{Guest post}: 4 simple changes to better health by Matthew Alegre

February 28, 2017

Hi friends! I hope are doing well. Today’s post is brought to you by my husband, Matthew. When we’re not chasing after the girls or trying to break up an argument over Shopkins, we have some pretty interesting conversations. As you can imagine, they typically involve something about health and fitness, a podcast we listened to, a recent study that was done, Carpe Diem Personal Training stuff, or good food we want to devour. The other day we started talking about the challenges of eating healthy, the role stress often plays, and the little things we can do to get back on track. So Matt’s going to take it away and I’m going to make sure he doesn’t use any offensive language before hitting “publish.”

Common challenges we face when it comes to eating healthy


It seems like we have less time in our day than ever before. It’s difficult to try to balance all of our daily commitments (like work, family, and household tasks) and the various forms of stress that we face with proper care for ourselves. As a parent, I understand what a lot of my clients face each and every day – we are all incredibly busy.


In my experience, one of the biggest challenges people face when it comes to eating healthy is not being prepared. Between taking kids to school, chauffeuring them to various activities, working full-time, to maintaining your home there’s just not enough time in the day. Less time and more stress leads to poor meal choices. We end up eating whatever’s convenient or easy.


I try to encourage anyone who wants to establish better eating habits to focus on being prepared. This means spend a day on the weekend prepping food for the week ahead. Have real food on hand so you aren’t tempted by garbage. Use your crockpot for mid-week meals. Don’t buy junk. Have items that are simple and easy to make and can be thrown together quickly. Make and bring your lunch to work. Small changes can set the foundation for better longterm habits. 


Another common issue may be that the person who wants to eat better is met with resistance by his or her family. It can be difficult to get your whole family on board with a better lifestyle. Listen, I totally get the issue of trying to feed picky toddlers. However, this is where you have to show a little tough love. If you are making the meals then your family will just have to eat what you prepare. If they don’t want it then they can get their own food. One of my favorite expressions is lead by example. Show your kids that you care about your health as well as theirs. They will catch on to your actions.


A Fit Mess

Small changes can yield big results down the road. Here are a few, simple steps you can make today for better health tomorrow: 


1. Eat your first and final meal within a 12-hour window.

This means if you eat breakfast at 7:00 am, then you shouldn’t be eating anything after 7:00 pm. This is beneficial for several reasons. First, it encourages more consistent and fulfilling meals. It also supports liver function as well as digestion. Finally, it hinders snacking throughout the day and bingeing at night.


2.  Cut out processed foods and anything that comes from a box.

Learn to cook real food.  Your meals don’t need to be elaborate. Prepare simple, healthy items. Meat, nuts, and vegetables are great choices. Contrary to public opinion, meat and fat are not bad. You don’t need to follow a Standard American Diet (SAD) simply because that’s the norm. Otherwise, you might end up like Joe Schmo Couch Potato.


3. Plan! Success comes from being prepared.

If you don’t plan, you plan to fail. Make your food in advance, carry healthy snacks, and stock your fridge with whole foods. Be sure to eat every 3-4 hours. When you go too long between meals your body can’t function properly. You get tired, moody, and hungry which makes you more likely to grab junk food.


4.  Understand your food triggers.

Stress is a huge contributor to poor eating choices. If your cortisol is high then you are going to crave foods that spike your insulin (sugar, carbs, etc.). Ask yourself: what are the sources of stress in my life and how can I find ways to reduce them? When you feel stressed at work, do you want to hit the vending machine? Understanding your triggers is a huge part of redirecting your habits. Once you are aware of what may set you off then you need to figure out how to combat them. One small trick I use to curb sugar cravings is to mix 2 teaspoons of L-glutamine with a glass of water (or a small amount of heavy cream). It’s an effective way to satisfy a sweet tooth.


Additional links:

Carpe Diem Personal Training, Inc.

Poliquin Group Supplements 

Why women should love leg day

June 2, 2016
A Fit Mess

Leg strengthening exercises are something I often overlooked or skipped during my training. I felt like they were irrelevant for my goals and I didn’t understand how important they are to include in a workout plan. I’ve since learned that they are essential for everyone, in particular women, due to the hip/pelvic and low back pain we seem to develop from sitting, carrying children, and wearing heels. Whether you love or hate leg day, strengthening your lower body is vital and produces benefits that go beyond appearance.


So when you question why you need to strengthen your lower body or feel tempted to skip them all together, remember the following advantages:

  • Boosts metabolism. Your legs contain some of the largest muscles in your body, and therefore, require more effort to train. This means you’ll spend more energy performing lower body exercises which will lead to more calories burned, greater fat loss, and a higher metabolism. There is also some evidence that shows the hormonal response created from training your legs will also help you build more upper body strength.
  • Upper body and core strength. This is something I recently learned in my PT course. Multi joint movements, like squats and deadlifts, incorporate just about every muscle in your body. So in addition to your legs, your arms and abs will work to balance/stabilize and move the weight. And you’ll build strong knee, hip, and ankle joints which may reduce your risk of injury. This is really important for functional movement and our day-to-day activities.
  • Improve athletic performance. Strengthening your legs will improve your athletic ability. If you are a runner, weight bearing exercises for your lower body may improve your endurance and power. They’re also essential for counteracting all the physical stress we place on our bodies when we run. Additionally, you may notice increased performance in other areas, like being able to jump higher and move faster.


So what type of leg exercises should you be doing?

My favorites ones are multi joint movements since they recruit more muscles and essentially offer more “bang for your buck.” They are also a surefire way to get my heart rate soaring. Squats and dead lifts are great staples to include. Single-leg/unilateral movements like lunges and step-ups are also beneficial since they help balance out both sides of the body and really isolate the muscles.

If you’re new to training the lower body, I would recommend working with a professional to ensure you are doing the movements properly and to avoid injury. As always, please check with your doctor before beginning a new workout program.


Check out this YouTube video on how to correctly do a squat:

Make no mistake – leg day is HARD. I often feel like I am going to crawl home after training the lower body. But trust me…they are super important! Not only will these exercises help you tone and strengthen your legs, but they’ll improve metabolism, balance, and performance.


P.S. There’s still time to enter my giveaway for a FREE massage or facial!

Do you love or hate leg day?

Summer bucket list

May 18, 2016
A Fit Mess

Hey, hey. Happy Wednesday, friends! It’s been cloudy, rainy, and slightly chilly here which has me wondering where our beautiful spring weather went. It also has me fantasizing about summer. There are many things that I’d like to accomplish over the next few months. I also have lots of fun activities planned that I can’t wait to get started with.

With that in mind I thought I’d share my summer “bucket list.” I would love to know what you might be planning this summer.

1. Take (and pass!) my personal training certification exam


Even though I technically have until February 2017 to take the exam, I have a soft goal of taking it this summer (June or July). I have read through all of the course materials and watched the online video tutorials, but I plan on reviewing some of the more challenging topics and creating note cards to help me with any difficult terms. If you are curious, here’s why I decided to pursue my PT certificate. And for those who are interested, I’m getting my certification through the Poliquin Group.

2. Finish the living room renovations

Siegel How We Live

I recently mentioned that I’m working with my friend Maria to redesign our living room. I am not happy with the layout right now and I want the space to be more inviting and functional since we spend a lot of time in there. I’m hoping we can purchase some furniture and make updates to our existing setup this summer. Of course, Maria and I are all over Pinterest. I can’t wait to get started!

3. Swim lessons with the girls

beach with girls

Thanks to a tip from my wonderful friend Megan, we’ll be starting private swim lessons for the girls in June. I’m really eager to begin these. Our neighborhood pool just opened last weekend. I guess that means it’s time to start swimsuit shopping.

4. Learn to make summer cocktails

The summertime always makes me crave a cocktail. I know nothing about mixed drinks (I mostly drink wine), so I want to learn how to make some more creative drinks for the warmer months. The only thing I make (and rather well if I do say so) is sangria. I’ve started making a Drinks! board on Pinterest. What should I add? This looks delish! And oh my…YES!

5. Turn part of the garage into a home gym (<–my husband’s cringing right now)

A Fit Mess

Yes, this is something I NEED. Yes, I WOULD use it. Yes, I do need help FINANCING it. Loveyousomuchsweetiethanksbyeeee. I don’t need much, but I would love to add rubber flooring, a bench, some plyo boxes, a mounted TRX, 20# and 30# weights, a mat, ropes, a barbell, and a wall timer. Too much to ask? I also need someone to clear all the spiderwebs out of the garage. I’m running a bug-free gym!

6. Bring the girls to their first movie

I think it would be fun to take the girls to see their first movie in a theater thissummer. A new cinema opened up last year near our house and we still haven’t been to it. Or better yet, we can attend one of the outdoor movie showings in Southern Village which starts mid June. I will eat all the popcorn and all the Reese’s pieces (<–favvvvvv).

7. Weekly Farmer’s Market trips


Summer means trips to the local Farmer’s Markets with the girls. I’m so excited to start bringing them with me to see what real food looks like from the people who grow it. Last year we bought peaches from a stand in Chapel Hill and the girls LOVED them! They were a bit confused as to why there weren’t any “farmers.” I think they imagined someone like Old MacDonald with a straw hat and overalls with cows roaming behind him.

I could go on and on – I LOVE summer, but I need to get going and start my day. I have a little someone snoozing next to me. Have a great day, friends!

What are your plans this summer? Any projects you’re hoping to tackle?

Making time to exercise

March 22, 2016
Making Time to Exercise

I recently had a conversation with some friends about making time to exercise. Many of them are moms who work outside of the home either full or part time. We talked about how it can be really challenging to carve out time for a workout during the day. Mornings can be very rushed as we all hurry to get out the door and then the day fills up quickly. Before we know it, it’s time for school pickups, after school activities, and dinner prep.

It often seems like if we add something to our schedule then we must take something away. For a lot of us, when our workload increases the first thing to be let go is our workout. Sometimes it feels like exercise may not be as important as the other tasks on our to-do list. Shouldn’t we spend our energy on something that will have an immediate outcome (finish the laundry, complete that project, make dinner)?

I definitely understand. My schedule has changed so much since the girls were born and I know how hard it is to break away for exercise when there are a million other things left to do. There are a few things that have helped me stay consistent with my workouts and I wanted to share those with you.

Put it on the calendar. Every Sunday I take a look at the upcoming week’s schedule and decide what days I am going to the gym, what days I will be going to a group class, and if I am going to take a rest day. And then I add it to my calendar as I would any other appointment or meeting and I commit to it as best as I can. Yes, there are times when I just can’t make it to the gym for whatever reason, but I almost always stick to my schedule. For example, I typically go to the Y during lunch 3-4 days per week. It’s on my calendar. I take a class on Wednesday evening. It’s on my calendar.

Commit and pay in advance. Knowing that I have already paid for my class and would essentially be wasting money if I didn’t go really motivates me to show up. The same holds true if you have a personal trainer. You’ve paid for that session and someone is expecting you. That definitely keeps me accountable. A lot of places also charge a fee for late cancellations/no shows, which also encourages me to stick to my schedule.

Recruit a buddy. If I make plans with a friend to take a class then I don’t want to disappoint them by skipping out. Find someone who would go to that 7 am yoga class with you or plan on meeting at lunch for a workout. A friend and I occasionally text each other our workouts and share fitness ideas. Even though we aren’t physically together, it inspires me to try the workout so I can report back to her.

Have a detailed goal. A consistent message in my personal training coursework is to have detailed and measurable goals. I cannot stress this more. It’s not enough to say, “I want to lose weight.” Be specific. Think about what you want in as much detail as possible. When do you want to achieve this goal (be realistic!)? Take into account how many days per week you can workout and what your level of commitment is. By having a clear picture of WHAT you want you want you have a real goal to keep you focused and motivated. If you aren’t sure how to get there, you may want to enlist professional help from a personal trainer, health coach, nutritionist, or counselor.


Your workout is YOUR workout. Do your thing. I don’t believe we should ever judge others by their choice of exercise or how they want to spend their time. We all have different needs, goals, and preferences. There’s nothing wrong with someone who wants to use the elliptical or walk on the treadmill for an hour everyday. Or someone who wants to do crossfit five days a week. Or 20 minutes of yoga in the morning. Let’s applaud one another for carving out that time and showing up. The best workout for YOU is one that you enjoy doing and will stick to consistently.

How do you make time to exercise? Do you prefer to exercise with others or by yourself?

P.S. My Stitch Fix items have arrived! Tune in tomorrow to see what I received. You can get a sneak peek on Instagram.