Guest Post

5 Ways to Build Your Instagram Presence

Social Media is a BEAST! It is a full-time job. It takes a LOT of work, time, patience, and experimentation. Some weeks I feel like an Instagram rock star and then other weeks, I want to pull my hair out. I do know that, for my own personal brand, my main goal is to always be REAL! It is definitely hard to keep up with the "Joneses", trends, and to not compare yourself to others. Just DO YOU! 

Now with that being said, I also think it is important to continually educate yourself, especially if you are using social media to grow your business and earn an income from it. You can still DO YOU, but if you want to continue to grow there are definitely some "tips" to help you do that, while still being authentic. That is why I asked my good friend Jess to share some of her favorite ways to help GROW YOUR BUSINESS! Take it away friend...

Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to be here as a guest for Katie today. As a social media strategist, I help small businesses establish and grow their social media presence. My goal today is to share a number of easily actionable tactics that you can implement in order to build your Instagram presence!

Instagram might be one of my favorite social media platforms, and it is a focus when I work with social media clients. With over 500 million active monthly users (source), it’s pretty safe to say that Instagram is a great place to be when trying to make an impact in your community! As a business owner, Instagram can be an effective tool for you in regards to connecting to customers, increasing reach, and growing your business.

Why Using Instagram Can Help You Grow Your Business


If you’ve established that Instagram is an effective tool for you to grow your business, you may wonder: how will it actually help me? Ah, the million dollar question. Over time, building your Instagram presence helps you:

  • Build trust with current and prospective customers

  • Establish and nurture a relationship with your readers

  • Reach more people

  • Give your readers a chance to share the love, by reposting your photos, tagging you, etc. which will continue to drive traffic to your profile and business.

5 Ways to Build Your Instagram Presence

Once we understand that Instagram can be a useful way to grow a business and connect with our niche, how do we go about building our presence? Let’s talk about five tactics that I believe are 100% realistic and easy to implement.

Be Clear About Your Presence

Ideally, when someone comes to visit your Instagram page, he/she should be able to immediately figure out what your brand is all about. Being clear about your presence includes making sure that your bio is direct and concise. Including WHAT you do, WHO you serve, and where you’re located can help you reach the right people.

Use Appropriate Hashtags

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, and I would encourage you to take advantage of it! Do you need to have 30 for each post? That’s debatable, but including at least a handful of relevant hashtags can help your posts get seen by more people in your niche. Users can search particular hashtags and connect with people who have used the same hashtag, which in turn can build your presence and help you grow your business!

Post Consistently

Consistency is key when it comes to building your Instagram presence. Within your direct community, being consistent with posting will basically “train” your audience to be accustomed to your presence! If they’re used to seeing your content, they’ll be more likely to engage with you and be aware of your brand and messaging.

Having content that goes out more consistently will also help you get seen more often across Instagram: in feeds, within hashtags, and in “explore” feeds. All of these factors can help you build your Instagram presence.

Engage With Your Audience

In order to build an Instagram presence, we must seem personable, trustworthy, and reliable. That includes making time to engage with your audience! If someone takes the time to post a comment on your post, please try to respond to them in a timely manner. I’ll admit, I’ve fallen behind and have waited a few days to respond to comments. Try not to do that ;-).

By starting and keeping up with REAL conversations on Instagram, you’re building long-lasting, trusting relationships that will build your presence in the long run.

Be Authentic

My final and possibly most important suggestion for you is to be authentic with your audience. Prioritizing just the sales of your product/service will likely get you nowhere in the long term, as far as relationships go.

A quality growth in your Instagram presence includes building real relationships with your audience, establishing a presence in your community and niche, and staying true to your brand. That could mean practicing being vulnerable with your audience - can you share both successes AND failures in your posts? If we show people that we are human and relatable, we’re more likely to build our presence in a quality way.

Building your Instagram presence does not require crazy-complicated tactics. Being consistent, authentic, engaging, and clear about your presence and brand will result in all the good things for your business!  

Leg day + a good workout outfit + giggles = 💯 Photo cred: @erinsinsidejob

A post shared by Jess (@hellotofit_) on

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Jess is a social media strategist in Charlottesville, VA. She helps local small business owners establish and grow their social media presence.

Connect with her! Website | Facebook | Instagram

Guest Post with the Diehard Foodie

I know I am repeating myself, but one of my favorite things about blogging and social media are the connections and friendships that you can make, with people all over the world. Connecting with like minded people, who inspire you, support you, educate you is a beautiful thing. I have surrounded myself with women who are all of the above and I am grateful to have them in my life. So let me introduce y'all to Victoria. Victoria is a licensed dietician/nutritionist, who is passionate about intuitive eating, digestive health, and inspiring others to ditch the diets and make peace with food and their bodies. Read more about her story below...ENJOY! 

Sitting down to write this, I realize how different my life and my mind are these days. There’s consistent and overflowing happiness, gratitude for this beautiful life I get to live, and deep compassion for myself, my body and who I am as a person. Before I sat down to write this, I sipped on my version of bulletproof coffee while reading and then meditated. As I write this I am sipping on bone broth and have plans to enjoy a breakfast soon of eggs, bacon, and avocado.

Years ago, the calorie counter in me would have been petrified at blending butter into my coffee, or not knowing a number of calories are in my homemade bone broth. And allowing myself to eat the whole egg with bacon and avocado? Get out of here.

You see, I am different. I became a nutrient-seeker, not a calorie counter. I learned to eat intuitively and instinctively, finding foods that on a daily basis make me feel beautiful, radiant and energized. Not only because these foods and lifestyle are physically nourishing my body, but they are also mentally nourishing to my mind and soul, too.

How did I get here? How did I ditch the diets, stop calorie counting and learn to live life again? I’d be happy to explain! But let’s first start from the beginning…

It was ingrained in me at a very young age to think about what I am eating in terms of how I look. Food and specifically restriction of foods were how to get skinny. I am positive I am one of many women who was taught our self-worth is based on our size and looks. The television and media, friends and family and now these days’ social media, all tell us how we should eat and what we should look like. Don’t lie to me…you know you’ve looked at some of those Insta-famous girls and obsessed over their feed trying to figure out how they eat so you can look the same way.

I can vividly remember at the age of 16 deciding it was time to lose weight. Since all I knew about losing weight was restricting calories, I started to count my calories. It started off innocently with tracking what I was eating and realizing a lot of the foods I was eating on a daily basis were full of calories (ah, not those scary calories!) But then I started having goals of eating less and less. First, it was only 1,200 calories. And then it was 800 calories a day. And while the calorie allotment I gave myself would change throughout those dieting years, it was always way less than what my body truly needed. Unfortunately, this is what my education as a dietitian taught me to do as well- so it was further ingrained in me that this must be how to get skinny and stay that way for good (spoiler alert: it’s not). 

But throughout those eight years, I would constantly lose weight and then regain weight, almost always more than where I started initially. My metabolism became badly damaged from the constant calorie restriction, and because so many foods were off limits, I constantly craved them and would overeat the moment those foods would touch my lips.

For eight years, this is how I lived my life. Constantly calculating calories, weighing myself multiple times a day, exercising because I thought I had to and in constant war with my mind and body about what I was going to eat that day.

Shortly after my husband and I got married (almost three years ago), and I had had multiple binge eating sessions from severely restricting my calorie intake the entire year of our engagement… I snapped. I realized that eating shouldn’t be so difficult. That it didn’t have to be this way. I hit a breaking point and knew the change had to happen.

From that point on, my eating began to change. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I stopped counting calories. I stopped tracking my eating. I stopped caring about how many macronutrients were in my meal. I threw out my scale. I read the Intuitive Eating book and went through the stages to heal my relationship with food. For months, I would challenge myself to eat foods I thought in the past I shouldn’t eat. My favorite foods like juicy cheeseburgers, ice cream, and gooey chocolate chip cookies. I was amazed that when they no longer were off limits in my mind, the joy and satisfaction I felt when eating them. I was further amazed when I was easily able to stop when I was no longer enjoying the foods, either because I was comfortably full or because they no were no longer enjoyable to eat.

Years later, my eating continues to evolve. I healed my relationship with food and made peace with my body. From there, I was able to experiment with what I was eating in terms of how it made me feel. The last couple steps in the process of healing HAVE to be last because otherwise, eating to heal your health becomes another way of dieting. Another way of controlling food. That’s why in my private practice with Meg, we have layers to do what we do. We first focus on body acceptance and self-love, practicing self-care, managing stress and getting quality sleep. Then we fix your relationship with food, making peace with all foods no matter their health benefits (or lack thereof). And once that is complete, we can begin to eat instinctively.

You see, I probably differ vastly from many dietitians because, in many ways, I agree with the premise behind the Paleo diet movement. For years I would have vehemently disagreed and anything with the word diet would have sent me into a frenzy (I still hate the word diet and don’t ever use it). But then my own health became a concern. While I had IBS for years, my symptoms became unbearable. I was not able to get my period back after getting off birth control. My allergies, asthma, psoriasis, eczema and other skin issues continued to worsen. I felt fatigue all the time but was never able to get a good night sleep. I knew it was time to change, and just as I did with healing my relationship with food- I slowly, very slowly began to make changes to my diet in order to heal my health.

While the paleo movement focuses on what we would have eaten thousands and thousands of years ago (i.e. the Paleolithic era), I don’t think that’s quite necessary. Our bodies and genes evolved over the years, and I think simply looking at a time frame where cuisine began and real food was eaten is all that is necessary. We simply need to look back 50-100 years ago. Before we demonized the very foods that made us who we are today and began eating foods that were instead made in a lab. Before we began over-analyzing food for its calorie or macronutrient profile. Before we questioned our food choices, we ate instinctively. 

I was able to fix literally every health issue I experienced by simply going back to my instincts. Meg and I believe in instinctual eating, which is our tailored approach of combining intuitive eating with eating real, whole foods. Traditional foods that your great grandmother probably ate. Foods like broth made from the bones, eating pasture raised meat with the skin and bones, cooking and eating a diet higher in fat, eating fresh foods (like fruits and vegetables but also fresh foods like raw whole milk), fermenting foods like yogurt and sauerkraut and soaking and sprouting foods like grains and nuts. These are the foods we have been eating for the past 10,000 years. These are the foods that true chefs have been cooking all along. These are the foods I used to heal my health, and foods that we all can benefit from.

I believe now in seeking nutrients, not calories. While I know our ancestors were not blending butter and collagen into their coffee or roasting vegetables with coconut oil, I think we can take these basic premises to optimize our body, mind, and soul. We can take the old age wisdom and combine it with our new age technology and personal food preferences. 

I now use my own experience and education to help others do exactly that. My hope is that by working with my clients, I can help them heal their relationship with food and then heal their health. You can learn from the past ten years I have had to get here and get there much, much quicker. It takes time, but I wish all those years ago when I was struggling that I would have just reached out for help. But I know for me, I needed to go through all those struggles, trials and tribulations so that I could help others. I needed to ditch diets and heal my health on my own so that I could be there for you when you needed it.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oat Energy Balls

Hi Friends! I am bACK and after that week long cleanse I am ready to rock n' roll. Sheesh that was definitely not easy for so many reasons, but it is done; I am moving forward; I feel better; and bring on all the good food, because honestly...I missed it! After a week though of a very bland diet, it is important to slowly add things back into the mix, so that I do not shock my system. So right now I am sticking to real food, simple ingredients, and YES to nut butters and avocados. And it wasn't this morning until I honestly craved coffee...I opted for decaf...HA!

I am really excited for today's guest post from Alysia! She blogs over at Slim Sanity and I hope you will take some time to get to know this NEW Mom! I think this is a great time for this post for a couple of reasons. As we transition into Spring/Summer, it is a good time to regroup...press the restart button...and add some new healthy changes...like this recipe! When you are looking to make healthier changes to your lifestyle it is important to do it slowly. There is no need to dive head first into it, just like I cannot eat an entire pizza after this cleanse! Make sense? So check out this delicious recipe by Alysia and let me know if you give it a go! XOXO

One of the small changes you can make for a healthier lifestyle is to add certain healthy foods into your diet. It's a more positive focus than taking ‘unhealthy’ foods away; although inherently when you add healthier foods in, the unhealthy foods you once craved naturally fall out of your grocery cart. :) The best way to add foods to your diet is to incorporating healthier foods into meals you already enjoy. This can be done without much effort at all, and you hardly even realize you’re making progress! One of the best foods to start with are chia seeds.

Chia seeds are tiny, and they go a really long way. Two tablespoons of chia seeds come in at 60 calories, and add great texture and nutrition to your foods! Some of the health benefits of chia seeds include:

   Lots of nutrients per serving. Just two tablespoons have 11 g of fiber and 18% DV calcium among other essential nutrients like magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese

   They are also packed with healthy fats, including 5 g omega-3 fatty acids

   Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants

   Eating chia seeds can also result in improved exercise performance

This list should be plenty long to motivate you to add these little seeds to your meals immediately, right?! Salads, smoothies, yogurt… and these chocolate and peanut butter oat energy balls. Balls are one of the easiest snacks to grab and go on your way to work or the gym! They’re my favorite these days, and this recipe is full of nutritious ingredients.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Oat Energy Balls

Ingredients

·      ½ cup peanut butter

·      ¼ cup maple syrup

·      3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

·      1 cup steel cut oats or old fashioned oats

·      ¼ cup chia seeds

·      1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded

Preparation

1.     Add all ingredients to a bowl. Mix well, until you have an even consistency which you can roll into a ball. If the mixture isn’t sticky enough, add some more peanut butter. If it is too sticky, add in some extra oats.

2.     Roll into 16 balls. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

What changes are you making this Spring to be healthier?

Do you add chia seeds to any foods?

How To Do A Push-UP...Guest Post

Being strong is important for ALL of us, no matter how old we are! Like I have said before, it is great to look and feel strong, but more importantly, it is about doing those daily activities without pain, conquering races and physical challenges, that we train so hard for, and just feeling healthy and happy from the inside out. So today we are going to focus on the push-up, thanks to my good friend Jess. Take it away friend! 

PUSH-UPS: Every women's least favorite exercise. Okay. that may be a stretch, but I can only name a handful of ladies who "love" this movement. 

All too often I see people performs push-ups with incorrect form, and if my superpower could be correcting push-up form with a touch like Midas, I would take it. In the meantime, use this post as your reference for doing a correct push-up. If the default for you is a modified push-up. Have you already begun to work on your full push-up? AWESOME! Here is your chance to fine-tune the movement, in order to get the MOST out of your strength training. 

Benefits Of Doing A Correct Push-Up

Even though we might want to avoid push-ups like the plague, this exercise can have many benefits when incorporated into our routines:

  • Targets chest and triceps muscles;
  • Increases stability in the shoulders and shoulder blade area;
  • Strengthens core; abdominal and low back muscles, as well as muscles around the leg and hips.

If we think about a correct push-up as our foundation for other exercises (burpees, chaturanga in yoga, etc.) we will not only feel more comfortable doing those other movements but can do so with less risk of injury. Ready to step up your push-up game? 

Modified Push-Up

Let's start with the basics. To perform a modified push-up, make sure wrists are underneath shoulders and hips are in line with the spine. If we were to draw a diagonal line from my shoulders to the backs of my knees, it should be relatively straight. 

Abs are tight - Pull the ribs up towards the spine - So that you can start pushing up like a boss!

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While lowering your body towards the floor, make sure the elbows aren't flared out. They may be close to a 45 degree angle from the shoulders. 

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As you press back up, keep the abdominal muscles tight to prevent sinking in the hips. Make sure the elbows are not locked in the finished position. Now, drop down and knock out some more!

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Three INCORRECT Versions

Before we go over correct form for a full push-up, take a look at the following three photos. Can you pick out what's wrong with each?

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Yes, you know it! My hips are too high here. This can be common if we don't have the upper body strength - shoulders, triceps, chest - to lower ourselves down. The hips are happy to help, which means they stay up high to give us the illusion that we can bend the elbows is a significant amount, without the hips weighing down. Not only is this incorrect, but it could leave us susceptible to shoulder pain; notice how the shoulders are not quite in line with the arms and above the wrists. 

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Oh, you are GOOD! In the above photo, we can see that the hips sink to low to the floor. Also a common incorrect way to do a push-up, this can occur when our abs and back muscles skip out on the teamwork. Ideally, the abs and back would stabilize the spine - hips will be level with the shoulders, and there will not be an exaggerated arch in the low back.

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This one's the trickiest to catch if you're doing push-ups, so it could help to have a mirror nearby to check. If you look closely enough, you might be able to see that the elbows are flared out to the sides. Rather than having the elbows come out to about 45 degrees, they're out at a solid 90. For some people, this may not be a big issue, but for others, it could cause some shoulder pain. 

With my personal training, I try to put exercises together that are relatively functional - that is, you'll use the same muscles with the same general form during your everyday life. If we were to push a heavy door open or do any similar "push-up" motion in real life, chances are our elbows will not be flared out to 90 degrees. Our elbows may be tucked in a bit, so it makes sense (to me) to perform push-ups with the elbows slightly tucked. 

How To Do A Correct Push-Up

Alright, now that you've seen a modified push-up and three incorrect versions of a full push-up, are you ready for the big one? 

To Begin: Find a full plank position. Just like the modified plank above, shoulders will be above wrists and hips will fall in line with that imaginary diagonal line from shoulders to knees. 

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Elbows are soft, not locked. Hands can be a tad wider than shoulder-width (yes, you can have them as close as you want, with good form).

As you lower down towards the ground, remember to keep hips level (no sinking or lifting too high) and elbows slightly tucked. Abs remain contracted to keep your spine stable.

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Relatively straight line from shoulders to ankles!

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As you exhale, press yourself back up into a full plank. And...then go again!

Quality Over Quantity

Why do personal trainers and fitness professionals hone in on form 24/7? We may sound like broken records, but there's a method behind the madness that is repetitive cuing. Exercising with correct form could not only prevent us from future injury, but it will allow us to maximize the work we're doing with our muscles. If we can get the MOST out of each movement by being "less efficient"  (not compensating), we'll see better improvements with our strength and physical fitness. 

headshot HTF  

Jess is an ACSM certified personal trainer, AFAA certified group exercise instructor, and Power Vinyasa yoga teacher from Charlottesville, VA. Through her personal training and blogging, she hopes to share her experiences with living a balanced


Do you incorporate push-ups into your workout routine?