No Excuses—Play Like A Champion

Date: June 2, 2016 at 9:43 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 55

I woke up in a foul mood yesterday.

You know when you have a plan for your day and then something immediately doesn’t go according to said plan, and it throws off your entire day and your plan and your lifeGod forbid, I know. This is not a dramatization. (Yes, it is.)

Well that was me yesterday, and I let it seriously throw me. I was, for lack of a more graceful word, an extreme bitch from roughly 6 AM until 9:30 AM. I finally got out for a run (#globalrunningday), and that got me out of my funk, but I still struggled to hit my groove throughout the day. I wasn’t as productive as I wanted (uh, needed) to be, and I fell into the “I want” and “I wish” trap.

CANNOT BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED AT IKEA. All three came home with us. Brian says, "We're not keeping all three." I don't know why he's so horrible to me.

CANNOT BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED AT IKEA. All three puppies came home with us. Brian says, “We’re not keeping all three.” I don’t know why he’s so horrible to me. Like, be more supportive, Brian, please.

I hate hate hate when people complain about things over and over but don’t do anything to invoke change. I’m all for complaining as a necessary means of venting and blowing off steam, but complaints that continue for months or years at a time? No, dude. Time to make some moves.

But, of course, I’m guilty of doing that sometimes, too. Lately I’ve found myself making really stupid excuses. “I want to go grocery shopping but I can’t because what if Ellie wakes up and needs to go out?” (Yes, she’s housebroken. No, this is not a legitimate complaint. Yes, I’ve said these exact words.)

So today, I have decided to put my wants and wishes out there. I figure if I make this stuff public, I’ll be more likely to follow through and get shit done, right? I also know that you can’t be vague in your goal setting and planning, and that it helps to get specific with these types of things. For every action there’s an equal…action? Time to get specific.

Let's make some goals, OK?

Let’s make some goals, OK?

The goal: I want to get strong before I start marathon training later this summer. 

Running lazy junk miles has been fun, but I’m not feeling my strongest right now. I miss having muscles and going to strength-training classes and lifting weights. Before I start ramping up my marathon-training mileage, I want to make sure my body can withstand it all.

CLEARLY SO STRONG. We were supposed to jump so it looked like we were in the palm of her hand. Totes nailed it.

CLEARLY SO STRONG. We were supposed to jump so it looked like we were in the palm of her hand. Totes nailed it.

The lame excuse: “Running is easier and more convenient. I don’t want to pay to take classes. I don’t like having to plan and coordinate a day in the city just to half-ass my way through an expensive SoulCycle class.”

How I can make it happen: Well first, we have a gym in our apartment complex, so I need to dedicate nights to going there and spending 20–30 minutes lifting. And I need a plan, so I don’t wander around from machine to bench and back with breaks for checking Snapchat. Plus, Brian’s friend and cycling teammate is a personal trainer. We talked last summer about doing a few sessions together. I like him, respect him, and trust him. It’s time to finally enlist him so he can give me some moves. (He has a cute dog, too. Obviously important.)

Demonstrating push-ups at November Project. My form was probably not admirable. I shouldn't have been demonstrating. Whateverrrrrrr.

Demonstrating push-ups at November Project. My form was probably not admirable. I shouldn’t have been demonstrating. Whateverrrrrrr.

The goal: I want to cook dinner more often during the week. 

I did a few weeks of Blue Apron, which was fun and reasonably priced, and I loved the food. But those meals didn’t take 30–40 minutes. Between the chopping and all the various steps, most meals were on the table (uh, breakfast bar) in an hour most nights. It was perfect in theory because it eliminated the planning and grocery shopping — my least favorite things — but some nights I just didn’t want to spend a while chopping stuff. I wanted it to be a little easier. I’m so lazy.

These chickpea burgers were good (and super filling), but they did NOT take "15–20 minutes."

These chickpea burgers were good (and super filling), but they did NOT take “15–20 minutes.”

The lame excuse: “I’m lazy. I don’t really know how to cook. I don’t have a stocked kitchen full of produce and pantry items, so I can’t just whip something up on a whim. Brian is a really good cook, and I feel like he’ll judge me if I make something shitty.” (He won’t. He literally never has.)

How I can make it happen: Weekend meal prep. I need to actually sit down on the weekends and plan my meals and grocery shop for them accordingly. Yes, it’s a little tedious and annoying and not as fun as taking Ellie for another hike. But I am 31 years old, and I should be able to plan and cook my meals. Feeding myself shouldn’t be so difficult.

Like Little Rascals, remember?! My favorites were Buckwheat and Porky. Who were your favorites?!

Like Little Rascals, remember?! My favorites were Buckwheat and Porky. Who were your favorites?!

The goal: I want to get fast. 

My recent races have made me feel like maybe I can PR the half-marathon and full marathon later this year. I want to go for it.

Half-marathon PR, I'm coming for ya!

Half-marathon PR, I’m coming for ya!

The lame excuse: “I’m lazy?” I really have no excuse here. I just haven’t done it.

How I can make it happen: Step 1 is to get strong. Step 2 comes into play later this summer when I’ll start marathon training. I originally thought I’d reintroduce my Garmin and work with a coach, but my watchless running has worked pretty well, so I don’t necessarily want to abandon it. I’m currently leaning toward creating a rough plan myself that’s a balance between pushing myself really hard on workout days (intervals, hills, and tempo runs) and doing really easy runs on easy days. Plus cross-training and rest.

Round and round the track we go!

Round and round the track we go!

The goal: I want to unpack the apartment. 

Brian and I were great about unpacking when we first moved in. Except for those last 10 boxes. We’ve lived here for two months and I want to feel slightly more settled.

Sleeping on my pile of clothes. Some clean. Some dirty. Who even knows at this point.

Sleeping on my pile of clothes. Some clean. Some dirty. Who even knows at this point.

The lame excuse: “I don’t have time.”

How I can make it happen: I have plenty of time. I’m busy, but I have the luxury of working from home. To try and convince myself — or you! — that I can’t spend 30 minutes a day for a week or so unpacking those last few boxes would be insane. I need to just schedule it in and commit to getting it done. (Brian and I went to IKEA earlier this week and got a desk so I can finally finally finally have a home office. Long overdue! My current couch-and-breakfast-bar setup isn’t cutting it and isn’t fueling my creativity nor my productivity.)

Clearly a very successful IKEA haul!

Clearly a very successful IKEA haul!

The goal: I want to kick my sugar addiction.

It’s real, people. I hate it, but I haven’t been able to quit it. (Especially shameful since I spend my days writing about health and wellness, and telling people how to live their best lives while I’m over here with a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and chocolate chips.)

ELLIE, COOL IT. She was mad I wouldn't share my Blizzard.

ELLIE, COOL IT. She was mad I wouldn’t share my Blizzard.

The lame excuse: “I love food. I love sweets. I live next door to Ben & Jerry’s. Growing up, we had dessert after every meal, so it’s engrained in my lifestyle.

How I can make it happen: See aforementioned meal planning. I can be a creature of habit. I’ve done it before. I don’t seem to do great with “everything in moderation,” so I think I’m better off saying something like, “I’ll eat Ben & Jerry’s on Fridays only,” or “I can have all the sweet stuff I want, but only if it’s special, i.e. not something you can buy at a grocery store.” (Tips or tricks for this one absolutely welcome.)

One scoop of something mint, one scoop of Peanut Butter & Cookies. (It's vegan, sooooo...basically health food. THAT'S HOW IT WORKS.)

One scoop of something mint, one scoop of Peanut Butter & Cookies. (It’s vegan, sooooo…basically health food. THAT’S HOW IT WORKS.)

That’s all for now. This should keep me busy. (I also want to spend more time by the pool this summer. No excuses on this one. Play like a champion.)

New favorite nighttime hobby: pool + hot tub [time machine].

New favorite nighttime hobby: pool + hot tub [time machine].

WHAT I NEED FROM YOU:

  • Your favorite easy, delicious dinners. And I mean easy. Not a lot of ingredients. And no corn. I can’t eat corn. Thanks.
  • How you’ve kicked your sugar addiction. You know…if you can relate. 
  • Do you want a really soft, really amazing Ikea puppy? (I can go back for more. Obviously not giving away one of my three pups.)

THANKS, LOVE YOU, TTYL.

55 Responses to "No Excuses—Play Like A Champion"

Stir fry. Cut up some chicken or pork, a potato or two, throw in some baby spinach, garlic and onions, sautee with olive oil in a pan and you have a 15 minute meal.

If you don’t have a crock pot, get one…

Pork Carnitas

•1 tablespoon chili powder
•2 teaspoons ground cumin
•2 teaspoons dried oregano
•2 teaspoons salt, or more, to taste
•1 teaspoon ground black pepper
•4 pound pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
•4 cloves garlic, peeled
•2 onions, quartered
•2 oranges, juiced
•2 limes, juiced

Instructions
•In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Season pork shoulder with spice mixture, rubbing in thoroughly on all sides.
•Place garlic, onions, orange juice, lime juice and seasoned pork shoulder into a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.
•Remove pork shoulder from the slow cooker and shred the meat before returning to the pot with the juices; season with salt and pepper, to taste, if needed
*Cover and keep warm for an additional 30 minutes.

Serve on tortillas with all your taco fixings. Cilantro, cheese (preferable queso fresco style, but you can use cheddar), pico de gallo.

Easiest meal ever–quesadillas. I’m extra lazy so I don’t even bother with the meat. I just cut up different coloured peppers and put a bag in the freezer. Then I take it out later in the week, grab a handful, boil em until they’re soft and put them on a tortilla with grated cheese, another tortilla on top and then pop in the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve with quac, salsa and sour cream. (Fun fact: you can grate cheese ahead of time too and freeze it.)

Molly W. says: June 2, 2016 at 10:34 am

When I was trying to “quit” added sugars, I set a limit of grams of added sugar for the day (somewhat arbitrarily, I chose 23 grams). I didn’t count the sugar in milk or fruit into my 23 grams. That worked really well for me, because it let me still eat something sweet during the day, but it also forced me to think about what I wanted to “spend” my sugargrams (new word) on more closely. Did I really want an office-kitchen cookie? Or did I want to eat a bunch of teddie grahams after dinner? (Teddie grahams, obviously.) Also, 23 grams seems like a lot, but it was a legit challenge most days! (I had to email Peets to get the nutrient info for their cranberry scone. 9 grams of sugar, fyi.)

Frozen vegetables are good for when you are feeling lazy. You can steam them in the microwave in a few minutes then eat them as a side or combine with pasta, rice, salad, chicken, etc. I’d rather have chopped fresh vegetables but I don’t have that kind of energy or shopping schedule to do that all the time.

Allison says: June 2, 2016 at 10:46 am

Love your post, as always!

I’m going to need more photos of Ellie, though. Please with a milkbone on top! 😉

I’ll second the crock pot suggestion, but go even easier: put a few frozen chicken breasts in there with a jar of salsa, and whatever spices you want (liberally). I tend to throw in cumin, paprika, S/P, and some chili powder. After about 5 hours on low, you’ll be able to shred it with two forks. Let it simmer in the pot for another 20-30, and you have taco meat, taco salad meat, or burrito bowl fixins for days.

Do the same thing but with BBQ sauce (basically just cover the breasts – don’t go nuts), a splash of apple cider vinegar, and whatever seasonings you want. Same deal: 5 hours later, shred, let cook, and you have pulled chicken for dayzzz.

One of the best meal prep tips is to cook up a big batch of protein on Sundays. My fave is chicken tenders that I bread in almond meal + spices (garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper) and bake. Takes maybe an hour total. You can throw them on salads, sandwiches, pasta, etc. or just microwave some frozen veggies as a side and you’re good to go! And you can change up the sauces like buffalo, bbq, etc. This way you still have options depending on what you feel like eating, but they’re all super fast!

Also, sweet potato fries always. Cut into fry shape, throw on some spices and coconut oil spray and bake for ~25 mins. The best. And you can make a million at once!

Meal planning is not as boring/time-consuming as you think and you’ll LOVE having all the ingredients in the house when you need them. Also: I thrive on an empty fridge at the end of the week. We’re not wasting food and it’s satisfying to use what you have. I do a meal plan list right before I go shopping and get it all done in one swoop.

And tell me about unpacking those last 10 boxes… we moved 5 months ago and I still (!) have some of those unsightly boxes sit in my office.

My favorite, easy dinner idea: a big-ass salad with grilled chicken. Almost no cutting time (only mushrooms) .
We use lettuce, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, kidney beans and/or bell pepper with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

P.S. Hi, new reader, first time commentator 🙂

This is the easiest meal of all time, especially if you sub in loose sausage and don’t bother peeling the apples. Still good. http://www.runnersworld.com/the-ravenous-runner/recipe-apple-sausage-saute

Kicking the sugar addiction is hard but once you’ve done it, you just don’t crave sweet stuff as much. I used to eat a LOT of ice cream (like, I could do a pint of Chubby Hubby in one sitting). At that time, I was also eating a daily Chobani as a “healthy snack,” except that has a ton of sugar and left me craving even more (in the form of ice cream). When I swapped the Chobani for a string cheese/apple snack, I just kind of stopped wanting so much sugar. Not sure if that’s helpful?

The stuffed animals are the best part of IKEA because you don’t have to assemble them.

oven! so the oven is a weird tip because roasting takes forty mins- an hour. But it’s all inactive time – if you can chop veg for 10 – 15 and dump it in trays in the oven, you can cook up a week’s worth of veg and protein in an hour or two on the weekend, so all you have to do during the week is make rice or get bread or something:)

I agree w your approach so hard. Love that you’re coming up w/ solutions and not just belaboring it.

Recipe idea: Sweet potato + Avocado + chicken + hot sauce. The end.

Also agree, stirfrys are quick using chicken sausage makes them even quicker

Easy, delicious dinner solution: Move two minutes from your parents house, eat delicious dinners when they invite you over 2-3 times a week, starve every other night.

The only time I’ve ever cooked consistently was when I entered a fitness competition and followed a super-strict diet – I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I don’t recommend this route though, except for that it did involve a lot less sugar!

Good luck on all your goals, they make me feel sleepy and need a nap!

Hahahaha I love this. (Pretty sure my mom would love this, too!)

Meaghan says: June 2, 2016 at 11:46 am

As a long time reader I know you hate the slow cooker, but it is the best tool around. It does all the work for you and it’s only 1 pot to clean (plus most are dishwasher safe).

My favorite and easiest recipie is pulled chicken or pulled pork. You can make a big batch and mix with a different sauce each night so it feels “new” and not like a boring left over. Have it over rice, in a taco, on a salad, however you want!
Ingredients:
Chicken breast (or pork loin)
Chicken broth
(Yes that’s it)
Directions-
Place meat in the slow cooker and cover with broth, cook on low for 6-8 hours, remove meat and shred with 2 forks, add a little broth to keep it moist (sorry for that word) and mix with desired sauce (BBQ sauce, salsa, tazitki- anything work).

I don’t hate it! I’ve just never used it. We got a new one as a wedding gift and it’s still in the box. I promise to test it out ASAP! (Thank you for this!!)

Amen to the meal prep goal! One life hack that I recently discovered is frozen veggies! There are approx. one million different varieties, but I’m especially into the asian/stir fry blends. Grab a protein, a stir fry sauce (or make your own if you’re feeling fancy), and a bag of veggies–toss them in a wok and bam! You’ve got a healthy, flavorful meal (plus leftovers!) in like 20 mins or less, with basically zero prep-work.

This pot roast! If you’re giving that new slow cooker a shot, it’s delicious. Three ingredients plus water and you’re good to go!

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/16066/awesome-slow-cooker-pot-roast/

Meal planning is annoying at first but you’ll def get the hang of it and it will start to go a lot faster and eventually you’ll have to buy less stuff each week as you fill up your pantry. I highly suggest using a sort of template with the types of foods you guys like to eat – taco night, pasta night, a fish thing, etc. – makes it a lot easier. Good luck!! The getting strong before marathon training is a goal I’m working on now too so keep us posted on how it goes and what you do!

Eating ONLY dark chocolate for my “desserts” has been a HUGE help. I buy the 72% Trader Joe’s barks (that are only 4.99) and allow myself one square after lunch and 2 after dinner. It does the trick and you don’t need any more! Good luck!

Lots of great suggestions (I forget about my slow cooker too sometimes)… my recs are chopping up lots of fresh veggies during meal prep for snack and buying some bagged greens- super easy and quick to add a salad to any meal. Also chopping up some veggies and batch roasting them is great too. For the desserts- I think limiting to only special desserts is a great idea… smoothies are great for when you are craving ice cream and you can add fruit to sweeten naturally (or make banana ice cream). PS I’m upping my strength training this year as well after battling two injuries post fall marathon 🙁 Good luck with the future PRs- I think you’ll crush it!

1. Meals: Chicken parm, fajitas, stir fry, pulled pork in the crock pot, anything on the grill, sounds hard but shrimp scampi is actually really quick and easy.

2. When you figure this out, please let me know!

3. HECK YES! Fellow dog lover here! I follow you on Instagram (not in a creepy way) and I show my dog (basically the subject of my IG) pictures of Ellie. She always wags her tail so I think she likes the underbite 🙂

Love your blog! 🙂

Favorite go to:
1. Boil noodles
2. Add in any veggies you like (broccoli, carrots, anything that is a little crunchier)
3. Drain pasta (bonus tip, I’ll put greens in the bottom of my colendar so the pasta water will wilt and cook the greens)
4. Dump pasta and veggies back in pot and toss with pesto.
You can add chicken in. I use The Kitchn’s method for cooking chicken breasts. Really simple and takes 20 minutes with practically no work at all. Basically pound the breasts to even thickness, salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour. Heat 1T butter and 1T olive oil in a pan. Once you brown both sides of the chicken, put a lid on the pan and turn down the heat to low for 10 min. Once the timer goes off, turn the stove off but don’t move the pan or lid!! Wait 10 more min and your chicken will be done.

Susannah says: June 2, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Here’s what I’ve learned: Even if i cannot totally meal plan for the week, I always cook 4-6 chicken breasts on Sunday night. I can then pull them out for dinner with a side veggie, throw it on top of a lunch salad, etc. Baking chicken breasts is sometimes all I can handle on Sunday, but it always makes my week go smoother.

Also, these are so magical and easy: http://www.budgetbytes.com/2016/01/weeknight-enchiladas/ …I usually add some diced up chicken to mine (from Sunday night cooking) but they’re fantastic either way.

The budget bytes blog is actually fantastic for coming up with new meals you can reasonably cook on a weeknight.

Do you guys have a grill or does the apartment complex have a grill? On weeknights we throw protein and veggie on the grill which helps SO much!

Omg that pic of Ellie mean muggin you and your bliz! Dying!
Ultimate easy/delicious dinner- chicken parm. We get raw breaded chicken breasts (Bell & Evans brand- I’m sure TJs or WF has something similar if that’s regional, but they’re not terribly unhealthy like the Tyson ones). Put them in a casserole dish, add a slice of fresh mozz on top, coat in (a whole jar) of marinara sauce. 30ish mins at 375.
Then you can serve it over pasta- or it’s actually delicious over spaghetti squash. Or by itself with a side salad.

Tricia F. says: June 2, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Do you have a crock pot? They are the best. You can find so many good recipes on the Internet. Throw all the ingredients in the pot and you are done.

Agreed on the stir fry suggestions. I make that easier on myself by always grabbing a bag or two of frozen veggies and a box of dry rice at the store. Then there’s no real excuse.

Another of my favorite 10-minute-all-in-one-pot meals is chicken/broccoli/pasta. Cook the pasta in a big ‘ol pot, then let it sit in a strainer. In 1/4 of inch of water in the same pot, add the broccoli for ~5 minutes, then dump into the strainer on top of the pasta. SAME POT: olive oil, salt, pepper, bit-sized chicken (I add a little of literally whatever is in the fridge: mustard or salad dressing or soy sauce, just a splash of something for extra flavor). Cook those for ~5 minutes (longer if it’s thicker…just make sure nothing’s pink). Then dump the pasta/broccoli back in and stir. Voila. (I usually make a whole box of pasta, 2-3 broccoli bunches, and ~2-3 lbs chicken and have leftovers for dayz).

I’ve also been on a big wraps kick lately: get wraps in bulk (Costco, helloooooo suburb living!) then every couple days I go to the store for hummus/lunch meats/veggies (tomatoes, cukes, etc) and rotate things in and out so I’m not eating the exact same thing every day. Also throwing potato spears in the oven (toss in olive oil, salt, pepper) for 20-40 minutes (depends on oven strength/potato thickness…I just taste-test until they’re right) is a great side.

One word for you: FRITTATA.

Legit the easiest meal in all the world to make. Yes it does require some chopping of veggies, but it takes 3 minutes. Chop up whatever veggies you like, and sauté in a pan with olive oil. Once soft, crumble in some sausage (or add previously-cooked bacon).

In the same pan, pour in some eggs (scrambled) and finish the cooking process in the oven. Add in a piece of toast and you have a balanced meal! SO GOOD AND SO EASY. Promise. 🙂

Natalie says: June 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm

A life changing crock pot recipe. For real! I threw it together in 10 minutes once before I ran off to the gym.

Teriyaki Pulled Chicken from fitmencook.com– http://fitmencook.com/3-easy-healthy-slow-cooker-recipes/

2lbs raw chicken breasts
Sauce:
1/2 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup honey (or coconut sugar)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/8 cup red chili pepper sauce
1 tablespoon garlic
3 tablespoons arrowroot starch
spray olive oil
Garnish:
sesame seeds
chopped green onion

Also, my fiance’ and I sit on the couch together on Sunday nights watching our shows while chopping vegetables for the week. It keeps us from dreading chopping!!

Whoa, not sure this is normal but I read this post like 6 times and realized I really need to get my shit together.

I love pesto salmon over brown rice. And I am a huge salad person. What could be easier then throwing stuff over lettuce. Grill shrimp and add avocado and all done!

I am going to take a cue from you and write a post about no excuses. Now just need an accountability partner.

Black Bean Enchiladas! No chopping required. .Even my husband can make these and he can’t boil water.

Microwave brown rice
1 can black beans
1 can enchilada sauce
Tortillas
Cheese

Mix together rice, beans, and 1/3 can of sauce. Put 1/3 of sauce on bottom of a casserole-ish pan. Spoon rice mixture into tortillas, roll, and line up in pan. Put last 1/3 of sauce on top, then sprinkle shredded cheese on top. In the oven at 350 for 15ish minutes.

If you’re feeling really fancy you could chop green onion and sprinkle on top. You could also add in shredded chicken, or a can of diced tomatoes or chop an onion…but most nights we stick to the 5 ingredient veggie version.

Second the frittata! I like leftover roasted sweet potato and red peppers with goat cheese and wilted spinach.
Quinoa is brilliant, since it cooks so easy and fast. I mix a dollop of mayo with shiracha and stir that in, good cold on top of salads, or warm as a side.

Sesame pasta salad.
1 8oz package buckwheat soba noodles
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp sesame oil (“toasted sesame oil” from WF)
3 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp honey
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1.5(ish) tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2 green onions, chopped
Whatever veggies you want – I used broccoli (or maybe broccolini – from the farmers market)

Boil a big-ish pot of salted water

While the water is coming to a boil, whisk the liquid ingredients and red pepper flakes together and chop your veggies. When the water is boiling, put in the noodles (they take ~4 min). Add in the veggies (if you prefer your veggies cooked) after about 3 minutes, then strain the whole thing into a strainer and rinse it for like 30 seconds with cold water. Shake excess water out, then pour back into the pot (or large serving dish if you’re feeling fancy) and toss with sauce, sesame seeds, and green onions (and any veggies you prefer raw). Makes great leftovers. Takes about as long as boiling a large pot of water. Might be good with a little peanut butter added to the sauce

Alternatively:
Scrambled (omelet) eggs and steamed/sautéed greens (I recommend spinach, kale, or mustard greens). Serve with bread and cheese and wine, if you’re into that. Feel French.

Budget bytes! We spend a couple hours cooking mostly meals from this blog each Sunday and have meals all week long since it’s just my husband and I. On the blog she breaks everything down step by step so you learn how to cook!

I’ve always had a vicious sweet tooth. Like, I used to get cravings so bad that I could taste and smell sugar and couldn’t do anything else until I had it. My coach upped my protein from what I thought was good (60-70 grams a day) to about 135 grams per day, and that has changed everything. I’m not saying that’s the right move for everyone, but it’s certainly changed my life.

Good luck! I totally get it!

Yes to strength and yes to speed. Seriously you got this. Also yes to sugar addiction and kicking that habit. For me – it’s out of sight out of mind. I try to avoid buying things that I can just grab when I’m bored or because it becomes a habit (hello chocolate chips and mug cakes…no more mug cakes) and starting after donuts today. Also the protein thing is clutch – making sure to load up (not bulk weights load up though). I love making sliced sweet potato, chicken and grilled veggies (or frozen spinach/kale) or salmon or eggs. Then add some avocado with sea salt and boom. DINNER. Yes to accountability.

On March 14th I started taking my own breakfast and lunch to work instead of buying it every day. (Yes, the date was so significant, it wen ton my calendar.) Literally the first time this has ever happened in my life, and I feel like it’s similar to your dinner struggle, because it involves a lot of meal prep, but has the added element of “what tastes good cold or can heat up well in the microwave.” (Added difficulty, sandwiches aren’t an option.)

Finding stuff you like to make and like to eat can seem daunting, but just slowly add different things in and soon you’ll realize you’ve master a pretty solid rotation of meals. My recent SUPER EASY go to meal is to bake a sweet potato in the oven and top with black beans cheese and whatever else I feel like. SO easy and SO yummy!

Other very easy things….I LOVE pesto, and I just started heavily coating chicken breast in pesto and baking it – top with cheese near the end or not. OMG SO GOOD. I told my friends if I go off the grid it’s because I’ve dedicated my life to baking and eating pesto chicken.

I’m also a fan of this chicken parmesan recipe because it has just a few ingredients: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/sunnys-easy-chicken-parmesan.html

At home I like to roast vegetables – also so easy, although there is some chopping there. Are you committed to EVERYTHING being from scratch? Because I like to keep some frozen meatballs on hand. Heat up some of those, roast some veggies – simple. (You could also make meatballs yourself and then freeze them.) Someone else mentioned quesadillas – I’ll second that suggestion. Or a breakfast scramble? Also, little pizzas made on pita bread.

I really feel you on this one because meal planning and prep does NOT come easy to me at all, but I do feel like my options are slowly growing.

Sugar…I don’t know if my advice is helpful or not because it sounds like you may need more concrete “rules” for yourself. But….about a year ago I drastically cut down on bread. I didn’t cut it out entirely, but from that point on, if a meal prominently featured bread (like…a sandwich for lunch) I would ask myself “Is there another option available that *doesn’t* include bread (and by extension – most pasta and crackers). The way I approach it is sort of like one of the things you mentioned above – I save the bread for when it’s “special” or really worth it.

Like – there’s a sandwich at this bakery on the east coast that I LOVE (LOVE LOVE LOVE), so if I’m on the east coast near that bakery – I eat that sandwich. Or there’s this restaurant that has a seasonal soup that I love but part of that experience is dipping bread into the soup, so that’s fine. I also make exceptions for pizza because….I really love pizza. But I make sure it’s good pizza, and that it’s not all the time. It really came down to questioning “Do I *really* want this?” If the answer is yes, I absolutely eat it. If the answer is no or “meh” – I look for another option. Side note – I noticed that once I cut back on bread/pasta/crackers – sugar cravings dropped significantly as well.

I’m a fan of your strength goal! I just did a Flywheel/Flybarre challenge to rev up for some half marathon training! (My first half – November 2016!)

Brianna says: June 3, 2016 at 11:11 am

A slow cooker is a key for easy meals, mainly because you can throw everything in, turn it on for a few hours and dinner is ready when its done. An easy recipe is to put two chicken breasts in, top with a jar of green salsa, and turn on HIGH for two hours. You can then just shred the chicken and put it in tacos with your favorite toppings or on salads for some protein. Good luck!

I agree with the crock pot advice! Also – this recipe amazing, easy, and contains wine (which, if you’re me, means I also get to drink while cooking). I used cheese tortellini to make it even more filling. Love love love this site’s stuff.

http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/5-ingredient-bacon-asparagus-pasta-recipe/

Also, oven pizzas are my go-to. Pillsbury thin crust pizza dough, and sauce and cheese are easy enough to keep on hand.

Hi Ali, I have never posted before but there is a first time for everything! This really has nothing to do with your post but I was wondering if you could speak to the difficulties you have had with a new puppy. I love reading about Ellie and all your adventures but I was wondering if you could do a post on the challenges of having a puppy. The reason I ask/wonder is because my husband I just got a puppy back in February and while she is a doll and we adore her it is not without its challenges and as I reader I am curious as to the challenges as well as the rewards of having a puppy and you make it look so easy and great all the time (and maybe Ellie is so good and you have been extremely lucky!). Just an idea!

YES, definitely! I’m certainly no puppy expert (Ellie is my first!), but I can definitely speak to our experiences. I’ll try to do something like that next week. Raising a puppy, for me at least, has been equal parts challenging, rewarding, difficult, amazing, overwhelming, and exciting. Happy to share more!

Thanks Ali! Looking forward to the post. Keep up the good – love the blog!

Some of these things sound very familiar – particularly the sugar addiction and the laziness! I’m kind of in a slump right now and am also incorporating some changes. Man, it’s hard! It used to come easy, but is such a struggle for me right now.

Here’s to hoping that we can both get back on track and GET SHIT DONE!

Also, that pool and view are amazing. Swimming under the stars is where it’s at 🙂

One of our favorite easy meals is diy shake and bake pork chops. Put 1/4 cup of grated parmesan, 1/2 cup of italian breadcrumbs, and a few tablespoons of oil (canola, vegetable, olive, grape seed, whatever you want) in a ziploc bag and smush it all together. Add pork chops one at a time and zip (or hold) the top and shake it up and pat the mixture onto the pork chops (it should stick like a pretty thick coating). Put them on a foil lined pan and bake at 425 for 20 minutes for thick cut or 17-18 for thinner cut chops. You can microwave some sweet potatoes and frozen veggies to go with it. I make this once every week and never get tired of it. At the end of it, the only dishes to do are the plates and serving utensils.

I don’t necessarily have a favorite recipe, but the crock pot has done wonders (or did… until I stopped using it… and now I need to do a little meal prep like you). Seriously though- it is easy and your food can cook while you do other things, like play with Ellie.

I haven’t kicked my sugar habit.. but I will be re-checking your blog comments for other commenters’ tips. Maybe that could be a future blog post! I know I would read it!

Good luck!

Let me help me with my meal planning in minutes method AND with the sugar stuff. Or let me send you my book for starters, it’s in there. xoxo

Jasmine says: June 3, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Sadly I don’t really have any great cooking ideas to add (I’m not the best cook and find it stressful) but I do want to say THANK YOU for posting this because I just got a whole lot of great easy meal ideas!!! Thank you Ali…and everyone who posted meal ideas!

I don’t have a great recipe and I definitely have zero advice about cutting sugar …but I am a definite fan of meal planning. I only make 3 meals a week. At least 2 of them must give us leftovers which we will eat for dinner again. The other one or two nights is take out/ restaurant meals. I also always have stuff for sandwiches and I buy good bread so it feels more legit for dinner. Cooking 5-7 nights a week would probably kill me but 3 nights… I can handle. If you’re on Pinterest, just start pickings few of those meals you’ve pinned each week til you kind of find a few favorites…

Hiee Ali!!! It is nice to know about you. How it you make everything so easily. How’s you always go out of you comfort zone. It is really inspiring for all girls and really life should be like you with full of fun and inspiration. Thanks to share these motivating ways of your life with us. Similar, keep moving forward and always do inspiring.

Thanks
Margarita
http://www.margaritasport.com/

I made this for dinner yesterday. The boyfriend asks for it all the time and the whole family slurps it down. Dump everything in the crockpot and go.

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/slow-cooker-asian-short-rib-stew

Julianne says: June 5, 2016 at 7:09 pm

Wow. Great blog, Ali… Just discovered it today, and am hooked. So glad to know that my crazy marathon running friends are already fans of your blog. (I lovingly call them “loonybins” for all the marathons they run.)

For the sugar thing, I probably eat too much of it myself, but I am disciplined enough to do so in moderation. It’ll probably sound weird (it did to me when I first heard the suggestion several years ago) but I replaced sugar in my morning coffee with pure maple syrup. You get the sweetness of a natural sugar, plus the plant nutrients. I only noticed the taste at my first sip, then it just tasted right. Weird, I know.

I look forward to reading more!

Try the Instant Pot pressure cooker instead of a traditional slow cooker. It’s been fantastic for us!

Choosing to cook only with honey helped me get over sugar. (The first couple of weeks were hard.)

For meals, I live by multi-serving preparations of really simple things that I can mix and match later. Like, instead of making one sweet potato (which takes an hour or more in the oven and is unconscionable to do in the microwave) I’ll make four and reheat the others for another day. I’ll cut up all of my bell peppers at once, instead of just cutting the one I need, so that I can grab a handful of veggies anytime.

Also, (I think) it’s okay to cheat. They do great things with frozen veggies – single-serving pouches and also mixed veggies that are stir-fry-ready. And most grocery stores sell rotisserie chickens… a good Sunday-night meal, with leftovers for another day.

I’m terrible about sugar. The thing that has helped me a little bit has been making sure I eat enough fat and protein and not letting myself get too hungry – then when I go to have ice cream I am able to have and enjoy a small scoop rather than diving into a giant heaping bowl.