And the results are in…


Thanks for following along these past four–almost five weeks now! I checked in with Ziba on Monday, and I’m excited to announce that during the four weeks of Transform Bootcamp, I lost five pounds and, more importantly, just over 9 inches total–waist, hips, bust, thighs, and arms. My hips and thighs saw the most inches lost–probably in large part because of the Ballerina Bum series. Wahoo! (P.S. My teammates know this about me, but I love GIFs and I can’t believe that’s the first time I linked to one on this.) It is reassuring to know there have been measurable results; I had an inkling there would be because I could see more definition in my arms (in the mirrors at MaZi) and feel more definition in my legs. 

My reflections on how this happened? Well, I stuck to the action plan that Ziba and MaZi laid out for me: with a combination of classes and at-home workouts (mostly classes), I did at least five strength and five cardio workouts per week. You’ll remember that some classes like Ballerina Fight Club count as both. Given the combinations of classes I did, I usually ended up exceeding the weekly target. At the beginning of each week, I set my schedule–took a look at my other commitments and signed up for all my classes/put calendar reminders in Outlook so that I’d hold myself accountable to showing up. It’s really helpful to take a look in advance so you can fit that many workouts in. I did at-home workouts when I was travelling or when I couldn’t make it to a class–again, these aren’t a substitute for the actual classes and amazing MaZi instructors but they give me a good workout when I’m unable to get into the studio. To save myself some time, I actually put recurring calendar invites into Outlook for all the South Loop classes (I ❤ the South Loop studio) so I could easily remember the schedule and simply delete classes I’m not planning to take. My calendar for the next few months looks a little crazy so the picture is a screenshot for a week in June.


I also really tried to push it in classes. Instructors were there to help and give me corrections as always, and I tried to up my game by holding on to that kettlebell for a little longer or finishing out full sets without a break or lifting my leg just a little higher. The classes are only 45 minutes or an hour and though it’s a big step just to show up, it takes a full commitment once you’re on the dance floor, too. What’s great about MaZi classes is the variety of what they offer. There are so many different types of classes and then they change the classes themselves every couple week so you can’t get bored; the music itself just keeps things interesting! If you live in Chicago, you should definitely check out MaZi; if you live somewhere else, see if there’s a local dance fitness studio. With dance fitness, you get a total body workout. I’m sure I’m strengthening muscles that have been dormant for most of my life. A solid mix of cardio and strength training has done wonders for me, and I feel stronger than ever. If dance fitness isn’t an option for you, then try to figure out what variety means for you, whether it’s cross training by switching between running, elliptical-ing, or biking or adding kickboxing classes to your normal yoga routine–I think it’ll go a long way in keeping you on track toward hitting your goals if your interest levels remain high!

I am committed to maintaining the five cardio and five strength class routine because it’s clearly working for me. I have some travel coming up, which always makes it a little more difficult to fit in a workout, but as long as there’s time in my schedule, then I won’t let any mindsets get in the way of squeezing a workout in there–even if it’s in my hotel room. The transformation isn’t quite over yet–I still haven’t hit my longer-term goals; I’ll get there before it’s swimsuit season though (if this cold weather ever goes away)! Thanks for following along and I do plan to keep blogging (although likely less frequently) to share updates and new recipes. 


Mission complete! …and a few more recipes


My Transform Bootcamp is officially over, and I FEEL AWESOME! I will share the final results in my next blog post later this week with some reflections on my transformation with an emphasis on the fitness side of things. Today, I’m going to focus on my grain free diet, working with Dr. Mike, and a few recipes.

All in all going grain free wasn’t too challenging for me; it got easier as I got more used to it, bought the foods I really needed at the grocery store, and found some great recipes to keep me going. I know I’ve said this a few times now, it’s most challenging when you eat out, especially if you’re somewhere that has limited options; there are more temptations there, too. I also want to underscore that I already had some grain free meals in my rotation (like my grandma’s chili recipe pictured below) and so it wasn’t like I had to completely change the way I was eating or find recipes with a bunch of substitute ingredients. I did do the latter when I was attempting to fill grain cravings (like the almond meal pancakes and cauliflower pizza crust), but you really could do grain free all week by just having a meat dish and a bunch of veggies on your plate for lunch and dinner. I now eat more veggies and nuts–be sure to get the raw kind that have no added oil or salt (the only drawback to nuts is that they’re so expensive, which just pains the cheapskate in me).

Once my official four weeks was up (last Friday), I did have Homeslice pizza as a treat; I highly recommend the place! While I did indulge that night, I only had two slices because I was full after those two. Later on though, I went to my friend Robyn’s Olympics viewing party (loves me some figure skating) and continued to grain indulge–think buffalo chicken dip and tortilla chips. Eek! During the four weeks, I had the mindset that I had to do this–I was committing to the good folks at MaZi and Windy City Wellness–and I couldn’t cheat. That’s not exactly the right mindset but I don’t want to slump back into snacking on things that I don’t really need so I’m still thinking about how to go into situations with those kind of temptations. I don’t want to feel like I’m depriving myself, which is why I plan to continue doing mostly grain free while allowing myself grain indulgences every once in a while–foods that don’t really have a great grain free substitute like pizza (though I’m still going to try to find one!) and dim sum (oh, it’s been so hard to stay away from Chinatown and MingHin). I’m continuing this way of eating because I feel better and I’m eating more and more healthier foods. Win, win.

WindyCityMissionI can’t say enough great things about Dr. Mike at Windy City Wellness. Alongside here, I’ve posted some text from Windy City Wellness’ website–its mission and goals for its patients. I feel like it sums up Dr. Mike’s holistic approach to treating the body. Through working with Dr. Mike (who suggested I try going grain free), I was reminded of how more aligned my body feels after a chiropractic adjustment, and I got to try acupuncture, which was wonderful for releasing tension from my body and mind. Dr. Mike’s questions about how I was feeling, how my body was responding to the diet, the increase in exercise, etc. made me realize how little I actually listen to my body. This is probably why the severe knee pain I experienced in 2011 got as bad as it did and took as long as it did to get better. This is why I write off stomach pain as a random occurrence that will be gone when I wake up in the morning rather than thinking about what I ate and trying to identify what may have actually caused the stomach pain. I have started to listen more to the signals my body sends me (including the ones that tell me I’m full!) and think it will help me continue to achieve a feeling a balance and wellness. If you ever have aches and pains or want to reach a better level of health (again in a holistic sense), go to Dr. Mike! Go now–don’t put off your health (read: and happiness).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetOkay, recipe time. First, my grandma’s chili recipe that I mentioned earlier–but first first, you all most know that Grandma O’Malley is the best cook EVER. I aspire to be able to cook like her one day. I make her chili and lasagna (though I’ll be making that less frequently) and it’s just never the same. Part of what I’m missing is likely the love and heart that only a mother of 11 and grandmother of 14 can put into food. I have a physical copy of the recipe and this is about the closest thing I could find to it. The only thing to change is use three cans of 16 oz. tomatoes and use crushed tomatoes instead of whole. I also throw in a can of pinto beans and just put them in with the rest of the ingredients. Perhaps I overcook them in doing that but I can’t tell the difference between overcooked beans and “just right” beans. Sprinkle with a little shredded sharp cheddar and you’ve got a lovely meal for this miserably cold weather.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe next one is not really a recipe–it’s just a note on the smoothies Evan and I make from time to time. First, buy your frozen fruit at Trader Joe’s; they have the best prices I’ve seen if you choose the packages without “fancy” in the title. We recently got a Ninja blender/processor to replace our Magic Bullet that whimpered out after four years, and the Ninja works very well for our needs. For one smoothie, we typically use 3/4 a cup of Greek yogurt (TJ’s also has the best prices in this department), half a banana, 3/4 a cup of the frozen berries (non-fancy!), 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple, a tablespoon of flaxseed, and whatever amount of orange juice that gets you the consistency you’re looking for. I prefer mine a little less “icy” and more watery so I use a little more orange juice and sometimes use fresh bananas if we have ’em. Mess around with the amounts of fruits, again, to your liking. The smoothie featured here had a whole fresh banana, 3/4 a cup of frozen pineapple, and 1/3 a cup of frozen mango. We’re going to re-attempt adding kale to our smoothies and perhaps you’ll see that in a future blog post.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetLastly, tonight’s dinner consisted of almond crusted tilapia and asparagus (just pan fry it–nothing special here). The tilapia was so delicious! I subbed more almond meal for the flour. I could definitely taste a hint of brown sugar, and it’s pretty easy to make–a lot of dishes to clean up but an easy price to pay for the taste of this. I like how the asparagus is trying to overshadow the tilapia in this picture. Nice try asparagus, not happening. I want to experiment more with fish because I love fish but don’t eat it that often. If you have any awesome fish recipes, please share them with me! Thanks for reading!

Final stretch!


I am officially in the final week of the Ballerina Bum Transform Bootcamp challenge! And I just realized that I never really explained why I’m doing this, why I’ve followed through on my commitments, why I entered the contest in the first place. Yes, I talked about wanting to lose weight, get toned, and eat healthier. These are a few reasons I’m doing this, and the first two are indeed pretty vain though perfectly valid desires of mine. The biggest reason I’ve been committed to this transformation and will be committed to continuing it past these initial four weeks is because I know what’s at stake. High cholesterol and high blood pressure run in my family. Presently, I do not have either of these (though I did see a slightly elevated triglyceride level on my most recent blood work), but I am certainly susceptible to them and would think they would manifest a little later in my life. I’m trying to prevent that, and the easiest road to prevention is maintaining regular exercise and eating healthy (and continuing to not smoke). Two actions that are totally within my control; two actions that fit into my schedule when I choose to prioritize them. Though this is the easiest road, I’m not saying it’s easy. It does take purposeful planning and I can see circumstances that may make it harder (a robust travel schedule, kids, school, etc.); but if you’re grounded in what’s at stake, you have a North Star to guide you.

Though I’m years away from having little ones of my own, I do think about how my health already impacts people I care about–my mom, dad, brother, Evan, and rest of my family—and how it will definitely impact my future kids. If I can get a head start and be in the best shape possible and in the best health condition possible before they arrive, I’ll be set up to continue an active and healthy lifestyle with them. Now, friends, don’t go reading too much into this; I am years and years away I promise, but I honestly do think about it. Before I started the Transform Bootcamp, I was getting a decent amount of exercise (less than I would have liked) but I really didn’t think much about what I was eating. These two actions go hand in hand. “Abs are made in the kitchen!” as my brother has reminded me. I am grateful that this has jump started my approach to healthy eating, and I will forever be more conscious of what I am putting into my body. Paired with a more intense yet manageable fitness  regimen, I am completely energized and feeling excellent. (P.S. I first wrote “regime” but caught it. Maybe one day I’ll have a fitness regime…) So thanks to all of you who have encouraged me, checked-in on how it’s going, and read through these long posts. And of course a huge thanks to MaZi and Dr. Mike!

Now for a quick update: if you’ll remember from my last post, I was in Birmingham last week at a TFA conference. The day after my post from Birmingham, the scene was quite different. Birmingham experienced a snowstorm—something that rarely ever happens—and the city essentially shut down because they don’t have the infrastructure to respond to such an emergency. Being from Chicago, it was  a surreal experience, but I am so appreciative of the hotel staff—some of whom slept at the hotel that week—who kept us safe and comfortable. I literally did not step outside between Monday night and Friday morning when I left Birmingham. My team ended up eating more meals within the hotel than planned (there were really no other options) and so it was a bit of a struggle in terms of food options; I think what I mean by that is that I really didn’t have a choice in what to eat since there was a set menu for lunches and dinners.

Boxed lunches meant just eating the meat and cheese on the sandwich and painfully giving away the cookies/brownies that were enclosed. The snack options of fruits and veggies were really helpful to sustaining me; I also thought ahead and brought a container of almonds and cashews. One dinner meant loading up on the meat options, one meant eating the vegetarian option, and another meant my one and only cheat thus far: they somehow managed to get Domino’s to make enough pizzas to feed most of the conference attendees, and because I couldn’t just eat salad (because I knew that wouldn’t be enough for me), I had gluten-free pizza. I don’t feel guilty at all about this cheat (it was pretty good), and it was still gluten-free though likely not grain free. I did fit in my one workout for the trip (only one necessary because I frontloaded my workouts) by doing my MaZi home workout in my hotel room after reconfiguring the furniture so I had enough space. I shared a room with a new TFA friend, and luckily for her she was not there to experience my dances and exercises. It felt so great to get back to MaZi this past weekend, and I’ve been hitting it hard since I’ve been back—gotta finish out strong!

Two recipes to share: The first is not healthy but was a grain-free Super Bowl party friendly option: IMG_20140204_211856bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. I mean, just delicious. I think dates might be good for you (maybe), but the rest of it is not. I’d recommend the recipe though and perhaps only making it every once in a while. The second comes from my Transform Bootcamp buddy, Lauren, who shared her recipe for grain-free “protein bars” with me. We actually went to Trader Joe’s together, post-MaZi workout, to so she could guide me to the ingredients. These things are SOOO good. Really. And so easy to make as long as you have a food processor. Essentially the recipe is equal parts hazelnuts (or any nuts you may prefer), figs, and Trader Joe’s Golden Berry Blend (raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and dried blueberries). I did a cup of each and also added in a IMG_20140204_211458tablespoon of flaxseed for good measure. Grind ’em up in a food processor, pour out the contents onto a baking sheet, press down to create sufficiently thick bars, and store them in the refrigerator. So good and so easy. Evan has even requested another batch. Thanks for the recipe, Lauren!

I don’t think I’ll experiment much this week, but I plan to do some more next week. Be on the lookout for an update then!