Beachbody LIIFT 4 Challenge Review

In 2018, I had a goal to lose 18 pounds. It matched the year well, but also with the amount of weight I gained during pregnancy.  While I was nearly back to pre-pregnancy weight almost immediately after delivering my 9.5 lb daughter, I gained it all back with breastfeeding.  I’d always heard from people that you should lose weight while breastfeeding from all the extra calories you burn- it’s not true for everyone!  This article does a great job explaining why if you fall into that group.

I was ravenous while breastfeeding, so it was hard to keep from eating. Even when I did practice self control with portion size or trying to cut carbs, my milk supply would tank so I couldn’t continue. When I weaned, I started trying to eat healthier to lose some weight, but my sugar cravings were huge. I would snack with my toddler and I still felt so hungry that it was difficult to portion-control. I needed a big change and when a friend shared with me about her results from Beachbody, I was ready to try it.

I joined an 8-week challenge and absolutely loved it, so I thought I would share with those of you who need something to get you motivated. Here’s what I loved:

liift4Exercise

Going to a gym or group workouts are not my thing. It doesn’t fit well within my schedule and I don’t feel comfortable. I loved the access to Beachbody on Demand- doing the workouts any time I want from home. For this 8-week challenge, I did the LIIFT 4 program. It is 30-40 minutes 4 times per week, which felt so do-able. The routines were HARD, but every exercise had a modification option too.

I discovered that I really like the mix of weight lifting and cardio and that it works really well for my body. I improved significantly in strength- starting out with 5lbs as my heavy weights and ending up with 15lbs. There is a weight tracker so you can track the weight you use on each move and see how you improve.  I feel so much stronger and have more stamina and better balance. I could barely do a couple of modified push ups at the beginning, and now I can do 30+.

The other thing I liked about this program is that every day is different. Weeks do not repeat, so it keeps things interesting.  Typically, one day would focus on chest/triceps, one on legs, one on shoulders and one on back/biceps, always ending with a couple core exercises. I saw inches lost in each area and toning all over, but especially in my waist (6 inches lost).

Since doing this LIIFT 4 Challenge, I did the 21 Day Fix work outs during December. They were okay but I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much. I love that I have the flexibility to try out different styles and trainers, but I’ll be going back to LIIFT 4 soon.

Nutrition

Weight loss is mostly what you eat. I knew this would be my greatest challenge, but I was motivated to do it right. The program I did was part of the 21 Day Fix meal plan. You get containers mailed to you and based on your weight, you know how many containers of each food group you can eat that day: veggies, protein, fruit, carbs, nuts/seeds, oil.  Essentially, the focus is on veggies and protein.

I liked this model because it gave me some reasonable guidelines to follow. I never actually measured using the containers, but generally eye-balled the amounts and tracked how much I ate each day.  I was extremely strict about following the plan, BUT I did not follow it exactly when it came to healthy fats and fruit. I felt the program allowed more fruit than I really needed (3 servings), so I never ate that much. I also feel that it doesn’t allow for enough healthy fat. I didn’t hesitate to cook with coconut or avocado oil or to eat avocado or drink butter coffee or use as much Primal Kitchen dressing on my salads as I wanted (I didn’t go crazy like eating a stick of butter). Those healthy fats help us feel fuller longer and help us lose fat.

The other thing I like about the meal plan is that it allows for a couple of cheats. 1- three days a week, you can trade a carb container for a glass of red wine. I didn’t do it often, but it was nice to have the option. 2- you get one cheat meal each week, which I usually reserved for football-watching parties on Saturdays or date night. I would drink and eat what I wanted without worrying about it and always make sure I exercised the next day. Having this cheat meal to look forward to was helpful for me to stay motivated.

Ultimately, following the meal plan was most important to getting results- many people in the challenge group admitted to cheating multiple times per week and their lack of results definitely showed it.

The other part of this program is Shakeology. I was most hesitant about this because I am not a shake person. I am a big fan of “real food” and not using meal replacements. However, I looked into the ingredients in Shakeology and was impressed. It includes protein and dense nutrients, with only 7 grams of sugar, and is whole-foods based.  The nutrients include super-fruit antioxidants (to combat free radicals), adaptogens (to combat stress), a blend of super-greens, and pre- and pro-biotics and enzymes to aid digestion.

Beachbody makes the following benefit claims about Shakeology, and from personal experience, I would agree these are definitely true:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce junk food cravings – to me, this was the most important one and it is what kept me drinking it daily. I simply don’t crave dessert or sugar after drinking it.
  • Provide healthy energy
  • Support your digestion and regularity.

I personally use the Vegan Vanilla Shakeology (I avoid dairy as I’m not very tolerant to it) and like that it is flexible to drink simply with unsweetened coconut milk and ice, but also to mix with berries and/or a half banana for a smoothie.  I add collagen peptides and spirulina powder as well for an extra nutrient punch. I use it as a snack replacement mid afternoon when hunger or cravings kick in.

Motivation

I think we all know- it helps to have a friend hold you accountable. I had my friend as my “coach” personally encouraging me, but also was part of a Facebook group with everyone participating. There was a prize at the end for earning points throughout- points for posting pictures of the shakes, sweaty selfies after exercising and for checking in each Monday with measurements and other results.  It was encouraging to see others posting and know I wasn’t alone.

Results

At the end of the 8 weeks, I had lost 12 pounds and 20.5 inches. The challenge ended just after Thanksgiving.  Through December, I continued to focus on protein and veggies, resisting sugar but indulging when I really wanted to, and kept up a 4-day per week exercise routine. I lost an additional 5 pounds after the challenge, narrowly missing my goal.  While I gained back a few lbs from Christmas and New Year’s champagne + dessert, I quickly lost those and more during a 10-Day Sugar Detox I did starting Jan 2nd. Since October 1 when I started with the Beachbody programs, I’ve lost 20 pounds!!

I’m motivated to continue towards more weight loss and toning this year, so I’ll be starting another challenge later this month. If you are interested in joining me to start off reaching your goals this new year, let me know!

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2018 Recap

Family ChristmasIt’s almost 2019! My daughter is almost 2… so hard to believe! This year has been spent finding balance with being a mom and wife, working, caring for others and refocusing on my own health. I recently made some big changes to my diet and fitness routine and lost quite a few pounds and inches… I’ll be sharing more about that soon!

I like to do a recap each year with a list of all my posts to share with anyone who missed them.  Here it goes:

The most popular reader post this year was: What the Bible Says About Essential Oils

Recipes:

Product Reviews:

  • Greenlife Ceramic Cookware – ditch your toxic non-stick cookware!
  • Monat – loving this safe shampoo, conditioner and styling products
  • OraWellness – the best, most effective oral care that’s healed cavities!

For New/Expecting Parents:

Health Stories: Navigating health stuff can be challenging, and dealing with chronic or unknown/undiagnosed illness feels isolating.  Last year, I started sharing health stories, which I hope make you feel encouraged and less alone. I would love to continue this series next year, so please let me know if you have a story to share (anonymously or not).

Wishing you a healthy & hopeful new year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly!

*Photograph by Jessica Doffing Photography

Ceramic Cookware – Greenlife Product Review

Did you know that your non-stick cookware is toxic?  There are a few ingredients used to make the coating that are particularly dangerous.  When you use the pans to cook your food, heat (especially over 400 degrees) causes the chemicals to leach into the food you consume.

PFAS and PFOA, the chemicals in the non-stick coating that makes it resist grease, water, and oil has been shown in studies to:

  • affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
  • lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
  • interfere with the body’s natural hormones
  • increase cholesterol levels
  • affect the immune system
  • increase the risk of cancer
  • change liver, thyroid and pancreatic function

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – CDC 

And two toxic metals commonly found in non-stick cookware are lead and cadmium, known to cause cancer and targets the body’s cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Since learning all this years ago, I have been avoiding non-stick cookware and using stainless steel pots and pans instead.  But, I have been frustrated with how difficult they can be to clean.  I learned about ceramic cookware as a good alternative with natural non-stick properties, but most brands are very expensive. This year, I discovered Greenlife. It’s safe and free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. PLUS it is on Amazon Prime AND it is super affordable!

I bought the 12 inch frying pan and have been using it (nearly every day) for 8 months now.  It is still like-new and holding up well. Ceramic is strong, so it is less prone to damage/scratches and longer lasting.  It’s extremely easy to clean too- I never have to do any scrubbing!

A couple things to note about cooking with ceramic:

  1. Ceramic takes a little longer to heat up, but distributes heat very evenly and holds heat well (so will continue cooking after you turn off the heat). It’s something to keep in mind as you cook.
  2. You can use a lot less oil when cooking with ceramic and still not worry about it sticking.  I’ve loved the sear it gives on meat and how I can “fry” kale with just a spritz of oil.

Looking for a Christmas gift idea or something to ease the cooking and cleaning during this holiday season? Any of these would make a perfect gift to someone special or to yourself:

Try it out for only $25 with the GreenLife Soft Grip 12″ Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan

Or get the full set for only $85 – GreenLife Soft Grip 16pc Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set

If you like to bake or roast, get this set for $65 – GreenLife 6pc Cookware and Bakeware Set

This post is not sponsored, just sharing about a product I love!

Mashed Turnips & Parsnips

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Today I’m sharing an easy recipe that’s perfect as a Thanksgiving side!

Craving mashed potatoes but trying to stay low-carb? I’ve got a seriously great alternative for you… mashed parsnips and turnips.  If you are like me and can’t stomach the typical replacement, cauliflower (cruciferous veggies don’t agree with me), this is another option to try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic parsnips
  • 1 pound organic turnips
  • 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream

Preparation:

  1. Peel the parsnips and turnips and roughly chop into 1-2 inch pieces (for faster boiling & easy blending).
  2. Put in a pot of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for around 15 minutes or until tender (stab with a fork).
  4. Pour into a colander to drain the water and then put the veggies in a large food processor.
  5. Add the other ingredients (butter should melt quickly with the hot veggies) and blend until smooth, stopping to stir for better blending as needed.

I was shocked at how well this matches the texture of mashed potatoes. Since they are root vegetables, it has a very similar mild, starchy flavor to satisfy those cravings; it is just slightly sweeter. I hope you enjoy this super easy recipe!

Potato-Crusted Quiche

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On #mealprepmondays, I try to always make breakfast for my daughter and I for the week so it makes mornings easier.  This quiche, made with hash browns instead of pie crust, makes for a healthier version that’s still super yummy and filling.

As with ALL my recipes, this takes very little time to prepare and is really easy to make.  There is a lot of room to create in this recipe- using different meats and veggies based on what you like best or what is on sale that week.  My go-to is bacon & spinach but I’m always trying something new.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of butter (or coconut oil)
  • 2 cups organic frozen hash browns (I use half a package of the Alexia brand)
    • I’ve also used frozen sweet potato fries for this if you want to avoid white potatoes.
  • 6 large soy-free pastured eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetables
    • I typically use what is leftover from dinner the night before- asparagus, bell pepper, frozen spinach have all worked great.
  • 1/2 cup cooked breakfast meat
    • I like to mix this up depending on what’s on sale/what I’m feeling. I rotate between bacon (look for organic + sugar-free), ham and breakfast sausage.
    • TIP: If cooking bacon, make less of a mess and use of an already heated oven by oven-baking it instead of frying.
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk (or heavy whipping cream)
  • 1/2 cup grated raw cheddar cheese
  • Sea salt & pepper

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the butter in your quiche dish (I use this one, but a standard pie dish would work just fine too) and place in the oven to melt.  TIP: to make it easier to put in/take out of the oven, I put my dish on top of a cookie sheet.
  3. Put frozen hash browns in dish and spread around to evenly distribute and mix in butter.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put dish with hash browns into the oven until slightly browned- typically around 20 minutes.
  5. Whisk the eggs with milk and salt & pepper. Add the veggies and meat and cheese and stir.
  6. When potatoes are brown and crispy, take out of the oven and add the egg mixture.
  7. Put dish back in the oven and cook until the eggs are puffed and set- around 20 minutes.

I’d love to hear your favorite combinations of meat & veggies to put in this!  Enjoy!

 

 

Zucchini Bread (Gluten/Grain, Dairy & Refined Sugar Free)

Sharing another #mealprepmonday recipe for breakfast!  This recipe makes two loaf pans, so I’ll keep them in the fridge to last the week. Even though this bread is free of grains or refined sugar, my toddler still loves it and I think you will too.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (just cinnamon works too if that’s all you have)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (or avocado oil)
  • 3/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini (not packed & no need to peel first) – this is typically 2 medium sized zucchini for me

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix the eggs.
  4. Add the eggs, oil and honey to the bowl and mix with spoon until combined.
  5. Cut the ends off the zucchini and shred using either an electric vegetable shredder, food processor or manually with a large cheese grater.
  6. Add the zucchini and mix until combined.
  7. Pour equally divided between 2 greased loaf pans.
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

What the Bible Says About Essential Oils

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I have to admit, when I first heard about essential oils, I thought it was a scam. I was totally put off by the crazy people who were obsessed & making big claims; plus, the fact that network marketing companies were involved certainly didn’t help provide credibility. I started slow, trying a couple oils and seeing results for myself. That lead to lots of research on the safety and efficacy of oils, as well as on the companies that sell them.  That research convinced me, and since then, I’ve totally joined the oil bandwagon.

I’d heard people say essential oils were biblical, but truly thought that was just part of the “cult.”  I knew the wise men brought frankincense & myrrh to Jesus, but was taught in Sunday School that those were more like “perfumes” because people didn’t shower or have deodorant.  And, I had heard of “anointing oil,” but thought it was simply olive oil. There’s a whole lot more in Scripture about essential oils than I ever could have imagined, and it’s quite compelling. I was quite convicted that regularly using essential oils is quite scriptural and something I should be taking advantage of as a gift from God.

The Bible contains over 1,000 references to 33 different species of essential oils. A couple things to keep in mind: many of the references in Scripture aren’t descriptive because the readers at the time didn’t need instructions – they were using oils every day for cooking, health and worship. And while some references will say “oil,” others might say “spices,” which can refer to both dried herbs and oils. Here are a few examples of how oils are reference in Scripture that impacted me most:

Healing

“Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing” Ezekiel 47:12

God intended us to use plants for nourishment and healing.  Eating fresh herbs and vegetables is, of course, essential to health. But another avenue of getting these healing properties is through essential oils- called “essential” because they are the essence/the life of the plant.

“The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” Revelation 22:2 

Many pharmaceuticals are designed to block receptor sites or give false information to cells in order to trick the body out of its symptoms.  Drugs often mask the problem instead of actually fixing it. God uniquely created essential oils to help heal our bodies, not just mask the symptoms. They work toward restoration and healing rather than causing confusion and chaos in our cells like drugs do. You can apply many different oils at once because rather than inter-reacting and causing problems like medications would, they all work together to bring our body to health.

In 2 Chronicles 16:11-14, King Asa “contracted a disease in his feet” that continued to worsen. Instead of seeking God, he sought the aid of physicians and he ended up dying. This is not at all to say you should not seek treatment from a trained doctor, but the lesson this teaches me is to seek God first when I’m sick rather than putting my full faith on worldly medicines.

In Luke 8:43-48, Luke, a physician himself, tells the story of a woman who bled for 12 years, seeking many different doctors and spending all her money doing so without anything working… how many of us can relate? Then, she encounters Jesus- she touches his robe with full faith and is healed.  God is the ultimate source of healing.

Healing is a holistic spiritual term, not a medical one.  Medicine doesn’t heal us. It doesn’t cure us. It addresses symptoms. Only a holistic approach can truly heal you.

Where do you turn first when you are sick?

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” James 5:14 

We all know how antibiotics are predictable and consistent, so the bacteria can learn to adapt and become resistant. The opposite qualities make essential oils so advantageous when fighting infection… there is so much variability with essential oils, bacteria cannot learn it. That’s why the effectiveness has still not diminished after thousands of years of use. Created by God, essential oils can distinguish between good and bad bacteria like they do in nature and can fight against viruses. Thieves essential oil has been proven in testing to kill 99.96% of airborne bacteria, and cinnamon bark oil has been comparable to penicillin and ampicillin antibiotics.

In Numbers 16:46-50, Aaron stops a plague among Israelites by fumigating (old-school diffusing) the essential oils of frankincense, galbanum, onycha and myrrh.

Myrrh is the most referenced oil in the Bible. It appears in both Genesis and Revelation, and was offered to Christ at his birth and at death. It was commonly used at the time because it enhances all other oils, causing what it’s combined with to last longer. Myrrh supports immune system, soothes skin, elevates mood and relieves stress, oxygenates cells, repels insects and prevents mouth infection. And it’s helpful for newborns for umbilical cord healing, coughs, sore throat, thrush.

“And they (the disciples)… anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” Mark 6:13  

There are different words in the Bible to distinguish gradual vs instant healing. The Greek word “iaomai” for healing means miraculous or instantaneous and is found 30 times in the New Testament (Matt 8:13, Luke 8:47, John 12:40 as examples). The other word “therapeuo” is found 40 times (Mark 1:34, Luck 5:15, Acts 5:16 as examples) and means “to serve, to attend to” – healing over time with care. In Mark 6:13 and Revelations 22:2, two verses quoted above, the word “therapeuo” is used; rather than indicating instant miracles, God asks that we care for the sick and ourselves and use the natural medicines he has provided to do so.

One last note that’s changed the way I use oils: in the Biblical application of oils, it was always with prayer. I believe prayer will heal on its own and oils can too, but the combined power is much stronger.

Emotions

Our sense of smell is different than any other… everything we smell passes through the emotional part of our brain first. All other 4 senses go to the rational brain first. Scientifically, we know there is a strong link between smells and recalling emotions. The fragrance of essential oils can literally touch our emotions; emotions that cause pain, illness, malfunctions on all levels – physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual.

“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart” Proverbs 27:9

Biblical writers may not have understood the science, but they knew that perfumes, ointments and incense could bring joy and peace, clear the mind, relieve stress, and were essential to prayer and worship. There are many references throughout Scripture of using essential oils to bring joy:

  • Psalm 45:7 – “Therefore God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above…”
  • Isaiah 61:1, 3 “the oil of joy for mourning”
  • Hebrews 1:9 “the oil of gladness”

Beyond helping with immune function, frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, cassia and cedarwood, all commonly used in the Bible, can help bring feelings of happiness.

Cedarwood is a great example of an oil with emotional uses. It clears the mind, increasing the ability to think with clarity. This oil has the highest concentration of sesquiterpenes (98%) – a property that helps it go directly to the brain upon inhalation. King Solomon chose cedar as the wood for his home and for the temple – how perfect for making decisions and wise judgments and meditating.

We should not forget what a valuable resource we have to use not only when we are sick, but also when we feel discouraged, stressed, overwhelmed or anxious.

“precious treasure and oil remain in the house of the wise” Proverbs 21:20

Worship

The most common use of essential oils was in worship and service to God – in sacrifices/offerings, in anointing, and in prayer.

There are 61 royal anointings in the Bible, used as a method of blessing, preparation and sanctification. In Leviticus 8:10-12 (also referenced in Psalm 133:2), Aaron was anointed with enough “precious ointment” to run down his beard- this wasn’t olive oil, these were valuable essential oils.  It is poured over Jesus Christ too (Matthew 26:7-12, Mark 14:3, John 12:3-8) – the Greek word “Kristos” means “the anointed one.”

“This shall be a holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations” Exodus 30:31

In Exodus 30: 22-38, God gives very specific instructions to Moses for how to use essential oils for worship.  The “holy anointing oil” contains 84% essential oils of Myrrh, Cassia, Cinnamon, Calamus and 16% olive oil.  Then God gives a recipe for incenses, which was burned in temples by Jews and early Christians and still to this day in orthodox churches.

The Lord was insistent that the holy anointing oil and incense was holy, for Him alone and not to be used as a commercial perfume. These verses indicate the importance of how oils, created to bring spiritual awareness, should be used in our worship and prayer to God.

“as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” Ephesians 5:2

If you’d like to study more, I would highly recommend the book Healing Oils of the Bible – it helped me understand so much on this topic and is the source, besides the Bible, for much of the information in this post.