Fitness Favorites – 2014 Gift Guide

It’s time for me to face facts. Christmas is one month from today, and that means I need to start seriously thinking about gift strategy for my friends and family. I’m planning to make a lot of my gifts this year – I like the more personal touch and hope the recipients value the gifts that much more since they were handmade.

With all that said, I’m definitely no stranger to consumerism, and I’m guilty of being a bit of a compulsive shopper. I wanted to share some of my favorite purchases from the past year – the fitness lover in your life would be glad to receive any of these! In anticipation of this weekend’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I wanted to put this gift guide together – scout around and I bet you can find some awesome sales on some of these items! Don’t forget to sign up for an Ebates account before you start your online Christmas shopping; their new browser button lets you know when there are cash back rewards available while you’re surfing through online shops, so you never miss a deal.

Fitness Favorites Gift Ideas

Women’s UA ColdGear Infrared Crew
I can’t imagine surviving ski season without UnderArmour’s ColdGear line. The infrared technology reflects your body heat to help keep you warm. I have a few of these basic crews and they are fantastic!

Shimano black velcro shoes
For the spin junkie in your life, a set of cycling shoes is well worth the investment. If you aren’t sure of sizing, give a gift card to a local bike shop – they’ll ensure proper fit and make sure the cleats are positioned correctly.

Ugg dakota slipper
I am a basic bitch and I am totally fine with that. I couldn’t survive winter barre and yoga classes without these slippers waiting for me at the end of the session!

Garmin watch
This is the basic Garmin model, and it’s well suited to novice or casual runners. I had previously used my cell phone to track my runs and I appreciate being able to see my stats with a quick glance at my wrist. I especially love the interval training option.

Lululemon circle scarf
The basic Vinyasa scarf is a staple from Lululemon for good reason. It can be worn so many different ways! I love having it to throw on after class, and it’s also a staple when I’m traveling.

lululemon The Mat
This yoga mat is worth every penny. I don’t love the texture that you find in many yoga mats – the smooth surface of this mat doesn’t irritate my skin, and I never slip even in the hottest classes.

bliss ‘Bathing Brilliance’ Set
I’m obsessed with Bliss products. This lemon + sage shower gel lives in my gym bag, and their body butter combats even the worst winter dry skin.

Trigger Point Performance the Grid Revolutionary Foam Roller
Foam rolling has totally changed my life – I feel so much better when I take the time to roll out my muscles after a challenging class or a long run. I love the bright color of this model!

Polar FT4F
This is the go-to heart rate monitor that all of the girls at the studio use to track their burn. It’s a basic model but it gets the job done! I find both the watch and the chest strap very comfortable to wear during class.

If you’re still looking for more ideas, check out Amanda’s post at Run to the Finish – she’s hosting a fitness gift guide link up where other wellness bloggers are sharing their ideas for this holiday season of giving.

What health or fitness related gifts would you love to find under your tree this year? Let me know in the comments – maybe it will become a favorite worth including on my 2015 gift list!

Thanksgiving Strategy

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love Thanksgiving. I didn’t get to this place by skipping the stuffing and mashed potatoes, folks. I love food, and Thanksgiving is filled with some of my favorite things to eat. I want to make sure I enjoy the holiday, but I also don’t want to overdo it. I have my #6W2C midway check in on Saturday and I would hate for lingering turkey belly to show up for measurements! I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so I wanted to share some of my ideas for staying on track this week.

surviving thanksgiving


Make smart swaps. Wherever possible, I’m looking at our planned menu and identifying ways that I can save calories without sacrificing flavor. Here are a few of the things I’ll be doing on Thursday:

  • We always make spinach dip to eat during the early football game. The traditional dip is loaded with calories – mayo AND sour cream! served in a bread bowl with more bread on the side! – but there are ways to lighten it up. I’ll double the amount of spinach so that more of the bulk comes from veggies than from dip, and I’ll be using greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. I’m also providing cut up veggies alongside the bread for a healthier option to dip.
  • My family’s stuffing recipe is built around Jimmy Dean sausage, because there’s no better way to stuff a turkey than with some dead pig (delicious, delicious dead pig). My father would disown me if I tried to mess with this recipe, so I had to look for other ways to lighten up our family gathering. I decided that rather than pan searing the brussel sprouts in bacon drippings, I would roast them with butternut squash and olive oil. No need to incorporate more unnecessary pork products (though delicious. so, so delicious) into an already caloric meal!
  • I’ll be cutting way back on drinking during the day. I love beer during football as much as any girl, and who doesn’t love a bloody mary when prepping the turkey to go in the oven? But at the end of the day, I don’t want to waste calories on alcohol. I picked out a delicious wine to savor with the meal, but otherwise I’ll be sipping soda water throughout the day.

Get out of the kitchen. It’s really tempting to spend the whole day hanging out in the kitchen. We have an open concept kitchen/family room, so it would be really easy to spend all day either sneaking bites of stuffing from the bird (salmonella? what’s that?) or hanging out on the couch watching football. Instead of giving in to this, I like to plan activities into the day. I will be meeting my cousins for coffee in Boston in the morning before we all head off for our holiday plans, and I’ll take advantage of the opportunity to park away from the coffee shop so I can enjoy a nice walk. I’ll also take the dog out for an extra-long walk midday. This will help both of us – he’ll need to let off his pent up energy, and I’ll walk off some of my football snacks before the big meal. (Let’s just hope Boston weather cooperates and doesn’t rain out these plans!)

Choose a smaller plate. This is my favorite trick, even though it drives my mom absolutely up a wall. Plates have gotten steadily larger over the years, and the average dinner plate is so big that it’s easy to overeat. I really do like to have a little bit of everything from the Thanksgiving table, so if I start with a smaller plate, I can fill it with my favorite foods while forcing myself to use smaller portions. It makes my mom crazy that my plate doesn’t match the rest of her table setting, but it’s a strategy that I use all the time in my regular life. Smaller plates = smaller portions!

Take time to enjoy the day. Yes, the meal is a highlight of the day – but it’s not the only thing to enjoy. Make sure you’re taking time to appreciate the people that you’re spending the day with. Share what you’re grateful for over dinner. Catch up with the family members you haven’t seen in a while, and reflect on the previous year. The more the conversation flows over dinner, the more time you’ll take to eat your meal. You spent all day cooking, so dinner shouldn’t be over in twenty minutes! By taking time to enjoy the company and the experience of the meal, you’ll naturally slow down the pace at which you’re eating, and that will give your body time to realize that you’re full. Wait to take seconds – chances are you don’t actually want the extra portions!

Stay active this week – No excuses!  I planned out my workouts for the week, and I will follow through on every commitment, no matter what. I’ve been battling a sinus infection and it’s really tempting to just drown myself in Sudafed and hide from the world, but this week it is especially important to follow through on my workout plans. I’ve got a good mix of cardio and strength training Monday through Wednesday. I’m kicking Thanksgiving day off with an early spin class, and I’m signed up for Turkey Bootcamp with a group of girlfriends for Friday morning. Staying active this week will help me to think about my long term goals and make the right choices elsewhere in life.

Most importantly, remember that this is only one day out of the year. Practice moderation and make good choices, and remember that this day should be about enjoying the time you get to spend with the people you love. Plan for success, but don’t get so caught up in making healthy choices that you forget to savor the day – and the meal.

How are you setting yourself up for success this holiday season?

Friday Favorites: 11/21

I am officially starting to have holiday season panic. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is a week away – and I’m also starting to freak out that I haven’t done any preparation for Christmas! I’ve been seeing some great gift guide features out there on ye olde interwebs and it’s definitely got me thinking about my own gift-giving plans. I’ve heard some awesome ideas from friends and I have a few tricks up my sleeve, so I will hopefully have some holiday-themed Friday Favorites coming up in the near future. No such theme today, though – just my usual rambling about things that I’m loving this week.

I’m joining with Heather @ Housewife Glamour, Katie @ Running4Cupcakes, and Clare @ Fitting It All In for today’s link up. Make sure to check out these awesome hosts and show some love to the other bloggers joining in this link up!

Favorite Ingredient: Trader Joe’s Goat Cheese Medallions

I looooove goat cheese. Love it. It’s one of my favorite cheeses to use in omelets, and spreading it on raw bell pepper slices is a terrific afternoon snack. The problem is that when presented with a whole log of fresh chevre, I have a serious problem with only consuming an appropriate portion size. Food addiction is a real problem, folks. Enter Trader Joe’s Goat Cheese Medallions. I don’t know where these have been all my life, but I stumbled on them when shopping last week and they changed my life. Each medallion is a perfect one ounce serving, which at 70 calories, 6g fat and 5g protein is a reasonable serving to use in an omelet, crumbled on a salad, or spread on your favorite veggies. I also appreciate that they’re vacuum sealed, which ensures a longer shelf life — not that these will have much of a chance to linger in my fridge given how much I love them!

Favorite Winter Essential: Packable Down Coat

Thanks, google images, for rustling this up for me. This is what I have to offer all of you because attempting to take a full body selfie in my cubicle wearing my jacket just wasn’t working out for me today.

This fall, I stumbled across a long, hooded Michael Kors packable down coat at Marshall’s for only $99. The coat could be compressed into a small pouch for packing, which was my primary motivation for buying it, but it has recently become a staple in my winter coat wardrobe. I can’t believe how lightweight this coat is! It doesn’t add any bulk, but it does an amazing job of blocking the wind – and with the polar vortex descending once again, I will take whatever I can get to battle the winter. There are similar versions on sale right now at Lord and Taylor — this longer version is similar to the one I have, but I also think this shorter version is stylish and versatile. Highly recommend!

Favorite Gif: Clay Matthews!

There’s a lot to love in the new Pitch Perfect 2 trailer that launched yesterday, but my brain totally stalled out when I saw this clip. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m a Patriots fan through and through and always will be… but I have a soft spot in my heart for Clay Matthews. Back in 2010, Clay Matthews partnered with Cadillac and to run a PSA during that year’s football season about the importance of funding research to find a cure for the disease. My brother Michael passed away from Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy in 2002, so this is a cause that’s near and dear to my heart… and it doesn’t hurt that Clay’s pretty easy on the eyes. I’m pumped to see the movie for many reasons, but I seriously cannot wait for this scene.

Favorite Playlist: Acoustic Lounge

My love for Spotify is well documented. Their Throwback Thursday playlist has given me a reason to look forward to Thursdays, and I maintain that the $10 I spend on my premium membership is the best $10 I spend every month. I recently stumbled across their Acoustic Lounge playlist, and it’s become my go-to workplace playlist. It’s a mix of acoustic versions of songs by their original artists and acoustic covers of songs. One cover – Diana Krall’s version of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” – actually inspired a post that I hope to share within the next week or two, so be on the lookout for that.

What are you loving this week? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out the linkup! 

Disclaimer: I don’t receive compensation for mentioning any of the above — though if someone would like to deliver Clay Matthews to my doorstep, I certainly wouldn’t complain!

Tackling tempation

I don’t know about the rest of you, but willpower and I don’t really get along all that well. More than anything, I really struggle with temptation. If there’s candy in my desk drawer, I’m going to eat it. If I open a bag of snacks, I’m not going to stop after the recommended serving size. At parties, I can’t just try a sampling of the appetizers; I park myself next to whatever is most delicious and munch away. With the holidays coming up, I know that temptation is going to be confronting me at every turn. I’ve committed to both #6W2C and #Fit4Fifteen to help myself stay on track through the end of the holiday season, but those challenges aren’t going to take me all the way on their own. I also need to employ some handy tricks to keep myself on track.

Tip #1: Pre-portion all snacks as soon as you get home from the grocery store. 

photo 3 (1)

I did my grocery shopping at the new Market Basket in my town last night, and I was super excited to find this Cedar’s Spinach Dip, made with Greek yogurt. Cedar’s is based in the Merrimack Valley, here in MA, and I’m a huge fan of their products. They’ve also been generous donors to the youth conference I volunteer with in the past, so I like to support them whenever I can. At only 50 calories per serving, this is a great thing to have on hand for an afternoon snack with pretzels or cut up vegetables. However, I know that if I were to just start dunking carrot sticks directly in that tub of dip, I’d exceed the recommended serving before I knew it. To ward off any temptation, I picked up small snack size dip containers and pre-portioned out the tub as soon as I got home. The tub contained twelve 50-calorie servings, so I portioned it into six small cups to have at work as an afternoon snack this week.

Tip #2: Stock your kitchen with healthy, nourishing snacks. 

You know the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”? In my kitchen, it’s “Colleen see, Colleen eat.” If you keep your biggest temptations on hand, you’re more likely to eat them. Bypass those aisles at the grocery store and resist the urge to add tempting foods to your cart. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only have those cookies once a week as a special treat, but we know that’s a lie. That ice cream will definitely not be for PMS emergencies only, and I don’t care how much you swear that you’re only buying those chocolate chips as an addition to protein pancakes, we both know those will end up getting eaten by the handful after a bad day at work. Try instead to make sure that you always have plenty of healthy foods on hand that still feel like you’re giving yourself a treat. Avocados are one of my favorite healthy treat foods – adding them to eggs or mashing them on toast feels so indulgent, but I’m getting the healthy fats that my body needs. I also always have apples, hard boiled eggs, and preportioned baggies of turkey or beef jerkey on hand. These are all snacks that are easy to grab and go if I’m in a rush, and they fill me up and satisfy me without destroying my healthy eating plan for the day.

Tip #3: The freezer is your friend. 

I could pretend that my kitchen is a place where you will find only healthy, nutritious food items. This would be a lie. Yes, I do try to avoid keeping tempting foods around, but I’m human, and sometimes a girl needs a Snickers. I keep a bag of fun sized Snickers bars in my freezer at all times. That way, if I decide I really do want a little chocolate treat, I can go for just one bar. The bar needs to thaw a bit before it’s edible (unless I want to break a tooth!) and that time helps me to limit myself to just the single serving, and to be mindful that I’m treating myself to this snack.

Tip #4: Don’t go to holiday parties on an empty stomach.

photo 2 (1)

I always have a snack before I go to a holiday party. It’s easier to resist all the tempting appetizers if you’ve already got something healthy in your stomach. I might make a half serving size of Shakeology, or I might grab a handful of almonds and an apple. It’s also a good idea to have a full glass of water before you leave for any holiday events, and to keep drinking water throughout the night. Hydrating will help you feel fuller, and it will also keep you from overindulging in the holiday punch! I know that my already weak willpower becomes completely nonexistent after a few glasses of festive sangria.

Tip #5: Plan ahead.

When I go out to eat, I like to read the menu online ahead of time and plan out what I’m going to eat. This gives me time to think about healthy substitutions so I won’t delay my dining companions when we’re all ready to order. It also lets me preview both appetizers and desserts so I can decide where I’d rather splurge. This type of planning can be harder if you’re attending a party hosted in someone’s home, but there are ways around this! Call the host and ask if there’s anything you can contribute to the event. Maybe you can bring a healthy appetizer option, or prepare a side dish that utilizes lots of delicious vegetables without drowning them in butter or cream.

Tip #6: Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! 

At the end of the day, the holidays should be about having a good time with the people you care most about. Don’t get so caught up in trying to make healthy decisions that you forget to have a good time. It’s okay if you slip up. No one is perfect! This is all about finding balance. Set yourself up to succeed by reducing temptation wherever possible, and you’ll find that your slip ups are few far between. And if you do overindulge on pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving, well, at least it’s only one day out of the year. Get up and go for a run the next day, and remember that every day is a new chance to start over and make healthier choices.

What are some of the ways you resist temptation?
Share your favorite tips in the comments!

Fitnasty for Life
This post is my contribution to this week’s #fit4fifteen link up, hosted by Carolyn over at Fitnasty for Life. Make sure to check out some of the other awesome bloggers in the link up – they’ve all got great stories to share!

Friday Favorites: Nov 14

Someday, all the lovely drafts I have waiting for my attention will see the light of day. Someday, they will become real posts. I promise I have lots of very valid excuses for the slow posting week! Once we get past November in my office, my real-world job should get back to a normal number of hours and leave me with some more time for this here blog.

I had my official measurements yesterday for the #6W2C challenge I’m doing at Studio Poise. I was bracing myself for bad news — seriously, October was a terrible horrible no-good very-bad month when it came to eating and exercising. However, I actually held steady in my legs and arms, and my chest, waist and hips are comparable to where I was at the midpoint of my previous challenge, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I also wore jeans this morning that were a celebratory down-a-size purchase earlier in the summer, so it just goes to show, don’t trust the scale. I have been doing a lot more lifting and strength training and I’m excited to see that pay off as I clean up my diet and get back into the clean eating, meal-prep swing of things.

With that good news out of the way, how about we dive into a little Friday Favorites? Once again, I’m linking up with Housewife Glamour, Fitting It All In, and Running4Cupcakes. Make sure to check out the linkups and share some love with the other bloggers participating!

Favorite New Kitchen Purchase: TFal Nonstick Pan

Embarrassing confession: I have a master’s degree and graduated from an Ivy League university, but I was 29 years old before I learned how to properly cook an egg. I shudder to think about how much money I gave to local breakfast joints for egg sandwiches before I mastered the art of a fried egg! Omelets, however, continued to elude me. I just could not get the hang of it – until this pan entered my life. The nonstick surface is amazing, and the heat indicator in the center of the pan tells me when it’s time to add the eggs. BAM, suddenly I can cook omelets like a pro. And yes… this does mean I’ve had an omelet for dinner pretty much every night this week after getting home from the gym. I am keeping the egg industry in business these days.

Favorite Treat Yo’ Self Moment: Sunday Dinner at Loretta’s 

Country bar demands country hair. Also, is it just me, or do drinks just taste better when served in mason jars?

Country bar demands country hair. Also, is it just me, or do drinks just taste better when served in mason jars?

Have I mentioned that I really, REALLY love country music? I do. A lot. So when I needed to pick a place to meet friends for dinner and drinks Sunday night before the Andrew McMahon concert, I suggested Loretta’s Last Call, a relatively new addition to the Fenway area here in Boston. I had heard good things about the food there – yummy Southern homestyle cooking! – and the drinks were supposed to be amazing (ALL. THE. MOONSHINE.) We were super excited to find that they had a band playing covers of current pop-country to accompany our dinner. The vibe of the place was great! Now, this dinner definitely fell into the “cheat meal” category, but I had taken a spin class earlier that day and was prepared to dance my butt off at the concert, so I didn’t feel too bad. I will also say that compared to some other Southern restaurants I’ve been to, both in Boston and elsewhere, the portions at Loretta’s felt very reasonable. Sure, you’re still eating fried chicken, but it’s not an entire bird on your plate plus a mountain of sides, so it’s not as unhealthy as it could be. I’m really excited to come back here with friends who are bigger fans of country music, as I think they’ll love the place as much as I did!

Favorite Beauty Tool: Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1

I swear, as soon as November hits, my skin starts warring against me. My lips, in particular, are definitely NOT fans of cold weather. I have had issues with chapped and peeling lips for my entire life, and I’ve tried basically every lip balm on the market – from the $2 Chapstick at the CVS checkout all the way up to the super pricy Fresh Sugar Lip Balm (which IS amazing… but I can’t justify $25 for a tube of something that I am absolutely 100% going to lose multiple times over the course of the winter). I got a tube of Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 in a gift set a few winters ago, and it totally changed my life. I have tubes of this stashed everywhere – in my purse, in my desk drawer at work, in the pocket of my ski jacket, you get the picture. At $7, it’s a price I’m comfortable spending, especially since the tube seems to last forever. It’s the only thing that can keep my lips looking and feeling good through the harsh New England winters. I like to look for gift sets around this time of year – Kiehl’s offers great gift combos, and last year I picked up several 4-packs of the lip balm in a variety of flavors. I gave them out as stocking stuffers for friends, and kept a few for myself, as well.

Disclaimer: I haven’t been paid by any of the above-referenced companies. These are all things I genuinely love, and I’m not getting anything in return for mentioning them on this lil’ blog. 

Finding the why

As I mentioned last week, I’m doing another Six Weeks to Chic challenge at Studio Poise. I’ve done this challenge twice before, once in Summer 2013 and again in spring of 2014, and I’ve been really happy with the results both times. I’m very excited to be kicking off another challenge and looking forward to holding myself to a higher standard for the coming weeks, in the hopes of resetting my habits on the healthier track.

As I embark on this challenge, I thought about sharing another #MotivationMonday post jammed with Pinterest-worthy quotes and sources of inspiration, but then I realized that I would benefit more from deeper reflection about why I decided to tackle another challenge. For each of the previous sessions, I had a clear goal in mind.

The Summer 2013 session coincided with two weddings. I was motivated to look my best for those events, and participating in the challenge kept me on target while traveling. I even managed to convince some of my friends to rent bikes to ride around Sonoma wine country during one of those wedding trips! We got to see more of the beautiful vineyards this way, and the ride also offset the calories consumed at the vineyards we visited (because you can bet that I wasn’t spitting out those wine tastings!) If you’re ever in Sonoma, I highly recommend this plan – we rented from Sonoma Country Cyclery and had a great time. vineyard bikes

For Spring 2014, the challenge’s conclusion coincided with my 29th birthday. I had planned a big birthday event at Cadillac Ranch and had about 20 friends coming together, so I was super motivated to look and feel my best. I wanted to be in great shape heading into the summer, and that was enough to keep me on target. I loved how I felt after that challenge, and I actually did a pretty good job of continuing to follow the meal plan through most of the summer.

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor...

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor…

However, as I head into this challenge, I’m in a very different place. As I’ve previously acknowledged, this fall has been really rocky for me. I’m not maintaining good habits in my diet, I’m not making it to as many classes, and I generally feel like I’ve let my health become less of a priority. I signed up for the challenge to get back on track, but if I’m really going to stick with it, I need to spend some time considering – why do I want to get back on track? 

We all need to find our own why. In the past, I’ll admit, my motivation largely had to do with my physical appearance. I wasn’t happy with how I looked. As I’ve progressed, though, I’ve realized that this is about so much more than the size of my jeans. I’m gaining real benefits from living a healthier lifestyle, and I need to remind myself of those gains so that I can push myself through the times when it’s all to tempting to give up.

So, what’s my why? Good question.

I feel more energized when I’m eating well and exercising regularly. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to commit to too many things. I have a demanding full time job, I serve on the board of directors for a youth leadership organization, and I like to fill my free time with adventures, whether that means visiting friends in New York City or trying new fitness classes. It might seem counterintuitive – time spent exercising is time that I can’t devote to these other commitments! – but skipping my healthy habits actually made it harder to keep up with a demanding schedule. I need to take care of my body if I’m going to put such crazy demands on it!

I sleep better when I’m following a healthy living routine. I have had problems with insomnia my entire life. I took ambien for a while, and even did a sleep study a few years back to try to ascertain why I felt tired all the time. When I am exercising regularly and eating healthy meals, I found that my sleep problems basically disappeared. I was falling asleep more easily, I wasn’t waking up multiple times throughout the night, and I felt well rested when my alarm went off in the morning. All that has flown out the window over the past few months. I lay awake for an hour or more trying to fall asleep every night, and I hit the snooze button multiple times every morning because I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m hoping that restoring my wellness habits will also lead to better sleep.

My mental health benefits when I’m taking care of my physical health. The hour a day that I spend working out is one of the very few opportunities I have to unplug and turn off my brain. When I’m on the mat, or riding a spin bike, or shimmying in a Zumba class, I’m not worrying about my clients or thinking about my to do list. I turn everything off and just let myself enjoy the moment. When I don’t work out, I lose that opportunity to tune everything else out, and it has a noticeably negative impact on my overall mental health. Stressful situations impact me to a greater degree, and I had a more negative outlook on life in general. When I’m making healthy choices, though, it has a trickle down effect and dramatically improves my ability to maintain a positive mentality and attitude.

There’s more to all of this than the size of my clothes. I’m going to be constantly warring with myself over this. I can’t deny that it feels good to reach for smaller sizes when I’m shopping, and I do appreciate receiving compliments on how I look, but that can’t be my primary motivation for pursuing fitness and wellness. I honestly don’t consider myself a vain person, and I would like to think that I’m not someone who is overly concerned with appearances, but I can’t deny that my own appearance has been a driving force in fitness endeavors for my entire life. This is the area I really want to personally focus on during this challenge – concentrating on my whys and the benefits of wellness and celebrating those, instead of glorifying the size of my jeans. 

To further help with my accountability through the holidays, I’m joining a linkup hosted by Fitnasty For Life, joining with other bloggers as we work to get #Fit4Fifteen. I’ll update this post with the link up when it’s available at the end of this week!


So tell me in the comments… What’s your why?

Friday Favorites: 11/7

Is anyone else feeling like this week deserves an extra-special celebration just for getting through to Friday? I don’t know if it’s because of the time change or just an exceptionally crazy time at work, but this week has been rough. I am looking forward to the weekend, even if it is jam-packed. Without further ado, let’s jump into this week’s roundup!

Favorite Fall Recipe: Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

Image courtesy of PopSugar – click through for recipe.

I never really loved squash when I was a kid, but I’ve come around as an adult, and now I look forward to autumn because it means the return of tasty squash-based dishes! Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite fall recipes, but it can be deceivingly high in calories if you add heavy cream to thicken it. FitSugar shared this dairy-free slow cooker recipe earlier this week, and I made it yesterday. It made six 2-cup servings (I love these Ziploc containers for soup – they seal really well so I don’t have to worry about lunch bag leaks, and they hold a perfect 2 cup serving). Each serving comes in under 300 calories. I’ll likely eat the full two cups for a filling lunch, or have half a serving alongside a salad or sandwich. I love the idea of using white beans in place of dairy to cut calories while retaining the richness of the soup! I will say that this recipe, as provided by FitSugar, is a bit on the bland side. I used 4 cups vegetable stock and 2 cups chicken stock which helped, and next time I will bump up the spices – salt alone is not enough! This time around, I’ll likely add salt & pepper, and possibly a bit of hot sauce, to my servings when heating them up to kick up the flavor.

Favorite Fall Resolution: Use the Office Basement Gym!

Arms day in the office gym!

Earlier this year, my office building opened a new gym in the basement, which is free for all employees to use. It’s a small space and is pretty basic, but does have everything you need to fit in a decent workout. I find that between running, at-home DVDs and my studio classes, I’m getting plenty of cardio, but I could use more weight training in my life. Body Pump has filled that need at home, but I don’t always feel like waking up early to do a DVD. I made a resolution to begin using the work gym more often, and to help with this commitment, a friend and I set up biweekly gym appointments in our Outlook calendar. I love having someone to help keep me accountable, and I’m using this time to focus more on weights and on strength exercises. On Tuesday I tried out these resistance band exercises with mixed results – my legs were so sore the next day but I didn’t love the core or arms offerings, so I’m on the hunt for more types of band exercises to try (please leave recommendations in the comments if you’ve got any that you really love!) And yesterday, I focused on arms. I did Body Pump Pump & Burn at home before work, but that 35-minute DVD focuses on legs, core, and back. I didn’t want to neglect my arms, and this printable workout was perfect. I started with 10lb weights and hope to build up from there!

Favorite Shopping Find: Ebates!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Okay, maybe I am really behind the times here, but a friend recently told me about Ebates and I am totally jazzed about the site. Retailers pay Ebates a fee for referring shoppers to their sites. When you make a purchase, those retailers pay Ebates – and Ebates returns a percentage of that income to you! The homepage features sales and deals, and they also have promotions for double or triple cash back. Earlier this week Nordstrom was 9% back in combination with their clearance sale, so my first Ebates purchase earned me almost $15 cash back! I’m not getting paid to advertise this site, I just think it’s a really smart way to get some money back if you’re already a high volume online shopper. Check it out and sign up today! (Disclaimer – while I’m not being paid for this, the link above is an affiliate link — I do get a bonus if you sign up using my link. Thank you for your support!)

Housewife Glamour

You may have noticed that the title this week changed from “Friday Roundup” to “Friday Favorites.” I’m linking up with Housewife Glamour, Running4Cupcakes and Fitting it All In for their Friday Favorites series! Check her out and click around to some of the other bloggers sharing their favorite things from this week. Have a great weekend!