Sunday, December 22, 2013

7 Skinny Rules from Biggest Loser's Trainer Bob Harper's Book: Skinny Rules

One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday is cozied up in a Chapters with a big giant pile of books. I just love reading, learning and the endless number of amazing, interesting ideas there are out there.

I picked up Bob Harper's book, Skinny Rules, last weekend and not only could I not put it down, but I was just going bananas with my highlighter. While the tips are habits I'd already built a few years ago, the value I found in this book was that it is such a great guide for someone who is just looking for a clear, detailed place to start.

1. "End the day with preparation for a good start to the next: put a large, full glass of water on your bedstand every night and drink it when you wake up, every morning." 
How much of a babe is this guy,
I mean really??!
 Source: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images North America 
-- LOVE this! We sweat while we sleep and of course, that leads to slight dehydration. When you wake up in the morning, your body is just screaming for a big juicy glass of H20 and downing a full litre first thing in the AM will set your bod on "smooth sailing" mode for the rest of the day.

2. "Net carbs are, in short, digestible carbs - the carbs that cause weight gain. The figure is arrived at by subtracting grams of fibre from total grams of carbohydrate. A piece of whole-wheat bread might weigh in at 25 grams of carbs, but when you take out the 10 grams of fibre, you've got 15 net carbs. I'll take fewer carbs any way I can get them." 

3. "Just how much protein is enough? ... If you're 200 pounds, try to get at least 100 grams. I'm not saying it's 100 percent scientific, but more and more research shows that consumption of a high-protein diet with reduced high-carb foods results in better weight control metabolism. I'm saying it works. For me. For my clients, my contestants, and for you." 
While it will vary for each individual, I personally aim for around 125 grams per day with my clients, but I think as a starting point, 100 grams per day is a fantastic goal.

4. "Eat 30 to 50 grams of fibre a day. ...Eating fibre in the amounts I'm advocating is looking more and more promising as a way to prevent type 2 (diabetes). And I am talking fibre from food, not from supplements."
I used to work with a guy who was overweight, and would always go on about how "I start my diet Monday. Yup, just this one more Wendy's meal then I'm goin' hard. I did an hour of running on my treadmill last night." He would talk a lot about how he had so much trouble going to the washroom but would down a glass of Metamucil and "how much better he would feel."  Ya, Metamucil does not work the same way as eating a diet high in naturally-occuring fibre. Don't be like that guy. :-)

5. "We are, as humans, hardwired to seek sweetness. It is a powerful, deeply rooted inclination. We even have specialized taste buds for it on our tongue. Think about it: in evolutionary terms, sweetness, as in berries and wild fruits, signalled something that was safe and edible and high in energy - what cavement and -women needed to run all day. We don't need to run all day. That's why I want you to get away from all added sweeteners." 

6. "For many modern eaters, it's hard to imagine a time when fast foods... were a rare treat, but they were. ... But that is how it was - fast-food scarcity! - until three things happened: 

(1.) The government encouraged overplanting of crops like corn and soy (to sell to global markets). 
(2.) Food companies used low-priced corn to make less expensive sugars, allowing them to sell supersized portions cheaply.
(3.) A new-style American family emerged, with two parents working and no time to cook."
Think: High Fructose Corn Syrup, soy based protein bars, I challenge you to go check any box of cereal in your pantry and count how many of the ingredients are corn-based.

7. "Harper's Way is not easy. I told you that when we started. The old easy way got you here! If you want to change your life, and not just your lifestyle, you've got to do things differently. Or say fat. Period." 
Yes, yes, yes! Amen, Bobby!!!

All of these excerpts have been taken directly from Bob Harper's Skinny Rules and truly only give you a teeny tiny taste of all the awesomeness he's wrangled together in this read. His book, along with a million other tools, are available on his website

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a very easy to understand manual for how to make small changes in your daily life that will lead you to BIG results with your energy levels, your self esteem, your body size and shape, and your health! And really... what a fantastic Christmas present! How awesome is it to be able to give someone a gift that really means something this Holiday season - something that could be that tool they have been looking for, that really just flicks the switch inside of them - and allows them to find their greatness?

Dare ya to try it, I can definitely say it's one of the most empowering and awesome feelings I've ever found!

Tonight's inspiration is absolutely one of my favorite all time quotes ever to be found. You know that feeling you get when you see fireworks? It kinda makes me feel like that, but in my heart. Love this.

"It's never too late to be what you could have been." - George Eliot

Yours in strength and stretchiness,

- Brooke


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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Healthy Christmas Treats: Strawberry Cheesecake Santas

Strawberry Cheesecake Santas
Recipe adapted from
Makes 20-40 Santas

1 large container of fresh strawberries
1/2 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup 0% plain greek yogurt
2 tbsp honey
3 packets Stevia (0 calorie sweetener found in Organic section)
a squeeze of real lemon juice

Wash and dry strawberries. Cut off the tops, and also make a cut about 2/3 of the way down the strawberry (see picture above). In the larger part of the strawberry, use a paring knife to cut a little cavity into the strawberry (which you will fill with cheesecake filling).

In a separate bowl, mix together all of the rest of the ingredients and use an electric mixer on a low speed to combine. Using a spatula, spoon out the cream cheese mixture into a ziploc baggy, which you will use as an "icing bag".  With a pair of scissors, cut a small hole in the corner of the baggy that you can squeeze the cream cheese mixture through.

Line strawberries up on a large baking sheet, squeeze some cheesecake filling into the cavity of each strawberry, and top with the little triangle piece you initially cut off. The picture I've got above has little black eyeballs, which you can add with either sprinkles you have at home, or by adding food coloring to the icing mixture.

Yours in strength + stretchiness,

- Brooke

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Mmmmmmm... Minty Macaroons: Clean Christmas Goodies

Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning! Only 6 days till Christmas! My gosh, how did time fly so quickly?! 

The recipe I've got this morning is seriously so delish it is well worth using up a few of those precious  right-before-Christmas hours! While the recipe explains to make them in "bars" or "sticks" I also poured the chocolate mixture into mini muffin liners and made some mini minty macaroon cups - and both ways turned out fantastic!

Minty Macaroons
6 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp almond butter
4 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
pinch of salt
1/2 c shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 c pecans

Fill a medium sized pot with 1-2'' water, and sit a medium sized metal mixing bowl on top of it to create a double boiler. Add coconut oil, cocoa powder, almond butter, honey, vanilla, peppermint and salt to the bowl and allow the mixture to melt, stirring gently, 5 to 10 minutes until ingredients are combined.

In a magic bullet or food processor, chop the pecans up into tiny pieces.

Add the chopped Pecans and shredded coconut to the melted chocolate mixture and stir together to combine.

Pour into a 7 x 5'' dish lined with parchment paper.

Freeze until chocolate is set then cut into sticks. Store in an airtight container in freezer. Recipe from

Enjoy! :-)

And to wrap things up... of course! My quote of the day. I really love this one because it shines a light on one of the true keys to success, especially in health and fitness - consistency and dedication.

"Confidence doesn't come out of nowhere. It's a result of something.... hours and days and weeks and months of constant work and dedication." - Roger Staubach

Yours in Strength and Stretchiness,

- Brooke

Monday, December 16, 2013

Keeping it Clean + Lean: The Starbucks Strategy (Part 1)

Now, while I definitely do recommend that in search of finding that balanced, happy, healthy life, there are certain habits that will have to go out the window; but I also feel that there are some that are non-negotiables. And Starbucks is one of them - for me anyways! Ha ha :-)

Today, I share a few of my tips + tricks for keeping my Starbucks trips in check! Enjoy :-)

Rule #1 - A Single Indulgence is Still An Indulgence
We have all heard that moderation is key - but what does that really mean on a day-by-day basis? One of the rules I've found that really works in the long term is that it's fine to enjoy life and indulge a little - but I like to keep it so a "Single Indulgence" instead of a "Double"!

What this means is that if I am going to treat myself, I choose either a drink or a 'pastry' as an indulgence - never both. 

If I can't stop dreaming about Gingerbread Lattes  (Mmmmmm) I recognize that the sugary-sweet coffee is my treat - and save the goodies from the 'snack bar' for another time. (I am getting my sugar + calories from my coffee, and minimizing/eliminating extra calories from food).

If instead, I decide that to treat myself to piece of my fav Reduced-Fat Banana Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, I'll order just a normal brewed coffee with just a splash of soy milk + honey. (I am getting my sugar + calories from the banana cake, and minimizing the sugar/calories in my drink).

Rule #2 - Say No to Portion Distortion 
During my Business Degree, I got to spend a semester studying and living in Copenhagen and my gosh, I've got to say - what an eye-opener! It's funny, but I never truly realized how incredibly super-sized the whole world of North American food really is until I got to see how other people in the world live. Other beautiful, fit, trim, active, healthy people, that is... ha! (I'm not joking - everyone in Scandinavia looks like a walking supermodel and when you peek inside homes they really do look like a page from an Ikea magazine ha ha :))

So what's their secret?? Their portion sizes aren't distorted like ours! Denmark's "jumbo" sized coffee is the size of our Grande (medium)! Venti cups literally don't exist. I'm pretty sure if you showed a Dane the container that 7-11's "Big Gulp" comes in, they'd think they were on an episode of Punk'd.

My solution to our problem of "Portion Distortion" is simple - Starbucks' Venti, Second Cup's large and Tim Hortons' Large & Extra Large sizes, do not exist.  They are not even an option.

To really make this make sense - keep in mind that the average stomach is the size of a clenched fist -- doesn't it seem a like a bit of overkill to consume something that is about 2-3x that volume? I mean, really? If we actually take a moment to think about this, do we really need a LITRE of coffee?  Or do we just order that size because we have created a habit that we are so used to, we don't even think twice about it?

This brings me back to a point I have brought up many times before. When I talk about sustained weight loss - dropping the pounds and inches you want to drop - then actually keeping them off, it really is about re-inventing your set of "eating rules" and replacing unhealthy, destructive habits with happy, healthy ones.

By making the choice to remove the "Venti" size from your mind, you are creating a new way of thinking and I promise you, this truly is one of the secrets to a long, happy, healthy life!

Rule #3 - Your New Favorite Word: Mod
"Mod" is the hospitality industry's lingo for "to modify" - or to request a few changes to the menu item you're ordering. In general, the way I look at it is how can I cut calories, sugar and fat from my favorite drinks without having to doom myself to very sad life of never ever tasting another Gingerbread Latte? (ha! Can you tell I've got a weakness for GBL's? lol)

You've probably heard of the whole "half-sweet" idea before - and this one is GREAT! Ordering your latte "half-sweet" means that instead of putting 4 pumps of Gingerbread syrup into your Grande, they only put 2. Yes, it will taste a little different at first, especially if you are used to the 4 pumps, but back to my earlier point - to be successful with health and fitness in the long term we must be willing to change some of our habits and find a way to enjoy our new way of thinking. For example, try telling yourself the Half-Sweet Gingerbread Latte tastes better than the full-sweet version, and focusing on how sneaky you are for cutting all those extra calories and sugar from your diet - and trust me - before you know it, you won't even be able to taste the difference!

Another great little option that I love is the Americano Misto. I like to call this one my secret little weapon. This one's a great little replacement for a Cafe Latte - the only difference is it replaces 1/2 of the milk with water - saving you half the calories and carbs. (Awesome.)

And in closing, of course, my wise words for the day: 

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)"  - Dr. Seuss 

Yours in strength and stretchiness,

- Brooke

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Protein Power: Cheesy Broccoli Egg Breakfast Muffins

Good Morning to all my CISN listeners! 

Thank you so much for tuning in, and thank you for trying out my recipes! I am so excited to share these great protein-packed recipes so you can start adding some protein into that daily grind of yours. 

These Spinach + Feta Breakfast Muffins are so fantastic for a few reasons: 
- packed with veggies which are full of fibre (keeps you feeling full and helps with digestion)
- a great, lean source of protein
- super quick and easy to make
- so versatile! The ones I've made here today for you are broccoli and feta but you can throw in whichever veggies/meats you've got in the fridge. 

This recipe is perfect for those who feel like they're always 
on the go; this recipes easily doubles and muffins can be packaged up in baggies or ziploc containers in the fridge so there is a quick and easy healthy breakfast option to grab on the go. 

Trust me when I say we all live busy lives - at the end of the day, if we want to feel great, look great and live a long, healthy life, I've truly learned that we just simply need to find the time for little things like p
reparing a nutritious breakfast. With this simple protein-packed recipe, you will have no excuse to be missing those proteins any longer! ;) 

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
3 tbsp green onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups egg whites 
2 whole eggs
Frank's Red Hot sauce
3 tbsp crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly "grease" a muffin tin with extra virgin olive oil or use a silicon muffin  mold (no greasing needed). 

all veggies into small pieces and add to bowl. In small bowl, add egg whites, eggs + Frank’s and beat well. Add egg mixture to veggies and mix.

Divide egg mixture evenly among muffin tin and sprinkle with feta. Cook for about 15 mins at 350 F. Once almost completely cooked, flip oven to broil setting for 3-5 mins until browned and fully cooked. 

Pack in baggies or ziploc containers to store in fridge for up to 3 days - 4 mini frittatas is 1 serving :) 
If you do give these a shot, I would LOVE to see how they turn out so be sure to tag me in your pictures! 
As always, let's end things off with a little inspiration: 

"You are a living magnet. What you attract into your life is in harmony with your dominant thoughts" - Brian Tracy

Yours in strength and stretchiness,
- Brooke 

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Not-So-Naughty Sweets: Gingerbread Bliss Balls

Back so soon? Ah, I knew those cheesy-eggy muffins would keep you coming back for more! ;-)

This morning we are switching gears a bit from our breakfast focus to mmmmm.... SWEETS! As I'm sure you all know, sweets are absolutely ev-er-y-where! You can run, but you can't hide... ha ha! So, besides incorporating my other Healthy Holiday Tips, whipping up a batch of these super-easy, incredibly delicious Gingerbread Bliss Balls will promise to keep you off the naughty list this year.

Why are these little gems so great? Oh, so glad you asked!

- NO sugar, NO butter, NO oil, NO flour. For real. 
- sweetened with nature's candy: dates
- dates have a super low "GI score" which means the sugars are released slowly and steadily into your blood keeping you feeling full and satisfied longer
- they are only 100 calories a pop and packed with 4 SUPERfoods... score
- they take 10 minutes to make -> whip up a double batch, seal in airtight container and keep them in the freezer until you're called upon to contribute some goodies for a holiday party - easy peasy! 

Gingerbread Bliss Balls
Adapted from Running On Real Food + Nutritionist In The Kitch 

1 1/4 c pecan pieces
1 c quick oats
2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp honey
1.5 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 cup dates (approximately 20)
a few grinds of fresh sea salt

Throw pecan pieces and quick oats into a food processor (I use my Magic Bullet because Santa hasn't brought me my long-awaited food processor yet *wink wink Santa*). Process until close to a flour consistency. 

Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt to the pecan/oat flour you have created and pulse to distribute evenly. 

Now here's where the dates come in. If you have pitted dates, simply chop them up roughly and add to the processor - if they are not pitted, remove the pits, chop and add to processor.  Process until a nice dough forms. Add honey and molasses to the mixture and fold these ingredients into the dough with your hands. 

 Grab a tablespoon sized chunk of dough, roll into balls, and place on a nice big cookie tray lined with parchment or tin foil. If the dough sticks to your hands while you're rolling, a little water on your hands really helps to un-stick it all :) Put the tray of bliss balls into the freezer to set and transfer into an airtight container or baggie to store. Because these goodies are free from preservatives, they are best stored in the freezer. 

Fit Tip: Dates can be purchased at pretty much any grocery store - and trust me - I've tried them all! Some are too dry, some have those funky little nubs on the end, some are pricier than others. I've found that Save-On-Foods' newest brand is the best - the most moist, fresh, and well priced. Wrapped in a little yellow cardboard box in the Produce section and are called "Bam" dates. But feel free to use whichever brand you prefer, of course!

I hope you all enjoy this delicious, nutritious recipe and am more than happy to answer any questions you have about this recipe or any of the other tips I've provided. 

For now, I'll leave you with one of my favorites.. 

"Success is a sum of several small efforts, repeated day in and day out" - Robert Collier

Yours in strength & stretchiness,

- Brooke

Facebook | @BrilliantByBrooke
Twitter | @BrilliantByB
Instagram | @BrookeNatashaFit