Curb the Cravings for Sweets

I’m always a skeptic when it comes to “easy” ways to lose weight, to “drop the pounds” or to “get skinny fast.” It’s not real life. Real life means putting work and effort into everything you do, weight loss is no different.

I’m also a realist. I know that craving sweets is a real thing, it’s not an excuse. Sometimes, even after a big meal, you need just “one more bite” of something sweet…even if you really don’t. So, something to help in that department, to satisfy cravings and to give your body a chance to catch up in an all natural way? Bring it on.

When I heard about MealEnders and the opportunity to review them, I was excited! It seemed like a good complement to a program that included healthy eating and exercise – not as a scheme or replacement for hard work.

meal enders one

Even more surprising was the taste. MealEnders come in four different flavors: cinnamon (my favorite), chocolate mint (a close second!), Mocha and Citrus. They’re natural, with ingredients that anyone reading the label can understand, plus, each MealEnders signaling lozenge contains only two grams of sugar, 15 calories, and is low-fat, stimulant-free, gluten-free, kosher, and contains no high fructose corn syrup or MSG. MealEnders are food-based and, therefore, regulated by the FDA as a food product. This was exciting to me!

Not sure how a little lozenge can do so much? Here’s what MealEnders has to say:

MealEnders consist of two components: a sweet, outer reward layer and a cooling/tingling inner core. The outer layer provides a measured dose of “dessert,” usually associated with the end of a meal. The inner core engages the trigeminal nerve (the nerve that senses “taste” sensations in the mouth) with long-lasting cooling/tingling sensations to cue the end of eating and clear the palate.

By keeping your mouth and mind occupied for up to 20 minutes (the Overeating Zone—when you are full, but often continue to eat because your brain has not yet received the “fullness” signal), MealEnders naturally transition you away from the desire to overindulge, giving your body’s natural satiety process time to catch up and let you know your full.

meal enders two

MealEnders are a tool, not a magic elixir, and work on a behavioral, sensory and psychological level in the following ways:

BEHAVIORAL • Establish an important chronological marker for meal- and snack-end • Fill the 20-minute gap until normal satiety signals reach the brain • Create a pause in eating patterns so healthier behaviors may be established • Break the cycle of eating and chewing

SENSORY • Provide a measured sweet cue for dessert replacement (which tastes delicious, in my opinion!), followed by a palate cleansing to reduce cravings • Engage the trigeminal nerve to cue the cessation of eating • Engage taste receptors to transition you away from foods being consumed • Alter anticipated taste of additional food • Temporarily modify olfactory perception — often a cause of overeating

PSYCHOLOGICAL • Heighten mindfulness of natural digestive rhythms • Create habitual cueing of meal completion • Train the mind to recognize healthy portion sizes • Empower a sense of control.

I allowed a few friends and family members to give them a try. While all reactions were mixed as far as what were the best flavors, everyone was a fan and could agree that the urge to add dessert after finishing a lozenge was almost gone. Note, it’s not a magic potion. Give yourself enough time and you could still crave something sweet, there’s no substitute for a little will-power!!

Wanna give MealEnders a try? Awesome! MealEnders are available on the website: www.mealenders.com. Give them a try if you’re looking for a little something to boost your current efforts and let me know what you think!

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When “Health” becomes More Important than “Fitness”

I’ve been there, sometimes I’m still there…so I’m assuming you’ve been there too.

We set goals. Whether they’re based on frustration with how things are, things we’d like to accomplish, what everyone else is doing or has going for them or something we’ve seen somewhere else, we set goals. Goals are important…they propel us through life and toward great things. When we accomplish those goals, we are left with this mile-high feeling that’s pretty hard to match. That phrase “walking on cloud 9,” actually makes sense sometimes!

This is especially true in the fitness world. From TV shows that promote losing hundreds of pounds in 12 weeks to models and others in the entertainment world that have amazing bodies and have accomplished great things, we are surrounded by a culture that tells us anything is possible.

Only, sometimes it’s not. And when that situation crops up, we’re left unsure of how to deal with it and how to move forward! Maybe you’ve been there too…for me, that is right now.

This isn’t always the easiest thing to share; we want others to see us succeed, especially when we have set ourselves up to be models for others. Sharing “downs” can be complicated, messy and emotional – all things we try to avoid.

But, I’ll do my best.

Here’s the thing. A lot of you have been following me for awhile now. You’ve seen my journey and that it was filled with a lot of highs. I set a lot of lofty goals and slowly worked as hard as I could to accomplish them. They weren’t easy, and sometimes I was putting everything I had forward…but I did my best to do everything I said I would do. It was a commitment I made to myself and to everyone else!

Many of you read my blog post the day I decided to register for the Wineglass Marathon, happening this Sunday in Corning, New York. I remember writing it and being so excited as some of my friends made the commitment with me. The day I signed up, I was filled with anticipation; the thought that I wouldn’t cross the finish…or even the starting line…never really occurred to me. I was on my own, full-throttle high.

When I signed up, fitness was my focus; it has been ever since this journey began. That hasn’t changed. However, what has changed is that I have come to realize that fitness and health can’t always be grouped into a nice, neat little category; sometimes one becomes a little more important than the other.

You all read my “change of plans” post where I announced that I would no longer be running the marathon. It wasn’t easy to pen the words, but it was easy in comparison to actually facing the realization that a serious goal I set won’t be happening.

As the week of the marathon set in, I thought of where I’d be if I had been training, about starting my taper and about getting really excited about going to New York! Instead, I’m just excited to make it through this week, to get some answers and to figure out how to get back on track! It’s funny how things change sometimes! But, the important thing to note is that sometimes things have to change. Sometimes we have to be strong enough to step back and reevaluate our goals, our passions and – most importantly – our motivations.

What’s motivating you today? Are you pushing for unrealistic goals for unhealthy motivations? Or, are you focused on putting your health and your future first? I know, it’s not easy, but, health must always come first; decisions should be made with that as the top priority. Where do you stand today?

For me, I’m looking forward to getting things figured out and pushing forward. I’m excited to watch my friends cross the finish line on Sunday, knowing they’ve trained hard for a goal that many people think is unreachable! I know they’re going to rock it 🙂

Thanks for following along with me on this crazy journey. Sometimes the downs are just as important as the ups, and I’m hoping that seeing that things don’t just “happen” for everyone else will encourage you today. Think about the goals you’ve set and about what’s driving those goals…where do you want to be once you meet them? What small steps can you take today to get yourself to that place, where health AND fitness work together for great things?

Sunset

Running for Rachel 2014 Race Recap

What a day for a 5k. On Sunday, April 27, close to 1000 runners gathered at Harrisburg’s City Island for the 3rd annual Running for Rachel 5k. With sunny skies and a temperature near 50 degrees, it couldn’t have been better condition-wise!

With a personal connection to the race having grown up with Rachel – read more about her story here – I was so excited to get this race going. It was also my first 5k in awhile! Having just come back from a knee injury, my speed work left a lot to be desired. But boy, for this race, I was stoked.

Here I am bright and early that morning, dressed and ready to go – sporting my Cocogo Ambassador patch, a tank and compression pants, I was set. Game on.

R4R 1

We arrived to the island around 7:30 (race start was slated for 9:00 am). Picking up my bib was simple and The weather was perfect for running around and warming up before the crowds got too intense. The portapotties were plentiful (if you’re new to racing, you’ll soon understand why this matters) and spirits were high. While the music played, we all anxiously awaited the start.

Around 8:50, I made my way to the starting line. Because this is a race with a large number of walkers, I wanted to be near the front…I had a PR in mind :). The race started and we set off across the river. As far as good times go, this course is perfect – flat, out and back, well-marked, everything a good 5K course should be. The wind wasn’t working in the favor of runners, but it wasn’t terrible either.

My favorite part of this course is the out and back feature. On the way back, I passed by many runners still setting off and encouragement was wonderful. Spectators were also lining the course, adding a little more excitement!

I crossed the finish feeling strong, but, having taken my first mile at 6:48, I’d gone out too fast. Still, It wasn’t terrible. I set a new PR: 22:23 and took 5th female overall, 2nd in my age group (congrats to the women up ahead…this was a FAST race!).

Proud at the finish:

R4R 3

Little man showing off “his” medal:

R4R 2

Put simply, this was a great race for a great cause. If you’re local and looking for an event to start training for, whether it’s your first 5k or your 100th, don’t miss out on this one. Learn more at the site: http://www.runningforrachel.myevent.com/. Looking forward to seeing you all out there next year!

Rock n’Roll USA Half Marathon – Washington, D.C.

First of all, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Secondly, it’s Monday…which means another race weekend is in the books. This time it was the Rock n’Roll USA Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. which took place on Saturday, March 15. What a race!

Let me preface this one with the training plan. I followed CoolRunning.com‘s Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan. It was a plan that was heavy on the mileage (my long run was 15 miles), but with long recovery periods. I’m impressed with how it worked out, but was very tired by the time I was ready to taper. But, it gave me results – we’ll get there later!

John and I headed down to D.C. on Friday morning, excited to check into our hotel and to check out the race expo, which we had heard so much about. We were pumped! Traffic was smooth and there were no hiccups. Our room was ready at 10am (can’t beat that!). From there, we hopped on the Metro and headed for the D.C. armory for the expo…Wow!

First of all, we could tell the race was organized. Bib pickup was sectioned off by corral (John was registered for 1, I was in 5, but he ended up running with me due to an injury). It was quick, no lines and efficient; you can’t ask for more when there are 25,000 people who all have the same objective as you.

From there, we checked out the vendors. There were lots of free samples, we won 3 t-shirts each, learned about new races to check out and enjoyed networking with other runners who would be joining us at the start the next day. The positive energy was contagious and we were ready to go!

Dinner that night was a hearty (gluten free!) pasta dish from Toscana Cafe downtown. From there we headed back to the hotel and got ready for the next morning.

Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early and left the hotel by 5 a.m. for our 7:30 start. The metro opened 2 hours early to allow runners to make it to the start. This meant the ride was great as we were all heading in the same direction. Even though I’ve been a part of the running community for awhile now, the camaraderie always amazes me!

Here we are on the metro:

metro

 

We hopped off at the Smithsonian, and followed the throngs of people toward the hundreds of porta-potties (no shortage here!) and the clearly marked UPS gear check. The process was seamless. From there, after some striding and stretching, we headed for the start. It was amazing to come up over a hill, to look down and to see thousands of runners. Music was playing, the energy was just right and we found our corral easily.

Starting line shot!

start

 

The corralled start meant no crazy hold ups at the finish and meant I was running with people around my own pace. This was something I was very thankful for. John carried my Cocogo coconut water (lime flavored this time – want a 40% Cocogo discount? Visit the site and type in: TAKETWOBLOG as your coupon code!) and I stayed hydrated throughout the race. No cramping, side stitches or stomach issues! 🙂

The course itself was fantastic; mostly flat with one LARGE down and uphill around mile 6; but, you know what? That was fine, because the crowd support was amazing! From hundreds of signs to spectators along the whole course, energy was great. Bands were playing around every mile marker and St. Pattie’s Day front stoop parties were happening throughout the course, complete with cowbells and enthusiastic spectators. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Mile markers with clocks marked every single mile, and text message updates were sent to families at the start, 5k, 10k, 10-mile and finish for a small $5 fee. To me, that was worthwhile.

I knew my time was pretty good…I felt strong and knew I was heading for something good at the finish. I was right; my official finish time was 1:45:12…a personal record. My only complaint? My GPS and that of others clocked us in at 3.31 miles…a little long.

Here’s my map:

finish 2

 

The finish line festival was excellent…with bands, lots of refreshments – Gatorade, chocolate milk, oranges, Larabars, pretzels, water and more.

I need to be honest here. A lot of you read my concerns, especially after my last half attempt. This time, I felt great at the finish. However, about an hour later I did crash again. This time, my body temperature hit 95.2 degrees (just above hypothermia) and my pulse oxygen level dropped. Because of this experience, I can speak to the professionalism and expertise of the medical staff at the finish. They were great and got things figured out as quickly as possible. (yes, this also changes my plans for things like full marathons but we’ll get into that another day!).

For now, I am proud of my finish. I felt strong and did better than I ever anticipated. I was reminded of what a gift an active lifestyle is, and had tears at my finish because I learn a little more each day that we define our own limits and that the only thing that holds me back is myself. I’m proud of where I’ve come from, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead on this crazy fitness/wellness journey!

Just as importantly, the race itself was fantastic and well-organized and I look forward to doing another Rock n’Roll event in the future!

I’m also pretty darn proud of my bling:

finish 1

 

Interested in a little push? Something to train for? Check out one of their Tour Stops and sign up today! Some half 5k’s, half marathons and full marathons…go for it! I know I will again!

What Fuels Your Morning?

Mornings are essential to making it through the day. By eating the right foods at the start, you’re body is primed for action; your metabolism speeds up and your body is ready to consume foods of a similar nutrition level throughout the rest of the day. Start off hungry or on the wrong foot and you can go downhill…fast! This is something I’ve learned and really responded to lately. But, it’s an important lesson for everyone.

That’s why I was so excited when I heard about MyOatmeal.com. Before you start to think that healthy oatmeal is plain old healthy oatmeal and there’s not a lot of room to improve, think again. Solid nutrition doesn’t have to be boring, and this company brings this idea to life in big ways.

By allowing customers to customize their own flavors, MyOatmeal.com takes mornings to a whole new level. Visitors are able to customize:

  • Package size: 1 lb, 2.25 lb or 4lb
  • Oat types: quick rolled instant, 5 grain rolled oats & flax, steel cut whole oats, signature smash blend, gluten free quick oats (a must in my house!) and organic, gluten free rolled oats
  • Flavoring: think of the most detailed coffee shop flavor list and then expand it – creme brulee, cake, smores and so many more
  • Fruits: 18 options!
  • Nuts and seeds: everything from chia and flax seeds to powdered peanut butter and almonds – big nutritional value
  • Sweeteners: brown cane to monk fruit, any taste bud can be satisfied.
  •  Shipping options: ongoing, one time, etc.

Bottom line: there are over 2 million flavor combinations that can be created. Does it get better than this?

I didn’t think so; which is why I had to give it a try.

I created my blends of choice online and couldn’t wait for them to arrive (which they did, quickly!). From there, I couldn’t wait to jump in, which is why our family had oatmeal for dinner that night :).

My first flavor? Caramel Apple Cheesecake (named by me).

Myoatmeal1

I was excited, check out the nutritional information above, which I knew ahead of time, since it was clearly displayed during the online creation process.

The smell upon opening the bag was wonderful and I could see the apple chunks I’d ordered easily.

myoatmeal2

My Blend?

  • Gluten free quick oats
  • Dulce de Leche and Cheesecake flavors
  • Light brown sugar
  • Dried apples

The verdict? Delicious.

myoatmeal3

I mixed 1/4 cup oatmeal with 1/2 cup almond milk (this is my go-to for oatmeal, the husband and kids used water per the package directions).  It was a hit. The whole family enjoyed it and no additional flavors or sugars were needed. It was filling and has become our go-to. From a simple, fun creation process to a final product that exceeded expectations, I expect to be a loyal myoatmeal.com customer for a long time.

Want to check it out yourself? Visit MyOatmeal.com and create a custom blend! Even better? Use the code healthy15 for 15% off your order! What are you waiting for?

Follow MyOatmeal.com on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates and possibilities! Also, stay tuned here as I have a few more flavors, including a custom peanut butter powder blend to review after finishing this bag!

Note: I was provided samples from MyOatmeal.com free of charge for review. But, you know I don’t give a positive review unless I stand behind the product! If I say I love it, I mean it! 🙂

Cold Weather Essential

Most of you know that I’ve been in, well, hibernation-training mode for the past few months. While this weekend offered a beautiful glimpse of the spring that has to be right around the corner, it feels like the polar vortex is back for the time being. However, unlike the past few weeks, today I decided to brave it.

The reason? I had a new piece of gear to try out. Something that had the potential to change one of my cold weather issues: my head.

Most runners get this. A hat doesn’t cut it…while it’s great at first, it generally ends in a sweaty, uncomfortable mess. Cold weather headbands, regardless of fabric, generally slide around and become more like distractions than cold weather solutions. Ear muffs seem like they’d be perfect, right? Only problem: they don’t wrap around the head like a headband, so they’d never hold up for long runs.

Until now. Gone for a Run, the source of all running essentials and a great all-around company has created AIRMuffs. These lightweight ear warmers are designed with runners in mind, featuring ultra light, itch resistant micro-brushed polyester fabric and an adjustable ‘stay-put’ fit. In addition to being practical, they’re also super fun, available in both black and pink.

photo (1)photo (2)

If you can’t tell, I was pretty excited to give these a try, like I am with anything that has the potential to keep me comfortable without causing a mid-run distraction. Today was the day. My conclusion? They’re a cold-weather essential.

My favorite features:

  • Unlike wool warming options, this fabric stayed dry, comfort at its best.
  • The light foamy ear panels kept my ears warm without blocking out my ability to hear my surroundings, safety is a must.
  • The design, how fun are these things?
  • The adjustable strap ensured a fit that was personalized and perfect for me.
  • It didn’t move. That’s right, no need to adjust mid-run.

Bottom line: Gone for a Run’s AIRMuffs are a new cold weather running essential. Check them out here, and take a look at the other unique, fun products available!

AirMuffs

Hydration: The Solution

I have a confession: I have a disdain for coconut water. This is complicated because I know it offers one of the most complete solutions for hydration, especially for distance runners. In fact, it’s been recommended to me by my doctor on multiple occasions as something superior to traditional sports drinks that are filled with unnatural ingredients that can cause more harm than good.

It’s even more complicated by the fact that I struggle with hydration issues and electrolyte imbalances in big ways. After most long runs (say 9 out of 10), no matter how much I hydrate during the run or what I do afterwards, I end up with debilitating headaches that require medication and in extreme cases, trips to urgent care or even the emergency room. I also struggle – like many runners – with stomach issues during long runs…usually starting around mile 8. I’m constantly on the lookout for a solution…which is why I’m really excited to introduce this next product!

Yesterday I set out for my second to last long run before the Rock n’Roll Half Marathon in Washington, DC on March 15. It was a 14-miler, my first time over 13 miles since my last failed half. I was terrified…but, I had heard about a great product, Cocogo and I was hopeful.

The product is marketed as a new premium sports drink made with real fruit (giving it great flavor!) and coconut water in a stick pack. It’s quickly becoming recognized for it’s great taste and performance enhancements. Cocogo has been credited with providing steady energy, eliminating muscle cramps and being easy to digest. I was intrigued.

Cocogo

As per the package’s directions, I mixed 4 packets (recommended amount for intense flavor and extreme workouts, lesser amounts are needed for basic hydration needs) of Cocogo Grape with 14 ounces of water. I had my water bottle and set out.

Every 20 minutes I took a swig of the drink…still unsure of what the result would be. Unlike stomach issues, my headaches don’t start until about an hour after I finish a run. I was pleasantly surprised!

It was delicious. Plain and simple, I could not taste the coconut, just the grape (which is excellent for someone who has issues with coconut water!). It was sweet, but not overly sweet and was something I could enjoy whether working out or not. This gave it huge marks in my book.

The claim that it’s easily digestible was absolutely confirmed. Generally even water hits my stomach wrong during runs. I had no cramps and no stomach issues…this was a huge plus!

The real test came after my run, however. But, unlike any run of my past, I experienced no headache. To me, this meant a lot. The electrolytes did their job, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my day without any issues.

To me, I can say, without hesitation, that Cocogo proved itself in big ways. This is my new drink of choice for top performance and I look forward to using it during my upcoming race in DC.

If you’re looking for a complete sports hydration solution that does what it says it does, without the extra additives, this is your solution. Check out Cocogo’s website for more information. While my favorite flavor is grape, lemon-lime and raspberry passion fruit are also available and delicious.

BEST NEWS EVER: I’ve officially become a Cocogo Ambassador. Use the code TAKETWOBLOG at check out to receive 40% off any order you place!

For a quick reference, check out how it stacks up to other sports drinks in this graphic:

Cocogo Grid

Note: I was given packets of Cocogo to review for free, however, the opinions expressed above are my own and I do not promote a product unless I stand behind it 100%. Additionally, it’s important to discuss any major changes to a fitness regimen with a doctor to ensure overall health; what’s best for one person may not be for another.