Stuffed Zucchini Boats

If you had told me ten years ago that I would one day love cooking (and actually be somewhat good at it) I probably would never have believed you.

But as I got more and more into healthy eating over the last several years, I’ve come to really enjoy finding and preparing new recipes!

After many, many months of contest prep and restrictive eating, I’m finally able to relax a bit and enjoy some variety in my diet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sticking mostly to my same meal plan and I still LOVE my boring old sweet potato, chicken breast and green beans, but something different a couple times a week will be a refreshing change.

Hubby and I only eat dinner together on Friday and Saturday nights, and during contest prep we each prepared our own meals as our diets and macros were completely different. (Me cutting while he’s bulking is just plain unfair!)

Now that we can eat more of the same things we’ve decided to choose a new recipe to try out each week on Friday nights.

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Our first choice was this recipe from Oxygen magazine. Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies and they are very in season right now!

I made some small adjustments to the recipe, this makes three servings so I had to adjust it down to two.

I also left out the olives since neither Hubby or myself care for them. I didn’t add parmesan cheese because I don’t think that much cheese is necessary and I prefer to do without the fat and calories.

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The recipe implies after scooping out the insides of the zucchini you just toss it, but I chopped it up and added it to the beef mixture. I see no reason to waste good zucchini!

They may not be the prettiest, but these turned out well and were delicious! I added a little more feta to Hubby’s boats since he can afford the calories and loves feta.

I honestly don’t think I’ve been quite that full since Christmas! It felt good to eat, but I’m still fighting a mental battle between knowing I need to eat more and worrying about gaining weight.

My next goal is to add more lean muscle, and you can’t grow if you don’t eat. But, I’m loving my competition body and part of me really wants to stay this size.

Even though I need to eat more I still plan to keep it clean, add calories and carbs slowly, and avoid cheats as much as possible.

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Coming off a long competition prep can be very tricky, as your mind is fighting a battle between wanting to splurge since you’ve restricted for so long, and still feeling guilty for eating anything you “shouldn’t.”

After a long rest week I’m back in the gym today so hopefully some intense training will help me feel better about eating more.

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Tofu Chia Breakfast Bowl

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals. No joke, I look forward to going to bed so I can wake up and eat! It must be a side-effect of being on contest prep for so long.

For the longest time I had egg whites and oats for breakfast, which is a great choice if you workout in the morning, either before or after eating. I still have this on the weekends since those days I exercise early, but during the week I moved my oats to late morning for my pre-workout meal.

So I had to come up with something to have for breakfast. I knew I wanted lower carbs, (just enough to get my body moving for the day ahead, but not too much since most of the first half of my day is spent sitting and not expending much energy) some protein, and a little healthy fat.

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What I came up with is sort of a mix between pudding and oatmeal. I call it a Tofu Chia Breakfast Bowl.

Ingredients:
3 ounces silken tofu (not the firm stuff-very important)
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
Cinnamon to taste

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First combine the tofu, cocoa powder and almond milk in a bowl. I use a whisk to break up the tofu and mix everything together into a pudding like substance. It will be a little chunky, if you want it smooth you could throw it in a blender. Be sure you use silken tofu or it won’t be soft enough to mix.

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Then, add the chia seeds and mix in completely. Once it is all good and combined, put a cover on it and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The seeds will soften once they soak in the almond milk.

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In the morning, I nuke it for about a minute but you could eat it cold as well. I like to top mine with a tablespoon of almond butter and a third cup of blueberries.

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This whole thing is roughly 280 calories, 20 grams of carbs, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of protein, and about 5 grams of sugar (from the blueberries.)

Definitely a new twist on tofu, and breakfast!

Full-body Circuit Workout

If you’re short on time for your workout, circuits can be a great way to get your strength training and cardio in, in a short amount of time.

Circuit style workouts involve doing a single set of an exercise then moving immediately onto the next exercise until all have been completed. After a short rest, the entire circuit is repeated as many times as desired.

Today I wanted a full-body workout to ease back into my routine after my competition. Something strenuous enough to get my heart rate up and hit all the major muscle groups, without a long session in the gym.

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Do ten reps of each exercise then move immediately on to the next. Rest a minute then repeat. I did the whole thing four times for a thirty minute workout.

Squat with kettle bell swing
Weighted squat
Weighted lunges
Overhead shoulder press
Pull-ups, assisted pull-ups or lat pull down machine
Push-ups
Bicep curls
Hanging leg raises or Roman chair

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Remember your intensity should be high so be sure you’re using heavy enough weights, but always using proper form.

Hanging Up My Clear Heels (for now)

Just five weeks after competing in my first fitness competition and placing third, I was back on stage hoping to do even better the second time around.

Things did not go the way I hoped.

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Physically I was satisfied, my physique came in tight, my abs a little fuller and my lower body a tiny bit leaner.

Five weeks wasn’t enough time to add any size to my shoulders or develop more definition in my legs but I was confident it wouldn’t hold me back too much.

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My tan came out MUCH better this time! I went to Reverse Vanity Day Spa in Columbus and had three sessions to slowly build the color. Each time it developed more quickly and looked better and better. It turned out perfectly and I didn’t even need a touch up the day of the show. That was a huge relief and one less thing to worry about.

I did my own hair and makeup and opted for a more “natural” look.

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For this show, I again entered the Open Figure category, but also chose to compete in the “Bikini Best Body” category. It was only a small added cost and since my physique is similar to those of bikini competitors, I thought, why not?

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I woke up Saturday feeling super confident and excited to compete. Hubby acted as my coach and was by my side all day, helping me prep and keeping me on track.

We shared a dressing room with some other competitors who were so nice and a lot of fun to hang out with. It made for a great day.

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There we only five of us in the bikini category. The other girls had a more “sexy” look than myself, and I really didn’t practice any poses for it so when I got on stage I was a little awkward. I just tried to smile and look thin and sexy but classy.

The thing about having such a small group is, everyone gets a trophy, but it also means the difference between first and fifth is winner and loser.

I got fourth. So, second to last. The winner actually told me she was surprised I didn’t place higher. I had the most toned physique of all the girls, but I guess the judges were really looking for a more sexy, soft look.

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Figure was really my focus for this show, so I wasn’t too disappointed about Bikini but wish I would have placed at least third.

There ended up being less time between the two categories than I’d anticipated, and I wasn’t very happy with my pump/prep before hitting the stage for figure. I also felt my front posing was a little off.

My individual walk was good though, and I felt like I was getting great eye contact and smiles from the judges. A couple of the girls even told me how impressed they were with my poise and confidence.

But in the end, it came down to size. The women in this show were much larger and more muscular than the last show, and I didn’t even compare.

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You can see here. The woman on the right took second place. She is HUGE compared to me. I look like a twig.

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I didn’t make top five. I won’t know for a few days where I actually placed but it doesn’t matter. I honestly never expected I wouldn’t be top five. Talk about humbling.

Truth is, yes I am disappointed. How can I not be? I went into this to win the competition, and I didn’t even make top five.

But, after sulking for a few hours last night while my amazingly supportive and loving husband tried to boost me up, I went to bed and woke up with a new attitude.

So I didn’t place. I wasn’t on level with these women. That doesn’t mean I don’t look good, or that my body isn’t good enough. I look and feel the best I ever had, and I went out and gave it my all and enjoyed every moment. That’s what matters.

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So what now? Well, I am giving myself today to relax, and not think about competing for a bit. I plan to compete again but right now I am not allowing myself to go much farther in planning than that.

I’ve put some things on the back burner while I prepped for these two competitions, and it is time to get back to other projects that need my attention.

What I am looking forward to is a new goal, new workout and eating plans, and a fun Summer with my hubby. My goal will be to add lean muscle without gaining body fat. I also plan to slowly increase my calorie and carb intake so I can train my body to metabolize more food and carbs without storing fat. (When I say slowly, I mean like 5 grams of carbs and 20-30 calories a week.)

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Today I jumped right back into my meal prepping ways. I will be eating pretty much the same meals I was a couple weeks out from the show. That way I can let my body adjust back into a routine and hopefully maintain my physique.

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I am excited about having more variety of foods again, and almond butter is thankfully back in my life. (I tried cashew butter too and it is AMAZEBALLS.)

Hubby and I made homemade guac today and it was delicious. We’re going to try a new recipe every Friday night now, since we don’t have to eat our separate meals anymore!

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I won’t stop making goals and busting my butt to reach them. Every experience is a lesson. I learned an important one yesterday, and clearly it was one I had to learn the hard way.

I set a goal and I went for it. That alone is something to be proud of.

We are a Force

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV, newspaper, or the internet this week you’ve heard the story of three women finally freed after ten years of captivity in Cleveland.

When I hear a story like this one, or the Jaycee Dugard story, or that of Elizabeth Smart, I’m relieved and overjoyed for the women and their families, but also angry.

SO very angry.

I am so sick of women being victimized and targeted and abused.

It happens every day, in every country around the world, and it would be easy to become so overwhelmed by the anger and horror of it all, were I not able to juxtapose those stories against others of strong, empowered, enabled women.

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This is a more appropriate time than ever for the Under Armour What’s Beautiful Challenge. It is all about women coming together to celebrate their strengths, their abilities and their goals and dreams.

Women of all ages, nationalities, shapes and sizes are proving they are athletes, and a force to be reckoned with.

You may be thinking a contest about fitness has nothing to do with the Women’s Movement, or Women’s Rights or empowerment, but I disagree.

I believe health, fitness and ability are integral to empowering women and taking control of our bodies and our lives.

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A woman who is active physically is more self-confident. She’s self assured. She feels strong and capable and believes in herself. All women should feel this way. All women are capable of being strong, confident and self-assured.

When you take control of your body and push yourself to accomplish things you never thought possible, it gives you a belief in yourself. When you believe in yourself you refuse to become a victim.

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This is why I’ve made the decision to dedicate my life to female fitness. It is my passion to lead other women down the path to health, strength and empowerment.

Women need to stand together, support and help each other. Together we are a powerful force to be reckoned with, and we cannot stand for the atrocities committed against our sisters every day.

It may be some time before we know exactly how Amanda Berry managed to escape from the prison that held her and other women and children for years. What I know for sure today is Amanda Berry is a fighter. She’s a force. She never gave up.

For women everywhere she is a reminder- you can push us, you can hurt us, you can break us down, but you will never defeat us.

We are strong.

We are determined.

We are women.

Watch out.