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Julia DeCecco

The BBQ Chickpea Bowl That You Will Make Over And Over

It’s that time of year again…

Yep, we’re finally back into the swing of the school year. Going back to school is a huge change in lifestyle pace in so many ways. From having to wake up for class, fitting a workout in between schoolwork, and having a social life, it can be difficult to even think about eating healthfully. 

But don’t get too worried, #fitufam.

This recipe idea swooped in out of nowhere and quickly became one of my go-to lunches and dinners for busy days. This BBQ Chickpea Bowl is delicious, satisfying, flavorful and packed with nutrients and health benefits. It’s one of those bowls that you’ll be dreaming about ALL DAY.

Why is it so damn good?

The chickpeas are packed with plant protein, the kale and mushrooms bring the iron and vitamin C, The brown rice is a whole grain that makes a perfect base. Plus, the chickpeas and the rice together make a complete protein, which is perfect for vegans and vegetarians (and meat eaters too!)

The ingredients to this BBQ chickpea bowl can be prepped the night before and then thrown together that day, but even if you choose to make this plant-based bowl on the spot, it still takes 20 minutes or less. So the next time you need a hearty meal to hold you over for a long day, try throwing these easy ingredients together.

BBQ Chickpea Rice Bowl

Time: 20 minutes or less

When to eat it: Lunch, dinner, or anytime you need something filling to get you through the day!

Perks: plant-based protein packed, quick to make, super flavorful

Makes: 1 bangin’ bowl

Sh*t You Need:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • 2/3 cup shredded kale and cabbage
  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • 2-3 tablespoons BBQ Sauce 
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

The Recipe:

  1. Cook the rice as instructed. If you’re super efficient *coughcough lazy* like me, buy pre-cooked rice and microwave it.
  2. In a bowl, mix the chickpeas and BBQ sauce, making sure the chickpeas are evenly coated. Set aside. 
  3. In a pan, heat up one tsp of olive oil until warm. Add in your mushrooms and season as desired. Cook until the mushrooms are soft. 
  4. Once the mushrooms have cooked, put them aside and add the BBQ chickpeas into the pan. Allow them to cook until they’re warm.
  5. On top of your rice, arrange the chickpeas, mushrooms and kale as desired. 
  6. Enjoy! 

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I Took A Week Off From Working Out: Here’s What Happened

Nothing.

That’s exactly what happened: nothing. At the end of one week without working out, I looked in the mirror and nothing had changed. If anything, I felt more liberated. My body felt a lot better rested.

Let me back up a few weeks. 

Have you ever reached the point where you’re fed up with the gym? Where your body and mind just don’t feel like working out? Your alarm goes off and you can’t imagine getting up and dragging yourself to the gym. Or the late afternoon rolls around and your body is just begging for a nap.

A few weeks ago, I reached this point. I absolutely resented going to the gym. It was then that I asked myself: why am I forcing myself to workout if my body doesn’t want to?

So I decided to take a whole week off from the gym, and what happened was both surprising and empowering: nothing. I actually felt better rested, my mind felt clearer, and I didn’t gain or lose a single pound.

I had more time to study, do work, and hang out with my friends. My diet was a lot more balanced and I felt relieved that I didn’t have to force myself to get up and go do something I was dreading. It was in one word, freeing. 

After my week of relaxation was over, I felt rejuvenated and ready to continue with my workouts. 

I Took A Week Off From Working Out Here's What Happened

I realized that taking time off from working out isn’t the end of the world.

In fact, it can be a whole new beginning for a fresh spurt of motivation. Taking breaks from the gym not only gives your body time to rest and recover from the constant stress it’s under, but it also strengthens your mental resolve. Before that week, I would have been afraid to take more than a few days off from the gym. But realizing that it really has little effect on performance, I feel like I can practice mindfulness and balance even more.  

The Bottom Line:

If you are tired, worn down, and sick of the gym, take a break. Listen to your body. Respect your body. It is smarter and more capable than you think. 

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Why I Switched To Morning Workouts

morning workouts

Picture this: 5:30 AM on a monday morning, your alarm blaring, the sun not yet risen, your bed sheets warm and soft. And yet, you’re about to get out of bed to walk half a mile in the 20 degree weather to your University’s gym

Yeah, that’s me – Every. Single. Day.

All of my friends look at me in shock when I say I’ll be hitting the gym at 6 AM – let’s just say my 10:30 PM bedtime doesn’t really fit the “college lifestyle” norm. Yet everyday I make the bleary eyed trek to the gym to get in my workout. 

So why do I do it? 

I used to be a night workout person. 9 PM was my go-to gym time. Finishing my day on a workout left me exhilarated and energized. But of course, my schedule changed, I joined new clubs and organizations, and this semester I found myself so busy that between the hours of 9 AM and 10 PM I simply don’t have time for a workout. I thought my workouts were done for – until one day I decided to try the gym at 6 AM – and so my morning workouts were born. 

Here are my top reasons (besides scheduling) for getting a morning workout in. 

The feeling lasts throughout the day. 

It’s true – when the first part of the day is my workout, it centers my day and makes me feel less sluggish as the day progresses. When I workout in the morning, I feel like I go through the day with a clearer mind and a more open heart. And knowing you got your workout over with first thing in the morning is a pretty nice feeling too.

Hardly anyone else is awake. 

Anyone that works out in their college gym knows the struggle of peak gym hours – don’t even try to go between the hours of 4-7 PM or  9-12. Or any time honestly, because when is it ever empty? I’ll tell you  – 6 in the morning, that’s when. There are maybe 8 people in the weight section max, which can help your workout immensely, especially if you suffer from the dreaded gym anxiety. I find my workouts being much more effective in the morning when I’m not surrounded by other gym goers and just focusing on myself.

The atmosphere of the gym.

At peak gym hours, the atmosphere can be summed up as stressful, aggressive, competitive, and just overall unpleasant (for me, at least). No one wants to be surrounded by people they think are silently judging them. But the morning gym goers? I see the same people every morning and they are pleasant and focused on themselves and not on silently competing with the people around them. This type of atmosphere has worked wonders for my workouts. 

It’s something to be proud of.

Getting up and getting to the gym in the morning before most of your friends even roll out of bed is an accomplishment. It’s easy to get sucked into the cycle of staying up way too late and ruining your sleep schedule, but getting up to workout at such an early time shows discipline, perseverance and keeps you motivated. Trust me, the last thing I wanna do when I hear my alarm go off so early in the morning is go to the gym. But I get up and I go anyway, and I never regret it. 

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Why Rice Bowls Are The Perfect Meal

Why Rice Bowls Are The Perfect Meal

If you’re anything like me, you go through phases with different foods. I went through my oatmeal phase (still in it actually), my smoothie phase, the pasta phase, toast phase, and the list goes on and on. But my latest creation is something so versatile that I think it will probably stick with me forever: rice bowls.

 

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A rice bowl isn’t for just one type of eater. Vegetarians, vegans, meat eaters, gluten-free’s – honestly anyone can make and love a rice bowl. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and there are so many different variations that it never gets old. All you need to make a rice bowl is a base (your rice of choice – my personal favorite is basmati rice – or you can even switch it up and do greens and rice or quinoa), a protein, 2-4 toppings and a sauce.

The first step is to fill your favorite bowl with your rice base of choice. After that, simply top the rice with your protein and extra toppings once they’re cooked, and finally drizzle with your topping. Most only take about 15 minutes to make (but I’ve gotten mine down to 10 because I’m a rice bowl champ). 

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Lunching on Mexican rice, seared mango, black beans, corn and tomatoes ❤️ Hope your day is going swell ☀️

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Step 1: Base

  • Basmati rice
  • Brown rice
  • Plain white rice
  • 1/2 greens / 1/2 rice 
  • Quinoa 
  • Any other grain you might like 

Step 2: Protein

  • Tofu/tempeh
  • Veggie burger
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Etc.

Step 3: Additional Toppings

  • Roasted zucchini/eggplant/beets/broccoli etc. (basically any roasted veggie)
  • Sautéed greens
  • Roasted & spiced chickpeas
  • Sauteed bell peppers and onions
  • Shredded carrots & cabbage
  • Mixed grilled veggies
  • Corn, beans, and peppers with cilantro and lime 
  • Roasted tomatoes
  • Baked/roasted sweet potato
  • Crumbled feta
  • Sliced grapes 
  • Chopped cucumber & tomato 
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Etc.

Step 4: The Final Touch

    • Tahini drizzle (my personal fave)
    • Dollop of hummus
    • Guacamole
    • Soy sauce 
    • Any tasty salad dressing of your choice
 

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Next time you’re craving something filling, versatile and aesthetically pleasing, I HIGHLY recommend whipping up a rice bowl. Check out more of mine on my food Instagram – @peanutbutterbliss!

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This Leg Workout Will Leave You Sore For Days

Why We Need To Celebrate The Beginner3

Being sore is one of those things everyone in the fitness community complains about but secretly loves. Being sore just proves to you that your body is breaking down and rebuilding itself to become even better. While it does suck to be moaning and groaning every time you sit down and stand up, you know you love that feeling. The reason this workout burns so bad is because during some of the exercises you’ll be pausing and holding – which makes your muscles have to work a little extra. So next time you’re craving a workout that will make you have that oddly satisfying sore feeling, give this one a go.

Leg Workout For Extra Sore Legs  

Time: 45 minutes

Type of Workout: Bodybuilding/strength & conditioning 

Sh*t You Need: Dumbbells, 25 lb plate, a gym, a mat (optional)

Intensity: Medium

Body Target: Lower body

The Workout:

Warmup: Stretch & mobility 

Part 1 
3x10 Leg Press (5 wide stance, 5 narrow stance) 
3x25 Leg Extensions (10 normal weight, 5 difficult weight & hold at the top for 5 seconds, 10 easy)
3x25 Hamstring Curls (10 normal weight, 5 difficult weight & hold at the top for 5 seconds, 10 easy)
3x10 glute/ham raise 

Part 2
3x10 walking lunges with dumbbells
3x10 walking lunges without dumbbells 
3x10 goblet squats with dumbbell

Part 3 
3x24 step ups with dumbbells 
3x20 Calf raises with dumbbells

Finish with 10 minutes incline walking on treadmill or Stairmaster (optional)

Now, go crush it.

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Healthy (ish) Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies For Any Sweet Tooth

Healthy (ish) Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies For Any Sweet Tooth

If you’re anything like me, your sweet tooth reigns over everything. Never will I choose a savory snack over a sweet one, ESPECIALLY if it involves cookies. Cookies have been my absolute favorite dessert since I was little, and still today I can’t resist a warm, gooey, chocolatey cookie fresh out of the oven.

Throughout my fitness journey, I have attempted to perfect tons of different “healthy” cookie recipes – and before you ask, I’ve made the oats/peanut butter/banana cookies more times than I can count. But sadly, none of the replications I have tried have come close to tasting like a “real” cookie. That is, until I made these double chocolate chunk cookies.

Healthy (ish) Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies For Any Sweet Tooth

This recipe uses many healthy ingredients such as whole wheat flour and cocoa powder and a few unhealthy ingredients (I’m looking at the massive amount of chocolate chips I throw in). And the best part? This entire recipe is completely dairy free and vegan – and I PROMISE you won’t be able to tell. These cookies are huge, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth decadent while not being overly rich. Next time your chocolate cravings come in heavy – PLEASE try this recipe!

Healthy (ish) Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies For Any Sweet Tooth

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Time: 20 minutes 

When to eat it: Literally any time because chocolate

Perks: Tastes decadent while still packing a lot of nutrients

Makes: About 10-12 large cookies (or more/less, depending on how big you like them)

Sh*t You Need:

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter OR coconut oil (I like to use Smart Balance) 
  • 1 cup brown sugar or other sweetener of choice
  • 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips – as many as you want!

The recipe:

1. Mix together the brown sugar and butter/coconut oil.
2. Once combined, add in nondairy milk and vanilla extract to butter and sugar mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder and the baking powder and baking soda.

4. Once each mixture is stirred, add the dry mixture to the wet slowly until a thick dough forms. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

5. Roll dough into large balls and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

6. Allow cookies to cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy!

 

Healthy (ish) Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies For Any Sweet Tooth

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How I Got Rid Of My Gym Anxiety

Everyone knows the feeling – you’re pumped to do a great workout, you have an awesome playlist, you’re excited to sweat – that is, until you walk into the gym and see hoards of people who look more fit and experienced than you, lifting seriously heavy weights and using equipment you’ve never touched before.

The feeling is daunting, and can ruin a workout for anyone. Being an introvert, gym anxiety has always followed me since I started venturing in the free weights. But for all of us who suffer from gym anxiety, luckily it doesn’t have to be permanent. 

How I Got Rid Of My Gym Anxiety

When I started college a little over a year ago, I was still glued to the elliptical and wouldn’t dream of touching any weights. After I tried a few Body Pump classes, however, I started to love the way lifting weights made me feel. One of my best friends started showing me bodybuilding exercises, and since then, I have always loved strength and conditioning workouts. The thing I didn’t love was the intense pressure I felt every single time I walked into my university’s gym.

It seemed there was always an underlying, unspoken competition – who can lift the heaviest, who looks the fittest, and who dominates the gym. I hated this stress I felt every time I wanted to workout – not only did I feel like I had to dress and look a certain way, I became nervous to try new equipment for the fear of looking silly or messing up. This ultimately led to a major dislike of my gym and led to my workouts becoming mundane and boring

When I finally went home for summer break, I decided to do a workout in my local gym. Stepping into the gym at home was a completely different atmosphere. There were people of all ages and body types doing crazy workouts that I wouldn’t have dreamed of “embarrassing” myself with at school. I felt comfortable and welcome, not stressed. For the first time, my workout wasn’t focused on the environment around me, but on myself and what my body could do. That summer ended up leading me to better body image, better workouts, and almost no stress.

Going back to school in the fall, I made a decision that my workouts would no longer be focused on my environment, but instead solely on myself. And guess what? It turns out no one really cares what kind of workout your doing. By focusing only on myself at the gym, my workout became so much better and I began to feel much more comfortable in the school’s gym. As soon as I walked through the doors, my hat was on and my music was turned up until the second I left. 

So for everyone that suffers from gym anxiety, the best advice I can give is to focus on nothing but yourself and your goals. Everyone is in the gym for their own reasons, and even though it may seem like people are hyper aware of you, I promise, no one is. Work out for you – not for the people who you’re around. 

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