Overcoming FEAR #journeytohandstand

I have been in pursuit of mastering (well actually doing one for the first time) a handstand off and on for the last couple of years. I can walk up the wall, but didn’t think I was strong enough to completely hold the handstand. Then reality struck me like a ton of bricks…my strength isn’t the problem. Yes, I can definitely stand to build more upper body and core strength, but that isn’t what is holding me back. It’s FEAR. Good ‘ole fashion FEAR. I am afraid of falling on the top of my head…again…yeah that happened back in high school when I was attempting to learn how to complete a back handspring. Needless to say that after falling on the top of my head, I pretty much gave up that dream. But it was that experience that was holding me back from my handstand victory!! So today, I built up the courage to try a headstand. I realized that in order to overcome my fear of falling on my head, I just needed to stand on top of my head…ok so I’m not sure if that thinking was rational but it made sense to me! So today I tried. I started with yoga blocks but they didn’t quite work for me so I tossed them aside and went for it.

img_9821         img_9823

It took a few tries, but I was finally confident enough to kick my legs up to the wall and balance on top of my head.

I did it!! I did a headstand!! I overcame my FEAR and finally tried the upside down thing!…and it felt GREAT! No, it wasn’t the handstand that I’m aiming for, but it was progress. #journeytohandstand #progress #yogichronicles


“Standing twists require leg strength, balance and stamina. Your mental fortitude improves when you challenge your body in a Twisted Lunge or Twisted Chair.” Twists are essential to my yoga practice and daily stretching routines. Especially on days when I’m in my office sitting for more than 10 minutes lol it helps to keep me loose as I have been having lower back issues for the last six months. Strength, balance and flexibility are important to me and what I am focusing on improving for this year, and twisting poses certainly help in all areas.
Be kind to your spine & twist it out! 

#twistedlunge #yogiinthemaking 

For more info about the benefits of twisted yoga poses check out: http://www.livestrong.com/article/351542-what-are-the-benefits-of-yoga-twists/

#wednesdayworkouts = progress 

Hi folks!

My move to the islands came with some changes in my fitness routines. I was training with Black Girls Run! for a few years, which led to me completing a list of 5Ks, 10Ks, & half marathons. Our group would do a weekly hill route, but that was NO preparation for the “hills” that I’ve faced on island! I have been hard on myself since I moved because my pace is a lot slower than it used to be and I was aiming for a specific half marathon time goal. However, I am a witness to how things can change with a little consistency and persistence…they pay off! 
There’s an uphill route that I travel home from work everyday. One day while my car was struggling to get up the hill, I decided that it would be a great challenge to start running that route. I started off consistently last fall, but fell off as the daylight hours decreased. So, the New Year brought about thoughts of resolutions and I decided to start that challenge again.
I’m hear to tell you:

Progress = persistence + hard work

Keep pushing forward,

Stassi Nicole

#wednesdayworkouts = fav yoga pose

I have been into yoga off and on for over a decade. In fact, I stumbled across my official transcript from undergrad and realized that I actually took a yoga class for credit (although I really don’t even remember that but always wonder how I learned the yoga poses). Well, recently I have re-ignited my goals of mastering handstands, so I have added yoga back to my fitness routine. I have to admit that one of my favorite yoga poses is Savasana (shah-vah-sah-nah). Savasana translates to “corpse posture” but I like to refer to it as Final Relaxation because I don’t want to think of myself as imitating death…

To do this pose, the entire body is relaxed into the ground, releasing tension in ALL areas of the body.


Benefits include:

  • Decreases in blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and overall anxiety
  • Increases in memory and concentration as well as energy levels

There are also reports that savasana reduces insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.


#tuesdaytips = beets

BEETS…that’s what’s for Lunch!

Beets are root vegetables that are FULL of nutrients! In short, you can find the following in the roots and/or the green leaves on top:

  • Like vitamins A & C in the greens or the B-complex vitamins in the roots.
  • There is an ok amount of potassium found in beets. Remember my rant on how potassium balances sodium consumption?…(if not, you can find it in my peanut butter talk)
  • Well, these things are pretty low in calories…that is unless you add things like butter and sugar or other unnecessary additions to mess up the delicious natural taste of beets!
  • As you can expect, there’s no cholesterol & very small amounts of fat & a good amount of fiber.
  • You can check here for a table of nutritional info and other safety precautions and more: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/beets.html

I re-tried beets for the first time in my adult life at a conference last fall. Well, actually I didn’t realize I was eating beets, which made me appreciate the dish even more! It reminded me of scalloped potatoes, but it was more of alternating roasted & sliced potatoes & beets. About a month ago, I even tried a beet juice recipe, which made me realize that I actually LIKE Beets! It was Delicious!! I joined Joe Cross’ 5-day Juice Challenge (www.rebootwithjoe.com) and I fell in love with the Anti-Aging Beet Grape Juice. The recipe calls for grapes (I didn’t have any so I think I just used apples), celery stalks, beets, and carrots. Mmmmm mmmm Good!!


A couple of week’s ago my focus on veggies was “BEETS,” so I decided to make an attempt to re-create the conference dish. I made a Roasted Beets and (white & sweet) Potatoes Casserole! Delicious! I used canned beets and modified the recipe here: http://www.purewow.com/entry_detail/recipe/12260/Oven-roasted-beets-and-potatoes.htm


Since my meal plan includes a sandwich and salad for lunch this week, I grabbed a couple of beetroots from the grocery store to add to my salad (but for future reference I will only use fresh beets for juicing and canned beets for other uses). Today’s salad included: arugula/spinach mix, tomatoes, English cucumbers, chia seeds, roasted beets (I peeled, sliced, & roasted beets for about 30min last night), shredded cheese, and a homemade balsamic vinegar/olive oil/lemon juice salad dressing.


I even wore a deep purple shirt today in celebration of BEETS! LOL!

Salivating over Beets,

Stassi Nicole

#tuesdaytips = peanut butter

It’s snack time… What do you do? Are you looking for energy to get through the day?…

Try Peanut Butter!

Caution: There’s a fair amount of calories relative to the small portion size so here is where you have to be careful. CHECK THE SERVING SIZE & STICK TO IT!!! In most cases that’s only 2TBSP (tablespoons), NOT the whole jar!

In moderation, peanut butter has some pretty good benefits in those 2Tbsp:

  1. It contains some GOOD fat, so skip that reduced fat stuff! There is some of that unhealthy saturated stuff in there, but Peanut butter contains a good amount of the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat per serving.
  2. It’s an energy booster. 2Tbsp of peanut butter is packed with close to 200 calories. Calories = ENERGY. These calories come mostly from healthy fats and protein rather than from ridiculous amounts of sugar.
  3. Looking for some protein? Peanut butter contains a whopping 7g of protein in those 2 little tablespoons. Need a comparison? 1 large egg contains a total of about 6g of protein, (3g in the yolk and 3g in the egg white) while 1 cup of milk contains about 8g of protein. Of course meat has more protein. 1 serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3oz) contains around 30g of protein. You get the point.
  4. It’s packed with nutrients. Peanut butter contains good macronutrients like healthy fats and proteins, but there’s also micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. You can count on vitamin E, iron, magnesium and others.
  5. In need of fiber? Ok ok there’s only 2g of fiber in most peanut butters, but remember that’s also only 2Tbsp of peanut butter. Thus, peanut butter can supplement the fiber that you get from other sources.
  6. There’s potassium to balance your sodium consumption. Yes, we know that most of us intake waaaaaaay tooooo much sodium each day, so a combination of intentionally decreasing sodium intake and increasing potassium helps to keep that internal sodium-potassium pump in its natural balance. (For more information about potassium content of various foods: http://www.drugs.com/cg/potassium-content-of-foods-list.html)

And the benefit you’ve been waiting for…

  1. Peanut butter can aid in healthy weight loss. Yes this relatively high calorie/high fat food can actually help you lose weight. (Yeah, I’m still waiting to experience this benefit for myself.) Basically, the fiber and protein I talked about above help to keep you full longer so that you eat less food.

And then there’s this issue of regular vs. reduced fat vs. natural peanut butter. Remember these are just my opinions…First, I avoid reduced fat peanut butter. I mean there is some unhealthy saturated stuff in peanut butter like I mentioned above, but the heart-healthy fat outweighs it so getting reduced fat negates the benefits of the healthy fats. Now, regular vs. natural peanut butter! Well, I like to buy food with ingredients that I can immediately pronounce and understand what they are. I am a scientist and there are many times I have to look up words in ingredient lists to figure out what they are and personally I don’t care to do that. Also, there’s less sodium in natural peanut butter. So, I prefer to buy natural peanut butter. There’s usually only peanuts, sugar, oil & salt in natural peanut butter. One day I’ll be one of those people who use the grinder in Whole Foods to make my nut butters on the spot…just so you know who you’re dealing with…but for now there’s no Whole Foods on island and it’s cheaper for me to order Jif Natural from Walmart online! Anyway below are the nutritional facts, so judge for yourself.


And here’s a snack idea: Celery + Peanut Butter + Raisins (well I usually only have Craisins on hand!) I remember eating “Ants on a Log” during my daycare/pre-k years. That was the only way I would eat celery lol! Actually, that’s still my preferred method of eating celery AND it’s an easy pack ‘n go to work snack!

(For more info about peanut butter: http://www.prevention.com/food/smart-shopping/healthy-eating-why-peanut-butter-good-you)


#Tuesdaytips = The Yogurt dilemma


Last summer I had to opportunity to meet (& share a room for a week) a fantastic New Mexico science teacher. We were tired of the unhealthy food options offered to us and we decided to walk to the grocery store in the midst of downtown Kansas City (YES!! I was sooo happy to find a REAL grocery store with regular people prices in the middle of downtown in a city!!). She picked up PLAIN Greek yogurt and I was internally disgusted because I knew the taste of plain regular yogurt very well since I used to make my microbiology class make yogurt in lab as soon as I taught them sterile laboratory techniques. We then discussed the difference in flavored vs. unflavored yogurt and I had never really paid much attention to the sugar content. Besides “they” say yogurt is good for you, especially women, so we should eat more yogurt and that’s what I did. However, all yogurt is not created equally!!


First, most flavored yogurts are filled with extra sugar and preservatives, so if you’re concerned about your daily sugar intake then this is problematic. Next, there’s this matter of whether you should eat regular or Greek yogurt. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which one you pick in the grand scheme of things as long as you choosing plain, nonfat or lower fat versions of yogurt. The type you choose is based on your preference. Personally, I like to purchase things that can serve as double or triple duty (i.e. food to eat and hair products) and Greek yogurt can be used as both, as well as used in cooking various dishes. So it’s Greek yogurt for me!

Here’s some stats of plain, nonfat Greek vs. plain, nonfat regular yogurt: Greek yogurt is

  • higher in protein (almost double)
  • lower in carbs
  • lower in calcium (so if you monitor your calcium intake, then you may want to stick to regular yogurt)
  • lower in sodium
  • calories are similar

Additionally, Greek yogurt can be used to make dips, smoothies, sauces, and desserts (such as swap out eggs & oil in baked dishes or in place of mayo, cream cheese, sour cream or other fats in recipes).


Now I buy Plain, Nonfat Greek yogurt. When I just want to eat the yogurt as a snack, then I add my own ingredients such as honey, fruit, nuts, and/or granola.


#Tuesdaytips = Chia seeds

Remember my cleaner eating goals from my New Year, New You post? Well, one of them was:

My SECOND goal is to get back to adding chia seeds to everything. You already know I added them to my oatmeal, but soon I’ll be learning to grind them because I don’t like the seed taste in my food. Chia seeds are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and they are a plant-based source of complete proteins. Oh and if you’ve ever used them you know that they like to absorb water and swell up much bigger than their tiny size and even form into a gelatin-like texture…think about that in your tummy!! Some people say chia seeds help with weight loss because they help you feel full due to this swelling phenomenon. And honestly, I barely got through that one serving of oatmeal this morning…usually I eat one serving and start looking for something else to eat.


So, here’s this week’s #lunchtimetips … For an extra boost of goodness while you’re “watching what you eat,” grab some chia seeds & sprinkle them on salads, oatmeal, yogurt (speaking of yogurt, here’s next week’s tip)…these little seeds have protein, fiber, antioxidants, calcium, omega 3 healthy fats & other nutrients.

chia seeds_salad

New Years Resolutions…New Year, New You?

Every year countless people begin the new year with a resolution to Get Fit or Get Healthy or Lose Weight or some other variation of that…For the last 5 years or so I have been on a journey of healthier living and to be honest it’s not the gym memberships or activity that gets me off track. It’s the KITCHEN!! Yep, I have problems with FOOD! I love food, but food doesn’t love me. So, I’m on this journey of eating to live instead of living to eat and eating clean instead of the highly processed junk that I’ve been so used to calling food.

My first step was learning to make 2 different consistencies of an avocado spread to use in place of mayo (or in my case miracle whip). A small change, but change has to start somewhere…Right? Both included avocado (the chunky spread was made with an avocado mashed with a fork and the creamy spread was made with an avocado blended in the food processor), splash of lemon juice to keep the avocado from turning brown, and salt & pepper to taste. I’ve already used the chunky avocado spread on bread for sandwiches and the creamy avocado spread to make turkey salad…a green turkey salad has to be healthier than the regular one…Right?

Turkey Avocado Salad on Whole Wheat Pita bread

I have 3 more goals that I’m working on next.

My FIRST goal is to get back to eating my oats! I’m running away from that instant stuff filled with sugar and various preservatives and going back to the good old fashion Quaker Quick Oats (I’ll upgrade to the steel cut oats a little later). I’m into quick preps so overnight oats work better for me since I know my mornings with be hectic once I go back to work. I prepared a Strawberry chia oatmeal last night for today’s breakfast (and forgot to take pics, oh well!). Anyway, I put 1 cup of water (I use my almond milk for my protein shakes), 1/2 cup of oats, some frozen strawberries (about 6-8 or so), and about 1 TBSP or so of chia seeds in a storage container with a lid and stuck it in the frig last night. This morning I warmed it for about 2 min in the microwave (1min at a time) and added 2tsp of sugar. I can’t wait to try out the recipes that I discovered on Pinterest!


My SECOND goal is to get back to adding chia seeds to everything. You already know I added them to my oatmeal, but soon I’ll be learning to grind them because I don’t like the seed taste in my food. Chia seeds are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and they are a plant-based source of complete proteins. Oh and if you’ve ever used them you know that they like to absorb water and swell up much bigger than their tiny size and even form into a gelatin-like texture…think about that in your tummy!! Some people say chia seeds help with weight loss because they help you feel full due to this swelling phenomenon. And honestly, I barely got through that one serving of oatmeal this morning…usually I eat one serving and start looking for something else to eat.


My THIRD goal is to get back to consuming my right amount of water! Yeah I know all about my body being made up of mostly water…and that I need to stay hydrated and such…but the holidays on the islands with all of these fresh fruit juices and teas and messed up my water intake. I aim for 1 gallon (128 ounces=oz) of water per day or at least 80 oz. We are supposed to drink at least half of our body weight of water in oz, which means you can follow this chart (not exactly 1/2 body weight but close enough).

daily water chart.jpg

So basically, these aren’t really resolutions because I stepped away from making those empty promises a long time ago, but rather small steps that I am taking for a healthier me!

1:2 lb per week

Slimming down,

Stassi Nicole