Jan 24th – National Peanut Butter Day

In honor of national peanut butter day, here are 5 facts you probably didn’t know about peanuts and peanut butter!

  1. It takes about 720 peanuts to make a 16oz jar of peanut butter.
  2. By law, any product labeled “peanut butter” in the United States must be at least 90% peanuts.
  3. Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the USA – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.
  4. Ever wonder why Smuckers have products called Goober?! Well Goober is a nickname for peanuts and comes from “nguba”, the Congo language name for peanut.
  5. Peanuts are sometimes called “ground nuts” or “ground peas” because peanuts grow underground.

Enjoy the peanut butter celebration day!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

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5 Ways to Winter-fy your Summer Staple Recipes

It’s even been cold in Florida (yes, okay, not North Dakota cold, but still, there have been frosts!) I have found myself fancying all kinds of foods that I haven’t eaten in years in order to warm me up! Like most people, I have my go-to meals that I eat most of the time. But when it’s chilly, even they need a little seasonal changes.

SALADS

I love a good salad. And by a good salad, I mean an abundance of volume and a lot of variety. Instead of using your base as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and other raw veggies, try  having a bed of spinach. Spinach is great because it starts off with so much volume. Also if you then spruce up your salad with roasted/panfried/steamed veggies like butternut squash, beetroot, parsnips, bell peppers etc, spinach will cope well when reheating your salad in the microwave. Hot lettuce isn’t nice, but hot spinach means wilted spinach and has a wholly different texture. Adding in nuts also creates a wintery feel; from pistachios to almonds, take your pick!

EGGS

Eggs are delicious, hot or cold, and if you are accustomed to having eggs on toast, why not try having a base of quinoa or oatmeal instead. These carb sources are more warming bases than toast!

YOGURT BOWLS

I love a yogurt bowl. On the weekends, these typically are my evening desserts. But with a fire blasting, yogurt doesn’t lend itself to the  winter vibes. Instead of using yogurt as your base, use it as a topping. A dollop of yogurt on top of a warmed cake like my Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies will keep your protein intake high but also keep you warm on the inside too. Instead of adding summer fruits, like blueberries and strawberries, capitalise on what’s seasonal now. If you are low on carbs, then blackberries and rhubarb are great winter, low carb fruits. If you have a few more carbs to play with, then apples, pears and plums are a nice addition to desserts.

PROTEIN SHAKES

If you like drinking protein shakes, a real summer drink for me is when I blend them with a lot of ice. In the winter, though, this is sure to send a chill through your bones! Instead, why not add your scoop of protein to a bowl of plain oatmeal or make into a Molten Chocolate Protein Lava Cake Another alternative that I liked doing in the UK was shaking up a chocolate protein shake and transferring to a mug and heating in the microwave for an instant protein hot chocolate!

ICE-CREAM

I love ice-cream and if you follow my Instagram, you see I eat a lot of the low calorie, protein infused ice-creams on the market. Whether you eat these or regular ice-cream, I highly recommend you top your oatmeal with a scoop (or two). Growing up, a winter pudding favourite was always crumble and custard or ice-cream. The main ingredient in the crumble topping is oats, so you can re-create this British dessert conveniently (and with fewer calories) by preparing your oatmeal with your favorite fruits and adding some ice-cream to the top.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Don’t fear failure. Don’t pursue failure. Don’t accept failure. Expect failure.

I am currently reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradbury and Jean Greaves. It was given to me at the last conference I attended but, being the slow reader that I am, I am only now delving into it. The first few pages struck me as the authors emphasized that emotional intelligence far outweighs IQ in determining success.

Over the past year, I have become fascinated with meta cognition; why and how certain people succeed, why people are happier than others and what makes people exude confidence. This book is well referenced in many corporate climates in the states – some of the strategies mentioned are common sense, some are common knowledge and some really made me think.

How we deal with stress, or more, how we react to stress, reveals a lot about our emotional intelligence. Those of us who are able to respond calmly and productively are often the envy of the rest of us. People who are able to sedate emotional ‘gut’ reactions are able to act more rationally as their responses are void (or minimally tinged) of emotion. Such people are often referred to as ‘cold’ or stand-offish as we are conditioned to believe that every action of ours is influenced by some level of emotional charge.

Stress rears its head in many forms, and not all stress is bad. Stress can provide motivation, a sense of urgency almost, to accomplish a task or meet a deadline. Equally, putting our bodies under stress in the gym is what stimulates muscle and strength growth.

Despite some positive benefits of stress, your immediate reaction to hearing that word probably conjures up an array of negative connotations. The word ‘stress’ is often used to describe chaos, disarray and excessive workload, communicating a need of some relief.

So what causes stress? Pressure. Expectation. Longing. It can be self-imposed or can be the result of external influences. These three triggers share the same negative consequence – failure. Failure to succeed. Failure to deliver. Failure to please. By fearing failure, you are inducing additional stress to whatever task you are undertaking.

Why are you fearing failure? 

If the likelihood of you failing is infinitely greater than the likelihood of you succeeding, is it a task that needs to be completed? Doing something that scares you is gratifying and liberating, but doing something where you are constantly fearing failure is the opposite.

Equally as energy zapping is pursuing failure. It is a slippery slope, but convincing yourself that you are going to fail does nothing for you, your self-esteem nor for the task that you are trying to achieve. Approaching events with a pessimistic attitude adds additional stress to an already intense situation.

So how about approaching situations expecting failure? How about establishing a plan to proactively move forward with failure? Doing this will provide a safety net, a cushion, with an objective plan for when you fail. Now, this doesn’t mean that you will fail, but it does mean you are prepared for if you do. Having this reassurance can not only help you feel more comfortable and confident with what you are trying to achieve, but it can also make you realise that, actually, this task or pressure, wasn’t so stressful after all.

We are a couple of weeks into the new year and approaching the most depressing day of the year. Chances are New Year’s Resolutions are wavering, and, despite best intentions, the ‘new year, new you’ hasn’t really materialised. You may be feeling stressed. You haven’t been to the gym like you said you would. You haven’t avoided the Christmas chocolates, (despite moving them into a high cupboard!) You haven’t even opened the book you were determined to be midway through by now. If, however, you made these New Year’s Resolutions with the intention to fail, you probably would have contingency plans set in place, ready for said failure. It isn’t too late! (It’s never too late!)

Now you have come to the realisation that you are expecting failure, you can make a plan to proactively bounce back. Don’t accept that you have failed. By doing that you are making no progress, either in terms of achieving your goal or in terms of altering your mind set. Sedate those gut reactions, improve your emotional intelligence, expect to fail…and watch yourself succeed.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Raspberry White Chocolate Blondies

These blondies are super dense – a combination of using coconut flour and purely egg whites creates a clos texture, perfect warmed up with custard (the British coming out in me!) or served with ice-cream. Equally as good is pairing with a cup of tea and some yogurt for a mid-afternoon snack.

Macros per blondie (based on 9 servings): 162kcal; 10.7g protein, 17.5g carbs, 6.4g fat

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Ingredients

  • 100g oats, ground into a flour
  • 12 tbsp. liquid egg whites
  • 60ml unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 120g 0% fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 tbsp. runny nut butter of choice (I used 4tbsp. Fantasy French toast Epic Spreads and 2 tbsp. pumpkin spice G Butter)
  • 20g coconut flour
  • 5 tsp Stevia
  • 100g raspberries, divided into two 50g portions
  • 30g white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. In a food processor, or blender, grind the oats into a flour. Set aside in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Blend the Greek yoghurt, egg whites, nut butter, half the raspberries and almond milk and add to the ground oats.
  4. Sift the coconut flour into the mixture and then add the Stevia, the other half of the raspberries and the white chocolate chips.
  5. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  6. Grease and line an 8” square cake tin and pour in the mixture.
  7. Bake in the center of your preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when touched.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into slices.
  9. Serve warm with custard, ice-cream or Greek yogurt.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

My Fitness Journey: Growing Taller, Growing Muscles and Growing Confidence

I first started being interested in fitness when I saw a picture of myself at a family outing in summer 2009. I hated the shape of my face and decided something had to change. I had never eaten badly; my Mom is a fantastic cook who made plenty of healthy, balanced meals throughout my childhood (and still does now!) But when I moved to university, I replaced her home cooking with convenience meals, partying and eating mayonnaise covered cheesy fries at 3am! Over a summer in Florida, I started attending classes at the health club that my Mom was a member of and lost about 8lb as well as growing, yes, growing, an inch taller! My posture had improved so much from exercising that I became taller than my Mom. Check mark on the bucket list!

In 2011, my boyfriend of the time persuaded me to join this new low-cost gym. I gave him my debit card details and told him to sign me up, as I am guilty of ‘bookmarking’ such things and leaving all my Internet browser tabs open (anyone else?!) and then never following through! We signed up for a Friday evening class, with a very enthusiastic trainer and we loved it! I became a bit of a regular at the classes from then on until a personal trainer took me into the weights room. I can’t pretend I enjoyed my first few experiences of using real weights as opposed to lurid colored dumbbells that look like cat toys. Seeing my body change and becoming noticeably stronger was empowering and eventually I plucked up the courage to follow a training plan that involved me entering the weights room 4 – 5 times a week.

Fast forward a year or so and any doubts about entering the weights room had deserted me. At the same time as I emigrated to Florida, I began preparing for a fitness photoshoot. I followed a very strict, low calorie meal plan and went to the gym twice a day for cardio and weights for six months. I dropped 25lbs in total. After the photoshoot, I felt incredibly lost and was almost in mourning. I lacked a purpose, any sense of direction and was unable to stifle my cravings for extravagant sweet meals. After a couple of months of really struggling, I decided to try something new.

I had done a lot of reading on various social media platforms and longed to be utilizing a flexible dieting approach. I decided to calculate the calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats from the meal plan I was given and experiment. I gave myself two weeks. I told myself that if I put on weight then I would go back to ‘eating clean’. Two weeks went by and my weight was actually dropping.

Flexible dieting is heavily glamorized online and perceptions seem to be that it is all about fitting in as much junk as possible and taking photos of it. Yes, I eat ‘junk’ in small quantities but most of the time, I don’t want to eat it. I enjoy eating the fresh, crunchy textures of fruits and vegetables and there are few things that give me as much pleasure as cooking up delicious meals for the week. I love experimenting with flavors and different ingredients and am always happy (although teased for it!) bringing my Tupperware pots into work. Why would I want to pay multi-billion dollar companies for mediocre (at best) food, when I can do it better, cheaper and healthier myself?

Now, I can’t imagine not tracking macros. It works for me, both mentally and physically. It enables me to pursue two of my passions (cooking and eating….yes, eating is definitely a passion) and it has enabled me to progress. It is as much of a part of my life as getting dressed.

With a much healthier relationship with food and my love of working out, stepping on stage seemed like the natural next step. I competed twice this year and I learnt so much from this experience. Bodybuilding is often thought of as synonymous with vanity and self-obsession, but, in reality, the lean physiques showcase a whole host of motivations. There is so much more to bodybuilding than aesthetics.

Despite enjoying the experience, I found that being on stage in a glittery bikini just wasn’t really ‘me’. Looking forward to 2018, I have my first powerlifting competition. Powerlifting is a sport which embodies everything I aim to personify; strength, determination and passion. Needless to say, I am excited (although a little nervous…the manicure better stay in tact!)

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

2018: The Year of Goals not Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions. You either love them or hate them. Make them or break them. (Or a mixture of all four). I am a big advocate of goal setting; from the short-term to the long-term and to everything in-between. I find it keeps me focused and has enabled me to progress in all areas of my life I value. Looking back at my 2017 resolutions, I have had mixed success (and some of my resolutions, I no longer wish to achieve now; isn’t it funny how much difference one year makes?!) With that being said, I am slightly changing how I set my resolutions for 2018 as I find the word ‘resolution’ suggests emphasis on the change in behaviour and some of my goals for the year don’t require a modification in behaviour, but more persistence or more work. So I am bringing out the rebel in me and getting 2018 goals, not resolutions.

Fitness

  1. Squat 200lbs. Yes, this was a resolution last year. I am still working on this…
  2. Deadlift 300lbs.
  3. Benchpress 135lbs (I really just want to benchpress with one big plate each side!)
  4. Compete in a powerlifting competition.
  5. Continue to do yoga weekly all through the year.

Nutrition

  1. Give up diet soda for good. I go through periods of time of drinking tonnes of the stuff and then other times when I don’t touch it. I have found it makes me break out and it makes my stomach feel odd, so I am aiming to get rid of it from my diet completely, choosing sparkling water instead.
  2. Continue with reducing chemicals I ingest. You may (or may not) have noticed that I have been using a lot less of the calorie free, chemically high sauces and syrups in my diet. I want to continue with this. It may look like I eat a lot of sweet meals, but actually the nutritional profile has improved significantly from earlier in the year.
  3. Continue baking more and cooking more meals from scratch, including grilling on the BBQ. I don’t make the most of the BBQ, even plain grilled BBQ chicken tastes amazing.
  4. Stock pile on food less. I am all about the mental health at the moment and am trying to ditch as many extreme dieting habits as I can. When I did my first photoshoot, I began hoarding food. I don’t ‘hoard’ food now, but I do tend to buy things for the sake of it, rather than it being on promotion or planning on eating it immediately. My goal is to buy what I need and then if I cannot justify the purchase of anything else (am I going to eat it this week/is it on promotion/is it limited edition?) then it stays on the grocery shelf. It sounds silly, but this would be a huge accomplishment!

Life

  1. Get a promotion. This was also a goal last year (or, resolution), which I achieved, but doesn’t stop it being on my radar for this year either…
  2. Read 6 novels. I am bad at reading books. Almost as bad as I am at watching TV. I think 6 novels is achievable, but will still be a challenge (4 more books than this year!)
  3. Wear lipstick/lip gloss every time I wear make up. Sounds vain, but I rarely wear anything on my lips and it was only when I saw pictures of myself this holiday season next to my sister, that I realized the value of a bit of lippy!
  4. Visit 2 places I have never been before. In terms of travel, 2017 has been great. I have been to Southern California, Denver, New York, New Jersey, Washington DC and Chicago. I got a lot out of these trips, both for work and pleasure, so want to continue doing that!
  5. Ditch consuming social media in the evenings on week days. Instead, use the time to stretch and foam roll. Trying to make my time more productive!

What does 2018 have in store for you?!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

 

Holiday ‘Dieting’: Myth Busting ‘Memories Over Macros’

If you hadn’t  gathered by now, I love Christmas. It is absolutely my favourite time of year. The elaborate decorations, the buzz that is everywhere you go and the fact everyone makes an effort to think about others – from dedicating time to choosing gifts…what’s not to love?! I also love the family traditions that differ between families; pulling Christmas crackers, eating scrambled egg and smoked salmon for breakfast and getting all dressed up just to hang about on the sofa all day are some of my personal favourites.

As much as I love Christmas, it can be a period of time that is difficult. If family are absent and money is tight, it can be a very overwhelming and stressful time. Coupled with cold weather in most places (maybe not Florida), it can leave you feeling despondent, lonely and ill. For lots of people, there is also the added strain of nutrition. It is a time where lots of parties are organised, lots of food is consumed and lots of alcohol is drunk. Many people feel like they have to battle more so than normal with what is ‘healthy’ and what they are craving, or what they are expected to consume. More this year than ever before have I seen numerous ‘fitness’ social media accounts advocating ‘memories over macros’, alluding to the idea that you should be indulging and creating memories with friends and family rather than concerning yourself with macros.

I think there has been a great shift with females I ‘follow’ online this year – away from competing in bodybuilding competitions and being really lean and towards more self-love and carrying a little extra fat. I think a lot of this shift is due to age, maturity and life experience. Just like I feel like I have ‘grown out of’ getting drunk at the weekend in night clubs, I think a lot of the people I follow online have ‘grown out of’ living life purely for the aesthetics. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either, you constantly change as situations change. What I do think is wrong is constant reinforcement of this phrase ‘memories over macros’ which has plagued social media this season.

All too often in the world of health and fitness, there is the idea of extremes, either portraying that you are 100% focused on getting shredded or you are fully supportive of intuitive eating and loving yourself. In truth, there are very few people who wholly live either extreme. Everyone carries insecurities and it is how you deal with those insecurities that determine your happiness and your progress; both inside the gym and out. The phrase ‘memories over macros’ suggests the two concepts are mutually exclusive and that you must indulge in order to create memories. This is simply not true. What you need to create memories that you will treasure is self-acceptance and contentment. How can you create positive memories if you are so caught up in portraying that you are ‘balanced’ by eating an entire box of chocolates and secretly plagued with guilt at doing so? Equally, how can you enjoy this festive period if you are eating chicken and broccoli and wistfully dreaming of having a slice of cake?

Whether you over-indulge, count your macros religiously or do something in-between should be a personal choice. A choice that you make where you feel happiest. Because happiness will make you nice to be around, which, in turn, will lead to memories. You don’t need to choose between memories or macros. I find it really sad to see some of these ‘fitspo’ accounts videoing themselves eating chocolates one day and then eating egg whites and drinking diet coke the next. Just because they are saying ‘memories over macros’ doesn’t mean that they believe it or that they are content with it.

Living a ‘balanced life’ is very difficult, don’t make the job any harder by being sucked into trying to live the latest social media catchphrase. For me, I choose memories and macros.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x