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/

And

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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Guest Post: Weight Training for Women!


Hello!

I am Kristina and I blog about food, crafts, and life over at Cucina Kristina. About 6 months ago, I got super into the Paleo Lifestyle and weight training. I love lifting heavy weights and swimming when I go to the gym and am thrilled with the progress I have made in a year. When I started, I could deadlift about 50 pounds, and now I am able to deadlift 130 pounds, which is pretty close to my bodyweight. It’s amazing at how strong I have gotten over the last year! elf4health I am so happy to be guest blogging here on Sparkly & Slimming! Samantha and I were paired up via the Elf for Health challenge that Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean and Elle over at Nutritionella are running for the holiday season. Today’s challenge is “Share Your Expertise.” After sending a few emails back and forth and discussing things we were good at, Samantha asked me to write a “Women’s Guide to Weight Training” post. Because I am not a certified personal trainer, I am hesitant to give actual fitness advice, but I can tell you all about how I got into weight training and provide you with some fabulous resources if you are interested in getting lean and strong.

How I Got into Weight Training

I started weight training about a year ago because one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to be able to do a pull-up. One pull-up. It didn’t sound that hard at the time, but it definitely is not easy to pull your own bodyweight! I am very close to being able to do a pull-up so I am confident that I will be able to tackle this before my birthday in May. 🙂

Dispelling a myth!

Before I go any further, I want you to know that you will not get “bulky” from lifting heavy weights! There is a common fear amongst women that they will come out of the gym looking like a bodybuilder if they pick up anything over 10 pounds. Lifting weights will help you burn body fat faster than doing cardio alone and it is FUN! Weight lifting also helps boost your metabolism and helps you burn fat long after you have finished your workout.

Form is KEY.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you are weight training is form. You are setting yourself up for injury if you let your form lapse. If you have never weight trained before, I would suggest watching some videos on YouTube and practicing the moves using NO weights before you start adding weights to your workouts. You can do this in the privacy of your own home if you have a full-length mirror. If you do not have a full-length mirror, do this at your gym. You will not look silly, I promise! Many experienced weight lifters check their form this way before doing an exercise. NerdFitness

One website I LOVE that has a ton of videos, articles, and all around general fitness advice is called Nerd Fitness. Block out a weekend and devour all of the wonderful information Steve has to offer.

Also, take some time to check out Staci’s success story. Staci is super awesome, currently deadlifts 385 pounds, and is nothing remotely close to looking bulky!

So, you want to start weight training.

In addition to Nerd Fitness, I would highly recommend that you buy and read the book, The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Alwyn Cosgrove and Lou Schuler. This book is nothing short of amazing. It includes a comprehensive 6-month weight training program that anyone can do. They explain how to modify exercises to fit your strength level (for example, you may have to start doing exercises using your bodyweight before you add on any additional weight) and include a nutrition plan to go along with it. If you are interested in weight training, this is the #1 book I would recommend to you!

Some Sample Workouts

Here are some sample workouts for the total beginner using bodyweight. All are from Nerd Fitness. I wasn’t joking when I said this was one of my favorite websites!

Beginner Body Weight Workout

Clean Eating.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can weight train your buns off and you will not see results if you are not eating for fat loss. This means avoiding overly processed foods and focusing on eating whole foods and lean proteins. In short, eat healthy!

I hope this helped motivate some of you to pick up some weights the next time you are in the gym. If you have any questions about lifting, feel free to tweet me @cucina_kristina. I will do my best to answer your questions or point you in the right direction!

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Thanks Kristina!!  I know two of my loyal friends (and readers) Lauren and Jewels will especially love this!

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The Power of the Unsubscribe


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Do you ever think about the stress in your daily life and wonder where it comes from? Do you ever feel anxious or annoyed without good reason? We all have busy jobs, crazy lives etc. but what is the *one* thing we all do far more than any generation before us? Engage in social media.

Stay with me for a second – how many times a day do you pop onto Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn only to read or see something that rubs you the wrong way or makes you sad or angry (sometimes completely without your knowledge!). It changes your mood. It stress you out.  It affects your life and it steals your joy. It’s time to reclaim that happiness and get rid of the noise.

If you can’t buy silence you have to eliminate the source of the noise” (a quote from one of my new favorite shows, “The Hostages”).

So, here’s what I propose we do to fix this noise and stress –

Unsubscribe from mass emails (especially those that sell your information – Yuck). You know the ones I mean – companies you like, bands you listen to, political affiliations you may still support but don’t need 4,000 emails from on a daily basis. I was a big fan of this writer whose book I bought a while back….until I joined his mailing list and got 5 emails A DAY. It was overwhelming and frankly felt harrasive. Once a week? Not bad. Thirty five a week? Unacceptable.

Opt out of text messages (I might be alone here but I HATE receiving texts from anyone but friends). I don’t want texts from the library about overdue books or from my eye doctor saying I need to make an appointment and I certainly don’t want them from my cell phone carrier who already gets paid way too much each month promoting their latest deal. No thank you!

Unfollow people/companies on Twitter that don’t contribute anything positive to your day – or just retweet everything a celebrity says. Consider the “post the exact same status on 6 social media avenues under multiple names” offenders in this category as well. It’s just spam to send the same message to multiple audiences. Not everyone in your life needs to know that you just Shazam’d “Wrecking Ball”.

Most important – unsubscribe from people on Facebook who do nothing but complain, post horrible news or constantly start drama – no one needs that (and we ALL know these people!). If you don’t want to unfriend them then do yourself a favor and hide their statuses. Trust me, you’ll feel a million times better not being subjected to their nonsense!

While we’re at it – take this opportunity to think before you post. It’s way too easy to be negative. I’ve been coughing for 8 days straight and haven’t slept more than hour uninterrupted since the cough started – but I made a conscious effort not to bitch about those things on Facebook (I realize the irony in posting it to my blog but it was for the sake of explanation, LOL). Now I’m not saying you need to be Pollyanna but if your last ten statuses or tweets have more complaints than positivity – it’s time for a change. Unsubscribe from only sharing the junk and find something nice to put into the world. If you can’t find something nice…..yup, I’ll say it – don’t bother posting.

The days are long but the years are short – don’t spend them being brought down by garbage (your own or  someone else’s).  🙂

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2013 Elf 4 Health Challenge & a New Diet Twist….


Last year I had SO much fun participating in the Elf 4 Health challenge hosted by The Lean Green Bean and Nutrionella that I just had to sign up again this year.  All the challenge details (and the sign up!) can be found here: Elf4Health. Basically you complete one healthy challenge each day (be in physical, emotional, self etc.) and chat with an elf buddy randomly assigned to you about your challenge and staying on track during the holidays.

This years challenges are realllly going to take me out of my comfort zone (burpees!? wall sits? meditation? – eeeep!).  I’m nervously excited. Is that a thing? Nervously excited? LOL – well it is now! Behold – the challenges!

I just completed our pantry purge last weekend and I don’t want to brag, but it looks fantastic and is MUCH easier to find things! For Dec 7th I’ll be tackling the spice cabinet – which is a hot mess. I am pretty positive we have at least 4 poultry seasonings and probably another 4 cloves – two things I never think we have and always buy. Haha.

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Foolishly I forgot to look at this week’s challenges and I already have lunch packed for Monday- Wednesday (chicken pot pie soup FOR THE WIN)….sooo I’ll be meatless for every other meal – and on Friday. 🙂

I got my first email from my elf – she’s really sweet and I’m excited to motivate each other for the week! Shout out to Natalie!

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Oh, I forgot to mention my new diet. Dietary restriction? Meh – the new way I’m eating! I’ve had a problem for a while with retaining water (especially in my feet and legs). A few weeks ago I weighed in at 7am and again at 10pm – I had gained 12 pounds. Yes, I’m dead serious. I scheduled time to see my doctor – but she’s so busy she couldn’t see me until the first week of December. I chatted with my Mom and she mentioned salt – and tracking my sodium intake. Two weeks ago on Saturday and Sunday I tracked everything I ate in LoseIt – -then calculated the sodium – I was at 3500 mg / 4600 mg respectively. I picked up “The Salt Solution” from Amazon and learned I was eating nearly triple the sodium I should aim for (1500mg). Eeep! So, I took action last week (even during the two days I had the flu!) and following the following guidelines:

*No more canned/premade soups – (my favorite is the Autumn Squash soup at Panera and it has a whopping 1400mg per CUP! Yeah no!).

*Swap out morning drink for grapefruit juice (a natural diuretic which helps with fluid retention)**

*Trade chicken broth for the low sodium variety (a difference of 500 mg per cup!)

*Up my fiber (helps with food digestion – and feeling full)

*Amp up the spices (in lieu of salt try to include things like sage, rosemary, chives etc.) – I also need to check out Mrs. Dash (which is sodium free).

*Drink more water! (but I seriously always need the reminder).

These are the food guidelines I am following to see what kind of sodium content foods have compared to each other.

One week in and I’m significantly better – my feet and legs aren’t swollen, I feel 1000X better energy wise AND I’m only 1-2 pounds heavier by 10pm after a day on my feet. Awesome!  Thanks Mom – just goes to show your Mom really does have all the answers! 😉

**Sidenote: by far this is my favorite grapefruit juice EVER:

Ingredients: grapefruit + water. The end! I also love their Simply Orange with Mango – delicious. 🙂

Happy short-work-week everyone!!

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Christmas Challenges + Future Planning


Thanksgiving was amazing. Mom and Dad are both great cooks and we had delicious food – but nothing crazy gluttonous. I stayed on my number and I was totally satisfied. A win! I wish I had taken pictures – brussel sprouts with bacon FOR THE WIN. Needless to say there were not many left over! Love me some roasted greens. 🙂

This is week one of the Elf4Health challenge I mentioned. So excited! I need something to keep me focused for the next 6 weeks. I emailed my elf for the next 2 weeks last night, hoping my note helped her get some new workout ideas.

This weeks challenges are as follows:

Monday
Go meatless today.

Tuesday
Send a card or handwritten note to a friend.

Wednesday
Try a new workout today!

Thursday
Get up 15 minutes early to meditate and reflect.

Friday
How many colors can you eat today? Challenge yourself!

I think today might be the hardest believe it or not! Last night I had tomato soup and a grilled cheese…….with bacon. Who doesn’t love bacon? Who even realizes it’s meat!? 😉 I’m thinking some sort of pasta with pesto for dinner (sans my usual chicken addition) and soup for lunch – broccoli cheddar and French onion are currently tied for favorites. Of course as I type this I realize French onion is made with beef broth. LOL. Anyone else not realize how much meat they eat in a day?! Am I alone here?

For the new workout I think I might try the videos here: Blogilates. I must admit, Cassey’s energy is 1 notch above annoying – so it may not last … but hey it’s free why not? She’s the fitness version of Giada DiLaurentiis. 🙂

I have a busy workout week planned ~ which I’m excited for. My friend Stasia was taking about how prone to hibernation she is in the winter – I never realized I was the same way until this weekend. It’s been so cold all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and watch mindless shows or read a book. I need to may sure I don’t fall prey to hibernation as winter progresses. I think this might be my I love Cali so much – the same weather year round makes it really difficult to fall prey to season funks. Then again constant sunshine might get old (maybe?). How are you guys battling the cold weather? Do you adjust your eating habits? I find myself craving warm foods and carbs. I need to constantly remind myself that carbs in moderation are OK – but a whole baguette is not my friend. Haha.

I was thinking last night about how much I dread Mondays (who doesn’t?) – especially when my Outlook calendar is filled from 8am on – boo. Then I was browsing the Interwebz for a good graphic for today’s blog and saw this:

That sounds much nicer doesn’t it?! So this Monday I vow to own it like I stole it – I will rock my workout tonight (double! TFFR and Legs!), I will get all my steps in and I will be thankful for my kickass life (and the kickass future I am building).

This is my currently favorite thought-provoking quote:

I think so much about the future I want….but I don’t take steps to get there! If you never move, you’re always standing still, right? Right.

So this time next year I want to be someone who just ran a 5K with my friend Stasia. I want to be someone who fits into super adorable workout clothes from Lululemon. I want to be someone who has made significant progress on a novel she’s always wanted to write. How can I get there? Little by little. I did not wake up today  a runner in size 12 wonder unders with a novel under my arm – but I did strap my pedometer onto my smaller sized yoga pants from Old Navy and walk my butt off at work. Later I’ll go take a kickass barre n9ne double and finish my night out with a 30 min brain dump for this novel of mine! Small changes yield big results.

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Appreciate Where You Are (and who you are!)


I posted my list of things I’m thankful for a few weeks back ~ but I’ve done so much reflecting since then I thought a second post was in order. You guys know I am notorious for NOT living in the moment. Not being thankful for who I am, where I am and who is surrounding me. I’m always either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Since I last realized this I’ve been working on it – trying to be present. I even have a post-it reminder on my desk at work!

Cutest post-its ever huh? Love them!

But like most things worth doing, it’s not easy. Yesterday I found myself disappointed I couldn’t wear my size 22 black corduroy’s to work today – they are perfect fall/winter wear! They’ve been sitting in my closet for YEARS since I bought them on a whim when I was a size 28. I was pouting….then today I ran upstairs to see a coworker and realized I wasn’t out of breath – which was always a norm I had just accepted it. Therein lies my progress. Nope, I’m not the “size I decided I needed to be by this point” (with quotations because it’s so silly) but I am better and stronger AND smaller than I was this time last year! I will wear those pants soon – not today, but soon.

So ya know what? I am thankful for this life. I am thankful for this body that is getting stronger by the day. I am thankful that I have the opportunities I have (and I am affording the luxuries that half the world isn’t!). I am thankful for progress ~ even when it seems small or slow. Progress is progress. I’m not perfect ~ but that was never the goal, right? ;0)

Love the sentiment! So true.

So, what are you thankful today?  Are you living in the present? Do you appreciate where (and who!) you are?

Oh and since I am a huge Snoopy fan:

Last but not least, I am in a new challenge I have to mention because I am beyond excited about it! Lindsay from The Lean Greenbean and Elle from Nutrionella are hosting #Elf4Health. Details here. It’s going to be a great way to keep me on target during the holidays!

Join me if you want to stay accountable and meet some new folks that are fitness-minded too!

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