Sparkly & Slimming….a Weight Loss Blog

Samantha's journey to slim down, while remaining sparkly!

Elf4Health Challenge Wrap-up!


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While I LOVE Christmas and it’s my favorite time of year I’m super sad to see the Elf 4 Health challenge come to a end! It’s been an interesting 4 weeks for sure and it’s made me want to continue focusing on daily challenges for my mind, body and soul. Here’s a recap of my highlights (and lowlights) of the event! 🙂

Top 5 Highlights:
Unsubscribe! I wrote a whole blog post about the power of this challenge! Also a fellow elf turned me on to unroll.me – it quickly compiled a list of everything I receive currently and helped me seriously slim down my subscription list!

Share your expertise! I wrote a guest blog post about fabulous ways to start 2014 (as an expert in self-improvement):  http://cucinakristina.com/elf-health-share-expertise-challenge/

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I offered free gift wrapping to the guys at work. It was such a success (and so much fun) I’ll do it on Friday’s next year for sure! I am a fabulous wrapper! Pun intended.

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Makeup free – I could never do this at work until last year. I was in L.A. for work during the challenge and had to bite the bullet and go au natural during a day with big client meetings. It was scary but a success ~ and I’ve carried this on once a week ever since! I appreciate my good genes a lot more now than I ever did (thanks Mom!).

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Setting a new fitness goal was fun – especially since it’s end of year and it’s easy to fall pray to laziness. 🙂 Next year I will take a hip hop class, focus on 4 days of Zumba and 2 days of strength training and bust out my DVDs: yoga, Tone It Up, POUND (coming soon!) to continue mixing things up and confusing my body into weightloss.

Wall-sit – this was the most fun challenge! I lasted 3 mins and now I’m inspired to keep these going! I can feel my quads getting stronger already!

Top 3 Lowlights: (I only had 3 fails and they’re worth sharing)

100 burpees – sweet Jesus these kill me! I think I did 10 total. My goal in 2014 is to try conquering these wretched little exercises.

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Go meatless – I spaced and had chicken pot pie soup for lunch! LOL. There are ton of awesome recipes I could have made and I totally effed up.

Meditate – this is my brain when I try to sleep or mediate or be quiet for more than 10 minutes….

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All in all I’m really glad I participated! I’m going to bring back the goal jar in 2014 and fill it with goals like “100 oz. of water” or “ten minutes of stretching” then do those every day for a week. Little changes make big differences right? 🙂

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It’s been a long December…


One of my favorite songs is “Long December” by Counting Crows – it always feels very final, very matter-of-fact and a little melancholy. Granted, it’s only December 9th but the song perfectly sums up my feelings towards this year already!

I’m about 90% recovered from pneumonia that struck right before Thanksgiving and I’m getting back into the swing of things. This time of year it’s SO easy to fall off track and just say “eff it, I’ll start fresh in January” – but think how much better you’ll feel if you stay on track through the most challenging month and continue that great streak right through January! As my friend Stef says – stay accountable!

How am I doing this?

*planning workouts with friends – lots of Zumba dates, circuit dates and checking in with my brother and my fit friends. Workouts are a great excuse to meet up with someone and burn calories at the same time!

*avoiding the “but it’s the holidays!” food pitfall. I avoided Halloween candy completely, I barely ate at Thanksgiving (because I was sick) so I was far from overstuffed…now I need to keep that momentum straight through the season of gingerbread lattes, salted caramel hot chocolates and Santa sugar cookies!

*making the most of my time on and off! I have vacation from December 20th – 31st. While I’m super excited for time with family and friends I need to ensure I wrap up all my projects and meet my work deadlines without going nuts. Balance + prioritize!

*reminding myself that I’m striving for good, not perfect. I will never exercise 7 days a week and stick perfectly to my calories – but I can compensate for splurges and  ensure to up my water intake etc.

*last but not least- remember that the year is coming to an end and that means an exciting new beginning is on the horizon. I mentioned that I love sunsets and sunrises because they symbolize that everything (good or bad) will come to an end. I fully believe in that concept. 🙂

This past weekend my family put up our Christmas tree with old and new wonderful ornaments. I’m the family gift wrapper so those gorgeous presents were created by yours truly (and I’m modest too!).

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As we approach 2014 one of my favorite bloggers and writers, Kate Northrop suggested something I can’t wait to do with my family: “Release it. Mike and I are having a Winter Solstice party this year. We’ll have little cards by the fireplace on which people can write down what they’d like to release and leave in the darkness of the shortest day of the year. Then we’ll have other cards where they can write down what they’d like to welcome in with the light as the days grow longer starting on Dec. 22nd. The end of the year is a beautiful time to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and let go of what’s not. Spend some time letting go instead of accumulating and you’ll fee more free.”

What are you ready to release?

What would you like to welcome?

I’ll share mine: I’d like to release self-doubt (because this year I have really questioned my place in the working world, in friendships, in life etc.). I’m ready to release that worry and negativity about past mistakes that I harbor.

I’m ready to welcome in a romantic partner who pairs with me in a fabulous way. I feel like 31 was my year of trying new things and opening myself up to new ideas. I found Zumba, I got healthier and learned to focus on whole foods,  I grew through some challenges professionally, I lost someone I loved dearly and learned to appreciate the family (and friends) here. I tried my hand at cooking (and had a few successes!), I spent time alone and appreciated my quirks (and tamed some of annoying traits). I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life with someone I love by my side. ❤

As for resolutions, I had a giant list I started to build (42 things and counting) and I decided to go in a different direction – next year I will focus on being happy. Period. I will spend more time with my mom and less time on menial tasks. I’ll remember to pack my stuff for work/Zumba the night before so my mornings are less stressful. I’ll smile at strangers and try to be less sarcastic. I’m email friends I don’t see enough and take impromptu road trips to try new things. Little tweaks will add up to big happiness in the end. I’m sure if it!

Are you making resolutions? If so will you focus on one out two things or try to tackle a laundry list? I’d recommend trying to conquer one or two meaningful items. Read the rest of this entry »

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Lent: Abstaining from Addictions!


I can’t believe how early Lent is this year! Thanks to the power of the blog I know that last year it was on Feb 20th and the year before was March 7th. Sheesh! It’s only Feb 13th! Soon we’ll be celebrating Christmas and Lent together!

Joking aside, this year I think I’m in a good place with eating. I love desserts (no secret there) but I’m not indulging every night and just last week in NYC I only had dessert ONCE and I only had about 4 bites and decided that was sufficient. Holy progress! 🙂  Speaking of NYC, the trip overall was a success. Sadly I lost my FitBit one night after only having it a week, but the fine folks at FitBit are replacing it. Woo! The bummer is I have to use my phone as a pedometer until then and honestly, it lies like a rug. LOL.

Texas has been postponed for me, in part due to Nemo – thanks so much for 30 inches of snow, I was just thinking “Man I miss winter” (said no one ever). BTW this graphic cracked me up:

LOL!

So, this week I am home, getting steps in, balancing long days at the office with healthy meals and of course taking as many barre classes as I can swing! Love me some barre n9ne. Then I realize I need to figure out what I’m over-indulging in and can give up for Lent. Sweets wasn’t making the cut this year (it wouldn’t be a challenge), I’m never giving up coffee again (love it too much, can’t function without it), I don’t drink soda, I barely go out for lunch anymore (at one time a Lent from lunch dates would have suited my wallet and my waist well), what am I in need to a detox from? Ha. Facebook. It’s true. I am literally addicted to Facebook and honestly, 9 times out of 10 that I visit I conclude everyone in my life is having more fun than me, is more successful and generally happier. It’s a bummer. Now, I am a happy person – I love my life. But, social media has a knack for making you feel inadequate doesn’t it?

You are seeing the best of everyone’s life in one continuous feed while you sit in your pajamas feeling like a slug (despite the fact that you did get 10,000 steps today, you did get a workout in and you are well within your “number” of calories!). It’s disheartening! It remind me of this:

HA. Yes, Steve Furtick you nailed it. And as my friend Tiana pointed out, Facebook is the ULTIMATE highlight reel, complete with an edit button.

So, I’m going to resist the urge to post mundane things about my life or cute picture of me working out or nonsense I think of during the day or motivational quotes. I’m going to quit Facebook for 6 weeks (even Sundays). I barely tweet so I guess I’ll keep Twitter (but don’t expect brilliance to be posted there, I usually forget I have it. LOL). I like taking photos with Instagram so I’m keeping that, but I won’t publish to the book of faces. My handle on both is sheissparkling if you feel compelled to check up on me! 😉

I’m most sad about not checking in barre n9ne (spoken like a true addict). I love seeing all the friends I’ve made from Danvers and Andover commenting about classes they’re taking or how hard Jess/Jolene/Amy/Erica/Stef/Steph/Tanya is as an instructor! I took to Google to found out how other people fared when giving up Facebook and I found this article very interesting and this one funny as hell.  Sounds like I am going to be challenged! Heck, maybe I’ll blog more (something I secretly vowed to do this year).

While doing this “Facebook detox” I’d really like to reconnect with friends through avenues like email, IM or *gasp* phone! It’s amazing how much social media has taken over my interaction with others (and sad!). From now until March 30th here are the things I will not be telling you about via FB: I’m going to LA for work, then to take Mom on vacation again (yay fake life!). I’m hiking to the Hollywood sign. I’m going to eat some fabulous food and see fabulous friends.  My BFF is running her first half marathon. I’m super excited (and proud) of her! Mmm yup those are the major ones! So do me a favor and please don’t get engaged, married, divorced, have a  baby, switch jobs or move to Abu Dabi without emailing me, k?

So, what are YOU giving up for Lent?   Oh and before I forget and because I love a Lent funny, here’s a Rick Astley meme. LOL!

 

 

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TGIF …. (and a little pep talk to myself)


Hello Friday ~ what a lovely surprise! Man it has been a LONG ASS WEEK!

I’ve been in a super funk. My workouts feel harder than usual – I feel weak. I had to take about 9 million breaks yesterday in Jo’s method. Ugh. My cardio has felt more strained. My food log is balanced but I find myself STARVING (or at least thinking I’m starving). I actually went to bed early last night because I knew if I stayed up I would have cheated and eaten more calories than I was allotted. I think everyone goes through this ~ it happens.

I saw this on Facebook and it made me smile:

 

Exactly!

I got this. Shit happens ~ but I can’t let it delay my ultimate goal: health! I didn’t start out on this journey to be a certain size (I’m still not sure where I’ll end up – it could be an 8 it could be a 14, who knows!). I did start this because I was sick and tired of lugging the same fat around and making the same excuses year after year. I want to change my life and keep that change. That’s not an easy thing ~ nor is it something to be taken lightly. I need to cut myself some slack. We all have shitty weeks.

So, on a positive note it is Friday. Yay! I am on pager for work, but even that couldn’t damper my good mood. I’m ready to get outside and enjoy some fresh air, get some errands done and see family and friends. Today my BFF Jewels is having shoulder surgery – she lives in NY and is slated to come back to MA for a few days. I’m hoping to come visit her Sunday. (fingers crossed she’s up for company!). So, I’m going to focus on getting my groove back, re-centering myself and appreciating the few days without my cubicle. 🙂

TGIF friends – enjoy it!!

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June Challenges!


June is going to be a month of trying new things ~ and pushing myself further out of my comfort zone.

I am super excited for my first mini-challenge of the month! I started to follow The Lean Green because of Jess (EatDrinkBreatheSweat) and I am totally in love with her blog! She mentioned this Foodie PenPal challenge in a recent post  and I decided to sign up. Such a cool idea! This time around there are 982 penpals in the US and Canada – can you imagine?!!? Lindsay – you rock!

My penpal emailed me yesterday (Erika from You Just Did What?) – so excited to see what she comes up with – and to have another blog to follow! 🙂

I just heard from my pal – her name is Nicolle and her little piece of the interwebz can be found here: Culture Jaunt. Her request is simple – nothing processed.  What would you send someone (keeping in mind possible dietary restrictions like gluten-free or vegan) for $15?! Such a fun game!!

For the next part of June challenge ~ I need to find a way to kick up my cardio. I’m in a complete rut – and the stairs icon on my Fitbit is sad. So – time for some new goals!

During this week I am committing to doing an hour of cardio at the gym 4X a week and mixing it up. 20 mins tread, 20 mins elliptical, 20 mins bike. I might throw in some stair stepper if I’m feeling crazy. I want to work up to getting outside this summer and doing some hilly walks / stairs. I figure I better start training for that now!

As I continue on my weight-loss journey I find tweaks to what works for me. In April/May I did the barre n9ne Skinny Jeans challenge – 2 barre classes a week + 10,000 steps per day + specific calorie goal. I was eating a LOT when the challenge began. Halfway through I changed my number and had to budget better for my calorie allotment. Now I am signed up for the 60-day Challenge – 4 classes per week, 10,000 steps per day plus a new, lower calorie goal. I am really having to work to make this work. I can’t just grab a granola bar without considering if I want to waste 250 calories or invest them somewhere else. I don’t automatically grab chips with my sandwich (and if I do I might consider not eating them and saving them for another day). I guess that’s all part of the process – adjusting as you go, tweaking where necessary and changing things when you get stuck in a rut.

I’m also mixing up my classes this time around. Last time I stuck to strictly barre method (the signature class with weights + barre work), barre fusion (mat-based similar to Pilates) and barre fusion (half mat, half barre, no weights). This time I am signed up for a bunch of “toned, fit, firm and ready” (TFFR for short) – by far one of the hardest, most fast-paced classes I’ve ever taken – it’s a little bit of everything! I’m also adding in a long lean legs class (from the website: Lose those extra inches in your thighs and get lean legs all by taking this class! How could you not after working your legs (and butt) for an hour! This class is for all levels, and does not included barre work.). Sounds killer huh? I’m working up to taking the barre n9ne cardio class – it’s a lot of jumping and this fat butt does not jump – yet. Someday I will!

So in my first 60 days I lost 15.5 inches overall and truly gained a handle on my insane habits. I had no idea how dependent I had become on snacks/desserts until I was forced to cut them out in favor of better choices. It’s funny how quickly you see the err in your ways when you track everything you eat rather than just mentally try to keep track!

What are you going to do to challenge yourself this month?

 

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The Lent Challenge


I usually participate in Lent (or try to) not because of the religious symbolism but because of the challenge. I like seeing if I can give up something I love for 6 weeks.I was raised Catholic, but now I consider myself more “Christian” than Catholic per se. I don’t attend church on a regular basis – but I do believe in God.

Usually I end up cheating….but I think this year I’ll be able to stick to it! I hope! So, Lent begins Wednesday, the 22nd of February and will continue for 46 long days until Saturday, the 7th of April.

During this stretch I will be in NY, Atlanta, LA, Tampa and all around crazy busy. Normally for me travel = free range to indulge in desserts. So, what is my crazy-ass giving up for Lent? Desserts! Sweets, treats, whatever you want to call it….I’m going cold turkey for 6 weeks. I also want to try cutting my coffee intake down to once a day. I love coffee, but sometimes I think it doesn’t love me back.So just how often am I have desserts/treats/sweets? More than daily. No lie. I will find a way to work in a treat to my daily calories – even if it means giving up something I need (like protein). I’m a sweets-addict. Legit.

The hardest part is going to be 2-fold:

1. Not treating myself when I travel/go out (I always feel like being on the road warrants a treat)

2. The CRAVINGS. Oh god this is always the worst part. I think I’m fine….I’m strong….I can do this….. then I smell chocolate and I literally salivate. Then I get a headache – but not an ACTUAL headache, like a “mind over matter” craving headache. It’s horrible. This is usually when I end up caving.

How can I combat the cravings? I’m thinking more water, more protein (so I feel full) and a calendar to mark my progress. Thank you http://www.freecalendars.com for kickass, customizable free calendars!

So what is included in this “no sweets” manifesto? No dessert (cheesecake, ice cream, cookies, chocolate etc), no sweet snacks (Skinny Cow PB bars that are only 2 points so I usually have 2….or 3 – LOL) and no “dessert” coffees (blended with whip – or without). Not included? Wildberry smoothies from Panera (7 points – delicious and full of calcium) and Starbucks coffee (caramel macchiatos once a week, regular iced the rest of the week). I think I might have to join Pinterest just to oogle over delicious things I will not be eating….though seeing it might make me want it more!

Are any of you participating in Lent? What are you giving up? What’s the hardest part for you?

Before I go, a Lent funny that made me laugh my butt off:

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