I am very very excited today to feature my first guest blogger, Brianna from the wonderful blog Shine or Set!
If you have never seen her blog before, head on over there. She has an amazing fitness and weight loss story (read about it here and here, and her transformation to a healthy lifestyle is truly inspiring. I invited her to talk a little bit about her journey today! To be honest she definitely wasn't the most out of shape person, and by many standards she still looked great, and I still think she was just lovely, but she decided to make a change and devoted to creating a healthier lifestyle for herself, and who can't admire that???
So I hope everyone enjoys her advice today. Whether you want to shed some pounds, get in shape, tone up, or just eat healthier, she has something great for everyone! I know I'm excited about every topic cause I want to work on each one of those!
What made you decide to change your lifestyle and lose weight?
I didn't notice how much weight I had gained, until it hit me one day while looking at pictures and glancing in the mirror. While I certainly didn't have it that bad, I wasn't comfortable with myself. I was extremely disappointed and I just wanted to hide. So I did. I lost my confidence. I felt unattractive whenever I wore a bikini, or went out with my pretty friends. I couldn't open up to people or be myself because I was so concerned with the outer part of myself. I wasn't getting much encouragement from the relationship I was in at the time, either.
I decided to make a change when I put my happiness first. I knew that no one could change my life, but me. I think I had actually just went to the movies solo for the first time and saw Eat, Pray, Love. It may sound lame, but it was so inspiring to me. Soon after seeing it, I left my relationship, put down the cheeseburger, and began discovering myself again. I was determined to find the things I loved about myself, and also begin a healthier lifestyle. I know physical appearances aren't everything, but when you don't feel comfortable in your skin it can whittle away your inner self. I didn't want to whittle away anymore, I wanted to grow.
What habits did you have to stop in order to get into shape?
I stopped eating when I was bored. I strayed away from beer, and acquired a taste for vodka waters...with lemon. Don't forget the lemon! I stopped regularly seeing Taco Bell, and kept our relationship as a once-a-month kind of fling.
How did you begin your transformation? Little by little or jumping in head first?
I guess you could say I jumped headfirst. I was so ready for a new life and a new me, there was just no waiting. I think when you want something so bad you really push yourself to do it. That doesn't mean going to run seven miles on the first day, but at least get on the treadmill and do what you can.
What are your favorite ways to exercise?
I love to run, and I was never big on running. It felt so exhausting, so I mainly stuck to the elliptical because it felt easier. I think my body plateaued at some point in the weight loss journey and so I figured I would give the treadmill a chance. It wasn't half bad after a few times. I definitely started out slow and worked my way up. It's all about training yourself. I would push myself to stay on just a little longer or go a little faster with each time. Now I'm on there every day. I love listening to good jams and clearing my head while I sweat it out. Besides running, I love hiking, Zumba, and Bikram Yoga (when I can afford it!)
What kept you motivated in getting healthy and what motivates you now to keep in shape?
I stayed motivated by knowing that I was doing it for me. Everything I did was going to benefit me. You can't make it about anyone else when it comes to losing weight or toning up. Sure, a breakup or a glossy picture in a magazine can spark some motivation. Ultimately though, those things wear off and you're left with solely you and your own will.
Now-a-days I stay motivated to stay in shape because I see how far I've come. I never want to go back to being that quiet girl who lacked confidence and respect for herself. It was a low point that I never want to revisit.
If I need a push to go to they gym, I'll hop on Pinterest fitness boards or look through a fitness magazine. Then I'm off. Sometimes you need those little sparks sometimes.
Is there anyone who inspires you fitness wise?
I have a fitness crush on the Tone It Up girls. They look amazing and are so motivating with their constant, upbeat attitudes. They make a healthy lifestyle fun.
What are your favorite healthy foods to eat?
I looove berries. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries. I put them on my cereal, oatmeal, salads, or eat them just by themselves. I also really like CLIF bars. The peanut butter chocolate chip ones are my favorite. When it comes to a little more substance, grilled chicken or salmon is my go-to.
What was the hardest part about losing the weight?
I think the hardest part about losing the weight was actually the after math. Sounds silly, right? While I had shed the weight, I hadn't shed the attitude. Sometimes I still struggle with being confident because I feel like I'm in my old body. It can be frustrating and really saddens me that I still go out and sit in the corner with my arms crossed. So unapproachable! I'm definitely feeling better in my new skin though. I know I've come a long way and I just need to remind myself of that.
Who has supported you the most in your journey to becoming healthy?
To be honest, I think I was my biggest support. My friends and family were obviously supportive of my determination, but they didn't really notice how much weight I had put on. I don't think they fully understood my need for a change. Now they tell me how shocked they are when they see before-and-after photos because they hadn't even realized.
I think in these types of things, you have to be your main support. It's your body and you're doing it for yourself. You should definitely surround yourself with positive people and walk away from those who are damaging.
I do want to give a shout-out to my dear friend, Kristen. She was a big support and push in my decision for a change.
Do you have a favorite recipe that you would like to share?
I'm a big fan of Italian food, so it's always fantastic to find recipes that are low in calorie.
This one is from Cook Yourself Thin! Only 350 calories per serving (yields 4 servings).
Chicken Parmesan and Zucchini "Pasta"
For the tomato sauce and zucchini pappardelle
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, in juice, mashed
1 sprig fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
4 zucchini, thinly sliced
For the chicken
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons extra for serving
1/4 cup dried whole-wheat or white bread crumbs
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with a fork
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts split in half to make 6–8 large, thin cutlets
4 teaspoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons extra for serving
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1. For the sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to very low and cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. (Check a few times during cooking; if vegetables begin to brown, add 2 teaspoons water and stir.) Add the tomatoes with juice, basil and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently 5 minutes. Then simmer very gently, partially covered, until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
2. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick long pappardelle-like strips, turning the zucchini and slicing on 4 sides only until you see the center seeds. Discard the centers.
3. Remove the tomato sauce to a bowl with a rubber spatula; no need to clean the skillet. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until wilted, tossing often with tongs for even cooking, 8 to 10 minutes. Return the tomato sauce to the pan, add 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cover and set aside.
4. On a plate, combine the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and the remaining chopped parsley. Place the egg white on a second plate. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken into the egg whites, and then into the bread crumb mixture to coat completely; set aside on a large plate or platter.
5. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in each of two nonstick 10-inch skillets over medium-high heat. Add half of the chicken to each skillet and cook until lightly browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, and cook until chicken is firm, and lightly browned on the other side, 1 to 3 more minutes.
6. To serve, re-warm the zucchini in the tomato sauce over medium heat. Use tongs to make a “twist” of zucchini pappardelle on each of 4 plates. Lean chicken cutlets against the side of zucchini. Scoop 1 tablespoon ricotta onto each plate, and spoon remaining tomato sauce on top of
What advice would you give to someone looking to get in shape and lose weight?
Dedication, motivation, and self-love all go hand-in-hand. You have to work hard, you have to keep the bigger picture in your head, and you have to know you're doing it because you love yourself.
Thank you Brianna for your wonderful post today!