Convenience v. Efficiency: A Food + Fitness Story

I’ve been a little off-target over the past two weeks with planning my food and getting into any sort of consistent sweat routine.  It’s not historically in my nature to take long breaks from working out, but over the last year I’ve developed a (much) more balanced approach to letting go of structure when the stress of trying to force fitness in any given day is greater than the benefit.  I’m not sure if it’s a product of ‘growing up’ or just ‘getting old,’ but it’s a real need a couple times a year to slow down and I’m always so thankful when I allow myself to let it go.

Part of creating that balance has also been efficiency.  Convenience is something our whole world seems to be driven by these days, but somehow efficiency sometimes gets lost in the mix.  They’re not the same thing, in fact, they’re grossly different.

It’s the appeal of convenience that leads so many of us to drive-thrus, to processed foods and sugar addictions.  It’s what keeps us on the continuous (proverbial and literal) treadmill for years without seeing any significant change or improvement to our bodies or lives —  and in fact, it usually has the adverse effect.  Efficiency is completely different. It’s the ironic counter to convenience; it’s the most effective way to reach a goal or see a result, and without it, I would never accomplish anything.

So, let me talk clean to you for a second…  [clean + efficient meets food + fitness].

The most important part of eating clean (for me, in my crazy life) is preparation, and packaging.  When I cook it’s never for one meal – I’ll happily live off of leftovers for a week of work lunches and on-the-go dinners.   Example: on Sunday morning I made breakfast for my Charlotte family – 18 eggs worth of breakfast.

fuel sweat grow: steak and eggsZucchini, leftover chimichurri marinated skirt steak (a YUM from Fresh Market), and 18 full fledged eggs.

fuel sweat grow: egg scramble #paleo breakfast

I’m terrible about giving myself enough time for breakfast during the week, but I love breakfast on weekends, so having these leftovers is such a huge thing for me.

Sunday afternoon I followed right up with a bulk-cooking marathon to get ready for a week in the office with my favorite Thai Chicken Stir-fry (with spaghetti squash).

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

To compliment (and balance out the days) this salad came to be — and is always a consistent favorite of mine. It’s definitely more of a summer salad, but it was 80 degrees in Charlotte this weekend, so I’m going to give it a seasonal pass.

fuel sweat grow: fall summer salad

Efficiency is also what I look for in my workouts.  Well, that, and a little escape once in a while.  I still run when I’m feeling inspired — its one of the most freeing actions, and sometimes the only time I have to be in my own head.  I still crave yoga + stretching because it feeds my body and soul.  And I still love sweating for the sake of sweating, when that’s what I need, but for my actual fitness, strength, and total body change, I go for efficiency – and that’s the theme of the week.  So here’s how I’m hoping to balance it:

Monday: Run + new playlist

Tuesday: Carolina Barre + Core: 30/30 Cardio Barre

Wednesday: MADabolic

Thursday: Walk with a friend + Run/body weight circuit

Friday: MADabolic

Saturday: MADabolic

Sunday: a day of REST (or maybe a hike with the 4-leggers)

And the reality is….if somewhere in there life gets a little too jammed and my sanity depends on a little lunch time yoga or childs pose in my office, then so be it.  Sometimes being effective is just about being still.

Prepping for the Week + The Whole 30 Challenge

There are some weekends that stand out from the rest, and this weekend was one of them.  Fall is in full swing in Charlottesville, and things in MADville are getting crazier by the day.  A full social, sweat, and food recap of the weekend is in order, but I need to take a day or two to get myself in order and honestly just recover from what feels like a week of constantly being on the go.

While this week is another over-full week of work and life (in a good way), the most exciting for me is a client-driven restart on the food front.  Some of our clients signed themselves up for the Whole 30 challenge from Whole 9 and are starting tomorrow.  Hearing this was awesome not just because I have a group to motivate and recipe share with me, but also because it’s such a huge part of the lifestyle and health change we continue to love seeing slowly take over this community.

Since I was out for most of the weekend and didn’t have a kitchen at my disposal to prep meals, I’m a little behind, but I’ve committed to getting my life together tomorrow to walk (or eat, really) side by side with this group as they start this 30 day push.  That being said, here are a few of my favorite / must-have ingredients, recipes, and just generally amazing food to lead off week 1.

fuel sweat grow: Whole 30 Grocery list

STANDARD Grocery List:

– Chicken (skinless, boneless, thighs or breasts)
– ground beef (or turkey / chicken)
– applegate farms chicken sausage
– yellow & purple onion
– zucchini / yellow squash
– red/orange/yellow bell peppers
– mushrooms
– cauliflower (2 heads – I ❤ it)
– celery
– carrots
– spaghetti squash
– avocados (MANY)
– asparagus
– (local) Keswick Gourmet Marinara Sauce (the only one WF sells that does not  have added sugars…and it’s local, so that’s a bonus)
– kale
– romaine
– cucumbers
– broccoli slaw (only at Trader Joe’s)
– blueberries
– green apples (usually 6, but if i’m making the streusel recipe about a dozen+)
– bananas
– strawberries
– lemons / limes
– almond butter
– coconut oil (for cooking)
– olive oil (for salads only)
– coconut milk (light)
– eggs (I buy 2-3 dozen at a time….but I’m also usually feeding Dar)
– plantain chips (only at Trader Joes — NOT to be confused with banana chips)
– almonds (whole and slivered)
– sunflower seeds
– fresh ground almond butter (if it’s not ground fresh, check the ingredients to ensure it’s just almonds and doesn’t have added sugar or chemicals)
This isn’t totally exhaustive, but for the most part every recipe that I make that is an ‘everyday’ recipe includes these ingredients.  Every once in a while I’ll really branch out, but only if I’m making a new/special recipe.  These staple items will still be stocked in the fridge.   The MOST important part of staying sane during the first week or two as you quit sugar and adapt back to real food is to HAVE food available.  This is not a starvation diet — you NEED to eat, so make sure you have good clean food available and prepped to keep your energy up and balanced.
fuel sweat grow: grocery list and meal prep
The easiest thing to do is to make a big dinner on Sunday night (or any night really) with several sides and spend some extra time chopping things up (like zucchini or celery, etc) to have ready for cooking or snacks.  I’ll usually roast a spaghetti squash or two on Sunday while I have time so it’s ready in the fridge for quick meal assembly since my week nights (and days) are usually much tighter on time.
Here are a few favorite meals that can all be made with the food on the grocery list above, and save amazingly well (read: amazing leftovers and quick grab-and-go options).
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Thai Chicken Stir-Fry is probably my favorite rainy-day or winter meal, but it’s still awesome in the summer with cauliflower rice OR over spaghetti squash. There are no exact measurements, but the feedback we’ve come up with is that adding a little more coconut milk for a thinner sauce is better than a really thick one.
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Spaghetti Squash Bolognese.  It keeps AMAZINGLY well as leftovers, so this is a great one to make in excess and pack up for lunches during the week.
So, to our Whole 30 first-timers getting ready to give up all of their ‘favorite foods’ tomorrow…. congratulations, you’re about to know what it feels like to be fueled with the best stuff on earth – REAL food.  It will change your life.
For other general ideas, search salads, vitamix (for smoothies) or dinner, or check out the eats or fuel categories on the blog.


Pre-Snow Sunday + Spaghetti Squash (local) Meat Marinara

I live for Sundays.  It’s the sleep-in, make breakfast, drink my whole damn coffee (or two), and enjoy the scenery day I exist for.  Even when I’m in Charlottesville (especially when I’m here) and I know I’m going to be at MADabolic in the morning, the pace is still distinctly different.  The only thing better than Sunday mornings are Sunday afternoons that involve great food and relaxation.

Since this past Sunday marked day #2 of the 28toLife partial re-charge, and thanks to an afternoon trip to Whole Foods, the fridge was stocked with food begging to be turned into something amazing.

Now, I’m going to digress for a moment because this Sunday happened to also bring the less than thrilling news that apparently it was going to snow — again.  I love a good snow day, maybe once a year, but that quota was filled months ago and I’m ready for 70 and sunny.  Apparently that wasn’t happening, so after surviving the parking wars at Whole Foods and a desperate scramble for provisions, it was homeward bound for 48 exciting hours of wine-less confinement.

The best way to keep my mind off of something displeasurable is to cook, so I blocked out the snow-cast and got organized.

Fuel sweat grow: inspector bug

The fridge was inspected by Bug, and packed with plenty of food to survive the storm (note: the left side door doesn’t count– some things should never be thrown away even if they’re forbidden in the moment #beer #wine).

For dinner, I started with two main ingredients: spaghetti squash and my new absolute favorite (and LOCAL) marinara from Keswick Gormet.

Fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash marinara

The woman who actually makes this sauce happened to be in Whole Foods on Sunday with a sample table.  It is completely free of preservatives, sugars, or any added anything outside of her amazing natural ingredients — and it tastes JUST like my grandmother’s best sauce (a true testament from an Italian granddaughter).

Fuel Sweat Grow: Meat Marinara

Since I needed to get some meat into the meal, I decided to make a vegetable and ground beef base to transform it into a meat sauce.

Fuel Sweat Grow: Meat Marinara

While it was all simmering together a salad was created with romaine, kale, avocado, almonds, heirloom cherry tomatoes and cucumber.

Fuel Sweat Grow: salad

And then, miraculously, the best meal I’ve had in recent memory was completed:

Fuel Sweat Grow: Spaghetti Squash Meat Marinara

fuel sweat grow: Spaghetti Squash Meat Marinara

I love food, pretty non-discriminantly, but this was SO good.  I had roasted two spaghetti squash the night before, and the full jar of marinara with a little over a pound of meat so there was plenty to go around, and a good amount of leftovers (that all lasted less than 24 hours).  I highly recommend this as one of the easiest, best, and most re-heating friendly meals ever.  Try it.

So, the moral of the story is that I survived the snow, and managed to keep myself busy long enough to avoid any serious breakdowns — although wine would have helped my morale tremendously.

Falling Back with Coffee + Home Cooking

Hello Monday.

Rise & SHine

Even with the bonus hour of sleep (which I took FULL advantage of), Monday came as abruptly as ever.      And with the lowest temperatures of the fall, which is really only going to contribute to my discontent.

I’m definitely a coffee-only morning person, and will consider food a few hours later once my body has had a chance to wake up.  This morning I was definitely on the slow and steady path, starting with iced coffee first thing, and followed up with a vegetable, steak, and egg scramble late-morning to keep me going.

By noon I was hungry for a little something more, and needing another kick in my veins, so I made my new favorite midday pick me up (aka: vitamixture):


I started hoarding collecting iced coffee tumblers from Whole Foods a few months ago, not only because proves economical for me ($4 refills!), but also because I don’t have the time or energy to coordinate a coffee run every morning.   Having their amazing iced Toddy mixture  just an arms length away, in my own fridge, feels like winning each and every morning.

So, with a tumbler in hand, and vitamix plugged in, I make my own version of a Frozen Monkey.

Here’s what you need (measurements are discretionary):

  • 1/2 c. Ice

  • 1/2 c. Coconut milk

  • 1 c. Iced Coffee

  • 1 frozen banana

  • 4 Strawberries

  • 1 tsp. raw cocoa powder

  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  • (option to add in 1 tbsp almond butter)

Frozen Monkey

Today was a long day of work, and since I took class at MADabolic the last three days in a row, I decided upon a well deserved rest day.  I’ve been trying to be better, recently, about really enjoying my rest days and fully listening to my body when it needs a break.  So that’s what I did.

What does an afternoon of rest look like, you wonder?  It looks like this (and it feels awesome).

Fall Salad

Mixed greens, chopped walnuts, a honey crisp apple, and blueberries, made for a pretty awesome fall salad.  And since no salad is complete without some protein and side items, this particular meal was rounded out with a mixture of Sunday night’s leftovers: roasted chicken, and spaghetti squash sautéed with roasted cauliflower.

monday night dinner

Lets be honest, if it’s going to get dark before 6pm, the least you can do to cope is have a great meal ready and waiting.   And this one was exactly the right blend of not-too-heavy combined with the warm comfort that comes with cold weather food.

Welcome November, I was not looking forward to you, but so far, so good.

Rainy Day of Work, Workouts + Clean Eats

The excitement from yesterday’s announcement is still lingering, but thankfully reality has also set back in because we have a ton going on and it’s time to get back to work!

In addition to all of the Fight Gone MAD developments, FemCity Charlottesville is moving into the spring with some pretty awesome spring and summer programming that we could not be more excited for.


The next event is coming up on Thursday, May 30th, and is the kick-off to our Locavore Fem Dinner Series all highlighting local Fem business owners, FemCity members, and inspiring entrepreneurs, as well as local farm to table fare.  Space is limited to each dinner, so register ASAP to reserve your spot!

This is an amazing opportunity to connect with other amazing Charlottesville Fem’s in a small group, sharing your business or professional goals, asking for feedback or connections, and hearing about the amazing projects that everyone else is working on as well.  Share, collaborate, connect, that’s the idea.

We’ll be sharing some really exciting, big, events that we’ve got planned for the summer and early fall that you don’t want to miss.  They’re going to be great, and we look forward to a ton of great engagement from Fems and Fem businesses!

In other news, while today was definitely a busy one, I got a head start early this morning on returning emails, checking off my to-do list, and was able to easy into the day.  I had coffee first thing, but after the pizza and cider celebrations last night I wasn’t ready for food until about 9:30.

Breakfast was spaghetti squash, zucchini and eggs scrambled together.  I never would have assumed it, but the spaghetti squash really adds something to the eggs, more of a texture than a flavor, that I love.

scrambled eggs with spaghetti squash

After I ate and had a few minutes to wrap up some ‘office’ work, I managed to convince my mind, and body, that I should do Dar’s 10:30am small group session.  I was actually really glad that I did, and in the moment believed that I was done for the day, but alas, I ended up doing the workout a second time with the 5:30pm bootcamp group.  I’ll let you all know if I’m able to walk tomorrow.

Today we did a 6 station circuit:

-Around the World Oblique work with a 15lb bumper plate

-Overhead Squats (walking) with 10-20lb bumper plates overhead (with arms LOCKED out)

-Getup Sit ups with a 15lb barbell

-break dancers -or- mountain climbers

-wall sit (with or without a 10lb bumper plate overhead)

-TRX pikes or knees to elbows

Each station was 1 minute of work, with 30 seconds off, for three continuous rounds.

After the 5:30 class my body was demanding dinner so I tried to put to use what was left in the fridge.

I had spaghetti squash, ground turkey, a zucchini, a red pepper, an onion and the 365 brand pasta sauce (no added sugars!) that all went on the stove. It was all seasoned with kosher sea salt and my favorite everyday seasoning from Trader Joe’s, of course.

food skillet of goodness

For the salad I had romaine, blueberries, avocado, walnuts, and cucumber.  Pretty simple, but a great mix of flavors and colors.


It was a great blend of different (random) ingredients, and definitely replenished everything that I needed following today’s double workouts and hours at the computer and running around the house trying to get re-organized.

Tomorrow is another day of bootcamps starting bright and early at 6:15 am, so I’m going to take my own most common advice and get some sleep so I’m not totally dragging.  The only bonus to all of the rain is that it really helps me sleep, so I’ll embrace it and just appreciate my sleep rather than being beside myself about missing the sunshine.  Fingers crossed that we really do get to 70 degrees tomorrow!

Upcycling + Food Inspiration

I have a habit of grabbing coffee at Whole Foods when I go in to buy groceries, but somehow despite my frequent drop ins I had perpetually missed some very important facts that they have posted on the wall.

fuel sweat grow: whole foods upcycling

I love Whole Foods for their foundation work, and knew that they were leaders in renewable energy and upcycling materials, but they actually used the bleacher seating from UHall (the old University of Virginia basketball arena) for their cafe table tops?  That’s awesome.  This method of recyling (and upcycling, if you will) was a serious inspiration for helping to minimize my time spent cooking this week, and maximize the meals created.

I was craving two of Ralph (my dad)’s old clutch meals, tweaked to be clean and balanced fuel meals.  The first half of the inspiration was a meal  I replicated a few months back with (gluten free) spinach fettuccine, an avocado/greek yogurt blend dressing and veggies.  The other half was inspired by his pasta primavera, my childhood favorite which was always rich with vegetables and popping color.

The base of this meal was a mix of sautéd zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and red peppers.  It was all cooked with coconut oil and seasoned with Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning and ground kosher sea salt.

fuel sweat grow - sautéd veggies

My goal with these types of meals is to over produce the most fundamental parts of the recipe so that there are leftovers in the fridge to make future meals much faster.

To stay true to my inspiration for this first version of the meal, I cooked more of the gluten free spinach fettuccine.

fuel sweat grow: gluten free spinach fettuccine

Once the pasta was nice and al dente (yes, I like it a tad firm.  I’m italian.) it was mixed up with the greek yogurt and avocado (2 whole avocados and 12 oz of chobani greek yogurt) and seasoned even more with ground sea salt and ground peppercorn.

fuel sweat grow: spinach fettuccine

Add on the veggies, and voila!

fuel sweat grow: spinach fettuccine primavera

So, here we have our carbs for the meal (probably more than would be ‘suggested’), with our good fats in the yogurt/avocado sauce, and just need our added protein.  Per my favorite grilling trends, the other side of the plate was filled with steak.

fuel sweat grow: fettuccine primavera and steak

This was by far my favorite meal of the week, which was a pretty safe bet since it was a blend of my two old favorites and a little bit of a comfort food ‘treat’ with the pasta and yogurt add ons to my typically dairy + grain free eating.  So here’s where it gets fun: primavera veggies, day 2.

First I should say that these exact leftovers, with slices of avocado for some additional good fats, did weasel it’s way into my lunch the next day.

fuel sweat grow: primavera leftovers

But the veggies didn’t stop there.  They went on to fulfill their meal destiny two nights later when I hastily roasted spaghetti squash and turned it into a yogurt-less meal of squash overload that was amazing.

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash primavera

Of course, to accompany the squash primavera was grilled chicken and an amazing fruit and nut salad, but there will be more on that coming later this week in a full post on some of the amazing salad combinations that have been happening recently.  I can’t explain it scientifically, but there’s something about the warm weather that invites creativity and frequency of amazing salads as the summer meal anchor, and this one was no exception.

fuel sweat grow: chicken and salad sides

With less kitchen time required this week, and a little too much time on (or wine in?) my hands, I even tried to upcycle two of Bug’s toys, covering up the chicken that she feels both active aggression and paralyzing fear towards with her old favorite buddy Cat R. Pillar.  bug says: upcycled babies

Since we don’t allow Bug to drink wine (if we can help it) she found this stunt less than amusing, and is likely working on her emancipation letter as we speak.

fuel sweat grow: freaky chickenHope you’re all enjoying the start of the weekend!