The 6 week focus


Starting today, I am challenging myself to 6 clean eating, workout challenging, water guzzling weeks. It’s time to FOCUS. The holidays are over (and let’s face it—have been for some time). Spring will be here before we know it. And my bad habits aren’t magically getting any better.

Why 6 weeks? It’s long enough to kick into high gear and see results without leaving you wondering, “When is this going to end!?!” It’s also a good amount of time to establish some healthy principles that can be continued even after the challenge has ended.

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My goals for the next 6 weeks include:

  • tracking my food every day
  • following a 40/30/30 macro split
  • drinking a gallon of water every day
  • 5 days a week of scaled GPP workouts
  • completing a 6 week cycle of GPP’s Shaping Bias
  • HIIT cardio workouts 2x a week

Where did the motivation for this come from? I have been eating like crap, not working out consistently, and just generally feeling blah. I KNOW that working out regularly, clean eating, and drinking lots of water makes me feel good. But it sure can be hard to get back at it when you’ve been off track for a bit, can’t it?

I’ll be sharing my progress with you, along with my meals and some workouts.


What I’m Eating This Week

One of the perks of meal prepping is knowing exactly what you will be eating during the week ahead.

meal prepping

I thought I would start sharing my meal prep/plans in case it might help out someone else. If you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or bored, I hope these will help you. I also hope it will keep me motivated to not get into a food rut and to try new things.


breakfast meal prep oats and yogurt meal prep

I’ll be having yogurt messes for breakfast.

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds
  • ground cinnamon (to taste)


shake prep

After my workouts this week, I’ll be having fruit and veggie protein shakes.

  • 1 scoop plain protein powder
  • 1 scoop glutamine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • 1 cup 2% milk

I use unsweetened, plain protein powder that can basically be flavored any way you would like. The frozen fruit alone won’t make this shake super sweet. You can add stevia if you prefer a sweeter shake.


I’m making double-protein turkey and cheese sandwiches for lunch, with a serving of fruit on the side. I’ll be making these daily because I feel like bread tends to get too dry when left in the refrigerator for a few days.


chili family dinner

Below is our plan for dinners this week. We have done a lot of the prep ahead of time (cutting veggies, meat, etc.) and will be having leftovers a few nights, too.

Sunday: Chili (made by Jeremy’s dad)
Monday: Crockpot Nikujaga (Japanese beef stew)
Tuesday: Fiesta Skillet dinner
Wednesday: Crockpot Mongolian beef, served over rice
Thursday: chicken/fish, roasted broccoli, Annie’s mac ‘n cheese
Friday: Nikujaga leftovers
Saturday: Fiesta Skillet lefftovers

If you enjoy these types of posts, please leave a comment below and let me know. I appreciate all of your feedback!

See Ya Later, Sugar

I started the sugar weaning process today. After too many weeks of enjoying holiday cookies and candies, as well as jumping back on the soda wagon… it’s got to stop. GPP starts their Sugar Detox Challenge on Monday, but Neil has suggested making it a little less painful by weaning yourself off the addicting stuff, rather than going cold turkey.

So that’s how my day has been. How’s yours going?

I thought I’d show you what I ate today because I haven’t done that in a long time. Something else I haven’t done in far too long is play with my DSLR camera. So, I pulled that out, too.

simple oatmea 

Breakfast was a simple bowl of oatmeal, cooked in the microwave.

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • Sprinkle of chia seeds
  • 1/2 banana
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter (contains added sugar)
  • 1 cup water

Most mornings I have a cup of plain Greek yogurt with some cereal or oatmeal, banana, chia seeds, PB2 and cinnamon added. It’s a habit I got into with the Skin In The Game Challenge that I’ve just kept up with. Easy way to get in a bunch of protein and stay full for a while.

Today I was just feeling something different.

coffee and water

I’m working on rebuilding some good health habits, including getting my gallon of water in daily, so I challenged myself to get in 24 ounces (a Contigo bottle) of water before touching any coffee or tea. Success!

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Most of the day was pretty lazy, but I did manage to complete .2 Continuing Education Credits (CECs) for renewing my ACE Personal Trainer certification at the end of this month. Just like a lot of other professions, I need a certain amount off CECs to be elligible to renew my certification—ACE requires 2.0. I’m almost finished with them… only .2 to go! On Monday, Jeremy and I will be renewing our CPR/AED certification. Lots of learning going on around here these days!

deer in the headlights link goose is a lady  link and magus laying around link

While I was studying, the boys were enjoying the sweet sunshine we were blessed with today. Both of the dogs love sunbathing… there is a noticeable uptick in their attitude and happiness when it is sunny.

I took a study break in the middle of my course to eat lunch.

sandwich apple pickles

Most days I have a sandwich with cheese and a piece of fruit. It’s an affordable, easy option that doesn’t require much time or effort to prepare. Today I also had some pickles—my father-in-law made these with cucumbers raised from his garden. They are so good.

mexican casserole

Jeremy’s Dad made Mexican Casserole for dinner tonight and invited us to have some. We had actually planned something really similar to make, but it didn’t really make sense to make it when there was basically the same thing already cooked with plenty to spare.

chobani cheese snack

Later this evening I had a Chobani (that does have added sugar—I know) and a cheese stick.

I also decided to have a small ice cream cone. I had been craving sugar like crazy all day long since I wasn’t munching on candy or sipping on soda, so I decided to have this small indulgence. Still an improvement… but goal for tomorrow is even less sugar.

I’m going to sip some tea for the rest of the night and probably enjoy a movie with my husband.

Skin In the Game Challenge Recap

On October 7 I started an Optimal Health Challenge with GPP Fitness. I’d hit a slump in my training and was feeling pretty blah. I was getting in most of my workouts, but eating pretty crappy and just kind of drifting along with no goal. GPP’s Skin In the Game Challenge was just what I needed to re-light the fire under my ass.

You can see more about the challenge and “rules” by clicking the above link.

Participants were asked to create at least 3 goals (one for physical health, one for nutrition, and one for lifestyle health) and decide how much “skin” ($$$) they wanted to put on the line and risk losing if they did not reach their goals.

My goals were:


I didn’t set any goals based on numbers or weight loss because I wanted this challenge to be a stepping-stone for a healthier lifestyle in general, not a quick fix of some sort. Also, I am a healthy weight and any weight lost is for merely vanity. Basically, I just needed some consistency in my life, especially with food.

I decided to take progress photos along the way, instead of focusing on a number on the scale.

September 30, 2013 – a few days before the challenge began

Mid-October 2013

Early November 2013

Late November 2013

At first, I attempted to follow GPP’s Burst Cycle diet as it is written, but very quickly realized it was not enough calories or nutrition for my active lifestyle. I felt like crap for the first few days and had absolutely no energy.

I ended up modifying the BCD to fit my needs, cycling three days “on” with very clean eats and sticking to a 40/30/30 macro split, and one day “off” as a burst day, where I ate mostly clean, but indulged in whatever I’d been craving without worrying too much about macros. My diet sort of ended up being a combo of Burst Cycle and IIFYM.

A few weeks into The Challenge I realized how much I was loving the more muscular physique I was starting to develop. I wanted more! My focus shifted and I began to concentrate on building strength and muscle, which meant I needed to eat more! I continued the BCD pattern of 3 days “on” and 1 day “off” and stuck to the 40/30/30 macro split, but increased my calories to fit my goal.

Did I Achieve My Goals?
Yes! I put $50.00 on the line and will be getting $40.00 of it back. (Every time you went off plan you could pay a penance of $2.00. All money collected from failed goals and penances are going to a food bank.)

I achieved 5 workouts a week every week of the challenge. There were 51 days in the challenge and I paid penance for 5 of them, meaning I stayed on track 90% of the time. I’d say 90% is pretty darn consistent. My husband has been very, very busy with Grad school, so it was nice to make sure we were spending quality time together regularly no matter how busy we both were. And finally, my ability to wake up at the same time each morning improved.

Was it worth it?
Absolutely! There was a $25.00 buy-in for the challenge and then whatever Skin you wanted to put on the line (and hopefully get back!).

The one thing I really wanted to get out of this challenge was consistency. I’ve always struggled with over-indulging in the things that should be treats and not focusing enough on clean eating. Moderation has never been something I was able to make work because I didn’t understand how to balance treats and clean eats. Rotating the 3 days “on” with 1 day “off” helped me to understand how treats in moderation looks and feels in practice.

I also started to feel really strong and see a lot of progress in my arm and back muscles.

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What will I take away?
I plan to continue with the general principles of the BCD and IIFYM mixture I’ve been using, along with calorie counting. It works for me and I love the way I feel with this “diet.”

I will also continue with my 5 days a week of GPP workouts. GPP recently released a Shaping Bias (Bodybuilding) protocol that I am considering adding to my programming. I really enjoy heavy weight lifting and find it very motivating and I just want to keep going with that.

My focus will continue to remain on staying healthy and getting stronger—not on a specific number on the scale.

PB2 Almond Protein Muffins (recipe)

It’s been one of those days… the weather is quickly getting colder, grayer, and just plain dreary and icky. This kind of weather really makes my mood take a beating. Where’s the sunshine? ‘Cause that’s what I’d really like.

Instead, we’ve been cuddling and wearing toe socks.


Chugging protein shakes post-workout, in this cold weather, hasn’t been going so well—I’ve kind of just been skipping them because I have NO motivation to drink anything cold (and warm protein shakes are gross). So I thought today was a great opportunity to make some protein muffins that I could look forward to after my workouts.


Another big inspiration for baking these? Using up some of our pantry supplies. We’re moving in *gulp* 3 weeks and have way too much food in our apartment, still. Making some muffins sounded like a great way to put some of those ingredients to good use. Recipe below was inspired by this post.


PB2 Almond Protein Muffins
Makes 6 servings


  • 12 tablespoons PB2

  • 1/4 cup ground flax

  • 1 scoop plain protein powder

  • 1/4 cup almond meal

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • cinnamon to taste

  • 1/2 cup 0% fat Greek yogurt

  • sweetener of choice to taste; I used Stevia

  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped

  • 2 medium bananas, mashed

The muffins turned out great and will be awesome for a quick post-workout snack that’s pretty high in protein. They’re just lightly sweet (but you could add more sweetener if you wish) and have a good nutritional profile.


Let me know if you try these!

Half-Marathon Training: Week 1

What a weekend!

laying at pool

Spent Saturday running in the morning, cleaning our apartment in the afternoon, and hanging out with a friend in the evening. Today was all about relaxing—church this morning, laying by the pool in the afternoon, and catching up on TV with my husband this evening.

Detroit Free Press Half Training Week 1

This was my first week of training in nearly eight months. That means re-figuring out what successful training looks like.

Detroit FP HALF Marathon Training

I did 5 GPP workouts, 2 spin classes (teaching), and ran 3 times this week. I’d call this a successful week in terms of workouts!

Maria P. is a runner from Ann Arbor, MI   dailymile

Runs this week totaled 9 miles, including a 2 mile temp run and a 4 mile long run.

I learned I still have a lot to learn when it comes to training well. My fueling and hydrating this week were pitiful—definitely have to improve that if I want to reach my race goals. I’m also in need of more practice with keeping pace—my goal for Saturday’s long run was 9:20 miles… I ended up with a 9:23, 9:19, 9:14, and 9:12 mile. Not crazy far off, but not on target, either.

Things I want to work on this week:

1. Smarter fueling—I get busy at work and forget to eat. At the end of the day I’ll notice a protein shake I meant to make and drink and think “crap!” I’m making it a point to pack my lunches/meals the night before and stop what I’m doing to eat them this week.

2. In bed earlier—Last week was a giant FAIL at getting enough sleep. Most weeknights I was running on only 6.5 hours of sleep. Our bodies rebuild while we sleep. I’m pushing my body very hard by adding half-marathon training onto an already very full schedule. I need the rebuilding. I need the sleep.

3. Returning to “real” food—Jeremy and I have been going out to eat A LOT in the past month. Way more than necessary and mostly out of laziness. I’m dialing myself back in and re-focusing on the basics—lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. No dining out unless we are out of town.

4. Tracking my calories—I don’t believe it is 100% necessary to count calories all the time. But when you are burning a lot of calories, you do need to make sure you are re-fueling well. I’m not sure how well I am doing with this. Time to track for a while.

Until next week, friends!

I bought a juicer

I avoided the juicing trend for as long as I could.

At first, I was totally dis-interested because of the clean up I’d heard was involved. Then, I became intrigued because I realized I could get a boatload of fresh fruit and vegetables in without having to eat them all. And finally, today, I caved and bought a juicer.

jack lalanne power juicer express

I chose the Jack La Lanne Power Juicer Express. It wasn’t my first choice, but Meijer was out of the cheaper one, so I went with this model after looking at the reviews (they were good). I also bought some Ball canning jars because I knew I wanted to pre-make my juices for the week and needed a way to store them that was air-tight.

juicing fruit and veggies

Being as it was my first time juicing, I bought a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables because I wasn’t sure how much juice they would make. I bought too much, though. Now I know.

For my first-ever fresh juice, I created a medley of carrots, apples, lemon, blueberries, grapes, spinach, and oranges.

fresh juice 1fresh juice 2

The verdict?

maria drinks juice

Amazing! Beyond the sheer health benefits of juicing—and there are many—it just tastes so damn good!

The clean up on this particular juicer wasn’t bad at all. I rinsed all the parts immediately after juicing and barely had to scrub anything. Much easier than I had been expecting.

juice for the week

I’ve went ahead and pre-made 6 juices for the week. That will get me through until next Sunday, when I plan to do it all over again. I put 2 in the fridge and 4 in the freezer. I’ll put one in the fridge the night before to thaw out for the next day. I’m sure “juicing purists” would frown on this idea of pre-making juices and freezing them, but you have to do what is realistic for your life—juicing every single day is not realistic for me.

I’m going to replace my mid-morning snack with a fresh juice and see how my body responds. I haven’t been getting nearly enough vegetables lately (ick. not a huge fan of most of them) but I know that great nutrition is important for me.

Juicing, for me, is NOT related to weight loss at all. In fact, I am actively trying to maintain my weight and not lose anymore. I really just want an easy way to get in the nutrients I need in my busy life. Hopefully juicing and I will have a nice long relationship.