Category Archives: Health

14 Day Cleanse + Gallon a Day {RESULTS}

So…remember when a bunch of us decided to eat nothing but clean food for 14 days WHILE drinking a gallon of water a day?

Yeah, that.

It’s been a few weeks since the challenge ended, so I thought I’d give you an update on how it went down.

I was going to do a high/low report, but really, it was all good.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meals, just like I did with the 10 day cleanse back in the spring, and I didn’t really miss sugar, bread, or anything else I wasn’t allowed to eat.

There were about 130 of us over on the Facebook accountability page, and I loved having all of the feedback, encouragement, recipe suggestions, etc. I’m pretty sure we did nothing but support the research that makes big claims about how much more likely you are to succeed if you take on a challenge in a group setting.

Honestly, as far as I know, none of us did the cleanse perfectly (I’m just speaking from those who piped up on the page; if you nailed it without a single cheat, then I’m not trying to cast a slur on your impeccable clean-eating character). But, for the most part (for me it was about 97%, if we’re going to attach a random, totally made-up percentage to it), those of us who actively participated in the cleanse stuck to the guidelines.

I also managed to drink all of my gallon every day except maybe 3 (and on those days, I only had a few ounces left).

So, the big question: did I receive any benefits from all of this clean-eating/water-guzzling madness?


At the end of the 16th day (I’d started a bit earlier than the rest of the group and decided to continue until everyone was done), I’d lost 3 pounds and 3 1/2″ overall, which returned me to my pre-Theo weight/size. Now, I will admit that there’s this “post-Della” size that I kind of consider my ideal weight, but I haven’t been there in 4 years, so I’m pleased with where I am right now (for now :) ).

Just in case you’re a visual sort, here are some Before + After pics for your perusing…I was going to say “pleasure,” but let’s just go with “information,” shall we? I don’t think anybody particularly enjoys staring at my headless body. I know I don’t.

(The far left pic is from before my 10 Day Cleanse in the spring, the 2nd from the left is immediately after the 10 Day Cleanse, the 2nd from the right is right before the 14 Day Cleanse, and the last is immediately after the 14 Day Cleanse. (Clear as mud?) 14dayaftercollagefront




The difference from left to right is approximately 12 pounds and 16 inches! And all of that is from eating healthy foods and plenty of them (I never feel unsatisfied or hangry when I’m on a cleanse).

Full disclosure: literally the day after the cleanse ended, it was the twins’ birthday, and since then, it’s been birthday season up in here. So, between the girls’ birthday, my birthday, and friends’ birthdays, we’ve been partying for the last 2 weeks. Needless to say, the eating has not been especially clean. I may have backslid on some of my results. I don’t know. I haven’t measured/weighed (something I almost never do anyway).

But this week has been back to life as usual, and I’ve already adjusted my eating back to within healthy parameters (with a few cheats here and there; note to self: having fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in the house is a bad idea).

And now for the WATER!

I’ve heard some pretty drastic and fantastic claims from those who have started drinking a gallon a day, but I can’t say that I can lay claim to most of them. I will say that I was already drinking a fair bit of water each day before I started the gallon challenge, so maybe the awe-inspiring results came from people who were chronically dehydrated.

In any case, I can say that I experienced the following:

1) Increased milk supply. Theo is still nursing (and will be for a while, I think), so, even though my milk supply wasn’t low before usually, there were days when I would be too busy or distracted to drink enough, and I could tell that Theo was working harder (aka: hurting me) to get his fill. That completely changed when I drank my gallon a day.

2) Fewer cravings. Drinking all of that water definitely helped me stay full. And I didn’t feel a strong need for sugar like I do when a) I’m eating it regularly and b) I haven’t had enough water.

3) Increased energy. I’m sure a lot of this could be attributed to the good food I was eating, but I definitely didn’t get as much of the 2 PM crash that I feel when I’m not as hydrated.

4) Increased mental clarity. Again, I’m guessing the food helped with this, but I definitely felt less foggy than I do when my diet/hydration are not as good. (Case in point: I’ve been ridiculously busy over the last two weeks AND my diet/water consumption hasn’t been as good, and there have been multiple times that I’ve walked into rooms and then just stood there, trying to work out the cosmic question: “WHY AM I HERE?” Hello, premonition of my 80-year-old self).

So! There you have it. And just so you know, I heard from several cleanse participants who had great results as well. One had clearly lost several inches in her before + after pics. Another lost 7 (!!!) pounds and was loving the way she was eating so much she planned to continue. And multiple others reported how much they enjoyed both what they were eating/drinking and how it was making them feel.

Obviously, I highly recommend clean eating + lots o’ water drinking. (Just FYI: the recommended water consumption for a woman is 88 ounces, so the gallon challenge definitely put us over the top on that, but I need the extra because of my levels of exercise, and I didn’t hear complaints from anyone else about any adverse effects. It’s always good to do your own research before you attempt anything like this, though, so be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into if you decide to take on this challenge).

I’ll just be over here plugging along eating (mostly) clean and chugging water, but I’ll be sure to let y’all know if I do another cleanse. (I’m sure I’ll need one after the holidays).

Thank you so much to all of you who participated. It was a blast to get to know you better and be encouraged by you!

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Beautycounter Review + a GIVEAWAY!

Way back in the spring, Erin, a sweet reader-friend, contacted me about trying out some products from a company I’d never heard of: Beautycounter.

Pretty much right from the get-go, though, I was intrigued, since Beautycounter’s mission is to provide safe, effective skincare products for the entire family. I had been on the lookout for a great skin care regimen for a while but, after trying out various samples of this and that, I was still pretty underwhelmed and undecided.

But with Beautycounter’s commitment to banning over 1,500 harmful chemicals and products that are regularly allowed into American skincare lines (whereas the European Union has banned the use of over 1,300 ingredients, the U.S. has only banned 11, so clearly Beautycounter exceeds both of those limits), I literally figured, “What harm could it do to try it?”

So, I sampled two of their lines: The Essentials and The Countertime.

I tried the Essentials first, but, while I thought the product was fine–gentle and soothing–I didn’t see a huge difference from any one product (except the Gentle Exfoliator, which I luuuurved). So, I wasn’t necessarily expecting too much from the Counter Time line either. I wasn’t even paying much attention–just going through the motions of applying the products faithfully each day in tiny amounts (I’ve been known to make samples last for a good month).

The thing was, without even looking for it, I was noticing that my skin looked brighter in the mornings. And then, several days later, it was undeniable: my skin tone was more even, my pores were smaller, my fine lines around my eyes diminished. A friend at Body Pump exclaimed, “Holy Cow! Your skin looks amazing! What are you doing??”

And then–the gold standard of all proofs–even my husband noticed and expressed his admiration.

So, I emailed Erin quick, fast, in a hurry and said, “Dude! This stuff works! How do I get more??”

She very patiently dealt with all of my questions and waffling until I finally decided to just bite the bullet and order the entire Counter Time line–a really big investment for me and the most I’ve ever spent on skincare (by a long-shot; I received no special discount other than that Erin was sweet enough to order it at cost for me)–because it provided a significant discount to each individual product to buy them all together.

Plus, I knew that there was a 60 day money back guarantee if I was at all unsatisfied with the products.

I’ve been using the Counter Time line for almost 3 months now, and I can honestly say that I really like it.

I cannot say that I’ve seen quite the drastic results that I experienced in that first week of samples, but I have been pleased by my consistently brighter, more even-toned skin + smaller pores.



{While I will freely admit that this is super-flattering lighting, I would also like to point out that I have not edited this picture in any way or added filters or any such fancy work}

Honestly, I think that my skin needs regular exfoliation, and the Essentials Line exfoliator, which I was using in combination with the Counter Time samples back in the spring was the Holy Grail of product combos for my skin and really helped it glow.

Also, Erin ended up sending me the Essentials Line cleanser (since that line is her personal favorite) to try in combo with the rest of the Counter Time products, and I could see a significant difference after I added that in. AND I would like to point out that one of the products that came in the Counter Time line (the Enlightening Treatment Pads) did not work for me at all. It broke me out in tiny little bumps, but since Erin had specifically recommended it as doing wonders for her skin, it clearly depends on your specific skin’s balance whether it’s beneficial or not for you. That said, since I ordered the entire line as a unit and was happy with the other 5 products, I couldn’t return the Enlightening Pads by themselves. I understand why (none of the items were priced separately), but that was still a bit of a bummer.

So! I guess the biggest takeaway from this review is that, if you decide to try out Beautycounter’s products (which I heartily recommend!), try to sample different combos of lines first to see what works best for you because a) what works for me (or anyone else) may not be the ticket for you (duh) and b) it may not be the best idea to order one whole line, even if it’s significantly cheaper. Mixing and matching the best products for your skin is definitely the way to go!

Next up, I’m going to look into their kids’ lines for soaps and lotions–especially the sunscreen.

Oh! And speaking of lotions, Erin is being kind enough to give away this decadent-looking body butter, which contains zero synthetic fragrances and is really moisturizing for dry skin without leaving any greasy after-feel.

body butter

All you have to do to be entered to win is “the usual” round here at M is for Mama.

Simply comment below with either A, B, C or D (just as a heads-up: if you pick A or B, Erin will follow up with you with more info, per your request).
A) I have heard of Beautycounter, but I would still like more info
B) I have not heard of Beautycounter, and I would like more info
C) I have heard of Beautycounter, but my interest ends with the giveaway
D) I have not heard of Beautycounter, but my interest ends with the giveaway

Happy entering! May the woman with the driest elbows win!!

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14 Day Clean-Eating + Gallon Challenge

Do y’all remember the 10 day clean-eating cleanse I did back in the spring?

I got great results in terms of shedding some stubborn baby weight and definitely could tell a difference in my energy levels and how I felt in general.

And the food was tasty in the extreme!

So, the big question is: did I continue?

Sort of. I never intended to cut out all dairy/bread/sweets for good, but, of course, with summer and its loosey-goosey ways, some days were–ahem–cleaner than others.

Even so, I lost an additional 5 pounds over the course of the last 3 months, which got me within 2-3 pounds of my pre-baby weight.

Just as a refresher…

cleanse collage

And then we have…



I did everything in my (limited technological) power to make all three of those pics side-by-side so you could better see the progression, but the top ones are linked in a collage, and I can’t find the originals to separate them, and the bottom one just wouldn’t size correctly to fit. So…there.

You get two rows of my creepily headless body for your viewing (dis)pleasure. Assuming that I’ve got some results to report after this round of the cleanse, I’ll make an even greater effort to line them all up in a row.

Never let it be said that good things don’t come to those who wait. Such good things.

ANYhoo, Theo is 8-months-old, and this is, by far, the longest it has ever taken me to shed the pounds, but I can definitely tell that my almost-33-year-old self is a little fonder of extra poundage than her 20′s predecessor.


Lately, the struggle has been to eat well on the weekends. When Shaun’s out of town, I eat clean for the most part, but when he’s home on the weekend, we’ve been going on (much-needed) dates, and indulging just a wee bit.

And while I’m all about enjoying treats on occasion, I don’t love the sluggish, gross feeling I get after a whole weekend of it.


Enter our blog post title:


{I didn’t intend for this to continue the headless theme OR look like a mug shot, but since I achieved both without even trying, we’re going with it}

Because I always do better when I have accountability, and I’m guessing I’m not alone in my desire to reset my eating habits after a lax summer schedule.

So, what is this challenge?

Well, basically, I’m inviting anyone interested to join me for the next 14 days (I started today, but I know you guys didn’t get a chance to, so the official dates will be Sept. 10-23) as we eat lots of yummy veggies, eggs, fruits, healthy grains, etc.


And drink water.

LOTS of it!

As in 1 whole gallon a day.

I’ve been chugging my gallon for over a week but not always with perfect consistency, which, again, is where you guys and your accountability comes in.

In case you’re wondering, when you drink 1 gallon of water in 1 day, you pee. A lot.

But it’s not nearly as hard as it might sound, and the (positive) effects on your skin, energy, digestion, exercise performance, and general health and well-being are pretty amazing.

Here’s the thing:

The water consumption part is pretty straightforward.

I just carry my gallon jug with me everywhere I go and make sure that it’s empty before I go to bed.


{I think you’re supposed to write inspirational things on your jug, but I speak sarcasm more fluently than “encouragement”–even to myself [sad, but true]–so this is what I’m working with}

But the “clean” part of the eating aspect can get a little sticky.

After all, how clean are we going? Are we being sticklers about every little thing or shooting for 95% clean without a trip to the health food store required?

Honestly? That’s up to you. If you don’t really even know where to start, then all you have to do is Google the words: “Whole 30 Diet,” and you’ll get a SLEW of details about recipes, what to eat/not to eat, how to prepare it, etc.

There are oodles of resources on Pinterest too.

But I’m trying to keep things as simple/attainable as possible, which means that these are the guidelines I’m using for myself:

*No processed food (no canned soup, no fast food, no chips, no pre-made salad dressings, etc.)
*No sugar
*No dairy/limited dairy (I am allowing myself milk, butter, and cottage cheese…but only on very limited/rare occasions)
*No simple carbs (basically a reiteration of no sugar)
*No bread/tortillas/pasta/oats (with the exception of steel-cut oats)
*Nothing to drink but water

What IS allowed:
*Good fats, including (but not limited to) olive oil, coconut oil, and butter (clarified is best)
*All veggies + fruits
*Meat (no frying/breading/processing)
*Rice/Quinoa (with a focus on brown rice)
*Corn (I might even eat a few corn chips with my guacamole since most corn chips are nothing more than corn + oil; but again, VERY limited)

I shared the recipes that were my go-to during my 10 day cleanse, and I’ll be returning to most of those, but I also have a “clean eating” board on Pinterest that you’re welcome to join (I’d love to see yours as well!)…


I’ve created a FB group for accountability. We can share pics of what we’re eating, ask questions, offer encouragement, and advice–sarcastic or not.

Anyone that wants to can join, but only those who are part of the group can see the pictures and posts within the group, so it will be a safe place for only those truly interested.

Of course, if you’re only interested in participating in one aspect of the cleanse–either the clean eating or the gallon a day, that’s cool too. It’s your cleanse! I’m just excited to see what combining the two does for me this time around.

So…the only thing left to ask is: ARE YOU IN??!

{In case the caps + multiple question marks and exclamations didn’t convey it, I’m excited}

If the answer is yes, leave me a comment or shoot me an email at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com. And then jump in on the FB group if you’re so inclined.

See you there!

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Move-it Monday: Wrap it up—an It Works! GIVEAWAY

I mentioned an “experiment” I hoped to share with you a few weeks back, and the day has come to share it, so here we go.
Have you guys heard about the new rage that is belly-wrapping? (Okay, so it’s not even that new; more like new-ish).
Well, so have I, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty skeptical.  A cloth that you place on your abs, which will magically shrink fat cells and takes multiple inches off your waist—no change in diet or exercise necessary?
Sounds too good to be true, right?
So when an acquaintance from church offered to let me try the It Works! Skinny Wrap after the twins were born, I thought, “Eh! Sure. I’ll give it a try. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
So, seven weeks post Evy and Nola, Traci kindly drove all the way out to my house to “wrap me” (her reaction once she got here was the same as practically everyone’s when they first come: “Man! You really do live way out here, but it sure is a pretty drive.” Yes, it is).
Fortunately for me and my somewhat cynical personality, Traci didn’t try to do a big “sell.”
She merely told me that the wrap has varying degrees of efficacy for different people and that the first wrap of the series (4 total in a box, though you can use more) usually works to tone and tighten loose skin more than melt away a multitude of inches.
She also assured me that this was not simply a dehydration process and that drinking water—and lots of it—was key.
The wrap application took approximately 20 seconds, and I proceeded to wear it for the next several hours (the packaging says a minimum of 45 minutes), while chugging water along the way.
I’m not one for showing my belly to the world, but I did have Traci take some measurements and some before pics while I was wearing fitted workout gear, and they look a little something like this:
Okay, so we’re not talking about anything too terribly catastrophic. Not too many lumps or significant overspill, but what I really want to know is…
After I had worn the wrap for several hours, I took it off (Traci wrapped my entire midsection in plastic wrap to keep the wrap in place and to prevent the lotion on the wrap from getting on my clothes), rubbed the excess lotion into my skin, and went about my day, continuing to drink water.
I waited the full recommended 72 hours before re-measuring, at which point, we had this (these pics are actually several days later than the 72-hour-mark because my husband was out of town that whole weekend, and I didn’t have anybody to take the “afters”).
If you stared at these pictures, blinked a few times, rubbed your eyes, and then scrolled up to look at the “befores” in confusion, I understand.
The contrast isn’t too drastic.
So, here’s a side-by-side to help out:
I was actually a little surprised when I saw the side-by-side, since there was more of a difference than I even realized initially (which, I think is still legitimate, even though I’m definitely standing up straighter in the “after”).
Here are the key things that I noticed when I reassessed 3 days after removing the wrap:
1. When I re-measured, I had lost 1/2 an inch from my lower and middle abs and an entire inch from my upper abs. The upper portion was where I could see the biggest difference.
2. My skin looked considerably smoother and less “stretched” than before. I don’t get traditional stretch marks (don’t have a clue why, but I’m not complaining!), but I definitely have the “crinkly paper” look on my skin from its having to shrink back down to (relatively normal) size after covering a belly full ‘o twins.
So, did I get what I wanted out of the experience?
Honestly, yes.
Although I would have been (happily) shocked if somehow all the extra baby fluff had miraculously melted away, I certainly wasn’t expecting anything of the sort, especially after Traci informed me that most people experience what I did with the first wrap—a small loss and some skin tightening—and only receive the more drastic results after multiple applications.
P.S. Just as a point of reference, by “baby fluff,” I mean that my waist is a full 4 inches wider/thicker around the middle than it was before the twins. I’ve got some work to do.
So, what does all this mean for you?
Well, for one, it means that you’ve got a chance to repair a little of that damage you did with that (5TH!) slice of pumpkin pie!
Traci—who is an It Works! independent distributor—is offering you a chance to see what the It Works! Skinny Wrap can do for you.
In fact, if you win, you’ll get to try two of It Works! bestselling products—the Ultimate Body Applicator (aka Skinny Wrap, which can be used on other problem areas besides the belly) and their Greens—an orange-flavored powder, which is added to drinks that provides “the nutritional value of 8+ servings of fruits and vegetables in each serving,” according to the website (I have not personally tried this product).
For your chance to win 1 It Works! Body Wrap + 1 container of Greens—a retail value of approximately $70—simply fill out the easy Rafflecopter form below! a Rafflecopter giveaway If you check out Traci’s site and like what you see and want to get it for less, you can always sign up for the It Works! Loyal Customer program (click on the link and then the “get the best price” box to see how it works).
For each new sign-up, Traci is offering 1 Skinny Wrap + 1 container of Greens as a thank you!
Just email her @ tracidixon{at}mac{dot}com to let her know about your sign-up, and she get you the goods!
Disclosure: I am in no way associated with It Works! products or marketing, and I received no compensation for this post, unless you count a free trial of one It Works! Ultimate Body Applicator wrap. All the opinions expressed here are my honest and candid reactions to the product as I experienced it. Results will vary.
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Move-it Monday: Fitness Goals for Week 2 of 2012

(If you’re wondering what I did for “Week 1,” it looked almost identical to this week).

Although it might not seem like a fitness instructor would need much motivation to exercise, there are definitely moments (read: days at a time) when exercising seems like more of a chore than a treat (which is how I usually view it…I’m weird, I know).

And I’ll be honest—between the last month + of holiday indulgence and the inevitable pound (or four) that creeps up on me whenever I reach that point in nursing my babies where it’s more about comfort than sustenance, my pants and my hips have gotten into a bit of a tussle that I’d like to end with a decisive win for The Pants!

So, here are my fitness goals for January 9-15 (a.k.a the SECOND WEEK OF 2012…can you believe it??):

Monday, January 9nd: Teach BODYCOMBAT and BODYPUMP (subbing for another instructor so she can go to the memorial service for little Haven Grace).

Tuesday, January 10th: 45 minutes on the elliptical while I do my Bible reading (at 6 AM, hopefully), 100 push-ups (5 sets of 20).

Wednesday, January 11th: Teach BODYCOMBAT and BODYPUMP (back-to-back)

Thursday, January 12th: 45 minutes on the elliptical while I do Bible reading + practice new BODYCOMBAT release.

Friday, January 13th: Teach BODYCOMBAT + 100 push-ups (5 sets of 20).

Saturday, January 14th: Practice the new BODYPUMP.

Sunday, January 15th: REST (!!!)

Now, if this list seems a bit frenetic, please know that for the past 2 months, I’ve been averaging closer to 3 days of exercise a week, which was appropriate given the busy season, but it’s a little low for me.

So…even though I know this is not a normal list for most folks, it’s very doable for me at this point in my fitness journey, and it’s the kind of kick in the pants I need to feel energized, healthy, and strong as the new year begins.

I know that fitness/weight loss/get healthy goals are on most people’s minds each January…

So, starting next Monday, I’ll be introducing one simple fitness move at a time that packs a wallop in terms of results.

I’ll also give you a suggestion of how many times to do it per/week and pledge to follow my suggestions for the week (i.e., if I show you how to do burpees and tell you to do 20 per day, 3 days a week, then I will do them as well).

That way, we can all be in pain get fitter together!

I don’t have a move for you this week, but I do have a fitness tip:

Wear the right stuff. (And no, the brand doesn’t matter).


This is classic BODYCOMBAT garb for me: 1) fitted, breathable sleeveless top so I don’t overheat or get tangled up in sleeves while I’m punching and 2) loose, longish shorts to make kicking easier (and more modest…these are actually rolled up in the pic because I was doing stuff around the house, and they’re long enough to actually get in the way of kneeling to scrub bathtubs and such).

But I’m not wearing perhaps the most important elements of my “uniform”: MY GLOVES.

Boxing gloves not only make me feel much cooler—exposed girly wrists do not look tough when you’re punching—but they also add just a smidge of resistance (they probably weigh half a pound each), which helps with toning and makes me punch harder.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

So, what about you? Got any plans to sweat this week?

What about tricks or gear that help you work harder?

I’m all ears!

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Move-it Monday: Fitness Multitasking

Yesterday, I mentioned:


…so here’s today’s…

Giving Suggestion #2: Use your time and energy to run a race for a good cause. Here’s a great one if you’re local to me (but there are charity/ministry organized runs all over the nation): Run for Sight 5K.

Today’s post is actually a guest-post that I wrote what seems like ages ago right after I started blogging, and I’m guessing quite a few of you haven’t seen it yet. (On a side note, I have never had time fly by so quickly—it never feels like there are enough hours in the day—and yet have a starting point seem soooooo long ago; it’s hard to remember life before blogging in other words; phrases like “free time” come to mind…what is that anyway?).

If you have already read it, I’m sorry. I wrote this brand spankin’ new, completely original, never-before-seen introductory paragraph just for you guys. Happy now?

Anyhoo, I get asked often how I stay motivated to squeeze exercising into a rather hectic schedule. I have a very simple answer really: I get paid to do it.  That doesn’t mean I do it for the money because I don’t. But because I’m the one teaching the class and there is monetary remuneration involved (didja like how I worked 16 unnecessary syllables into that phrase when I could have just said, “money?”), the level of motivation kind of shoots through the roof. I can be just as lazy as the next guy, but not when people are depending on me. And paying me. Check, check.

So, that’s my answer. But being a fitness instructor is definitely not for everyone. Which is why today’s post is all about working little bits of exercise into the everyday, mundane details of life and surprising yourself with what a good workout you can get out of it.

So…without further ado, I give you: me, guest-posting for myself. Take it away, Abs! (Wow, that was weird).

Today, I’m here to help with a common fitness conundrum: how do you get fitter and healthier, without losing your sanity, your family time, or your Kindle time?

In a word (or two, actually): fitness multitasking.


Here are some suggestions of what that might look like:

While you’re playing with your kids…

    • run suicides—if you aren’t familiar with these, it’s probably because you blocked them out of your mind from a traumatic junior high gym class experience. But you don’t have to literally want to kill yourself when you’re done to get something beneficial out of this exercise.  If you’ve got little (or even big) tykes, set up a mark 20-30 feet away (you can use anything—a football, a cone, an Ironman action figure…can you tell I have boys?), and then challenge your kids to a race.  Sprint (or jog…whatever is difficult for you) toward the mark and then back to your starting point three times, then, once your kids catch up (assuming they didn’t outrun you! : )), challenge them to a “walk-off” to see who can do the same distance walking the fastest. Wash, rinse, repeat. The benefit: interval training (alternating high/low activities to vary your heart-rate), which is the most effective form of calorie/fat burning. Try to make your playtime last for at least 15 minutes.
    • give horsey rides: having a wiggly sack of potatoes on your back will add extra resistance and the crawling motion will force you to use most muscles in your body, including those all-important ab muscles everyone is so eager to tighten.  The benefit: elevated heart rate for fat-burning and resistance for muscle tone. Try for 3-4 rounds of horsey rides that last 5 minutes each throughout your day.

While you’re watching tv…

    • Alternate between push-ups, dips, and squats. Grab a chair for the tricep dips, and then knock out sets of 5 each, moving from dips (see video tutorial here)  to squats (check out this body-weight squat tutorial) to push-ups (you can read my push-up tutorial for the standard variety), circuit-style (which just means that you repeat the same sequence of exercises once you’ve completed one round). The benefit: elevated heart-rate for fat-burning and multiple reps for conditioning/muscle tone. Try to do 3 circuits (dips, squats, push-ups = 1 circuit) with a 2 minute break in between for the length of a 30 minute TV show. 
    • Do yoga/pilates: you can Google any number of simple poses/stretches (lots of tutorials on youtube) and then use your tv/movie-watching time to get acquainted with your inner yogi. The benefits: stress reduction (especially if you practice taking deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth), increased flexibility—which decreases your chances of injury and improves the appearance of your muscles—and increased muscle tone.  Try to learn a simple vinyasa flow sequence (Google this phrase) and complete it as many times as possible with a 1 minute break between each sequence during the length of a 30 minute TV show.

While you’re Kindling it up…

    • Find a step/stair of some kind (even a very low stool will work if you’re careful) and do calf-raises while you read.  You’ll be toning your legs while you distract your mind, and the smooth movement won’t distract your eyes from the words on the page, electronic or paper. The benefit: toned calf muscles, stronger lower body.  Try to do at least 10 sets of 10 at varying speeds (singles= up 1, down 1, pulses=same idea, but faster, 2-2’s=up for 2 counts, and down for 2 counts, 3-1’s= up for 3, down for 1, etc.).  If your calves haven’t burst into flame yet, try a simple up-up, down-down step sequence to work out the burn and get the heart-rate up a little.
    • It may seem too obvious to mention, but Kindles or large-print books are also ideal companions for that treadmill or elliptical you’ve been using as hat-rack in your garage for the last two years.

While you’re being the maid…

    • Turn up the tunes, and scrub with a sense of purpose. Sweeping and mopping floors is very few folks’ idea of a good time, but if you dial up the volume on your radio or mp3 player, you’re much more likely to get after that dried-on cereal on the tile floor.  Music with a driving beat (even if it’s just a bee-boppy number from the Go Fish Guys…although I’m partial to Motown…that your three-year-old will love too) has been proven to make you work harder and get your heart-rate higher.  The benefit: besides making chores more fun?—an elevated heart-rate for fat-burning. Try to scrub, sweep, bend down for, polish, and dust with twice your normal speed and vigor for about an hour. You’ll have seared off at least 200 cals.
    • Run the stairs between laundry loads.  Keep your music blasting and sprint/jog/power-walk your stairs (if you have them) or take a lap around your living room (if you don’t) after you sort your laundry, then after you load it, then after you put the soap in, then…well, you get the idea. The benefit: increased heart-rate for fat-burning, with the added benefit of interval training.

These simple tips may not get you ready for the 2012 Olympics, but if you manage to consistently implement even two of them during your daily routine, you’re likely to notice a change in not only your body and your energy, but also your attitude about exercising.

Wow! Wasn’t that such an inspirational and well-written post, you guys? Thank you, Abbie, for stopping by, and don’t forget to read her blog, Five days…5 ways, every single weekday. Oh, and even better, I hear she has a HUGE giveaway/fundraiser stuffed with great prizes that benefits a bunch of really special kids in Uganda going on.  You should definitely check that out and enter (which is free) or maybe even give a little (whatever you do give is doubled!)

Aaaand, now I have a mild case of schizophrenia not to mention a headache, but I am sure I’ll be right as rain after a (small) bowl of ice cream (that’s my other big fitness motivator, by the way. I. like. sugar).

See you tomorrow for Try-it Tuesday. We’ll both be here.

P.S. The theme for this week’s Five Things Thursday shouldn’t surprise you too much. It’s:

Giving Hands



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Move-it Monday: Mythbuster’s Edition

Hey there, folks!

It’s dreary and foggy here, which seems somehow fitting, since my husband is traveling this week, and it just doesn’t seem right that his leaving should coincide with a really glorious fall morning. If you think of it, we would really appreciate prayers for, well, sanity for the next month + as Shaun will be traveling on and off during that time (with an emphasis on the “on”), and things around here could get a bit hairy.

On this week’s agenda? Finishing a project for the big PCM giveaway/fundraiser, homeschooling, blogging, painting (furniture), housework, teaching fitness classes, practicing for BODYCOMBAT launch, having BC launch, and, oh yeah…life.

Will it all get done? Probably not, but I do know for sure that I will be teaching those fitness classes I mentioned and not just because they’re the only thing on the list that I officially get paid to do.

After a week at home with 3 kiddos and no husband, I’m sure I will need every single extra BODYCOMBAT practice.(Air-punching = fantastic stress relief!)

So, speaking of fitness, since it’s Move-it Monday, today I thought I’d do my best to bust 3 of the most common “fitness myths” that I encounter at the gym and elsewhere.

fitness cartoon

I just couldn’t resist! : )

Myth #1: You can lose weight from a specific section of your body by loading up on exercises that isolate that section.

Sorry, folks, but there’s really no such thing as isolation weight loss. Everybody has his/her own “trouble areas,” but by far, the most common question I get asked on this subject is: “How do I get this spare tire off of my stomach?”

workout fairy

Don’t we all wish?

Well, the answer isn’t actually: do more ab exercises.  While knocking out 1,274 crunches every night before bed will certainly tone and strengthen the muscles of your midsection, and it will even burn some calories that will contribute to overall weight loss, it will not melt away belly fat. 

The truth is that, if you don’t like the extra layer of “love” on your tummy (or bum, or…) then nothing but overall weight loss will take it off. In fact, if it’s your nemesis, it may be the last place your body loses weight. 

So, focus less on the crunches and more on a balance of healthy eating, cardio, and strength-training, and then reassess.

Myth #2: Lifting weights will make you bulky.

Men are a different story, but, ladies, we simply are not naturally built to get muscles like this:


(This is incredibly tame compared to every other image that popped up when I searched for “female body-builder,” by the way…eek!)

Creating true “bulk” requires a specific diet, hours upon hours in the gym, and, in many cases, illegal/harmful chemical enhancers.

So, if you’re worried that doing that strength-training group fitness class twice a week at your gym will give you monster muscles, don’t be!

I’ve done BODYPUMP or some other form of resistance-training (relatively light weights with lots of reps) classes an average of three times a week for the past four years, and, while I have definitely seen a change in the level of tone in my arms, I have not had any issues with Popeye biceps or Ah-nuld shoulders.

In fact, unless you continually up your weight and really push yourself in every class, you may not notice too much of an external difference other than a general decrease in jiggle, but you will be helping to strengthen your bones, since resistance training is one of the best ways of increasing bone density, which, in turn, helps combat the effects of osteoporosis. Win!

Myth #3: Dance aerobics can burn off over 1,000 calories per hour.

Okay, I’ll admit that when I say “dance aerobics,” I have a very specific program in mind: Zumba.

I can’t find anything on the official Zumba website that claims this (thank goodness!), but I have seen multiple Facebook posts inviting people to come to “a dance party where you can shake off over a 1,000 calories in one 55 minute class.”



Is Zumba fun? Yes, especially if dance is your thing.

Is it a great form of cardio if you really get your body moving? Yes!

But unless you are a 250 lb. body-building male with ankle-weights on (and wouldn’t we all pay money to see one of those doing Zumba!), that level of calorie-burn for a low-impact dance aerobic class is simply impossible, no matter what that calorie-counting wrist-watch from Walmart says (by the way, unless said watch is linked to a heart-rate monitor via a chest strap, the readout is almost always much too high).

To give you a point of reference, at my current weight, about the maximum calorie-burn I can expect to experience in BODYCOMBAT is approximately 600 calories.  And that’s jumping, kicking, and punching as hard as I possibly can while talking/yelling/teaching.

So, the next time you want to get your sweat on to some fun dance-beats, by all means, go for it! Just remember to estimate somewhere closer to 200-500 calories burned per hour and adjust your menu accordingly.

And there you have it, folks! Myths busted! Or at the least mildly refuted. ; )

Do you have a fitness question or claim that you’d love to have answered or confirmed? I can’t claim to know the answer, but I’ll certainly try my best to find out. 

Ask away!






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Move-it Monday: Combat Kicks


So…this week’s fitness look probably seems a bit uninspired. I mean, black on black. Really, Abbie? Not very original. I thought that this is what you have to wear all the time.  Yes, but two things make this outfit awesome: 1) It’s a Goodwill special, with the top (BCG) and pants (Nike) totaling a whopping $5, and 2) Check out the back of the top. Fun, huh? (At first, my husband balked at taking this picture until I assured him that I was posting a picture of the shirt detail rather than my backside for the all the world to see : )).


A couple of weeks ago, I showed you the four basic punches that we use constantly in BODYCOMBAT. Well, COMBAT launch is this weekend (and boy, do we have some practice to do!), so to get you up to speed in case you wanna come crash the class (or play along from home), I thought I’d show you the four kicks that accompany our punches to round out our arsenal of hardcore moves.

**Prepare yourself for some rather silly expressions.**

1) Front Kick:


From Combat stance (one leg forward, legs apart, “guard” up), pull your knee into your chest, lean back slightly, brace your abs…


…now push your hips and the ball of your foot forward, like you’re shutting a door with your foot. Height does not matter. You can aim for your opponent’s knees, groin (ouch!), abs, chest, or even head.


Retract your heel to your rear end before returning to Combat stance.


From the side:



2) Side Kick


From Combat stance, set your “back” heel at least 3/4 of the way toward your target (your toe will be facing the opposite direction). Check out of my right foot to see what I mean.


Pull the knee of your kicking leg in toward your chest to chamber the kick…


Then, let ‘er loose, driving the “blade” (side) of your foot toward your target and keeping your toe turned down and your heel up. (This will feel incredibly awkward at first, both in your foot and your hip). One arm goes out for balance/aim (I’m actually aiming higher than I’m kicking in this shot, and I’m not even looking, so it’s pretty safe to say that I’d get my rump kicked in a real fight if I tried this), and the other arm squeezes in a fist at your side.


Just like before, height doesn’t matter. You can aim for the ankle, knee, hip, ribs, or head. What does matter is that you pull your knee back into your body before..


…coming back to Combat stance


*Remember, once you’ve got your knee into your chest, it’s 3 moves; out, in, land.

3) Roundhouse Kick


From Combat stance, set your heel 3/4 of the way toward your target, just like you did with the side kick. The roundhouse is a circular kick, so you’re going to have to get your hip over, bum to your opponent and lean away slightly.


Put your arm out for balance and aim, opposite arm in a fist beside the body, lean away and bring your knee/hip up until your shin is parallel with the ground.


Whip out a big kick, aiming your shoelaces for your opponent’s body. Your objective is to knock them forward, not away. Again, you choose how high you kick.


Make sure you pull your heel back toward your bum before you set your foot down.


4) Back Kick


From Combat stance, twist your torso slightly toward the back, pull your knee towards you chest…


…and drive your foot behind you, heel up, toe down (I’m not thrilled with any of the pics I got of this kick, but we were losing our light, so I just went with what I had).


Pull your knee back into your body before…


…you set it down.


A couple of things to note about this kick.  It’s less of a full-extension kick than that others. Your knee will actually stay bent, even at the point of impact (which doesn’t exist for us since we just kick the air). The move goes: step (front foot), look (behind), kick (out, in, land). It can best be described as a “horse-kick”—powerful and quick.  We always tell our members that if they wouldn’t stand behind a horse, then don’t get in the way of my back-kick! : )Of any of the four kicks, this one will shape your glutes the most/most quickly. 

So…Are you ready for a challenge?

Here it is: practice the individual moves, and then, when you feel comfortable enough to try them together, knock out eight kicks of each type on each side (all the same rules apply regardless of which leg is doing the kicking). You could even try combining it with our punching challenge and end up with a nice little ten minute heart-rate booster. 

Ready to kick it?! Let’s get moving! After all, it’s MONDAY!

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Move-it Monday: To count calories or not to count count calories? That is the question…

After a wonderful birthday weekend away in Dallas, the best I can do is straddle the Monday-attitude fence this week. I’m not glad the weekend is over, but I am looking forward to the start of another week, rife with possibilities for productivity and enjoyment. 

Also, I really need a restart after this weekend’s indulgence. Let’s just say that Tex-Mex + State Fair vittles + one of the most glorious breakfasts I’ve ever eaten + the tastiest Italian food I’ve ever had make for a very happy tummy but a very disgruntled waistline.


Speaking of waistlines, how’s about we get down to Move-it Monday business, which is whether or not to count calories.

My best friend and exercising partner, Mandy, has a saying, which goes something like: “You can’t out-exercise your mouth.”


While we have different approaches to food, I definitely agree with the sentiment that you can do a lot of moving it, but if you are eating more than you need on a regular basis, you probably won’t be able to exercise enough to maintain your weight, reach a goal weight, or just generally stay healthy.

So, what’s one way to know whether you’re eating too much?

You guessed it! Counting calories.

For me, it’s a non-question. I can’t remember exactly when I started, but it was at least ten years ago, and now it’s such a habit that I catch myself subconsciously tallying a meal’s total long before I ever take a bite.

Now, I know that may sound a bit OCD to some of you, but I assure you that I do not count calories to limit myself to unreasonable portions or because I see food as the enemy.

I love food, but I also like maintaining a size that I feel good about (which is different than “being skinny”), and keeping track of approximately how many calories I consume in a day helps me to know what my body needs and how it responds when it gets too much or too little. 


I know that other people count fat grams or points, and I may devote a post one day to how all of the various methods compare and which, if any, is best.  But today we’re talking calorie-counting because it’s what I have the most personal experience with.

So, how many calories do I attempt to consume in one day (notice I did not say limit myself to)?

About 2,000.

If you look on the back of any cereal box, bag of chips, container of yogurt, etc. it will give you the nutritional information for that product based on a 2,000 calorie/day diet, and it just so happens that this number is about right for me as well.  If I eat this amount, I will not gain weight (with exercise), but I will not lose it either. This is my “maintaining” number.


I have read numbers as low as a recommended daily caloric consumption of only 1,800 for women, but with the amount of exercise I do, I need more fuel than an 1,800 calorie diet can provide.

I’m also still nursing my daughter, which ups the number considerably, so if I eat my allotted 2,000 and am still hungry by the end of the day, I’ll eat an extra bowl of cereal, yogurt, carrot sticks, or lunchmeat (okay, okay…sometimes it’s an extra helping of Oreos).

What that looks like for me on most days is this:

Breakfast: Raisin Bran, 1 1/2 cups + 1 cup of 1% milk = 400 calories

10 AM Snack: baby carrots + 6 oz. of yogurt = 200 calories

Lunch: Salad with 2 TBSP vinaigrette, 1/4 cup 2% cheddar, a fist-sized chicken breast, 10 croutons, and LOTS of veggies = 350-400 calories

3 PM snack: 1/2 a peanut butter/honey sandwich (90 calorie bread, 1 tbsp of pb, and 1/2 tbsp of honey) + 1/2 cup of milk = 300 calories

Dinner: Turkey lasagna + large salad = 550 calories

Dessert: 1/2 cup of Braum’s Chocolate Almond frozen yogurt = 150 calories

Total: 1,950-2,000

Now, this is is just an example “menu,” but it’s pretty similar to what I eat each day, and if I stick to it, I am almost never truly hungry before it’s time to eat again (at least when I’m not breastfeeding).

Am I always as disciplined as the above list would seem to imply?

No. Definitely not.


But knowing where I need to stop at the end of the day helps as a guideline for what I consume starting at breakfast time. 

I’m not looking to provide you with an exhaustive source of information on calorie-counting today, but I’ll add these few tips if you want to give it a shot:

1) Start with the 2,000 calorie goal. You can always adjust based on your body’s metabolism and your level of physical activity.

2) Begin familiarizing yourself with the average caloric value of the foods you most commonly consume by reading the labels the next time you’re at the supermarket

3) Use online tools to help you count. There are numerous site with huge databases of the food/caloric content/portions already listed for you. One reader mentioned My Fitness Pal, which is a free online calorie counter.

4) If you run out of calories after only a few of your favorite items, it’s time to reevaluate your diet and see what you can cut back on and what other naturally lower-calorie options like fruits and veggies, turkey, and homemade goodness you can sub in for higher calorie/fat riddled fare like fried foods and takeout. Conversely, if you find that all you eat is salad + whatever you can find with a no-fat/reduced fat label on the package, it’s probably time to see if you get anywhere near the 2,000 calorie mark when you’ve eaten everything you normally consume in a day.

5) It won’t do any good to know how many calories are in a particular item if you don’t have a feel for the serving size.



This cartoon made me chuckle. Seriously, folks. If the package tells you that that mouth-watering Italian crème cupcake only has 100 calories/’serving, I’ve got news for you—the fine print says that a serving = 1/4 of the cupcake. Depressing, but you just can’t beat the old “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” adage…even (or maybe especially) when it comes to food.

6) Make your calories count. That may sounds confusing considering we’re supposed to be the ones counting the calories, but what I mean is this: you may only consume X number of calories, but if you successfully limit yourself but don’t manage to consume anything worthwhile, you will have missed the entire point. Some people are able to subsist off of soda, cookies, and candy, stopping when they reach 1,800 or so, but said folks are not practicing the art of calorie counting in a healthy way.  At all. Have I done it? Yup. And it’s no good, folks. No good at all.  So make sure the calories you’re counting aren’t “empty,” or that’s about how you’ll feel—not to mention sluggish, hungry, and just plain gross.

7) If you choose to calorie count, don’t calorie obsess. When I wrote about our weekend in San Antonio and the importance of taking breaks from exercising, I made it abundantly clear that I had also taken a break from my usual calorie-counting. It took me a long time to get to the point of just turning the automatic food-counter that’s pretty much constantly buzzing in my brain OFF. I could still probably add up everything I ate this weekend if I really thought about it, but I’m making a choice not to (partly because I think it would be a very scary number).  I enjoyed every highly caloric bite (chocolate-dipped turtle cheesecake..mmm) that went in my mouth, and now I am back on track at 1,200 calories so far for the day and only dinner left to eat (plus, I’m subbing a class tonight, which means back-to-back exercise classes to teach tonight).

Those weekends “off-duty” may mean that you gain a pound, but that’s okay. More than okay, even, because you won’t have built your entire weekend around avoiding certain foods and worrying about how much you “have” to eat. Believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s just as unhealthy as overeating.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to at least consider some method of tracking what goes in your body and made a case for calorie-counting’s being a reasonable, helpful, and effective method.

But I’m always up for suggestions! So tell me…is there a method that works best for you or something you’re dying to try? I’m all ears (plus a full tummy! : )). 

**All food images courtesy of actual things we ate this weekend.

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Move-it Monday: Fit and Fab (#2) + Punches

Okay, so you guys were a wee bit shy about our first ever Fit and Fabulous from a couple of weeks ago…which I totally understand.

It’s a bit daunting to link up pics of yourself in workout gear if that’s not already your thing.

So, here’s the deal: I’m going to show you my favorite workout outfits and what I do in them, and I will provide a linky for you to join in at any point that you feel up to it. The linky will stay open all week. If it helps you to be held accountable this way or you feel like you can motivate others by linking up, I would love, love, LOVE (subtle, right?) for you to do it.

If you don’t want to post pics but do want to tell us about your exercising adventures in the comments section…also fantastic.

If you just want to read, well, that’s also good. 


Between this week’s outfit and the last one, you’re probably thinking that all I do is wear screamin’ bright colors to get my sweat on. But, actually, the opposite is true. The Les Mills instructors at our gym sort of, kind of have a uniform for the different formats we teach. Body Pump = mostly red + black, Body Combat = more red + black + maybe a pop or two of dark green thrown in for wild craziness.

So, while lime green is usually so far off my radar that I wouldn’t even consider pairing it with my pasty white skin, when I saw this little number at Academy for $5 (originally $50!!), I decided I would buy it and ask my skin for forgiveness later.

Also, these long shorts are what I wear pretty much every time I kick-box (the better to not flash anyone when I whip out a roundhouse), but hot pink doesn’t exactly say, “I’m tough and will kick your tushy into shape,” and I’ve got a reputation to uphold, y’all. At the gym, anyway. Here, though, I’m just that girl who likes to thrift and talk a lot. So…blindingly pink shorts it is.

Today, I thought I’d show you the four punches you would see over and over again if you took my Body Combat class (and do over and over again if you already take my class; hello, lovely gym-girls/guys!). If you’ve read along for a while now, then you know that BC is kind of my happy place exercise. It puts a huge smile on my face every single time.

So, if you want to join in from your living room, here are the basics:

1. The Jab


From Combat stance (what I’m standing in in the first pic with one leg forward and feet apart), punch straight forward with your front arm, twisting your fist so that your thumb is down and your knuckles face up.


Fully extend your arm without locking out your elbow, then pull the fist back to your chin, which is your “guard.”  If you try this in the mirror, you should be aiming for your own mouth, nose, chin. Keep your chin tucked and your elbows in close to your body.

You can also do a jab from Front stance, which is just what it sounds like—a front-facing stance with the legs apart where neither leg is farther forward than the other.

2. The Cross


The cross is essentially the same as the jab, except that it is only performed in Combat stance because it must come across (hence the name) the body. As a result, it always comes from the back arm.  Rotate the body, pulling the back shoulder to the front, and extend the arm straight forward, again cork-screwing your fist so that the thumb is down. Your aim is still for the nose, mouth, chin.


Your back heel will lift, and you will pivot on your toe to protect your knee. After you punch, return to guard with your fists to your chin.

3.The Hook


The hook is a power shot to the jaw, cheek, or temple. Starting from guard (fists to the chin), make a right angle (corner) with your elbow and push your fist to the side of an imaginary opponent’s head (I like to personify the dirty dishes and imagine knocking their lights out!). Return your fist to guard. You can perform a hook from the back arm (like I’m doing above) or from the front (like below).


4. The Uppercut


The uppercut is the only vertical punch we do. From Combat stance, drop your front shoulder, squeeze your fist, and…


…drive it upward into your (again imaginary) opponent’s chin. Finish the punch somewhere around your nose and then come back to guard.

Avoid “swooping” which means that you drop your hand down and swing it up (if you were in a real fight, this would leave you completely “guardless” and vulnerable to being hit).

You can also do an uppercut from the back arm with all of the same principles.

Make sense? (All of it…not just the part about getting hit).

I hope so because I have yet to encounter anything else (that I enjoy doing) that has toned my arms (shoulders especially) like these four punches. 

So, here’s my challenge for you:

Try 3 sets of 5 reps each of these 4 punches in right Combat stance and then switch and repeat on the left. Do it 3 days this week. That’s a total of 120 punches each day (just as a point of reference, there’s a particular Body Combat release that has 128 jabs in one section of one song, so if 120 sounds like a lot…trust me…you’ll make it).

It’s totally normal if you feel awkward at first (and by awkward, I mean: complete-and-total spaz!). I did!

You can check out Youtube videos (just search for the punch’s name) if you feel like you’re doing something really wrong or just aren’t getting the hang of it.  Also, if this is not something you normally do, you will feel sore. Take a Tylenol and hit it again the day after.

So, there it is. Your fitness challenge for this week. You had no idea I was gonna get all bossy on you, did you?

I would love for you to tell me how it goes.  Oh, and ask questions. Lots of those. Hmm…what else? I think that’ll do it for now.

Do you have a favorite results-producing exercise that does it for you?

Now…time to link up (if you want). Be sure to link up to your specific fitness post and grab my Fit and Fab button from the sidebar so people can join in on the fun.





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