Monday, August 24, 2015

Healthy Product Spotlight (& Giveaway!) - Squarebars

Hi, friends! Happy Monday! 

Today, I'm excited to share another "Healthy Product Spotlight" post. I can't remember exactly how I found out about Squarebar, but I'm sure glad that I did! I recently snagged a sample box that was advertised during an Instagram flash sale, and got to try all 5 organic, vegan flavors. These bars are delicious!


As mentioned above, these bars are made with only organic, vegan ingredients. The five flavors of cherry, almond spice, mint, crunch and coconut are all chocolate coated and uniquely flavored to perfection. Though I loved all 5, my favorites would be crunch, almond spice and mint. The mint one tasted like a healthy version of a thin mint!

{And all girl scout cookie lovers celebrated}

The size of the bars are perfect for a mid morning snack, which is how I enjoyed mine all of last week. They are a satisfying treat that will leave you full for hours. 

Another thing I love about this company? They make a quarterly contribution to the nonprofit Not For Sale, which means that each time you make a purchase, you are helping to end slavery & human trafficking. 


Considering that I was such a fan of these bars (& what they help support!), I'd love to give one of my readers the opportunity to try them. Enter below for your chance to win!



And have yourself a very happy Monday, my friends!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology


I feel like the real title of this post should be "Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology, Including The Price" because everyone knows that the classic sales move is to provide all the deets except the price so you're only option is to reach out and ask. But it just didn't feel right to use the word "everything" and leave out such a fundamental detail, so yes! We are gonna talk about everything, including money. 

My goal through out this Beachbody coaching experience is not to sell, anyway. My goal is to provide authentic & genuine information up front, and encouragement & friendship through out the process. 

So, let's get to it!

Ingredients

Shakeology is not your typical protein shake, or meal replacement shake. In preparation for this post, I looked up every. single. ingredient. listed in these shakes, and compared it to some other products. Unlike what I saw elsewhere, everything has a health benefit. 

There are absolutely no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives in these shakes. None! There are no forms of soy, or gluten. {Though the manufacturing facility may work with these products, so if you have a severe allergy, you may want to avoid}. 

Though I recognized several ingredients, such as whey protein, chia, spinach and goji berry, many others I was not able to initially identify. So I did my research, and in researching them, I found that these ingredients can be used for alleviating gastrointestinal upset, musculoskeletal pain, and allergies (source). They have been used alongside cancer treatment, relieving the side effects of chemotherapy & fighting tumor growth (source). And they are jam packed with antioxidants and vitamins (source). 

These are just some of the many, many health benefits I saw from these superfood ingredients, and I am proud to represent a company that does not compromise quality when it comes to composition. 

How Is It Different From Other Protein Powders?

The answer to this question directly relates to the ingredients mentioned above. Some protein powders can be artificially sweetened {even Splenda, or Sucralose, is an artificial flavor}. Others may not have artificial ingredients, but might not have the drastic amount of health benefits listed above, either. The protein component is just one part of Shakeology when looking at the various antioxidant, probiotic, vitamin, and other whole, natural ingredients. 

Texture / Flavors

I am commonly asked about the texture, and to be honest, I think it's something you have to try for yourself. I personally enjoy the texture! Especially when blended into a smoothie consistency. Others can be more sensitive, and I have definitely heard of some who are simply not a fan. I say try it for yourself and see how you like it!

As for flavors, there are currently 6. I have tried Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. They also offer Vegan Chocolate, Vegan Tropical Strawberry, and Greenberry.

My favorite flavor would be a tie between Chocolate and Strawberry, which is funny since I am definitely a Vanilla person in all other areas. I love both of these flavors, especially when mixed with some ripe banana and a spoonful of almond butter. Ohhh my yum!

Effects

Some of the reported effects of Shakeology are increased energy, reduced cravings, loss of weight and improved digestion. For me, personally, I have noticed all of those things, but none have been as dramatic as the noticeable reduction in my cravings. 

I was pretty skeptical of this, since I have used many health products & most just end up having me shift my craving from the sweet or the carb to the product. This may sound like a positive thing, but when you're eating or drinking multiple health products each day out of craving, this is not a sustainable or healthy lifestyle. This is taking the existing problem and redirecting the focus. 

With Shakeology, I can honestly say I do not crave it. I look forward to my daily Shakeology, but I also look forward to my other meals and snacks. What I am not doing any more is experiencing severe, controlling cravings, and that I am thrilled about!

Price

Hopefully the above information has answered any questions you may have about the product itself, and shown my genuine love & appreciation for these shakes. So now, let's answer the question that you're wondering. How much do they cost? 

1 month supply of Shakeology is $129.99. This may sound like a lot (who am I kidding, it does!) but I've noticed a few things about the price that I was originally very hesitant to fork over. 

Before I started using Shakeology, I was eating out for breakfast every day. I simply did not have the time or energy to get up early and make it myself, so I was running to Starbucks or driving through a local coffee shop (where I would actually buy, you guessed it, Shakeology) and spending $6+ dollars each day. 

The $129.99 price divides out to just over $4 / shake. I'll bump my average cost up to $5 for the extra ingredients I mix in, and I am still saving myself upwards of $30 each month. And that's just the financial benefit, I would be willing to pay for the health benefits that I've experienced. 

I used to think that Shakeology Home Direct (monthly shipments) was the only way to place an order, but I have recently discovered that you can order 1 month supply if you'd like to try it out. 

You can also order a Shakeology Sample Pack if you'd like to try the various flavors before committing to a specific order. The full 6 flavor pack is $30, and the Vegan Sample Pack is $20. 

And there you have it, folks.

Everything you want to know about Shakeology. Or at least I hope so! If you've got more questions, or are interested in trying it out for yourself, shoot me an e-mail at healthy.aims89@gmail.com, or leave me your e-mail in the comments below. 

I would love to walk along this health journey together! Because I believe that our minds & bodies deserve to be as healthy as possible, as they were made to do strong & mighty things. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Legalism vs Redemption

I was chatting with a friend last week about the conundrum of grace. She vulnerably shared about a situation she was facing, and how sometimes, the deeper challenge is not in apologizing, but in accepting forgiveness. Sometimes, we feel so uncomfortable with the concept of grace, that we would prefer the playing field just be leveled.

I mess up, you mess up, we're even. We move on. 

It may sound twisted, but I understood perfectly. I got how difficult it can feel for our human heart to be handed unwarranted forgiveness, a new slate so to speak. 

I thought about how Jesus' love has taught me to lay down & accept grace when my heart wants to feel justified and "safe." I thought about how this has rolled into my relationship, allowing me to accept forgiveness where I previously would have fought it. 

And then this weekend happened, and I realized that maybe I don't have as big of a grasp on this "free grace" thing as I thought. 


Because the world is ridiculously small, a man that I had crossed paths with 2 and a half years ago on a pre-#adventuresofsoberamy outing somehow collided with one of my good friends. When she asked if I remembered him, I legitimately did not. It took a few Facebook profile pictures to jog my memory, though there wasn't that good of a memory to jog in the first place. 

I felt perfectly safe laughing with my two good friends over this drunken, relatively harmless escapade, but once I realized that this man's image of me did not include the previous 2 years of sobriety, I felt the need to justify myself. The words "tell him I'm 2 years sober and love Jesus now!" flew straight out of my mouth. 

I felt uncomfortably thick in shame that I haven't felt in some time. And in that moment, it seemed like the only way out of that shame was through self-justification. 

I am sober now, therefore my identity is no longer marked by drunken stories. 

I am sober now, therefore my transgressions do not define me. 

I am sober now, therefore I am redeemed. 

And in that moment, I realized that at some point in the last 2 years of sobriety, I got things very, very backwards. 

Sobriety does not redeem my past, 
Jesus redeemed my past. 

All of a sudden, I realized that my salvation and redemption felt safe when seen through the lens of my sobriety. But when that was taken out of the equation, when all that was evident were stories of drunken escapades, I didn't feel redeemed. 

Sobriety was a gift from God, but somewhere along the way, it started taking His place.

God is my redeemer, not sobriety. 

God is the one who frees me from shame, not sobriety. 

Christ is the reason I can stand before God with confidence, not sobriety. 

Sobriety came from the grace of God as a response to the redemption being accomplished in my heart. It was never meant to earn or justify my salvation. 


I used to think legalism was all about putting on a front for others, but now I see that it can easily be used as a front for ourselves. Because accepting free grace? It feels uncomfortable and unnatural. We would much rather feel as though we've safely earned something than freely and undeservingly received it. 

I want to stop trying to earn grace. Because the fact of the matter is, thanks to my homeboy Jesus, it's already mine to receive. 

I want to stop using sobriety as a security blanket to hide from shame. Instead, I want to accept the truth that my identity has been reformed from the inside out simply because I am radically loved by God.

Radically loved, I tell you. 

{PS: you are too}

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kristen, Andrew & Baby Tucker

Last week, I have the privilege of photographing my friends Kristen & Andrew, and their in utero baby boy, Tucker. 



Kristen has been one of my closest friends since we met in college while working together at the always-classy-establishment of Kmart. Her friendship has been used in my life more profoundly than either of us could have ever guessed, as she was the one who brought me to church on the day my whole world changed

I watched and was encouraged as God wrote her a beautiful love story; we lived together when she got engaged (I got to play surprise photographer & witness the whole precious thing), and I was blessed to stand beside her last year as she pledged her whole heart & whole life to one of the best men I know. 



Kristen & Andrew, I love you both dearly. I have witnessed God do wonders in your relationship, and in your lives. I have been encouraged from the very beginning, and I cannot wait to walk alongside you as you guys become parents. 

Tucker is really, really lucky to have you guys as Mom and Dad. 

And to have me as #1 babysitter. ;)











Right as we were leaving, the sky gave us the perfect sunset for some silhouette shots. And man, did they come out magical. 


If anyone knows Kristen & Andrew, they know that they love to dance. Their happy place is in their boots, swing dancing along to some country tunes. And as we walked back to our car, with the sun setting on another beautiful Santa Barbara day, dance they did. 



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Healthy Product Spotlight! - Nikki's Coconut Butter

Hi, friends! First off, thank you all so much for your support & encouragement on last Friday's announcement. I am so excited to be embarking on a new adventure with Beachbody coaching! 

In all honesty, it's taken quite a few steps outside of my comfort zone to get here, but who wants to live inside their comfort zone, right? Not me, that's for sure. :) 

As I've begun prioritizing my health & nutrition, I've been discovering all sorts of delicious and healthy treats. I thought eating healthy would be tasteless and boring, but turns out I was way wrong. Discovering how flavorful and yummy real food can be has dramatically decreased / eliminated my cravings. So 3 cheers for that!

I want to start highlighting the healthy products I find, as good news deserves to be shared! So today, I kick off the "Healthy Product Spotlight!" series with a recent favorite, 


I discovered Nikki's Coconut Butter while on my 21 Day Fix, and with flavors like "Vanilla Cake Batter" and ingredients that a paleo can eat? You bet I was sold. I have now tried 2 of their 5 flavors, and ohhhh my goodness. This stuff is heavenly!

I've blended it in my Shakeology, mixed it with melted semi-sweet chocolate for a healthy dessert, and most definitely eaten it by the spoonful. It's amazing how ever you choose to enjoy it!


If you like coconut, you will love this coconut butter. Almost as much as your body will love the healthy ingredients!

Try it for yourself! You won't be sorry.



What are your favorite healthy products? I want to know!

*The links in this post are affiliate links, 
meaning that I will receive commission 
on any sales generated from this post.*

Friday, July 24, 2015

My 24 Day Journey {& An Announcement!}

If you've been following along on my Instagram (@sweethomesb), you know that 24 days ago, on the first day of my 26th year, I started a fitness, health, & overall wellness journey. 


And friends, I've tried a lot of different health regimes. I've cut out sugar, I've counted calories, and to be brutally honest, the majority of my life I have bounced back and forth between feeling guilty about food and feeling restricted. 

And today, I can whole heartedly say that the last 24 days have
changed. my. life. 

I'm not going to shove before and after pictures in your face, and I'm not going to list statistics of how much I lost. Instead, I'm going to praise my God, and I'm going to tell you about how much I gained from this experience. 

I have been praying for freedom in my relationship with food for a long time. 


Those that know my story know that I battled a pretty brutal eating disorder for over 8 years of my life. Whenever I doubted if God was at work in this fitness journey of mine, whenever I wondered if I was doing this all for myself and my own desires, I was brought back to that fact. 

Over a third of my life was marked by an eating disorder, and my God, 
He redeems everything. 

So let me shout it really loud, with literal tears streaming down my face. 

This is not a fitness story. 
This is a redemption story. 

Man, my God is mighty good. 

In the last 24 days (3 Day Refresh + 21 Day Fix), I have found myself in a magically foreign place of having simultaneous joy + self control with food. The color-coded portion control system is so easy, and it really works. I have finally come to a place where I can enjoy my food (because guys, this girl loves food) AND treat my body well. 

And it feels so good, my friends. For a girl who has struggled in her relationship with food for nearly her entire life, 
I feel free. 


Photo by Becky Davis Photography

I was in a funk with my fitness routine before I started the 21 Day Fix, and was not looking forward to my work outs. I was doing them out of obligation, and that showed itself in the drastic decrease of my weekly work outs. 

These 30 minute videos? I love them. They have brought the joy back into my fitness routine, and I am so grateful. 

So yes, I lost weight in these last 24 days. But for me, that wasn't the goal. That was just the by product of the real success story here. 

Here's all that I gained: 

Joy. Joy. And More Joy. 

Peace in my relationship with food. 

Love for fitness, and for cooking, and for grocery shopping.

{Anyone notice that those are fruits of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22? I see you here, God.}

I Saved Money. My bank account was verrryy happy about how little I was eating out.

Muscles. ;) 

I made so many new Friends, other people doing the program who helped keep me motived and excited. 

Passion. Guys, I never ever saw myself in the health & fitness industry. But after experiencing this life change for myself, I want to be a part of it. 

My favorite part of the 21 Day Fix program is that it is absolutely sustainable. The eating plan is 100% do-able, and yes, I allow myself treats when the opportunity arises. The work out videos? You get to keep them for life, and can continue breaking a sweat each day & building those muscles. 

This isn't a 21 Day thing, it's a life thing. And I'm in. 

 So guys, as a result of how much I loved my experience, I am both excited and nervous to announce that

I am now a Beachbody Coach!

I believe in the programs this company offers. But I believe in them because 
I believe in YOU. 

You make the program successful, it doesn't make you successful. 

And ultimately, I believe in these programs because I believe in something bigger. 
I believe in a God who loves to change lives. 

I believe in a God who is passionate about freedom. 

And so this isn't a sales pitch, it's an invitation. This health thing? It's a lot like the journey of faith. It's not a one-day decision, it's an entire life endeavor. And like I said, I'm in. With every fiber of my being, I'm in. 

I want this freedom, guys. So this isn't me selling you freedom, it's me inviting you to join me on my quest for it. 


Photo by Becky Davis Photography

My wonderful coach (@carriemflynn) & I will be co-leading an August "Love Your Body" Accountability Group, beginning August 10th. 

If you have any interest in being a part of it, leave your e-mail address in the comments below, and I'll be in touch! Or, you can e-mail me at sweethomesbblog@gmail.com. 

I love you guys! I really, really do. You've been there with me through so many life journeys, and I thank you for being a part of this one, too. <3