We Can be Free

 

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” {Galatians 5:13-17, 22}

You were called to Freedom. Wow.

First of all, let it sink in that we are called by the God of the Universe, out of darkness, out of the law, out of the curse, out of our own selfishness, out of our doubt to have freedom for faith working in love. We were given liberty not to have license to be sinful and indulgent, but to have the opportunity to mature and grow and to become all we were meant to be! When we live by the Spirit, we don’t gratify our desires that we don’t really want.

This is not freedom FROM rules, this kind of freedom is freedom TO… a positive freedom that gives us the opportunity to choose what we really NEED (not just what our emotions or impulses want).

Sounds exciting and all, but how does this apply to our health?

Put it this way, just because there is giant chocolate cake on the table, and you are free and allowed to consume it, that doesn’t mean that it is the best choice.

  • Does eating that cake mean you are going to be trapped in guilt?

 

  • Does eating this one piece mean you’re going to have another and another and another until you’re caught in a vicious cycle?

 

  • Does it mean you’re going to become a slave to sugar?

 

  • Are you eating it after being indulgent in plenty of other “treats” this week?

 

  • Do you feel the cake calling your name, taunting you, like you can’t say “no” to it?

 

We are free to choose, but we are free SO that we can choose the best God wants for us. I’m not saying never ever have a piece of cake. Cake is wonderful on birthdays, especially if it’s something yummy like this! I am saying that cake will never give us true happiness, and no one needs cake. It will never be the beneficial choice for your body. Don’t hate me, hate the science that proves that 🙂

What to do?

Sow into the Spirit. Ask Him for the fruit of self-control…you know the last fruit on the list that often gets over-looked? The fruit of love or peace seems a little more pleasant, but the fruit of self-control requires a battle within us. It means denying something in the moment for something even more glorious in the future.

It means we have to switch our thinking from a society that says you always deserve to have whatever you want and have it your way, to a kingdom mindset that says it is good for us to deny ourselves sometimes.

And it’s when you finally get to a point in your health journey that you tap into the power to deny those cake temptations that come chasing you, that you actually DO feel free! You didn’t feel out of control, forced into eating something, regretting it later, eating it because it’s what you’ve always done, friends pushing you into that extra cookie, or just in a mindless binging state… you THOUGHT before you ate and actually chose what made sense for you.

“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. “ {1 Corinthians 10:23}

When I was recovering from being a binge eater myself, this verse above was my go-to script to find strength. I would whisper out loud,”everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial…”, and it almost always gave me that extra encouragement I needed to continue healing, instead of clinging to my former ways.

Self-control isn’t always fun, but in the long run, it is the most gratifying 🙂

Lord, I thank you for winning freedom on my behalf so that I could have the fullest, most abundant life through new life in You. I pray that you give me the strength and the knowledge to not abuse that freedom. I desire to choose right and not be controlled by my fleshly desires, but it is a hard battle to fight. I ask for the fruit of the Spirit to be made evident in my life. Grant me greater self-control so that I might walk in a manner worthy of my calling. May You get the glory of my self-control victories. Amen.

 

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Surviving the Holiday Season

People gain anywhere between 2-16 lbs over November and December. This is typically because of mindless eating, binging, lots of parties, busyness, traveling, and maybe even laziness. If you DRIFT into the holiday,  you won’t come out any healthier or you may come out worse. You have control over what you do with your body & what you feed it. No one is more in control of your health than YOU.

Don’t let the holidays just happen. Don’t be the victim of your circumstance. This requires a little bit of thinking ahead so you don’t feel crummy and fall into a Turkey-Coma afterwards.

How to survive the holidays

 

1.Set a goal for yourself for the next month. Get specific! Ie. I will exercise 5 days a week, lose 5lbs, lose body fat 4 percent, I will get two hours more sleep each night. It doesn’t have to be weight loss! Have a strategy that includes accountability. We are quick to let down ourselves, but we won’t flake on someone else. If someone else is involved, you won’t let them down and they won’t let you off the hook if you tell them not to!

2. Don’t skip your workouts. If you’re out of town, it may require getting up earlier, using your laptop in your guest room, or talking to your host about the best running path nearby. Decide upon the most effective exercise plan. This is the one you’ll ACTUALLY DO! Find something that you hate but love! Tabata is good for using body weight and when you’re on the go and need a quick effective workout. Look into what options you have and stick to it!

3. Decide in advance what you will sacrifice. Maybe that’s not baking as much or not say yes to every party invite! Everything revolves around food & sugar & butter & carbs. Sacrifice feeling bad about hurting feelings. You don’t have to tell them why, you have every right to say no. Maybe sacrifice that 3rd or 4th plate, and stick to ONE plate, savoring every bite. Sacrifice the generic pie so you can have a Grandma’s homemade cookies.

4. Bring your own dish so YOU have options and you help other people that are looking for a healthy side. I’ve arrived at a party and realized they are only offering pizza and mozzarella sticks. Then ONE person showed up with a veggie tray. Of course, with limited options, I had some pizza, but I didn’t eat as much as I would have because I had the veggie tray. Be someone’s saving grace (and your own!)

5. Eat before your event so you won’t fall for anything. If you made a plan to avoid the stuffing, but you are STARVING, when it’s time to eat you may just start thinking with your stomach. If you need to pack some nuts or some fruit to have on hand, do so!

6. Drink a ton of water. It will keep you full and hydrated. It will give you something to do if you feel awkward about not doing the continual munch on snacks and alcohol. Alcohol in moderation, but alternating with water will keep you from going into full “stuff your face” mode.

7. Start with the vegetable. Fill half of your plate with these so at least you’re filling up first on the good stuff. Then think protein… choose LIGHT meat, not dark. Then there is only a little room left for the carbs 🙂 Choose wisely with your carb! Pick your one favorite and save room for a little dessert. If you’re having cranberry sauce, skip the gravy, and vice versa. You don’t have complete control over what’s offered, except what you put on your plate and how MUCH.

And finally, remember, if something is a priority, you do it. If you’re serious about sticking to your healthy habits over the next month and a half, make it happen. You may not always be the most popular person in the room, but don’t be afraid to be genuinely YOU and live the kind of life with the kind of choices you want.

Food is fun, but so is conversation, taking pictures, playing board games, going on a walk etc. FOCUS on time together more than just the food.

Have a wonderful time with loved ones! ENJOY and have fun!

How to Travel with Your Meal Plan

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My Fall in Love with Fitness Accountability group is in full swing this week! These ladies are battling for time to take care of kids and ill family members, fighting sickness, waking up earlier to workout, preparing their meals in advance, avoiding their favorite candy and sodas, AND trying to stay healthy while traveling.

Life has a way of throwing a lot of curve balls in our direction, just when we are trying to focus on a new goal or mission! I’m so proud of these ladies for working so hard to achieve their goals, no matter rain or shine. Some days, they’re on point, and some days they fall down. What’s most important is that they don’t give up.

Though all of these obstacles are hard, I find traveling one of most difficult because it completely breaks your routine away from home, and often, time and food are a little more out of your control and you’re left with very few good options.

When I was traveling as Miss Virginia roughly 20 hours a week and trying to prepare for Miss America, I tried to put a lot of systems in place to keep me on track. When your job or family or schedule demands a lot of you, it’s important to be fueled well to have the energy to accomplish everything you need to! The first thing I realized is that traveling alone is boring, and made me want to eat for the entire trip. I tried to plan ahead as much as possible to avoid making a drastic decision to pull over at the nearest Wendy’s and inhale a frosty. Having good distractions like motivating podcasts, MP3 talks, a funky music playlist, or a phone call to a friend, helped to keep my mind happy and focused.

Planning ahead at least helps you have your mind made up in advance so when you’re attending that fancy work event and they pass around the giant pieces of chocolate fudge cake… your mouth waters, but you feel comfortable declining because you know it— A. has no nutritional value B. it will only take you further away from your goals.

–>The first thing I did was commit to only drink water. It will help keep you alert and full. You may stop a few more times to use the restroom, but at least your skin will be glowing when you arrive! Keep your water bottle with you at all times, or sometimes I’d have several full bottles so I wouldn’t have to stop to buy one or refill it.

–>This might be an obvious one, but packing snacks! Lara Bars are easy to transport and they just dates and a different kind of nut (which 21 Day Fix peeps can count as a purple and a blue.) Quest Bars aren’t technically totally “clean eating”, but they’re one of the cleanest protein type bars on the market. These kept me super full in between meals on the road, and are very low sugar and high fiber. Little baggies of almonds, turkey jerky, or an apple are also options that don’t need to be kept chilled.

–>Because I never knew what kind of options for meals I’d have wherever I was staying, I packed a couple meals, like chicken, broccoli, and sweet potatoes in a huge lunch box if possible. Most hotels have microwaves… I once stopped at a truck stop to heat up my food on a long trip 🙂 This saves so much money in the long run too! When I won Miss VA, a friend mailed me one of the best gifts: one of these huge 6 pack food prep carriers. It kept my boiled eggs, fruit, and full meals cool in the car in your specified containers. If you travel a lot, and you’re really serious about knowing exactly what you’re consuming, it may be a good investment!

–>If I needed to stop at a quick restaurant on my way somewhere, I’d keep my eyes peeled for a Chickfila. Usually, I would pick up grilled chicken nuggets, side fruit cup, and a yogurt, or chicken soup if I just was looking for a snack. Their chargrilled garden salad is also a good option for a healthy lunch! Panera is my second favorite option. The Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey is to die for, and the Fuji Chicken Salad is delicious as well. Dressing always on the side or ask for simple olive oil on top. Subway was third option because you can at least get a spinach salad and pick tons of veggies to load on top!

–>If you can’t control what you’re eating because someone else if providing the food, I try to just eat whatever meat or veggie they have (as long as it’s not fried) and eye ball the proper portion. As long as I don’t eat after around 8pm, I feel fine about eating what is provided. It’s important to be a respectful guest! Plus, a cheat or two won’t hurt you, so don’t stress! Take the opportunity to truly enjoy what is provided, but don’t feel obligated to eat every last bite. You’ll get back on track at the next opportunity. 🙂

–> It may also be helpful while you’re out of town to secretly TRACK! Try out MyFitnessPal, or the 21 Day Fit Tracker apps to be mindful of your target. It will also help you recognize if you went all day without any vegetables or fruit, or haven’t had enough protein. Maybe you imagine eating that giant pasta bowl is no big deal, until you look it up and realize it’s equal to your daily calorie allotment.

  • It of course depends on how serious you are about your goals and what you personally feel like you can withstand from temptations. If you know one cheat meal won’t send you on a downward spiral, go for it! I think that’s perfectly reasonable! You never want to end up feeling like your nutrition is super restricting. It should be empowering to feed your body with foods that actually make you feel good.
    When you travel, try to see it as yet another opportunity to search out the best for you, even it it means going the extra mile sometimes or asking the waiter to make some menu swaps for you. You deserve that.

Chicken Stuffed Peppers

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When I first started trying to learn how to cook by looking up recipes earlier in 2014, I found stuffed peppers on nearly EVERY site/blog! They seemed a little too advanced for me at the time, BUT here I am. I decided to give them a try and I’m so glad I did. Now I know why everyone was making them!

They are relatively easy, super delicious, and HEALTHY! They include protein, veggies, fats, and carbs for a balanced meal, and beautiful display. These are would especially be good if you’re taking an appetizer or a meal to a party or hosting someone!

I slightly improvised with the recipe as I went, so feel free to fudge this a bit as well! 🙂 It will still taste good!

At the end, I had more than enough mixture to fill 6 peppers cut in half. So 12 halves. A serving is probably 2 or 3 halves, so we had leftovers for lunch the next day! We had some leftover mixture to put in a wrap like a taco or use as dip with chips.

I used: 

-3 Green and 3 Red Organic Peppers (feel free to mix and match whatever color peppers you want!)

-One can of organic black beans (drained)

-One bag of frozen organic corn kernels

-Two Cups of already cooked quinoa (make this in advance!)

-A little over a pound of all natural chicken tenders (one pack)

-One Cup of Organic Tomato Pasta Sauce

-Two cups of frozen cut onions (but you could definitely slice it fresh and use a whole onion! I always opt for convenience)

-about a Tablespoon of Cumin

-about a Tablespoon of Chili Powder

-2 Tablespoons of Minced Garlic (or feel free to use fresh if you have it!)

-Teaspoons of Salt and Pepper

-Mexican 4 Cheese shredded blend. Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese would probably work as well.

Instructions: 

  1. Be sure you’ve already cooked the quinoa! About one cup dry will give you two cups cooked. If you end up cooking more, you can use it for meal prep with other meals for the week!
  2. Use a large skillet on the stove top on high heat. Pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion for about 3-5 minutes. (It took a couple minutes for my frozen onions to de-thaw and cook, but may take less time if you use fresh)
  3. Cut your peppers in half, take out the seeds, and place on a cooking sheet. Pre-Heat Oven to 375.
  4. Add the chicken tenders to the stove top with the onions so you’re able to see better if they’re cooking well. Once you’ve flipped them & they’re no longer pink, add all of the seasonings! You may want to cut them into pieces so they’ll split apart into stringy, shredded, digestible pieces more easily.
  5. You can turn the heat down to medium. Add in the tomato sauce and let cook for another few minutes to help the chicken become more tender.
  6. Then, add the corn and beans. Stir and continue to let cook for about another 5 minutes or so. You can take a fork and knife and pull apart the chicken in the skillet and make sure it’s evenly distributed in the mixture.
  7. After your mixture is well stirred and cooked, scoop it out into the peppers on the baking tray. Cook in the oven for ~25 minutes. (I took mine out at 20 & they were fine) Take them out, add cheese on top, then put back in for another 3-4 minutes.
  8. The longer you leave them in the oven, the softer the shell of the pepper gets. I ate mine with my hands just taking bites of the whole thing while my husband cut his with a knife and fork. ENJOY!!

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Clean Eating Snacks

The most important part of living a healthy lifestyle is PLANNING and PREPARING. You don’t get healthy and stay healthy without intentionally doing so, especially when processed junk food is so readily available and our lives only get busier and busier.

Even though cooking healthy can sometimes be more time consuming than picking up fast food, it always nice to have a few quick snacks you can count on to toss in a container/baggie and take with you on the road, to work, to a friend’s house etc.

“Clean eating” is all about finding and consuming food in it’s most natural state. Stick to the outside of the grocery store, and look for fresh produce. Eating “clean” is not about being on a particular diet, it’s about finding foods that will let your body’s organs function at their optimum level without the pollution of extra chemicals or colors or preservatives. This typically involves getting rid of extra sugars in your diet, especially the artificial ones… so TOXIC! The nutrients we eat are far more important than focus solely on calories because they have the power to prevent disease, give energy, and improve your heart health.

Ever heard “you are what you eat? so don’t be cheap, easy, fast, or fake.” –Basically clean eating’s motto!

Here are a few of my favorite go-to snack options:

Clean eating Snacks

Interested in spending 21 days learning how much and what kinds of foods to eat, doing 30 min a day workouts, and losing weight? Click here to learn about the 21 Day Fix.

Parmesan Cauliflower

Since vegetables are a staple of nearly all of our meals, I’m constantly figuring out ways to mix them up a bit! Today I roasted some cauliflower that my husband approved of so I figured I’d share, especially since cauliflower tends to taste bland but is very good for you! 🙂 It’s a quick and easy side!

First, pre-heat oven to 375 and spray non-stick spray on a large pan.

Use a head of organic cauliflower, and break it into pieces on the pan. Once the oven is heated, put the cauliflower for 20 minutes.
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While it’s cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small dish. (organic grass-fed if possible)

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1/4 cup of grated parmesan

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Once the cauliflower is finished, take it out and generously pour the mixture over the florets. If your mixture is a little sticky, feel free to take a spoon and dish some out to be sure all of the cauliflower is covered.

Put back in the oven for around 4-5 minutes and you’re done!

Finished product, served with my favorite pesto chicken and a sweet potato.

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#KatiesKitchen: Fancy Dinner Feature

Monday night, I had the best time doing “Lower Fix” 21 Day Fix workout with my friend Katie Uze! 30 minutes with Autumn has nothing on us! After our workout, we created a delicious and healthy dinner together to refuel…. when I say delicious I mean DELICIOUS.

I honestly can’t say enough wonderful things about Katie, but we’ll start with that she is one of the most compassionate, caring, and persistant human beings I’ve ever met. About a year ago, Katie and I expressed the same concern to each other about our lack of cooking ability. We didn’t quite know exactly where to start and weren’t too comfortable branching out other than creating salads, omelets, and pizzas. The bare basics of survival. 🙂 But we WANTED to grow and learn more.

Over time, we’ve both made a concerted effort to try different recipes or at least to LEARN a few meals we can pull out easily and start to create our own variations on.

Since then, Katie has seriously taken flight with her food adventures! I have LOVED seeing all of her amazing looking creations and healthy meal pics on Instagram and Facebook of the variety of meals she has prepared. I’m honored that I was able to join her for dinner to watch her work her magic!

—>The dinner we made consisted of:

+Pesto genovese chicken breast

+Katie’s take on healthy zucchini fries

+Maple mashed sweet potatoes. (our favorite!!!)

ZUCCHINI FRIES by Katie

Prep:

(1) Preheat oven to 425 and prepare a baking sheet by covering it with foil and placing 2 wire cooling racks on top. (I just used one and you could skip the cooling racks all together too)

(2) Cut zucchini into “fries” however thick you like. I quartered them then halved each quarter to make about 8 per zucchini (and then sliced a few bigger ones in half again)

Katie's Kitchen

(3) In a large gallon size ziplock bag, combine 1/4 cup almond meal and 1/8 teaspoon salt

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset(4) In a wide, shallow bowl, beat one egg with 1tbsp water

(5) In a second wide, shallow bowl combine 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese with 1tbsp Italian seasoning blend

Assembly Line:

(1) Put the zucchini in the ziplock bag and seal. Shake the bag to coat the zucchini in the almond meal and salt mixture

SHAKE(2) One by one, take the almond meal coated zucchini fries out of the bag and dip them in the egg and then the Parmesan Italian seasoning mixture. (be sure you smile like this when you shake the bag!)

(3) Once coated, place each on on the wire cooking rack (or straight on the baking sheet if not using a cooling rack. I think the cooling rack just helps the zucchini not stick to the foil and also allows hot air to circulate so the bottoms aren’t soggy and are more crispy and less of the “breading” sticks to the baking sheet and stays on the zucchini)

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset(4) Once all the zuchinni fries are prepared, place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until they start to lightly brown. If you like them a little more crispy like me, broil them an extra 3-5 minutes after baking.

Let cool and enjoy!

Also that is for about 1lb of zucchini. As you saw, if you use more zucchini like I did, you’ll need to adjust amounts accordingly- mainly the Parmesan, Italian mixture

Because it is a process, I just prefer to go ahead and fill the whole baking sheet and have leftovers 🙂

PESTO GENOVESE CHICKEN:

Marinate (overnight if possible) in pesto alla genovese, basil powder, garlic powder, onion powder, romano cheese, and a little oregano and parsley.

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Add some olive oil to your pan and sauté the chicken on med-high heat for roughly 10 minutes, as you occasionally flip the chicken over. We cut the thick chicken breast into smaller pieces so it would cook faster and then we could be sure to see that it was done.

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MASHED SWEET POTATOES: 

Ingredients:

ingredients for potatoes

3 lbs of sweet potatoes, or about 4-5 individual sweet potatoes (serves 6)

1 Tablespoon of Butter

1/4 Cup of Pure Maple Syrup

1/4 Teaspoon of ground Cinnamon

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Milk

Prep:

(1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. About an hour before you start making the other parts of this meal, put the sweet potatoes in the oven to bake for the hour on a baking sheet. We had them bake while working out!

(2) Remove from the oven. Let cool for about 5 minutes.

(3) Combine above ingredients into a bowl and whisk together.

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(4) Split the potatoes in half and scoop the insides into the bowl. Discard the skins (unless you like to eat them)

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(5) Mashed all together and serve warm!

FINISHED PRODUCT: (graphic by @MissKatieU)

Katie's Kitchen ...