Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Last week I took a road trip with my son from North Carolina to my home state of New Jersey. It was my son’s spring break, and I figured it was a great time to visit my family and give us all an opportunity to spend some time together. My father is currently going through a health hurdle, and I wanted my son and me to be there to lend some support.

While I was there I wrote the following that was shared with a Facebook group that I am involved in. I wanted to share it as a blog because I think it can offer a different perspective on some things. So here it goes………

The topic of how to keep living the fat-loss lifestyle while away from home and our normal surroundings is always a hot topic. There is always quite a bit of chatter on tips to help navigate the situation…what to do, what to pack………

So I thought I would share with you what I packed….

I packed “permission”. Permission to allow myself to enjoy spending time with family and the food that comes with it. The first night we rolled into town I was met with homemade red wine and a meat pie. A meat pie is a traditional Italian speciality only found around Easter time. It is basically a Quiche on steroids! It is the most dense piece of deliciousness that I only get one time a year, and in fact it has been years since I have had it. So I have said on many occasions that if we are going to splurge – do it on the things we can’t get normally or are special to us in some way. The wine and the pie was worth the splurge! As I am typing this – I just wolfed down a couple of pieces of Taylor Pork Roll. If you are not from the Jersey area you probably won’t know what that is. Again – I don’t have this but maybe once a year – if that. It brings back wonderful memories of my family spending every summer at the Jersey shore eating pork roll sandwiches. And right now I will bask in those memories, and I will cherish that time and the time we have right now.

I packed “forgiveness”. I will forgive myself for the less than stellar food choices I am making, wipe my meat pie off my mouth and move on!

I packed “understanding”. The understanding to know that this is not my norm, and when I get back home – I will get right back on track (which I did, BTW). I am making new memories, and sometimes in my Italian household that involves food and wine. I am okay with that!

I packed “acceptance”. I will have to do a lot of accepting on this trip. I have to accept that my new reality involves my father fighting this health hurdle. I will accept the fact that long road trips, loved ones with illnesses, and not being in my own surroundings can lead to more stress which leads to defenses being down with food choices or motivation to work out. I accept that.

I packed “flexibility”. The ability to be flexible in this circumstance will be helpful. No matter where we go to eat, I can find something I can eat and will not freak out. This will give me a chance to off-set the meat pie and pork roll….maybe….just a little bit. Ha! 

I packed “the power of choice”. I am making these choices! No one is forcing me to eat or drink anything I don’t want. I am fully aware of the choices I am making. When asked if I wanted another piece of meat pie last night – I said, “no”. The one was enough to satisfy me, and I had expressed my power of choice and chose no. I chose to go the deli and order a Sloppy Joe sandwich – again, something that I haven’t had in years! Granted I had to remove the bread (no gluten for me), but I was able to enjoy the taste just the same.

And finally… I packed “a lot of love”. Love to give to my family and especially my dad who will need it at this difficult time…love for my Italian heritage and all the traditions that come with it (even if they are not fat-loss friendly)…love for my hometown where I grew up…love for old friends that even when we see each other so rarely it is like no time has gone by….and love for myself so that even when I am not making the best choices, they are still MY choices, and I will love me just the same.

PS – I did pack some of my individual protein packets so that at least I had something that was aligned with my goals. 😉

We tend to focus on the physical things to pack when we are going to be away from home (such as workout gear, mini blenders, various foods…) that can keep us better aligned with our goals, and that is a wonderful strategy to have. I do encourage that, and most times when I do travel – I make a conscious effort to pack those physical things too! But I wanted to put a different spin on travel and focus more on the mind-set piece of all of this.

No matter what we do or don’t do – the key is to be kind to ourselves, forgive and move on! 

“I can see clearly now the ‘grain’ is gone,

I can see all obstacles in my way

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)

Sun-shiny day.”

I frequently get asked why I went grain free (and subsequently Paleo) from people, so I thought I would use this blog to give you some insight. There are many reasons why I decided to jump into this lifestyle and not look back and some are explained here.

So it has been about a year and a half since removing all grains, especially gluten containing grains, from my diet. No small feat I might add being that I am 100% Italian! The pasta, the amazing bread, the tiramisu – oh the tiramisuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu……… Oh I’m sorry – I must have leaned on the “u” key as I went into my sugar coma just thinking about the tiramisu. (BTW – if you are ever in Summit, NJ, stop by Marco Polo’s Restaurant and get a piece of their tiramisu. Best.Tiramisu.Ever!) And that then leads me to one of the points for this blog.

Ever since removing grains/gluten and products made with grains and replacing that caloric deficit with good quality protein, more fiber from veggies/fruit and good sources of carbs such as sweet potato  – I definitely can see clearer now. The fog, “the dark clouds” have all been removed and things are so much brighter. That is not to say that I am in a euphoric state all day, every day – oh no no no no my friends – I have too many witnesses that will attest otherwise, so I can’t even begin to lie about that if I wanted to. But what I do mean is that I can definitely see things with more mental clarity.

I am also not having those extreme highs and lows from eating the grain/gluten containing food. I know you know what I am talking about. A big pancake breakfast made from grains (and yes the same goes for the angelic whole grains) when consumed will wreak havoc on your blood sugar level. Not to mention the sugar that they are topped off with in the form of syrup -typically containing high fructose corn syrup – will add to the misery. Then, shortly thereafter, as you are going about your day…BAM! It hits you: the blood sugar slump. Nap time, anyone?

“I think I can make it now, the ‘grain’ is gone

All of the bad feelings have disappeared

Here is the ‘answer’ I’ve been prayin’ for

It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)

Sun-shiny day.”

Another wonderful benefit I have experienced since going grain/gluten-free is that I no longer have that annoying bloat and that uneasy feeling in my stomach (kind of like burpees on a full stomach) along with the bizarre noises that made their presence known! There were times when the noise coming from my stomach sounded like a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street with Freddy Krueger and his stomach (totally just dated myself). The sound and feeling were if an alien was going to pop out at any minute. My polite response when people would whip their heads around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist was, “Oh I am so sorry. I am just REALLY hungry.” No – hunger was not the issue – I had just eaten!

And of course it would happen at the most inopportune times such as the part of a wedding when it is announced, “Does anyone have any reason why this man and this woman should not be wed? Speak now or forever hold your peace.” What my stomach actually heard was, “Ready. Set. Gooooooo… Make unruly embarrassing noises!” Grrrr. I used to wonder why I was always feeling this way. It took me many years and a lot of embarrassing moments later to figure it out. Now I have my answer. Whew! (Thanks to a Whole30 challenge – more on that at the bottom.)

Do I ever indulge in gluten containing foods, you ask? I haven’t thus far. It is not worth the pain, and to be truthful there are so many amazing foods out there that have filled the gap. For instance, I now use spaghetti squash in place of pasta, and I top it off with whatever I would have used on regular pasta.

I would not, could not, eat a grain/gluten containing ordinary food by my own volition. It is not to say that I won’t ever – I am human. But in that case it must be so special, so amazing, for me to put my body in that position where I know I will most likely end up sick. I do, on occasion, eat some rice here and there – but that’s it.

I do suspect that I have unwittingly exposed myself to it going out to eat even though I have requested no grains/gluten. Those were most likely the times where I have not felt well afterwards.  I have allowed myself the occasional gluten-free homemade or bakery made cookie/muffin/pancake/ and have even tried gluten-free pizza. However, they still do not make me feel well. And when I do it, I fully understand that I have made the choice and am fully prepared to deal with the consequences; albeit they are far less severe than if it was a grain/gluten food.

Sticking with a nutrient dense, whole foods approach to my nutrition has served me well from the mental clarity to the cessation of digestive issues to  no more highs and lows caused from food, to name a few. Highs and lows from food – I said. People and life are a different story 😉

I make no apology for you now having that song stuck in your head. In fact I am hoping that the song will inspire you to do some introspection and see if there is anything in your life that will help you see clearer now once it is removed – from food to clutter to toxic relationships and the like. Good luck, and please let me know if you learn anything about yourself like I did.

“Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies

Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies.”

*Yes – I took some poetic license with this song. So now I give credit where credit is due. “I Can See Clearly Now” was written and recorded by Johnny Nash.

*If you suspect that certain foods may be negatively impacting your health you may want to consider an elimination diet for a month or so.

It just might change your life…it just might save your life!!!

It did mine!

I have never seen the Seven Wonders of the World, and as I sit here now and think about it – there is a good chance I never will.  But I have my own 7 wonders.  The Seven Wonders of My World! They aren’t things to do, or even places to visit.  Instead they are things that baffle me.  Curious if any of them will resonate with you!  In the case of #7 – I am hoping to shed some light on one of the biggest wonders out there.

So here it goes…my list of wonders … 

  1. I wonder why the use of the car blinker has gone the way of the Dodo bird.  Yes – I still use mine.  I’m good like that!
  2. I wonder why the word “no” to a child is an open invitation to incessantly ask the very same question that was already answered with the “no” (BTW – when my son pulls this little maneuver – my response is always “asked and answered” which drives him insane, but it puts an end to the pestering.)  Okay – now for some food/health related ones since my blogs are technically about health related topics 
  3. I wonder why the FDA allows the food companies to put brightly colored pictures of luscious fruit on packages of cereal, frozen waffles and pancakes, yogurt, etc. when there is not a hint of real fruit in them as long as the word “flavored” is on the front of the label.  (Anyone see this on the Today show 11/14?  Just one of the food industry’s unsavory practices.)
  4. I wonder why a salad dressing that says olive oil and vinegar on the front (supposed to be an Italian vinaigrette – BTW) then lists as its very first ingredient soybean oil.  Really?!  Soybean oil!  That’s an insult to all things Italian. So yes – I am insulted!  It isn’t until some ingredients later that olive oil is finally listed. 
  5. I wonder why the words healthy and natural are tossed around by the food industry more times than a Valley Girl can say the word like in a day.  Like please tell me you like know what a Valley Girl is! 
  6. I wonder why the food industry would also like us to think that something that is laced with additives, did not originate in nature and has a substantial shelf life would be a healthier option than one that doesn’t contain an ingredient list, or if it does it is minimal.  Butter, for instance, is cream and salt.  Badda bing, badda bang!
  7. I wonder why people are still so afraid of fat.  First off, you can not lump all fats together.  Fats that are partially hydrogenated…hydrogenated…highly processed vegetable oils…fried fats… and the very toxic Trans Fats that are a result of the hydrogenation process – yes –  those you should be very afraid of.  In fact walk run far, far away from them.  Something like the fat in an avocado, some grass-fed butter, olive oil, etc., have beneficial effects on the body and should not be feared when consumed in conjunction with a balanced whole foods nutrient dense diet.  The mentality that if you eat fat you will get fat is still a steadfast truth in the minds of many.  It is not that simple.  The body does not function in such simplistic terms.  This is definitely not a case of where 2+2=4.  You’re body needs fat in order to function and thrive.  Fats also add flavor to foods; help keep you satiated longer since they take longer to digest; are important in the make up of cell membranes; and provide the body with fuel, to name just a few of its functions. Most people think of Carbs for fuel and that is very much the truth, but it is not the whole picture.  The body uses fats, too.  Did you know that the heart’s preferred fuel is fat?  Remember that the heart is a muscle, too.  

Consider this – when fat is removed from a food what do you think is added in order to make that food palatable?  If you guessed sugar – you are correct!  So as a society for years now we have been on a no-fat/low-fat kick and yet the obesity rate continues to climb and cases of diabetes, cancer and other diseases show no signs of stopping.  What gives?  Please do not be fooled into thinking that just because a so-called food has no fat in it that it is somehow better for you. 

Remember to include healthy fats in balance with good quality protein sources and carbs! 

And now a new wonder – I wonder why I am still rambling on with this blog.  I am done now.  ’nuff said.  That is all!

 

I would like to remind everyone especially if you are new here that I make no judgments on anyone for what they eat, how they think, and what they do.  I only present info in the hopes of  getting people to think outside the Conventional Wisdom box.  There is a lot of exciting information when you do!   

This is a judgment-free zone!

This relationship of ours just isn’t working for me anymore.   I’m sorry.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’ve changed.  I am not the same person I used to be when we first meet as childhood sweethearts.  I have done some growing, and I am seeing things much clearer now.  I realize that I want something different from you, but the damage has already been done for us. We just have too much history together to ever get on the right track.  I think we need to just go our separate ways so that I am free to see other food

You and I go back many years, and I will always hold a special place for you in my heart. I will never forget the good times we had.  Remember when you were my reward?  You were always there for me when I did something well.  When I got a good grade on a test, you were there in the form of an ice cream sundae.  Or the time I got straight A’s on my report card – what a celebration that was!  Unfortunately, I relied too much on you to be my reward and it started at such a young age.  Now that I am grown, I want more out of a reward.  I want to treat myself to things like a massage, a good book, or a new piece of clothing.  Sometimes it is as simple as a long hot bath or a long walk!   

You were always there for me when times were tough.  You provided comfort to me when I was stressed, feeling gloomy, tired, bored, or lonely, etc.  Ahh – chips, cookies, ice cream… you never let me down.  I just can’t use you as a crutch anymore.  I am learning to turn to exercise to release my stress; call a friend when I am sad or lonely; get more sleep so that I am not tired all the time; and I find other things to occupy my time when I am bored .  I realized that you may have provided me with what I thought was comfort in the moment, but that so-called comfort only led to more feelings such as frustration and disappointment and in the end my original feelings were still there.   

Yes – you really knew how to reward and comfort me, but oh, you definitely mastered the art of guilt with me.  You would just stare up at me from your plate.  I could hear this voice as if you were whispering right in my ear saying that I couldn’t leave the table until I finished you because of all the starving children in the world.  The guilt was all-consuming, and I just had to finish you even though my body signals were telling me I was full and couldn’t possibly eat another bite!  That guilt really messed me up – even as an adult!  For the longest time I didn’t know how to listen to my own body – it was all about you.  Well, no more!  When I am satisfied – I stop.  I have realized that if I want to help starving children around the world, it’s certainly not going to be by finishing you even when I am full.  You can’t guilt me anymore.

And while we are on the subject of the unhealthy parts of our relationship, let’s not forget the way you managed to be a punishment for me.  If I didn’t want to finish all of you (especially the veggies), I wasn’t allowed to have dessert or even worse – I was made to sit there at the table for hours.  I have even heard stories from my friends in bad relationships with food that said their punishment for not finishing that plate at dinner was to see it again for breakfast.  Talk about a disturbing relationship with food! 

So you see, FOOD, as I said before it’s not you, it’s me. I have learned that I have had an unhealthy attachment to you for many years that I have allowed to go on, but now we need to break-up.  I am moving on to Mr. Food as Fuel.  He provides me with nourishment and keeps me completely satisfied…all day long! 

I wish only the best for you. If you really care about me, and I know you do after all these years,  you will wish me the best, too.   

These concepts of food as a reward, comfort, guilt, and punishment are taken from the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.   Most of us can probably identify with some, or even all of the concepts.  Maybe it is how we were raised to think about food.  It may also be how some of us are now raising our children to think about food.  It is never too late to work on breaking up with your unhealthy relationship with food and begin the process of working on a new one without any strings attached.  I am hoping that by bringing these concepts to light we can more easily recognize them in our own life and work on freeing ourselves from the damaging attachments that binds us to our food.     

Beauty and the Feast

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Food, Healthy Living, Nutrition

You have been invited to a restaurant that is purely a buffet style establishment.  Red flags are going off left and right as images of sugary. creamy. gluttonous. foods dance in your head.  Or maybe you are going on a cruise where the buffets are infamous and many a tale has been told about the deliciousness that awaits you.  It could just simply be a potluck style meal at your friends.  No matter the scenario, these situations can cause anxiety as you ask yourself one question: How do I navigate the beauty of the buffets while sticking to a sensible eating strategy?  Because when all is said and done, those buffets can be a down right beautiful feast – fountains flowing with liquid chocolate that remind you of a scene from the movie Willie Wonka; cakes and pies galore all enticing your senses; and ewey gooey goodness around every corner! 

Here are few tips to keep in mind to help you enjoy those types of situations and still make it out feeling good about your choices and leaving without a doggy bag of guilt!

Let’s use the word FEAST:

F = Forgo.  Forgo the ordinary.  Don’t go to a buffet just to pile the ordinary on your plate.  That being said – let me explain.  I am in no way condoning eating all of the delicious looking foods at that buffet.  What I am saying is first start with your protein and veggies (which, BTW, should be one of your first go-to strategies for any dining experience) and then if you are going to splurge a bit – go for the things that you may not be able to get on a day-to-day basis, or the things that are special to that area/restaurant.

E = Eat something small before arriving.  NEVER, EVER go into a buffet situation starving.  All bets are off at that point.  Clear minded decisions will be clouded by hunger. Period!

A = Assess the situation.  Before picking up your plate and starting at one end of the buffet to pile on food, first assess what is being offered.  This is not a race where there is a starting line and a finish line.  There is no buffet etiquette book that says you must put something of everything on your plate.  Assess the types of foods so that you can begin to make a plan in your head.  Ever start at a buffet and be piling food on your plate only to find about half way through it there was something better?  It could have been a food more aligned to your eating style or even something grander than what’s on there now. But now what? You have loaded so much on your plate and obviously you can’t waste it (wink,wink), nor can you put it back.  

S = Start Small.  Go with a small portion and then run  ~I meant walk ~ back to your seat. Go with protein and veggies first (as mentioned above) to help with the satiety factor.  If you have eaten your food (slowly, chewing and savoring every bite) and still feel like you want another somethin’ somethin’ – then make another trip.  However, if you pile your plate on your first trip – even if you find yourself not hungry anymore – chances are if it is sitting there staring at you – you will continue to pick at that food.

T = Think!  Plain and simple. You have to be discerning when it comes to a buffet.  What is most important to you?    What are your goals?  How do you want to feel after this buffet?  Somehow when presented with a variety of options most of us lose all sense of rationale thinking.  Take a step back and Think.

These 5 steps will help when a smattering of food choices is all just a plate away.  Don’t let the beauty of the feast turn you into the foodie and the beast!

More often than not I receive a look of bewilderment when people realize such things as the fact that I eat eggs everyday and that I am also not afraid of butter.  These are just two examples –trust me when I say that there are many more that warrant perplexing looks!  We are told to stay away from eating these two foods otherwise we risk the potential for developing high cholesterol and eventually heart disease.  These two foods (along with many others) have been the subject of scrutiny throughout the years and conventional wisdom keeps perpetuating a certain way of thinking and masking some of the facts. 

So from the title of this blog you clearly know which food I am going to focus on today.  I will offer my reasons for using butter as opposed to a margarine type spread.  I am including a link that will provide you with a well-versed and researched explanation with references of why butter is a much better option than what we have been told for many years.  I strongly encourage you to read it as it will put perspective on an otherwise cloudy area for most people.  With everything – make the best decision for you, but at least you will be more informed to make that decision.  What works for me, may not work for you.  (Of course if you have a dairy allergy – then the whole butter argument may be moot in your book.  Ever tried Ghee? )

So why do I use butter?  Plain and simple….

1.  Butter is real and margarine type spreads are “fake” in my opinion. The ingredients for butter are simply cream and salt.  Margarine, on the other hand, contains things like soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soy oil,  whey (which is a component of milk…”eating her curds and whey”…wish I had known that when that ridiculous nursery rhyme was being told to me as a kid), salt, mono and diglycerides… depending on the brand the ingredients will vary.

2.  I can make butter in my kitchen. Margarine – not so much!

3. 

  

That pretty much sums up that point.  Just make sure the cows that the butter comes from have been feed properly.  Butter from grass-fed cows is the best.  Organic butter, too!  Be cautious of using regular butter due to the fact that the cows may have not been fed properly therefore you are getting the byproducts of the improper diet of the cow.  However, if regular butter is all you can do to make the switch from a questionable spread then that may be a better choice for you.

4.  Butter has health benefits!  Yup – you read that right!  Here is the link I referred to above… http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/why-butter-is-better

5.  And lastly, if I am going to eat something such as butter, I would prefer it to be the real thing in taste, quality, and ingredients.  If you watch the link from one of my favorite TV shows – at the end of the clip – I have to agree with the character’s sentiments all the way.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA0HViN4XAY&feature=player_detailpage

So yes – You butter believe it – I love me some butter!

 

*As with any diet or lifestyle change you need to do your own research and feel comfortable with your own conclusions and decisions that may result from that very research.  Again – it is worth repeating – that what I have researched and deemed appropriate for my life, may not be for yours.  I wanted to take the time in this blog to express my rationale for picking butter due to the fact I have been asked on numerous occasions.  I am not one to take Conventional Wisdom as gospel – if that was the case – I would be consuming margarine type spreads instead of butter!   

Ever wonder what the secrets are to having a fat-loss frame of mind and living a fat-loss lifestyle?  People who are living that way have key elements to their success.  The following are 5 of those elements.  See how your current lifestyle compares to this list, especially if fat-loss is a goal of yours.  You may even surprise yourself and find that you are already on target!

  1. Healthy diet versus Fat-loss diet:  Yes – there is a difference.  Many people think that having their oatmeal and Greek yogurt everyday, or their turkey on a sandwich thin is going to ignite their fat-loss potential simply because they are eating foods that are healthier options than others.  That is not the whole picture.  Although you may be eating “healthy” – you are not necessarily eating for fat-loss.  The food that we consume sends different messages to the hormones – in simple terms…burn or store.  A caloric deficit does matter, but ultimately if you are eating the proper foods that balance the hormones then the calories will take care of themselves.  Which leads me into the next fat-loss tip….

 

  1. Protein and Veggies/Fiber:  Anyone living a fat-loss lifestyle knows to always go for the protein and veggies/fiber first.  Not only will you be sending the proper message to your hormones to help you tap into that fat-loss mode, but you will also find that the combination of the two will enhance the satiety factor.

 

  1. Label Reading:  This is crucial for living the fat-loss lifestyle.  First off – shop the perimeters of the store as much as you can since that is where your freshest foods will be.  If there is something that you buy with a label – READ IT!  Do not make any assumptions as to what the ingredients are.  The more “funky” ingredients contained in a food (and I use the word food lightly here) the more of a detrimental impact it can have on losing fat. 

 

  1. Sleep:  This is often missed by many people as aiding in fat-loss, but any fat-loss minded person knows the importance of sleep.  Sleep is the body’s time to reset hormones.  “Sleep lowers leptin, insulin, and cortisol levels and elevates melatonin, HGH, testosterone, and other hormones.  Sleep improves mood, burns fat, and slows the aging process.  Sleep is the ultimate anti-aging, muscle-building, fat-burning, and mood-enhancing process the body has available to it.”  (Teta, 2010) Get your uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep and be in bed by 10!

 

  1. Plan:  Fat-loss minded people always have a plan.  They are always thinking one step ahead.  If they are traveling they will pack appropriate snacks…they will call the hotel to see if the room has a fridge and/or a microwave…they will take the time to prep food such as cutting veggies all at once, cooking chicken breasts to have during the week…they will have their fridge stocked with easily accessible fat-loss friendly foods so getting hungry and picking the wrong foods is rarely a problem, etc.  Keep in mind the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

 

These are just 5 components of living and implementing a fat-loss lifestyle and having a fat-loss mindset.  Of course these are all in conjunction with an exercise protocol.  If you have all 5 under your belt – BRAVO!  If you are just missing one – then you know what to do – focus on that particular one.  If there is more than one – I would suggest picking just one that you are currently not doing to start and focus on that until you are comfortable and then pick the next one.  Fat-loss is a way of life and having the mindset that goes with it!  These 5 elements are a great place to start.

 

 

So What.

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Fitness, Food, Healthy Living, Nutrition

As I sat around this past weekend being quite lazy and loving every minute of it (the weather was just not cooperative), I found myself saying “so what” to various things.  Blame it on the weather, my mood, whatever it was – it felt good to dismiss some things.  I would like to think that some of it was because I have come to an understanding on things that have bothered me, if not tortured me, in the past.  So maybe saying “so what” was my way of letting those things go and not letting them hold me hostage anymore.  So here are some of my “so what” revelations pertaining to me and some pertaining to what I have encountered from others…

So what if life isn’t perfect.  Isn’t that truly part of life – the absence of perfection?  Or at least the absence of an easily identifiable, measurable and agreed upon by all state of perfection? Besides, in my opinion, perfection is perception.  They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”…well I say, “Perfection is in the eye of the perceiver”.  For some, perfection is a picnic in the park and for others a picnic would be far from perfection and it just wouldn’t be a perfect day unless it included fine dining.  Enjoy the here and now and stop waiting for perfection – it will never come until you decide it’s already here.  (I am not saying stop striving to be better, healthier, stronger, smarter, etc. I am just simply saying don’t let this moment pass until you realize that you can only be what you already are at this precise moment.  Got that?) 

So what if my jeans are snugger than they were just a short time ago.  It is because my body has shifted – in a good way – I might add!  Those squats, lunges and all the other exercises that I so frequently mumble expletives under my breath while doing them are really paying off.  The behind is s.l.o.w.l.y. getting rounder and more lifted so that means jeans are fitting differently.  It may be slow, but it is ultimately changing.  If the result of that happening is going up a size in jeans then so be it.  So what.  Don’t let your jeans define you – you define those jeans.  Rock ’em! 

So what if food has “natural” on the package when the ingredient list tells a completely different story.  If the ingredient list is a who’s who of something that reminds you of your former chemistry lab class – simply put it back on the shelf and walk run away!  Do not be fooled by fancy packaging or snazzy health claims.  If food has to claim to be healthy – that should be your first warning sign.  When is the last time you saw a claim on fresh produce to be healthy and natural and used fancy packaging to convince you to buy it? 

So what if you don’t have a solid block of time to workout.  Do you have 10 minutes?  Even 5?  Push-ups, air-squats, lunges, jumping rope, sprints and so much more can all help to create workout options when time and even equipment are factors.  Just make sure to keep the intensity high since time will be short. Try to repeat at another time during the day so you have accumulated more minutes by the time the day is over. It doesn’t need to be an all or nothing mentality when it comes to working out.  Something is better than nothing. 

So what if you can’t buy all organic food.  If you buy a bag of non organic apples instead of that bag of chips then you are headed in the right direction.

So what if you have the finest gym equipment and/or a membership to the “best” gym if you don’t use them! 

So what if I am 41.  I am leaner and stronger than I ever was in my 20’s and 30’s, albeit with a few more lines and “dimples”.  Don’t let age stop you.  It is never too late to change, but it won’t happen unless you make the choice.  Fit and fabulous at 40 is my motto…okay, okay 41, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as using 40! 

So now it is your turn.  What, in your life, can you think of that you would feel so much better being able to say, “So What”?

Most people are familiar with the saying, “hindsight is always 20/20”.  I got to thinking about that the other day. I thought of some things in terms of nutrition and exercise (go figure) that if I had only known then, I could have saved myself so much money, aggravation, and time just to name a few. I also would have savored some of those moments back then even more.  So here is my list of what I had come up with initially…

1.  If I had known what an integral part my scale would play in me becoming obsessed with a number and the fact that there is life after the ditching of the scale – I would have ditched it a long time ago.  I have spent way too many years and have cried too many tears over that thing.  Hey – that sounds like a good start to one of those sappy sad songs! 

2.  Knowing that “a healthy diet doesn’t always equal a fat-loss diet” would have been ideal to know many moons ago.  I can’t begin to fathom how different things would have been if I had been privy to that insight.  I would have known what foods specifically generate fat-loss and could have made sure I focused on them!

3.  Did you know that there are hormones that are closely linked to fat-loss and that falling for the standard “calories in/ calories out” mentality is NOT the way to go?  It is not that calories don’t matter, but for fat-loss it is more than just burning more calories than you consume.  Could have told me that sooner!

4.  All those times when I wouldn’t dare stand up from my beach towel without shimmying into my shorts first…can I take them back?!  So much time and energy expended on worrying if my thighs were too big, etc.  Ugh!  How I wish I had flaunted it!  I should have really appreciated my body back then.  I even went so far as to wear these neoprene bands around each thigh hoping to sweat and shrink my thighs.  No, no – I didn’t wear them on the beach!  (Mental image – yikes!)  Of course I had no idea way back then that even if I could sweat some weight off – it would only be temporary.  Sigh… 

 Come to think of it – where is my thigh-master?   

Buns of Steel, anyone?!

 

5.  I would like all of the money back that I spent on the copious amounts of potions and lotions that contained various toxic chemicals in them when all I needed was a jar of coconut oil!  Not only can you use it as a full body moisturizer, but you can cook with it too. In fact the uses for coconut oil seem to go on and on. Read more about it…  http://wakeup-world.com/2012/03/02/160-uses-for-coconut-oil/  ( I fully understand that there may be times when severe skin conditions may warrant the use of conventional treatments, but again I urge you to be a detective to see if your food could be the potential cause and to read any and all labels before you put something on your skin.  You should be concerned with what you put on your body just as you should be with what you put in it.)

6.  You mean frozen pizza at midnight while having a movie marathon with my family wasn’t such a great idea?  I suppose those late night runs in college to Pat’s Steaks in Philly to top off our consumption of ‘beverages” for the night were not the best option either. Inside-outs and greasy pizza from Mario’s down the street from our dorm were staples freshman year.  My stomach is turning right now as I type this just thinking about that!  Oh, and let me not forget the countless nights in high school that ended at the local diner with cheese fries and gravy – AKA Disco fries!    However, I wouldn’t trade any of those memories – not for a moment – maybe just the food given what I know now.

7.  The countless lunches and dinners that came out of a jar or a box was not proper nutrition?  Who knew?!  And yes – it wasn’t too long ago that I too was under the spell of the low-fat/no-fat craze!  If I only knew that most of those Frankenfoods were not even food at all, I could have spared myself endless bouts with indigestion, bloating, feeling sluggish, and those annoying few extra pounds.  Not to mention my body would have appreciated it more!.  Eat. Real. Food!  I have learned that message loud and clear.

These are just a few of the things that I can appreciate now as I look back to my days gone by.  But as I said in my last blog, “when we know better we do better” and that is what I have to take away from all of this reflecting.  Sure, life would be much easier if we all had a crystal ball that could save us from making costly mistakes both monetarily and health wise, but we do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at the time.  Remember all of those mistakes are not failures. They are opportunities for feedback.  Use them to create a better today and tomorrow.  Nourish your brain with knowledge so that you can then properly nourish your body.  Then hopefully there will be less instances of would have, could have, should have …if only I had known better.  

So what do YOU know now that you wish you had known then?

Game On!

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Fitness, Food, Goals, Healthy Living, Nutrition

Spring has sprung! Although, as I am writing this, it feels anything but Spring out there today. There is just something about Spring and the weather that has everyone (me included) in a panic that summer is almost here which means bathing suit season and traveling.  Neither of those are a bad thing. In fact they both represent times of relaxation and freedom from the everyday routine.  But it should not be a free pass to forget all that is vital for good health unless you want to come back from your trip with more than memories and souvenirs.  Let your pictures serve as memories – not the extra pounds you have the possibility of bringing home with you!

There is a misconception that all bets are off when it comes to traveling and sticking to a plan.  But that’s just it – it is a misconception – it doesn’t have to be that way.  It is a choice!  With a little forethought there are quite a few things that you can do to make sticking to your goals a real possibility while on vacation.  There are some hurdles that people face, so I am going to address what I view as the top three and hopefully you will walk away feeling more confident that you CAN stick to a PLAN!

Let’s start with potential hurdle number one: nutrition on the road.  For those of you who are road tripping it for summer vacation here are a few tips to help you.

  • Prepackage snacks for the car:  apples, bananas, baggies of grapes, almonds, sliced peppers, etc.    
  • Pack a cooler with water (of course keep in mind that could increase the amount of pit-stops along the way and if you are like me that means more pit-stops = less sanity! I want to get where I am going! 
  • In your cooler you can also pack ham/turkey/cheese roll-ups for an easy finger food that won’t leave crumbs in your car.
  • Hard boiled eggs already shelled in your cooler make a great snack.  Yes, I do realize the potential for the smell!
  • When you stop for gas keep in mind that most places have nuts and some even carry fruit.
  • Pack a small container of your own salad dressing so that if you do stop at a fast-food place you can get a salad and top it with your dressing.  Try to get some protein on that salad for the extra satiety factor.
  • Feeling like a burger than just leave the bun. Take the burger.  “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”.  Sorry!  I couldn’t resist!
  • If you are staying at a hotel – call ahead to find out if they have a fridge and/or a microwave.  Once when staying in a hotel I asked the front desk for a local super market, went there and bought a pre-cooked chicken roaster and kept that in my room to eat.
  • No matter where you stop – think protein and veggies first followed by some fruit!

Air travel may be less out of your control, but once again all is not lost.  If you only have time for fast-food while waiting for your flight then find some type of protein whether it is a grilled chicken sandwich or a burger and you know what to do with the bun.  Again, think protein first with veggies or fruit if you can as grab and go veggies may be harder to come by.  It is easier to grab an apple or banana than it is to grab an order of steamed broccoli!  You get my point.  You may have more options if you have more time and are able to order from a restaurant. It is very easy to be lured into buying some of those great smelling snacks that have now made their way into airports.  Cinnabon – really?!  They know your defenses are down.  You’re either tired and cranky from dealing with air travel, or you are on such a vacation high that all rational decisions are left behind. 

Now on to exercise – potential hurdle number two… all is not lost here either.  Your own body can be your greatest piece of gym equipment when traveling.

  • Push-ups, jumping jacks, sits-ups, dips, burpees, air-squats, lunges, etc. can be really effective for getting something in.  Pack a jump rope if you have one or resistance bands that take up no space at all.  I have been known to do lunges down the hallway of the hotel.  Again – call the hotel ahead of time to see if there is any kind of equipment on site. 
  • If you are going to the beach – the beach makes a beautiful setting for exercise.  Last year my son joined me for some sprints, burpees, air-squats and push-ups on the beach.  I would just caution you to scout out the area for your sprints before you start running.  Wouldn’t want to twist an ankle when you step into someone’s left over hole from an afternoon of digging in the sand!
  • Don’t forget that walking on vacation is a great form of recovery exercise especially if you have been overloading your workouts trying to prepare your body for vacation.  Walking will help to reduce stress and your stress hormones and will also help to balance you out.  The type of walking I am referring to is at a leisurely pace, not power walking.  Please don’t save this type of recovery exercise just for vacation.  Try to include something like a walk or some other form of recovery exercise everyday.

The next potential hurdle – hurdle number three – when it comes to travel and vacations is the mind-set that usually takes up residence in our head and wants to tag along for the trip.  I am speaking of the “I don’t care. It’s my vacation”, “I deserve it”, and the “I need a break” thoughts that are being packed along with your luggage!  Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t go and enjoy yourself. If you know me then you are probably familiar with my utter disdain for cooking.  I will look for every opportunity to get out of it and vacation fits that bill perfectly.  But just try to enjoy yourself in a manner that will not throw you completely off your game.  Eventually that vacation will come to an end and reality will set in.  If you find that your choices were less than stellar – DO NOT beat yourself up.  Wipe your hands of it and move on.   

This mind-set is not only evident on vacations, but is also ever-present for some on the weekends as well.  “I don’t care.  It’s the weekend.”  Yup –so it is.  Health is not important on the weekends?!… “I deserve it.”  You deserve to be healthy!… “I need a break.”  A break from your health?!  I am not perfect and don’t claim to be.  It is taken me some time to get where I am now. I have made many mistakes along the way both in exercising and nutrition, but have learned from them and used them as a catalyst for change in my life.  Those mistakes and the lessons I learned ultimately brought me to where I am now, and it is in a really great place.  It has been, and continues to be, a learning and growing process.  I love the quote from Maya Angelou that says, “When you know better you do better”.  I truly believe that. 

Since I have been asked by countless people how I personally deal with vacations and weekends (and holidays and birthdays for that matter), I will share with you my line of thinking.  So here is how I look at all of those things (aside from using many of the strategies above)…  If we are blessed each day to keep putting our two feet on the ground in the morning then part of that is dealing with all of those things.  It’s called life!  We have to learn to make peace with those things, embrace them as part of life – a very good part of life, be thankful for them and most of all – enjoy them.  Enjoy them in a way that respects who you are and who you want to be.  Don’t let those events control you.  You control them!

As you make your summer plans (or just your plans for the weekend) – remember to do just that – PLAN!  I have given you just some of many good tips to employ.  Have any others?  Please share!