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Christmas Baking, part 1

I’ve always liked baking, there’s something about a homemade cookie that is just so much better than anything you can buy! I don’t bake a lot during the year, but once the Christmas season comes around, I tend to go a little crazy with the baked goods, making more than enough to share with my friends and family.

These recipes are by no means healthy…they’re filled with sugar, but they ARE delicious, and frankly, that’s what matters! Moderation is key when it comes to sweet treats, but there’s no reason not to enjoy them!

chocolate-chip.jpg

 

Jello Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • this is my Mom’s recipe, and has been a fan favorite for years. The jello pudding keeps the cookies light and fluffy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 (3.5oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 c. chocolate chips/m&m’s/nuts, etc.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Cream together butter and sugars
  3. Add in pudding mix, vanilla, and eggs
  4. Mix together flour and baking soda, and slowly add to the creamed mixture
  5. Fold in chocolate chips
  6. Form into balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or lightly browned

oreo truffles

Oreo Truffles

  • this is a Kraft recipe I have made the past five years! It’s simple, fast, and only requires 3 ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 36 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
  • 1 pkg. (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 pkg semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces

Directions:

  1. In a food processor/blender, blend the oreo cookies until they are a fine dust
  2. Reserve 1/4 c. of the cookies
  3. Mix together the cream cheese and remaining cookie crumbs
  4. Form cookie mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a lined baking sheet
  5. Freeze for 10 minutes
  6. Melt chocolate using a double broiler
  7. Dip cream cheese balls into the chocolate, and place back onto the lined baking sheet
  8. Sprinkle the tops with the reserved cookie crumbs
  9. Refrigerate 1 hour, or until firm

brittle.jpg

Popcorn Peanut Brittle

  • this is great because it’s sweet & salty, and only needs a microwave!

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 4 c. popped popcorn
  • 1 c. roasted peanuts
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. mini m&m’s

Directions:

  1. Stir together sugar and corn syrup in a large bowl
  2. Microwave for 1 minute
  3. Stir in butter, popcorn, and peanuts
  4. Microwave for 3-5 minutes, or until sugar begins to caramelize
  5. Stir in baking soda, vanilla, and m&m’s
  6. Pour onto a greased baking sheet
  7. Let cool completely
  8. Break apart and serve

thumbprints

Chocolate Blossoms

  • rich, chocolate, and the kiss in the middle melts just enough to make it even more delicious

Ingredients:

  • ½ c. butter
  • ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp, baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 30 Hershey’s kisses (unwrapped)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and set aside
  3. Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy
  4. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat until smooth
  5. Add the dry ingredients slowly until combined
  6. Mix in the milk until smooth
  7. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then roll in the 1/4 c. sugar
  8. Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet
  9. Bake for 10 minutes
  10. Immediately remove cookies from baking sheet onto a cooling rack, and let cool for 6 minutes
  11. Gently press cookies into the top and let cool completely
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My Best Body

As soon as I had doctor’s clearance to resume exercise following my surgery this year, it was an easy decision on what program to use to get back in the gym and back in shape; My Best Body. I have actually attempted this program three times before, but due to my health problems, I wasn’t ever able to move past week 3. This time though, I was able to successfully complete ALL 13 weeks, without ever missing a workout. My results and overall thoughts are at the end of this post, but first the skinny about this amazing program and its creator!

MBB11

What is My Best Body?

My Best Body (gym) was created by Abbie Sterling, and is a 13 week holistic strength-training program that incorporates three stages of training: stabilization/muscle endurance, hypertrophy and power training.

Who is Abbie?

Abbie Sterling is a NASM certified personal trainer in Orlando, Florida, who works as a Personal Trainer at Anytime Fitness Windermere. You can find her on Instagram: @corporate_sneakers to see tons of (FREE) helpful videos, workout tips, adorable pictures of her wiener dog Loki, and just an overall inspiring account. One of my favorite things about Abbie is how genuinely inspiring she is, while remaining REAL. She doesn’t sugar coat or hide her bad days or struggles, and still posts her accomplishments without a ton of photoshop or a professional photographer. She shoots the photos for her home guide in her garage. This girl is as normal as you and me. She still likes to go out and have some beers with her boyfriend, eat delicious carby food, but still works her butt off in the gym. She believes in balanced, sustainable training, and understands the importance of not overtraining, and fueling your body rather than starving it.

Why do You Trust Her to Design a Program?

Abbie not only is a certified NASM personal trainer, she works in a gym teaching group fitness classes, and provides one-on-one training to a growing client base. She ensured that this weight program would be both effective and safe by first testing it herself and then having 10 trial participants test it before it was officially released.

She tells you on the introduction of this guide that it is not a “get abs quick”, “lose 100lbs in 13 weeks” or “earn a front-page-worthy body” program, and it’s not – it is not only about becoming physically stronger, it’s about finding your best self inside of you as well.

She took the necessary time to make it perfect, rather than slapping something together just to get a product on the market, and I assure you, the wait was worth it! Overtraining and injuries are something that she personally experienced (read her blog about overtraining here), so she spent a lot of time creating a program that would avoid these types of problems, while also avoiding boredom by ensuring each workout is unique and challenging.

She also is incredibly active on her Instagram (especially when you consider how busy this girl is with her classes, clients, and running her own business), posting a ton of videos to help with form, stretches, tips to understand the movements in order to do them correctly, and is amazing at answering questions. I’m fortunate that Abbie and I have become friends this year and I can just text her really quickly if I need to ask something (which isn’t often because she has made the guide so clear, I think I SOS’d her once and if I had read her resource guide properly I wouldn’t have needed to), but I know from previous experience that she will always answer comments or DM’s! It may not be an instant response, but I don’t know a lot of trainers who offer this kind of support at all unless you are one-on-one training with them.

Abbie focuses on form over speed, quality over quantity, and offers progressions and regressions for most exercises so that the program is customizable for your own level. It is not a cookie cutter program, and one which she poured a ton of research, science, and her NASM education into in order to allow each person who purchases this guide and follows it to develop their best body.

What Are These 3 Phases in the Program?

Phase ONE: Stabilization & Strength Endurance – 3 weeks
  • focusing on balance, coordination, increasing stabilization muscle strength, and muscle endurance
  • low weight, high rep exercises
  • heart rate tracking should remain in the lower zones
  • significantly fewer calories burnt than other high intensity workout programs
  • 45-60 minute workouts
  • NO CARDIO – this means all the food you eat goes towards building muscles and not being burnt away
    • a lot of people find the lack of cardio frightening and impossible, especially if they are transitioning from cardio based programs…TRUST the plan, because you run your BUTT off later in the program
  • form over speed

The exercise ball is utilized constantly these three weeks – I developed a major love/hate relationship with this thing, because it makes everything SO much harder, but it really helped with my balance later on in the program. There is a lot of emphasis on the core, and since my surgery involved a lot of work in my abdomen, I definitely found these challenging, but so necessary! The core is something that is needed for all movements, both in exercise and day-to-day movements, so this phase of the program really helped me not only ease back into exercise, it made a huge difference in obtaining back some of the core strength that I had lost.

The first two weeks also only have 4 workout days scheduled, allowing the body 3 rest days in order to adjust back into a fitness routine, and I definitely needed it since I was working entirely new muscle groups in a much more efficient manner after a long break, so the muscle soreness was intense! Foam rollers and stretching are definitely necessary on these rest days.

phase one sample
Phase 1, Week 1 Workout Split
Phase TWO: Hypertrophy – 5 weeks
  • increasing lean body mass with muscle, allowing the body to better metabolize food and increasing the number of calories your body burns in a day
  • low rep, higher weight exercises
  • heart rate tracking should remain in the lower zones
  • significantly fewer calories burnt than other high intensity workout programs
  • ~60 minute workouts
  • NO CARDIO until week 7, then medium intensity cardio for 2 weeks
  • concentric, isometric, and eccentric movements
  • 1 Rep Max (1RM) tests in weeks 4 and 8
  • form over speed

Each week I found I was able to increase my weights a little more than the last, there was always at least one exercise I had never done before, and the workouts never repeat themselves! 4-5 workouts a day for 5 weeks, and never repeating them ensured I was never bored and always challenged. I REALLY enjoyed this phase, pushing my limits, and learning my body’s capabilities.

Abbie also incorporates plenty of pull-up and chin-up progressions throughout these weeks, and I love that I am able to work on one of my goals throughout her program.

I have a very low resting heart rate, meaning burning a lot of calories for me is extremely difficult, but knowing that it wasn’t the focus of this type of training really helped me to focus solely on form, timing, and gradually increasing the weights I was able to use.

phase 2 sample
Phase 2, Week 5 Workout Split
 Phase THREE: Power Training – 5 weeks
  • burning fat, fat loss, toning, but maintaining the muscles built the past 8 weeks
  • high rep, low weight exercises
  • heart rate tracking should be in the upper zones
  • higher calories burnt than in previous stages
  • shorter workouts than phase 1&2, meaning work HARDER for a shorter period of time
  • sprints, circuit training, plyometrics, HIIT, cardio-based
  • timed Athlete Challenge in weeks 11 and 13
  • mentally challenging

Power training is hard. Really hard. After 5 weeks of hypertrophy, low reps and high weights, moving to workouts with high reps and low weights, as well as incorporating some plyometric movements, fast paced AMRAP’s (As Many Rounds As Possible) with no rests, and a lot more cardio, it was a whole new level of sweat.

I continued to do my workouts after work, but I made sure to not eat a heavy snack beforehand – jumping around or running made my stomach really unhappy if ate too much/too close to my workout time. Others recommend you do this phase in the morning on an empty stomach, but the timing just doesn’t work for me to be able to do this. I did however make sure I did the Athlete Challenges and any longer cardio on the weekends so that it could be the first thing I did in the morning.

This phase is not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging too. These aren’t easy workouts. They are definitely shorter than the first two phases, but you work harder during this time because the breaks are few and far between, whereas in phase 2 you would break between each set. I do love the AMRAP style of workout though, and was able to learn how to properly pace myself throughout the weeks in order to maximize my workout efficiency.

As much as I prefer bulking and hypertrophy, this stage is pivotal for fat loss, and Abbie has ensured she set it up so that you do not lose all the muscle gains you achieved in the first two phases.

phase 3 sample
Phase 3, Week 10 Workout Split

Hang on a second, 1RM Tests? Athlete Challenges? Did You Really Get Stronger/Faster?

I definitely did! The results below should speak for themselves. Abbie recommends you use a spotter for 1RM tests, but I often didn’t have this option so I either used the smith machine (which I could quickly lock into if it was too heavy) and always slowly built up to my new 1RM by increasing the weights 5-10lbs at a time.

The jump rope challenge and athlete challenge are extremely difficult, but so rewarding to see how much you can improve using her training style. I pushed myself as hard as I could during each of these attemps, but you can clearly see that my stamina, endurance, and abilities improved in the two weeks between challenges just by looking at the improvements in time!

1RM Exercise

Week 4

Week 8

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

70 lbs

90 lbs

Wide Stance Barbell Squat

135 lbs

 175 lbs
Sumo Deadlift  60 lbs  115 lbs
Medium Grip Bench Press  60 lbs  95 lbs

Challenge

Week 10/11

Week 12/13

Jump Rope Challenge  30.43  25.55
Athlete Challenge  18.34  16.35

What’s the Cost & What Do I Get if I Buy This Program?

My Best Body (gym) is available for purchase for a one-time fee of $79.99USD. This payment gives you a lifetime access to:

  • 13 weeks of unique, gym-based workouts
  • Instructional photos demonstrating each exercise
  • 4-5 workouts a week (45-60 min. each)
    • 59 workouts in total if you complete all optional workouts
  • Suggested warm-ups with every workout
  • Detailed guidance for each style of training
  • 13 weeks of pep talks from Abbie with post prompts to get you thinking about your journey and help set you up for long-term success
  • An extensive section on heart rate and heart rate monitors
  • Alternatives/progressions/regressions for many exercises
  • My Best Body Resource guide, a 68 page intensive exercise guide which has negated the need for me to ever YouTube an exercise again, as it is filled with:
    • complete text exercise library, for every movement in My Best Body
    • printable daily workout trackers to log all the weights and track progressions
resourceguide1
One of the many exercise explanations available in the Resource Guide

jot it down
Daily Workout Tracker Sample, available in the Resource Guide
As an accountant, you just KNOW I did the math on this. 59 workouts at $79.99 works out to $1.36USD/workout. As a Canadian, at our foreign exchange rate, the cost of her guide is approximately $98.00. This is still only $1.66CAD/workout. I can’t even buy a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee for that price, and I get a full and complete exercise guide, photo instruction, written instruction, a resource guide, and Abbie’s constant support/advice/guidance via social media and email, warm ups, heart rate monitor information, helpful videos and tips, and the ability to actually lift weights safely and effectively, progressing naturally into heavier movements.

I need to pay for a gym membership on top of this, but for my Anytime Fitness membership I pay $39.99/month. For $72/month I am all in on my fitness needs, and as I use the guide more and more, the cost per month for the guide itself decreases since it’s not a recurring fee (think about your return on investment for the nerdy types like me). For someone like me who requires structure, but not the commitment to a personal trainer (who can cost up to $50/half hour), this is definitely exceptional bang for your buck, plus My Best Body is safe, effective, and challenging.

Do I Really Need a Gym Membership?

Yes; this program very specifically requires a gym membership due to the amount of machines needed, cable exercises, and varied weight ranges as you progress through the program. This guide is priced to reflect this additional cost though, and is well worth the investment. If you really don’t want to join a gym, or even work out in a gym, Abbie is releasing My Best Body – Home on October 30, 2017, which can all be done at home with a few pieces of basic equipment.

Still Not Sure?

Good news! Abbie provides a FREE, yes free, 3 week trial program of MBB! This gives you a sample week of each phase, so that you can test out the program and understand how it’s set up, while still getting in some amazing workouts at no cost or commitment from you.

She has both the MBB Gym trial, and MBB Home trial available for download on her website.

My Results

Start
End of Phase 1 (3 weeks)
End of Phase 2 (8 weeks)
End of Phase 3 (13 weeks)
Day 1 vs. Day 91

 Overall Consensus

LOVE this program. Not only am I now confident in the gym, using all the machines, and don’t even think twice when I am the only girl in the gym surrounded by guys, I attained strength, muscles, and did this all without a single injury, unlike my previous workout program I followed where my knees and hips became a constant source of pain and required a lot of physiotherapy visits, which inevitably didn’t solve the problem since it was due to the training style I was following.

Unlike that plyometric, high-intensity, joint-injuring and muscle imbalance creating program which focused solely on speed and identical AMRAP style training and repeating the same workouts every other week which was boring and painful, MBB is stabilization, strength, and power training, cardio conditioning, weights, machines, and a variety of training methods from horizontal loading, to supersets, to trisets, to EMOM’s, HIITs, and AMRAPS. The workouts are never the same style or same movements, which keeps your body guessing, and your muscles growing. Not one single workout out of 59 is the same, and they are designed to create maximum body strength without injury or overtraining.

Cost-friendly, fun, challenging, and discovering strength I didn’t know I had? This is a program I will do again and again.

Interested in another opinion? Check out Jordanna’s MBB review here.

So…What’s Next?

Now it’s time to do My Best Body – Home! I will however be doing this in the gym instead of at home, since I am not one of those dedicated people who can actually work out at home. I need the structure of a gym, where I have no distractions like pets or television. Abbie created such an amazing program, that I can’t wait to dive right back into another beginning October 30, 2017! Time for another 13 weeks of heart pumping, muscle building, death by Abbie.

 

 

weak

Collagen

If you’re on any social media sites, you’ve probably seen the hype surrounding collagen online, and a ton of your favorite accounts posting all about it and the companies’ that produce it. Since I’m getting older (terrible, I know) and my collagen production will begin to decrease each year, this information made me want to add extra collagen to my daily routine

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a type of protein containing 19 amino acids, which the body produces naturally, and makes up about 30% of the proteins in our bodies. It is structural, maintaining elasticity, regeneration, and cohesion of skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones. It’s commonly referred to as the glue that keeps the body together.

There are three types of collagen in the body, I, II, and III:

Types I & III support skin, muscles, bones, hair, and nails. 90% of the collagen found in the body is comprised of these two types.

Type II collagen is a protein that make up the fluids and function in the cartilage and joints.

What are Collagen Peptides?

Peptides are compounds that are formed from two or more amino acids. Collagen peptides are broken down molecular bonds between collagen strands into peptides. This allows the body to easily absorb them.

What is Collagen Made From?

Collagen can be sourced from bovine, fish, chicken or egg shell membranes.

  • Bovine collagen is a naturally occurring protein found in cartilage, bones, and hides of cows. It contains both types I and III collagen, supporting skin, hair, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, gums, teeth, eyes, and blood vessels.
  • Fish collagen is easily absorbed and contains mostly type I collagen, with the amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. It is beneficial for joints, skin, vital organs, blood vessels, digestion and bones.
  • Chicken collagen contains mostly type II collagen and is beneficial for joint health as it, and also provides chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both contain anti-aging effects.
  • Egg shell membrane collagen is found in the shells and whites of eggs, containing mostly type I collagen. It is beneficial for building connective tissue, healing wounds, building muscle mass, and reducing pain and stiffness.

Foods that Naturally Boost Collagen:

  • vitamin C rich foods
  • soy products
  • flaxseed
  • chocolate
  • avocado oil
  • honey
  • bone broth
  • vegetables like dark leafy greens, orange and red veggies
  • fish and lean grass-fed meat
  • blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • garlic

What does Collagen do for the Body?

  • improves skin and hair health
  • reduces joint pain and degeneration
  • helps heal leaky gut
  • boosts metabolism, muscle mass and energy output
  • strengthens hair, nails, and teeth
  • improves liver health
  • protects cardiovascular health
  • reduces cellulite and stretch marks

What Damages Collagen?

  • high sugar consumption
  • smoking
  • sunlight
  • autoimmune disorders
  • aging

Brands

I have personally tried 3 brands of collagen: Sports Research, TruMarine, and Vital Proteins.

WithinUs TruMarine

  • Made solely from fish scales, which is broken down without heat, acid, or chemicals to remove the calcium and leaves 100% ultra-pure marine collagen
  • Screened for mercury
  • virtually tasteless and odorless, and is in a pure powder form
  • sourced from exclusive, sustainable, wild fish found in the South Pacific Ocean
  • highest grade of collagen in North America
  • Non-GMO Project Verified, reviewed and approved by Health Canada, and assigned an NPN (Natural Product Number)
  • free from artificial colours, flavours, additives, preservatives, and stabilizers
  • 100% Canadian owned and operated
  • Gluten-free, dairy free, kosher
Nutrition Facts
  • one scoop = 5g
  • 17 calories
  • 5g collagen
 My Thoughts?

This has been my go-to collagen powder for 3 months now. I purchased the stick packs, which made it easy to travel, work, or just be on the go in general. I keep a couple of packets in my purse, and some in my drawer in my office, and I can easily add it to my coffee. The first couple times I could mildly taste something fishy, but after a few uses I can no longer even tell it’s there. I prefer to mix this in coffee (either hot or cold) or tea. I have mixed this with lemon water, and it’s not my favorite, the fishy flavor comes out a little more when that happens. This is definitely my favorite of the three brands! WithinUS also makes a premium-grade organic matcha that is definitely on my “must-try” list.

The serving size is smaller, 5g, and this is due to the high bioavailability of the product, meaning a person needs less product for the best results.  Other brands recommend 10-20 grams a day, where most of withinUs’ studies have concluded that 5 gram of withinUs TruMarine Collagen gives the same benefits since it is used by the body so efficiently.

Vital Proteins

  • made from grass-fed, pasture-raised, bovine hides from Brazil
  • unflavored, water-soluble and easy to mix
  • available in canister and stick packs
  • available in loose powder form, stick packs, and capsules
  • gluten-free, dairy free, no sugar added, paleo friendly, kosher
  • Vital Proteins has an extensive product line, ranging from collagen to beauty waters, bone broths, whey protein powders, and other supplements
Nutrition Facts
  • one scoop = 10g
  • 35 calories
  • 10g collagen
My Thoughts?

I loaded up on Vital Proteins products earlier this month, including both the collagen peptides stick packs and container. Happy to say there was NO distinguishable taste, and it dissolved really well, with one quick stir. I did however find the serving size really large – it was 10g and I felt it seemed like a lot, but it contains 18g of protein in one serving, so I am however really interested in trying more of their product line, like their bone broths (to help with the inflammation I experience with my endometriosis) and their collagen whey protein to enhance my muscle recoveries after working out. Plus I love that they now put collagen into capsule form for when you just can’t mix powder with something. Vital Proteins also now ships to Canada! Shipping isn’t the cheapest, but the product is SO worth it. Otherwise, you can use Amazon but not all the products the company offers are available there.

Sports Research

  • made from grass-fed, pasture-raised, bovine hide collagen peptides
  • Unflavored, water-soluble and easy to mix
  • contains Type 1 & 3 Collagen
  • clumps in cold water
  • gluten-free, paleo friendly, keto
Nutrition Facts
  • one scoop = 11g
  • 40 calories
  • 11g collagen
My Thoughts?

This is a great, easily dissolvable powder in HOT liquids only. I have tried to mix it in smoothies or iced coffees, and it lumps almost instantly, without much hope of getting it to break down. Definitely recommend only using this with things like coffee or tea. When mixed this way, I find no distinguishable taste, it dissolves instantly, and it’s what I would typically use on the weekends when I am home to make my coffee. I usually only use a half scoop though, as I found a full 11g to be overwhelming in a regular sized  coffee. Unfortunately, since they don’t ship to Canada, you have to use Amazon and is Prime eligible.

sports research

Product Comparison

Collagen/

serving

Calories/

serving

Hot Water Soluble Cold Water Soluble

Stick Pack

TruMarine

5g 17 X X

X

Vital Proteins

10g 35 X X

X

Sports Research

11g 40 X

Cost Comparison

Serving Size Cost Cost per Serving

Shipping

TruMarine

5g $79.95CAD

(50 servings)

$1.60CAD

CANADA: FREE

USA: N/A

*Vital Proteins

20g $135CAD

$43USD

(28 servings)

$4.82 CAD

$1.54 USD

CANADA: $8.48

USA: FREE

*Sports Research

11g $34CAD

$30 USD

(41 servings)

$0.83CAD

$0.73USD

CANADA: $7.95

USA: FREE

 

*these companies do not ship directly to Canada, purchases must be made through Amazon, the Canadian prices reflect this, and shipping costs do not reflect Amazon Prime shipping rates

Is Collagen Necessary?

No, it’s not. Your body does naturally produce collagen, and the majority of people do not need to be taking supplements. That said, if you ingest collagen, your body in turn will produce more of it, and that’s not a bad thing. Collagen provides a lot of benefits, and unless you’re vegetarian/vegan, there hasn’t been any reason given NOT to.

I personally love the effects it has had on my body – my sore knee is less agitated, my hair is strong, shiny and growing, my skin is clearer and I find I have less muscle soreness than I used to before taking the products.

My personal favorite is WithinUs – I love supporting Canadian companies, and knowing that they are ranked the top in North America and is approved by Health Canada make this brand a constant go-to for me.

 

 

 

Financial compensation was not received for this post. All products (other than the Vital Proteins sample) were purchased with my own funds. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates in any way.

 

speed

Overnight Oats

I always struggle to eat a healthy breakfast on work days, and find I am a lot more successful when I can make something that I can just grab and take to work with me!

I’ve posted some overnight oat recipes before, but I decided to add a little spin on my basic go-to recipe by using Seabuckthorn’s new fruit powders! My favorite part about overnight oats is how versatile they can be, just by adding different spices and toppings! I used strawberries and raspberries this week, as that’s what I had in my fridge! I will often add some granola for a little crunch, or a scoop of protein powder to get some extra protein in my breakfast. I made 2 batches, which I split into 4 jars, which is the amount I need for breakfast to go this week.

Seabuckthorn’s new fruit and veggie powders work perfect in these oats, and I often top my plain yogurt with them for some extra flavor! These powders are made right in B.C. from fresh and local produce, and are fully organic, kosher, and full of nutrients and anti-oxidants! They’re the perfect addition for any baking and cooking!

You can use the code BEFIT at checkout to save yourself 15% on any regular priced products, these powders included, just head to their site! All orders over $100 include free shipping, and all product is priced in Canadian dollars.

Overnight Oats

Serves: 2-4

Nutrition/serving (based on 4 servings):

Calories: 266

Carbs: 39.6g

Fat: 5.8g

Protein: 15.1g

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium banana, mashed
  • 1/3 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 c. milk of choice (I usually use almond, but used regular milk since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 1/2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp. Seabuckthorn fruit powder of choice (I used blueberry in one batch, and raspberry in the other)
  • fruit of choice for toppings

Directions:

  1. Mash banana
  2. Measure out all dry ingredients in a bowl, or measuring cup
  3. Mix together thoroughly
  4. Put into jar or container (I split the mix into 2 small mason jars)
  5. Top with fruit of choice (or can add before eating)
  6. Let sit overnight in fridge
  7. Enjoy!

Clear Float Spa

What the HECK is Floating!?

I first heard about floating at some point last year, and I’ll admit, I was skeptical. Lying in a tub with a lid, that is filled with salt water for an hour? Why? Seems like a waste of time because if I wanted to be in salt water, I’d take a vacation and go to the ocean.

However, the concept piqued enough of my interest that I decided to do a little more reading, and discovered Clear Float Spa which located in Mission right here in Calgary, and found out just why this would be beneficial for me, and many others.

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Floating, put simply, is sensory deprivation. Inside a pod large enough to hold an adult, is usually no more than 10 inches of water, mixed with over 1,000 pounds of epsom salt to allow a person to float effortlessly at the surface. You become completely weightless as you float in water four times denser than the Dead Sea. The epsom salts contain minerals which your skin absorbs during your float, and help to increase blood flow and oxygen throughout the body.

The temperature of the water in the pod is 98F – exactly body temperature. The reason for this is so once you begin to float and relax your body and mind, you won’t be able to tell the difference between your body, the air, and the water. You can choose to have music play, turn the lights on/off within the pod, and for the claustrophobic, you can always leave the lid of the pod partially open. I had the calming meditative music they recommend for the first float play, but chose to turn the lights off, with the pod lid fully closed, to have a more in-depth first experience.

Since the pod itself is a space where stimuli is removed, the body’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which is responsible for the release of the happy chemicals in your brain; endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Without stimulus, your body is able to focus internally instead to heal, de-stress, and recover.

While I am sure I did not achieve this during my first float, continued floating will allow a person to fully relax and have their mind enter the theta brain wave state, which is the state your mind reaches one step before entering a deep sleep. This state is optimal for healing, reduced anxiety, zen meditation, and creativity.

Benefits of Floating

  • anti-gravity effect on bones and joints
  • stress relief
  • endorphin production
  • heightened senses
  • muscle recovery
  • healing
  • relaxing
  • increased immunity
  • improved sleep
  • magnesium absorption
  • meditation
  • pain management
  • chronic pain relief

I wish I had taken advantage of floating while I was experiencing my endometriosis issues earlier this year – I imagine it would have helped ease the pain! It definitely made a difference in the muscle soreness I had experienced all week long from going back to the gym.

Clear Float Spa Experience

I finally decided to give floating a try, and booked my appointment with Clear Float Spa for 10:00am using my MindBody app on my phone so that I would be able to go work out before my float. While there are other float studios in Calgary, Clear Float was the easy choice for me because they were incredibly helpful, supportive, and answered all my questions when I reached out to them on Twitter earlier this year.

I headed down to Mission after my work out, and in an area that usually costs a small fortune to park in, if you can even find parking, I was so grateful that Clear Float offers FREE parkade parking while you are there! This is a HUGE bonus factor in my books!

I walked in the door and immediately fell in love with the clean, crisp, spa-like atmosphere (they call it Clear Float SPA for a reason) and was warmly greeted. I signed my waiver, provided my license plate number for validation, and was given the option of hot tea or True Buch kombucha which they would have ready for me at the end of my float (I picked peppermint tea), and was given my tour of the studio.

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There are 4 float rooms at Clear Float Spa, a zen room for post-float “back-to-reality” time, as well as an area with hair products and blow dryers to spruce yourself back up when you finish.

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I was then shown to my float room, which contained a shower and the float pod I would be using for my float. Each room is individual, and locks, so you have complete privacy. Before each float, you need to have a lukewarm/cold shower where you wash your hair with shampoo, and soap off to remove any trace residues, oil, or dirt from your body. The reason to shower in colder water is because once you enter the pod and its body temperature water, your body will naturally cool down if you have a hot shower, which makes the pod feel cold. If you blast yourself quickly with cold water, it will be forced to heat itself, and find the perfect temperature while floating.

Clear Float Spa uses Rocky Mountain Soap Company shampoo, conditioner, and body wash for your pre and post float showers, which I love, because seeing local companies supporting other local companies is amazing! All Rocky Mountain Soap Co. products are all-natural.

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You can choose to either float nude, or wear a swimsuit, but being a private room with a lock, I opted for the nudie method. If you have any cuts or scrapes, you just need to put Vaseline on top of them so that the salt doesn’t irritate them. Ear plugs are also available, but not mandatory, thought I opted to use some since I didn’t want to get that much salt into my ears. Once you’re showered off, you can get into the pod!

The instant you get in, you can already feel the buoyancy take effect – I could barely sit down to get positioned before I felt myself trying to float upwards! I put in my ear plugs, pulled the pod lid all the way closed (small spaces don’t bother me), and lay down. It took a few minutes before I really was able to stop tensing, as it truly feels as though you’re going to fall as your mind starts to understand what is going on. I decided to turn the light off, close my eyes, and just breathe.

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It took a while – I am not the type of person who is able to shut their mind off and just be. Anytime I am in a yoga class, during savasanah I am typically planning out the rest of my day, the food I am going to eat, and what I am going to wear the next day, but being in complete darkness, with calming music, and not one single thing around to distract me, I eventually drifted off. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, if I was even actually asleep for, but before I knew it, the voice came on to tell me my float had ended, and the light turned back on. I sat up and exited the pod with a sense of calm, relaxed joints, and feeling peaceful.

I took a shower, got dressed, and went to collect my peppermint tea, which came with a handwritten note – the little touches they provide are so special.
I entered the zen room, and began to read the notes that are written all over the walls – you can write anything you’d like in there, sit and read something from the collective library that you are allowed to check out and take home with you, write in their journal, or just be. The room is small, quiet, and cozy, and the perfect spot to unwind as you come back to the sensation of gravity. You can stay in here for as little or as long as you would like!

I sat for 20 minutes, then headed out to the front desk where I was able to even fill up my True Buch bottles, as they have 2 flavors on tap!

I enjoyed it so much, I decided to sign up for the alpha intro membership. Instead of paying $59 for single floats, this means I get 1 float per month, for $49/month, and received 2 extra floats for free for signing up for this offer. I can cancel this membership at any time (not that I see that happening), and if I am unable to use my float in any given month, it carries forward! NO lost floats! You can only purchase the alpha intro membership on your first visit, and the difference between it and the alpha membership is the 2 bonus floats. If you like it, I highly recommend getting the intro offer to take advantage of free!

Booking is extremely simple – either use their website, or your MindBody app. The latter is my favorite way to book since it syncs directly to my calendar and I can easily look through time slots, this makes everything simple and in one spot! I always have my phone, so I always can keep track of my schedule this way.

I truly loved my float experience, and Clear Float Spa. If you’re looking to try something new to relax and rejuvenate, this is it.

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Financial compensation was not received for this post, and the float and the following membership were purchased with my own money. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates in any way.

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PranaPillow & Full Prana Set!

I wrote about PranamatEco last November, when I reviewed the Pranamat they generously sent me to try.

I loved (and still love) my Pranamat, and use it regularly to ease my muscles, relax, and increase blood flow. You can read the original post about why I can’t live without my Pranamat here.

PranaPillow

When the PranamatEco team reached out to me to send me a PranaPillow to complete my set, I admit I was skeptical. Full disclosure, the exact words that went through my head were: “why do I need a pillow? I can just prop my mat up on a normal pillow and hit that spot in my neck, I sure wouldn’t be paying for a pillow…but I guess I’ll try it if they’re sending it anyways…I mean I do already love my mat.”

I take all those words back. The difference between using the PranaPillow instead of the mat with a pillow underneath it is astounding. For a product I never thought I would need, I am so grateful to have it now.

The PranaPillow is very similar to the Pranamat in the following ways:

  • the PranaPillow is an acupressure pillow
  • Acupressure is a traditional Chinese therapy that is used to relieve tension, stress, boost the immune system, increase circulation, reduce pain, break down fat deposits, and improve cellular function
  • Made with natural, environmentally friendly materials that are hypoallergenic
  • The lotus flower massagers are HIPS plastic, certified for use in surgical equipment
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • 5 year warranty
  • Worldwide shipping, and delivery is usually within 5 days

The Differences:

  • Instead of being filled with coconut fiber and lying flat like the mat does, the PranaPillow is filled with 100% natural buckwheat hulls, which allow the pillow to be molded into any position and conform to your body.
  • It is PERFECT for the back and sides of my neck, the curve in my lower back, and I also love to put it behind my thighs with my feet slightly elevated when I’m lying on the couch, especially after a run!
  • It is smaller and more portable when you need relief for smaller, more specific areas of your body

I work in an office sitting at a desk staring at a computer all day, so I carry a lot of tension in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, especially since I have the worst seated posture ever. The PranaPillow works perfectly for these trouble spots, especially since it conforms to the curves in my back to really pinpoint the tight spots.

I had a surgery last week which involved having my abdomen filled with carbon dioxide gas, and a lot of it remains in my body after surgery. One of the ways to release it is to walk and move, but I’ve been struggling to remove the last of the lingering gas from my shoulders and neck. Using the pillow a couple times a day in those trouble spots has really made a difference and helped to relieve the pain!

The Complete Set

I adore my full set. I have both the Pramat, PranaPillow, and my sweet mom bought me the travel bag for Christmas, so I am prana-portable now! Both the mat and pillow are turquoise/turquoise (obviously), and I have the turquoise/natural bag.

My favorite part about having a complete set is that now I can focus on more of my body at one time! I will place the pillow on my neck and shoulders, and then lay on the mat from mid-back to bum. It took some getting used to having that many lotus flowers on my body at once (221 on the mat and 95 on the pillow, and each flower has 25 pressure points!), but as soon as I stop tensing, relax my body, and breathe normally, it feels amazing.

The combination of the Pranamat and the PranaPillow have done wonders for my body and mind:

  • less muscle tension
  • mild decrease in cellulite on my upper thighs/hamstrings
  • better sleep, wtih less waking throughout the night
  • fewer, and less severe, headaches
  • less DOMS after a workout
  • 20 minutes minimum of relaxation per day with no cell phone

The products are versatile and travel friendly! I can use either the pillow, the mat, or both, while lying on the floor, couch, or on my bed. I have even taken my mat to work with me when I am feeling especially tight.


I can also now travel with my Pranamat, which you can bet I will be doing when I go on my cruise to Greece, Italy, Montengro, and Spain in July! Those long haul flights and 18 hour travel days will definitely require some acupressure time and I can easily take my Pranamat as a carry-on now with the carrying bag!

A key update from my original post – you can now buy the bag separately by visiting Pranaline – this was my only complaint about the products, and it’s been rectified! I have nothing but pure love for these natural, high-quality, gorgeous, and amazing products.

Click HERE to check out the site and their amazing natural products.

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Financial compensation was not received for this post. A sample product was gifted from PranamatEco. This post contains affiliate links meaning I receive compensation if an order is placed after using a link I provided. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own and not influenced by the developing company and/or its affiliates in any way.

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