Healthy lifestyle education, hacks, DIYs and more!

DIY Beauty Gifts | SPIRITPLATEI LOVE making my own skin care. I’ve been using honey (from a responsible source) on my face for a couple years now and I adore it. Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that really keep my skin clear and fresh. A couple months back, I decided to test drive some more homemade skin care products. Now, having used them for several weeks, I can truly vouch for them. These three are my favorite and I think they’d make wonderful gifts. You can always search Pinterest for variations as there are TONS of DIY beauty ideas. Try some creative gift wrapping to make these look extra festive! 


Body Butter

1/4 cup shea or cocoa butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
10-15 drops of essential oil in your favorite scent(s)

Melt the butter and oil in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate fully. Whisk in the essential oil (I used vanilla to complement the scent of the cocoa butter). Pour in to a 4 oz.. mason jar and refrigerate until set. 

To use: Rub your fingers onto the surface of the butter and it will melt from the warmth of your skin. Apply liberally to dehydrated skin. (I’ve given a batch of this to my sister-in-law to use on her belly after recently giving birth. I think a peppermint scent would also be nice!)

Facial Cleansing Oil

2 tbsp castor oil
2 tbsp almond or olive oil
10-15 drops of essential oil in your favorite scent(s)

Mix thoroughly and store in your favorite bottle or jar. I used a maple syrup dispenser for easy use in the mornings.

[Note: This recipe is for normal skin. For dry skin, increase the carrier oil to 3 tbsp and reduce the castor oil to 1 tbsp. For oily skin, reduce the carrier oil to 1 tbsp and increase the castor oil to 3 tbsp.]

To use: You can use this oil to wash your face and to remove make up. Simply pour a few drops into your hands and rub all over your face. Wet a small face towel with hot water and place on your face to steam your skin and loosen the oils. Gently towel off the excess oil. You won’t believe how hydrated and soft your skin will feel! (This is also great for acne prone skin! I used lavender, tea tree, and grapefruit essential oils. Aly loves to use it as a beard oil as well.)

Coffee Scrub

1/4 cup your favorite espresso ground
1/4 cup raw local honey
1 tsp coconut or almond oil

Mix thoroughly and store in 4 oz. mason jar. Rub a little of the mixture over the inside rim of the mason jar lid to keep it from rusting. Store with your shower products. 

To use: In the shower, wet skin, then take half teaspoon of mixture into your hands and rub on any area that needs some extra scrubbing. I use this on my face and neck, as well as dry patches on my knees, elbows, and feet. Rub in thoroughly then rinse off with hot water. (I love using this in the mornings as the coffee scent wakes me up! My favorite espresso is a cheap one called Cafe Bustelo.)

Subscriptions are awesome gifts! To find out why, read my 5 Gift Subscription Ideas for Women.

Disclaimer: These two lists are by no means mutually exclusive. You can choose a subscription from this list for a lady, or from the women’s list for a guy. Or anywhere in between! These two lists were curated based off of what Aly and I like. 

Here are my top picks for the gentleman:

  1. For the penny-pincher: Dollar Shave Club [$40/3 months]5 Subscription GIft Ideas for Men | SPIRITPLATEAly absolutely loves the Dollar Shave Club. You basically pay for an initial box with a handle and some shaving cream, and then just receive razors every month for a $1/blade. You can tailor the frequency to your liking including how often you get a new handle, what kind of blades, etc. The blades are so good, I use them too! We just ordered two handles and we get four blades every month, and they definitely last longer than just a week. I highly recommend this one! Get it here
  2. For the tinkerer: New Hobby Box [$30/month]5 Subscription GIft Ideas for Men | SPIRITPLATEIf the guy you’re buying for is the curious type, this is the perfect box for you. Every month he’ll receive a box with everything you need to learn the basics of a new hobby. This month is learning how to use a breadboard (electrical engineering). Past months include how to pick locks, how to assemble a survival kit, and how to brew cold brew coffee and loose-leaf tea. Get it here
  3. For the music-obsessed: Vinyl Me, Please [Starting: $27/month or gift: $99/3 months]5 Subscription GIft Ideas for Men | SPIRITPLATEEvery month he’ll get between 1-3 archival vinyls with an original art print, a cocktail recipe to pair with the music, and a bonus LP. Be sure he’s got a record player first! There are some pretty stylish and affordable ones on Amazon. Get it here
  4. For the designer: Kinfolk Magazine [$60/1 year] 5 Subscription GIft Ideas for Men | SPIRITPLATEKinfolk is a design and slow-living magazine based in Copenhagen. Like the Darling magazine, this one is great for a coffee table collection, with stories from around the world with a focus on design and innovation’s impact on better living. Get it here
  5. For the foodie: Try the World [$39 per box] 5 Subscription GIft Ideas for Men | SPIRITPLATEThere are plenty of snack boxes and artisan ingredient boxes our there, but none that allow you to travel the world through your tastebuds. Every two months, the recipient gets 7-9 items curated by international chefs from a specific country. Past boxes include Spain, Thailand, and Sweden. Currently, they’re running a Holiday Box which features festive items from all over the globe. Get it here

That’s it! Happy subscribing! 

The countdown has begun! Only 21 days until Christmas!!! I am SO excited. This is my absolute favorite time of year – you get to be all cozy and indulge in hot drinks and baked goodies and family and movies and be a cuddle puddle everywhere. While listening to Christmas music of course! My favorite is the Dean Martin holiday station on Pandora; it features my love, Dino, as well as Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and plenty of other classic musicians. This station puts me in a festive mood immediately! 

So this morning, I’m got my station on, a spiced coffee in hand, and I’m trying to think up gifts for my loved ones. Today, I want to talk subscriptions

Oftentimes, if you don’t know what one physical item to get a loved one, friend, or coworker, it can be a challenge to find something meaningful or useful for them. Gag gifts are funny for a split second, but then the receiver is left with the impression that you just didn’t know them well enough to find something meaningful, or that you didn’t take the time to do so. Don’t give a gag gift! They’re the worse!

Subscriptions are the best because:

  1. They allow you to buy an experience or an assortment of products for someone else without worrying about particular items. The specificity of the gift is out of your hands, so you’re buying something general with a theme you know the recipient can enjoy. 
  2. The recipient gets to try new things! A subscription are often curated products, which means you get a surprise of new products or brands you might not have found otherwise. You get to try new things without fully committing to a single brand or product. 
  3. The recipient may not get it for themselves. Oftentimes, because subscriptions have recurring payments, you may not purchase one for yourself if you’ve never tried it before. Receiving it as a gift is a great way to get your feet wet and try something you mightn’t have otherwise!
  4. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Long after the holidays have past, your loved one will keep receiving wonderful new surprises! A gentle reminder that you are, y’know, awesome.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite subscriptions for that special gal in your life:

  1. For the reader: Darling Magazine [$16/1 Quarter (1 edition) or $64/1 Year (4 editions)] Darling is a quarterly lifestyle magazine for women, by women. Their mission statement: “Darling is…the art of being a woman. Darling magazine holds the modern mold of woman up to the fire to evoke a discussion on femininity and re-shape an authentic design. Darling is a catalyst for positive change; leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart from manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood without degradation. Darling leads women to practice the arts of virtue, wit, modesty, and wisdom, all the while creating beauty and embodying love. Darling says women are not only interesting, but original, not only good enough, but exceptional, not just here, but here for a purpose.”5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEThe make of this magazine is an incredibly elegant matte print with stunning photography on heavyweight paper.  The articles are divided into 8 sections: The Dreamer, The Achiever, The Hostess, The Intellectual, The Stylist, The Confidant, The Beautician, and The Explorer and are written by women in all fields, including celebrities. There are no adds, no photoshopping, and the products and clothing featured are modest and affordable. I think they’re so beautiful, I use them as decor in my bedroom. This is great coffee table book that is a sure conversation-starter. Don’t forget you’ll need your recipient’s home address! Get it here
  2. For the mindful: Headspace [$12.95 for 1 month; $7.99/month for 1 year] Headspace is a meditation app. It has little modules that evolve as you progress to allow you to become more focused, worry less, eat and sleep better, learn faster, and more. It’s basically an exercise app for your mind and it is amazing!5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEY’all know I love This is definitely an upgrade from that, and it is wonderfully developed with clear instructions and impeccable design. You can sign up on someone’s behalf and then gift them with their login info. Get it here
  3. For the vegan: VeganCuts [$59 for 3 months, $215 for 1 year] VeganCuts curates monthly boxes full of incredible cruelty-free products. You can subscribe to a monthly snack or beauty box that is paid-ahead, or buy individual one-time monthly themed boxes for: athletes, fashion, beauty, yoga and more.5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEsnack-box-currentAgain, this is a great way to try new products without committing to an entire brand. I love it because I can also discover new brands I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise, or try newly released flavors from companies I already love. Again, you’ll need the recipient’s address to sign up. Get it here.
  4. For the yogi: YogaTime.Tv [$16.99/month] or YogiSurprise [$34.96/month] I put two here because they have two different goals. The first is an app for yoga where you can take multiple classes, earn badges, build community and more.5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEIt is a low one-time cost but you also need your gift recipient’s e-mail address and other info to sign up for the app. (Alternatively you can purchase an iTunes gift card and write a note for the recipient.) Get it here5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEThe second is a pricier option that mails monthly products related to yoga including accessories, massage oils, incense, vegetarian snacks, and more. I’ve not tried this one, to be honest, but I’ve heard great things! Get it here
  5. For the beauty-obsessed: Petit Vour [$15/box or $45/3 months or $90/6 months] Petit Vour is a cruelty-free beauty box that mails makeup, perfume, skincare, etc in a curated monthly box. Think of it as high-end vegan beauty products – or as they call it, the creme-de-la-cruelty-free.5 Gift Subscriptions for Women | SPIRITPLATEThe products and companies features use all vegan ingredients, and never experiment on animals. And yet, these products are so wonderfully made, you wonder why other brands do use animal by-products! Get it here.

That’s it! Happy subscribing! 

For my holiday tree this year I wanted to move away from loud colors and plastic ornaments and focus on a more muted, yet festive look that would tie in together with my neutral bedroom. I’ve got pale blue-gray walls, dark wood furniture with white accents, so I decided on a woodland theme to sort of bring the outdoors in and remind me of all the beauty the wintertime has to offer! I’m by no means done decorating our room – but I have finished the tree! 

Easy Sustainable DIY Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEIsn’t she a beauty?! 

Easy DIY Sustainable Tree Ornaments | SPIRITPLATETo stick with the woodland, natural theme, I pulled inspiration from seasonal, easily found, and cheap materials – most of which I already had lying around:

  1. Cinnamon Sticks. Easy DIY Sustainable Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEAll you need is a little jute or twine to wrap a few cinnamon sticks into a bundle, et voila! A rustic look with a sweet and festive scent for your tree! As an alternative, you could glue cloves to round pieces of cardboard to make mini clove wreaths! 
  2. Dehydrated Fruit Slices. Sustainable Natural Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEI chose seasonal and cheap fruit – apples and oranges. I sliced them a 1/4 inch thick and set them at 130F in the dehydrator overnight. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can do the same thing in the oven! Set the fruit on wire racks rather than a solid bottom tray and set your oven to 120-130F. Keep the fruit in the oven overnight and check them in the morning. I stuck ornament hooks easily through the fruit slices without damaging them – these are my favorite ornaments on the tree!
  3. Fallen twigs. Easy DIY Sustainable Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEI ran to my backyard and looked for fallen twigs to create my star. I cut each branch to the size I wanted, then using the same jute twine, I tied the ends together to create the star. I secured the backs of these knots with a drop of glue from a glue gun. I then used the twine to attach the star to the top of my tree, and strung some smaller lights around the branches to illuminate it. 
  4. Birdseed Cookies. Easy DIY Sustainable Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEA quick search on Pinterest shows there are tons of recipes for these birdseed ornaments. I used the recipes here and here for reference. I swapped the corn syrup out for honey, and the gelatin or breadcrumbs out for ground flaxseed, because I felt these ingredients were less harmful alternatives for wild birds and easier on their digestion. When the season is up and I take down my tree, I plan on placing these birdseed ornaments on the pecan tree Aly and I planted in our backyard for our wedding, ready for the birds that’ll come back in the springtime!
  5. Recycled Materials. Easy Sustainable DIY Ornaments | SPIRITPLATEOld clear glass ornaments or light bulbs make great translucent decorations. I filled mine with old glitter and beads I had leftover from other crafts and events using a kitchen funnel. For the ribbon I used a woven jute I had leftover from my sister-in-law’s bridal shower. For the tree skirt, I sewed together old plaid fabric I had lying around from college (I was a textiles major). I used the leftover fabric to sew matching pillows that I stuffed and placed on our bed to tie the room together. 

If you’re participating in our GIVEAWAY this month, don’t forget to follow us and like this post on Facebook and Instagram!

Until tomorrow my lovelies! 

Hi y’all! Happy December! This month I’ll be posting every day until Christmas week with healthy recipes, holiday DIYs, articles for health, and more. That’s 20 posts! 

I’m also doing a GIVEAWAY! That’s right, you can enter to win a mystery gift basket full of my favorite health, nutrition, and beauty items worth over $150! 

I want to show you all how much I appreciate the love and support you’ve had for my journey with SPIRITPLATE. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is like us on Facebook AND like each post we share this month OR follow us on Instagram AND like each post there. This means you can enter up to twice times each day (by liking once on FB and once on IG) and you have until 11:59PM CST on December 20th to like each post. I’ll choose a winner randomly and announce on December 21st. You should receive your gift basket before Christmas!

To that end, I can’t believe that this time last week, we were gearing up for Thanksgiving, and now it’s already December! This entire year has just flown by, and the increasing speed with which life is passing just makes me nervous. Days seems so long when you’re a child, but as you get older the days seem to blur together. 

Healthy Holidays: How to Transition into WinterSomething that helps me mark the time, and slow it down if you will, is to be present with the seasons. I alter my lifestyle and daily rituals as the year transitions from spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter, and winter to spring. This supports my mind, body, and spirit in recognizing and being present with the changes happening around me. 

Here’s how I transition into winter:

  1. I sleep with the sun. The natural rhythm of your body calls for a slowing down during the winter – a sort of mild hibernation mode that requires that we get more rest.  Throughout the year, I try to rise and retire with the sun. This means I get up earlier and stay up later in the summer, and sleep in during the winter. Of course, our modern lifestyle means we do need to continue working late hours, but I bridge the gap by winding down after sunset. I turn off the bright lights in our home, set my phone, computer, and TV brightness to low, or turn them off, and I reduce the volume of these devices as well. Shifting to a darker, quieter, environment with less stimuli after sunset helps your body feel like it’s resting – which is exactly what it needs in the colder months!
  2. I eat seasonally. I try to incorporate produce that is in season, and reduce the produce that isn’t. Eating foods seasonally is not only more cost effective, these foods are built to provide you with the exact nourishment you need for the season. For example, bananas, berries, and cucumbers ripen in the heat of summer, and are rich in potassium and vitamins you need to rehydrate – exactly what we need in the hotter months. Squash, starchy vegetables like cauliflower, and citrus like limes and oranges are more abundant in the winter, providing high doses of vitamin C and minerals like iron and magnesium to keep us from getting sick in the colder, wetter months. 
  3. I eat for warmth. I incorporate more warming foods and spices into my diet, such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon. I add soups a few times a week, which gives me my needed vegetable intake but is also super comforting to warm up with. I also try to reduce or remove processed foods like oils, bread, and sugary baked goods from day-to-day meals, reserving them only for special occasions (Thanksgiving, Christmas) to prevent those extra holiday pounds, but stick to starchy carbs like rice, potatoes, and beans that provide sustenance and bulk to my meals. 
  4. I hydrate. In the summer, we tend to eat water-rich foods, but in the winter we tend to go for starchier, denser fare. This is our natural; our body thinks it will be cold and starved, and is storing up in preparation. To prevent dry skin and a proneness to the winter colds and flus, keep yourself hydrated. Don’t like water? Add a few lemon or ginger slices. Feel too cold? Drink your water hot. I usually have several cups of hot water a day, often with some kind of spice or flavoring – lemon, rosemary, turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and cinnamon are my favorites. 
  5. I move. The cooling of our bodies in the wintertime means our joints ache a bit more, and breathing is a bit more laborious. We feel more lethargic, and while yes, we need to wind down, it also means that we should work out intermittently. That when we do exercise, we do so carefully, properly warming up and cooling down our joints to avoid injury. Adding yoga to your regimen is a great way to incorporate a slower, quieter activity that still gets your heart pumping and body sweating. Listen to your body and you’ll know if your muscles and joints need more or less work to remain healthy throughout the season.
  6. I get outside. Being outdoors in the cold air, even for a few moments, really helps your body feel “oh, yes, this is winter,” and reasserts your circadian rhythm. Have your lunch on a bench or at an outdoor cafe. Take a walk to go see holiday lights. Build a fire in your backyard. We are not cold-blooded, we do need the warmth and are right in seeking to stay indoors, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remind ourselves of the cold outside.
  7. I take a Vitamin D supplement. You may be getting outside, but the lack of sunshine-filled days means you still may not be getting enough Vitamin D to support a healthy immune system, control your blood sugar, and help you absorb calcium. Foods high in Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, cow’s whole milk and mushrooms of all kinds. Because I choose not to eat fish or dairy for both animal welfare and my personal health (heavy metals and disease in most fish known to cause cancer and birth defects, and the hormones in and acidity of dairy that interferes with my hormones, skin, bone density, and weight) I go for the mushrooms. Because mushrooms only provide 5% of your daily intake per serving, I also take a Vitamin D supplement. 
  8. I declutter. Like spring cleaning, fall cleaning is just as important. Wash your sheets and clear out your closet. Move summer clothing and linens into storage and bring out the heavier, warmer wares. Donate any excess clothing to a charity. Click here to read my post about setting up a minimalist closet. Rotate your pantry items to bring out lesser used grains and beans. Clean the freezer to make space for make ahead soups and stews. Put away the summer tools and clear out your garage to be able to bring your cars and bikes in from the cold. Having a clean garage also helps to keep away small animals and other critters that will seek your home for warmth. There are plenty of cruelty-free methods on the market now to deter these critters from seeking shelter. 
  9. I decorate. Having changed my linens, my clothing and my meals, the only thing that remains is to change my home or workspace decor to reflect the time of the year. In the summer, I love having greens, blues, and yellows around me to recall the summertime, but in the winter I go for the browns, golds and reds. My room is painted a pale blue gray with white and dark brown accents. To this I add greenery in the summer and beiges in the fall. I bring in the outdoors by using leaves, branches, and pinecones or other nuts and seeds to evoke the season. 
  10. I use aromatherapy. As part of my decor, and shift in eating habits, I also employ the use of seasonal scents to help me feel present in the moment. Remember, scents are inextricably connected to memory, so to feel connected to a certain time and place, using aromatherapy is a masterful way to feel grounded and present. In the fall, I use more sweet and spicy scents like vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin, and apples. In the winter, I love the scents of fresh evergreen or pine, burning wood, and amber. I have a few favorite candles and incense sticks I light nearly everyday when I’m working from home during the day, or winding down at night that help me connect to the moment. 

Do you know the difference between sweating and sautéing?

No-Oil Mushroom Saute | SPIRITPLATE

To sauté means to stir your ingredients quickly over very high heat in oil, with a loud sizzling sound, that results in quick browning of the ingredients. This is used when stir frying or when you want to retain the inner structure of your vegetable, while essentially flash cooking the outside.

Coconut Braised Chickpeas | SPIRITPLATE

Sweating on the other hand is done slowly over very low heat until very translucent, with infrequent movement with the goal of breaking down the inner structures of the vegetable to release its full flavor without adding any golden or brown color.

Sweating vs Sauteing | SPIRITPLATE

Here I have both sweat and sautéed garlic in oil (Note: Both methods can be achieved without oil!) then added a quarter cup of water and strained the liquid into each bowl. On the left is the juices released from sweating garlic, on the right from sautéing. How stark the difference in color and flavor!

The sweat garlic has a pure clean and warm garlic flavor and the sautéed garlic on the right has a sharp caramelized garlic flavor that is quite overpowering.

Two different methods, yielding two distinct color and flavor profiles.  These two techniques are used for different dishes. Which would you use for creating a soy sauce chili glaze? For potato leek soup? For a homemade tomato sauce? For a baked casserole? For a stuffed pastry? Comment with your answers below!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now, but was quite unsure how well it would be received. Talking about fitness, diet, and even weight loss is always such a touchy subject, and even I’m feeling nervous posting my progress photos for the world to see! I truly believe, though, that our struggles are often more similar than they are different, and if even one person can benefit from seeing my struggles laid out, then I think I can feel pretty good about that. SO. Here goes nothing.


My goal has always been to get stronger. I’ve always been a terrible dieter – I can never keep to any kind of short term regimen! And my spine history meant I always lived a sedentary lifestyle, never truly being an active person.

Until recently. After college, I decided I wanted to get fit. I wanted to aggressively rehab my spine, and superficially, I was always insecure about my “back fat” – which probably isn’t so much back fat as it’s just so much excess skin built up from being hunched over all my life. 

Gosh, this is hard to talk about. *Deep breath!*

I’m 5 foot nothing and quite curvy. I’ve never been massively overweight, but no one could ever call me thin either. I’ve always been…squishy.  My arms and legs are narrow, but my torso, hips, and bum always carry the majority of my weight much like the rest of my family. I’ve been about 103-5 pounds since I was 12, which I’ve come to realize is my comfort weight; I return to this weight naturally, no matter how active I am or how my food choices vary throughout the year. 103-105 is what I call my equilibrium weight.

So, I decided I wanted to get stronger, more flexible. I wanted more energy and I wanted to tone up enough to tighten the skin around my torso.  I enlisted the help of a private physical trainer. I went to Fitness Together (now Infinity Personal Training) and worked 1-on-1 with a trainer for a year before I got married. I didn’t gain or lose any weight at this time, though my body fat percentage went from over 26% to about 23%, and I felt SO MUCH stronger.

Until I got married.

At my wedding I was still the usual 103. One year later I was 111!

Now, some people say you should not to look at the scale, to measure your health and weight in other ways like from the way clothes feel, or how much body fat percentage you have, or by measuring to the inch the circumference of your arms, legs, belly, etc. Some people are right!

On its own, the number on a scale gives you nothing, no relevant information, unless you pair it with other information: your height, for instance, or other bodily measurements, your energy levels, your digestion, your ability or inability to do certain exercises, your flexibility, and a lot more.

So considering the way clothes fit me, the circumference of my belly (and other places), my height, and my weight overtime, I knew I had gained weight that was over my equilibrium state. According to the Body Mass Index chart, I was still considered within a healthy weight range for my height, but boy did I feel the difference! My joints felt the added pressure and my spine health began deteriorating again. I knew for my medical history, my self-knowledge about my body, that this weight was going to be detrimental to my health in terms of increased back pain and low energy – unless, of course, this added weight were pure muscle, which it wasn’t. 

A year later, about 10 months into actively trying to return to my equilibrium weight, I am now 104 lbs and just under 23% BF, and I feel incredibly better. My energy is back, I feel I can stand or sit or be active for hours before feeling any joint fatigue. And finally, finally, I can see a small difference in the skin of my back. 

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATEBut what caused this weight gain, and shift in lifestyle? For one, hormones. Aly and I were now married, and our relationship *ahem* had changed, so my hormones were now behaving differently, thus regulating the way I processed nutrients differently. I was also taking the chef course at Rouxbe at this time; I was making lots of food and trying not to waste it by eating more leftovers than maybe I could have handled. And then I got a desk job; I was sitting all day, completely killing my metabolism.

So after feeling more and more miserable inside and out, from looking at recent photos and thinking ‘when did my face get so round?’ to feeling fatigued and achy all the time, I decided I needed to change something. 


At the start of this year I started eating better. I reduced my fried foods and sweets. I took lunch to work, made sure I parked my car far, went for evening walks with Aly (my chiropractor had said no running or jumping) and increased my water intake. I began recording my weight and body fat percentage using our FitBit Aria Scale. By February I lost 2 lbs. Great! But I didn’t feel much better and I hit a plateau going into spring.

In May, I decided to do Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide (BBG). It’s a 12-week training program that uses predominantly your own body weight as part of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I highly, highly recommend it. I’ve never been active in this way: really devoting 30-45 minutes every day 5x a week. My spine improved dramatically. I felt stronger and leaner everyday. The community built around the BBG is incredible, with women all over the world supporting each other and cheering each other on.  Unfortunately, I also managed to injure myself after completing only 8 weeks. I landed wrong on a split lunge and completely threw out my right hip. This was exactly what my chiropractor had told me not to do (jumping). I was just too eager and excited to continue the guide after seeing results in just a few short weeks. I’ve now resolved to listen to her when she tells me to take it slow!

A week after I hurt my hip, I was going to leave for international travel for a whole month. So while I did not continue to workout aggressively through July and August, I did walk a lot and stretch, trying to keep my muscles healthy with magnesium supplements and electronic pulse massage therapy. This helped immensely.

When I returned, around mid-August, I wasn’t allowed to return to Kayla’s guide. I took up mild yoga instead, stretching about 2-3x a day, and just walked whenever I had the opportunity, never pushing too hard. This seemed to set me up in a good rhythm, and that’s where I’m at now.

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATE

(I have never been able to do a backbend in my life. I finally managed to do Wheel Pose this summer!)


As far as diet goes, I’ve eaten the same since the New Year:

  • I eat plant-based whole foods, as in no processed foods, except the occasional vegan cheese or tofu-based proteins. Once or twice a month I may eat something like oreos or cookies or chips. 
  • I eat three large meals, with minimal snacking in between, and I never skip breakfast.
  • I don’t drink sodas (never been a fan) and I don’t eat fast food. I will eat out occasionally (once every week and a half to two weeks).
  • My only caffeine consists of one cup of coffee every morning, black with a little agave. No caffeine after 2PM.
  • Most days, I eat dinner between 5-7PM, and sleep by 11PM. Before bed, I have a glass of hot water with turmeric and honey mixed in. If I’m hungry by bedtime, I’ve taken to mixing the turmeric and honey in hot almond milk instead of water. This usually satisfies me enough to fall asleep.
  • I generally have a large serving (or three!) of a dark leafy green or colorful vegetable with every meal.
  • I usually don’t have fruit after noon, I don’t drink alcohol regularly, and if I crave sweets I typically satisfy myself with a couple squares of dark chocolate. 
  • I never eat salad with a dressing; I use only salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

A typical day’s worth of food looks something like this:

After Waking:
Water + Black Coffee + Vitamins
Homemade Banana Nut Muffin + Green Smoothie
Soy or Coconut Yogurt, Banana & Granola/Muesli
Mashed Avocado on Toast with Sauteed Mushrooms
Grain + Green + Bean
(i.e. Daal, Roti, Pickled Carrots or Kidney Beans, Rice, Spinach)
Soup + Salad
Tofurky Sandwich with Arugula
Sweet Potato, Kale Salad, Beans
Grain + Green + Bean
(i.e. Pasta with Arugula and Chickpeas or Bean Tacos + Spring Mix)
Veggie Curry with Rice/Roti
Before Bed:
Turmeric and Honey in Hot Milk or Water

This system seems to be working for me. The probiotics in the vitamins and occasional yogurt have helped stabilize my stomach and reduce bloating. The turmeric honey mixture has been helping with my allergies and daily aches and pains resulting from my spine. The grain+green+bean idea ensures I get nutritionally dense foods, am balanced in my carb-protein-veggie intake, and avoid fried foods or high-fat sauces/dips. And of course the green smoothies – usually coconut water, banana, kale or spinach, and whatever fruit I’m craving, plus this protein powder – help to ensure I’m getting important vitamins and minerals. 

To see more examples of what I eat daily, you can follow me on Snapchat: ndjuma.


I mentioned earlier that I kept a record of my weight, body fat, measurements, etc as the year went on. I weighed myself once every month or so on our Aria scale which sends electrical pulses through your feet to determine your body fat percentage. I wrote all this down in a note on my iPhone that I could access easily.

(**Keep in mind, I am 5′ tall. so 100-110 lbs is within normal Body Mass Index for me. I could be completely ripped at 120 lbs and 15% body fat. Or I could be 25% body fat at 105 lbs. Dipping below 100 lbs is not an option for me, as either way you slice it, I’d be underweight. Be sure to look up your BMI (here) to ensure you’re at a healthy weight for your height. I do NOT recommend someone who is 5’6 for example attempting to get to 100-105 lbs. There is no way, no matter what BF percentage, that that is a healthy option!**)

You can see my recordings below:

Date – Pounds – %BodyFat – Clothing Size || Activity or Diet Changes

Dec 31 – 111.1 – 26.0% – S/4 || New Year 
Feb 04 – 109.5 – 25.4% – S/4 || Walking, reduced fat and sweets, eating early dinner.
May 01 – 108.7 – 24.4% – S/4 || Start of Kayla Itsine’s BBG. 
May 25 – 108.1 – 24.1% – S/2 || BBG Week 4
Jun 08 – 107.4 – 23.7% – S/2 || BBG Week 6
Jun 25 – 105.9 – 23.4% – XS/0 || BBG Week 8
Jul 20 – 105.8 – 23.6% – XS/0 || Traveling; walking, stretching. 
Aug 20 – 105.0 – 23.7% – XS/0 || Mild yoga, stretching.
Sep 15 – 105.7 – 23.2% – XS/00 || Mild yoga, walking, stretching, no desk job. Increased greens.
Oct 10 – 104.3 – 22.9% – XS/00 || Mild yoga, smoothie challenge in October.

And now for my progress shots.

Please understand that showing these images takes a lot of courage. I am very proud of my progress, but it’s also highly nerve-racking to show it!

Be kind, haha. 

My Fitness Journey | SPIRITPLATEDetails on these images:

  • I took these pictures in the mornings, after a glass of water, a glass of coffee (a natural diuretic), and a bathroom break. (Always go #2 in the morning to get the least bloated image of yourself when taking progress photos!) 
  • There are variations in the images based on phone and lighting quality and the height of my hand taking the picture. I have not photoshopped my stomach; you can see my terrible photoshop skills on where I’ve tried to erase the overlapping pictures to make space for my bum, haha.
  • You’ll also notice that my lack of physical exertion (no squats or lunges) recently has reduced my glutes mass from July to October, and my back is not as straight now as it was the May and July shots (less cardio).

The biggest change I see is not in my figure. It’s in my confidence. My lack of fear if someone says, “Let’s go for a hike!” or “Meet me at the gym!” is something I’ve never experienced before. My daily excruciating back pain has reduced significantly. You don’t know how significantly your demeanor changes when you’re no longer in pain. I am happier than I’ve ever been. 


So, how do I feel having made it to this point?

Well, to be honest I felt better in July, before my hip injury. I miss working out; the energy it brings is just so addictive. Being on a regular workout schedule, I felt unstoppable. It was something I never knew I could do before. While I have to take it slower and easier now, I’m not deterred in the slightest. I want to challenge myself to maintain my progress and get even more toned as we get into the holiday season, when I know eating healthy will be more of a challenge, and I’ll just want to hibernate, haha. I am hoping to return to the BBG workouts, and do more advanced yoga in the coming months.

I am so very proud of everything I’ve learned so far about my body and how remarkable it truly is – how quickly it can heal, how much it can really do!

I’ve learned that there isn’t anything that I can’t do if I set my mind to it, that hard work and discipline will get me anywhere I want to go. This is such a massive life lesson.

There is so much more I want to accomplish and the journey doesn’t stop here!

I realize this post didn’t have much ‘educational value’ in terms of cooking, nutrition, or fitness, but I hope this serves as an example that eating clean and exercising regularly can change your life, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And that, well, that’s priceless.

Please leave comments and questions below, I’d love to know your thoughts and how you’re doing on your journey to a happier, healthier you!