Start your morning off with a tasty peanut butter protein smoothie

I hate breakfast.

Why do I hate breakfast? I’m usually not hungry when I wake up, it’s a hassle to prepare when I’m rushing out the door to the office, and I get sick of breakfast foods very quickly – at least those breakfast foods that I should be eating within the guidelines of the Paleo lifestyle  I’ve adopted over the past couple of years.

When I first “went Paleo” back in 2011 I was *very* strict with my food intake. And that meant no smoothies, which had been a go-to breakfast for me in the past. However, over almost two years of tinkering and eliminating foods and then adding them back in, I’ve discovered that while I do feel better when I don’t drink milk or consume copious amounts of cheese, that I CAN handle whey protein and greek yogurt VERY well, and in fact enjoy better satiety, weight control, and overall well-being  when I combine them as part of a tasty breakfast smoothie.

Smoothies get a bit of a bad reputation in the Paleo community because we’re supposed to eat organic, whole (real) foods and avoid dairy. They also get a bad rap in general because of the high calorie and sugar content in the commercially available smoothies. But thanks to a powdered peanut butter product called PB2 that I found while browsing the health food section of my local grocery store, I have developed a high protein, low calorie breakfast smoothie that will keep you full for hours, and provide almost half the daily requirement of protein for an average-sized, athletic female (assumes a weight of ~ 130-150 pounds).

Here’s the recipe, complete with calories and macronutrients:


For 328 calories, this smoothie packs 52 (!!!) grams of protein and only 12 grams of sugar. A much better nutritional profile than your typically soy and fruit-based smoothies from a certain juice chain.

This recipe makes a pint-glass sized portion, of medium thickness. I’ve been enjoying one of these almost every morning for the last month, and notice a significant boost in energy and satiety on the days I start my mornings with a large amount of protein.

Question: what’s your favorite go-to breakfast? Do you have a healthy smoothie recipe you’d like to share?


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Four Veterans

(Note: although this entry is a departure from my usual writings on fitness, food, and various other forms of fun, I wanted to document my experience  while the details were fresh in my mind. Names of the veterans are invented, out of respect for their privacy.)

Tonight, as part of a community outreach program for the company I work for, I visited the VA Hospital here in Portland.  It’s an experience I intend to repeat, and one I’ll never forget.

We met in the VA Hospital lobby, and the volunteer coordinator split us into a group of four and a group of three. Each group was led by an experienced volunteer who had made VA hospital visits before. When we reached the 9th floor of the hospital, we checked in at the nurses station and then parted ways to visit different wings of the floor.


Our first visit was to a soft-spoken lady in her 70’s that I’ll call “Helen”. Helen didn’t quite know what to make of our rag-tag gang of four but her boredom quickly overtook her reticence to let strangers into her room. We weren’t strangers for long, though. Over the course of 10-15 minutes, we learned that Helen was a widow, and had served in the Army (WAC) in her younger days. Her husband had served in the Navy. Helen, even in her fragile post-operative state, was not worried about herself nearly as much as she was concerned for the homeless people that she would “cheer up” during her frequent walks through Downtown Portland.

Helen said that she goes where nobody else wants to go. To the Occupy Portland camp. To the homeless camp at NW 4th and Burnside. Under bridges and freeway ramps goes Helen, spreading cheer wherever she can. She told us that while she has had many nicknames in her life (such as Foxy Lady) her current nickname, and the one she likes best, is “Lady in the Straw Hat”. She likes it because the homeless people call her that.

Although Helen was wearing nothing but a drab hospital gown when we visited her, in my mind I can see her walking around Portland in her bright pink straw hat, spreading hope to those who have very little.


Leela was an absolute joy,  a chatterbox, and  extremely excited to have random people showing up in her hospital room on a Wednesday night. Although Leela had aged prematurely beyond her 56 years (I learned she graduated from my high school – 11 years before me – I thought she was in her mid 60’s) her bright eyes,  wide smile, and talkative manner revealed a woman who looked to be very pretty in her younger years.

Leela was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, and was waiting to be transferred to the veteran’s rehab center in nearby Vancouver. She excitedly showed us gifts she had received from recent visitors – a teddy bear with war “injuries” from a man dressed in a kilt. A patriotic quilt handmade by a quilting circle in Tigard. A pink neck pillow, which at one time had a matching pink blanket that she gave away to a nurse’s aid because “she wasn’t a pink kind of girl”. A beautiful necklace made of glass beads that one of the nurse’s aids made for her.

We asked Leela what some of her favorite memories were about serving and she focused on taking advantage of military hops so she could travel. During her time in the Air Force, she spent time in Guam and Okinawa, which were favorites of hers. She said that once she recovered completely from her surgery, that she hoped to continue her love for adventure.

I hope you get to travel again, Leela, once those knees of yours heal up. Perhaps I’ll cross your path in an airport sometime and I can buy you a cocktail.


At 46, Steve was the youngest veteran we visited. He was also the most intense, but none of the conversation focused on his time in the military, rather it was about what happened after his time there.

Steve used to work in high tech. Wore a tie. Made lots of money and became consumed by making even more money. Had a fancy Beemer, a Harley, a nice house … the “American Dream”.  He was physically active and ate a healthy diet. But one day, Steve’s heart stopped and he split his head open falling down on the sidewalk.

Fortunately for Steve, there were people nearby who were able care for him until an ambulance came to take him to the hospital. Several heart operations later, Steve began to think about his life. He – in his words – “found Jesus”.  And as he recuperated in the VA Hospital, he realized that many patients there had no place to go and would wind up using drugs and alcohol, and sometimes, becoming homeless as a result. So he started a non-profit to help vets transition back into civilian life. Steve is being released from the hospital tomorrow, and like Helen, his biggest concern is getting back to the volunteer work that he feels he was called to do.


John was in the Army during Vietnam, and was a cook for the officers. He lives in a small town in Southern Oregon and felt a little out of his element in the “big city” of Portland. I had a good time teasing him about that.

John told us that in the Army, there were three separate dining areas – one for the officers, one for the medical staff, and then the “mess” for the regular enlisted personnel. He said that the officers got the best food. When we asked him how the hospital food compared to the officer food, John told us that the hospital food tasted like shit, and that they could use some cooking lessons! This made our whole group crack up, and I think we woke up John’s sleeping roommate with our laughter.

John loved to show off his surgery scars where doctors had wrapped the upper curve of his stomach around his esophagus to cure a bad case of GERD. His biggest complaint was that his soft food diet was boring as hell, and that he probably wouldn’t get to eat turkey for Thanksgiving. John was very excited about being released tomorrow, so he could get back to his small town and his bride of 33 years.

(Looking back on this experience that ended just two hours ago, I would absolutely do it again. I went in there hoping to brighten the days of a few strangers, but I had no idea that they would brighten mine so memorably. As an added note, every single veteran we spoke with expressed their gratitude for the quality of medical care they were receiving, and for the staff and volunteers who work at the VA Hospital. It’s great to know these fine people are in such good hands.)

Dumbbell Diaries #5: 3 weeks since injury …

I’m a few entries behind in posting workouts, but the last few have been mostly HIIT-based anyway, due to my limitations in lifting heavy things. However, yesterday I had a FANTASTIC workout with my trainer – he devised a great full body resistance training program that worked around my thumb sprain. Here’s what we did:

Group 1: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Goblet squat: 10/15; 10/25; 10/35
Oblique v-ups: 15, 15, 15 (per side)
Decline crunches: 12, 12, 12

Decline crunches always make my abs feel like they are being ripped out of my body – in a good way. I think I need to incorporate these more frequently as it doesn’t take a lot of volume to feel the burn.

Group 2: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
45 degree leg press: 10/230, 10/230
Superman back extensions: 10, 10/3, 10/3

Was supposed to do a third set of leg press, but the machine kept getting hijacked. I cannot WAIT until I can start doing good old barbell back squats again – leg press machines are for gym bunnies! LOL

Group 3: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Cable cross fly chest: 10/10, 10/10, 10/10
Cable cross fly back: 5/20, 5/20, 5/20 (each side)

Group 4: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Lat pullover: 10/65, 10/65, 10/65
Forward raises: 10/12, 10/12, 10/12
Single arm row: 5/20, 5/20, 5/20 (each side)

I’m going to do this same routine this weekend, and will attempt to increase the amount of weight on a few of the exercises.


Dumbbell Diaries #4: Still Injured …

Tuesday night I did my first solo, post-injury resistance training workout. The first item on my program was running shuttle sprints back and forth across the gym, which I wasn’t too keen on, but MAN did I get my heart rate up! That translated to a fantastic calorie burn in a fraction of the time I used to spend doing steady state cardio. If this HIIT doesn’t blast the fat off me, I don’t know what will.

Workout duration: 65 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 602
Average Heart Rate: 134 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 177 BPM

The program looked like this:

-Warmup for 10 minutes walking semi-briskly on treadmill at 3.8 MPH.

-Shuttle run sprints across gym X 5 with 2 min recovery in between.
(Sprint to closest 3-point line, sprint back. Then, sprint to mid-court, sprint back. Then, sprint to further 3-point line, sprint back. Finally, sprint to the far end and sprint back.)

Sprint 1: 40 seconds
Sprint 2: 38 seconds
Sprint 3: 38 seconds
Sprint 4: 39 seconds
Sprint 5: 39 seconds

Then it was time to move to the weight room for the following circuit:

Leg Press (5 sets)
12 reps @ 90 pounds
10 reps @ 140 pounds
10 reps @ 160 pounds
8 reps @ 180 pounds
8 reps @ 230 pounds

I feel like I could do a LOT more on the Leg Press, but this is a new machine for me so I didn’t want to force it. It pretty much sucks as a leg exercise, but I can’t exactly squat or deadlift right now so I am making the best of it.

Superman Back Extensions
3 sets of 10 reps

Front Plank – Hard Style
3 sets of 45 second holds

Side Plank – Hard Style
3 sets of 45 second holds on each side

And that’s it! I was pretty well spent after this session. Looking forward to seeing what the trainer will devise for Thursday.

Dumbbell Diaries #3: Injury Edition

It figures. Just days after committing to some new fitness goals and completing only two workouts in the pursuit of those goals, I get injured!


I was just ten minutes into Saturday morning “boot camp” when I got to the plyometric box jump (see video) part of the circuit. Except the “box” was one of those gigantic tractor tires. I swung my arms back and jumped onto the tire with all the power I could muster. Except I never made it all the way onto the tire because my left thumb slammed – hard – into the side of the tire. The pain was so sharp it took my breath away. And then I looked down and saw the top of my thumb was bent in an unnatural direction – away from the rest of my fingers. I popped it back into place and taped it up the best I could with what the gym had on hand.

I drove myself to Urgent Care, and then my husband met me and we drove to the hospital for x-rays. After a painful week I finally got in to see an orthopedic doctor, who told me to come back in another week! (sigh) The bright side was he didn’t think I would need surgery, which was a huge relief. The doctor cleared me to work out again, but obviously with the caveat that I couldn’t do anything that required my thumb. I made an appointment with my trainer for Saturday morning, reluctantly as I was still down in the dumps and in pain, but I knew I needed to get myself back into working out as soon as I could.

So, with my core lifts out of the question, here’s what we did instead:

Workout duration: 63 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 692
Average Heart Rate: 143 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 184 BPM

Circuit #1

We did interval circuits, where each exercise was performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. Repeat 3 times.

One-legged glute bridge lift
Alternating toe touch on step bench
Bunny hops through “ladder”

Circuit #2

Just like circuit #1, each exercise was performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. Repeat 3 times.

30 second “hard style” planks
Alternating step ups on step bench
“Icky shuffle” through “ladder”

I had hardly caught my breath from this intense cardio series when my trainer informed me we were going to do shuttle run sprints across the gym floor. So, start at one end of the gym, sprint to closest 3-point line, sprint back. Then, sprint to mid-court, sprint back. Then, sprint to further 3-point line, sprint back. Finally, sprint to the far end and sprint back. We repeated this 4 times (!!!) and my legs were shaking. Who needs arms to work out? 😉

We then (thankfully) transitioned from HIIT to lifting weights. Since I can’t grip a barbell, we alternated sets of 45 degree leg press, side planks, and the prone hamstring curl. I don’t have exact sets and reps, but I did two sets of the hamstring curl at 55 pounds for 12 reps each, which was a record for me.

I ended my workout exhausted, and glad that I had forced myself to show up even though I couldn’t do the workout I “wanted” to do. It was a test of my committment and inner strength to show up, and I beamed the rest of the day knowing I could still push myself even when everything wasn’t going in my favor.

Dumbbell Diaries #2

So … today I met with my trainer for the first time since I emailed him my goals. I asked him about frequency of workouts, and we agreed that my new schedule would look like this:

Sunday: Lift
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Lift
Wednesday: Easy Cardio with a little HIIT
Thursday: Lift
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Boot Camp (HIIT)

So, three days of pure strength work, one day of “HIIT” and another day of cardio with maybe a little HIIT. We agreed I would limit to five days, because four out of those five workouts are pretty hardcore, and I don’t want to risk burnout.

On with today’s program, which, I really liked:

Workout duration: 50 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 520
Average Heart Rate: 140 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 176 BPM


On days I deadlift, I always start with deadlift, and don’t superset with other exercises in between like I did on Tuesday. Oops. Never more than 10 reps per set. Today we did 4 sets as follows:

10/95 pounds
8/110 pounds
6/115 pounds
4/125 pounds

The deadlift is CRITICAL to do with impeccable form, I guess a lot of people try to do them and wind up injuring their backs. My first set was a little shaky but I got better as the sets progressed. By the end he said my form looked really good. Progress. Even though that 240 pound deadlift is looking pretty far away right now.

Superset #1

Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
10/22.5 pounds
10/27.5 pounds
8/35 pounds (!!!)
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
10/10 pounds
10/10 pounds
10/10 pounds
Lateral Walk w/ Resistance Band (video)
40 steps (20 each direction)
50 steps (25 each direction)
50 steps (25 each direction)

Notes: First of all, PR on the dumbbell bench press! I felt so studly lifting 35 pound dumbbells! The lateral walks SUCK, my least favorite exercise, but apparently it is REALLY good for the glutes.

Superset #2

Goblet Squat
Shoulder Press

Notes: I can’t believe that last set of shoulder press. That is a really heavy weight, considering I used to do 8 pound shoulder presses! I totally failed out on the last rep too, arm just wouldn’t go up!

Superset #3

Hamstring Curls (Prone)
Twisting Crunch (like a V-sit, with weight held up to chest, 10 reps to each side)
20/10 pounds
20/10 pounds
20/10 pounds

Notes: We were also supposed to do 3 “hard style” planks – which is the same position as a regular plank but you contract every muscle in your body as tight as possible – but ran out of time. I’ll be starting with 30 seconds and working up from there.

Whew! After that workout I downed a 200 calorie protein shake (homemade with a scoop of Any Whey, a cup of So Delicious coconut milk, blackberries, and nectarines). And you can bet I’ll be hoovering down a sizeable portion of protein with tonight’s dinner too – gotta feed those muscles!