2014/10/28

Halloween Bake Sale Ideas

Good Morning Everyone! It is a beautiful fall weekend and with Halloween in only a couple of days, as promised I am bringing you THREE Halloween Themed Recipes!!!

 I have been perusing google for bakery Halloween ideas and trying to deglutinize and healthy them up a bit. So here are the winners. My top 3! Before I get onto those I must share that there are three lessons I learned about trying to take bake sale ideas off the internet.

1. Decorating baked goods is really hard. Like extremely hard. Just because someone took photos of it at home - does not mean you can do anything even remotely similar. Think this:


2. "No bake" recipes are the WORST - they are either so easy that you just put 2 pre-packaged items together which will make you look like an epic fail for the bake sale... OR... require a microwave and just "melt and prettify" chocolate chips, other candy, etc... - which is usually a sticky messy disaster - do not be tempted by the apparent "easiness" of things like cake pops or "chocolate coated" anything... 

3. Pre-made decorations are your friend. I am sorry - I know candy eyes are just discs of sugar - and mini-marshmallows are styrofoam and sugar - but I used them to decorate my desserts for the bake sale. Omit them if you want - but it is halloween after all which is why you will see them in my upcoming recipes. In the grand scheme of things - as far as halloween is concerned - I'd say from a health perspective this is a happy medium. Sure you can do apple slices - but you know what... sometimes you gotta live a little. 

Here's what I ended up with: 

Some eyeballs... 



Some Monsters...




And a huge pile of Smore's Popcorn...




The first recipe is a chocolate/coconut version of my Protein Peppermint Patties.

Peppermint Patty Eyeballs
Ingredients

1. 1/2 cup shredded coconut
2. 1/2 cup coconut oil
3. 1/4 cup coconut flour
4. 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract 
5. 1/4 cup honey
Optional: 1/2 cup white chocolate chips to make life easier for the coating
Instructions

1. Take 1/4 cup of the coconut oil, melt in a sauce pan and stir in honey and peppermint extract. 
2. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut shreds and start sifting in the coconut flour until mixture is workable into little balls. Roll your eyeballs 
3. Dip your eyeballs into the remainder of the coconut oil and then roll the coconut flakes on - line up your creations on a parchment paper-lined baking tray. 
4. Draw the pupil with whatever you see fit - a chocolate chip perhaps? I cheated and used candy eyes
5. Chill in fridge for 1-2 hours until coconut oil sets. 

I added the arteries by adding a drop of red food colouring to a small portion of the coating mix. 

For these brownie monsters, I took my easy protein brownie recipe, and added some almond butter to decorate and fill

Brownie Almond Butter Monsters
Ingredients

1. 1/2 cup coconut flour
2. 1 cup raw cocoa powder
3. 1/2 cup chocolate/vanilla whey protein powder 
(or sub with another 1/2 cup coconut flour)
4. 1/2 cup egg whites 
5. 1/2-full cup maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your brownies)
6. 1 cup almond butter 
Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Blend all the ingredients together. Start with 1/2 cup maple syrup, then taste test to add the remaining 1/2
3. Distribute half of the brownie mix into cupcake lined muffin tins. 
4. Put a little ball of almond butter in the center, and top with the rest of the mix. 
5. Bake for 30 minutes until toothpick comes out dry (well just in almond butter)
6. Let cool before decorating.
7. Top with more almond butter, almonds, whatever you want! 

This I have no excuse - it is not healthy popcorn. Popcorn itself is not a very healthy treat - but hey - at least it's sweetened with xylitol.

Smore's Popcorn
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Ingredients

1. 1/2 cup xylitol
2. 1/3 cup maple syrup
3. 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
4. 1/3 cup popcorn kernels 
5. Olive oil to cook popcorn
Optional: 1 cup of mini marshmallows
Instructions

1. Bring the xylitol and maple syrup to a boil in a sauce pan. Boil for 4 minutes 
2. Cook the popcorn over the olive oil to pop it
3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and dump out your popcorn
4. Immediately prior to pouring the caramel mix over the popcorn stir in the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows if you decided to go down that dark path. 
5. Mix the popcorn up with the toppings. 
Optional: Bake for 15-20 minutes @325 to crisp it 
SUPER optional - whip out the Mini marshmallows 

2014/10/19

Coconut Encrusted Buffalo Chicken Fingers

Happy Almost-Halloween Weekend everyone!!!

I LOVE Halloween.
It is my favourite holiday... I know I know... what about the wonderful family get togethers where everybody gets to eat themselves into a food coma?


While those do have a certain appeal, I am a big kid at heart and to me costumes and candy and scary movie all-nighters highlight the awesomeness of this fall holiday. Give me a couple of geeky jack o' lanterns and I am DONE.


Wow... I wish I was this talented.


And I know unfortunately especially on the warmer halloween it seems to be the national dress up like a slut day... but you know what - whatever floats your boat. Maybe I will never be able to look at sesame street characters the same way after someone decided that "sexy big bird" should be a costume... seriously it exists. google it. but I say live and let live. No matter how you celebrate halloween... most people tend to have a good time...


As a little sneak preview for next week... I will let you know that I am putting together a little resource of links and attempting some spooky healthy treats (don't roll your eyes people!!) including Coconut Ghosts and Mummy Banana Popsicles... I will post these next weekend once I work out some of the kinks in the recipes...

Before that... a while ago I posted a very easy Coconut Buffalo Shrimp Recipe that people seemed to really enjoy...

After a bit of tweaking, I am giving you a similar recipe, that was a huge success chez moi and it is the

Coconut -Encrusted Buffalo Chicken Fingers...







Coconut Encrusted Buffalo Chicken Fingers
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Ingredients

1. 6 chicken breasts
2. 1 cup egg whites
3. 1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce
4. 1 cup coconut flakes
5. 1 cup coconut flour
Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425F
2. Whisk together the egg whites and the hot sauce. Set up a dipping station. The ingredient amounts are approximations, based on how much breading/how spicy you like your chicken.  
3. Cut chicken breasts into strips
4. To bread: dip chicken strip into the egg white/hot sauce mix - coat with coconut flour. Dip a second time into the egg white mix... do the second coating with coconut flakes. 
5.  On a parchment-lined baking tray line up your chicken fingers. Optionally sprinkle some additional coconut flour/flakes over the top.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle/low shelf. Watch the coconut to make sure it doesn't burn while the chicken is cooking through. 
7. Let cool and enjoy with a dipping sauce of your choice! 

2014/10/12

Easiest Protein Brownie Ever

Happy Long Weekend Everyone! I am still posting from my life oooon the road! I have been thoroughly enjoying the beautiful fall weather driving!

This trip, being a bit more long-term, has been a challenge to make sure all training and eating stays on track! The key is careful planning! If anything - over-planning!!! The two truths that have been my guiding light are: 

1.  Failing to plan is planning to fail. 

2.  Motivation is a limited Resource. Use it wisely. 

For training -
The planning: I found gyms that have the lifting equipment I needed. And emailed these places in advance to make sure the logistics are worked out. 

Motivation: I figured out which days would require 4am wakeups and put down lighter training sessions on those days. Waking up that early is already a kick in the self-motivation butt  - but if I know that the workout that awaits me will be very hard... the temptation to roll back to sleep is too much. For others an easy workout might be the temptation to roll back to sleep - know thyself. 

For the meals:
The planning: In terms of cooking, it was a bit more challenging... but the key is if you ever stop by a place with a kitchen... or even a microwave... buy a cooler.... cook... and make yourself some food for your travels! I also bought the tiny travel sized simple cooking equipment - mini 2 cup rice cooker and 2 cup tiny kettle. There are also mini crockpots that I saw for travelling - only 20 bucks. 

Keeping it simple: staple meals you can create on the spot by a quick grocery stop that do not require cooking. Salads, trail mix, pre-cooked chicken breast strips, etc. And flexibility. The more rigid you get, the higher the chance that you will abandon ship 2 days in.

With that being said - here is my most recent creation!!

5-Ingredient Protein Brownie!



Easiest Protein Brownie
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Ingredients

1. 1/2 cup coconut flour
2. 1 cup raw cocoa powder
3. 1/2 cup chocolate/vanilla whey protein powder 
(or sub with another 1/2 cup coconut flour)
4. 1/2 cup egg whites 
5. 1/2-full cup maple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your brownies)
Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325F
2. Blend all the ingredients together. Start with 1/2 cup maple syrup, then taste test to add the remaining 1/2
3. Bake for 30 minutes until toothpick comes out dry
4. Let cool before serving to allow it to set.
5. Excellent out of the oven, but even better after being refrigerated!

2014/10/05

A Stretching Guest Post by Julia!

Hey everyone!!

I am very excited to give you a guest post by one of my amazing and truly inspirational team-mates. Let me start off by saying Julia is a BEAST and just qualified for Nationals (w00t w00t). Julia is also a master of good pre-training regiments, excellent stretching routines... and basically all the things I completely ignore.

this is a pic of Julia that sums up my epic girl-crush

If you would like to support Julia as an athlete, please take a look at her Athlete Profile and Campaign.

And now..... drumroll... here's Julia!

Stretching and Mobility


I guess I should start off my introducing myself. Hi! My name is Julia. I am one of Antonella’s teammates in Olympic Weightlifting, and I am also doing my PhD in Clinical Psychology. I am passionate about health (mental and physical), fitness, and of course, high performance athletics! I am a competitive Olympic Weightlifter, and after training for only a year, I am on track to qualify for Nationals this year!

When I first started Olympic weightlifting, I had a background in endurance sports and some experience in my own, self-taught style of powerlifting. I got decently strong and decently fast, but when I moved to Ottawa to do my PhD, I wanted to join a community of people that could push me to my limits. That is how I got into Olympic Weightlifting, and at first, I came with a host of mobility issues and chronic pain, particularly in my low back, upper back, and shoulders.

In the past, I was an irregular stretcher at best. I sometimes did 5-10 minutes of stretching once a day, but I was not very consistent and I didn’t know what I was doing, so obviously I didn't really see any improvements. But as I continued to increase my activity level to see more improvements, I realized that my mobility issues and the associated pain was one of the main things holding me back. It’s been about 3 years that I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to take care of my body, and only recently have I found a solution that really works. For the rest of this article, the information I give you will be coming from a book called “Stretch to Win”, by Ann Frederick and Chris Frederick. These two are the original stretching scientists, and their success is proven through the testimonies of the athletes and teams they have worked with. Check out their book if you want to read about it yourself!

Why do I need to stretch?

Stretching is critical for athletic performance and for maintaining a healthy body. Stretching elongates and loosens muscle. This is important because nearly 50% of a healthy person’s lack of range of motion at a joint can be attributed to tightness in the muscles around the joint. If you can’t move your body in a full range of motion, and chances are you can’t, then the first thing to fix is muscle tightness. Limited range of motion is a problem because it can limit your functional movements, create pain, and impede athletic performance.

But I’ve tried before, and nothing changed!

You were probably not stretching correctly. Stretching isn’t supposed to hurt, and it’s not supposed to be static. Most people hold a stretch for 10-30seconds, but they forget to breathe, and they hold a position that is so painful that the muscle ends up re-tightening as a rebound effect. It’s important to only hold a stretch that is mildly uncomfortable (like a 3 or 4/10), and to move in and out of that stretch in sync with your breathing. This will be covered in my recommended stretching routine.

Key Stretching Principles
1.       Synchronize your stretching movements with your breathing.
Instead of holding a stretch for a specific amount of time, hold the stretch until you feel a change in the muscle. Use your breath as a guide. When you reach into a stretch, you should be exhaling deeply. After your exhale, you should briefly and gently exit the stretch as you inhale. This process should be repeated for a minimum of 3 breaths, or until you can reach further into the stretch, which indicates that you have successfully loosened the muscle.

2.       Stretch according to the conditions
The way you stretch before engaging in physical activity is not the same as the stretching you should do after activity or when you are at home before bed. Stretching your muscles needs to be a way of tuning your nervous system to the conditions it is about to experience. If you are warming up for practice, dynamic stretching (like leg swings, arm circles, neck circles, etc.) is ideal, because the slightly faster movements prepare your muscles and joints for the movements they are about to perform. After physical activity, the goal is to help your body cool down and recover from the work just done. This is the time for slower stretching with longer breaths. If you want to increase your overall flexibility, that is best separately from your training sessions.

3.       Follow a logical order
This principle means that stretching should be performed in a logical anatomical order. Stretching from head to toe isn’t an anatomically logical order. The best way to stretch is to start with major joints, like hips and neck and shoulders, before working out to the other muscles in your legs and arms.

4.       Pain, no gain
You should NOT feel pain when you are stretching. If you do, you need to pull out of the stretch to a more comfortable level. You should be able to hold the stretch through a long exhale without any discomfort.

5.       Use multiple plains of movement
Stretching your hamstring isn’t complete after performing one stretch. It is important to stretch a muscle group in various different ways. You muscle needs to be lose and flexible in various movements, not just in one.

6.       Target the entire joint.
Stretching your hips requires more than a hip flexor stretch, because there are muscle all around your hip, like your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and yes, hip flexors. Stretching must target the whole joint.

7.       Increase your body temperature before stretching
If your body isn’t warm, your muscles won’t be ready for the stretching. You should always start with 2-5minutes of light aerobic activity, like jumping jacks, skipping, a light jog, etc., unless you have just finished training. Another great time to stretch is right after exiting the shower or bath, or while you sit in a steam room or sauna.

If these principles seem like a lot, it’s because they are! Stretching is a science, just like training or eating. But don’t fret, the following stretching routine accommodates all the important principles and should be no more than 10 minutes to complete!

Pre-Training Dynamic Stretching Routine

This routine is best for before physical activity. It is also great for first thing in the morning, and for non-athletes it is recommended to do it at least once a week to maintain good joint health.

2 minutes of jumping jacks, light jogging in place, skipping, rowing, etc. then…

Neck circles                         10 each direction
Shoulder shrugs                   10
Arm circles                          10 small, 10 big, each direction
Wrist circles                        10 each direction
Hip circles                           10 each direction
Leg Swings                          10 each leg
Side bends                            10 each side
Knee circles                          10 each direction
Air squats                              10
Ankle circles                         10 each direction

Basic Stretching Routine
This routine needs to be followed in order for best results. It is designed for post training or after a shower or bath. It is a basic routine with key stretches that should be performed regularly. If you have a particularly problematic area, you should add stretches in to the end, following the same breathing principles. Don’t forget to move out of the stretch a little when you inhale, and then fully extend into the stretch when you exhale.

1. Hip Flexor Stretch
Get into a lunge position with your knee on the floor and the other foot out in front of you flat on the floor. Hold this position for three breaths, then raise your arm (same side as the knee that is down on the ground) up beside your ear. Hold for another 3 breaths before reaching your arm over your head to the other side. Hold for another 3 breaths before opening your chest up toward the ceiling for a trunk rotation. Hold for another 3 breaths.  

2. Glute and Hip Stretch
Sit on the floor with one leg in front of you and knee bent. The other leg should be behind you with the knee  bent in the direction of your front foot. In yoga, this is called the pigeon pose. Hold this position for 3 breaths before moving your chest down to your front knee. Hold for another 3 breaths before reaching behind you leg to put your hands on the floor outside your leg. Hold for another three breaths before raising your arm on the same side as the leg that is tucked behind and reaching over your head. Hold for a final 3 breaths.

Click to go to source

3.     Neck
Sit with your legs crossed. Tilt one side of your head down to your shoulder as far as you comfortably can. Hold for three breaths; when you inhale, shrug your shoulders up and when you exhale, push your shoulders down. Repeat on both sides, and repeat again with your head tilting down, with your gaze set at your knee.

4. Mid Back
Get on your hands and knees with your hands right under your shoulders. Hunch your back so that your spine is reaching to the ceiling, and hold for three breaths. Then push your belly button towards the floor to arch your back, and hold there for another three seconds. Actively think about pinching your shoulder blades together while you breath in and out of the stretch.

5. Low Back
Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Hug your knees while keeping your head down on the ground. Hold for three seconds. Let your feet and knees drop to one side, and hold for another three breaths. Stay in this position while you open your arms in a T. Hold for three breaths before repeating on the other side.

A lot of my teammates at the gym ask me why I stretch so much, or comment on how I always warm up for 15 minutes before starting. The reason is that it is my secret ingredient to athletic success and to moving through life with as little pain and as much functional movement as possible!

Other than these basic stretching routines, I am systematic and consistent about foam rolling, a concept has an effect on your muscles similar to a massage. It is recommended to begin all training and all stretching sessions with a short 5 minute foam roll of feet, hips (front and back), and spine. But we’ll leave that to another article J

Happy stretching!

2014/09/26

Leftover Trail Mix Cookies

So this weekend, in the wet muddy rain, I went on a little camping/horseback riding adventure! 

And I came to a realization that I am in fact a 5-year-old... 

Der her her!!
Covered in filth and mud after riding in the rain - happier than ever!

Which, considering how much fun I had got me thinking. And I realized... 

I am Benjamin Button. 

In case you've never read the book (or seen the movie)... essentially Benjamin Button is a character who is born old and "grows young". Interesting concept, interesting story... but looking back at myself growing up... I can't help but see some parallels... 

- At 5 I had little baby dolls in a carriage and pretended to be a Mom...
- At 7 I pretended to get married...
- At 15 all I cared about was dancing, dressing up, cocktail parties and fancy dinners...
- At 25 I wanted to play puzzles and watch Disney....

Now, at the tender age of 27, all I want to do is play games, climb trees and bake cookies... 

I don't even want to think about where my maturity level will be in 10 years :|

Speaking of cookies!!! I made a delicious batch of cookies today. These are "Leftover cookies". I am going away for a couple of months.... (not to worry I already uploaded some recipes that I will post as time goes by) 

And with my love of being a kid I cannot WAIT to go where I am going.... ....


This beauty is in Quebec... so not only do I get to indulge my love of the outdoors... But I will also have a chance to keep plowing away at my French!

Man I love my job!!!

So before travelling, I decided to go through the pantry and conjure up a recipe to use up some leftover supplies. Hence the leftover cookies. These little guys ended up great and they have an oatmeal-cookie like consistency.




Leftover Trail Mix Cookies
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Ingredients

1. 1/2 cup coconut flour
2. 1 cup almonds
3. 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
4. 1 tbsp coconut oil
5. 1 cup egg whites
6. 1/2 cup bananas
7. 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
8. 1/2 cup vanilla whey (or another 1/2 cup coconut flour + 1 tbsp vanilla essence)
9. 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey (or sweetener of choice)
  
Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F
2. Melt the coconut oil (nuke for 10 s)
3. Mix in remainder of ingredients
4. Make cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet - make them the final shape, these do not spread as they bake
5. Bake for 20 minutes until done (or for 30 if you want them extra crispy)
6. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving to let them set

2014/09/20

Mango Banana Pudding

You know what really grinds my gears?


haha but really...

When I hear somebody subtly undermining someone else. Most of the time it's thinly veiled statements, sometimes they even sound well-intentioned... and can unfortunately come from friends/coworkers/people you would swear are rooting for you.

The simplest one is:
Person A: oooh there's cake!
Person B: I can't I'm on a diet
Person A: Oh come on just a little piece... 

LET'S PAUSE RIGHT HERE. 

Why does this always happen? And the easiest example is food and diet... and many times it is much more aggressive and filled with guilt... but I see this all the time. Someone is trying to achieve something better, work harder, learn a new skill, pursue something interesting... and they are excited about the idea and share it with others... which often leads to various degrees of passive aggressive statements. 

To address this I bring a wonderful clip from Pursuit of Happyness which addresses EXACTlY what I mean: 


If the video doesn't open, google "Pursuit of Happiness Motivation". Don't ask questions, just do it.

I suppose it's something to be expected... we are constantly judged. As soon as we do something, say something, we are judged. Usually the person judging, judges us against themselves. Naturally, the more intimidated and self conscious your decisions and pursuits make them feel... the more aggressive the statements.

Ever notice how people tend to get progressively less nice the closer you come to your goals? Many times it is unintentional. And sure, they might just think that you don't need that extra boost or that extra motivation (even though ironically, the closer you get, the harder you have to work, the more motivation you might need); but unfortunately it is because they start to feel insecure about their own decision-making. 

So my message of the day before I move onto today's recovery treat is...



Oh and if you ever find yourself on the other end of the argument... and someone is confiding an idea in you... be supportive! Even if you disagree. Let the other person learn their own way unless they ask you for very specific advice but back it up with experiences or explain that it is just your opinion. Your life is not their life and it is very unlikely your word should be treated as their gospel. 

And now onto the recipe!! I was going to say it makes an excellent refreshing summer treat... and it does... but it appears summer is officially over. 

 5 minute Mango-Banana Protein Pudding!!


Banana-Mango Pudding
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Ingredients

1. 1 cup frozen mango
2. 1/4 cup frozen bananas
3. 1/4 cup almond milk
4. 1/4 cup sweetener of choice 
5. Optional: 1 30g scoop of protein powder of choice - Vanilla Whey works nicely. The powder isn't necessary, but it thickens this up from a smoothie to a pudding-like consistency.

Note: I added a tbsp of chia seeds 
(that's what the little black dots in my photo are)
 
Instructions

1. Blendy blendy!
2. Optional: Whisk until frothy

2014/09/11

Maple Butterscotch Coconut Squares

Wow this week flew by!

I feel very guilty because I put up a very yummy photo on FB and NO RECIPE... even though I had this recipe... the whole time... in my head... I just have not had the time to get the rest of the post done. And I wanted to discuss something important... like warm up... or strategies to avoid eating from boredom... or something along those lines.... but the guilt won: I will just post the recipe.

No suffering through one of my rants today!

Now I made this bad boy for my birthday last saturday... so it's a bit naughty... but oh so delicious. SO make sure to invite people over if you go down this dangerous path... or you might eat the whole thing yourself (unless you hate coconut or maple syrup in which case... get out)

And now... behold:




Butterscotch-Maple Coconut Squares
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Ingredients

For the coconut cluster bottom:
1. 1/2 cup coconut oil
2. 2 cups coconut shreds (unsweetened)
3. 1/2 cup maple syrup

For the fudge:

Healthier version
1. 1/2 cup coconut cream
2. 1 tbsp vanilla
3. 1 cup cashews
4. 1/4 cup coconut oil
5. 1/2 cup maple syrup 

Easier version
1. 1 cup butterscotch chips
2. 2 tbsp coconut oil
3. 1/4 cup maple syrup.
Instructions

1. For the bottom portion: melt the coconut oil and mix the ingredients together. Set in freezer to chill in a lined lasagna dish
2. In the meantime prepare the fudge:

If you are making the healthier version:
- Boil the maple syrup and coconut cream for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the coconut oil and vanilla and bring to a boil again
- Mix in the cashews and blend into a smooth paste 

If you are making the easier version: 
In a double boiler melt the 1 cup butterscotch chips, 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Continue stirring until all ingredients are mixed


3. Pour your topping over the coconut base and set back in the freezer. These need to be FROZEN, otherwise the maple syrup will be softer and stickier. It will still taste good - but be pretty messy.

2014/08/30

Marble Chocolate Bark

So upon reviewing some childhood photos (good ol' embarrassment...), I came across this crazily stupid T-Shirt I seemed to always wear... It said "Yes" in huge letters on the front and "No" on the back...


I remember loving it... I don't know why... maybe because it had english text on it and growing up in the motherland, english words were the epitome of "cool"... But this isn't to discuss my backwards sense of style as a kid... that's a standalone-post worthy topic that I will... not ever publish... 

But this T-Shirt made me think of a few recent articles I read that seemed to be a direct contradiction of each other. One of them was all about being a "Yes Man!!" and how it can change your life... while the other was about the importance of "Saying NO" and regaining your independence to not become a people pleaser. So which is it? Which one of these little words should rule your daily life... saying Yes!!! Or... "No..." (or more frequently "better not...") 

The Importance of Saying Yes

This speaks to me a lot more. You've probably heard that "It's better to regret something you've done than something you didn't do". And I completely agree. Usually, when I talk myself into something stupid, that is the quote I use to win my internal argument...  And I can talk myself into doing almost anything. The little "better not" voice gets snuffed out very easily. Try a new sport? Sign up to a challenge? Participate in an event? Learn a new skill? Yes! Yes! Yes!! and I have experienced some of the most wonderful, hilarious things in my life by doing exactly that...
  
                                         

When it backfires:

1. The obvious. 


Sometimes things that seem like a "good idea at the time", are something that required more thought and careful planning. 

                                          

2. The overload. 


Sometimes, you need to stop wasting your time with something that's not working for you and to hell with the "check in the box". Being stuck in a training plan for 6 months that's been getting progressively worse? Banging your head against some nutritional plan that was "supposed to work", but it's really not? Re-evaluate!! 

For me, the biggest difficulty is suddenly being swamped with many tasks and challenges that I don't really want to do... And I can't STAND backing out of things. Something really serious has to happen for me to quit. So I end up stressed. I need to have that "check in the box" that I completed the task. The check box drives me... sometimes in the wrong direction.

Don't aggressively try the same thing over and over again just because you told someone else (or yourself) that you will see it through to the end and you end up wasting so much time!! (I'm looking at you Candy Crush) Sure give a plan an adequate 9-12 weeks, but at the end of it... really think and evaluate how it went!

When it comes to personal battles, sometimes you need to acknowledge that your strategy might be completely wrong. It is so much easier to say "Oh I can't succeed, it's a losing battle!" than to acknowledge - it's not the opponent that's the problem... it's the strategy. 

Remember those boss levels in video games? You need to make sure the approach is correct, or you will not succeed!!


 Ah so bashing Mario's head against the propellor WILL kill him...


The Importance of Saying No.

Sometimes you have to say no. And not just when it comes to not being a pushover and standing up for yourself... or you end up here:



Sometimes you have to say "no" to yourself. And I'm not talking about "no, don't eat that cake" scenario - the one I'm talking about is much harder. The "should I keep doing what I'm doing" scenario... and saying No without feeling guilty. One of the hardest things is to let go something you have been working on. Whether it's an unsuccessful endeavour, work, relationship, diet, training, whatever. The amount of time "invested" in something can turn into a horrible driving force to persevere through something that is making you miserable. Sometimes, you just need to Let it Go (I will not insert Frozen reference here...). 


So, how to know whether to say Yes or No?

No easy easy way of accomplishing this, but I stole this decision-making model based on "dealing with a dilemma" because, the way I see it... the inner monologue battle (at least the one I go through), really is one kind of "should I/shouldn't I" dilemma or another. 

1. Stop and think - prevent that rash decision. Think ahead. Take a few seconds, a few deep breaths, and analyze.

2. Clarify Goals - long and short-term goals. Is your decision going to help you with a current challenge, long-term, is it a quick-fix? What is it you want as an end result!

3. Determine FACTS - cut out the emotions. Forget the "time invested". This is the hardest step. Think as if you are an outsider. Look at the raw data and results. Imagine you were evaluating someone else. 

4. Develop Options - now that you have the facts and the goals... look at different ways you can consolidate the two. 

5. Consider the Consequences this is where most of my "yes" thinking wins out. My question always is: "What's the worst that could happen?"... whether or not I really cultivate all the "worst-case scenarios" is a topic for another day... 

6. Choose - make that decision. Although the model urges the decision-maker to "talk someone whose judgment you respect", in my opinion, you need to make yourself the person whose opinion you respect. Think in your head "If I had to turn myself into my own role model... what would I do?" 

7. Monitor/Modify - evaluate the results! again and again. Keep track! Is it working? Yes? No? Why not? These will be your facts for your next round of decision making!!!




And now onto the fun stuff! This recipe is not really "a recipe" more like - 10 minutes to make something ABSOLUTELY delicious. 

Mixed Berry-Nut Marble Chocolate Bark





Mixed Berry-Nut Marble Chocolate Bark
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Ingredients

1. 1 cup almonds
2. 1 cup cashews
3. 1 cup dried cranberries
4. 1 cup dried blueberreis
5. 1 cup 80% dark chocolate chips
6. 1 tbsp coconut oil

Optional: 1 cup white chocolate chips (or more dark chocolate if you are against this delicious, but nutritionally brutal "not-really-chocolate-at-all" "chocolate")
 
Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F
2. Line a lasagna dish with foil
3. Spread the nuts and dried berries over the foil and roast for 5-7 minutes to glaze.
4. Microwave the chocolate chips with 1 tbsp coconut oil at 50% for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for another minute (or follow instructions included to pre-melt).
5. Pour the molten chocolate chips over top, stir, and bake for another 5 minutes.
6. Place in fridge overnight for chocolate to set or place in freezer for 15-20 minutes.
6. Break off pieces and enjoy!!!