Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Healthy Halloween (no tricks!)


It's Halloween, so naturally everyone is asking me whether I plan to torture my child by not letting him collect any candy or if I will throw it all away as soon as he gets home. The answer to both is no. While I do cringe and want to run away when I see him eating candy by the bagful, it's just one of those things I have to accept as a mom and let go of. I'm over it.

But, I die a little inside at the thought of actively supplying children with candy. It is something that I have a harder and harder time with as I see our national obesity, diabetes, and sugar addiction problems get worse. So, I won't be handing candy out tonight. Instead, I've loaded up on plenty of Halloween treats that are still sure to please: Halloween tattoos, bat and spider rings, pencils, and stickers. I may not be the cool mom, but I can sleep tonight.

All treats, no tricks!

Remember, candy is optional. I remember a time not too long ago when I just threw my hands up in defeat as soon as Halloween candy came around. I knew I was going to eat it, it was just a given. But over time I've come to learn that doing that made me feel terrible both physically (because that stuff is just garbage) and mentally (because I was frustrated at my lack of self control). Since I have detoxed from sugar, I am very glad to say that Halloween candy is a non-issue for me. It feels incredible, in case you were wondering.

I have never regretted having a healthy day. I have always regretted eating a mini Snickers. For those of you out there who can eat candy today and carry on as normal tomorrow, I applaud you. I am not so evolved! For those of you who cannot, join me in having a candy-free day.

Still fun!

Still spooky!

Still happy!

Just without the sugar withdrawals tomorrow.

Get out there and get healthy today....even though it's Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Cookie That Almost Killed Her
"One cookie won't kill you!"

How many times have you heard that? And okay, it's true. A cookie will not kill you, and eating a cookie is not going to be the end of your healthy journey. But, for someone who is paying close attention to calories in and calories out, a cookie could very well be a u-turn on that healthy path.

I love it when friends text me pictures of their healthy habits or, in this case, the potential trip-up that they averted. So when my phone buzzed with a picture of a big cookie - from a national hotel chain that shall remain nameless - and the number 300 followed by about five exclamation points, I knew exactly where she was and what was going through her mind.

That cookie is 300 calories?!?!?

Yep, friends, it is. And while one cookie won't kill you, unless you have 300 calories to waste on something that takes 30 seconds to eat, it will land you in nutritional time-out for a while. Here's a quick look at what else you could have eaten for 300 calories: 
  • half a cup of filling oatmeal with raisins, a banana, and a cup of coffee with cream
  • small can of tuna with 2 tbs of low fat mayo and chopped celery
  • veggie burger topped with grilled mushrooms and onions
  • 1/2 brown rice with chicken, sliced mushrooms, and chopped onion
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta with 1/4 cup tomato sauce and veggies
  • 1 cup lowfat yogurt with chopped walnuts, raisins, and frozen blueberries
  • a pear, an orange, and 16 almonds

And here are some more examples: What do 300-calorie Meals Really Look Like?

Those cookies, and the urge to eat them, are all about impulse decisions. You know, the kind we make when we haven't planned ahead and prepped our healthy snacks for the day. But luckily, there are some easy things you can do to make sure one little cookie doesn't wreck your day.

1. Practice your "thanks but no thanks," replies. Say them in the car, practice in the mirror, or have a friend coach you. Just have a polite and friendly way to say thanks for the diet sabotage, but I'll pass! 

2. Use a mantra. Repeating a meaningful word or phrase in your head is a proven way to refocus your energy towards your bigger goal. The one to not eat 300-calorie cookies.

3. Have a healthy snack at the ready. Always keep fruit, veggies, nuts, and water nearby for those times when everyone else is snacking and you want to chew something, too!

One cookie won't completely ruin things, but who cares? If you don't have a cookie in your plan, don't let someone else toss one in. This is your healthy journey! Take the wheel!

Get out there and get healthy today. Even if someone offers you a cookie.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Hour That Can Healthify Your Week!

Just one hour can make the rest
of your week way healthier!
What if you could make your entire week healthier in just one hour? It's possible, if you spend that hour prepping meals and snacks for the week ahead. Advance prep clears obstacles from your path and puts healthy choices within reach, eliminating excuses and making it a lot easier to follow through on the good intentions you had Sunday night.

I take about an hour on the weekends to make breakfast for the week, chop fruits and veggies, bake chicken, make chili, and sometimes even stage salads for busy days. It takes a few times to get a good production line going, but once you hit your groove, this hour could very well mean the difference between a healthy week and promising to do better next time. And if you can see the TV from your kitchen and can watch football at the same time, all the better!

How do you get it all done? Here's a quick look at how I spend my Power Hour:

  • Put a boneless turkey breast or chicken in the oven to bake (350 degrees for about an hour, depending on what you're using). Then…
  • Prep five egg scrambles and put them in with the turkey. They need to bake for 40 minutes. Then...
  • If you're making a salad that requires baked apples (like this one), slice them and spread them out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon, and stick those in the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Brown a pound of bison and start a big pot of chili in the crockpot. Then…
  • Chop apples, pears, and peaches, peel oranges, slice strawberries, chop carrots, etc. and put them in containers for snacks later in the week. Then…
  • Portion almonds (16 is about 100 calories) and raisins in baggies for on-the-go snacks. Then…
  • Portion oatmeal and raisins in baggies for breakfast each day. Then…
  • Line up containers for salads, and put three handfuls of spinach in each one. Add a snack-size baggie of with feta cheese and chopped fruit to each one to add to your salad (keeping the salad ingredients separate prevents the salad from getting mushy). I use strawberries for my Change Your Life salad and baked apples for my Fall Harvest Salad.
  • Take out the egg scrambles and stash them in the fridge for breakfast each day. Then…
  • Take out the turkey, slice it up, and portion it where it needs to go (salads, in a container for pasta later in the week, or in a pot of soup).
  • Store it all in the fridge to create your own little grocery store at home!
Reaching for something healthy is as easy as making sure it is there for you when you're ready. This hour is packed, but worth it. At the end, you'll have breakfast, lunch, and snacks (and maybe even the makings of some dinner if you also boil some pasta and make a pot of rice!) ready to go. 

I'm feeling healthier already.

Get out there and get healthy today. It only takes an hour!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Relapse Comeback: Hitching to a New Wagon!

Are you on the right wagon?
We've all fallen off the wagon at least once or twice on the dusty trail to greater health. Oh, not you? Well, I definitely have! 

Whether its a weekend of lackluster food choices, too many sleepless nights making it easier to hit the snooze button, or something really rough like a junk food binge, everyone has a time or two when we feel like our healthy habits are a mile away and we don't even remember where we lost them. We have fallen off the wagon, and need to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and get back on.

But who says you have to get back on the same wagon?

Before you dust yourself off and climb aboard for another leg of the same old journey - the one that bumped you off the wagon in the first place - ask yourself a few questions to determine whether you might need another mode of transportation altogether.

Yes I realize I am beating the wagon metaphor to death. I can't help it, it's a good one!

Anyway, check yourself before you wreck yourself. The answers to these questions might help you decide if you need a new wagon:

1. What bumped me off? Retrace your steps as far as you can to the moment when you made the decision - and it is a decision - to ignore your healthy habits and do something unhealthy instead. Who/what/when/where/how/why? Understanding how our environment contributes to our decisions is a big part of making the changes necessary to get a different result next time.

2. Why did I let that happen? Healthy resolve takes time to build, and you likely put in some real effort in developing the habits that kept you on the wagon. That's great! But when we get tired, stressed, frustrated, pushing ourselves too hard to make unsustainable change, its easier to let a small bump in the road be what lands us on our backside wondering where we went wrong. It's okay, it happens to everyone. The important part is that we learn from it.

3. What should I have done instead? A great way to automate making better choices is to practice them. Simply reviewing what we should/coulda/woulda done prepares our minds to make a better choice the next time we are in the same set of circumstances. Then, visualizing ourselves in the same scenario but making a better choices helps convince our brain that that's what we've been doing all along. Trust me, it works.

The wagon is fun. Everyone's laughing and smiling and patting each other on the back for our jobs well done making healthy choices and living the good life. When we fall off, it can feel like a failure and like we're never going to get this whole healthy life thing right. Don't worry, you will.

But not if you're on the wrong wagon in the first place!

If you've recently relapsed in your wellness, congratulations! You've won the opportunity to stop, freshen up your plan, and make sure that the path you're traveling is the right one for you. If you're not sure how to do that, let me know. I'm here to help.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you have to switch wagons midway through your trip.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Recipe! Clean Eating Apple Chicken Nuggets

New recipe alert!

Chicken Apple on the left! Added carrot to the bites on the right!
My husband was hogging the computer this morning working remotely, so I had some time on my hands when I would otherwise be working. Not one to really enjoy spontaneous free time, I started itching for something productive to do. It was a pretty easy choice: make food for the baby! I put together these Chicken Apple Nuggets for his lunch and made a couple of modifications that I think you'll like.

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Toddler Bistro. These "meatballs" are really yummy and good for grown-ups too.

Chicken Apple Nuggets

Mini muffin tins are perfect for these.
1 lb ground chicken breast
1/3 cup finely chopped red onions
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
Parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic...whatever you like to season with. I also added a little cajun seasoning.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini-muffin pan.
2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning to taste.
3. Roll the mixture into balls (mine ended up being almost the size of a golf ball) and place each one into one of the muffin tins.
4. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Yield: 2 dozen nuggets

Modification: After I made the first dozen, I decided to change up the next batch with some  grated carrot and about 2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese. They were pretty yummy too!

These are really, really good. They're also easy to make and great for adding to soups, used as an appetizer at a party, or dipped into homemade bbq sauce. Each one has about 50 calories, thanks to them being baked, not fried! Enjoy!

Get out there and get healthy today, even if that includes chicken "nuggets." 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Food Addiction: Is it real?

When my issue of ACE Fitness Journal arrived in the mail this week, the cover really spoke to me: Food Addiction. Oh, yes. This is a biggie for me. As someone who has gone through the very difficult process of dumping sugar, as well as completely revolutionizing the way I interact with food, addiction is a very good word to describe the way many of us feel in the presence of some foods. 

I posted a picture of the cover on my Facebook fan page and asked what foods people felt they were addicted to. Right away the common bad guys popped up:

Starches, carbs, potatoes!

Yep. Been there.

The article is a scientific look at how food addiction occurs, why some foods are harder for us to moderate than others, and most importantly how to reverse the cycle of food addiction. In short, food addiction is indeed real, thanks to a neurotransmitter called Dopamine that signals our brain to get ready to feel reallllly good when a hyperpalatable food is present. Hyperpalatable? Yep, I'm talking about food that is so jacked up with flavor in the form of fat and sugar that it has conditioned our brains to need and want more of it to get the same high that we used to get from just a taste. In other words, junk food.

I've read reports about fast food companies that follow a formula of fat to sugar to salt ratio that is designed to activate the reward centers of our brains and almost guarantee repeat business. In other words, we become addicted to it. My husband told me last weekend about a story he heard reporting that children who frequently eat fast food begin to salivate when they see the Golden Arches. That's downright scary.

Research has shown that obese people - not all but enough to matter - have fewer dopamine receptors in their brains that signal when it is time to stop eating. But are they born that way, or does this develop as a result of behavior? Just as behavior can trump genetics when you're trying to develop good habits, it can do the same for bad. Consistently eating hyper palatable foods has a negative impact on your brains ability to produce the dopamine it needs to tell you to lay off.

So yes. Food addiction is real, and most often the foods we find ourselves addicted to are the ones that provide a tidal wave of sensations: the texture, aroma, and even the setting in which we consume them all playing a role. But, the good news is that food addiction can be overcome. It takes time and discipline, but it is possible!


1. Mindfulness. As a wellness coach, I spend a lot of time helping clients develop mindful habits. Our busy lives can get so distracting that sometimes we are eating without even realizing it until we've wolfed down half a sandwich. By slowing down and becoming mindful - it takes practice and intention! - we can reverse that process and reduce stress as well.

2. Omega 3. I don't often recommend a lot of supplements, but Omega-3 (you might also see it advertised as DHA) has been shown to help reduce impulsivity in food choices. Now, don't rush out and buy a bottle of fish oil and think it will solve your food addiction! It is one part of a larger lifestyle change that needs to happen together.

3. Exercise. Its a natural appetite suppressant, and the endorphins from exercise make it a lot easier to make healthier choices later. Plus, its just a good idea overall.

Food addiction is real, and I have been on both sides. It is a tough road, but soooo sooo soooooo worth it when you get to the other side. Trust me on this one: you can do it, and you are worth it. If you need help, let me know. That's what wellness coaches are for.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you really, really, really want something else.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

If a woman exercises, and doesn't log it...does it count?

Seeing that data add up
is a great motivator to
Yesterday as I went out to run, I strapped my Garmin to my wrist and reset the timer. Uh oh. Low battery. Dang it! 

I log my workouts in about fifteen kazillion places. In my Garmin, for one. Then on Daily Mile (look to the left. See? There it is!). And in MyFitnessPal. And in my brain. And of course, on my calendar. Its a little overkill. But hey, tracking data is a proven key for sustainable wellness! So this is all a good thing. Not neurotic at all. Completely, totally normal. Right? :)

But in the spirit of Simple September, which has spilled over into October but hasn't gotten a name yet because I can't think of a synonym for simple that begins with O, I decided to not fret too much about not having a time and distance statistic for my morning run. And then, when I went for a baby-in-a-backpack hike, I left it at home again. And also when I walked the three mile roundtrip to school later in the day. Yep. I went rogue!

Sometimes it seems like if I don't have data at the end of a workout - calories burned, miles ran, minutes exercised - it won't count, like I didn't really do it. Ridiculous, but I really do feel short-changed on those days when I can't log another entry in a digital notebook. I know you know what I mean. I want credit for that workout!

Logging workouts has definite benefits: the instant feeling of success makes us proud, the accountability of online communities helps us stay motivated, and tracking increases in intensity, duration, and capacity helps us avoid plateaus. I encourage families to learn the value of tracking their health data to become more aware of their habits and strive to create healthier ones.

But, there is also something to be said for stripping away all of the technology, structure, and paperwork of healthy living and just exercising for the sheer pleasure of it.I've been so-so on my tracking this week, and it has felt great. I'm still as active as before, but I'm not worrying about the numbers as much as the frequency and the quality of my workouts. It feels really really nice.

  Get out there and get healthy today, even if you don't tell a soul.