What I Ate Wednesday- Staying at Home

Howdy, friends! I hope you are all keeping safe and well. As many of you know, I’m in the US now with the kiddos, and even though we currently do not have a “stay-at-home” order, we are, in fact, staying at home for the most part. No need to go out, except for groceries, and much safer (for everyone!) to stay in. But thankfully I am still able to get outside to run, a privilege which my friends in Manila do not have. Makes me appreciate outdoor exercise as a gift rather than a chore.

When we first arrived in Denver, I wasn’t sure what I would find in terms of groceries. My sweet auntie brought us a big haul to start us off, though, and I’ve been able to fill in very nicely at the stores. Shopping in the morning is definitely better, when the stores have had time to re-stock overnight. So now we have about a 2-week food supply, and I have ingredients to make most of my normal recipes.

For breakfast I had a yogurt bowl: nonfat Greek yogurt with my “seed mix” (equal parts chia, flax meal, hemp seed, & unsweetened coconut) stirred in, and topped with fresh raspberries, chopped raw almonds, and GoLean Crunch protein cereal. I mixed it all up before eating it.

I’ve been missing my bootcamp ladies and our workouts a lot! So during this interim when we are separated by either distance or a quarantine order, I’ve been recording workouts and posting them on our Facebook group. It’s been a great way to stay connected!

Before I recorded this workout, I snacked on a slice of chocolate chip banana bread that I made the night before while the kids were in online school. They are keeping to the Manila time schedule, so are in class from 6pm-1am. It’s a bit late even for their teenage body clocks, but they are making the best of it! For me, my body is fighting to get back to my preferred sleep schedule of 9pm-5am… haha. But I’m winning so far at staying up late by doing active things like baking. So it’s a win for all of us, I guess!

Lunch was this yummy sandwich: sliced turkey, avocado, tomato, & salad greens on toasted oat bread. I had some sliced veggies, Triscuit thin crisps, & hummus on the side.

We went for a walk in the afternoon with my aunt & uncle in Roxborough State Park. It was a gorgeous day to get out! And as you can see, very easy to keep our distance.

I was hungry when we got home so I had a chocolate rice cake with peanut butter. Rice cakes are way better in Colorado where the humidity this time of year is around 25%, so the rice cakes stay super crispy!

I made burgers & fries for dinner, both grass-fed beef and portobello mushroom. Theda & I split one of each, and it was the perfect combo topped with Dijon mustard, lettuce, and red onion. The waffle fries were just the frozen ones that you bake… they were good though!

I had a piece of “pan cookie” after dinner but I forgot to take a picture. But just imagine a thick, chewy, chocolate chip cookie baked in a pan, and you’ll get the idea.

Although life is far from “normal”, we are settling into our “new normal” for now. And food is a big part of it. Hope you are staying safe and well, my friends!

Blueberry Banana Muffins (and life lately)

Hi friends, how are you? Life has certainly changed a lot in the past week, hasn’t it?

Just last week we were doing fairly normal activities like cooking class, bootcamp, and making plans for IB & AP “mock” exams… and in the space of about 48 hours, found ourselves on a plane back to the US to ride out what has become an “enhanced community quarantine” in Manila. This Presidential order keeps residents home-bound, regulates food and medical supplies, and has laid off hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the city. It’s an uncomfortable situation to say the least.

It’s been a lot to wrap our minds around… so much uncertainty and so much potential loss. Theda feels it especially, as do all graduating Seniors- they have worked so hard for their IB diplomas and looking forward to the well-deserved rewards of Prom, Graduation, and Senior trip. Yet everything is on the line right now.

I know we are not the only ones to experience stress, anxiety, and the anticipation of loss. We all have plans for the future and it’s hard to keep them on hold for an uncertain period of time, not knowing how that “hold” will change things.

But maybe the “on-hold” nature of our lives at this point can serve a purpose too. We find that here in our little house, fulfilling our 2-week self-quarantine, our lives have become reduced… to school (online), food, sleep, board games, and connecting (online) with friends and family. It’s a much slower life, and how often have I wished for time to slow down?

In the past couple of days, I’ve been grateful to God for the “little” things that really aren’t so little: health, family, friends, and daily sustenance. I take life on a 24-hour basis right now… thanking the Lord that today we woke up healthy, today we have food to eat, today we can find joy in each other’s company. It’s a different way of thinking for me, and not unwelcome.

It snowed yesterday in Colorado and dumped about 10-12″ (20cm) of snow on us. It was perfect snow-ball and snowman-making snow, and we took full advantage… see pix below! Tommy never put on a jacket, and turns out he didn’t really need it as he never took a direct hit- must be nice to be able to catch every snowball thrown at you! Sara & I considered it quite an accomplishment to build our little snowman while still under attack…

I’ve also been cooking a lot… no other option since we’re not going out at all, ha. I made these blueberry banana muffins this morning for breakfast with some pretty basic ingredients using a recipe I made up in my head. They turned out pretty well and I know you can substitute with whatever you have on hand.

For example, if you don’t have blueberries, substitute chopped apples, pineapple, mango, or another frozen fruit. If you don’t have bananas, use applesauce. If you don’t have an egg (they’re in short supply here), just add an extra tablespoon of flaxseed meal. To substitute for the protein powder, add an extra tablespoon of regular flour, coconut or almond flour. It will all work. You may wind up with something completely different than what you first had in mind, but that will be OK.

I guess the point is to work with what we’ve got, not only in terms of the muffins… ya know?

Stay safe and healthy, friends!

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Category: Breakfast

American

Yield: 12 muffins

Blueberry Banana Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 T. vanilla protein powder (optional- I used Orgain vanilla bean)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 T. brown or coconut sugar
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. almond (or other) milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. flaxseed meal
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200C (400F.) Line a muffin tin with paper liners or lightly grease with oil.
  • In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, protein powder (if using), baking soda, baking powder, salt, & cinnamon.
  • In another bowl, combine mashed banana, brown sugar, oil, milk, egg, flaxseed meal, and vanilla.
  • Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and combine gently until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix.
  • Fold in blueberries gently. Scoop into prepared muffin tin and bake 17-20 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Makes 12.
Powered by Zip Recipes
http://www.thexpatdietitian.com/blueberry-banana-muffins-and-life-lately/

Toasted Oat Muesli

Howdy, friends! Do you ever get inspired to whip something up in your kitchen just by seeing a similar item at the grocery store? I did, today at Santi’s (our amazing little Swiss deli that sells all the major food groups: cheese, chocolate, and wine.) It’s one of my favourite stores. They also sell a breakfast muesli that Theda loves, called “Full o’ Fruits”… anyone know what I’m talking about? I’ve bought it many, many times, and I had it in my hand to buy today.

THEN. I looked at the price tag. 439 pesos (about $9), for a bag that contains maybe 15 servings. IT’S OATS, PEOPLE!! So my inner rebel (yeah, I admit that feisty girl has tamed down quite a bit over the years) told me I’d been bamboozled long enough, and I should just make my own “Full o’ Fruits” muesli for about a quarter of the cost. My Ma would call this “beating the system” and she would be proud of me. So here you go, my version of “Full o’ Fruits”…

This homemade muesli came together in less than 30 minutes with ingredients I had on hand in my pantry. Really, you can use anything! Besides the oats, I used pumpkin, sunflower seeds, and walnuts to give it a little crunch (and some healthy fats!), and then after it was toasted, added finely chopped dried apricots, figs, dried blueberries, & a few raisins. Just use whatever you have!

I actually didn’t even use a bowl to mix this; I just spread all the ingredients out on my baking tray, sprinkled over the cinnamon, and toasted it for about 10 minutes, turning it once to make sure the nuts & seeds didn’t burn.

Then, when it was slightly cooled, just add your dried fruits and stir to mix.

My kitchen smelled absolutely heavenly as this was baking, and the end result is amazing: fresh, toasty, crunchy, with little bits of sweet-tart dried fruit. I think Theda will love it.

It’s so easy that she can even make it in her college dorm room toaster oven when she goes to SCAD this fall! And so yummy it’s good any time of day… with yogurt & fruit for breakfast, after a workout, stirred with milk to make overnight oats, or for a late-night snack.

Enjoy, friends!

Toasted Oat Muesli

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: Breakfast

American

Yield: 13 servings

Serving Size: 1/4 cup

Toasted Oat Muesli

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
  • ¼ cup seeds (I used pumpkin and sunflower)
  • 2 T. walnuts
  • ½ t. cinnamon
  • ¼ t. salt
  • ½ cup dried fruit (I used apricots, raisins, figs, & blueberries)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200C (425F).
  • On a large baking sheet, spread oats, seeds, & walnuts in a thin layer. Sprinkle with cinnamon & salt.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning once with a metal spatula to ensure even toasting. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  • Mix in dried fruit. Cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
  • Makes 12 (¼-cup) servings.
Powered by Zip Recipes
http://www.thexpatdietitian.com/toasted-oat-muesli/

Hearty Potato Lentil Soup

Don’t “they” say that soup is a cure-all? But I wonder if even this hearty potato lentil soup can stand up to the major events that have rocked 2020 in Philippines so far. On January 12 the Taal volcano erupted with a cloud of ash that could be seen from the NASA satellites, forcing tens of thousands out of their homes for weeks and ending generations-long livelihoods. While we were still sweeping up ash from our streets, rooftops, and kitchen windowsills, an eruption of another type was taking place: the 2019 Novel Corona virus. Its rapid spread throughout Asia has compelled us to wear masks in public, caused major events to be cancelled and postponed, imposed severe travel restrictions throughout the region, and cast a feeling of general fear and uneasiness over us all. I have to say I’ve been thrown off my A-game, and despite my best intentions, posting on this space in January just felt out of reach.

However, God is good all the time, and He can use even the worst circumstances to bring about His purposes. I stand on that faith in times like these, knowing He will bring us through.

I’ve also found that doing ordinary, day-to-day things, like getting a fresh hair cut (much needed, by the way!), working out, and being in the kitchen making soup like this restores a sense of balance and normalcy to an otherwise chaotic-seeming world.

I can’t think of anything more comforting than this hearty lentil soup, which I’ve coincidentally (?) made several times this past month! It’s so satisfying with the earthy lentils, creamy potatoes, flecks of spinach, and garlicky broth. The ultimate in comfort food!

Even though it’s a lentil soup, it comes together quickly, as the lentils only take 20-25 minutes to cook. I boil them separately from the rest of the soup to ensure their tenderness. Meanwhile, in my big soup pot, I saute the onions & carrots, add the seasonings, potatoes, cauliflower, and veggie broth, and simmer the whole thing to perfect tenderness in about the same amount of time it takes the lentils to cook. Then I just add the lentils and their broth along with some fresh spinach, taste and adjust the seasonings, and voila, dinner is served!

We always eat crusty bread with this soup to soak up the extra broth, and the kids also add rice to their bowl. Very Pinoy of them… and very carb-a-licous! But you do you… it’s really a meal on its own: protein from the lentils, carbs from the lentils and potatoes, Vitamins A & C from the veggies, and plenty of fiber. This soup is naturally vegan and gluten-free, but if you’re not vegetarian, a little smoked ham or chorizo would be a fabulous addition.

Soup won’t cure everything, friends! But it sure will give us strength to endure, and put a smile on our faces as we do. May God bless us all during these trying times. Love you!

Hearty Potato Lentil Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Category: Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings

Hearty Potato Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (uncooked) brown lentils, rinsed & picked over
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 t. thyme
  • ½ t. salt
  • ½ t. black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • ½ T. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, cut in small florets
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, boil the lentils in water to cover for about 20-25 minutes or until tender, adding water as necessary to keep them covered at all times. Set aside when done. Do not drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the carrots, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Add the vegetable broth, potatoes, and cauliflower, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes & cauliflower are tender.
  • Add the cooked lentils along with most or all of the cooking liquid depending on how thick you like your soup. At this point I like to mash a little of the soup with a potato masher to blend it just a bit, but leave most of the texture intact.
  • Add the spinach last and stir until it wilts. Taste and adjust seasonings. Makes 6-8 servings.
Powered by Zip Recipes
http://www.thexpatdietitian.com/hearty-potato-lentil-soup/

My Year of Eating Everything

Mark & I shared this pizza in Zurich

Howdy friends, here we are on the cusp of all the November-December eating holidays, starting with the biggest one of the year for Americans- Thanksgiving. And it seems to be the annual kick-off of the food-filled festivities that last until New Year’s Day. These 6 weeks are often met with a mix of eager anticipation of all the yummy treats (& justification of putting all diets on temporary hold),  and anxiety at what 42 days of unrestrained eating will do to us. So we either try to “be good” and avoid the holiday treats, or (unavoidably) eat them anyway, but not really enjoy it because of the ensuing guilt. There has to be a better way, people! And I think there is…

I just spent a year eating everything I wanted to.

And what happened!? Actually not too much, except for me letting go of my previously very tightly held food rules, including tossing out my list of “forbidden foods.” These were foods like hamburgers, ice cream, donuts, marshmallows, or fried anything… foods I claimed to “not like” but in fact I was just afraid of eating, or actually afraid of not being able to stop eating. But I found that once I lifted the taboo, I actually never binged. It’s funny how when the sanction is lifted and any food is allowed at any time in any amount, the allure is gone. We are all just little kids in that way, I guess.

Yes, I did gain weight this past year, but not as much as I would have thought, and much of it was needed, considering how small I’d been after my shows. I gained up to a point and then just levelled out… and now it seems I can truly “eat whatever I want and not gain weight.” Granted, I’m heavier than my self-determined “ideal body weight.” But no one loves me less, including myself, so I’m thinking I must have tossed out guilt and unrealistic ideals along with that list of forbidden foods.

One of the many pies Sara made this past summer… this one is blackberry… mmm…

It’s not that I set out to do an “eat everything and see what happens” experiment, it’s just that 2019 has been a year of some pretty incredible travel opportunities for me. I was honestly so burned out on dieting (even on weighing and tracking my food) from my 2018 bodybuilding season, that I found that I just didn’t have it in me to enforce my usual restrictions. So it was a perfect set-up for this much-needed-&-I-didn’t-even-know-it trial in food freedom.

And so I truly, truly enjoyed myself in New York City in February, where we went to not only look at colleges for Theda (& West Point for Tommy), but also to take in some Broadway shows:

From the Italian take-away restaurant near our apartment
Apparently I can enjoy ice cream any time of year, especially this delicious mochi with its irresistibly chewy texture
Everyone who thinks they don’t like marshmallows should really try homemade ones! They literally melt in your mouth
Homemade donuts… that’s all I need to say

In March I flew to Mumbai with Sara & her middle school Honours Choir team. What an incredible experience! One of the other travelling moms, a friend of mine, is Indian, and she graciously coached me on every yummy thing I should be eating! Luckily I’ve always been a very coachable person.

We ate a lavish breakfast at our hotel every morning
Lunch at a street vendor
The best paneer curry I’ve ever eaten

Thanks to Theda & Tommy, I travelled to Taipei in April to cheer them on at the “IASAS” (International Association of Southeast Asian Schools) Track & Field Championships, for which they both qualified. Track is a sport where you can come and go depending on the events you want to see, and I took advantage of my downtime by sampling the local cuisine. We were lucky enough to go to the hawker stalls with a friend who speaks fluent Chinese… imagine how much the hawker ladies adored this blond, blue-eyed Italian American, ordering our lunch in perfect dialect! I’ve never had better Chinese food. Thanks, Ilaria!

Just a sampling from our lunch- everything was SO fresh!

May brought the opportunity for me to accompany Mark on a work trip to Zurich, Switzerland. Although he had some business meetings to attend, we are mostly just there for fun and celebration. And Swiss hospitality is second to none!

Pizza at a little cafe after a morning run & stroll through the historic district
The best donut I’ve ever eaten in my LIFE… and I hit a motherlode of raspberry on my next bite
Local farm produce- dried apples from the orchard & spiced pumpkin seeds- perfect appetisers with a glass of crisp white wine
Swiss fondue at the gala event on our last evening
Swiss chocolate… it was every bit as good as it looks

At the end of all this travel, I told myself I would “cut back” over our summer home leave… track my macros, try to lose the little bit of weight I’d gained. But I found I just didn’t want to. The body inherently rebels against restriction, and you just tend to crave what you’re trying to restrict. So I kept a free rein all summer, and enjoyed the yummy food we made… Tommy’s fried chicken, Theda’s pasta, and Sara’s homemade rolls & pie.

Sara’s rolls… my Ma would be mighty proud!
I haven’t had fried chicken this good since my Ma cooked it for me
Theda’s creamy mushroom pasta- so yummy & healthy

I certainly still ate a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, etc, and I took advantage of all the awesome exercise opportunities in Steamboat- hiking, jogging, and biking through the gorgeous mountain trails.

My typical lunch- grilled fish, veggies, and rice/corn/potato- such a delicious combination
At the top of Fish Creek Falls with new friends I met on the way

I have to admit that my eating freedom unfolded little by little, not all at once. But I found that my comfort level continued to grow every time I allowed myself to eat previously forbidden foods with truly no guilt, just enjoyment. And I loved it.

The bottom line is, we really can trust our bodies. We do all have a stopping point. We might just be forgetting to listen, so overridden as we are with restriction that we can no longer hear our own signals. It took me awhile to hear mine, because I’d restricted my eating for so long.

But I found, ironically from lifting the restrictions and eating everything… that I really can trust my body to say, that’s enough. It sure was good. 

And you can too. I promise. Even if it takes awhile. It took me a year to self-regulate. Have patience.

Happy American Thanksgiving, friends! Here’s to nourishing ourselves well.

Why I Quit Competitive Bodybuilding

IFBB Muscle Contest, Sept 2018

Hello friends! Yes, it’s true… after 2 1/2 years of meticulously keeping track of every gram of protein I ate and every pound of weight I lifted, I decided it was time to hang up the crystal high heels and retire from the sport of competitive bodybuilding.

Why??? Why would I quit when I just turned Pro??? I mean, I can make money now…

Lol.

But seriously, to help us all understand why I decided to quit, it’s important to understand why I began in the first place. And let me preface this whole thing by emphasizing that I had the best coach I could have asked for or even imagined. Cherish Hunter of Next Level Bikini Prep was my true angel in this whole journey, and without her I’m sure I would have never stepped on stage at all. She kept me healthy, she kept me sane, and she guided me with wisdom, grace, and humour on this path of physical and spiritual transformation. I will be forever grateful to her. I seriously hope that someday we can meet in person and laugh about life over one or 3 glasses of wine!

At age 46, I’d been fit and active most of my life. But I wanted to see how far I could take it, IF I had the discipline and strength of mind to whip my little ol’ mom-bod into stage-ready condition. (I actually had no idea what it was really going to take, but I was up for the challenge.) I’d been fascinated with the sport for awhile, and bottom line, I just wanted to see if I COULD.

Left: my first progress pic, Nov 2016. Right:ANB Universe, October 2017

Turns out, I COULD! I was good at it, and I LOVED IT. I embraced every aspect of this extreme sport: lifting hard & heavy in the gym, managing my nutrition intake tightly, following my coach’s instructions to the letter, and surprisingly enough, even the stage presentation on show day. You would think that prancing around in a tiny bikini in front of a panel of judges and a room full of spectators would be a bit daunting, but to me it was an exhilarating high, the thrill of a lifetime. We were always coached to “Smile!!!”… And, “Act happy!!”… but for me, it was genuine- I couldn’t NOT smile, I actually was thrilled to be on stage.

For me, being on stage was the ultimate reward

Bodybuilding was a perfect fit for me and something that felt like mine. Everything about this sport suited me: the extreme discipline required, the meticulous records to be kept (both with food and in the gym), the feeling of control over my body, the science of physiology, and the beauty of muscles revealed.

The night before IFBB Muscle Contest, when my muscles were full of carbs!

In my 2 seasons and 3 shows, I won 4 gold medals, 1 silver, 3 bronze (1 in the Pro show), and professional status. Not too bad for a 48-year old mom of 3 teenagers!

ANB Universe 2018, where I won my Pro card

I honestly thought I would be in this sport until my old bod couldn’t take it anymore.

But I began to see another layer that wasn’t quite fitting with who I was or what I wanted to represent. (It’s very possible that I changed along the way, and that would be a good thing too.) I began to feel incongruity between the lifestyle & values I felt like needed to embrace to succeed in bodybuilding, and my own values, the way I want to live my life, and the message I want to embody not only as a dietitian and health professional, but also as a mom.

At the top is that bodybuilding is a subjective sport based solely on physical appearance. It’s all about aesthetics. And it never claims to be anything else. To be successful in this sport, it’s necessary to achieve super-low levels of body fat (most bikini competitors hit the stage at around 9-10%- for comparison, essential body fat to sustain a menstrual cycle is usually 12-13% and normal for women is somewhere around 25-30%.)

Late August 2018, about 2 weeks before Muscle Contest

So I found myself walking around in a body that represented an unrealistic and unsustainable ideal, not a healthy norm. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the look of my muscles rippling under my skin. I found it fascinating to see the lines & striations that I knew existed in anatomy books but I’d certainly never seen on my own body. In some ways I couldn’t believe what I’d actually achieved! It seemed unreal. And in some ways, it was. The measures I’d taken to achieve this look were difficult & extreme (more on that later) and definitely unsustainable. Yet I got so many compliments on my “transformation” from people who, not knowing what it took to get here, had the idea I intended to maintain my new physique indefinitely. That’s when it began to hit me that I was sending a mixed message with my look: that it was possible, sustainable, & desirable to walk around with super-low body fat, even while I verbalised that this physique was only for the stage. But I discovered that it didn’t matter what I said… I realised that I was unwittingly promoting this look to my community… and to my daughters. Not what I’m ultimately going for. I don’t want my girls, (or anyone!) to think that this is how women should look, or how they should look. I get it that it’s a sport, but it’s a powerful image, and I want our lives to be about so much more than physical appearance.

Point number 2: prep is HARD!! And not just physically, though that is a big part of it. The body doesn’t like getting below a certain percentage of body fat, and fights against it. So, as happens for every competitor, as the show date got closer, we had to keep reducing calories and increasing cardio for me to keep losing weight. We got the results all right, but at the cost of my sleep and energy. Having low body fat and an ongoing calorie deficit promotes hormonal changes that disrupt the sleep cycle, and I regularly had 2am wake-ups after only sleeping 5 hours. It seemed unfair to me that just when I needed sleep the most (not only to give me energy, but also to pass time until I could eat again, haha), it was elusive.

3 days before IFBB Muscle Contest… this was a day I felt very depleted

And it wasn’t so much that I felt hungry, I just felt exhausted. The thought of doing anything past 7pm other than being in my pajamas was overwhelming, and I missed out on countless social occasions. But more than that, I found I had little to give to my family during the last several weeks before each show. I was tired and irritable, unable to offer my kids & husband the support I normally did. I became a taker. My family gave to me, for a loooong time! It was a beautiful thing and I felt so supported. But I don’t want something in my life that makes me inherently self-focussed.

My beautiful fam… so grateful for each one of them!

Point number 3: with so many external regulations on my food intake, I forgot how to trust (or even hear!) my internal cues of hunger and fullness. During my whole first year of building, I ate in a caloric surplus to the tune of 2600 calories a day. That meant that every day, I ate past my “full” signal. It didn’t matter that I’d had enough, I needed to clean my plate and hit those calorie goals. And then when it came time to diet and calories were reduced, I couldn’t eat every time I was hungry. Nor could I always eat until I was full. No going back for seconds! I just ate according to my set calorie level. I learned to ignore my internal cues to the point where after the show, it was difficult to hear them again.

In the 8 or so weeks since my decision to stop training for the competitive stage, I’ve been practicing “intuitive eating” a lot. This means not weighing my food, not tracking it in my app, just eating according to my (very tiny, but growing louder) cues about hunger and fullness. I’m slowly learning to trust my body again to eat the right amount. I don’t have all the rules & restrictions around food that I used to have, and it feels good.

Tacos! From the little taqueria in Steamboat… sooo good!!

Sooo, looking at all these reasons I’ve given up the stage, I have to ask myself: do I regret doing it in the first place? NOT ONE BIT. I wouldn’t trade my time in competitive bodybuilding for the world. Being involved in this sport for so long helped me grow in ways I didn’t even know I needed to. I feel like I know myself better, I know in my heart that I have the discipline and mental toughness to do whatever hard thing comes along, and at the same time, I’m much more gentle with myself, if that makes sense. All these good things came from pushing my limits in this sport. I’m so happy I did it, and I’m proud of myself too. And so with deep satisfaction, I can put away that tiny little bikini and move on to the next thing. What that is, I’m not sure! But stay tuned, friends! Life is an adventure and good things are coming.

Sunrise… bringing a new day

Mango Banana Smoothie Bowl

Hello friends! This mango banana smoothie bowl will keep you cool no matter the weather… and here in Philippines it’s HOT. Around December through the end of February I always get a little smug feeling inside and think to myself, “Oh, I’ve lived here so long now I’ve acclimated to the heat.” And then March 1 hits… and with it a wall of heat that can make me lie down and wish someone would bathe me in icy cold towels.

Hello friends! This mango banana smoothie bowl will keep you cool no matter the weather… and here in Philippines it’s HOT. Around December through the end of February I always get a little smug feeling inside and think to myself, “Oh, I’ve lived here so long now I’ve acclimated to the heat.” And then March 1 hits… and with it a wall of heat that can make me lie down and wish someone would bathe me in icy cold towels.

So I don’t eat hot foods anymore. I even let my coffee cool off before drinking it, because why start the day overheated??

But this smoothie bowl is everything you need to keep you cool. It’s made from 5 simple ingredients: local mangoes (the best in the world, in my humble opinion,) local bananas (sweeter with a more intense flavour than our American Cavendish), a chunk of pineapple to give it some zing, caramel protein powder (again from a local source- and they deliver right to your door!), and a splash of soy milk.

That’s it! That’s all it has. Couldn’t be simpler… unless you make it even easier and make up a few baggies of pre-measured frozen fruit & protein powder to keep in your freezer. Then when you want a smoothie bowl, just dump it into your blender, add the soy milk, blend, and away you go.

It’s delicious plain, but of course I like to add extras… in this case it was toasted coconut flakes and one of my pumpkin oat cookies. It’s a great flavour combo, but lots of things would work- toasted almond flakes, cacao nibs, sliced fresh strawberries… the sky’s the limit, my friends!

If you can’t get good mangoes where you are, I am truly sorry for you… however, that probably means you can get amazing peaches, and that would be a great substitute.

Just want everyone to be able to beat the heat this summer (whenever summer happens to be for you!) Cheers, friends!

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

Hello, friends! As we move into summer here in Manila (and it seemed happen overnight, right??), my craving for oatmeal doesn’t diminish… but my craving for hot food certainly does! These carrot cake overnight oats are the perfect answer: you get your oatmeal fix AND don’t have to heat up the kitchen (or yourself!) to enjoy them.  Better yet, they can be made in advance and in multiple quantities so you can have breakfast in a snap….

Read More »

GF Quinoa Cranberry Breakfast Bread

Hello friends! This naturally gluten-free quinoa cranberry breakfast bread is packed with flavour and goodness… and delicious any time of day, not just for breakfast.  Really, breakfast is just your starting point with this chewy, not-too-sweet loaf. Studded with sweet-tart dried cranberries & scented with orange peel, it’s perfect with a drizzle of honey or a big swipe of almond butter- or both!  It’s hearty enough for a meal and a source of complete protein from the quinoa, seeds, and nut butter. What better way to fuel yourself through the day?…

Read More »