Pimp My Food Prep

Let’s see…today is Monday.  One of my favorite days of the week – it’s another chance to hit the ground running and crush some more accomplishments!  Monday morning also means I wake up to a fridge stocked with meals for at least the next three days.  That kind of security gives me all the warm fuzzy feels.

mondays meme dwight

Don’t you wish you knew what you’ll be having for lunch two days from now?

Well, let me tell you a secret: It’s not a team of house elves that prepare my food for me and pack it neatly into Tupperware.  Nope, I ain’t no #DNB.  I do food prep every weekend to set myself up for the week with good meals that don’t take much – if any! – time to get onto a plate and into my belly.  See, I’m a firm believer in time-management and setting yourself up for success.  Spending a few hours doing food prep each weekend will end up saving you hours and hours of your weekdays, and it makes it so much easier to eat well when you have healthy food prepared in ways that makes it both delicious and easy to take on the road.

Remember, a healthy lifestyle is the result of healthy habits.   Habits are choices that are repeated consistently.  The best way to make healthy choices is to make your environment such that the best choices are the easiest choices.  And food prep just so happens to be a fantastic way to do exactly that!

A lot of people might hear “meal prep” or “food prep” and think of bodybuilders who cook up a week’s worth of tilapia and asparagus in an afternoon.  While that stereotype exists for a reason, the food prep tips in this post can be applied to any diet or health priorities. 

Lactose intolerant?
You can food prep.
Vegan?
You can food prep.
Paleo?
You can food prep.
Gluten free? 
You can food prep.
Diabetic?
You can food prep.
Cardiovascular patient?
You can food prep.
Trying to pack on mass?
You can food prep.
Trying to lean out?
You can food prep.
Training for an athletic event?
You can food prep.
Just trying survive a chaotic week at work?
You can food prep.

If you’re not on the food-prep train yet, consider this your official invitation.

All abooooard!

These are my best general suggestions for making food prep effective and fun.

Turn on your favorite playlist or your guilty pleasure TV show.

Food prep is when I catch up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Gossip Girl  No shame.  (Ok, maybe a little shame.)

Have a plan of attack!

Whether you are cooking for the next 2 days or the whole upcoming week, you need to know 1) what foods/meals you plan to make, 2) how much of each you plan to make, and 3) what you need to make everything.

Defrost ahead of time.

Again, this takes planning…try to defrost things the night before so you’re not stymied by a heap of frozen turkey when you get around to food prepping!

Set a timer.

If you know you’re on the clock and have 2 or 3 hours to finish everything, it keeps you hustling.

Prep or pick up things that make grab-n-go meals easy.

For me, protein powder is something I always like to have on hand for adding to shakes (see note below on bananas!), oatmeal, etc. Rice cakes are another thing I love to have on hand – portable, tasty, and an easy-to-digest carb source…Add some PB and a small protein shake and you’ve got a solid snack!

Multitask for efficiency.

If something needs to cook for 90 minutes, prep it and get that bad boy in the oven first so you can spend the cooking time working on something else.

Clean and cut all the vegetables at once.

Lay out a few towels so you can wash and dry all your produce, and then get chopping (literally).  Use mixing bowls or serving bowls to keep all the chopped veggies organized for when you get to throwing actual dishes together.

Use your food processor.  
confetti salad

Seriously, throw everything you’re prepping up in there. No, not literally.  But I do use mine for anything that needs to be diced, minced, or shredded (i.e. cabbage slaw), and it saves so much time.

Make sure your Tupperware is clean. seriously.

Nothing like figuring out you have to hand wash 20 pieces of Tupperware after 3 hours of food prep.

IMG_20140518_200701

Work in this order: clean, cut, combine, cook, clean.

This means clean all your produce, then chop all your produce, then combine all the ingredients as called for by their respective recipes, then cook all the things.  And while that ‘ish cooks, you can clean all the dishes.  (Again, this is where that guilty pleasure TV show is clutch!)

Some Practical Foods To Prep:

Frozen bananas.

Peel ‘em, break ‘em into chunks, toss ‘em in a gallon baggie, and pop those suckers in the freezer.  Throw a couple handfuls of frozen banana hunks into a high speed blender with protein powder and milk, and you’ve got the perfect base for a mind-blowing delicious protein shake.  See THIS post for tons of great protein shake ideas! (My current go-to: frozen bananas, THIS protein powder, cashew milk, cocoa powder, and powdered peanut butter.  It’s like peanut butter cup ice cream with a side of gains.)

Chicken in the crockpot.
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Toss three or four chicken breasts in the crockpot (confession…I almost always put them in frozen), and flip it on low for 4 hours or so (for frozen, I do 6-8 hours on low). It is a foolproof way to make delicious chicken and it never turns out dry.  Super easy to shred when you cook it in the crockpot, too!

  • Stir in 1 cup BBQ sauce. Add 1 small bag frozen corn during last hour of cooking, and 1 can (drained) black beans when finished.
  • Dried oregano + basil + black pepper + garlic powder. Toss in some sundried tomatoes during the last hour if you’re feeling frisky.
  • Taco seasoning from a packet or chili powder + cumin + garlic powder + onion powder + paprika + optional red pepper flakes.
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce + 1 cup pineapple juice + 1/3 cup honey. Add 1-2 small cans of water chestnuts during last hour of cooking, and add pineapple chunks for last 15 minutes.
  • Soy sauce + ginger powder/grated ginger + lime juice + a small squeeze of sriracha
Brown rice/quinoa/barley/grain of choice.

I actually go with white rice these days because my belly likes it much better than brown rice.  Once your rice is cooked, it’s a perfect carb source to make a nice little bed for your protein of choice – crockpot chicken, ground turkey, shredded pork, fried eggs, tofu, or whatever tickles your fancy.  Pro tip: If you don’t have a rice cooker….get one.

Veggie sticks and homemade hummus.

Veggie sticks: self-explanatory.  Cut them up, store them in cold water to keep them crisp, and you’re done. Hummus: Break out the food processor or bullet-type blender and whip up 1-2 cups garbanzo beans (drained if you’re using canned), 1-2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and paprika + garlic powder + salt + pepper (or other seasonings of choice).

Overnight oatmeal.

Mix dry oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats, but not the flavored kind in the packet) with almond milk and Greek yogurt (1:1 ratio seems to work best) to make a soupy textured mess.  Add mix ins of choice: protein powder (this will make it much thicker, so it’s a great choice if you’re dairy-free like me and can’t use Greek yogurt!), chopped nuts, peanut butter, chopped fruit, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, mini chocolate chips (no shame), etc.  Keep in the fridge overnight, and it will thicken into a thicker pudding-type texture by morning.  And it will keep a few days if you want to make several servings ahead of time, too. Pro tip…This looks adorable if you put it in mason jars, but normally my rachet self just makes it directly in the Tupperware.

Cook some vegetables stir-fry style or fajita style.

My go-to is fajita veggies: 1 onion + 2 bell peppers sliced and quickly cooked over high heat on the stove with the aforementioned taco-seasonings (for crockpot chicken).  Add canned olives and/or jalepeno slices after cooking and you are in biznizzzz.  For a quick meal, you can slap them on top of a chopped greens and/or rice (I vote both!) and add some protein of choice.  Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.

Hardboiled eggs.

These are one of the best protein sources in terms of bioavailability and portability!  Bonus points (aka make-your-own-life-easier points) if you peel them ahead of time and keep them in Tupperware lined with a paper-towel or two.

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And there you have it! I know that is a lot of information at once, and you probably don’t want to go in making everything listed here in your first-ever food prep session…because 1) time, and 2) even I couldn’t eat that much food.  And I can stinkin’ eat.

But I hope that you’ll at least try implementing some of these ideas into your food prep routine. And if you’re not already food prepping, then I challenge you to try prepping one thing this week!  Maybe it’s just throwing some banana chunks into a freezer bag and sticking them behind your ice cream stash.  Maybe it’s busting out that dusty old crockpot and cooking two chicken breasts.  Whatever it is, try it.  See how making a little effort ahead of time changes your week later on down the road.  You might find that it’s a little easier and more efficient to eat healthy foods when the majority of the prep work is done ahead of time.

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And spoiler alert: Food prep, and the resulting ease of eating well, is pretty damn addictive.  Next week, you might want to go all out and prep allthefood.  Embrace it.  Prep it. And then stuff yo’ face like the beautiful, hungry people that you are.

Tell me…

Do you do any food prep/meal prep?

What’s one time-saving trick you use regularly?

Go-to meal for taking on the road/to school/to work?

What’s ONE thing you are going to do for food prep this week?!?

All About Knee Health [Guest Post by Danny Baladi]

Alright yall, I’ve got an exciting guest post for today.  My friend Danny is one of the funniest guys I knew in high school…these days, he’s still hilarious, and he’s a Strength and Conditioning Coach at St. Mary’s College here on the west coast.  He’s a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) and has his M.S. in Clinical Exercise Physiology.  Needless to say – Danny knows his stuff! So when I reached out to him about guest posting and he mentioned specializing in injury prevention, I knew exactly what I wanted him to post about…allthethings.

For now, we narrowed it down to one of the most common areas of chronic and acute injuries for gym goers – the knees.

Like I said, Danny’s the expert, so I’ll let him take it from here…

The Knee…and its (not so) complicated existence

You walk into the gym. You see a big, ripped guy, thin tank with a backwards cap of the local rival baseball team, throwing weight around like he just lost a bench press contest/beer pong semi-final. This is an example of an unstable knee. Looking for the flash, not concerned with stability or longevity but all about risky lifts and muscle ups. In the back of the gym you see a well-balanced man, who hasn’t skipped leg day and is doing a proper deadlift with a straight back.  He’s not about showing off with flashy lifting, but dedicated to proper progression and limiting muscular imbalances.  This is an example of a stable knee.

The knee joint is the largest in the body and needs to be managed well. Knees take on so much impact, especially in those living highly active lifestyles. Let’s go over some basics structural components and terminology. The knee joint is created by joining two of the strongest bones in the body, the Femur (thigh bone) and Tibia (shin bone). They are divided by two Menisci or Left/Right Meniscus which act as a shock absorbers of the knee. There are 4 ligaments that support the knee joint during dynamic movements1,4. This includes the ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which supports lateral movement and squatting mechanics. The knee joint mainly has two functions: to be flexed and extended (or, bent and straightened). There are over 14 muscles that attach to the knee and contribute to its function. As to not drown everyone in Latin anatomical terms, the “Quads” are responsible for knee extension, whereas the “Hamstrings” are responsible for knee flexion1,4.

knee pain

With so many muscles surrounding the knee joint, the knee has the potential to be pulled in multiple directions. The glutes, groin muscles, quads and the hamstrings could all be adding tension throughout the knee, especially during the process of flexing and extending. Let’s use the squat for example. During the descent, the knee seeks to travel along the path of least resistance. Everyone’s knees are different and everyone will have different paths. Most commonly however, the knees bow in (knee valgus) especially during the ascent of a squat. Less common is when the knees push outward (knee varus) during the ascent of a squat.

valgus neutral varus knee positino

This tendency for the knee to travel in such extreme directions can be mainly affected by muscular imbalance1,2.

Simply put – muscular imbalances develop when a specific group of muscles (agonists) are tighter and producing more force than their opposing muscle groups (antagonists) which are more lengthened and producing less force.

For example, a muscular imbalance that could affect the knee which is common among field sport athletes is when the quad muscle group becomes overdeveloped compared to the hamstring muscle group.  In this case, the quads are acting as the “gas pedal” of the lower limbs with the hamstrings being the ”brakes”. Without proper brakes, the knee loses function, stability and overall proper force displacement. During a sprint the hamstring helps to stabilize the knee during the plant and drive and if not properly able to function this could lead to decreased performance and potential injury.

This problem can be fixed by proper stretching and adequate variation of strength training1,2. This means that if you only like to do quad dominant exercises, you may injure that quad due to tightness and over activity…or you may injure your hamstring due to it being lengthened and unable to properly fire. Let’s further dive into the concept of muscular imbalances to narrow down specific issues some people may be dealing with.

Let’s say for example that when you squat, your knees tend to move along the knee valgus path, wherein the knees travel inward towards each other. Although multiple imbalances could explain this behavior, the most common come from either Tight Quads/Weak Hamstrings or Tight Groin/Weak Glutes1. To improve such a condition, you would:

  • roll out and stretch the quads
  • strengthen and improve force production in the hamstrings
  • roll out and stretch out the Adductors (muscles from groin to knee)
  • strengthen and increase control of the glute muscle group

This should eventually improve the imbalance between the muscle groups and improve function and performance, all while decreasing the likelihood of injury. This would all lead us back to proper function and technique. During the squat movement, you should try your best to keep your knees in line with the toes, specifically, the patella (knee cap) should travel over the 2nd Phalange (2nd tow inward from the big toe)1,2. The toes should also be in a neutral position (straight forward) or slightly turned outward. This will ultimately help with glute activation and limiting potential valgus positions.

This is best accomplished with a partner or a video recording to visually examine what changes need to be made. This allows for proper load on the low back, hips and limiting highly stressful knee moments such as extreme valgus or varus2. It is encouraged however that knees should be driven outward to increase glute activity during the squat, especially during ascension. This can be a valuable visualization for those who tend to squat with knee valgus. Imagine yourself driving the knees out to neutral which should help slowly develop improved movement patterns.

knee xray

Can we also talk about front/back squat depth? It’s a topic that is surprisingly, incredibly, confusingly controversial. Coming from a lower limb longevity and overall wellness perspective, a squat should go no deeper than slightly past the point when the thighs are parallel to the ground1. Any deeper and the glutes become less likely to activate, putting a majority of the load on the knees and the low back. This over time can lead to chronic pain or discomfort due to the incorrect mechanics and stress placed on the hip and knee joints. This could lead to improper movement patterns, muscular imbalances and structural issues, especially if heavy loads are used.

Take care of those knees, people; you only get two for the duration of your life! With balanced training techniques, adequate rest and maintenance of surrounding muscle groups your knees should be good to go! Portion out your lifting with your plyometric work. Box jumps, cone drills, burpees and any other high impact exercises can lead to increase stress on the knee tendon and if chronic can lead to tendonitis. That is why high impact exercises cannot be done on a daily basis. Lifts or high impact circuits should always be followed by Myofascial release (foam rolling) and stretching as needed. This will help release tension and limit the presence of muscular imbalances. Get quality sleep and make sure you’re getting consistent slumber, because without it, your performance and recovery potential could be jeopardized. Ice those knees if they are sore, massaging around the knee can help improve blood flow and release tension of attaching tendons. If these simple steps are followed than the road to healthy, long-lasting, fully functioning knees will be closer than you think!

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Tell me…

Have you ever had knee injuries?
(I’m very quad dominant and have all the patellofemoral pain to show for it!)

How proactive are you about protecting/strengthening your knees?
(It’s a work in progress – trying to bring my sad hams and glutes up to par…and the stretching thing is a struggle, but I’m getting there!)

Any questions for Danny or topics you’d like him to cover in the future???
(AKA help me convince him to do another guest post!)

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references

 

  1. Clark, M. (2011). NASM essentials of corrective exercise training (1st ed). Baltimore, MA: Wolter Kluwer.
  2. Baechle, T. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Sean Croxton – Founder of Underground Wellness. (Thursday, June 13th, 2013) “The Dark Side of Fat Loss: Everything My University Forgot to Teach Me About Health and Wellness. St. Mary’s College of CA Summer Graduate Kinesiology Colloquium.
  4. Clark, M., & Lucett, S. (2008). NASM essentials of personal fitness training (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Post-Workout Snack Ideas

Living in a house with 5 other girls is great in a lot of ways – like the part where you have 5 other closets of clothes from which to choose – but it can be hard in others.

Like the part where I eat more than any two of the other girls combined.  

hungry fat kid meme

Nope, not even exaggerating.

Admittedly, I train more than anyone else in the house and my job keeps me on my feet and scurrying around like a chipmunk for most of the day…so it does make sense. More muscle mass + more activity = need for a lot more food.  But that being said, I’m still female and I’m still a product of a culture that, for the most part, dictates that females are supposed to be dainty and enjoy things like cucumber water and fruit platters and half-pieces of toast.

Yeah, no.  I like hearty food, and lots of it.

And while it does sometimes make me cringe to realize my lunch is twice the size of a roommate’s dinner, I’m still going to eat as much as my body needs.  Not about that starvation life, yall.

Plus, no one wants to see me hangry.  It gets ugly.  There is a significant positive correlation between how hungry I am and how aggressively I drive.  (Not to mention a significant negative correlation between how hungry I am and how much patience I have.)

This absolutely slays me.

This absolutely slays me.

The hanger is at it’s realest usually a few hours after a tough lifting session.  (So anabolic, bro.) At this point I’m also typically buzzing around at work or running errands.  As hungry and as busy as I might be at that point, I do my best to make sure that what I do eat is something that supports my body’s recovery processes.  After a workout, your body is working to repair and rebuild all the tissues you broke down during training, so it’s crucial to give it the materials it needs.  

hungry baby meme

Post-workout nutrition can get somewhat complicated when you take into account the differences between demands placed on the body by various sports and training methods (and, you know, folks’ opinions), but the gist of it is this:

Immediately after a workout, you want protein and carbs (preferably in a ratio of about 1:2 protein:carbs), and little/no fat.
The goal is to give your body a good serving of protein and raise your insulin so that your body can shuttle all the goodies (meaning carbs and protein, which break down into glucose and amino acids, respectively) off to those hungry muscles.

A few hours after a workout, you want protein and carbs (closer to a 1:1 ratio), and a modest serving of fat.  
Dietary fat is not a bad thing at all – it contributes essential fatty acids, improves satiety, and makes food taste pretty damn good.  But it takes much longer to digest than carbs or protein, and you want your muscles to have access to the glucose and amino acids in your post-workout meal/snack as soon as possible.  Moral of the story: Fat isn’t a bad, you just need to have good timing.

So, what should you actually be eating after a workout?  And what can you make that’s both easy to prepare and easy to bring on the road?

I gotcha covered.

Here are some suggestions…I’d love to know what your favorite post-workout meals/snacks are, so chime in down in the comments!

trail mix

Immediately After Workouts

tuna sandwich

A Few Hours After Workouts
  • tuna sandwich with avocado – no, I’m not kidding. Tuna sandwiches are freaking delicious.
  • protein bowl: brown rice + ground turkey and/or beans and/or lentils (like this vegetarian protein mix) + veggies of choice + hummus/peanut sauce/dressing of choice
  • jerky + trail mix (or your own DIY combo of dried fruit + nuts and/or seeds + spicy roasted beans)
  • protein shake with nut butter mixed in (top with granola if you’re feeling frisky)
  • chicken wrap with a whole grain tortilla + roasted chicken + beans + vegetables + avocado + hummus/chipotle sauce/whatever floats your boat

For more great post-workout snack ideas, check out all the Healthy Snacks ideas over at Nuts.com!

Tell me…

What’s your favorite post-workout snack?

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored or compensated in any way.  All opinions and ideas are my own.

Lessons From 25

Today is the last day of the first quarter century of my life.

 

That’s a fancy way of saying that tomorrow is my 25th birthday.  In the spirit of my burgeoning maturity, I am not freaking the hell out over it – instead, I’m reflecting on the past 25 years. 

What has gone well…

Where I can improve…

How far God has brought me…

How richly I have been blessed…

What I want to make out of the next 25 years…

Who I am, and who I want to be…

And what kind of wrinkle cream I should be using…

Turns out, in 25 years, you can screw up a hell of a lot. I mean, you can really jack things up.  But by the grace of God, you can learn a lot from those mistakes.  The older I get, the better I get at learning from those mistakes.

The older I get, the better I get at sharing those lessons.  Or maybe I’ve always been good at sharing lessons.  As the oldest of four, it comes with the territory.

Either way, here you go.  Any questions, and you can find me knee deep in chocolate cake and bourbon until Wednesday morning.

birthday cake

LESSONS FROM 25
  1. Appreciate top shelf whiskey, but never turn your nose up at good old Jack.
  2. Know how and when to say “F*ck.” Used well, it can be powerful.  Used wrong, it can make you sound powerful stupid.
  3. A guy you meet in a bar will treat you like the kind of girl he picked up in a bar.
  4. Master the basics before you start getting fancy. It goes for everything, be it weightlifting or running or cooking or kissing.
  5. Take control of where you spend your time, and you’ll take control of your life.
  6. Go to bed earlier than you think you need to. (You can thank me in the morning.)
  7. Hair is just hair. Go ahead and cut it/dye it/change it up.  You can always grow it out/dye it back.
  8. Being fat is not the end of the world.
  9. Being skinny will not automatically make you happy.
  10. Being strong is something you will never regret.
  11. Wear gym shorts that actually cover the full surface area of your asscheeks. No one looks sexy pulling their shorts out of their ass mid-workout.
  12. Netflix and productivity are arch enemies – choose sides wisely.
  13. Struggle and suffering are happen to everyone. Some people choose to let themselves be broken, other use them to make themselves better.  It’s a choice, and you get to make it.
  14. Make time to read something of substance for at least 10 minutes a day.
  15. Sing often, and loudly, and not just in the shower.
  16. It is good to slow down once in awhile. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul.”   – Psalm 23:2-3, KJV
  17. Stop wearing flip flops and invest in quality shoes.
  18. If you can’t afford a great sports bra, wear two decent ones at once. Snug as a bug.
  19. Think like a victim, and you’ll make yourself a victim.
  20. You can accomplish more than you think you can accomplish.
  21. Knowing how to break down a scientific study will save you from a lot of broscience and bullshit.
  22. Recognize and celebrate your own accomplishments and those of the people around you.
  23. Good manners will take you farther than charm.
  24. Aim to always be a beginner in something in your life – it means you’re constantly challenging yourself to learn something new.
  25. Stand for something, and fight for it with all you’ve got.

And if you have any recommendations for wrinkle cream…I’m all ears.

sparklers

Tell me…

What are a couple of the best one-sentence lessons you’ve learned so far?

Favorite birthday memory?

What It’s REALLY Like To Work In A Gym [VLOG]

I’m not sure how many of yall have worked in a gym before, but it’s definitely a different kind of atmosphere.  

I love it.  

There is nothing like being able to “talk shop” with your coworkers about things that actually interest you, rather than trying to find ways to stretch pitiful office gossip into enough conversation to last a full 8-hour shift.

And on top of that, it’s physically freeing.  Instead of being trapped at a desk or behind a counter all day, I get paid to run around in a huge gym all day long.  It’s like recess in elementary school, except it lasts all day long.

But as with any job, there are parts of it that I don’t love.  For instance, the mainstream fitness industry can very easily promote disordered diet and exercise practices, as well as general obsession with body image.  The “fitspiration” vibe can be strong, you know?

Last week I got started on the topic of the fitness industry with a vlog about how a personal trainer’s body plays into his credibility, and this week, I’m continuing with another vlog.  This is actually a topic I’m planning to cover more over the coming months, so for now I’m taking a bit of a broader view.

As always, I’d love to hear your input on the subject.  Please feel free chime in below!

Tell me…

What sort of messages do the trainers you know promote regarding body image?

Regardless of profession, do you have any gray areas where your personal life and work overlap?  

If you’re a trainer or have ever worked at a gym, how has your experience been with training (clients) and training (yourself) at the same facility?

Dimples, Part II [What Can You Do About Cellulite?]

Last week, I told yall about how I recently realized that I have cellulite.

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No worries, I’m in good company. Roughly 95% of women have cellulite to some degree.  And yes, even men can get cellulite, although it’s much less common.

So why do so many women have cellulite, and why do men seem to get off easy in this department?

Science, bruh.

See, cellulite is the result of fat, in that cellulite merely describes a certain appearance of fatty tissue.   In other words, fat does not cause cellulite.  There are a number of factors that contribute to cellulite [see more here], but the heart of the issue seems to be…

structure.

Women’s skin differs from that of men in a few ways , but one of the primary differences is in the structure of our fat stores.  In this case, we are focusing on subcutaneous fat, which is the fat beneath the skin (as opposed to visceral fat which is packed between/around organs in the abdominal cavity).

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Subcutaneous fat is stored in cells called adipocytes, which are organized beneath the skin in vertical chambers.  These chambers have walls that are made of connective tissues called septa.  Here’s where things get interesting:

cellulite skin structure

In men, the septa form an X-shaped pattern, much like a chain link fence.  This oblique structure is sturdy and does not easily break down even when adipocytes increase in size or number (fat gain) and put excess pressure on the septa (connective tissue “walls”).

In women, the septa form vertical walls.  This vertical structure is prone to collapse when adipocytes increase in size or number, or even when cells swell from fluid retention.

These differences in fat structure are compounded by a few things.

fat stores.

Not only are women made to carry more fat than men, but they store their body fat in different locations [see more here].  Female fat deposits tend to be in the breasts, hips, thighs, bum and around the uterus – in other words, locations that support fertility.  Male fat storage tends to be more evenly distributed all over with excess fat accumulating in the abdominal region (think visceral fat, or a “beer belly”).  Having more total body fat, with more of it localized in the butt/hip/leg area, and weaker structures for the fat storage chambers, makes it so that women have a much greater chance of developing cellulite than men.   Excess body fat can certainly exacerbate cellulite, but it does not cause it.

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lack of collagen.

As we age, our bodies produce less collagen.  For many women, cellulite becomes more present as they get older – this is why!  Some people, regardless of age, struggle to produce sufficient collagen for their bodies, and dietary/supplemental collagen becomes increasingly important for overall skin/joint/tissue health.  That lack of collagen also makes it easier for cellulite to make an appearance.

genetics.

Just as some folks are genetically predisposed to have narrow feet, blue eyes, long legs, straight hair, or big breasts, some are genetically predisposed to have more cellulite.  Weaker septa (the connective tissue that forms the chambers in which fat cells are stored), less collagen, and greater propensity towards fluid retention can all be genetic factors that contribute to cellulite.  While your lifestyle choices and resulting body fat levels can certainly affect the degree to which those genes are expressed, genetic individuality dictates that cellulite will be more apparent for some people than for others, regardless of body fat levels.  [See more here.]

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So now that we’ve gone over why we have cellulite, you might be wondering what can be done about it.

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Well, the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to improve the appearance of cellulite.

For those who have cellulite and also are obese or overweight, losing fat (decreasing your body fat percentage) can greatly help with the appearance.  Less fat means smaller fat cells means less pressure on the septa forming those fat storage chambers beneath the skin.

[In the case of obesity + cellulite, it’s important to remember that the focus should first and foremost be health, i.e. a safe body fat percentage.  Cellulite, or lack thereof, comes much further down the list of priorities.]

Additionally, increasing collagen can be helpful if you are low on collagen.  If you are over the age of 35 or experiencing any kind of chronic joint pain, you may fall into this category.  Aim to consume more dietary sources of collagen – such as gelatin, bone broth, and eggs – as well as increasing consumption of foods with vitamin C, which protects against the breakdown of collagen.  Collagen supplements can also be helpful (these are both good options).

For a temporary fix, some cellulite-reducing creams can reduce the appearance of cellulite by stimulating the outermost layer of skin to plump up, fill out, and appear smoother.  A spray tanner or one of those gradual sunless tanning lotions can also make cellulite less visible.

There’s one final tactic that a lot of folks overlook, although it’s the most effective in the long run.  It might seem a bit radical, but it does work if you’re willing to commit to it:

Decide that you won’t let a few dimples on your ass take away from your self confidence, your appreciation of your body, or your enjoyment of life.  

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In case I haven’t made it clear, that is indeed my own bum up there, cellulite and stretch marks and all.  When I walked out in ill-fitting bikini bottoms and asked her to take photos of my ass, still indented with the pattern of our patio furniture, my friend thought I was a little crazy.  And when I added, “a make sure to get the lighting that really shows off my cellulite,” she thought I was absolutely batshit crazy.

Frankly, a year ago, would have thought I was crazy.  Today, though, I’m laughing about it.  Do I love every dimple? Nope, not by a long shot.  But I appreciate my body for all that it does and all it enables me to do…and most of the time, those imperfections don’t stay on my radar long enough to bother me.

Take it from someone who spent the majority of her life despising her body and trying to beat every imperfection into airbrushed submission: It’s a losing battle.  You will wreck either your body or your mind, or both.  That’s not to say you can’t change things about your body for the sake of health or personal preference, but that should also come with embracing the human body for what it is.

Amazing, yes, and also imperfect.

A gift, yes, and also a responsibility.

Beautiful, yes, and sometimes funny-looking.

And when you do that – when you accept the parts of yourself that may be perfectly healthy but not necessarily perfect-looking – you are so free in so many ways.

Free to slap on a bikini and go rock the hell out of it, dimply thighs and derriere be damned.

Free to laugh as you edit photos not to decrease the appearance of cellulite on your ass, but to really highlight it before you put it on the internet.

Free to put your mental energy towards matters far more pressing than the structure of your fat storage chambers and resulting texture of your thighs.

So here comes the tough love:

Your life and your worth are about so much more than the size of your thighs or the dimples that may decorate them.  If you are blessed enough to have a body that is physically well and whole, don’t you dare tell me that the rippled texture of your ass is somehow keeping you from being happy or living life to the fullest.  If dimples in your skin is your biggest problem, count yourself lucky.  And if cellulite is what’s holding you back, it’s not your ass that needs fixing, it’s your attitude.

***

Tell me…

Do you ever feel like insecurities about your body hold you back somehow?

What’s something you can appreciate your body right now?

More food for thought…Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get The Hell Over It (from GoKaleo)

Body Image In The Fitness Industry [VLOG]

A couple of questions have been rolling around in my head lately, and I would love to hear what yall think:

Does a personal trainer’s credibility hinge upon the shape and appearance of his/her body?

Over the years, I’ve changed my tune.  Sharing more in vlog form today:

More food for thought:

Do You Have To Be Ripped To Be A Personal Trainer? by Jonathan Goodman.
I stumbled across his article literally five minutes after deciding to post about this topic – serendipity, much? – and it’s fantastic.  Worth a read no matter if you’re a personal trainer or have never set foot in a gym.

Chime in with a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject!

Surprise #StagSwag Giveaway!

Raise your hand if you love surprises…

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love surprises.

But….I don’t love being on the receiving end.  Being surprised is not my favorite thing.  It may be is definitely due to the fact that I was given a surprise party for my 18th birthday, and it was the worst party I’ve ever been to.  My mother – God bless her – invited a grand total of 3 people: my best friend from kindergarten, my best friend from my old high school, and a guy who was basically an ex-boyfriend that I had not spoken to in nearly a year.

Oh, but here’s the kicker: It was a sleepover.

To say it was was the most awkward 16 hours of my life would be an understatement. 

I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.

So to be more accurate, I love giving surprises.  In keeping with that, and my general spirit of magnanimity, I wanted to give yall a surprise.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Yall have no idea how grateful I am for your readership.  Knowing that you read and hearing your feedback and seeing yall sharing posts (seeing your work shared is a writer’s love language) makes this so much fun.  And when I hear that a post has made someone laugh so hard they literally wet their pants (true story) or touched them so deeply that they wept (true story) makes all of this absolutely worth it.

So to say “Thanks a million!” yall are getting a giveaway! STAG GIVEAWAY PHOTO KAYTE

The past couple months, I’ve been working with Jess and the STAG team, blogging about The Bachelorette each week.  It has been such a fun collaboration, with plenty of moments watching TV and wearing pajamas and thinking “How cool is it that this is my job?”  And it’s been a ton of fun to hear everyone’s feedback, even from some of the contestants on the show (thank you, Twitter, for making those connections possible!).  To celebrate that collaboration as well as give back to yall who have been continually visiting my little corner of the internet, I’ll be giving one reader the STAG tee/tank of her (or his) choice.

Check out all the options over at the STAG shop!

You can do any of the following to enter the giveaway…The more entries you complete, the greater your chances of winning!

*** UPDATE: Diane was the lucky winner…congrats, Diane! Giveaway is now closed – thank you to all who participated, and keep an eye out for the next giveaway. ***

Be sure to leave a comment for each entry that you complete.

  • Tell me which STAG tee or tank you’d love to rock for the Monday night finale!
  • Subscribe to Eat Pray Lift using the “Follow” button in the left sidebar.
  • Follow me (@maggiegetsreal) on Twitter.
  • Follow STAG (@letsgostag) on Twitter.
  • Tweet a link to this giveaway.  Be sure to include direct link to your tweet in your comment.
  • Tweet the link to your favorite Bachelorette recap (see them all HERE) to Chris Harrison (@chrisbharrison).  Be sure to include direct link to your tweet in your comment.  Yes, seriously, tweet it to him.

The giveaway will run from now until midnight PST on Sunday 7.26.2015, and I’ll choose a winner at random on Monday morning!  Giveaway is open to US readers only (sorry to the cluster of yall in Germany that keep reading…If I buy you a beer when I finally make it over there, can we still be friends?).

And with that…may the odds be ever in your favor!

STAG GIVEAWAY COLLAGE

Disclaimer: Wine not included….

Dimples: A Story About My Ass

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my parents and ended up working out at a different gym than my normal location.  It’s always kind of fun to get to visit a new “playground” and see what it has to offer.  Well, this gym happened to offer some really stellar fluorescent lighting, the likes of which are normally reserved for prison showers and the interrogation rooms at Guantanamo.

It just so happened that I was wearing shorts when I visited that gym, and I happened to look in the full-length mirrors that covered 60% of the walls, and it turns out that that exquisite fluorescent lighting really highlighted my curves.

The curves in my skin, to be exact.

Particularly my legs and ass.

Cellulite, yall.

[Brace yourselves for terrible-quality, unflattering photos of my rear end.  In my defense, it’s really hard to photograph your own ass, especially in prison lighting.]

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It was a moment of reckoning – I realized that I have cellulite

At the risk of sounding like a douchecanoe, I’ll be honest – this really upset me.  Not because I think that cellulite is a big deal, but because I had never known that I had it.  Does that sound completely naiive?  I know that something like 90% of women have some degree of cellulite somewhere on their body, and I know plenty of absolutely gorgeous women whose thighs and hips are delicately (or not so delicately!) dimpled.  They are beautiful, and the presence of cellulite does nothing to diminish that.  And yes, in all honesty, there had been fleeting moments between undressing and jumping into a hot shower that I thought maybe I had seen a small flicker of dimples across the widest part of my hips.  But I chalked it up to the bathroom lighting and the taking-off-sweaty-yoga-pants shimmy I was doing at the moment, and hopped in the shower.  Hot water would wash away both sweat and thoughts of yet another body flaw with which to do battle, and any worries about cellulite disappeared in a cloud of steam and shower serenades.

But under that glorious mortuary-inspired lighting, cellulite showed itself in all its rippling glory.  On my body.  And this time, there was no way to convince myself otherwise.  This was not a smattering of dimples…it was the real-deal.

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And I was mortified.

Now, I am not a skinny person by any means, but I also know that I’m very fit compared to the general population.  My body fat lies below the “acceptable” range, sitting squarely in the “fit” category.  (Again, don’t be deceived, I am fit and thick.) And for all the years I have spent berating and battling my own body for every real or imagined shortcoming I could find, cellulite never made the list.  It was something that was not on my radar, and one of the few body-issues that I had never worried about.  I knew I hadn’t done anything to prevent cellulite, but I figured that lump-free legs were one of the few aesthetic qualities with which I had been “naturally blessed.”

And yet, here I was, staring at my reflection and contending with the fact that there was yet another way that my body was not good enough.   

As that reality sank in, I turned around, trying to appraise the landscape of my lower body from every angle.
What is wrong with me?
What did I do wrong, and how can I fix it?
Why did this happen to me?

And those questions rolled through my mind as I began my workout, and I found myself sneaking glances in the mirror, half hoping that some new angle would reveal that the dimply terrain of my ass had been the product of poorly-hung mirrors and prison lighting.

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It was a false hope.

I have cellulite. 

As the minutes passed by, I focused more on my workout and less on the mirror.  Eventually, I accidentally caught my reflection in the middle of a kettlebell swing.  I saw a body that would be photoshopped beyond recognition if it were to be placed in front of a magazine editor.  I saw flesh that bounced and wiggled in the most unladylike ways.  I saw legs that are embarrassingly pale but stubbornly strong.  I saw spider veins and stretch marks and scars, but also defined quads and calves.  I saw sweat and worn out sneakers and tenacity, and I saw cellulite, and I saw a cheeky little smile.

You know why I was smiling?

Because I was moving my body and loving it. 

Those dimples decorating my ass couldn’t stop me from moving and using my body to participate in activities that thrill me.  Those dimples did not detract from the worth of my workout, nor my enjoyment of it.  Those dimples did not detract from my sense of humor, my intellect, my spicy attitude, or my passionate spirit.  Those dimples did not – Hey, Mum and Dad? Yall may not want to read this part – detract from how much guys appreciate my ass.

And then it was time for another moment of reckoning.

Yes, I have cellulite.
And that doesn’t change a damn thing.

I’m healthy.  I’m happy.  I enjoy using my body, and I enjoy how it looks.  My body fat is well within the normal range, I’m strong, and my cardiovascular fitness is…well, it’s slowly improving.

There are far too many issues of far more importance in this world to spend my time worrying over some dimples on my donk.  And the same goes for everyone else.  Even if you are morbidly obese, I still don’t think you should worry about cellulite.

Your health? Yes.
Your heart? Yes.
Your joints? Yes.
Your body fat? Yes. 

The texture of your ass? Not really a priority

Fighting these “flaws” – which have no bearing on our overall health, physical fitness, talents, passions, contributions to society, or value as humans – is exhausting.  It does not enhance our lives or increase what we are able to offer the world.

So you know, cellulite ain’t the end of the world.

In fact, it’s pretty damn normal. 

So, yes, I have cellulite.

But that doesn’t really change a thing. 

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And you, amigo?  Is your body completely free of lumps and bumps, or does it have a few extra dimples here and there?

Doesn’t change a damn thing.

***

When it come to the state of the flesh in which we live, what if we stopped worrying about whether we have cellulite – or wrinkles or scars or stretch marks or anything of that sort – and put more thought into answering questions like these?

How healthy is my body?
What does it enable me to do?
How well does it function?
How is my cardiovascular system working?
Am I strong?
Am I fast?
How’s my stamina?
How am I enjoying my workouts?
How am I challenging my body?
How am I nourishing my body?
How many reasons do I have to be grateful for my body?

And, you know, people always think it’s cute when folks have dimples in their smile.

Maybe the right ones will even find dimples on your ass to be kind of cute, too.

A-Z Survey

[First of all, sending up prayers for the Marines who were killed yesterday in the terrorist shooting in Chattanooga, as well as for their families.  Absolutely heart-wrenching…this has to stop.]

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Happy Friday, hoodrats.
Glad you’re stopping by my neck of the woods.  Don’t know about yall, but this week has been mopping the floor with me.  It’s been a lot of hectic/unpredictable schedules, not enough sleep, and way too many meals consisting of protein powder + oatmeal + peanut butter. (Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is delicious, but it’s not exactly what I want for 2 meals every day for a week.)  Exhausting, yes…but just as exciting, if not more so.  So, when I think about it, life is still really good.

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Since my brainpower feels a little sapped right now, I thought I’d share something a little more lighthearted today.  I saw this “A-Z” survey floating around on a couple of blogs I frequent, and since yall have said that you like a little more of that personal pizazz, why not let the crazy all the way out?

It’s Friday, after all.

So here’s the survey (copied from Gina)…I’d love if you played along and answered a few of the questions for yourself in the comments!

{{ A-Z Survey }}

A – Age: 24 (25 in 3 weeks, Lord help me.)

B – Biggest Fear: I don’t talk about it. Biggest irrational fear? Birds, due to a traumatic childhood incident involving a charging goose.

C – Current Time: 1610

D – Drink You Had Last: a Monster Ultra Red.  I know, I know.

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: my dad

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F – Favorite Song:  Too many.  Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto makes me weak in the knees, “Pretty Little Adrianna” (Vince Gill) takes me back to my childhood, and the National Anthem leaves me a little bit choked up every damn time.  And…well, never mind, I’d be going on for days.

G – Grossest Memory: Not sure it’s the grossest, but this past week I had to clean out a dog cage after an incident I call “Shitsplosion 2015.”

H – Hometown: Nashville, TN.  The south will always feel like home.

I – In Love With: my new queen-size snuggle nest.  (Bought a twin at a great deal; they sent me a queen on accident and told me I could keep it.  Don’t you just hate when that happens?)

snuggle nest 2015

J – Jealous Of:  People who can dance.  All I can do is shake my rear end, and even that just ends up looking like J-Lo having a seizure.

K – Kindest Person You Know:  my sister, Claire.  My brother and I call her a unicorn, because she’s so sweet and giving that it’s hard to believe she’s real.

claire unicorn

L – Longest Relationship:  Hahahaha.

M – Middle Name: Magdalena (“Maggie”)

N – Number of Siblings: Three.  I’m the oldest, and yes, I fit the stereotype.

O – One Wish:  That I didn’t require sleep.  Can you imagine how much more productive life would be?

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last:  probably a client.

Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “So, what are you?” This is always in reference to my ethnicity…if you’re wondering, the answer is in this post.  And recently, “Did you do something to your hair?”  The answer is, “Yes, and now I’m a step closer to being a mermaid.”

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R – Reason To Smile: I’m above ground, I have a job, I have the best family in the world, and I live in the best nation on the planet.

S – Song You Last Sang: an old hymn – “Nothing But The Blood” – while putzing around the breakroom at work. One of my favorites (told yall I couldn’t pick just one).

T – Time You Woke Up: 5am.  And then realized I wasn’t fooling anyone, decided to forgo that early morning jog, and slept for another hour and a half.  It was freaking luxurious.

U – Underwear Color:  What underwear?

V – Vacation Destination: Ireland, Canada, Norway, Israel, and Greece (yes, in spite of their economic issues).  Not necessarily in that order.

W – Worst Habit: Worrying.  Drinking more coffee than necessary.  Forgetting to wear underwear to work.

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: Teeth, obviously, and spine (the one and only time I visited a chiropractor, and it was the most rachet old x-ray machine I’ve ever seen).

Y – Your Favorite Food: Stir-fried cabbage and this potato-peanut stew I’ve made before.

Z – Zodiac Sign: Leo, I think.

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Tell me…

Your turn! Chime in on a few of the above questions in the comments below.  I’d love to hear your answers!

Any of yall doing something crazy, wild, or otherwise noteworthy this weekend?