banana, and red grape smoothie
Lunches: Sautéed sweet potato and broccoli with spinach, avocado, and cucumber
Dinners: Monday & Tuesday - tuna loaf with salad, Wednesday - salmon with baked vegetables, Thursday - chicken and bell peppers, Friday - Stuffed baked sweet potato

This week's general plan:
Eating with a minimum of 4 1/2 hours in between meals.
No snacking.
Drinking 4 L of water/day.
Exercise: 2 strength training sessions, 3 cardio sessions, 3 Jiu-Jitsu sessions

The 'no snacking' will be my biggest challenge, but this is what I want to try to accomplish this week -- I won't know if I can do it unless I try!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Surviving the Weekend

Whenever I'm off a schedule, I find that it becomes harder to stick to my food routine. The pockets of empty time (in other words, the times when I'm procrastinating) leave open the chance to want to eat out of boredom.

The best habit I think I've cultivated is to not buy junk food at all. There are no snacks in the house - no biscuits, no crisps, no chocolates. Even if I really, really wanted to have something, there is nothing that I can easily reach for. Ironically, when I get intense cravings, I somehow still go to the cupboard and desperately look for some chocolate ... I know there's nothing there, but I still look.

My weekends used to be really unstructured, thus leaving open the temptation to just sit on the couch and watch TV ... which inevitably leads to wanting to munch on something.

The good thing is that my weekends have also become routine. For the most part that suits me fine. I know what I'm going to eat, when I'm going to eat, and what I'm going to do. That structure really helps me. It may seem boring to some, but the great things about setting a schedule for yourself is that you can change it up if you want to.

This all relates to points 2 and 3 in the Lifestyle challenge.
- Eat thoughtfully
- Choose your celebrations

Things come up. There are birthdays. There are parties. We have whims.

The thing that I want to work on most is to not let those instances throw me off track.

It all boils down to making decisions that I know will make me happy, both in the moment and in the future.

I went for a long period of time when I was saying 'no' to a lot of things. That actually suited me just fine. Even if others had a problem with it (and many, many people did), I put myself, my health, my happiness first.

I will still do that to this day, but now I'm a bit more relaxed. This doesn't mean I'll eat whatever I want without thinking about it. Instead, I make a thoughtful/conscious decision about my actions. Whatever I decide to do (workout, rest, eat, fast), it will be my choice, for my happiness - whether that means taking my own salad to a dinner party or sitting down and enjoying a piece of carrot cake with a cup of coffee. It's my choice.

Taking responsibility for this choice (and the consequences) is important. It's not about guilting yourself into feeling one way or another. It's about understanding that whatever we choose to do has a consequence.

Making these decisions requires practice and patience. It involves implementing some discipline into your decision making process. Maybe at this very moment, your desire to have a piece of chocolate cake is very strong ... but you've got to take a moment and ask yourself - do I really want it? Is eating this cake really going to make me happy? Does this action help me reach my overall goal? Will doing this action lead to regret in the future (whether it's 1 hour/1 week/1 month later)?

After answering those questions - you make a choice.

The ultimate goal is to work towards optimal health and overall happiness (at least those are my goals).  This doesn't stop just because the weekend is here.

As you gear up for the weekend, don't forget your overall goals. Find ways to create new routines and new habits that you enjoy and that also correspond to you achieving your goals.

When you start off, making such decisions takes time and requires quite a bit of thought and organization. However, if you stick with it, you'll see that it will soon become a habit, and making healthy choices will become second nature.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Five

This week has had its ups and downs. I've been doing well in terms of my food and exercise, but overall have just been feeling a bit down. I'm worried about my brother, and the distance from my family just feels terrible. At the same time, I'm trying not to let my emotions get the best of me. I feel like I spent most of this past week (actually the past 2 weeks) talking to myself - reminding myself that it's ok to feel down but that it doesn't have to control your whole day or lead to unhealthy habits. It's hard to keep having to go through that kind of self-talk. Part of me feels it's necessary because it's true. There's nothing I can do from here, so I might as well make the most of my day. Another part of me, however, just wants to wallow. The emotions are too strong. The helplessness is real. The frustration is undeniable.

That being said, keeping this week's meals simple and my routine consistent has helped me get through the week. I'm hoping that I'll be a bit more of engaged next week and everything I do won't feel like such a chore.

A few highlights from the week:

My breakfast for the week: A smoothie of açai, bananas, and red grapes -- delicious, but cold

My lunch for the week: sautéed butternut squash and broccoli, over raw spinach, with cucumber and avocado -- yummy and very filling! 

Instead of doing my cardio on a treadmill, I headed out to a park just behind my house and went for a lovely walk. Being outdoors was so refreshing. The sounds, sights, and smells were highly therapeutic! 

I had a couple of good weight training sessions this week. As much as I'd like to do more in the weight room, I think I've come up with a routine that I can stick to and maintain. It's better than nothing! 

The launch date for my Women's Self-Defense class has been set. I start on April 10th, and I'm so excited! I'm particularly looking forward to teaching the class with D. I hope that the class will make a difference to other women's lives as it did mine. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Break from the Kitchen

For the past 8 weeks, during the Whole Life Challenge, I spent an incredible amount of time in the kitchen. Although things fell into a bit of a routine and it was easy to prep for the week, there were some days when I just didn't feel like cooking. I wanted to take a break from the kitchen. It wasn't that I wanted to eat anything unhealthy, it's just that I did not want to cook. I wanted to eat without worrying whether or not the way the food was prepared and the ingredients in the meal were compliant with the challenge or not. More than that, I didn't want to worry about all the chopping, cooking, and cleaning that goes along with cooking!

As a result, I've decided to take a bit of a break from the kitchen this week. I have so many errands and tasks that I need to tackle this coming week that I think saving some cooking time will help me get some of that stuff done. That being said, I still went to do my weekly shop with my meal plan in hand, and I still spent my Sunday preparing my meals for the week. However, from today until the upcoming Sunday, I don't plan on doing any additional cooking ... but still eat healthily through the week.

While this doesn't mean I won't be spending any time in the kitchen, hopefully it will free up a few hours that I can use to be more productive elsewhere!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gear Up for the Week!

Ahh Sunday -- the last day of the weekend, the day before the busy week begins again ... so tempting to just stay curled up in bed and relax.

Ya right. That's not how Sunday works for me. As tempting as the above scenario sounds, my busy Sunday routine has actually become something I enjoy. It's mainly because I can actually get things prepared for the upcoming week in a relaxed manner. I know that once the week begins, things come up. I run out of time. I get thrown off track. I get flustered ... add to that being unprepared with my menu/meals for the weak and you'll soon find me dialing for a takeaway ... and if that happens on a Monday, it can definitely be hard to stop that trend for the rest of the week.

Instead, I've made Sunday my prep day. It definitely takes up time, and it is a lot of work, but once the week starts I'm always thankful that I took a few hours on Sunday to set myself up for a successful week ahead.

My Sundays are:
8:30 a.m. light breakfast + menu planning for the week
10:30 a.m. Jiu-Jitsu
1:30 p.m. grocery shopping for the week
2:00 p.m. lunch
3:30 p.m. food prep

I'm usually done with my food prep by 6:00 p.m., after which I can just relax and be happy that my meals for the upcoming work week are sorted.

Things I usually prepare on a Sunday - all the recipes below are gluten-free, sugar-free, preservative-free!

Banana muffins
Granola to have with organic Greek yogurt
Quinoa and chicken salad (recipe coming soon)
Lemon 'cake' (recipe coming soon)

Although I don't prepare my dinners for the week in advance, having my menu set before I head to the supermarket ensures I buy exactly what I need for my meals for the week. Nothing extra!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Goals

As I gear up for the end of the Whole Life Challenge and the beginning of the 100 Days to Summer Lifestyle Challenge, it's time for me to reassess my goals and set new ones.

My goal for the 8 week Whole Life Challenge was to focus more on lowering my body fat percentage vs. losing a certain number of kilos. I wanted to lose 4% of my body fat - I didn't hit that goal, but I'm happy to say that I lost 3.5% in addition to 4.5 kilos (10 lbs). You can read more about my reflections on the challenge here.

As we work up to the summer, my goal is to continue working on lowering my body fat percentage. Of course I still need to lose weight, but I what's more important to me is that I'm not back to my strength level as I was before. This past year and half has been tough on my strength training. Even now, I've been getting back into my routine gradually. I need to be more aggressive with my focus in the weight room.

The hardest thing for me has been about finding balance. Between either teaching or training Jiu-Jitsu every evening and doing all my other work/errands, it's been hard to squeeze in another hour or two at the gym on a regular basis, particularly without compromising my performance and affecting my energy levels.

Still, I know it's possible. I just have to keep focusing and working diligently -- and most importantly being more efficient with not just my workouts but my everyday tasks as well.

My overall goal is to lose weight and be healthier -- but for this challenge, my SMART goals are:


1) Drop 6% body fat
2) Complete the C25K program (providing my knee doesn't hurt; if my knee hurts, then I'll just work on basic HIIT training)

Daily basis

3) Drink 4L of water
4) Minimum of 5,000 steps a day
5) Daily stretching for at least 10 minutes

It's so tempting to add more to the list. After all, 100 days is a long time, but I have to remember to be realistic. If I can achieve these goals by the start of summer, I'll definitely be happy!

It's time to get to work! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why Water

The first main focus of the 100 Day Lifestyle challenge is to check our fluid intake. The overall goal of this challenge is to make small adjustments each day/week that will help us lead a healthier lifestyle. It's about finding out how many healthy habits you can incorporate without feeling like you've 'given up everything.'

For the first 10 days of the challenge, the idea is to focus on your fluid consumption. It comes in 2 parts:

1) Increase your water intake. Your goal is to work up to drinking your minimum requirement of water on a daily basis. (You can use this link to help you figure out how much water you should be drinking: http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm.) If you can start drinking your minimum requirement from Day 1, that's great.

2) Decrease your intake of other liquids - particularly alcohol and soda, but also coffee, tea, and juice. This decrease can come gradually. For example, if you have 3 cups of coffee a day, try to make one of those 1/2 a cup of coffee. Instead of drinking 2 sodas, maybe just have 1. The choice is yours. It's important to remember that not all beverages are the same in terms of nutrient value and benefit/harm to the body. Drinking beverages such as tea and coffee aren't necessarily bad for you. However, once you start adding milk and sugar and other flavored shots to your beverage, the beverage decreases in nutrition value.

It's all about finding a balance. In the beginning, don't take the changes to such an extreme where you feel like you can't sustain them. This challenge is about finding a healthy balance that works for you - for your body type, for your health, for your lifestyle.

Although I mentioned that this is the focus for the first 10 days, the goal is to really keep up this lifestyle practice throughout the challenge (and your life) as much as possible. For right now though, let's just try to focus on staying on point through the first 10 days.

We've probably heard it all before - drink more water, water is good for you, water is important - but does everyone realize exactly why it's so important? Here are a few facts about why water is such an essential nutrient for our body:

-  More than 2/3 of a human's body weight is made up of water. This is why humans can survive for weeks without any food, but can barely survive past one week without any water.

-  Each day we lose 2-3 L of water through natural body processes such as urination, sweating, and breathing. Since our body relies on water to function properly (e.g. for proper digestion), it is important to stay hydrated in order to compensate for the loss.

- When we add exercise to the mix, we can lose an additional 1-2 L of water per hour of exercise. Therefore, it's especially important to stay hydrated. Plus, water delivers oxygen to the muscles and this helps the body perform more efficiently. A 5% reduction of water in the body decreases muscle strength and endurance.

- Mild dehydration is one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.

- Water helps eliminate toxins from our bodies (through perspiration and urination and by aiding with bowel movements, which ensures that toxins are quickly and regularly removed from our body).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I don't know who originally came up with the concept of SMART goals, but it is definitely a great acronym and system for goal setting.

It's all well and good to have broad goals such as - I want to lose weight, I fit into X size of jeans, I want to be healthy. However, unless you break down those goals and come up with a realistic, achievable method of how to reach your target, the task will be really difficult.

So the big question is, what do you want to achieve by the beginning of summer?

1) Your goal in terms of this challenge can be anything. It can be to be at a certain weight, to fit into a specific clothing size, to do X number of push ups, to drop a certain percentage of fat -- whatever. It's your goal. You choose what's important to you. Whatever it is you choose - be specific.

2) Make sure your goal is measurable. Just saying you want to be healthy is not measurable enough. Think about what healthy means to you - does it mean drinking a certain amount of water, bringing your cholesterol down to a certain level? You need to be able to measure your achievement by the end of the challenge.

3) Be realistic with your goal. I may want to lose another 20 pounds, but I have to ask myself, can I really achieve that in 100 days in a way that is healthy and sustainable? When setting your goal, be realistic. Consider your circumstances before writing your goal down. Whatever you do, make sure your goal is achievable. Set yourself up for success!

4) Your goal(s) for this challenge should be relevant to what you are trying to achieve overall. Since this is a short challenge, what you set out to achieve should correspond to the overarching long-term goals you have for yourself. Knowing that you are doing something to help you accomplish what you've seen as your bigger picture will make it easier to stay focused and motivated.

5) I've already set the final criteria for this challenge which is to work within a specific time frame. When setting your goals think about all the components in relation to what you can achieve in the next 100 days. It's not a lot of time, yet it's also enough time to be able to accomplish something.

So, setting your SMART goal is your first challenge. When you've come up with your goal(s), write it down and keep it visible.

Start planning!

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Challenge - 100 Days Until Summer

For the past 7 weeks I've been doing the Whole Life Challenge. I've done the challenge a number of times and I've found that it really suits my lifestyle. The challenge runs 8 weeks at a time 2-3 times a year. The tricky part has always been trying to navigate those weeks/months in between the challenge. 

When you've got a structure in place and a set routine, things get a lot easier. Take away that structure, and things begin to kind of fall apart. One indulgence turns into two into three into an endless uncontrollable spiral. 

Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the bottom line is, without a plan, without a structure, and without a support system, it can be hard to stay on track. 

So, starting from Thursday, March 12th -- giving us 100 days until the 1st day of summer -- I'll be hosting a challenge. 

This challenge is based on the 50 Day lifestyle challenge that I did before. You can read the details in this post. 

The goal of this challenge -- to live a healthy lifestyle. It's not about restrictions. It's not about rigorous rules. It's about making thoughtful choices that lead to your overall wellbeing. 

The basic guidelines will be the same throughout the challenge: 
1) Drink water
2) Eat thoughtfully
3) Choose your celebrations
4) Move regularly
5) Track and reflect daily 

The ultimate goal is to be happy - happy with the choices you're making, happy with the direction you're heading, happy with the progress you're making, happy with the life you're living. 

In addition to the 5 basic guidelines, I'll be adding a weekly challenge - just one thing to focus on for 7-10 days. I think making a lot of changes at once can be overwhelming, but if we just focus on making one small change at a time, it can lead to positive results. 

The challenge is open to anyone. Please do join my Facebook page for the challenge called 'It's a Lifestyle'. I'll be posting links to articles, general information mosts, and hopefully things to motivate the group. If you have difficulty joining the group, please email me at plumpetalsfit@gmail.com and I'll add you via email. You can also follow my page: PlumPetals Fit for regular posts and details. 

Summer will be here before we know it - let's start working from now!