The Secret of Maintaining Your Summer Body All Year Long

Photography by EmexFocus

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

The Journey

Exactly one year ago I completed a fitness challenge that helped me achieved some of my most amazing fitness results to date. As a matter of fact, you can read about #mylivingspree and my fitness journey HERE. For me, it wasn’t about transforming my body simply for a look, a photo, or finally getting into a bikini for summer. I wanted to transform my life and that’s exactly what I did.

Yes, I am proud to say that I was able to maintain my fit body for an entire year! Of course my fitness journey had its ebbs and flows and I didn’t appear “as lean” as I would like during some seasons. However, what mattered most is the consistency and effort with which I applied the principles I needed to succeed. Trust me, once you fully understand what it takes and commit to you goals day in and out, you will be well on your way to maintaining your fitness goals all year long. You must fall in love with the journey and the results will come.

Photography by EmexFocus

If you want to become the best version of yourself and maintain your fitness goals, you must develop habits that will eventually lead to lifestyle. Getting and staying fit isn’t about cutting carbs and calories, intense cardio sessions, avoiding restaurants, and drinking nothing but water. It is a lifestyle change that requires you to adopt a new, healthier mentality all around and ways to sustain and maintain in everyday life. I want to give you a few realistic tips on how to maintain and sustain your fit body not just for summer, but all year long. Please note, I am sharing tips that worked for me and my personal journey. It is my hope that they may help you as well, but ultimately always do what feels right for you and why works for you.

1. Establish A Mind and Body Connection

First, you have to commit to your fitness goals in your mind, then your body will follow suit. Therefore, understand that fitness is on a continuum and you are always actively working to maintain that lifestyle. Once your mind understands the importance of the new norm, your body will too! You will develop the desire to eat healthier on a daily basis, exercise more, and learn more about what your body needs and what it likes. This may seem simple, but trust me this is a major key!

2. Eat Clean

Yes, it is true that abs are made in the kitchen! Eating healthy is 75-80% of your overall fitness and it is the key to weight loss. No matter how much you workout in the gym, you likely won’t see much progress in your health and fitness until you learn to eat healthy. Having healthy foods readily available (or “meal prep”) is the easiest way to develop the habit of sticking to a nutritious diet.

Generally, I choose a source of lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, etc.), a green vegetable, and a “good” carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, etc.) for most of my meals. I plan to go into more details about sample meal plans, quantities and the best foods for maintenance in a future post. But for now, make sure to limit fried, greasy, and high fat foods for a “cheat meal” no more than twice weekly.

3. Cardio Exercise

Cardio is extremely important in maintaining your summer body as this is how you will stay lean. When choosing the most effective cardio for “leaning out,” you want to do something that will burn the most body fat. Examples of fat burning cardio workouts include 20-30 minutes of any of the following: riding the stationary bike, sprinting on the treadmill, climbing the stairmaster, rowing on a row machine, or performing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts. My personal favorite cardio exercises are sprints on the treadmill and the stair master. I usually average 30-45 min of cardio 3-4x per week. This may increase leading up to summer or depending on my personal goals, so that I can burn more calories and combat weight gain.

4. Stay Consistent

If you don’t remember anything else, remember that consistency is key! This means if you fall, get back up! When you mess up, start over! Generally, don’t allow more than 2-3 days go by without working on your fitness goals in some way.

Next, don’t get caught up in what the scales says. Focus on how you feel, how you look, and how your clothes fit. No, I am not saying to never weigh yourself, definitely do so if you would like. But, I am saying that just because you don’t see a certain number on the scale doesn’t mean that you are not achieving results or that you are not healthy. It is only when we give up that we miss the results we desire! DON’T QUIT!

Photography by EmexFocus

5. Lift weights

If you want to preserve the curves all year long and stay tone, weight lifting is the answer! Lifting heavy weights helps burn fat and calories long after your workout is done. No matter how much cardio you do, toning only comes as a result of lifting weights. Trust me, you will want to continue the toning process at all times because fat and cellulite can easily sneak up on you!

I always thought that weight lifting of any sort would make me look bulky and masculine. If anything, it was the exact opposite—it enhanced my curves! I usually weight lift at least 3-4 times per week with weighted bars, dumb bells, or kettle bells. If you’re not familiar with weight lifting, click HERE for a 20 min Weight Training for Beginners Workout. I also plan to go more in detail and give examples of good weight training workouts in a future post.

6. Drink water

Drinking water has countless benefits for weight loss and overall health. It helps you get rid of bloating and weight gain; especially when you add detox aids such as cucumber, lemon and mint to your water.

I usually drink 1/2 gallon to 1 gallon daily using this super cool gallon water bottle from Amazon as a fun, accountable way to track my daily intake. Check it out HERE! If that seems to be too much for you, aim to drink AT LEAST half of your current body weight in ounces of water.

Photography by EmexFocus

7. Get adequate rest

Yes, you can maintain those gains in your sleep! Your body repairs and rebuilds itself while you are sleeping, contributing to your overall physical and psychological growth and recovery. Sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your body, so it is important to get more of it if you can! In general, it is good to aim for about 7 to 9 hours per night. Don’t feel like you always have to stay in the gym to get results. Sometimes rest is the best thing we can do for our bodies to achieve and maintain the results we want.

Don’t forget this!

As you can see, maintaining your summer body takes just as much, if not more, hard work and dedication as achieving it in the first place. Trust me, I’ve learned this first hand and I am continuing to learn what my body needs to stay healthy and fit as the seasons change. The major take away here is that you must be committed to making a total lifestyle change. Trust me, it is normal to have some ebbs and flows in your fitness journey. But, the key is establishing a routine, staying consistent, and staying focused on your overall goal–a healthy life, healthy body image and healthy mind.

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P.S. because I love you and I am so passionate about you becoming the best version of yourself and maintaining a fit lifestyle, I am providing you with a free download: Ashley’s 10 Tips and Tricks to Get Fit!

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Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! Comment below if you have ever been on a fitness journey or thinking about starting one! I want to hear from you! And don’t forget to share this post on your social media using the share icons below! 🙂

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Disconnect to Reconnect: What I learned during my social media hiatus


“I feel like I’m constantly worrying about the next part of my life without realizing that I’m right in the middle of what I used to look forward to.”

The Wake-Up Call

If you recall from one of my very first blog posts, I knew that 2018 would be different–and it was! 2018 was simply an amazing year. I can honestly say that I seized every opportunity that came my way and attempted to maximize my potential in every area of my life. I accomplished (or at least attempted to) almost every goal I set for the year. However, I realized that I never had a chance to celebrate myself and express sincere gratitude to God for all He had done. I never actually took time to let it all sink in. And finally, I didn’t consider my needs and wants. I was definitely grateful and happy, but I would immediately start planning for the next way to progress. I realized that sometimes we have a tendency to place so much pressure on ourselves to be who we envision we should be, instead of acknowledging and celebrating the fact that we are evolving.

Hat: Amazon | Jacket: Ross Stores | Shorts: Forever 21 | Boots: Ego

The Hiatus

That wake-up call prompted me to take a 21-day hiatus from all forms of social media. I knew it was time to unplug from the distractions, express gratitude, and be more present in the moment. Social media was a major distraction for me, so I knew that eliminating it would free up much of my time. I was so “plugged in” that I was draining myself. I found myself pouring into others before I would even pour into myself. I was burned out and depleted and we all know that you cannot pour from an empty cup.

The Lesson

My 3 week hiatus taught me a lot! I completely shut everything down and took time to look within. I received so much clarity, developed a new outlook on life and even developed a new morning mindset routine that I plan to share in a future post ☺. I dug deep and had some great reflections on this year and God revealed the following takeaways to me that I would like to share with you all:

  1. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Fill your own cup before you pour into others. 
  2. Comparison is the thief of joy. Remember, Social media is only the highlight reel. Don’t lose sight of your journey by comparing your life to the “best moments” of others.
  3. It takes more faith to stop, than to keep going. It’s easy to continue operating in dysfunction because its comfortable. Interrupting toxic patterns is a huge step because it forces you to know that the temporary discomfort will be beneficial in the end.
  4. Social media is the handshake, not the end goal. Social media is a great way to connect with others, but you have to remember to focus on what you’re building for yourself (your self-concept, business, website, brand, etc.) It’s all about balance.
  5. It is important to embody your brand—in real life. I’ll use myself for example. How can I say I am “on a living spree,” when I am not “living” in real life? We have to stay true to ourselves, our morals, and our purpose no matter what. If you notice you’re compromising brand integrity, make a change!
  6. Gratitude is the key to living a powerful life. The more you’re grateful for, the more comes for you to be grateful for. Simple.
  7. Don’t look around, look within. Don’t seek validation from others. “When your worth isn’t based on their claps, you won’t be broken by their silence.”
  8. Self-care is also reclaiming your time. Everything will work again if you unplug it, including you. Take care of YOU!
  9. Purpose over popularity will always win. Don’t get the popular circle confused with the winner’s circle. Focusing on your purpose won’t always be the “popular” thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do.
  10. The only expectations you need to live up to are your own. Never feel like you have to live up to the expectations of others. Hold fast to your own beliefs and values and follow your own moral compass.

The Evolution

Above all, this hiatus revealed to me the evolution I have made throughout the past few years and I couldn’t be more proud! It is my hope that we quiet our minds and our hearts and allow ourselves to revel in our progress and process. No, taking a social media hiatus may not be the route for everyone to completely alleviate their distractions and reach within, but it was for me. However, I promise if you do take time to slow down and express gratitude, you will experience more fulfillment than ever before.

Photography: @jp.hanney_visuals

Stylist: @thefashionchase

Setting: Downtown, Houston, Texas

As always, thanks for taking time to read my blog! Do me a favor and share this with others who may find this intriguing and helpful. Until next time, let’s go on a living spree!

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Affordable At Home Teeth Whitening

     “A smile is the prettiest thing you can wear.”

Smile goals

I’ve always believed that my smile was one of my best assets! It’s something I always took pride in. People would always tell me, “you have such a pretty smile.” Recently, I fell in love with coffee and red wine and noticed my teeth were beginning to stain. I wanted improve my smile by making my teeth white and bright again. Teeth whitening seemed to be the best option to help me accomplish my #smilegoals.

Affordability

I wanted to try teeth whitening in the past, but cost was an issue. It can be really expensive at the dentist! All of that changed, however, when I heard of Smile Brilliant. I did my research and was immediately intrigued that it was the #1 professional at home teeth whitening company. Best of all, it was also very affordable and a convenient way to help me achieve my goals!

User-friendly

To be honest, I was a little intimidated about trying this at home by myself. I wasn’t sure about the safety of the gel and I was nervous about teeth sensitivity, which had been a problem for me in the past. However, it all worked out thanks to the detailed instructions and visuals included in the package. There were step-by-step instructions for every part of the process including making your whitening trays and also the teeth whitening process after you receive the trays. The customer service associates were also very helpful in assisting me with any questions I had prior to using the product.

The process

Smile Brilliant emailed me asking if I would like to try their product and after doing some research on the company, I agreed. They asked medical questions about my dental history, I signed and returned the consent form, and days later I received my whitening kit in the mail. Easy, right? I made my teeth molds right at home and sent them back in an envelope. Once they received my molds and made my whitening trays, they sent them back to me a couple of days later. The entire process only took a couple of days.

How to yield the best results

I would usually do the whitening at night after I’d eaten dinner for maximum results. Overall, I completed the whitening procedure every other night over the span of 10 days. I didn’t do it every night because I was afraid that it would be too harsh on my gums and teeth. Because I do suffer from sensitivity at times, they recommended that I coat my gums with Vaseline prior to applying the whitening gel. Thankfully, I ended up having little to no sensitivity at all.  This was a critical step that made for a much easier experience for me personally and I was able to leave the whitening trays in for more than the recommended hour. Also, I did not drink coffee or red wine during this time period because I wanted to make sure that my whitening would be noticeable and that the future staining wouldn’t affect my overall results.

The results are in!

Overall, I saw results! Although I wasn’t as strict about completing it daily and even missed a couple of days in between, I think my teeth were at least 1 shade lighter after I completed the process. I would do this more often over the next month to see if I can achieve even better results than before. I would definitely recommend this product as an easy, affordable way to whiten your teeth .

I appreciate Smile Brilliant’s convenience and the user-friendly kit. If you want to whiten your teeth, enter the giveaway below for a chance to win a FREE Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit! Give it a try 🙂

Comment below if you’ve ever tried at-home teeth whitening or interested in trying it in the future. I want to hear your experience!

Smile Brilliant Giveaway

Enter to win a FREE Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening Kit by clicking here: Smile Brilliant Giveaway 

It’s really easy! All you have to do is enter your name and email address 🙂

ALSO….

If you don’t win, you can purchase your kit with the following 15% off coupon code: mylivingspree15

***The giveaway ends October 26, 2018 at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced October 27, 2018! Open to U.S., UK, Australia and Canadian residents only.***

Good luck everyone and thanks for reading!

<!– SMILE BRILLIANT ARTICLE WIDGET START –> <a id=”smilebrilliant_widget_article” ishidden=”1″ title=”Professional Teeth Whitening”>Professional Teeth Whitening</a> <script src=”//www.smilebrilliant.com/widget-article/mylivingspree” type=”text/javascript”></script> <!– SMILE BRILLIANT ARTICLE WIDGET END –>

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Moodie Foodie: Healthy Food For Any Mood!

Lately, I’ve been in search of ways to eat healthier, while simultaneously making it fun and cost-friendly! For people like me, healthy eating can be a chore and meal prepping can be mundane. Do you feel like you don’t know where to begin when it comes to making healthy choices or rather you’ve been eating healthy but need new ideas and recipes? If the answer is yes to both, then this blog post is for you! I’ve teamed up with a fellow Vanderbilt alumna and food blogger, Garrah Carter-Mason, to bring you tips and ideas to eat healthier foods! Garrah has a wonderful food blog filled with inspiration for delicious meals to cook and restaurants to visit! Below, Garrah shares a little about her healthy eating journey, her secret to saving money when grocery shopping, and her favorite go-to meals for everyday life!

Making a lifestyle change

Healthy eating has become “something like a phenomenon” and I’m loving it! I started my healthy eating journey in undergrad when I decided to cut red meat out of my diet. I ate fish and chicken for years and eventually cut those out as well. Now, I am a vegetarian and my body loves me for it! I advocate for healthy eating because I want to see people live longer, stronger, and healthier lives. My body changed in a major way since I changed my lifestyle.  

Dispelling the myth

I know you’re probably thinking—Why would I even try to eat healthy when it’s so time-consuming and expensive? Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a myth! I eat healthy every day (with a cheat meal or gluten-free donut every now and then lol). I don’t spend a ton of money and my meals don’t take a lot of time to prepare!

What’s my secret? Well, let’s start with grocery shopping! I go to the grocery stores (Kroger and/or Trader Joes) once a week and spend about $30 dollars (crazy, right?). My shopping cart is usually filled with alkaline water, nut milk, beans, veggies, fruits, protein supplements, more veggies and more fruit! These items aren’t really that expensive especially when you purchase a variety of fresh produce.

A day in the life

I’ll go through a day in the life (with a breakfast, snack, and dinner recipe) to show how easy eating healthy really is!

Breakfast

Breakfast: 5-minute avocado toast | Ingredients: 2 slices of sourdough toast, 1 avocado, crushed red pepper, sea salt, black pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice, and cilantro. Toast the bread, mash slices of avocado on it, and add toppings. See, easy peasy!

Midday snack

Now, let’s do a midday snack—a smoothie bowl! In a blender, combine frozen fruit, protein powder, coconut water, and 1 avocado. Blend together until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Top with coconut flakes, chia seeds, granola (plenty of it), and fresh fruit of your choice. Again, that took all of what, 5 minutes?

Dinner

Now, I know most of you reading this are probably in school or working a full-time job and don’t have time for long, drawn-out recipes. So, here’s a quick and easy one. It’s called a Buddha bowl, and you can make it any way you want. All it encompasses is a protein, a starch, and veggies of your choice! I roast chickpeas in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Add them to your bowl. Also add fresh corn, kale, brown rice, and scallions. Top with salsa. That’s it! I promise it’s as easy and good as it sounds.

Your body will thank you

Now you see that healthy eating doesn’t have to consume your life; it can actually be fun once you get the hang of it and start seeing results! I am a testament! Since I’ve changed my eating habits I have been able to maintain a healthy weight, my skin is better, my digestive system is better, I have more energy, and I am all around a happier person! All you have to do is just start by experimenting with the recipes above and add foods that you like! Mix things up a bit and always find ways to look for new inspiration when you start to get tired eating the same things. No matter what you do, continue eating healthy and make it a habit and it will eventually become part of your lifestyle!

For more recipes: check out my blog @birdfoodie on Instagram and BirdFoodie on Facebook! If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, please email me at birdfoodietn@gmail.com. Stay tuned for the plant-based recipe book that I will be releasing soon!

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Monday Motivation: 5 Keys You Need To Become A Homeowner

“The only real limitation on your abilities is the level of your desires. If you want it badly enough, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I officially became a first-time homeowner! I remember the feeling of being overjoyed as I sealed the deal to make one of my biggest dreams a reality. Becoming a homeowner had been on my vision board for several years, but I never knew when or how I would do it. I thought I needed to be married first, have perfect financial conditions, and be well into my 30s before even considering such a purchase. I was wrong. I didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did, especially being in my twenties and single, but I wasn’t afraid to allow myself to dream and put it in the atmosphere. I realized that not only was this a good move, but also it was a God move. I now know that God blessed me to have a testimony to share with others! I want to encourage you that no matter what your situation is, you can fulfill your dreams of becoming a homeowner. I am a witness that it is possible. No, you don’t have to be rich but you do have to do your research and that’s why I am here!

**Picture of me on Closing Day, February 2017!

**Pictured above with my realtor Candace Blue and lender Mike Lewis

I want to introduce you to one of my first Houston friends, Erin Wilson, who actually built her first home from the ground-up in her mid-twenties! I was so inspired by this girl boss that I started researching how to purchase a home and asked her for realtor referrals! Several months later, we became neighbors (yes, she put a sistah on!) and Erin recently became a realtor to help other millennials fulfill their dreams. Below, Erin shares 5 major keys for first-time homebuyers. Let’s hear from Erin on how to get the process started!

1. Prepare, prepare, PREPARE!

Start saving enough money for your down payment! For an FHA loan, you will need at least 3.5% of your home’s purchase price for a down payment. For a conventional loan, you will need at least 5%. However, there are many first time owner incentives and programs that will sometimes allow for a smaller down payment percentage! Either way, be sure to BEGIN SAVING NOW for your first home!

2. Find a Realtor who is fit for YOU

Finding a dependable and knowledgeable Realtor is a MAJOR key to your first-time home buying experience. Your Realtor’s sole purpose is to serve you and ensure that your process is as seamless and comfortable as possible. Your Realtor will help you with viewing your home options, making an offer, negotiating, closing and everything in between. Take the time to interview Realtors and find someone who you have an instant connection with. During the process, your Realtor will become your best-friend so you want to be sure that he/she fully understands your needs and puts YOU first as you make one of the largest purchases of your life!

3. Find a lender who will SECURE THE BAG

Now that you’ve secured a Realtor, it’s time to now choose a lender. Your Realtor will often have a recommended list of lenders for you to reach out to. Your relationship with your lender is just as important as your relationship with your Realtor as he/she will help you with the financial aspect of buying your first home. Ask them questions regarding their first time home owner incentives, interest rates, how long it takes them to close a deal, etc. Once you’ve selected your lender, have them provide you with a pre-approval letter that will show you “how much house” you can afford. Most Realtors will not show you a home until they receive your pre-approval letter. We want to be sure that we show you homes within your budget!

4. START looking for homes!

So now that you’ve secured a Realtor and a lender, you are good to go! You and your Realtor will work together to determine what location, price point, neighborhood amenities, number of bedrooms/baths, etc. are ideal for you. From there, you will go out with your Realtor and view the homes! Be sure to keep in mind RESALE VALUE! That is KEY in purchasing your first home. Remember, buying a home is an investment. You want to be sure that you select a home that you can easily resell later down the road and gain equity on. So while making decisions on what are “deal breakers” for you, ask yourself if that is also a common deal breaker for the average buyer. You want to ask questions like the following:

  1. Would a family be able to live comfortably in this home?
  2. Would a young professional want to buy this home as their first home?
  3. Is there enough of a backyard for a buyer who may have a pet?
  4. Is there enough living space (closet, kitchen, living area, etc) for the average home buyer?

5. Submit an Offer & Enter the CLOSING Process

Now that you’ve found the perfect first home for you, what’s next!? At this point, you will work with your Realtor to determine your offer price. Your Realtor will submit an offer on your behalf for the home. If your offer is accepted, your “under contract” process begins. During this process you will have a home inspection, appraisal, and an exchange of financial information to your lender. The process on average takes 30-45 days. During this time, it is KEY that you do not spend any money on big ticket items such as a car, furniture, appliances, etc. Save all of the big expenses for AFTER closing day!

After this, it should be smooth sailing here on out! I know this process can seem extremely overwhelming, but don’t let that deter you! That is what resources are for! If you have any questions, definitely reach out to Erin Wilson! You can reach her through her website, erinwilsonrealtor.com or through email at erin@erinwilsonrealtor.com. She is ready and willing to help you make your first time home owner experience the best one it can be. Also, please feel free to drop questions and/or comments below! I would love to hear from you and answer some questions if I can! Don’t forget…Secure the bag, fulfill your dreams, and get those keys!

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