1-2-3 Grow!! Review

Before we get into the program review, a bit about my fitness and nutrition – As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained weight and can’t seem to lose it very easily just by decreasing calories. Over the years I had done low calorie, low carb, binge eating, didn’t exercise, felt tired and got low blood sugar regularly. My nutrition was lacking; I ate healthy balanced meals at supper as I cook for my family, but throughout the day I’d eat junk food, high fat and high carb foods or not eat much at all. I weighed myself for the first time in a long time and was shocked to realize that I had become 192 lbs (at 5 feet 9 inches), the most I’ve ever weighed.

Over the years I have bought many home workout DVDs, tried them for a couple weeks, then quit. I hate cardio; it’s boring and hard. But I’d get really motivated, in my head at least, and tell myself I’d finish a program, I’d lose weight – all to give up after a couple weeks. It’s pretty emotionally exhausting to go back and forth like that and it takes a toll on self confidence. I was feeling like I was failing, but hadn’t really done anything yet. As I was browsing online for yet another home workout program to try, I came across the programs developed by James Wilson (certified personal trainer) at Aesthetic Training Solutions. I purchased the home-based weight loss program, Body Earned, and tried it for a couple weeks, then after discussing my goals (hopefully taking part in a figure competition; body type and mental strength allowing) with James, bought the muscle building gym-based program 1-2-3 Grow. This is a program for males and females at any stage of fitness. The first 3 weeks are full body circuit style workouts to get the body used to working out and lifting. The next 9 weeks are body part specific, still in the circuit style. With this program, you want to set the resistance (weight you are lifting) so that by the last rep, it should be impossible to do another. For the cost of the program, you get the workout, invitation to a private Facebook group, files on macro and calorie calculations and recommended food lists and personalized nutrition help provided by James for as long as is needed. You can do many rounds of this program, and people have done 5 or 6 rounds while getting personalized macros every week for the one-time cost of the program. While there are recommended foods, the program uses an 80/20 approach where 80% of the food will be from wholesome and nutritious sources and 20% from more refined sources. This way we don’t feel limited, and with the high amount of carbs needed to build muscle, more refined carbs are needed, otherwise the body can get too much fiber, leading to digestive and absorption issues.

I joined the private Facebook group for the Grow program. This group is where you can post successes, weaknesses, strengths, goals, questions and anything fitness, nutrition and/or program-related. Members offer encouragement and there’s such a sense of community and support from the 1000s of members, a feature that might be lacking in other programs. James and his wife do the workouts, answer questions and post comments as well. The program is emailed to you and all exercises are linked to a YouTube video so you know how to perform each exercise, and I took advantage of the personalized nutrition help (as I was reverse dieting) for the one-time cost of the program.

Having not been in a gym since essentially since my early 20s and never having lifted any substantial weight, I went to the gym with a lot of trepidation to do my first few Grow workouts. The YouTube videos were very helpful and I had to check how to perform the exercises for almost every one for a few weeks. It took me until about week 5 or 6 to know the names of the exercises and remember how to do them, therefore cutting down on my time in the gym. It was taking me about 90 minutes to complete the warm-up, workout and cool-down. Midway through the program it was taking me 45 to 60 minutes. Around week 8 I was surprised to notice that I was looking forward to going to the gym to lift especially after a stressful day. I have never looked forward to exercising and previous to the gym I would eat junk when I was stressed. Grow is the first program I have ever completed. It took me about 14 weeks to complete the 12 weeks of the program and 16 weeks to be fully reversed, which is getting to my maximum amount of carbs reverse dieting (slowly increasing carbs week after week). I’ll make a post about my personal nutrition while doing this program in my next fitness post.

Onto the results:

Week 1                                                          Week 12

Weight 192 lbs                                             175.5 lbs

Chest (bra line) 38.5 inches                      34.5 inches

Waist (1 inch above belly button) 39 inches   36.5 inches

Across belly button 44 inches                  39.5 inches

Hips 45 inches                                             42.5 inches

Thighs 26 inches                                         25 inches

Some of the gains I’ve made in my strength:

Week 1                                                    Week 12

Leg press 50 lbs                                      150 lbs

Dead lift 50 lbs                                        120 lbs

Barbell bench press 30 lbs                   65 lbs

Pullups – used an assist of 150 lbs   assist of 110 lbs

Plank 20 seconds                                  2 minutes

Tricep extension 17.5                          32.5 lbs

When I was finished the program and reflecting on how I felt and looked, I was happy to say that I actually completed a workout program. I enjoyed lifting and felt stronger. I got less out of breath when going up stairs. I’m very happy with the before and after photos. I think without taking photos it’s hard to tell the difference made by all the hard work put in and looking in the mirror I didn’t think my body had changed much. My body measurements and strength gains are great for the 14 weeks or so that I worked out for. Unfortunately, I still look about 5 months pregnant. That’ll eventually disappear as I continue to work out. I can’t see any visible muscle as I still have fat, but I can feel good size quads and triceps. I found that I pushed myself harder on my upper body days than on leg day. I didn’t make much gain in my squat strength; these are probably my worst exercise. I was halfway through the program when I realized my form was incorrect and had to take a few weeks to learn the proper form and get my strength back up. I got a lot of anxiety when it comes time for leg day. Leg day is very difficult and takes a lot of mental strength as well to push through the workout. Weightlifting really is a mental game, as your brain is going to tell your body to stop before you actually physically need to. I found I had to encourage myself in my head to keep going especially on squats and walking lunges. As with any exercise regimen, you get out of it what you put in.

Update: I completed this program about a year ago, and did parts of my second round here and there. The longer I was away from the gym, the easier it became to just not go. So, I’ve gained my weight back and will need to start at the beginning unfortunately.

If you’re looking for a new fitness program, I’d recommend looking at James’ Facebook page at James Wilson- Faith, Family and Fitness and reading through his posts and the comments to get a sense of his fitness philosophy and ask any questions you may have.


Summer Skincare Essentials

Skincare products I use to keep my skin protected and to prevent burns, breakouts and hyperpigmentation in the summer.

summer skincare

Just this summer I’ve started using the Natural Sunscreen Spray by Canadian company, Boo Bamboo.

The natural sunscreen Face Stick by Badger is convenient for kids to use and I use it on my lips.

Another sunscreen I’ve been using for a long time is the Sunforgettable mineral powder by Colorescience. It’s convenient and easy to reapply over makeup and other skincare.

After finishing Medik8 CE-Tetra, I’ve been using YBF-Skincare’s CE Concentrate that uses a 12% vitamin C trio.

To absorb excess oil on my face which gets more oily in the summer and is more prone to breakouts, I use YBF-Skincare’s Balance. This goes over other skincare products really nicely and can be reapplied throughout the day when needed. This product is one of my must-haves.

In the summer I don’t want to use a body lotion or cream that I would use in the fall/winter, and for the past few months I’ve been using Canadian company Deciem’s Hand Chemistry Hyaluronic Body Mist. This is a contiuous spray mist that smells lightly of lemons. This spray doesn’t last long in the 150 mL size container, but is worth the money and I usually buy it in threes.

Not quite a skincare product, but essential in the summer is a good deodorant. After finishing Akita’s rose water natural deodorant roll-on, I found Canadian company, Routine, that makes Routine Cream, quite an effective natural deodorant with many scents and four different formulas to choose from.

Herbivore Botanicals Pink Clay Exfoliating Mask Review

I bought the Herbivore Botanicals Pink Clay Exfoliating Mask a while ago and have used a few times now. This is a dusty rose colored powder that comes in a heavy clear glass jar.

herbivore pink clay

This mask claims to be for all skin types and is used to exfoliate the skin and to make it softer, brighter and glowing after use.

Ingredients: French Pink Clay, White Kaolin Clay, Organic Rosehip Powder, Organic Rose Powder, Organic Chamomile Powder

French pink clay is a mix of red and white clays. It is a mild clay for all skin types used for exfoliating, cleansing and softening. White kaolin clay is used as a mild exfoliant that softens skin. Rosehip powder can help repair damaged skin tissues as it contains omega 3, 6 and 9. Rose powder has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties to soothe skin inflammation. Chamomile powder is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

I have oily skin prone to breakouts and blackheads. I switch between two other clay masks, the Michael Todd Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask and the Clarity Matcha Mask from Your Best Face.

I put about 3/4 tbsp of the Pink Clay Mask powder into a small bowl with about 1 tsp to 1.5 tsp water and mix with a spatula. The instructions say to add a few drops of water, but I definitely need more than a few drops. I find that the clay powder doesn’t mix into the water right away but sits on top and I need to let the mask sit for a few minutes to get it to combine. I use this in the evening. It has a very mild earthy floral smell. I find it goes on rather clumpy and thick in places even though it spreads relatively nicely. It dries fast and I let it sit for 7 to 10 minutes.I soften it with warm water and rinse. It rinses pretty well with a facecloth. There is no tingling or stinging sensation to my face as with other clay masks. My skin only got a bit itchy and tickly in spots as the mask dried.

I was quite impressed by the results even after the first use. My nose is always a bit rough due to blackheads, buildup and oils and after I rinsed the mask off, my skin was definitely smoother and exfoliated. My skin was a bit brighter and indeed softer, and I noted the glow the next morning. This mask lives up to the claims it makes; however, I find it very drying, and I have oily skin. The nice thing about powered masks is that they can be customized a bit. I add a facial oil by Your Best Face Skincare. You could also add manuka honey and/or rose water. I think it’s important to add that I don’t find the benefits of the mask cumulative, as with an antioxidant or vitamin C mask, for example, but my skin does need exfoliating every few days, and this mask does a great job and is very gentle.

Skincare Routine

It’s been a little over a year since I posted my skincare routine, so it’s time for an update.

morning routine
morning skincare routine
  1. Cleanse with Brad Sea Minerals Purify Healing Detoxifying Gel Cleanser.
  2. Tone with Your Best Face Uplift Toner Mist.
  3. About 4 to 5 drops of Medik8 CE-Tetra, let absorb for 2 minutes.
  4. Your Best Face Balance. This is for oily skin and absorbs oil throughout the day instead of using blotting paper.
  5. Colorscience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush SPF 50 in medium. I like this so much better than a lotion sunscreen.
  6. Michael Todd Knu Anti-aging Facelift Cream. I only use this on my neck.
  7. Your Best Face Quench Lip Treatment.
night routine
nightly skincare routine
  1. Cleanse with Brad Sea Minerals Purify.
  2. With the cleanser still on my face, I use the Foreo Luna 2 for combination skin on the cleansing side.
  3. YBF Uplift Toner Mist.
  4. Brad Sublime Youth Creator Radiance Concentrate followed by the Luna 2 on the anti-aging side.
  5. Micheal Todd Knu on my neck.
  6. YBF Quench.
weekly routine
weekly routine
  1. Two or three times a week I exfoliate with Your Best Face Prep Microdermabrasion.
  2. About twice a week I use a clay mask. I’ve been switching between Your Best Face Clarity Matcha Mask (mixed with Wedderspoon Mauka Honey and Bee Venom), Michael Todd Kaolin Clay Detoxifying Facial Mask and Herbivore Botanicals Pink Clay Exfoliating Mask.
  3. Once or twice a week I exfoliate with Michael Todd Wild Berry Exfoliating Peel.

FHI Elite Professional Series Flat Iron Review

I’ve used two other hair straighteners; one from Conair for a long time, and another more expensive one from a local salon (both pale in comparison to the Elite Professional Series iron). I wanted a flat iron that would straighten my hair and also de-frizz and de-poof my hair for longer than a few hours. I bought the FHI Heat Elite Professional Series (EPS) Black Diamond one inch flat iron about 4 years ago. It came in a heat resistant bag with mat attached. It is advertised as a hair straightener for hair salon professionals (which I am not) with a 12 foot long swivel cord, sleep mode, auto shutoff and color coded temperature controls with a wide range from 266 to 450°F (210 to 170°C) and upgraded motor to withstand the heavy use of a salon enivronment. The iron goes into sleep mode after a few minutes of siting on a counter. Once you pick it back up for use, it heats up quickly. The plates are made from a triple layer process of scratch resistent ceramic and black diamond plates that produce 25% more moisture locking ions. It has floating beveled plates to create waves or curls as well (I’ve not used the iron for this). It has a proprietary Nano-Fuzeion technology, far infrared heat and low electromagnetic field that prevent damage to hair. Nano-Fuzeion technology combines nano silver, nano titanium and nano titanium oxide particles that elimate bacteria and toxins, chemical buildup and static within the hair cuticle while making hair shiny and soft. Infrared heat has a longer wavelength and heats the hair from the inside out which relaxes and softens the hair. The hair is heated evenly reducing the time the heat needs to be on the hair. I think that heating the hair from the inside out would be less damaging for the hair. With other heat sources the heat would be concentrated on the cuticle, the most fragile and easiest damaged part of the hair.

This flat iron reaches its highest temperature of 450°F in 50 seconds (I timed my iron and this is after 4 years of use; it may have heated up quicker brand new) and has color coded temperature zones for different hair types.

Course and thick hair – red – 410°F to 450°F (210°C  to 232°C)

Wavy, curly and permed hair – blue – 356°F to 392°F (180°C to 200°C)

Fine or normal hair – green – 266°F to 338°F (130°C to 170°C)

I have wavy/curly hair that is frizzy, poofy and dry. I have some greying hair that is dry and coarse. I have colored-treated and highlighted hair (though I don’t get it colored or even cut very often – perhaps once or twice a year), and I am trying to grow the color out to start again.

I straighten my hair about once a week, first using a leave in conditioner from Belegenza and heat protectant spray from Pureology, and wash my hair about every 3 days, using Batiste dry shampoo between washings. When straightening I use a temperature between 200 to 220°C. I section off the hair and usually make one pass (sometimes two on very frizzy sections) on each section with the straightener. With other brands I’ve used, I’d need 3 or 4 passes, which is more damaging to the hair.

The two photos on the left are of the back and side of my hair naturally air dried. It clearly looks frizzy, curly/wavy, dry and the color doesn’t show very well. The only product I used in my hair was a leave-in conditioner and heat protectant spray. The after photos show the hair in a couple different sections. The EPS straightener works very well in taking out the frizz and straightening, and my hair feels much softer. Even the grey strands are straightened. I feel like the hair could be a bit shinier than the end result in the larger photor, but in looking at the sectioned hair underneath, it is shinier than the outer layer, probably indicating some damage to the top layer of hair. In looking at the ends of the hair, I am clearly in need of a cut.

My hair will stay straight until the next wash unless there is rain. It does, however, get get a bit more poof after day 36 hours.

My husband borrows my straightener to straighten his wavy beard, and it works well. My sister has borrowed my straightener as well. She has straight hair, but not a sleek straight – it’s a bit poofy. She colors her hair using boxed dyes every couple months as she gets bored with her hair – she’s gone from brown to bleached blond to black to purple and everything in between, and has very dry and damaged hair. She has a straightener from Sally Beauty (she couldn’t remember the brand) and I had texted and asked her how she liked the EPS compared to her straightener.


 The EPS definitely made her hair sleek straight, shiny and soft.

I’ll be using this flat iron for a long time and my next flat iron purchase would definitely be one from FHI Brands.