Category Archives: weightloss

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.

For more information about us, please visit: http://www.bellybarrefitness.com.

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Lebni, A Timeless Tradition, by RaqiSa Living.

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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”!

To Learn More About Us,  Please Visit: http://www.raqisafitness.com 

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 Fitness: Kicked Up Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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Fresh, clean, lively, and spicy are my chosen adjectives to describe this delicious, fast and easy salad.  While it is true that the ingredients in this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad are close to that of the traditional Lebanese tabouli salad I grew up enjoying, you will never hear me say, nor will you read in writing that this salad is a “tabouli salad.”  Why?  Because I have too much respect for the labour of love involved in preparing a traditional Lebanese tabouli salad.  Each ingredient traditionally is chopped to perfection, and when assembled together, it takes an artistic eye to know the balance of parsley to cracked wheat. Hailed by my mother as the “Christmas” salad for the balance of green, red, and white hues; this salad doesn’t quite meet the criteria. In fact it is such an involved labour of love, that when I was single, I created “Tabouli Making Parties” with my girlfriends just to share the chopping time and the camaraderie in both preparation and serving.  On one occasion, my dear friend’s husband introduced to me for the first time ever, to serve a jalapeno pepper to individual tabouli portions.  I was quizzical at first. But, I had to try it.  It was such a surprising addition that it made the cut in this quinoa salad.

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Fast forward many years, many jobs, a husband and two children later.  Today I need fast, healthy, and easy.  So, I created this salad to cut the time and with a modern…casual spin.  While I personally can eat a whole bowl, (which I did), it is technically “two” servings.  I also do not use all the dressing for this portion, just to watch my calorie in take, but one could if they really enjoy the flavors…Okay, I used most of the dressing.  In all seriousness, the instructions are to simply assemble all the ingredients together and add the delicious salad dressing.  Serve chilled and enjoy each and every bite.  Prepare to feel alive and energetic.  In fact – it’s the perfect incentive to exercise!

P.S.  I promise, I will share with you my mother’s Lebanese Tabouli recipe, but for now, enjoy this toward good health!

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DRESSING INGREDIENTS: 3 oz of olive oil, Juice of one lemon, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 pinches of dried mint, salt to taste. *Stir together.
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INGREDIENTS: 1 C of cooked and cooled quinoa, 1 cup of finely chopped parsley, 2 tomatoes finely chopped, 1 Tbs of chopped fresh mint, 1/2 of a small white onion chopped, 1 Jalapeño sliced and served on the side, Salt to taste. *Combine with dressing and fold all the ingredients together.

RaqiSa Fitness: Why I Train RaqiSa Dancers for Spinal Flexibility and Trunk Stability with A Fitness Ball.

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RaqiSa students love to work with the veil.  But what they may or may not realize is that there is a RaqiSa training method behind learning how to express this beautiful dance which includes trunk stabilization and spinal mobility training. Learn how belly ball training tones and sculpts as well as prepares the body to dance all RaqiSa styles, (but especially this popular veil dance), with the proper RaqiSa Posture and Grace!

I have been teaching belly dance for fitness for a long time.  What you may be surprised to know is just how rewarding my job is on several levels.  Sure, I help women get fit, and that’s just fantastic.  As the obesity epidemic in America tops the charts, I know that my job is helping tip that scale toward optimal good health and well-being in active participants.  Ask any fitness professional…I am inclined to believe that across the board each will say,  “I love my job.”

But RaqiSa Belly Dance for fitness is special.  Based on my humble observation, and the many years of teaching, women who initially participate in a belly dance for fitness class, will walk in with hesitation.  The exception may be if the participant is Middle Eastern, and they are aware of the cultural aspects of belly dance and her many traditions and roots.  Otherwise, for most, there is a certain mystic and uncertainty that ensues.  I suppose there is this projected film image, that is emblazoned in the mind, of tantalizing women in movies who wiggle and move their hips seductively during a scene filled with men, who are foaming at the mouth.  This is unfortunately a grave misconception of this timeless, elegant art form with deep cultural roots.  And, please, let me be clear: RaqiSa Dance is in actuality a beautiful, (and dare I say) respectable dance enjoyed with and for women to celebrate her beauty, to celebrate family, and even love.

In due time, women who grow in the signature RaqiSa formats, such as Belly Barre, Belly Dance, and Belly Ball often share with me three amazing things:  1) they are acutely aware of their posture throughout the day, 2) they are complimented by others as they walk with a renewed confidence, 3) they are becoming more fit and flexible, with the added benefit of noticeably more defined abdominals! Do you realize how that makes me feel as a fitness professional?  It’s pretty awesome, I can assure you.

To help speed the muscle development as well as the necessary mobility and stability required to be an effective RaqiSa dancer, I train with a fitness ball.  Seriously, who doesn’t love playing with a ball?  It’s probably the first word most children say, and it’s the one sportive equipment enjoyed at any age.  It also happens to be the perfect solution toward effective RaqiSa fitness training.  But before I offer my summation, let’s talk essential ball and fitness logistics:

Safety & Guidelines

♦  There are two standard fitness ball sizes: 55 cm & 65 cm.

♦  Standard rule: When seated on the ball the knees should be in line with the hips or slightly above the hips, this determines which ball to use for you. (Test this on a 55 cm or 65 cm ball to see which is best for you).

♦  Maintain good postural alignment by contracting abdominals and keep the chest lifted.  Note: shoulders dropped in opposition (and relaxed) if ball is over head.

♦  When learning choreography, master the foot pattern first, then add the ball.

♦  When learning seated ball exercises, beginners should hold on the ball until they are securely engaged through the core for stability. Tip: Find neutral spine and keep shoulders and hips “squared.”

Benefits 

Working with a fitness ball trains all three planes of motion which enhances overall athletic performance and serves as a method to prevent injury.  In addition, other benefits include:

♦  Improved coordination, balance, and body awareness

♦ Optimal upper body conditioning as both arms are in constant action, unlike unilateral movements performed with a    dumbbell.  (This is very much like working with a veil)

♦  An increase in muscular strength and endurance in the upper body.

♦  An improvement in deep abdominal stabilization and an increase in hip range of motion when training seated on the ball.

In SRaQuisa SM_Logo_2c-JPEG 2.11.2014 copyummation, training with a fitness ball will help prepare the body to effectively DANCE.  Of particular interest to RaqiSa enthusiasts, the upper body movement is likened to that of a veil and the seated movement enhances hip awareness as it increases hip range of motion.  Consider if you will the three dimensional upper body and hip movements one must master with balance and precision. And how about the many stretching options when working with the ball?  The possibilities are endless.  So if you see Belly Ball as a RaqiSa option, careful to not dismiss this amazing workout, (and effective dance teaching technique).  Try belly ball.  You can expect to enjoy rapid results with a bonus “fun factor” as you add “play” to your day.  Seriously.  I. LOVE. MY. JOB!

Be sure to follow me on twitter @theraqisamethod or LIKE RaqiSa Fitness on FB.  

The Belly Ball workout is currently in production, so stay tuned for this amazing RaqiSa Fitness solution!

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.

Be sure to “Like” RaqiSa Fitness on Facebook – Or Follow Soraya Doherty @RaqiSaFitness for more health and fitness tips!

The FIVE Major Components of Physical Fitness

RaqiSa Fitness

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“One who is physically fit has an enhanced functional capacity that allows for a high quality of life.”  

American Council on Exercise

It is very likely that one of your New Year’s Resolution included getting in shape. But what does that even mean? “Getting in shape” is synonymous with fitness. And while there are several habits one should begin to practice in effort to see rapid results; there is a more pressing issue one must first grasp: what does being “physically fit” entail?

Learn the five major fitness components and measure yourself with this quick quiz to see where you currently stand. On a scale of 1 – 10, (10 being perfect) rate yourself in general terms whether or not this is an area think you excel or where you know you can improve.  This is not a scientific testing, rather a simple method to help you test your knowledge of the five components and  where you believe you currently stand.  The goal is to celebrate your strengths; and acknowledge the areas where you may need to improve. If you are serious about actualizing an improved fitness level, then your goal is to strive to include these five fitness components as you train toward optimal fitness.  I invite you to retake this quiz after 6 months. Share your improvements with me, and I will post it on my blog to celebrate your success!

(Pssst! Great news! Currently we are filming a series of workouts which will cover all five fitness components! In addition watch for a series of guest trainers who excel in various topics to educate you further!)

The Five Major Components of Fitness:

1)  Muscular Strength – How much weight can you handle during a muscle contraction? What is the maximal force your muscle (or a muscle group) can exert during a single contraction? For example, with a basic bicep curl, I am comfortable with 10 lb. dumbbells in each hand, repetitively lifting and lowering.  My maximal weight is closer to 20 – 25  lbs dumbbells in each hand.  In earnest, I am satisfied with this weight.  I will say, as I get older, I will aim to increase this number as it is good for my bones.  Rate yourself in general terms if you don’t have weights.  How many gallons of milk or bags of groceries can you handle before it gets to be too much?  ***To help you further with this, be sure to watch for one of Boston’s leading fitness experts to lead us in a workout to train for muscular strength.  

Your score  (1-10)  ____________

2)  Muscular Endurance – How many push ups or tricep dips can you perform before you become fatigued?  Muscular Endurance is the ability to perform a fitness task repetitively before becoming fatigued.   In effort to increase muscular endurance through exercise, perform exercises with low weight and complete a high number of repetitions. *** Belly Barre and Ball are excellent workouts to improve muscular endurance.

Your Score (1-10) ____________

3)  Cardiorespiratory Endurance – Often referred to as “aerobic fitness;” dancing, swimming, walking, are all ways to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance.  If you are easily winded during any of these basic exercises, then your goal is to build cardiorespiratory stamina. *** Belly Ball and Belly Dance will train for optimal aerobic fitness.

Your Score (1-10)____________

4)  Flexibility – If you are able to move (all) your joints through their full range motion comfortably, then you enjoy optimal flexibility.  Maintaining a level of flexibility is essential to prevent injury.  One of the leading causes of lower back pain,  as well as compromised posture, is due to tight muscles. *** Belly Barre pays close attention to flexibility.  (Never say never, many have learned to do the splits after training effectively in my belly barre classes!)

Your Score (1-10)____________

5)  Body Composition – Lean body mass to body fat ratio. In physical fitness, body composition is the percentages of fat, bone, water and muscle in human bodies.  In essence, you want to have more muscle than fat.  There are a variety of ways to measure body fat which go beyond the scope of this blog.  Learn from your doctor which percentage is best for your body and aim to meet this by watching your diet and training effectively.  Pay special attention to weight-bearing exercises designed to  improve your muscular strength and endurance – doing so elevates your resting metabolic rate – which means you burn more fat at rest!  To be sure, eating healthy is key. *** RaqiSa Lifestyle, provides healthy recipes and insight to give you support as you strive toward a leaner total body composition.

Your Score (1-10)_____________

TALLY YOUR TOTAL SCORE________________

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In Summation: Clearly your total score is meant to be 50. And as long as your doctor has given you the green light, then be assured that no matter how old (or young) you are; no matter what your current fitness level is – if you begin to get serious about your health, and you train in effort to meet all five fitness components, then you will likely be one of the few who can actually put a “feather in their cap” because you will have officially become “more physically fit in 2015!”

To be sure, recognize that each component is equally important; in addition, striving to meet each component will be a life long process.   If it feels too overwhelming, begin by discovering what motivates you to move.   Then layer in these essential components little by little.  Trust that the process will be tough at times – but it’s so worth it.  Keep your eye on what’s important:  “A life time of fitness allows for quality living.”

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RaqiSa Fitness:  We Believe that Strong and Healthy is Beautiful.

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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RaqiSa Fitness:  We believe that strong and healthy is beautiful!