Archive | August, 2011

From Dull to Diva: Fashion Tips for the Everyday Woman

28 Aug

I affectionately refer to my 30’s as the “Diva” years.  I’ve been fortunate to work for an amazing boutique in Scottsdale named Divalicious for the past 5 years.  This job has done wonders for my sense of style, helped me figure out exactly what I like, and how to pull it together.  The best part of my job is that it hasn’t just been about defining my style, but helping other women find their own personal style.  Style is an interesting thing, it differs from fashion.  Fashion is about trends, about what’s hot at the moment.  Style is individual, it’s about what works on you.  Finding your style takes time, but once you have it mastered, it makes shopping and getting ready in the morning a whole lot easier.

I’m constantly surprised by the number of women who shop and say they can’t “pull off” a certain style.  I’m too old, I’m too young, I’m too short, I’m too broad, my chest is too flat, my boobs are too big, it goes on and on.  I often wish some of these women could see themselves through my eyes.  No matter who walks through the door, there are always things that will look good on them.  I am lucky to work in a place with such diverse cuts and styles.  Pulling off a style has more to do with confidence that anything else.  Although there are always going to be looks that work better on certain people, don’t sell yourself short when it comes to fashion.  If you like it, there is almost always a way to make it work.  I’m by no means advocating that we all run around in daisy dukes.  However, as women we ought to embrace our inner beauty and give things a try.  Take a fashion risk.  Try on a color you’ve never worn, a cut that’s new for you.  You might be surprised at the reaction you get.  Don’t be afraid to stand out a little!

So onto the business of making fashion work.  For this blog, we’ll talk tips and hopefully give you some ideas for the next time you are shopping.

1) Accessorize. 
The beauty of accessories is that you never grow out of them.  Accessories make the outfit!  I guarantee if you don’t typically wear jewelery and you start, people will notice.  If you tend to shy away from accessories start small.  Add a watch, a simple necklace, earrings that are not diamond studs, a bright colored handbag.  Try buying your accessories when you buy your clothing.  It will work with the outfits you just purchased, and if you like it, will likely work with plenty of other things you have in your closet.

2) Incorporate a few bold pieces.
Animal prints, faux leather, fur, bright colors, embellished hats, a scarf tied around your handbag, heels, patterned scarfs.  If you are a person that likes basics, this is a great way to add style to your wardrobe.  The investment is minimal and it helps you make a statement.  If you are on a budget and like some of the higher end styles, try shopping in the juniors department.  They often have reasonably prices items that follow similar cuts and lines.

3) Shop trends but don’t buy every one you see.
I am a firm believer in following fashion trends.  Incorporating a few of these pieces makes a statement.  Keep in mind, however, that you can’t always showcase every trend, nor do you want to.  While something might look good on the runway, it doesn’t necessarily mean it looks good in real life.

4) Shop with a friend.
I’m surprised that I’m suggesting this because I typically prefer to shop alone.  However, I came up with this exercise and I think it’s worth while.  Pick a friend you trust; someone that makes you feel good and whose taste you respect. Make a shopping date and agree that you will pick at least 5 outfits for the other person you think they will look on them.  The rule – like it or not, you must try it on!  The benefit is that often people see things in you that you don’t see in yourself.  You might stumble across something you would have never tried on, but really love.  I’ve been helping women shop for several years now.  I frequently ask them to try on things they would never pick out.  More often then not, they love the item and end up buying it.

5) Create a style journal.
Putting together “looks” can be very difficult.  I’ve taken to keeping a style journal.  It’s a 3-ring binder with page holders. For my last birthday I asked for subscriptions to many of the fashion magazines.  I carry them in my purse when I am out and about (doctor’s offices, the school pick-up line, etc.) and when I have a moment I scan through them.  Whenever I like an outfit I pull it out and add it to the style binder.  Before I shop I review the binder and try to buy pieces that are similar to the outfit.  My last purchase was a pair of jeans which I rolled at the bottom, wedges, a long short-sleeved wrap a chunky necklace and a snakeskin wristlet. I would have never pulled this outfit together on my own, but when I got it home it looked a lot like what I pulled from the magazine, with some of my own flair.

6) Organize your closet so you can see things.
This is especially important when it comes to accessories.  I have hooks in my closet to hang my necklaces in plain view, my shoes are in the open, and I hang up most of what I own.  This decision resulted in having my husband use the closet upstairs, but it works for us.  Don’t forget the “don’t use it, get rid of it” rule here.  In order to have space, you can’t accumulate too much stuff. If you have too much stuff and can’t see what you have, you wont use it.  Because my space is somewhat limited, I also put seasonal items such as boots and scarves away when the weather changes.

7) No matter how cheap it is, if you don’t love it, don’t buy it.
It’s tempting to think of the amount of money you will save when you hit the clearance rack.  However, it doesn’t help to spend money on anything if you don’t use it. Rather than buying 3 shirts on sale for a deal, spend a little more on the one you love and that you will wear all the time.

8) Make the investment when it’s worth it.
I like to look at it like this.  I bought a few Juicy Couture tracksuits last year.  They cost me entirely more than I wanted to spend.  I know they hold up well though and I love them.  You can dress them up or down.  I made the investment and I have worn them hundreds of times.  Compare that to an item you spend a lot on and only wear once every few months.  unless you are dressing for a special occasion and want to splurge, spend your money on the things you will use the most.

9) Make a fashion resolution.
Just like in loosing weight and changing eating patterns, developing a fashion sense and style takes time.  Pick something you like, or want to do better with your style and commit to doing it.  Let me give you an example.  Four years ago I never wore heels.  I just didn’t see the practicality.  I always admired women who wore them though since they looked so elegant and stylish.  I resolved to buy heels and wear them at least once a month.  I felt terribly out of place in them at first.  Now, I can’t seem to get enough of them!

10) Less is more.
This rule pertains to shopping.  It’s tempting to go to stores that are the size of Costco with deep discounts, but when you are working on developing style, I think it best to start at a manageable level.  The more choices you have, the more confusing it gets.  Riffling through rack after messy rack can get very overwhelming and frustrating.  You can find yourself shopping for a very long time and walking out with nothing to show for it.  Start at a smaller well-organized store with good customer service.  Ask for assistance, pick a few things and try on.  You are more likely to find something that suits you.

Hopefully following these tips will get you started on the right track to finding your style, or even re-making your style.  Remember, at the end of the day, make a statement with your style, but also with your smile.  Wear them both well and you’ll leave a lasting impression.

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Daily Nutrition: 12 Strategies that Work

22 Aug

When I started my journey to health all of the daily eating plans I saw seemed a little overwhelming.  I wasn’t willing to jump right from my delicious diet to egg whites, quinoa, plain Greek yogurt and ground turkey overnight.  I wanted my transformation to be a lifestyle change, something I could live with long term.  I’m glad I did it that way, the results came slow but I didn’t fail.

When asked now about my eating habits I typically shy away from the question.  Unless you have worked hard at eating right for a long time the diet I adhere to would be daunting, particularly now that I am eating to prepare for competition, and not just to live a healthy lifestyle.  I’m very glad I didn’t try to adapt to the diet I am on now two years ago, I would have failed.  All things come in good time.

I’m not a dietitian, nor a nutritionist, but I do know what worked for me.  When discussing diet I’m asked a lot about how I did it, what worked, and those are some of the things I’ll share.  I’ve given these tips to a number of people and have seen them have success.  I hope some work for you.

Tip #1
Apply ONE tip at a time!  Don’t do them all at once.  Give yourself time to adjust and you will have a better chance at success.

Tip #2
Stop going through the drive-thru.  Allow yourself the freedom to eat your regular foods, but just commit to not ordering fast food anymore.  It is just as easy to run into the store and grab an apple and a yogurt as it is to go through the drive-thru.

Tip #3
Don’t EVER be without food! Always carry a few snacks in your bag.  Ideas include 100 calorie bags of almonds, a banana, a protein bar or drink, an apple, turkey jerky or a pack of instant oatmeal.  You will always at some point find yourself hungry, and if you have something with you then you are more likely to eat that.  Plus, studies show when we allow ourselves to get too hungry we over eat.  Why wait, eat it before you need it!

Tip #4
Drink water!  Enough said.  It’s non-negotiable.

Tip #5
Pack your lunch.  How many times have you found yourself at an event, been hungry and eaten what is being served?  I always use the example of taking my kids to birthday parties at Pump It Up and staring at the pizza.  The pizza they provide is not good, it’s really not.  If I am eating pizza, it better be worth the calorie hit!  I always bring a snack or meal with me so when everyone is eating I have something too, even if I don’t think I’ll be hungry.  My snack prevents me from “wasting” calories.

Tip #6
Read labels.  I’m not saying you can’t have something, just know exactly what you are putting in your body. (Look at the calories, the saturated/trans fat, and sodium as you get started). Quit frankly, some things amaze me with their poor nutritional content, others are pretty good bang for the buck.

Tip #7
Eat In.  The reality is, chances are even the healthiest things on the menu at restaurants are far less superior to what you would make yourself.  If you have to eat out, opt for restaurants that will cook to order or offer fresh fruit and vegetable selections.  If you really enjoy going out, resolve to eat something before you go, so you can share a dish, or just have an appetizer.

Tip #8
Look up nutritional content online.  A lot of restaurants post their information.  In addition, many times you can ask for a nutritional guide.  Educate yourself on the choices.  Finally, many restaurants will cook to order. McDonald’s, not so much, but they will hold the ketchup, which is very high in sugar.

Tip #9
Eat every two hours, and only enough to last you about 2 hours.  You should never feel full, but you should also never feel hungry.  Once you are really hungry, you’ve missed your opportunity.  Don’t let yourself get to that point.

Tip #10
Keep a food journal.  Write down everything that goes in your mouth for a week and be honest.  Three handfuls of your kid’s gummy bears, bite of chicken nugget, a handful of cheese-its, 5 sticks of gum.  We don’t always count these as foods we eat during the day, but they add up.

Tip #11
Always eat breakfast!  Put something in your mouth with one hour of waking up, preferably sooner.  Breakfast kick starts your metabolism.  When I talked to people about weight lose one of the first questions I usually ask is do you eat breakfast.  The answer is almost always no.  I can relate, I never ate breakfast either before I started working on my eating habits.  Oh, and by the way, coffee does not count as breakfast.

Tip #12
As a general rule of thumb, I try to remember not to drink my calories.  People are more satisfied when they have something to eat (e.g. – swap orange juice for oranges).  Here’s a tough one to follow, this rule includes alcohol.  The bottom line, if you want to get healthy and loose weight, you can’t drink every night.  Try limiting yourself to a few times a week and limit what you drink on those night.  When ordering, opt for wine when you can.  Studies show wine has some health benefits.  Fruity, sweet alcoholic drinks pack tons of calories.  Limit then to the very occasional treat.

Tip #13
Begin to slowly transition your food choices.  Here are the common ones I tackled one at a time.
*From white carbs to whole wheat (e.g., bread, pasta, tortillas, rice).
*From salted nuts to unsalted.
*From yogurt, to Greek yogurt (Chobani was my preferred for a long time), to plain Greek yogurt (plain Greek yogurt seems to be easier to eat with some fresh fruit, or honey mixed in).  I think Fage total 0% gets the gold standard, but Trader Joe’s makes one that has added fiber that seems to taste a little better.
*From flavored beverages (e.g., lattes, teas), to sugar free drinks.  Then slowly cut down the amount of sugar-free syrup or add-ins.
*From ANYTHING canned to fresh, especially when it comes to vegetables.
*From eating any fruit you want to choosing berries first.
* From baked potatoes to sweet potatoes or yams.
*From butter, to non-fat no calorie spraybutter to no butter at all.
*From liquid sauces you marinate meats and poultry in to salt-free seasoning or lemon juice.
*From dressing, to low-fat dressings, to vinegar.  If nothing else, make this one thing you resolve to do.  Dressings can be ridiculously high in calories.  Also, try putting dressing on the side and dip your fork as you eat.  Chances are you will eat much less of the dressing.  I also think making salads using things like salsa or nonfat cottage cheese on them add moisture while still keeping the calories low.
*From soda to water. A tough one!  Start by just cutting back on soda slowly.
*From peanut butter to natural peanut butter to natural, organic, salt-free peanut butter.
*From ice cream to frozen yogurt.
*From any cereal to something high in fiber and low in sugar (Kashi Go Lean is my favorite).
*From regular chocolate to dark chocolate.
*From adding toppings such as chocolate on desserts to adding fruit.
*From full-fat dairy to non-fat dairy items.
*From beef to chicken (I have a rule at home.  I eat red meat, but only as an occasional treat when I am out to eat.  I never cook it at home ).
*From regular lunch meats to higher quality low sodium lunch meats, then  possibly to no lunch meat (substitute chicken or fish you make at home).
*From items with ingredients you cannot pronounce to items with one ingredient.
*From pre-packaged lunches like Lean Cuisine to items you make or prepare.  Pre-packaged lunches market themselves as low calorie and good for you but in reality they rarely are.  They extremely high in sodium and highly processed.

Finally, and I really can’t stress this enough.  Do these one at a time.  If you are going to aim to take foods out of your diet, take one out at a time.  Allow yourself room for set-backs and indulgences.  Incorporate exercise into your routine.  That paired with diet changes are the best way to getting healthy.  To this day I can’t figure it out, but when I exercise, I crave better foods, and I typically eat less.

A lot of the tips I share here I picked up from friends along the way.  If you have ideas I’d love to hear them.  I’m always looking for new snack ideas and healthy eating tips.  Good luck in getting started, and if you are already started, let me know how your journey is going!

The Road to Health

9 Aug
Me after my first son Matthew was born.

A blog, an open journal of sorts, how scary right?  “I don’t know where to start,” I tell the people close to me.  “Well why are you doing it”, they ask?  To which I respond, “because I think it might help someone, and it will help me to put my journey on paper”.  Well then if that’s what your goal is, start at the beginning and talk about what’s important to you.  Start at the place that mattered the most, the turning point.  “Okay,” I think.  Here goes….

In the beginning, my goal was to lose weight, look better, and be healthy.  Two kids, 40 pounds later… yep, it’s about that time.  There’s nothing more daunting than the overwhelming goal of taking care of you, especially as a mom. You’re going through life and suddenly you find yourself responsible for one, two, maybe more people.  Taking care of yourself takes back seat.  That’s okay, it happens to the best of us.  Eventually though we remember that we matter, and we have to take care of ourselves, in a way that makes us feel human again.  For me, that was getting back in shape.

Me after my second son Jack was born.

I remember the realization I had sitting on the coach, completely exhausted, drenched in spit-up, watching Days of Our Lives, thinking I have to get back to me! I looked around at the people I respected, moms who seemed to have it all together, happy, in-shape, well rounded and thought, how the hell am I going to get there? I guess at the time the first mistake I made was looking at the big picture, rather than thinking of taking one step.

I finally decided I was going to start by running one mile.  That was the goal.  I strapped on my running shoes, went to Target to buy some shorts, because remember I had two young children, NOTHING fit, and I set off around the block.

The run went well for the first three minutes, and then it sucked!!!!  “Why does anyone actually do this?” I thought to myself! I considered turning around and chalking this up to a bad idea.  Thinking back when I finished I probably went home and ate a gallon of ice cream as a reward for my hard work!  Nevertheless, it was a step.  For those of you who know me well, you know where it lead.

I’ve learned over time to love running, to love fitness, but it didn’t start that way 5 years ago.  Now when I run I do my best thinking.  People ask me nearly every day about running.  They want to do it but they dislike it.  It grows on you, I always say, it really does.  Some days I smile running, some days I reflect, and some days I cry.  It fills me though and gives me perspective.  It reminds me I am responsible for 2 other people and if I want to do a good job at that I’d better put the oxygen mask on myself first.

Remembering back to where I started reminded me that it’s never too late to be who you could have been, or want to be.  It starts with one step, one foot in front of the other.  It’s a slow process.  If you go into it knowing that, and give yourself adequate time, you’ll be successful.  It’s very easy to get frustrated when you don’t see immediate results, whether it be with running, weight loss, or fitness in general.  Don’t look at the scale.  Don’t time yourself at first.  Just go out and try something.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you, find a role model, or a few, and take a step.  For me, that was around the block.  That block turned into 2 miles, then to 5, then to 15, and on to racing and now competing.  Most importantly, the step brought me back, slowly but surely.

What goals do you have for yourself?  What are the risks involved?  Are you willing to be patient, to wait for the results?  What happens if you fail?  How will that feel?  These are all questions I ask myself on a regular basis.  It seems to help me to think about fitness in this way.  There’s always a risk involved.  Then again, there’s always the chance that I might inspire someone along the way.  I guess that makes the risk worth it.