Blog Forward: The 2014 ZonePerfect Challenge

The last two years have been such an amazing journey with my health. This week in 2012, I was beginning the pre-surgery diet to prepare for my gastric bypass. I lost 120 pounds in the next 11 months, with a pretty constant downtrend in scale numbers. Through 2013, my life was less restricted. I was able to eat more, tolerate more varieties of food, and started testing out the limits of my newly-regained healthy body. Despite the loss of weight, I still had health concerns and had to proceed with caution. I struggled with reactive hypoglycemia as I tried to become a more serious athlete. I had mono and peritonsillar abscesses, went on steroids, gained some weight, and then had a tonsillectomy. Two weeks later began a two month whirlwind of travel, packing, interviewing, and general life insanity to prepare for our move to Michigan.

zoneperfect cashew pretzel barNow it’s 2014. I feel like my health is back in my control. I got a Fitbit One for Christmas, and it’s helped me be more aware of my activity levels. January has been an incredibly involved month at work, I’ve worked a lot of overtime, and the Fitbit kept me motivated to walk a little more and take the stairs whenever possible. I haven’t been to the gym as frequently as I’d like, but tracking on the Fitbit stats often push me to go longer at the gym. However, no matter my activity levels, I still need to be mindful about what I eat.

ZonePerfect invited me to be a blogger for their 2014 BlogForward challenge. It’s a campaign for bloggers to make healthy resolutions in 2014, with challenges through the year to keep us motivated and on-track for long-term success. I have been a fan of their bars for several years, and I’m happy to act as a brand ambassador in this challenge.

zone perfect nutrition protein barsFor this challenge, I’ve decided on these goals:

1. Avoid mindless snacking by planning the food I bring on the go. Between long work days, too much time in a car, frequent travel, and other life unpredictability, I’ve begun to rely too much on junk and convenience foods again. A pastry or bag of chips at the gas station were almost a daily norm before surgery. When I don’t plan, I don’t make good decisions. I do best when I have a supply of nuts, jerky, dried fruit, and bars tucked in my desk or glove box.

2. Walk 3,000,000 steps. With the Fitbit being much more accurate than any cheap pedometer I’ve used, I feel like my efforts are properly documented. And seeing my number sync through the day help me add additional activity. I’ve calculated that to reach 3 million steps, it averages out to be about 8,500 steps a day. Most days, this is doable. And when it’s not, I’ll make up for it other days.

3. Work on my endurance to prepare for the Detroit Free Press International half-marathon. Through the encouragement of my friend Wendy, I’ve signed up to participate in the Detroit half, which is one of the only races that cross international boarders , going from the US to Canada and back.

4. Get below a BMI of 29. Despite losing so much weight, I’m still in the obese category. And by golly, I want to just be “overweight”!!! That means I’ve got about 40 pounds to hit that milestone. If I’m consistent, that’s just 3-4 pounds a month. It’ll be tough, but I think I can achieve it.

zone perfect vanilla cupcakeSo, dear blog friends…what are your health and fitness resolutions for 2014? Can you help be my cheerleaders to meet my goals this year? Let’s Blog Forward together!

P.S. The Kidz Zone Yellow Cupcake bar is THE BOMB. I call it the “cupcake crack” bar. It’s soooo good. You’ve gotta try it.

Disclosure: I have agreed to be a brand ambassador for ZonePerfect as part of the Blog Forward Challenge. I have not received any monetary compensation, but I will be receiving shipments of free product through the year to enjoy and share with my readers. All opinions, good or bad, are my own.

2013 Healthy Holidays Gift Guide

With all of the food and extravagance of the holidays, it can be difficult to stay healthy and make good choices. Many holiday gift guides I’ve seen have been for products that are grandiose splurges, and not necessarily mindful of a healthy lifestyle. In this post, I am highlighting gift ideas for a healthful life, both for weight loss surgery patients and their loved ones.

Crio Bru

crio bruI am personally not a coffee drinker, and I am no longer able to tolerate most hot cocoas because of the sugar content. I like having a warm chocolately drink, but not enough to take a ride into dumpsville. Last year I discovered Crio Bru, which is a brewed cocoa drink that is delicious, low calorie, and unique. It is a natural appetite suppressant and gives you energy without traditional caffeine. It can be prepared in a French Press or traditional coffee maker. My favorite blends are Cavalla (cinnamon and coconut) and Maya (spicy chocolate). Most products are between $10-15, and  are in the form of the Crio grounds, Crio Cocoa, and Crio espresso. And they have cocoa-coated cocoa beans. It’s available in many grocery and specialty stores across Utah, or online at

Tessara Tea

Awake-and-alive-tessara-teaAlong with the hot drink theme, I’ve also become hooked on herbal tea. I’ve recently discovered Tessara Tea, which offers natural herbal infusions to saturate the body with nutrients. Herbal infusions are made by steeping plants material in water, including roots, barks, leaves, berries and flowers. While steeping, the plant materials release their essential minerals and nutrients into the water, making it easy for the body to absorb and digest. They have 3 different blends: Awake and Alive, Nourish and Cleanse, and Rest and Repair. They are a local Michigan company that has just expanded out of the local market, and their teas can be purchased online at

Better’n Peanut Butter

better'n butter peanut butterPeanut butter is a great source of protein, but it’s high in fat and calories. With 85% less fat and 40% fewer calories than regular peanut butter, Better ‘n Peanut Butter is a tasty item for weight conscious people, and it tastes fantastic. I was introduced to Better’n Peanut Butter at the Obesity Action Coalition conference in Phoenix this year, where they had a booth. I sampled ALL of their flavors: original, chocolate, banana, cinnamon chocolate, coconut chocolate, hot pepper, maple bacon and more. It’s delicious, and feels like a splurge item without sacrificing too many calories. I’ve put it on sandwiches, crackers, pretzels,fruit, and mixed it into protein shakes. You can find Better’n Peanut Butter at select Target, Rite-Aid, and Trader Joe’s stores, or online at the Better’n Peanut Butter website.

Six Nutrition Vitamins for Men

six nutrition mens vitaminsGot a man in your life that needs quality vitamin supplements for an active lifestyle? Six Nutrition has a complete vitamin packet for men that  pinpoints 6 key areas of health: heart, joint, sex, muscles, mind, and energy. Each day’s pills are packaged in a stylish foil packet that make it easy to stash in your pocket, briefcase, suitcase, or desk. My husband recently did a review of Six Nutrition Vitamins on my other blog, if you’d like to read about his experience. You can purchase Six Nutrition Vitamins from their website.

Fit Frappe Protein Drink

fit frappe vanillaSince I had my gastric bypass surgery last year, I have been around the block and back on protein mixes. I seem to fixate on certain brands for a while, then get tired of the way they taste. Of any protein I’ve tried, I am happiest with Big Train Fit Frappe protein in vanilla. It is very versatile…you can flavor it with sugar-free syrups, add it into recipes and fancy drinks, serve it hot or cold, and get single-serve packets for when you are on the go. Another plus about this particular powder…you can add it into other protein mixes to make the more tolerable. I hate throwing away protein just because I don’t like the taste, and mixing in a little Fit Frappe seems to make everything taste better. Fit Frappe is also available in coffee, mocha, espresso, chocolate, chai, and vanilla latte flavors.

Blender Bottle

blender bottleNo matter how I plan my day, I tend to have a lot of meals on the go. I am good at packing some healthy high-protein snacks, but sometimes you need a meal replacement. My favorite product for taking a meal on the go is the classic 20 ounce Blender Bottle. It’s made of sturdy plastic, has a removable metal BlenderBall for easy cleaning, and the lid makes it easy to shake things up without leaking. I have several bottles in various sizes and colors, and I love stashing one in my suitcase with Ziploc baggies of protein powder for when I travel. They’re affordable, and can be found everywhere from GNC to Walmart to Amazon.

Healthy Holidays!