Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. This was my second year cooking for my family, and let me tell ya’ — it was FAR easier this time around. The food was finished an hour ahead of schedule, everything turned out wonderfully, and I only set the smoke alarm off twice — once cooking bacon during breakfast, and once heating up garlic for the stuffing. Of course, we ended it up with way more than enough food, and my workouts were incredible for the following 3-4 days. It’s crazy how much of a difference I can feel during my lifts when I’m eating at a surplus. So many new personal records (PR’s) in the gym!
I used the months/weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to slowly build up my caloric intake. I’d been eating at a deficit (~1800-2000 calories/day) for more than a year, and considering my current activity level, it was time to crank things up a notch. I’m currently sitting at around 2400cal/day with 4-5 HIIT sessions and 5-6 lifting sessions each week. Yesterday, my coach told me she could tell that either I’d leaned out or my muscles had grown. (I’m guessing it’s the latter considering how much I eat.) This got me thinking about how backwards my thinking used to be. A little over a year ago, I thought that the only way to “look better” was to lose weight. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I haven’t lost any weight in the last 4-6ish months, but I still look different, and people mention it regularly.
The “eat less, be more active, look better” mentality is flawed (to an extent), especially if you’re at a healthy weight. In my own case, eating MORE has improved my workouts and added muscle definition, thus making me feel like more of a badass (because of my increased strength) and look more “toned” (because my muscles have grown). Food for thought: If you’re eating a little more throughout the holidays, put those extra calories to use and hit the gym. I’ll admit, I was worried about eating more until I realized that even though I’m consuming way more calories than I was earlier this year, my jeans are looser and I can easily throw a pair of 30lb. dumbbells over my head for endless shoulder presses. (Such a bro statement, I know.)
This weekend, I’m watching one of my best friends walk down the aisle and will be playing the role for a bridesmaid for the first time in my life. I’m certain that I’ll be eating/drinking way more and working out much less than I’m used to, and I’m okay with that. Monday, I’ll get back into the gym and see if I can lift even heavier than I did this week.
I’m not saying everyone should go out and eat 2400+ calories each day. The point I’m trying to make here is don’t be afraid to fuel your body with food, and don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re eating more during the holidays. It happens. Instead of feeling guilty, throw on your gym clothes, pick up a set of weights, and be mindful of what you’re eating.
Simple Baked Pesto Chicken
If you’re looking for an easy main dish for a small holiday get-together, this is one of my new go-to recipes. Don’t be afraid of making your own pesto! It’s incredibly simple if you’ve got a reliable blender/food processor. (I use this one, and bonus: they sell it at Costco.) I used the method of this recipe and made my own pesto sauce, and I’m very pleased with how this turned out. Serve it over brown rice, quinoa, or noodles with a green veggie side to make it a complete, well-balanced meal.
Cook time: 45 minutes (10min prep + 35min baking)
- 4 4-oz chicken breast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (I used an entire large package of the fresh herbs from the HEB produce section)
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp low-sodium Lawry’s seasoning salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray
- Combine all ingredients except chicken and mozzarella in a food processor and blend well to make your pesto
- Spread about 1/3 of the pesto into the baking dish, place your chicken breasts on top, and cover them with the remainder of the sauce
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes
- Remove, then sprinkle the mozzarella on top and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes
- Serve immediately