Cauliflower Gnocchi with Basil Pesto & Blistered Tomatoes

As Fall sets in, it's the perfect time to savor the last of the summer produce. I'm always looking for easy options to throw together a quick and tasty dinner, especially as the calendar fills up and days get shorter. This meal couldn't be more simple, taking only 5-10 minutes from start to finish, and is easily adaptable to suit your tastes and ingredients on hand.

I picked up all four ingredients from Whole Foods Market 365 –– a streamlined grocery store evolved from Whole Foods and their 365 Everyday Value product line. I've been excited to try this cauliflower gnocchi since they launched their extended line of frozen fresh pasta and sauce. With tomatoes at their peak and abundant in gardens and markets, they are a natural choice to add flavor to this easy weeknight meal.

Preparation is super fast and flexible. Both the cauliflower gnocchi and pesto sauce are found in the frozen section and can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator, depending on how soon you'll use them. I left mine to thaw in the refrigerator overnight so they'd be easier to work with when I was ready to make dinner.

Ingredients

  • Frozen or fresh gnocchi
  • Frozen or fresh pesto
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Avocado or olive oil

Start by heating oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet and then filling a pot with water to boil. Once the water is on the burner, add the tomatoes to the skillet. If you don't have tomatoes on hand, try swapping for another vegetable. Some of my favorites include spinach, squash, peppers, and eggplant. The key to this meal is simplicity so get creative and use whatever on sale or what you have on hand.

Once the water is boiling, gently place the gnocchi in the pot. It only takes 2-3 minutes to cook, depending on if started from frozen or thawed. Either way, you don't need a timer –– it happens quickly, so be prepared to remove from the burner. You'll know it's done when the gnocchi floats to the top of the water. Once they've risen, pour into a strainer and return to the warm pan and mix in a few spoonfuls of the pesto sauce. If you don't have pesto on hand, try adding a simple tomato sauce or even just some butter –– it's hard to go wrong with this cauliflower gnocchi as the base. Once you've folded in the sauce to the warm gnocchi, top with your blistered vegetables, parmesan, and you're done! It's really that simple.

When I shared this on Instagram last week, many of you were excited about to try it yourselves, asking where to find it in store. Most of you are familiar with the 365-brand of items carried at Whole Foods, but many were unfamiliar with the 365 specialty stores, which are opening up around the country. Whole Foods Market 365 is a special branch of Whole Foods with its own branded stores. I shop at the Concord store, which is the first in the Bay Area. These they are popping up in cities around the country and you can find your nearest local store here!

Summer Picnic

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

Picnics are one of my favorite ways to spend time with friends when the weather warms up. As a lover of the outdoors, dining al fresco makes sharing a meal all the more enjoyable. I'm thrilled to show you a few of my picnic staples in partnership with Whole Foods 365, a simpler grocery shopping experience evolved from Whole Foods and their 365 Everyday Value product line.

When planning a picnic, I like to bring a variety of foods so that everyone is sure to have an option they love. I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen so I typically mix and match my own recipes with a few items from the cold case. My go-to is a fresh salad with in-season produce and protein that can be prepared in advance.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

I prioritize quality food and stick to a budget so I tend to shop and create my weekly menus based on sale items. Whole Foods 365 has a curated, simplified shopping experience and I picked up everything for our picnic at an affordable price.

Picnic Menu:

  • MAINS: Cilantro lime shrimp and tomato salad, Baby back ribs
  • SIDES: Corn on the cob, Potato salad
  • SNACKS: Late July purple corn chips, 365 pre-pack pico de gallo
  • DESSERT: Fresh cherries and grilled peaches
  • DRINKS: Waterloo sparkling water

I'd been having rib-envy after seeing all of the 4th of July spreads on social media, so I also picked up pre-seasoned barbeque baby back ribs, an ear of corn, and pre-pack potato salad to round out the menu.

I recently started growing cilantro and was hoping I'd find a way to use it into a recipe. The tomatoes are bursting with flavor right now and shrimp was on sale so I knew I decided to combine cilantro lime shrimp and tomatoes for the main course salad.

Cilantro Lime Grilled Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

  • 1 pound 26/30 Shrimp
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • approx 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic
  • quarter red onion
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • baby spinach

Start by juicing the lime and mixing with 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a bowl. Chop garlic cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. Toss in the lime and oil, add salt, pepper, or seasoning to taste and set aside. This can be prepared up to a day in advance.

In a medium heat skillet, add 1 pound of fresh shrimp. Stir frequently as the color changes from translucent to opaque. Most shrimp will cook completely in 4-5 minutes. Once done, Immediately remove from heat and fold into tomato salad with a few handfuls of baby spinach.

This salad can be easily modified in a number of ways depending on what you have on hand to create different flavors. I chose cilantro because it's what I had on hand, but you could add olives, oregano, and feta cheese for a Greek flavor or Italian with basil, mozzarella, and olive oil.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

Weekly Weigh In

My intention at the beginning of the year was to share more consistently by weighing in on the previous week. Like so many times before, I didn't follow through. I'd like to blame it on one of the many the curveballs life threw my way, but the truth is I've become lazy about keeping commitments to myself and others. Here's to changing that behavior and showing up imperfectly.

Reflections: The past month was a whirlwind with a big change in my living situation. The move was unexpected and somewhat traumatic but what's come out the situation feels like a dream.

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it's not the most fun and  takes awhile for everything to settle. I didn't cook much and I exercised even less over the past month, but I did my best to be mindful about my food choices and movement.

When I finally unpacked and stepped on my scale, I was surprised to see I hadn't gained weight and instead I'd lost a pound. I've eaten foods that make my belly ache more than once but I'm trying to have compassion for what drives that and keep moving forward.

Last week, I went to my friend Sarah‘s Galentines brunch at Le Marais Bakery. She's a fashion blogger and reminds me of my days as a 20-something Chanel-wearing fashion entreprenuer. These days I prefer Athleta and hiking boots, but I still like getting fancy when the occasion calls for it. I actually thought about getting dressed up and wanted to wear something more feminine like a dress or blouse and heels, but I didn't have any good options. I settled on a sweater with black pants and boots, threw on some makeup, and felt pretty cute. Y'all, everyone showed up in pink. There was no memo, they just instinctively did it. I guess on Wednesdays they wear pink 😉

Look, I could have used this as an opportunity to feel like an outsider or what I wasn't enough. You know, those old tapes. But that's not what happened. I thought it was funny and embraced my differences without shame. Do I wish I had taken the opportunity to get fancy and have Alexis take my picture? Yes! It would have been a great opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. Am I ashamed that I wasn't wearing pink? No way! I am proud that I'm able to show up in this kind of situation and take it in stride.

I went into this meal anticipating that I would indulge and I enjoyed it all. I'm not sure if that freedom allowed me to avoid emotional eating in a slightly akward social situation, but I just felt at ease. I've heard of Le Marais Bakery, but hadn't tried it because I didn't imagine they'd have many options for me. What surprised me most was the variety of keto options on their menu. They have many of the usual french favorites, but also a fun build your own board where you choose 5-7 sides from things like smoked salmon, bacon, proscuitto, 3 types of eggs, croissant, bagel, fruit, oatmeal, avocado, and more.

Intentions: Keep showing up. Make a plan and share it. Weigh-in again next week.

Learning to Rock Climb

Up For Anything Challenge

To ring in 2018 and celebrate the launch of the new ‘Up For Anything' tight, Athleta challenged me and a friend to be #UpForAnything and step outside our comfort zone by attending a fitness class we've never tried before. Throughout my journey, I've taken all types of classes, from SoulCycle to Barre, but never dared try rock climbing. The idea intrigued me, but the story I told myself and others was that it was too dangerous.

We all have those exhilarating yet intimidating activities that we'd like to try, but I truly believed that my size and strength disqualified me from participating. Like many activities of years past, I believed climbing wasn't meant for someone (fat) like me. Thanks to a growing movement of body confidence and inclusion, I've started to push past limiting beliefs about my body and the space I take up in the world. When Athleta asked if I was #UpForAnything, I knew reaching for my limitless potential meant I not only had to scale the wall in the gym but also the one I'd built up in my mind.

Nominating A Friend

My friend Suzanne has been a huge source of motivation in my life. I admire her willingness not only to push herself but encourage others to step outside their comfort zones too. I met her at a book signing in Berkeley, and we felt an immediate kinship –– she has also spent most of her life overweight and worked to overcome struggles with confidence and self-love. When I began my Instagram account, It was a food diary where I shared snaps of what I was eating. Despite having lost over 70 pounds, I had crippling body image issues and avoided pictures at all costs. It was Suzanne who encouraged me to share my story and step out from behind the camera. I am forever grateful for her (not so subtle) nudge and all the ways I have grown as a result. When Athleta asked me to nominate a friend to tackle this challenge with me, it seemed only fitting that it would be Suzanne.

What To Wear

It's safe to say that rock climbing gear does not lend itself to the most flattering look. The harness has a tendency to bunch up and squish things around, which is why it's recommended to wear clothes that offer comfort and mobility. Athleta's new Up For Anything Tight is the perfect combination of movement and support. Their amazing Scluptek Light is a lighter weight compression fabric that is extremely versatile for any workout. The pants stayed put the entire time and I didn’t once worry about the waistband falling or rolling down. In fact, I didn’t think about my pants at all, which is a sign of optimal performance in my book. My must-have feature for pants are pockets, and these pants have four: one hidden in the waistband, two leg pockets, and one side zip pocket. Combined with the beautiful, bold jewel-tone colors, these pants are a new favorite.

Rock Climbing Basics

There are many types of rock climbing, and each requires different training and equipment. Indoor gyms most often include:

  • Bouldering involves routes that are close to the ground and does not require a harness or rope. The floor is typically a thick pad to protect you when falling.
  • Top-Rope Climbing is the most popular type of indoor climbing and requires a harness-and-rope secured to an overhead anchor. You tie into one end of the rope, and the other end of the rope is held by a belayer (the person who handles the tension in the rope to catch you in case of a fall).
  • Lead Climbing requires the most skill and is the more like outdoor sport climbing. The challenge with lead climbing is that if you slip, you’ll have a harder fall than you would feel when top-roping.

Top-rope climbing is the most popular among indoor climbing my heart was set on making it up the wall so we needed to take belay lessons. Our instructor walked us through all of the basics, learning how to tie knots that would keep us secure in our harness and how to belay so we could support one another. One of the things I didn't realize about rock climbing is the constant reliance on another person. As someone who tends to isolate and do everything myself, I enjoyed this push to rely on another person and was grateful to share the experience with a friend who I trust.

Once we got through the detailed instruction, it was time to put my limits to the test! I love adventure and trying new things, so the spirit of this challenge was right up my alley, but as I mentioned, I have been carrying a genuine fear of rock climbing. After examining what was driving the fear, I realized that it's mostly mental, but that didn't mean it disappeared once I put on a harness. I had come this far so there was no turning back. Climbing the wall was not as difficult as I expected and the feeling of reaching further with each step was exciting.

Are you up for Anything?

Now that I've conquered that fear, I want to share this feeling of accomplishment and remain Up For Anything in 2018! I am planning to continue to practicing climbing so I can improve my strength and skill. If you're in San Francisco and would like to climb with me, send a message! I'd love to meet up with new and old friends so we can support each other on the ropes! If you're not in the Bay Area, is there a workout that you’ve always wanted to try but been too afraid to pursue? Will you join me in the challenge this year? I'd love to hear what that means to you.

Thank you to Athleta for sponsoring this post. I am grateful to work with a brand who inspires me to reach for my limitless potential. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Weekly Weigh-In

Happy New Year, friends!

One of my goals for 2018 is to share more, with greater consistency. I'm going to be posting weekly “weigh-ins” to reflect on my journey and progress from the previous week. I hope that this external accountability will help me connect with more of you. If you are also working toward your health goals, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Reflections: One of my intentions for the year is to be more flexible and intuitive with my food choices. I feel physically and mentally better when I limit carbs, but I also want the freedom to enjoy the pleasure and social connection of food. This deserves a dedicated post, but for context, I've been eating a mostly ketogenic diet since December 1, and I'm feeling terrific.

I spent New Years Eve weekend in Yosemite National Park and experienced some magical moments I will never forget. I got more steps than I have in awhile and it was wonderful to be outside. I brought plenty of healthy options for meals and snacks, but also the mindset that I would enjoy indulgences if I wanted to. For the most part, the food around the park is mediocre, but two occasions felt worth it: a few bites of a birthday skillet cookie a la mode and new years eve campfire dinner of hot dogs and s'mores. I am happy with those choices and have no regrets.

Unsurprisingly, the scale had gone up a few pounds when I got home, but I assumed this was water weight and trusted it to even out in a few days. That proved true, and I ended this week 5.2 pounds down from my Tuesday morning post-trip weigh-in.

Intentions: I've fallen way off track with my daily step habit. For years, I consistently walked ~10k steps per day, but this past year, I regressed. My intention for this week is to be more active and accumulate 70k steps over the course of the week. There is rain in the forecast, and I am traveling, which is why I chose a weekly goal instead of the pressure of a daily goal.

Instagram:  Instagram has been a huge source of inspiration and community for me and I'm making an effort to post more consistently. I know not everyone uses social media, so I want to share those posts here as well.

YOU ARE THE ONLY AUTHORITY ON YOUR HEALTH, YOUR BODY & YOUR DIET. I've been so tempted to do #januarywhole30 with friends, but my intuition keeps saying NO. Why? Probably because it's not MY program, it's @melissa_hartwig's program. Don't get me wrong; I think #whole30 is an incredible blueprint with awe-inspiring resources and a supportive community. In fact, the program rules are almost identical to the way I eat, but at this point in my journey, I'm not seeking rules, I'm seeking freedom. – A few years ago I hypothesized that carbohydrates were fueling my food addiction and discovered #keto when googling “Will I die if I don't eat carbohydrates?” I am a long-time advocate of real food and carried whole 30 / paleo principles into my 8-month experiment with a #ketogenic diet. I felt terrific, and my lifelong preoccupation with food went away. I was able to eat intuitively without counting or tracking and lost weight with ease. I didn't binge once, and my #hidradenitissuppurativa went into remission. I thought I had found the answer. – Then life happened. I lost sight of what DID work for me in favor of what I WANTED to work for me. While 2017 was the year I finally learned to have love and compassion for my body, my health rapidly declined as I stopped prioritizing foundational habits like walking, preparing meals at home, and eating vegetables every day. – Last month I recommitted to a #ketogenic diet because I felt like food was controlling me and I wanted to be able to think clearly. For whatever reason, my body and brain seem to perform better in #ketosis. I don't know what this looks like longterm, but I am focussing on being less rigid and more intuitive about it. My intention for 2018 is to honor physical and mental health while cultivating resilience and metabolic flexibility. – I think food stuff is hard for so many reasons, but mainly because it's unique for each of us. My most significant takeaway of 2017 is that we must be our own advocates. No one can understand you or your body better than you. Filter out the noise. I can't tell you what will work for you; I can only share my experience in hopes that it might inspire you on your own journey.

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Nothing went according to plan, but I’m pretty sure everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. Feeling grateful for a magical NYE in Yosemite with @artcampla and fam. – Just after midnight, we heard a mighty pack of coyotes singing across the valley. It sounded as though there were thousands of them and their otherworldly song is one we won’t soon forget. – I read that the coyote is often revered as an important messenger of personal transformation through self-reflection. It’s said that a coyote sighting can be a reminder to look at things you may have been avoiding. A call to see your full reflection and focus on your whole life instead of just one part. – This feels particularly relevant going into 2018. A few months ago I was feeling really down and did a thought experiment trying to imagine how my life might have different had it not been overshadowed by obesity. What else do I care about? What if I never overcome this struggle? What do I really love? – I don’t know why I feel self conscious to share how much I love photography. I’ve been taking pictures since I was 7 years old, but I rarely share them. I’m definitely a perfectionist, but also an introvert so it’s easy for me to keep things to myself. One of my intentions for 2018 is to embrace imperfection and share more of my work. – I’d also like to hike all of the major trails out of Yosemite Valley! This photo was taken as we unexpectedly caught the moon rising on our way back to camp.

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Stocking up at @wholefoods 25% off supplement sale! Double discounts on some of my favorites including #bulletproof and #vitalproteins. The sale starts today and runs through the weekend (January 5-7) in local stores across the country so don't miss it! – #ontheblog, I partnered with @wholefoodssanfrancisco and wrote about my top 3 keto supplements to help get into ketosis and prevent the keto flu. I compared different MCT oils and shared some of the ways to cut down on costs. I'd love to know what you think and if you have any other recommendations for me to try. (link in my profile or http://excessmatters.com/keto-supplements). – Y'all know I rely on real food for my nutrients, but I do supplement when needed so I'll be sharing a few more staples on my stories and I'd love to know what supplements help you optimize your health.

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I'm still figuring out how I want to format these weekly weigh-ins, which are about so much more than the number on the scale. What would you like to see? What would be helpful to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have a minute to share!

Top 3 Supplements for Ketosis and Preventing Keto Flu

So you're trying out Keto? As your body transitions from a glucose to fat-burning state, a number of uncomfortable flu-like symptoms may pop up. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help your body get into ketosis more efficiently, with less friction. I'm excited to partner with Whole Foods Market to highlight some of my favorite supplements which aide in fat-adaptation and keto flu prevention. This weekend's 25% off supplement sale is the best time to stock up and save so make your list and head to your local Whole Foods Market from January 5-7 for great deals on some of my favorite brands.

As an advocate of real food, I make every effort to get nutrients from whole food sources, however, there are a few products I use and recommend to increase success while transitioning into ketosis on a low-carbohydrate diet.

MCT Oil

When beginning a ketogenic diet, it can be a challenge to eat enough high-quality fats. One of the more popular methods is by drinking what's referred to as “Bulletproof coffee” — a combination of grass-fed butter and MCT oil blended into coffee.

If you've never heard of MCT oil, you are not alone. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat molecule derived from coconuts. MCT oil is popular in the keto community because it is quickly converted to ketones, providing a potent energy source.

There are four kinds of MCTs (C6, C8, C10, C12) and some turn into ketones more efficiently than others. One of my favorite MCT oils is Bulletproof Brain Octane, which is pure C8 caprylic acid — a form that is particularly effective for cognitive function. As is often the case, quality comes at a premium and the price is higher than anything else on the market. I use Brain Octane sparingly when I need quick long-burning energy.

For day to day, I tend to rely on Whole Foods 365 MCT oil. While it is not as potent as Brain Octane, it fits my budget and is more well-rounded. 365 MCT oil is a blend of three types of MCTS (C8, C10, and C12). While C8 and C10 are similar in mental and metabolic boosts, C12 is the strongest MCT for fighting off viruses, fungi, and bacteria.

If you're curious to try a “Bulletproof coffee,” Whole Foods has just added this keto-friendly beverage to their coffee bar menu!

Electrolytes

Transitioning into ketosis can cause a temporary diuretic effect which results in a loss of both electrolytes and water in your body. This imbalance, called Keto Flu, causes symptoms such as fatigue, headache, irritability, dizziness, muscle soreness, cramping, or nausea. During the first few weeks, it's important to drink plenty of fluids and salt your food generously to prevent dehydration. I also find it helpful to supplement with electrolyte drinks and/or bone broth, especially when exercising.

I rely on two products: Nuun Electrolyte Tablets and 365 Electrolyte Plus Powder. Nuun has great flavors and the packaging is convenient. I typically use Nuun at home because it's a large solid tablet that takes several minutes to fully dissolve. On-the-go, I prefer 365 Electrolyte Plus, which is a powder that can be quickly poured into a water bottle to drink immediately.

Bone broth is also a great source of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. I like to make this from scratch, but when I'm short on time or on the go, I am a fan of Vital Proteins Bone Broth Collagen.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is fairly common among adults, especially as the body increases the excretion of ions from the body during fat-adaptation. This lack of minerals, including low magnesium, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps.

I've tried various magnesium capsules and tablets, but I always come back to Natural Calm, an anti-stress drink made from a highly absorbable blend of ionic magnesium citrate. I prefer original unflavored because it is free of sweetener, but it also comes in stevia-sweetened flavors including raspberry-lemon, sweet lemon, orange, and cherry.

Natural Calm also makes single-serving packs that are perfect for travel. Another benefit of Natural I always keep one in my bag to aid in sleep and regular bowel function. If you prefer to get your minerals in capsule form, MegaFood Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium is a great source.

Nutrient Dense Foods

Many foods are rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and are great to include in a ketogenic diet. Some of the top nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Oily Fish (Salmon, Sardines)
  • Eggs
  • Cacao

I recommend including as many of these nutrient dense foods as possible in your meals, particularly during the first few weeks.

This post was created in collaboration with Whole Foods Market. As always, all recommendations and opinions are my own. 

Top 3 Keto Supplements

Moving on Mountains

Hello, friends. It's me and my unruly hair, coming to you live from my favorite mountaintop across the Bay. Most of you know that hiking has become an important part of my life, especially since moving to San Francisco three years ago. I didn't always enjoy moving my body, but in 2012 when I began to build a daily walking habit, I realized the mental benefits far outweighed the calorie deficit.

I've been overweight most of my life and if you share my experience, you know how uncomfortable it can be to move, much less exercise, when carrying excess weight. The rewards of fitness accumulate over time, but it's difficult to build a consistent habit when its negatively reinforced by discomfort. I think this is a big part of why so many of us struggle to get and stay active.

New workout clothes always give me a confidence boost, so when I got more serious about exercise, it was clear I needed to trade in my cheap thigh-rubbed yoga pants for something more technical. At almost 300 pounds, my apparel choices were limited, especially if I wanted something of quality from a brand with integrity. While I hesitated to make the investment, I knew it was important to reward my hard work. Athleta's plus size options and “Give-It-A-Workout” guarantee gave me the confidence to take the plunge into performance activewear.

My first Athleta purchase was the Be Free Knicker, perfect for daily walks and hiking the paved trails of Los Angeles. The pockets were a game-changer and a feature that I now seek in all activewear. The convenience of having a place to stash your phone and keys should not be underestimated. Even when carrying a backpack on the trail, it's nice to have quick access to pull out my phone for photo or peek at the trail map.

As my fitness increased and I began looking for low-impact ways to increase my calorie burn, I stumbled into hiking. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the more time I spent in nature, the better I felt. Not just physically, but mentally — and the research backs my experience. Spending time among trees has numerous healing benefits including reduced anxiety and depression, decreased cortisol production, and increased immunity.

After relocating to the cooler weather of the Bay Area, I found a new favorite in the Metro Drifter. I have several pairs in both regular and high-waist styles and these quickly became my go-to pants for everything from brunch to hitting the trail.

Athleta makes amazing pants for everything, but it wasn't until this year that I decided to try their hike-specific line. I've found my new holy grail in the Wander Utility Pant. Designed not only for trail adventures, but everyday life in the city. The pants are made with trek tech fabric that is water-and-abrasion-resistant on the outside with a cozy, brushed interior. They are stylish and versatile with a super comfortable waistband and tons of pockets, and they even fit my iPhone+!

This weekend, I paired the Wander Utility pant with Cityscape Sweatshirt while hiking Cataract Falls trail on Mount Tamalpais. The Modern Mantra fabric is cozy and breathable with side zips for a little extra ventilation. I'm also partial to the Sunlover UPF Top, which is a lightweight, breathable semi-fitted long-sleeve top rated UPF 50+ and made from sustainable recycled nylon. Both pieces are perfect for layering — a must when exploring outdoors. Finally, I like to wear the lightweight Ahnu Sugarpine boots because they're extremely comfortable, waterproof, and provide ankle support for more challenging terrain. It's just a bonus that they come in beautiful, fun colors.

If you've been thinking about heading out on your own adventure, it's easier to start hiking than you might think. Here are a few beginner tips:

  • Start small. Navigating through the trees and varying terrain can be more tiring that you might imagine. A few miles on a trail will be more difficult than a few miles on a paved road. Start out hiking few miles and gradually build up to longer treks.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothes that offer protection and allow you to move. Make sure you wear appropriate shoes to keep your feet dry and supported.
  • Be prepared. Always carry plenty of water and extra snacks. Even on short hikes, carry a small first aid kit with blister treatment, bug spray, and sunscreen.
  • Plan your timing. Hiking can take longer than expected. It's better to plan for it to take a longer than you expect, especially if you are hiking in the afternoon or evening. Depending on your fitness and the elevation gain, you can expect to cover about two miles per hour.
  • Explore your city. You don’t have to live in the Bay Area to enjoy quality trail time. Cities, counties and states all have parks or natural areas to get started hiking.
  • Tell someone where you're going. While it's great to hike with a buddy, solo hiking can also be very rewarding. It’s important to tell someone where you are going and when you are expected home.

I want to know if you share my love for Athleta, hiking, or both. Would you like to see some of my favorite Bay Area hikes? Tips for solo or destination hiking? What about more of my clothes or try-ons from Athleta and other brands I love? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you to Athleta for sponsoring this post. As a long-time consumer of Athleta, I have always felt included no matter my size or fitness level. I respect and support their mission to ignite a community of active, healthy, confident women and girls who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. Of course, all opinions are my own, and I'm grateful to work with a brand I truly believe in.

 

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Yosemite

Earlier this month I took some time off-the-grid at Yosemite National Park with some girlfriends – Aimee, Lisha, and Shikha. This adventure had been on my calendar since December, but I was having mixed feelings. You may have noticed I have been mostly MIA this year. In January, I joined a nonprofit as Executive Director and have been logging long hours as I ramp up. I have a lot of new responsibilities and I was worried about taking time away from work. Although I felt like I didn't have the time to get away, I knew I needed to step back and recharge in order to move forward.

Lucky for me,  Lisha took over the planning and ensured we were well-prepared for the trip. She rented us a super fun 4×4 Jeep Wrangler from GetAround, a local peer-to-peer car sharing service. Given the record snow this year, we wanted to be prepared with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We lucked out with near perfect weather, but the Jeep was still the way to go. It fit all four of us and our gear comfortably – plus it just made the whole trip more fun!

We arrived to Yosemite after dark and checked into our tent cabin at Half Dome Village. For those of you familiar with the park, this area was previously called Curry Village. You could probably call it glamping, but I think it was the way to go – our cabin had beds, fresh linens, and a heater!

Saturday morning, we woke up early to hike Snow Creek Trail – a strenuous 10-mile hike with 2700 ft gain in elevation. We started out bundled up for a leisurely walk past mirror lake, but once we hit the switchbacks, we stripped off the layers for a relentlessly steep ascent criss-crossing a snow-melted creek with plenty of waterfalls. At the top we were rewarded with fields of snow and incredible views of Half Dome.

I've worn and loved Athleta apparel for years, but up until this past year, I had only worn trail running shoes for hiking. Last summer,  I took a pair of Ahnu hiking boots to Europe for Tour du Mont Blanc and never looked back – I even wear them in San Francisco when it's rainy. They're super lightweight, waterproof, comfortable, and require zero breaking in. The best part is they are designed for women, by women, and come in fun colors.

Once we made it back to camp, we pulled off our boots and got ready for dinner. The only thing better than s'mores after a long day of hiking, are s'mores made from Dandelion Chocolate. I don't normally eat sugar, but there is no better situation to make an exception than kicking back after a long day of hiking.

Lisha and I dreamed up this trip when I asked her to coffee to talk about shooting some photos for me. I've shared on social media about my body image issues and discomfort being in front of a camera. I've come a long way from the girl who refused to have a profile photo on Facebook, but I still struggle with this. I'm still self conscious, but I'm growing and learning to be more and more comfortable in my skin.

I am excited to share these photos and video with you because they are evidence of my growth, proof that change is possible, and a celebration of how far I've come while embracing where I am today. Thanks for allowing me to share my journey with you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFxpumtskhg

Hi New Friends…

Hello! Welcome 🙂 I was not expecting you, but I'm glad you're here. My story was reposted to Yahoo and MSN so I've been receiving a lot of traffic the past few days. I've taken a step back from blogging/social as I started a new job in January. I have been trying to figure out how to combine this new role with my work here. Things are very exciting and I can't wait to start sharing more with y'all. My life's work and mission is to reverse the obesity epidemic and I feel so many steps closer to that than ever before. If you aren't already, please subscribe to my mailing list. I have a lot to update you about in the next week or so, part of that being a detailed log of my food and exercise alongside detailed 3D body scans. I wish I could have it ready for you now, but it is what it is. I hope you'll stick around, things are about to get really good around here!

2016 Review

As 2016 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on the year, the experiences I have had, and the ways in which I have grown.

For as long as I can remember, my number one goal/resolution/desire/priority has been to lose weight. Every year, I would make resolutions around losing weight, and every year, I would fail. Apparently I'm not alone in this – only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions and weight loss goals are cited more than anything else.

This year, I took a different approach when setting goals for the year. I didn't focus on weight loss and instead challenged myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to run a 5k, learn to hip hop dance, and go to the banya with friends. I also decided to give up alcohol for the entire year as an experiment to see how it's absence would effect my mental health and productivity.

In hindsight, these resolutions were ways for me to take care of and honor my body – an unfamiliar concept when weight loss was the end-goal. I am grateful to have stopped chasing perfection or a number on the scale, but I want my BMI to be in the healthy range, and I really expected that it would get there in 2016. It didn't, and that's disappointing, but I am very proud of all that I actually did do this year.

For the first time ever, I achieved all of my resolutions. 

After a lifetime of hating my body, I have finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin. It happened almost unexpectedly, quietly, and without fanfare. At some point acceptance turned into love, and now I find awe in my body, it's resilience and it's strength. What matters to me now is really taking care of myself – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cultivating not just self-love, but self-compassion and allowing myself to let go of the idea that I must always be who I have always been.

2016 has also been filled with new adventures and new friends.

A year ago, I was watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat preparing to spend 7 days cycling through Cambodia with some of my closest friends. I would have never biked 10 miles voluntarily, so covering 186 miles on two wheels is a true testament to our my love for them and our camaraderie.

Happy New Year from Cambodia! Woke up early to catch the first sunrise of 2016 over Angkor Wat.

A photo posted by 100+ Pound Weightloss ✧ BROOKE (@excessmatters) on

I lost 100 pounds!

When I returned from Cambodia, I hit a pretty big milestone of losing 100 pounds.

I met so many new friends through social media! 

One of the most incredible things about social media is it's ability to brings people together in real life. I have met hundreds of people this year as a result of my blog and Instagram, many of who I now consider close friends. I am constantly inspired by the communities we create for ourselves, both online and locally. As an introvert, I used to be painfully shy and enjoy spending time alone. Learning to connect with others has been a huge catalyst for my personal growth. This year I led, organized, and hosted events that I would have been too uncomfortable to even attend. That is surely a result of surrounding myself with kind and supportive people and I am so grateful for every person who I have met this year.

I taught a Binge Eating Workshop & 12-week Course!

I created my first course on overcoming binge and emotional eating through habit change. I spent the better part of a year creating this course and putting it out into the world imperfectly was a huge step for me. This work is obviously very personal, which makes it exceptionally challenging, but I am dedicated to helping those who share my struggle with obesity, binge eating, emotional eating, and body issues. I have continued to refine the course based on feedback from my students and I am looking forward to opening it up again in 2017.

I hiked 100 miles around Mont Blanc!

In September, I set out on the trip which felt like the culmination of my transformation. I've written about how I slowly worked my way up from walking a block to 10k steps per day, and then pushed myself to start hiking. This 100-mile multi-day hike through the French Alps was one of the best experiences of my life. My full review is long overdue, but make no mistake, this was a highlight of 2016.

My 2016 Fitbit Stats:

  • 3,606,549 steps
  • 10856 floors
  • 1,650.06 miles