Do you run? I’ve dabbled in running for most of my “Fit” life – it’s so convenient and I love being in the great outdoors. I would by no means consider myself a great runner. About 10 years ago, I could hardly run two blocks (truth – just ask my husband. He thought I was faking it). I rarely go over 5 miles now and prefer shorter, faster distances…. but I’m still a much better runner now. Even with my improved performance, I’ve noticed my internal monologue isn’t so great when I’m running. “This is hard. I can’t wait to stop. Are we there yet?” Enter Sports Affirmations for Running.
Sports Affirmations for Running
Years ago, I decided to help change my inner monologue by making an audio track of positive statements about running. Affirmations had worked great for me when I had used them before, so I was excited to apply them to my athletic endeavors. Low and behold, my clients loved using the MP3s too. I made them for my golfers and tennis players, too.
Affirmations are positive statements that help to improve the way you feel about yourself and your athletic performance. As long as you have some shred of positivity about running and YOU running, these MP3s can help magnify those positive feelings and reset your inner monologue (Side note: Are you a complete negative Nancy about running? You’ve probably chosen the wrong way to get fit. I highly recommend contacting me, so you can find a way of getting fit that makes you JOYFUL!). Having a stronger mind means you will run faster and go farther – whether you are a beginner on those first few (very difficult) runs, or a seasoned athlete looking to push your pace in your next race.
After a successful stint on Amazon and ITunes, I’m offering my Sports Affirmations for runners FREE for a limited time. All you have to do is click here and sign up for my newsletter – after you sign-up, you’ll receive an e-mail with a link to your downloads (you can download Sports Affirmations for Golf, Sports Affirmations for Tennis AND Sports Affirmations for Runners!). Even better, you’ll be the first to know when I upload other FREEBIES and you’ll have access to exclusive articles that are only for my newsletter subscribers.
Inspiration, Motivation and Perspective. Brittany Culp was the first blind competitor in the NPC Bikini Division – I am honored that she granted me an interview. Brittany and I became friends as co-members in an exclusive online community called FitnessModels.com/
She talks candidly about life, fitness and blindness. Sometimes we all need a little inspiration to put some pep in our step and recommit to our goals, regardless of the forces we feel are working against us. I hope this interview with Brittany does that for you.
“We can create our own future. We can travel different paths, decide which way to go, and we can find the positive even in not so positive situations. We have a choice. I did not choose to be blind… unfortunately, I did not have a say in that. I do however, have a say in what I am going to do with my life.” – Brittany Culp
LS: Give us an introduction to YOU. Tell us your story! I know this will include your vision, so please share.
BC: I’m 24 years old, born and raised in the south Texas area. Currently I reside in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I work part time at a gym called Body Shop, as a front desk attendant. In 2014 I graduated
with my bachelors double majoring in Psychology and Sociology.
At the moment, I’m a full time graduate student, pursuing my masters in Psychology at Texas A&M University- Kingsville. Once I graduate, I will take the state exam to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC).
Long-term, I want to open a private practice where I can do counseling, and on the other side of it have a fitness studio to train people. This will allow me to not only incorporate the two things I am
most passionate about, but also give my clients that total mind and body connection. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand when it comes to the overall wellness of a person.
I’m hoping to have some free time this summer, to get my personal trainer certification. Outside of school, I’m a model. I enjoy doing photo shoots, and have placed in the top at all local bikini model
competitions I have competed in. I also compete in NPC competitions, and am sponsored by a supplement store called Rock’s discount vitamins and more. They have expanded to having over ten locations around Texas, and plan to open even more.
I’m the first blind NPC bikini competitor.
LS: How did you lose your eyesight? You seem to cope with it positively – did that come naturally or have you struggled?
BC: At six months of age, I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has caused me to lose my sight with age. It took me a long time to fully accept my disability.
When I was a child, I did not quite understand what it meant to be blind, especially because at that time I was what you would call “visually impaired” or “low-vision”. I could see a lot more than I can
now. Back then, most of my trouble was at night and in dimly lit places, being near-sighted, and having tunnel vision. I could read large print with glasses, and did not use a cane at that time. I was
always at the top of my class academically, so I was not in special education. Even my class mates and teachers did not understand the extent of what I could and could not see.
I always tried to fit in as best I could, and I suppose in a sense, try to pass as a sighted
person. I cannot tell you how many times I would try to participate in dodge ball in P.E and would get hit in the face, causing my glasses to break. At that time, I would have rather the other kids think I was
just super clumsy, than have to explain I was different from them.
Honestly, I did not want to admit it to myself either; I was indenial. There was that fine line where I was too sighted to be considered “blind”, but too blind to be considered sighted. At times I felt very alone and depressed inside. I also had no outlet to express myself. I wanted to participate in sports so badly, but my vision loss was always getting in my way. I wanted to run track, but the coaches just saw me as a liability. I eventually even got taken out of P.E, because the coaches did not know what to do with me. Looking back on things, they could have let me participate on days when we went to the weight room, but I was too shy and self conscious at that time to even begin to think of suggesting ways they could accommodate me.
As I got older, my vision got worse, so it became harder to deny and hide. My glasses stopped working for me, I was getting even more near-sighted, and even large print became difficult for me to read.
Still, I resisted. I began learning Braille, getting mobility lessons to learn how to travel with a cane, and other useful skills every blind person should be taught, but I found it to be ridiculous. I had no idea how much I was cheating myself. By my teenage years, my grades began to suffer. I was once an honors student, and suddenly became a barely passing student.
From middle school to junior year of high school, my vision plummeted dramatically. One day our guidance counselor spoke to my class about applying for colleges and getting ready to take the SAT’s. It was at that moment, it hit me. I was barely making it in high school. How was I going to succeed in
college, let alone pass the SAT’s to get into one.
My mother suggested putting me in the Texas school for the blind, which I reluctantly
agreed to try out. I was only there for two weeks however. I hated it! I was so used to public school, and being around my sighted friends, going to parties, and all that stuff that high school kids typically
It was odd… in public school I felt out of place because I was the only blind kid, but at this school full of blind kids I still felt alone because I was so much more social than they were. Don’t get me wrong; there were some pretty cool blind kids there, but since this was a boarding school of sorts, there were too many rules. I made an agreement with my mother. I said that if she let me go back to public school, I would try harder in the classroom and be more open to learning blindness skills from the vision teachers they appointed me.
When I came back, I began using my cane every day. Once senior year rolled around, I was an A-B student again. Even then though, I still felt unready for college, so I decided to take a year off after
graduation, and went to a vocational rehabilitation training program for people losing their vision in Austin, Texas called Criss Coll Rehabilitation Center.
I was there for seven months, and was blind folded Monday through Friday, eight hours a day. I learned how to cook, clean, travel, and use assistive technology as a blind person.
The most memorable accomplishment I remember from my time there was my first drop off. Drop offs were done during Orientation and Mobility training (O&M), where they would drop us off blind folded with our canes at a random place in town, and have us find our way back to the
training center. They would observe from across the street or in a car of course, but they would not help you out unless you were in immediate danger, so you felt completely alone. Traveling alone was my
biggest phobia at that time, so I was freaking out when they dropped me off that day! Nevertheless, the skills they taught me just kicked in, and I found my way to a bus stop 3 blocks away, asked the bus
driver which route his bus was taking, and road it back to the training center.
Once I made it back, I felt so liberated. I never knew what independence felt like until I went there. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. After I graduated the training program, I came back to south Texas and began college as a new person. The rest
LS: What’s it like to stay physically active without your eyesight? Do you have any special challenges at the gym?
BC: Staying physically active without vision, is not as hard or different as some people may think. I lift weights, do my cardio, and have even participated in group classes before. It’s all just a matter
of making it work. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
The only things I have had trouble with, are things that require a lot of balance. Since quite a bit of my vision has deteriorated, I don’t have that total hand-eye coordination; its more like just hand coordination. So I try to avoid doing box jumps and one legged movements, unless I have
something or someone to kind of stabilize me. I also avoid doing squats with the squat rack, because now that I have gotten stronger and lift heavier weight, it’s just not safe if I were to be off
balance that day, so I do squats on the smith machine instead.
My left eye is my “good” eye, so I can see a little bit out of that one. It is hard to explain to what extent. I will say this though… I have good eye days and bad eye days, hence why my balance may be thrown off more one day versus another. Rarely does it ever become a serious issue though.
Aside from that, I’m just your typical gym goer! For two years, I worked out with personal trainers, but these past 5 months, I have just been working out with my boyfriend and friends. I hold on to their arm as we walk from machine to machine, just because it’s faster, especially during those peak times. For this prep I’m in right now, prepping for the Phil Heath classic on March 12, I’m working with David Schachtrle of Siccmade Muscle via online coaching. He has been a joy to work with, and I can’t wait to show off the new package he has helped me bring in this season.
4. LS: You were the first blind woman to compete in the NPC – Wow! How did you become interested in showing? Were you extra-nervous about any aspects of doing a show?
BC: I think there might have been a blind women’s physique competitor who started competing before me [LS: My error, But Britney IS the first in the bikini division]. I came across a video of her posing routine with her guide dog one day on google. There havealso been blind men who competed in body building before me, so I
cannot take all the credit [for being the first in the NPC].
However, I am indeed the first and currently only blind competitor in the bikini division of the NPC. I
became interested in competing in the NPC back in 2014. I came across an ad for a local competition they were having right here in Corpus Christi, called Battle on the Bay. All my life I wanted to be able to
participate in a sport, and body building never crossed my mind, until that moment.
I figured I was already modeling, working out, and had a sparked interest, so let’s just go for it. I hired a personal trainer a few weeks later, and began preparing for it. I did not become nervous until I began looking up videos of how to pose. I was completely lost. I knew it would be a challenge getting down the
posing and doing my model walk not only well, but independently. I wanted to be as independent as possible on that stage.
I did not want the judges or audience knowing I was blind until afterwards, that way I knew I was being judged on my body, not my disability. I was also hesitant about finding the right coach, because I wanted somebody who was going to take me seriously. Luckily, I found a local posing coach, Lee Trapasso, who is now my boss at the Body Shop, and he helped me out a lot. It was funny, because when I first contacted him on the phone, we were talking about what would be covered in a posing session
and he said, “I tell all my clients that when you are out on stage, you don’t have a mirror, so you should have practiced posing so much at that point that you should be able to do it blind folded.”
I had not told him I was blind yet, so I responded, “Well, that’s perfect, because I was about to tell you… I’m blind.” He then said, “Shut up… Really? Awesome! I can’t wait to work with you, and have you show what you learn to the competitors in my posing class.” I knew at that moment, I was in the right hands. He taught me how to pose and walk more confidentlly, and I came up with the counting steps idea.
Before every show, I get to the venue early to check out the stage, and once they lay down the tape, I practice walking from line to line a few times and count my steps. Like I said, I like to be as independent as possible on stage. I trained, dieted, sweated, and sacrificed for months for my time on that stage; its my moment to shine, and I don’t want some random person in my pictures.
At my first two shows, a majority of the people watching did not know about my disability. Shortly after though, I was featured on the news and on social media, so the word traveled quickly. At shows after that, I was getting recognized, and I was initially worried that people would begin to treat me like an outsider because of it, but that wasn’t the case at all. I had never felt more welcomed.
LS: What do you feel your biggest obstacle is, whether due to your sight or not?
BC: At times, my blindness is an obstacle, I won’t lie to you about that. However, it is not my biggest obstacle. I think of it more as an inconvenience. Nevertheless, it is a part of who I am, so I can either accept that and embrace it, or let it interfere with my life, which I refuse to do. My biggest obstacle, is that I am extremely hard on myself at times. I get wrapped up in my own head, look at all the
things I did wrong, don’t give myself enough credit for the good I do, and by the time I realize what I’m doing, I have already made myself an emotional mess.
It took me a while to realize this about myself, and I have had other people point it out to me. I suppose it just stems from wanting to be more than people expect of me. In many things I have accomplished, people expected me to fail. In turn, that made me fear failure even more, and I saw it as not an option. I suppose you could also call it compensation or perfectionism, but that’s just the psychologist in me talking.
Let’s just say, we are our own worst critics sometimes. I try to not be so hard on myself, but another way
I see it is… If I’m not hard on myself, who’s going to be? I need to make myself accountable.
LS: How do you approach obstacles in your path?
BC: A wise professor once told me, “There are no obstacles in life, only challenges to be met and overcome.” Whenever I am faced with a challenge, I first ask myself, “How badly do you want it?”. If what I really want is on the other side of that “obstacle”, then I start thinking of how I am going to get through it. Then I just take it step by step.
If for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, then I let out some frustration in the gym or sing it out in the shower. What I’ve learned is, that when something absolutely does not work out, there will eventually be something that will work out completely in your favor. You just have to keep moving forward, and take some things with a grain of salt.
LS: How do you make time for exercising and eating well? What are your other commitments?
BC: Fitness has become such a huge part of my life and daily routine now, that it’s just a way of life. I can always make time for the gym. The only times I absolutely cannot is around finals when I have exams,
presentations, and 20 page papers due all at once. I do fasted cardio 3-5 days a week at 6-8am, depending on if I get to sleep in, and weight lifting 5-6 days a week. In between that time, I’m either in
class, eating, doing homework, or spending time with my boyfriend and friends and family. On my rest days is when I will schedule photo shoots every now and then. I do have those days where I’m just not
feeling the gym; I’m only human. Whenever I feel like this I ask myself if I will regret not hitting the gym once the next day rolls around. If the answer is yes, I force myself to go. If my mind and body are just flat out exhausted and need the time off, I’ll take it. My boyfriend and I prep food throughout the week, so we are prepared.
If you don’t have your food prepped, you are more likely to want to go eat junk instead, so we try to stay prepared. If we ever go out to eat, I order my food as healthy as possible, unless it’s a cheat meal,
which I save for after I train legs on leg day. Since I am in full on prep mode right now, I put my meals into containers and take them with me when I’m on the go.
My friends and family used to give me a hard time when I would do this, but now they understand the dedication and hard work this sport takes, and are more supportive. Fitness is truly a lifestyle change. It is a commitment, but it is one that I am glad I have made. It has made me better mentally and physically. I could not imagine living my life any other way ever again.
LS: What motivates you, both in fitness and in life?
BC: The future is my motivation. Years ago, I could not imagine one for myself. I didn’t even care what happened… I thought there was nothing out there for me. Now, I know different. The possibilities are
endless. We can create our own future. We can travel different paths, decide which way to go, and we can find the positive even in not so positive situations. We have a choice. I did not choose to be blind…
unfortunately, I did not have a say in that.
I do however, have a say in what I am going to do with my life. I am pursuing higher education,
in a field that interests me, and is about helping other people. I am competing in a sport, that has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful people, given me a platform to inspire and educate others,
and to transform my mind and body into something great. In addition to that, I am not an outsider in this sport. I am training like everyone else, dieting like everyone else, sacrificing like everyone else, and
I am a blind athlete on that stage posing next to sighted athletes.
In this sport, I am not seperated from others; I am one hundred percent included.
LS: Do you have a “mission” as a person? Something you feel you were put on this earth to accomplish?
BC: My purpose is to live my life. That should be everyone’s purpose. Live the life you want to live. Try new things, meet new people, don’t take things for granted.
LS: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
BC: People often come up and tell me what an inspiration I am to them. At first, I did not know how to take that, or understand why. Part of me thought it was because people have this misconception that
blindness should be a death sentence. If you live in the dark, then your life should reflect that. Sit inside your house, be a shut in, keep your head down, and be hopeless. Then here I come with my pink cane, tattoos, blonde hair, and muscles, not being a stereotype. I guess I could understand how that would be inspiring. T
hen I realized… if that is your reasoning, that’s not inspiring. That is you being
uneducated about blind people. It’s okay though… I used to be uneducated about blindness too. Fact of the matter is, there are plenty of blind people out there just like me, living their lives independently, successfully, and happily.
The only reason you know about me, is because I am in the spotlight more than they are. I used
to shy away from the spotlight when I was younger, but now I welcome it. Somebody needs to bring the reality of blindness into the light. Sometimes yes, I do hate having to answer all the ignorant questions
from people. Yes, sometimes I get p****d when someone says an ignorant statement like, “You don’t look blind…”. What is blindness supposed to look like? If you need a certain look to be associated with blindness, I’ll gladly take on the challenge of creating a new look. The look of a person accepting blindness as nothing but a characteristic, and living their life as they were meant to do.
In this, I finally understood why people are inspired. People do not take advantage of their blessings or appreciate them. Instead of living the lives they want to live, they make excuses, they find reasons not to do something, and then they wonder why they feel as if something is missing. Take a risk people! Have some blind faith. *giggle*
LS: Where can readers keep track of you? Do you have a web site or social media?
My instagram name is @culpbrit. I have a facebook page, facebook.com/culpbrit but I’m more active on my instagram. I have a website, but I have not been posting on there because it needs some serious reconstruction, so if you know anyone who can help me out and make it screen reader accessible, I’ll definitely start up my blog again! I have been wanting to.
LS: Thank you so much, Brittany Culp!
So, there once was a family of three who decided they were going to move to Spain. Yes, you heard me. Spain. And we sold everything we owned. Almost.
Why We Sold Everything We Own (Almost)
Most of you may not know this, but we very nearly moved to Spain this year. LIKE… we had paid to have all of our important documents translated into Spanish. We had appointments to get our Visas. Ron had been accepted to a graduate school in Barcelona. We were looking at apartments. I was making Facebook friends in Barcelona.
And then we didn’t.
A big something came up and put a wrench in our plans.
But, before Spain “didn’t happen,” we had started selling everything we owned… because we couldn’t take it with us on the airplane. We made the decision to go to Spain with just a duffel bag per person. And that was a hard decision for me.
What about my stuff? My furniture? My art? My sheets? My towels? My jewelry? My extra clothes?? My plates, my bowls… MY STUFF!!!!!
As attached to my stuff as I was, I was more attached to the idea of taking an adventure.
And selling everything we owned turned out to be the most freeing, adventurous experience of my life. Over the course of six months of selling things, I experienced a massive shift of perspective. With every item sold or donated, I became more attached to my family, my values and my health instead of my furniture, my vases, my things. I began to feel lighter and more free.
It worked out well, in the end… we decided to do our move out West without renting a moving truck, so everything must go anyways…
This piece is the last of the last. My great grandfather’s dresser. It has been in my bedroom since I was a little girl.
This dresser represents the last of the last.
I am selling it this week. It’s just a thing. A beautiful thing, but there are a lot of beautiful things in the world. I am going to live from a place of “I CAN.” If I want another beautiful thing, I CAN GO OUT AND BUY IT AGAIN. There are other beautiful things in the world. This is not the last beautiful thing I will own.
Instead, I’m taking this picture of my dresser and I’m putting it in a photo album called “Stuff I used to own.” It will be a beautiful memory for me. And I am not sad. I think everyone should do this once in their lives… get rid of EVERYTHING!
Are you attached to your things? Could you envision yourself doing this?
This is my sugar addiction story. 10 years ago, this was my section of the grocery store. I would have little Debbie Swiss rolls at breakfast and Chocolate chip cookies with dinner. I would sometimes eat 20 or 30 cookies PER SITTING!! It was embarrassing, but I played it off like it was something cool. I drank maple syrup from the bottle. While I was thin from hours of dance class per week, I got sick all the time and never had any energy. I got into the habit of doing “penalty box” cardio to compensate for my overeating. I even lied to my then-boyfriend-now-husband about what I was eating. He would throw away junk food that I brought home. I ate out of the trash on several occasions.
My Sugar Addiction Story Continues…
Even after I became a personal trainer/strength and conditioning coach, changing my ways was extremely hard. I wanted to stop and become healthier, but I would ALWAYS find myself back to binge eating sugar and junk food. Did you watch my periscope about eating out of the trash? Lying about what I was eating?? I was ashamed and felt like a failure. I felt like I was the only person who couldn’t just suck it up and “eat right”.
I became involved with coaches who had a tough love mentality, which didn’t make anything better. Tough love doesn’t work. Extreme programs don’t work. I adopted the same mentality with my clients in an attempt to hide my own failures . I knew what I needed to do but somehow I just couldn’t do it.
Flash forward to 2016. I am like a different person. I don’t battle my sugar addiction on a daily basis anymore. I don’t have to crash exercise to make up for bingeing. I rarely get sick and I have tons of energy. Most importantly, I am happy and understand that sugar addiction is a very real thing that no one should feel ashamed of!!
Six months postpartum, my body is back to where it was pre baby… with less than 40 minutes per day of exercise. I’ve found a sustainable, fool proof way to eat… Without feeling deprived or starving myself!!
Do you hear YOUR story in any of this?
Here’s my 21 day fix waffle recipe in two formats: Regular “measurements,” and one for the 21-day fix approved containers!!
I have a bunch of different waffle recipes – my skinny waffles are most appropriate for really, really low calorie diets. This recipe is a perfect intermediate because it’s not too calorie dense but not too light either.
This recipe is for a single serving. It uses whole eggs, while my other recipes use egg whites. I really prefer keeping the yolks – they are SO nutritious! Can you believe that an egg yolk contains all the nutrition that a baby chicken needs to grow?? If I can help it, I don’t want to throw that in the trash!!
If you’re using Portion Fix or doing the 21 Day Fix/Hammer and Chisel, this is the equivalent of one red container, one purple container, one yellow container and 2 spoons!
21 Day Fix Waffle Recipe
- 2 Eggs (1 red container protein)
- ½ cup oatmeal (1 yellow container oatmeal, for carbs)
- ½ banana (1 purple container, for fruit)
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil (2 spoons)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (none)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (none)
- Sprinkles, if approved.
- Plug your waffle maker in and let it warm up.
- Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
- When the iron has preheated, pour batter into the waffle iron. Don't use too much, as it will expand and make a mess!
- If you're using sprinkles, sprinkle them lightly on top of the waffles.
- Cook according to your waffle maker's specifications.
- Remove from waffle maker and ENJOY!
What’s the problem with a Running New Year’s Resolutions?
So how can you prevent this?
Q&A With Alyx Ulbrich
LS: ‘What’s your mission in life? Personally or professionally.
AU: My mission in life both professionally and personally is to inspire people to take control of their own destinations. So many people have just given up, “its my genetics to be fat”, ” I wasn’t meant to be successful”, ” I just have bad luck” I want people to wake up and realize if they take control of their actions, while they can’t control life’s curveballs, they can control how they choose to react to life.
LS: Have you always had a vision for where you wanted to go in life, or has the path been slow to reveal itself?
AU: I’ve always had the idea that I wanted to motivate and inspire others. The path itself has slowly evolved, over time and I assume it will continue to do so along my journey. I have been so happy to have a patient, and supporting husband, who has been flexible as I take career leaps, investment risks, and change directions along the way!!! I see so many people stick to the “safe” path, and end up working a job they never dreamed about, and in the long run the effects showing on their body, health, and happiness!
LS: You’re fortunate that fitness is your career, so there’s no question about whether you’ll make time for going to the gym or not. Still, do you ever struggle with motivation or want to quit? If not, was there a time in your life when you did? How did you overcome that?
AU: Lauren, you’d be shocked, but even though my job is as flexible as my laptop, sometimes I find an entire day has passed and I’ve spent 8 or 12 hours behind my desk! At that point I have zero to no motivation to workout and have to really push past it! I try to combat potential gym slacking, by making myself appointments in my calendar for my gym time, so I have a scheduled break in my day to put the work in!!! As a multiple knee surgery recipient I’ve definitely overcome some struggles, with motivation, belief in myself, and strength to get thru a single workout. All you can do when struggling, is take the right actions daily until you begin to see the progress. Trust the program your trainer or coach has created for you, and follow the plan consistently, and progress will happen!
LS: At this point in your life, what responsibilities do you have to juggle to make it happen? What else do you have on your plate?
AU: My husband and I are guardians to his 16 year old brother, so while we’re not parents, we get to play them daily! My husband is in the Marine Corps, and deploys frequently, usually 3 to 4 times a year for 60 -90 days at a time. So when he’s gone I get to juggle the teenager and the dog at home by myself! Other than our at home responsibilities, we are both active athletes, my husband playing Rugby and training for Ironman’s between bodybuilding shows… myself a WBFF Pro Fitness Model competitor, a active Ironman triathlete, and an ultra runner… Its safe to say we ALWAYS have a fitness activity to train for!!! On top of our personal, and fitness responsibilities, we are both Magnum Nutraceutical and Rudy Project sponsored athletes, and we run our own businesses UlbrichFit and Team A to Z.
LS: How do you “keep it all together” and still have time to work out/food prep? Do you have any special tips on time management, motivation, etc? I noticed you were recently seeking interns, so it seems that having a “team Alyx” is part of your strategy that we could all learn from.
AU: I generally make breakfast fresh each morning, and dinner fresh each day… So my “meal prep” is done while making these two meals for myself and my families many in between meals!!! Like I mentioned above, I set myself workout “appointments” so that I remain committed, and I also have a few close girlfriends I keep accountable with to get it all done!!! Right now my goal with interns is, yes to have an extra set of hands, but also to to help mold future leaders in the fitness industry.
LS: With your extensive coaching experience, are there any big mistakes you frequently see people make when they’re starting out on a fitness journey? Do you have any advice for the newbie?
AU: I see people try to doing 180 lifestyle and workout switch, going from a desk job with minimal workout experiences and eating anything they please, to a stick diet and some intense workout class or fad; without seeing how intensely they are shocking their body! While I appreciate the strong willed approach, I recommend doing slow, gradual changes, like eliminating soda, and going for a walk daily… that way the changes are one’s they can commit too, versus being burnt out in a month!
I am really excited to review these Healthy Microwave Dinners by Luvo! Cooking is a lot of work. Frankly, it’s been wearing on me lately. As a stay-at-home and part-time work-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time cooking and doing dishes. A LOT of time. Enter healthy frozen dinners by Luvo.
Disclaimer: I received healthy microwave dinners from Luvo Inc. and decided, independently, to write this blog post. Luvo did not approach me with a request to write a sponsored post. As always, opinions are unbiased and my own.
Luvo products are free of artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and GMOs. They are high protein and have vegetables. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals, unlike many processed meals. So, they are TRULY healthy microwave dinners. Even better, they taste great! They are carried in the freezer section of major supermarkets and also on Amazon pantry (affiliate link). You can cook them in the oven as well as the microwave
A LOVE-OF-FOOD STORY
I value healthy, good food. It’s one of my highest priorities, along with health and only trumped by “god” and “family.” I know what artificial preservatives, colorings and sugar can do to the body. I understand the value of sustainably raised plants and animals. I live and breathe portion sizes and macronutrients. I know these things so well that I cannot help but make all the food for my family. I don’t buy any preprepared or packaged foods from the store, with the exception of our Friday night pizza that we have for game night. I simply would not be able to sleep at night if I did it any other way.
But, again, it’s been wearing on me. With the addition of a second child and the temporary “exit” of my husband due to work responsibilities, I have a lot on my plate. I have been tempted by the convenience of packaged foods.
So, it was very good luck that I spotted these healthy microwave dinners in our local grocery store. I was shocked, so I took to instagram.
My instagrammed question was “has anybody tried these?” I received an answer from Luvo, Inc. They offered to stock my freezer with Luvo products, so I could find out for myself!!
TASTE TEST: HEALTHY MICROWAVE DINNERS BY LUVO
First, there was the Ricotta and Kale ravioli shared between my son and I as our dinner starch. Then, there was the tandoori-inspired spiced chicken, the braised beef with polenta and roasted vegetables, the chicken chili verde and the chicken enchiladas.
We even got to explore a few breakfast options. I loved the steel cut oatmeal with fruit, which I was expecting to be sugary but was not. We made our own eggs as a protein side dish. The farmer’s market frittata with sweet potato and mango hash was another home run.
Is it just me, or do these meals sound like they are straight from the menu of a trendy restaurant? Trust me, they taste like it. They have been hits with both my husband and my preschooler. While cooking the enchiladas, I heard someone in our complex hallway say “wow, it smells like they’re cooking something amazing!” I created an awkward moment by popping my head out of the apartment door and waving the Luvo box.
The ingredients have all been delicious and fresh. Lean meats, whole grains, wholesome fruits and vegetables. Minimal sugar, added responsibly. Wonderful spices and flavors. Appropriate portions.
Luvo touts that their healthy microwave dinners are free of artificial flavorings, sweeteners and colorings. You will see a few ingredients that don’t immediately strike you as natural, however. They are: potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and caramel color. However, these are not considered artificial additives. Luvo’s team carefully selected them to fit within brand standards. Allow me to explain further.
Caramel Color is a widely used food coloring. Some caramel colors are made via a “normal” route of heating or burning sugar. Others are created chemically with processes that use sulfites and ammonia. According to representatives, Luvo uses a Class 1 Organic caramel color by Sethness. It is manufactured without the use of sulfites or ammonium compounds. “Class 1 caramel colors have been growing in popularity,” says Brian Sethness, sales representative, Sethness Products Company, Chicago. “It is the most natural of the four classes of caramel. For this reason it is the only class Whole Foods, for example, will accept. It is also the only class that can be certified organic.”
Be aware, still, that Caramel colors are essentially burnt sugars and some researchers believe that burning foods increases carcinogen content. However, the amount of caramel color used is so miniscule that I am not concerned by it – As a mom, I am sure I have ingested lots of carcinogens from forgetting to take dinner out of the oven in a timely manner (as we speak, my hair smells like burnt rice).
Potassium chloride and calcium chloride are interesting ones to talk about. They are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by the USDA. Chemically, they are classified as salts. In fact, table salt has a very similar name: Sodium chloride.
Potassium chloride is a simple food preservative and flavor enhancer. It’s commonly stocked in baking sections as KaliSel. Potassium chloride has the benefit of enhancing the salty flavor of food without adding sodium. Thus, Luvo meals maintain flavor without excess sodium. Interestingly, An April 2005 study in the journal hypertension found consumption of extra potassium may help lower blood pressure.
Calcium chloride is similar to potassium chloride. According to Luvo representatives, it’s a firming agent that helps keep the tomatoes from getting mushy.
It’s true that potassium and calcium chloride aren’t classified as artificial by the USDA, but you probably wouldn’t see them in food plucked straight from nature. For example, they are not present in large quantities in a garden fresh tomato (naturally, please correct me if I am wrong about this as I am not a food scientist). To my knowledge, they must be created in a test tube. However, both potassium chloride and calcium chloride are found naturally in rare mineral deposits.
Whether you choose to be turned off by this depends on your commitment to food purity. Considering that they are simply salts, I am not at all bothered by them. One commenter on consumethisfirst.com said “I don’t understand the paranoia involved with chemical names, like CaCl or Calcium Chloride. It’s a salt, totally harmless. If, instead of listing ‘water’ as an ingredient, and they listed “dihydrogen monoxide”, would you freak out[?][…]”
PORTION SIZES AND MACRONUTRIENTS
Luvo dinners are perfect for weight loss and maintenance, particularly for women (based on calories needed for our body size). Portions are small and calorie counts are reasonably low, typically falling in the 300s or low 400s. Overall, they also contain more protein than competitor brands and don’t go overboard on the carbohydrates. Most meals contain more than 18 grams of protein (if you eat the steelcut oatmeal or the ricotta kale ravioli, make sure to pair it with a side of protein). Protein is vital for weight loss and overall health, so this is good news. You might still need more protein for your meal, depending upon your goals and body size. Consult a nutrition professional if you’re not sure.
If you are a man, or weight loss/weight maintenance is not your goal, then I don’t recommend subsisting solely off of Luvo meals unless you plan on eating two meals per sitting!
I hope you enjoy these healthy microwave dinners by Luvo. If you want to know more about the company, check out their website, facebook, instagram and twitter. Looking for more great tips and recipes for weight loss, health and more? Check out my pinboards, facebook, twitter and instagram!
I love simple. With two kids and an ambitiously complicated life, I need simple. I also need nutrition, and this purple cabbage salad is certainly nutritious!
This is one of my favorite simple salads – packed with COLOR! That means vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Make sure you cut the cabbage small enough – otherwise, you won’t enjoy the texture. While purple cabbage is more expensive than green cabbage, it’s still very affordable per pound. It keeps well in the refrigerator. Even better, conventional cabbage is grown with very little pesticide. That means you don’t need to spring the extra cash for organic cabbage.
Do not make the mistake of thinking this is a snacky poo salad that you will be able to serve to a picky eater… this is a straight up, unapologetic vegetable dish. There is nothing to disguise the flavor of the vegetables! However, the combination of olive oil and salt enhances the vegetables and makes it TASTY!
Recipe for Purple Cabbage Salad
I like to serve this at room temperature. I think it’s nice alongside a well prepared lean, red meat and a small portion of baked potato. It must be my Polish heritage – Steak, potatoes and cabbage just go together to me. Like this recipe? Make sure to pin it for later!
- 1 small head of purple cabbage, chopped small or cut thin (slaw style)
- 2 avocados, cut into ½" pieces.
- 1 red pepper, diced into small pieces
- ⅔ cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
- ⅓ cup quality olive oil
- Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to taste (1 teaspoon +)
- Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste.
- Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and toss to combine.
We just had a baby, so I’m looking for healthy meals (AKA high protein, moderate carb, moderate fat, unprocessed, with veggies) that I can make & freeze ahead for later. I pick a night to make the recipe for dinner, then double it and freeze the extra dish. My lean turkey chili has been a freezer-winner and I’m trying meatballs this week. So far, the unchallenged winner from my new repertoire is this healthier chicken pot pie.
I spiffed up my healthier chicken pot pie from a traditional pot pie in the following ways:
- Used way more meat – both chicken breasts and chicken thighs. *Note* It’s a popular misconception that chicken thighs are bad for you because they’re fattier – as long as you trim excess fat and take the skin off, chicken thighs only have a few more grams of fat per serving than breasts. They also have more of certain key nutrients that breast meat does not have.
- Used half the crust – I only use crust on top, which lowers the overall calories and fat in this traditionally heavy meal. Yes, the picture shows a two crust version… deception!
- No cream or butter in the filling – I use pureed, boiled potatoes to add creaminess. You can play with adding 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of full fat coconut milk, as well, but my “nutrition brain” feels that the coconut-free version fits into my family’s nutrition style more.
- Used whole grain flour and coconut oil in the crust, not white flour and butter.
Recipe for Healthier Chicken Pot Pie
Here’s my healthier chicken pot pie recipe, along with suggestions for different methods of freezing it! I’ve even included directions for a paleo option! Like it? Pin it for later! Looking for more recipes? Check here!
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 3 Chicken Breasts, cut or chopped into small pieces (I use meat shears).
- 6 Chicken Thighs, cut or chopped into small pieces (I use meat shears).
- ½ of a red onion, very finely chopped
- 4 Large carrots, peeled and chopped into small cubes (Or ~1 cup frozen chopped carrots)
- 4 Stalks of celery, chopped into small pieces
- ¾ cup to 1 cup of frozen green peas, depending on preference
- 1 large potato, peeled and boiled (to make paleo, you can use ½ head cauliflower, steamed)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon pink himalayan sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3.5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour or Gluten Free Flour Blend (I suggest a 3:4 ratio of tapioca flour to almond meal or rice flour)
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Teaspoon himalayan Sea Salt
- ½ Cup Coconut Oil
- ½ cup very cold water, plus extra tablespoons to make the dough consistency just right.
- Add olive oil to a cast iron dutch oven, or similarly large pan, on medium heat.
- Add onions and saute until translucent.
- Add carrots and celery. Cook until they just begin to soften, about 8 minutes.
- Add the chicken, salt and pepper and let it brown. In the meantime, put the boiled potato in a food processor and process until very very smooth.
- Add the potato puree, frozen peas, thyme and rosemary.
- If there's excess water in the pan then reduce heat and simmer the water off.
- Divide the filling into two casserole dishes, baking dishes or pie pans. I used a 9" glass pyrex pie pan and a square baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Add the coconut oil and cut it into the mixture. Alternatively, you can use a food processor.
- Whisk the eggs and add it to the mixture, stirring thoroughly.
- Add the ½ cup of very cold water. The mixture will most likely be dry, still. Add more cold water by the tablespoon, until the dough comes together - not too moist and not too dry.
- Divide the dough into two balls and roll out onto a floured surface.
- Fit the dough over the top of the filling in the casserole dishes, fitting it to the edges of the dish and sealing if you'd like. Poke a few holes in the crust.
- Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 55 minutes to 1 hr 10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbles.
- ** TO FREEZE: You have choices.
- Freeze filling and raw dough separately. Freeze the dough rolled out between sheets of parchment paper. Add the dough just before cooking.
- Freeze pot pie filling with raw dough on top, uncooked. Let the filling cool before you put the dough over it.
- Freeze pot pie assembled and partially cooked... bake it for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven, let it cool and then freeze it.
- It will take less time to reheat the pot pie if you cook it first and then freeze it. However, freezing the crust uncooked is more likely to yield a crust that is crisp and not soggy.