Girlboss The Millennial American Dream

I recently started watching Girlboss on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the highly fictionalized TV comedy version of Sophia Amoruso’s memoir #GIRLBOSS, detailing the birth and development of her online business, Nasty Gal. I’d heard good things about the series, so I gave it a shot. I wasn’t a huge fan from the outset. The main character was ignorant, naive, self-absorbed, and rebellious almost for the sake of rebellion. Her glaring flaws were kind of the point — she did call her business “Nasty Gal”. My biggest concern, though, was that she was giving ambitious millennial women a bad name. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers watching the show, my parents included, might actually think we’re all like Sophia. (Rest assured, we definitely are not.)

But somehow I got roped into the hype of watching Sophia’s business take off. In spite of her questionable business practices and personal decisions, I wanted her to succeed. Why did I care so much? We root for the “good guys” because we see ourselves in them. And like every other millennial woman out there, I want my hypothetical, maybe-someday business to succeed too. (Insert girl power playlist here.)

Unlike my parents’ generation, I’ve entered adulthood during the rise of the “Side Hustle Economy”. According to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey, 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds currently have a side job of some sort. This rises to 44% for the 25-34 demographic. That puts me right in the middle of this millennial segment. While some of us are taking on extra jobs to supplement traditional income, many others are pursuing personal interests and exploring entrepreneurship. Start-ups, Etsy shops, and direct sales opportunities abound. Heck, take this blog for example!

What’s the ultimate goal? Bentley University reported that 66% of surveyed millennials want to start their own business. A third of millennials have already done so. They’re seeking flexibility and purpose in their careers. The advent of web-based payments and infrastructure has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for many small ventures. The challenge of building a business from the ground up is now often more alluring than scaling the corporate ladder. And research out of USC Marshall revealed that women-owned companies in the USA are growing at 1.5x the rate of other small businesses.

We’re not chasing the corner office; we’re hustling to become a Girlboss.

One of the most challenging parts of this shift for some of us millennials is that, unlike Sophia of Nasty Gal, we are still susceptible to the pressure to achieve traditional success. We obtain degrees and pursue careers in fields that point us toward the old “American Dream”. And as evidenced in the prevalence of the “side hustle”, many of us are trying to achieve both dreams at once. No wonder we’re all so in love with Wonder Woman right now — we’d have to be Wonder Woman to handle it all! (The movie is definitely worth seeing, by the way!)

So where does this leave me? I wouldn’t rule out the opportunity for a side hustle or entrepreneurship in the future. But for now, this blog is my way of flexing my “side hustle muscles” until the time comes!

What are your Girlboss goals?

Hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail

This weekend, Joe and I took on our greatest hiking challenge yet: the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. The trail connects Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake parks by leading you across the valley between them. The Conservation Halton website lists the trail as 7.2km one way — except you have to go back, too! It’s also the only trail on Halton’s roster with a “Difficult” rating. After all the hiking we’ve done over the past couple of years, and with a beautiful weekend ahead of us, it was time to take the plunge.

My first piece of advice would be to check the internet for any events at your destination parks. We arrived at Rattlesnake Point early, around 9:30am, and there was already a lineup to get to the toll booth! It turned out there was a big trail race that morning throughout Rattlesnake, so the park was closed to the public until noon. We’d have to start our hike across the Nassagaweya Canyon from the other side at Crawford Lake.

The Base of the Valley - Nassagaweya Canyon

Taking a stroll through the Nassagaweya Canyon.

Once we finally got on the trails, we had a great time. The weather was perfect, and we descended the escarpment into dense, green forest. A few areas had raised wooden bridges across wetlands, but the paths were mostly dirt, rock, and roots. There were a couple of extremely rocky sections that we decided to traverse. If you’re not as adventurous, don’t worry! Signs along the way clearly indicate how to bypass the rocks.

A Rocky Road - Nassagaweya Canyon

Be careful! (At least, maybe that’s what I was saying?)

Then came the tough part: trudging back up the other side and onto the Milton Outlier, home of both Rattlesnake and Kelso. At this point, we accidentally joined the tail end of the Five Peaks trail race, which followed a similar route back into Rattlesnake Point. We tried to stay out of the runners’ way!

Views from Rattlesnake Point - Nassagaweya Canyon

#views

We turned around after a quick snack break at the lookout on the Vista Adventure trail. The views at Rattlesnake Point are definitely worth taking in! On the way back, we took the Bruce Trail route that doubles back on itself at the bottom of the valley. There were tons of bugs down there, but the flowers and trees were really lovely. (Make sure you bring bug spray, sunscreen, and tissues if you have allergies!)

Fields of Flowers - Nassagaweya Canyon

Don’t stop for too long to smell the flowers, or the mosquitoes might eat you alive…!

In the end, hiking the Nassagaweya Canyon trail took us three hours, including our little pit-stop, and covered around 15km. If you’ve got a few hours and decent weather ahead of you, I would definitely recommend this route to the ambitious hiker. Looking forward to more great (and long) hikes in the future at Conservation Halton parks!

Done the Hike - Nassagaweya Canyon

Reppin’ my Tone It Up hat on the trails! Checked this one off the hiking bucket list!

Where do you love to hike?

Why I'm Not Coaching for Beachbody

In the past few months, I’ve done a complete 180 when it comes to healthy living. I started exercising and eating right (for the most part…), and I shared the process on a fitness-focused Instagram account. I noticed it almost right away: these mysterious “virtual fitness coaches” saturating my feed with sweaty selfies and motivational quotes. And it didn’t take long, once my account started to gather a following, for these ladies to start reaching out to me with offers to become a coach myself. They didn’t always mention their employer outright, but I only needed a quick Google search to tell me that these women work for a multi-level marketing company called Beachbody. That’s right, the dreaded “MLM” — what some people refer to as a “pyramid scheme”. Yikes.

But the peppy posts and the promise of a rewarding, engaging, self-propelled career were getting to me. So I did a bit of research.

Like any MLM, the premise of Beachbody is that its salespeople promote and sell its products to their social networks. In this case, it’s a collection of video series, a video-on-demand service, and a nutritional supplement called Shakeology. If you’re a human with a TV, then you’ve probably heard of the workout program P90X from the infomercials. That’s Beachbody. And if you’re involved at all with the fitness social media scene, then you might also have seen posts about Beachbody’s other programs like “Insanity”, “21 Day Fix”, or “Hammer and Chisel”.

Beachbody salespeople go beyond simply peddling their products. They also typically provide moral support to their clients via social media, making them “virtual fitness coaches”. Coaches pay a small fee for the infrastructure of their business (i.e. their personal Beachbody website, from which they earn a commission). But in order to successfully promote Beachbody from personal experience, coaches also need to buy into the programs themselves. Even at a seller’s discount, this can be a pretty pricey endeavour. This is how all MLMs work, so the startup costs were no surprise to me.

Then there’s the coaching recruitment aspect, which is pretty standard for an MLM as well. Whether it’s through commissions or bonuses, Beachbody encourages coaches to find others to join their coaching teams. This creates a structure (or upline) of coaches that provide business advice and support to newer team members. I have found it so interesting to see the wide variety of tactics current coaches have used to reach out to potential clients like me. It’s formulaic, but there’s definitely tons of room for personal flair.

So, am I turning down the opportunity to work for Beachbody as a virtual fitness coach because it’s an MLM, and therefore an evil company that wants to steal my money and take advantage of my friends and family?

Actually, no.

I already knew the basics about MLMs when I started looking into Beachbody. And I really liked the idea of promoting a healthy lifestyle and helping others achieve their goals, plus earning a revenue stream on the side. Obviously the startup costs are daunting, but I would cross the ROI bridge when I came to it.

The dealbreaker for me was actually the Beachbody products themselves. You heard the program names: “P90X”, “Insanity”, “Hammer and Chisel”. They’re high-intensity, hardcore, super-focused workouts intended to provide maximal results in minimal time. Some of them even come with meal plans to help you, ahem, “shred” or whatever.

Back when I joined Tone It Up, I mentioned that one of my favourite things about the program was that it was light, fun, and positive. Sure, there’s talk of being toned and lean. But the major focus is on creating a lifestyle that is sustainable in the long run. My fitness goals are a lot more about habit-forming than about “results”. And honestly, if the video has scary words like “Insanity” or “Max” in the title, I’m probably not going to try it — let alone stick to it!

I love promoting products that I believe in. (You’ll recall my NaNoWriMo obsession… my Agendio reviewpraise for my new Fitbit…) Unfortunately, I just don’t believe that Beachbody’s lineup of products would meet my current needs as a consumer, so I definitely can’t promote them as a coach.

That’s not to say that it won’t work for anyone! Do your research, watch the workout trailers on YouTube, and talk to coaches on social media. (Shoutout to Kate Rhue, a Beachbody coach who answered all of my annoying questions and is so passionate about her work as a virtual fitness coach! If you’re in the market for coaching, check her out!) But for now, I’m going to stick to Tone It Up for my fitness program, and earning an income the good ol’ fashioned way.

What are your thoughts on Beachbody?

Tone It Up Bikini Series

Hello, dear readers! I’ve been AWOL again for a while, but between work and the Tone It Up Bikini Series beginning last week, I simply haven’t had the energy for my poor little blog. I have mentioned Tone It Up on this page before (check that out here). But you might be wondering, “What the heck is the Bikini Series?” Friends, six months ago, I would have been asking the exact same question.

Here it is in a nutshell. The Tone It Up Bikini Series is an eight week fitness challenge with an optional nutrition component, leading up to the first day of summer. Every day you have an assigned daily workout, some or all of which you complete first thing in the morning for your “Bootycall”. (Cheesy, I know — but hey, I didn’t come up with the lingo.) Then, if you’re a nutrition plan member, you also follow along with the meal plan. That means planning out and prepping “Lean Clean’N Green” meals every Sunday for eight weeks straight. And also trying not to eat Timbits. Which is basically impossible.

Am I crazy? Yes, probably. I never thought I’d be that person that gets up at 5:45am every morning to work out, but here we are. That’s pretty crazy in itself.

So yes, I’ll admit right now that on the surface, the Bikini Series is all about looking good in a bikini when summer arrives. That’s kind of awkward to talk about on this blog, given the wide variety of other topics I cover here. But this whole thing started when I realized that if I don’t make healthy eating and exercise a priority in my life now, in my early twenties, I never will. Kicking it into high gear is a great way to set myself up for positive habits moving forward. Plus, I have a pretty good track record with these timed, online, worldwide challenges, if I do say so myself.

If you’re wondering about costs, the challenge itself is free. However, here are the extras I decided to splurge on:

  • The Nutrition Plan — but this was free for me this time, since I made the one-time purchase back in January!
  • The Bikini Series Bundle — this package came with the premium Beach Babe 5 workout video series (recommended but totally not necessary) and a bunch of TIU swag.
  • The Bikini Series Journal — the particular edition is now sold out, but it’s basically a templated journal to track your meals, exercise, sleep, water intake, and Bikini Series goals. You can get an older version on sale here if you so choose. I’m finding it pretty helpful to keep me on track.

I’ll also mention here that there are prizes up for grabs on Instagram each week. They’re looking for consistent check-ins on Instagram (tagging @toneitup and #tiubikiniseries) to document your meals, workouts, and inspirations. Like many others, I created a Tone It Up-specific account for these types of posts.

Week Two of the Tone It Up Bikini Series has now begun, so we’re really in the thick of it. I’m feeling a little sore but pretty pumped about how things are going so far. If you’re thinking of coming along for the ride, go for it! There’s no harm in starting late — I was two weeks late for the previous challenge. It’s better than never starting at all! Hop over to the Tone It Up website to sign up for Bikini Series emails and start following the daily workouts. Hope to see you there!

Eating Out FOMO

Imagine this: you’re at one of your go-to restaurants. You take a look at the menu and skim past your usual favourites because tonight, you want to try something new. You order something you’ve never tried before. And as you’re waiting for your food to arrive, someone at the table next to you receives something that looks (and smells) fantastic. Immediately, you’re thinking that you wish you’d ordered what they did. Finally, when your meal arrives, you take a bite – and it’s simply not as delicious as what you imagine your neighbour’s meal tastes like. Now you’re regretting your dining decision entirely. This phenomenon is what I like to call Eating Out FOMO.

I probably overthink my restaurant dining choices more than many people. I can’t just think about what kind of food I feel like eating. I’m also considering what food I will most regret not eating. And when I eat out with a group, I also take note of what they’re ordering. Did someone pick something that sounds more tasty than what I’m getting? Will I spend the entire meal staring at their plate, wishing it was mine? (Or worse, wishing they would just offer me a bite already?!)

When it comes to solving this problem, the more variety, the better. That means I love buffets, because I never have to worry about missing out on something. But most restaurants aren’t a buffet, so sometimes you have to get creative. One friend and I love getting Pad Thai at a local Thai place for lunch. But because of our Eating Out FOMO, we never order anything else, in case it’s not as good as the Pad Thai! Now we’ve resolved to try the rest of the menu by getting one order of Pad Thai and one order of something new, then splitting both. Not exactly the most efficient method, but at least we won’t have the regret of a Pad Thai-less lunch. #ThaiDayFriday

But now I’ve run into a bigger issue. With all of my recent interest in Tone It Up and healthy living, I want to choose healthier options when dining out. However, it’s hard to convince everyone else you’re going out with to pick a healthy restaurant. (Though if you can convince them, go for it!) So instead, you’re stuck with trying to make do at a normal restaurant. To have a Tone It Up Nutrition Plan-compliant meal at a restaurant that piles on the calories, you’re basically only ordering iceberg lettuce salads with dressing on the side. Ugh. (It’s so much easier to make tasty, healthy meals at home than it is to find them at a restaurant!) Then your friends receive their delicious food, and all you can think about is how much you want their fries… Talk about Eating Out FOMO!

What’s a healthy eater to do?

I had an epiphany recently: my restaurant regret points to a larger issue regarding my relationship with food and eating out. I’ve been so focused on the food itself that I’ve forgotten about the experience of dining with friends and family. The meal is simply a backdrop to a great time together. If we shift our mindset so that the primary objective is quality time rather than quality food, we can be much happier with both. This mindset shift is one of my goals for the upcoming Tone It Up Bikini Series, which I’ll be posting about shortly. Alternatively, you can catch up over healthy, home-cooked meals, or enjoy another activity together, like a hike or a board game!

How do you deal with Eating Out FOMO?

How I Faced My Fitness Fears

About a year ago, I published a blog post entitled “3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise”. I provided those three reasons: a clear goal to achieve, no expectations about fitness levels, and the chance to experience the great outdoors. But I’ll tell you a secret, friends. Sure, I love hiking and its many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. But the only reason it was my favourite hobby for exercise at the time was the second one on the list. I was afraid to try anything else because of judgment, both from others and myself. I was held back by my fitness fears.

In the past year, I’ve made some really cool changes in my life when it comes to health and fitness. I started caring a little more about how I’m fueling my body, and how I’m expending that energy. You might know that I recently started following daily workouts on ToneItUp.com, their Nutrition Plan, and the community on social media. And in the midst of all of this, I’ve had the opportunity to face some deep-seated (or not) fitness fears. Here are a couple:

  • I went to a fitness class.
  • I went for a run. Outside.
  • I walked into the Running Room and asked for shoe recommendations because I’d just started running. (And it wasn’t a lie.)
  • I made a change to my diet and exercise routines — and actually told people about it.
  • I posted about my habits and progress on Instagram for the (Tone It Up) world to see.

Why was I scared of these simple, basic, not-a-big-deal things? Honestly, I think I got so comfortable with being fitness-averse that admitting I wanted to make a change was terrifying. Plus, the fact that I’ve faced them doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re no longer scary. But as any good social media-savvy millennial would do, let me share an inspirational quote from Pinterest:

Facing Your Fitness Fears

So how did I face my fears? A lot of the time it took adrenaline — a snap decision, not giving myself the chance to look back, mull over it, wonder about all the things that could go wrong. Like many of us, I have a tendency to overthink things. (Okay, everything.) In my experience, the best way to outsmart that habit is to make your decision current. Don’t decide you’ll do that hard thing tomorrow, next week, or next year. Just do it now.

I’ve still got a long list of fitness fears waiting to be conquered. But it’s motivating to look back and see how far I’ve come!

What fears are you facing?

Excel Bar Graphs

These days, everyone and their mother has “Microsoft Excel” listed as one of their skills on LinkedIn. So you probably already know that Excel is a powerful tool for data analysis, manipulation, and visualization. Working in Marketing Analytics, I literally use Excel every single day. (In fact, you might have noticed that I’ve been AWOL on the blog recently — I’ve been so busy with work that all I can even think about is Excel.) Some people are “Excel Wizards”, using tons of shortcuts and fancy formulae. If that’s you, more power to you! But in the end, it’s the output that matters: how will you communicate your work to an audience of colleagues or clients? Often you’ll present your findings in a series of charts or graphs. And when I see a professional slide deck full of ugly, unpolished, or even default-style Excel bar graphs (or any graphs), it drives me up the wall.

I want to help you.

This post serves as a quick tutorial on how to format your Excel bar graphs to make them awesome. Here’s where we’re headed in this post:

Excel Bar Graphs - Final Product

Why bar graphs, when there are so many other graphs out there? First, because they’re the most common type of graph I’ve seen in my short career so far. I’ll be focusing on stacked bar graphs in particular. If great bar graphs come in handy for me, hopefully they will for you! And second, because “How should I format my bar graph?” is one of my FAQs from colleagues at work. Now I can just send them to this link for a quick tutorial. (Hello, work friends!)

I’m also going to assume a basic knowledge of Excel, meaning I won’t necessarily provide specific paths to every command. (For the record, I’m using Excel 2013.) If you need clarification, please comment below! I’d love to help you out!

Getting Started

Let’s say you have some data.

Excel Bar Graph 1 - Data

On one axis of your graph, you’ll want to plot the time dimension. Traditionally, this is on the horizontal axis. And on the other, you’ll plot your values — in this case, number of baked goods. (Waddup Tim Hortons reference!)

If you plot this data as is, your stacked bar graph will look something like this:

Excel Bar Graphs 2 - Default with Colours

There’s one thing you may notice already: the colours aren’t Excel’s default palette! That’s because I’ve created my own custom colour palette. Plus, my standard font colour is black, rather than the default grey. I would highly recommend deciding on a single, cohesive colour palette to represent your company or team, and use it consistently for all of your work moving forward. Check out Microsoft’s tutorial on creating “themes” here.

I’ve also deleted the horizontal lines that appear as a default option. I rarely keep them, as they just add clutter to an otherwise polished slide.

You may be wondering why I would include the “Total” bar in yellow — doesn’t that make the bar double the size it should be? Yes, it does. But as you’ll see, this is one of the tricks of the trade. Make sure you include a total in your data for these kinds of Excel bar graphs!

Adding Your Labels

Next, we add data labels. Click the + sign just outside the top right-hand corner of the graph and select the data labels option. Once they’ve appeared, you can play around with their placement. For example, I’ve moved the data labels for the “Total” bar to the “Inside Base” option. I also made those labels bold for emphasis.

Excel Bar Graphs 3 - Data Labels

Right now, the labels look pretty cluttered, and that yellow “Total” bar just looks weird. But hang tight — all will be revealed.

Making the “Total”, a Total

Let’s deal with those pesky yellow bars. Right-click on any one of them, then choose “Format Data Series”.

Excel Bar Graphs 4 - Format Data Series

The panel on the right-hand side will allow you to make these yellow bars invisible.  Excel Bar Graphs 5 - No FillExcel Bar Graphs 6 - No FillWe’ll also use the series options to adjust the space between the bars. I usually set this to 50% or 75%, depending on the number of bars across the axis.
Excel Bar Graphs 7 - Gap WidthExcel Bar Graphs 8 - Gap Width

To complete the illusion of a built-in total label, we’ll manually adjust the maximum value of the y-axis:

Excel Bar Graphs 9 - Height

Looking good! We’ve got labels on all of our bars, so we don’t really need the vertical axis labels anymore. But we don’t want to delete the axis so it doesn’t mess up our formatting! Rather than deleting those unnecessary y-axis labels, we’ll simply hide them in the Format Axis panel:

Excel Bar Graphs 10 - Hide Axis Labels

Finally, we have to remove the legend entry referring to the “Total” bar. Just select it and tap Delete.

Excel Bar Graphs 11 - Legend

The Finishing Touch

There are lots of little formatting tweaks you can make at this point, so that your graph matches the aesthetic you’re seeking. For example, you could increase the font sizes, move the legend to another side, add a title, and lots more.

My final tweak will be changing the font colour of some of the labels so that they stand out against the background in my custom colour palette. I’ll also remove the border around my chart area.

Excel Bar Graphs - Final Product

And there you have it!

Feel free to adjust to your liking, but this is a great starting point for any beginner working on their first awesome Excel bar graphs. Friends and coworkers, if you’d like more tips and tricks to take this graph to the next level, let me know! I literally already have screenshots for Part 2 of this post, haha!

What are your tips for making beautiful, polished, awesome Excel bar graphs?

Cruising in your Twenties

When you’re in your twenties and feeling the tug of wanderlust, you’ll find so many travel options. Between backpacking, road-tripping, all-inclusives, cultural experiences, and much more, you face the tough choice of how to spend your vacation days and best see the world. Have you considered taking a cruise? I personally just returned from my second Royal Caribbean cruise in as many years, and had an awesome time. Cruising in your twenties isn’t usually the first vacation that comes to mind. But cruises aren’t just for families and older travelers. Depending on the experience you’re looking for, it might be a great choice for you!

The Variety of Travel with the Comfort of an All-Inclusive

The main draw of a cruise, for me and many others, is the opportunity to visit multiple destinations with a consistent “home base”. I love being able to stay in one room with tons of amenities, then step on-shore and experience new locations and cultures. Last week, my family and I traveled to Nassau, St. Thomas, and Sint Maarten, all of which were interesting and beautiful. From this and my previous cruise, my boyfriend and I can pick our favourites, and decide where we’d like to travel again in the future, and where we want to try next.

Excursions: Optional On-Shore Adventures

If you’re looking for an authentic cultural travel experience, then you may opt out of the additional expense of on-shore excursions. These are activities you book through the cruise line with some safety built in (i.e. the activities have been vetted, and the ship won’t leave without you if the excursion runs late). Examples include parasailing, ziplining, cultural tours, dolphin swims, scuba diving and snorkeling, or even just a comfortable bus ride to an exclusive beach. My family and I even participated in an “Amazing Race”-type activity for a few hours in Sint Maarten, which was a riot. (And we came in second place, haha! Not too shabby!) For a summary of my excursions on last year’s cruise, check out this post!

These activities can get pricey. But you’ll want to compare those prices to whatever you would be spending otherwise on taxis, food, and activities. To each their own!

Entertainment

Many cruise lines these days pride themselves on quality entertainment for all ages. If you’re cruising in your twenties, you’ll probably be less interested in the kid-friendly costume parades. But on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, for example, there was a Broadway musical, an ice dance, a high-diving water show, and a very creative acrobatic performance. And that’s not including the numerous smaller activities and events held throughout the ship, basically all day, every day. If you’re a fan of the arts, this is definitely a plus! There’s also a full assortment of sports and fitness activities and amenities, if that’s the kind of entertainment you’re into.

Nightlife? It Depends

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no party animal. On my most recent cruise, I went to the onboard nightclub twice, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea. From what I’ve heard, if you’re into that sort of thing, Carnival Cruise Line could be the way to go. They’ve got a reputation for hosting the youngest crowds, wildest parties, and best DJs. But if you’re just looking to party and dance the night away on your vacation, perhaps a cruise would be overkill. You could just as easily travel to a single city or venue and save money on the extras that come along with a cruise.

The Food!

There is so much delicious food on a cruise. It’s kind of insane. And while there are lots of ways to spend more money and upgrade your dining experience, there are also tons of free options! I’m talking multiple buffets, sit-down dining, pizza, 24-hour room service — all included! The price tag of a cruise might look outrageous at first, compared to your standard hotel or vacation, but you really need to factor in the food you’ll be enjoying throughout your trip.

A word of warning, though. Most cruises are cashless and use ID cards to load your tab for the week. That makes it so easy to rack up charges without realizing it, especially at the bar (or at Starbucks on board). I didn’t drink much on my trip, but I’d recommend keeping an eye on your account if you’re on a budget!


All in all, I’m now a huge cruising fan (and, apparently, evangelist). If you have a reasonable budget and are looking for a good balance of adventure and relaxation, then I’d definitely recommend cruising in your twenties!

Where will your next vacation take you?

Life Lately: Cruise!

Long time no see, friends! I’ve had an extremely busy couple of weeks, so unfortunately, I haven’t had much time for the blog. That’s a hard thing for me to say, to be honest. I’ve never been one to claim that I’m “too busy” for a commitment. But when it comes to Flinntrospection, I see it as a personal development project more than anything. And if I feel the need to step back from a project to benefit my mind, body, and soul, then so be it.

That being said, I can’t claim that my reasons for being away are particularly healthy. I’m still making time for Tone It Up exercise and Nutrition Plan (mostly), which is something that makes me very proud at this point. I’ve conquered some fitness fears and achieved a couple of wellness milestones in the past few weeks. However, the major factor in my life lately has been long hours at work, which is a bit of a different story.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: I’m going on a CRUISE next week! I’m SO excited, and I’ve never felt like I’ve needed a vacation more in my whole life. We’ll be travelling on Allure of the Seas — literally the second-largest cruise ship in the world — to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maartens. You might remember that I went on a cruise just about a year ago (and wrote a highlights post on the blog). Joe and I loved it so much that we immediately started planning out our next trip!

The only thing that’s up in the air for me right now is whether I’m going to purchase an Internet package or not. The boat has high-speed Wi-Fi on special if I book before we board. And between blogging and Tone It Up daily workouts and Instagram check-ins, I’m extremely tempted. If I do purchase the package, you’ll see some more posts from me next week… from somewhere warm and sunny!

What’s happening in your life lately?

2017 Tone It Up Challenge

*Peeks head out from under rock…* Hello there. Today is the final day of the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge. That means I’ve spent the past 4 weeks following along with the nutrition plan and daily workouts available on ToneItUp.com (since I started two weeks late). That means it’s been a busy four weeks. And I mean busy.

To recap, I started casually trying out Karena and Katrina’s Tone It Up (TIU) daily workouts back in mid-December. I posted about that here — and it’s funny, looking back, at how much has changed in two months!

On January 3rd, the Tone It Up community launched into the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge. It’s basically just an amped-up version of their usual daily workout and (paid) nutrition plan routine. Since I was already participating in Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga Revolution, I opted out of the challenge. But I soon realized that my newfound exercise regimen simply didn’t mesh with my unhealthy eating habits. I wanted them to align. Plus, people were so excited about the challenge! (More on this decision and my Nutrition Plan first impressions in this post.) So I threw caution to the wind and bought into all aspects of the challenge: workouts, nutrition, and even making my own TIU Instagram account. Four weeks later, here’s what I’ve learned.

Meal Prep Without Willpower is Useless.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my meal prep process, now that I’m following the TIU Nutrition Plan. To summarize, it takes hours and is extremely involved. But against my better judgment, I have accepted free, unhealthy food multiple times at work functions, in place of the meal I worked so hard to prepare. Why would I sabotage myself like that?

  • Because unhealthy food tastes good. (That’s not to say that my home-cooked meals don’t taste good!)
  • Because I don’t want to pass on something that’s free.
  • Because I’m worried about what people will think when I say I’m eating healthy, or I’m following a Nutrition Plan.

Ah, that last one. It’s been the crux of a lot of my TIU Challenge issues in the last four weeks. Logically, I shouldn’t care, but I’m just not there yet. Anyway, if I don’t make the conscious decision to stick to my guns, I end up letting a lot of ingredients go to waste!

I Have No Time or Energy for Anything Else.

Between workouts, meal planning, cooking, working, Instagramming, and sleeping, I’m completely wiped. I still feel that a large portion of that is simply not being used to the routine yet. Even then, the minimum time commitment throughout the challenge was pretty high. Couple that with a long and unpredictable work schedule, and you’ve got a super packed four weeks.

You may have noticed that this blog has taken a turn towards the healthy lifestyle category. This wasn’t a conscious decision, and I wouldn’t say this is a permanent change. But honestly, I just haven’t had any time to think about very much else!

The Community is Extremely Positive.

I have never spent so much time on Instagram in my life. TIU ladies post daily (or more often!) to update the group on their workouts, meals, and lifestyle. Everyone is very supportive. I have to say, though, I’m jealous of those #tiugirls that live in cities with a large Tone It Up following. There seem to be lots of in-person meetups and events, especially in the US, that don’t really happen in Toronto. (Any #tiutoronto people out there want to meet up? Comment below or find me on Instagram!)

I’m Actually Starting to Enjoy the Workouts?!?

I have to say, I’m really glad that I chose Tone It Up for an online fitness community, as opposed to the other options I’ve seen out there. The workouts can be tough, for sure, but the style is decidedly non-hardcore. If it were, I’m sure I would have been scared off by now. I love that the videos are funny, and the trainers are peppy as ever. I’m still not in a place where I “love the burn” or whatever, but at least I’m not approaching all exercise with dread anymore!  It’s actually a huge step in the right direction.


Now that the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge is over, what’s next?

The 7-Day Slim Down.

The Tone It Up community is doing the 7-Day Slim Down nutrition program immediately following the current 2017 Tone It Up Challenge, i.e. starting tomorrow. It takes the plan up a notch: more workouts plus leaner, cleaner, and greener meals. It’s only a week, so I figure I’ll give it a shot and follow along. But you guys, I’m kind of scared. I want to head into it with optimism — but I also don’t want to get run down or hangry. We’ll see how it goes!

What healthy changes have you made this year?