Friday Feature – Success Story: Jennifer

I haven’t done a “Friday Feature” post for the past few weeks, so wouldn’t you say we’re due for one today?  And, wouldn’t you agree that some of the most fun “Friday Feature” posts are success stories?  So would I!  I want to share another one with you today!  This is one where my client wasn’t even local.  Like, I’m talking she doesn’t even live in the country! Thus, we “met” on a weekly basis via Skype or phone calls.

Meet my beautiful friend Jennifer.  Jen and I have been friends for just about 10 years now.  Among a gazillion things, during those 10 years we’ve both seen each other graduate from school, get married, and start families.  Jen is married to a super awesome guy who has a super cool job that allows them to live in foreign countries.  Jen currently lives in the Philippines. Yep, the Philippines!

She had her sweet baby boy just over one year ago.  She was struggling with getting her pregnancy weight off and so we teamed up to see what we could do.  We “met” every week on Skype to keep her program right where it needed to be.

Needless to say (because the pictures pretty much tell you what happened) we did it with smashing success.  Her pictures tell a lot of her story, but here are a few of her stats:

  • She dropped 15 fat pounds!
  • She dropped over 6.5% in body fat!
  • She melted a total of 18.5 inches off her body!

Now, isn’t that inspiring!?  I mean, she wasn’t huge to begin with and she went from lean to much leaner!  You want to take a double take, don’t you?  You can . . . check out the pictures!

Nutrition and Fitness Program, Lose Weight

And . . . Here’s her “sexy” side view.

Belly fat . . . GONE (plus smaller & toned legs and arms)!  You wouldn’t even know this girl had a baby unless you could see him yourself (oh, and you should because he is absolutely adorable)!  Jen sent me a nice email when she officially wrapped up her program.  She said, “Em, thank you for helping me to accomplish my goals. This is not the first time you have been a positive force in my life and I am grateful not only for this but for what a great friend you are!!”

She also told me that everywhere she goes the locals will tell her she is “sexy” because they say sexy like we might use the term “hot” here in America.  My favorite part about this is that Jen usually says, “Thank You!” because she worked hard to get these results, therefore she gladly takes the compliment.

I must brag about Jen and her journey because she accomplished these results by not only living in a foreign country, but by traveling home to America and making a trip to Hong Kong (Disneyland) while on her program.  And, you guessed it; she still lost weight!  It’s possible, it really is possible.  I’m SUPER excited because Jen is coming back home to America for a couple of months this summer and we’re planning on running a half marathon together.  Oh, how sweet that will be.

I pretty much L.O.V.E. my job!

Friday Feature: Success Story – Alicia

You ready for a success story that will blow your socks off (or at least motivate you to try a little harder)?  Meet my friend Alicia!  This girl is incredible and she has completely changed her life in ways that she never thought she could.  I have enjoyed going through her weight-loss journey with her because she not only changed her body composition, but a new-found confidence now shines through and she’s one awesome woman!

With her consent, she has allowed me to share her story with you.  She’s struggled with her weight ever since she was a teenager.  She continued to gain weight and before she knew it she was over 300 pounds.  She ached with almost every move.  She had reached a point where she was was so uncomfortable with the way she felt, she knew she needed to make a change.  Thus, she started to make a change and lost 20 pounds on her own before she allowed me to jump on her journey.  She was skeptical with me at first because she hadn’t really had much success over the years, but after the first two weeks of great losses . . . she claims she was hooked!  I was hooked working with her because she followed her plan to perfection, had the drive, and thus she produced fabulous results.

Her pictures tell a lot of her story, but here are a few of her stats:

  • She dropped over 107 pounds (that’s practically a whole person)!
  • She dropped over 17% in body fat!
  • She melted a total of 64.75 inches off her body (that’s over 5 feet, people)!

Now, isn’t that inspiring!?  You want to take a double take, don’t you?  You can . . . check out the pictures!

Alicia was nice to share the following with me.
“I love meeting with you every Monday and I find myself on Sunday looking forward to it!  Even when it has been a rough week I still look forward to Mondays, and yes, I would be lying if I said there weren’t rough weeks involved in this process.  That being said, this has been the easiest weight loss journey I have taken.  I never dreamed that I would be 110 lbs less than I was before, but I am!  I love how I feel and look now!”

I love this girl and I’m so thankful she allowed me to share in her experience.  She is a beautiful person and I’m still impressed with her ability to accomplish what she did.  She inspires me and continues to inspire many others around her.  I hope her story has inspired you too.

Friday Feature: Success Story – Susan

With this being a “New Year, New You” kind of week, I thought it would be that much more inspiring to share a success story with you today!

I have so many inspiring stories to share, but decided to share Susan’s story because she inspires me for a GAZILLION reasons!  For starters, she is INCREDIBLY humble!  It took a lot of begging on my part before she finally consented to allow me to show you her pictures.  While she has NOTHING to be embarrassed about (in fact, she has everything to be proud of), she is NOT one to brag.  So, I’ll be doing all the bragging while she’s probably reading this and partially dying inside to have someone talking so much about her.  Love you Susan!

I will say, she finally consented because she wants other people to know that it is possible to change your body and your habits.  She wasn’t so sure it was possible for her, but through a program that outlined her nutrition and exercise plan, she accomplished something she never knew she could. Despite her crazy (yet awesome) life, her age, and her schedule . . . she passed her goal and is maintaining it beautifully!

Her pictures tell a lot of her story, but here are a few of her stats:

  • She dropped over 26 fat pounds!
  • She dropped over 10% in body fat!
  • She melted a total of 22.5 inches off her body!

Now, isn’t that inspiring!?  You want to take a double take, don’t you?  You can . . . check out the pictures!

Susan was so nice and generous and said to me, “Thank you for taking me as I was and for sincerely loving me and teaching me how to accomplish a goal I have NEVER been able to do.”

She cruised through her program by putting in some hard work, a winning effort, and a conquering attitude.  I may have taught her a thing or two about nutrition and exercise, but she taught me other valuable skills/traits along the way.  We developed a special relationship throughout her journey and it’s one I still treasure today!  I love this woman more than words can say.  I wish you could all be friends with her because she would change your life in SO many ways.  She has mine!

New Year, New You!

The biggest holiday season of the year is over and a new year has begun!  How many of you are setting New Year’s resolutions?  Did you know (I’m sure you definitely won’t be surprised by this) that health and/or fitness is always among the top 5 resolutions set by Americans?  If you’re like most of us, something health/fitness related will be included in your resolutions this year.

To no surprise, I totally encourage this!  There’s always something we can do better (I’m totally going to improve my running pace this year).  However, wouldn’t it be nice to be at your goal weight so that your resolution isn’t always to lose weight?  Make this YOUR year to get where you’ve always wanted to be.  Do it the right way by improving your lifestyle (PLEASE . . . .  I beg of you – no crash diets, my friends!).  Make a permanent change.  While the gift giving season has passed, you should now consider giving yourself the best gift ever . . . better health and a better life.  You can read more about my philosophy on this subject here.  If I’m not already working with you, feel free to contact me for additional information or for a free fitness evaluation.  Helping others achieve their goals and change their lifestyle is what I LOVE.

I know that a lot of you are already making plans to improve your health because my blog posts had record viewing yesterday.  I’m THRILLED to know that you’re planning some healthy meals for the new year.  I’m jumping right in with you and will be back to regular posting of more delicious and healthy recipes.

So, here’s to a New Year & a New You!

Friday Feature: Success Story of Malinda

I’m soooo excited to share a success story with you!  This woman is an inspiration to me, and I know she can be for others too.  I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with her and I am so stinkin’ proud of her efforts and her overall results!

With Malinda’s consent she has graciously allowed me to “brag” about her by telling a little about her transformation.  Malinda is a beautiful mom.  She had been overweight for some time, but with the help of her sisters, decided to do something about it.  She lost a little bit on her own and then decided to team up with me to help her get to her final goal a little bit faster.  Boy, am I glad she did!

I started counting her calories and writing her exercise plans each week.  She worked hard and followed her program so well!  She’s allowed me to share her pictures with you.  And, as if the pictures don’t show enough of her success, here are her overall stats:

  • She dropped 59.3 fat pounds (how awesome is that?)
  • She dropped 16.4% in body fat (her body fat is now 20.4% – which is better than average; she is one fit girl!)
  • She melted a total of 35.75 inches off her body (whoa!)

How can you not love that?  She is one skinny babe, and a fit one to boot!  Check her out in these before and after pictures!


When she reached her goal I was incredibly happy for her, but sad for me because I wouldn’t get to see her on a weekly basis.  We became great friends.  I love going through this journey with others because I get to watch a beautiful transformation . . . inside and out!  It was fun to watch Malinda’s inner beauty and confidence grow throughout the process.  She is awesome.  She shared the following with me:

“I have to tell you this – if it was not for you I would not have made it to my goal as soon as I did.  You have been an inspiration to me and taught me a lot of good things about my meals, cardio and exercise routines. You are the best nutrition and fitness coach ever.  This is a life changing event, not just a one time deal, it is forever.”

GREAT JOB Malinda!  Keep up the great work!

What do you think?  Isn’t she inspiring?

Friday Feature: Chick-Fil-A

You wanna do lunch at Chick-Fil-A?  Count me in!  This a a great place to get healthy fast food.  There are a few options that are well balanced in nutrition and they taste great too!

Here’s your WOW factor for the day.  I went and tallied the nutritional information for a chicken sandwich meal at a VERY common fast food restaurant.  The meal included a spicy chicken sandwich, medium fries, and a medium Coke.  Here is the amazing total:

Calories:  1190 (what the!?)
Protein:  32g
Carbs:  176g (this is NOT a type-o)
Fat:  42g (10g = Sat.)
Fiber:  9g
Sugars:  74g (thanks to the Coke)

Okay . . . let’s bring ourselves back into focus!  Depending on who you are, the average lunch should be somewhere between 300 and 400 calories.  Let’s take a look at Chick-Fil-A and see if we can make something work there.

The picture I took above is what I order most when I go to Chick-Fil-A.  It’s their Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich.  It comes on a wheat bun and includes a boneless breast of chicken, dill pickles, lettuce, and tomato.  You ready for some awesome nutritional facts?  Here they are:

Chargrilled Chicken Sandiwch
Calories:  290
Protein:  29g
Carbs:  36g
Fat:  4g (1g = Sat.)
Fiber:  3g
Sugars:  9g

Now, that’s what I’m talking about!  You can even add a healthy side if you want.  A cup of fruit (since Chick-Fil-A is awesome and includes this as a menu option) is only an additional 70 calories.  A side salad with cheese is also only 70 more calories (order without cheese and it’s going to be closer to 30 calories) and they even have a reduced fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing that is deeelish! (Take note however that there are 2 servings in the packet of dressing they give you.  But, do not feel cheated because it’s still A LOT of dressing.)

If you’re a salad eater, the Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit salad is a wonderful option . . . coming in at 220 calories.  Order it with that reduced fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing and you’ll reach about 300 calories.

For those of you wondering about the Chargrilled Chicken Wraps . . . they aren’t a bad option, but they’re not your BEST option.  They come in at 410 calories.  If any of you know me, I’m all about quantity and I would WAY rather get a sandwich AND fruit for my calories.  But, I suppose there are probably some of you out there that love a good wrap even more.

So, it looks like we have another lunch spot!  Come on; let’s go!!

Friday Feature: Restaurant Spotlight – Cafe Rio

Who does not LOVE Cafe Rio, or a restaurant similar in nature (Costa Vida, Bajio’s, Chipotle, etc.)?  If you find someone who doesn’t love these places, let me know because they would come from a rare and unique breed!

One of the most common questions that come from my clients is, “where can I eat out and what can I order.”  While I’ve given pretty good (well, maybe GREAT) guidelines in a previous post, most of my clients will specifically ask for instructions on how to order at Cafe Rio (or similar places).  I finally decided that, due to the abundant questions in similar nature, this was blog worthy.

Did you know that a typical, full-size salad will be over 1200 calories at these places?!  Holy moly!  That’s practically an entire day’s worth of calories for a lot of people.   Well, I’ve figured out a way to order a tasty salad, and I’ve cut more than half of those calories out!  Here’s how you do it, folks!

Remember, we’re looking for a balanced meal of a lean protein, one serving of a complex carbohydrate, and veggies.  Here’s how we get it!

Instead of ordering a full salad, you’re going to order a Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad with a soft shell tortilla (order wheat if they have wheat ones…most locations do) and no cheese.  You will need to choose rice or black beans as we don’t need multiple complex carbohydrates in one meal, so you get to choose one.  If interested, black beans will be a more nutritious choice.  Now, veggies are “free” (so-to-speak) so load up on the lettuce and the pico (I often times ask for an extra scoop of pico de gallo).  As you wrap up your salad order you’ll want to ensure you don’t get the sour cream or the tortilla strips.  Order the vinaigrette dressing (cilantro-lime dressing = YUM) and NOT the creamy tomatillo dressing.  They usually put the dressing on the side for you, so you shouldn’t have to ask them to do that.  And, when you actually go to eat your salad, you should only need about half of it (the dressing, that is!).

This will put you in the 400-500 calorie range.  Now, that’s some serious calorie cutting right there!

If you want to further cut calories, you can also cut out the tortilla altogether and eat none of the dressing.  I actually find that if I order extra pico, the flavor is enhanced enough that I enjoy the salad perfectly without the dressing!

So, in summary . . . We are going to go from a 1200+ calorie entree to a 400-500 calorie entree by ordering:

A Grilled Chicken Tostada Salad,
On a soft-wheat tortilla,
No Cheese,
Black Beans,
No Rice,
Lots of lettuce,
Lots of Pico de Gallo
and Cilantro-Lime Dressing on the Side

Deeeeeeeelish, if you ask me!  And, you don’t have to feel like you’re ever deprived from eating at one of your most favorite places!  Anyone want to meet me for lunch?  Let’s go!

Friday Feature: Fitness Tip – Staying Fit On Vacation

My recent vacation to Hawaii places this topic fresh on my mind!  I had a fabulous time.  I was able to accomplish all that I wanted!  I relaxed, exercised, ate well, indulged some, and played hard.  The good news is that I also avoided weight gain!  HOORAY!!

We all know that vacationing can pose challenges when trying to remain fit and healthy!  For many of us, vacation time means taking a break from exercise and nutritious eating.  Unfortunately, our bodies don’t really care where we are and just because we are on vacation doesn’t mean that the rules of nutrition and fitness do not apply (bummer, right!?).  I’ve done it all while on vacation; I’ve gained weight, lost weight, and maintained.  I pretty much get how to accomplish any of these 3 options.  My preferable option is to maintain while on vacation because I think it offers good balance.  I HATE gaining while on vacation because every time I do, I look back and never say it was worth it (the extra food, lack of exercise, etc. that pack on the food leave me feeling regretful and icky).

So, to avoid weight gain (whether you’re visiting relatives, relaxing on the beach, or exploring new places), here are some simple tips to consider when going on vacation.

1.  PLAN AHEAD FOR EXERCISE.  Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean that you need to take a break from exercise and nutritious eating.  Before I go anywhere, I always check to see what kind of work-out facilities are available for me to use (whether it be in my hotel or at a local gym in the city).  If no work-out facilities are available, I pack my own gym.  A resistance band can do wonders while on vacation and it hardly takes up any room at all!  I also look for local running/walking/biking trails as these are usually strategically placed in beautiful areas ( I love new landscape for my runs) and tend to be much safer to use (versus running in a strange city that I am unfamiliar with).  While in Hawaii, I did indeed pack my resistance band.  I also ran along a paved trail that stretched from Laie to Kahuku.  It somewhat bordered the beach; it was wonderful!

Working Out With My Sisters In Hawaii

2.  BE PREPARED.  Be prepared by taking healthy food with you.  However you decide to travel (car, airplane, train), be prepared by packing healthy food for the actual travel portion of your trip.  Once you get to your destination, continue to pack healthy snacks with you as you go out-and-about.  You’ll always want to start each day out with a full and nutritious breakfast and then pack easy and simple snacks with you to eat during the day.  Healthy snacking during the day will help to regulate your blood sugars and it will reduce over-eating at main meals.  Having your own healthy food options will save you from eating whatever is available (which is usually NOT healthy).    During my Hawaii trip I packed my suitcase with protein powder, oatmeal, meal replacement bars, jerky, almonds, and organic fruit leather.

3.  WATCH YOUR PORTIONS.  Regardless of being on vacation or not, portions still matter!  Watch your portion sizes to avoid weight gain.

4.  AVOID EATING-OUT DISASTERS.  If you follow the tips I’ve already given you here, you should come out just fine! I was fortunate enough to stay in a house with a full kitchen while I was in Hawaii, so I was able to eat a lot of my meals at home.  If you have that opportunity, take it!  Try to find balance in eating in and dining out.  I’m not going to lie, I think my favorite dinner meals were had at the beach house.

Here I am with Nic at Cholo's in Haleiwa. It's a tasty Mexican place.

5.  INDULGE IN MODERATION.  If you’re like me, you want to have some “fun eating” while on vacation.  None of us like to feel deprived, right!?  I particularly like to taste local cuisine and try eating at places that I cannot find at home.  While in Hawaii I allowed myself one food indulgence (or cheat) each day.  That seemed to keep me happy without feeling too deprived.   I also tried to focus more on the daily experiences and building memories with my family.  Other ideas on how to keep your “cheating” in moderation include possibly having one scoop of ice cream instead of the sundae, or split that decadent dessert with a travel companion (I tried both of these ideas while in Hawaii).  Usually a small taste will satisfy most of us.

Mom & I enjoying shave ice at the infamous Matsumoto's!

6.  ENJOY YOUR DESTINATION.  Wherever you go, find ways to enjoy your destination in a healthy and fit way!  I mean, why not make the food and the exercise fun, right!?  For nutrition you can take advantage of local fruits (like I did in Hawaii with Pineapple and Mango) and local food that is best in that location (such as seafood if you’re by the sea).  For exercise, depending on your destination, you can run/walk along the beach, go kayaking in the ocean, take advantage of local trails, plan a morning stroll to a farmer’s market, rent a bike and go for a scenic ride, find a local yoga/pilates/zumba class, etc.  This article has several more ideas on how to to find fun ways to get your exercise in while on vacation.  While in Hawaii, I did plenty of this!

My sister and I decided to go hiking. We found a local trail that we could hike on for free that was right by our house.

The hike ended up being about 7 miles (round-trip) and we were lucky enough to see some waterfalls.

The views were unbelievable! This one captures the lush greenery, but you can also see the beach and the ocean in the distance. GORGEOUS!!

Of course, swimming and boogie-boarding in the ocean was a must! Nic & I had a blast doing this together!

I spent lots of time in the sun just relaxing too (mostly with my mom and sister)! This is my only biological sister. I love her more than words can say! I had to put this picture in here because she is close to my thoughts today. She is leaving me and moving out of state this very day (she's on the road as I post this). She will be gone for 3 years as her husband completes his schooling, and I tear up at the thought of having her gone for that long. It looks like I'll have to plan lots of "vacations" to see her! I love you, sis!

SO – whatever you do or whatever destination you land in, shoot for success!  You can still find a lot of ways to have fun on vacation without gaining weight.  If you ask me, that’s a win-win-win!

Friday Feature: Cookbook Recommendation for ATK’s Healthy Family Cookbook

Since you are on my blog, then I suppose it is safe to assume that you are looking for healthy recipes.  Well, for now, this is one of my most VERY favorite finds.  The America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) and Cook’s Illustrated rarely let me down.  They put their recipes through extreme testing to find the very best ingredients and methods for turning out the best dishes. This cookbook is loaded with delicious recipes and I have yet to try one that I don’t like!  That is a a bonus!  Besides that (as if that isn’t enough), I love several other features of this awesome cookbook.

  • It includes all the nutritional information for every recipe.  An obvious win in my book!
  • It is spiral-bound which makes it super easy to flip through.  This also allows the book to lay flat on my countertop.  Sweet!
  • Because of the amount of testing that is put into each recipe, it clearly states if there is an ingredient that should not be substituted or the quality of the dish will be diminished.  I love this because I am constantly tempted to use lower fat milks, less oils, etc., but when ATK says, “Don’t even think about it!” . . . I do my best to refrain from such measures and follow their advice.
  • The photos of the food are lovely and helpful!
  • This cookbook includes tips and techniques on how to do various things (how to slice garlic, how to scramble eggs, the best way to store lettuce, hod to shred beef & chicken, etc.).  In many instances, it provides step-by-step photos on such techniques.
  • There are “Makeover Spotlights” in the book where they explain how they took an original version of a recipe and then made it healthier.
  • There are section divider tabs which make it super easy to flip to the category you are interested in at any particular moment.
  • It includes product reviews.  ATK tests many brands of products and this cookbook spits out the brands they find to be the best.  The product reviews are typically found near recipes that contain that particular product.  Awesome!

You’ll find that I will reference some of my recipe posts back to this cookbook because I am constantly cooking out of it!  (Like these kabobs, for instance.)  If you want any additional healthy recipe ideas, this is a cookbook I never hesitate to recommend.  It is awesome!  (By the way . . . This post was not sponsored in any way by ATK.  All of these opinions are indeed mine.)

Friday Feature: The Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

Did you know that peanuts are not even a nut at all, but that they are actually legumes?  Peanut butter is packed with good nutrition that can easily be incorporated into your snack and meals. There is a common misconception that PB should be avoided because of its high fat content and the amount of calories it contains.  However, the following health benefits would indicate that PB, eaten in moderation, might just do our bodies some good!

1.  PROTEIN is present in high amounts when it comes to peanut butter.  This means that peanut butter can help us to fill fuller longer, it can help build & repair muscle tissue, and assist in all other protein-related functions that take place in our bodies!

2.  PB surprisingly contains FIBER (probably because it’s in the legume family)!   Fiber helps in regulating both blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  It also helps regulate your digestive system by promoting healthy bowel movements (did I really just write that!?!), and also keeps you fuller longer (like protein).

3.  We find the HEALTHY FATS in PB!  Surprisingly enough, PB can be compared to olive oil in that they both contain the same ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats.  These healthy fat levels can help lower your risk of developing heart disease (by keeping bad cholesterol levels down) and type 2 diabetes.

4.  There are other IMPORTANT NUTRIENTS found in PB.  You will find varying amounts of niacin, vitamin E, calcium, copper, potassium, iron, and magnesium in PB.  There is also the presence of resveratorol which has anti-microbial properties that help the body to effectively deal with bacteria!

So!  It looks like PB is a GREAT food to add to our menus!  People have asked me what kind of PB to buy.  I suggest buying natural PB (I buy mine freshly made from the health food store) as the nutrients are much more prevalent.  However, reduced fat brands of PB are great too!

Because peanut butter is so calorie dense, we should not eat it be the cup-fulls!  A good amount of PB to have daily is approximatley 1 – 2 tablespoons.  Some ways to eat your peanut butter might include:

  • PB on toast.
  • PB & jelly sandwich.
  • PB on a rice cake (I LOVE this on the chocolate rice cakes!).
  • PB on celery.
  • PB on apple slices.

PB can really be incorporated to nearly any fat loss program.  However, once again, because it is calorie dense it is cruicial to meaure out your portion because getting just a little extra can add a lot of calories to your menu that will negate all fat loss efforets.  You MUST go check out this video that my friend Dan created!  He & I work together and we have a blast!  He made this video one day after we discovered the measuring mistake (thus the lack of fat loss) by one of our clients.  So, after you watch this video I am quite convinced that you will be sure to measure your peanut butter each time you pull the jar out!

Video:  Love the Peanut Butter