Taming the Sugar Beast

Image result for sugar banner jpg

The Sugar Beast.  It lives in us all.  For some, it doesn’t bother them much; for most, it’s one of the biggest daily struggles to make good choices to tame the beast and keep it at bay.

If you’re goal is to drop a few pounds and to live healthier this year, kicking your sweet tooth to the curb is a great way to start.

In 2015, the US Department of Agriculture released a study showing the average American consumes 94 grams of added sugar per day, which equates to 358 empty calories! (It’s about 2.5 cans of Coke.)  What does “added sugar” mean exactly?  “Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits.” (choosemyplate.gov)

These sneaky additives can be found in items such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, ice cream, etc.  This is just a small list of the major groups.  Buyer beware!  It also creeps its way into things you may not expect, such as ketchup, syrup, cereal, pasta sauce, baked beans, vanilla lattes, fat free salad dressing, vanilla almond milk, tomato soup, energy bars, trail mix, granola, flavored yogurt…the list goes on!  

The best way to identify where it lingers is to read the food labels and their ingredients.  Here’s a list of sugar names to try to avoid if found among the list of ingredients:

Image result for added sugar list

But why are all of these added sugars bad?  Well, the average body can only store up to so many grams of sugar.  The FDA recommends no more than 10% of your daily calories (about 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons of added sugars based on a 2,000-calorie diet.)  The muscles, brain and liver can only process so much.  All of the leftover sugar gets stored as fat.  When the body doesn’t know what to do with something (meaning there is an overabundance), it gets stored as fat.

Added sugars have virtually no nutrients, does not truly satisfy hunger, leaves you feeling tired, collects as unwanted body fat and fogs up the brain.  So why do we keep eating it if it has such a negative impact on our bodies?

Well, they are influential buggers.  They are good at sugar-coating themselves when communicating (provoking?) the reward center of our brains.  Eating added sugars causes the brain to release dopamine, which causes us to feel pleasure when we consume it.  Consuming high amounts of sugar leads to high amounts of dopamine release, providing us with a false sense of satisfaction.  In turn, we want more.  As we consume more on a regular basis, the brain begins to crave it and need more to keep experiencing that pleasurable feeling of satisfaction.  Suddenly, we are addicted.  

With all of this being said, it is really important to read the label and check the sugar source of our foods.  If the sugar source is natural (i.e from a fruit), then it’s a safe bet that’s a healthier choice.  Let’s say, for example, you have a protein bar with 12g of sugar noted on the Nutrition Label.  Keep reading on to the Ingredient List and see where the source of the sugar is coming from.  If it’s coming from dates, for example, then it’s a healthy bar to consume!  If the ingredients have a laundry list of oddly sounding syrups and words like what can be found on the list above, then it may be advisable to steer clear from this one.

Beware of sugar-free options as well.  I’ll save that for another post, as I know I’ve likely already overwhelmed you with information on sugar.  In short, sugar-free options often replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, which may also reek havoc on your waste line.

So, how do we tame the proverbial Sugar Beast?  Here are a few tips and suggestions:

  1. Drink water!  We often confuse cravings for thirst.  Try chugging down a glass of water before reaching for a snack.
  2. Don’t skip meals!
  3. Cook at home.  That way you can monitor and be aware of exactly what is going into your meals.  To add to that, choose fresh, whole foods to cook with, rather than the prepackaged options.  You really only need to hit the perimeter when you go to the grocery store.  The in-between aisles are all the processed stuff that we are likely better off avoiding for the most part.  
  4. Track your food through a food log.  I don’t recommend doing this so that you can count your calories each day.  I recommend doing this so that you create an awareness of each food group and the nutrients you are consuming each day.  Are you getting enough macros? (Carbs, Fat, Protein)
  5. Be active.  If you feel a craving coming on while you’re sitting at your desk job, get up and move a little.  Take a walk around the office, Come back to your desk and continue working.  It may help reduce the craving.  
  6. Consider changing up the way you drink coffee.  Rather than going to your local coffee shop for a vanilla latte (which can contain 32g of added sugar), brew your own pot of coffee at home and add a dash of cinnamon for the extra flavor!  Cinnamon has shown to help control blood sugar levels.  It decreases inflammation, protects heart health and fights infections and viruses.  It’s also great on oatmeal, sweet potatoes, yogurt, apples, protein shakes, etc.

Speaking of Cinnamon, here is a great Cinnamon Baked Apple Recipe!

Bon Appetit, baby!

Image result for lucille ball candy gif


Setting S.M.A.R.T. #Goals

Long-term, short-term, work related, life related, relationship related, faith related, fitness and health related.  No matter what chapter of life you are currently in right now, you should be setting goals and working every day towards them.

Goals Meme

I do.  I love them.  They fuel me.


Goals can be intimidating.  Not so much the act of doing them.  More the proclamation when setting them.  There tends to be a misconception that to set a goal means to announce something extreme, something “awe-inspiring”.  Go big or go home, right?  Otherwise you are inadequate, right?



Let’s step back, take a breath and think for a moment.  Let’s taco-bout setting some S.M.A.R.T. goals.

I recently just took (and passed – whoop whoop!) my ACE Group Fitness Instructor certification exam.  One of the chapters outlined this fantastic acronym for explaining how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.


Specific – Be specific about what you would like to accomplish.  Rather than saying “I want to get fit” aim towards something more specific such as “I want to finish a 5k.”

Measurable – Be sure that the goal is something that you can see results from.  Finishing that 5k is a way to measure if you have accomplished the end result of your goal.

Attainable – Is it achievable?  If you are a stagnant individual looking to boost your health & fitness, you more than likely would not aim to run a marathon by next month.  This may be a great long-term goal, but start off with something more safely attainable (referring back to that 5k).  Start with finishing a 5k.  Once you’ve accomplished that, you can then aim for the next goal of either finishing a longer race, such as a 10k, or perhaps shaving off time in your 5k.  I have a bit of a hard time with this one because I tend to feel like it could sound like we are holding you back.  Don’t let this hold you back.  Just be smart about the path you are setting out on to achieve your goal(s)!

Relevant – Is your plan for achieving your goal relevant towards that goal?  For example, if you are into resistance and heavy weight training and have just set a goal for yourself to complete a half marathon, your workout regimen will need to shift towards a more (relevant) cardio-focused plan.

Time bound – Hold yourself accountable to a time frame for completing your goal.  As previously mentioned, it would not be a good idea for a stagnant individual who would like to get more fit and finish a 5k, to plan to do this in a months time.  That being said, setting the 5k for two years out may seem a bit far out as well.  Find a race a few months away, commit to it by signing up, find a training plan (there are thousands you can find via the Google machine, like this one here) and get moving!  Commit to running a certain number of days each week, for a certain distance and/or certain amount of time.  Set smaller, more immediate goals to help you reach the bigger one!

**I also like to use the “T” in this acronym for “Tell someone”.  Once you set a S.M.A.R.T. Goal, do yourself a favor.  Write it down.  And then tell someone about it.  Whoever you tell should be someone that you feel can hold you accountable to that goal and provide positive reinforcement towards your accomplishing that goal.  Whether it be saying it to yourself in the mirror, telling your dog (because saying it out loud in general, even if no one is listening at all, can be tough), or if you decide to Go Big and announce to the entire Facebook community what you are setting out to do, just be sure to tell someone.  It’s whatever you are comfortable with.  There is no right or wrong way (in my opinion – as all of these posts are).  But tell SOMEONE.  And Write It Down.  Keep it somewhere that you can see it often.  I keep sticky notes lined up at the bottom of my computer screen at work.  Then I write my progress plan in my planner on what I intend to do to work towards achieving that goal.  And of course, I tell people (usually starting with my husband).

So, all this talk about setting goals, it would be a bit ridiculous for me to sign off without mentioning one for myself.  As I said earlier, I recently passed my ACE Group Fitness Instructor Certification Exam.  My goal through the month of December is to write out a class plan and then teach it somewhere, to anyone, even if it’s to my dog or husband or family or friends, or complete strangers…by the end of January.  I’ll be sure to continue to share my progress along the way.

*Happy paces to happy places, everyone.*


Shame On Me

I did a bad thing on Memorial Day (par for the course on a *sunny* holiday weekend for me).  But I’m putting a resounding halt to it because it wasn’t until this year that I realized, not only how unsafe it is, but also how much it can derail my workout routine…what exactly did I do (or actually neglect to do, really)?  Well, I forgot to put on sunscreen.

Image result for shame meme

I’m pretty fair skinned and tend to burn easily, especially the first time my skin is really exposed to the sun after winter.  That exposure usually happens on or around Memorial Day weekend and this year was no different.

We had to repaint and repair some things on the back porch so we were outside pretty much from 10 a.m. onward for the entire day on Monday.  I (we – actually…dragging you down with me, honey!) neglected to put on any suntan lotion.

Shame on me….shame on us.

My shoulders, arms and legs are fried.  As a result?  I skipped my Speed run yesterday due to my tingly, puffy, waterlogged self.  My training schedule is already a little out of whack this week because my fantastic fiance is taking me to NASHVILLE this weekend for some country line, Shiner Bock-ing hoedowns and some Lord Stanley finals (GO PENS!!!) in celebration of my upcoming birthday.   🙂 🙂 🙂

With going away this weekend, I restructured my training schedule so that I can complete my long run Friday morning and not have to worry about it over the weekend.  Anyone that’s followed a training schedule knows that bumping one day means bumping a few others, typically.  Put that up against some physical inabilities earlier in the week to complete the other planned workouts and things are really getting messy.

I now have a Speed and likely going to have a Tempo run, along with a swim and a bike workout that I’ll be missing this week.  My skin is still tingly and puffy so I’m not sure if my feet will be hitting the pavement for any miles tonight.  Swimming is out of the question, my shoulders are too tender.  I think I have to chalk these few days up as a bit of a loss, focus on moving forward, slather myself in Aloe and hope that I can be depuffed and untingly come Friday morning for my 12-miler.

#Fingers cross.

#Lesson Learned.

#Never again.

In all seriousness, it was a really stupid, careless, dangerous thing.  Skin cancer is nothing to tango with….



Happy Pace = Happy Place

I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of WordPress so please bear with me.  I added a new Tab at the top of the Main Page titled “Music” where I am planning to post on all things…you guessed it…related to music and workouts.  I’m having issues embedding my Spotify playlists into my posts so until I get that sorted out, you’ll just have to click on the link and the playlist should open in a new tab or window (and I have to deal with the aesthetically displeasing sight of the link, rather than the pretty picture of the Spotify list).

I’ll get it figured out…


While the first Post under my Music tab is specific to my running playlist for May…here is my Master “Run Time Fun Time” list.


****If anyone has any tips on how to properly Embed a playlist so that the picture of the list shows up in the post, please let me know. 🙂 (I’ve Googled it and tried multiple options. The most popular Google search instructs me to click Share – Copy Embedded Code and then paste that code in the HTML post format in WordPress and TADA!) That’s what I did here and on the other post, but to no avail.

Also – if anyone is out there and reading…please feel free to share/comment on your top tunes to workout/run to.  I’m always looking for new songs and would like to hear (pun intended) what gets the people going!

I will also eventually be writing a post about those who do not listen to music when running….You all intrigue me.

Happy Listening and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Tri, Tri, Tr(y)

So the Pittsburgh Triathlon has been postponed because of Road Construction on the bike portion of the course.  No plan for a rescheduled date yet and they are reimbursing all current registrants – which leads me to believe there may not be a Pgh Triathlon this year…or at least one that will work with my schedule.  (I’m a little busy as of late September and October…getting all #MarREED and bee-bopping over to honeymoon in Hawaii and things with my future husband, Stove – formally known as Steve).

On to Plan B.  

There’s a Sprint Tri in North Park the weekend prior to when the Pgh Tri was supposed to be, and the swimming portion is…wait for it…IN A POOL (!!!) rather than the disgusting Allegheny where sewer overflow has been an issue in the past.  I also once saw a dead rat floating in the water when kayaking near the 31st Street bridge.  Sooooo. I believe I was just given another God Wink or blessing in disguise.  Stove and I (We) are getting married Sept. 23rd.  Our likelihood of healthily making it to that date has now increased substantially.  Whew.  Thank you, PennDot!

The city is still so pretty, though.

With the triathlon now being a shorter distance and a week sooner in North Park…I find it only appropriate to also strongly consider signing up for the Presque Isle marathon on Sept. 10th and train to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.   Which means shaving about 18 minutes off of my current PR time and dropping my per mile pace by 40-50 seconds.  Yikes.  Hal Higdon, here I come!  (Assuming the qualifying time for my age group is still 3 hr 35 minutes / not a second over.  I’ll have to double-check.)

Post-Presque Isle nap on the beach a few weeks ago.  Centering my inner feng shui to the course.  

At the very least, I should be very fit to take a walk down the aisle with my dad, come Sept. 23rd.



God winks and the birth of a Passion

I just read an article on Runner’s World that reminded me of something I often think about, or wonder about when it comes to the human body and what it is capable of: when will the day come that humans can run faster than the speed of time and jump across county lines, state lines, oceans, the world??

Between the dates of May 6-8 (barring optimal weather selection), three runners will set out for the Nike Breaking2 Project – with a goal to complete the full 26.2 miles in less than 2:00:00.  The start date attempt of May 6th marks 63 years after Roger Bannister broke the sub-4 plain by running a sub-four minute mile.

So at this rate, I suppose in the year 2080, we will almost be running sub-time marathons in the negatives.

Running always causes me to reflect.  Whether it’s talking about, hearing about or physically setting out and logging miles.  Anything that involves running, at some point puts me in reflection mode.  Today is no different.  Reading the story about the Nike Breaking2 Project, set me back in time 18 years ago, when I couldn’t even run a full mile around the track.

Let me explain.

I was going into my freshmen year of high school.  We were a few weeks away from our first day of school but Captains Practice for soccer was getting underway.

So I show up to day one of Captain’s practice and dive in to the “easy” 1-mile warm up.  I think the Captain’s Goal here was to set everyone straight, weed out the weaklings, what have you.  I was a weakling.  If it’s any consolation, I had surgery two months prior to remove a benign tumor from my knee and was still in recovery  mode.  But before you break out the wine and cheese for my pity party of an excuse, let me continue….

I barely made it two laps around the track by the time everyone else was finished.  Baring down on lap two, the upperclassman weren’t cheering me on; but rather jeering me across the line as I continued on with Lap #3 of 4.

I was embarrassed, I wanted to run home (okay, okay…walk or possibly hitch-hike, because I was about spent with running).  I wanted to hide under the bleachers.  I wanted to be absolutely anywhere but on that black rubber surface, running in a circle, chasing, or being chased by, my shadow, being chastised by others (sorry, I know that wine and cheese is getting closer to coming out).  Maybe saying I was chastised was a little dramatic.

Anyway, I pressed on, sheepishly, shamefully, embarrassingly, with my Hufflepuff, turtle shuffle.  As a continued on the straight away section of the track, a Sophomore ran up beside me.  I thought she was going to either run right by me and mock my slowness, or run right next to me and keep yelling profane things to make me feel even smaller than I already felt.

But something amazing happened.  And I’m fairly certain it forever changed my life.  Or at least shaped it in a direction that God wanted me to go in.  (A God wink, as I like to call it.)

See, I don’t take to yelling as an approach with coaching or encouragement well.  Especially if I’m sucking at what I’m doing and I know it.  It’s why I decided high school basketball wasn’t going to work for me.  During Summer camp, I was struggling with my foul shots, the coach kept screaming at me to “correct my form, correct my form, correct my form.”  Finally he approached me and tried to adjust my form…only he was adjusting me as if I were a right-handed shooter (which I’m not – I’m full on left and in no way ambidextrous enough to try to pretend otherwise).  So I politely advised him that I’m left-handed.  To which he grabbed the basketball out of my hand, slammed it off the ground like a football touchdown spike and stormed away.

I was mortified.  It was absolutely not how I wanted to feel while trying to play a sport I enjoyed.  So I decided high school basketball wasn’t going to be my calling…and I quit.

So when the upperclassman were screaming at me during that 1-miler to hurry up, I really was about ready to call it quits and decide that soccer also was not going to be a high school calling of mine (despite playing the sport my entire life).

But when that Sophomore ran up next to me and started giving me words of encouragement to not give up and keep going and that we would finish the rest of the mile together…everything changed.

It wasn’t so much in the form of a snap of the finger change where all of a sudden I was Forrest Gump running without braces at a much faster speed.  No.  The remaining two laps were still just as pitiful and grueling (if not more) on my cardiovascular system, than the first two laps.  But my spirit?  My spirit was lifted ever so slightly by Molly’s kindness.  It was just enough to get me to stick with it and finish the laps.

I stayed on the team.  I played all four years through high school, and all four years through college.  But Molly not only put a resounding settlement of soccer into my soul, she lit a spark for my dire passion for running.

I vowed at the end of that run to never, ever, ever feel that way again.  I won’t say I finished the four laps and never looked back. Because I do look back on that day. Often.  I think about that feeling when I’m tired or don’t feel like going for a run.  I think about that feeling when during a run I think I’m getting burned out or can’t make it.  I think about the kind words of encouragement I received from someone who could have easily sat back and either jeered on with the others, or not said anything at all.

I now run as much as I possibly can.  I’ve completed a half marathon and three fulls…and plan to do more.  I’ve found my Happy Pace and while I can thank a lot of people along the way for their encouragement.  The number one person I have to thank is Molly Greiner.  Thank you, Molly, for lighting the spark in me 18 years ago.  While I may likely never be able to run a sub-2 hour marathon, I will forever hold on to the memory of your act of kindness.  With a simple God wink, my passion was born.