What is IIFYM?!

If you are at all interested in dieting or fitness, you’ve probably heard about IIFYM which stands for “If it Fits Your Macros.” It’s all the rage lately, especially with bodybuilders/fitness types. This is essentially an alternative, more flexible eating approach than most standard (and outdated) diet plans that basically tell you what foods to eat and in what amounts. Or they give you a total calorie count for the day. In the past, bodybuilders and other fitness athletes would eat X number of calories a day which was usually broken down into 5-6 smaller meals which basically consisted of the same boring foods over and over.

With IIFYM, you are given “macros” for the day that you must follow. Macros are macronutrients, which are otherwise known as proteins, carbohydrates and fats. With IIFYM, you are given the total number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats that you can eat during a given day. For example, my current macros are 135 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat. This doesn’t mean I eat 135 measured grams of a protein. It means that I eat foods totaling 135 grams of protein. For example, a 4 oz piece of fish is about 20-25 grams of protein. I eat about this much protein at each meal. The concept is very simple – each macro has a calorie amount. Protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram. If you total all my macros up for the day, it equals 1800 calories:

(4 x 135) + (4 x 180) + .(9 x 60) = 1800

To be honest, this doesn’t really matter though. Calories don’t matter at all with IIFYM, which is nice because if you are a compulsive calorie counter, this means you can stop thinking about them. But if you wanted to add up your macros for the day, you could. Just do the math like I did above. I track all my meals in MyFitnessPal and totally recommend others do. It’s a bit of a pain in the butt at first but once you have your “frequent” foods you will be able to find things quickly and add them in no problem. Make sure you’re adding accurate info since it’s all user-generated (sometimes people literally just make up macros I think). I also track my workouts (which is a slightly bigger pain in the butt but useful to track progress and stay accountable). It can be hard to track foods that you can’t read the nutrition labels for (like at restaurants) so you can try finding the info online but in general you kind of have to just do your best. The longer you track, the easier it gets to look at a plate of food and immediately be able to guess the macros off the top of your head. If you are dieting, always err on the side of caution by overestimating the macros in foods you aren’t sure about.

The beauty of IIFYM is that it’s simple and flexible. You do NOT have to eat the same boring foods over and over, nor do you have to eat food you hate. If you want a piece of cake, you work it into your macros. Some people “macro hoard” which means they eat light meals all day so they can pig out at night. The world is your oyster with IIFYM.

You can eat a variety of foods which is not only great for dealing with cravings and unexpected work lunches or dinners out with friends and family, but it’s also a great way to make sure you get a variety of nutrients. You don’t want to just eat donuts all day but if you want a donut, work it in! Macros to me are exactly like having a budget. If I have $100 to spend, I can only spend $100 and no more than that. Depending on how strict you are, you may not want to go under your macros (particularly if you are trying to gain weight). I try to stick to my macros within + or – 5 grams. Some people add up their macros for the week too so if you are off a bit one day (over carbs, for example), you can make it up a different day (by eating less carbs).

To determine what your macros are, first you need to know what your goal is. You will need to figure out if you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight. This was hard for me since I want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time (which is possible in some cases but not all). You should have a good idea of what your current weight (and body fat, if possible) are, as well as your current activity level. The more info you know and the more accurate it is, the better calculation you will get. Then once you have that figured out, you just plug your info into a calculator. This is a really good one: http://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/. There’s also more info about IIFYM on that site.

Easy peasy!!!

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Which Group Workout Class is Right For Me?

Throughout the years I’ve been on a quest to find my perfect workout class. Turns out, there’s no such thing. Different types of workouts are good for different reasons and depending on your goals and interests, one may be better than another. But in the end, what matters is that you like it and do it consistently. If you love running, run! If you love CrossFit, then do it! All workouts have their pros and cons. I wanted to write about my experiences trying different workout classes and what I liked/disliked about each one. Hopefully it will help someone else find something that works for them, or at least give them the confidence to try something new and different!

TRX

TRX is a form of suspension training that basically uses these long rope/band things that hang from the ceiling or wall and have handles on the end. It might be easier for you to Google it than for me to explain. 🙂

Anyway, TRX is a great full body workout. It’s basically a type of strength training although you can work some cardio in if you want to. It’s great for working any muscle you want, and it’s super simple to make a workout easier or more difficult depending on your fitness level. I have taken TRX at different gyms and have always enjoyed the classes. Everyone does them slightly differently so finding a good teacher is key.

Likes: good workout, doesn’t feel overly strenuous, can work your whole body, easy to customize to your fitness level

Dislikes: expensive, would be hard to do on back-to-back days (if you like to work out daily)

KETTLEBELLS

Kettlebells are sort of like dumbbells but with handles. You can do a LOT of exercises with them. Probably anything you could do with regular weights. You can also do things like Kettlebell swings or Turkish getups (which are ridiculously hard if you ask me). They come in all different weights so it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or if you are already totally jacked. You can get a great workout with kettlebells. Trust me when I say you will be exhausted and super sore. It’s a great way to get your cardio and strength training in one.

Likes: Great workout, definitely feel it afterwards!

Dislikes: a bit too overly strenuous for me, can be dangerous if your form isn’t correct, can be expensive. I also found it a bit boring honestly.

REFORMER PILATES

Oh how I love pilates! I used to take mat pilates at my old gym 2x a week and my abs were never so strong and hard. It was really nice too because you get to lay on a mat a lot of the time! My natural self is very lazy. Anyway, reformer pilates is the same thing, except you do it on one of those funky reformer machines. Trust me when I say they look much scarier than they are. It takes some getting used to but if you have a good instructor the ramp up time should be quick. I always feel like I get a great workout doing reformer pilates. The downside is it is ridiculously expensive and often hard to get a reservation since space is generally limited in the studios because the equipment is so large. I don’t really want to have to book a workout weeks in advance. The studio I go to also has a very strict 12 hour cancellation policy.

Likes: So fun, time flies by, my abs love it.

Dislikes: My only negatives are that it’s very expensive (probably the most expensive of any class I’ve tried) and the classes usually have limited space/availability.

YOGA

I have a serious love/hate relationship with yoga. I would really love to be one of those SUPER mellow yoga types who does headstands on top of mountains, but let’s be honest, I don’t think it’s in me. I do like the relaxation that comes with laying on a mat and stretching. However, I find most yoga classes pretty intimidating and I can’t get out of my head enough to fully take it in and enjoy myself. I also really hate when I have no idea what I’m doing so I have to look around and try to copy other people, only to end up feeling really stupid and awkward because I can’t. A lot of yogis are SERIOUS about their yoga (they even call it a “practice”) and you will feel way out of place at those classes. Some of the teachers are a little loopy and far out there. I appreciate their weirdness but maybe not everyone would.

There are about a million different types of yoga. I’ve found Hatha yoga to be gentler and easier to follow than say, Vinyasa. Make sure you sign up for one of the easier ones if you’re new, or even a beginner class if you can find one.

Likes: It can be very relaxing, it’s good for when you’re feeling stressed out or overwhelmed.

Dislikes: It can be a bit pretentious and intimidating, it’s frustrating when you can’t do what others are doing, some yogis seem averse to deodorant

ROCK CLIMBING

So if you’re afraid of heights, this is scary. You will probably be required to do an intro class so you can learn how to put the harness on properly (and not kill yourself). I went with my boyfriend and we learned how to “belay” which basically means you give the person going up the wall enough rope so they can get up but not so much that they will come crashing down. I think? I found the whole introductory lesson to be a little over my head. But luckily my boyfriend paid attention and told me what to do. I was terrified my first couple rounds but eventually I stopped thinking about the height and just went for it. You need some upper body strength to get more than 2 feet off the floor. We started out on the easy wall since we were total newbies and it was still pretty challenging.

Likes: lots of fun! a good challenge. great for building upper body strength.

Dislikes: serious fear of heights is a problem, intro/ramp up class generally required, need special equipment and shoes, didn’t get to work my lower body as much, kind of a granola bro-y environment.

GYMNASTICS

Yes, after a years-long quest, I found an adult gymnastics class!!!! The class met 2x per week for 2 hours at a time. It was a LONG class.  The first 5-10 minutes were a short warm up of either jogging or jumping on a trampoline. Yeahh! That was followed by lots and lots of stretching…..legs, arms, shoulders, wrists, ankles, etc. This usually lasted about 30 minutes. I like stretching but it did get boring after a while! Then we did drills. Drills consisted of things like cartwheels, handstands, round offs, forward rolls, backward rolls, etc. This was actually my least favorite part of the class. I always bonked my head on the mat doing the rolls and it made me feel dizzy. I also had a huge fear of handstands. I can do them wonderfully if there is a wall nearby, but doing them on an open mat scared me to death. I didn’t want to break my neck! So I struggled through the drills. Then we spent a good 45 minutes working on tumbling skills. The  more advanced students would go off and do their own thing… flips, parallel bars, etc. The newbies like me would work on doing handsprings with mats and flipping into the foam pit. Sometimes we’d end the class with 15 minutes of conditioning, which consisted of pushing stacks of mats across the floor. It was EXHAUSTING!

At first I had a lot of fun with the class and enjoyed going. Over the course of a few months, it became draining. The class got more crowded and was eventually overrun by the experienced gymnasts. The coach was less than attentive as time went on as well. Each class ran until 9pm. I would come home so hyped up and unable to fall asleep that I’d have a hard time getting up for work in the morning. It was just not working for me. At the time, I was also trying to keep up with boot camp and weight training on my own. I couldn’t handle it all so I stopped going after a few months. I had already paid over $200 for the last session and missed a lot of it. But I just lost the  motivation and it was a 15 minute drive whereas the boot camp and regular gym I go to are both a 5 minute walk from my house. Maybe someday I’ll go back or find a new adult gymnastics class, but for now I’ll stick to my regular weight training!

Likes: SO FUN!!!! Jumping in foam pits is the best. It made me feel the excitement I always had watching the Olympic gymnasts as a child.

Dislikes: I actually didn’t actually learn anything new, like how to do a flip! The class times weren’t convenient for me. This would probably be way better with a 1 on 1 coach.

BOXING

I tried a beginner boxing class at a local boxing gym. I was totally intimidated and it took me months to work up the courage. But they had a really good deal going so I went for it. I have to say, I think I would have a different opinion if I went somewhere else. I found this particular class to be way too cardio-focused. I mean, I can do jumping jacks on my own time and that’s not something I’d pay money to do in a class. The actual boxing part was maybe 10-15 minutes of an hour long class. It was lots of calisthenics, push ups, stretching and a tad bit of boxing. So that was pretty disappointing. I also hated using old smelly gloves that who knows how many other sweaty people had used. If you’re a germophobe, think twice. However, the actual boxing was really fun. I went a couple of times and I guess I should’ve kept going since I wish I would’ve learned more about actual boxing techniques instead of just sort of randomly punching bags.

Likes: punching things is fun

Dislikes: too much cardio and push ups, didn’t get to box in the actual boxing ring, didn’t quite feel like Muhammed Ali as I’d hoped

CROSSFIT

Ok, so here it is: the good, the bad and the ugly of CrossFit. Sit tight.

I’ll start with what I like. Overall, I did enjoy the Olympic lifts a lot. I love lifting weights, so those movements were my favorite. I love snatches. I love push presses. I love Clean and Jerks. I, like most people, could go the rest of my life without doing another burpee and be PERFECTLY happy. But I understand they are a necessary evil in CF and it did feel good to know I just did 150 of them and didn’t die. To say there is no “cardio” involved in CF is a total lie, but a good lie. You definitely won’t see CFers on an elliptical machine…and that’s a good thing. The cardio portion is built in to the programming, almost seamlessly enough for you to forget you’re doing it at all. It is a lot like circuit training and most workouts are timed, so you are inherently moving very quickly…or at least, attempting to. Sprinting is a big part of CF too, unfortunately for me, because I hate running. Rowing is big in CF, which is surprisingly fun and difficult. That said, I did not miss the treadmill and can honestly say I never had my heart pound so hard than in CF. I liked that I didn’t have to spend 30 minutes on a boring machine thinking about the 500 other things I’d rather be doing. During a WOD (workout of the day), I couldn’t think of anything at all because my heart never stopped racing and there were very few WODs that didn’t left me laying on a mat, gasping for air. Take that, you evil little elliptical machine!

That brings me to my dislikes.

1. The WOD’s (workouts). Ok I don’t mind the bruises, cuts and sore shoulders that seem to persist no matter how much I stretched, how many bubble baths I took or how much glumatine I took. I don’t even mind the scar I now have on my ass from doing hundreds of sit ups in a WOD (you wanted brutally honest didn’t you?). I don’t mind a good challenge and thought CF would be a refreshing change from my old snooze fest workouts, but I seriously hated about 80% of the WODs. I hated them so much that one day I walked out mid-WOD because I was frustrated and pissed off. And for your info, the workout was:

Start – 90 burpees
@ minute 12 – Do a Fran (Fran is 21 pull ups and 21 thrusters @ 65 lbs, then 15 of each, then 9 of each) – a thruster is basically a squat and a push press combined
@ minute 24 – 90 kettlebell swings (16 kg)

We were supposed to do each round at the 12 minute mark (meaning, if it takes you the full 12 minutes, guess what, no rest period for you!!). That’s 36 minutes of pure hell. I got through 24 mins and wanted to die. Judge me if you want. I work out as a way to relieve stress, not create it. I spent the rest of the day angry that I couldn’t do 65 lb thrusters for 12 minutes straight and that CF seems to promote elitism and look down on those who can’t do 100 pull ups just for fun. I am not typically a quitter, nor did I think I was THAT out of shape when I started. But CrossFit proved me wrong on both counts. I accept being out of shape (I credit my stress, multiple moves, and ongoing insomnia at the time for some of that) and I personally didn’t mind being a quitter, especially if it meant saving myself from passing out, throwing my back out or avoiding the shame that comes with not completing a workout. And it’s not like I quit the gym. It was a hard workout and it was my first one after 2 weeks off for the holidays. So I suppose I should’ve given myself credit. But again, there is no “do the best you can” in CF. They expect you to do it all and to do it in an asinine amount of time. CrossFit’s motto should be “If you’re not first, you’re last” because it’s true for them. You haven’t worked hard enough unless you are barfing up your lunch.

2. Writing scores on the board. UGH.After each WOD, you write your name and your score on a dry erase board. What are we, 8? Not being competitive by nature definitely worked against me in CF. I don’t care if I never do a 300 pound dead lift. I don’t care if I can’t run a mile in 5 minutes. I just don’t care because to be honest, I knew I’d never be #1 in the class. I guess I need more of an ego to really enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t want to see my measly score at the bottom of the list either. It reminded me of being picked last in gym class which again made me feel like I was in a class full of elitist Olympians (or former all-star athletes who never got picked last for anything). Am I going to have a detention if I don’t record my awful score? Who cares? What I care about is being healthy, being in good shape and being strong. I thought CF was all about this too. But it often seemed that doing 100 half assed pull ups was WAY more important.

3. It is too difficult for beginners. Sorry folks, CF is inherently dangerous, although no one likes to talk about that fact. Heavy lifting is dangerous…in CF or any type of lifting/bodybuilding. Not using proper form is dangerous. So whose genius idea was it to do 100s of one exercise for time? Clearly, anyone, no matter how fit, is going to get to the point of exhaustion, which means that your form is going to decline as you get more tired. This is extremely dangerous, especially when lifting heavy amounts of weight (which they expect you to do on day one). Everything can be “scaled” down, according to the CF bible. But the trainers definitely don’t emphasize this the gym I went to (I think/assume/hope many others are more professional). Rather, they seemed to look down on people who scaled workouts. It actually pissed me off to no end. If I had never, ever set foot in a gym before and CF was my first experience in one, I honestly would’ve been traumatized for life on day one and ran straight home to a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. This, again, could’ve just be true at my gym…I hope! It was much less expensive and smaller than other area CF boxes, so I do think the quality of the programming suffered as a result. However, I weight lifted on my own for 2 years before joining CF and I still felt completely scared and way out of my element there. I admit I am hard on myself and get frustrated when I don’t pick things up right away. But none of these people walked in on day one doing muscle ups. So why do they act like they did?!!

4. Timed workouts. I get the idea. Everyone move fast so you burn loads of calories. Keeping count of how many reps you did, or how quickly you finished a workout can also help you track progress going forward. I get it, but I’d lose count because I was too busy trying to stay alive. And I didn’t mind AMRAP (as many rounds as possible in X amount of time) workouts because at least then, there is no set # I have to complete and I can got at my own pace. But the workouts where you have to do X, Y and Z in 15 minutes causes me sheer panic because A) I knew there was typically a good chance I won’t finish and B) I knew everyone will be standing around staring at me when I didn’t finish…or finished last. Again, good luck getting me to put my score on the board. I did it once because I got yelled at. (I did not have to serve a detention, however.)

5. Next, clearly, I didn’t appreciate the competitive nature of the programming because in my opinion, people in group classes/sports should be supportive and encouraging, not elitist. I know some people are competitive and played sports their whole lives and loved that aspect. I did not. I thought CFers were very team-like and everyone cheered everyone on and it was a way to compete TOGETHER. Instead, it feels like a Nazi boot camp where it’s every man for himself. I have no ego and I will be honest in that I never once had “fun” in a CF work out. I would leave thinking, “Why am I paying for this?” Again, maybe it’s just the group I worked out with or my high standards. Perhaps they were “in the zone” or just plain antisocial. I realize now I am just not cut out for competitive sports. But how is it so many other people love it?? CFers, please enlighten me!!

6. There’s no music! WTF. I need music to work out. I think my gym may have just sucked in this respect. I sure hope other boxes have nice, loud music. But man, I seriously cannot do a heavy squat without a little Pennywise in my ear. Someone could even sing or something. (This is just a foot note to my other criticisms)

Gluten-Free Protein Pancakes

I am a HUGE pancake lover and I am always on the hunt for healthy pancake recipes that taste good and aren’t the consistency of cardboard. I also prefer my pancakes to have some protein although I am not a huge fan of pancake recipes that include protein powder, so it is tough to find a recipe that can meet all of my picky requirements. But, at long last, I found one!! And it is so easy to make!

Here it is:

1/4 cup gluten-free oats (you can use regular oats if you don’t need a GF recipe)

2 tbsp. Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup egg whites (or 3 egg whites)

2 tbsp. coconut flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1-2 tbsp. agave or pure maple syrup

1 tsp. coconut oil

1/4 cup blueberries, dark chocolate chips or whatever you like in your pancakes!

Steps:

1. Using a Nutribullet (or similar type of blender), mix the oats, Greek yogurt and egg whites together. You only need to blend for about 1 second. It’s best if it’s a bit thick and all the oats aren’t totally mixed in.

2. Next, stir in the coconut flour and baking powder.

3. Add your berries, chocolate chips or whatever else you like.

4. Heat up your pan on a low heat and add the coconut oil to coat the pan.

5. Make 3 pancake blobs. Cook for a few minutes. They will firm up a bit and then not stick to the pan – that’s when it’s time to flip.

6. Voila! Add syrup!

The trick with these pancakes is the consistency. That is why I blend the ingredients at different steps. It helps the consistency be smooth and semi-liquid without being too liquidy or too thick. Enjoy!!

Project: Fast Hair Growth

Let’s talk hair, shall we? I love long hair and I’ve been trying to grow my hair long for years. It was very long my entire childhood, down below my butt actually. Since then, it has been somewhere between just below my shoulders and about mid-way down my back. Last year around this time I went in for a trim with a new hair stylist and he chopped off all of my hard work.  I was devastated. He did a nice cut but it wasn’t at all what I wanted. He gave me layers and chopped off way too much…rookie mistake on my part. NEVER get layers if you want to grow your hair!!  So anyway, I went home and cried, and spent the last year growing it back. Since then it had grown several inches and it was about time for a trim. It had been about 5 months since my last cut when I went to yet a new stylist the other day for a “trim.” I asked for 1/2 an inch.

YEP you guessed it. I came out with my hair about 5 inches shorter. And without layers. So it wasn’t even a nice cut…just a butcher job. I was SO pissed off. I can’t believe this happened again, almost exactly a year to the date of the last awful cut. Note to self: no more hair cuts in the month of April.

Once reality set in that there was nothing I could do to get my hair back, I started trying to focus on the positive. The one good thing that came out of it is that ALL of my split ends were gone. Completely. I had a ton of them before since my hair is really prone to them for some reason. So at least now I had a fresh start to promote new hair growth. Right?

When I get excited/motivated to do something, I go full force. So I threw myself into full-blown hair growth mode immediately. I did loads of research to figure out what to do to make it GROW. I started ditching all of my bad habits immediately to focus on making my hair as healthy as possible so it would grow and not break off. I spent a crap load of money.

Now I know this sounds crazy, but what I did actually worked. In the first few weeks, I got about 1.5 inches of hair growth. In the following month, I got another inch or so. I can’t say for sure that this was due to my hair growth experiment, or maybe a boost in growth from my really aggressive cut, but I got almost 3 inches back in 2 months. I’d say that is a huge success. Since then the hair growth has slowed but I am just about ready to start another Inversion (see below) so we’ll see what happens.

This was the my 4 week progress (from late April to late May):

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 9.23.20 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-27 at 9.23.35 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I said, I got about another inch or so in the next 4 weeks after this. So I’d say my plan worked pretty well.

Here is the full extent of what I did:

  • Inversion method 1x a month for 7 days with Hairdrenalin concoction (more on that below)
  • Took daily multi-vitamins, Biotin and CoQ10
  • Daily exercise – mix of weights and cardio
  • Ate lots of protein and tried to eat more of fruits/vegetables (especially the ones rich in B vitamins, iron and zinc)
  • Drank bamboo tea daily (it’s known to promote hair growth)
  • Minimize heat (blow dryer / curling iron) – if you do this, get used to wearing lots of pony tails and buns
  • Protein treatments 1x per week – It took me months to realize my hair was weak, not dry, and conditioning treatments were actually making it worse. I switched to protein treatments.
  • Massaged coconut oil onto scalp and down hair shaft the night before washing (leave on overnight if possible).
  • Massaged argon oil onto tips each morning.
  • Always used a heat protectant products if blow drying or curling but I only did this twice I think, when I was going out somewhere nice and actually needed my hair to look decent.
  • I tried to wear my hair in a loose bun to prevent damage / exposure / stop touching it so much.
  • Used a silk/satin pillowcase at night to protect hair (I actually only did this for about a week)

So first let me say that as I mentioned earlier, getting a really solid haircut probably did help. But let me talk about what I really think worked the best and that was the first thing I listed: the Inversion method. Google it and find a video on it so you can get a better idea of what it is. Apparently women have been doing this for centuries. It’s basically a process whereby you rub an oil concoction on your scalp and turn your head upside down (not totally – just an angle) and wait 4 minutes. The blood rushes to your head and your scalp freaks out and causes the hair to grow… or something to that effect. I don’t know. But it’s worked for a lot of women.

I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and noticed a lot of girls do this differently. Some either don’t use oil or do it longer than 4 minutes (or even twice a day). The whole point is to do it enough to shock the scalp but not so much that your scalp gets used to it and stops reacting to it by making the hair grow. What seemed to work for me was using the Hairdrenalin potion (see recipe below) and turning over while massaging my head for an entire 4 minutes (no longer). Some girls don’t massage the whole time but I think it helps. You should only do this once a day for 7 days and then not again for at least 4 more weeks or you run the risk of your scalp getting used to it and it won’t work. Hairdrenalin is a concoction of different ingredients that have been known to increase hair growth or otherwise promote healthy hair.

Here is the Hairdrenalin recipe:

  • 16oz clear castor oil or Jamaican black castor oil – Castor oil is great for regrowing bald spots in people suffering from alopecia.
  • 45 black tea bags – Black tea contains caffeine which stimulates hair growth.
  • 30 biotin pills 5000mcg – Biotin is the original hair growth supplement and also stimulates hair growth and thickens hair too.
  • ½ bottle cayenne pepper – We wrote something recently on cayenne pepper being used as a hair growth aid
  • 4 large squirts of onion oil – Onion is also commonly used to stimulate hair growth and we recent wrote a post on an onion juice hair growth aid.
  • 2 large squirts of garlic oil – Garlic is known to stop shedding and is commonly used in some medicated shampoos.
  • Stocking or cheesecloth to strain the oil (you can use knee high nylons)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Pour all the castor oil into an oven proof dish. Use a loaf pan if you have one or something with tall enough sides that the oil won’t spill over since it will remain liquid in the oven. Add the contents of the tea bags, NOT the bags themselves to the oil. You have to cut them open and pour in the tea. Also, pour the contents of the biotin capsules into the mix but not the whole capsules. Break them open one by one. This part takes a while!

Mix the concoction really well with a spoon. Then put in the oven for 5-5 1/2 hours. Yes you read that right. Hair growth takes time, people!! The cooking time allows the ingredients to fully infuse into the castor oil. After the time has elapsed, let it cool enough so you can strain the oil through the stocking/nylons into a bottle. It can still be pretty warm, just not burning hot to the touch. Basically, you will end up with nylons full of clumpy oil/tea goo. Throw that stuff out. All you want is the oil and you should end up with a good amount of it.

Now, add the onion and garlic oils in a 2:1 ratio to your strained oil mix. (4 squirts of onion oil and 2 squirts of garlic oil). I, of course, got distracted and did this  part all wrong. I totally forgot about these oils until my oil was already cold in the refrigerator. I added them after the fact so they didn’t mix well at all and my hair reeked every time I used it. Do this step while your oil is still warm!

Shake the bottle to combine the oils. Keep in the refrigerator. Use a small amount for the Inversion method and make sure to heat it up in the microwave (20 seconds or so and no longer since oil heats up FAST and gets super hot).

 

30 Books in 30 Days Challenge

Being unemployed has its perks! I decided to make better use of my time and challenged myself to read 30 books in 30 days because I want to always be learning and growing. I’d seen someone in Instagram do it and thought, wow that’s an accomplishment! I had it in the back of my head that I wanted to do it for a while and when I would watch TV, I would see all the dusty books on my book shelf. One day I realized that in the last 5 months I’d only read 2 of them. I didn’t have an excuse anymore so I wanted to take some time for myself while also challenging myself. I took a step back from the things that were weighing me down and then went through my bookshelves to choose a variety of books – lighthearted, deep, thoughtful, mind-bending, fictional, self-help, etc. just to keep things interesting.

Here are the books I read along my thoughts about each one (mainly so I can keep them straight and remember the takeaways after I’m all done):

  1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – A melancholy story about an old man who dies and goes to heaven only to meet 5 people that impacted his life, or vice versa. It’s a sad tale and made me cry, but it’s a good one and it’s very impactful. It reminded me not to take anything for granted and more importantly, to realize/remember that everyone has a purpose and that we are all interconnected in some way. Everything you do has an impact on the universe and people around you. It is so true! I liked it a lot but this was a pretty heavy book to start a reading challenge with.
  2. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – One of the best books I’ve ever read considering I have a very hard time relating to people, making friends and holding jobs. The tips are for the most part very basic and make a lot of sense. He gives lots of examples of how this works in the real world and proved to me that all the education in the world doesn’t matter if you know how to deal with people. I can honestly say I do almost none of the things he teaches, which I guess explains a lot!
  3. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza – This book is phenomenal and I’d recommend it to everyone. It offers lots of information about neuroscience and quantum physics and basically, which is a bit heavy, but it’s good because it teaches you how you can rewire your brain to make your life better (and best of all, how simple it is). The premise is that your energy, good or bad, affects your brain and body, how stress leads to disease and unhappiness, and how you can change the way your brain functions in order to become a happier, healthier person. A big part of the book is about meditation and how to use it to make positive changes in your life. I’ve heard it before but not until reading this book did I realize how/why meditation works. Kind of a mind bender and tiring to read at times, but it was very interesting! I’d like to read it again over a period of time to give myself more than a day to absorb it all. It is absolutely fascinating stuff.
  4. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma – This is a story about a workaholic attorney who has a heart attack, quits his job and goes to India on a spiritual journey. He returns to share his wisdom and life lessons with a younger former colleague. It’s all the stuff you’d expect – lessons on how to live a more joyful life, fulfill your purpose and reach your destiny. At times it felt a bit corny and over the top, like the author was trying WAY too hard, but the lessons are good and I appreciated the overall theme. Note: since I’m a grammar nerd, the incessant quotation marks drove me mad!
  5. Post Office by Charles Bukowski – The story of a somewhat degenerate postal worker who loves drinking, horse racing and women. Pretty sad at times, but also quite funny. It reinforced the fact that I never want to work at a “real” job again.
  6. What Is My Cat Thinking? by Gwen Bailey – Self-explanatory book about cats to satisfy my inner crazy cat lady!
  7. What To Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter – This is exactly what it sounds like – a book about self-talk and how to pump yourself up to be better, happier and more successful. I liked it but it felt like overkill after a while. The author is a huge advocate of listening to motivational talks on tape and that even if you aren’t fully listening, you take it all in on a subconscious level and it changes how you think and feel. It was a good read overall, but I can save you the time and trouble of reading it: basically, just start talking out loud to yourself and repeatedly list lots of specific reasons why you are awesome/smart/successful (in present tense), even if none of it is true in your eyes and you don’t believe it….and do it as often as possible. You’re welcome.
  8. How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie – This book was definitely my least favorite book so far. It was almost 300 pages of anecdotal stories all of which had the same gist: if you stop worrying, your life will improve. Not a ton of takeaways from this one and it was WAY too long and repetitive sounding, in my opinion. Onto the next.
  9. Warrior of the Light by Paul Coelho – This is supposed to be a companion book to “The Alchemist” but felt like a total reach to me. It lists all the ways that a person can be a “warrior of the light” and to me, it just felt like one long run on sentence and was not that interesting. “The Alchemist” is a phenomenal book and I loved it, but sadly this one missed the mark for me.
  10. Women, Food and Desire by Alexandra Jameson – After reading pretty heavy books (with the last few being pretty disappointing), I just needed a change of pace. This book wasn’t exactly what I expected and was geared more towards people who have a toxic relationship with food. I got a few good tidbits out of it but overall wouldn’t recommend it.
  11. The Stranger by Albert Camus – This is a novel about a man who gets caught up in a murder case in Algiers. I actually really liked this book but I honestly can’t put my finger on why.
  12. Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson – Great advice for anyone running a small business/startup or who has an idea for one. I loved all the talk of how pointless meetings are and other dumb things companies/managers do. I agree with so much of this book!! Good stuff.
  13. Whale Done by Ken Blanchard – This book describes techniques used by animal trainers to train whales that can also be used to create positive, productive relationships with people. It’s kind of a lame book to be honest, but the concept is good – basically, it proves yet again that positive reinforcement works best for behavior change.
  14. The Healthcare Fix by Laurence J. Kotlikoff – The author proposes a solution to the healthcare problem in the U.S. He suggests getting rid of Medicare/Medicaid and replacing it with universal health insurance which basically entails everyone getting a voucher for healthcare. Interesting read.
  15. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks – My brain was way too fried to be reading something like this. It seemed like he wrote it for other doctors, not normal people. I didn’t enjoy it AT ALL.
  16. Animal Farm by George Orwell – I loved this book. A satirical novel in which a farm is run by the animals themselves after overthrowing the human owners. Such a wonderfully scary and accurate metaphor for the way this country (and world) operates.
  17. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – A book about the author’s journey in helping make a film about his own life and in turn, creating his own personal story that involves challenging himself, taking risks and pushing beyond his comfort zone. He teaches the reader how to “write a good story” both literally and figuratively. A very good read.
  18. Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck – I was excited because I bought this book at the Steinbeck House in Salinas. It was one of the only Steinbeck books that I hadn’t read and it looked good. What Steinbeck book isn’t? I read it in on Memorial Day so it was fitting. Basically, every chapter is some ironic event that happened during the war. There’s not a whole lot of flow to it. It was just ok. Definitely not one of Steinbeck’s best.
  19. Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper – This is a very bittersweet book about a cat named Prudence and her. She narrates most of the book although some parts are narrated by her owner. I really liked this book. It was cute and sweet and emotional because of all the ups and downs the cat and her family go through. I admit it made me cry. A lot. Ok, I bawled my eyes out. I love cats so much and always think of them as being totally innocent little fuzzy and sweet beings with feelings and it just made me so sad that this cat lost her owner and didn’t understand why. I realize it’s fiction but still! This was another reminder of how awesome cats are.
  20. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – Viktor Frakl was a psychiatrist and neurologist from Austria who spent 3 years in Auschwitz. This is a fascinating account of how people in concentration camps dealt with the horror of their experiences. In the second part of the book he explains logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy that he created. The concept is that everything humans do is driven and motivated by our will to find meaning in our lives. I am always in awe of stories about concentration camps. It’s truly unbelievable how evil some humans can be and how triumphant and resilient others can be in spite of it.
  21. The Secret Language of Cats by Heather Dunphy – More awesome info about cat behavior! Meow!
  22. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson – A super simple, short book (I was short on time this day). The gist of it is that the best way to deal with change is to embrace it since it’s inevitable and can lead to bigger, better things.
  23. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh – As the name implies, this book is all about meditation. It’s pretty repetitive and at times boring. I like the overall message but it was very drawn out.
  24. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey – Great book about appreciating the little things, having gratitude and becoming your best self. It’s definitely very “Oprah” and who doesn’t love Oprah?
  25. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – Ahhhh! Maya Angelou is such a poetic writer!! I love the way she describes things. It’s magical. This is a very bittersweet story about her upbringing. I enjoyed reading it a lot.
  26. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – This book was so bizarre. I can’t even.
  27. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom –  I loved this book. This is a MUST read for anyone and everyone. Very touching, sweet and thoughtful.
  28. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck – Basically a sequel to Cannery Row. It was ok but not my favorite Steinbeck book.
  29. Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy – This is basically Jackson’s autobiography and explains his love of cats and how he became a behaviorist. It’s pretty interesting and unexpected. I loved the chapter where he talked about working in an animal shelter. It’s all so true.
  30. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – Wow, this was a heavy (and long) book. I read it because Oprah has said it’s her favorite book of all time (and who better to recommend a good read than her?). The gist of the book is to show how important it is to let go of toxic thoughts/feelings/behaviors and basically become more “enlightened” (and in turn, happy) by letting go of ego, not placing value on material things, being present, breathing, and accepting and/or enjoying each moment of your life. Great way to end the challenge!

My Review of PlateJoy

I’ve been looking for some type of meal service for a while now because I want to eat healthy but don’t really know how to cook. I also don’t want to sort through millions of recipes online just to find a few that are easy and simple, which is all I want. I have no plans to be an all-star chef but I also don’t want to live on frozen garbage. And I don’t want to spend $500 a week on food either.

Enter: PlateJoy.

I randomly found this company when I was job hunting actually. They had a job posting for a job that I’m sadly not qualified for, but the description of the company was so intriguing that I went straight to their website and ended up signing up. Their tagline is “Healthy Eating For Busy People.” Being unemployed, I’m really not actually busy at all, but the “healthy eating” alone won me over. (Note: I was not paid to use PlateJoy and am not affiliated with them in any way).

This is how it works: you go on the site and answer some basic questions about yourself, how many meals you’d like per week, and what your dietary preferences are. I was thrilled to be able to choose the gluten-free, pescatarian menu since I don’t eat meat and I’ve been trying to kick gluten on and off for many months and it’s been a total failure. Once I entered all my info, which took just a few minutes, I was then presented with an array of lovely food porn photos of meals that not only look delicious but look super healthy! I was so excited!!! It’s like looking at a menu and since I love variety and lots of options it was so fun to look through them all. You can select the meals you’d like to try, or deselect the ones you don’t. You can also just remove ingredients if you don’t like them but like the rest of the recipe (one of the best features but it’s a bit hidden). PlateJoy presents a variety of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks/desserts and show all of the ingredients and nutritional info. I opted to have 6 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners for the week (I couldn’t figure out how to get meals for all 7 days so I’m not sure if that’s even an option. I realized after I ordered that I could’ve done 5 lunches and 5 dinners but I don’t recall seeing that option. Oh well.)

I don’t know about other people, but this service was made for me. I think a lot of people will want the food delivered to their doorsteps already cooked and ready. I agree that would be nice, but I also really do want to learn how to cook (at least the basics). And I want to eat as healthy as possible. The only way to do that is to have full control over what is going into my food. No matter how fresh things seem at restaurants or meal delivery services, I still always wonder what I’m really eating. I’m also the type of person who goes to the grocery store and has no clue what to get so I just pick things that look good and have every intention of cooking but then don’t. I have been known to spend way more than $147 a week on super healthy, organic food only to come home and order a pizza because I’m too unmotivated to cook (even when I’ve used Instacart and didn’t even leave the house to do my own grocery shopping). And then of course, I end up throwing out my rotting veggies and moldy gluten-free tortillas a week later to make room in the refrigerator so I can go grocery shopping again and waste more of my money. Rinse and repeat.

I’m slightly concerned that the food will come and I won’t actually cook the meals but since everything is laid out so nicely and the photos look so scrumptious, I think I can do it. Plus they swear the meals take under 30 minutes to cook. I have quite a bit of feedback for the PlateJoy product/website:

  • I absolutely LOVE the website. It’s sleek and simple and modern. I am so picky about web design and get so irritated with bad UX but this is a rare 10/10.
  • The meals look amazingly delicious  – great photography! I think I was drooling looking through all the meal options.
  • Everything about this service totally appeals to me because I’m not on a mission to be a world-class chef by any stretch but I do want to learn how to make my own simple, easy meals that are healthy and balanced.
  • I love the ability to customize according to nutritional preferences (there’s even a vegan option which I totally want to try!).
  • I love that the ingredient list is included in every meal and that most recipes only have a handful of ingredients. Simple, easy, perfect.
  • I love that the nutritional info is included with every meal option!
  • I’m really excited not only to try new meals, but to try new ingredients. I can’t wait to see what brand of gluten-free bread ends up in my shopping bag.

All that said, I do have some product/website suggestions for PlateJoy. I truly love the concept so all of these are just my ideas for improving the product and in the end, bringing in more customers:

  • Make it VERY clear that the food is INCLUDED in the price. In the beginning, I honestly thought I’d have to go onto another site and pay for food. It’s kind of stupid to think of paying $100+ a week just for recipes, but this company is based in San Francisco where literally everything costs 10x what it would elsewhere, so nothing would surprise me. I think a huge mistake startups make is forgetting that users (especially first time users) don’t know their products as well as them and not every user is going to pick up on their concept right away. Never assume anything! I think for me, the confusion stemmed from the fact that PlateJoy really isn’t like any other service — isn’t a grocery service per se (like Instacart), or a meal delivery service (like SpoonRocket) either because you are cooking the food yourself. It’s somewhere in between. So I’d suggest making it explicit what people get for their $ up front because it actually is a fantastic service that is everything customers want: it fulfills a need, it’s simple/easy to use and it’s totally worth the money (in my opinion)!
  • I would completely change the landing page. This is just my opinion and I know I said I loved the website, but I sort of hate the color scheme. I really don’t like the white font on the dark green, boring looking salad. It’s hard to read and I’d choose a better looking recipe photo with brighter colors… a food rainbow dish of some sort. Just something more inviting. Same with the “Benefits” section at the bottom — it’s hard to read the white font on that yellow-y pasta dish (which is not super appealing either) and there’s way too much text in the Benefits section that no one will ever read.
  • Also, regarding the landing page…..I’d make all the text on the salad smaller and move it so it’s a header rather than the centerpiece of the page. Then I’d move all the “below the fold” steps to “above the fold” and make them smaller (more concise) and easier to read so new users don’t have to scroll for days down the page. The PlateJoy concept is actually quite simple and doesn’t need all that space to explain what it is. The design makes the service seem more complicated than it really is. I’m sure they’ve A/B tested the crap out of this page so just my 2 cents.
  • I had no clue about the “Digital Pantry” concept which means that they track how much of each ingredient you should have leftover (like salad dressing) so you don’t get more of it the following week. GENIUS! This should be better highlighted/advertised by being higher up on the page.
  • Add more foods to the “Ingredients you prefer to avoid” section. I actually loved all the ingredients on the list (like avocados and onions) but was really hoping to exclude my most hated food: cottage cheese. Lo and behold, nasty cottage cheese popped up in a recipe and I had to opt out of it. It would be nice to completely eliminate certain foods altogether.
  • Offer same day delivery. Instacart does this so I’m sure there’s a way. Some people aren’t planners, ya know?
  • I was unclear about the question about “favorite meals or ingredients” — basically, it allows you to type into a text box rather than manually select anything from a list like the rest of the questions. I wonder if this is is solely there to collect product feedback for the company to use, otherwise, I wonder how they actually incorporate this information into the recipes?
  • Allow users to adjust their macros. PlateJoy states that their macro breakdown is 10-35% fat, 10-25% protein, and 45-65% carbohydrates. If there were low-carb, sugar-free, etc. options, it would target a much larger audience.
  • Consider adding some type of meal tracker feature like MyFitnessPal so users can track how many calories, carbs, etc. they’re eating each day and week.
  • Consider allowing users to add personal weight loss goal targets and capacity to track their progress (more of a long term idea).

I have to say that one of the reasons I love this website is because, for a while, I was toying with the idea of creating what I called a macro meal planner app. It would be somewhat similar to the concept of PlateJoy in that it would allow people to have recipes catered to their needs/wants. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. My app would offer customized meal plans, very similar to the kind you’d pay a nutrition coach hundreds of dollars for. The app would also allow people to track their food intake in a food diary (similar to MyFitnessPal) and also track progress towards whatever fitness goals they have. (I might also find a way to incorporate workout plans into it). My app was going to be geared more towards fitness competitors and other health nuts who are really anal about what they eat. A lot of them already know the basics about nutrition but really need to know and be able to manipulate their macros to achieve their personal fitness goals. The app would allow them to select their macros (breakdown of carbs/fats/proteins) for each meal/day/week and then they would be presented with food selections that fit those macros. It would automatically generate the grocery lists too. And ideally, it would create less boring meals than the standard competitor meal of chicken, rice and broccoli. Also, users could opt to have use the grocery lists to buy the food themselves, or have the food delivered from the grocery store. Going a step further, it would be cool to even have the food all fully prepared but I didn’t think far ahead enough to figure out how that would work because working with prepared foods is a whole other ballgame. SpoonRocket does it amazingly well and I’m not entirely sure how, but they also only offer a few options whereas my site’s meals would always be totally custom. Logistically it would be difficult. And I’m not a software developer, so there’s that problem…

Anyway, let’s get back to the service itself and my personal experience with it!

So I excitedly placed my order 2 days out. On the day my order was set to come, I received an email with my recipes. My order arrived promptly during my selected 2 hour window. It even came with a bouquet of flowers which was a really nice touch! I love thoughtful details. As I unloaded my groceries, I was excited to see so many fresh foods and things I’d never tried before (like celery root!) but I was not so excited to see farm-raised salmon (GROSS). I thought they only selected the best ingredients but now that I know they might not, I will specify next time. I also think I was supposed to get 2 containers of yogurt but only received 1. A receipt really would’ve been nice and I’m not sure why they wouldn’t include one.

The first meal I decided to make was moules (better known as mussels to you plebs) because I love me some shellfish. After accidentally burning the shallots in the hot pan because I got distracted while opening the white wine, I had to start the recipe over. But I was really amazed at how fast and easy it was even with my false start. And even better, the mussels tasted amazing! I was quite impressed that I created this masterpiece myself. I even toasted up some of the gluten-free bread I got with my order and sopped up the yummy sauce with it. Honestly, it was SO GOOD.

Being a macro freak, I’m bummed that the nutritional info isn’t actually included on the recipe cards that are emailed. The info is online but you have to search for the recipe which can be done by using their meal search feature since they don’t actually have a “view current/past order” feature. And I’d already printed out the ones I was emailed so this was kind of a pain.

I went on the site to look at what I could order for next week and this is BY FAR my biggest pet peeve of all. I was super confused about how it works (and still am). I don’t think there’s a way to pick specific meals — you can only pick from a long list of what you’d like and I guess they randomly pick what meals you end up with each week? Every time I log in, I see new meals and things I don’t want keep sneaking in. I’m never quite sure what I’ll end up with so it’s kind of weird and makes me hesitant to re-order. Also, every time I refresh the page, I see a new list of meals that weren’t there before so I’m constantly de-selecting things that I don’t want…if every time I refresh the page the meals are changed, when is the order ever finalized? It’s like a revolving door menu. I finally just picked a date/time for delivery and got my “pantry list” emailed but it didn’t come with the recipes, so I still have no idea what I’m getting. I canceled the order and put my account on hold. I love variety as much as the next person, don’t get me wrong. But when I saw a meal with chicken in my pescatarian meal plan it was enough to give me pause about reordering.

Anyway, aside from these relatively minor issues, I do really love this concept and can’t wait for it to be even more awesome. If they could work out the kinks and really make it clear what meals you’re getting ahead of time, as well as deliver a grocery list along with the recipes so you can make sure you get what you’re supposed to, this service would be a 10/10. They outsource to Instacart for deliveries which makes me nervous because I’ve never had a 100% accurate order from Instacart. Also, this service is a bit pricey and may not be for everyone (particularly if you loathe the kitchen or do a lot of eating out as part of your lifestyle), but it certainly meets my needs and far exceeded my expectations in many ways. The most important thing is that the food itself and it certainly meets all the criteria I want: simple, fast, healthy and tasty. The food itself is absolutely delicious. Not only have I not had a bad meal, they’ve actually been restaurant-quality meals….and I cooked them all by myself in under 30 minutes! Now THAT is impressive!

Overall, I would definitely recommend PlateJoy to anyone looking to simplify their lives, eat at home more, eat healthier and/or stop wasting money/food unnecessarily. Cheers!

10 Things I’d Like to Tell Everyone at the Gym

Day after day at the gym I see people doing things that are just not effective and possibly counterproductive or even harmful. Stop wasting your time in the gym – work smarter NOT harder!

Here are the 10 things I’d like to tell everyone at the gym:

1. Ladies, please, lay off the damn cardio. Not to be mean but most people I see day after day on cardio machines are not in good shape. IT’S NOT WORKING. Endless cardio is actually counterproductive and can make you fatter. Google it.

2. Also ladies, use heavier weight. Yes, I promise you, your arms won’t fall off if you use more than 5 pounds. Your purse probably weighs 10. Go for 15 and make me proud.

3. Men, stop trying to be tough. Drop the weight and perform the exercise correctly. The dudes around you are secretly laughing at you. The women are not impressed.

4. When doing the lat pull, you should be working your lats, not your shoulders. When doing bench, use your chest (puff your chest up ladies, shoulders down and back). Shoulders are smaller, and therefore, weaker muscles. If you increase the weight, you won’t be able to overcompensate with your shoulders because they’re not strong enough to do what your back/chest can do.

5. Learn what exercises work which muscles. Bodybuilding.com is your friend. If you don’t feel those muscles working, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

6. If you can’t bend to 90 degrees during a squat, lower the weight!! Your ass (and lower back) will thank me.

7. Don’t use momentum to lift a weight. Use your strength. If you don’t have it yet, build up to it by using lighter weights, full range of motion and slowing the F down. Weight lifting isn’t a race!

8. STRETCH!! It’s so good for your muscles (post workout) and can help you relax and de-stress. You know you wanna.

9. Drink water. I am amazed at the high % of people that don’t have water bottles in the gym. Being dehydrated actually makes you weaker and less energetic. It also makes you fatter. Drinking enough water is the single easiest way to keep your metabolism revved up.

10. Eat at least 80% whole foods (things from the ground and/or with one ingredient – fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, etc.). If you don’t, none of this other crap will make any difference. Not only is this the “secret” to getting/staying fit, but it will give you energy for days, improve your sleep and mental focus, decrease your stress and greatly increase the odds that you will live long enough to see your grandkids grow up.

Treat your body well and it will return the favor!