Goal Setting – Keeping it Simple

2016 is almost over, but it’s never too late to work on goal setting!  Did you set any goals for the year?  Every year it’s something I think about and every few years or so I change the way I do it in an attempt to find an effective way to keep me on track!
In the past I’ve written down different categories (ie://financial, relationship, education, career, fitness, etc) and listed 3-4 goals for each.  One year I did a year of “bucket list” items with my boot camp ladies, we each listed one thing we wanted to complete for each month of the year.  There are years I’ve simply made mental notes of things I’ve wanted to accomplish and of course, years where I haven’t set out any specific intentions at all!
How has it worked for me?  It’s been okay, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I don’t recall a year where I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do.  In my mind, that’s okay, but I also think it could be a sign that maybe I’m setting out to do either
a) too much
b) things that aren’t that important to me or
c) things I think I ought to do rather than what I really would like to do
This year I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “The Power of Less” by Leo Babauta.  It’s all about scaling back all of the things you commit yourself to and focusing on the things that are truly important.  In a world where multi-tasking and doing more is equal to more, a lot of what he’s talking about is certainly going against the grain.  I’m not sure I have what it takes to minimize to the extremes he takes in his book, there were definitely a lot of take-aways that I plan to apply this year!
Of course he touches on goal-setting early in the book.  I like what he’s come up with and this has been my strategy for 2016.  If you’re up to it, I would challenge you to do the same!
This is what it looks like:
1) Set a 1 year goal
– just one thing you really want to accomplish one year from now
2) Set a 3 month goal
– something you really want to accomplish 3 months from today
– your 3 month goal can be a “sub-goal” of your one year goal, which is actually a great strategy as it is re-visited every 3 months
His theory behind having only have 2 goals at any given time, is that it makes it very easy to choose what is an important focus and what isn’t.  It makes it easier to eliminate distractions or things that steer you away from your goal.
So for example, say your 1 year goal is to finally take that holiday you’ve always wanted to do with a friend/family/spouse to a sunny destination one year from today.  The trip is going to cost $3000 total.  Your three month goal may be to set-up a budget to plan where the money will come from, find out from your bank if there’s a type of account where you can maximize your savings for the year.  Once you’ve done all of your research and set-up a plan, your next 3 month goal may be to implement your plan and start putting away the money.  Your next 3 month goal might be to re-asses whether or not the plan is working with your budget, if there are issues, this is the time period where you would focus on addressing those things….and so on…each 3 months creating a new goal.
Perhaps by the 6 month mark, everything is on track with your saving plan and there is no need to make changes.  Your goal for the next 3 months may be to come up with a plan to lose 10lbs by the time of your trip.  Planning for this goal may include researching personal trainers or classes in your area, coming up with a strategy of how much you want to lose each week, and determining what your nutrition will look like for the next 3 months (think small changes!) Once you have come up with your plan you can start to implement.  It might look something like this:
“I will attend 3 fitness classes each week, eat a healthy breakfast every morning, and minimize eating sweets or drinking alcohol to 1-2 nights per week”
By the 4th quarter you will be evaluating your progress with your 3rd goal and making a new one from there.
Remember, if everything is going well with your “sub-goal” you can always create a new 3 month goal that is totally unrelated to your 1 year goal.  The purpose of this type of goal setting is to settle on one main objective for 3 months, rather than multiple things.
Here’s to a successful year and enjoying everything it has to offer!

Are You on the Hunt for this Elusive Top 5?

A few weeks ago I received this email from one of my readers:
“Hi Sarah
Can you give me the top 5 waist whittler please? I need some whittling :)”
She gets points for the creative title and of course, giving me permission to share with you! I responded, but likely not the response she may have been looking for.  This is what I shared with her:
SPOILER ALERT: All the crunches and planks in the world will not “whittle” your waist.  I’m not going to give you a list of 5 core exercises to “whittle your waist” because that’s not how it happens.  Not to say there is no benefit to doing core exercises – these are a must in any great training program, just don’t do them for the purpose of trimming your waist, you WILL be disappointed in the result! (or lack thereof)
Waist whittling is a lifestyle adjustment, but is totally do-able over a period of time….IF….you are dedicated.  Ugh…lifestyle change sounds so not-sexy, doesn’t it???  It also sounds like a lot of work to most people, especially those looking for these results yesterday.  But keep in mind, a quick fix is just that, a quick fix….nothing that will help you out long term.
Lack of consistency is the #1 mistake I see people making when trying to reach their fitness goals.  When I’m talking consistency, I’m not talking 4 weeks or even 6 weeks, a lot of people have no problem staying dedicated for that long.  I’m talking 3-6 months of real, consistent effort in building specific changes into your lifestyle.  Guess what?  Once it becomes your lifestyle, it becomes a lot less work, it becomes: just the way you do things.
You don’t have to do a lot to make a big change, you just have to do a few good things consistently.  So in the example of whittling your waist, start small and just be consistent!  Here are my top 5 lifestyle tips to “whittle your waist”  DISCLAIMER: will not whittle your waist in 4-6 weeks 🙂
1) Drink lots of water
2) Reduce your intake of processed foods and foods high in saturated fat, replace these with lots of veggies
3) Exercise daily – nothing complicated, just move and get sweaty!
4) Build muscle – this will naturally increase your metabolism and contrary to popular belief, will NOT make you bulky
5) Metabolic Training (HIIT/High intensity interval training) – this type of training burns carbohydrate as fuel while you are exercising, but if you exercise at a high enough intensity, will create an oxygen deficit that causes your body to burn more fat for several hours after you finish exercising.
There it is ladies…the not-so-sexy-but-oh-so-effective Top 5 Waist Whittler!

4 Lessons I’ve Learned as a New Mom

It’s been quite sometime since I last blogged and a lot has happened!  I’m 4 months into #momming for the first time.  I had a bit of writer’s block trying to come up with something to write about for my blog because so little of my life has been health and fitness related, but this is what I came up with: a few lessons and strategies I’ve learned along the way that can definitely apply to the health and fitness realm as well!

Lesson/Strategy #1
Try to have 1-3 big priorities each month and build on those

I’m the worst when it comes to saying no and my constant struggle has always been having too many irons in the fire.  I didn’t realize how bad it really was until I committed to taking time off from everything I was working on once Sarita came along.  My priorities the past few months have been Sarita, eating 3 meals a day/cooking for the hubs, and completing one task per day.  Yes I’m sleep deprived (though at this point it’s much better) and taking care of a baby has it’s own set of challenges, but I can’t believe how much more relaxed I feel.  I know that prioritization looks different for everyone, so your version might be a lot different from mine.

This is how it came about… with a little one at home, very little of your time is your own.  Yes she naps, but those naps are unpredictable.  Some days are 45 min, some days are 2 hours.  It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be to get things done.  So for now, I set out to complete only ONE task per day, it might be sending an email, it could be cleaning a bathroom, but I consider my day to be successful if I’ve spent as much time as possible with Sarita, I’ve nourished my own body and fed my husband (I know it sounds a bit silly, but there are days when we resort to take-out or he eats PB and J!!) and I completed my one task.  Today happens to be a 2 hour nap day so I was able to finish a few loads of laundry AND complete this email, but those extra loads of laundry are a bonus.

Where are the workouts you might be thinking!?!  That’s right, they’re not there.  Some days they show up as a task or they end up being a bonus activity, but right now it’s not one of my big 3.  Also, when I say workout, it’s far from what my workouts used to be. I’m taking my progressions slow and steady and listening to my body.  Of course this could and hopefully will change next month, but for now I’m not going to sweat it.  Once I nail down these 3, it will be onto the next 3.

In a sense I’ve lowered my expectations for myself, but I go to bed feeling accomplished and ready to start fresh the next day.  The Mom-Guilt is real people and it’s easy to “should” all over yourself about the things that didn’t get done, but I challenge you to start a little smaller and see what happens!

How does this fit with fitness?  Maybe you’re just getting started on your health and fitness journey, recovering from an injury, or you’ve hit a plateau.  Giving yourself 1-3 things to focus on could be just what you need to level up your game.  So yours might look something like this: incorporate veggies into one of my snacks, go for a bike ride 2x/week, aim to lift 2-3lbs heavier on all upper body exercises, add one additional strength workout to my week, eat 20g of protein at breakfast.

Lesson/Strategy #2
Move Everyday

Some way, somehow I try to get movement in throughout my day.  I wouldn’t consider this exercise, it’s more just making sure I stay active.  I’m amazed at how much time I spend sitting just for the simple fact that I’m feeding Sarita on a regular basis and when she plays, it’s always on the floor.  So I make a point of moving as often as possible.

I do deep squats to set her down and pick her up off the floor or lunge down onto one knee.  I practice my squatting technique getting in and out of the rocking chair (no hands!!!).  It’s not much, but it does help to keep my legs somewhat active!

Once I was cleared to do more than 2 sets per day of stairs, I committed myself to feeding and changing Sarita’s diapers upstairs in the nursery.  Stairs are a great way to build strength in your legs and I’ve been able to do a set every 2 hours.

I take Sarita on little tours of the house 2-3x/day.  I carry her and we walk through all the rooms, look in mirrors, look out windows.  I do my best to switch her from side to side so I’m not always carrying her on one side and I always work to keep my core engaged.  Moms, Grandmas and Aunties …. When carrying your babies it’s so easy to sit back on your hunches so your back arches, your pelvis presses forward and your tummy sticks out but trust me, you are doing so many favors for your pelvic floor and core if you can just lengthen through your spine and pull that belly button inward, just enough to feel the slightest tightening of your core muscles.  Voila, you’ve improved your core function!  As your little one gets bigger and bigger, this clearly gets to be more of a challenge!  These are also great tips to keep in mind when carrying anything, including weights in your workout. I can’t emphasize enough how this will help to reduce pelvic floor issues, low back and hip pain.

Leisure walks.  Though the first few of these pushing the stroller with my deconditioned body hardly felt leisurely!  I would love to say I get out for a walk every day, but that’s not reality. Reality is probably every other day with the stroller but it’s a start!

Again, these are little things and not necessarily what I would call a workout, but they are simple ways I try to move my body every day because in these early months I don’t feel like I have time to get full workouts in yet.  For me, right now it works and my body feels good doing it.  Maybe you’re going through a busy time in your life and are having a hard time fitting your workouts in…well…something is better than nothing and maybe you can incorporate some of these things into your day!

Lesson/Strategy #3
Clean up after yourself

I know, this sounds largely like a parenting strategy but bear with me…it has its impact on fitness as well!

Babies cause clutter, they just do.  Or the things they need cause clutter, however you want to look at it.  But not only that, they cause you to create clutter.  In the first few weeks I suddenly started to notice little piles and groves of “things” on the counters, on the floor, on the table.  Some things were out simply because I was using them on a regular basis, but a lot of the things I was leaving out as a reminder to get to it later.  I learned in a hurry that this strategy was NOT working for me.  Anytime I had a spare minute to put my feet up, those piles and groves would be staring right back at me.

I would be lying if I said I’ve perfected this strategy, but I’m working on it.  It’s simple.  I put things away or clean things, right after I use them.  My new reality is that I might not have time to get to that little mess for hours or sometimes days so it has to be done.  If it needs to be done later (like folding laundry) I find a place to put it, out of sight and out of mind.  It will get done later, when Sarita sleeps, after I sleep, whenever, BUT the clutter is reduced.

What I’ve learned in practicing this strategy is that certain things take a lot less time than what you think.  Unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, tidying the living room, responding to an email, prepping dinner.  Each of these little chores can be done in 5-10 minutes while baby girl is lying on the floor entertaining herself.

This whole thing might sound a little silly to you, but this was/is a real struggle for me!  I was leaving all these 5-10min tasks saying I’ll just do it when she goes to bed, or I’ll do this when she naps.  All of a sudden I would have an hour or more of little tasks to complete at the end of the day or during her nap (or if she didn’t nap) when really, all I wanted to do was go to sleep!

Doing these little tasks one at a time for 10min or less rather than leaving them until later has opened up larger windows of time for me.  MY time.  I can fold that bin of laundry, I can take a nap or do a mini-workout…or do nothing.  This is where the fitness part comes into play.  How hard is it to do a workout in your living room where you might have plain view of a stack of dirty dishes on your counter?  As women, it’s freaking hard to block that out!  Maybe you go to a class at the end of the day, it’s a lot harder to commit to that class when you look around at everything you still need to do that evening.

Lesson/Strategy #4

Create Rituals

Routine and rituals have been game changers for me and they can be for you too!  Right now they don’t revolve much around my fitness, but I will get there, 3 emails ago I talked about my big 3 and that’s not part of it…yet.

As many of you know, babies don’t really follow a very predictable routine in their first few months of life.  I’m told this is coming in the next few months lol.  So for now, I’ve tried to ritualize the best I can with what works for Sarita and for our little family.

I was having a hard time getting breakfast in me before 11am (#momming) which was the trigger for getting a morning ritual. Ever experience hangry? not cool! Sarita’s last feed is usually around 4am or 5am…for this mama, this is still “night time” and I’ve made it a priority to teach this to her.  So back to bed we go right after the feed and wake up for the day around 7am or 8am…much more do-able!  Of course when she wakes up I need to feed/change/wash her first, but I’ve learned that once she’s fed I have a window of contentment!  After getting her dressed, it’s my turn!  I have a solid 15min (a lot of time in Mom-minutes) to wash up, freshen up, get dressed and be ready for the day.  By the time we head downstairs I can get at my breakfast while playing with her on the floor (we also don’t eat at our table often anymore!).  It’s not perfect, but all of this happens before 9:30am…a win-win!!!

In the evenings, I clean the kitchen and make Kofi’s lunch, once that’s done I consider myself free and clear for the evening.  As per the last email, if I’ve been on the ball with keeping things tidied up it literally is a free and clear evening.

My hope is that once the napping becomes a bit more ritualized I can start to schedule workouts, but for now, that’s all I’ve got! My main objectives were to play with Sarita, eat and complete one task, these rituals help me to achieve that.

Fat’s where it’s at

Fat’s where it’s at – at least that’s what my Dad says when he hears the word come up, especially when it comes to complaints about weight loss or being too heavy.  My Dad is a man of few words, but when he does speak it’s usually something unexpectedly funny.  However on the serious side of things, he’s actually right!  Fats are a really important part of a healthy diet, weight loss, satiation, metabolism and of course, making the food we eat taste delicious!

Though for this blog I’m focusing on fats, it’s worth noting that food, especially GOOD food is essential to our health and affects our health in four main ways:

  • It provides energy
  • It fuels our metabolism
  • It becomes a part of our body structures and,
  • It influences hormones and neurotransmitters necessary for our body’s to perform their daily functions

Many people are unaware that the types of fats you consume not only affect your body’s composition (how much fat you have compared to muscle and water) but they even affect your individual cells and how they function.  Aside from the facts that some fats will indeed make you fat when overconsumed over time, some fats will also cause your cells to function poorly.

The border of your cells (plasma membrane) is made up of a fatty layer of phospholipids – they have fatty tails and phosphate heads (imagine little tadpoles).  One part of the tadpole loves water, the other does not and this is what helps to regulate what substances can move in and out of the cell.  In order for our bodies to function, there are hormones and neurotransmitters coming in and out of our cells all the time. The types of things moving in and out and the rate they move drastically affect our metabolism and your body’s ability to function in general. Naturally, if these cell borders are made of fats, the type of fats we consume will drastically affect how our cells function.

There are two main types of fats:

  • Saturated Fats
    • Generally solid at room temperature
    • Animal fats, palm and coconut oil are natural sources
  • Polyunsaturated Fats
    • Generally liquid at room temperature
    • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
    • Found in fish, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, to name a few

While there are many positive and negative effects of fat consumption, in this blog I want to look specifically at how they affect our cells.

A diet high in saturated fats will actually cause your cell’s borders to become more rigid and a diet high in polyunsaturated fats will do the opposite.  Ideally, your body needs those borders to be fluid and flexible to make it easy for your cells to communicate.  When they are so tightly packed together, it can be extremely difficult for the passage of hormones – insulin resistance is a great example of this.  It occurs when those little tadpoles are packed so closely together that it becomes difficult for insulin to enter the cells.  This leaves excess insulin floating around in your blood stream which increases your risk of type II diabetes.

Another area of the cell that is greatly impacted by fats are the peroxisomes.  The WHAT?  You don’t need to remember the name!  BUT…what you do need to remember is that these little organelles work hard all day long to break down fats consumed in our diet.  When peroxisomes break down fat, they actually produce a lot more heat than actual energy compared to what other areas of the cell can produce.  They are specialists when it comes to breaking down omega-3 fats, however they need a lot of fat in order to produce a significant amount of energy in your body.  This is GREAT news for those of us consuming omega-3’s on a regular basis because peroxisomes will burn MORE omega-3’s fats to produce the same amount of energy required by your body to do work as other areas of the cell.

While this is great news for fat consumption, it certainly doesn’t mean we need to rush out and start eating fish and consuming omega-3’s like the ocean is about to dry up.  It’s super important to stick to your recommended daily intake of omega-3, more is not necessarily better.  According to the dietitians of Canada, adult women should be consuming 1.1g/day and adult men 1.6g/day.  For the average person, you could easily achieve this by eating 2 servings of fish per week.

Consuming a diet low in saturated fats and high in polyunsaturated fats is critical not only to fat loss, but also to maintain a healthy bodily functions!  I think most of us know this by now as the media has drilled it time and time again, but often the science behind it is isn’t explained.  Hopefully this gives you some insight…and perhaps extra motivation to watch those saturated fats!

How to Stop Dreading Exercise and Start Loving it

Woman running
One of my good friends is a new Mom – at least I consider her to be so.  She’s got an almost 3 year old and an 8 month old.  She’s always been super active but with the challenge of chasing after two kids, keeping up with housework and making meals she has found this past year to be quite challenging when it came to her own personal health.  (are you relating to her story yet??) Needless to say, she found herself hanging onto post-baby weight a lot longer than she wanted to and had lost track of her better nutrition habits.  In my opinion, my friend is beautiful inside and out, but we all know that feeling of not being able to fit into our clothes, feeling sluggish and run-down.  No one likes it, and no matter how you may appear to others, I believe that you have to be comfortable in your own skin and you need to feel good to be the best version of yourself!


So back to my friend, she decided to sign up for the fitness challenge going on at her local gym to help hold her accountable.  The contest is a point system based on how many classes you attend at the gym, before/after photos and of course weight/measurements. So far she’s doing fantastic and has lost 6lbs in just a few weeks!  I’ve been checking in on her on a weekly basis as I provided her with a few workouts and a basic meal plan to follow. This week I received really interesting feedback…


When I asked how her workouts were going she said she was doing really well but she had had a recent revelation.  When she looked at some of the other contestants, for whatever reason she decided that she wouldn’t come close to contending as a winner.  A little disheartening only a few weeks in, wouldn’t you agree?  Her chances, I would argue, are certainly debatable but that’s a discussion for another time 🙂  The important note here is her thought process, it went something like this:


“since I realized I’m not nearly good enough to win (the contest), I need to do things that are good for ME, not good for winning the contest”


So what did she do:


“I ‘gave up’ some points by not doing a boot camp and just ran.  But the run was so good for my soul, I was in a great mood after and I ran for an hour straight!”


WOW.  You can just hear she is beaming in her messages.  As an additional note, my girlfriend has always loved running, so just because the running doesn’t earn her as many ‘points’ should she really say no to a run that she’s in the mood for and do the class instead? The answer seems simple enough right?


How many of you actually enjoy working out?  Like really, truly, enjoy a good sweat?  I know we all groan and complain about how tough class can be or how sore we are the next day, but think deep down, do you actually enjoy the feeling of challenging your body?


I know this must sound strange coming from your ‘boot camp’ instructor…skipping boot camp???  But my message is this, you should ENJOY your workouts and it’s important to find what type of workouts bring you enjoyment!  Why spend the time exercising if it’s not something enjoyable or fun?  I know it’s not going to be fun every time (burpees anyone?) but for the most part, there should be something enjoyable about your workout that feeds your soul.  This is part of your ‘you’ time!  We all lead very busy lives, but our lives are meant to be lived abundantly 🙂


All things considered, keep in mind that variety is still important and your week of workouts needs to include cardio, strength and flexibility.  However, remember to make time for the workouts that you do love, especially on the days when you’re not feeling as motivated to get moving….on those days, stick to your faves!


So my challenge to you this week, is to take a few minutes to figure out and write down a few things:


1) What do you love about exercise? (I know there’s something!)
2) What gets you truly excited about completing a circuit/workout/class (it can even be the coffee date afterward!)
3) If you could pick one physical activity that you feel completely invigorated after, what would that be? (think outside the box on this one)
4) Why do YOU exercise, why is exercise important to you? (hint: not why it’s good for you, search a little deeper than that)


Write all these down and keep them somewhere nearby, these things are your MOTIVATION for working out.  These are your “WHY’S” for wanting to achieve your goals.


So here’s to a great week of workouts…and enjoying the sweat it brings!