Monday, December 15, 2014

Pumpkin Coconut Cupcakes

Infused with ginger and cinnamon, these coconut topped cupcakes are a delicious way to sneak in some healthy fats and fiber!  The saturated fats in coconut oil contain medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently than long chain fatty acids, and can have therapeutic effects. Pumpkin in a great source of fiber, providing more than 20 percent of the daily value for fiber in one serving.  This helps keep you full and can reduce hunger. 

1 15 oz can of pumpkin
2 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger 
3/4 c. almond flour
1/4 c. Coconut Oil
1 T. vanilla extract
1/2 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
4 packets of xylitol
1 T. vanilla extract
1/4 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place liners in muffin pan. Mix the pumpkin, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, almond meal, coconut oil and vanilla extract.  Distribute evenly into muffin liners. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Allow to cool before frosting.  To make frosting, stir nonfat Greek yogurt with stevia and vanilla extract.  Top with shredded coconut and cinnamon.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Vitamin D for Immune Health & Strong Bones

Along with hoodies, Vitamin D can be considered must-have for individuals in cloudy climates, particularly during the cold winter months.  Our skin makes Vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight.  Without Vitamin D, the body cannot produce calcium and phosphorus, both of which are needed to build and maintain strong bones.  Vitamin D also helps reduce inflammation in our cells.  Inflammation can lead to disease.

The Institution of Medicine recommends that most Americans supplement with 600-800 International Unites (IU) of Vitamin D per day. This is enough for bone health.  Excessive dosages of over 40,000 IU per day can be dangerous.  Vitamin D is crucial when it comes to activating your immune system as well.  It helps keep the "guards" of your immune system alert.

There are different forms of Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the kind made naturally by your body and is what's recommended for those taking Vitamin D supplements.  An easy and convenient way to reach the daily recommendation of Vitamin D is with the Mixed Berry Chews from Vitamin Shoppe.  The chews are free of wheat, gluten, dairy, fish, animal derivative, artificial colors and artificial flavors.  They also contain Vitamin K1 which plays an essential role in promoting bone density and strength.

Please consult your doctor if you have concerns regarding use of this product or any other supplements and practices.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beauty Basics: My Favorite Products

Years ago, during a New Year's Eve trip to Canada, I shared a hotel room with four other girls (craziness, I know). I recall one particular night when I was the last one to get in the shower, and I was the first one ready to go. While I'm still not sure if this is something I should be proud of, I like to consider myself very "efficient" when it comes to getting ready.  This past week, a friend of mine (ironically, from Canada!) inquired about my favorite beauty products, asking what I use to prepare for photo shoots and on a daily basis.  At first, because I don't use an excessive amount of makeup, I wasn't sure I could come up with much.  After some thought I realized that many of the products I use regularly have been a part of my routine for years. While everyone's skin, makeup style and budget differ, the following products are ones I highly recommend trying.  Interested in learning more about my online fitness programs and challenges? Click here to stay hot and get healthy with the Fuel Your Fitness Method!

Skin Care

Olay Quench.  Moisturize.  Daily!  I cover my body in lotion after every shower.  Well, 95% of the time.  Use lotion while your skin is damp to help retain the moisture.  This products deserves 4 stars and scores a perfect 10! Which is exactly how many years I have been using it.  After I graduated college and was living in Dallas, I noticed how scaly the skin on my lower legs was.  Regardless of which lotion I used, it never seemed to go away.  And I'm not the type of person who is very observant of small changes (if my hair has grown, it'll need to be a good 3 or 4 inches before I realize it!).  Within weeks of using the lotion, I noticed how smooth my skin was.  Since then I've used other lotions from time to time, but I always return to this one.  It's in my bathroom now.  And it's also at Target. Available for less than $10.

Yes to Inc. Facial Wipes.  Because if you ever wear a "smokey eye," it takes EFFORT to remove all of that mascara and black shadow!  And sometimes it's just more convenient to clean up with a facial wipe.  Especially when traveling and on the go. I began using Yes to Cucumbers about two years ago.  I have also used the Yes to Blueberries and am currently using Yes to Grapefruit.  This product sells for less than $10 at Target.

Andalou Naturals SPF. This is the first product I tried from the Andalou Naturals skin care line.  Along with focusing on health and wellness from a fitness perspective, it's also important to prevent damage to your skin with topical products.  Research shows that wearing a daily SPF is one of the best ways to prevent fine lines and wrinkles.  The best part of Andalou (there are many "best parts!") is that it contains fruit stem cells.  The fruit stem cells work at cellular level to repair damage caused by oxidation, free radicals and UV damage.  All of the Andalou Naturals products contain 100% certified organic aloe in place of water.  The aloe helps deliver nutrients to the skin and retains hydration better than water. It is available here at Vitamin Shoppe.

St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse.  While I am still fairly new to using this product, I know the challenge of finding a high quality, non streaking self tanner that doesn't leave you feeling like a stained oompa loompa from Willy Wonka.  After reading a friend's review of this product on Instagram, I purchased it on Amazon for $42 (in addition to the application glove) and have been pleased with the results.  Moisturizing is crucial in the days that follow to help retain the color.  It was a bit spotty as it faded, but was tolerable.  It is also available at Sephora.


Bare Escentuals Powder Foundation.  While a loose powder can sometimes be messy, this is another product I have used for years.  There was an extended time when I used the Laura Mercier pressed powder (another great product) but then returned to this one.  It provides great coverage and you'll get even better results when pairing it with the Mineral Veil. No parabens or synthetic chemicals. Contains SPF protection of 15.  It is available at Ulta for about $27.

Cover Girl Lash Blast.  The original.  Not the waterproof. Not the "extra volume" or whatever other version is now available.  This product first came out about 6 or 7 years ago.  The results were amazing. My lashes were long. My lashes were full.  More than ever.  I began using this product while I was living with my mom, and with the "discretionary" income I had, I spent around $20 for mascaras from Sephora, only to be disappointed.  I have tried others since discovering this one, and always return to Lash Blast.  I did accidentally purchase the waterproof once.  I do not recommend it.  I'm convinced I lost several lashes along with the black water that washed down the bathroom sink.

Revlon Liquid Liner.  Liquid liner addicts, unite!  Because once you've used liquid liner, it's very difficult to go without it.  A college friend introduced me to liquid liner and I will always remember that monumental moment in the dorm bathroom.  It was a game changer.  Wherever we were going that night, in our "5-7-9" sparkly tanks and black pants, I went feeling more glamorous than ever.  I always buy this in black. The one time I bought it in brown (because it was the only one available), I used it once and was disappointed in it's lack of intensity. It remains in the back of my bathroom cabinet to this day.  I have used other brands, but I'm very picky about the applicator (anyone who has tried to apply liquid liner would understand), so I buy this one consistently.  Available at Target for less than $10.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow.  I discovered my love for Urban Decay eyeshadow from a makeup artist/friend.  I reached out to her when trying to find a brand that would mix well with water (yes, stay tuned for details) and go on smoothly and easily.  In the past, I had used a powder eyeshadow from Bare Escentuals, but have no longer been able to find it.  The women who sold it to me suggested dipping the brush in water before applying the eyeshadow for a more dramatic effect.  I have had great luck achieving this effect with the pressed powder in Blackout.  My base color is Virgin and my secondary color is Smog.  I use Virgin and Smog on a daily basis.

MAC Lipstick.  Of course when I finally discovered a lipstick color I LOVED, they discontinued it!  For the longest time I used MAC lipstick in Lady GaGa.  When a client/friend of mine who works for MAC sent me some products, she asked which were my favorites. When I told her about Lady GaGa, she quickly came up with an alternative color, Blankety, which I love and use fairly consistently.

Hair Care

Big Sexy Hair Powder Play.  The first time I bought this, it was at Nordstrom Rack. It's also available at Ulta.  Or on Amazon.  I don't use it often, but it's a must-have for photo shoots and when my hair is looking flat.  Sprinkle a bit on the roots, run your fingers along your scalp and instant volume! For even more fullness, I'll gently tease the hair with a narrow bristle brush, then brush over the top to smooth it out.  This is not good for the hair, so I avoid doing it too often.  The powder gives hair added "thickness" as well.

NeoCell Keratin Hair Volumizer.  While this isn't exactly a product that I "apply" to my hair, I have seen more results with NeoCell's Keratin Hair Volumizer than I have with some of the sprays, creams and other topical treatments I have used in the past.  NeoCell's Keratin supplement contains keratin, collagen, vitamin C and amla extract.  And because the keratin is bioavailable, it's able to bind with hair and has been proven to increase hair strength and make it shinier, longer and thicker.  NeoCell Keratin Hair Volumizer is available here at Vitamin Shoppe for less than $20.  

Not Your Mother's She's a Tease Volumizing Hairspray.  I definitely don't use hairspray very often.  But when styling my hair for photo shoots or the rare "undo," it's a must.  The Not Your Mother's brand is available at Ulta and Target.  The hair spray sells for around $6. They also have an amazing dry shampoo, Clean Freak, at a similar price point.

What are your favorite products and why?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Propel Forward with Purpose, Power and Insight

Yesterday was November 22nd, the day I was planning to compete in my third NPC Bikini show. It didn't happen.

About six weeks ago, I was assessing my progress, considering where I was at the same time while preparing for my last show. My improvements were subtle. 

I also considered the purpose of competing and took into account my current goals. They didn't align. The purpose of competing (for me) is to push myself to achieve more than I have in the past. To intensify my workouts and emphasize a specific eating regime. Along with a persistent and consistent attitude, success results when all of these things align. My current goals? To focus on emphasizing others' progress. To develop myself as a personal trainer and fitness professional. While it's definitely possible to do BOTH of these, I will feel better equipped to do so in 2015.  The result of that decision? Peace of mind. Peace of mind can propel us forward with purpose, power and insight. 

So how do you find out if you're moving forward through force or with purpose?  Ask yourself these questions.

What are your instincts saying?  Sometimes we know the answer long before we're willing to admit.  If you are hesitating, if you are thinking twice about a specific scenario, chances are you may not be ready to pursue it.  That doesn't mean you never will be.  It might happen at a later time, in different circumstances, having gained strength through experience.

What is your purpose?  Are you focusing on self improvement? Are you working to improve the lives of others?  Decide why you are doing what you are.  Is the work, time, and commitment it takes to achieve those things worth it? I try to focus on goals that achieve both of these things.  Because if you are able to improve the lives of others, then by default you will have improved yourself as well.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Superfoods Fudge Cake

Fuel your body with this Superfoods Fudge Cake!  Whether you're heading to work or to workout, this nutritious meal is a great source of plant-based protein and nutrients that will nourish your body and satisfy your cravings for something rich.  

With 14 grams of protein per 30 gram serving, Hemp Pro 70 Chocolate is a complete plant based protein, offering all essential amino acids--great for vegan or vegetarian diets.  It is mild tasting with a creamy texture.  Hemp protein contains the essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, in an optimal three to one ration.  This reduces the risk of heart attacks, cardiovascular problems, atherosclerosis and certain types of cancer.  

One of nature's richest dietary sources of magnesium, cacao nibs are also an excellent source of iron and dietary fiber.  They are rich in antioxidants and alkaloids as well, which can boost your mood.

4 T. Manitoba Harvest HempPro 70, Chocolate
1/4 c. quick oats
Approximately 1/2 c. water
2 T. Wow Butter

Mix the first three ingredients and microwave for approximately 70 seconds.  Top with Wow Butter and Cacao Nibs.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vegetarian Chili Pizza

Meat free, guilt free and gluten free! Satisfy your sensation for something savory with this high protein chili pizza. 

1/2 c. liquid egg white
1/2 c. vegetarian chili
1/4 c. shredded Colby Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix almond meal and egg white in bowl. Pour into plate and microwave for 1 minute (it will become "tortilla like"). 

Remove and place onto baking pan. Top with chili, hemp seeds and cheese. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Enjoy! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cauliflower Parmesan Bites

Cauliflower Parmesan Bites! With pumpkin seed sprinkles. My friend has been raving about pumpkin seeds so I picked some up during my last trip to Trader Joe's. A 1/4 cup serving contains 15g of fat, 6 which are polyunsaturated and 5 which are monounsaturated. 

Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which helps control cravings and energy levels. 

Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. 

I steamed the cauliflower in the microwave, dipped in almond meal, then dipped in liquid egg whites, and coated in a mixture of garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, Parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast. I cooked on the skillet with about 2 T of olive oil (another healthy fat!). 

2 1/2 cups cooked cauliflower
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cup liquid egg white
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 T. nutritional yeast
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. onion powder
2 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. pumpkin seeds
2 T. olive oil

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Get Fit with HIIT

What is HIIT? HIIT is the acronym for High Intensity Interval Training.  During this type of workout, you alternate between intense bursts of activity and periods of less intense activity.

Not only do you burn a significant number of calories during a HIIT workout, but the effect of the exertion causes your metabolism to increase. As a result, you burn more fat and calories in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout than you do after steady state exercise, such as jogging or biking.  HIIT is also an effective way to increase your VOx max, making your body more efficient by increasing your lung capacity. There are benefits to both methods of training, so make sure to incorporate steady state exercise and HIIT into your program. Your program should be based on your goals and take into account your current fitness level. 
  • Improve muscle strength, size and endurance
  • Fat loss
  • Anaerobic endurance
  • Cardio endurance
  • Increased VO2 max
Some of my favorite HIIT routines incorporate full body movements of cardio/strength exercises that result in efficiency and increased energy (along with an improved physique!).  The work interval is cardio based and should be done at a perceived exertion of 8 or 9 on a 10 scale.  The strength interval is an active recovery and should be done at a perceived exertion of 4 or 5.

Due to the high intensity and the required recovery time from the exercise routine, it is recommended to do no more than two or three days of HIIT per week.  Always warm up with light cardio exercise for 3-5 minutes before beginning.  Give the following routine a try and let me know how it goes!

Jump rope/Squat and press
High knee/Reverse lunges
Mountain climber/Plie with upright row
Jump squat/Forward lunges
Jumping jacks/Curtsy lunges
Plank jacks/Bent over row

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mac & Cheese Spaghetti Squash

Indulge with this healthy version of your favorite comfort food! Providing vitamin A and vitamin C, spaghetti squash also contains some of the B vitamins. It's a great source of fiber as well. Thinking of leaving out the nutritional yeast cause you don't have it?! Hold that thought--nutritional yeast is often high in B12 and is a complete protein. It contains other B vitamins, is low in fat and sodium, is free of sugar and gluten, and contains iron. It is often used as an alternative to dairy products because of it's "cheesy" flavor. 

1 spaghetti squash
1/2 cup cheddar cheese 
2 T olive oil 
1 t garlic powder
Approximately 1 c broccoli

Preheat oven to 350. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Remove seeds. Lie open side down on oven safe tray or dish. Poke with fork. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool.

Using fork, draw out "spaghetti" strands from the squash. Mix with olive oil, garlic, nutritional yeast and cooked broccoli (I microwaved, covered, for about 2 minutes with a small amount of water). Pour back into squash halves and top with cheese. Bake until cheese has melted. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Sleep "Diet"

I'm not a fan of the term "diet." The word is typically associated with various trends that flood the weight loss industry. However, when you are eating right and working out but your weight hasn't budged (or maybe your weight loss has plateaued), it is important to consider the importance and impact of sleep.

If you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep.  If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you are probably sleep deprived. Whenever I come across the above scenario with a client or friend, I ask "how much sleep are you getting?" Most often, the response is a begrudging "ugh, well I can never fall asleep..." or "not as much as I should." You know you are lacking sleep, but do you know what it's costing you? 

The Price of Losing Sleep and Counting Sheep
The more sheep you see, the more at risk you are for diabetes and heart problems.  You are also at risk for drowsy driving.  Short sleep duration is associated with a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased apetite caused by sleep deprivation.  Sleep helps maintain a healthy immune system and balances our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. These "hunger hormones" contribute to feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite.When we’re sleep deprived, leptin levels decrease and ghrelin levels increase! We may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.  In this instance, we typically crave sugary and more fattening foods.

How Much Sleep Do I Need?
There is no magic number.  Sleep needs vary depending on your age and activity level.  The following guidelines are from
    • Infants require about 14-15 hours a day.
    • Teenagers need about 8.5-9.5 hours on average.
    • Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. 

What Can I Do to Improve My Sleep?
  • Avoid bright lights.  This includes reducing the use of your laptop, television, and phone. 
    Don't let this be you!
    Bright light directly inhibits the release of melatonin. A new study by Spanish scientists suggests that reducing unhealthy weight gain can now be added to melatonin's impressive roster of benefits. They found that consuming melatonin stimulates the appearance of 'beige' fat, which, similar to brown fat, is a heat-generating type of fat that helps your body to burn calories rather than store them. This, the researchers believe, may explain why melatonin helps control body weight, along with its metabolic benefits. Electronic devices also stimulate brain activity, they say, disrupting your ability to drift off to sleep.  Avoid using them in the hour before bed.
  • Consider sleeping with an eyemask and earplugs. I have used both for nearly a year and appreciate the benefits. I fall asleep much more quickly.  According to the upband by Jawbone, while wearing the mask and earplugs, my sleep was also much deeper.  The more deep sleep you have, the more efficiently your body can produce melatonin.  Melatonin has also been shown to slow down the aging process (  If a mask and earbuds sound too extreme (I admit, I'm a fitness-experiment-nerd), consider using white noise.
I love my sleep mask!

  • Years ago I babysat for a girl who had a white noise machine.  Recently, the sounds outside my bedroom window were louder than usual and it crossed my mind that I need to get one of those machines!  Then I realized "hey I bet there's an app for that!" Sure enough. I have downloaded an app called White Noise, which has sounds varying from white noise (surprise, surprise) to pink noise to light rain with birds and even sounds replicating a clothes dryer.
  • Take a bath.  The act of cooling the body, like that which happens when you get out of a warm tub, makes us feel tired. Another option is having a cup of non-caffeinated green tea. The tea can trigger that same cooling response in the body.

  • Avoid caffeine and late night workouts.  Caffeine and workouts will increase your blood pressure and heart rate, causing you to feel restless and unable to calm down enough to fall asleep.  Try to keep activity and caffeine to a minimum during the last few hours before bed.
  • Keep the room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the room becomes uncomfortably hot or cold, you are more likely to wake up, or have trouble falling asleep (
For more information, visit the National Sleep Foundation.  Learn more about balancing sleep, activity and nutrition with my online and in-person training services.  Click here for details.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cake Batter and Ice Cream Parfait

1 scoop cake batter whey protein
2 T. coconut flour
3/4 c. liquid egg white
Ice Cream:
3/4 c. pre-sliced, then frozen banana
1 scoop cake batter whey protein
approximately 1/2 c. almond milk (use sparingly to maintain thick consistency)

Combine cake ingredients and microwave for about 1 minute, 20 seconds.  Blend ingredients for ice cream.  Pour blended ice cream over cooked cake and enjoy!

Visit Vitamin Shoppe to purchase cake batter protein.  Shipping is free with your purchase of $25 or more.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Creating and Building a Modeling Portfolio

Within the fitness industry (and beyond), modeling has become a great way to increase your visibility, earn additional income, network with like-minded professionals, and have fun pursuing something you are passionate about. The following suggestions are based on my experiences as a freelance model. My first photo shoot took place in February 2010, with Zach Dillman. A big THANK YOU to Zach for asking "have you done this before?" and encouraging me to build a portfolio and pursue modeling.

Photo by Matt Belkin

The Dos

-Network. Identify someone who has succeeded at what you are working toward.  Whether your mentor is someone you see every day, or someone you follow on social media, be observant of what they do on a daily basis and ask questions.  Tell people what your goals are! Connect with like minded individuals! One of my greatest opportunities, working with Hard Pressed Gym, resulted when a Facebook friend, whom I've never met, tagged me in a post on Instagram. My most recent photo shoot? It resulted from someone who messaged me on LinkedIn. Pursue your passion by creating a presence.

-Along with creating a presence, establish a "look" that you want to represent and be known for. I used to go for "sultry and edgy," as you can see in the photo above.  Now I prefer "happy and fit," like something you would see in Oxygen Magazine. It represents what I want to be known for and establishes an image of what I am creating with my fitness career.

-Be flexible with your style and image. I know, this completely contradicts the statement above.  However, sometimes to receive work, you have to be versatile.  Know what your limits are and be clear about them with photographers.  Never let anyone exceed or push your personal boundaries.

-Research the photographer before hand.  Do they have a legitimate web site? Not every photographer will, but this will give some indicatation as to their level of professionalism and experience.  A lot of photographers are just starting out, so do not rely solely on a web site when making a decision about who to work with.  I highly recommend reaching out to other models they have worked with, asking if the shoot went as planned and if there is anything you should know about working with the specific photographer.  Usually, on modeling portfolio sites, there will be a link to the model who is featured on a photographer's page. Visit their profile and send them a private message.  I have had other models reach out to me for the same reasons. Of all the photo shoots and "background checks" I have done, there was only one time when the photographer found out I had done this and called off the shoot. To be honest, I took that as a red flag and was glad I had taken these additional steps to ensure my safety.  A photographer should have your best interest in mind and understand your intentions.

-Not every one will agree.  There are probably a handful of people that will disagree with doing a "background check."  I'm certain of that.  And that's okay.  Keep in mind this is a huge industry and everyone makes their own rules.  There is no HR Department. 

-Select the date, time, location and what the exchange will be. Is it a trade shoot, meaning neither the model or photographer pays any money? Find out if the photographer will send you all of the images or just ones they select. I've had photographers send hundreds at a time--others have sent five. While it's unnecessary to see every single image, if it's a trade I like to see the majority of them. This way I can critique myself and know which poses look awkward, which angle is more flattering, etc. and change things for next time. If a photographer only sends a few edits that they have chosen, it's quite possible you would have chosen others. A photographer generally is looking for good lighting and exposure. You, as the model, are looking at your pose, your smile, your hair, your makeup. Reach an agreement regarding the editing process before arriving to the shoot. An exception is if you are being paid or otherwise compensated--you may not receive photos at all. 
Photo by Ant Farm

-Consider bringing a chaperone. If the photographer says chaperones are not allowed, find out what their reason is.  Most photographers want to ensure that you feel safe and at ease (if you are uptight and scared, it will show in the images).  Sometimes their reason is out of concern...that the chaperone will be a distraction. Ask any photographer if they enjoy when a model's boyfriend is watching the entire time. This generally doesn't go over real well. However, if said boyfriend (or mom, or sister, etc) is there to help...most photographers will welcome the company and assistance!  When you go to your shoot, make sure a friend or family member knows where you are and who you are with.

-Participate in MeetUp events and other group shoots. Be prepared to share the spotlight. It's unlikely you will receive very much one on one attention. It also is difficult to stay in touch with all of the photographers; there are many photos you will probably never see. However, it is a great way to meet other models and makeup artists as well.  Bring business cards or printed copies of your contact info and hand them out. 

-Be selective with your edits. The second photo shoot I ever did, I selected more than 30 edits.  THIRTY.  I'm surprised the photographer was willing to work with me again.  Typically, during a two hour shoot you may have 4 or 5 different outfits.  Choose one image from each set.  Over time, you will become more selective of the images you choose. The photo above by Ant Farm is one of my favorites.  However, I will gladly point out that my left arm is hidden.  It looks like I am a one-armed super hero.  Granted, this is probably not what most people see when they look at the photo.  However, be cautious of your poses.  Make sure you are not wearing hair ties on your wrists! The more thought you put into your poses and styling, the less work the photographer will have to do and the more likely you will receive great images and continued work.

-Respect the photographer. Time. I cannot emphasize this enough. There is nothing worse than becoming known as a "flake" in the industry.  I have seen countless rants on social media, coming from photographers, who were stood up or had someone cancel last minute.  As much as those rants annoy me, the photographers are entitled to be upset. Respect their time. If your car breaks down, find another way to get there.  Word travels fast in the industry and it is important to maintain your image.  Edit. Do NOT edit their image!  Whether it's by cropping or applying a filter, it's a DON'T.   Credit.  When you post their photo, give them credit.  This will not only provide them with exposure, but it is the respectable thing to do.  Give respect and you will be respected.  If not, walk away.  Again, there is no HR Department.

Things to Avoid

-Avoid committing to too many photo shoots. This was the number one mistake I made just starting off.  You will have less free time and will spend more purchasing a new wardrobe! With that being said, shop resale stores. You can find some amazing deals on some great brands. And even if it's not a great brand and falls apart after one use, consider whether or not it will be useful for a single shoot.  It is important to remember WHY you are modeling.  It should be enjoyable, never a burden.  If you feel burnt out, consider taking some time off.  As I mentioned earlier, a scared model appears scared.  A tired model, appears tired.  So unless that's the look you are going for, prioritize and stay rested.
Photo by Jim Cummins

Image on book by Jim Jurica
Everything Else

-How do I know if I should charge?
What should I charge? Take into consideration what you could be doing otherwise--did you have to give up a shift at the coffee shop and the money you would have made with a paycheck? Have you spent gas money to get there? How much did you spend on wardrobe? A makeup artist? How will you benefit from the shoot? I once worked with a stock photographer who paid me a flat rate of about $40 to shoot for a couple of hours. One of the images was selected for the cover of a book. Have I made any additional income or earned fame as a result? No. But it's pretty neat, it's available for purchase here, and is a key item in my portfolio which displays my experience and value/knowlege as a model.

-With experience you become more valuable. As you become more valuable, you can become more profitable. Most recently, I did a photo shoot with Chicago Custom Acoustics earbuds for a commercial that will air in Xsport Fitness.  I will also be featured online and in print for GWear Clothing's fitness and yoga line. These experiences provide compensation AND exposure in my specific industry.  That should be the ultimate goal, along with having a good time and meeting people. For example, if you're a dancer, your goal might be to find paid work promoting a dance studio. If you are a singer, perhaps you will eventually be paid to have your photo featured in an ad for a concert venue. Don't expect to make money right away. If you do, that's great. The photographer may not be aware of common practices and/or is generous.  Or you are extremely talented and in high demand within the industry.  If a photographer is being paid for the project you are being used in, typically that involves compensation for you as well.

-The photos are permanent. A less skilled photographer who is just starting out might be willing to pay you for your time.  However, those photos may be of less quality and not as flattering.  Depending on the agreement between you and the photographer, those photos could end up anywhere! Read and understand agreements before you sign them.  Envision each image you take as something that will be featured on a billboard in your hometown--are you okay with that? What are you representing and what will the outcome be if this happens?
Behind the scenes at Xsport Fitness, shooting for Chicago Custom Acoustics
-Where to start.  Here are a couple of sites I have used to build my portfolio and network.

Click here for more information about personal training and online training or to book a photo shoot. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I encourage you to share it.  Please let me know if you have additional questions or feedback. You can subscribe to my blog via email for instant notfications.  Create a life you love by loving your life.  If the opportunity doesn't exist, build it. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chocolate Frosted Raspberry Truffle Pancakes

Topped with fresh raspberries, this chocolatey treat can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner!


3/4 c liquid egg white 
3/4 c almond milk 

Chocolate topping:
1.5 T coconut oil
1 t xylitol
Water to mix



Mix all of the pancake ingredients. Mixture will be thick. Cook pancakes. 

Combine ingrdients for chocolate topping. Stir well. Drizzle over pancake stack.

Add cacao nibs and raspberries. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Keratin for Longer Hair and Lashes

I don't put mascara on very often, but recently it's felt like my own lashes have gotten longer. While I've been taking keratin by NeoCell to help grow my hair, I wondered if it effects lashes as well. I did a google search and sure enough, it does. Genetics determines the rate at which your eyelashes grow, but certain nutrients can support their growth. A lot of the same nutrients that support hair growth also support growth of your lashes! NeoCell's Keratin supplement contains keratin, collagen, vitamin C and amla extract. NeoCell Keratin Hair Volumizer is available here at Vitamin Shoppe.  Shipping is free with your purchase of $25 or more.

According to, vitamin C hydrates your eyelashes, decreases hair follicle inflammation, repairs hair follicle damage, aids in collagen production and lowers your risk of eyelash breakage.

Collagen stimulates fibroblasts at the hair root, resulting in increased diameter of the hair shaft. Collagen is the most abundent protein in the body. Collagen supplementation is one of best things you can do to prevent premature aging. Understanding collagen begins with knowing that it is truly the glue that holds the body together. It is the building block for all our body's major systems. Learn more about how collagen works here.

And because the keratin is bioavailable, it's able to bind with hair and has been proven to increase hair strength and make it shinier.

Amla, or Indian Gooseberry, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-aging properties. Amla provides high concentrations of Vitamin C and and has been revered for being a powerful antioxidant.

Have you had your own success story using certain products or making a lifestyle change? Comment below; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back Pain: The Follow Up

I couldn't work out. At the time, I was working in a fitness center, unable to exercise. I compared this to being a recovering alcoholic, tending bar. Physically painful. Mentally challenging. Emotionally, close to impossible. There were several times the pain was so severe and the frustration so extensive that I broke down in tears--at home, and in public. I did feel a sense of ease when I read online that this was normal. Being able to identify with others brought upon the slightest bit of "comfort"--a word I wasn't very familiar with back then. Tying my shoes required a chair, at least 3 or 4 minutes, and infinite patience. I had learned that many people with severe back pain (in my case, a herniation at L5/S1) are prescribed anti-depressants because not only is the physical pain excruciating, but not being able to do what you enjoy and having to rearrange your life takes an emotional toll as well.

In my original post about back pain, I spoke of the experience leading up to my surgery. This follow-up entry takes a different stand point, covering the experience itself along with the two year recovery. I have known people with similar problems who have reached out to me for suggestions and input and I have the desire to help more people. My back went out in October 2010 as a result of too much activity, not enough rest and stretching. Prior to that, I had the occasional flare up which can be common among many people. However, when I wasn't able to stand up one Sunday afternoon, I knew something more serious had happened. My surgery took place in February 2012. It is my intention to provide insight, resources, and a connection with others (so important!) who are having a similar experience. This is based strictly on my personal story and I highly recommend consulting a doctor for more information.

When to See a Doctor
Any time you have persistent, physical pain that is keeping you from completing your daily activities--see a doctor. The longer you wait to be evaluated, the more likely you are to worsen the injury which may lead to permanent damage. Pain is a red flag! It signals that something is wrong and while it may not interfere too much at the time, you are likely compensating in other areas of your body. Your gait will change as you walk. Your posture will change, even the way you sleep and sit will change. Over time, this can also lead to muscle imbalances.

What Does a Herniated Disc Feel Like?
Some people who have MRIs will feel perfectly fine, yet their scans will show herniated disc. Others who are in pain will have scans that indicate a perfectly healthy spine. It is important to keep in mind that each person's problem and perception of the problem will vary. With a herniated disc, there tends to be nerve compression. I had a severely compressed sciatic nerve which resulted in an excruciatingly painful sensation down the back/side of my entire right leg (the herniation was on my right side of the spine). It felt like a string was tied from my hip to my ankle with a 50lb weight at the bottom. Other times, there was a burning sensation. Sometimes my leg tingled, like there were fire ants crawling along it. The outer side of my right foot went slightly numb--and it still is. One of the doctors said that is the last area I will (if ever) feel improvement because the sciatic nerve heals very slowly and the foot is the last place you will notice improvement.

Conservative Approaches

I recall the exact moment I contemplated getting on the ground for the exercises I was supposed to do, unsure of whether or not I'd be able to get back up. It hurt to lie down, it hurt even more to stand up. There are several methods of conservative treatments that include steroid injections, medication, physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic treatment. Acupuncture is also very common--one that I did not try, as I had all of the others mentioned. There are also a lot of natural remedies to keep the body healthy including eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices...along with incorporating collagen supplements, which I began doing in the spring of 2013.

Surgery Considerations
People will tell you stories about how surgery saved their lives. Others will tell you how surgery ruined their lives. Take their stories with a grain of salt. As Bruce Lee said, "Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own." It was about 1 year and 4 months after the initial pain that I was with my primary care doctor for a routine visit. Explaining to her that yes, I still had pain and, yes I was (a rock star for) dealing with it...she asked why I wasn't doing anything about it. Although I had tried nearly all possible conservative treatments, I had come to terms with the fact that "this is just how it is." And while the pain was as noticeable as an untied shoelace, I ignored it. However there comes a time when you have to ask yourself how much the problem is affecting your daily life. Are you unable to complete usual tasks and have you cut out activities you used to enjoy? Based on my symptoms and the MRI scan, I had two surgeons say I did not need surgery. Two other surgeons said they would operate. A short while later, I realized that the two surgeons who did not want to operate were both neuro surgeons. The other two, and one which I had my procedure with, were both orthopedic surgeons. In February 2012 I had a microdiscectomy and laminectomy at L5/S1.

As I laid in the hospital bed, I insisted that my mom take a photo of me with the current issue of Oxygen Magazine, my favorite source of fitness ideas and inspiration. I wanted to "save" the photo in case the day ever came that my story was published. I actually established this blog when I returned home to recover! Last November, during my first NPC Bikini Competition, I had the pleasure of meeting the cover model, Alicia Harris. She even tied my bikini top for me. It doesn't take a miracle to make things happen, it takes persistence and commitment. I hope to be an example of the possibility you can uncover when you stay focused and patient, despite the pain you are experiencing. Physical or otherwise.

Prevention and Recovery
Following surgery, I anticipated leaving my mom's house and spending the next couple of weeks, off from work, at my apartment. However, when I realized I couldn't put my shoes on or even bend over to pick up the toilet seat, I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't in a hurry to leave. The area of the incision was very painful in the days that followed. It took about five days before I was able to bend over enough to put my shoes on. From what I recall, I went back to work for half shifts after two weeks off. Over time, the flare ups have become less severe and less frequent. Upon completing physical therapy, I was very eager to get back in the gym. However, I knew it would take a great deal of time before I was able to do what I used to do (if ever). Considering it was all of the high impact, repetitive movements that brought my life to a hault, I was evaluating a new approach. One of the first things I did after therapy was attend a class at Barre Bee Fit. The small movements and high repetition methods of the barre methodology were exactly what I needed to strengthen my core and learn how to be gentle with my body while still feeling challenged. I appreciated the mind/muscle connection that the class emphasized and wanted to learn more about it. That summer I completed the instructor training and I currently teach 2 classes a week. For the most part, I am able to do everything I used to with the exception of running. My body doesn't like it. The right leg is still weaker than the left because of atrophy which resulted from nerve compression. If I do run, it's for 30-40 minutes max and only to get outdoors and enjoy the weather. I have spent a great deal of time researching various ways to reduce the pain, prevent pain and have come up with the following list of considerations.

-Heal with food. When your body is under stress, it becomes inflamed. Consider your current habits and see how they compare with the chart below.

-Be gentle with yourself. When it comes to exercise, "more" is not always a good thing. I typically do HIIT circuits twice a week, maximum. The quick movements, big range of motion resulting from burpees and mountain climbers should not be done in excess. Formats such as barre, yoga, and Pilates are a great compliment to those routines along with strength training. Remember, your muscles grow and you become stronger when you rest.

-Supplement with collagen. The changes I have made to my diet and exercise routine this past year have increased my strength. I have mentioned how much better I feel and how my back pain has decreased. No doubt, exercise is a significant part of this because of I have more muscle to carry my "load," which is also 15lbs lighter. However, it recently occurred to me that along with the benefits collagen provides for hair, skin and nails--which is why I began taking it last spring--it is also known for it's ability to support bone and joint health. In this article, we learn that collagen is the most abundant protein in the body that comprises the foundation of all connective tissue, bones, skin, and most other tissues. The NeoCell brand can be purchased here. 

-Evaluate. How old is your mattress? Are your shoes providing the support you need? Is your work station set up poorly, causing you to twist and turn to answer the phone? Do you spend too much time sitting down? All of these factors, including how your office chair is set up, can contribute to pain.

-Listen to your body. Years ago, my playlist and inner critique drowned out the voice of my common sense. I ignored the red flags of physical pain. It took this experience to realize the importance of moderation. This lesson in patience has given me the knowledge to educate others and give peace of mind that improvement IS possible. Because when tying your shoes without any pain is an accomplishment, it's one to be celebrated and shared. Find something in your own life that you can celebrate. Focus on the positive. Focus on the progress.

Click here for more information about personal training and online training.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Alpha Amino Gummy Bears

Hey all! I was inspired by recipe I had seen for Cellucor C4 here is my modified version featuring the Alpha Amino gummies!  Alpha Aminos contain 5g of BCAAs and 11 additional amino acids including glutamine.  Amino acids are quickly absorbed into the blood stream and don't need to be digested--so they can fuel your muscles faster and more efficiently.  The alphas contain leucine too, maximizing the body's ability to fuel muscle, preserve muscle glycogen stores and reduce protein breakdown.  It's chia seed extract contains all eight essential amino acids as well as omega-3s, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and fiber.  The Alpha Aminos are available at

1/2 c. ice cold water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 packet sugar free flavored gelatin

Stir powdered ingredients. Stir in water. Pour into mold (or leave in freezer safe container). Freeze for a minimum of ten minutes or overnight. 
I waited 15 minutes and they turned out amazingly well!

Store gummies in ziploc bag in fridge.

Interested in learning more about my online fitness programs and challenges? Click here to stay hot and get healthy!