Saturday, July 13, 2013

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Muffins You'll Love

It's a rainy, warm, and muggy day in July (translation - movie day!), but inside my house it may as well be November! I've got my cozy pants on, fall scented candles burning, and pumpkin spice muffins in the oven. I just ran out of the zucchini muffins my little one brings to school, so it was time to make another batch!

I like muffins because they are portable, don't necessarily have to be refrigerated during the day, and they are easy for kids to eat. But, muffins can also be a calorie and sugar bomb if you're not careful. I've adapted this recipe over time and now feel confident giving them to my kids as a sweet treat that won't send them into that crazed and dazed look that they get when they have too much sugar. 

Here's the recipe and the nutritional low-down so you can make some of your own!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Who says you have to wait for fall?

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bread flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins

It's Easy:
1. Mix your dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls, and then combine them, stirring just enough to combine them. Do not over-stir or your muffins will be too tough.

2. Spoon into greased muffin tins about halfway full. I opt for smaller muffins. We can always have another one, but its hard to undo eating a big one!

3. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

This recipe should make 14 muffins, and each has 112 calories, 4 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, and 5 grams of sugar, most of those coming from the raisins. Please note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 12 grams of sugar each day for children. One of these muffins represents almost half of a child's sugar needs for the day. Take a look at a typical muffin recipe, note the amount of sugar called for, and consider where that muffins may fall in your child's sugar needs for the day!

To reduce the sugar in these muffins, do not use as many raisins.

Read more about sugar allowance in Sugar Shake Up: How Much Do You Need?

These muffins are sweet and simple, and I love that my kids love them. They made my house super cozy today and when paired with low-sugar yogurt or low-fat cheese, will make a great snack later in the week.

And, they make my house smell great!

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you bake muffins!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

And the Healthy Moms Go Wild!

I've got two kids, and my friends have even more. And maybe its because I am in the wellness industry, but it seems that every time I turn around, another mom is pulling her hair out in frustration over the same thing: junk food, and how it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e in our kids lives. They vent to me, and I vent back to them, and we're all saying the same thing: "Stop giving my kids junk food!!!"

It may just be me, but it seems like in the past year or so I spend a lot more time playing defense for my kids. At every turn, junk food in the veil of "treats" awaits. It reminds me of this blog post I read a few months ago, which may as well be the anthem for healthy-minded parents everywhere.

Camp. Vacation Bible School. Birthday parties. Vacation. Grandparents. Free cookies at the grocery store. Road trips. "Just this once." "Don't be so controlling." "Its not a big deal." It never ends - people want my kids to eat crappy food all day long, and they think I am over-reacting when I think that's a bad idea. But here's the thing - I am right.

Sorry, Charlie. Junk food is a major reason why our country is not only overwhelmingly obese, but getting sicker every day. Here's a clue to why.

And you know, I'm okay with my kids eating sweets once in a while. That's part of life and I don't expect them to never have a piece of cake or learn first-hand (because sometimes that's the only way you can learn) what happens when you eat an entire bag of gummy worms at once. But its not controlling, high-maintenance, over-reacting, or strict to try to prevent that from happening every dang day of your kids' life, or even every weekend.

It's good parenting.

And I would be so bold as to say that the opposite - consistently providing sweets, candy, known junk food, soda, juice, and other sugary and artificial foods to your kids - is bad parenting. There. I said it!

And I am worn out over it. I am wearing thin. I'm tired, my punches aren't as fast. My resolve is wavering. Because I am just TIRED OF FIGHTING. It would be so easy to let them sit and eat cookies all day long, trust me.

But they deserve better, and we are the ones to give it to them. We aren't doing them any favors by constantly offering junk food and assuming that a) they want it, b) that is all they will eat, and c) it's okay because they aren't overweight. Heart disease can begin as early as five years old, and chicken fingers are a major contributor.

I don't expect my children to live a monk's existence, but I don't think I'm being mean or elitist when I say no to fast food, juice boxes, the kid's menu, and candy as standard kid's fare. I hope that some day, my picky eater who wants to live on Annie's Chocolate Chipper granola bars and milk, will reach for an apple instead. All I can do is provide a good example and keep our standards high.

And in the meantime, it would help if you'd quit offering him fruit chews.

Love ya! Mean it! :) Get out there and get healthy, even if I just annoyed you a little.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Birthday Watermelon

It's my birthday! I usually hate my birthday because of all the pressure to make it an amazing day to remember, when in reality it never measures up and just ends up being another day. But these days, I am so stinkin' happy with my life, truly carpeing the crap out of the diem every chance I get, that it kind of feels like every day is my birthday! That takes the pressure off and lets me relax a little!

Birthdays also used to mean a calorie coma, with all of the pressure to indulge in something sweet and sinful in the name of celebration. But you know I don't play that way. Its been over a year and a half since I gave up sugar, so birthday cake doesn't even tempt me anymore. But telling people that you're not going to have cake on your birthday results in a sonic thud of confusion and disapproval. 

I recently passed up cake at another birthday celebration, which prompted the question of how I would celebrate my birthday if I wasn't having cake. "With a party!" I replied. Silence. Apparently that was the wrong answer.

I'm already really hard to do nice things for, what with my compulsive martyrdom and chronic guilt complex whenever anyone tries to indulge me. So last year when my son asked if I really, truly wasn't going to have a cake for my birthday, he assured me that he and my husband could eat it all and I wouldn't have to eat any. Then he came up with a better idea: "I know! I'll make you a cake out of fruit!"

And that's how the birthday watermelon came to be. Sure there are plenty of adorable and impressive cakes made of fruit on Pinterest, but who has time for that? I popped a few candles into a quarter of a watermelon, listened to my favorite boys sing "Happy Birthday" (and debate mid-serenade on the proper placement of the cha-cha-chas), and made myself a secret wish. 

1. Buy a watermelon.
2. Put candles in watermelon.
3. Viola! You have yourself a birthday watermelon!

We ate together, I had a proper birthday treat, everyone felt appropriately ritualized, and I didn't have to eat cake.

It was the best idea ever, and I yesterday I bought my birthday watermelon for this year.

So what's the big deal about one measly piece of cake? Why don't I get over myself and live a little? Is one piece of cake really going to ruin my life? Am I so perfect that I'm not even going to eat cake on my birthday? No, it's actually the opposite. I can't handle cake on my birthday. I am not a one-piece-of-cake, one taste of ice cream, one square of chocolate a day kind of girl. I want a lot of it. I am a volume eater! Having just one piece is torture, and it might not ruin my life but it would screw up my weekend. I choose not to eat sugar because of how crummy it makes me feel. The sugar cravings that follow are just not worth it to me. Someday that might change but for now, my birthday watermelon was the sweetest treat I could ask for.

I didn't have a huge pile of chocolate for my birthday, which means I skipped the stomachache, the regret the next morning, and the "OMG why did I do that?" part of so many birthdays past. But, I still celebrated! I just celebrated my awesome life, not food. You can do it too. So get out there and get healthy, even if no one understands you!

And Happy Birthday. :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bread Snob Bakery: Homemade Pre-baked Pizza Crust

Yes I eat green beans with my homemade pizza. You don't?
I'm going on a family vacation, and when we travel to the beach, each member of the family takes responsibility for one night of dinner. My night is Pizza Night! We love to each have our own little crust so we can put on what we like. Having your own little pizza is also great for portion control because you can't really go back for more. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. 

Except that I'm a bread snob, and I knew that I would want to make the crust myself. But, I also knew I wouldn't have time to do that on vacation. So I resigned myself to buying store crust. I went to the grocery store, found some "healthy" crust, and put it in my buggy. Then I took it out. Then I took it back off the shelf, looked at the list of ingredients, and sighed. I knew I needed to do this. I needed to get over it, suck it up, and go for convenience. Dang it. I put it in my buggy and walked on. But I couldn't do it. I went back, put the crust back on the shelf, and decided I would find a way.

I just cannot buy that crap.

Luckily, making my own crust and pre-baking it a little made it just like store-bought crust but without all the cancer and stuff. Now we can still have Pizza Night and I can still have vacation, and I can feel 100% awesome about the food my children and precious little nieces are gobbling up after a day playing at the beach.

Here's how I did it.

1. Start with the basic pizza dough recipe. Mix the ingredients, knead for three minutes, allow to rise in a warm place for about two hours or until double in size, and then roll it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  • 2 cups bread flour 
  • 1 cup warm water (140 degrees)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp (or one packet) dry active yeast
  • garlic, italian seasoning, etc.
2. Separate your dough into five equal pieces. Because I am a portion freak, I got out my digital scale and weighed 100 grams each. This is going to be a 200-calorie crust.
All rolled out and ready for the oven!

3. Roll each piece into a circle, the size of which depending on the thickness of crust you like. I am a volume eater, so I roll mine pretty thin so I can fit lots of veggies on top.

4. Place each little crust onto a greased baking sheet or baking stone and put back into a warm oven to rise for another 30 minutes or so. If you're feeling all fancy and stuff, sprinkle each one with garlic and dried basil.

5. After they have risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake them for about 10 minutes.
Out of the oven, ready for storage.

6. After removing from the oven, lightly brush with olive oil. Lightly. Olive oil is good for you, but it has a lot of calories!

7. Allow them to cool, and then store in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to use.

In my case, I kept them in the fridge for about three days and then took them out for a test dinner. I added sauce, toppings, and cheese just like I would for store-bought crust, and put them in the oven for 10 minutes at 450. The result was absolutely perfect. I was so pleased with myself! I asked my family members about 15 times how they liked it until they shouted, YES, THE PIZZA CRUST IS GOOD CAN WE TALK ABOUT MINECRAFT NOW?

Yum! Can you tell which of these is mine?

I'll be baking up another batch this week for our beach trip, and I expect another great result. You don't have to buy store crust if you don't want to. Sure, baking these crusts takes some time and effort, but it is well worth it to have the convenience later in the week without giving in to junky processed food. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you have to plan Pizza Night.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

So What's the Deal with GMOs?

So what's the deal with GMOs? Why is everyone mad about them, why don't companies want us to know when we're eating them, and what's the big deal? Well, here's the deal.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, which are plants or animals that have been engineered using DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants or animals. GMOs are man-made or manipulated to meet the increasing demands of the food marketplace. Since genetically modifying food makes it produce a higher yield, be more resistant to drought and infection, and better tolerate the addition of nutrients, this type of science makes a lot of sense for food companies because they can make more food faster, which makes them more money. And remember, food companies are corporations, not human health service organizations, despite the smiling pictures of friendly neighborhood farmers on their packages of chips.

But what's good for a corporate budget isn't always good for humanity. More evidence is showing increased health problems and environmental damage as a result of GMOs. When I say health problems, I mean that GMOs have been linked to thousands of sick and dead livestock and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. The reason is because genetically modified food is not food. It is a food-like substance. And the human body was created to eat food, not food-like substances.

GMOs are so serious that most developed nations, including Australia, Japan, the European Union, and dozens more, restrict or ban the production and sale of them. Why has America not taken the same position? Read the second paragraph again.

The reason why people are up in arms about GMOs these days is because we are becoming increasingly convinced that eating food-like substance is bad for us, and that we have a right to know whether or not what we are eating is food. Back in the good old days, if you wanted to eat healthfully you could do what I did when I started eating clean: focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, and avoid packaged foods. With the prevalence of GMOs, even these foods may not in fact be foods.

A lot of people think that we have a fundamental right to know whether we are in fact eating food, or if we are eating something that looks a lot like food but is in fact a man-made product posing as food. But, the United States does not require GMOs to be labeled, which prevents us from knowing the origin of our food unless we grow it ourselves. There are some enterprising and hard-working people out there who are willing to do this, but it is not a realistic option for most of us.

So what's a food-eating human to do? Well, food companies might not be required to label whether their products contain GMOs, but a few organizations have done that research for us:

The Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers an informed choice. They verify products and list them so you can be aware of which boxes on the shelf contain food and which do not. Check the list of Verified Products on their website before you head to the store. 

If you forget that list at home, no fear! This handy phone app, Buycott, lets you scan a barcode and see whether it contains GMO ingredients. When GMOs stop being profitable, they stop being.

And, you can take action as well by signing the Just Label It petition. Seriously, folks, this is about our food. Its our sustenance. Its what we feed our kids, and what our future depends on. We will most literally and completely die without it. You have a responsibility for your own health, and if you're going to choose a battle, choose this one.

Now, a note of reality - just as with the certified organic seal, foods that are listed as non-GMO are not necessarily healthy for you. There is plenty of sugary candy food out there bearing the organic and non-GMO labels. GMO-free only means that it is pure, natural, and real. Not healthy. There is a difference.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if it means you have to get all up in arms about food quality. That battle is worth it, because you are worth it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Long Weekends = Big-time Triggers. Here's how to stay on track!

Holiday weekends can be major trigger times for emotional and distracted eating. I used to spend three-day weekends in a no-man's-land of food, not sure where my structure was and how to keep that wayward Monday from turning the whole week into a mish-mash of bad decisions.

Here are a few tips that have always helped me stay focused: 

1. Wear a bracelet or a watch to which you can assign magical protective powers. When you reach out for food you don't really want or need, you'll see it and remember your goal. It just might be enough to keep your hands by your side. Or in your pockets. Or in someone else's. Or wherever they need to be to NOT be filled with food.

2. Become the party historian and stay busy with a camera. It takes two hands to take a picture (at least a good one) so keeping your hands full with photography duties is a great way to avoid standing around with a plate! Plus, you'll capture some great memories as well.

3. Drink lots and lots of water. Like, a gallon. Seriously! Get a water bottle, assign magical powers to it (I hereby decree that this water bottle will protect me from potato salad, cheese and crackers, and the third beer!) and then fill 'er up. The water will do wonders for your body since most of us walk around dehydrated anyway, and you'll quench at least some of your appetite as well.

4. Use a mantra. Your brain is the biggest fitness tool you have, and mantras are incredibly powerful when used correctly. Some popular ones are, "Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels," or "I am worth it," or "I deserve better." A mantra should be personal and meaningful, so think of something that will actually help you stop mindless munching. Don't worry if it sounds stupid, you don't need to tell it to anyone else!

Remember, the goal of these tips is not to prevent you from eating, but rather to keep you eating healthfully, which means eating healthy food in appropriate portions. So if you're going to a friend's house, bring something you can eat without stress. If you're hosting a party, use your power for good and not evil. You know your limits. Don't tempt yourself unless you want to wreck yourself.

Have a great weekend, and a great Monday! Get out there and get healthy, even on a weekend.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bread Snob Bakery: Homemade Bagels!

Well it is no secret that I am a food snob. Not a foodie, a food snob. There is a difference! I don't need fancy food, I just need good food! And, the height of my snobbishness is with bread. 

Bread these days usually can't even be called bread anymore. With dough conditioners and preservatives designed to extend the shelf life of breads, some of which have even been found to cause cancer, the bread aisle is probably the most confusing section of the grocery store. 

We deserve better bread! I love nothing more than a good burger (okay, maybe good pizza), but countless potentially epic cheeseburgers have been ruined by being served on a nothing bun out of a plastic bag. I pack my own homemade hamburger buns in ziplock bags to use in restaurants when I feel the bread is inferior. Yes it embarrasses my husband but I don't care. Its not like I wave it around and tell everyone! I'm cool, man, I'm just super passionate about bread.

Well you can read all about my homemade hamburger buns (which this week feature minced onion), but this week I am making bagels. I tried this last weekend and sent them to my husband's office on Monday. He came back with raving reviews so I am making another batch today for our Memorial Day weekend trip.

You'll need a bread maker! Here's the recipe:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 tbsp honey
3 cups bread flour
1.25 tsp salt
1.5 tsp dry active yeast
You can also add cinnamon, onion, garlic, poppy seeds, whatever you want!

Put all of the ingredients into the bread maker and select the Manual or Bagel Dough setting. 

Ignore the time on the bread maker and take the dough out after 50 minutes with lightly floured hands and separate it into 10 equal pieces. 

Roll each piece into a ball and poke a hole in the middle to make a bagel shape. 

Place each bagel onto a greased baking sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until double. If the hole in your bagel has closed up, just poke it out again. No biggie.

Boil some water in a big pot (2 quarts should do) and drop three bagels at a time into the boiling water. You want to leave enough space for them to swim around freely. After 15 seconds, flip them over and let them boil for 15 more seconds on the other side. Then, remove with a slotted spoon and let dry on a baking rack.

Once they have all been boiled, transfer them back to the baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until toasty on top.

Enjoy the aroma of good, simple, wholesome bread in your house for the rest of the day!

This process takes about an hour and a half from start to finish, with about 20 minutes of actual working time. You can do this. And more importantly, you should. Slow down, take your health seriously, and make time for better bread.

You deserve it!

Get out there and get healthy today - eat good bread!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mona Lisa's Yoga Smile

I've been taking a yoga class on Tuesdays after the recommendation okay order of my doctor. I went to her very stressed out and hyper-focused, and she suggested I learn to quiet my mind through yoga. "But not a yoga DVD in your living room surrounded by reminders of your busy life!" she wagged her finger at me. "A yoga class. Real yoga!"

I agreed. I'd always wanted to learn yoga - not just take yoga, but really learn it - and what better time than now, when my doctor was literally ordering me to do it? As luck would have it, there is a free yoga class at my church, less than a mile from my house, every Tuesday morning. Jackpot! 

Well I don't have to go on and on about how much I love it. I knew I would, and I do. I'm learning a lot, and pulling those lessons into the rest of my life as well. One of my favorite parts of the class is the end, when we're quieting our minds in corpse pose, and our instructor Catherine invites us to let the ends of our mouths turn up into a slight smile. I've found, happily, that it is absolutely impossible for me to be stressed out, worried, pent-up, or annoyed when I am smiling.

When I was a kid I used to play a little game with myself. When I saw someone with a distinct expression on their face, usually when they didn't realize anyone was looking at them and they looked just how they look, I would try to mimic it. I'd do my best to make the same expression, and when I nailed it, I'd notice how my mood changed as a result. I would almost feel like I could feel their thoughts, mood, and disposition, and it helped me feel like I understood them more. As a result, I was able to be more empathetic towards them if we should ever interact.

Every walk through wellness is unique, but rarely are they on completely new paths. We all know someone who has been in our shoes, or someone in whose shoes we have been. Listening to them tell about their journey is like yoga for our brains - we can reminisce similar times, anticipate experiencing the same thing, and be inspired by the achievements of our friends. 

This week, get out there and get healthy by tapping into the inspirational community of wellness around you. Listen to a weekend warrior story, cheer on a friend, support someone else, and allow the ends of your mouth turn up into a slight smile. The results are 100% guaranteed.

Now get out there and get healthy!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Does the Scale Matter?

Have you ever heard someone say that if you want to ruin a perfectly good day, step on the scale? I can relate! Sometimes those three little numbers can shatter the highest of highs and leave you feeling betrayed and confused. I know I have felt that way many times, and that's why I stopped weighing myself.

The battery in my scale has been dead for a while now, and I'm not all that concerned about it. I'm tempted every now and then step on and let it run its little diagnostics on me, finally flashing my self worth in little red numbers and either confirming that yes, I am justified in my happiness or no, I was kidding myself and am actually quite miserable.

I used to live by the scale. I weighed myself every day, and even brought it on vacation. Yes. I took my body fat religiously, and if I didn't see a change in the numbers at the exact moment that I expected them, it didn't matter if I had just run a PR or lifted a new weight or cleared a building in a single bound: I was a failure.

Over time, I started eliminating things from my life that made me feel like a failure, when in fact I had lots of evidence to the contrary. Negative people, jobs, habits, and eventually the scale, made their exit. But sometimes I still wonder.

Last week I wondered.

And then I asked myself, does it really matter?
  • I can fit into my clothes.
  • I can run for a long time.
  • I can finish an Insanity workout without too much trouble.
  • I can lift heavy things.
  • I like my legs and arms and back and shoulders.
  • Does it really matter what I weigh?
Well, a little bit. It is true that people who weigh themselves regularly experience higher success at losing weight, maintaining that weight loss, and sustaining a high level of fitness. Just as tracking food and exercise helps build awareness and lead to healthier behaviors overall, being aware of your weight is useful information. And, if you are actively working on losing weight, then yes, weighing yourself is one of the ways you can gauge whether your efforts are working.

But, if stepping on the scale fills you with anxiety, if the result dictates your mood for the day, or if you are simply happy with how you feel and how your clothes fit, then there is no reason why you need to know. 

I remember as a teenager reading a story about the volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece, and seeing her weight of 160 pounds. I was astounded. The lean, muscular, athletic woman I saw surely didn't match my perception of what 160 pounds looked like. That's when I learned about the difference in fat versus muscle, and began to understand that the number on the scale is just one part of a larger picture of health. 

What say you? Do you weigh yourself religiously? Do you find your mood being dictated by the result? Get out there and get healthy today, even if the batteries in your scale are dead!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stop Fat Talk in its Tracks!

What would you call a week when on Wednesday you fit into some goal jeans from way back when that you found in the back of your closet left over from some fad diet attempt, and on Friday you're out running and catch yourself thinking, "I'm so fat"

Crazy, that's what. But, that's what happened to me last week.

On Monday, I got into a convo with a friend about the difference between cropped pants, ankle pants, and capri pants, and what Stacy and Clinton would say about whether we should be wearing them considering our respective body types. This is what women talk about. The next day, she sent me a picture of herself in her ankle pants and we agreed she should not wear them. The day after that, I found a pair of pants in my closet that were somewhere between cropped and capri, and which also happened to be some goal pants from about five years ago, back when I started eating clean. So I put them on and to my shock and awe, they fit! Woot! Happy dance for me.

So after I texted her a picture of myself wearing the pants (we never did decide whether they were capri or cropped, but I should not wear them either), I spent the day being quite satisfied with myself that I could get these jeans on and zip them up, even though I had the impression of the seam on my leg for about an hour after I mercifully took them off at the end of the day. Whew!

On Thursday I wore stretchy pants because a girl's gotta breathe once in a while.

On Friday, I went out for my 9 mile run, and around mile 4 I caught myself thinking, "ugh, I have really gotten fat."

Hold on a minute. What?!?

Luckily, I caught this temporary moment of insanity before it turned into full-blown fat talk, because that is just bananas. So like the good wellness coach that I am, I asked myself what was making me feel fat. 

And after a little soul-searching, I realized that I feel "fat" because my stomach isn't in the best shape it could be. Whew that was close! Here I was being all mean to myself when actually, I'm just a little soft in the middle. But the rest of my life is so hard!

Fat talk is something we all do: women, men, and kids too. Girls as young as 5 are known now to go on diets, and young boys compare muscles on elementary school playgrounds. And, it doesn't change as we get older.

"Feeling fat," usually isn't about being fat. Research shows that "fat" is a word commonly used to describe any feeling of unhappiness that can't be named. When we're off, we're "fat." 

Often, we don't even see ourselves accurately. This video from the Dove Real Beauty campaign shows just how different our own perceptions of ourselves can be from how others see us.

I know why I was feeling fat last week - I've been traveling, socializing, and beer sampling a little more often than usual, and its catching up with me. Literally stopping in my tracks during Mile 4 and pinpointing where that feeling was coming from helped me see that. I'm glad I was in-tune enough with myself to stop the fat talk before it turned into something really crazy.

Like capri pants.

If you're fat talking, here's how you can stop:

1. Become aware of your fat talk, and if you don't think you can, then ask a kind and trusted friend to make you aware of it. When you catch yourself, acknowledge it and apologize to yourself.

2. Become aware of the physical things your body can do, and the physical aspects of your body that you like. Make a list and post it in a prominent place so you see it frequently.

3.  For every negative thing you say to yourself, list three positive. They don't have to be about your physical self. You have a brain, too!

Get out there and get healthy....even if you felt fat yesterday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Power Hour: Advanced Food Prep Made Simple

I've updated this post because I keep finding myself sending it around to people, but it needs some more oomph. So, if you think you've already read this one, read it again!

I hear this a lot: "Sure, it would be awesome if I could reach into my bag and pull out a healthy snack on the go! And when the elves who also clean my house while I sleep and fold all of my laundry get around to putting said snacks into said bag, I will definitely be all over that."

Sound like you? Well guess what, you DO have the time. You know how long it takes to get snacks and lunches ready for the next week? About as long as it takes to look at your friend's cousin's wedding pictures on Facebook. Uh huh. Busted.

Now look - this is what I call my Power Hour: the 60 minutes or so I spend on the weekend chopping fruit and veggies, putting oatmeal into little bags, counting out almonds, and generally getting my you-know-what together because come Monday morning, everything gets started whether I am ready or not. The Power Hour makes sure that 3:30 on Thursday is just as healthy as 7:00 on Monday. 

Yes, this takes organization and work. But once you get a little routine going, it takes less of that. And, even if it didn't get easier, you're worth the trouble so turn on some HGTV and get to work! 

Here's just a sample of what your Power Hour could look like this weekend:

  • Put a boneless turkey breast or chicken in the oven to bake (350 degrees for about an hour, depending on what you're cooking). 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), chop 'em up! Then...

  • Chop bell peppers, 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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fuel and Cool: How to Make Your Own Sports Drink
Sports drinks like ... um ... a couple that end in "ade" are popular on soccer fields, at race water stations, and unfortunately, in kids lunchboxes. But, at about 300 calories a bottle and including ingredients like flame retardants, they aren't exactly the healthiest thing to toss back after a workout. Yes, we do need to replenish our bodies with liquids and electrolytes after a tough workout or a long run, but there are clean and natural ways to do it without all the sugar and chemicals.

The whole point of energy drinks is to replace the sodium and potassium that we lose when we sweat. Its important that we do this so we don't get muscle cramps or get dehydrated, and so we have enough energy for our next workout. Some foods that are naturally high in sodium and potassium, and therefore great options for a real-food alternative to sports drinks, are:

Potassium and Sodium-Rich Foods 
  • yogurt
  • orange juice
  • bananas
  • raisins
  • potatoes
  • pretzels
  • kiwi
  • iron-fortified cereal and milk
To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself without clothes before and after an hour of exercise and note the difference. Each pound lost is about  700-1,000 mg sodium, and you can easily replace those losses with one of the snacks listed above. If you want to have a sports drink to accomplish that, keep in mind that most sports drinks are simply water, sugar, and salt. Remember, the goal of companies that make miracle gels and potions is to to sell them to you, not necessarily make you healthier.

Workout recovery is as simple as diluting some orange juice with water and eating a banana, or creating this recipe from Web MD:

Homemade Sports Drink

  • 1 quart (950 mL) water
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) table salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 g) salt substitute (potassium-based), such as Lite Salt or Morton Salt Substitute
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) sugar
It's not neon colored, but it'll get the job done.

The key to pre and post-workout nutrition is to keep it real: real foods and water are what athletes relied on before the wonders of food technology, and they are still our best bet for a sustainably healthy life. Get out there and get healthy today, even if you don't sweat neon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I'm Too Old for This $#^%: Metabolism and Aging

Okay, I'm not actually old. But when I turn 37 in June, I will be the oldest I have ever been! And while age is just a number and we're only as old as we feel...let me tell you my friends, I am feeling old.

Mostly because its come to my attention in the past six months or so that as I approach my 40s, everything that I have heard about aging and metabolism, all of those things that I know and understand but have doggedly assumed would not actually happen to moi, are in fact happening.

It's taking my body longer to snap back into shape after a vacation. I'm having to work a lot harder at maintaining my weight, much less trying to shave off a few pounds when I want to. And, I am starting to see wrinkles on my face! The wrinkles I could actually not care much less about. But the waistline is another story.

Is middle-aged weight gain inevitable? Is it something we have to accept? Well, as in most things the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Hopefully not my middle.

But yes, we do lose muscle cells as we age. And yes, those muscle cells do get tired and less efficient. That's why strength training is important at any age, but especially as we age.

But does our metabolism slow down as we age? Yes and no. Metabolism is determined by how effective our bodies are at burning calories. And since we lose muscle cells as we age, and more muscle means more calorie burning, we often see a decrease in our calorie-burning potential because of that decreased muscle. Not necessarily age.

But you know, when it comes to a slower metabolism, I'm not all that concerned with the "why?" as with the "how do I fix this?"

The answer is what you probably think I am going to say: keep building muscle! 

What this means for me is a few things:

1. Stop expecting to be able to fudge my calories on the weekend or on vacation and then snap back into shape a week later. That rubber band has lost its spring. 

2. Keep workouts focused on building muscle, not burning calories. Include strength training - challenging strength training - in your workout no matter how old you are.

3. Watch this video frequently and laugh about the whole stupid thing!

Wherever you are in the aging process, no matter how springy your rubber band is, and even if you are just getting started in this health thing, just get out there and get healthy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Got a cold? This Immunity Blasting Juice made me a believer!

It's good, I promise.
I am a juicing skeptic. Its not so much that I don't believe in the power of juicing because I do. I just believe more strongly in the power of chewing. I call it the Chew Factor: that human need to, well, CHEW things periodically throughout the day. The few times that I have tried to replace actual meals with liquid calories, I end up cranky and frustrated. Slurping down 300 calories simply whets my appetite for more. No, I want to chew, and I want to do it a lot.  You can read more about the Chew Factor here:

But, my friend Joyous Health convinced me that juicing has its place in the world of immunity-building, and explained to me that she uses juices for their therapeutic benefits. When we're sick or getting sick, that fast infusion of nutrients in liquid form gets into our blood stream faster so it can get to work on making us better. That made sense to me, and I remembered her advice about a month ago when I felt a cold coming on. I had 13 miles to run the next day so I really wanted to be in top form. So I got to Googling and found a recipe that sounded like I could actually swallow it.

And dang it if I didn't feel better. I was seriously surprised! I woke up the next day to drastically diminished symptoms and made another batch to squash it for good. I began to feel even better, and my 13 mile run was cold-free. I made a superstitious third dose of it to replace the energy I had burned while running, and I never did get that cold.

A few weeks later, I got a cold while out of town. I made the juice when I came home, and began to feel better.  Sure, there was likely a placebo effect at play, but it made me a believer in the power of juicing when my immune system is compromised.

Juices are healthy, but they still contain calories. This recipe is about 250 calories. Yes, I entered it into MyFitnessPal and logged it, because it had to count as a snack. Just be aware of that when you consider juicing - healthy food has calories too.

Okay, here's the recipe. You will need a juicer.

Immunity Blaster
2 carrots
2 oranges, peeled
1 ounce lemon juice
4 cloves of garlic. I started with two and worked my way up!

Put them all into the juicer and belly up!

If you don't have a juicer, look for a juice bar near you or head to your local Earth Fare. They'll juice whatever you buy in the produce department!

Get out there and get healthy today with a blast of immunity!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Is it Time to Eat? Listening to Hunger Cues for Weight Success
Hunger: it's a tricky thing! Striking that balance and eating the "just right" amount of food is one of the most challenging parts of eating. You'd think that, as evolved humans, we would have mastered feeding ourselves by now. But no, we all struggle with figuring out what, how much, and when to eat.

I cringe when I hear people say that a diet plan worked for them because they "never feel hungry." If they are never hungry, how do they know when to eat?

And I wipe away a tear when someone tells me that they hardly eat because they never get hungry. Their mind/body connection is so severed that their body has completely given up trying to communicate and gone into survival mode by slowing their metabolism down to a crawl to compensate for the lack of fuel. That is just a damn shame.

Then we have the flip side: allowing ourselves to get so hungry that we'll eat anything in sight. As a chronic "go go go" gal, I used to fall victim to this one a lot. I would stall on eating, trying to hold out until my next meal because I was counting calories, and enter my house a starved maniac at 5:45 PM. Then I'd eat an entire meal's worth of calories while I was preparing dinner, and sit down no longer feeling hungry but eating a meal anyway because I had just prepared it. That's just plain stupid.

So over time, a few valuable lessons about eating managed to get through my thick skull:

1. My body will tell me when it needs food, and I need to respond even if it's not "time to eat."

2. Not having healthy food prepped ahead of time to eat when I get hungry is a bad, bad situation.

3. Eating food actually helps me lose and maintain weight, and not eating food keeps me fat. Or "fat," whichever applies at the time.

And then over some more time, I actually started implementing these lessons into my life! The result: I more easily manage my weight when I respond to hunger signals, and I feel annoyed and irritable and "fat" when I don't. That happened enough times in a row to convince my brain that the first plan is better and we should just stick to that.

Hunger is our body's way of trying to be our partner in health. It's saying, "hey, I could use some more food." Instead of pushing it away, its our job to respond by giving it some food. Actual food, not processed junk posing as food. But that's another soapbox for another day.

Today, the trick is listening for that signal and answering back. If its been a long time since you have felt hungry, that signal may be a whisper. Hunger should feel like a definite rumble in your stomach. Not quite burning, but distinct. When that feeling strikes, its time for part two: eating food.

Success happens here when you have taken the time to prepare a snack or meal just for this kind of situation. An example might be some raw almonds and a sliced apple. Or, some unflavored yogurt with a chopped up peach and some walnuts mixed in. Maybe a chopped bell pepper and some cherry tomatoes with hummus. Whatever. Just have it handy and eat it. Then when the feeling hits again in a couple of hours, do it again. 

I know, its not quite that simple. Waiting to get hungry can be scary, and sometimes we really aren't sure if we're hungry. If you haven't felt hungry in a long time, start eating breakfast. You should feel hungry again in a few hours. That's not a signal that eating breakfast is bad because it makes you hungry. That's a signal that eating breakfast is good because it makes you hungry! And being hungry means that your body is burning fuel, not storing it. That's a good thing.

Decoding (and sometimes, getting to) hunger can be tricky work, and developing a trusting relationship between you and your hunger cues can be difficult. If you feel like you need help, seek a Certified Wellness Coach. It just so happens that I am one. How convenient! A coach can guide you through the process of becoming a partner with your body again. How nice!

Get out there and get healthy today...even - and especially - when you get hungry.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Baskets Healthy Heather Style

I have a very distinct memory of a childhood Easter spent eating jelly beans and chocolate cream eggs until I was sick. My sister and I would take inventory of our Easter haul (lots of jelly beans, chocolate kisses, peanut butter eggs, and those terrible malt chocolate eggs), digging our fingers into the green plastic grass to find the little bits of sugar that had escaped us. We would sneak it into church and munch on it all day. She would always make her candy last at least a week or more. Mine was gone in a day. I had absolutely no self-control when it came to candy, which is part of the reason I am sugar-free now. I know my limits, and life is too short to spend my time fighting them.

Now I have my own two kids, one of which is completely oblivious to holidays and their associated candy, and one who is all too aware and has already listed out everything he hopes to find on Sunday morning. But as a mother who knows well the affect of all that sugar, I have the responsibility of striking a balance between the two.

Chocolate is not taboo in my house, but it does come with a rule: it must be good chocolate. If I'm going to give my kids sweets, its going to be a real treat, something they can learn to appreciate. So, yes, there will be candy on Easter morning. But instead of loading up your kids with jelly beans, peanut butter eggs, and (shudder) that horrible travesty of food technology, Dippin' Sticks, give these sugar-free ideas a try. They'll last a lot longer than the sugar rush that will drive you crazy by 10:00 am.

If you fill eggs and hide them around the house why not fill them with...
  • pennies and other small change (and if you are really pious, they can put it in the collection plate at church!)
  • temporary tattoos
  • stickers  
  • confetti 
  • balloons
If you want to give your kids a sweet treat, how about...
  • Annie's Homegrown Chocolate Chipper granola bars
  • Their favorite fruit in a fun way - freeze dried is always good for a laugh!
  • A small high-quality chocolate bunny. Its never too early to teach the value of good chocolate!
If you want to give a gift but don't want a bunch of dollar-bin stuff cluttering up your house, maybe try...
  • seed packets and kid-sized gardening tools
  • punching balloons
  • art supplies and a new sketch pad (always a hit at my house!)
  • coupons for trips to their favorite playground, museum, or time spent playing a video game. Minecraft, anyone?
Easter is a beautiful holiday, but I'd rather spend it admiring my children as they play and laugh together, not sending people to time out because all the candy I gave them turned them into little monsters. I can't say my house will be a candy-free zone on Sunday morning, but I'm looking forward to the Easter bunny filling our baskets with more substance than sugar.

Get out there and get healthy this weekend...even if that means your kids don't have the same Easter morning that you did (they'll thank you later).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sunbutter Sandwiches

I'm always on the lookout for new ways to get nutritious food into my kids, and this week its been Sunbutter sandwiches! I discovered it when dropping my son off at daycare and seeing that another parent had jotted down a note that their child had a "sunbutter" sandwich in their lunch and that it was allergen-free. Since so many kids are allergic to nuts, peanut butter is a no-no at many schools. 

I got to Googling, and there it was: sunflower seed butter! It was pricey at $6 for a jar about the size of a jar of peanut butter but I was so curious that I bought it anyway. Visions of my children happily eating something new (and finally be able to make pb&j...or sb&j, rather....sandwiches again was a blessed relief).

The verdict: I love it! My older son loves it. And thinks its hilarious for some reason. The baby is skeptical and hasn't tried it yet. But, sunbutter and banana sandwiches have become my go-to pre-Insanity workout snack.
Sunbutter is actually a brand name product, but you can find other sunflower seed butters online. The only downside to Sunbutter is that there is added sugar. I bought it because I was too impatient to order anything, but I have ordered some organic sunflower seed butter that doesn't have added sugar and will let you know what I think when it comes in!

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. They are also rich in magnesium and selenium. 

Have you tried sunflower seed butter? Do you recommend any particular brands? Share your experiences and recipes in a comment!

Get out there and get healthy today...with a sunbutter sandwich and an Insanity workout. :)

Friday, February 22, 2013

10 Calorie-Free Celebration Ideas

You can celebrate without the cake!
I'm always on the prowl for great resources to share with friends and clients that might help with achieving their health goals. Usually, a quick search online brings up a hefty bundle of inspiration, info, and great ideas that I wish I had thought of first. But lately my clients have been throwing a few curve balls, and I'm coming up short. So, after searching high and low for the just-right list of ideas for celebrating a birthday without indulging in a lot of calories, I decided that maybe I just needed to create it myself! 

A few people in my life are coming up on the big 5-0. A milestone for sure! But, as they are aging and their metabolisms are slowing down, managing weight is a priority so indulging in a big calorie-fest that will just create more work later isn't looking like a super-fun idea. So I present 10 ways to celebrate your birthday without taking three steps back in your wellness plan. In fact, some of them are a step forward!

1. Pamper yourself with spa treatments. The woman's go-to solution for the daily grind, right? 

2. Walk, bike, or run a significant number. When I turned 36, I ran a total of 36 miles during the week of my birthday. If your age is a number more like 50, focus on the decades rather than the years! Walk a mile for every decade of your life!

3. Buy that thing you've been wanting forever. Those shoes, that pretty sweater, the bracelet that reminds you of your vacation to a special destination...get it! I am thrifty to a fault, so to spend money on myself a huge indulgence. But when I finally do treat myself to something, I treasure it. Find your treasure.

4. Write a thank-you letter to yourself. Many times we focus on our own inadequacies, our shortcomings, and our regrets. How often do we celebrate the wonderful things we do for ourselves? When we reach a milestone birthday, its a great opportunity to reflect on the positive decisions we have made in our lives to get us to that point. So say thanks to yourself!

5. Write a thank-you letter to someone else. You didn't make it to 50 on your own. Let the people who have supported and helped you become such an awesome individual know how much you appreciate them!

6. Make a vision board. I celebrate every birthday with a vision board! Take time to daydream about the next year, five years, or decade ahead and bring that bucket list into focus with a powerful visual tool. For ideas and help, click here.

7. Wave your hands in the air like you just don't care. Go dancing! Not only will you burn calories, dancing helps us stay young!   

8. Become a mentor or volunteer for a cause. What is your passion? What can you pay forward? Ask yourself how you can celebrate your own life by helping others improve theirs. We reap what we sow. Plant a seed and start a legacy!

9.  Spend time with people who make you laugh. Laughter is a proven mood-booster and is great for our health. Take in a comedy show, watch a funny movie, or call a friend you can always laugh with. 

10. Learn something new. Hey, you may be a wise owl but you still have a lot of life ahead of you! That photography class you always wanted to take? Sign up. The weekend pottery group your friend keeps inviting you to? Go! Learn to dance, learn to homebrew, learn to sew...stretch your brain to new places and make the next year even better.

Okay, so you might still want to go out for a rich meal and deal with the calories later. And that is okay, too! Those occasional splurges are good for us when in a healthy context and balanced with other sustainable habits. Congratulations on whatever you are celebrating! I hope these ideas inspire you to find even more ways to keep your joyous times healthy and positive. 

Get out there and get healthy...even if you eat a big piece of cake anyway. :)