Health

The past few months I have had these acne-like bumps on my chin and cheekbones. Nothing crazy red or irritated, just ANNOYING underground bumps (you’ll see them in a minute). I’ve done research on this before and came to the conclusion that I was facing acne cosmetica once again. Ugh.

Acne cosmetica results in small bumps on the surface of your skin from hair or makeup products.

Haven’t heard of acne cosmetica? Here’s the deal: acne cosmetica is small bumps on the surface of your skin caused by hair or skin products. Overtime, products clog your pores and result in pimple-like bumps.

The ones that drove me CRAZY were on my cheekbones. It didn’t matter how much or how little makeup I wore, they were still present. They were impossible to cover up and I felt like a dragon.

For the record, this is NOT sponsored, I genuinely am in LOVE with this product.

Enter in Principal Secret, an anti-aging skincare line that I grew up watching my mom use (she still uses it today and has amazing skin). PS check out the founder Victoria Principal, SKINCARE GOALS (!!!) She’s 67 and has AMAZING skin. Anyway, I’ve used their cleanser and masks on and off, but took the plunge and purchased a set full of goodies with Paul over the phone (thanks, Paul!). It arrived one week later and I got to work with bringing my skin back.

The Brunette Blend- Lets Talk Acne Cosmetica + How I Put An End to Mine-Principal Secret- Before and After

And you guys, TWO DAYS. TWO DAYS my skin noticeably cleared up. Grant was even telling me how clean my face was looking (without knowing I was using new product). I couldn’t have been happier to see less and less bumps.

The photos are a little blurry and completely unedited. I’m actually wearing less makeup in the after photo. Two days and seeing a result is success in my book.

I’ve always loved the cleansers and moisturizer, but truly realized its power paired with the gentle scrub. We don’t understand how much makeup and dead skin is clogging our pores. The scrub makes a DIFFERENCE and takes off more than we can physically see. I’ve been using it a few times a week, but its gentle enough to use everyday if needed. The gentle enzyme treatment is now my weekly TREAT to get my skin in shape. Its all very gentle on skin and fragrance-free.

Lets Talk Acne Cosmetica + How I Put An End to Mine-Principal Secret

I’ve found the secret to ending acne cosmetica is a good skincare routine and a regular scrub.

The Advanced line is AMAZING, but they also have different lines and products depending on what you’re trying to accomplish and where your skin is at in its life. You can purchase sets, separates, or even mix and match.

The secret to clearing up acne cosmetica is a good skincare routine (that includes taking care of your makeup and utensils!) and SCRUB. If you’re on the hunt for a line that REALLY works and will deliver promising skincare results, check out Principal Secret. Its better to order over the phone, but my online oriented-friends, ITS WORTH IT.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Chat soon,

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

I went makeup free for a week and it wasn’t as scary as I thought. For the most part I opt for a CC cream for the week at work, while on the weekends I go from foundation to nothing.

The Brunette Blend-I Went Makeup Free for a Week and Here's What Happened

Recently, I noticed subtle bumps near my templates and filled pores. So not feeling it. As I was running low on my favorite CC+ cream, I decided to do an experiment. No makeup for a week. Mascara and eyebrows were allowed. The only thing that was allowed on my face was moisturizer (with SPF, of course).

Without makeup, my skin was able to breathe and clear any imperfections on its own.

►After a few days I noticed that the bumps I saw were slowly diminishing. Without makeup, my skin was able to breathe and clear any imperfections on its own. My clogged pores were even beginning to clear up after a mask.

►Those after workout pimples were no more. Its normal for me to occasionally find a small pimple (that goes away after a day or two) after an intense workout. Since my skin was makeup free, my pores weren’t be clogged with makeup and picking up dirt and sweat. Note to self: ALWAYS remove your makeup before a workout.

►My husband thought I was wearing foundation. After a few days of only filling in my brows and using mascara, Grant would compliment my makeup saying, ‘you should do your makeup like that more often, it looks great!’ Mwhahaha. If only he knew it took me literally 2 minute to do.

►I was saving A LOT of time. I didn’t realize how long it actually took to do my makeup. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spent a ton of time painting my face. When it comes to doing your makeup AND hair, that’s like a half hour total. Now my makeup was approx. two minutes and I was done. Easy.

The big takeaway is that my skin improved in under seven days by going makeup free.”

Obviously the big take away is that my skin improved in under seven days. It just needed a breather. I enjoy makeup, so saying I’m never wearing it again is out of the question, BUT I think 2-3 days a week going makeup free would be fantastic for skin. With a great cleanser and moisturizer with SPF, your skin can be glowing with or without makeup.

SO. Would you consider going makeup free for a few days a week to treat your skin?

Chat soon,

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

When it comes to shampoo, I can really go either way. The past few months, shampoo has been really hard on my hair + scalp. Not to gross you out, but I was flaking SO bad. If this has happened to you, you know how uncomfortable (physically + socially) this is. Thankfully, Zoetic swooped in and saved the day with another amazing creation (and new obsession), shampoo bars.

The Brunette Blend-A New Way to Shampoo with Zoetic-Zoetic Shampoo Bars

Photo by Zoetic

Zoetic’s shampoo bars omit fillers and are instead filled with nutrient rich ingredients to promote healthy hair + scalp.

These bars are jammed packed with healthy + soothing ingredients while omitting fillers and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Parabens. Zoetic Shampoo Bars are concentrated + filled with nutrient rich ingredients to promote healthy hair + scalp. Some of the ingredients include Kokum Butter and Black Cumin Seed Oil. PLUS, it lasts longer than a regular bottle of shampoo. I’ve avidly using my Glamour bar for about a month + it looks like I just took it out of the box.

What I find the COOLEST is that there are three variations of the shampoo bar. You may think they are just different scents, but each incorporate a different ingredient to work with oily, normal or dry hair. Each shampoo bar has a different goal, because we get it, one size doesn’t always fit all.

Since using Zoetic’s shampoo bar, I’ve noticed healthier + stronger hair, less build up and more importantly, no flakes. The lather is INSANE. Seriously, you’ll have to try it to believe it, because I was NOT expecting it to pump out a lather that a palm of shampoo couldn’t do.

The Brunette Blend-A New Way to Shampoo with Zoetic-Glamour Shampoo Bar

So if you’re looking for a new way to poo (shampoo, hahah- ok, I’ll stop) look into these bars, better yet, look into this BRAND. If you’ve been following me for a while, you KNOW Zoetic has been my go-to lately. With their introduction of shampoo bars, they’ve officially become my go-to from head to toe.

Find your perfect shampoo bar HERE

Chat soon,

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

Special thanks to Zoetic for sharing these amazing shampoo bars + helping keep these brunette locks in check!

By now you probably know I am VERY much about skincare. What I’m learning is that less is more. Less ingredients that are more quality rich is what I’ve been after lately, because do you realize how many chemicals + toxins exists in our self care products? Surprisingly, a lot. When you have a minute, check out the ‘Dirty Dozen’ Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid. Its pretty eye opening and keep in mind these are ONLY twelve of however many are out there.

There are surprisingly a lot of chemicals + toxins in our self care products.

Luckily, there are a lot of companies stepping up to eliminate these harmful chemicals + toxins from products and even companies who took this information and STARTED their own self care lines that were safe + natural. One of them being Amara Marie.

The Brunette Blend-Chemical + Toxin Free Skincare with Amara Marie-Product Open

I’ve been using their four products and have actually been so impressed with how they have worked without a long list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. Their balms are a combination of grass-fed tallow and grape seed oil with hints of essential oils (YES, ESSENTIAL OILS- YAY!) If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking ‘tallow? What’s tallow?”

The fatty acid contains CLA, which is an anti-microbial + anti-inflammatory, which helps with free-radicial damage, bacterial imbalances and inflammatory conditions.

As unappealing as it may sound, tallow is a rendered fat (a healthy, grass-fed, super clean kind). Tallow is such a close match to the sebum we produce in our skin cells, which means its absorbable and can penetrate the skin for effective results. The fatty acid it contains CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, which helps with free-radical damage, bacterial imbalances and inflammatory conditions. Basically, chalk it up to it has a TON of benefits and is 100% safe.

The Brunete Blend-Chemical + Toxin Free Skincare with Amara Marie-Beauty Balms

Beauty Balm

This balm has a multitude of uses from a facial moisturizer, body lotion + lip balm. I’ve been using it as a facial moisturizer at night (I usually use oil in the AM). It is designed to help promote and provide healthy, youthful skin. The nutrient dense fats + oils are there to repair and nourish skin cells.

Warming Balm

I was actually hesitant about this one, but my new found love of essential oils drew me in. Along with tallow + grape seed oil, it contains cayenne, black pepper and peppermint to soothe sore muscles, aches and pains (even cramps!)

My mom and I got into a mini car accident earlier in the week that left us with sore necks + backs. The Warming Balm can in and saved the day. It actually provided some major relief to the sore areas. Bonus points because it has a warm scent opposed to the overpowering scent of IcyHot (kind gagging at the thought). Seriously, SO IMPRESSED and grateful I had it handy.

Goats Milk Bar

Filled with nourishing ingredients and no harmful chemicals, this bar of soap can be used on the body and/or face. Two-in-one. Plus it includes the essential oil lavender which is great for relaxation. If you’re like me, you’re a nighttime shower-er and this has just the ingredient to help unwind.

Three Salt Body Scrub

Who doesn’t love soft + smooth skin? This salt scrub is described as a scrub + lotion all in one due to the three different types of salt + nourishing fats. This makes it PERFECT for scratchy elbows, ankles and winter hands. This has been a go-to for smoothing + hydrating the driest areas.

The Brunette Blend-Chemical + Toxin Free Skincare with Amara Marie-Product Layout

Its been great to incorporate this into my skincare routine and eliminate some products that contain harmful chemicals. Amara Marie + I want to help you do the same!

Through out March, save 25% off your entire Amara Marie order with code BRUNETTEBLEND

I highly recommend the Facial Balm + the Warming Balm (especially if you have sore muscles). Let me know what you choose!

The Brunette Blend-Chemical + Toxin Free Skincare with Amara Marie-Application

Chat soon,

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

Special thank you to Amara Marie for sharing their products + their great take on chemical + toxin free self care with me!

I sinned last weekend and broke the cardinal skincare rule.

I fell asleep with my makeup on.

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Horrible. Dry heaving at the thought. No matter the time of night or how tired I am, I ALWAYS remove my makeup before bed. Sometimes life happens and you fall asleep in your MOTD.

We’ve been told over and over again to remove our makeup before bed. Why is it such a big deal? We just know it’s not good and we shouldn’t do it. I did some research (Sources one + two) to really understand how it harms our skin. Let’s break it down, because the more you do it, the worse it is for your skin.

1. Clogs pores: makeup clogs pores while you sleep and can cause breakouts + acne. One night with it on won’t wreck your face, but over time it creates microcomedone which attracts acne causing bacteria. No thanks. Skin renews itself at night and if it’s being clogged by foundations + primers, it results in blackheads and dullness.

2. Wrinkles + premature aging: your skin needs to breathe. By not allowing your skin to recover from the day, it can lead to signs of premature aging and collagen breakdown aka WRINKLES + fine lines.

3. Dries + chaps lips: sleeping with lipsticks on dries out lips out + leaves them cracked. For those tough lipsticks that stain, you can use a lip scrub or toothpaste is great for removing stains.

4. Brittle + easily breakable lashes: not only can sleeping in mascara cause weak + fragile lashes, it can also clogs hair follicles and can cause skin irritation as well as swelling. NOOOOOO.

There they are. The facts on why its SO important to remove your makeup and proof your mom wasn’t just making things up. If there is one skincare rule we follow, its the classic ‘don’t sleep with your makeup on.’ Wear it loud and wear it proud, but put it to rest in the PM.

Chat soon.

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while now, you know I have a thing for skin care. Its no secret I’m on an anti-aging/healthy skin for life mission.

Makeup trends change, but what’s underneath is forever, so its important to take care of it! When I come across something that’s helping my journey to healthy skin, I need to scream it from the mountain tops, swing from the chan-deee-a-leeeeheeer. Today I’m sharing four of my ABSOLUTE favorite products for better skin.

Recently I was introduced to an amazing body care line that incorporates certified organic ingredients, Zoetic. You guys, I genuinely cannot express to you how much I am loving this line. Talk about head to toe pampering. From sugar lip scrubs to body scrubs to bath salts, Zoetic has you covered.

All of the Zoetic products are incorporate certified organic, cruelty free and certified AWESOME. The founder, Ashley, is someone who is passionate about quality body + skin care products and it is apparent in these magical jars. Zoetic is fueled by this passion, as well as wanting to inspire people.

Sugar Body Polish

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I received a Sugar Body Polish that stated “Be Confident.” It smells absolutely delicious and demolishes dry skin. I can’t get over how cold its been here in Chicago, but my skin reminds me just how dry it is. After the first use of this scrub, I noticed smoother and incredibly moisturized skin. Your elbows and ankles will LOVE you this most for this.

Sugar Lip Polish

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This stuff is truly magic. With all this brisk, cold wind, my lips have been dry and cracked. Constant lip balm applications and slathering Vaseline on them didn’t help. The Sugar Lips Polish took care of my lips on the FIRST try. In all honesty, I was stunned. Some lip scrubs can be extra oily or be extremely scratchy. Sugar Lips is the perfect balance of sugar, oils and butters. Its perfect for everyday use, ESPECIALLY if you’re avoiding those flakes under your lipstick. If you aren’t using a scrub before lipstick, you’re doing it wrong. CHANGES THE MAKEUP GAME.

Petal Drops

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We have reached my favorite. FACIAL OIL! You know I can’t live without facial oil and this one is FABULOUS. This concentrated oil can be used to as an everyday moisturizer, night treatment and even a makeup primer. It has a lovely floral scent and really rejuvenates skin. If you still haven’t tried a facial oil, SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! I promise you’ll LOVE it. This one especially.

Bath Salt Soak

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I’ve been really into baths lately #Fancy. Its such a great way to decompress + unwind. This bath salt helps with muscle tension, removes toxins and refreshes skin. What more could you want?

Giveaway Alert
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‘Tis the season for giving and taking time off to regroup. Zoetic and I want to share with you a BUNCH of Zoetic goodies to help with this chilling weather! Petal drops, Honey Rose Lip Polish (fav!) and two scrubs in Strawberries & Cream + Orange Zest! You will love each and every one.

This contest is being held on Instagram. Find the image HERE for next steps!

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

All opinions are those of The Brunette Blend

I’m the type of person that states I’m on a mission to grow my hair, but a few weeks later I get sick of it and chop it. I got a big cut back in February, it’s now November and I’ve gotten about two trims. This has to be a personal record.

I think the above situation is pretty common. As human beings, it’s normal to want a change and something new + fresh. Hence why we jump on the opportunity for a cut and Instagram pic captioned, “CHOPPED *scissor emoji* (guilty).

If you’re looking to grow out your hair, here are the tips + tricks I’ve been using:

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Trimming your hair really doesn’t make or break anything. I remember chatting with my hair stylist and asked her if trimming helped. To my surprise, it doesn’t do as much as I thought. If you want to grow out your hair and have it healthy, you need to care for your hair sans hair cuts.

Less heat. It’s no surprise that heat damages hair and causes split ends. I try to limit using heated styling tools to once or twice a week AND let my hair air dry. It’s now extremely rare for me to blow dry my hair. #NightShowerer

Vitamins + Good Ol’ Healthy Food. Along with a multivitamin, I take biotin, Mainly because my nail technician sent me to the store to buy some after telling me my nails were horrible. Thankfully, it’s helped with healthy and shiny hair as well as strengthening my nails. BUT what you really want to focus is on is fueling your body with the right foods. Proteins + healthy fats do WONDERS. Figure out what you’re putting into your body and it’ll show.

Less washing. This year has been the year of not washing your hair or limiting the washes. Your hair needs the natural oils your scalp produces. A healthy scalp is the base of healthy hair. Frequent washes strip your hair of these and causes it to dry out, then in return, breaks. I promise your hair isn’t as dirty as you think.

Towel Drying + Combing. Squeeze excess water from hair and DON’T twist wet hair up on top of your head with a towel. I KNOW! Such a habit, but we can break it! That twist actually damages your hair since it’s wet and causes it to break. As for brushing, using a regular brush will pull hair and cause breakage. (At this point, what WON’T cause breakage? Amirite?) To combat tangles in wet hair, use a wide tooth comb or brush with flexible bristles like Wet Brush.

Per usual, the moral of the story is LESS IS MORE. If you’re wanting longer hair, the less you mess with your hair, the more it thrives. Of course trims here and there are needed for upkeep, but in my opinion, you really don’t need them as much as you thought. So to my hair growing Rapunzel’s, rock those day two curls, eat an avocado, stop wasting time blow drying and share your secrets!

Chat soon-

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

If you’ve been reading for a while, I think it’s evident that I’m big on being proactive when it comes to skincare and preserving youth. If you’re new, I’m extremely fair skinned and have had my share of burns (sun and tanning bed). Needless to say, I’m lathered in SPF and covered in a hat. Shield me from the sun.

So here I am thinking, I have YEARS until I see my first grey hair or fine line (YOUNG FOREVERRRR), my mom taught me well. Oh what a naive nearly 25 year old I am. I recently discovered a single strand of grey hair. It could be very blonde, but I’m not a fan of lying to myself. It’s legit a grey hair. Then I came across a few fine lines. That’s when I freaked. I can’t dye my fine lines like strands of hair. I contemplated Botox for all of five minutes and then remembered, I hate needles and poison anywhere near me. (Thank goodness. Otherwise, I’d probably look like a balloon animal).

So I got lucky when I was introduced to Camry and Flourish Skin Co. A total boss babe with a passion for skincare and sharing it with the world. Seriously, guys, she GETS IT. She introduced me to her amazing natural and non-toxic anti-aging product line.

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Meet the AHA Glow Cleanser, Glow Cream and Radiant Tonic .

I’ve never had an anti-aging factor in my daily skincare routine, so I was pumped when I got to add these natural bottles of magic. Let me tell you HOW MUCH these products actually rejuvenated my skin. My skin went through a ‘purge process,’ which fascinated me to no end. The Glow Cream and the AHA Glow Cleanser both have active ingredients to induce new skin cell production (alpha hydroxy acids, glucosamine hcl, yeast extract, urea and more). This is ESSENTIAL for a great anti-aging regime. After dirt and sebum was brought up and wiped from the surface, my skin felt healthier and looked brighter after a few weeks of regular use. I was really impressed that a natural product could provide such potent (anyone else digging that vocab word?) results.

Before I go further, get to know the team a little bit better, its so proactive when it comes to anti-aging, I can’t stand it– THE BEST:

The AHA Glow Cleanser

An exfoliating and brightening cleanser that induces new cell production, which helps combat aging, clears up skin and can even help with the fading of acne scars. It even has properties that helps clear skin. I had a pimple the night I tried this and by the morning, it was SIGNIFICANTLY smaller. Bible.

The Brunette Blend-Flourish Skin Co-AHA Glow Cleanser

The Glow Cream

This stuff is legit a tiny pot of liquid GOLD. It assists in skin renewal and combats signs of aging. This glow cream is LOADED with great stuff like organic rosehip oil, which increases collagen production, fatty acids that promote skin rejuvenation, and helps diminish fine lines (yes, plz!) I used this both morning and night, but preferred doing a lighter layer in the morning. A little goes a long way, but I was a little more heavy handed with it at night. By the morning, my skin felt smoother. An added bonus to this little pot of gold is that its great for all skin types, even oily skin can reap the benefits of this!

The Brunette Blend-Flourish Skin Co-Glow Crea

Radiant Tonic

I don’t know what it is about a little spritzer, but it makes me feel fancy and I love it. This is the perfect skin pick me up! Its a hydrating mist that really nourishes and brightens the skin.

The Brunette Blend-Flourish Skin Co-Radiant Tonic

Healthy, glowing and youthful looking skin happens when you care for your body inside and out. Flourish Skin Co. helps you with your outer glow! Its simple, made with fresh ingredients and gives you the added anti-aging boost! All things that are totally up my alley. How could you go wrong with a natural and non-toxic product that WORKS? You can’t. For anyone looking to step up their skincare game and to hop on the anti-aging train, you know where to go — Flourish Skin Co.

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

*Products were provided for an honest review. All opinions are those of The Brunette Blend.

I’ve been rubbing oil on my face daily. Sometimes twice a day.

The thought of putting oil on your face immediately triggers the thought of pimples. I know. I’ve been there. We’ve been taught to strip our skin of its natural oils daily and then get pissed when our faces are flaking. Have you heard of facial oil though?

The Brunette Blend-All Aboard the Facial Oil Train-Pixi Skin Treats

If you’re following me on Snapchat (BrunetteSnapz) you saw I was doing a little experiment with face oil. After eyeing a bottle of Pixi Skin Treats Rose Oil Blend for a couple of months, I took the plunge, bought it and for once, couldn’t wait to rub oil on my face. To really put this oil to the test, I had a pimple in between my brows. This was it, it could go one of two ways– grow into a beast or slowly disappear. (I hoped for option two, but prepared myself for option one).

Guess what? The pimple got smaller, my face got smoother and it was actually relaxing massaging this goodness onto my face. My skin was never horrible, but my makeup application was getting flaky. It was getting so weird that when I started applying oil to my face, Grant noticed my makeup looked different. He’d ask what I was doing differently with my makeup because it looked so much better! Its safe to say my new makeup secret is oil. (PS. I’m going to continue the face oil experiment on Grant. Wish me luck and stay tuned!)

Taking advantage of facial oil does so much more than invite your husband to compliment your face:

Reasons to Consider Face Oil


-Oil helps improves skin’s elasticity and glow.

-Looking for a dewy glow? Mix a few drops of oil into your foundation.

-It can even act as a natural makeup remover. Stubborn eye makeup? Nonexistent with a few drops of oil.

-Our skin needs essential fatty acids to hydrate layers of our skin. Our body does not naturally produce this, so its important to get essential fatty acids elsewhere AKA facial oil. *hair flip emoji*

-Since oil is essential for healthy skin, did you know that when we dry out our face with products, our skin actually goes into overdrive to produce its own oil? Cleansing your face, moisturizing and adding drops of oil can help balance skin’s production.

If you need additional convincing, let me know. I highly recommend giving it a shot and embracing your fancy skin!

The Brunette Blend-Samantha-Signature

The Brunette Blend-All Aboard the Facial Oil Train-Flay Lay

I am BEYOND excited to present this post to you guys, like pee my pants excited. Why? Its a topic I know we all care about AND its featuring a BADASS who knows her stuff. Today we’re talking all things health, fitness, balance + food with Melanie Morton of Next Level Fitness Chicago. At 25, she’s married with two cuties and while she is a certified personal trainer, she’s striving to become a nutrition consultant. (I promise she’ll motivate and inspire, all while providing great tips throughout this interview!) Enjoy babes!

Meet Melanie:

The Brunette Blend-Health + Lifestyle with Next Level Fitness' Melanie Morton (Interview)

Insta + Snapchat (melaniemorton27)

-First off, I personally think you’re a total inspiring badass. For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in health + fitness:

MM: FIRST OFF- THANK YOU! You’re not so bad yourself, girlboss. Well, I was not into fitness, health, or nutrition until high school. I used to eat fast food weekly and just not care. However, when I was a freshman at Lane, I joined the Cross Country team, followed by Track and Cheerleading. It was when I joined all of these sports that I started to read up on nutrition. From the get go, I just found it all so fascinating. The idea that the food you eat could help or hinder your performance was so intriguing and cool. Unfortunately, the more active I became, the more I became obsessed with my food and eating habits. I stared living off of protein shakes and egg whites because I thought the less I ate, the thinner I would be. I completely ignored the fact that I was weak and tired and hungry all the time. I have struggled with bulimia, body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression all because I had developed unhealthy and unrealistic habits that I would, unfortunately, carry with me for years to come. Fast-forward to now-my relationship with food and fitness has changed drastically! I own a personal training business with my husband-called Next Level Fitness Chicago, I lift HEAVY, and I eat to FUEL my workouts and to gain the muscle that I desire. We actually just launched a new program for women centered around weightlifting. Our goal is to get women out of the mindset that lifting will make them bulky. We want to empower them to step into a weight room and feel confident and eat so that they can become stronger from the inside out–focusing on whole, nutrient dense foods. I am so much happier AND in better shape now at 25-with two babies- than I was at 17! It’s amazing how fitness and food can have such a powerful impact on my day to day life.

-Starting a new workout routine or healthy lifestyle can take sometime for people to stick with it, what keeps you motivated and pushes you to continue to strive to be the best version of yourself?

MM: Honestly, my biggest motivators are my kiddos- Harlan and Wilder. Harlan will ask me in the mornings, “Mom, are you going to workout?” This puts the biggest smile on my face. I know that my husband and I are leading by example. We want to live long, healthy lives with our kids and we make our health a priority.

Working out is also my therapy. I don’t think about any of my problems, or any other stressors when I’m in the gym. It’s just me, the weights, and my music. I think too many people get caught up in “quick fixes.” There’s too many short term diets and cleanses out there! People need to realize that this needs to be a lifestyle. Pencil in your workouts just as you would a meeting, think about how much better you’ll feel after a workout. Make small little goals for yourself along the way and know that you are worth it! For me, I know for a fact that having that thirty minutes or an hour to myself everyday makes me a better mom, a better wife, and a better friend. You need to put yourself first sometimes so that you can be of use to others! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

The Brunette Blend-Health + Lifestyle with Next Level Fitness' Melanie Morton (Interview)-Family

-What is a simple and quick, healthy recipe?

MM: Protein pancakes! I make a huge batch of these every Sunday so that my husband and I can just grab and go! My little Harlan also loves these! They’re great pre and post workout due to the banana (carb) and protein powder (protein, duh!). Spread on some coconut, grass fed, or nut butter and you’re good to go!

Ingredients:

♡ 1 banana
♡ 1/2 C egg whites OR two whole eggs
♡ 1 scoop protein powder-vanilla or chocolate, grass-fed whey or plant based
♡ 1 T collagen -optional, but recommended (because #guthealth)
♡ As much cinnamon as you can handle (anti-inflammatory and delicious)
♡ Coconut oil spray

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender, spray a pan with coconut oil, wait until it’s hot, then pour the batter in-just as you would with pancakes! This recipe makes around 10-12 small pancakes for me. They keep in the fridge for about a week- but I doubt they’ll last that long 🙂 Top with raw coconut butter, grass-fed butter, or any nut butter and devour!

-Let’s talk gym-bag. What’s in yours?

MM: Hmmm, there’s LOTS of stuff in my gym bag! I have my protein shaker just in case I’m not going straight home after a workout, I’ll need my protein shake on the go. I also have Say Yes To Cucumber face wipes because healthy skin is always in! You’ll also find about 3 pairs of socks, some mints, deodorant, and like ten pairs of headphones. I probably have some toy trucks in there too because Harlan will put his stuff everywhere!

-In my eyes, you’re like the queen of no-excuses. When you’re not in the gym, you make time for an in-home workout (little babes running around and all!) What’s an in-home workout that readers at home can do with little to no equipment?

MM: There is ALWAYS time to get a workout in. Whether it’s ten minutes or an hour, there’s always time to break a sweat. Clear a space on your floor, set a timer (you can download HIIT timers in the app store), and WORK. Here’s a quick little workout with NO EQUIPMENT necessary:

5 Rounds, 45 Seconds-1 minute ON (ALL OUT!), 10-30 seconds OFF:
Bodyweight Squats
Jump Squats
Pushups (drop down to knees if need be)
Mountain climbers
Plank
Tricep dips (on a chair or table)

I would HIGHLY suggest investing in some resistance bands, yoga mat, and a few kettle bells or dumbbells for your home. Start out with no weights to light weights and see yourself progress into lifting heavier!

-What song gets you pumped for a workout?

MM: Eminem- Lose Yourself. This song has been my workout jam since high school.

-How many times a week do you workout/what’s your favorite way to stay in shape?

MM: I workout six days a week and always take a rest day. I lift 4-5 days a week, focusing on multi-joint, complex movements such as pull ups, deadlifts, back squats, rows, etc. I also do 2-3 days of HIIT or high intensity interval training. For HIIT, I’ll do sprints, sled pulls and pushes, tire pulls and flips, farmer carries-anything that gets the heart rate WAY up for 30 minutes. I am also active in everyday life because I have two little boys to run after, but I make sure to walk as much as I can. I go on 2-3 walks a day with my kids, and even when I’m at home, I make it a point to get up and move. If you have an office job, set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move for 10 minutes- every little bit counts!

-How do you balance married life, motherhood and fitness?

MM: Time management! I have a planner that I write in at the beginning of each week detailing all of my appointments-workouts included! I also write down little goals for each week and to-do lists for each day to make sure I’m making the most of my time. Like I said, my workout time keeps me sane and happy, so I try to workout first thing in the morning so that it sets the tone for the rest of my day.

I make sure to spend as much time as I can with my boys, especially now because they’re so young. However, I do have a babysitter who comes 4-5 days a week for a few hours so that I can get some work done. I’ll be starting school soon to become a Nutrition Consultant so that means even MORE prioritizing! My husband and I also plan out our date nights as much as we can-whether it’s a quick dinner or even watching a movie when the boys go to sleep, we make sure to make time to spend alone together. One of my favorite quotes, though cheesy, is “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This rings SO true to me. Even though I am a wife, mom, daughter, friend, personal trainer- I am all of these things separately. In order to excel at all, I have to manage my time, be a little selfish, and make time for MYSELF. Believe me, you’ll be better in ALL areas and roles in your life if you take care of yourself first!

The Brunette Blend-Health + Lifestyle with Next Level Fitness' Melanie Morton (Interview)-AJ Morton

-You’re a family of four, what is your go-to family dinner?

MM: Protein, veggies, and healthy fat! You can fill in the blanks! For us, it’s usually lemon chicken with a salad or grilled veggies, and some avocado. Another favorite is zoodles (zucchini noodles) and beef with marinara. Lots of greens too! Harlan LOVES Applegate grass-fed hotdogs too!

-This may sound like an odd question, but how do you order at a restaurant? Any restaurant ordering tips?

MM: This is one of the most frequently asked questions that we get from our clients! My advice is to look at the menu ahead of time! Any restaurant that you go to is going to have a protein- whether it’s fish or chicken and veggies or a salad. Do NOT be afraid or embarrassed to customize your order or ask questions! Believe me, if you’re nice about it, the server will not care. I usually look at the salads first. I’ll get a Cobb salad, no dressing and no cheese, and always make sure it comes with grilled chicken- not breaded or fried. If the salads don’t look good, I’ll just ask for a grilled chicken breast cooked in olive oil and a side salad or some yummy grilled veggies. For breakfast (because it’s the best meal ever) I’ll usually order an omelette with all the veggies and no cheese, I’ll ask for sliced tomatoes or fruit instead of potatoes, no toast, and a side of turkey sausage if I’m feeling hungry!

MM: If I have to get Starbucks (it’s not my favorite) I’ll order the largest size iced green tea, unsweetened, light ice please! Peet’s Coffee and Tea is my favorite coffee spot- I’ll get an iced almond milk latte with an extra shot!

-Do you have a best kept fitness tip?

MM: Weight lifting first, HIIT later. Always remember, lifting heavy trumps cardio! You don’t need to run an hour a day to get fit. Just lift heavy weights a few days a week with proper form and tempo, thrown in some HIIT, and you’re golden.

-Because who doesn’t love a beauty tip or a girl crush moment? You’re effortlessly beautiful. Any beauty tips?

MM: You’re the sweetest! I clean my face twice a day with a charcoal bar from Beautycounter, followed up by they’re anti-aging serum, followed by Juice Beauty oil-free moisturizer with SPF. I was told to start using anti-aging stuff and spf in my 20s, so I have been for the longest time. I also am a huge fan of safe, toxic free makeup and cleansers- so Beautycounter and Juice Beauty are two of my favorites. Also, Monday-Friday, I don’t put on makeup- just my daily cleansing routine and moisturizer, followed by some mascara. That’s it. You’re skin needs to BREATHE! And never workout with makeup on!

-What advice do you have for those who are wanting to get in shape?

MM: First, know that you are so worth it. You deserve the time that you set aside for yourself to make your health a priority. Find a workout that you’ll love and stick to- or hire some cool trainers..wink wink ;). Set small goals along the way instead of huge, all encompassing ones. Take notes of how you feel after workouts and start a food journal to make notes of how you fee after you eat certain things. Many of us don’t know that the human body is supposed to feel GOOD! A lot of people walk around day to day eating crappy food that doesn’t agree with them, feeling low energy, fatigued, unmotivated, sleep deprived, etc. That is not normal! So start a journal and start to get in tune with your body, experiment, change things up, find what works for YOU! Also, you cannot get better or see results without rest, so set aside time to get a massage, read a book, do some yoga, get your sleep in, and drink A LOT of water.

-Anything else you want to share with readers?

MM: Life is seriously too short to be unhappy. If you don’t like something, change it. Not living your dream life? Do something about it. Do you have toxic, negative people in your life? Drop em. Feel sluggish after eating dairy? Stop eating it. Of course life is complicated and things don’t always work out how you thought they were going to, but you adapt. Remember, if you are reading this, you have a phone or a computer, you’re alive, you’re breathing, you have hands, so find out what you want and go for it with everything you have!

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Me again! If you’re interested in a FREE consultation at Next Level Fitness Chicago, email Melanie at melanie@nextlevelfitnesschicago.com or message on Facebook. Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram and Snapchat (melaniemorton27) for daily inspiration, recipes and workouts! A giant thank you to Melanie for sharing her tips + tricks!

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