Link Love Wednesday: Dark Lord Funk

maxresdefaultHi everyone! As always,  I hope you are having a wonderful week. :) Unfortunately for me, since last week’s Link Love, I have been a little under the weather with pharyngitis and laryngitis. When I do talk, I sound like a 13-year-old boy whose voice is finally starting to change! Thankfully, between cups of tea and bowls of hot soup, I have been relatively productive, going through some spring cleaning, publishing a few guest articles, and (of course) collecting our latest batch of Link Love. The Internet sure is a wonderful place to go when you’re not feeling well enough to do much else!

What are some of your favorite links and articles from the week? Bloggers, did you post anything you’re particularly proud of this week Share in the comments section below! :)

Guest Post: 5 Ways To Stop Sabotaging Your Health Goals

yIkFIF4rHi friends! This has been a big month for me, in terms of guest blogging opportunities. :) My latest guest blog, published on LifeStyleBody, focuses on the excuses we make during our weight loss programs and how we can stop sabotaging ourselves.

Pop on over to LifeStyleBody and check it out!

Thank you, as always, for your support!

xoxo Valerie

Career Camel: Recent Guest Posts

I was so excited about my guest blogs that I went to Canada to tell everyone! (JK - This was Epcot!)

I was so excited about my guest blogs that I went to Canada to tell everyone! (JK – This was Epcot!)

Good evening! :)

As some of you may know, I have been a regular contributor to Career Camel, a London-based career advice website geared toward college students. I love being able to share my tips and experience with readers all over the world!

If you haven’t already, please be sure to check out my latest two guest articles that have been published this month:

Feel free to comment, share and pass along to your friends who are applying for jobs and internships. :)

Happy reading, and thank you for your continuous support!

xoxo Valerie

The Weekend Five: Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies

Modern Day Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies!After a fun-filled trip to Epcot last weekend, it’s safe to say that I have Disney on the brain! A child of the 1990s, I loved picking up a new Disney movie in its colorful plastic case and playing it in our VCR (which had to be replaced, after one of our Disney movies got stuck in there). Even in my twenties, I’m quick to pop in a Disney movie whenever I’m sick or in need of a reminder from my childhood.

Of course, watching these movies as I’ve gotten older, I realize that many of them would be a lot different if they were written today. Our thoughts on marriage, beauty and women’s roles have significantly evolved in the last century, and with the ever-growing influence of technology and social media, it’s interesting to think about how our Disney favorites would differ in a modern-day setting.

This weekend, I’ve taken five Disney classics and revised the plots to take place in 2015. Let the madness begin!

The Weekend Five: Modern Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies

Modern Day Twists to Your Favorite Disney Movies!1. Cinderella (1950)
Ella escapes the confines of her strict stepmother’s home to attend Coachella, where she meets and becomes infatuated with DJ Charming. When she flees from the festival to meet curfew, leaving behind nothing but her custom-made flower head wrap, DJ Charming launches a social media campaign (#FindElla) to find her. Meanwhile, as one of the film’s subplots, her stepmother’s cat Lucifer becomes a viral Internet meme and soon has his own line of merchandise.

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2. The Fox and the Hound (1981)
When Tod and Copper’s owners recognize the unlikely friendship blossoming between their pets, they photograph the two animals playing together and create a blog documenting the relationship. The blog goes viral, and Tod and Copper are even featured on Ellen.

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http://www.dumpaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/the-little-mermaid-funny-font2.jpg3. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Plagued by pollution and the ongoing threat of global warming, the creatures of the sea send Ariel ashore to speak with the humans about these atrocities. There she falls in love with Eric, the son of an oil tycoon, and feels voice-less in a society still dominated by patriarchal values. In the end, Ariel saves the planet and ultimately agrees to marry Eric, but mostly because she thinks his dog is really cute.

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4. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
At the heart of Beauty and the Beast is a love triangle for the ages. Should she choose Adam “The Beast” Rose, a hairier-than-average guy whose anger management classes have proven ineffective thus far? Or should she choose Gaston, her handsome neighbor who frequents men’s rights message boards and complains about “female privilege”? In the end, Belle realizes that she’s too good for either of these men, and instead chooses the cute guy she met at the bookstore. Meanwhile, her father (a software engineer and app developer) invents Words with Friends.

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http://www.dumpaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/the-little-mermaid-funny-font2.jpg5. Mulan (1998)
Mulan joins the army without disguising her female identity. She is celebrated for her bravery, strength and creative problem-solving skills. She returns home a hero.

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If you enjoyed these modern day movie adaptations, you’ll love my modern day endings to these classic romantic comedies! Go check them out.

What are your favorite Disney films? How do you think they would play out in 2015?

Link Love Wednesday: Stock Images, Rejection, and Wilma’s World

Hanging out with Beauty and the Beast - my favorite!

Hanging out with Beauty and the Beast – my favorite!

Good evening, readers! :) I hope everyone had a fun St. Patrick’s Day yesterday and is enjoying this wonderful week. This weekend, I went to Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival! I planned my entire future at Spaceship Earth, practically cried tears of excitement watching the manatees in the aquarium at the Finding Nemo ride, went to dinner in Italy, and took more pictures in the park than I know what to do with. It’s crazy to think that I live so close to Disney but so rarely go.

Do any of you live near major tourist attractions? Do you visit often or do you steer clear?

Here’s our latest batch of link love. Feel free to add your own favorite links to the comments section below!

What are your favorite links from the week? Anything cool that you’ve posted on your own blog? Share in the comments below! :)

Recipe Roundup: 5 Healthy Green Dishes in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day

Recipe Roundup: 5 Healthy Green Dishes in Honor of St. Patrick's DayHappy St. Patrick’s Day, readers! Are you doing anything fun for the holiday today?

For some, holidays like today can be a big deterrent from a strict diet program. From heavily dyed foods to competitive drink specials, parties and restaurants tend to serve unhealthy but festive treats we can’t help but crave. Luckily, today’s post covers a few more nutritious options for flavorful green meals. Make one of these easy meals to bring to your friend’s St. Paddy’s Day shindig and become the life of the party!

1. Popcorn Broccoli.
Roast your broccoli with a little parmesan and get ready for the magic to happen. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites and will be loved even by your veggie hating friends. Dani from Clean and Delicious shares the recipe here.

Recipe Roundup: 5 Healthy Green Dishes in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day2. Cucumber Pasta Salad.
Grab those spiralizers and get to work! I love this Cucumber Pasta Salad because it’s Whole30 compliant (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, etc.), the dressing is delicious, and the salad is easy to pack for work or events. As a picky eater, I sub out a few of the ingredients to meet my restrictions. Feel free to add in some halved green grapes for a little extra oomph! Check it out at Holistically Engineered.

3. Zoodles.
Still have that spiralizer at the ready? Whip up some zucchini noodles by spiralizing your zucchini and softening on the stove. Top with Monte Bene Garlic Marinara sauce (which is Whole30 compliant and made from real ingredients, no sugar added) or try out this cauliflower “alfredo” sauce by J Is For Judy. The sauce is dairy free and perfect for those following a paleo lifestyle.

Recipe Roundup: 5 Healthy Green Dishes in Honor of St. Patrick’s Day4. Coconut Lime Chicken Bites.
Okay, so these aren’t primarily green (at least not the way I last photographed them!), but the lime zest adds a pop of color and flavor that you can’t help but love. These chicken bites are gluten free, dairy free, and Whole30 friendly. With only a few ingredients, the recipe is simple but will quickly become a household staple. Check it out at Daily Bites blog!

5. Power Salad.
When in doubt, why not make a salad? With unlimited combinations, the world is your oyster! Grab your choice of greens, mix in your favorite fruits or veggies, chop up a protein (I believe that no salad is complete without a hard-boiled egg), and drizzle on a healthy dressing. My favorite homemade dressing comes from Max Pankow at Max Pankow Fitness, combining equal parts olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Salads are a fantastic way to pack in a lot of nutrients without spending your whole day in the kitchen.

Bonus Treat: Who needs the pot of gold when your rainbow looks so good? These fruit skewers form a beautiful and easy-to-make rainbow that will be a big hit at parties.

What are your favorite healthy green recipes? Share a few of your go-to meals in the comments section below. May the luck of the Irish be with you! :)

Your Health in Action: A Beginner’s Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples

A Beginner's Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples
A lot can change in a year.
 Since my first round of Whole30 in February 2014, I have transformed from a pasta-and-frozen-dinner connoisseur with minimal cooking skills into an amateur paleo foodie with slightly better cooking skills. I use words like “zest” and “poach” in conversation, make my own salad dressings, own a spiralizer and occasionally turn cauliflower into rice. I’m nowhere near perfect – I still succumb to processed foods on occasion and I’m no stranger to a burnt dinner. However, I’m amazed to see how far I’ve come in my journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, nothing happens overnight, and I’ve undergone a lot of trial and error and last-second trips to the grocery store for that one final ingredient. Over time, I’ve learned to stock my pantry for more seamless meal prep, and I am excited to share my list of kitchen necessities with you!

Paleo-FunnyThis list is a must-have for anyone transitioning to a paleo lifestyle or beginning a program like the Whole30. For those who are unfamiliar, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination program that cuts out grains (including gluten-free grains like quinoa and millet), legumes, soy, dairy, sugar/sweeteners, alcohol and a few other ingredients. I began my third round of the program in January and documented it here, for those interested in learning more.

Pin this article, save it to your favorites, or print it up and stick it to your refrigerator. Having these items on-hand ahead before you start cooking will save you a lot of time and extra grocery runs. :) Be sure to check your ingredients before making any final purchases!

  • Almond Butter. Because I’m allergic to peanuts, I’ve always been a fan of almond butter! Peanuts are a legume, so for many paleo and Whole30 followers, peanuts and peanut butter are sorely missed. But fear not – almond butter is a fantastic substitute. Use it to top your favorite fruit for an extra protein/fat boost.
  • Almond Flour. Made from crushed almonds, almond flour can be used in a lot of recipes. In my case, I use it as a “breading” for chicken! I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Accurate.

    Accurate.

    Broth. I don’t make my own bone broths from scratch, so I buy Imagine’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. Most store bought broths have added sweeteners like cane sugar, but not this one!

  • Coconut Aminos. You’ll be seeing a lot of coconut products when browsing paleo and Whole30 recipes, so you’d better get used to that now. Coconut aminos are a great substitute for soy sauce! I use this ingredient in my stir fry dishes and don’t taste a difference. I buy them at my local Earth Origins outlet, but they are also available at Whole Foods.
  • Coconut Flour. I use coconut flour for a similar purpose to almond flour, like with coconut crusted chicken. I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great choice of healthy cooking fat, and it adds a little extra oomph to your dish without being overpowering. I use Spectrum’s coconut oil. Scramble your eggs in coconut oil for a fun mix of flavors.
  • m-meme-regret-donutsCompliant Sauces. Most store-bought sauces are filled with sugar or unnatural sweeteners, but if you can find something with healthy ingredients, it will be a huge time-saver when you need a topping for your zucchini noodles. I love Monte Bene’s Garlic Marinara sauce!
  • Dijon Mustard. I use Dijon all the time in my creamier salad dressings. Check the ingredients to make sure you’re compliant! I use Annie’s.
  • Emergency Foods. For me, Larabars are a perfect grab-and-go food. I have a very event-driven job that sometimes requires me to work during mealtimes, often with very tempting free foods nearby. Having my emergency foods on hand helps me stay honest and avoid breaking a promise to myself in the name of convenience. I also love That’s It Fruit Bars and the fruit bars sold at Trader Joe’s. (Of course, as always, check your ingredients – some bars may not be compliant with your program!)
  • Extra Light Olive Oil. Sometimes a recipe calls for olive oil and it’s not the taste you’re going for. I use extra light olive oil for lighter recipes, like Moroccan Carrot Salad. The Whole30 team also suggests this variety for homemade mayo.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is another delicious cooking fat that you can find easily at your local grocery store. Use it for roasting veggies, pan-frying poultry or pouring all over your enemies before making a quick escape. (Okay, maybe skip that last one.)
  • Food Processor. This will save you a lot of time in the kitchen. I don’t have a preferred brand, but make sure you dust yours off before embarking on a Whole30!
  • kitchen staplesGhee. Ghee is completely magical and the only form of dairy allowed during the Whole30. Ghee is produced when butter is heated and the milk proteins (which a lot of folks are sensitive to) are separated. Ghee tastes just like butter and can be used as a cooking fat as well.
  • Shredded Coconut. Oh, hey, would you look at that? More coconut! Make sure you buy the unsweetened variety. This tastes delicious with chicken or even as a fruit topping for something a little decadent. This is what I buy.
  • Spices. Make sure you have a nice assortment of spices in your cabinets for delicious and natural seasoning. A few staples to keep around include salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, cayenne, and Italian seasoning. Think about what flavors your taste buds enjoy, and add it to the list!
  • healthy kitchen staplesSpiralizer. I can’t believe I didn’t get one of these until recently. My spiralizer is fantastic for making “noodles” out of veggies, like cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini. I have a very basic Veggetti spiralizer, but it does the trick!
  • Vinegar. Vinegar is great for homemade dressings and relishes, and many varieties are compliant as long as you check the ingredients. A few goodies to keep in your cupboard include apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope these tools, condiments and other staples are helpful to you as you embark on your healthy new journey!

Paleo pros: What do you think is important for everyone to stock in their kitchen? Share in the comments below!

We Need to Stop Talking About “Real” Women

slide_333724_3333279_freeNo matter what social media platform I turn to, I am inundated with articles about “real” women. From anti-thigh gap petitions to reimagined portraits of popular celebrities or fictional characters (possible headline: “Artist Depicted Disney Princesses as Real Women – and What She Found Was STUNNING”), the subject of Real Women is a popular and often viral one. On the surface, these articles provide a sense of belonging and empowerment for those who feel otherwise underrepresented in the media. However, at their core, these articles quietly promote a culture of exclusion and bullying that no one is willing to address.

Advertisements and articles that talk about “real women” with “real bodies” don’t often look at both ends of the spectrum. While the measurements of a “real body” aren’t clearly defined, these ads and articles generally focus on women who are overweight or obese. At their core, they disregard those women who are thin or underweight, dismissing them as “fake” or too concerned with how society perceives them. They claim to celebrate all body types, when in truth, they only celebrate the bodies of the women they deem real.

enhanced-32549-1393886616-29Some women are naturally thinner or fuller-figured than others. Some women struggle to gain weight, while others focus all of their energy on weight loss and still face challenges. Some women have hormonal imbalances or other health issues that lend themselves to unwanted weight loss or weight gain. Some women have eating disorders that cause them to be overweight or underweight. Some women eat whatever they want and are perfectly happy with their bodies, regardless of the size. Some women (of all sizes) are unhappy with their bodies. Who are we to judge which of these women are real?

Last year, J. Crew introduced the size 000 to its lineup, and the whole Internet lost it. Instead of considering the fact that this size 000 could satisfy customers’ demands, critics were quick to accuse the label of vanity sizing and contributing to the negative self-esteem of young girls. They ignore the fact that the smaller size allows J. Crew to expand its market and become more inclusive, particularly for smaller women who previously couldn’t shop at J. Crew.

vintage-sexist-womens-ads-18If you met someone on the street who was overweight, you wouldn’t tell her how unhealthy she looks (and if you would, you’re a horrible person and should reconsider your life choices). But for friends of mine who are on the thinner side, hearing comments about their body, health or their need to “eat a cheeseburger” is a common occurrence. Our bodies are our own – should we really have to accept commentary about them from anyone? Is it our business to speak negatively about other women’s bodies?

offending_pearIn a world where feminism is the hot button issue we all cling to, I am especially appalled by the way we speak about women’s bodies on such a regular basis. I have never once read an article that discussed Real Men and delved into their body types or the extent of their grooming practices. We devalue women who place an emphasis on maintaining a  certain standard of beauty that they perceive to be important, because it doesn’t line up with the more “natural” look that many have grown to prefer. We insult an entire group of women whose appearances don’t match a certain nebulous definition of “real” because, in a way, we feel that this places a greater value on the group we deem most worthy.

I absolutely believe in the importance of inclusion, and believe that women of all body types should feel beautiful and admired. In order to achieve that, however, we need to stop talking about real women and disregarding those who don’t match those ideals. Instead of focusing on women’s bodies, let’s talk about what those women have to say. Let’s talk about their accomplishments. Let’s be a little nicer.

Link Love THURSDAY: From A to Zinc

big dillBon jour and happy March! I hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying this beautiful new month. I had the opportunity to take a few days off from work to see family from overseas and spend time in my hometown. I can’t deny it: there’s no place like home. :)

How has everyone else been spending the new month? Any vacations planned in the near future?

As always, enjoy this round of link love and be sure to share your own favorites in the comments section below!

What are your favorite links from the week? Sound off in the comments section below!

Your Health in Action: Eating Healthy While Maintaining Your Social Life

Tips for Eating Healthy While Maintaining Your Social Life

Whether you’re a seasoned paleo foodie, a chronic dieter or a newcomer to the world of clean eating, there’s a good chance that you’ve struggled at one point or another with how to stick to your program in social situations. Going out to a restaurant or a party can be pure torture (read: relatively inconvenient) for those enduring any kind of elimination diet or simply trying to eat healthier, especially when the people you go out with are ordering all the unhealthy foods you still crave.

Luckily, there are ways to make your social life a whole lot easier to maintain while still making your health a priority. Here are a few tips to get you started!

"But what will I eat at Tiffany's?" Holly asked herself, wondering if she could find a menu online.

“But what will I eat at Tiffany’s?” Holly asked herself, wondering if she could find a menu of their breakfast options  online.

Research the menus ahead of time.
Your friend calls you up and says, “We’re going to that trendy new restaurant downtown tonight. They serve cupcakes in champagne glasses for dessert so bring your appetite.” You immediately jump into a panic because: (a) Cupcakes sound amazing right now but you’re trying to kick your sugar habit. (b) You aren’t really sure what you’ll be able to eat because you’ve never been there. (c) Parking is horrible downtown, especially on a Saturday night.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution to problems A and B: go online and look up the restaurant’s menu online! As both a picky eater and someone who has completed a few rounds of Whole30, I do this all the time before going to a new restaurant. If I can make a decision before I leave the house, I am less likely to order a bucket of tater tots in a fit of hunger and panic. Knowing what you’re going to order beforehand takes away most of the pressure you may be feeling, so that instead you can focus your energy on finding the right parking garage. Planning ahead is key to your success!

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Know your staples and substitutions.
Most of the time, I know I am safest ordering a salad or some combination of grilled chicken and veggies, and I am totally fine with it! Have an idea of what works for you before perusing the menu, and don’t be afraid to make substitutions. I am constantly replacing rice with veggies or asking for the sauce/dressing on the side, and most places are ok with these changes to an extent. I even keep a running list of my favorite healthy options and substitutions at local chain restaurants that allow me to stick to my program if I go out for the night.

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Sabrina didn't have the heart to tell Linus that alcohol wasn't permitted on the Whole30.

Sabrina didn’t have the heart to tell Linus that alcohol wasn’t permitted on the Whole30.

Speak up.
If you decide to go out with friends, pick the restaurant. No more of this back-and-forth “I don’t know, where do you want to eat?” that seems to land you at the Olive Garden every time. (Mmmmm, endless breadsticks.) I have a few friends who are kind enough to ask me if I’m on Whole30 before we go out, but there are plenty of times I’ll take charge on a restaurant choice because I already know there won’t be anything compliant for me at other restaurants. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make the decision yourself!

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Bring food to the party.
I’m guilty of snacking at parties. No matter how many people are present, there always seems to be more than enough food to nosh on between conversations and awkward one-armed hugs. I have never been to a single party where healthy food outnumbered the junk food (although one can only dream of a secret paleo society that hosts monthly parties featuring sweet potato gnocchi and cauliflower poppers). To keep yourself from gravitating toward the Cheetos, bring a healthy snack that people will enjoy and fits your own program. There are about a million ways to make a fun fruit salad, or if you are on a less restrictive program, you can always opt for healthier versions of your favorite junk food (Skinny Pop Popcorn and The Better Chip spinach/kale chips are two of my favorites). Besides, bringing food to a party is the proper thing to do!

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Ann didn't want to spend her entire Roman holiday focused on food, so she and Joe hopped on a Vespa to cruise around the city instead.

Ann didn’t want to spend her entire Roman holiday focused on food, so she and Joe hopped on a Vespa to cruise around the city instead.

Focus your activities on something other than food.
Fun fact: Not every social activity needs to involve a meal. If you find it difficult to stick to your program while out in a restaurant (because, let’s face it, this is no easy feat), stop going out to restaurants. Invite your friends to go bowling or visit an art festival. Watch a movie in the park. Find a museum in the area that you’ve never been to before. Have fun without bonding over how much you’ll hate yourselves for ordering the mozzarella sticks.

Avoid the scale.
In general, a lot of experts suggest avoiding the scale (or cutting back on its use) regardless of your social life, but my tip in particular focuses on restaurant visits. Most restaurants will pack your food with tons of salt, so if you’re planning a weigh-in any time soon, you may want to wait.

"Do I look like I care what you think?" Jo asked, posing fabulously with the Nike of Samothrace.

“Do I look like I care what you think?” Jo asked, posing fabulously with the Nike of Samothrace.

Stop caring about what others think.
When you change your lifestyle, especially when that leads to dietary restrictions, there will be naysayers. Don’t listen to them. Remember that different food groups and chemicals affect everyone differently. I would love to lose weight while eating endless bowls of pasta and laughing in the faces of my enemies, who have gained weight eating that same pasta, I know this is not possible for me. I know how gluten affects my skin, mood and stomach, so when people comment that I should be eating “whole grains” and “in moderation,” I’ll smile, thank them for their suggestions, and keep doing what I’ve been doing. You know what works for you better than anyone else does (except your doctor, of course), so if your friends start giving you unwarranted dietary advice, ignore them or change the subject.

What are your tips for maintaining a social life while still eating healthy? Sound off in the comments section below!