weight loss

Sunday Circuit – Daylight Savings Edition

One of my fave shots from my celebration photoshoot

Time to Spring Ahead!  I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for some warm weather and beach time!  Here is a full-body heart rate circuit to put some spring into your step and burn some fat.

5 min warm-up of your choice (I like foam rolling and a few minutes of spinning)

1. 15 squats + OH press (DB or RB)

2. 10 pushup jacks

3. 15 alternating reverse lunges

4. 10 Bent-over high rows (DB or RB)

5. 15 prone hip lifts (with feet on floor, chair, or stability ball, depending on fitness level)

6. 10 Russian twists

7. 1 minute fast step ups (use bottom step of stairs in your house)

Rest 1-2 minutes

Do as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes.


*Remember, if you have not been exercising regularly or have any medical conditions or injuries that you should complete a PAR-Q before doing intense physical activity. Always warm up and listen to your body throughout the workout.


Black Bean Banana Brownie Recipe

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Brownies are the perfect place to hide black beans. Lately I have been making these quite a lot because they are such an easy snack that my son and I both like. I like to have them as a pre-workout snack in the late afternoon.


  • 2 cups black beans (soaked and cooked or from a can)
  • 2 cups egg whites
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

Mason Jar/Blender Method*:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Place black beans and 1.5 cups of egg whites in a large mason jar.  Blend until smooth and then pour the mixture into a mixing bowl.
  3. Place bananas, honey, remaining egg whites and 2 eggs in the large mason jar.  Blend until smooth and then pour the mixture into the mixing bowl. Stir all of the liquid together.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, cocoa until mixed.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture. Stir until everything is evenly mixed.
  6. Pour into either a)silicon muffin pans or b) a greased baking dish
  7. Bake for 20-35min depending on what you put it in. Small muffin cups will take about 20 min while large muffin cups or large pan will take about 35min.  Test center with a butter knife or a toothpick – when it comes out clean (no goopy batter) then it is done.
  8. Cool 10 min before removing from pan. Enjoy!

*You can also use a food processor or a potato masher to mush up the beans and bananas together and then add the remaining wet ingredients together.

Self-kindness is a Secret Weapon


January is a fantastic time to make new health & fitness goals but often people are really hard on themselves, taking a militant approach that really isn’t all that helpful. (Example: “I’m going to get up early every day and go to the gym and only eat salad”).  While some people may like a trainer that yells at them to work harder, that has never been my style and I think kindness is completely underestimated when it comes to fitness.  Are you really more motivated by being recognized for making a positive change than by being scolded for eating a cookie that wasn’t in your plan?  Um..no. Probably not.  Mostly likely you will feel bad about eating the cookie and then give up and eat the whole bag (“might as well”, right?). This is where self-kindness (and forgiveness) comes in. You are not a complete failure because you slipped up a little (or even a lot). There really is no such thing as a “perfect” diet or fitness plan and there are more important things to focus your energy on than berating yourself. Learning to forgive yourself and move on quickly is really important for long-term success.

When I was a teenager I was a promising athlete and was extremely hard on myself.  I thought that more was always better and I learned the hard way that this isn’t always the case.  Overtraining and not supporting physical and mental recovery can lead to injuries, burnout, and other negative consequences (for me personally, I developed an eating disorder).  It is one thing to strive for improvement and quite another to feel like you are never good enough. The truth is that there will always be someone faster, stronger, or more beautiful (or differently beautiful) than you are.  That is not the point.  The point is to do your best, to feel alive, and to make the most of the time you’ve been given.

Self-kindness is not permission to go off the rails and do whatever you want. We know that improving athletic performance requires intentional training and optimizing recovery through high-quality nutrition, rest, and relaxation.  We also know that loss doesn’t come from sitting on your butt and eating fast food.  So, are you really being kind to yourself when you make choices that are not supporting your health and fitness goals?  What does self-kindness look like to you?

I think that it will be a little different for each of us.  Practicing self-kindness to me is…

  • going to bed early so that I feel well-rested and ready for the day
  • eating whole foods that support my training and body composition goals most of the time
  • having really awesome cheat meals once in a while
  • warming up properly before my workouts
  • lifting heavy weights and striving to get stronger
  • making time to swim, run, and play basketball
  • getting a massage once in a while
  • reading for enjoyment (not just scientific articles for my PhD)
  • avoiding magazines and most popular media that promotes unrealistic body ideals

What about you?  How are you going to be kind to yourself today?

What is Precision Nutrition?


Me holding a pair of my old jeans from my heaviest weight of 235lb

Last July I signed up for Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program and now the program is wrapping up so I thought it would be a good time to share a little bit about my experience. First you should know that I thought about signing up for the program for 3 years before I actually decided to do it. It took me a long time to swallow my pride and ask for help.  You should also know that I do not work for them or have any reason to support them other than the fact that I loved the program and it was a game changer for me.

Intellectually, I know a lot about training and nutrition. In addition to being a registered nurse, I have a master’s degree in exercise physiology and have been a personal trainer for almost 10 years. Asking for help seemed like admitting failure. I even signed up for Precision Nutrition’s certification program with the intention that I could self-teach myself the program. Although I think the nutrition certification program is excellent, it is not the same as experiencing Lean Eating as a participant and I am so glad that I had the courage to sign up.

So what exactly is the program?

Lean Eating is a year-long online group coaching program that focuses primarily on nutrition and developing healthy lifestyle habits. Every 2 weeks you work on developing a new habit and every day you have a new lesson related to the habit that you are working on. You also have access to a coach, mentors, online group meetings, forums, a private facebook group, and support through email.

The program also provides a workout plan that changes every 4-6 weeks but if it is too easy or too hard you can make adjustments or follow your own training plan. Personally, I found the first workout program easy but it also focused on functional training and strengthening muscles that I didn’t train very often so I followed it anyway. As the program continued and my goals changed (I decided to compete in a fitness show) I hired Brad Fowler, an excellent trainer who works at The Athletic Club in London, Ontario, to design my workouts for me. I still trained on my own in the gym but he has a lot of experience training competitors and has been incredibly helpful.

Lean Eating is not a diet and it does not provide meal plans for you to follow and to me this is one of the best things about the program. Vegan? No problem. Paleo? No problem. You get the idea. In the past I have followed many different programs and diets and successfully lost weight – temporarily. The weight always came back once I stopped following the plan.

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My weight fluctuations over the past few years

Lean Eating is different because it helps you examine your eating habits and your lifestyle while creating positive changes. Before starting the program I had lost 50lb on my own after having my son but I was still engaging in self-sabotage by snacking when I was bored or lonely and I was really hard on myself.  Over the last year I have lost another 15lb and changed my body composition (I am currently 165lb and 5’8″ tall).  More importantly, I have changed on the inside and developed new ways of thinking and living.  You can’t see that in a picture but I am a much happier person.

It was also great to have support from my Lean Eating teammates, mentors, and coach because it has been a safe place to share struggles, insights, and successes. I used to think that it was a sign of weakness to ask for help but now I understand how important it is to have support on your journey. The photoshoot at the end was really nerve-wracking for me but I’m really happy that I did it. It definitely boosted my confidence and made me realize how much I have changed over the last year.

One of my fave shots from my celebration photoshoot

One of my fave shots from my celebration photoshoot with Dave Laus

Lean Eating isn’t for everyone but I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way and is ready to change. Even if Lean Eating is not for you, I think everyone can benefit from coaching and ongoing personal and professional development so I encourage you to seek out people to help you on your journey.

Have a wonderful day!


4 weeks out and a photoshoot

postSince my last post a few things happened. I took some days off training, I applied to teach a kinesiology course about physical activity and aging, and I had my first real photoshoot with an amazing photographer to celebrate my Lean Eating journey with Precision Nutrition (more about that next week). In retrospect planning to compete in a fitness event in June was probably not the best timing with all of the things I have going on in my life. I am moving into a new place at the end of May and trying to write my dissertation proposal while trying to lean down. As you know, stress is not beneficial for body composition and training hard also requires a lot of rest and sleep (which I don’t get enough of!).

So here’s my confession, so to speak. I have committed to doing this show on June 21st but now I’m sitting on the fence about doing it. I am absolutely thrilled with the photos from yesterday but it made me question why I want to do the show in the first place. I think it’s really great to have fitness goals but I really like my body right now. I don’t need a panel of judges to tell me I’m beautiful (or not). I realize that I’m not as lean as most people get for fitness shows but I also eat whatever I want (granted, I often want to eat kale salad or broccoli & tempeh stirfry, but I do eat homemade bread and go out for ice cream too) and I am healthy and happy.

Don’t get me wrong, training for a fitness show is hard work and not everyone can do it, but fitness (and life) is about more than just looking good. I remember a few months ago I was working out at my gym and an older gentleman asked me what I was training for. I chuckled and told him I was training for life; for playing with my son at the park and carrying my groceries; for helping me with my job as a nurse; for being healthy and strong.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to do the fitness show but I had a fantastic leg workout tonight and will continue to enjoy my training. I also wanted to share a few of my favourite photos from yesterday (none of them have retouched) and encourage you to eat real food, lift weights, and  toss out your scale.  I am 165lb at 5’8″ and a size 8. I can do real pushups, deadlift 200lb, squat 165lb, and bench 120lb. Still working on those pullups 😉

Keep it real and have a wonderful night!

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Vegetarian Contest Prep

One of my fitness goals has been to be in a fitness show again – I hesitate to say the word “compete” because for me personally just getting on that stage is success.  So about 3 weeks ago I decided to sign up for a local show on June 21st.  I sat down and planned out a “show prep diet” using logic, math, and counting macronutrients in foods.   I created a rotating carb/calorie cycling diet and made sure to fuel my workouts.  Most of my friends who compete in fitness eat meat so I thought I was doing it right to include a lot of meat in my diet plan – even though I know it’s really bad for the environment.  The result?  I couldn’t eat all of the food, felt sick, and got constipated (despite a fibre supplement and lots of veggies).  I was seeing results from the diet in terms of my body composition but I felt terrible (morally and physically).

Thinking there must be a better way to do this I searched for vegan fitness competitors and found out that there are actually starting to be more and more of them.  Alas, hope!  The interesting thing I found was that most of them eat a pretty balanced diet that includes lots of legumes and starches, as well as high protein supplements like Vega protein powder which is much more nutritious than plain old whey protein and also provides lots of iron.  So anyway, on the weekend I decided to ditch my carefully planned carnivore diet for a vegetarian one (I still eat eggs and some dairy) and use the principles of Lean Eating (i.e. listening to my body instead of eating by the clock or based on a strict menu).  Only a few days later and I feel a million times better and I am leaning down as well.  While I am excited about the show and achieving my goal, it is also important to me that I feel good and have energy to play with my son and write papers, etc.  After all, fitness is part of my life, not my whole life!

Things I eat include: lentil stew with brown rice, squash, yams, tempeh/tofu stirfry, tofu pad thai, toasted chickpeas, oats, protein pancakes & shakes, fruit, almond and peanut butter, hemp, quinoa, and of course lots of veggies!   I also eat eggs and some Greek yogurt here and there.   I also don’t keep track of calories or count anything because it drives me insane (which is interesting considering that I am a quantitative researcher who loves stats).  For me, listening to my body has been much more successful and is a lot less stressful.

Here’s a few progress update pictures from this morning (1o weeks out from the show) – note the amazing tan…just kidding.   Not sure how I will look in 10 weeks but so far this has been really interesting and I’ve learned a lot about my body and myself.

Front pose - 10 weeks out

Front pose – 10 weeks out

Back pose - 10 weeks out

Back pose – 10 weeks out

Secret Ingredient Smoothies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I was freezing food in ice cube trays for my little guy and it dawned on me that this would be an awesome technique for making extra creamy smoothies.  Generally I peel and freeze bananas or add frozen fruit but I decided to blend banana and avocado for this smoothie secret ingredient.  It turned out awesome!

Step 1: Mash up 2 ripe bananas and 1 ripe avocado


2. Scoop into a clean ice cube tray


3. Stick in the freezer until frozen. Then pop them out and stick them in a freezer bag (and back in the freezer).  When you make your next shake simply throw in a few cubes and enjoy your extra creamy (and delicious) smoothie!

Have a wonderful & healthy day!

~Live Inspired~!