Slim Down for Summer: Your 10 Week Plan

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Summer Slim-DownSpring is officially creeping in, with it’s gusts of 50 degree breezes and stir-crazy excitement in the air. That means bikini season in just a few months away!  So before you jump on yet another, crazy crash diet, or start doing juice cleanses every other week, let me help! Below you’ll find a 10 week plan to slim down for summer, revamp your diet, and revitalize your workout routine. If you make the commitment to yourself, your body, and your sweet, sexy summer self, this plan will take you there. Stay in touch in the comments or on our Facebook page to support each other throughout these 10 weeks, ask and answer questions, and keep yourself accountable!

The Organic Beauty 10 Week Slim Down for Summer Plan

Weeks 1 and 2:

These first two weeks are about starting and sticking to a few super healthy habits, before we move on to eliminating a some nasty ones.  First and foremost, spend these two weeks going gaga for greens.  I mean it!  Commit to having a full serving (at least 1 cup) of greens at two meals a day. For an added bonus, rock greens at all three meals!  And when I say greens, I don’t mean pale, flimsy lettuce.  I mean rich, darkly colored, super nutrient kale, spinach, chard, broccoli rabe, dandelion greens, and collards.  Eat ’em raw, eat ’em cooked (just a quick sauté with olive oil or coconut oil, garlic, and a pinch of sea salt and fresh pepper does the trick), throw ’em in your smoothies, your eggs, and your grains.  Greens are a super potent, detoxifying slim down food that is essentially “free” in terms of calories.  So eating those 2-3 cups of delicious greens every single day for the next 10 weeks means less room for other bloating, crappy foods.

Next, work on making lunch the biggest meal of your day.  Having a lighter dinner is one of the fastest ways to promote weight loss and detoxification, while helping you feel more energized and balanced throughout the day!  So make lunch dinner-sized, and dinner lunch-sized (think soup and/or salad), and watch the pounds start falling off.

Lastly, commit to working out, in any way that you enjoy, for 30 minutes to an hour, at least 3 days a week for these two weeks.  This could be yoga, pilates, running, Zumba, swimming.. whatever you love!  Don’t worry so much about the what for these two weeks, just focus on making those three days a week a non-negotiable part of your routine.  Set the days, put them in your calendar, and stick to them.  It works best to have a set three days a week that you work out, so you’re not figuring out where to fit it in every day.  Our bodies and minds thrive on routine, and this is the only way to build sustainable, healthy habits!

Weeks 1 and 2 at a Glance:

  1. Greens at least twice a day
  2. Big lunch/light dinner
  3. Exercise 30 min-1 hour 3 days a week

Weeks 3 and 4:

Now that you’re eating tons of greens every day and working out a solid three days a week, we can start to eliminate some habits that are getting in the way of your smokin’ summer bod.  It’s time to cut out processed sugar.  Completely.  As in, sayonara to Snickers, Skittles, and soda.  Does this mean you don’t get to eat anything sweet until summer?  Of course not!  Stock up on delicious fruit (especially potently antioxidant berries that are coming back into season), and sweet seasonal veggies like tomatoes, beets, bell peppers, corn, fennel, and sweet peas.  The more you incorporate these naturally sweet foods into your diet, the less you’ll be craving crappy sweets that relegate you to tankinis all summer long.  Treat yourself to a couple squares of dark chocolate (like, actually 70% dark chocolate) when you want a little something extra, and sip naturally sweetened tea throughout the day to help curb cravings.  Hibiscus, ginger, and dandelion root teas are all deeply detoxifying for spring, and with a touch of stevia to sweeten, they are a lovely drink to sip on all day long to promote slimming and steer clear of sugar!

Next, let’s amp up your workouts.  Wherever you’re at, take it up a notch.  If you’ve been doing yoga three days a week, add a fourth day of cardio or strength training.  If you’ve been running or using the elliptical machine three days a week, add a day of weights or a boot camp class.  If you’ve been a slow starter and have just been walking those three days a week, commit to taking a class of your choice for two of those days.  Wherever you’re at, amp it up!

Weeks 3 and 4 at a Glance:

  1. Cut out all processed sugar
  2. Eat fruit (especially berries) and sweet veggies.
  3. Use natural sweeteners in tea and coffee.
  4. Amp up workouts to 4 days a week.

Weeks 5 and 6:

So now you’re been eating big piles of greens at least twice a day, you’ve cut out processed sugar, and you’ve taken your workouts up a notch.  Let’s keep it going!  These two weeks are all about healthy grains.  First things first, we have to cut out the bikini bod’s mortal enemy, refined and processed grains.  This means cutting out the white bread, pasta, the processed cereals (basically any cereal other than granola), and if you haven’t already done so the last two week, all pastries!  Now I’m not saying you can’t have a slice of pizza for the next six weeks, but keep it to just once or twice a month.  Before you get all panicked at the thought of giving up bread, take a breath and chill.  You don’t need to give up grains!  These next two weeks, we are going to amp up your whole grains, which are awesome for weight loss, digestion, balancing blood sugar, and minimizing cravings.  So make sure to have a serving (about 1/2-1 cup) of whole grains at lunch and/or breakfast every day.  Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats and millet are all your best friends!  Have some oatmeal or quinoa porridge for breakfast, or a slice of sprouted whole grain Ezekiel toast with nut butter with your smoothie or eggs.   For lunch, have some brown rice or quinoa with your stir-fry or in your burrito bowl, have some sushi, or just rock some grains alongside a delicious piece of salmon and a bunch of greens for a perfect, balanced meal!

How are the workouts going??  Hopefully by now you are working out a solid four days a week, even if it’s just for 30-45 minutes! If you’re not, hang that bikini up somewhere you’ll see it every day, and repeat to yourself that YOU NEED TO WORK OUT TO LOOK GOOD IN A BIKINI!!!!  There is no way around this.  Even if you are a lucky, naturally slim person, working out 3-4 days a week, every week is going to tighten everything up in all the right places and take your body from meh to WHOA.  So quit messing around and make it happen!  If it isn’t already a part of your weekly routine, I recommend adding a pilates workout to your regimen.  Pilates is amazing for toning abs, legs, and arms, and creating the long, lean lines that we all want for summer.

Lastly, WATER!!  Make these two weeks ALL about water.  Drink half your ideal body weight in ounces, every single day.  If you need to spruce up your water, add a squeeze of fresh lemon or some lemon slices, or get creative and add fun flavor boosters like sliced ginger, berries, and mint!  Drinking tons of water is crucial to slimming down, detoxifying, and getting that hot summer bod.  So make it happen!

Weeks 5 and 6 at a Glance:

  1. Cut out processed and refined carbs
  2. Increase whole grains at breakfast and lunch
  3. Work out 4 days a week
  4. Add Pilates
  5. Drink half your ideal body weight in ounces of water every day.

Weeks 7 and 8:

Alright guys, we’re almost there!  You are now working out 4 days a week, doing pilates, eating lots of greens and whole grains, and you’ve cut out all processed sugar and carbs.  Amazing!!!  By now your body is looking leaner, slimmer, and you probably have a whole lot more energy too!  Take a minute to write down all the awesome benefits you’ve noticed over the last 6 weeks.  This will help you stay motivated for this final month!

For these next two weeks, we’re going to clean up your proteins to make them leaner, healthier, and more conducive to a hot, slim, summer bod.  If you’re a meat-eater, over the next two weeks, work on keeping your animal proteins to lean, organic, free-range chicken, eggs, and low-mercury fish.  Also, start the practice of have two meatless days per week.  Regardless of whether or not you eat meat, focus on healthy plant proteins for these two weeks.  Beans in all their many varieties, nuts, and whole grains are all wonderful sources of protein.  Even greens have protein!  So don’t feel like you need to center your meals around a Protein, with a capital P.  Eating mostly plant proteins, fish, and eggs will give your body all the protein it needs, and will promote a healthy, lean physique year-round, not just in summer!

If you aren’t doing so already, make sure one of your weekly workouts uses light weights to boost metabolism and tone muscles.  For most women, I don’t recommend using dumbbells over 5 lbs., unless you’re going for a super muscled look.  To keep muscles long, lean, and slim, use 3 lb. weights in your workouts at least once a week.  If you’re a dude, you’re free to lift more, but focus on lower weight and higher reps to get a sexy, sculpted look.

Weeks 7 and 8 at a Glance:

  1. Write down all the amazing changes you’ve noticed so far.
  2. Keep animal proteins to organic, free-range chicken, eggs, and low-mercury fish.
  3. Increase and focus on plant proteins
  4. Have at least two meatless days a week.
  5. Add light weights to your workouts at least once a week.

Weeks 9 and 10:

Here it is, guys, the final stretch!  Your body is just a month away from being totally prepped for summer, and for some of you, you may already be there!

Keep up all the amazing changes you’ve incorporated over the last 8 weeks.  You’re doing such great things for your body!  These next two weeks, we’re going to make just a couple final adjustments that will get you where you want to be in no time at all.  First, we have to cut out bloating foods.  Retaining water and a gassy belly are major buzzkills when it comes to feeling sexy in slim on the beach, so we’re going to cut those puppies out to give your amazing abs a chance to shine!  Salt, dairy, and gluten are the three biggest bloaters around, so let’s be mindful of reducing or eliminating these foods for two weeks to really get some crazy results.  If you’re cooking your own food, you’re in control of how much salt is in everything, which is great.  Keep it to a pinch of sea salt when cooking, and you’re good to go.  If you’re eating out a lot, you don’t have as much control, so use these next two weeks as motivation for getting your cook on!

If you do ok with a little Greek yogurt, I won’t take it away from you, but cheese and milk are a slim-down (and general health) no-no.  Switch to a nut milk in your coffee and granola, and ditch the cheese altogether.  It’s salty, it’s fatty, it’s bloaty, it’s bad!

If you didn’t already do so in week 5 and 6, experiment with cutting out gluten for a couple weeks to see how it effects your digestion, especially if you experience bloat, gassiness, or feel like your belly just isn’t where you want it to be.  Check out this great resource on gluten-free grains!

Your workouts are settling into a nice routine by now, with a good balance of light weights, slimming pilates, and whatever else floats your boat.  These next two weeks, let’s make sure your boat is floated by some cardio.  If cardio isn’t a part of your 4 days of exercise by now, make it one!  Better yet, do it outside!  Biking, running, swimming, or a great boot camp or crossfit-style class are all awesome cardio workouts which will make sure you’re burning off fat and keeping things lean.  If you really want to amp up these last two weeks, add a fifth day of exercise to shred, slim and ensure that awesome bikini bod.  Even if it’s just a yoga class, working out 5 days a week is an unbelievable gift to your body, your mind, and your health.

Weeks 9 and 10 at a Glance:

  1. Reduce salt (cook more at home).
  2. Eliminate milk and cheese.
  3. Experiment with cutting out gluten.
  4. Add cardio (outside if possible)
  5. Add a fifth day of exercise (optional)

YOU DID IT!!!!

Share your experience as you go and definitely at the end of your 10 weeks here or on Facebook, and feel super proud of the amazing things you’ve done for your body.  Make a note of what worked and felt great, and keep those habits up, past summer, year-round.

As always, if you feel like you need some more support getting to where you want to be, please check out my whole body transformation programs and get in touch!

[Image: Pinterest]

8 Ways to Simplify and De-Stress Your Life

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

 

It is virtually impossible to prioritize your health, wellbeing, and happiness when your days are filled to the brim with excessive clutter, both physical and emotional.  Taking some steps to simplify your life will do wonders for your state of mind, productivity, and balance, and will allow you to better fill your plate (so to speak) with things that make you happy, healthy, and taken care of!

1.  Say NO!  The biggest mistake overworked, overburdened people make is saying yes to too many things.  Social engagements, play dates, work assignments, favors, the list goes on and on.  We’re all afraid that if we admit that our plate might be a little full, it makes us some sort of colossal failure.  Well, newsflash!  Taking on too much means the things you are doing aren’t getting your full attention, which significantly lowers the quality of your engagement — with your friends, your family, your work, everything!  So stop being afraid to say no.  Pick what really matters to say yes to, and get a raincheck on the rest!

2.  Make your bed.  Guess what?  Momma was right on that one (I know, it kills to admit it!)…  The simple step of making yourbed every morning starts your day off with a little more order, a little less clutter, and a little more mental space for productivity.  Our physical environment is a reflection of our mental and emotional environment, a phenomenon that goes both ways.  Having just a little more neatness in your physical space will contribute to more calm and balance everywhere else… And it literally takes but a minute!

3.  Reclaim your inbox.  Yes, I know it is super duper important that you not miss out on any of the eight billion flash sale sites that you’re signed up for, and that getting newsletters from every single store, travel site, or gallery you’ve ever visited is absolutely crucial to your feeling in-the-know in life, but all that is really just contributing to your feeling of overwhelm and stress.  When you open your inbox every morning to a barrage of (let’s be honest) totally unnecessary crap that you need to sort through to get to the one email from your friend about her upcoming birthday party, your day is simply not getting off to a great start.  Not only is this is an enormous waste of your precious time, but it also gives you the illusion that you are a lot more stressed/busy/overworked/overwhelmed than you really are!  They’re just emails!  They’re not even important!  So go through your inbox and unsubscribe to absolutely everything but the most important, life-affirming, happiness-making content (like my newsletter! Which you can sign up for right over there —–>), or make good use of the Hotmail or Yahoo account from the 8th grade, and change all of your commercial correspondence to be delivered there.  That way, you can check it once a week, or whenever you really feel like a Gilt sale will boost your spirits, and pretend that whole mess doesn’t even exist the rest of the time.

4.  Quit multi-tasking!  Ok, I could hear the collective gasp from everyone reading this.  “But Natasha!  I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life cultivating the skill of reading emails, listening to music, talking to my mother, eating lunch, and finishing my quarterly report all at once!  It’s a defining aspect of my amazing character!”  Yes, I say to you… But how well has that worked out for you so far?  Do you feel like your work, your relationships, and your self-care are all getting the attention they deserve?  Or is everything perpetually getting about 30% of your headspace?  I’ve gotta say, multi-tasking is probably the most harmful and counterproductive trend of the last two decades, and it’s time we put it to rest.  Truly successful, productive, balanced people do NOT multi-task!  They dedicate themselves fully to one task at a time, whether than be work, talking to a friend, eating a meal, or watching The Big Bang Theory.  This allows you to not only get more done (like, really done, not half-assed done), but it also allows to you enjoy what you are doing so much more.  Work on chunking your time into specific task-oriented blocks.  Carve out time for answering emails, calling your mom, eating lunch, relaxing, reading, and exercise and don’t let any of those activities overlap!  I promise you, after a week or two of living this way, your cortisol levels will go down, and your seratonin levels will go up.  Hell, you may even lose a pound or two, or get a promotion!  Everything that you do will be done infinitely better, and more importantly, you’ll feel better doing it!

5.  Write down the five things in the world that are most important to you.  This simple step will allow you to refocus your time and energy on what really matters, and let what really isn’t worth your time fall by the wayside.  Keep your list somewhere handy and read it at least once a day.  Have you done something to benefit, support, or move towards a goal related to the things on your list that day?  If not, schedule it in.  It is way too easy to waste our lives focusing on the minutia of the day-to-day, while ignoring what matters most. But luckily, it is totally up to you whether or not you live this way!  Take control of your life today.

6.  Pencil yourself in.  When you’re looking ahead at your calendar, make sure you have some you-time scheduled in every single day.  This might mean a 1 hour yoga class, or a 10 minute walk in the sun, and anything in between.  Whatever it is, make it something you enjoy that leaves you feeling more revitalized and happy.  Every day.  When you start making yourself a priority, even on such a small scale, it becomes a whole hell of a lot easier to stay in control on your time and your emotions!

7.  Delegate.  This one can be the hardest to do, but yields the highest pay off.  Allow me to let you in on a little secret… You can’t do it all.  This isn’t a criticism, it is simply a fact.  You cannot stay on top of every single little detail in your life and the lives of your family members and expect to stay sane.  It’s just not possible!  So start delegating.  Pick 3-5 of your least favorite tasks that you consistently need to accomplish and delegate them to someone else.  Hate cleaning your house?  Get a housecleaner!  Even once every other week, for $75-$100, having someone get your home into sparkling clean condition is SO completely worth it!  Can’t stand administrative tasks?  Get an assistant, or better yet, hire an intern!  There are so many smart young things out there just dying to get experience doing exactly what you do for very little money, and sometimes just the cost of lunch!  Ask your spouse to wash the dishes or take care of laundry, ask your mom to take the kids to their dentist appointments.  It’s so easy to forget that the people in your life love you and want to help you stay sane and happy!  Whatever it is, figure out who can help you get it done.

8.  Make smarter to-do lists.  Once a week, write down everything you need to get done that week (of course, after having SAID NO, DELEGATED, and WRITTEN DOWN WHAT’S IMPORTANT).  Assign yourself 3-5 specific tasks for each day of the week, no more.  If you can’t fit all your weekly to-do’s into 3-5 tasks per day, you need to go back and read the list above again.  Say no, delegate, write down what’s really important, and cross some stuff off that weekly list.  3-5 tasks per day is really all you can commit yourself to accomplishing well, while still leaving yourself plenty of time for penciling yourself in and taking care of what’s really important.  I promise, this will change your life!

{Photos via Pinterest: Image 1Image 2, Image 3, Image 4}

The Ketogenic Diet: A Do or Don’t?

Reposted from The Daily Zeel:

Considered extreme even among the strictest of dieters, a ketogenic diet is one that is high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates, making it especially difficult to maintain. One Zeel member expressed their concerns recently, writing in, “I have been trying to get my body to a ketogenic state, but I am having trouble.”

Zeel Nutrition Expert Natasha Uspensky responds.

Although a ketogenic diet is recommended for those looking to treat epilepsy, it is generally not a very healthy, long-term diet for most people. Increasing fat and protein, specifically from meat and dairy, is very dangerous for heart health, cholesterol and longevity, and cutting out vegetables and whole grains deprives your body of vital nutrients.

Before taking on an extreme and potentially hazardous diet such as this one, I recommend consulting with a nutritionist to find a healthier alternative for you to achieve maximum weight loss without dangerous effects on your body and overall health. A diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins (both animal and plant) will support long-term health and weight loss much better than extreme diets.

Delicious Gluten-Free Breakfasts!

As the weather starts to get cooler, I always find myself gravitating toward hot, nourishing breakfasts that are super grounding and healthy.  Although oatmeal is my usual standby, even with all the delicious variations it can get a little old.  Luckily, there are lots of other delicious, gluten-free grains that make for yummy breakfast alternatives!

Macrobiotic Brown Rice Breakfast
Brown rice is one of the healthiest grains on earth, being very high in minerals like manganese, selenium, and magnesium.  It is also high in fiber and promotes weight loss and lowers cholesterol! This recipe adds to the nutritious goodness with energizing and detoxifying umeboshi and iron-rich dried apricots!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown rice flakes (Eden Organics makes a great one)
1/2 cup unsulphered dried apricots, chopped
1/4 tsp umeboshi plum paste
1/4 cup pepitas (shell-free pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp gluten-free tamari
Agave or brown rice syrup to taste

Bring water and dried apricots to a boil.  In the meantime, toast the pepitas on a skillet over medium-high heat, keeping the pan in motion so the seeds don’t burn.  Once water has boiled, add the brown rice flakes and cook for three minutes, or until water is absorbed.  Remove from heat, mix in umeboshi plum paste and sweetener of choice.  Toss pepitas with tamari and pour over the porridge.  Enjoy!


Cinnamon Amaranth Grits
Like quinoa, amaranth is another supergrain.  It is high is very high in protein, calcium, fiber, vitamin E and iron, which makes it a perfect grain for vegetarians!  You can find amaranth at most health food stores and Whole Foods.

Ingredients:
4 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup amaranth
1 small apple or pear, cored and chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
Agave or maple syrup to taste

Bring water to a boil, with a pinch of salt.  In the meantime, toast the amaranth in a skillet over medium-high heat until it toasts and pops.  Make sure keep the pan moving so the grain doesn’t burn.  Add the amaranth and cinnamon to the boiling water, and stir.  Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add apple or pear and cook an additional 10 minutes.  Stir in agave or maple syrup.  If you’d like, you can finish it off with a splash of almond or coconut milk!


Millet Porridge
Millet is another great gluten-free grain that is a great substitute for wheat.  It is non-acidic, which makes it a wonderful grain for those with any kind of digestive issues.  This recipe also features anti-oxidant rich blueberries, and nourishing raw honey, which make it a great breakfast for days when you’re feeling under the weather!

Ingredients:
5 cups water
1 cup millet
Pinch of sea salt
4 tsp Earth Balance
Raw, organic honey to taste
1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Toast millet in a pot over medium-high heat, stirring until they become fragrant.  Add water and salt and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until millet has the consistency of oatmeal.  Stir in Earth Balance and honey, and serve topped with blueberries.



The great thing about these recipes is that you can substitute in any grain (using the correct proportions for cooking that grain) for endless variety!  Quinoa, for example, is great in all three of these recipes, and is cooked in a 2:1 proportion of liquid to grain.


{photo: MarthaStewart.com}