4 Staples You’ll Always Find in My Gym Bag

Valerie Bisharat gym bag essentials

Have you ever gotten to the gym and realized you forgot something important? Like… to put on deodorant? It happens to all of us sometimes, but for years now, there have been a few staple products (not sponsored) that always stay in my gym bag. They make my workouts a little easier and my gym trips more delightful. I’m sharing them in case they do the same for you!

So let’s open up the old gym bag (which is actually a purse 😂)!

1. Intelligent Nutrients hand sanitizer, free of harmful chemicals

Let’s face the dirty truth: gyms are germy and it’s important to clean your hands before you leave.

I carry this hand sanitizer that I use when I get off a cardio machine or in the car if I’ve forgotten to wash my hands on the way out. It’s effective and it excludes harmful chemicals, including ones commonly found in soaps and hand sanitizers that research has shown to harm humans and the environment.

If you’re curious, two of the most problematic ingredients in many hand sanitizers are triclosan and synthetic fragrance. Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that’s been shown to contribute to antibacterial resistance, endocrine disruption, and liver toxicity. It also harms aquatic life and builds up in the environment instead of breaking down. Fragrance is a group of chemicals that contribute to endocrine disruption, developmental problems, and reproductive issues.

Luckily, there are fun, clean alternatives these days! The active ingredient in this sanitizer is denatured alcohol. It also uses tea tree oil, which is antimicrobial, and ingredients like black cumin seed and red raspberry seed oils.

$14.00 for 2 fluid ounces.

2. Native clean deodorant (I also love Schmidt’s deodorant)

Valerie Bisharat gym bag essentials

If you’ve tried Tom’s clean deodorant or other options and despaired at how hard it is to find one that works, it’s worth trying Native or Schmidt’s. Native lives in my gym ‘bagpurse’  so I never forget it and Schmidt’s is my “at home” deodorant. Everyone’s body chemistry is a little bit different, but for me and many others, both work well.

Keep in mind that clean deodorants aren’t antiperspirants like many traditional products are (which is a good thing health-wise!), meaning they don’t stop you from sweating. So sometimes you’ve got to reapply once or twice throughout the day. On gym days, I usually apply deodorant about three times: in the morning, right before I walk out onto the gym floor, and after I shower.

Native: $12.00 for a 2.65 oz full size deodorant stick. Schmidt’s: $8.99 for a 3.25 oz full size deodorant stick (I see Schmidt’s at the local T.J. Maxx a lot and got a stick for $4.99).

3. Dr. Bronner’s organic lip balm

It’s always good to have lip balm on hand – and there’s something about walking out of the gym feeling fresh and moisturized. This is my favorite affordable clean balm.

It goes on smoothly, truly moisturizes (unlike some of the other cheaper non-toxic brands), and even looks cute. It also fits easily into any small compartment of your gym bag or purse.

$2.99 for 0.15 oz.

4. A notebook and pen

I find that workouts are more exciting and engaging (and effective!) when I’m taking notes on my lifts. Treating your workouts like you’re a student will help you be more in tune with your body and potentially progress faster.

Usually, I write my workout program for the day in the notebook. Then, as it progresses, I write down what felt easy or difficult. I’ll also keep notes to myself about mental breakthroughs. Other times, I leave the notebook in my locker and do a quick journaling session before I leave.

There are definitely apps for storing and tracking your workouts, but for me, there’s something about pen to paper that can’t be beat.

My favorite notebook: Moleskine Classic Notebook, $19.95 for the large hardcover version. It’s compact, easy to write in, and space efficient enough to throw in any bag. I’ve also found some lovely options for $5 and under at Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx.

Now I’m curious: what do you love to bring to the gym with you? Leave me a comment and share!

Meal Planning 101

Valerie Bisharat grocery shopping

Whether you love it or hate it, meal planning makes eating healthy easier and longer lasting. This might sound obvious, but you wouldn’t go into an important work project with no game plan – to succeed, you plan ahead, prioritize, and strategize. The same is true for sustainable healthy eating.

If you struggle to make time for meal planning, keep in mind that investing in it up front can actually save time throughout the week. It eliminates picking up takeout, making unnecessary food trips, and going back and forth about what to eat (not to mention the additional prep, cook, and clean up times).

That said, meal planning tends to work best when it’s a system – a process you can rinse and repeat. This is very important!

So let’s talk about some sustainable strategies. Welcome to meal planning 101!

How many of my meals per week should I plan?

For many people, planning about 80% of your meals in advance and improvising the rest is a good balance.
If you eat 3 meals per day (so about 21 per week), that’s 17 to plan in advance and 4 to improvise. If, like me, you eat about 4 meals per day (about 28 per week), that’s about 22 to plan in advance and 6 to improvise.

This doesn’t need to be perfect, but keeping this guideline in mind sets you up to be well-fed and energized while still maintaining the flexibility to go out with friends and feel spontaneous.

How often should I meal plan?

About once or twice per week makes sense for most people’s schedules – either on Saturday or Sunday before the week begins or both before the week begins and again in the middle of the week (like on Wednesday). The important part is to pick a day (or days) and stick to it so you can rinse and repeat.

If you meal plan once a week, you’ll have to plan out your general meal structure for all seven days (keep in mind you can always go back to the drawing board several days in and adjust as needed). Some people find that liberating, but for others it’s too much to think about at once. If you meal plan twice per week, you’ll only plan for 3-4 days at once, but you’ll also have to grocery shop for ingredients twice per week. (Check out “Grocery Shopping 101” to hopefully help make this part easier for you!)

Personally, I meal plan and grocery shop 2-3 times per week.

What exactly should I do when I sit down to meal plan?

Here’s the checklist I recommend:

  1. Start with a skeleton of your daily meal slots using this meal calendar, an iPhone note, or a solution of your own. The important part is to be able to look at the meal slots each day and plug meals into each.

  2. Do the easy meals first: fill in any meals you’ll be eating out.

  3. Fill in breakfasts, which tend to require little work and are repetitive.

  4. Fill in the remaining meals, planning to eat the same dishes for at least 2 meals.

Example meal planning outline using an iPhone note.

Example meal planning outline using an iPhone note.

In order to plan out those 17-22 meals, you’ll likely want to make one recipe stretch 2 to 3 meals and eat leftovers. Very few people have time to cook more than that.

If you’ve tried diet plans that ask you to plan meals before and you feel wary of this meal planning structure, keep in mind that there’s a big difference between planning exact meal portions, calories, and macros and simply planning healthy dishes ahead of time. But if your gut is telling you that you need a break from structure, that’s important to listen to. You could always come back to this system later or work pieces of it into your daily routine.

What types of meals should I be making?

In general, eating a protein, healthy fat, and veggie carb at each meal will keep your blood sugar stable, curb hunger, and help you lose body fat if that’s your goal. During 1 or 2 of your meals, including post-workout, you’ll want to have a serving of starchy carbs as well.

To come up with meals that fit those guidelines, think about these 3 areas:

"Puzzle Piece" meals: or protein, healthy fat, and veggie carbs that are pieced together from separate, simple ingredients, like a grass-fed steak with roasted asparagus and a side green salad. To create this kind of meal, choose the type of protein you're in the mood for and find a tasty way to prepare it. Then, Google what kind of veggie pairs nicely with it. The healthy fat will often come in the oil an item is cooked in or in salad dressing.

"All-inclusive" meals: a single recipe that contains the protein, healthy fat, and veggie carbs mostly in one. For example: slow cooker beef stew with sliced carrots, mushrooms, and onions. To find healthy recipes to make here, go on Pinterest and choose a protein you're in the mood for. Try typing in "healthified ____ [insert protein]" or "____ [insert protein] Paleo" to filter for healthy recipes containing the protein you want prepared with wholesome ingredients.

“Mix and Match” meals: meal concepts like Buddha bowls, tacos, or stir fry that lend themselves to prepping 5-7 ingredients in advance and then eating different combinations of each throughout the week.

It’s helpful to keep all of your recipes in one place. That way, you create a growing reservoir of recipes and make future meal planning easier. I like to use a Pinterest board for this, but you could also print the recipes out and keep them in a binder with those plastic sleeve thingies (who’s with me??).

In sum:

  • Plan about 80% of your meals and leave 20% up for improvising

  • If you eat 3 meals per day, you’ll have about 17 meals per week to plan out and if you eat 4 meals per day, you’ll have about 22 meals per week to plan out

  • Meal planning once or twice per week works for most people

  • Choose the same day each week so you can rinse and repeat

  • If you’re planning once per week, try it on Saturday or Sunday and if you’re planning twice per week, try it on Saturday or Sunday and on Wednesday

  • Aim to have a protein, healthy fat, and veggie carb at each meal and a starch at 1-2 meals per day

  • Keep your recipes in one place for future use, like on a Pinterest board or in a binder

What if meal planning takes too long?

Like any other skill, there’s a learning curve to healthy meal planning. It takes practice to learn how it works and get into the swing of things. Over time, I’ve gotten my meal planning process down to about 20 minutes per week.

Commit yourself to getting better at it and don't stress if it's not perfect. Taking imperfect action will get you farther than either trying to do it perfectly or not at all!

Happy eating!

Love and light,

For further reading, check out “Grocery Shopping 101.”

One Pan Egg Frittata

We’ve been talking a lot about healthy eating and recipe inspiration. Earlier in the summer, I posted on Instagram one of my favorite recipes for a quick and easy meal that can nourish you throughout the week. Many of you expressed interest in the post, so here it is! Memorialized all in one easy-to-find place on the blog.

This frittata is a great way to have a high protein, energizing breakfast that’s tasty and versatile. Switch around the veggies that you include in the frittata or pair it with various condiments like hot sauce, sriracha, or salsa.

It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days, so make it on a Sunday and you're set for the work week.

Presenting: The One Pan Egg Frittata

Photo 1.jpg


  • 12 eggs (ideally pasture-raised or free-range)

  • 2 bell peppers

  • 1 jalapeño

  • Handful spinach

  • Protein of choice – I usually go for 4 small to medium chorizos sliced, but you could also leave out the protein altogether (the frittata pictured here is sans protein besides the eggs)

  • Cooking fat of choice – I use grass-fed butter because it keeps the eggs creamy while they bake

  • Salt and pepper to taste (you may want to use more or less depending on your protein choice)

Photo 2.jpg


  1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.

  2. Heat an oven-safe pan. Then, add the butter or oil.

  3. Thinly slice the bell peppers. Chop the jalapeño.

Photo 3.jpg

4. Add the peppers to the pan, stirring occasionally. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.

5. While the peppers are cooking, crack all the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until even. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper to taste.

Photo 4a.jpg
Photo 4b.jpg

6. Add the jalapeño and chorizo or other type of protein to the pan. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

7. Add the spinach and stir until it begins to wilt.

8. Pour the eggs into the pan. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

9. Slice and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Bon appetit!

In summary:

  1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees.

  2. Heat an oven-safe pan. Then, add the butter or oil.

  3. Thinly slice the bell peppers. Chop the jalapeño.

  4. Add the peppers to the pan, stirring occasionally. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.

  5. While the peppers are cooking, crack all the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until even. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper to taste.

  6. Add the jalapeño and chorizo or other type of protein to the pan. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

  7. Add the spinach and stir until it begins to wilt.

  8. Pour the eggs into the pan. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

  9. Slice and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Planning to try this recipe? Let me know what you think of it in the comments!

Healthy Travel is a Thing – Here Are My Secrets

On the beach in Connecticut enjoying a weekend away!

On the beach in Connecticut enjoying a weekend away!

Your vacation is coming up – perhaps a little too slowly – and you’re wondering how and whether to take your (new) healthy habits on the road with you.

As many of you know, I’m all about the ‘Forever Plan,’ or how to maintain an overall happy lifestyle where you love your body and fully live your life. A lifestyle that’s mostly stress-free and that you can picture doing forever.   

When you’re working that Forever Plan, travel might look a little different than it has in the past.

It can be just as fun.

Just as liberating.

But it’ll take a little bit of preparation.

Because for many people, here’s what healthy travel boils down to: eating and moving your body similarly to how you do at home. Same guidelines, just adapted to a different environment.

This might sound obvious, but eating healthy and moving your body gives you energy, and having more energy can make your vacation more enjoyable. What you eat either gives you energy or takes it from you, but that can be easy to brush aside, especially while traveling out of your comfort zone. But who wants to spend a trip feeling sleepy and rundown?

Here’s what I mean:

  • Eat whole, unprocessed foods, including protein, healthy fats, and veggie carbs (and sometimes, starchy carbs) at most meals

  • Move your body 4-6 days per week (4 times per week is a good rhythm for most people)

  • Do the above about 80-90% of the time

  • Leave the other 10-20% for things that might not be conventionally “healthy” but nourish you on a deeper level (for example, eating that delicious tiramisu that reminds you of your grandma) #guiltfreeindulgence

When you travel, that 10-20% allocation is plenty to enjoy local delicacies and not spend your entire vacation planning your healthy habits. If you don’t travel very often and are going somewhere known for its food, you could adjust those percentages closer to 70% healthy and 30% worth-it indulgences.

Living my best life on a summer weekend trip – lunch on the water. 💃💃

Living my best life on a summer weekend trip – lunch on the water. 💃💃

First, let’s talk about food

Eating healthy on the road involves two things:

  1. Researching healthy restaurants and grocery stores before you leave for your trip

  2. Planning some meals ahead of time closer to the trip (just like meal planning at home)

The specifics of what you eat while traveling mostly depends on whether you’ll have a kitchen and/or fridge to cook and store perishable foods. Of course, Airbnb and similar travel is getting increasingly popular and often gives you kitchen access, so if that’s your style you may want to opt for that route as you plan ahead for your trip. Many hotels have mini-fridges in the rooms or can provide an empty mini-fridge for free or a relatively small fee upon request. The fridge doesn’t give you a solution for every meal, but it’s a nice bonus where you can store restaurant leftovers and perishable snacks, all while saving time and money in the process.

These days, there are more and more healthy food outposts in the U.S. so if you’re traveling stateside, you should generally be pretty well-covered. Regardless, you can find healthier ingredients in any grocery store.

If you’re traveling abroad, you should also be fine in most places. Other cultures tend to eat more whole, unprocessed foods than what’s readily available in the U.S.

Here are some of my favorite non-perishable snacks for travel:

  • EPIC Bars

  • Perfect Bars

  • 100% grass-fed beef jerky

  • Low-sugar trail mix

  • All kinds of nuts, ideally organic and raw

  • Munk Pack oatmeal fruit squeeze packs

  • 70+% dark chocolate

  • Mamma Chia squeeze packs

  • Mediterranean organic olive packs

  • Siete Foods tortilla chips

  • Nut butter individual squeeze packs

And some of my favorite tips for eating healthy on the road:

  • Locate a Whole Foods and head to their salad/hot food bar for healthier versions of pre-made food

  • Google the local healthy grocery store small businesses. You might find a great co-op or mom and pop health store that you’d like to support with your wallet

  • Don’t be shy about requesting menu modifications (unless the menu specifically says they don’t accept any changes)! Ask for what you need, of course kindly

  • Splurge on a more decadent meal at a healthy restaurant – in many cases, you’ll get served local food and feel more immersed in the place you’re visiting

How about moving your body while traveling?

Remember, the goal is to move similarly to how you do at home. This keeps you in the habit of working out, lifts your mood, and in some cases (like running, walking, and biking) helps you explore your surroundings! A good move-your-body date doesn’t need to take more than 25-30 focused minutes away from your trip plans – and sometimes, it’s actually party of your trip plans.

If you have the equipment and desire to stick to your exact same routine while on the road, that’s great. Go for it. Most hotels have gyms equipped with a treadmill and a set of dumbbells, and sometimes more. That’s more than enough equipment to have an effective workout.

But in many cases, you might have to modify the contents of your workouts. For example, if at home you usually do 30 minutes of cardio on a machine but are staying at an Airbnb without gym access, you might lace up your shoes and go for a jog outside. Or search YouTube for a 30-minute at-home bodyweight workout.

You could also plan to be active while exploring during your vacation. For example, if you’re in the countryside or planning a day trip out of a city, go for a hike. This is a perfect opportunity to do your meal prep at a local grocery store and pack a healthy (and cheap!) lunch to take on your adventure. If you’re staying in a city, find a free walking tour or create your own using a guidebook.

In many cities, you can also rent a bike to take sightseeing. I have to admit, I don’t know how to ride a bike (lol), but I’ve heard from people I trust and who travel a lot that some great bike sharing apps include oBike, MoBike, and LimeBike. If you’re traveling abroad, do some research on which bike sharing apps are available in different cities ahead of time and download the app. Be aware though that you will need to use some data if you plan to use these apps, so plan accordingly to avoid high cell phone charges.

In short, keep the workout, but if necessary change how you do it.

What if I’m tired from being in transit?

Eating healthy might be one of the last things you want to do if you’re tired, but it’s actually a shortcut to getting your energy back. So try not to give up those healthy eating habits even when you’re beat.

But being worn out does often mean that you could dial back the intensity of your workouts a little bit. Let’s say at home, you’d rate most of your workouts at an intensity of 7 or above (on a scale of 1-10). While you’re regaining your energy on a trip, you might dial that back to a 5 or 6. You could do a slow beginner’s yoga practice or 25-30 minutes of light cardio, during which you break a sweat but aren’t throwing tons of energy into the workout.

Also, stay hydrated while you’re traveling (it helps ward off jet lag!) and once you get to your destination. When you don’t drink enough, you can feel extra lethargic. Hydration is key!

What questions do you have about eating healthy and working out while traveling? Leave them in the comments.

Happy trails!

4 Tips for Feeling ‘Body Peace’ While in Your Bathing Suit

Valerie Bisharat body positive

It was the summer after freshman year of college. Some friends and I climbed out of the car at the beach, chatting and laughing excitedly. I remember that afternoon not just because the sand, wind, and hot sun at Mamaroneck Beach in New York were lovely, but because I was so focused on how my body didn’t live up to my goals.

I felt a little trapped. On the one hand, I wanted to wear a bikini because I thought that would mean I was confident – but I didn’t want to show my abs or back because I thought they weren’t defined enough to be seen. On the other hand, I wanted to wear a one-piece because it made me feel a little comfier in my skin. But the one-piece also seemed a little frumpy, like I was hiding something. On top of it all, I’d been working out a lot and didn’t feel like the results in the mirror matched my efforts.

It was a setup I couldn’t win.

In the years afterwards, I would spend tons of time learning about nutrition and fitness, in part because I really wanted to look like I worked out. I eventually achieved my ideal bikini body. But here’s what I wasn’t expecting: having that body didn’t bring me peace.

Valerie Bisharat body peace in a bathing suit

Growing body confidence was less about wearing the right kind of bathing suit and more about how I spoke to myself. Less about looking a certain way and more about accepting my body – taking care of myself because I love my body, not because I hate it. Less about dieting for the summer season and more about making a Forever Plan with food and healthy living.

Let’s chat about 4 ways to have more ‘body peace’ in your bathing suit:

  1. Picture a megaphone loudly announcing the thoughts in your head about your body – what words are being broadcast? Are they unkind or kind? You can use this technique to notice the negative thoughts and substitute them with kinder ones.

  2. Remind yourself that the only thoughts that matter about your body are your own. The average person in the U.S. sees about 5,000 ads per day – and since the health industry is huge and growing, a chunk of those messages are trying to influence how we feel about our bodies. We can easily feel confused and pulled in lots of different directions. Simply, your opinion is the only one that matters.

  3. Other people often feel a little insecure in their swimsuits too. They understand! Here’s why that matters: think about a time when you were struggling with something – say balancing your priorities, budgeting, or keeping up with your relationships – and shared the details with a dear friend who obviously really related. Doesn’t that often take a weight off your shoulders? To remember you’re not the only one and that others understand? Being self-conscious about your body can feel like being stranded on an island by yourself when in reality, many people around you get it.

  4. Talk about the insecurities. Shame, including about our bodies, loves the dark and often starts to dissolve when it comes to light – in other words, when it’s spoken. Who’s that open-minded person in your life who you could reach out to and say, “So, I have a question. I’m struggling with not feeling confident in my body especially now that it’s summer and I thought you’d understand. Can we talk it through?” If no one jumps to mind, writing in a journal is awesome for this kind of topic.

Like most things worth having, going from feeling uncomfy in your skin to feeling body peace often takes time and attention. But hard work pays off and makes us more healthy, strong, and successful because of it.

What are your thoughts about body confidence in a swimsuit? Let me know below in the comments!

Lifting for Beginners

I staggered to the water fountain at the gym. It was around 9:30 am on a Monday and I’d managed to roll out of bed for a personal training session. I was out of shape and hadn’t eaten breakfast, and the session was kicking my entire behind. Standing at the fountain, I gasped for water, feeling like I might heave. I felt frustrated with myself and super embarrassed.

This was about a month into working out and it’s safe to say I said some stuff during that time that I’m not proud of 😂 I mostly HATED training sessions, save the rest breaks when I could talk with my trainer and attempt to stall.

Funny how sometimes the things that challenge you the most become the things you’re most passionate about.

The tide shifted about eight months in and now, almost 10 years later, I’m answering one of the questions I get asked most frequently: “What’s the best kind of exercise?”

The short answer is that there’s no right or wrong answer to this question – it depends on what changes you’re aiming to make in your body and what you enjoy doing (or at least dislike the least). Keep in mind that growing a love of lifting – or any kind of exercise, really – can take time and persistence.

Want to look toned? Lifting is the fast track

Not everyone wants to change how her body looks so let’s not normalize that. But about 85% of my clients do want to look more toned – and also improve their general health. If that describes you, lifting will be a great help in reaching your goals. For most women, looking more toned means increasing their muscle mass and decreasing body fat, which decreases your body fat percentage. Lifting is the most efficient way to do the first part of that equation: increase muscle mass.

Valerie Bisharat squat

Why lifting?

Lifting – or using weights that equal a significant percentage of your body weight – is super powerful. Pun intended!

It’s a common misconception that to lose fat, you have to burn calories (usually by doing lots of cardio) in order to expend more calories than you take in. While this does cause weight loss and works to a degree, for many women, it’ll only take us part of the way there. It won’t give us definition. So rather than thinking about losing fat, think about building muscle to reveal when you lose that fat.

Lifting is also linked to:

  • Decreased risk of osteoporosis
  • Decreased risk of fractures
  • Improved balance, reducing falls and injuries
  • Lowered risk of sleep apnea
  • Better cognitive function
  • Improved memory
  • Prevention of loss of muscle mass as you age
  • Better posture
  • Decreased stress
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Of course, it also makes you stronger, which can make day-to-day life easier and more enjoyable.

But… what if I don’t want to lift?

It goes back to what results you’re looking for – for most women who want to look more toned, lifting is a part of the deal. You might not like it immediately. Heck, you might not like it for the first six months. But I think it’s possible to find passion for many things so consider giving it some time. I usually see clients turn a corner around the two month mark when they notice themselves getting noticeably stronger, more fit, and leaner.

How often should I lift?

This depends on several factors: your goal, how quickly you want to see results, your starting body composition, how often you can work out and maintain a balanced lifestyle, and how you might want to include other movement modalities into your routine.

I typically do four to five workouts per week and three to four of those are weight training.

Any well-rounded program also includes cardio for improved heart health, mood, and circulation.

Here’s how an example week in my training regimen fits together:

  • Monday – Lift 1, upper body focus
  • Tuesday – rest day
  • Wednesday – rest day
  • Thursday – Lift 2, lower body focus; 25 minutes cardio
  • Friday – rest day
  • Saturday – Lift 3, upper body focus; 25 minutes cardio
  • Sunday – Lift 4, lower body focus

I usually fit in a couple of yoga practices a couple times a week, usually about 20 minutes each.

Valerie Bisharat weightlifting

Two important keys: you want your workouts to be hard and to get progressively harder. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.

Also, our bodies are designed to adapt to whatever stressors we place on them so planning what’s called “progressive overload” is important. Progressive overload means systematically making your workouts harder by increasing the intensity of a certain movement through the addition of weight, reps, sets, or training frequency, or through the reduction of rest time between sets.

Getting started

If you want me to write a more detailed guide to getting started lifting in the gym, leave a comment and let me know!

In the meantime, here are some guidelines:

  • To get more comfortable in the weight room, ask the front desk at your gym if the fitness manager is available to give you a tour. The manager will show you the layout so you know where to find all of the equipment.
  • Ask a friend who works out to show you how to use some of the equipment. Start with a couple of exercises to get your feet wet and build from there.
  • Watch videos of lifting movements and practice them at home in privacy. No, this won’t be a perfect solution, but it’s a big stride in the right direction.

If you’re like many women (myself included!), this will feel intimidating at first. But in the end, the juice should be worth the squeeze.

FAQ’s – let me know if you want me to write an article about any of these topics by leaving a comment below or DMing me on Instagram @valeriebisharat!

Q: Will lifting make me look bulky?
A: It depends on several factors including what you consider bulky, your nutritional habits, and your stress levels. In general, lifting is a tool to decrease your body fat percentage and for most women, it takes a lot of hard work in the gym to build muscle.

Q: What should I eat before and after lifting?
A: You want to have energy to throw into your training session and eat afterwards in a way that supports recovery and muscle growth. For pre-workout, you could have an energizing meal by eating a serving of protein, colorful veggies, a healthy fat, and half a baked sweet potato. For example, you could have an organic rotisserie chicken breast, roasted Brussels sprouts, half a small avocado, and the sweet potato. Afterwards, have a serving of protein and a starchy carb for recovery and muscle growth. Veggies could go here too! For example, this could be a high quality protein powder shake with a banana, unsweetened almond milk, frozen berries, and kale.

Q: How many sets and reps of each exercise should I do?
A: This goes back to the importance of progressive overload, or making your training sessions more intense over time. Start with a set of exercises and week to week, increase the intensity of each by upping the reps, weight, sets, or frequency or decreasing the rest times. This takes some planning but can be highly motivating! Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

Q: Lifting seems like a guy’s thing and I identify as a woman. How can I make lifting feel more organic?
A: Find female or female-identifying athlete(s) who inspire you and keep them in your mental orbit. That might mean finding an athlete on Instagram and following her for a daily dose of inspiration or asking a lifting loving-female friend or family member to talk workouts with you. There’s nothing like having an example to motivate you!

Q: Can I lift while I’m traveling?
A: Yes! Most hotel gyms have at least a set of dumbbells, which is enough equipment to have a good workout while traveling. Also, you can incorporate body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, planks, burpees, and pull-ups.


  1. Lifting is linked to weight loss and getting leaner:
  2. Common misconceptions about burning calories and weight loss and the connection between strength training and waist size reduction:
  3. Some ways in which lifting is particularly important for women (including many of the specific benefits listed below):
  4. Lifting may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, bone fractures, and muscle loss while it also may improve balance:
  5. May help decrease the risk of sleep apnea and improve cognitive function and memory:
  6. May help improve alignment:
  7. May help increase self-esteem and decrease stress:
  8. Some people see results after only a brief period:

Research contributed by Mayfair Rucker.

The ABCs of CBD Oil

cbd oil

Updated as of 3/8/2019 to reflect the passing of the Farm Act, which made CBD federally legal instead of only legal at the state level.

Medical and legal disclaimer: this blog post is for educational purposes only. It’s not medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with your doctor before making any changes. This is also not legal advice.

The morning after I first used CBD oil, I fluttered my eyes open and said to myself, “I think I fell asleep in this position. Did I even move an inch last night??”

This was curious because I struggled with sleep – both falling asleep and getting deep sleep – for much of my life. Practicing meditation resolved the falling asleep issue, but nothing I tried helped me get deeper, restorative sleep. Even if I slept 8-9 hours, I’d usually wake up tired.

Until CBD.

I can honestly say that since I started using CBD oil every day, I feel consistently well-rested. Better sleep is the main CBD benefit I’ve noticed and the results were immediate. (Keep in mind I take CBD oil – two drops under the tongue – in concert with other healthy habits, so feeling as good as I do now can’t be credited to liquid in a bottle alone.)

Now that I’m finally getting a good night’s sleep, I enjoy life more. I have so much more fire to give in the gym. I’ve fallen more deeply in love with lifting and have more workout stamina as a result.

Let’s be clear though: as a real food lover and supplement skeptic, I’m the last to tout supposed “cure-alls.” While I don’t claim that CBD is a magic potion, the rippling benefits that it provides somehow make it feel like it. And hey, I’m hooked.

It’s safe to say that over the next few years, you’ll see CBD sweep the country… and for good reason. When I polled my Instagram community about whether they were interested in learning about CBD, almost 100% voted that “yes,” I should write this blog post.

Let’s discuss what CBD is, why it’s linked to so many amazing potential health benefits, and how to get your hands on it.

So what exactly is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a naturally occurring compound found in two different plants in the “cannabis sativa” family – the hemp and marijuana plants. We’ve found a way to extract that compound and bottle it, so to speak. When most people talk about CBD sold over-the-counter, they’re referring to CBD extracted from the hemp plant, not the marijuana one. CBD isn’t weed. Hemp isn’t weed.

Here’s the kicker: CBD offers many of the health benefits of marijuana without making you feel high.

In other words, CBD isn’t “psychoactive” because it only contains a tiny percentage of THC (0.3% or less), the compound in marijuana that makes you “stoned”. For reference, marijuana usually contains between 10-25% THC.

And since the passing of the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation related to agriculture that passed in 2018, CBD extracted from the hemp plant is now also legal at the federal level. There are two requirements it has to meet: it has to follow state and federal laws and be produced by a licensed grower.

Among other things, this new law means that CBD that does meet those requirements can be transferred across state lines for commercial and other purposes, and can be sold, transported, and possessed without restrictions. This had been a gray area for quite some time, as CBD was previously legal in some but not all states, and so it’s exciting to see progress being made in this area.

CBD products come in many forms, including oils, capsules, oral sprays, topical creams, bath bombs, and gummies. Some are ingestible (meaning you eat them) and others get absorbed through the skin. Since CBD only recently became federally legal, these products still aren’t officially classified by the Food and Drug Administration as supplements, food, pharmaceuticals, or over-the-counter drugs. Hopefully that will change soon, as the FDA has stated that it is considering drafting new regulations around CBD – but as of now, CBD-infused food or beverages remain federally unlawful.

Last piece of unbelievably good news: research shows that unlike other substances, we don’t build up a tolerance to CBD. How snazzy is that?

What are the potential benefits of CBD?

CBD might sound like a cure-all because it works on what’s called the endocannabanoid system of the body, which is all about homeostasis or equilibrium.

That’s why research suggests that CBD has such potentially far-reaching health benefits as:

  • Alleviation of anxiety symptoms

  • Reduced pain symptoms

  • Decreased inflammation

  • Alleviation of depression symptoms

  • Reduced seizures in epilepsy patients

  • Reduced symptoms in patients with neurodegenerative disorders

  • Clearer skin

  • Improved symptoms in patients with schizophrenia

Pretty cool. Although not a substitute for eating healthy and moving your body, CBD can reduce stress, which helps with recovering from workouts, regulating hunger hormones, being consistent with your movement routine, promoting fat loss, and getting stronger.

This is the CBD oil I take

There are lots of CBD brands out there, but just as I do with groceries, I like to ensure that the ingredients are wholesome.

Enter: Charlotte’s Web (this isn’t a sponsored post – I’m just a fan).

Charlotte’s Web products are the equivalent of heading to your local farmer’s market and getting produce free of pesticides.

valerie bisharat cbd oil
  • Brand: Charlotte’s Web

  • Product: Full Strength CBD Oil (formerly called the Everyday Hemp Extract Oil)

  • Intended use: To improve sleep

  • Ingredients: Hemp Extract Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Organic Mint Chocolate Flavor Oil (Organic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors)

  • Flavors: Mint Chocolate or Olive Oil (I switch off between the two because the Olive Oil is made using a cleaner extraction method – more on that below – and the Mint Chocolate is my preferred flavor)

  • Sizes: 30 mL or 100 mL

  • Serving of CBD per 1 mL: 6.65 mg

  • Price: $39.99 or $99.99 respectively

  • Number of servings: 30 mL is 30 servings and the 100 mL is 100 servings

  • Dosing: I put two droppers (which is one serving per the ingredient label) under my tongue and hold it there for 60-90 seconds about 10 minutes before I get in bed

If any of you have sticker shock, as someone who isn’t a big spender, let me say: the physical benefits are worth making other tradeoffs in my budget. I’ve even joked that CBD is the best money I spend… it’s not far from the truth.

There are also cheaper options, but unfortunately in this situation, you mostly get what you pay for.

Also, keep in mind that you may have to try a couple of different brands of CBD before you find one that works for you. Responses between people vary. One person’s CBD holy grail might not work for another and vice versa.

On ingredient quality

When it comes to CBD quality, there are three main phrases to remember: “CO2 extraction,” “third party testing,” and “full spectrum.”

Let’s start with CO2 extraction. Basically, there are two primary ways to extract CBD from the hemp plant and CO2 extraction is the healthier option. It’s also more expensive so you’ll see those benefits reflected on the price tag. You usually won’t have to hunt for information on CO2 extraction as companies that employ that method tend to tout it.

If you’re curious, the alternative is solvent extraction, which involves soaking the plant in neurotoxic chemicals like ethanol, hexane, or butane. 🙃 That wouldn’t necessarily be bothersome if you were taking CBD, say, a couple times a year, but if it’s going to be a staple, CO2 extraction is something to consider.

Now, let’s talk third-party testing. Since, like supplements, some CBD products still don’t get approved by the FDA before landing in your medicine cabinet, it’s important to find companies that send their products to third party labs for purity testing. Translation? Through tests, these labs determine if the ingredients in the bottle are in fact what the company says they are.

The last main area to consider is whether an oil is “full spectrum,” meaning it contains lots of different cannabinoids, or whether it contains just the cannabinoid CBD. Research shows that taking a bunch of cannabinoids together provides better benefits than taking CBD alone because they enhance one another. For example, Charlotte’s Web CBD oil contains over 80 beneficial plant compounds.

Finding oil that’s organic, pesticide-free, and herbicide-free is also great. Of course, the Charlotte’s Web product above is all of those things – and is made using CO2 extraction (specifically, the Olive Oil flavor is), is third party tested, and is full-spectrum.

I toggle between using the Olive Oil flavor for its superior extraction method and the Mint Chocolate one for its better (IMO) flavor.

Let me know what you think!

I want to hear your thoughts on CBD! Will you try it? What are your experiences with CBD? Do you have any questions?

Leave it all in the comments!

Happy lifting...
Love and light,


Q: Will CBD make me high?
A: No. CBD is different from marijuana. Marijuana contains 10-25% THC, the compound that makes you feel high, and CBD usually has about 0.3% THC. At the concentration found in CBD, the THC doesn’t trigger a psychoactive response.

If you go to a medical marijuana dispensary, you can purchase marijuana products that contain CBD and will make you high, but you’d have to seek it out.

Q: In what states is CBD legal?
A: Thanks to the Farm Bill passed in December, 2018 hemp – and thus most CBD products – is legal at the federal level, assuming it meets federal and state regulations and is produced by a licensed grower. That being said, each state may still have its own regulations on the use and distribution of hemp, so accessibility might still be challenging.

Q: Can I buy CBD online?
A: CBD is available online, but before purchasing, consider looking into your state’s CBD laws to understand the full context. Plenty of people purchase CBD online without issue, but in some cases, packages have been confiscated. There’s little information currently available on whether that is changing with the 2018 Farm Act.

Q: Can I fly with CBD?
A: According to TSA, the answer is currently still no.

That said, TSA states that they don’t proactively search for CBD or even marijuana-related products. Additionally, under the U.S. Farm Act of 2018, hemp and hemp-derived products (like CBD) can be transferred across state lines. But until TSA changes its regulations, I won’t be flying with CBD in my carry-on or checked bag.

Q: I hear there’s hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD. What’s the difference?
A: Hemp and marijuana are two different plants in the cannabis sativa family. When people talk about taking CBD oil, most of the time, they’re referring to CBD extracted from the hemp plant, which isn’t psychoactive. But CBD is present in marijuana too, so if you seek it out, you can find marijuana products that contain CBD.

Q: Why do you take CBD in oil format?
A: I prefer oil over other formats like gummies or bath bombs because it’s sort of like choosing whole foods over processed ones. My oil is made from three ingredients – hemp extract oil, fractionated coconut oil, and organic mint chocolate flavor oil (organic sunflower oil, natural flavors) – while your average gummies will have ingredients like corn syrup and artificial flavors.

Q: Has CBD been demonstrated to be safe to use?
A: A review of dozens of studies about CBD showed it to be safe in both chronic and high doses (up to 1500 mg per day).

Q: Is it safe for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers?
A: Currently, there aren’t any studies (at least none that I was able to find) exploring how CBD specifically affects pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you’re considering using CBD while pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to a doctor you trust first.

Q: How long did you use CBD for before writing this post?
A: Five months.


  1. CBD isn’t psychoactive because it only contains a tiny percentage of THC (0.3% or less), the compound in marijuana that makes you feel high:

  2. Marijuana usually contains between 10-25% THC:

  3. Following the passage of the U.S. Farm Act of 2018, CBD extracted from the hemp plant is legal at the federal level so long as it meets the requirements of federal and state regulations and is produced by a licensed grower: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/

  4. The U.S. Farm Act of 2018 allows hemp-derived products, including CBD, to be transferred across state lines and to be sold, transported, and possessed without restrictions, provided the hemp products meet federal and state laws and regulations: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/

  5. The FDA is considering new regulations around CBD, but as of now, CBD-infused food and beverages remains federally unlawful: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm628988.htm?source=techstories.org

  6. We don’t build up a tolerance to CBD:

  7. May help with alleviation of anxiety symptoms:

  8. May help reduce pain symptoms:

  9. May help decrease inflammation:

  10. May alleviate depression symptoms:

  11. May help with reduced seizures in epilepsy patients:

  12. May help with reduced symptoms in patients with neurodegenerative disorders:

  13. May help with clearer skin:

  14. May help with improved symptoms in patients with schizophrenia:

  15. Flying with CBD oil is currently still prohibited by TSA:

  16. Review concluding CBD to be safe:

4 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Working Out

Three years ago today, I opened the virtual doors to ValerieBisharat.com. I’m celebrating by sharing four things I wish I knew when I first started working out.

1. Lift heavy weights. Heavier weights than you ever imagined!

Quick story: I initially went from no activity to regular exercise (elliptical and two strength training days per week) and lost a noticeable amount of weight.

But after a year or so, I couldn’t figure out why – despite exercising all the time and eating what I thought was a “good” diet – I didn’t look leaner. The results didn’t seem to reflect the effort.

At the same time, I started working out with a female personal trainer who lived and breathed the weights. She inspired me to not just do a few bicep curls here and there but to assume lifting – with a significant amount of weight (for reference, I can currently deadlift 150% of my bodyweight) – as my workout mainstay.

As you can see below, once I started lifting with intensity, my body dramatically changed.

Far right photo by NayMarie Photography.

Far right photo by NayMarie Photography.

But what you can’t see here – and what I never could’ve predicted – were the mental and emotional benefits that came from lifting. Lifting showed me how to set a goal and achieve it. It proved to me that I can do much of what I set my mind to. It made me stronger in every sense of the word. I can’t imagine who I’d be without it.

2.  Focus your attention on the ACTIONS required to be healthier rather than the parts of your appearance that you want to change. You’ll save a lot of time and energy.

I learned the hard way that focusing on perceived flaws gets us absolutely nowhere. Every day, probably multiple times a day, I’d look in the mirror and analyze what I wanted to change. Looking back, I see that I could’ve just focused on taking care of my body through eating yummy, healthy food, enjoying moving my body, and cultivating an empowering inner dialogue to get where I wanted to go aesthetically and emotionally. Easier said than done, but with practice, totally possible.

3. Get adequate sleep and be proactive about stress reduction. Both are critical to doing this forever.

We hear a lot about “mind over matter” in the fitness industry – and while I agree that we all hold an almost unfathomable amount of potential, there’s relatively little focus on what it takes to recover from all that limit stretching. If you want to start working out more, or maintain a super active lifestyle, it’s imperative that you fortify your sleep and stress reduction habits. Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep. Proactive stress reduction comes in here too: meditating, spending time in nature, unplugging… taking specific actions to reduce your stress levels. 

4. Above all, create a healthy lifestyle that's based on YOUR inner guidance and sensibilities rather than other people's ideas, comparison, or how you think the world might perceive you.

It’s so easy to bog ourselves down with comparing what we ate to the meals your favorite food blogger is posting on Instagram, or otherwise take other people's’ sensibilities and perceptions as our own. There’s nothing wrong with seeking inspiration and learning from other people, but the key is to do so with the knowledge that you’re crafting a lifestyle that works for you. No two people are the same, and no one protocol is THE answer. Dance to the beat of your own food and fitness drum.

I hope this gives you inspiration for ideas and habits to implement! If you have questions, leave me a comment below!

Valerie's 2016 Gift Guide!

Hey beauties!

It's the season of giving, so I wanted to pull together a list of my favorite items that support nourishment, health and overall well-being.

Peruse the list for your girlfriends, family, sister... perhaps even yourself!


1. "No Mud No Lotus" hand-stamped pendant from Blooming Lotus Jewelry

How gorgeous and soulful is this necklace? A reminder that challenge is beautiful, you can order this in either sterling silver or 14k gold-filled at 16 and 18". Check it out here.

Image via Blooming Lotus Jewelry.

Image via Blooming Lotus Jewelry.

2. Hardcover Moleskine Journal (Large size)

A new Moleskine is filled with possibility. I use and love the hardcover at the Large size for my journaling because: 1) it fits easily into almost every purse 2) it doesn't get tattered or worn, because it's hardcover, and 3) the pages are big enough to write on comfortably without it being an inconvenient size. Check out the Moleskine here. I recommend getting a dark color so it won't easily show dirt or pen marks.

Image via Moleskine, @moleskine_world.

Image via Moleskine, @moleskine_world.

3. Nourish, the online course helping you live healthy as a lifestyle rather than the next diet

Give the gift of nourishment. Nourish is my 8-week online course designed to help you feel healthy, comfortable in your skin and in love with life – no matter how long weight, eating and healthy living have been a struggle.

It consists of 8 hour-long weekly video sessions, accompanying informational PDFs, weekly Action Steps to move your closer to your goals and an optional Facebook community. Check out the program here.

4. Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Slow Cooker

Before I bought my slow cooker (spoiler alert, this is the one I chose and love), I did a ton of research. I wanted one where I could make 4ish servings to eat myself then have leftovers to eat conveniently throughout the week, but not feel like I was filling a ridiculous vat. The 3.5-Quart has been great for that purpose. If I were feeding a family or significant other on a regular basis and wanted leftovers for convenience's sake, I'd get double this size. Check out the slow cooker here.

Image via Amazon.

Image via Amazon.

5. Chemex Pour-Over Coffee Maker (6-Cup)

Can you imagine how delightful it'd be to make your coffee every morning with this little situation? It's supposed to make the most flavorful coffee out there. Grab this as a gift that your favorite coffee lover will use every day. Check it out here.

Image via @katelynclaire on Instagram.

Image via @katelynclaire on Instagram.

6. Chloe Open Back Top by Haven Collective (in black)

I discovered Haven Collective at a wellness fair here in NYC and literally immediately was drawn to the quality and beauty of their garments. I tried on this open back top and was in love – the quality seriously gives Lulu a run for its money. Plus, athleisure is totally a thing for those of us who would be down to look cute with little to no effort. Wear this to the yoga studio or gym, with jeans, or even for a night out with a long pendant necklace. As of this writing, sizes 0-6 are on backorder but you can get sizes 8-14! Check it out here.

Image via Haven Collective, @havencollectiveyoga.

Image via Haven Collective, @havencollectiveyoga.

7. Love So Deeply Candle via Danielle LaPorte

I chose to grab one of these candles a couple months back because they're 100% soy and therefore safe to burn in your home. I love that Danielle's candles are infused with intention, so whenever you light it, you're connected with something thoughtful and meaningful. Check out Danielle's Love So Deeply candle here and peruse her other candles if you want options to compare it to.

Image via DanielleLaPorte.com.

Image via DanielleLaPorte.com.

8. Vegetable Spiralizer

One of the key ways to make healthy eating sustainable is to make your healthy food just as delicious as those that don't support your goals. The spiralizer is famous for turning any veggies into noodles so you can eat them as highly nutritious pasta, in soups, added to salads, etc. People always say not to play with your food, but this is one way you totally should! Check out the Inspiralizer (one brand of the spiralizer) at Williams Sonoma.

Image via Williams Sonoma.

Image via Williams Sonoma.

Are you going to pick up any of these gift ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Feel Like You Need a Post-Thanksgiving Reset?

Feeling frustrated and discouraged about your health and fitness goals after Thanksgiving? 

So are lots of people, so I'm writing today to share with you a couple post-Thanksgiving nutrition and mindset strategies to help you break the cycle of any guilty thoughts and have your healthiest, happiest holiday season yet. 

First, let's talk about what a "reset" is. I used to think that "resetting" essentially meant cleansing... i.e. restricting. Eating only home-cooked foods with no flavor, counting my calories and exercising to burn calories.

But what I learned first through personal experience, then through years of study, and now help my clients and students learn and change, is that going back to restriction is the flip side of the same coin that caused in the behaviors one feels they need to "reset" after.

Put plainly, research shows that restriction causes overcompensation. And the overcompensation often makes us feel like we have to go back to restriction. Negative feedback loop... unless and until we break the cycle. (Easier said than done, but I'm here to say it 100000% can be done!!)

So, how does one live a healthy lifestyle and lose body fat (if that's a goal of yours) WITHOUT dieting and restriction?

You live healthy from what I call a Nourishment paradigm: eating whole, unprocessed foods, working out, sleeping enough, caring for yourself out of a trust in and love for life rather than sense of inadequacy. (There are plenty of specific tools you can use to put this into action, some of which I lay out below!)

So, when I share these tips for "resetting" after Thanksgiving, what I'm offering are tools for resetting your mindset and food habits in a way that is nourishment-based (sustainable and live-giving) rather than restriction-based (emanating from a place of feeling not enough.)


Photo by Sojourner Society.

Photo by Sojourner Society.

  • Focus on eating a full serving of protein (~25g or a fist size) at each meal. This is going to take some practice, because most people eat nowhere near that. Try it for a day or two and you'll notice immediately that you have more energy and your mood is elevated. Stable blood sugar, baby! Works insane wonders.

  • Do a journal free-write every day for a week. Some of you may have not journaled in awhile or much at all, but extensive research has shown that journaling improves physical well-being, decreases stress and even helps heal physical ailments. (Crazy, I know, but look it up!) Processing your thoughts = awareness = solutions for change arrive = your life changes.
  • Get in at least 30 minutes of exercise four out of every seven days, exercising from a place of celebrating life and feeling fully alive rather than self-punishment. It's amazing what can happen when we reframe what exercise is for. Instead of looking at your workouts as a box to check off on your to-do list, think of them as an opportunity to shake up your energy, experience delicious sensation and shake off any stress.

Speaking of... I'm super excited to announce that I'm offering a totally FREE 5-Day Holiday Reset Challenge, no strings attached, that starts Friday 12/2. 

This'll be like a free 5-day mini-course that walks you through, in a precise and detailed way, my strategies for resetting post-Thanksgiving and heading into holiday parties, Christmas and Jan 1.

Enter your info here to sign up for the Challenge. Again, it's totally free:

Love and light,