Category Archives: Nutrition

RaqiSa Living: Cleanse and Restock Your Kitchen With This List

 

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Stock your Pantry with Healthy Mediterranean Kitchen Staples!

We are well into January now and perhaps you have already begun, but now is the time to clean out your pantry and re-stock with cleansing, healthy, and “clean eating” kitchen staples!  Since RaqiSa Fitness is a heart healthy, Mediterranean Inspired brand, I created a list to help you get started.  It is always exciting to consider the many varieties one can enjoy without feeling deprived.  And learning to cook your own foods will help you achieve your weight-management and healthy living goals.  Here are some tips and considerations to keep you motivated:

Remember that broths and herbs are low calorie flavor enhancers. Adding fresh lemon to nearly any salad with a bit of olive oil will go a long way, too!  Don’t be afraid to eat garlic, onions, and leeks, because they include so many health benefits and they enhance foods so well!  And guess what? Parsley aids with digestion and will freshen your breath!  (*Try our Quinoa Tabouli Recipe!) Remember, these aren’t “diet” foods.  These are real foods for you to enjoy as a part of healthy living.  I call it RaqiSa Living…because healthy living is more than just committing to a work out; it has to be an over-all lifestyle, which includes clean and healthy eating! Stay with us on our blog for more healthy eating ideas and recipes, plus – great fitness!  Review the list below and consider these motivational tips to help get you started:

  1. Plan ahead your weekly menu and try to buy accordingly.
  2. Only buy as many fruits and vegetables as you can eat.  Otherwise they will go to waste. (With any excess vegetables or fruits you do have, prepare a cleansing smoothie.)
  3. Watch your salt!  Buy all nuts without salt.  A single handful of nuts eaten throughout the day as your snack will go a long way – try it!
  4. When possible, buy organic.  *Note that I do have WHITE rice, which is used in many of the traditional Lebanese recipes passed down to me.  We use a small portion so keep this in mind and if there is an organic brand you can find, then this is great. (I like “Organic California Basmati White Rice.”)
  5. Peel, cut, then freeze bananas, or any additional fruit, then add them to your favorite protein shakes or clean smoothies.
  6. Always keep an apple nearby for when you are hungry.
  7. Pre-squeeze all your lemons and keep them in the fridge for easy access.
  8. Drink A LOT of water…and enjoy with the freshly squeezed lemon.
  9. Create a bed-time ritual, which includes not eating too late, and get plenty of sleep!
  10. Join groups or recruit friends and family to SUPPORT you!

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Fresh Fruits

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Pears
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Pomegranates

Vegetables & Greens

  • Leafy Greens
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Cabbage
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Eggplant
  • Artichokes
  • Zucchini
  • Spaghetti Squash

Whole Grains

  • Brown and White Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Whole Grain Bread with Seeds
  • Whole Wheat Arabic Bread

Beans & Legumes

  • Lentils (Dried)
  • Fava Beans (Canned, aka Foul Mudammas)
  • Garbanzo Beans (Dried and Canned)

Nuts & Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Fresh Almond Butter
  • Pinenuts

Dried Fruit

  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Apricots
  • Raisins

Fats

  • Olive Oil
  • Tahini
  • Organic Butter

Non-Dairy Milk

  • Plain Low Fat Yogurt
  • Low Fat Vanilla Yogurt
  • Lebni (a thick yogurt)

Animal Products

  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Pasture-Raised Eggs
  • Grass-Fed Beef

Broths

  • Organic Chicken Broth
  • Organic Beef Broth
  • Organic Vegetable Broth

Spices

  • All Spice
  • Cinnamon
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Curry
  • Tarragon
  • Dried Mint
  • Dried Dill
  • Dried Cilantro
  • Dried Rosemary
  • Sumac (Middle Eastern Stores)
  • Za’atar (Middle Eastern Stores)

Fresh Herbs & Cooking Accents

  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Chives

Root Vegetables

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Red Potatoes
  • Carrots

Sweeteners

  • Honey
  • Pure Maple Syrup

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RaqiSa Fitness is the creator of RaqiSa Living and Belly Barre.

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Lebni, A Timeless Tradition, by RaqiSa Living.

Lebni

This Holiday Season, bring good health and flavor to your table with a Timeless Mediterranean Tradition: Lebni.  Enjoyed in homes and restaurants, particularly in Lebanon and Greece, Lebni is a delicious, thick, and creamy yogurt with a sophisticated texture served as a spread or a dip.  As a dip, simply drizzle with olive oil and top with pomegranate seeds. This preparation is both visually beautiful and flavorful, adding just enough sweetness in each bite!  Serve with either pita chips or vegetables.

Remember, Lebni may also be enjoyed as a spread and is a classic breakfast or snack.  Simply spread on pita bread, add fresh tomato, cucumber, fresh mint, and a dash of *salt, and *olive oil (*optional) and voila!

As always we say, “Sah’tain”!  Which means, “To your Health”!

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Three Simple Ways to Use a Single Pomegranate, by RaqiSa Living.

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Fight Cold and Flu Season with the Powerful Properties in Pomegranates! Enjoy our Featured Recipe!

Pomegranates are in abundance, and what a wonderful winter addition this fruit is!  Pomegranates add visual and flavorful interest to our winter fruit options, and they are packed with powerful antioxidants to fight cancer and to boost our immunity.   In the Middle East, pomegranates are a kitchen staple. Children from a young age learn to de-seed these babies like a professional!  (And believe me, nothing makes this RaqiSa Momma more proud than to hear her kids request for, “More pomegranates, please”!)  In addition, pomegranate seeds are used frequently for decoration.  *See our “Baba-Ghanoush Recipe Photo.  So, bring this delicious tradition into your home and start with one single pomegranate and enjoy three simple ways to use the whole pomegranate, today!

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Start by de-seeding the pomegranate.  The easiest way is to cut it in quarters, and open the wedges, letting the seeds fall into a bowl.  It requires some finger work, but kids love it, so if you have kids, recruit them to help!  With the exception of a small handful, keep the rest of the seeds in a baggie and freeze them.

  1. Make pomegranate ice-cubes with fresh lemon.  For extra vitamin C, Squeeze the juice of one lemon and mix with water, then add the set aside pomegranate seeds into each ice cube with pieces of lemon. Enjoy in your favorite flavored or plain bubbly water or add flavor and nutrients in your hot or cold teas.  Speaking of teas…see #2.IMG_3850
  2. In the Middle East, we are known for not wasting our foods! That means, keep the Pomegranate Peels and Freeze them…because once you feel a cold coming on, pull out your peels and boil them to make a delicious tea!  Cover peels with ample water, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover – allow the peels to seep on low for approximately 4 minutes.  To serve, discard the peels, and pour the tea into a cup  and add the lemon and pomegranate ice cubes to cool the tea (and add nutrients). *Optional, add 1 tsp of honey.
  3. We love our yogurt in the Middle East.  It’s got so much to offer for  muscle, bone and gut health because it’s a probiotic, with protein, potassium, and calcium.  So try this recipe as a refreshing sunrise smoothie or a post workout recovery treat featuring the frozen pomegranates.  This smoothie packs a powerful nutrient dense punch. Simply add all the Ingredients into Your Blender and Blend!

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2 Tbls of vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup of non fat milk

3 ice cubes

1/2 of a banana (preferably frozen too)

1 Tbls of frozen pomegranates (plus more to dress the smoothie)

1 tsp of honey (plus more to drizzle on top)

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As always, we say, “Sah’tain”!  Which means “TO GOOD HEALTH”!

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Subscribe to our RaqiSa Fitness Youtube Channel!

 

RAQISA LIVING: Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Pilaf with Cinnamon

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Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Pilaf with Cinnamon

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Fall Flavors are easy to capture with many of the traditional Lebanese recipes because so many of the dishes include a cinnamon stick to round the flavors.  In my house growing up, this particular dish was a family favorite; particularly my brother loved this dish.  In fact, the first time I prepared this dish was for my brother when I went to visit him in his new home.  I had my mother write down the instructions, (which I have kept as a keepsake!), because I wanted to prepare the dish exactly the way he remembered.

Funny enough, after my mother had passed and when my sisters and I gathered to cook together this very dish for our brother at a family gathering, we ALL had a different version of the same recipe our mother had taught us!  (Good thing I kept the instructions she shared with me as my proof!)  But the TRUTH was…my mother was a free spirit by nature and could create the same recipe and alter it slightly each time – sometimes it was merely depending on what she had in the house.  Nonetheless, her dishes were always delicious.  Two notable options which can be added to this dish are either garbanzo beans (and-or) ground beef (or lamb).  Garbanzo beans are a nice addition, and many add ground beef, but I like to keep it simple with the chicken, because I usually prepare another meat dish along side this when I have guests.

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In summation:  This is a versatile dish and it is always a hit as an introduction to Lebanese cuisine.  Many are surprised by the simple ingredients and the comforting flavors. Just last weekend I prepared this for my American cousin who requested this dish specifically.  What a beautiful evening we shared around the table, feeling Fall in the air, walking in nature, and filling our bodies with good nutrition.  So may you enjoy this recipe toward good health…and remember as I always say, “Sah’tain!”

Recipe and Instructions:

Step ONE:  Boil one Whole Chicken with two cinnamon sticks, one small red onion quartered, 1/2 of a lemon, 2 cloves of garlic, whole, 2 tsp of salt.  Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked and cooled, de-bone the chicken separating the white and dark meat (merely as a preference) into a bowl with the onion and garlic and cinnamon sticks, (discard the lemon).  Cover the chicken, onion, and garlic with some of the broth to keep the chicken moist.  (Note: Reheat if needed just before serving – be sure to drain the broth before serving)

IMG_2757Step TWO:  Prepare two cups of rice using the remaining chicken broth.  Add 2 tablespoon of butter, 1 1/2  teaspoons of salt, 1 cinnamon stick.

Step THREE:  Meanwhile, toast in 1 tablespoon of butter a generous handful of each: slivered almonds and pine nuts.  Toast on med-low, set aside.

Step FOUR:  Once rice is done, assemble together on a platter the rice,   topped with the chicken, onion, and garlic.  Finally top the dish with the toasted nuts.  Decorate platter with the cinnamon sticks before serving.  Add additional salt to taste.

NOTE:  This dish is traditionally served with yogurt.  You may enjoy it with plain yogurt or try this delicious Yogurt Recipe:  In a bowl, pound one fresh garlic clove with a little salt. Add 2 cups of yogurt. Add 2 tsp. of dried mint. Add 1/4 cup of a cucumber peeled and diced. Combine together. Add salt to taste.

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RaqiSa Living: Chilled Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

lentils and rice

M’Judra Byda

A Traditional Lebanese Vegetarian Dish 

Summer grilling is always fun – but as summer drags on, you just might be all grilled out.  To inspire the inner chef in you, I bring to you a versatile dish that in actuality can be served either hot or cold.  A family tradition in most Lebanese homes, this lentil and rice dish is served with a crisp, fresh salad.  (Refer to my “Kicked Up Mediterranean Quinoa Salad” post for my tasty lemon and mint dressing which compliments this dish nicely).

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Ingredients: 3 1/2 Cups of Water, 3/4 Cups of Dried Lentils, 1/2 Cup of Rice,  1 Medium Onion, 1/4 cup (plus 1 TBS) of Olive Oil, 1 TBS Butter,  1 TSP Salt. (Serves Approx. 4)

Instructions: Sauté in 1/4 cups of olive oil 1/2 of the medium (chopped) onion until softened.  Meanwhile, boil 3 1/2 cups of water with 3/4 cups of dried lentils until the lentils are softened (approx. 10 minutes).  Add the sautéed onions with the olive oil, 1/2 cup of rice, and 1 TSP of Salt.  Bring to a boil and stir gently.  Reduce heat to low and cover tightly and cook until the rice is cooked through.  Sauté the other 1/2 of the onion in 1 TBLS of olive and 1 TBLS of butter until caramelized. (*Note, I personally use either a sweet white or red onion, depending on preference)  Serve in a dish and top with the caramelized onions.

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Final thought.  I like this dish because it’s economical.  Think about it…It’s a basic beans and rice dish…AND YET, it is regal enough to be served to the Queen of England herself, (okay in my humble opinion anyway); AND it is heart healthy to appeal to the health and fitness enthusiast.  So please, from my home to your home…Enjoy this (and all our dishes), toward good health, “Sah’tain”!

RaqiSa Fitness: Grape Leaves Recipe – A Mother to Daughter Family Tradition

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Grape Leaves

Passed Down from Mother to Daughter

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Shown here in this picture is me, my daughter Lillie and my dearest sister Leila.  My mother would be here, except she is kind of busy up in heaven probably doing other amazing things as she did here on earth.  It’s tough to lose someone, to be sure.  But one of many great ways to honor her perfect memory is to pass down to my daughter her recipes and shared stories.  Between me and my sister Leila, my daughter has a pretty keen sense of exactly who my mother was.  And that’s a good thing.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to pass not just this recipe, but the shared experience that can be enjoyed when gathered to roll grape leaves.  You see, every good Lebanese girl learns to roll grape leaves.  It requires a patient cook with confident and steady hands.  The labor involved does not fall under my “fast, quick, and easy” recipes that I usually offer.  Rather, it is involved and time consuming.  But that’s okay.  It’s okay because you get to prepare something that almost everyone loves and when they do enjoy feasting, there is this great satisfaction the cook can enjoy when watching her table relish each bite.   I hope you will not just enjoy this recipe, but the process involved.  I hope that you will find loved ones in your life to either cook with or to serve as grape leaves seem to just need that right combination.

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Grape Leaves served with cooked carrots

adds color to the table and makes it a complete meal.

Serves 6. Cooking time: approx.: 1 or more (1/2) depending on how much rice you use. Test the tenderness of the grape leaf and the thoroughness of the rice before serving

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of natural butter
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of salt (depending on preference)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 – 3/4 cup of rice (depending on carbohydrate preference)
1 lb. of fresh ground beef (or lamb or a mixture of both)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water (depending on how much rice you use less water for less rice, etc.)
Additional Ingredients used in the directions:
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of dried mint

Directions
Sauté onions in the butter until soft. Mix onions and butter, salt, pepper and cinnamon into rice. Add the meat and water. Mix well. Note: *This meat mixture may be used as a stuffing for a variety of vegetables, not just for grape leaves.

Layer onto the bottom of your pot small baby carrots. Lightly salt the layer of carrots and squeeze some lemon. Roll your grape leaf, one by one. Lay your grape leaf with the rough side up and place a desired meat mixture (approx. 1 tablespoon or less) in the center. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the stuffing, then fold it in from each side to the middle. Roll tightly, forming a roll about 3 in long and 1/2-1 inch thick.Pack the rolls tightly, (open ends down) into fitted rows. Depending on the size pan you use, you may get 1 – 2 rows per jar of grape leaves. Sprinkle each layer with salt and lemon juice. The final layer sprinkle with 1tsp of mint, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, salt, and the remainder of the lemon. Cover with enough water to cover the grape leaves, place a heat resistant plate upside down over the grape leaves to prevent them from unraveling. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer until rice is cooked and grape leaves are soft.

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Happy Mother’s Day From RaqiSa Fitness!

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Watch for Mother-Daughter RaqiSa Fitness Events Coming this Month

Make it Mediterranean. Fast, Easy, and Flavorful, ITALIAN TURKEY SAUSAGE SOUP

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Italian Turkey Sausage Soup

Have you ever been to a restaurant and enjoyed a dish so much that you went home to try to prepare a version of it?  Well, that’s how this recipe came to life.  My son and I use to share a bowl of sausage soup at an Italian restaurant chain, and we liked it so much, that I studied the ingredients and decided to make a heart healthy version.  Keeping the flavors savory and vibrant, yet more heart healthy with the turkey, this recipe has turned out to be a huge hit amongst my girlfriends and my family.

I like to enjoy this soup as a “flat belly” recipe on days I am eating light.  The original recipe included rice, however, to keep the carbs low, I do not add rice.  To turn this into a meal for my family, I serve this with a delicious salad and a slice of freshly prepared garlic bread.  Remember, the wise words of Hippocrates:  “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”  This recipe won’t disappoint in flavor, and it contains all the heart healthy ingredients to boot!  “Sahtain!”  – Enjoy this toward good health.

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Italian Turkey Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb of Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage

1 cup of chopped white onion 

1 cup of chopped carrots 

1 cup of chopped celery

2 cups of chopped fresh spinach

1 – 2 cloves of chopped garlic

2 boxes of Organic Chicken Stock (32 FL OZ) 

Shredded Cheese (to taste)

Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)

Directions:

Lightly brown the turkey on medium.  Add all the other ingredients together and bring to a boil on high.  Reduce heat to low and allow time for all the vegetables to soften.  (Approx 20 minutes). Add your favorite cheese and Red Pepper Flakes to taste.  *Note, depending on which chicken stock you choose, additional salt is not necessary.

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Make it Mediterranean

Arabic Pizza

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My father was in the United States Navy when he met my mom in Beirut, Lebanon.  They fell in love and traveled the world together raising five children.  We were all born in a different country:  USA, Scotland, Lebanon (the twins), and Spain (me).  Imagine how busy my mother was alone and on foreign land!  So, my mother, loyal to the diet of her homeland, had to be creative as the food resources differed with each location.  She ultimately mastered quick and easy methods in effort to prepare her traditional recipes with a spin.  In summation, this recipe was created in response to her unpredictable life and is a slight break from tradition, but it still captures the authentic flavors.  It’s a super easy family friendly recipe.

The cute story:  When mother’s mother in law (my American Grandmother) was served this for the first time, she insisted that there ought to be cheese on it.  My mother has a charm about her and was able to convince her that the fresh lemon really draws out the flavors and urged her to try it as is…She won her over and the whole family embraced her cooking beautifully in no time!

Note:  I know many may prefer a poultry.  I have never tried it other than with beef, lamb, or a combo of the two.  If you do try it with a poultry, let me know how it is!

ARABIC PIZZA

Ingredients:
1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 can of (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (drain juice)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tbls of olive oil

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Pat meat mixture to cover a 10” wrap (or a tortilla) and place on a baking sheet
Pre-heat oven broiler and place rack in center
Broil pizza for 4 minutes or until meat is cooked to your preference.
Drain excess water carefully

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Serve with Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Tomato, and Pickle. Wrap Tightly – Enjoy!
*Add additional cayenne pepper or salt to your taste on individual pizzas.

Enjoy with a delicious heart healthy salad of your choice!

Sahtain!  Enjoy this toward good health!

RaqiSa Fitness:  We believe strong and healthy is beautiful!

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The Ugly Truth: My Personal Story about How I Learned the 80/20 Rule.

No matter how you slice it, it's the 80/20 rule.  How much we eat really does matter.  Here I reveal "the ugly truth" about how I learned this lesson the hard way.
No matter how you slice it, it’s the 80/20 rule. How much we eat really does matter. Here I reveal “the ugly truth” about how I learned this lesson the hard way.  Plus, enjoy an easy family favorite recipe:  Americanized Arabic Pizza!

I am going to have a heart to heart with you in this blog. You will learn things about me I have shared with only a select few. With this information, I hope to bring you closer to the possibility that you too can enjoy a certain freedom as you move toward good health and fitness…because, true be told, I am not all proud of this story.

In some respects, I am very fortunate, because I have always enjoyed working out. I think I was born with a rare interest in fitness. In fact, my sister Leila will tell you that I was born “buff.” Admittedly, there are a couple of pictures of me as a three-year old with pretty ripped arms and legs that I seemed to have earned just from “playing.” Unfortunately, my relationship with food is not so impressive.  You see, despite being “set up for success” with loving and supportive parents, I naively fell into the “comparison trap” as a teenager. So as the magazine age of the über thin super model rose, I morphed my once healthy idea of beauty to something über unrealistic…especially for my fit, full-figured, body type.

Maybe you can relate to some of my story.

To achieve this morphed image, I dabbled with crazy fad diets. I invented restrictive methods such as eating all my calories for breakfast and nothing else the rest of the day…only to lose steam come 3:00 pm during softball practice when I needed the energy most. How stupid. But there is more. A couple of the girls on the team thought that if we wore this wet suit contraption that was advertised on TV during practice then we could “sweat off” our excess fat. So, I spent my hard-earned money from my first paying job to buy this ridiculous wet suit thing so I could sweat off my fat, (which I didn’t even have looking back!).

Then it got uglier. I dabbled with bulimia. The worst part for me with bulimia was that it went against my personal commitment to follow Christ…You see, me and God we were (still are) tight. I always talked to God. So when I would throw up, well, I felt  guilty because I knew better….I’d push out the rationals thoughts such as, “how is doing this, honoring the body I was given?” Mind you, I kept talking to God…only, with each conversation I had a lot of explaining to do…I never blamed God or felt abandoned…I just kept praying and seeking throughout my awkward conversations. Seems that God knew my heart and answered my prayers with two significant women: my mother and Wenda. My mother had this gift of encouragement. She never really knew about my bulimia till after the fact…(and let me tell you, I was so ashamed to tell her). But she was fully aware that I struggled with a negative body image and so she constantly reinforced a positive body image saying repeatedly that I was beautiful and perfectly healthy. My figure was like “Sophia Loren” she’d say with her sweet Lebanese accent. “Why be so skinny, anyway?  This is not healthy…and you are gorgeous!” She was the “good cop.” Wenda, well, she was the “bad cop.” Wenda was my childhood best friend and she was tough. She called me out on my bulimia many times. One time she turned off the water so I couldn’t flush the toilet and forced me to confess! I am grateful to have had such support, because with it, I became even more determined to stop.

First step, I began to educate myself. One of the books that really helped me during this time was a book called, “Diet’s Don’t Work,” by Dr. Bob Schwartz. This book helped me move away from the whole “diet” cycle. I imagine we all have that one book that helped us get past a “hump.” This book was mine. Next, I began to study about fitness and exercise. And, the truth be told, a large part of why I even went into the fitness industry as a group exercise instructor (besides loving fitness) was because I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to be like my mom and tell my students what they probably needed to hear, “You are gorgeous and healthy.” I wanted to be like Wenda and challenge my students…maybe hold them accountable…the solution being fitness.  I wanted to encourage my students to learn to enjoy cooking healthy recipes. I desired, in earnest, to be the one with the microphone sharing the good news of health! Today, with RaqiSa Fitness, this is the mission; this is the message.

But the story is not over.

CRISIS POINT: PUTTING MY MESSAGE INTO PRACTICE

Everything was going pretty well until I became pregnant with my first child and I gained 40 lbs of extra weight, even though I worked out daily. I was fit. Sure. I was fit and fat. I suppose, subconsciously, I thought I could compete with what I ate through exercise.  You see, before that, I really never was over weight. And I was managing my weight smoothly with healthy eating and working out. But with pregnancy all bets were off – the only thing that seemed to make me feel better were: food, sleep, and exercise. In that order. I can remember when my daughter was born, I went for my 6 week appointment and was weighed. Right there and then I realized exactly HOW MUCH weight I put on. I came home, stood in the kitchen and panicked. So, I started a conversation with myself, “Okay. You have 40 lbs of weight to get off. You’ve never had to lose this much. I want it off fast, but healthy. How do I do it?” For a split second bulimia crossed my mind and I felt this fear sweep over me. “No, you’re just going to have to do this.” I told myself. I remembered to keep my priorities straight:  I gave God thanks daily for my baby and my health. I desperately wanted to be a good role model for my daughter like my mother was for me.

Meanwhile, I returned to teaching my classes two days a week. To be honest, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. On top of it, there were a couple of other women who also just had babies…but didn’t gain weight at all. I felt embarrassed and frustrated with myself. As I was teaching my class, I was also coaching myself. I told myself to just hang in there, to not be hard on myself. I pushed out the negative thoughts. I ate reasonably and weighed myself weekly.

It took me nine months, but I finally arrived to the last 10 lbs. I was at a plateau and tired of being my own coach. I needed someone to help ME. I was also physically tired from being a sleep deprived new mother. By this time, I had stopped breast-feeding, so, I decided that I would try Jenny Craig because the food was prepared; and I needed something easy. I loved it. I loved it because it was a no-brainer, the food was pre-portioned and seeing the portion sizes really helped me. The calories were pre-measure and this was helpful. I learned a lot of methods to “add volume” with “free vegetables” to various foods as well. I was able to lose the weight, but guess what? The day I returned to my svelte pre-pregnancy weight, I found out I was pregnant with my son!!!!! And YES, I gained weight AGAIN!  This time I didn’t panic. I knew that I could get it off myself; and if I needed additional support, I would go on Jenny Craig again, (which I did).

To be sure, I got the weight off and learned many lessons along the way. The first being, “no matter how hard we work out…if we are not mindful of what we put in our mouths, we will gain weight.” Ultimately we need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food.  Let me be clear that this is by no means a promo for Jenny Craig.  It was simply an option I chose for convenience as a new mother.  My beautiful sister Leila lost over 100 lbs on Weight Watchers and I am inclined to believe this is the best solution for long-term weight loss.  With RaqiSa Fitness, I promote life-style and cooking.  Because the best way to gain control of what we put in our mouths is to fall in love with cooking delicious foods as we measure our portions.

Below, I hope that you will try this delicious and easy Americanized Arabic Pizza; and I hope that you will be mindful of having   the proper serving with a healthy salad to honor your personal portion size meant for your body.  In addition, if you are seeking support, my sister Leila leads a Facebook group called, “Biohacking Glamazons for Weight loss and Well being.”  Request to be added to the group.  Leila also embraces the RaqiSa Message; after all, we shared the same precious mother!

As far as my personal story goes. Well, I hope the parts that will resonate most are to:

1) Learn to love yourself as you educate yourself on health and fitness;
2) Learn to coach yourself;
3) Learn to control your portions;
4) Learn to seek additional support when needed.

So, in my house, when I need to lose some extra weight, my daughter and son have learned to say that “mommy is going on a LIVE-IT…not a DIE – IT.” I explain carefully that I am grateful to be healthy and that good eating actually FEELS better…I feel more ALIVE! I try to let my kids see me enjoy the foods we always eat, but with a portion size that is catered toward weight loss. I try to limit eating out and I try to cook at home. And yes, I still love finding support from friends or professionals who can coach me through as needed.

In summation: It’s the 80/20 rule. What we put in our mouth does matter. Working out is so important because our bodies were MEANT to move and we were designed to have muscle balance to function in life. In addition, exercise lifts our spirits!  RaqiSa Fitness offers fun, flirty, results based solutions to help motivate you to move!  It is my hope that you will learn to enjoy exercise not as a punishment to “lose weight,” but as joy. And if you happen to be full-figured like me…Well, start to believe what my mother said, “You’re Gorgeous!  You look like Sophia Loren!” ….Hey, why not?

What’s for dinner?  Americanized Arabic Pizza!  

Enjoy this fast and easy family friendly recipe in your home today!

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ARABIC PIZZA
1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes (drain excess juice)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tbls of olive oil

Combine all the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Pat meat mixture to cover a 10” wrap (or tortilla) and place on a baking sheet
Preheat oven broiler and place rack in center
Broil pizza for 4 minutes or until meat is cooked to your preference.
Place Individual Pizza on a Plate and Drain excess liquid carefully.

Serve with Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Tomato, Pickle and Wrap Tightly. Enjoy!
*Add additional cayenne pepper or salt to your taste on individual pizzas.

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Make it Mediterranean: Reclaim Your Health with This Recipe.

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Happy New Year!

Momma’s Lebanese healing soup. When I was a single woman, I would come home to see my mother on the weekends; she would have a large pot of this special soup just for me to enjoy through the weekend. After years of teaching me to eat healthy, she had finally arrived – I was fully on board her “health train” and I whole heartedly ate this soup, guilt free. Sometimes she would add Garbanzo beans or potatoes. She was a free spirit like that. I adored most how she oozed her love, and “health facts” into each delicious recipe. I can still hear her say, “The bone marrow has the most nutrients, this is why we use the beef bone marrow!”

I speak every bit to me as to you, when I say that between Halloween and the New Year, surely, treats have passed our way and our system has been compromised.  Together, we may need to gently cleanse our system toward optimal health. Please, enjoy this soup – I recommend one to two days, with at least 2 pieces of your favorite fruit, and a generous handful of your favorite nuts. Drink plenty of delicious water. One of my favorite ways to drink water is to make lemon and mint ice cubes. Adding these ice cubes not only makes your drink look desirable, but chewing the lemon and the mint, once the ice-cube is melted, is a delicious treat. And yes, my mother would tell you to eat the lemon peel too because of the nutrients! “Sah-tain!” May you enjoy this toward good health!

Momma’s Healing Soup Ingredients:

10 cups of Water

1 cup of Beef Broth (optional)

1 Beef Marrow Bone

1 12 oz can of tomato paste

1 Cinnamon stick

1 Small Onion Chopped

2 Cups of cut Green Beans

2 Cups of Chopped Cabbage

2 Cups of Chopped Celery

2 Cups of Chopped Broccoli Florets

1 Cup of Chopped Carrots

1 Cup of Chopped Yellow Squash

Add Salt and Pepper to Taste.

Directions: Simply put all the ingredients together in a large pot, on high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.  Cover, and cook until all the vegetables are tender.

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