The Whole 30 reset program, what it is and why is isn’t for me.. Right now.

Well, I made the big announcement on social media that I would be doing the Whole 30, and planned to share my experience throughout the 30 days. But, not even a week into it and I quit, for now. Though I have my reasons! First, I will say that although I am no longer following the Whole 30 program, I do think it is an amazing set of guidelines for those looking to truly restore their health and mental balance with food, and I plan to fully commit to doing it in the future. Even while writing this blog post I had new inspiration to just start it again now, but I know that at the moment I do not have the right mentality. So, I will wait to try it again until I’m feeling more balanced in that way. My partner, Tim, is still primarily following the guidelines, with just a couple minor tweaks to better fit our lifestyle. (his review is below)image

Why we decided to give it a go..

A few weeks ago my partner Tim came home from a ‘Mans Trip’, basically a fun weekend away, just guys, hanging out and drinking on the island of Mallorca (also known as the 17th German state, as it’s pretty much been taken over by German party goers ūüėČ and out of the blue suggested we try the Whole 30 reset program. Granted he had already been thinking it was time to make some dietary changes, more along the lines of my eating, and cut back on treats that we both love (our weakness is chocolate), but it wasn’t until after this trip that he was really ready to commit to making a change.

I had been previously trying to do a type of body reset through eating on my own, to hopefully help discover some food allergies and intolerances but was having a hard time keeping up with it. I thought this could be a great way to try and solve some health issues, and we would be supporting each other through it all and keep any tempting food items away. So, we went on a massive grocery shopping trip and stocked up with the goods, to start the new week strong.

What it is..

The Whole 30 is an eating program was created by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, with the information and guidelines freely shared on their website. The book, which goes more in depth is titled “The Whole 30. The 30 day guide to TOTAL HEALTH and FOOD FREEDOM”.¬†The primary things that you can eat are: vegetables, fruit, health fats, and protein coming from meat and egg sources. You can have no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no legumes (beans), no soy, no additives (such as MSG), and no healthy treat recreations (such as banana pancakes). They share a variety of free PDFs on the website, including the¬†Whole 30 Shopping List.

There are many reasons why they suggest people give it a go (you can read more on their website here), but two of the mains reasons are:

  1. To help “reset” your body, clear it from toxins, and replenish it with whole foods. It helps to restore your metabolism, balance the immune system and heal the gut. According to Whole 30 testimonials, it has helped many people find relief from a variety of bad health issues, such as skin conditions, chronic fatigue, arthritis, diabetes and so many more. It has also helped many lose weight and/or change their body composition.
  2. To move past and cut the emotional ties with food, and the unhealthy habits and cravings. To readjust the body and mind to see food for what it is, fuel. To learn and gain a new self awareness of what your body truly needs, not just wants and craves.

My reasoning for wanting to try it out stemmed from both of these, wanting to try and solve some health issues that I believed were food related and gain better control of my emotional ties with food and even my body image. Tim’s primary reason was more so the 1st, to reset the body, and potentially change his body composition and give him a fresh start towards healthier eating.

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Salad with cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, celery, hard boiled egg & Avocado balsamic

We started the 1st week strong and made a variety of healthy and delicious meals, using only Whole30 approved ingredients. We made things such as Cauliflower “Rice”, Stirfry, Baked Eggs, salads and tons of fresh fruit, We followed strictly for about 4 days, and during those days we both were a bit more sensitive and emotional than usual (I was at least), and I realised that at least for me, it was too much. It has been a very emotional and difficult past month, for a variety of reasons, and even after just a few days it was putting an even bigger strain on me. Also, as I am allergic to a variety of meats (beef, pork, salmon, tuna) and vegetables (peas, corn and sweet potatoes), this li tied my options and meant my primary protein sources were only chicken and eggs, and let me tell you, there is only so much you can eat. And without the more starchy sweet potato, it was hard to feel satisfied after some of my meals.

So, we decided to set our own new personalized guidelines, that would work for each of us differently, while still adapting many of the Whole 30 guidelines. Tim choose to primarily still follow it as a whole, as he felt it was working great for him and he has plenty to choose from and make (he loves his meat). And I decided to add back in Oatmeal and Quinoa, and at least one serving of dairy a day for a different type of protein and calcium source (from either curd or cottage cheese). We also decide to add in one “treat” meal a week, that may or may not include things on the ‘no’ list, and really do our best to stick¬†to that.

Tim’s thoughts on the Whole 30

“I’ve really been liking it because I still feel I can eat so many delicious things. The main thing I miss is cheese! My main meals are eggs with mushrooms and some type of meat in the morning. I prepare apple slices and hard boiled eggs for snacks, and another veggie and meat dish for lunch, which usually include sweet potatoes to help me stay full longer. Dinner is a variety of yummy meals we make together, such as cauliflower rice and veggies, turkey and veggie chilli (minus the beans), veggie and egg bake, so many options. At first my sleep was a bit disrupted and I was having some mood swings, but after a few days, my body adjusted and I began to have more energy after work and avoided the post work slump. And even though I’m not 100% strict on every single rule 24/7, I can see and feel my body composition changing, and my cravings are not as intense.’

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Lettuce wraps with cauliflower rice, veggies & mustard avocado balsamic sauce

Alena’s Whole 30 meal ideas:

As Tim and I eat dinner together every night, I have also been eating Whole 30 meals with him, such as listed above. In general I’ve been making an effort to eat more whole, fresh foods and here are just a few of my current favorite meal and snack ideas which follow the Whole 30 guidelines: large salad topped with sliced carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, hard boiled eggs and a homemade avocado balsamic dressing. Lettuce wraps with cauliflower “rice” and veggies, topped with a homemade avocado mayonnaise. Egg scramble with spinach, avocado, tomato. Sliced banana and apple with almond butter.

As I mentioned above, while rereading the guidelines and the reasons why people do this Whole 30 “reset”, it got me thinking again about the reasons I think it could really help people solve some health issues and restore a balance and healthy relationship with food. And so I do plan to try it again someday, and will share that experience when the time comes.

If you have any questions the Whole 30 website is full of free information. I was also very pleased to see that there is an active and vibrant online community, sharing their love of the #whole30 ,supporting each other and sharing meal ideas, so one would never truly be alone in this journey.

Much love, Alena

Food is fuel; eat right, not less.

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Bowl full of Nature’s Candy.

First of all, I absolutely Love Food!¬† I love to try new things and experiment in the kitchen, and when I find something I really enjoy, I can eat it for days in a row or even weeks! Over the past few months I have really been getting more serious about fueling my body with the proper nutrients it needs. I have changed my focus from weight loss to fat loss and gaining more lean muscle mass, and have changed my eating habits accordingly. For the majority of my fitness journey, I have eaten intuitively and for the most part this worked out very well for me and my goals. But sometimes our bodies need a change in order to see and feel new progress, and so, as of this month I have been following Kayla Itsines’s H.E.L.P Nutrition Guide. It has already taught me so much more about proper portions and the importance of eating a balanced mixture of all the major Macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins), as well as the less talked about, but equally as important Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) that are essential for our health.

While there is a minimum amount of food we should be eating, e.g. enough food to keep our metabolism functioning properly and to keep us alive, it’s important to remember that each of us requires a different amount of food to keep our bodies healthy, strong and give us enough energy to get through our respective schedule and day. If you are doing a large amount of strenuous exercise and work, you will need to eat more food than others to keep your body properly energized and functioning, and as your strength and endurance grow, your metabolism will also speed up, meaning you WILL Need More food. As I said, everybody and their lifestyles are different, and ultimately, how much you should eat depends on your body type and your way of living. But whether your goal is to loose or gain weight, tone up or put on muscle, something that is so important to keep in mind is that Food is Fuel and eating less is Not the answer. It’s important to learn to Eat Right for you and your goals, Not less.

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Sandwich of Carbs, Protein & Healthy Fats.

Everyone has different goals and a different way of living. My goals and my daily routine require something different than the next person. I have tried a variety of different eating styles, Vegan, Paleo, No Carbs, etc. but I have found that what works best for me and my body, is a balanced diet of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, including dairy and some meat. I do not cut out a certain type of food, I only am aware of my daily servings from each group. I have some pretty unfortunate food allergies and so have to be very careful to read the ingredients of products before purchasing them, and in restaurants I am the annoying guest that has to ask if the food has ‘this or that’ in it and having the waiters ask the kitchen staff. It makes it challenging to eat out, but it also forces me to cook more at home, which I have really been loving lately! I have found so many amazing recipes through Instagram and different blogs (and my mama I might add!) and have been experimenting a lot in the kitchen. (Recipe posts coming soon!)

I fuel my body with what it needs, what I need, to get me through the day, my workouts and keep me feeling balanced. Overall I have a very good relationship with food and eating, I put good, nutritious things into my body and my body responds well, giving me good energy, helping with my mood and sleeping patterns. But it hasn’t always been this way. It has taken me a long time to find a balance with food, many months of trial and error, ups and downs, but over the past 6 months or so, I have been very happy with my eating habits. I do still struggle from time to time with guilty thoughts after eating something less than healthy, but it is no where near compared to how I was even just two years ago. I am sharing this with honesty, to help others realize that while we can appear to be very strong on the outside, we are all fighting our own battles and should do our best to be supportive of each other.

Keeping it Real with a Treat Meal.

Keeping it Real with a Treat Meal.

During those moments when I do have guilty thoughts after eating something a little unhealthy, I take a mental note of how I feel in that moment, and remind myself of how I felt the next time I’m about to eat something unhealthy. And each time gets easier. Thankfully,¬†I no longer have these thoughts very often, because I eat a balanced diet that makes me feel good. And if I do eat a treat, I try to view it as just that, a special treat, and I do my best to fully enjoy it in that moment and then move on. However, if I do have these guilty thoughts, I get past it, and do not revert to my old ED habits that brought me down physically and mentally for years. I am thankful to say, I have grown up and away from those bad habits, after having done a lot of research of the consequences and will NEVER put my body though that again!¬†I remind myself everyday that overall I eat very healthy, nourishing foods and that I workout regularly, so the occasional less than healthy meal here or there is not going to kill me or hurt my progress. I remind myself that Food is Fuel, and as with so many things in life, it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you and your body.

Much Love, Alena

Oatmeal: My Favorite Quick and Nutritious Breakfast, Here’s Why.

imageOats, Oats, Oats. So many delicious recipes and possibilities with this little grain! Oatmeal Pancakes, Oatmeal Cookies, Protein Oat Cakes, adding Oats into your Morning Smoothie and of course “plain” old Oatmeal!

Lately I have been on a such an Oatmeal kick! Scroll to the bottom for 2 of my Fav Oatmeal recipes for Breakfast!

After doing some nutritional research this Winter, I decided to change up my eating habits a bit and start incorporating a bigger variety of foods. One of my goals was to switch up my breakfast as well, as my beloved toast with eggs and avocado was getting just a tad boring and taking too much time to prepare in the morning, so much so that sometimes I would skip breakfast before work, or just have a couple of rice cakes. I wanted something easy to prepare, something delicious and something filling and nutritious that would fuel me for the day! That is when I decided to really give Oatmeal a go. Of course I had tried it before, but would eat it very rarely.

So, I began experimenting with different Oatmeal combinations, and quickly discovered that I really DO Love Oatmeal. It is so easy and quick to prepare, you can add so many different delicious things to it and it has some Amazing Health Benefits!!! It’s no wonder it’s one of the health crazes that has stick around! Since switching to Oatmeal for my normal weekday breakfast, I feel I have more energy for the day and I don’t have as many cravings, and those are just the things I can notice! Here are some other benefits as well.

Benefits of adding Oats into your Diet

  • Oats contains important fibers that help you to feel full longer (whereas a breakfast full of sugars and fats can make you feel full for a brief period but you will become hungry again much quicker.) meaning you are likely to eat less later in the day.
  • Fiber helps control blood sugar levels, so you don’t have an energy crash, and helps with digestion.
  • Eating oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol, especially your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.
  • Oatmeal is low in fat and is a whole grain that is a source of protein, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.
  • Can help protect skin, “The starchiness of oats creates a barrier that allows the skin to hold its moisture, while the rougher fibrous husk of the oat acts as a gentle exfoliant.” -Written by Sara Bonham Click the link to check out her article on Life Hack for even more amazing benefits!

All the Benefits listed above have to do with OATS, and while Oatmeal is of course made from Oats it is Important to be aware of what type of Oats you are actually eating. Generally speaking the larger the Oat, as in rolled oats or steel cut oats, the less processed it will be, the more nutrients it will have and the longer it will take to digest. I tend to buy either Whole or Fine oats, but Never Instant! The majority of the time Instant oats are packed with sugar! You might think those Cinnamon Apple flavor oats are healthy, but check the nutrition label and you will see that many instant oats actually have a lot of added sugar. I always buy completely plain oats and add my own natural sweeteners such as Stevia drops or honey, although generally my fruit toppings give my oats enough sweetness, in my opinion.

Some of my usual (but not all at once) Oatmeal ingredients include: Oats, Eggs, Water, Oat Milk, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries (frozen and/or fresh), Ground Flax Seed, Maca Powder, Chocolate Protein Powder, Chia Seeds, Stevia drops, Yogurt (although lately I am avoiding dairy as much as possible).image

Here are my two favorite Oatmeal recipes Can be prepared in the morning, or partially prepped at night. Note: I rarely measure out things but these are the approximations of what I add.

Choco~Peanut Butter~Fruity Oats: 1-1.5 Cup of Oats, 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1/4 cup frozen Raspberries, 1/2 a Banana, 1 tsp Peanut Butter and Oat Milk.

  • Directions: Mix Dry Ingredients first, then add water so that Oatmeal is completely saturated, add in frozen Berries and put in microwave for about 2-3 minutes on high. Take out and add in Peanut Butter, Fresh Banana and top with Milk of choice.
  • For Overnight Oats, simply follow all steps above except for microwaving. Add all ingredients together and stick in fridge overnight so your breakfast is ready to go in the morning!

Healthy Fats, Protein & Fruity Oats: 1-1.5 Cup Oats, 1 tbsp ground Flax Seed, Chia seeds, 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, 1/4 cup frozen Blueberries, 1 Egg, yogurt or milk of choice (I use Oat milk or Goat yogurt).

  • Directions: Mix dry ingredients first, then add water so oatmeal is covered but not completely soaked. Add in egg and mix well. Add in frozen berries (or fresh if you have them) and stir again. Place on microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stir once, then microwave again for 1-2 minutes. Take out and top with a bit of Milk of your choice or Yogurt. Add a few Stevia drops or honey for bit of added sweetness (although I don’t think it needs it). Enjoy!

 More recipes coming soon! Hope you enjoy!

Much Love, Alena ‚̧

Healthy Living: Tips for getting Back on Track.

 Getting Back to the Routine after a Breakimage

¬†¬†¬† We all have our struggles and strengths when it comes to motivation and determination. When certain aspects of our life force us to take a break from our normal routine, it can be very hard for some and much easier for others to jump back in to the routine. We take vacations, celebrate birthdays, holidays, etc. and sometimes these events can make us stray from our normal routine, be that eating certain foods and cooking for yourself, going to the gym, working, taking a special daily walk, having time for yourself at home, etc. Maybe it’s only for a few days, maybe it’s a few weeks. But whatever the time frame is, I believe it’s important to truly enjoy yourself in that moment and just know that sooner than you realize, you will be back home and one way or another, you will be getting back to your usual routine. Sometimes jumping back into your normal routine can be easy, you know what it feels like and you’re motivated to get back to it. But sometimes it’s not always so easy, as there could be so many different factors as to why you took a break from your routine in the first place.

I understand that it can be difficult to get back to the normal routine, you feel heavier, lazier, have less motivation and energy than normal and keep telling yourself that you’ll get back to it tomorrow. I have experienced this all at different times in my life, but I can honestly say that in the past year and especially the past few months I have learned to deal with these feelings differently, and find the motivation to get back to my routine.¬†Is it always easy for me? Absolutely not. I still have times when I struggle with this. But I have learned so much from trial and error and now have a “routine/list of tips” that I use for planning ahead and getting back on track after a break, holiday or a couple of indulgence days.

     These are little things I have learned to do for myself that help me get back into my routine after a holiday or vacation or when I am lacking motivation. These things may not work for everyone, but this is what works for me, and I truly hope these can help you in some way if you are struggling.image

My Tips for getting back on Track

  • PLAN AHEAD: Have a start/end date for how long you will be away or be unable to stick to your normal routine. Try to make it clear to yourself that this is not to become a long term break from your normal routine, only a vacation or quick pause.
  • Pick a RESTART DATE:¬†Set a day for restarting your routine, be that cooking your usual healthy food or heading to the gym for a scheduled workout routine. Make sure it is a day you know you would realistically be able to jump back in to your routine. (This step actually is best to do BEFORE you go on Holiday/Vacation/Take a break from your normal routine, but if need be pick a start date anytime.)
  • STICK TO IT! : Stick to your restart date! One of the things I have learned is that it is so important to plan ahead and then keep promises to yourself! It might be hard when that day comes, your energy level might be low and going to the gym sounds terrible, and ordering take out sounds easier than cooking, but once you get past those feelings and actually do it! Workout, Cook, etc. You will feel proud of yourself for overcoming this feeling and you will realize How Strong You Truly Are!¬†And each time will get easier, because you know you have done it before and how great it feels!
  • LOVE What You Do: Try and view the things you are going back to as something you love, because that’s what they should be. Living a Living a Healthy Lifestyle should be something you enjoy because it makes you feel good on the Inside and the Outside.¬†¬†Eating Healthy Food and Working Out is all very good, but if it feels like a chore to you, something you Have to do, it will be Much more difficult to go back to.
  • Focus on WHY You Love Your Routine: Focus on what you truly Love about your routine and your lifestyle and how it has made you feel both mentally and physically. Focus on the Energy you get after a good workout. And the satisfaction and pride of cooking a healthy meal. ¬†Focus on these things that have made you Love what you do and it will help you get back to your routine.
  • Remember and Appreciate How Much You Have ALREADY CHANGED: Remind yourself of how far you have already come, by making the decision to live a healthier lifestyle and find a balanced routine for yourself, whether it was a few weeks, months or years ago. And When your morale/motivation is extra low and you are feeling stuck and unable to get back to your healthy routine, look at old pictures, read old journal entries or scroll through your posts on Instagram and Facebook. Remind yourself of all the little things that have changed both mentally and physically.¬†Are you Stronger than you were before? Leaner? Do you have more Energy? Do you have a more Positive outlook on Life?¬†

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    Connect with like-minded people.

  • CONNECT with Like-Minded People:¬†Reach out to people who are in similar situations, working towards becoming better and healthier versions of themselves and make connections. Check-in and stay accountable to them and they to you. Motivate each other to get back on track, inspire each other to keep going and support each other along the way.
  • Believe in YOUrself: Remind Yourself that you are capable of great things. You have goals and dreams and so much more to accomplish. You are strong and determined and you can do this.

I wish each and every one of you all the best!  Love, Alena 

Finding a Balance: Tips for making Changes towards a Healthier Life.

imagePlease keep in mind these are MY thoughts and opinions. I choose to write about these topics and share my advice and opinions with you all because they mean something to me and I hope they can help someone out in the World. This is a written collection of my thoughts and experiences with the subject. Please comment below if you have any questions.

      Living a balanced and healthy life can take Time to truly achieve. It can seem so daunting, and difficult to manage. Yet, in the end it is all about making those small changes every day and making them a part of your normal routine. Make these changes into habits and a part of your lifestyle, because it is our routine and habits we create that will ultimately help us succeed. I am still learning about how to find a balance with some things, but for the most part I feel very happy and satisfied with my current routine. For me, making the change was not only about creating healthy and sustainable habits, but about cutting out the bad ones that were having a negative impact on my health and mental well-being. Not only did I change my routine by eating healthier, more nourishing foods and exercising regularly, I also stopped doing the things that were bringing me down. Partying at least 3 days a week and over drinking was a big part of my life for years, and cutting it out was one of the Best Decisions of my life. I still go out occasionally and have a drink or two, But it is Nothing compared to the old me. I am still learning so much about health, fitness and taking care of my body everyday. But I have established a routine that works for me, a balance that works for my body and each day I work hard to keep improving.image

¬†I found a Quote on one of my followers pages and it fit in very appropriately with my theme “You’ll Never Change Your Life Until You Change Something You Do Daily. The Secret of Your Success Is Found In Your Daily Routine”John C. Maxwell This is so very true, You must make a change to see and feel a change. You must make taking care of your body a part of your daily routine.

¬† ¬†You can make simple changes at first, small adjustments¬†to what you’re used to. It could be a dietary change, like switching any heavily processed foods for fresh and natural products. For example:

  • Switching processed white sugar for raw brown sugar, stevia or another alternative natural sweetener.
  • Replacing white pasta and breads for whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice, sprouted wheat, ¬†whole wheat or spelt.
  • Swapping sugary soft drinks and soda for regular or fruit infused water or tea.

BUT with all of these things, You MUST read the Ingredients and labels. There are many ‘Healthy” Alternatives out on the shelves these days, a gluten-free option, sugar-free, low-carb or low-fat, and while some of these are great, there are also many that contain extra preservatives or additives just to give them flavor or keep them on the shelves longer. Do a little research and Be aware of what you are buying. My goal when grocery shopping is to buy as many fresh and plain products as possible, fruits, vegetables, plain yogurt, brown rice, whole grain pasta, cage-free eggs (organic when possible) plain tomato sauce, etc. Then I add the flavoring at home, so I know exactly what I am putting on my food and into my body.

    Another important change is to start incorporating some kind of physical exercise into your daily routine. It can be as simple as:

  • Walking to the grocery store or university, instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • Riding your bike to work or going on a bike ride for fun.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walking around and exploring your city or surrounding towns.

   Each of these small things will add up and they Will make a difference. When you are feeling ready to do something a little more challenging there are soo many options!

  • Join a gym or local fitness center.
  • Sign up for a fitness class or join a local sports team.
  • Join a support group on Instagram or Facebook that will help you keep accountable with exercising and eating.
  • Watch Youtube videos of exercises tutorials and workout routines.
  • Hire a Personal Trainer to get you started.
  • Purchase a structured Workout guide such as the Bikini Body Guide or Tone It Up plan.

     There are soo many options. You must make a little effort and take the time do some research or ask some friends or family for advice and get started! There will always be people to Help you, but Ultimately it is Your Life and You Must put in some Effort!
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   For me,  I cut out unhealthy foods and started at the gym almost immediately, after returning home from Spain. I knew that personally I needed a bit more of a challenge physically and was very motivated at the time, so I started going at least 4-5 days a week. At the beginning I was doing mostly cardio for about an hour at a time, followed by a few classic abdominal exercises or using a few of the weight machines for legs. Now, more than a year later, I do a mixture of resistance training using my body weight and light weights, High Intensity Interval training, heavier Weight Lifting, stretching (beginners Yoga) and some typical cardiovascular such as jogging or walking. I follow Aussie Trainer Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, as well as my own extra routines. I have a very diverse and balanced routine in my opinion, and this is what has been working the best for me, but I absolutely respect those who choose to focus on just one or two of those methods.

 image    On an average week, I work out 5-6 days a week, for anywhere from 1-1.5 hours including warm-up, my routine and stretching, be that a bit of cardio, weights, or circuit training and always take at least one rest day. Currently, I eat home cooked meals 90% of the time and rarely drink. I try to have a semi-set schedule of when I wake up, eat, work, exercise and go to sleep, but my work schedule can vary greatly from one week to the next and so I have had to learn to be flexible and go with the flow.  My normal habits do not not change, but the order in which I do them and the amount of time I dedicate to each one sometimes has to be adjusted. But that is okay, because I know I have created a lifestyle and habits that are sustainable for me and I will absolutely keep it up. (will do a separate blog about my workout routine and schedule soon!)

Remember we are all capable of changing our habits and routines. Find what works for You and give it your best every single day!¬† ‚̧ Alena