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?

Choosing Your 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene

You may have heard of Yoga with Adriene. It’s a YouTube channel with around 2 million followers (at the time of writing) led by quirky, lovable yoga powerhouse Adriene Mishler. (Maybe you’ve read my two previous posts on the subject, here or here? Check these out if you’re curious about my experiences so far.) If you’ve heard of Adriene, then you’ll definitely know about the 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene challenges. They’re guided video practices released daily in January for the past three years.

Each series is available for free on YouTube, and contains 30 (or 31) videos at 15-45 minutes in length. If you sign up on the website, you’ll also receive a daily message to supplement the practice of the day. In January 2015, there was the original 30 Days of Yoga, and in 2016, Adriene released the sequel, 30 Days of Yoga Camp. This year’s series, Yoga Revolution, wrapped up this past week. I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed this year’s practice, but I’m finding that each one is unique, fun, and invigorating in its own way.

Why a 30 day experience? While it’s awesome to practice yoga wherever and whenever it fits into your life, a daily practice provides great structure for growth. This was true for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Adriene gets into some of this in the intro video for her first series, 30 Days of Yoga:

So what if you’ve just found out about Yoga with Adriene, and want to begin a month-long yoga journey? Should you choose 30 Days of Yoga (2015), Yoga Camp (2016), or Yoga Revolution (2017)?

Naturally, I (and Adriene, I’m sure) would recommend all three — probably in chronological order. But perhaps you’re looking for a particular type of yoga challenge. If that’s the case, I want to provide you with some context and insight to help you choose, based on my own experiences with these three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series.

If You’re New to Yoga

My recommendation for newcomers would be the original 30 Days of Yoga. Adriene’s guidance is very clear and informative in this series — but don’t worry, there’s lots of fun and silliness along the way. There’s also a natural progression of difficulty throughout the series. As a relative newbie myself, I found the earlier videos helped me build strength and mindfulness to prepare me for the rest of the series.

If You’re Looking for a Physical Challenge

Is yoga your workout of choice? Awesome! I’d recommend Yoga Camp. I found this series to be the most physically demanding of the three. Like the first challenge, this sequel series provides a ramp up to the more challenging videos. Adriene provides opportunities to practice new, more difficult poses, but also offers modifications as you work towards them.

If You’re Seeking a Journey of Self-Love

Committing to any yoga experience is an act of self-love, but if your ultimate goal is an emotional experience, then Yoga Revolution is for you. This series is the embodiment of Yoga With Adriene’s slogan/mantra, “Find What Feels Good”. The focus is much more on mindfulness, positivity, and “tapping into your inner smile” than the other two 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene experiences.

If You Want a Consistent Practice

Maybe you’re having trouble sticking to those New Year’s Resolutions. (It is February, after all.) If you’re looking to make yoga a daily ritual to carry you into the rest of the year, I’d suggest starting out with 30 Days of Yoga. I found this series to be the most consistent in terms of style and length. The day-to-day cadence of difficulty and focus was also more predictable in this series. This made it easier to fit yoga into my daily schedule. And after these particular 30 days of yoga with Adriene, I felt the most prepared to continue my home practice without YouTube video guidance.

If You’re Looking for Something New

After practicing for a while in a highly structured public yoga class (or the same old YouTube videos), things can start to get stale. Yoga Camp and Yoga Revolution will help you step out of your yoga comfort zone, in slightly different ways. Yoga Camp focuses on the link between mind and body, using mantras to channel energy and breath throughout both gentle and challenging sequences. I found Yoga Revolution to be a bit more instructive, as Adriene discussed alignment, energy, and chakras, for example, throughout the series. Both experiences incorporate a bit of Kundalini Yoga as well, which was new for me, and might be new for you.


I hope these considerations help you Find What Feels Good — whether that’s 30 Days of Yoga, Yoga Camp, or Yoga Revolution! If you’d like, take the next three months and do all three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series! Let me know which one(s) you choose! 🙂

My Tone It Up Meal Prep Process

Hey friends! If you’ve been following along on Flinntrospection recently, you’ll know that I joined the Tone It Up 2017 Challenge two weeks ago. It’s a six week healthy living challenge with both a fitness and a nutrition component. (Oops, I joined two weeks late!) I’d been following along with the Tone It Up workouts for a few weeks beforehand. So in spite of a crazy work schedule, I’ve been keeping up with the fitness portion. The nutrition, on the other hand, has been a struggle. There is a ton of planning, effort, and time that has to go into preparing healthy meals for the week. But this week, for my third round of Sunday Tone It Up Meal Prep, I’ve settled into a routine. If you’re on the TIU Nutrition Plan — or even if you’re not — this method might work for you!

Note: I do Steps 1-4 on Saturdays, and 5-6 on Sundays!

Step 1: Choose Your Meals

The 2017 Challenge edition of the Nutrition Plan includes a full six-week meal plan breakdown. But you’re fully welcome, and often encouraged, to choose your own meals. Plus, once the challenge is over, you’re on your own with choosing meals for the week. For Week Five of the challenge, I’m loosely following the schedule, but making lots of substitutions.

The TIU Nutrition Plan has some helpful printables for filling out your weekly meal schedule:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Meal Plan Template

Obviously, you can make this for yourself too. Just type one up in Word, or literally draw it on a blank sheet of paper. (Or you can grab one of these — not an affiliate link, just a cool find.)

Once you have your template, write in all the meals and snacks you’re planning to eat for the week. I’m following the Nutrition Plan’s lead in making each weekday M3 (lunch) the leftovers from the previous night’s M5 (dinner). More complex recipes will show up on weekends, when I have time for them. I’m also loving make-ahead meals for weekday breakfasts, like Overnight Oats.

Step 2: Make Your Ingredient List

This step takes a bit of cross-referencing with your fridge or pantry. I pick a meal, look at the list of ingredients in the Nutrition Plan (if necessary), and write down whatever I don’t have in my kitchen. It’s also important to include quantities for the week, so you can aggregate them later on in the process. If you’re making enough for leftovers, make sure you’re duplicating quantities in single-serving recipes! After each meal’s ingredients have been accounted for, check it off everywhere it appears on your meal plan template. Keep going until you’ve listed ingredients for all of your meals, even if the ingredients overlap. It will look something like this:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Ingredient List

Step 3: Make Your Grocery List

Now you walk through your Ingredient List and consolidate it into a grocery list, sorted by product category. Cross them off on the ingredients list as you go, and don’t forget to add your quantities. I have one of those “All Out Of” grocery checklists, so that helps the process!

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Grocery List

Why did I separate these two steps? Because it’s hard to look at a huge list of meals and flip back and forth between recipes to put together a list of, say, all the veggies you need for the week. I find it much easier to work by recipe. And once the ingredients are all on one page, consolidation is a breeze.

If you’re thinking of using the pre-made Challenge grocery list, a word of warning: it lies. (Okay, maybe not on purpose.) I followed it to the letter in my first week on the Nutrition Plan. I ended up missing some ingredients I needed, and having lots of things that weren’t even on the meal plan docket. For the sake of the environment and your wallet, I’d recommend making your own list!

Step 4: Write Your Meal Prep Checklist

The 2017 Challenge booklet also comes with a simple checklist for your meal prep adventures. It’s pretty reliable, but because of my volatile work schedule, I have to prep beyond the suggested list. Feel free to prepare whatever works for you. Pre-chop your veggies, make your frozen smoothie packs, cook your Monday night dinner, prepare your proteins, whatever! Make a list of all the tasks you’re going to tackle on Sunday.

Step 5: Grocery Shop

In the TIU world, Sunday has two purposes: Sunday Runday, and Tone It Up Meal Prep.

With your list in hand, head out to the grocery store and shop till you drop! But don’t drop. You have work to do.

Step 6: The Real Deal — Tone It Up Meal Prep

Organize your groceries, pull out your checklist, and start knocking those things off one by one. Try to prioritize oven tasks, especially with long cook times, so you can maximize your efficiency. This is where I find it was the most helpful to have my Nutrition Plan printed out for easy reference, especially for new dishes. I have tried fifteen new recipes in the past two weeks, which is absolutely insane for me! It also helps to clean up as you go. Prepare for high volumes of dishes, food waste/compost, and Tupperware filling up your entire fridge! (And don’t forget to share #tiuteam photos of the process and the delish food on Instagram!)


That’s how I do my Tone It Up Meal Prep! How do you prepare your meals for the week ahead?

My relationship with Fitbit has changed drastically over the last year. In September 2015, I purchased a Fitbit Flex and wore it religiously for eleven months. I lamented my Fitbit failings along the way. Then I lost the charger. (Hah.) I could have easily found a new cable and kept stepping along. But I found that there were some deficiencies in my Flex compared to my now-current fitness tracking needs. And after scoping out my options, I finally acquired a black Fitbit Charge 2. I’ve been using it for two weeks now, and I’m extremely happy with the results.

 Fitbit Charge 2 Review

What I Love

The Band and the Charger

After using a Fitbit Flex for a year, I noticed the band starting to wear out in colour and stretch. It was a solid colour, so the change was obvious. Plus, the clasp was (and had always been) precarious, and popping the device out of the band to charge it was an unnecessary strain on the band (and on me).

The Fitbit Charge 2 comes with an integrated device + band, meaning you charge the device while it’s still attached to the band. The Charge also has a belt- or watch-type clasp, so I’m a lot less worried about it falling off. Plus, the simple textured design will keep any discoloration down the road hidden for longer than a solid, smooth band would.

Heart Rate Monitor

This was the main reason I purchased the Fitbit Charge 2 over, say, the Fitbit Alta or something a little bit smaller. Now that I’m getting more active, it’s a lot more important for me to track my heart rate and cardiovascular health. This is Fitbit’s HR-monitoring option with the lowest cost and the most narrow band.

Simple But Sufficient Display

Unlike my Flex, the Fitbit Charge 2 doubles as a step counter and a watch. It also lets you cycle through other screens to see your heart rate, start tracking an activity (like a run), use a stopwatch, begin a guided calm breathing exercise, and view your upcoming alarms.

The App

I’m used to using the Fitbit app from my Flex days. But with floor counting, heart rate monitoring, and more detailed activity info, there’s so much more to do now that I have a Charge 2! I especially love tracking my heart rate throughout the day. I went through a phase of tracking my nutrition via the app as well, but with the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan, it’s way too time consuming (and probably unnecessary).

Nitpicks

No Ability to Control Smartphone Music

I would gladly trade the smartphone text/call notifications for the ability to skip through a playlist via my Fitbit. Unfortunately, the Charge 2 doesn’t have this functionality. I would have to trade up to the Blaze smartwatch for that ability — but that’s a larger device, with an extra $100 on the price-tag. I opted for the simplicity.

Not Waterproof

I don’t do much swimming (at all), so removing my Fitbit for a swim isn’t a big deal. The larger challenge is remembering to put my Charge 2 back on after a shower. So far, it’s been two weeks and I have yet to forget. But I’m still concerned, as my memory is pretty awful. We’ll see how long I can last before I walk out the door without my Fitbit!


In summary, I’m very happy with my new Fitbit Charge 2. In spite of some slight shortfalls, I definitely don’t regret choosing this fitness tracker out of the others out there on the market!

How do you track your fitness?

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

After weeks of debate, and swooning over nutritious Instagram stories, I finally caved and purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. That means I’m a full-fledged TIU member! Never thought I’d be saying that, but here we are. Just a few weeks ago I started following along with the Daily Workouts on ToneItUp.com. I’ve really enjoyed the process and the community thus far. So before I get too entrenched in the TIU 2017 Challenge (for better or worse), I thought I’d share my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions!

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: 2017 Challenge

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

Curiosity killed the…wallet?

Let’s just start off with the price. This plan is expensive, yo. Dropping $150 (USD, I might add) is a hefty commitment, especially since I’ve never done anything like this before. Can’t I just Google all of this nutrition info? Pull together some recipes on Pinterest and make my own plan for free?

Technically, yes, anyone could do that. The question is whether anyone will — and for me, the answer is a definite “no”. By the time I put in the effort to research which foods I need to fuel my body for mental and physical exercise, I’m already chowing down on Tim Hortons. I have made some healthier choices in recent months, but my self-regulation is my downfall. The convenience of having things explained, and aggregated in one spot is my biggest draw to the Nutrition Plan. I wanted to see whether the layout and guidelines of the plan would work for me.

I also took advantage of the current bundle offer. For $165 I received the Nutrition Plan membership and the Body Love video series. These video workouts currently appear quite often in the 2017 Challenge Daily Workouts. The challenge is already 1/3 of the way through, which is a bummer for the bundle. But from what I saw in December, members-only videos from previous challenges show up pretty often during non-challenge period Daily Workouts. Plus, I can always do the workouts whenever, right? (…Right? Hah. We’ll see about that.)

This Plan is Future-Proof.

Usually, when I’m making a commitment like this one, I’d take forever to come to a decision.

Should I wait until the next challenge comes along? Should I wait until I’ve used up all of the frozen pizzas in my freezer? Should I just try to eat healthy without any Nutrition Plan? (Continue ad nauseam…)

But the payment structure of this plan is a huge plus — or, rather, the lack thereof. It’s one fee. One-time. Flat rate. And you get every Nutrition Plan update and Challenge supplement download, for free, forever. This is perfect whether you just want to dabble, or if you’re an all-in-or-all-out kind of person, like me. Here’s the current spectrum of Plans available to members for download:

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: All Plans 2017

I likely won’t use all of these, but they’re helpful to have when the opportunities arise. (Granted, TIU Challenges also usually require a paid set of videos, which are not included.)

Nutritional Science(ish).

I read through the “plan” portion of the download (i.e. not the recipes) on Saturday night. The guidelines seem solid, and there’s even some chemistry in there to explain the “why” behind them.

Even though I’ve got a Bachelor of Science, my biochemistry background is super limited. I appreciated the basic explanations Karena & Katrina included in the Nutrition Plan. But then you come across stuff like this:

Fatty acids are broken down by the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase~ or what we like to call the “Burn Baby Burn Enzyme!”.

My boyfriend was reading over my shoulder and dying of laughter! So take the science sections with a grain of salt…

Meal Prepping is Madness.

My original plan was to dabble in some recipes and try out the Nutrition Plan whenever I could fit it in. But I just knew that I would revert to pasta and takeout, and wouldn’t be giving it a fair shot! So instead, I spent Sunday afternoon grocery shopping and meal prepping, as instructed by the 2017 Challenge Guide.

Wowza.

That grocery run was so expensive! I probably could have guessed. So much healthy food, and some of it premium or organic. Also, I was stocking up on bulk foods that I wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, like coconut shavings and flax seed. (And apple cider vinegar. Apparently that one’s important.)

Joe helped me with some of the meal prepping, since he loves to cook and I’m a mess in the kitchen. But as we all know, practice makes perfect! I made Egg Muffins, Almond Butter Cookies, and Chia Seed Pudding.

Things I Wish I Had Known 24 Hours Ago.

I’ve only had this Nutrition Plan for a day, and it’s already been a learning experience. Here are some things that might be helpful if you’re taking the TIU Nutrition Plan plunge:

Print it out.

If you have an iPad or tablet, you’re probably okay, but it was a nightmare switching between my phone and my laptop all afternoon. There are also printables at the end of the Plan — so at least print those. Plus, there’s just something so comforting about holding the pages in your hands, isn’t there? Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m thinking of printing and binding mine at Staples ASAP — at least the main Nutrition Plan book, anyway.

Rewrite the grocery list in an order that makes sense for you.

This applies if you’re following a Challenge, like the 2017 Look for Love Challenge, with your meals all laid out. Joe and I kept having to go back for things in the grocery store because we skimmed over an ingredient! Take more time to study the grocery list than I did…

Join the gosh darn challenge on time!

At the end of 2016, I was convinced that my reasons for skipping out on Look for Love were solid. I’m participating in Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga Revolution, and still following the Tone It Up Daily Moves. That’s all the time I have to commit!

But you know what I still had time for?

Facebook.

Netflix.

And lots and lots of dawdling.

So you know what? I’m going to bite the bullet, try something new, and hopefully be healthier for it.


Those are my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions. To summarize, I’ll say that I’m cautiously optimistic, motivated, and curious! If you have any questions (for a newbie like me), ask away!

(P.S. I also created a TIU Instagram account to document the journey — mostly so I wouldn’t annoy my main account followers, haha! Let’s connect @tiu.hillary)

Are you on the #TIUteam? What were your Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions?