Wake up & Smell the Coconuts!

Remember our talk about Coconut Oil? Well, after a few failed attempts I’ve finally found my all-time favourite recipe to use it in! Try it out and let me know what you think!

*Note: If you’re allergic to peanuts I am so sorry, because you are REALLY missing out. But, try substituting with another nut butter or nut substitute.

PB&C Smoothie

Step 1: Combine

Step 1: Combine

Step 2: Blend

Step 2: Blend

Ingredients

2 tbsp. Organic Peanut Butter

½ Cup Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)

1 Ripe Banana (for a thicker smoothie use frozen)

2 tbsp. Greek Yogurt

4-5 Ice cubes

1 tsp. Coconut Oil (Solid at room temperature)

Combine all ingredients in a blender & blend until smooth.

                                                                                                   Simple, delicious & hearty! I’ll have this smoothie in the morning and it will keep me going straight through until lunchtime. The coconut oil acts a natural sweetener to counteract the strong nutty taste from the organic peanut butter, while elegantly complementing the banana flavour. Still too cold for a smoothie in the morning? Save this for a replenishing post-workout snack! #lifefitwork

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Look Good = Feel Good

If you think this isn’t true you are WRONG. I know that’s a strong statement, but seriously, I challenge you to disagree with me on this one (I actually encourage this).

If you don’t like what you’re wearing, or feel comfortable in what you’re wearing on the outside, you will not ‘feel good’ on the inside. Example. Say you work in a very corporate environment and you have the daunting task of making a presentation to Senior Executives (yes, I faced this last week). Will I be wearing slacks and the sweater that I may or may not have slept in the night before? No! I’ll be wearing the most appropriately-corporate outfit I own (which also doubles as my “interview” go-to). Going into that arena feeling confident with my knowledge & in my appearance made for one heck of a successful presentation!

This isn’t ground breaking news in a day-to-day sense, but what most people don’t realize is the same goes for your workout gear. If you don’t feel good with what you’re wearing, chances are you won’t feel like you’ve accomplished very much in your workout. You need to find your “workout” go to. So starting from the bottom, here’s a lifefitwork Style Guide (live links included!) to help you find what that is;

Gents: Apologies in advance as this a female-centered post, but please by all means, comment and share your thoughts from the men’s perspective as well! Please also note that all of the products listed below are samples of what I already own and no, this is not an endorsed review, all have been purchased & tested by me!

SHOES

Nike Free

            Nike Free 5.0

Did someone say Nike? Contrary to popular belief and almost all social media, Nike shoes are not the only ones on offer.

Don’t base your fitness shoe on style, performance comes first and I guarantee you’ll find a pair you like anyways. Not sure which ones to get? The Running Room and some Nike stores offer a free assessment of your stride, gait etc. to find the best shoe for you!

BOTTOMS

THE Fold-Over Tights, Addidas - Stella McCartney

THE Fold-Over Tights Addidas – Stella     McCartney

You’ve got 3 basic options. Pants, capris or shorts (I beg of you, unless you’re playing Tennis a skort is NOT an option). Whether you’re sporting pants or capris make sure your focus is on the quality of the fabric, and make sure you perform the standard squat and/or jog test before you purchase.

in the flow crop

in the flow crop  Lululemon              

This is so important.

[Squat Test: With your back to a mirror, bend down as if you are sitting on a chair & take a peak over your shoulder. If you can see your under things or the slight shade of your skin colour, do not purchase.]

Brave enough for the short game? Make sure to check the length and elasticity while in motion, or else face the wrath of shorts-turned-underwear in a matter of seconds. [Jog Test: Run on the spot to make sure shorts stay in place and do not ride up.]

                                       TOPS

run: swiftly tech long sleeve crew (my personal fave!) Lululemon

run: swiftly tech long sleeve crew (my personal fave!) Lululemon

Here the options are endless, but there can be a right or wrong choice depending on the activity you’re doing and body type. Let me start by lending some truth to this myth; “Baggy t-shirts make you look skinnier” – No they do not! They make anyone look sloppy and frumpy regardless of what’s hidden underneath them.

Note: Cotton is a fabric to avoid when working out as they will retain a lot of that sweat you’re getting rid of and weigh you down.

Instead, find a light-weight breathable fabric. As daunting as this may sound, opt for a shirt with a tighter fit, or a constructed top with a flattering flair. Don’t shy away from a tight fit, these can actually suck you in and make you look thinner (#winning).

                                                     BOLDER HOLDERS

Or, sports bras if you prefer. This one is a little more personal and you definitely need to pay attention to fabric, elasticity, coverage and the Bounce Effect (you know what I’m talking about).

If you’re going to spend money on any of the above items, invest the most in a good quality sports bra – your back will thank you (again, sorry gentlemen but it’s a girl thang).

All things considered, size matters when you’re looking for the right support for your body.

Now, I know I’ve just mentioned a lot of stuff and a lot of brands that let’s face it, are not cheap! Don’t fret, there are affordable options out there. I’ve listed some of the most common brands to give you an idea of what kind of thing you should be looking for. But here’s a great list to find affordable yoga gear, and no, I wouldn’t classify them as being “yoga only” items. FYI, my favourite sports bras of all-time were purchased at Target for $20, and as soon as the news came out that they were closing I bought 3 more #guilty.

So remember…

1. Always try things on.

2. Always test out how they move.

3. Go lightweight & tight (ish).

Love how you feel in an outfit and I promise you’ll feel better & push yourself harder. #lifefitwork

Sláinte!

I love beer. And having gone to University in Halifax, Nova Scotia beer-drinking was almost a degree requirement (Fun fact: I used to live directly across the street from the cemetery where Mr. Alexander Keith himself was buried!) And I love celebrating this monumental Irish holiday (though, celebrating what? Someone please explain.) in the best way we know how, by drinking (preferably green) BEER!

Bunch o'leprechauns

                                             Bunch O’Leprechauns (Dalhousie University, circa 2012.)

…at least that’s how it used to be when “student” was my full-time job. But truth be told, I am so glad those days are behind me and the green beer (hugely overrated) has stopped flowing. Okay, maybe not stopped completely but we’re trickling here in comparison.

This year however, I am happy to say I will be trading in my green beer for a green pressed juice by Greenhouse Juice Co. If juice isn’t your thing (or you get a little sticker shocked with the price of a juice) try making your own green smoothie like one of these.

East of Eden (Romaine, Kale, Celery, Apple & Lemon)

East of Eden (Romaine, Kale, Celery, Apple & Lemon)

Must I explain why the juice or smoothie is better than the beer? I think not in this case, a vegetable is a vegetable is a vegetable, and veggies are GOOD FOR YOU. Point made.

By all means, enjoy your beers but try something new this year and start/end off your day with the healthier green drink to #lifefitwork AND celebrate St. Patrick!

Time for a Takeover!

Move over Kale! There’s a new celeb in town and Coconut Oil is her name.

Oil of the Gods

Oil of the Gods

 Truthfully, I’m probably late to jump on the Coconut Oil bandwagon but it’s still new to me so I’m sticking to it. There’s no surprise that a lot of us suffer from dry skin in the bitter winter months and my mom recently told me about her new cure, Coconut Oil. She had recently been on a trip with my Aunt and they treated themselves to a complete spa-day, with facial included. What they learned during their facial was that coconut oil is what many claim to be the best natural moisturizer out there. Their esthetician even claimed to say that she has ditched buying regular moisturizers and strictly uses coconut oil!

I wasn’t sold yet. But I am a very firm believer in the mantra don’t knock it ‘till ya try it.

So, I bought myself some coconut oil (available at most retail grocery stores) and have started using it as a hand cream. And I am happy to report that as a moisturizer it definitely seems to be working (goodbye dry, cracked, winter knuckles!)

BUT, that’s not the only thing it’s good for. The jar itself claims coconut oil is “Ideal high-heat cooking oil, delicious for baking, in bread, on vegetables, or popcorn”. Sounds too good to be true, right? So of course, I had to try it.

Let me tell you, I have NOT been disappointed. I’ve started to use coconut oil as a substitute for olive oil when cooking with vegetables (mushrooms especially) and they are delicious! I find the hint of coconut really helps to bring out the natural flavours of the veggies I’m cooking with. Of course after I started using Coconut Oil myself I went online and found about a bijillion ways to use it! Some of my faves can be found here by well+good (one of my all-time favourite blogs fyi).

Moral of the story? Always ALWAYS listen to your mother. And stay tuned, I’ll be showcasing some of my own favourite recipes using Coconut Oil soon! #lifefitwork

Back to my Roots

Although my studies and career have taken a completely different turn over the last few years, I feel compelled to return to my educational roots in psychology. (If only, to solidify in my mind that yes, the money spent on my degree was worth it!)

As a psychology student I’ve studied many theories that have been used to explain why, how and when we do the things we do. From Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner to Abraham Maslow, all have strived to define our thoughts and actions. A theory that has stuck with me since undergrad is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which continues to be used to help explain what motivates behaviour. His hierarchy “suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs” as described by Kerry Cherry. Meaning, we all have basic needs (food, water, sleep etc.) that we need to satisfy before we’re able to tackle the “outer” or secondary needs (love, social acceptance, security etc.). Take a look at the diagram below, this is from my personal psychology student archives circa 2011. (Truthfully, I think this was more along the lines of the i’m so tired of studying so I will draw this little doodle that’s somehow related so I can convince myself this is still “studying”)

Archived from pages and pages of study notes (I am no artist, I know).

Archived from pages and pages of study notes (I am no artist, I know).

But it makes sense right? You can apply that theory to almost anything. When you’re building a house, what do you do first? You build from the bottom up, (floor, walls then a roof) not the other way ‘round!

So why am I telling you this? Because I’m hoping to shift your focus back to the basics! Forget about today’s “it” vegetable or fad diet or whether or not you should do yoga everyday (but actually, yoga is great and MJ makes it look SUPER cool). Now hear me out – I’m not knocking any of these things but it’s important to establish your baseline. Figure out what it is your body truly needs and expand from there. What I mean is, you don’t NEED the gluten free, dairy-free, soy-based vegan whaddayacallit anymore then you need the 3-egg veggie omelet with toast, hashbrowns, bacon/sausage with pancake on the side for breakfast. Fuel yourself for the day with the carbs/proteins you need and don’t overdo it.

Once you’ve established those basic needs then you can work on incorporating the secondary, or “hip” healthy suggestions. But remember, they are exactly that, SUGGESTIONS. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work for you.

Now go re-build your house and #lifefitwork

#FAIL

Search #fail on twitter, instagram, youtube, vine etc. and you’ll find yourself watching dozens of videos like this;

Extremely entertaining, sometimes disturbing but altogether with the same common theme of displaying incredible “failure” moments in life.

So take a page from these adorable pups and FAIL!

No seriously, I want you to fail. I want you to make a goal for yourself and stick to it, then I want to see you fall off that bandwagon. Seems counter-intuitive to my entire blog premise right? WRONG. If we don’t fail in our efforts to change a bad-habit into a healthy habit then we will never learn how to overcome them. What’s the secret here? Guilt.

Guilt is the super-power we all have, but to reap its benefits we have to cultivate and learn when to use it! If you feel guilty after missing a day or two at the gym, or eating that entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s then you’ve succeeded! The recognition of that guilty feeling can be used as a tool to help bring you back on track. One error or moment when you’ve strayed off the path does not undo all of the hard work you’ve completed so far, so please – DON’T GIVE UP!

Turn your guilt into motivation and continue to #lifefitwork!

Glass or Plastic?

Remember those tips we talked about when doing your grocery shop? Now you have all of these lovely fresh fruits, vegetables and protein you can use to whip up some healthy meals and quick snacks. One of my favourite meals to make and enjoy in the winter is homemade beef stew with dumplings (my mother is not quite ready to share her secret recipe but here is one from English chef James Martin). The great thing about stew is that you can really make it your own and add all kinds of  vegetables you like rather than the standard carrot/potato combination. The only problem I find with making stew is that most recipes make multiple portions and me, myself & I can’t eat it quick enough! I try my best not to waste any food so I will either pass it off to friends and family or freeze it to eat at a later date. Here’s the question, are you team Glass or Plastic? In the last 5-10 years we have heard a lot about “BPA-free” bottles and containers but is plastic really the villain the media has made him out to be? As a user of both types of containers I’ve compared them to see who ranks best;

Glass VS. Plastic

Glass VS. Plastic

                       Glass

VS.

Plastic

Dishwasher safe & residue or stains are easily removed.

Cleanliness

Can stain permanently & dishwasher leaves residue, which often results in an added hand wash.

Heavy

Portability

Light

4-sided snap lid or rubber lid provides an air tight seal.

Closure/Lid

I find plastic containers leak more often, so if transporting soup etc. I would keep upright and place in a Ziploc bag.

Food flavour will not leach and will protect the shelf-life of food.

Food Safety

Even BPA free plastic can leach into food, can absorb smells and alter taste.

100% recyclable

Environmental Safety

There are 7 types of plastic and some are not recyclable, causing further waste if they can’t be re-purposed.

Oven proof, freezer-safe, microwave-safe, dishwasher safe

Versatility

Freezer safe, microwave safe but quality decreases after each use (down-cycling).

More expensive, but most durable.

Price

Less expensive, but not as durable so you will likely spend more on purchasing additional containers.

Conclusion: Team Glass outranks plastic overall. However, plastic can still serve a storage purpose as long as you are not cooking or freezing in them. If you’re still not comfortable using plastic, try to repurpose them and get the most out of your money spent. Use as storage containers for hardware, arts & crafts or to organize those “miscellaneous” drawers. Real simple created a fantastic “Best for Leftovers” list combining both plastic & glass containers with tips on when is best to use them.

Keep yourself healthy & safe with glass containers and don’t be afraid of the added weight. The bonus? You’ll be weight-lifting on the go! #lifefitwork

Let’s Get Personal

Now that I’ve covered some ground with lifefitwork, it occurred to me that you may be wondering where I am getting all of my topics and ‘expertise’ from. If you’ve taken a look at my About page you already know that I’m not a personal trainer & not a nutritionist, so what gives me the right to talk about “healthy living”? Really, I’m simply a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ in the subject not because I’ve studied the science behind it, but because I’ve lived it. Allow me to re-introduce myself and let’s get personal.

1379972_10200738664623142_2115230709_n

Some muddy Tough Mudders

I am competitive. Always have been and always will be. Growing up with a brother 4 years my senior meant that I had a constant competitor and I loved it! I used to trail Chris and his friends around everywhere they went and I was insistent that anything they could do, I could do better. Most of the time I was able to live up to my self-expectations with one exception, the amusement park height marker always got the best of me. I know people always say they’re competitive, but seriously, I’ve been known to take it to the next level.

Like this one time when I was spending a week at choir camp, (yes, this exists) I was told by the cute camp counselor that I couldn’t eat one of the hot jalapeno peppers he had grown himself. The fact that none of his early-twenties-aged friends would do it should have been a red flag. But alas, the 12 year-old (going on 18) me, said “Ha! Just watch me” and I gobbled it down. The utter disbelief that crossed their faces was almost worth the sheer pain I experienced as a result of eating an entire jalapeno pepper. Note: I come from a very British family, spice is not in our vocabulary. Did I let them see my discomfort? Absolutely not. I sat in the dining hall eating bread and milk and didn’t utter a word of complaint. And heck yes I was satisfied. My prize? Instead of fruit for dessert I was given an ice cream bar and was later serenaded with a guitar rendition of Oasis – “Wonderwall” by that same cute counselor who told me I couldn’t eat the pepper.

This inner drive to compete carried me all the way through my childhood and high school career. However, was most apparent in the realm of sports and physical activity.

Where's Sarah? The keen one with her shirt properly tucked in!

Where’s Sarah? The keen one with her shirt properly tucked in!

Name a sports team in elementary school and I was on it. Discus throw included. And to be a competitor, you had to put in hard work to be healthy & fit. As much fun as it was, there was also a lot of discipline involved. Much of this discipline I attribute to my Dad, John. As a child, if my brother or I left our dishes out or didn’t clean our rooms etc. our punishment would be a mandatory set of 25 push-ups. No joke. John is not ex-military and his father didn’t use those tactics on him, but it was his way of trying to use push-ups as a deterrent/punishment. Little did he know, it was working to create a habit of healthy activity that I have taken and applied to daily life.

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t be “the best” at every sport under the sun and narrowed my expertise to one discipline; dance (yes, it’s a SPORT).

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DalDance Competitive Piece

This is where most of my education in health and fitness blossomed. As a dancer, you have to be so aware of your body and the muscles needed to shape the way you want to move. In many sports there is a ball or tool used to compete but in dance, you are the ball. You are the only thing stopping you from winning or losing so it’s in your best interest to be finely tuned. That being said, in a dance class it is glaringly obvious when you are not looking or doing your best, there are mirrors EVERYWHERE. Because I spent so much time looking at myself in the mirror, I learned a lot about my diet and how it affects my bodies’ performance. I started listening in, and noticed I reacted differently to certain foods depending on when, what and how I ate. I didn’t realize how much I had learned about myself until well into my University days when I finally had what Oprah likes to call my own “ah-ha moment”. But let me tell you, after 20 years as a dancer I have learned a LOT about my personal diet and fitness.

This realization, coupled with my natural drive to succeed in a physical landscape is how I’ve come to conclude that yes, I can be a voice for healthy living. Whether or not you like, love, or hate being physically active or eating your veggies there is still a way for anyone to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This is the notion I hope I can instill with my readers and guide you to understand what works best for you. I think the most important thing to take from my experiences and this blog entirely, is that there is no overnight solution, or a wrong or right way to achieve a healthy lifestyle. You have to want it, you have to commit yourself to doing it and you have to put in the work.

So now you know a little bit about where I’m coming from and how I got here. But I will ask one thing of you, no, beg of you; don’t dare me to do something. Although I have a better handle on it these days, I will forever have the urge to try any kind of challenge you throw my way! #lifefitwork

What’s Your Excuse?

P1010015

As pretty as it looks, it is deceptively cold.

This is the kind of day when all I want to do is hunker down with a good book, wrap myself in the blanket my grandmother knit and drink tea ALL day long. “Feels like -25°C” is really no joke, but I guess that’s what we get when living in Canada. It’s at times like this when we often struggle to find that motivation to venture outside for some exercise or make it to the gym. Today I, too, had to mentally convince myself to pull up my socks, quit making excuses and just Get. To. The. Gym (I did, eventually). So how do we make sure we stick to our goals and avoid getting lost in the land of the never-ending excuses?

One thing you can do is know your excuses and learn how to fight them. Let me give you some examples from my own personal “excuse-catalogue”;

  1. Excuse: It’s so cold. Fight line: If you’re cold, get up and get moving! Physical activity is better than any sweater or blanket at warming you up.
  2. Excuse: I’ve had a really long day. Fight line: Contrary to what you think, you’re not the only one whose had a “long day”. If others can do it so can you.
  3. Excuse: I don’t have time. Fight line: 20 minutes a day is all you need, and once you start you know you’ll keep going.

When it comes to excuses you are your own worst enemy. There are endless excuses you could come up with to avoid exercise but the trick here is to know how to fight them. Think of potential excuses that you might use to avoid your activity of choice, and now quickly counter-act that thought! Knowing and having this “self-knowledge” will help you to recognize the difference between an excuse and a valid reason. And let’s be clear, there are only a handful of valid reasons versus the millions we could fabricate.

Another option is to make it a date. Especially during the cold winter months, set a place and time and invite a friend to go with you. Knowing that you have committed to someone will most likely give you that extra push to make it out the door. If you are struggling to hold yourself accountable for your own actions, this is a great alternative. Guilt is a precious gift, nobody wants to be the friend who no-shows for their gym date. Bonus: this will also serve dual purpose as a social call!

Can’t make it to the gym/yoga/fitness class? Sometimes this truthfully does happen and our schedules don’t allow for it. That’s okay, this is the LIFE part of #lifefitwork. But, just because you can’t make it to the gym doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate activity into your day. Memorize this acronym; MAPS.

Move, Activate, Posture, Stretch

If we can’t schedule an activity, we want to make sure we Move throughout the day, Activate our muscles, maintain good Posture and take a second to Stretch. You may feel like you aren’t accomplishing much, but the goal with MAPS is to help cultivate the habit of exercising and remaining active.

With this in mind, make sure to follow @sarahkcopes for tomorrow’s first FIT Friday challenge! #lifefitwork

“A B C it’s easy as 1 2 3”

Take a note from the late Michael Jackson and let’s begin. The most time consuming exercise you’ll have to do all week, but once it’s done? You’re coasting! Consider this the biggest test of your organizational skills. Here are 5 easy steps for a successful (and healthy) grocery shop;

  1. Make a list. I prefer to write mine down (yes, the trusted duo, pen & paper!) or you can type it on your phone, send yourself an email etc. whatever works best for you. Appdicted? Sign up in store at any Loblaws and try the PC Plus mobile app. You can create a shopping list, set preferences and save money on groceries! (P.S. I don’t work for Loblaws, I just really really dig this app!)
  2. STICK to the list. Meaning, if it’s not on your pre-set list, take it out of the basket! Not only will this keep you focused on the task at hand but you’ll save a buck or two at the same time.
  3. Outer GTA is your best friend. No, I don’t mean go to Mississauga for groceries. The majority of your shop should take place around the outer aisles/areas of the store. This is where you’ll find all the yummy fresh eats you need, rather than the quick-fix packaged goods you think you want.
  4. Buy what you like, not what you think you should like. Kale is the new black these days, but if you don’t like kale, don’t buy kale! If you are putting items on a list that you know you or your family will not touch, what’s the point? Buy the foods you’ll want to eat and half the battle is already done!
  5. Change with the seasons. You wouldn’t wear a winter jacket in the summer, so you shouldn’t eat the same produce month-to-month either. I know you can get all kinds of produce year-round these days but seasonal fruits and vegetables will contain a higher nutrient value. Not to mention, you’ll be supporting your local Canadian farmers! (Good karma? Check.)

This may seem like a little extra work now, but after a few focused trips, you won’t even know you’re doing it. Establish the habit and change the way you shop.

I challenge you to apply these steps to your next grocery shop. Leave a comment or tweet @sarahkcopes and let me know how you’re getting on!

Not sure where to start? See my list this week below for some inspiration.

Happy shopping! #lifefitwork

This week’s list