Feb 162017
 

**UPDATE: This post was written in February 2017. Since then, the Designed to Fit Nutrition founders have added one-on-one coaching to all plans, added four Registered Dietitians to their staff, and improved their software system. My experience is likely different from what current program participants will experience.**

Hi friends! As you know, right after Christmas I signed up for Designed to Fit Nutrition because I a) was looking for something to help me get my eating habits in gear before my upcoming bachelorette party and b) really wanted to know more about macros and learn how to count them/target them. I knew it was expensive, but I asked for the program for Christmas and my family was nice enough to gift it to me. It’s now been four weeks – which is how long the meal plan lasts – so I wanted to share my thoughts in case there’s anyone else out there who’s considering signing up.

If you’re a reader of Carrots ‘N Cake (which I would assume many of you are) then you’ve probably heard all about the program already. In a nut shell, it’s a four-week meal plan customized to your body type, eating/workout habits, and goals. The most attractive part for me was that the meal plan includes customized macro targets – i.e., the amount of carbs, fat, and protein you should be eating every day – which was definitely something I wanted to learn more about. The plan also comes with one-on-one coaching to help keep you on track.

So, what did I think?

To sum it up in a sentence: I learned what I wanted to learn, but ultimately I didn’t find it to be worth the cost. 

Here’s why.

To start off with, there were a couple of minor software bugs right from the get-go. My schedule was off when I received my first week’s worth of recipes (meaning I received recipes from Thursday – Thursday instead of Monday – Monday) and one time when I tried to access my account I got locked out because the developers were working on something (right around dinner time when I needed a recipe – grumble grumble). Luckily, both issues were resolved quickly and easily via email. I know DTFN is a new program with all new software, so these bugs are definitely to be expected. I think the DTFN staff did a great job at resolving the issues, and I’m sure they will continue to improve over time.

The biggest issue for me was the food. I guess I was expecting that the recipes given to me through DTFN would be unique since I was paying so much for the plan, but many of them were recipes that can already be found on Carrots N Cake’s blog. I liked all of these recipes – and some of them I hadn’t made before – but having been a reader of that blog for almost seven years (phew – that’s a long time!) I had seen a lot of the recipes before and was hoping for something a little more unique (especially given the price tag of this program).

I also was disappointed with some of the meals that weren’t recipes. For example, lunch some days included sandwiches made from Sara Lee bread, deli meat, American cheese, and pickles. I try to steer clear of overly processed foods, so having a meal plan that required me to buy these foods wasn’t ideal for me (in fact, I didn’t buy the American cheese at all, and used cheddar instead). I know Tina from Carrots N Cake has raved about Dave’s Killer Bread – an organic, non-GMO bread brand that does focus on wholesome ingredients – so why did this meal plan recommend Sara Lee? This is probably just a preference thing, but I feel like a heavier focus on wholesome ingredients wouldn’t be bad for anyone. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate shortcut meals – I definitely do! – but I also don’t want to be eating a lot of crap.

Lastly, the plan was just too much food for me. Again, this is probably just preference because a lot of people seemed to do well on their plans and lose weight, but I found myself eating much more than usual and didn’t feel comfortable with my progress. In fact, for this last week of the program I decided to ditch the meal plan altogether and follow my own instead. For $200, you don’t really want to be skipping 1/4 of your program, you know?

I also didn’t get any one-on-one coaching, but to be fair I think that might be a new add-on to the program (the price has gone up since then, which is what makes me think that feature might be new).

One caveat that is definitely important to mention here: There was an area to provide feedback and “check-in” with the DTFN planners, and I did not leave any of these comments there. Therefore, I didn’t really give DTFN a chance to course-correct these issues and I’m aware that is MY fault. I understand I shouldn’t complain if I didn’t even try to leave the feedback. BUT, I did leave some feedback about meals that I’d like to see repeated (which is one of the questions they ask you in the feedback section) and I never saw those meals actually repeated, so I didn’t know how much the DTFN planners were looking at those responses.

Anyway, I don’t want to be a downer or say anything bad about this program – after all it seems to work well for a lot of people and ultimately I did learn more about my target macros and how to track them after following this plan (which was my main goal). I wasn’t even going to write this post at all because I’m a big believer that if you don’t have something positive to say, then you shouldn’t say it. BUT, this program was a lot of money and I feel like I was very gung-ho about it in my first couple of posts about it, so I thought it would be important for me to share an update with my experience so you can make an informed decision about if this is something you want to try out yourself.

Alright, I think that’s all for now. Phew! That was a lot of words, and no pictures at all. Sorry about that. Tomorrow I’ll be back with my regular positive attitude. 🙂

Question of the day: Have you ever bought a meal plan like this one? What was your experience like?

 Posted by on February 16, 2017
Feb 082017
 

As most of you know, I’m currently following the Designed to Fit Nutrition Plan because I really wanted to learn more about macronutrients, or macros.

In case you’re unfamiliar with macros, they are the types of foods you eat throughout the day and include protein, fat, and carbs. Science is showing that tracking your macros and hitting macronutrient “targets” – or specific ratios of protein, fat, and carbs – can help keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day (limiting cravings) and help your reach your physical goals (burn fat, increase muscle mass, etc.). Everyone has different macronutrient targets based on their body type and goals.

I’ve been wanting to learn how to set targets for my macros and track my intake for ages, but I didn’t know how to do it! Though I read a couple of articles online, I guess I was just too lazy to really figure out how to implement it on my own. Thankfully, Designed to Fit Nutrition was the catalyst I needed to learn more, and I now feel like I understand them pretty well!

Unfortunately I won’t be on DTFN forever, so this past weekend (admittedly, during the Super Bowl!) I decided to try tracking macros on my own so I wouldn’t feel so lost when this meal plan is over.

And you know what? It was totally easy! In fact, the answer was lying in an app that I already had on my phone that I hadn’t used since about 2012. 🙂 It was MyFitnessPal!

Back in the day, I used MyFitnessPal to log what I was eating every day, which was mostly processed crap left over from the days when I followed Weight-Watchers like principles and ate a lot of 100 calorie pack nonsense. I remember that logging my food was a pain in the butt and it didn’t really change my eating habits, so I stopped after a while. I did remember that MyFitnessPal tracked all sorts of data about what I was eating – including my macronutrients – but it wasn’t something I wanted to use long-term.

Then after revisiting the app over the weekend per a recommendation from both DTFN and a friend who already tracks his macros, a lightbulb went off.

What if instead of using the app to track what I’m eating, I use it for meal planning?

I thought this could be the perfect solution, so I tried it out with next week as an example. I started with what I already knew I wanted to make for dinner on Monday (a random recipe that I imported), and then scheduled my breakfast, lunch and snacks to fill in the rest of my macro and calorie goals for the day.

Instead of using the app to track my food in real-time, I’m going to use it to plan out my days and weeks to ensure I’m reaching my goals!

Maybe this is obvious to some of you and you already do this, but it was a really big revelation for me.

 

So when planning out a sample day next week, I was able to add and subtract foods until I had reached a number close to my goal (by the way, MyFitnessPal also helps you easily create your goals, so you can do everything in one place). It took some guessing and checking and a lot of tries, but eventually I got five solid days of meal planning that are pretty close to my targets.

You can also enter the exercise you plan to do that day and see how it will affect your overall targets! So helpful!

I should also mention that there’s a SUPER easy recipe import function where you copy and paste the URL of a recipe you see online, and it will instantly add the recipe to your saved recipes folder and calculate the nutrition for you.

Basically, everything about the website was incredibly easy to use and the functionality was much better than I remembered. While I can still use the tool to track food in real-time, thinking of it as a meal planner was a total game-changer for me.

Next week will be my first week trying out my own meal plan based on my target calorie and macronutrient goals, so I’m excited to see how it goes!

Question of the day: Do you track your macros? If so, how?

 Posted by on February 8, 2017
Jan 272017
 

Hi friends! How was your week? Mine was a good one, but I’m glad it’s almost over because we have some fun wedding planning activities on the agenda for the weekend! One of which is cake tasting which is obviously something I’m really looking forward to. 🙂

Anyway, before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s talk about this past week! Instead of your usual  Favorite Things Friday post, I wanted to talk to you guys about my current food and fitness routine as I prepare for my bachelorette party which is coming up in just four weeks. Eek!

First, let’s recap my workouts from the week.

  • Saturday, Jan. 21: Rest day! We walked a bit around the park in Queens.
  • Sunday, Jan. 22: Rest day! This day was filled with driving home and lots of grocery shopping/meal prepping.
  • Monday, Jan. 23: Rest day. I was feeling exhausted from the weekend, and my knees were still hurting me from my recent tendinitis. I took some ibuprofen and iced/elevated and then had no more problems for the rest of the week! Woohoo!
  • Tuesday, Jan. 24: 7 a.m. FlyWheel class via ClassPass (<–affiliate link for $30 off!) with Fabio and his coworker Kyle! It was really fun to have a couple of friends with me during this class, and I really enjoyed pedaling alongside them! I wasn’t feeling my best during this class and didn’t get as high of a Power score as I usually do, but what are you gonna’ do. It was still a good workout, and I was dripping in sweat by the end.

When we got home from class, we spent a few extra minutes on Jack cuddles.

Ha!

  • Wednesday, Jan. 25: 7:15 a.m. class at BLAST DC with Anne! Anne and I had both taken classes at BLAST before, and thought it would be nice to switch things up from our normal spots. BLAST incorporates a mix of treadmill climbs/sprints with some strength work on the floor, and both of us agreed that it was really hard!

There was also less of a mental challenge since you were just following what the instructor told you to do vs. trying to remember an interval yourself, so we felt like the class went by kind of slowly compared to our usual bootcamp classes. It was still a great workout, but I’m not sure we’re ready to add this one into our regular rotation. (Plus the 7:15 start time meant I wound up being 15 minutes late to work. Boo.) Overall we still enjoyed it though!

  • Thursday, Jan. 26: 6:30 a.m. class with Anne and Fabio at MADabolic in Arlington! We had Vicki as our instructor on Thursday, and she was awesome!

Our bootcamp took us through 5 stations 6 times around with a mix level of effort from 80% all the way up to 90%+. It was a great workout and flew right by! I actually remember thinking how much more I enjoyed this workout than the class the day before. It was a lot of cardio which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for after two days in a row of it (usually MADabolic has more strength) but I still enjoyed it!

  • Friday, Jan. 27: Rest day!

And there you have it – my week of workouts!

Alright, now let’s chat about food! As you guys know, with my bachelorette party coming up soon and dress fittings and wedding events following shortly after, I’m trying to make sure I’m eating as well as I can so I’m in good shape during this exciting time in my life.

A few months ago I read about Tina’s new meal plan program, Designed to Fit Nutrition, which gives you customized meal plans depending on your body type, goals, and macronutrient targets. I’ve been wanting to learn more about macronutrients for a really long time, and I thought this meal plan could be the perfect way to educate myself about how many grams of carbs, protein, and healthy fats my body does best on. For example, I’ve long thought that my body doesn’t do well with carbs, so I was hoping this plan could help me test that out!

I asked for a gift certificate for Designed to Fit for Christmas, and I signed up at the beginning of January! This week was my first week on the four-week meal plan, which meant there was lots of planning and prepping going on at my house on Sunday.

Overall I’ve been really enjoying the recipes on the meal plan, and at first I was actually surprised by how much food I was “allowed” to eat! When I first saw the plan I thought it would be way too much food for me, but now that I’ve been on it for a few days I’ve realized a couple of things: 1) My portion sizes were way too big before, and when I carefully measure and weigh (!!) my food I can better gauge how much I’m eating and 2) On this plan I can eat a bunch of smaller meals all throughout the day, instead of just doing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s been really great so far, and I’m already feeling like it’s made a difference in how I feel about my body!

Here’s a peek at some of what I’ve been eating.

Egg scramble with potatoes, egg whites, eggs, cottage cheese, broccoli, peppers, onions, and hot sauce.

Overnight oats with chocolate protein powder (this is new for me), almond milk, almonds, and shredded coconut.

I’ve also been drinking protein shakes after my workouts (chocolate protein powder + almond milk) with half a banana. These shakes keep me full throughout the early part of the morning, so then the rest of my meals come a little later in the day as well. This helps keep me satisfied with all my lunches and snacks through dinner time!

Lunches have been a combo of salads (weighed!) with hardboiled eggs and half a sweet potato…

Or Southwestern chicken salad made with Greek yogurt and all kinds of veggies. Yum!

Afternoon snacks have included fruit, almonds, Kind bars, and RX bars! I really like these chocolate sea salt RX bars, and especially like the ingredient list. Two thumbs up!

Dinners have mostly included lean meats, veggies, and sometimes carbs! Weighing my food has been really important for me here, as this is where I find I used to overestimate my portions the most. Whoops.

We also had breakfast for dinner one night, which I was super excited about. Greek yogurt protein pancakes and chicken apple sausage for the win!

There’s even room for dessert some nights, including organic graham cookies and a tablespoon (measured!) of peanut butter. You better believe I licked that tablespoon clean. 😉

All in all I’m really enjoying this plan, and I like that each meal is balanced in terms of how many grams of protein, carbs, and healthy fats I’m getting specific to my body and my goals. I’ m never hungry while on the plan, but I don’t feel like it’s too much food either (which I was worried about at first). You know I’ll keep you posted, but for right now I’m thinking this is the perfect tool to help me feel my best next month for my bachelorette party! Woohoo!

Question of the day: Have you ever tried such a prescribed meal plan? Would you be able to follow it?

Obviously I’m going to stray from a bit for cake tasting this weekend, which is a-ok in my book! 🙂

 Posted by on January 27, 2017
Jan 112017
 

This year is obviously a very important one for me, as I’ll be getting married in June! I’m definitely one of those women who has always dreamed about her wedding, imagining it to be a magical and special day ever since I was a little girl. While those sparkly dreams have come down to reality a little (holy $$$$), I still want to make the day as special as possible!

That being said, I really want to make sure I look my best and am in my best shape on the big day and for all the fun events leading up to it. That means that as soon as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, I felt the pull to start working on my diet and fitness to make sure I’m happy with myself by June. Of course I probably didn’t need to start working on that in January, but I have my bachelorette party in early March and dress fittings around then too, and with the momentum of the rest of the world and their New Year’s resolutions behind me, I decided it was as good a time as any to crack down.

Luckily, my good friend Vic was my secret Santa this year in my group of girlfriends, and she sent me something to help me get started: the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse cookbook! (Psst – there’s also a shorter, online version of the plan here!)

This book was put together by Sara Dickerman, a Bon Appetit staff member, and a registered dietician to provide two-week meal plans for each season of the year to help you focus on nourishing – but delicious! – food. The introduction to the book explains that the word “cleanse” often makes you think of gross juice cleanses and the like, but this meal plan is about bringing nutritious, balanced meals back into the rotation without sacrificing flavor. After all, this is a cleanse for food lovers! The recipes take advantage of bold spices and herbs in lieu of salt and fat (though there’s plenty of healthy fats included in the book). It sounded perfect for me, and I couldn’t wait to dig through it.

One other thing I love about this plan is that all of the meals have a balance of macros. One of my goals for 2017 – in addition to just generally eating healthier and upping my fitness game – is to pay more attention to macros and try to include a balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fat in every meal. I love that this book makes it easy!

Between Christmas and New Years I poured through the two-week plan for winter, which takes advantage of produce that’s cheap and readily available at this time of year (I love that there are spring, summer, and fall meal plans too!). To be honest the plan looked a bit intimidating at first, as there were a ton of recipes to cook. Luckily the book breaks everything down into lists showing what items you can make in advance, what recipes you’ll use multiple times throughout the week, and even what your grocery list should include.

I went through the plan with a notebook and a pencil and made a few modifications (I didn’t feel like buying all the ingredients on the list since we had some similar items already on hand) and then hit the grocery store! I did a lot of prep work the night before starting the plan, and then felt ready to take on the week ahead!

(BTW, I’m not planning to totally stick to the plan on weekends.)

Last week was my first week following the meal plan, so I thought I’d share a recap of how it’s been going so far.

First of all, you need a LOT of tupperware and have to really plan ahead for your day.

Breakfasts have been really tasty and I like that they are so varied. I’m such a creature of habit that I usually have the same things over and over again for breakfast, so this has been really good for forcing me out of my comfort zone.

Some mornings I’ll have plain Greek yogurt (full fat) with chopped up apples and toasted quinoa…

…and other days I’ll have two hardboiled eggs with a delicious walnut pesto that I made in advance (FYI – the pesto gets used in a bunch of recipes).

There are also a few oatmeal combos: one with pumpkin spice puree and nuts, and one with toasted coconut flakes, coconut milk, and cocoa nibs.

Everything has been delicious and really filling!

Side note: I’ve also been trying to make an effort to eat a couple dates with peanut butter before and after my workouts to make sure I’m fueling and refueling my body properly.

Lunches have mostly consisted of leftovers from the night before but thrown into a salad. I really like this approach because it’s the one meal I don’t really have to think about. I just cook a little extra food when I make dinner (which is already accounted for in the recipe) and then in the morning before work I throw it all together into a salad. Lunch = done!

There’s also plenty of room for snacks on this plan, which I also love. Some days it’s a pear with a little goat cheese, and other days it’s hummus with all-rye crackers or plain Greek yogurt with this delicious cashew/sunflower seed/pumpkin seed savory granola. Yum.

Then there are the dinners! This is by far my favorite part of the meal plan since everything is so darn tasty! I have noticed that some of the recipes take a while to put together – almost like Blue Apron – but some of them are super easy and come together in a flash. If you’re going to follow this plan, I would just recommend making the recipes according to your weeknight plans!

Here are some of my favorite dinners from the plan so far: miso flank steak with kale/mushrooms and the most delicious acorn squash puree (seriously, that acorn squash puree is one of my new favorite recipes ever).

Then there was a delicious tomato chickpea concoction with sauteed kale with leaks and onions. Truthfully Fabio and I both expected to feel kind of meh about this dish, but we actually both loved it! I even went back for seconds on the chickpeas and practically licked my plate clean. It was so good!

The plan also encourages us to eat more fish and less meat, so one night we had tahini-braised flounder with carrots and brussels sprouts and other night we had broiled salmon with cabbage slaw and spicy black beans.

All in all, I would say the dinners are the home run of this plan for me, as everything has been very balanced, fresh, and, most importantly, delicious!

Oh – and you can’t forget about dessert! The plan leaves room for something sweet after dinner, whether it be a mango, orange, a couple of dates, or a piece of dark chocolate.

I don’t have something sweet after dinner every night, but last week Fabio and I shared a couple of mangoes and oranges which was really nice. Plus, chocolate!

As you can probably tell, I’ve been really happy with this meal plan so far! I feel like I’ll probably keep it going for a little while after the two weeks is up, but I’m still trying to figure out what kind of meal plan I want to follow as it gets closer to the bachelorette party, wedding, etc. For now though, this is working and helping me feel a little more comfortable in my clothes post holiday-treat bingeing. Woohoo!

Question of the day: Are you trying to eat healthy post-New Years? How are you doing that?

 

 Posted by on January 11, 2017
Nov 162016
 

That’s quite a bold statement, huh? Well that’s what I said to Fabio as we left the Giant parking lot with two of their new meal kits in hand. So, what are these meal kits?

Well, it’s basically the same concept as Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and all the other meal subscription services out there that give you a box with a recipe and all the pre-portioned ingredients you will need to make it. What’s different about these new meal kits is that you can pick them up in the store whenever you want! There’s no obligation, no signing up, and you can get as many as you want. They are available at select Giants in the produce or deli section. Each kit costs $14.99 and can be made in 35 minutes or less.

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The nice people at Giant sent me some coupons to try out the kits, and as soon as we received them in the mail we drove over to a Giant in Alexandria that carries them (the one closest to us in Ballston doesn’t have them right now). To be safe I called ahead to be sure they had them in stock, but when I walked in the door I saw my call wasn’t necessary; they were on display right at the main entrance!

Fabio and I decided to get two meal kits this week and two next week, so then we just had to decide which ones we wanted.

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We decided to go with Asian Style Pork Stir Fry and Bacon and Feta Stuffed Chicken. Yum! The meal kits also came with a free baguette, but I’m guessing that was just a special promotion and won’t be the norm. Either way, it was appreciated!

The meal kits aren’t too big, and I like that they can just be tossed in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

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There’s also nutrition information on the back, including a list of all the ingredients included in the kit. I like that these meals are relatively healthy too! The bacon and feta topped chicken is only 500 calories per 1/2 serving of the meal, and in our experience (so far) we’ve had enough for some leftovers too. Plus, I like that the meals are low in sugar and use mostly natural ingredients (just ignore that “bacon topping” part…)

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Last night, we tried out the Asian style pork stir fry. I can’t tell you how psyched I was to see that the onions, kale, carrots, and ginger were already chopped. Yes!! I feel like with Blue Apron and some of the other services I spend wayyyyyy too long chopping everything up.

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As promised, everything came together in a flash! Yum!

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We really enjoyed this nutritious, filling and tasty meal. My only suggestion was that the recipe could have been a little more flavorful – I wound up adding salt and pepper a few times on my own – but overall I was really happy with everything.

We are having the bacon/feta chicken tonight, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Even if it winds up not being as delicious or fancy as a Blue Apron meal, I can still see myself turning to this option time and time again. The biggest factor for me is that there’s no commitment. I don’t have to enter my credit card, sign up for an online subscription, and then set reminders for myself to cancel (or else get charged for another week of meals that I didn’t want). I like that I can buy as many of the meals as I want; whether that’s one, two, or even five! There are lots of recipe options, so it was easy to find something Fabio and I both liked out of the bin. Plus it’s a lot easier than looking up recipes myself and then buying all the ingredients one at a time, which is what I do now! With the way I meal plan currently, I can never just casually stop by the grocery store to pick up what I need for the week; there’s a ton of planning and inventory-taking and list-making that I need to do ahead of time. With these new meal kits, all of that would change! Clearly I’m really excited about this, haha!

You can find a list of participating Giant’s here, and I know I for one am really, really hoping these kits expand to more Giants because it’s totally something I would buy over and over again. Hint hint: Giant, bring these to Ballston!

Question of the day: How do you meal plan?

Disclaimer: Giant gave me coupons to try the meal kits, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for your support. 

 Posted by on November 16, 2016
Oct 212016
 

Hi friends! Happy Friday! Today’s post is going to be a bit different from your usual Favorite Things Friday update, as I came to an interesting realization about myself that I wanted to share with you all.

So, as you know, I started a new job last week at a new organization that I’m really passionate about. Obviously changing careers is a pretty big life change, and it wound up affecting me much more than I realized – and not just work-wise. Allow me to explain.

Before receiving the offer for the new job, I was happily chugging along at the old place. I was doing my normal routine, including working out in the mornings, going to work, bringing healthy lunches from home, and making dinner/blogging/watching TV in the evenings. It was nothing crazy, but it was a routine that was working for me.

Then I received the job offer and gave my two-weeks’ notice at work. After that, I wasn’t receiving any new projects from my manager and therefore wasn’t super motivated to get a lot done. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove myself anymore – after all I was leaving to explore a new and better position somewhere else – so a lot of my motivation to work hard went out the window. I’m a pretty intrinsically motivated person (i.e., I work hard just because I want to) so when my motivation to excel in work was gone, it was kind of a whole new feeling for me. Suddenly I didn’t mind arriving to work a few minutes late or turning in an assignment that was maybe 98% of my effort, whereas normally I give 110%.

Of course all of this is to be expected when you’re moving on to a new job, but what I didn’t expect was that this lack of motivation would carry over to my personal life as well. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like setting my alarm super early to wake up early to take a class, and instead I went on a couple of measly runs with Jack. I didn’t feel like grocery shopping on the weekend to set myself up for a healthy week. I didn’t feel like packing a healthy lunch, so I wasted a ton of money on SweetGreen (thankfully SweetGreen is still healthy! Just expensive).

For almost my entire last two weeks at work, I barely followed through with any of my usual healthy habits. What the heck?

As soon as the new job started, however, I was more motivated than ever to prove myself in the office. Not surprisingly, that motivation has continued to my daily routine as well. Since I started the new position I’ve taken more classes than usual, cooked tons of healthy dinners, and brought a salad and an apple every day to eat at work. I’m back to making healthy and affordable choices.

I guess all of this is to say that I really surprised myself with how I reacted to this big life change. Sure, I could have easily sucked it up and fixed my habits when I was in that slump, but I just didn’t want to. It was like I was finally giving myself a break, giving myself permission to be something less than 110%. I guess I sort of looked at that two weeks as a mini vacation from my life. It was a weird thing that I experienced, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Maybe it was good for me to take a break and reset? Maybe I was just being lazy? Who knows.

In the end, I’m glad I’m back to my normal routine and incredibly happy I didn’t let myself stay in a slump for too long (two weeks was plenty!!).

My new suggestion based on this experience is that if you’re finding that you’re having trouble sticking to your healthy habits – especially ones that you know you can stick to – it might be a good idea to take a step back and look at your big picture. Are there other things in your life that aren’t motivating you? Is there something you’re feeling less-than-thrilled about in your life? If there is, change it. If you can’t change it, try to change how you feel about it. Think of a way you can motivate yourself or find some small goals to work toward. That will most likely result in the change you are looking for; at least that was the case for me!

Question of the day: Have you ever experienced a slump like this? What did you do to fix it?

 Posted by on October 21, 2016
Aug 032016
 

Hey friends! How’s everyone doing on this glorious hump day? It feels like it’s been FOREVER since I’ve updated you guys on my meals and workouts, so let’s get back to it today!

First, workouts.

As usual, I’ve been dropping into my favorite Urban Athletic Club classes about once a week with my buddies Anne and Kathleen. These classes continue to challenge me week after week and they’re always such a blast. I’m really loving the instructor Romain’s classes lately, but tomorrow we are taking a class with Teisha who’s great too. I love using this time to not only get a great workout in, but also catch up with my friends! Having a standing weekly workout session with friends is the best.

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I’ve also been trying out some classes in my new neighborhood via ClassPass! First, Anne and I hit up 9Round Kickboxing. Have you guys taken these classes before? They are located all over the country and offer 30-minute kickboxing classes that you can take at any time.

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So for example, we arrived right when the studio opened at 6:30 am, but other people trickled in at various times throughout the morning. The class is broken up into 9 stations and the instructor sets a timer to guide you through each one, so you just jump into an open station and start the cycle whenever you show up.

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It was a pretty good workout and I especially liked that it was only 30 minutes. I can definitely see myself going back!

I also tested out a Body Pump class at my local Gold’s Gym. It had been ages since I had taken a Body Pump class, and like usual I felt a little nervous about whether I had grabbed all the right weights.

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Luckily I creepily watched all the ladies around me and it wound up working out just fine. 😉

I also want to mention that I couldn’t believe how crowded the Gold’s Gym in Ballston is at 6:00 am. Holy moly! That place was bumping. I forgot how fit Arlington is, and I love it.

Another new spot I checked out recently? Lava Barre in Rosslyn. Truthfully I haven’t been that interested in barre classes for the last few months, but Lava Barre also has cycling and TRX classes that I wanted to try.

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I took the TRX class yesterday and man, it was tough! The hour-long class was divided into three blocks, each with a bunch of 60-second exercises featuring a mix of cardio and strength movements. I was pleasantly surprised by how challenging the class was, and I’m sure I’ll be back there too. (Plus it had free parking outside until 8:00 am, which is an hour later than DC parking! Woo!)

Lastly, I’ve found that I can take the metro directly to the 7:00 am class at the new CityCenter FlyWheel and then hop on the metro to work right after. Granted that means I have to brave the crazy shower line after class (seriously, why are the showers at FlyWheel always so ridiculous?) but it’s worth it to sleep in a little later and still take one of my favorite classes. Can’t get enough of those!

Oh, and I’ve also been getting in lots of short runs with Jack – just 3 miles or so – but it has been nice to have such pretty trails to run on again.

So that’s what’s been happening on the fitness front, so now let’s take a look at food!

Over here meals have been all about the produce, starting with this amazing delivery I received from Seasonal Roots!

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How cute is that slogan by the way, dirt to doorstep?

Seasonal Roots is a personalized online farmer’s market, and unlike other CSA shares where you just get a box filled with whatever they decide to send you, with Seasonal Roots you can browse their products online first (the menu for the week is posted every Friday afternoon) and then personally select what you want to arrive in your basket.

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The company is based out of Richmond, and all of the produce is locally grown by Virginia farmers. Baskets can be delivered to many regions of Virginia, including Northern Virginia where I live. Baskets come in three sizes, small ($24), medium ($36), and large ($42). Plus delivery is free. Not too bad at all, I’d say!

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I’ve really been enjoying all the produce I received in my box, and can’t get over how fresh everything is! When I chopped up my golden apple for an afternoon snack, it started turning brown right away, which I actually liked because it showed how fresh it was.

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Also I feel like most apples you buy in the grocery store can sit for weeks without going bad, which definitely freaks me out. What on earth is in/on those things? That was definitely not the case with these.

The nectarines were amazing too! I ate them all up in no time.

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I also made some cashew chicken with zoodles one night with a giant zucchini, and some unpictured eggplant parmesan with all the eggplants. Yum!

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Outside of my box from Seasonal Roots, I’ve also been enjoying some fresh fruit that I picked up at the grocery store.

Of course that means a giant bag of cherries! I can’t get enough of these right now.

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I also think strawberries are really delicious this time of year. Fabio put together this dessert plate for us the other night with a little bit of plain sugar in the middle for dipping. Does anyone else like to dip their strawberries in a little sugar for dessert? I’m not sure where Fabio learned this trick but it sure is tasty when your sweet tooth is calling!

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As for breakfast, it’s been so hot out and I’ve been really enjoying making smoothie bowls. As I mentioned last week, it’s really easy to make these; all I do is dump plain Greek yogurt, frozen mixed berries, and milk into the food processor and whip it up until it’s the texture of melted soft-serve ice cream. I usually top these bowls with chia seeds, sliced banana, and granola, and voila! It’s like having ice cream for breakfast. 🙂

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Last but not least: sushi. Sigh. When it’s hot out and I haven’t meal planned or don’t feel like cooking whatever I’ve got on the menu, all I want to eat is sushi. (And wine.)

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I recently discovered a small sushi store outside my metro stop called Sushi2Go where they make sushi fresh to order that you can take home. They have a pretty decent selection and I love that it’s made to order vs. having been sitting around in a container for a few hours. Since it’s right by the metro it’s always so darn tempting! I have to admit I’ve had it one or two times too many in the last few weeks. Ah well, YOLO as they say. 😉

And that’s it! Phew!

Question of the day: What’s your favorite summer produce?

 Posted by on August 3, 2016
Apr 222016
 

Hi friends! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the recaps of what I learned at the nutrition conference last week! If you missed my first recap, find that here. It was a really fascinating meeting, and I’m so thankful that my job allowed me to go and learn so much! Here’s my final recap of what I learned. 🙂

On Resistance Training and Macros

This was my favorite session of the whole meeting! In this presentation, a doctor and a registered dietician from George Washington University (right in DC!) gave an overview of their weight loss center that focuses on a combination of strength/resistance training and nutrition plans that focus on macros.

First, the duo talked about their recommended exercise program, which focuses solely on weight training. They explained that during a cardio session, you will burn more calories while you are exercising, but then your body recovers and pretty much goes back to normal as soon as you’re done. When you do strength training or resistance training (basically, anything with weights) your body might burn fewer calories at first, but will continue burning them throughout the rest of the day.

Strength training will also raise your metabolic rate more than cardio will, so you’ll be able to lose more weight over time and eat more than you would if you were just doing cardio.

They also stressed the importance of pushing yourself to lift heavy weights – while being safe of course – and to always try to improve and lift more than you did last time. It takes a lot of energy for your body to repair your muscles after strength training, and that’s what burns those calories! I loved this discussion and thought it made a lot of sense.

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[Source and Source]

Next they talked about nutrition, and how adjusting your macros to meet your specific needs can help shed excess fat. In their program, they analyze each participant with a fancy machine that shows exactly how much fat is in their body, and then they prescribe target macros depending on your body’s particular makeup.

For example, they explained that most participants are supposed to aim for somewhere around 20% daily calories from fat, 45% daily calories from protein, 35% daily calories from carbs. Each participant gets custom targets based on their individual needs. They then work with you to determine how many grams of each food type you should be eating each day to meet these targets, and encourage you to carefully track your meals.

The biggest thing they stressed is that most people don’t consume enough protein. They said that eating more protein each day can reduce your percentage of body fat even if you don’t change anything else in your fitness routine or diet. Wow!

I thought everything they said was so interesting, and am definitely going to be picking up heavier weights and eating more protein from now on.

On Portion Size

We’ve all heard the advice to use smaller plates to eat less, right? But does that advice actually work? One of the presentations at the meeting was about portion sizes and whether using smaller plates really does make a difference in the number of calories you consume. The researcher giving the presentation has examined lots of existing data and completed a few studies herself, and she found that sadly, that advice doesn’t make much of a difference.

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[Source]

First, she explained that people are likely going to eat almost all of the food that is put on their plate. So, if someone is given a big plate with a lot of food vs. a smaller plate with less food then yes, that should make a difference in how much someone eats. However, if you are at a buffet or in a setting where you are serving yourself, choosing a smaller plate doesn’t make much of a difference in the number of calories you consume. Womp womp.

She conducted one study with men and women at a buffet, where one group was given small plates and the other group was given big plates. What she found was that people with the small plates went back to the buffet over and over again, and wound up filling their plates multiple times and eating just as much as the group that had big plates (BTW – the men also consumed way more than the women!).

She also conducted another study where she analyzed what was going on the plates, and she found that with smaller plates, vegetables were the first thing to go. I guess they’d rather use that valuable real estate for the mac ‘n’ cheese and other goodies! (I mean…really who can blame them? 😉 haha)

In her opinion, the most effective way to manage portion sizes and eat less is to focus on filling at least half your plate with vegetables (not something calorie-dense like sweet potatoes) and then use the other half of your plate for the rest of the food. Sadly, she doesn’t think the size of the plate matters much.

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[Source]

Good to know!

Anyway, those are the most interesting sessions from the meeting in my opinion! There were a few others that I enjoyed hearing about – including how effective apps and fitness trackers are for losing weight – but I didn’t think they were interesting enough to write a whole blurb on them here. I’m happy to talk about them in a different post though; just let me know if you want to hear about it!

Question of the day: Cardio or strength training?

 Posted by on April 22, 2016
Apr 192016
 

As I mentioned, I attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Weight Management Symposium this past weekend, and I learned so many things about diet and nutrition when it comes to weight loss. I’ve decided to break this recap into two parts since I learned a lot of interesting things and don’t want to lump it all into one super long post. Here we go!

USDA Dietary Guidelines

During the first presentation of the Symposium, a woman from the Committee that developed the new USDA Dietary Guidelines spoke about the guideline development process. In case you weren’t aware, the USDA issues a new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, and the most recent version came out in 2015.

This speaker and the rest of her Committee was responsible for reviewing all the scientific evidence available about nutrition, and then making recommendations for the new dietary guidelines, at which point different government staffers actually did the writing.

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She explained that while there are a lot of different studies available to help them make their recommendations, there wasn’t always the perfectly designed study to answer whatever question they had. A lot of times the research was close, but they had to improvise a lot too. There were of course tons of rules and guidelines involved in the process as well, so it was a really big job that took a long time to complete.

In the end, here are the major takeaways from the new guidelines:

  • Eat a mostly healthy diet, most of the time
  • Limit sugar, saturated fat, and sodium intake
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices
  • Eat a variety of foods/nutrients within your daily calorie limit
  • Eat nutrient-dense food that you like
  • Support healthy eating patterns everywhere (at school, at home, while traveling, etc.)
  • Eat a variety of vegetables and whole fruits (limit items like apple juice, even when it’s natural and organic, since it’s high in sugar and has no fiber)
  • Consume fat free or low fat diary (milk, yogurt, cheese, soy)
  • Consume a variety of proteins (seafood, lean meats, legumes like beans and peas, nuts, soy)
  • Enjoy healthy fats in moderation (this is a new recommendation!)
  • Limit processed meats

She showed this nice comparison of how the recommendations have changed over the years, and said that even though we’ve recommended one thing for a long time, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question the evidence and change our minds to recommend something else as new data becomes available.

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The guidelines received criticism for a number of things, including that they were too vague (a lot of specific targets were eliminated due to a lack of scientific evidence proving them to be beneficial) and that they didn’t do a good enough job addressing controversial topics like low fat vs. high fat dairy products and processed meats leading to cancer. Many of the other sessions that I attended referenced the new guidelines, and pointed out that they are common sense and don’t offer advice specific enough to help people much. Then again, they are just guidelines and should be treated as such.

One thing I thought was really interesting was the topic of lobbying in relation to these new guidelines. A lot of criticizers said that food companies lobbied the government to change the guidelines in one way or another. This has always made sense to me, especially when I think about the old food pyramid that had grains on the bottom and was put together by the USDA, the government agency responsible for promoting agriculture for crying out loud. That was something that always bugged me, so I could see how this could be a relevant concern. While the speaker said that was untrue and that no company could have that much power, she did admit it’s a bit of a problem.

Specifically, she noted that her Committee recommended that people should eat a wide variety of vegetables that have rich interior color like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, kale, etc. After the government was finished typing up the guidelines, her Committee noticed that they had added a recommendation to eat “starchy vegetables,” which is not something the scientific evidence supported and her Committee did not recommend.

I thought this was a really interesting piece of information, and it definitely helped put everything into perspective for me. Sigh. Oh, government.

The Role of Circadian Rhythm in Diet

The researcher who gave the next presentation examined how your body’s circadian rhythm and internal clock affects the way you process food. This topic was completely new to me, and totally fascinating.

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[Source]

She explained that every cell in your body reacts to your internal clock or circadian rhythm, and that it winds up affecting a lot more about your body than you probably realize. She stressed the importance of your inner clock and explained that when you eat can make a big difference in your body composition.

She has examined a number of different eating strategies for losing weight including meal frequency, breakfast skipping, intermittent fasting, daily meal timing, time-restricted feeding, shifting food intake, and macronutrient timing. She found that the first two strategies have no affect on body weight, but there is some very interesting data out there about fasting and strategically timing meals.

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I think we’ve all heard the saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a price, and dinner like a pauper,” right? Basically the theory is to eat larger meals earlier in the day, and then eat less and less as the day goes on. She had some incredible research to back this saying up, and found that when two people ate the same meals and consumed the same number of calories but switched up the times that they ate them, the ones who ate more in the morning and less in the evening weighed significantly less and had less problems with diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, etc. Fascinating!

So what were the key takeaways from her session?

First, try not eat late at night, because once the sun goes down your body starts releasing melatonin to get you ready for sleep. Eat dinner before it gets dark out whenever possible.

Also, if you’re going to have one big, unhealthy/fatty meal during the day, try to eat it around breakfast time whenever possible as it gives your body the ability to break it down better. Those individuals who eat large meals late at night are more likely to have problems with their weight and their health.

She also recommends that fasting is a good option for people who want to lose weight, and you should talk to your doctor about fasting for intermittent periods during the day (for example, only eating during 6 or 8 hours of the day and then fasting during the rest of the time) or fasting a couple of times a week by drastically cutting calories on specific days.

This was a really interesting talk with lots of great data to back up the findings, and I’m curious to see where this approach goes in the future! Either way, I know I’m going to try eating dinner a little earlier at night, that’s for sure.

Aaaaand, that’s it! I’ll recap the rest of the sessions in a Part 2 follow-up post.

Question of the day: What time do you usually eat dinner? Do you like hearing about these kinds of topics?

 Posted by on April 19, 2016
Apr 152016
 

Hi friends! How was your week? Mine was good and once again, it flew right by. Is life ever going to slow down around here?

I had a lot of tasty and somewhat new meals this week (especially during breakfast!) so I thought I’d take some time to share them with you today.

There’s also some random other highlights from the week thrown in at the end of this post because I wanted to share them with you but didn’t have time to get another post together. Hey, whatever works, right?

Breakfasts

Confession: I am totally one of those people who gets sucked into buying gimmicky products at the grocery store. Usually Fabio pulls me away from them, but when I’m shopping solo…watch out.

Last week I headed to the frozen section of the grocery store with the intention of stocking up on more frozen fruit for smoothies, and I walked away with this totally unnecessary and overpriced smoothie pack from Jamba juice instead. [face palm]

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The thing is that I knew it would be smarter to just buy the fruit itself, but I bought this stupid packet anyway. Sigh.

Then one day this week I whipped it up along with some almond milk and chia seeds (I put the chia seeds in the almond milk overnight so they absorbed some of the milk and gave it a thicker consistency. Love doing that!).

So how was the smoothie?

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(Which I ate out of a bowl because that’s my new favorite way to eat them…)

Meh. Fabio and I honestly weren’t big fans. The smoothie was way too sweet for our tastes, especially since we are used to eating unsweetened smoothies or ones that are drizzled with a tiny bit of honey if anything. Not my favorite breakfast, but, oh well. Live and learn.

At least the toppings were tasty: homemade peanut butter granola (yum – recipe coming soon!), chopped pecans, and fresh raspberries.

This week I’ve also been having a ton of yogurt bowls! I usually buy Fage brand Greek yogurt, but this week I decided to go out on a limb and buy Stonyfield instead. I even bought yogurt made with whole milk instead of skim! I know…it’s getting wild around here 😉 haha!

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I’ve been topping these bowls with a little honey, raspberries, nuts, and either mango or banana. The Stonyfield is awesome by the way – so rich and satisfying.

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P.S. Does anyone else find choosing a mango at the grocery store SO difficult? Fabio is great at spotting them but even though I got one that was ripe, it wasn’t very sweet. Womp womp. Yet another reason why I can’t grocery shop alone…

I also made a big batch of hardboiled eggs earlier in the week that I’ve been enjoying warmed up (anyone else hate cold hardboiled eggs?) with salt, pepper, and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce for dunking. Yum. Love this breakfast lately!

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By the way, a couple of weeks ago I shared this article for the best way to cook hardboiled eggs so they are easy to peel, and I finally got around to trying out their method this week.

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The result? Adding vinegar to the water and cooking them for 14 minutes made SUCH a difference! Before I was only cooking them for 12 minutes and wasn’t adding anything to the water, and this time around the shells came right off. Yes! I’ve also heard baking soda helps the shells come off easier. Anyone tried that one?

Snacks

Twice this week I had these little cottage cheese and fruit packs from Breakstone’s (yep, another gimmicky product, but this is one I’ve had before and always enjoy).

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I had one peach flavored one and one mango, and both were delicious! The one above was enjoyed on a bench  outside (er – overlooking a parking lot because there aren’t a lot of seating options near my office) since the weather has gotten slightly warmer this week! Yay!

I also had this classic banana + pb combo. So good every time.

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Lunch

Oh, you wanted more pictures of my boring salads that I eat every day? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. 😉 Still loving them over here though!

Dinner

One night this week we had leftovers and one night we ate out (more on that below!), but two of the other meals we’ve had this week have been quite tasty!

First, we had another round of brown sugar chili-crusted salmon with avocado crema from my favorite new cookbook and some roasted asparagus. Delicious!

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Tip: I made double the amount of avocado crema and used it as salad dressing in my lunch a couple times this week. Try it!

Then I also broke out my favorite recipe for fish tacos with mango salsa.

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Technically the salsa is supposed to be made with peaches, but Fabio loves mangoes and they were on sale at the grocery store so we went that route instead. Love this recipe! It’s definitely one of my favorites in our rotation.

Lots of good eats this week! (And lots of mango randomly…I don’t hate it!)

Other Highlights

Since we’re catching up, we might as well chat about a few other fun things from my week. 🙂

First, wine!

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Lately I’ve been trying to skip alcohol on weekdays, but sometimes you just need a glass, ya know? Hey, it’s all about balance! 😉

Next, a delicious tea date with my kindle!

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99.9% of the time I bring my lunch to work and eat at my desk, but I know it’s still important to get out and step away for a break when I’m able to. One day this week I was super busy during lunch time but then found myself with a bit of a lull around 3:00 pm, so I went for a walk and discovered a cute coffee shop near my office called Zed’s. I could tell immediately that Zed’s is my kind of coffee shop – all the mismatched furniture and dishes made the place feel so homey!

I ordered a mug of their “cure all” tea that included ginger, lemon, honey, and a bunch of other flavors. Not only was it perfectly warm, delicious, and comforting, but about halfway through my drink the waitress came over and brought me a cookie! Um, can we agree that’s the best idea ever?!

Basically I had a lovely afternoon tea date with my kindle (I’m reading The Silent Sister and liking it a lot so far!) and definitely plan to do this again soon. 🙂

Then on Wednesday night, Fabio and I joined our friends Ciro and Kelly for a night at DC Improv, a comedy club and restaurant in Dupont Circle.

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Oops – so much for no wine on weekdays…

We went to a “5 for 5” show, which means it was $5 to see 5 comedy performers. What a steal! Before the show started I ordered the Ahi Tuna Salad for my dinner, and I was actually surprised at how good it was! The dressing was especially tasty.

Also, the comedians KILLED IT and I was doubled over laughing more times than I could count. For such a cheap event, I was surprised at how awesome it was! We will definitely be back to DC Improv. It was nice catching up with our friends too!

And last but not least, more pictures of little Riley. 🙂

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Fabio and I have been walking her after work since we get home a little earlier than our friends Dom and Ash, and it’s been such a treat to see this face everyday.

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Ahh!

Don’t worry – of course Jack is still the love of our life – but how cute is this baby?! Can’t. Get. Enough.

The end!

Question of the day: What’s the best thing you ate this week? What’s one thing (not food related) that made you smile this week?

 Posted by on April 15, 2016