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Monday, April 20, 2015

Educate Yourself

Subtitled: Don't be a savvy marketer's silly victim

So there is this thing called Cookie Butter. Have you heard of it?

It is awesome the devil. It's crushed up spiced shortbread cookies mixed with oils to create a ridiculously good topping for bread, pretzels, apples, ice cream, your spoon, your finger...pretty much whatever you have nearby. It's sooooo good. But totally, totally unhealthy. It's cookies, sugar, and oil. The End.

The only saving grace of Cookie Butter is that it was safely tucked away on the shelves at Trader Joe's, a store I frequent maybe on a quarterly basis. I'd get a couple jars a year, the kids were happy, all was right with the world.

But then.


The other day the kids and I were at my local grocery store, and this has happened:

HEB Cookie Butter. Same company makes it. Same deliciousness. How do I know? Ummm...I guess I had to check it out, you know? To see if it tasted the same? To make sure they hadn't gotten anything wrong during the transition over to the new store?

So of course all of central Texas is abuzz with the news about Cookie Butter's debut at HEB. And that is when the following conversation took place.

Location and identities withheld to protect the innocent.

"Hey, check it out! HEB has cookie butter now! It used to just be at Trader Joe's!"
"Wow, that's cool...and delicious too! Is it healthy?"
"No, it's not healthy...it's crushed up cookies."
"Oh. Well maybe you should go get the Trader Joe's version, 'cause it will be healthier!"

AND, curtain falls.

Oh, people. People. Do you not realize that not everything in Trader Joe's is healthy? And I'd venture to say that more than 50% of the items in Trader Joe's are not healthy? It's basically healthier versions of processed food that you would get in any other grocery store. It's still frozen dinners, it's still sugared cereal, it's still crushed up shortbread cookies with oil and sugar.

But fancy marketing and the store layout makes us think that Trader Joe's has a gold seal of healthy approval.

You've got to go to the source...the label! Find out what the labels mean. What does 4 grams of sugar equate to? (SPOILER ALERT: 1 teaspoon.) What are all these different oils in the cookie butter jar? Can I pronounce these ingredients? (If not, put it down.)

Become a food detective and take some ownership in what you're putting in your body. If you're okay with eating cookie butter (and in sparing amounts, I AM), then cool! But don't assume that a store and its image is going to take care of making sure you eat healthy food.


Workout of the Day

21 Day Fix Extreme Plyo

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beachbody On Demand

This August will mark seven years (seven years!) since Zach and I started our first round of P90X. Not long after we started amassing a huge library of DVD workouts, and not long after that...we started wondering when in the world Beachbody would come up with a streaming service so we didn't need all these DVDs anymore.

It's finally here!

Beachbody on Demand (BOD) is like Netflix for fitness. There are hundreds of workouts on there, including all three P90X programs, INSANITY, Asylum, Brazil Butt Lift, ChaLEAN Extreme...the list goes on and on. It is pretty stinking cool.

BOD allows you to stream workouts to your computer, phone, tablet, or mobile device. If you travel a lot, or are someone who likes Beachbody programs but also likes the gym scene, this is FOR YOU! It's also for people who like variety in their fitness without shilling out a whole bunch of cash for a bunch of different workouts.

Plus, it's not just the workouts out there online; it's everything. Nutrition guides, fitness tests, calendar, program guide...the whole shebang.

After seven years, I still think the workouts that Beachbody produces are the best out there. They are comprehensive and demanding, and I like the fact that you don't have to think about it. Follow the schedule, pop in the DVD, work your tail off. The end! And now you can take that with you wherever you go.

Here's how to do it.

First, go to SmellsLikeFitness.com.

Click on "Join the Club." To access BOD you must be a Team Beachbody Club member.

If you've already got a Beachbody login ID, then simply sign in. If not, create an account.

Then fill out the payment info. The Club costs $38.87 per quarter. That's less than $3 per week. It's billed four times a year.

Y'all, this is super cool stuff. Right now you can try it for free for 30 days!

If you have any questions at all, just holler.


Workout of the Day

21 Day Fix Extreme: Lower Fix

Oh my goodness, this program is Kicking. Our. Tail. I am so sore and my legs are so tired! It is an awesome, intense program and Autumn Calabrese is NOT MESSING AROUND. These 30 minutes are jam packed with butt kicking moves. I love it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I am not a rebellious, anti-establishment person.

I've spent most of my life doing "the norm." School, good grades, college, respectable job, marriage, children. I am married to someone who is equally disposed.

And so it was remarkable with just how little trepidation -- after a season of due diligence that included book research and personal interviews, of course -- that we removed our children from the public school system.

Maybe that's how I knew it was the right thing to do.

Beyond what was naturally ingrained in me as a child in the United States, I have never felt so proud and fortunate to be an American before I considered that I truly had the choice to run my life -- and my children's lives -- in the way that I saw fit.

Without really much consideration as to whether it was the best thing for them or not, when my children came of age I sent them to public school for years; my son for four and my daughter for two. I blindly trusted the system to protect and arm their minds with the knowledge they needed to succeed in life. And in some ways that was very comfortable. I was not responsible for what they learned.

As I grow up, I'm confronted more and more with how the truth is often very backward from what you would suspect. I never suspected that by taking on the very serious responsibility of educating our children, that we would find joy, renewed curiosity about the world, and freedom. That our imaginations would be sparked and our dinner conversations would be more complex than ever before. That the stress of hustle and bustled lives would dissolve. That we would struggle, and be able to use that struggle to teach important lessons.

While in these six short months I have become a proponent of home schooling, I would concede that it's not for everyone. I have particularly amiable, willing students. However, I'd also like to posit that it's for more people than may have that realization.

If you've wondered if it's good for your kids to be stressed out in elementary school...If you've ever thought maybe you're not so sure you would expose your child to this subject matter or another before they are ten, but felt helpless to do anything about it...If you've ever thought it would be nice for your child to get some more freedom to learn the way they learn best, or have more one-on-one time with the teacher...If you are one of those people who are sad to see your children go back to school at the end of a long summer...

Far be it from me to be a militant home schooler. As trite as it sounds, everyone must travel their own path. But if the only thing stopping you is some fear in your head that "I'm not smart enough to teach my children," let me try to alleviate that pain. There are more resources out there than you can shake a stick at. Some come in the form of literature, and others come in the form of friendly (non-bun-wearing, surprisingly engaging, non-denim-jumper wearing) home school moms and dads, who have found joy in the ultimate child-rearing responsibility.

My saving grace has been Classical Conversations and the support I've found through their curriculum and the community of people we meet with weekly. Their very accurate tagline is "making classical education approachable." If you've never heard of a classical education before, read about it. When I did, I felt like I was putting on a comfortable old jacket. I remember thinking, "Yes! This is what I think education should be like. This is how and what I want my children to learn. This is what I think of when I think about someone who got a good, solid education."

If your heart is stirred toward something, I believe God will put people in your path to show you the right direction. You have to start down the path, but the people you meet along the way will provide you with the things you need to progress.

I know I sound very confident. Does that mean that I don't question our decision to home school? On the contrary; I believe the hallmark of parenting is the constant, looming question of whether or not our kids will one day sit on the bench at a psychiatrist, bemoaning the fact that "they home schooled me!" All we can do is make the best decisions with the information we have, and hope that our best efforts and intentions will set these kids on the path of becoming the very best version of themselves.


When I drive home from boot camp at 6:40 in the morning, I see my neighbor pile her four boys (aged 6 months to 13 years) into the van before the sun is up, hurrying to get each kid where he needs to go on time. As we eat breakfast, the kids in our neighborhood wait outside for the bus. They've probably been up for an hour or more. We bid Dad farewell and the kids sneak upstairs for 30 minutes to play before we start school. I finish my tea and wrap up my boot camp social media posting duties, and I wander upstairs to start the day.

More days than not, I am excited about the day's planned events. We hit all the subjects and then pause for a park break if the weather is good. We sit outside in the sun and I read books aloud. They ask questions, and I get a deeper insight into their unique and amazing personalities. If Dad has a trip and we want to tag along, we go. We are silly. We visit museums. We laugh. I cajole. We follow rabbits down holes. We test on Fridays, and when they are done the kids let loose a ball of energy and nerves that has them whooping and wrestling in their rooms. It is...idyllic. I can't believe I get to do this each day.

When Zach was a principal, I attended each of the graduation ceremonies over which he presided. I never failed to tear up at the video showing the kids as kindergartners and then seniors in high school. The emotion of the parents and their baffled looks about just where these 18 years had gone was palpable. It left a big impression on me.

Child rearing is a stage. They will be gone before you know it. We are not promised anything in this life...not a single day. Are you living a life of your own design? Because you can. You are allowed. You have permission to take the reigns of your life and steer it in a totally different direction than you may have ever thought possible. And in taking responsibility, you just may find unexpected freedom and joy, and time with your children that can never be replaced.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reviewing The BEAST

Beachbody's Body Beast workout was released more than two years ago, and Zach and I have been avoiding it for a long, long time.

The reason for the avoidance was mostly because Zach has been endurance training for marathons and ultra-marathons for several years, and heavy weights and endurance training aren't generally on friendly terms.

Meet your host, Sagi Kalev, the BEAST.
Former member of the Israeli Army, two-time "Mr. Israel," and Clinical Nutritionist.
But over the past two years, I've known more and more people who have tried -- and absolutely loved -- this program. First was a fellow Beachbody Coach, who was so dedicated to the program that he flew to Las Vegas during Beachbody's Summit meeting to appear in the first annual Beast Figure Competition. He told us this program changed his life. He has gone on to work one-on-one with Sagi through his Dallas-based Clinical Nutrition company.

Then there was Zach's cousin and his wife, who have used the program for a long time now. Eric used the program and became Beast-y enough to appear in the Houston Fire Department's Calendar as "Mr. September."

And Eric's wife says this is the program that has changed her body the most of any program she has ever done.

Even Bo Duke loves the Beast.

So, basically, I was fitness peer pressured.

We have completed the "Build" phase and have moved on to the second phase, "Bulk." We did three weeks of Build and are about to wrap up week three of Bulk.

Going into this program I was a little bored, fitness-wise. We have been dabbling in P90X3, T25, PiYo, and whatever else we felt like for a few months. I was burned out on cardio and looking for something totally new, and have found it in Beast.

This is a traditional weight lifting program. You stand there and lift heavy weight. A lot. Zach says it's very similar to the workouts that he did when he played college football. What he has been surprised about, however, is that the reps are high and there is not a lot of wasted time. He expected to be lifting heavy weight for five reps, waiting 2-3 minutes, and then lifting more. Sagi has designed this program to move quickly, using super sets, giant sets, and progressive sets to completely pound the muscle group of the day. You're doing 15, 12, then 8 reps, then sometimes a drop set (lighter weight for eight reps) or sometimes moving to a progressive set, which has you reverse the order for 8, 12, then 15 reps. Progressive sets are killer.

Personally, I'm enjoying it. The workouts range from 30-45 minutes and you feel like you've worked out hard when you're done. I went into this routine wanting to drop a few pounds of holiday weight, and that has not happened (despite cleaning up my nutrition, AKA not eating chocolate anymore). However, my body fat percentage is dropping, which shows that I'm building muscle and losing fat. I can live with that! I've also enjoyed several of the meals in the Beast nutrition plan, including Power Granola and turkey meatballs.

Zach is not enjoying this program. He remains in training for endurance running events, and this is a program in direct opposition to his goals. An endurance athlete's cross training should include weight work, but not to this degree. Zach likes programs that are about functional fitness with moves that help you run faster, jump further, and climb stuff (P90X2 is his favorite). Body Beast is about building big muscles and lookin' good. But, because we enjoy working out together, he is humoring me for a few months. He continues to run most days of the week and "Beasts Up" with me on non-boot camp days and after work on camp days.

We plan to finish the Beast and move on to 21 Day Fix Extreme, which is set to release in February. I'm glad to have the Beast workouts in our arsenal, and I know no matter what program we do I won't leave these behind, particularly the leg workouts.


Workout of the Day
Beast Legs

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Three kitchen tools that are rocking my world

I purchased an embarrassing amount of "As Seen on TV" products this Christmas.

From the Scrub Daddys I gave out at my "Favorite Things" Party for my boot camp chicks:

The most successful product ever invested in on "Shark Tank," my favorite show EVER.
 To the "Chord Buddy" we bought to go with our family gift, a guitar:
Also seen on "Shark Tank." This fabulous little item has us playing simple tunes mere weeks after Christmas. It's super fun.
 To the "Veggetti" purchased in a whirling, last-minute trip to Bed Bath & Beyond where I finished up the last of my Christmas shopping purchasing fabulous items I never knew I (and my family members) needed.

I'm a sucker for that little red square in the corner. If it's on TV, it's got to be good, right?
You've probably seen the Veggetti or something like it advertised someplace or another. It's the little tool that lets you easily cut zucchini or yellow squash into thin noodle ribbons.

Y'all, pasta is SO 2014. Just look at how you can cut calories and carbs with the Veggetti:

Last year I was working with a client who was doing The 21 Day Fix, and she told me that she fixed pasta one night for dinner, but it didn't turn out to be many noodles in that yellow container. My response: "Why are you eating pasta?" It's not that it isn't allowed on the plan, but why eat pasta when you can have way MORE "noodles" that have less calories and more health benefits. That goes for spaghetti squash, or these fabulous little Veggetti noodles.

This tool is super affordable (about $15) and very easy to use. Just wash your veg, and twist it through the machine by hand. You can eat them raw, or saute them in a pan for a few minutes before you slather your delicious, homemade sauce on top. When we ate these we also had some awesome Body Beast turkey meatballs.

The Veggetti needs to be in your kitchen arsenal!

I don't know if my next item has ever appeared on television or not, but it sure makes my weekend mornings fun. It's the Aerolatte milk frother.

Comes with a convenient carrying case, so if I stay the night at your house I may whip this puppy out and make you a latte.
I've decided that I much prefer our coffee at home to Starbucks (or anywhere else, for that matter). I like my coffee fresh and weak. I also like lattes, so this is fancying up my coffee in a big way. All you do is put a little bit of milk at the bottom of your cup, stick the frother in there and run it for about 20 seconds. Then pour your coffee in and you've got yourself a home made latte. Love it!

And finally, this. The BIG Christmas present:


This is NOT just a blender. If, one day, I go to turn on my car and it will not start, I will hook it to my Vitamix and drive to town.

This is a blender like I've never experienced before. My dream blender (as I've referred to it for the past several years).

Do you know what this thing can do? You can put ingredients for soup into this blender, turn it on high for 5 minutes, and the force of the engine (I guess? Maybe it's centrifugal force? Sounds like a home school research project in the making) makes the soup HOT. It steams out the top! And then you pour it in your bowl and eat it! There are not enough exclamation points to tell you how cool this thing is! ! !


So far we've made our Shakeology in it (of course), and it pulverized kale so thoroughly that I couldn't tell it was there. We've made apple sauce, tomato soup, acorn squash soup, smooth roasted red pepper hummus, and chocolate fondue. The fondue was a trip...you put whipping cream and chocolate chips (plus some orange zest and vanilla) into the blender, then whipped it up. When it got hot and pourable, you put it in a bowl and dipped all manner of yummy fruit in it.

And then a special bonus: we didn't eat all the fondue, so I put it in a container in the fridge. The next day it had hardened into a fabulous chocolate mousse-like substance that in my opinion was better than the fondue!

On the Vitamix menu today: peanut butter! I can't wait to make our own peanut butter.

In summation, you need to hit the stores and pick up a Veggetti and a milk frother ASAP. And if you've got some cash on hand, look into a Vitamix (they ain't cheap). At the very least put it on your long-term list of dream items for your kitchen.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!


Workout of the Day
T25 Beta Core Cardio

We just finished week 3 of Body Beast, and will be posting our thoughts about the program soon. We've been taking weekends off from the Beast for cardio and yoga, and this week will be a recovery week before we get back to Beast mode. 

Programming note: We will be doing another round of the 21 Day Fix starting SOON, so if you're interested in trying this program, please visit www.SmellsLikeFitness.com and look for the 21 Day Fix Challenge Pack, which is on sale this month for $140. It gets you the program AND 30 days' worth of Shakeology, which is a stinkin' bargain -- that's like getting the Fix program for 11 bucks!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Smoothie King in Sheep's Clothing

I walked into the Smoothie King and had to squint my eyes. What a clean, bright establishment! Larger than life photos of happy, healthy people and huge letters encouraging me to "Be Good" to myself wrapped around the store.

But I knew going in that Smoothie King is a sugared-up wolf in sheep's clothing.

I don't normally patronize Smoothie King. But I live in a new town and need to promote my Texas Fit Chicks boot camp, so I visited the establishment in the hopes of dropping off a flier or two and reaching people who have a desire to "be healthy." So my daughter and I decided to throw them some business one Saturday morning.

As per usual when we go out to eat, Zach and I visited the nutrition website to select a healthy smoothie before I was standing at the counter to make a decision.

I was utterly flabbergasted at the nutritional listing of the smoothies. I'd estimate 99% of these things are nothing but sugar bombs. Here are a few of the highlights (review it yourself here). Note that these are for the 20 ounce "small" smoothies:

Remember, to convert grams to teaspoons, divide by 4
- Orange Ka-BAM -- 469 calories, 108 grams of sugar (the equivalent of 27 teaspoons of sugar)
- Lemon Twist Strawberry -- 398 calories, 94 grams of sugar (23 teaspoons)
- Coconut Surprise -- 460 calories, 64 grams of fat, 83 grams of sugar (20 teaspoons)

I could go on and on. And on.

Do you know what sugar is doing to us as a country?
- Weight gain
- Diabetes
- Impaired immune system
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Leptin resistance (causing an inability to tell when we've had enough food)
- Cancer
- Sugar addiction

And more:

I'd be willing to bet that the average person on the street considers a stop at Smoothie King to be a healthy choice. One that is helping, not hurting, their attempts to live a healthy lifestyle.

And then they order the equivalent of 25 teaspoons of sugar.

As a personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, it is so frustrating to see deceptive marketing everywhere you look. Without guidance or a desire to really find out what is healthy and what is not, the average person does not stand a chance in a grocery store or restaurant.

Now Provides Fiber!

Come. On.

From the LiveStrong website:
Sugar is the first ingredient on the list in Kellogg's Froot Loops. Grains include whole-grain corn flour, wheat flour, which is not a whole grain, and whole-grain oat flour. Froot Loops contains oat fiber and soluble corn fiber. This cereal contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, a trans fat. It also contains natural fruit flavors and several dyes and artificial colors. It's fortified with vitamins and minerals and contains BHT, a chemical preservative. A 1-cup serving contains 110 calories, 1 g of fat, 25 g of carbohydrates, including 3 g of fiber and 12 g of sugar, and 1 g of protein.
Sugar is sugar is sugar. Whether it's coming to you in the form of a banana or Froot Loops does not matter. While it's not popular to stand up and say you ought to limit the amount of fruit that you eat, it is true that we need to keep an eye on our fruit intake in addition to watching added sugar. Which is everywhere!

- Yogurt
- Instant oatmeal
- Ketchup
- Peanut butter
- Jarred tomato sauce

It's everywhere.

Here are some of sugar's aliases:

Ugh. My trip to Smoothie King was weeks ago, and I'm still disturbed by it.

By the way, I did find a smoothie with no sugar in it -- the Gladiator. At 180 calories, 45 grams of protein and no added sugar, it was a good choice in a sea of bad choices. The best choice on the kids' menu was the "Choc-A-Laka" with 210 calories, 15 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. It's made of frozen yogurt and cocoa, and contains 255 mg of sodium. Ho hum.

Be careful out there, people.


Workout of the Day

P90X3 Yoga

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Six Months Later

Wow, now that was quite a blogging hiatus! Six months later and our life looks quite different than it did on May 28, back in Dallas/Fort Worth making homemade laundry detergent.

The past two years have been turbulent for our family, to say the least. Without going into too much hairy detail, suffice it to say that we have been put through the pressure cooker, and have come out on the other side wiser, humbler, and thankful. Things happened to us that were utterly, completely bewildering to me. In the process I learned that God does not do things TO us, but he does things FOR us...even though at times that was very hard to swallow.

We learned about good friends. We learned about tough decisions. We learned about flexibility. We learned about letting go. Here are just a few of the changes in our life over the last six months:

1. We moved to suburban Austin.

Three hours and 200 miles south of our old homestead, we now live in bustling Cedar Park, north of Austin. It did not take long for us to like it here. It is a great place to have a family, with tons of activities, a great library, tons of grocery stores -- a Sprouts just a mile from the house! I was immediately struck with just how nice people are here. It's not unusual for someone to chat with you at the park, and as my commuting husband will attest, drivers actually let you in when you try to merge. It's all very refreshing.

2. We are home schooling our kids.

Considering that my husband just spent ten years in the public school system, you might think that our decision to home school our two children is some sort of statement on today's public schools or anyone who chooses to send their kids there. It is not.

Public schools are very important to our society. Zach continues to support the institution in his current position; in fact, he is able to help more districts now than the single district he used to work for. For many students, public school -- and the wonderful, dedicated teachers who work there -- is among the only positive things in their day-to-day life.

But Zach and I have the desire, the resources, and the ability to teach our children at home. We also have some very fantastic, very bright children. While I admit that my first response to Zach's suggestion that we home school the kids was, "WHAAAAT? You want me to do WHAAAAAT?", it has been among the best experiences of my life.

As our research proved during the decision-making process, I uncovered the fact that not all home schooling mothers wear embroidered denim jumpers and buns in their hair. And when I met the other moms in our home schooling co-op group (where we meet each Tuesday), I found out that these people are smart, talented, and dedicated to giving their kids an excellent education. A classically trained opera singer, a nuclear engineer, an illustrator of books about Mesopotamian hieroglyphics (that is a real thing, apparently!) are just a few of the moms in our group.

I am learning history, Latin, science, and math right alongside my kids, and in the process I learn more and more about the pure awesomeness (put that on a vocab quiz!) of my kids. Our family relationship has grown so much in the last four months. I could go on and on about it, but I'll just jot down a few of the things that I love about doing school at home:

- Learning is constant -- not just 8-3. When the kids were in school, I found it difficult to extract what it was they were learning about, so reinforcement was lacking. Now we learn, then reinforce all day long, and then talk to Dad about it at dinner. We are learning all the time.

- We can go as fast -- or slow -- as we want. Today Kate finished up 1st grade math curriculum, and so we will move on to 2nd grade math.

- Quality play time. We get so much work done in less time, which means more time for parks, Legos, reading, field trips, library visits, imagining, silly games, and more.

- Less stress. Quite simply, I have never seen my children so happy. "I used to dread Mondays," Drew told me a few weeks ago. "Now I look forward to them, because I want to see all the new stuff we're going to learn." That alone makes this decision worthwhile.

3. Zach gets to be home from work at 5:30pm.

This is a really big deal. He is home from work, and work does not follow him home. No one calls, rarely is something looming over his head. Rarely is he brooding about a decision to be made or a tough conversation that has to be had. Work life balance. It's where it's at!

Among the things that have not changed are:

- Our 5am workouts.
- My Texas Fit Chicks boot camp (although my new class starts at 5:30am instead of 5am, which makes a remarkably BIG difference).
- Our general health-nutness. (It's actually much easier to be a health nut in Austin...there are more of us down here.)

All in all, things are good. Finally. For many bitter, angry months we asked ourselves, "What did we do to deserve this?" and now we happily, thankfully ask ourselves, "What did we do to deserve this?"


Workout of the Day
PiYo Buns