Monday, December 29, 2014

Transitioning to a Plant-Based or Vegetarian Diet

  So you are interested in making some healthy lifestyle changes and trying out a new vegetarian or plant-based diet, huh? Just like with anything, getting started is the hardest part.  The good news is that there are many people who have been in your shoes, a little nervous to jump into this whole plant-based diet thing, who can help guide you as you begin your new journey.


And that's what I hope to do for you today.  When I became a vegetarian a year and a half ago, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and I made some unhealthy mistakes along the way as a result.  In an effort to help you avoid some of my mistakes, I have compiled a list of things that I think will help you be well prepared for the herbivore lifestyle.




Here are 5 Things You Should Do Before Tackling a Plant-Based Diet:


1) Ease into it.  Start by following your new plant-based diet a few days per week and maintain your usual eating habits for the remainder.  This will give you time to discover and learn a decent amount of vegetarian meal options before you go all-in, which will help you avoid eating the same two or three meals day-in and day-out. Try this for three or four weeks and once you feel like you have a well-rounded variety of menu options, then you can adopt a full-on plant based or vegetarian diet.


2) Mix it up.  As you begin to try out more recipes, this will become easier, but it's very important for those of us following plant-based diets to include a variety of foods into our daily menu.  People often think that vegetarians can't get all of the nutrients that their body needs from only plant-based foods, but that is a myth.  Everything you possibly need can be provided to you without animal products, but you need to be eating a well-balanced diet rich in plant-based, whole-foods in order to get all of these nutrients.  A diet consisting of romaine lettuce, corn, and potatoes is not going to cut it!


3) Buy something new every week at the grocery store.  If you're anything like me, you often get in the routine of making the same things for meals every week because they are easy to prepare and I often don't have the time to be exploring new recipes.  However,  by purchasing just one new food every week, you will introduce yourself to a whole new world of opportunities and deliciousness!  Believe it or not, before I became I vegetarian I had never tried eggplant, collard greens, kale, butternut squash, and the list goes on! Crazy to think of that now because those have become some of my new staple foods!


4) As I mentioned before, plant-based is different than vegetarian diets in that you eliminate all animal products (like a vegan) and you also cut out all processed foods.  To transition to a plant-strong diet, slowly eliminate your dairy intake over the course of that month transition period we talked about in step 1.  This will help you immensely with both cravings as well as learning alternatives for your typical dairy uses. A couple of my favorite alternatives are almond milk and nutritional yeast (used as a cheese substitute).  A good resource for more substitutions is www.godairyfree.org.  This website is not without many man-made, processed alternatives though, so be careful as you sift through for good advice.  For more information on a plant-based diet, I recommend the resources at www.forksoverknives.com.


5) Pick a planning day and do your meal prep!  Transitioning to anything new takes planning and hard work, and this isn't an exception.  Set yourself up for success and plan ahead.  I always use Sunday afternoons for my meal preparation.  Sit down over the weekend and make up your menu for the week ahead.  Make a list and head to the grocery store to stock up on everything that you need for the week.  Prepare everything such as salads, quinoa, rice, lentils, diced fruits and veggies, etc and store them properly in the fridge for quick and easy access.  Go through your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards and toss or donate everything that doesn't fit in the plant based or vegetarian eating plan.







And there you have it!  If I would have had those five tricks up my sleeve last year as I first embarked on my vegetarian journey, I would have been so much better prepared and would have had a much healthier beginning.  Here is the truth, though...you're going to make mistakes of your own and IT'S OKAY!  It's a process and you will learn as you go along.  If you find yourself eating cheese and realize that it's not vegetarian (What?! Cheese with actual meat products?! Yep...I've been there!) or you indulge in a processed treat while you're out with some friends (uh huh, that's been me many times!)...don't be hard on yourself!  You don't have to do this perfectly to reap great rewards from your new lifestyle.  So just roll with the punches, enjoy it, and be very proud of yourself for making this big step towards a healthier you!




xoxo,


Aleena

Grilled Corn and Jalapeño Salad (Vegetarian Recipe)

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You've got to try this vegetarian recipe! After all of the holiday parties these past few weeks, it's time to jump back in to CLEAN EATING!  This is a great side dish and it's got just the right amount of spice!

Grilled Corn and Jalapeño Salad

Total Time: 30 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: 20 min.
Yield: 4 servings


Ingredients:

4 ears of corn, husks removed
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided use
1 medium jalapeño
¼ medium red onion, chopped
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)

Preparation:
1. Preheat grill to medium.
2. Bring large pot of water to boil; add corn. When water returns to a boil, remove corn.
3. Brush corn with 1 tsp. oil. Place corn and jalapeño on grill, turning frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until corn kernels are lightly browned and jalapeño is browned but not charred. Remove from grill.
4. When corn is cool enough to handle, slice kernels off the cob; place kernels in a medium serving bowl, discard cob.
5. Slice jalapeno in half, discard seeds, and finely chop.
6. Add jalapeno, onion, cheese, cilantro, remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, vinegar, salt (if desired), and pepper (if desired) to corn; toss gently to blend.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

So "At-Home Workouts" DO Work! 21-Day Fix Results Are In!

Omg! Omg! OMG!!!!  Today is December 21, which means it's my final day of the 21-Day Fix and I get to share my RESULTS with you!  Before we get to that good stuff though, I want to share with you a little bit about this journey.



I have shared with you previously about my skepticism surrounding at-home workouts but how I was intrigued by my friends who were getting in such great shape with 21-Day Fix.  On December 1, I took the plunge along with 8 other challengers and began this three week program to find out for myself what it was all about.



Here are 10 things I learned and experienced along the way:


1) Working out and eating healthy is SO MUCH EASIER (and way more fun!) when you are held accountable by a supportive group of people who are doing the same.


2) Having a "meal-prep day" was a vital key to my success.  I used Sundays as my day to pack the refrigerator with ready-made foods for      the week including rice, quinoa, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, diced veggies, etc.


3) 30-minutes of intense, heart-pumping exercise at home gets you WAY better results than spending an hour and a half of moderate exercise every day at the gym!


4) My portion sizes have been way off in the past, but by learning how much of which foods I should eat daily, I never felt hungry and I had loads of energy! Sometimes I couldn't even eat all of my containers because I was so full!


5) Shakeology totally reduced my cravings...in a freakin' crazy kind of way!!  I have the biggest sweet tooth on the face of this earth, but after having my delicious chocolate shakeology every morning for breakfast, I didn't find myself craving any of the sugary treats that I normally do.  If you know me at all, you know that that's AH-MA-ZING!


6) Holy crap can you build strength and burn fat quickly when you are consistently working out and fueling your body properly!  The number of reps I was doing on week 3 compared to week 1 is just awesome!


7) Burpees SUCK!


8) The first week of the workouts, I dreaded them every day.  However, with each day that passed I dreaded it less and less.  Probably a combination of getting in better shape and also just building the habit.  I'm to the point now where I actually look forward to the workout because I feel so great once I'm done (don't get me wrong...I do not love the 30 minutes that I am actually putting in the work! haha)


9) The effort of only 30 minutes/day of exercise and daily good nutrition is SO WORTH the feeling of fitting into pants 2 sizes smaller than I was in 3 weeks ago! If that's not motivation to continue this journey...I don't know what it!


10) The program is NOT for people who are looking for a magic pill to lose weight quickly.  If you're looking for another super unhealthy yo-yo diet, you're in the wrong place!!  The 21-Day Fix is designed to build LIFETIME healthy habits with nutrition and exercise and educate you on what a well-rounded and clean eating diet consists of.  If you are willing to work hard and follow the program as it's designed, you WILL GET AMAZING RESULTS!!


 

My goal for the 21-Day Fix was to finish the challenge weighing in at 110 pounds (remember...I'm only 5'2" on a good day, so in my opinion this is a very healthy weight for myself). Take a look at this picture I snapped this morning...


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Only .2 lbs from my goal! I began this challenge weighing 117.6 lbs on Dec. 1, so I'm very happy with my results!


Are you ready to see my BEFORE & AFTER pictures?!  Let me tell you, I am mortified thinking of posting my before photos for the world to see, and honestly I NEVER thought I actually would.  I took them for myself so that I could personally see the changes.  But you know what?!  I am SO proud of what I just accomplished in three short weeks and I want to show you the kinds of results that you can get in only 21-days with this program.  I am so thankful for my friends who were brave enough to post their photos because their pictures are what inspired me to start my journey. I hope to do the same for you by sharing mine.


 

So, without further delay, my 21-Day Fix Before and After Shots (click pictures to enlarge):







 

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So...what do you think?!  I will be holding another 21-Day Fix challenge group beginning January 5 (this one is for women only!) and we still have a few spots left!  Are YOU ready to make healthy changes in your life and start seeing your own results?! Let 2015 be the year that you invest in yourself and reach your goals! If you are ready to start this journey with me, fill out this form and I will get you the information you need to get started!


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nutter Butter Shakeology

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Nutter Butter Shakeology

Total Time: 5 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: None
Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:
½ cup nonfat milk
½ cup water
1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
¼ medium banana, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp. all-natural peanut butter
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped raw walnuts
1 cup ice

Preparation:
1. Place milk, water, Shakeology, banana, peanut butter, walnuts, and ice in blender; cover. Blend until smooth.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

At-Home Workouts and Why YOU Should Try 21-Day Fix

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Are you skeptical about the kinds of results you can actually get from at-home workouts? If so, then you and I can relate! I refused for years to invest any money into a DVD that was suppose to get me in shape "from the comfort of my own home." I'll be honest and say that this sounded like a bunch of B.S. to me! I have gone through ups and downs in my lifelong fitness journey, but the only thing in the past that seemed to really get me into great shape was running. And by running, I don't mean just a 3 mile jog a couple times a week. I'm talking 6+ miles per day, at least 5 or 6 times per week. If you are as busy as I am, it can be a real struggle to carve out an hour or more everyday to exercise (not including the time it takes to get ready, drive to a gym if that's where you're going, take a shower, etc). And not only that, but it gets boring! There are only so many directions in which I can run from my house, so I would typically run the same 2 or 3 loops, day in and day out. Occasionally I really do like to go for a run and it can feel great to get some fresh air, but one of the reasons I kept giving up on myself and my exercise was because of the huge time commitment required for visible results and the overall loss of interest.



 

Another reason I wasn't a believer in at-home workouts was because I lack motivation. There you go, I said it! I can be really lazy you guys! And I felt like if I bought myself an at-home workout DVD, the chances were very likely that it would just sit in the box and collect dust and I would never actually motivate myself to follow the program.



 

But here's the thing. I started seeing my friends following the 21-Day Fix and to say the least, I was crazy impressed with their results! Not only were they were dropping weight as if they were training for a marathon or something, but they were sculpting their muscles like crazy and getting SUPER toned! In only 30 minutes per day?! I still wasn't convinced that this at-home workout program could actually work for me (after all, I knew I would have to put in the work if I wanted it to work for me)! In the end, though, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it a TRY and see if I could get amazing results too! Boy oh boy am I so glad that I took a chance on myself with 21-Day Fix! The results my body is seeing from this program are far more extensive than had I just been running everyday. I am getting stronger and leaner by the day and I am truly on my way towards reaching my ultimate fitness goals! Let me answer some questions for you and tell you why this at-home workout program called 21-Day Fix is working for me and why I KNOW it can work for YOU!



 



Who is 21-Day Fix For?


Anyone who truly wants to shed some weight, tone up their muscles and/or really learn what clean eating is all about. 21-Day Fix combines Fitness + Nutrition + Accountability, and if you are willing to put in just 30 minutes per day, you WILL see amazing results in only three short weeks! It doesn't matter if you workout religiously or if you have never exercised a day in your life. Maybe you're 20 years old, or maybe you're 60! That's Ok! The only requirement is that you give it YOUR best every single day for 30 minutes. The program has modified versions of every exercise for anyone needing less intensity and you take these workouts at your own pace.


 

What if I am a Gym Rat or I Attend Yoga daily?


You can still follow the 21-Day Fix in addition to your current workouts. Maybe you decide to do cardio at the gym on the days we do strength training in the program or vice versa. Maybe your favorite part of your daily routine is your sweaty session of hot yoga! You don't have to give that up to participate in 21-Day Fix! But what you also need to know is that if all you do is simply the 30 minute workout from your 21-Day Fix program, that will be enough to get you to your goals! I don't have a gym membership and it's cold as heck here in Wisconsin this time of year, so I am certainly not outside running! I have followed this program, and this program alone, and I'm telling you...I haven't felt this great in years!


What if I Lack Motivation For an At-Home Workout?


So you're like me and you have no motivation to workout when you're around the house! That's where the accountability groups come in and it's why you and I can find so much success with this at-home workout! When you purchase your 21-Day Fix challenge pack, you automatically gain access into my private support network that month on Facebook along with everyone else participating in the program! This is a group where everyone checks in daily to hold each other accountable with their exercise and diet on a daily basis. With others cheering you on and walking this journey with you, you're never alone and you always have that extra fire lit underneath you to get you going!


What is the Difference Between 21-Day Fix and Other At-Home Workouts?


The key factor that sets 21-Day Fix apart is the fact that the program includes both the nutrition and accountability aspect that you don't get with other at-home workouts. You have a complete meal plan that gives you the flexibility to choose what you want to eat and allows you to develop healthy, clean eating habits that can last a lifetime. You have your support group online that is going to do this every step of the way with you, and 1-on-1 coaching right at your fingertips. The combination of Fitness + Nutrition + Accountability sets you up for quick results and healthy lifetime habits!


I don't know...I'm Worried This Won't Work for Me...


Everything you have ever wanted is right on the other side of your own fear! There are thousands of success stories from people just like you who have taken a chance with this program and it has changed their lives! If you're willing to put in the hard work (because I'm telling you...it's not easy), I PROMISE this will be so worth it!


OKAY! Are you Ready?! Let's DO THIS!


There are only a few spots left for our January challenge group, so sign up RIGHT NOW!


First things first: If I'm not already your coach, sign up now for your Free Team Beachbody Account by clicking here.


What's Included in the 21-Day Fix Program for $160?!


1) 7 different 30-minute, dynamic workouts
2) Complete clean eating meal plan
3) Color-Coded portion-control system
4) 1 month of Shakeology (what is Shakeology? Click here to learn more).
5) Access to my online accountability group and 1-on-1 coach support, recipe ideas, encouragement and guidance.


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If you would like to apply to be a part of our exclusive January 21-Day Fix group, Drop It Like It's Hot, please fill out the following application and I will contact you within 24 hours. Thank you.


[gravityform id="2" name="21-Day Fix Exclusive Participant Application "]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Journey as a Vegetarian

When I first decided to give the vegetarian diet a try back in October 2013, I had no intention of making this a lifetime commitment. I did, however, fully believe in the incredible health benefits of a plant-based diet but I didn't realistically think I could go too long without eating meat. Diving into the meat-free diet was actually pretty easy (aside from the constant social pressure)! However, after the first few months or so I noticed a couple of key things about my new lifestyle. First of all, I didn't miss eating meat...not even a little bit! I had no desire to eat chicken every night like I had in the past or to chow down on a juicy burger (I contribute this mostly to all of the documentaries I watched and books I read which have imprinted some pretty awful images in my head). The other thing I noticed though is that, not only was I not eating meat, but I was NOT eating healthy.

Wait. Didn't I become a vegetarian to become a healthier person? Isn't a meat-free diet good for you?

Allow me to clear things up here. What I had never considered but was just learning was that a vegetarian diet is actually much different than a plant-based diet or a plant-strong diet. How? As the unhealthy vegetarian that I was, my daily meals consisted of pasta, cheese or veggie pizza, baked goods, more pasta, chips, some fruits and veggies, etc. Talk about carb overload! I was a vegetarian, but not too many veggies were making their way to my plate! By comparison, a plant-strong diet focuses on eliminating processed foods as well as most dairy. It compares more to a vegan style diet without the highly refined foods. I certainly have not entirely embraced the plant-based diet as I often eat cheese and occasionally an egg or two. My point here is that the vegetarians that are reaping the benefits of improved health through their diets are the ones who are cutting out processed foods, focusing mostly on veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. The "unhealthy vegetarians" are often missing key nutrients in their diets and are quite likely creating more health risks for themselves than they are preventing (oops, live and learn)! If you are planning to embark on a vegetarian journey yourself, make sure to do some research before you get started on how to create balanced and healthy meals for yourself so that you ensure you are getting your proper nutrition!

It has been a fun learning process over the past year for me as I have explored how to eat a balanced, healthy, nutrient-rich, vegetarian diet. I have discovered and tried so many new foods that were completely foreign to me last year and I have developed a true passion for cooking in the process. Regardless of whether or not you have any intention on embracing a healthy vegetarian lifestyle for yourself, I hope to inspire you in this blog with my personal journey, delicious plant-based recipes, fitness tips and encouragement, and a whole lot of love!

XOXO,
Aleena

6 Ways to Overcome Social Pressure Regarding Your Vegetarian Diet

The hardest thing about making the jump to vegetarianism was the social pressure surrounding my decision. I can't say that this was unexpected, but it certainly has had its challenges.

Anytime someone makes a drastic lifestyle change, they are bound to have skeptics. If you ever plan to go the veggie route, be prepared to answer a million questions! How do you get your protein? You can't get ENOUGH protein in your diet without meat though, right? Do you have to take supplements? Do you get enough iron? Does that put you at risk for anemia? And the list goes on and on!
The most frustrating part for me in the beginning (which I have now learned to just let it go), was that so many people assumed that they knew what they were talking about as they tried to argue my decision to give up on meat, but they were uneducated on the plant based diet and unwilling to do their research. I wasn't trying to convert them to vegetarianism, so why did they care so much about my personal choice to quit eating animals? We are all creatures of habit, and most of us have been trained from a young age to eat meat on a daily basis; because after all, as we have been taught, meat is where we get our protein (protein will be a blog topic of its own one of these days as I feel the need to set things straight and put plants back on the pedestal where they belong). I understand these questions and concerns as I myself use to be very skeptical of the vegetarian diet; simply because I didn't really know anything about it.

If you are a vegetarian, or think you might want to be someday, here are 6 Ways to Overcome Social Pressure and stay strong and confident in your diet:

1) Educate yourself. Learn the ins and outs of the diet and understand where your nutrients are coming from. Know how to put together balanced meals for yourself. If you don't even know how the plant-based diet is beneficial, how do you expect others to?

2) Be prepared. If you plan to go out to eat with friends, check the menu in advance to make sure they have vegetarian options available. If you are going to someone's house for dinner, offer to bring a vegetarian dish along to share. Don't expect others to cater to your unique dietary needs. Plus, if you bring a delicious meat-free dish to pass, others may be inspired and realize that a vegetarian diet doesn't have to be bland and boring like it may seem!

3) Be Polite. If you don't want others to judge you, don't judge them! If they ask questions about or show interest in the vegetarian lifestyle, then by all means, engage them in a good conversation and share why you are passionate about it. If not, let them enjoy their steak in peace!

4) Get connected. Plug in to an online or a local group of like minded people. If you don't have a network of friends and family who are vegetarians, it can be helpful to have a place where you can go to share ideas, recipes, and feel free of judgement. This network also functions as an accountability tool and when the going gets tough and you are feeling the temptations and social pressure, it will help you remember why you chose to become an herbivore in the first place.

5) Make it tasty. Try new foods, recipes and restaurants and discover delicious new ways to prepare your meals. If giving up meat is challenging for you, having alternatives that taste just as good or even better will make choosing the meat less tempting.

6) Be consistent. Decide which kind of lifestyle you want, be solid in your reasoning, and be consistent with it. This will give you more credibility with your peers. Do you want to be a carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian? People are less likely to continue questioning your selection if you consistently follow one diet rather than jumping back and forth between them.

Be confident. Be happy. BE HEALTHY.

XOXO,
Aleena

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Power of Accountability

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Have you ever been in such a slump with not exercising that it almost felt like you'd never get back into shape again? Or maybe you have never been in shape to begin with and you feel like there is no use in trying anymore because you haven't been successful no matter how hard you have tried in the past. Maybe you are someone who hits the gym everyday but aren't seeing results. Do you sabotage your hard work by overeating or eating crap? Or maybe you're a sugar junkie. Or an emotional eater. Or how about a mom who who just cant seem to lose the baby weight?

Can you relate to any of those?

I certainly do! In fact, over the course of my life I have fallen into many of those categories. Let me be real with you here for a minute and let you in on secret of mine. Body image was something I really struggled with internally for many, many years. I think a lot of you can probably relate, but it's just not a topic that many people want to open up about. For most of my life, I was constantly comparing myself with the girls around me and I never felt truly happy with the body that I had. You might be thinking, "Doesn't every girl struggle with that?" Maybe. Probably to some degree. So yes, that might be true, but let me tell you something: that mindset of constant comparison is extremely poisonous. Not only does it rob you of your joy, but that negative self-talk is an addiction that is so hard to break. I hit a point shortly after graduating from college where I was sick and tired of constantly comparing myself to my peers and feeling like I wasn't good enough. I was tired of feeling guilty every time I ate a bowl of ice cream or didn't go to the gym. I was exhausted from always beating myself up. I had decided that enough was enough! I knew that this was not how God had intended for me to live my life. And I think that was kind of the time when my "healing process" began.

From that point, I started these ups and downs where I would workout everyday for six months straight and then not do a single exercise for the next six. I trained for and ran a marathon, and then I sat on my butt for eight months afterwards. I would eat super healthy for a little while, and then pig out and eat whatever sounded good. Emotionally, after learning to lift myself up rather than put myself down, I had finally reached a point where I was content with who I was and I wasn't trying to be like anyone else. It was empowering. However, I slowly kind of swung from one side of the spectrum to the other because I came to a point where I just didn't care anymore. I didn't care if I didn't workout. I didn't care if I ate crappy food. I got lazy with my health AND my fitness and I found out that this wasn't a happy place to dwell either. I needed good nutrition and exercise. I needed balance. I wanted to be healthy and fit but for the RIGHT reasons, not ever to compare with or to try and outshine anyone else. I wanted to have more energy, and feel strong, and more than anything I was thinking about the kids that will soon come into our family and how one of the most important things to me is that I be an example of HEALTH to them. About a year ago I started investing in my health by transitioning to a vegetarian diet. I started feeling proud of my food choices and even allowed myself the guilt-free pleasure of enjoying a non-healthy treat every once in awhile. I loved this new lifestyle I was creating for myself but I just couldn't find the motivation to workout. No matter how hard I was trying, I couldn't stay consistent. They say, "If you hate getting started, quit giving up", but this is exactly what I kept doing. I made excuses like, "Well...if I could afford a gym membership I would workout", or "If I had a running partner over here I would do it". I needed something to get me motivated and stick with it, but I felt like I had tried everything.

And then I discovered Team Beachbody. I watched a couple of my Facebook friends transform their lives over the course of about a year with this company, and I reached out to learn more. What I came to find out about all of this is that the workout programs themselves are just the icing on the cake. The real key to why Team Beachbody WORKS is because they combine nutrition, fitness and ACCOUNTABILITY. I'm telling you guys, if you can relate to anything I talked about above, accountability is the key to your success and it can help you escape the habit of quitting on yourself over and over again, just like it has helped me. It is your missing link to reaching your goals. Find it in your local community or join us right here online and get plugged in. It doesn't matter how or where, JUST DO IT! The results you will find will extend far beyond your physical transformation. If you struggle with a healthy, balanced lifestyle, don't give up! You likely just need an extra strong dose of accountability (and if you want more information on how I can help you, click here)! There are very few things in this life that are more important to invest your time, energy, and money into than your health and well-being.

This lifestyle is a constant work in progress and I know that I will never reach perfection, but I am proud to say that I have finally found the tools that I needed to live the healthy and truly HAPPY lifestyle I have always wanted. The support network inspires, encourages, and motivates me on a daily basis and I feel happier and healthier than ever before!

EMBRACE the woman that God made you into and strive everyday to be the best YOU that you can be!

XOXO,
Aleena

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Taste of Ethiopia

I have been wanting to try Ethiopian food since before we even began our adoption process, but finding an Ethiopian restaurant can be really hard!  Little did I know, Seattle has several options for Ethiopian cuisine and I should have jumped at the opportunity that was available to me while we were living there.  This past May, I decided I wanted to go out for a big Ethiopian meal for my birthday.  Patrick and I had found a cute little Ethiopian restaurant online that was located right downtown Madison.  I am a bit of a foodie, so needless to say I dreamt about the food and talked about how excited I was to try it for an entire week.  When my birthday night finally rolled around, we got to the restaurant only to find out that they went out of business and had been replaced with a new Indian restaurant.  I was SO disappointed.

This past month, my friend Liz and I took a drive down to Milwaukee for the day.  She offered to take me an Ethiopian restaurant there that she had been to with her family years ago. image(3) Liz has two Ethiopian brothers so it's fun to share this whole adoption experience with her because she has been through it with her own family.image(8)
We got to sit at one of the traditional Ethiopian tables that had these small basket style stools that you sit on. image(6)
First thing I noticed when we took a look at the menu was that about half of the meals were vegetarian...SCORE!! I'll be honest, as much as I had anticipated trying the food, I was pretty sure that once I did I would come across something that didn't appeal to me. I'm not a picky eater but I just figured since the style of food is so different than ours, it would probably take me awhile to get use to some of the dishes. This was not the case! I devoured everything on that plate because it was all sooo delicious! I ordered a vegetarian sample platter that came with five different dishes. Here is what I was served:

Yemiser Wot-Split lentils slowly cooked in Ethiopian red pepper sauce

Gomen- Collard greens steamed, delicately seasoned

Yater Alitcha- Yellow split peas in traditional flavored mild sauce

Yatakilt Alitcha- Steamed vegetables steamed with onions, garlic and a traditional sauce

Shirto Wot- Split peas, milled and slow cooked

Small portions of each of these dishes were plopped atop a large round piece of this spongey, sourdough tasting bread that is called Injera. image(7) You don't use any silverware to eat, but instead you tear off small pieces of the injera and you pinch the food between it, eating with your hands. I seriously LOVED every single bit of my meal and I already can't wait to go back for more! Some of the dishes had a little bit of a kick to them (which I love) and I have purchased some of the Ethiopian spices and look forward to learning to cook some of this food in my own kitchen. That will be another blog post in the future, so stay tuned. For now, if you haven't ever tried Ethiopian food, find out if there is a restaurant in your city and GO THERE! You will thank me after :)

XOXO,
Aleena

Thursday, December 4, 2014

International Adoption...Waiting is HARD!

featured adoption

Confession: I've been LAZY at maintaining my adoption blog. Like, really lazy! Sorry friends-It's a personal goal of mine to improve at being more consistent, which is one of the reasons I have now attached the adoption blog onto this website, sorry to leave so many of you hanging! You've been asking for updates, so here is the latest!

Our dossier was received in Ethiopia the last week of July at which point we were officially added to the waiting list. We began the official waiting process as family #34. Our agency allows us to check in at any given time to find out where we stand on the list, and Patrick and I decided that we would email at the end of every month to see how many spots we have moved up. For whatever reason, maybe that we were super busy, the month of August went by pretty quickly and we were excited to learn that we advanced 5 spots in one short month to number 29.

In September, we moved up only 2 spots to #27, and we continue to sit on that number today. Last month we had a string of upsetting and emotional days in regards to the adoption. I totally cheated our plan and emailed for an update a week before the month ended to see how far October had taken us (I couldn't help it...). I was so excited to find out how much closer we were to meeting our kids! After sending out the email, I then checked my inbox every ten minutes waiting for the response. I was literally getting mad when the email on my phone said "updated just now" but I hadn't yet received a response from our agency. I would think to myself, "Surely my phone didn't actually search for new messages yet", so I refreshed a few times just in case. I did this...Every. Ten. Minutes. I was driving myself cRaZy, people! When I finally received a response, I felt crushed to find out that we were no further along than we had been the month before. If only adoption were like pregnancy where you are given a specific amount of days to wait and prepare for the arrival of your baby and you truly feel one step closer with each day that passes. Adoption is not like that. Not at all. Some days it actually feels like you take one step forward and two steps back and you wonder if the day will ever come when you it will be YOUR turn to hold your babies for the first time and welcome them into your family.

Most days go much better than that particular day in October. Typically, I think Patrick and I do a really great job at being patient with this process, being intentional about enjoying our last bit of time together before life with kids, and looking at the bright side of things. That day was not one of those days. There have been a handful of days like "that day" when we are simply tired of being patient, frustrated about the long wait and all of the unknowns, and we just have a little pitty party to let ourselves feel all of these negative things that we usually brush aside and cover up with optimistic thoughts and conversations. The highs far outweigh the lows (at least they will in the long run!), but the true story of the adoption journey wouldn't be complete without sharing this side of things.

On a different note, we made the decision to change our request and we are now open to accepting two children up to 4 years old (rather than requesting that one be an infant). Ethiopia has just implemented a new policy this month for families who are adopting more than one child. It use to be that the agency we work with could search all of the orphanages they are affiliated with to find a match for our family and they could pull the two kids from separate orphanages if need be. When that was the case, upon accepting the referral of the two kids, the children would then be moved into a separate foster care home together until the adoption was finalized and they were able to go home with their forever family. However, with the new policy, both children are now required to come from the same orphanage. This likely means longer wait times for families because the MOWA letters (the investigation letters that are signed to confirm the children are truly orphans) must be issued at the same time for the two children that are a match for your family. Our agency has someone in Ethiopia this week trying to get some more answers for us as to how exactly this will affect our process.

I'm ready to be a mom already :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shakeology Review

A guest post from 12 Star Diamond and founding coach, Traci Morrow When Shakeology was added to our exclusive Beachbody Coach store, it made a lot of sense to me: the idea of a meal replaced with a shake that in effect, filled in the large gaps of my present diet’s nutrition. An unhealthy accumulation of days – even years - stacked up where my body wasn't getting what I was needing and I felt it. Tired, feeling run down from my busy life, and out of time to prepare what I thought I needed – or did I even know what that was? Fruits that don't taste all that great anymore because they’re pulled from the trees or vines too early for mass crops, vegetables that came from a frozen bag and devoid of flavor as well. I’m a terrible pill taker, so my multivitamin consumption was more hit than miss. A shake that “acted like a salad but tasted like a dessert” is what it said, and as a protein shake consumer, I was game.

Shakeology turned out to be far more than I knew to hope for. A complete system: two workouts (30 and 50 minutes), a month of recipes for both flavors, and a meal plan (through the Club) for how to incorporate the shake into my day? This wasn't just a meal replacement shake that was going to require me to figure out how to incorporate it into my day - this was a lifestyle shift and one I desperately needed if I wanted to LIVE healthy. I love being able to speak from personal experience of how the Shakeology system has helped me regain energy, and have everyone I love on it! My 70+ year old parents, my 86 year old father in law, my siblings, my teenagers, and my 6 & 7 year olds love it too. All ages, both genders; experiencing health in a shake and a lifestyle shift that helps “End the Trend” of obesity, fast food diets, and highly processed foods that harm our generation..starting with us. ☺






These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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