Woke Up Like This: The Sleep Styler Review

Seriously, guys, I woke up like this.

But, let me give credit where credit is due. 

Earlier this year I was watching Shark Tank and learned of this product this woman was pitching that sounded way too good to be true. 

I already sleep with my hair wet sometimes to get the wavy look (and to save a ton of time getting ready). Also, getting real curls with no heating tools? Doubtful. 

Well, let me just tell you, The Sleep Styler is one of my new favorite hair styling products. They are made from super absorbent yoga towel fabric that helps dry your hair fast. Applying them is easy. You simply add the rollers fast and styles your hair while you sleep. It's so easy to do!

Woke Up Like This The Sleep Styler Review

Well, I wanted to buy a set but they were on back order forever! When The Sleep Styler reached out, I was super excited to try them out. It is safe to say, I'm a believer!!

So how does it work?

You simply towel or air dry your hair until it's about 75-80% damp; section-off your hair and add the rollers by sectioning them off. Once your hair is dry, you'll have big, beautiful bouncy curls!

Yes, it's that easy!

Woke Up Like This The Sleep Styler Review

They were super quick to put in my hair before I went to bed and remove in the morning. They weren't that uncomfortable to sleep on thanks to the memory foam inside the rollers. I didn't have to apply any heat to my hair! No blow dryer, curling iron, or straightener. 

This post was in partnership with The Sleep Styler. As always, all opinions are true and my own.

Body Positivity AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Can we talk about body positivity for a sec?

square organics sports bar
vaerie_fidan_body_positivity

Last week I shared a very personal part of my life with you all, and I was so touched by the overwhelming messages and comments of support. The messages that flooded my inbox from others that have either been through the same or are going through something similar were mind blowing. For the first time, I feel like I'm not alone. I never expected this type of support. When I pressed the "publish" button, I just asked the universe to be kind and not to send negativity my way.

Want to know another little secret? I’d be lying if I said I could rock this sports bra message 100%.

It’s more like an 80% truth.

And, I’m not ashamed. 

When Square Organics reached out saying they wanted to send me a sports bra, I never in a billion years would I have imagined that they'd be sending me one that read in all caps: "YES, THEY'RE ORGANIC." When I opened the package, I couldn't stop laughing.

In my early 20's I decided to get a breast argumentation. It wasn't out of a whim. When I was much younger, growing up I had always wanted boobs. So, at 24 I got them. I went from a small B to a full C. Not a drastic difference or ridiculously huge. I did it for me and no one else to be slightly more proportioned. 

Do I regret this decision? Sometimes; Only, because they get in the way while I'm working out. Now looking back, if body positivity had been an open discussion, I don't think I would have gone through this change. I would have been able to learn to love me the way that I am and accept my body for what it is.  

This is why it is so important to not body shame people. It's important to have an open conversation about body positivity and accept people for who they are not what they look like. We must pave the way for the younger generations of females to let them know what they are beautiful the way that they are.

In the age of Instagram, it's difficult not compare ourselves to others, especially when it comes to how we look. But for all the insecurities social media can provoke, it has also given us a platform to be proud of our bodies no matter what our size is. The body-positive movement isn't about thin-shaming or encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle; it's about supporting everyone in their search for more self-esteem and self-confidence.

Instagram can be as encouraging or discouraging as you make it. If you only follow models and celebrities, you'll be bombarded with photoshopped images and unrealistic expectations every day. That's why you should mix a healthy dose of body positivity into your Instagram feed. Some of my favorites? @gofitjo, @MISSGEOBURKE, @healthyisthenewskinny, @movemeant, and @dulceida.

What are your favorite #bodypositive accounts to follow?


 Get 20% off your  SquareOrganics.com order with discount code "valeriefidan" on square bars or this sports bra!

My Health Journey: Learning To Live

Guys, I'm getting deep with you today. I have a secret to share with you.  It's taken about six months to publish this post, and I probably wouldn't have done it without the encouragement of my friend Jo (aka @GoFitJo) and a simple question of "why hide from your truth?" 

Portland, OR April 2015: Returning back to the U.S. a bit healthier at 110lb.

I am no longer going to hide my truth. Not with me, you, or anyone else.

My truth? It's a shocking confession you might not believe.

It's not to gain sympathy, but rather to share a part of me that I've kept secret for almost nearly 20 years from virtually everyone but a handful of people. Not even my parents knew until earlier this year.

It's been a little over two years since entering recovery for an eating disorder: bulimia nervosa.

Shockingly, this was my "normal" and something that had developed in middle school. It became my normal way of life. It would come and go in different phases of my life. And, it probably sounds ironic, because of this food-based health and wellness blog, right?

Two years ago my relationship with food was non-existent. Food was the enemy. It was not enjoyable; it was far from it. Social gatherings and even going out to dinner would cause a lot of stress and social anxiety. But my ED (eating disorder) was more than just about food. It was about control. Control that manifested in the many things I could not control: relationships, my environment, work, the feeling of belonging, happiness, the pressures of excelling in the crazy world of Silicon Valley. While I may not be a techie or some scrappy startup founder, when you grow up in the Bay Area where your peers are making an impact and innovating, the pressure is on. The pressure to succeed and be the best is intense. 

When I got married in August of 2010, I thought I had beat the odds and my bulimic past was in the past. Something that had been in and out of my life for so long was no longer there. I was thrilled. I was able to change and paint a new road for a healthy future. This shifted and changed in 2013 after a trip to Southeast Asia and Australia, it got noticeably worse and became a constant in my daily life. I cannot pin point what triggered the return. Stress? Owning a business at 20-something? Unhappiness? It's still unclear, and something I'm still working on, because this time instead of stopping "cold-turkey," I'm working with a therapist that specializes in eating disorder recovery.

Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight
my story, my health journey ed recovery
The start of our travels in 2015 in NYC.

Top: Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight; Bottom Left: Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight; Bottom Right: At the start of our travels in 2014 in NYC; Bottom: October 2014 in Charleston, SC also at the start of our travels.

 

Recovery Is A Long Road

Recovery has been a long, hard, bumpy AF road. It's been a struggle on its own and mixed in with the various obstacles that life throws at you is even more difficult. At times it felt like scaling a mountain, and never being able to reach the summit. Through this journey, I've been learning a lot about myself and learning how to be compassionate with myself, and how to love myself.

I remember the moment that I stepped on the scale and it read 105lb. I thought I was seeing things. This was a significant number, because this was the number I had always wanted to see on the scale. I stepped off and then back on: 105lb. I couldn't believe it, partially because I thought I'd be happy once I reached this goal number and the girl looking back at me in the mirror was far from happy. I was "skinny-fat." I was thin, flabby and no muscle mass. Not what I thought 105lb would look like.

This was the morning before leaving on a trip to Costa Rica in 2013. My good friend whom I traveled with at one point made a comment along the lines of "you're skin and bones" I thought she was being insensitive and flat out mean. She wasn't. Even though her comment has a hint of malice, she was concerned but perhaps didn't know how to address what she was witnessing. 

I came back from Costa Rica 3lbs lighter. That day on the scale was eye-opening, 102lb the scale read. I couldn't believe I was 102lbs, yet I wasn't ready to get help. I was in some sort of denial that anything was wrong. I knew things were bad, but I didn't realize how bad. I would later discover the extremity to my deteriorating self on December 20, 2014. This is a day that I will never forget. That's the day I was rushed to the intensive care unit in Asheville, NC and almost died 2 months into our workcation 18-months of travel. Yes. Almost died. Sounds a bit dramatic but this is the truth. My electrolyte levels were dangerously low.  

For the first time in my life, I was fearful of dying. I thought I'd never see my parents, my brother, my family, my husband, my dogs... none of the people that mattered most in my life ever again.

The next day I thought about what had happened. Tears flooded my eyes thinking about what if I had died? That would be the most heartbreaking thing my parents could ever endure. How would my husband have handled it? And to put him in a position where he'd have to deliver such awful news to my parents? It was devastating.

Leaving ICU the following morning, I wasn't exactly in the clear and on the path to recovery just yet. I had to have the uncomfortable, embarrassing, sad conversation with my husband and come clean to him about what was going on. At this point, he obviously knew that was going on. I promised I'd get help, not because of him but because I wanted help. I needed help and I was ready to get help.

Left: 2014: Unhappy and unhealthy at 102lb and no muscle mass (aka "skinny fat."); Right: 2017: Much healthier, and building up lost muscle mass at 125lb. 

Left: 2014: Unhappy and unhealthy at 102lb and no muscle mass (aka "skinny fat."); Right: 2017: Much healthier, and building up lost muscle mass at 125lb. 

Progress Happens When You're Ready To Make Changes

I was in outpatient recovery for about a month before traveling back to Costa Rica for three months at the start of 2015. This might have been the riskiest move, but for me, it's what I needed. It was a twisted version of my favorite books by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Or, in my humble interpretation: eat everything, pray (yoga and meditate) often, and simply learn to love my life, every ounce of it.  

I needed to be somewhere away from everyday life. Away from the distraction and pressures of the Bay Area. Costa Rica was a time to reflect and focus on me. It was a time to fully focus on getting better. Plus, together with my therapist, we created a plan in case things took a turn for the worst or lack of progress being made. The plan was if things weren't getting better to fly back to the States and enter in-patient recovery. Gregg, my husband, was on board with this and was very supportive throughout the entire process, and continues to be supportive.

My outpatient recovery consisted of weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) sessions with my therapist over video chat. The sessions were emotional, tough and at most times uncomfortable. There were days that my therapist was the most annoying person ever because of the "digging deeper" questions and opening up about something that I had hidden for so long. Other times I found her to be the most insightful person, a guru of sorts.

During these three months, I made a ton of progress in my recovery. It was an elated feeling. I was proud of myself for being able to stay committed to better health. Now, I'm not going to say that there weren't any slip-up because there were and there have been. This is normal. It's a normal part of recovery. 

Through all of this, these last two years have brought many high's and low's. It hasn't been an easy road. Recovery has been a struggle, partially because every day is a battle. A fight to make the right choices, to not listen to the voice inside to binge and purge, to make decisions for better health. Good days feel like I'm on top of the world, and bad days are so bad I just want to hide and cry.

2017 and a much happier, healthier human.

2017 and a much happier, healthier human.

Admitting My Truth Has Been Tough

It's taken me this long to tell my parents because of the various family events that my mother has had to endure. Like the passing of her father in the Spring of 2015 and the passing of her mother exactly a year later. It was never the right time. I didn't want to add more worry to my mom as she mourned her dad and cared for her ailing mom, along with the various stresses of family dynamics that came along with this all. She had too much on her plate to worry about another huge issue. Her heart could not fit any more heartache.

This is something my therapist and I have disagreed on time and time again. And, to this day, we still don't see eye-to-eye on this.

She didn't understand the matters at hand. She didn't understand the dynamics with in my family. She didn't understand the stress that my mother was under. She didn't understand the family drama. The way that I saw it was that it would have been selfish of me to bring upon another worry to her. Plus, it wasn't like I was alone, I had the support of my husband.

Photo credit: Jenn Byrne Creative

Photo credit: Jenn Byrne Creative

Two years later here I am...

I'm learning to love me, flaws and all. Building back muscle mass that I had lost has been a challenge. Two years later I am still working hard at building it back up, and am now starting to notice a difference.

Emotionally and mentally, I have good days and bad days.  Bad days are filled with the negative thoughts, a deep depression, and anxiety; but I'm much stronger mentally to acknowledge these feelings and let them be without acting on them. The small stresses in life, the deep depression that comes in waves can be debilitating. I now know that it's how you pick yourself up that helps. Going outside, being in nature, yoga, or sometimes even a good cry to just let it all out helps.

I now see food as nourishment. It's the medicine your body needs to perform at its most optimal level. It's what keeps us healthy. I was able to fully understand this by studying up on nutrition though NASM's Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification program. (When I'm committed to something, I do it 110%. I wanted to know exactly how our bodies function, and why.)

One of the biggest challenges that I've been dealing with is the public opinion of those that are quick to judge. Those that have a hurtful opinion, that takes my medically diagnosed intolerances as a form of distorted eating. IT'S NOT! Egg, Gluten, Soy... These are actual intolerances that make me extremely ill. Trust me, if I could eat a loaf of bread, dunk sushi in soy sauce, and have a sunny side egg without getting sick, I would. There is nothing more that I want than to have a slice of pizza with ranch dressing. These intolerances make eating f'ing harder.

It's not fun.

So, don't judge. 

Don't judge my journey.

Don't judge others, because I'm sure your life isn't all rainbows and butterlies. 

So I leave you with this, to have compassion for others. You don't know their struggle, and the hardships they are dealing with. Life isn't always as rosy as it may seem. 

This is all part of the eat, pray, love journey. Being present. Being vulnerable. Learning to live. Learning to love. The act of celebrating and really truly enjoying your life and accepting who you are, flaws and all. This is my story on my journey for better health. It is part of my healing process, and part of recovery. It's a big chapter in my life, and one that I hope helps you to understand who I am a bit more. 

 

Join the conversation here.

A special thanks to my therapist, Allison Puryear; To Jo Encarnacion, Amanda Gist, and Ayten for giving me the courage and support to share my story.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Erica Liu WILLIAMS of @gr8nola

Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivates me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Erica Liu of @gr8nola

This week I'm introducing you to someone that absolutely inspires me in all ways. Meet Erica Liu Williams, the Founder, and creator of gr8nola! If you've been following me on the 'gram for a while, you know how much I LOVE gr8nola. It's a delicious, wholesome, granola that fits into a healthy, fit lifestyle. 

I first connected with Erica last year over gr8nola and discovered that we were both from the Bay Area and also shared a lot of mutual friends. Her story on how she went from the tech world in Silicon Valley to creating gr8nola is motivating. If you've ever met Erica IRL (in real life) or have had the pleasure to interact with her, you know she's the sweetest and one of the most genuine individuals you'll meet. So, getting a chance to chat more with Erica, was a real treat. She truly is an inspiring #GirlBoss!

So, let’s get started!

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

EL: I’m Erica Liu Williams, owner/founder of a clean granola company, gr8nola, based out of the Bay Area in California. I have a love for healthy living and eating delicious food, so I feel incredibly fulfilled by my creating and sharing a product that satisfies both these requirements. When I’m not working on my business, you can find me in the gym, meeting new people in the food space, planning my next trip or “strategically” slacking (yes, for real: to recharge, seek inspiration, and re-engage with my intentions).

VF: WHAT GOT YOU TO START A BUSINESS?

EL: I actually wrote a whole blog about this! I come from the tech world / Silicon Valley where people are very entrepreneurial. Seeing others launch their own businesses and working for startups really opened up my eyes that “it” can be done. I was already making delicious granola with an ingredient profile you couldn’t find in stores, so I thought, “Why not turn this into a business? Why not me?”, and the rest is history :). Here’s the longer blog post on why and how I started gr8nola.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

EL: There’s no right or wrong way of pursuing fitness: I’ve done everything from marathon training to bodybuilding to CrossFit. While I like to mix it up and try new things, I’ve found that I’m most motivated and consistent in a “normal” gym setting, focusing on lifting and integrating “some” cardio (whether HIIT or low-intensity cardio like walking). Again, it’s all about what fits YOUR lifestyle—find something you enjoy that you can do consistently, and just do it!  

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

EL: Always be #HungryForGr8ness. Gr8nola’s mission is to inspire others to be their “greatest” selves – whatever that means to them...it could be your health, your career, as a family member, or to the environment. Find what matters to you—YOUR hunger for greatness—and live life with that purpose.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Erica Liu of @gr8nola

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOUR JOURNEY WITH GR8NOLA. IT’S AN AMAZING PRODUCT WITH A GREAT STORY BEHIND IT ALL. AND, BEING ABLE TO FOLLOW ALONG WITH YOUR GROWTH HAS BEEN AMAZING!  WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

EL: Aw thank YOU! There’s no one person who inspires me: it’s the collection of all the other entrepreneurs I’ve met along the way (like yourself!) who inspire me every day. Everyone has a unique story and superpower, and I love seeing others pursue their dreams and create freedom for themselves. When I see other business owners pursue their passions and make a living from it, it shows me it can be done. 

VF: BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR, DO YOU FIND IT HARD TO FIND BALANCE AND TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER LADY-BOSSES?

EL: Yes and no. From the outside in, most people don’t know how I do it (managing a full-time job AND a business). But the fact that I’m overloaded means that I’m getting closer to taking the “leap” to do gr8nola full time, which is my goal by end of year. Knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel keeps me mentally balanced.  I feel like I’m on a journey with a specific destination in mind, versus being on a hamster wheel. This mindset keeps me motivated and driven with a purpose — versus feeling crazy or busy for no reason.

As far as stay balanced health-wise, I always make sure I prioritize sleep, clean eating, and consistent workouts. You’re not always going to be 100% on point, and I think it’s important to accept that and be ok when it does happen. But it’s important to make sure you “balance” it out later. For example, I often compromise sleep mid-week, but then I try to make up for it and sleep in more on weekends. If I have a bad eating day (or weekend), I try to get back on the clean eating bandwagon right away. Just don’t let yourself get into any downward spirals or turn bad habits into permanent behaviors, and you’ll be OK.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Erica Liu of @gr8nola

VF: TELL US YOUR MOST PERFECT DAY. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT? WHAT WOULD YOU YOU DO?

EL: Sleep in and wake up naturally. Go to the gym. Have close friends or family over, go on a hike or walk on a warm, sunny day, then cook/host a potluck meal with lots of yummy options by the pool. Hang out all evening over a favorite TV show.

VF: OK, NOW, WHAT IS YOUR DAY REALLY LIKE?

EL: Wake up by the alarm. Get ready for work (current day job) and commute 1.5 hours into the city. Work all day, try to manage some gr8nola-related emails in between breaks. Drive home, workout out, and work on the business until bed time (usually it’s catching up emails, shipping gr8nola out, or planning for big projects or campaigns for the business). 

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?
EL:
 

  1. Surround yourself with great people and relationships
  2. Live with a purpose & pursue your passions
  3. Eat clean (lots of veggies, clean grains & protein), but don’t deprive yourself
  4. Sleep deeply
  5. Be active & get outside
  6. Appreciate the process: you can gain or learn something from every experience (even the bad ones!) in life

VF: FINISH THESE STATEMENTS: 

"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…"
EL:
gr8nola (is that too predictable?). If not that, then, honey. Life is always better a little more sweet :)

“THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"
EL:
SOLID SLEEP! (I know I am doomed when I have a baby). I don’t know how some people can operate off 6 hours of sleep; I ideally need 8-9 hours a night. 

“MY GUILTY PLEASURE IS…"
EL:
Desserts and sweets (like donuts, chocolate, cookies, cakes… YUM!!). And crunchy, savory or sweet snacks in general :).

VF: “MY FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD IS…”
EL:
gr8nola + almond milk, nuts, coconut chips, fruit, and popcorn.

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?
EL:
@gr8nola on Instagram!! See you there! :)
 

Reflecting On Life & Dreaming Bigger

reflecting on life and dreaming bigger barcelona spain

I have found myself reflecting on life these past few weeks. Maybe this is a 30-something stage in life? As I've been reflecting, I've come to realize (and acknowledge) that my life is greater than I could have ever imagined. And that’s because it is. Even through all the imperfections, or the "I wish, coulda, woulda, done" moments, I wouldn't change anything about it. 

As a Pisces, I've always been a dreamer with my head in the clouds. I've never conformed to the norm, have always taken risks, pushed the limits, and followed my tenacious, curious spirit. 

And almost three years ago, I made a choice to live my life less stifled. To try not just to live; but to live so fully that, my adventures were bursting at the seams, my days felt purpose driven, and my heart felt full. This plan was accurately fulfilled as my husband, and I sold off most of our things, packed a suitcase and left San Francisco to travel the world. There was no plan, no end date. Would we return back to San Francisco? No clue.

Now I’ll admit that this is equal parts cliche and cheesy, but setting that aside for a sec what it meant to me was an intention being set to start fresh. To stop living life complacently and to start taking bigger risks, and to dream even bigger than I could have ever imagined. What happened since has been the most gratifying validation that saying “yes” can change the course of your life. Specifically saying “yes” to yourself.

In July of 2014 when we made the decision to travel, I never would have imagined that our decision to leave the comforts of home, and travel the world would take us to 18 months of continues travel, home-basing is amazing locales, and eventually would bring us to Portland, where we would plant roots and call home. Never would I have imagined that I'd start a new business in a new place, without a network and build connections and friends. 

I’ve never been one for vision boards and scrapbooking memories. I do, however, have a stack of books from The Power of Now and Be Here Now to The Sedona Method and even science-y ones like The Pale Blue Dot and Humankind that I skim or reread through now and then. There is something to be said for setting a goal and putting it out into the universe, so to speak.

I do believe that thoughts become things. My thoughts the past year have been: I miss my family, I see myself having a lifestyle website, I want to see more of the world, I need to find my purpose, I want to make an impact on my community, and I want to be happy--blissfully, fully, unapologetically happy. 

So, here we are half-way through the year. I've kept to my goals and have been working on them hard to fulfill them and maintain a strong bond with those back home in California. Keeping an open mind and saying "yes" to new experiences is something that I continue to do.

Join me in being a dreamer. Your life can be greater than you ever imagined. The most gratifying validation that saying "yes" can change the course of your life. Specifically saying "yes" to yourself.

What are you saying "yes" to today? Comment here!

Celebrate Your Independence

celebrate your independence

Raise a glass to yourself today; to the right to freedom, to the empowerment of the women (and men) who struggle to have it, and to knowing, embracing, honoring, educating and loving yourself. On this day, and beyond, celebrate your independence.

I leave you with some words from prolific Nigerian writer and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her TED Talk on gender equality resonates deeply, and acts as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and yet how far we still have to go.  To our continued autonomy and independence – I raise a glass.

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls; you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX

Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivates me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well.

WHOA, GUYS! It's been a minute with my #LETSCHAT series. I'm really excited for this onToday I'm introducing you to Ellie Goodwin, aka @TopKnotPDX! She is someone that is a true motivator and inspiration, who cares about helping others to be the best versions of themselves. I first connected with Ellie back in 2015, during our 3-month extended stay in Portland. I had been taking Ellie's megaformer classes at a local studio, and was instantly hooked on her style of teaching, the workout, and her energy. And as tough as the workout was, Ellie always had the right things to say to keep the class going and not giving up. She pushed us to limitis that we didn't think we were capable of. Moving to Portland in 2016, I was really excited to jump back into her classes. 

Flash-forward to today... Ellie is the co-owner of her very own studio, MegaBurn Fitness. It is a place that I find myself consistently at. The energy, the classes, the music, the community, the instructors at the studio is something I've never felt anywhere else. You really feel like you belong there. But, it's no surprise! The Megaburn community is a mirror image of Ellie and who she is at the core. I'm beyond grateful to call her a friend and motivator!

I hope she inspires you! So, let's get started! 

It is so rewarding to share my love for this workout with others and so inspiring to watch my clients make progress each class. 
#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX


VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...


EG: My name is Ellie Goodwin and I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Jessiah Goodwin, and our two puppies: Sweetness (a 7 month-old American Bully) and LeeRoy (an 8 year-old Jack Russell Terrier). I am the co-owner of MegaBurn Fitness located in Tanasbourne. We offer private sessions and small group classes on a machine called the Megaformer M3S. The workout combines the slow, controlled movements of Pilates with high-intensity training. My days are filled with teaching classes, training our instructors, meetings, emails, and usually taking a class at my own studio or cross-training at one of my favorite spots in town: Pure Barre LLoyd, Barre3, Studio Blue Pilates, Sculpt Yoga or Burncycle to name just a few. In the afternoons, I break to make lunch at home with my husband and take our puppies to play at the park. 

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

EG: I started taking Pilates Mat classes at my local YMCA when I was 17. I didn’t think the first class I took was that hard but was surprised to find myself sore the following day. I figured it must be working, so I kept going back for more. I fell in love with Pilates and learning how to engage my muscles to move my body. Eventually, I was approached to become an instructor, which I turned down the first time I was asked. I was fairly shy back then, and instructing a room full of clients felt daunting, to say the least. I also couldn’t comprehend how the instructor was able to cue and physically perform the exercise at the same time. The second time I was approached to teach, I figured I would give it a shot and see what happened. I had two incredible mentors and trainers who coached me through the process. Fairly quickly, I lost the feeling of being shy in front of a room full of clients, because it wasn’t about me. It was absolutely about them. The workout is always about the clients who were staring me in the face, ready or not, to spend an hour focusing in on their bodies and their breath. After Pilates, I began teaching other fitness classes, such as: Step Aerobics, Turbokick, Indoor Cycling, Barre, Pi-Yoga, and Lagree Fitness. The last one: Lagree Fitness, is the method I teach now at my studio, MegaBurn. It has such strong roots in Pilates, my first fitness love, that it was a natural fit for me! I’ve been obsessed with the Megaformer since my very first class 5 years ago.

VF: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING?

EG: I’ve been teaching group fitness classes and doing personal training for 13 years. I absolutely LOVE IT. It is so rewarding to share my love for this workout with others and so inspiring to watch my clients make progress each class. 

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

EG: There is no reason today can’t be the best day of your life. 

VF: IF YOU COULD BE ONE TYPE OF EXERCISE, WHICH WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?

EG: I would be Bear. It’s a Plank on the Megaformer with your hands on the front platform and your toes tucked lightly on the carriage. You scoop through your low belly to pull the carriage forward, bending your knees in until they are underneath your hips. It engages your entire body from head to toe. It was one of the exercises I sought to conquer when I first started doing Lagree Fitness, and it is still so challenging, but I love it!
 

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOU GIVE ME SO MUCH MOTIVATION TO NOT GIVE UP, EVEN IN YOUR TOUGH MEGABURN CLASSES! WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

EG: My clients. They inspire me with their hard work, their positive attitudes, their energy, and their progress. I am inspired daily by my clients. After 13 years, I never stop being amazed by them.

VF: WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED TO TEACH?

EG: It’s the people. You know you have 10 clients showing up for you to deliver them a challenging workout. You have people counting on you and that is a powerful feeling. I show up for them.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX

VF: TELL US YOUR MOST PERFECT DAY. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT? WHAT WOULD YOU YOU DO?

EG: I would wake up with my family, coffee, and an egg sandwich. I would teach a few classes, take a class from one of my trainers, and head to the park to play with the puppies. We’d make something yummy and healthy for lunch. After lunch, I’d head to a coffee shop for a little me-time with a good book, then back home to plot on dinner. Pizza night is my favorite, so it’d be a pizza and wine night at home, and we’d watch one of our favorite ridiculous tv shows, like VanderPump Rules or something actually good, like Game of Thrones.

VF: OKAY, NOW, WHAT IS YOUR DAY REALLY LIKE?

EG: Basically exactly that, except every night can’t be pizza night and instead of reading a book, I’d likely be working! :)

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

EG: Life is all about BALANCE. Find the things you love and enjoy them. Everything in moderation, not deprivation.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD?

EG: Egg Sandwich: one slightly runny egg, English muffin, a slice of tomato, and avocado, with a dash of dragon sauce. I have this for breakfast or a mid-day snack.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ellie Goodwin of @TopKnotPDX

VF: FINISH THESE STATEMENTS: 

"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…"

EG: Salt.

THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"

EG: COFFEE!

“MY GUILTY PLEASURE IS…"
EG:
Bad reality TV. I know it’s bad but I can’t look away. That and rosé! Put them together and I’m in heaven.

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

EG: On Instagram @TopKnot PDX
 

The Secret Key To Making Happiness A Thing For Yourself

Does happiness seem like an elusive concept? We all want it and we all can have it. I'm sharing with you the secret key to making happiness a "thing" for you! 

secrets_to_happiness_valerie_fidan_portland

In my 20's I spent the whole decade running from insecurities and chasing "happiness" through success in my career and empty happiness in material things. This changed during a humbling trip to Southeast Asia in 2013 and reconfirmed itself during our 18-months of continuous digital nomad travel in 2014/2015. 

I know what you're thinking, travel and epiphanies... So cliché. I know.  But it's true. (You can read more about that here and here.) 

At 31, I'm learning not to take myself too seriously. But most importantly, in my 20's, I've learned that being happy is just as important as being healthy. And happiness is not about having more money or better stuff. It’s not about more friends or a nicer house. There's a difference between empty happiness and real happiness. 

Empty happiness is all the things that we think will that bring us happiness. It's those superficial and materialistic things. Real, genuine happiness are the things that bring us joy. They are the unconditional love from family and friendships, the feeling of adopting a pet from a shelter or helping others. It's that warm fuzy feeling we feel inside.

Shift Your Attitude and Perspective

Each one of us is in the pursuit of happiness. We aren’t on Earth just to exist. We want a full life. We want to make the most of our days. Yet for many of us, happiness is a mercurial and elusive concept. Maybe a shift in attitude and perspective is the answer? 

Life can unfair, which means the odds will sometimes be in your favor and sometimes they won't. Instead of having a pity party, think about all the good in your life. 

Maybe your life isn't exactly what you had envisioned for yourself. And, that's okay.

We all have images in our minds of what the future holds and what we want. Maybe you wanted children that play on a soccer team or a husband with a full head of hair or a dope career paying six figures. Maybe it was a big house or a flashy car.

Life often shifts and welcomes things we didn’t expect, but instead of focusing on what you thought, focus on how it brought in. You may have a bald husband, but he may also treat you better than any man ever has. Your kids may be "computer nerds" instead of athletes, but already they are showing signs of academic greatness. Your job pays just O.K., but your excelling and love what you do and enjoy where you work. The truth is that most people simply "don't know" what they truly want, which is why you should enjoy what you have because you chose it.

Happiness Starts With Gratitude

If you can't pull yourself out of a funk, remember that happiness starts with gratitude. 

Gratitude is the “quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” The next time you're throwing yourself a pity party, flip the script and think of everything you're grateful for. This might be your family, your friends, your health, etc. Redirect your focus, and you’ll see that while your life isn't perfect, it's not bad either.

We Are In Control of Our Own Happiness

Know that; we are all in control of our lives and our own happiness. Only YOU can change that. If you can't pull yourself out of a funk, remember that happiness starts with gratitude

Gratitude is the “quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” The next time you're throwing yourself a pity party, flip the script and think of everything you're grateful for. This might be your family, your friends, your health, etc. Redirect your focus, and you’ll see that while your life isn't perfect, it's not bad either.

No matter how much money and success you earn in your life, you always stand the chance of feeling like something is missing. Most of us tend to concentrate so hard on what is missing that we make ourselves unhappy. That's why you need to realize the difference between empty happiness and real happiness. Once you find the latter, you'll feel like your life is complete. 

Ask yourself, what are you grateful for?

Share what you're grateful for here!

#LETSCHAT: Meet Kait Miller of @RealFoodGypsy

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Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Happy Sunday, friends!! Each week, I’ve been shining the spotlight in the health and wellness community or someone that we might not know too much about or love and follow. This week I’m bringing you an interview with someone that continues to inspire me and has become a friend over the last 5-ish months. Ready for this weeks #LETSCHAT? You're going to love this week's interview.

Meet Kait Miller of @RealFoodGypsy! She's Salt Lake City-based Health and Wellness blogger, with an IG feed filled with drool-worthy food and travel pics to inspire you to live a balanced life.

So, let’s get started…

#LETSCHAT: Meet Kait Miller of @RealFoodGypsy

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

KM: My real name is Kaitlyn, but I’ve gone by Kait since high school! I’m from the East Coast and have been out West since moving to California 2 years ago. A few months after moving across the country to be with my hubs, we found ourselves moving to Salt Lake City! I had just finished up graduate school (in health education, motivation, identity-development, etc!) and had NO clue what I was going to do for work. Nothing seemed to interest me. My babe, Jered, who has the biggest entrepreneur heart, encouraged me to start my own business and blog. It took months to discover my passions and purpose (and I’m still learning every day), but I realized I wanted to travel and share all of the healthy eats, so that people could have a resource when they travel. We are undergoing phase 3 of my website, and I can’t wait for you guys to see all the new updates!

For hobbies, we’re pretty simple! We love to work out, hike with the dogs, go out to eat with friends, and travel every chance we get!

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO THE WORLD OF HEALTH + WELLNESS?

KM: It all started in undergrad! I was a Health & Wellness major mainly because it was the only thing that remotely interested me. That first year in college, I started running long distance, ate my first raw veggie (whatttt?!), and saw how cleaner food and exercise impacted my health. I was always an athlete, but one who drank tons of soda, ate $5 pizzas, and pop tarts for a snack. During college, I didn’t know much about organic and most people in my small town thought it was a conspiracy hahahaha. But just by adding in veggies that weren’t fried (I’m from the South!), I saw a positive impact in my health! After my junior year, I began seeing a holistic chiropractor because of some crazy autoimmune issues (everything from hormones and muscle issues to my gut). It was the first time I heard the importance of healthy fats (even grass-fed butter), organic living, and probiotic. After years of Western medicine not giving me answers, I decided to take control of my own health. In grad school, I completely switched over to “mostly” organic and began caring a lot about where I sourced my food, especially animal protein sources. I saw how my body responded best to natural medicine and healthy eating along with a mix of western/modern medicine and have been passionate about this lifestyle and taking care of my body ever since!

VF: YOU ARE CONSTANTLY TRAVELING; WHAT IS YOUR SECRET TO EATING HEALTHY WHILE ON THE ROAD?

KM: Packing emergency snacks, bringing my own water bottle, and planning where we eat! This is the MAIN reason I started realfoodgypsy.com! I want people to know you can enjoy life, travel care-free, and still eat a burger. My goal is to help you find the healthiest versions of food ranging from a good salad to a basket of fries with a milkshake :).

VF: WE SHARE SO MANY COMMON INTERESTS, ONE BEING REAL FOOD AND THE OTHER, TRAVEL. I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE BEST WAY TO EXPERIENCE A CULTURE IS THROUGH FOOD. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE?

KM: YES! It’s such an amazing experience! When I traveled to Jordan and Israel a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the food and the culture that surrounded it. The people were so hospitable and truly wanted you to enjoy every single item they served. I tried about 12 varieties of fresh homemade hummus, fish that still had eyes, a hybrid fruit that was a mix between cantaloupe and honeydew (it was the sweetest fruit I’ve ever tasted), tons of pita, and even more falafel. Also, the breakfast! Oh my gosh, it knocked the typical US “continental breakfast” out of the park. I’ve never seen so much fresh fruit and even dessert for breakfast! Another cool part about this trip is that we got to go to someone’s house for a dinner party and have a buffet full of homemade Israeli food like shakshuka, burekas, baba ganoush, baklava, and labne. At the end, we participated in Israeli folk dancing and it was a blast! The best thing I tried was the shakshuka. It’s kind of reminds me huevos rancheros but even better!

#LETSCHAT: Meet Kait Miller of @RealFoodGypsy
VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

KM: Be REAL to yourself and to other and always encourage one another.

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOUR JOURNEY. YOU ARE VERY REAL ABOUT IT, WHICH IS WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

KM: I have so many people that inspire me! Including genuine and caring women I’ve met on Instagram that truly cares about my life and wants to invest time in me. Ya know the ones that actually read your posts and encourage you on a daily basis! My husband also inspires me to always stay true to myself and what God created me to be. Lastly, my past experiences, good and bad, inspires me to delete negativity from my life, focus on the positives and blessings I have, build others up, pursue my dreams, and as cliche as it may sound...make the world a happier and better place to live.

VF: I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOU ON THE ‘GRAM FOR SOMETIME NOW, AND YOU ARE VERY HONEST WITH US. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS JUST STARTING ON THEIR PERSONAL HEALTH JOURNEY?

KM: Start small! Don’t try to go in giving your workout 110% or replace everything in your pantry or makeup drawer. This health journey takes time, it’s a process, but a rewarding one! Ease into it, learn from others, and then do the best you can with what you have.

VF: TELL US YOUR MOST PERFECT DAY. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT? WHAT WOULD YOU YOU DO?

KM: My most perfect day would be spent eating and being outside with Jered and our pups! I imagine us being somewhere bright and sunny and close to a beach with no agenda (maybe Southern California?)! I imagine the warmth of the sun hitting our backs as we’re strolling amongst palm trees and going into local shops. And of course, finding a cute little restaurant with a patio to enjoy some quality food and maybe a margarita along the way! Then heading to the beach for the rest of the day, eating a nice dinner, and most likely finding some ice cream! Pressed Freeze or Salt & Straw?! Hard choice! It’s nothing too extravagant, which is why I feel like it would be the most perfect day!

VF: OK, NOW, WHAT IS YOUR DAY REALLY LIKE?

KM: Every day my babe and I wake up around 7 am, drink a protein shake, take care of our two pups, and then head to the gym for an hour workout. Then I typically take the dogs out, shower, and eat a little more for breakfast. Working out in the morning gives me mental clarity and helps energize me to tackle my to-do list. I definitely can’t wake up at 5 am, but 7 am is definitely a good fit for us! The rest of the day looks like this: work (food, restaurants, photography, social media, emails, etc!), lunch, take the pups out, errands, and then dinner with Jered. We try to eat together every night and wind down with our favorite Netflix show. We also work a little in the evenings and on the weekends too, because we both have our own businesses! :) It’s challenging, rewarding, and a constant learning experience. #LETSCHAT: Meet Kait Miller of @RealFoodGypsy

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

KM: Do what YOU love and what makes YOU feel good. Realize that there are multiple ways to live a healthy, balanced, and fulfilled life and that each individual’s journey is unique and beautiful. Use energy to encourage people and not judge. Learn from others and then find what works for you.

VF: FINISH THESE STATEMENTS:
"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…"

KM: Peanut or almond butter! Think- pad thai, yogurt, smoothies, pancakes, you name it! Sweet or savory... everything tastes better with it.

“THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"

KM: Animal-based protein! I know that’s probably a weird answer. But I tried to go vegan + vegetarian multiple times and it wreaked havoc over my body. Organic animal protein has helped to balance my hormones and heal my digestive issues.

“MY GUILTY PLEASURE IS…"

KM: Oooo! Ice cream with warm chocolate chip cookies. I recently started making them with vanilla protein + greens, almond butter, applesauce, and just a touch of maple and they are the ultimate post-workout treat! Also, the perfect excuse to eat cookies all day every day...j/k, kinda! Recipe is on my website if you wanna check it out!

VF: “MY FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD IS…”

KM: Okay...so this is HARD. I would say peanut butter, but isn’t that everyone’s go-to food?! My favorite go-to food would have to be a wok bowl with rice, chicken or salmon, coconut aminos, and stir-fried veggies. We probably eat this at our house 3-4 times a week and it just never fails. It’s the ultimate comfort + health food and you can’t go wrong with that!

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

KM: You can follow all my food and travel at realfoodgypsy.com or @realfoodgypsy on Instagram & Facebook!

#LETSCHAT: Meet Elizabeth Dickerson of @FromSkinny2Strong

LETSCHAT-Meet-Elizabeth-Dickerson-of-@FromSkinny2Strong.jpg

Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Happy Sunday, friends!! Ready for this weeks #LETSCHAT? Each week, I’ve been shining the spotlight in the health and wellness community or someone that we might not know too much about or love and follow. This week I’m bringing you an interview with someone that continues to inspire me and has become a friend over the last 5-ish months.

Meet Elizabeth "Liz" Dickerson of @FromSkinny2Strong! She's an Atlanta-based Fitness + Wellness Lifestyle blogger, with an IG feed filled with amazingly awesome fitspo and healthy living vibes for a happy, balanced life. This is one strong chick! She not only used to compete in bodybuilding in the bikini division and is inspired by 4 things I love: fitness, travel, food, and fun!

And, although I've never met Liz in person (yet), I'm motivated and inspired by her each day. I hope she inspires you to be the best version of YOU as well!

So, let’s get started…

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

ED: I am the creator + editor of Fromskinny2strong.com which is my fitness + wellness lifestyle blog. It’s my baby! I live in Atlanta + I recently got engaged! I have 2 really cute dogs. I work professionally as a designer for the team at Walker + Cash. I do video production, editing, graphic + web design, copywriting—I feel like a jack of all trades! Haha. We do blog redesigns, copywriting, social media, etc. for small businesses, bloggers, and influencers!

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

ED: I’ve always been active—I grew up as a dancer doing ballet, tap, jazz, and pointe. I also ran track and cross country. However, while I ran track in high school, I fractured my tibia and had to stop… so I did cheerleading since it was less impactful (I didn’t tumble, heck no, not for me.) Long story short, I didn’t reach 100lbs until I was in college. I’m just a naturally skinny person and I don’t have much of an appetite—I’m healthy, btw! It’s just how I was made. I think my small structure + lack of nutrients (because I didn’t eat much) led to my bone fracturing. In college, I was friends with a bunch of athletes and their bodies were strong and killer! I was like, ummm… yes please! I want muscle like that! A few years into college, I gave running a go again, so I would do track exercises by myself on the university track. I started seeing muscle growth due to the sprint exercises I was doing, and I was hooked. I began training by myself more, began lifting weights, and eventually, the school track coach (a D1 university) saw me running one day at the track while he was eating lunch, and when I was done he offered me a full ride scholarship…. 3 months before I was to graduate! UGH! But still, was an honor being offered. This was around the time instagram started growing, and I was following all the girls who did fitness competitions. Again, I was like ummm… yes please! Ha. So I hired a coach in LA and did my first fitness “bikini” competition in July 2013.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

ED: Understanding that life happens and being OK with that. I know that’s not a “fitness” secret, but it’s a mindset secret that makes fitness more manageable. Back when I trained for bodybuilding shows, it was all or nothing. It’s eating plain tilapia, plain asparagus, egg whites, and grapefruit, and anything outside of that was a NO. It was going to the gym 7 days a week, 2x a day, and anything less than that was a NO. So many rules, you know?! That restrictive mentality is what causes people to fail. So if you have a program you follow with set workout plan, meal plan, etc., that’s GREAT for guidance and structure, but acknowledging that there will be days where you can’t go to the gym, have to skip a meal, or get to celebrate your BFFs birthday (which means cake, obvi)... THAT’S the secret to being successful when it comes to fitness.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

ED: Conquer. It always has been my word. Always will be. That word gives me chills. It’s so powerful. Say it… “CONQUER” Dude… it’s killer. Like no matter what you want to do, you can do it…. CONQUER IT. I used to (still do) repeat this word over and over when I do walking lunges. It gives my body some extra miracle push.

[columns_row width="half"] [column]#LETSCHAT: Meet Elizabeth Dickerson of From @Skinny2Strong[/column] [column]

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOUR AMAZING TIPS THAT YOU SHARE ON INSTA AND YOUR BLOG. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

ED: Aw thanks! :) I honestly have to say my fiance inspires the heck out of me. He’s started and sold 2 business. He now is a day trader—and that biz is not easy. It take grit and dedication, like any business, but this is a whole other level. Seeing him day in and day out so dedicated to learning, studying, making the best moves, analyzing, failing, succeeding, etc… it moves me. That’s something I love about him so much… he’s FULL THROTTLE in everything he does. Even our relationship, it’s 200% or nothing. In every little thing. I feed off of his energy and hustle. I could get teary eyed writing about this, ha! I think he lives the definition of the word “conquer” that I love so much. He doesn’t let anything get in his way. He doesn’t give up. Even with the stuff gets hard (and let me tell you, it does sometimes) he keeps going. He’s incredible and he inspires me and my personal endeavors so much. We support each other to be our best selves.

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VF: THROUGH YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY, YOU’VE EXPRESSED HOW MUCH YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT HOW A FITNESS LIFESTYLE SHOULD AND SHOULDN’T BE. WHAT TIPS OF ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER SOMEONE STARTING OUT ON THEIR OWN PATH?

ED: Ahhh yes… this goes back to restrictive dieting/exercise programs. I lived that life for 2 years, and by the end of that I had to get a therapy session because my view on food was not healthy and I could sense an eating disorder forming. Thankfully, I’m so aware of my body and what I do, so I could see the trouble starting—but I finally reached a point of thinking “this is not okay. I could seriously fall down a dark path.” And I quit. I quit everything for a year and a half to get back to normal + mentally healthy again. With this being said, my advice would be no matter what program you are doing, whether it’s my 8 Week Change Your Life Challenge (coming soon!), BBG, a competition prep plan, etc… that plan is NOT the end all be all. If you go “off track”, THAT IS OKAY. And “fitness” is meant to be a lifestyle, not a 12 week only plan where you restrict so hard once the 12 weeks are over you feel lost. That is NOT FITNESS. So a fitness/wellness lifestyle will have ups and downs, just like everything in life does. Because life is full of ebbs and flows right? So when you feel unhappy about super greasy, cheesy burrito and margarita you had on a Friday night (like I just did, tbh), don’t sweat! If you feel yucky, just eat a nice healthy meal the next day and make mindful decisions to be healthy. Progress > Perfection.

 

VF: YOU’VE STARTED A FS2S FITNESS COMMUNITY ON FACEBOOK. WHAT INSPIRED THAT?

ED: Yes! It’s called Fit + Health Friends, and anyone is welcome to join. I wanted to create a community for anyone who is interested in fitness, health, wellness—whether someone is a professional, personal trainer, nutritionist, fitness blogger, or even just wants some motivation! It’s for anyone. Every day we have a daily thread that prompts our community to share blog posts that inspired them, goals they’re working on, recipe favorites (I need you to share some of yours in there, Val!), healthy tips + tricks, etc. It’s a lot of fun! There are people from all walks of life. You can join here!

VF: WHAT DOES YOUR PERFECT DAY LOOK LIKE?

ED: Omg waking up semi-early, make a cold-brew coffee (I use chameleon cold brew with a splash of almond milk,) do a yoga class, spend time writing and growing From Skinny 2 Strong, go to the pool + get a tan, come home and cuddle with my fiance watching Dateline NVM (we’re secretly 50yrs old inside, lol, that’s our Friday night… almost every night. Love it.)

VF: NOW, WHAT DOES IT REALLY LOOK LIKE?

ED: I’m going to be real honest here. I wake up an hour before I have to be at work. I rush to get ready (thankfully I have short hair, so doesn’t take me too long to get ready!) I sit at my desk for 8 hours editing a ton of video. I still have a 9-5 while growing From Skinny 2 Strong + working for Walker + Cash. I sit in traffic for an hour during my commute home, and then I spend the rest of the night working on my From Skinny 2 Strong and Walker + Cash projects. I’m dedicated to creating a fulfilling life for myself—and right now that means working a 9-5 while also nurturing my hustles when I’m not at the office. I’m so dedicated. That “perfect day” will come.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

ED: Working hard so your dreams will come true. Surrounding yourself with people who love you and push you. Don’t focus on what other people may think… who cares. Do you. Get stuff done. Love your people. Be thankful. Always hustle.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD?

ED: I love a good taco! And also breakfast—eggs, bacon, biscuit, potatoes...YUM! My favorite healthy go-to is a spinach salad with chicken, strawberries, feta cheese, and sliced almonds…. SO GOOD.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Elizabeth Dickerson of From @Skinny2Strong

VF: SPEAKING OF FOOD... YOU’VE CREATED A 5-DAY MEAL PLANNER PRO CHALLENGE. WHAT CAN READERS AND YOUR COMMUNITY EXPECT FROM THAT?

ED: I studied nutrition in addition to marketing + art school, so I’m so intrigued and passionate about how food affects the body. The biggest struggle I hear from people who are ready to start a healthy lifestyle is how to meal plan + prep. It can be pretty complex, so where does one even begin?! The 5 Day Meal Planner Pro Challenge is a 100% FREE email course created to solve this problem. Each day, challengers will receive meal planning tips + tricks, so by the end of the 5 days, they will have the tools and know-how to confidently go to the grocery store, pick out what they needs, and execute their meal planning for the week like a pro! I break it down into a super easy step-by-step process. Each challenger also gets freebie printables to help stay organized and also access to my free fitness resource library! It’s for anyone, so you can join right now!

VF: FINISH THESE STATEMENTS:

"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…" ED: Old-bay seasoning. Thank me later.

“THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS…” ED: hit snooze… like 5 times. HA! I’m so serious. Then I stretch for a few minutes once I’m up. "THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…" ED: My external hard drive. That baby goes with me everrryyywhere.

“THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS…” ED: hit snooze… like 5 times. HA! I’m so serious. Then I stretch for a few minutes once I’m up. "THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…" ED: My external hard drive. That baby goes with me everrryyywhere.

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

ED: Follow me on Instagram @lizashleyatl | Follow me on Twitter @lizashleyfit Join my Fit + Healthy Friends Facebook Group | Pinterest | Facebook

#LETSCHAT: Meet Joanne Encarnacion of @GoFitJo

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Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Happy Sunday, friends!! Have you been enjoying this series as much as I have? Each week, I've been shining the spotlight on someone that we all love in the health and wellness community or someone that we might not know too much about. This week I'm bringing you an interview with someone you have to follow ASAP if you don't already do!

Meet Joanne "Jo" Encarnacion of @GoFitJo! I'm slightly biased to loving all things Jo partially because she's from my home area (heyyy, Bay Area!) and is bold enough to rock blue hair (she makes me miss mine!), but also because she is is a real inspiration and role model. She is the embodiment of all things women should be: smart, strong, loving, bad-ass, an unshakable go-getter.

When I first connected with Jo on Instagram last Fall, I was impressed by her, and her feed. Jo keeps it real 100% with sharing her health journey through inspiring posts and images. She is very much an inspiration to me and role model. I feel so lucky to have been able to connect with Jo, and I hope she sparks some inspiration in you!

So, let's get started...

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

JE: Some days I wonder if the question should be “what don’t you do?” hahaha. My name is Joanne Encarnacion, I’m a wife, a mother hustler to two beautiful young queens, and holistic health advocate fighting to change the conversation we have around the two-dimensional perspective we have on health and fitness. I’m a certified holistic health and nutrition coach based, and the founder of GOFITJO, a lifestyle, and fitness blog. My hobbies include wine tasting, hanging with my daughters, and spending Sunday nights watching all our favorite shows with my husband. We’re professional photographers so at one point photography was a hobby, but we’re so grateful we’ve been able to turn it into a business over the past 8 years.

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

JE: Depression got me into health and fitness. On paper, I had it all. I was married, two healthy and growing kids, and a career that was flourishing. There was nothing I could’ve complained about because ultimately my life was blessed. Over 4 years ago I was really depressed and for the 2nd time in my life, suicidal thoughts were present during this time. It was dark and it was really bad. There were moments where I remember hanging with my family, watching my two daughters laugh and play and their genuine joy couldn’t connect to my heart. My depression got so bad that I distanced myself from my husband without realizing that the way I was feeling about my out of shape body was pushing away the things I loved. It wasn’t until I was getting ready for a day out with the family. My eldest daughter, who was 9 at the time, looked at me as we both were getting ready in her room and she said “Mom, you’re so beautiful.” I quickly turned and said, “No. I’m fat and ugly,” in the same tone us grown women do this with our girlfriends while trying on clothes in the dressing room. The look on her face was one I’ll never forget. It was as if I ripped out the truth she knew about the one woman she truly looked up to become in this world. Me. It was that moment that I realized I was depressed because of the woman I was becoming. I was out of shape and unable to run after my kids at the park and I was only 29. It was a feeling I never thought I would allow myself to get to, but one that was becoming my reality. Two weeks after that I decided it was time to get my life together so that I can start living a happier and healthier life.

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VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

JE: I really don’t know if I have one.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

JE: “Better than yesterday, stronger for tomorrow.” It’s a reminder to always aim for progress and not perfection.

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOUR JOURNEY. YOU ARE VERY REAL ABOUT IT, WHICH IS WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

JE: I truly find inspiration everywhere I go. But today when I was at the gym, I took a quick look around me and there was no sight of people who looked like fitness models. There were people in their late 50s and 60s who I see every morning I’m at the gym working on their health, smiling, and sweating at the same time. There was a couple who were both clearly over 300lbs fighting hard to get back in shape so that they could live a long life together. That sight to me was so inspiring because here we are in our youths trying to get the perfect body and for them, they are just trying to stay or redefine healthily. It seriously was a beautiful thing.

VF: BEING A MOM, DO YOU FIND IT HARD TO FIND BALANCE AND TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER MOMS?

JE: YES! It is really hard at times to remember to put yourself before others so that you can serve them to the best of your own capacity. But then I remember what they tell you on an airplane about your oxygen mask, “Put it on first before helping others.” It’s that simple act of being able to say “my personal needs matter” that can be a challenge to actually put into action, but it’s so vital. For all you mothers and women out there I think it’s important to remember that balance looks completely different on others and what looks like balance to you, may not the be the same as others.

VF: ON INSTAGRAM AND ON YOUR BLOG, YOU SHARE MANY EMPOWERING POSTS. WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR FORMER SELF BEFORE STARTING YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY IN 2013?

JE: Looking back at all now, I would tell her, “You are going to change. Embrace it. Own it! You’ve worked too hard to remain the same, so when others or even if your old critical self-starts to whisper words of self-doubt, be kind to them and tell them to hush…”

VF: TELL US YOUR MOST PERFECT DAY. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

JE: My most perfect day would be to wake up at 5AM (I know I sound like a masochist), get my workout in, head home after grabbing a coffee or a grocery run, back at my desk by 9AM and barrel through some work. Then end my day at 4PM, dinner starts at 5:30PM, and the kids head to bed with zero complaints, fighting, and back talking. I’m in bed by 9PM ready to relive it all over again, free of SNAFUs. All of this would also need to take place in an island home.

VF: OK, NOW, WHAT IS YOUR DAY REALLY LIKE?

JE: Well...I wake up around 6:30AM/7AM. My kids are up so I’m often derailed by their morning antics. I head to the gym by about 8:30/9am, done by around 10/11AM, and starting my day just before lunch. By the time the kids get home, I’m still buried with studying or work so I’ve gotta juggle all the interruptions on top of all of the other things that are happening in my day. Dinner isn’t until 6:30/7PM and everyone is still winging it in my house doing their best to end the day their way. I’m in bed by midnight, unable to get enough recovery for an early morning workout and last one on the morning struggle bus. Listing it all out it sounds like a nightmare, but TBH it’s just comedy to me because it's real, it’s my life and I love the messiness of it all.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

JE: My recipe is simply to embrace that balance is a fluid motion in my life. I will never equally balance it all out and never be able to put full whole hearted attention into everything at once, and that is OK! I’ve learned to see the collateral beauty in it all and just have come to understanding that in order to live a happy and healthy life I have to make it that way, each and every day.

VF: FINISH THESE STATEMENTS:

"EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…" JE: Wine.

“THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…" JE: Music.

“MY GUILTY PLEASURE IS…" JE: Lindsay Lohan movies.

VF: “MY FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD IS…”

JE: Pepperoni Pizza

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

JE: All things social: GOFITJO // www.gofitjo.com

#LETSCHAT: Meet Tara Laferrara of @Lafitara

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Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Happy Monday, friends! So, yesterday was Easter and thought I'd publish this post today. ;) Each week, I've been shining the spotlight on someone that we all love in the health and wellness community or someone that we might not know too much about. There's someone I'd like you to meet that continues to inspire not only me but almost 30k others as well, day-in and day-out through her badass chick workouts.

Meet Tara Laferrara of @Lafitara! If you don't already follow Tara, do yourself a favor and do so. Why? 'Cause let me just tell you... Tara's got some amazing at-home workouts on her Instagram and her stories are filled with lots of fitness fun!

I first connected with Tara on Instagram last Fall, and was first drawn to this Denver-based fitness babe through of her daily workout videos, motivation, and spunky personality. Even though I've never met Tara in person (yet!), I feel like I know her and can "virtually workout" with her. You'll never be bored with a workout ever again with Tara. You can also search for her fit tips through #TarasFitTips.

So, let's get started...!

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

T: I am a personal and group fitness trainer in Denver, CO. I work a two out of different gyms in the city and am the Marketing Director at one of my gyms, Fitness in the City. I love to be outside, move, dance, eat ice cream, hang out with friends and family, and travel the world!

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

T: I ran track in high school and college; I was a 200/400m sprinter. After those days were over, I was on a search to find my next positive posse of like-minded individuals. That took several years, so I tried to be a long distance runner. After I ran three marathons and several halfs, I soon realized that wasn’t my thing anymore. I found a core group of people that pushed me, motivated me, and inspired me to be better - who happens to be my current crew today at Fitness in the City.

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VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

T: It’s amazing what happens when you surround yourself with good, quality people. I was in a negative space for a while when I didn’t have a team anymore. Finding a group of people that were genuinely happy, push you, and get stronger in the process is the reason why I’m where I am at today. So my secret is to find the people that change your mood instantly when you are around them, the people that support you no matter what, and are like-minded in their health and fitness journey. Now not only do I have these people at both of my gyms, I also have them in an online community which is pretty incredible to say.

VF: ANSWER THIS: “THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS…”

T: I usually have all of my clothes lined up for the morning, breakfast made and coffee is brewing. I have early mornings and I may not necessarily be a morning person, so I have to set myself up for success the night before.

VF: FINISH THIS SENTENCE... "THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"

T: Family (plus my boyfriend Teddy), fitness, and food. Three things, hope thats okay.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

T: “What if you fall? But what if I fly?!”

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VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND YOUR AMAZING TIPS THAT YOU SHARE ON INSTA. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

T: I am inspired by you and so many others on Instagram. It’s crazy what a supportive community this platform has become for me. I learn, grow, and find out what I am capable of. One of the first people I came across on Instagram and loved was @kaisafit. She is a plyometric junkie like myself so I was always drawn to her creativity in the gym, always challenging her mind and body. Plus she has an amazing shape and mindset.

VF: YOU HAVE THE BEACH MOVEMENT BALANCE RETREAT IN TULUM, MEXICO COMING UP. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THIS RETREAT?

T: My two loves coming together = travel and fitness. I have always wanted to create an experience unlike any other and wasn’t sure where to start. I could not be more excited to share this with my business partner, Jillian Keaveny and all of our guests. We came together with the same story, too and have been working so well together to make this all happen.

≫ ≫ You can find more info about Beach Movement Balance Retreat here: Beach Movement Balance

VF: I’M SAD I CAN’T MAKE THIS RETREAT! WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT FROM IT?

T: I wish you could come! They can expect a yoga and fitness offering every day, fresh food, incredible views, activities, relaxation, and the opportunity to take part in more or less. We wanted this to be whatever the guests want or are looking for. They don’t have to go to every yoga or fitness class, they can have cocktails and fun. It’s not a crazy BootCamp retreat, it’s a vacation with some of their newest best friends.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

T: Wow, I love this question. I am so grateful for the life I live every day. To be able to do what I love every day, create my own schedule, and work on other awesome projects - I’d call that a win. I work on myself, help others, and put the good stuff in my body. I do what makes me happy and what’s good for my body.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD?

T: Tacos! Chicken fajita burrito bowls, guacamole, or basically anything @valeriefidan makes on her Insta and I try and make myself.

VF: IF YOU HAD ONE WEEK TO ESCAPE YOUR EVERYDAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

T: One week! Does that include the travel time? (Spoken from a true wanderluster) I want to go to New Zealand or Amalfi Coast in Italy. A beach sounds really nice right now but I love to explore. Iceland is really high on my bucket list right now, so maybe there. So many places to choose, never enough time. I will tell you though, I don’t want to escape my everyday, it’s pretty good.

VF: FINISH THIS STATEMENT: "EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…" T: Ice cream. I’m a junkie. ;)
VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

Insta: @lafitara

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lafitara/

Twitter - @lafitara

YouTube - taralaferrara7

Photos courtesy of Tara Laferrara 

Want The Recipe To A Happy Healthy Life? Here Are 6 Ways!

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How to live a happy, healthy life is something all of us want to know. Who doesn't want to enjoy a healthy, happy life for as long as possible? There are many ways to do this, and they're incredibly easy. You'll be surprised at how simple it is to learn how to live a happy life. Just by being a good person, doing good things, and having a positive attitude, you'll find that your life is much richer and fuller. To see what I mean, keep reading for some great tips from the inspiring women of my #LETSCHAT series on how to live a happy life.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE TO A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?
Leah Renee of @AskLeahRenee

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...Sunshine and surrounding yourself with those you love and love you back.

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Natalie Stanton of @LiveTourFit

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Keep Moving! Don’t get bored, don’t get stagnant. Make some goals and stick to them, stop making excuses for why you can’t! Depression and anxiety will creep in when you don’t have anything to work for. So pick some stuff and work hard!

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Paola Marquez of @PaosFitWorld

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…self-love all the way! You have to love yourself first to find true happiness.

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Jessica Kwock of @TheForeverFeminist

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Balance! I work hard, play hard, and eat hard. I try to keep a good balance between all three. But, if I go off the deep end with the eat or play hard pieces, I try to be kind to myself and try again!

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Ana Alarcón of @AnaGoesFit

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Don’t take yourself too seriously, laugh a little bit and choose food wisely.

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Melissa Chalmers of @MelissaChalmers

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You are what you hang around. Minus the bullshit and insert the good stuff. Hang around good vibes!

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Oh, heyyy... this is me. Your girl, Val!

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My recipe to happy, healthy life is to not sweat the small stuff, and to embrace your imperfections. Once you do this, everything falls into place and comes full circle.

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#LETSCHAT: Meet Melissa Chalmers of @MelissaChalmers

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Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Happy Sunday and the very first Sunday of April, my beautiful friends!! I couldn't be happier with this #LETSCHAT series to kick off the month. Each week, I've been shining the spotlight on someone that we all love in the community or someone that we might not know too much about. Someone that continues to inspire not only me but others as well each day is New Zealand-based Melissa Chalmers of @MelissaChalmers.  If you don't already follow Mel, let me just tell you... She is a globetrotting fitness and lifestyle YouTube personality that's going to bring you plenty of wanderlust and inspiration.

When I first connected with Melissa Chalmers on Instagram last Fall, I was impressed by this babe, and have been a huge fan ever since. And, I'm pretty sure we bonded over our love for travel and avocados! ;) My insta-friend from across the globe is a strong, confident and fit woman that will inspire you and spark a fire in you to love life and love all that you do.

She is very much an inspiration to me and fitness role model. I feel so lucky to have been able to connect with Melissa for many reasons, but primarily because she's a rad chick with a genuine love for living a balanced, healthy happy life. Her feed and YouTube channel are filled with plenty of travel, fashion, fitness, and health. One glance, and you'll be hooked. (Caution to the wise, her feed will make you jeally!)

So, let's get started...

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

MC: I live in beautiful New Zealand and own a property business with my husband - but we have also been in the fitness industry for the past ten years. We owned our own transformation challenge throughout gyms in Auckland. My hobbies are working out, traveling, connecting with people that are on the same frequency and exploring the beautiful sites in New Zealand. I am constantly on the go, and I love it!

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

MC: It was vanity that actually got me into health and fitness! I wanted to look great for my wedding, so I started eating really healthy and working out - the results were amazing. However what kept me going was the fact that I felt great in my own skin, my acne cleared out, and I just felt vibrant, happy and healthy.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

MC: I don't have a secret! I work out four times a week (sometimes more sometimes less depending on my travel schedule), and I eat mostly good stuff. I eat chocolate every day, and I believe in moderation and balance. I am not obsessed with fitness or eating perfectly. I just do what I like and what makes me happy - and that has served me well!

VF: YOU ARE CONSTANTLY SEEKING ADVENTURE, WHAT IS YOUR #1 TRAVEL TIP?

MC: Check for cheap flights online and also hidden gems in your area where you live !! I bet there are tons of places nearby that you have not yet explored. Explore your own backyard, and it might surprise you!

VF: ANSWER THIS: “THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS…”

MC: Take my dog out to wee haha!! He is quite old and usually busting to go by the time it is the morning.

VF: FINISH THIS SENTENCE... "THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"

MC: Bill (my husband)

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

MC: Do the best you can until you know better and when you know better do better.

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU AND THE AMAZING ADVENTURES YOU SHARE WITH US ON INSTAGRAM. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

MC: My husband is my biggest inspiration. He has always been into outdoor, and the smallest things make him so happy. He is super humble and appreciative of everything he is surrounded by. He has great values and ethics, and we share the same passion for almost all things in life. He constantly encourages me to get out of my comfort zone.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

MC: You are what you hang around. Minus the bullshit and insert the good stuff. Hang around good vibes!

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOODS?

MC: Oh my God… I love all sorts of food haha. My favorite is probably Colombian BBQ ribs, chips, and salad on the side to get some greens in haha.

VF: I’M ORIGINALLY FROM SAN FRANCISCO, BUT HAVE LEFT MY HEART IN BARCELONA. OUT OF ALL THE PLACES, YOU’VE TRAVELLED TO, WHICH PLACE HAS STOLEN YOUR HEART?

MC: ITALY hands down! Italian people are the kindest people I have come across during my travels so far. I’ve left my heart with the beautiful people in Italy - especially in Cinque Terre. However, Greek Islands were a close second!

VF: FINISH THIS STATEMENT: "EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…"

MC: ...lemon juice haha.

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

MC: You can follow me on Instagram @melissachalmers. And also my YouTube Channel: Melissa Chalmers

 

Images courtesy of Melissa Chalmers.

#LETSCHAT: Meet Ana Alarcón of @AnaGoesFit

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Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. Hello, my beautiful friends and happy Sunday! I'm so excited to introduce to you Boston-based Fitness and lifestyle blogger, Ana Alarcón.

Ana and I first connected over the Fall through Instagram. We share the same Mexican heritage, a love for keeping fit with Lagree fitness and boxing, and possibly an obsession of avocados and Whole foods! If you've taken a peek at her account, you'll instantly see how Ana is different from other accounts out there. It might be Ana's genuineness, her humbleness, her radiant smile, and her downright cool badass chick personality. (You gotta love a babe that can box!)

Her plant-based and fitness lifestyle blog, AnaGoesFit.com, is filled with downright delicious vegan recipes, fitness posts to keep you motivated, and wellness posts. Ana first started her blog to share her favorite recipes and to show others how easy and affordable, and not to mention tasty, healthy eating can be.

And, although we've never met in person, I hope one day I can take one of Ana's classes at Btone or at Every Body Fights. There are so many aspects of her that inspire me to be the healthiest and happiest possible, and I hope she inspires you!

So, let's get to it!

VF: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHAT DO YOU DO, LOCATION, HOBBIES...

AA: I am your typical girl that likes a good avo toast, a good Ed Sheeran song and watch friends on the couch. I got back into fitness a couple of years ago and haven’t look back. I am super lucky because the Boston fitness community has been amazing to me! I have been living in Boston for almost three years, and I don’t think I am moving anytime soon. Although I grew up in México, this cold city has won my heart. I am currently a full-time fitness professional; I teach boxing and Lagree method, I love lifting and a good spin class. I will say I don’t have many hobbies, but if food shopping at Whole Foods counts, then I guess that’s mine!

VF: WHAT GOT YOU INTO HEALTH + FITNESS?

AA: About 3 years ago I wanted to lose weight and feel like I used to when I was in college, so, I started to eat a “healthier” diet and broccoli was on my daily meals. I saw a huge difference once I started working out and learning more about the nutrients in my food and how it affects my body. I originally started an Instagram account to keep myself accountable, but ended up growing and making me turn my life around and do fitness as a career!

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS SECRET?

AA: Move a little bit every day! We all think we need to do so much exercise to stay healthy, but we don’t really. Walking is the best exercise. So I don’t drive and make myself walk everywhere!

VF: WHAT IS YOU FAVORITE PART ABOUT TEACHING?

AA: Seeing people taking risks every class, from a little move that they never thought they could do to adding an extra pound to their weights .. you can tell in their excitement in their faces!

VF: ANSWER THIS: “THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS…”

AA: Drink one liter of water! It helps flush all the toxins left in our bodies.

VF: FINISH THIS SENTENCE... "THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS…"

AA: Peanut butter… just kidding. My family and Matt’s family. They are my number one fans and supporters and don’t know what I would do without them.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR MANTRA/WORDS TO LIVE BY?

AA: Be uncomfortable every day.

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?

AA: My mum and Matt’s mom. But also all the babes I follow online and friends in Boston.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

AA: Don’t take yourself too seriously, laugh a little bit and choose food wisely.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD?

AA: Smoothies. The easiest way to get your greens in without sacrificing flavor.

VF: IF YOU HAD ONE WEEK TO ESCAPE YOUR EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

AA: My parents' house, it is crazy, but when I am home I feel so peaceful.

VF: FINISH THIS STATEMENT: "EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE…"

AA: Avocado. Seriously everything.

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

AA: on the ‘gram: @anagoesfit! Or facebook and twitter: @anagoesfit

#LETSCHAT: Meet Jessica Kwock of @TheForeverFeminist

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Happy Sunday my beautiful friends! Last Fall I introduced a series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. This week's #LETSCHAT I'm introducing you to Jessica Kwock of @TheForeverFeminist and Lagree Fitness Instructor at Heartcore in the SF Bay Area.

Jessica and I first connected IRL (in real life) three years ago through our obsession with SoulCycle 7am rides and SoulSurviver... and possibly our common love for EDM! This was also the year: Ellen’s Oscar Selfie, Kimye get hitched, Pharrell made us “Happy,” and the Ice bucket challenge went viral. (Thanks, SoulCycle for the souliversary reminder...!) And, like those things that happened that year, Jessica has a way of making those around her happy and feeling empowered to be and do good.

I feel so lucky to have someone like her in my life. She is one of the most inviting, genuine, kind-hearted people I've ever met. Jessica is empowering, funny, cool as hell, and makes you actually want to be a better person. She's the real deal and the voice behind TheForeverFeministan account that spreads awareness for overall human compassion and intersectional space for womxn. She is currently training to become a sexual assault counselor, which is pretty darn amazing, because that takes a special type of person to help others in that manner.

And... I can thank Jessica for my obsession of Lagree Fitness megaformer workouts. If you live in the Bay Area, take her class. Her classes are high- energy, paired with a dope EDM playlists, that will keep you pushing yourself to limits that you didn't even know you were possible of doing. You'll leave feeling like a badass chick... I promise you that!

So, let's get started...

VF: Tell us about yourself: what do you do, location, hobbies...

JK: I live in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. While I work in Sales for an EdTech company, I am also a Senior Instructor at Heartcore in Redwood City.

I love to exercise, mostly group fitness, but anything that gets me sweating. I love to try new restaurants-- my go-to order is always the Chef's tasting menu (because why not, really).

I am obsessed with music and love to go to shows with friends and dance the whole time. Fun fact about me: I've seen every episode of Law and Order: SVU at least three times, and I am really good at eating or watching movies alone.

VF: The first thing I do when I wake up is…

JK: After I snooze 3-7 times, I get up, brush my teeth, and make coffee.

VF: FINISH  THIS SENTENCE... "The one thing that I can't live without is…"

JK: A sports bra

VF: I live by these words…

JK: Trust your struggle.

Small acts can change the world and that keeps me hopeful and happy.

VF: I'M INSPIRED BY YOU. WHAT INSPIRES YOU WHEN YOU HEAR, "I’m inspired by…"

JK:  Confident women who are dedicated to their passions, act selflessly in service of others, and go after what they want.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR RECIPE FOR a happy, healthy life?

JK: Balance! I work hard, play hard, and eat hard. I try to keep a good balance between all three. But, if I go off the deep end with the eat or play hard pieces, I try to be kind to myself and try again!

It's also important for me to identify the ways in which I can personally work to make the world a better place. Sometimes it's volunteer work or fundraising for community organizations like Planned ParenthoodOther times it's speaking out against injustice at protests or on social media and other times, it's having difficult conversations with friends and family. Small acts can change the world and that keeps me hopeful and happy.

VF: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD?

JK: Perfect Bar Almond Butter; like can I have 3 of these a day...!

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VF: If YOU had one week to escape yOUR every daY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?

JK: Take a beach vacation and leave all electronic devices behind.

VF: FINISH THIS STATEMENT: "Everything tastes better with a little…"

JK: CHOCOLATE

VF: Where can we follow you?

Insta:  @TheForeverFeminist 

#LETSCHAT: Meet Personal Trainer Paola Marquez of @PaosFitWorld

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Happy Thursday my beautiful friends! I've been enjoying sharing these weekly #LETSCHAT interviews with the amazing people that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made a positive impact on my life, big and small. They are people that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. This week, I caught up with Personal Trainer, and Fitness & Lifestyle Blogger, Paola Marquez. Flat abs, a sculpted butt, toned legs, and killer workout outfit—Paola is for sure a fitspiration. I came across Paola through a Facebook group and then again through her Instagram. And, I was instantly hooked. Originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela, Paola now lives in Huston, TX. Her motivational photos and captions continue to flood my Instagram feed, motivating me on days when I feel I could easily be persuaded to skip the gym. I'm sure she'll be you next favorite fitspo!

Originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela, Paola now lives in Huston, TX. Her motivational photos and captions continue to flood my Instagram feed, motivating me on days when I feel I could easily be persuaded to skip the gym. I'm sure she'll be you next favorite fitspo!

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VF: Tell us about yourself (what do you do, location, hobbies)

PM: I’m a Latin girl from Maracaibo, Venezuela but I’m living in Houston, Texas.

I’m an Electronics Engineer with a major in Automation and Process Control, but I’m not working as an engineer anymore.

You must be wondering why?

Well, when I arrived in the US some years ago, I felt so in love with the fitness world to the point that I decided to get a certification as a PT (personal trainer). After that, I’ve been dedicating my life to help others feel better about themselves.

The feeling I've got when helping others reach their fitness goals cannot be compared to anything else; that’s why I’m part of the fitness world now.

Hobbies: I really love to travel, and I’m very lucky because I share this passion with my husband.

We’ve visited a lot of countries and cities around the world, and we always try to immerse ourselves in different cultures. For me, traveling is the best way to enrich your soul.

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VF: what is your NICKNAME?

PM: Bella (that’s how my husband calls me), which means beautiful in Spanish.

VF: what is THE FIRST THING you DO WHEN you WAKE UP?

PM: ...expressing my gratitude for another day.

VF: what is THE ONE THING THAT you CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT?

PM: ...ice cream.

VF: what words/mantra do you live by?

PM: ...be grateful and show kindness everywhere you go!

VF: who inspires you? 

PM: ... my parents

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VF: what is Your RECIPE TO A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE?

PM: ...self-love all the way! You have to love yourself first to find true happiness.

VF: finish this sentence: "MY FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD IS..."

PM: ...bananas (I eat them every day).

VF: IF you HAD ONE WEEK TO ESCAPE Your EVERYDAY where would you go?

PM: I'd go to Japan again! What a fascinating country.

VF: Finisih this secentence: "EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE..."

PM: ...dose of chocolate (no doubt about it)

VF: WHERE CAN WE FOLLOW YOU?

PM: Instagram at @paosfitworldon Twitter: @PAOSFITWORLD, find Pao-fitspiration on Pinterest, and on www.paosfitworld.com! ❤️

#LETSCHAT: Meet Natalie Stanton of @LiveTourFit

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letschat_qa_nataliestanton Happy Thursday my beautiful friends! Last week we launched our first ever #LETSCHAT  with amazing Leah Watson of AskLeakRenee.com. This weekly series is based on incredible individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made a positive impact on my life, big and small. They are people that inspire me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well.

This week, I got the opportunity to #LETSCHAT with personal trainer, wellness coach and Tour Manager, Natalie Stanton. From the moment I met Natalie in 2004 in college at FIDM-San Francisco, she inspired me. She is one of the types of people that have a special vibe to them; one that instantly puts a smile on your face and makes you laugh. She continues to inspire me to this day, through her Instagram posts about working out and living a fit, healthy life while on the road.

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Tell us about yourself (what do you do, location, hobbies)

My name is Natalie Stanton, and I currently live in Nashville, TN! I work a ton and wear a lot of different hats every day! I have worked as a Personal Trainer, Group instructor (cycling, bootcamp etc.) and wellness coach for 5 years. Fitness is my absolute passion and I love to share that passion with everyone I know/meet! I am lucky to have a GREAT group of clients here in Nasvhille who are so flexible with me touring and travel schedule. Which leads me to my next job, I am blessed to work for the Dove award winning Christian Rock band Disciple. As their tour manager, I travel with them on a tour bus around the country and world about 6 months out of the year! My Instagram page was birthed from my tour schedule. I work out EVERY morning on tour at different gyms around the country. I have it scheduled into our day to get dropped off super early before we are to arrive at venues. I make no excuses, just because we are on the road doesn't mean workouts get neglected! In 2016 I have worked out in over 75 gyms in 40 states! It isn't always easy but I make it work! Lastly, I am very excited to have been brought on as the social media and operations manager for fitness clothing line "More Weight Apparel." New company with a great mission and team. When I am not working one of those three jobs, I am in the kitchen! Cooking for my friends and husband is one of the best joys of my life and I feel most at home in front of the oven. If you are at my home, you are full.

MY NICKNAME IS…

Napalie! My friends and family call me this because I am famous for my daily naps! I can't stress the importance of rest and because of my crazy work schedule and hours I take a 30-60 mins siesta daily. Phone goes on DND and lights out. Non-negotiable!

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THE FIRST THING I DO WHEN I WAKE UP IS...

Go STRAIGHT to the gym! I am a firm believed in fasted cardio and to do that I need to get into the gym before my body needs fuel. If I am off the road I am in the gym no later than 8am, tour schedule is usually between 6am-8am depending on the load in time. If I don't go immediately then other things become more important and there is NOTHING more important than health. GET UP AND GO!

THE ONE THING THAT I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IS...

I couldn't pick just one!! First thing is my Vega plant-based pre workout! I am NOT supplement person and don't even take vitamins but this stuff is the BEST! With such a heavy schedule every day It gives me sustained energy with no jitters and no crash. If you are someone who is VERY sensitive to caffeine like I am, you HAVE to try this stuff!! Second, my beloved Nutribullet!! I travel with it on tour and make my daily green juices in it from the road! On the tour bus, we don't have a ton of room for extras but this bad boy comes, every tour no matter what! Most of our meals are catered at our concerts and so we don't get a huge variety to choose from every day. Having my Nutribullet allows me to whip up something healthy without prep or mess!

I LIVE BY THESE WORDS...

There is only one way into the pool and the stairs ain't it!" Haha! I love this quote, heard it years ago and no idea where. I am not a water tester, I am a leap of faith type person. I am not overly cautious and am a very black or white person, no gray area with me. If you're going to get into the pool, don't take the stairs....CANNON BALL!

I’M INSPIRED BY...

OTHER WOMEN! GRL PWR! Yes, I have a GRL PWR tattoo and everything. I grew up in a house full of women, 3 sisters no brothers. My grandmother who was the best example of girl power you have ever seen played the most major role in my becoming who I am today. She taught us that working full time, raising kids and taking care of your husband could all be done with a little sweat and a lot of lipstick. She was the perfect women and I am so blessed that god made me her granddaughter. When I am exhausted and don't think i have anything left to give that day I just remember [/column] [/columns_row]

her getting home from work in her high heels, perfect hair and red lipstick walking straight into the kitchen to make us dinner and she would say "Come on girls! Still so much to do, were burning day light!" Because of the way she was and treated the women around her I make a point every day to spread female positivity and self-love. No name calling, no shit talking. Just Women supporting women!

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MY RECIPE TO A HAPPY, HEALTHY LIFE IS...

Keep Moving! Don't get bored, don't get stagnant. Make some goals and stick to them, stop making excuses for why you can't! Depression and anxiety will creep in when you don't have anything to work for. So pick some stuff and work hard!

MY FAVORITE GO-TO FOOD IS...

Currently obsessed with Acai bowls! I make them almost every day in my Nutribullet! When I am tired and low on energy I love to whip these up after a workout to get my boost for the rest of the day!

IF I HAD ONE WEEK TO ESCAPE MY EVERYDAY I’D...

Go to my grandpa's house in Clearlake CA. and sit on the dock until the sun went down.[/column]

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EVERYTHING TASTES BETTER WITH A LITTLE...

Nutella....Love some Nutella....

Follow Natalie on Instagram at @LiveTourfIT for a daily dose of Fitspiration!

#LETSCHAT: Meet Leah Renee of @AskLeahRenee

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Hello my beautiful friends! I'm introducing to you this new series of interviews called #LETSCHAT with the amazing women that inspire me. This weekly series is based on incredible, strong and empowering individuals that inspire me through health and wellness. They are people that have made an impact on my life, big and small, that motivate me to be a better version of me, and I hope they can inspire you as well. As the voice behind AskLeahRenee.com and a certified Holistic Health Coach, Southern California blogging mom, Leah Watson's schedule is undoubtedly jam packed. Lucky me to be able to chat with her for a Fireside Chat of sorts. She is someone that inspires me through her sharing of stories and recipes, that you've probably seen some of her recipes here.

Beautiful and polished, Leah is the type of friend you'd go to for anything health and wellness related. She truly embodies the whole eat well, be well motto. With the field of health and wellness is her passion; she created AskLeahRenee.com to answer your health questions all while filling you in on her own personal journey along the way. Leah is a daughter, wife, sister, new mom, dog mommy, spinner, yogi, traveler, and chocolate lover. Thanks, Leah, for not only inspiring me but taking time to LetsChat!

Let's get started...

VF: Tell us about yourself (what do you do, location, hobbies):

LR: I'm a stay-at-home-mom of a sweet, fun 1-year-old girl in sunny Southern California. I am a part-time blogger about health/recipes and motherhood, two topics I'm very passionate about. I'm a certified holistic health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I love spin classes, yoga, hiking, biking, cooking, and traveling. You can find me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) @askleahrenee and my blog AskLeahRenee.com

VF: "My nickname is…"

LR: Tink (short for Tinkerbell)

VF: WHAT IS The first thing THAT YOU do when YOU wake up?

LR:  Get my daughter out of her crib. She's my alarm. If she seems happy in there I let her play in there and I'll make myself a warm cup of fresh squeezed lemon to start the day.

VF: WHAT IS The one thing that YOU can't live without?

LR: My family.

VF: DO YOU HAVE A MANTRA?

LR: Life goes on until you're dead.

VF: WHAT ARE inspired bY?

LR: So many things. People. Places. Those who do good whether someone's looking or not.

VF: WHAT IS yOUR recipe to a happy, healthy life?

LR: ...Sunshine and surrounding yourself with those you love and love you back.

VF: My favorite go-to food is…

LR: Fish tacos. Just yum.

VF: If YOU had one week to escape YOUR every day YOU’d…"

LR: I'd jet off to Paris!

Everything tastes better with a little…

LR: Love and sea salt.

I'm bringing this weekly #LETSCHAT interviews, sharing with you the different individuals that inspire and influence me through their journey of health and wellness. Stay tuned for next week!

How To Avoid the Grind of Summer Exercising Outside

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Exercising in the summer can be tough with the high temps and humidity. You've got to prepared to can avoid the struggles of exercising outdoors in the heat. You may have days where you debate on opening the front door to head out for your workout because it is just that hot. But, before you throw in the towel and take the day off, prepare this way you can get in your best shape without sacrificing your health. There are several key things you can do to help you well on your way to having your best summer workouts yet and achieving your beautiful beach body this year!

1. Preparation is key

Preparation is key so make sure you drink water the day prior and have a banana for adequate potassium. The potassium will help to aid your hydration and avoid overheating in the summer. So grab that banana! By preparing, you will avoid wiping out in the heat of the day.

2. Dress in cool clothing to prevent overheating.

There are countless brands that create breathable clothing to help you get a great workout in and keep your clothing dry. I usually go for a cool wicking material that takes away sweat. Also, make sure you wear light clothing, so you do not feel attacked by the sun!

3. Remember your sunscreen

As you head outdoors for a super workout, make sure you lather up with sunscreen.Even in the early morning, you can get some strong rays that are damaging to the skin. So, make sure you protect yourself with sunscreen. And make sure you choose a waterproof brand so the sunscreen does not run into your eyes because that can totally sabotage your workout!

4. Less is always More

As for what kind of clothes to dress in when it is super hot in summer, choose what works for you. I like a sports bra and shorts because less is more when the temperatures are high. Find what works best for you and get ready for a great workout!

5. Keep Hydrated

Cheers to better your health and prevent a wipe out in the summer by hydrating for your health. Add a splash of citrus to ensure to enjoy a fresh drink and keep your liquid stores high. This is super important in the warm weather when you will be sweating quite a bit.

6. Refuel with protein

As you complete your workout and feel mighty tired, do not plop your butt on the couch just yet. First, you must refuel. Refuel with lean protein to help restore muscle fiber breakdown from your workout.This will also help you to get back to your workout feeling stronger and less muscle fatigue!

7. Exercise earlier in the day

Rise and shine early to get your workout in before the heat hits. This is definitely is a summer save when choosing to work out in extreme heat. Usually the earlier, the better so get up with the stars! Your body will thank you when you have the ability to perform at your best!

So stop stressing about having to bring your workouts indoors this summer and prepare for the heat. Be smart, dress cool and be ready to conquer a super sweaty workout each day. Get your best beach body this year by working out in the sensational summer sun! You will be so glad that you did!