Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thanks, Hurricane Irene, for the Unexpected Frig Makeover!

As a health coach, one of my favorite roles is helping clients with a Frig + Pantry Makeover!

Makes sense, right? Girls love makeovers.  Every once in a while you just need one.  It is amazing what a new lipstick, fun pair of shoes, or a cute new haircut does for us. We feel better. Prettier. Lighter. Refreshed. Ready to take on the world.  Am I right, or what?

Believe it or not, the same is true for our pantries. And our refrigerators.

When you think about your kitchen, after a while, you have no idea what is in there.

You come home from work one day.  You open the pantry, peer in, look around, and say ,"I have nothing good to eat". You walk over to the refrigerator, open the door, and stand there. You close the door. You open a cabinet and grab an opened bag of Doritos and munch away. It's not what you wanted. It doesn't hit the spot. And you feel yucky and gross - and thirsty! - afterwards. It was completely unsatisfying. You suddenly realize you did the same thing yesterday…only the Dorito bag was full then! You sigh.

In the same way you need retail therapy to turn your world around sometimes, your poor little frig and pantry need help. They are crying out for it. They need a makeover. But, where, oh where, do you even begin?

Lucky for you, there are health coaches out there, people like me, who get totally jazzed about helping people with organizing, sorting, and restocking their kitchens. I know. It's scary. Most people would rather do just about anything else than clean and organize. It’s true.

I have to confess though, I love it. I find it completely gratifying to review, reduce, and restock a frig and pantry in no time at all. (Plus, it is always more fun to clean and sort and organize someone else's stuff than our own, yes?)

Most people don't have time to assess and reassess their kitchen. Life is busy. Time is short. It can feel like an overwhelming task to take on yourself. Makes total sense.

Yet, it can be an important part of setting yourself up for success in the kitchen. When your home is stocked with healthy food and treats for food prep, cooking, baking and snacking, you are positioning yourself for success around healthy eating, losing weight, having more energy...whatever your goals may be!  Right there - that is more than half the battle!

Typically, in a Frig + Pantry Makeover, a health coach helps you to: clean out the frig and cabinet clutter, figure out what foods work best for you, navigate the confusing world of label-reading, create your healthy food shopping list, and then shop away! The goal is to leave you feeling completely confident that you can stock and shop for healthy foods for yourself going forward. 

So you don't find yourself eating half-opened bags of Doritos when hunger pangs strike.

As luck would have it, thanks to Hurricane Irene, I had to do my OWN Refrigerator Makeover this week!  After 5 days without any electricity, I felt that the food in my frig was no longer safe to eat so I threw it out.

All of it.

Even the condiments.

My frig was sad and empty. 

It felt like such a waste of food, but I tried to dig deep and realize that the Universe wanted me to start over with a clean slate.  A new start.  The chance to feel better. Prettier. Lighter. Refreshed.

I scrubbed that baby down, made my healthy shopping list, and headed down to the store. 

For less than $100 , I restocked with lots of basic fruits and veggies, and some of my favorite healthy snacks like organic grapes, raw almond butter, Wholly Guacamole, and Fage greek yogurt.

Here is my new, happy, stocked frig, full of nutritious goodies!

While it was a bit dramatic for a Frig Makeover, and completely unexpected, it felt good to start fresh.

For a full list of products that I used to restock my frig, drop me a note on my Maine Healthy Life Coach Facebook page. I would love to hear from you!

Just so you know, in a normal situation, all of the good stuff stays in the frig and only the bad, processed, nutritionally-deprived stuff gets thrown out.  Don't worry!  Typically it is a much more manageable – and affordable - process!  Ultimately, it is the client - not the coach - who decides what foods are kept or tossed. 
If you would like my help with your own Frig + Pantry Makeover, in the privacy of your own kitchen, send me a private message here!
(By the way, my new MHLC website is now under construction and is coming soon – so stay tuned!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Surprising Way to Reduce Sugar Cravings

Much to my own surprise, I have discovered a new way to reduce sugar cravings. Best of all, it is simple, it is free, and it only takes about 15 minutes a day. Anyone can do it, no matter your age, lifestyle, or health condition. You don’t need any equipment and you can do it anywhere. All it requires is a few minutes of uninterrupted time in a quiet space. Care to venture a guess? 

It’s meditation.

Yep!  Meditation.

I know meditation can sound intimidating.  If you aren't familiar with it, you may hear the word “meditation” and envision a bunch of Zen Buddhist monks sitting on the ground harmoniously chanting “om”.  Or, you may think of something vague and New Agey or as something  you do to reach “Nirvana” (and I don’t mean the grunge rock band).  Well, meditation certainly can be all of these things, but in short, it is simply breathing.  Sitting quietly and breathing.  Breathing in, breathing out. Letting thoughts come and go in your head and not attaching yourself to any of them.  Just letting yourself sit in stillness and peace.

In fact, if you practice yoga, you already meditate. 

What?!  One of my favorite yoga instructors, Baron Baptiste, describes yoga as “meditation in motion”.  In fact, yoga actually originated in India as a practice designed to rid the body of excess energy and to calm the mind in preparation for meditation itself.  One of the key principles of yoga is breathing.  Most of us think that achieving the asanas, the yoga poses, is the focus of our yoga practice, but it is actually the breath that supercedes the poses.  It is the breath that matters most.

The breath can be many things – cleansing, nourishing, detoxifying, and calming.  It can also reduce cravings by helping the body to rid itself of excess anxiety, energy and tension.  It is incredibly surprising how simply stopping and resting your restless, active “monkey mind” for a few minutes each day can help you become centered and less apt to reach for sugar or starchy foods to calm yourself in times of stress.  By simply breathing, you can calm and change your internal energy.  It is quite a powerful and easy way to help yourself eliminate cravings.

Okay, I know what you might be thinking.  “That sounds great and all, but there is NO WAY that I will be able to sit still and meditate for one minute, let alone 5, 10 or even 15 minutes without my mind wandering off.”  You are so right.  At first, you might find your mind does have a tendency to wander off quite often, and that is perfectly okay.  You don’t need to fight it.  You don’t need to judge yourself.  Meditation is not about doing it “right” or “correctly”.  It is about just doing it. 

So, here is the deal:  When you catch yourself thinking about your to-do list or doing your laundry or whatever else, just gently bring your attention back to your breath by focus on breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.  Like anything else, it takes practice and repetition to focus your mind and to let yourself sit patiently in silence.  And, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

To meditate, simply sit on the floor cross-legged, sit on a cushion, sit upright in a chair, or even lie down.  It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that you have contact with the ground in some fashion (to literally ground you), and that you are relaxed.  Some days will feel easier than others.  Some days it will feel effortless to quiet your mind, and other days a little harder. You simply need to accept where your body is on any particular day, and do your best to stay present. Stay in the moment.  Stay open to how you are feeling.  The result for this gift of quieting your mind is that you will move more calmly and steadily throughout your day, without the need to reach for sweets or sugar to alleviate your excess energy.

My wish for you is that you challenge yourself to start meditating.  Just a few minutes each day can make a big difference.  I hope you just try it a few times, so you can feel the magic of your own inner transformation.  Spoil yourself with the loving gift of watching yourself transform day by day into a calmer, more centered being.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Letting It All Hang Out

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about authenticity. You know, all that stuff about "being yourself".  Finding that happy balance between showing that you know what you are talking about and not having a clue. Being somewhat vulnerable. Showing your flaws.  In other words...letting it all hang out.

Why are we usually so afraid to let the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves be seen? Why do we think that we alone are the only one with faults?  Why do we think that people even care?  People are so busy with the hustle and bustle of their own lives that they hardly have time to notice our messy parts, let alone their own. It's funny when you think about it.  We are afraid of letting our broken parts be seen, but this is exactly what helps people to know us better.  It builds trust. It builds loyalty. It creates interest. It sets you free.

My dear friend Catherine recently started a blog called Subtle Fire and I so admire her.  Not only for her smarts, but for her bare-boned approach to telling it like it is.  For showing how she views life through her own unique lens.  Her blog is so raw and fresh and honest and engaging.  She is writing with a truly authentic voice. She's a rock star.

I have always struggled with being the "good girl" and doing what I am "supposed" to do in life.  I have always wanted to please my parents and make them proud. I didn't realize until I was in my 30s that you can be your messy, broken, lovely self, and still people will be proud of you.  In fact, people are typically even MORE proud of you to show the less-than-perfect side of yourself because it takes courage. And from my prior blogs, you know how much I love courage.

My closest friend in high school Michelle taught me one of the most helpful concepts in navigating relationships, now and in the past. She said, "You like someone because. You love them although." You like people for certain qualities about who they are, but in order to truly love them, you care about them even though they (fill in the blank - drive you nuts sometimes, hurt you on occasion, show you their messy get the picture.)  Thinking this way allows people you love to be messy - and still be loved. Conversely, it allows you to do the same thing. 

There is freedom in knowing that you can truly be your authentic self - you can make mistakes, you can show your "shadow" self, you can be flawed - and you can still be loved.  Should it surprise me that it took me over 30 years to figure this out?  Such a simple concept, and yet not such an easy one to fully embrace. Better late than never, right?

Although it is scary sometimes, there is no sense in hiding parts of yourself.  By accepting them and acknowledging them, you are giving other people permission to do the same for themselves. This is such a gift to them - and a gift to yourself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Tasty Substitutes for Potato Chips

This time of year there are summer cookouts galore.  Lots of burgers and dogs, baked beans and potato salad…and potato chips. Chips and dips and more chips!

There is something about potato chips that is so appealing. The combo of crunch, salt, and carbs can be hard to resist.  If you are concerned about the calories, never fear!  If you love chips, you can still eat them!  Just grab a handful and eat them in moderation. A handful here and there won't hurt. 

If you find yourself in the potato chip aisle with a big bag of chips in hand, flip over the bag and check out the ingredients. You want to buy chips with only 3 ingredients: Potatoes, oil, and salt - that’s it!  If there are more ingredients listed, put that bag back and check out some other brands.  Personally, I think Cape Cod are best– they come in a reduced fat version too…

On the other hand, if it is too difficult to put a lid on your chip consumption (we all have those days!), there are some tasty substitutes that you can try. They may not have the exact salty-greasy-crunch that you are craving, but here are 5 healthier substitutes that you can bring to your next cookout – even if all of them are not your standard BBQ fare…

1.   Pop Chips - Hands down, Pop Chips are #1. Made out of potatoes, they are popped, not fried. They have 6 varieties - something for everyone - including Original, BBQ, Sour Cream & Onion, Cheddar, Sea Salt & Vinegar, and Paremesan & Garlic.

2.   Snapea Crisps – Watch out, they can be addictive, but at least you are eating real pea pods that contain fiber and nutrients like iron and calcium. You can find them at most grocery stores, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, or order them online.

3.    Terra Chips – Be careful here because sometimes these can be as caloric as regular potato chips, but they pack one serving of vegetables into a good handful. They have a potato chip version (Terra Kettles), but I prefer the combo Mediterranean bag of beet, turnip, and sweet potato chips. Delicious!

4.    Guiltless Gourmet Blue Corn Tortilla Chips – The Blue Corn tortilla chips are made from stone ground organic blue corn, expeller pressed canola/safflower/sunflower oil, salt, and a little lime. All of their 7 flavors are made with organic corn.

5.    Kale Chips – Kale Chips are a low calorie nutritious snack. You can make them yourself easy-peasy. They are great for parties and a good conversation topic. They are simply kale, a little olive or coconut oil, and sea salt all mixed up and spread out on a baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes (ovens vary so watch them to make sure they don’t burn.)  I eat them by the handful - and often for breakfast!!

Try something new for your next backyard cookout and treat your friends and family to some new crunchy snacks this summer. I hope you enjoy them!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Amazing What a Difference a Year Makes

I just went back and re-read this blog, start to finish, and all I have to say is that it is amazing what a difference a year makes.  Since I started this blog in January 2010, I have grown tremendously as a person with regard to my healthy living. I have worked through my sugar sensitivity issues, eliminated wheat and gluten, cut down on dairy, and still remain alcohol-free and almost totally caffeine-free (with the exception of green tea and an occasional decaf almond milk latte). How have I done it?  I hate to give away my secrets, but...there really is no secret.  It wasn't rocket science.  There was no Wizard of Oz. It was all by doing small things on a consistent basis until it became a habit.  Until it became part of who I am and how I define myself.

As I wrote in former blogs, transitioning to new habits can be scary and uncomfortable.  As people, we don't like to change. We like the familiar and the known.  It was completely overwhelming to me for years to think that I could ever give up sugar.  I would have rather shaved my head than to give up sugar! Are you kidding me? But, I found that it was not as hard as I thought it would be because I created a support system around me as I detoxed from sugar, and then just tried to live in the present and take one day at a time. Baby steps and a willingness to try to step out of my comfort zone and approach new ways of doing things.

I am still in the process of changing. I am still trying to instill new habits that match my deepest beliefs and desires that I know help me to live my "best" life. I am still trying to be more vulnerable and "put myself out there" because living life authentically is really important to me. Showing my flaws and all. Looking at the "dark side" of myself and truly embracing it. 

This week our assignment at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition was to listen to a lecture by Debbie Ford, author of "The Dark Side of Light Chasers" and a number of other fantastic books. Her whole philosophy is based around integrating the "dark" parts of yourself that you don't like - the parts we usually call flaws - with the "lighter" and more positive side of yourself so that you are a whole person. Debbie advocates reframing your "flaws" into qualities that can actually be helpful in certain situations in your life. She believes that you should go out into the world with a Big Vision for yourself that allows you to thrive and succeed even with all of your character "flaws" and fears in tow. In short, she would say to "be who you are, scared out of your wits, and do it anyway!" Her work inspired me years ago when I first added "The Dark Side of Light Chasers" to my home library - and it still inspires me today. I am a work in progress - and I hope to always be!

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Sweet Treat to Eat - Crispy Quinoa Flake Cookies

Since I have given up refined sugar, I am always on the lookout for sweet treats to quell my desire for something sweet and comforting. My newest concoction is a more organic take on a recipe I saw on the back of a box of Quinoa Flakes.  I can't take full credit for the recipe, I must say - but I did tweak it to make it completely gluten-free and free of all refined sugars.

Now, for all of you sugar-free die-hards, this recipe does include honey, but I used RAW honey instead.  Raw honey is uncooked, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey that is actually an alkaline-forming food which is much better for your digestive system.  I also substituted Stevia-in-the-Raw where it called for brown sugar. If you are craving nuts or chocolate, you can throw in some dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (or even better, cacao nibs) or your favorite chopped nuts. These cookies are the crispiest, sweetest things I have tasted in a while.  They are not devoid of calories, as they still contain some rich ingredients, but they are intended to be a treat.  A treat that is free from processed white flour as well as the brown and white sugars typically found in cookie recipes. Even Michael Pollan would approve of these tasty homemade goodies!

Crispy Quinoa Flake Cookies
(gluten-free and refined sugar-free)

1/2 cup raw honey
1 cup Stevia-in-the-Raw
1 stick of organic butter or Earth Balance
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 cup rice flour
3/4 cup quinoa flakes
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips, or cacao nibs (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat honey, stevia, butter/Earth Balance, peanut butter, and vanilla in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, using a wisk or spoon, combine the rice flour, quinoa flakes, baking soda, and salt. Slowly pour the rice flour mixture into the wet mixture. Mix it all together by hand or beater.  Add nuts or dark chocolate chips, if you wish. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-13 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool for 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet so the cookies can harden.  Yields approximately 2 1/2 dozen.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Latest Adventure...The Institute for Integrative Nutrition

The past few months I have been immersed in my latest adventure: the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN).  IIN is a top-notch holistic nutrition school that provides training around how to become a Health Coach.

Earlier this spring, I created a new holistic wellness company called Maine Healthy Life Coach that will bring together my training as a Holistic Nutrition Consultant, ACE Certified Fitness Instructor, Certified Life Coach, and soon to become Holistic Health Coach. 

My goal is to support busy people in reaching their health and life goals by providing pure and simple ways to improve their food and lifestyle, at a pace that is comfortable to them. 

Stay tuned for more info about the official launch of Maine Healthy Life Coach!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sweet Summertime Salsa & Black Bean and Rice Non-Taco Salad

This week we celebrated Cinqo de Mayo, but with a healthy twist!  I love Mexican food, but I wanted to lighten it up - both in heat and in calories - so we made two recipes that were just delish.  My husband likes spicy food, but I prefer it milder. Since I was the one cooking, you can guess how the recipes ended up! You can adjust the heat to suit your personal taste. Enjoy these recipes made with fresh and healthy ingredients all throughtout the spring and summer!

Sweet Summertime Salsa
2 nectarines or peaches, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon stevia
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)

In a medium bowl, gently mix together ingredients.  Let stand at least 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors combine.  Serve this sweet and crunchy salsa with organic blue or yellow corn tortilla chips.

Black Bean and Rice Non-Taco Salad
1 cup canned organic black beans, rinsed
1 cup brown rice
20 organic blue or yellow corn tortilla chips
1/4 cup organic cheddar, shredded
Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
A few romaine leaves, chopped
Dollup of organic sour cream or Wholly Guacamole (optional)

Heat black beans and rice. Crunch up tortilla chips on plate or large flat-bottomed bowl. Spoon beans and rice onto chip pieces.  Add cheddar so it melts a little.  Add tomatoes, romaine, and a bit of sour cream or guacamole, if desired, on top. This salad is fresh and clean, and extremely mild.  Add spices or jalapeno for kick.  Serves 2. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Maine Maple Syrup, Please!

I know, I know....It's been a while since I have posted.  The truth is that I have been knee-deep in studying for my certification as a Group Fitness Instructor through ACE.  I am enrolled in a 12-week program and will take my certification exam in May.  I also have formed a new company called Maine Healthy Life Coach and I am working on the brand-new website for the site that will offer personalized programs and services around nutrition, fitness, and wellness. Stay tuned for more.  Can't wait!

Every year the state of Maine has is known as Maine Maple Sunday.  Late in March, after the maple trees have been tapped and the sap flows and has been collected, the maple sugar shacks (as they are known), open their doors to the public and let people watch maple syrup being made in front of their eyes.

The mills also sell large jugs of fresh 100% pure maple syrup and they offer tasty treats like maple syrup ice cream sundaes (yes, in the middle of winter, I know!), maple candy, maple donuts, you name it. It is maple syrup heaven!  Even though I don't eat the sweet stuff anymore, it is still fun to watch the syrup being made.  It takes many hours for the maple tree sap to be boiled down to a thicker consistency and produce the maple syrup as we know it.

If you do enjoy the sweet stuff, now you will have even more reason to indulge because 100% pure maple syrup actually has a lot of redeeming qualities. It is known to help prevent inflammatory diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease because it contains polyphenols which act as antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body.  Maple syrup is also an anti-ager and helps to fight illness due to its zinc and manganese content.  It also is less likely to cause indigestion, gas and bloating than processed sweeteners. 

However, a note of caution. Make sure that you purchase 100% pure maple syrup though, not a substitute.  We all love Aunt Jemima, but her syrup is far from pure! Pure maple syrup is definitely more expensive (about $8-10), but it is worth every penny and a little goes a long way.  The fake syrups often contain high fructose corn syrup and other highly processed sweeteners so try to stay away from them.  The next time you are at the store, grab a bottle of real maple syrup for your pantry.  In addition to using 100% maple syrup on your pancakes or french toast, add some to your morning steel-cut oatmeal, marinades for meat, and drizzle a little syrup onto a cut-up banana for a sweet but tasty afternoon snack.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust...Gluten What??

Lately, in addition to living a sugar-free life, I have also tried to reduce the amount of wheat and gluten in my diet. What the heck is gluten? Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye.  (Sometimes oats are contaminated with gluten as well because they are processed in the same plants as wheat so people with gluten-free diets avoid them, even though oats in and of themselves are gluten-free.)  For some people, gluten can cause a sensitivity or allery that can express itself in many ways, including digestive issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, acid reflux), headaches, inability to concentrate (brain fog), skin rashes, fatigue, and so on.  A full-out gluten allergy is called celiac disease and it is a very serious condition that requires medical attention and a diet completely restriced of gluten in any form.  Celiac disease is just like any other food allergy and can be life-threatening depending on the severity.  For those like me who don't have a serious condition like celiac disease, gluten intolerance can cause minor digestive discomfort and occasional skin rashes.  For that reason, I just simply prefer to avoid wheat as much as possible.

Sometimes people hear that they can't eat wheat-based products on a gluten-free diet and they think that they have NOTHING good left to eat.  No bread, no pasta, no Thanksgiving stuffing, no down-home comfort food.  What!  Give that up?  Are you crazy??!  Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth!  There are many, many other grains that you can eat, some of which may sound familiar and some of which may sound new to you but are "ancient grains" that have been eaten for centuries.  Best of all, most of them can be found in the natural foods section of your local neighborhood grocery store (or at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods), such as:  amaranth, arrowroot, beans, buckwheat (kasha), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, soy, tapioca (cassava), and teff.  Notice that corn, rice, and potatoes are listed among these grains! I told you not to worry. There are comfort foods galore! 

Although they may sound unfamiliar to you, challenge yourself and give some of these ancient grains a try.  For example, pasta made from quinoa, rice, or corn can be delicious.  In fact, quinoa, brown rice, and fresh corn (especially in the summer) are staples of my diet.  When I am in the mood to bake, I have found some alternative sources of grains and seeds that are gluten-free, and tasty.  Some of my favorites are flaxseed meal, almond flour, and cornmeal.  Bob's Red Mill makes a number of gluten-free flours that you can find at your grocery store with other gluten-free foods.

Yesterday, I was craving pizza so I tried out a new gluten-free pizza crust recipe using Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal.  (It also happens to be low carb, good for those following Atkins or the South Beach Diet.)  Having never baked with flaxseed meal before I wondered whether it would be flavorless or hard or otherwise inedible, but it was actually quite flavorful and delicious.  Even my husband thought so!


1 1/2 c flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon sugar substitute (I used stevia - 1 Tbl)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 whole eggs
1/2 c water

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add wet ingredients and mix until well-blended.  Let mixture sit for 5 minutes to thicken.  Put a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and use a knife or rubber spatula to spread out crust in a rectangle to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Bake 13-15 minutes or until cooked through.  (I baked for only 13 minutes because I knew I was going to add ingredients later on in the day and bake it again.  If you want to make the pizza all at once, bake the crust as suggested above, take out of the oven, add your toppings, and put it right back in and bake until the cheese melts.)  Let cool.  Cut into 8 squares.

A few hours later, I added the toppings to one square of crust...Spread a little olive oil on the crust.  Add a tablespoon or two of pesto and 1/2 fresh roma tomato (heat fresh tomato for 30 seconds in the microwave first to soften and then drain liquid).  Sprinke mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake at 425 until cheese melts, browns a bit, and bubbles.  So, so good!

What I love about this recipe is that you can freeze the excess squares of crust. I put the extra pieces of crust in a freezer-safe container with layers of parchment paper between them and popped them in the freezer for later use.

With a small amount of effort, you can find that a whole new world of grains and flours are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed, and they are all waiting for you in your local grocery store.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Like a Box of Chocolates

It’s a new year. Time to reflect on the old year and ring in the new. Time pack the holidays away and start planning for the year ahead. Time to set goals, get organized, clean out my closets, and get a clear head. Time to start anew. It’s time to assess the past, figure out what works and what doesn’t, and change direction if needed.

It’s funny because growing up I always thought that changing direction would somehow make me appear inconsistent, unpredictable, and unstable. I valued consistency and reliability. Consistency equaled credibility and that equaled your reputation, right? After all, how could you be perceived as reliable and consistent when you were always changing directions?

My friends in high school always joked that I was “fickle” when it came to boys, because I always found someone new to interest me. I wasn’t a “high school sweetheart” kind of gal, but I found that starting my sophomore year of college I became a serial monogamist and dated guys for a year at a time. I valued that stability and consistency when it came to men, and, fortunately, I still do.

When it comes to hair, however, that is surely not the case! I have changed my hair cut and color a zillion times over the years. From very short and platinum blonde right after law school to shoulder-length and darker brown when I got married. From bangs to no bangs. Highlights to lowlights. Blonde to reddish to dirty-dishwasher brown. I recently heard that the average woman changes her hairstyles over 100 times in her lifetime. I certainly can believe that, based on my personal experience alone! I am always changing it up. I have always blamed my need for hairdo “variety” on my Gemini nature. There are two sides to me, and I seem to vacillate between the two. For the most part, I have felt that frequent cut-and-colors keep my life – or at least my hair – interesting and current. Not to mention, unlike some women who have had the same hairstyle (or a variation thereof) for the past 10 years, I have never found a hairstyle that is timeless for me. I have wondered at times, though, if my constantly-changing look has ever impacted my credibility or reliability or consistency. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get! One of my close friends recently told me that she admired the fact that I had the courage to change my hairstyle so often. Courage, I wish! It is purely a result of dissatisfaction with my current ‘do, and the need to find a new one. Pronto.

As you can see, over the years, I have struggled with a need to change and a need to be consistent. My personal need for variety balanced against being reliable, familiar, and comforting for others. The older I get, the more I realize that I need to embrace the desire to change myself, to grow and evolve, and to not be afraid of appearing inconsistent.

Oprah often quotes Maya Angelou’s insightful observation that “when you know better, you do better”. Not only are you free to change, but you SHOULD change because it means you have experienced something, learned from it, and you are applying your newly-found knowledge to what lies before you. As we women well know, much to our dismay, certain parts of our bodies change physically as we age – we get wrinkles, sun spots, and saggy butts, grey hair, glasses, and droopy boobs. So, if that is the case, why can’t the rest of us change, too, based on the knowledge we have gained?

I am one of those people who like to start off a new year with new goals, a clear head, and an organized basement. Somehow having an orderly home translates to an orderly mind. When the cobwebs in my closets are cleaned out, so are the cobwebs of my mind. It sounds funny, but it is true for me. I am not into “resolutions”, but I am into order. I find myself feeling that I need to regroup to become a bit more grounded and a bit more clear with my intentions. If there is any time to do it, this is the time of year to fully embrace change, and I am trying to do that as much as I can.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nuts for Tasty Holiday Snacks

It's been a while since I have blogged, but the past few months have just flown by.  It is hard to believe that I am less than 2 weeks away from living a sugar-free life for the past 6 months.  Remember, this is not something that I EVER thought I could do!  Sugar was a constant part of my life, and I looked forward to eating my sugary treats almost daily.  Just to remind you, I do still eat fruit (including unsweetened dried fruit, whole fruits, and 100% fruit juice in small quantities) and I use stevia to sweeten some of my new favorite comfort foods:  my plain greek yogurt, and cinnamon toast (which I make with Ezekiel raisin bread or regular sprouted grain bread spread with a little Earth Balance "butter" and sprinkled with cinnamon and stevia - it's delicious!)  I do still find a way to get the "sweetness" into my diet, believe me!!

So, it was around Halloween when I got curious as to whether or not my body would react strongly to eating a little sugar.  I was concerned that my sugar cravings would be triggered and the next thing you would know I would be downing a bag of candy corn in one sitting.  (Halloween candy is so hard to resist, is it not?)  I ate a few Tootsie Rolls and some Sweet Tarts and I have to say that my body didn't freak out like I thought it would. No sugar cravings were triggered - whew, was I relieved!  I had read that if you eliminate refined sugar from your diet that after 3 months your sugar cravings do not become triggered when you reintroduce it.  I guess that is true for me.  The funny thing though was that those once-beloved Tootsie Rolls didn't taste as good as I thought they would, and I realized that my life wasn't lacking much by not having Tootsie Rolls in it.

Now that the holidays are here, I am trying to concoct some tasty holiday snacks that do not involve sugar. And, I have discovered that I am nuts about nuts!  Both pecans and almonds have a sweetness to them that is brought out when heated or roasted.  Nuts are an incredibly nutritious snack.  They often get a bad rap because they have a lot of fat, but it is the monounsaturated "good" fat that our body needs.  They also have a lot of fiber which makes them very satisfying and full of staying-power.  A handful or two at at time is all you need.  Here are two of my latest creations:

Spiced Pecans
1 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 Tbl Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 Tsp Tabasco Sauce
3/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Tsp Paprika
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
3 Cups Pecan Halves
1 Tbl Coarse Salt (sea salt, kosher salt)
Preheat oven to 325.  Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted.  Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the salt.  Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes to blend.  Add the nuts and stir to completely coat.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally.  Toss the hot nuts with the salt and let cool to room temperature on another baking sheet (to prevent sticking).  Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Cinnamon-Stevia Toasted Almonds
3 Cups Sliced Unsalted Almonds
Ground Cinnamon
Heat oven to 325.  Put the almonds in a large ziplock bag or mixing bowl.  Shake, shake, shake the cinnamon into the bag/bowl.  Give it at least 10 shakes.  (Use as much or as little as you would like, but more is better!) Add the stevia.  (I use truvia so I added about 5-6 packets of stevia).  Stir.  Spread on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, shaking occasionally.  Let cool to room temperature on another baking sheet (to prevent sticking).  Store in an airtight container and enjoy alone, in oatmeal, or in your yogurt.

Do you have any good recipes for healthy holiday snacks?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying a happy, healthy holiday season!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lisa's Body Blast Workout

Short on time? Want to maximize your workout? I love working out, but so many workouts that you see in magazines or videos take 30-45 minutes, and some days I just don’t have the time. I wanted an effective, full-body workout that, got my heart rate up, made me sweat, and took less than 20 minutes. I had a hard time finding one out there, so I created my own!

Each of these 4 exercises works multiple muscle groups at once which burns more calories and takes less time. As always, perform these exercises at your own risk. You will want to be sure to warm up with a quick 5 minute walk or jog in place, do each movement correctly, and ultimately decide whether or not you are capable of performing the exercise/workout without sustaining injury. Listen to and honor your own body.

If you are comfortable with the directions and you have warmed up, then you are ready to go! Do this circuit once if you are new to working out or getting back into it after a break, and twice if you exercise regularly.

(Arms, Chest, Back)
Place your hands on a stair two or three up a staircase (or use an aerobic step platform) about 2-3 feet in front of you, about shoulder-width apart. Straighten your body so that you are standing on your toes and making a straight line between your shoulders and toes. Slowly lower yourself until your chest is about to touch the stair. Hold for one second and then push back up with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep the stomach tight and the body straight to avoid any lower back pain. Inhale as you lower the body, exhale as you press up. Start with 10 if it has been a while since you have done push-ups. Otherwise, aim for 20.

(Thighs, Hips, Buns, Calves)
This exercise is great because you are holding a static position for a certain period of time, rather than working through an entire range of motion. Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall and lean back against it. Slide down until your knees are at about 90-degree angles. Hold your position, keeping your abs contracted. The longer you sit, your legs may start to shake and you will feel the burn. This is your goal! Try to sit as long as you can. To add intensity, hold weights or squeeze a ball between the knees. Sit for 20-60 seconds at a time.

(Hamstrings, Buns)
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet resting on the floor, with your feet hips-width apart. Keep your toes facing forward and your ankles directly below your knees. Stretch your arms straight beside your torso with palms facing downward. Press through your heels and lift your hips off the mat. Contract your hamstrings, and squeeze your buns together. Pause at the top of the bridge position and then release your hips back to the floor. To add intensity, instead of resting your feet on the floor, rest them on a chair. Start with 10 and work up to 20.

(Abdominals, Arms, Legs, Back, Buns)
Get into the same position you were in for the Incline Push-Up, only have both your hands and feet on the floor, instead of hands on a chair. Keep your shoulders are over the wrists and stand on your toes, holding your abs, buns, and leg muscles tight so that the whole body is in one straight line. Try not to let your belly sag towards the floor. Keep your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 10 seconds and work up to 30 seconds.

Do this circuit up to 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. As you do these exercises over time, challenge yourself to do more Push-ups or Hamstring Bridges or to hold your Wall Sit or Yoga Plank for a few seconds longer with each set. Remember that you want to find that happy medium where you are causing muscle fatigue so that you can build muscle, but you are not pushing so hard that you injure yourself. I hope you have a great workout!

The advice and information contained on this website may not be appropriate for all individuals. Therefore, the author is not responsible for any injuries or health conditions that may result from advice, opinions, and programs represented in this blog. The information in this blog is the opinions of the author and are not a replacement for medical advice. You should consult a physician before starting this or any diet or exercise program.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shedding Excess Weight

“Sometimes people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

This has always been one of my favorite quotes. I have no idea who said it, but it always rings true for me. A concept that I have been thinking about a lot lately is friendship. Specifically, the changing tides of friendships.

It has always been interesting to me how friendships start, grow, blossom, and recede based on where we are in our lives. When we are young and in school, we are at the same place in our lives as our friends and we have many commonalities that support close friendships. As we grow up and maybe go off to college, get married, have kids, move away, or get involved in the community, we find that friends make appearances in our lives, for just a moment, for a short time, or for a long while. It is hard to predict how long or for what reason a friendship will last. I have found over the years that despite my best efforts, I can never really guess what path a friendship will take.

I have heard that “friends come into your life for a reason, a season, or for life.” Sometimes, those friends you think are “life-long” friends turn out to be friends just for a “season”, or even just for a “reason”. And, sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised when a friend we thought might just be a friend for a “reason” or a “season” emerges as a friend for “life”. We always perceive our good friends to be constants in our lives; but, realistically, life often gets in the way, and our friendships ebb and flow, regardless of everyone’s best intentions. Sometimes, friendships start to fade away, or at least take more of a back seat than usual, and it can make us sad, or even mad, especially when there hasn’t been an abrupt falling out. I know that I can feel sort of lost when my friendships shift unpredictably.

At the same time, shifts in friendships can also sometimes become blessings in disguise. As we change and grow as we live our lives, sometimes we aren’t even aware that our needs are changing. Sometimes, without conscious awareness, we are making space for new and different friends to come into our lives. In the past, I have had friends who I have liked to go to the movies with, go out to the bars with, and other friends with whom I have had great heart-to-heart talks. One friend typically cannot fulfill all of these roles for me, so depending on where I have been in my life, different people have filled these roles for different reasons.

There are times when I have sensed that something is “off” and I can’t quite put a finger on it.  I have learned from past experience that often this means that I am about to experience some kind of a shift. I can’t always identify it, but there is a restlessness inside me. I can tell that my internal energy is changing, but I am not sure how or why. It feels like an opening is being created, but I don’t know who or what will walk through it. This can be a scary time as it is a period of uncertainty. Sometimes I feel like a ship in the fog, and I can tell that my internal ballast is not upright.

At times it feels like I am walking around carrying the extra weight of this shift in energy without seeing clearly what is on the horizon. It feels like a heavy burden. It’s feels similar to what it feels like when we are carrying extra weight in our bodies. It doesn’t feel particularly good. It feels sort of icky.

I have learned over the years that in order for my emotional or physical weight to decrease, I have to be open to things shifting and changing in my life. Sometimes the shift involves work, and sometimes it involves play. But, often, it involves and impacts friendships.

We have to trust and believe that when we feel ebbs and flows in our relationships and friendships, or in our own needs, hearts or bodies, that there is a shift occurring that frees us from whatever is holding us back now. It is a shift that helps with shedding the excess weight of holding on to a perception, a feeling, or a friendship, that may be slipping away. Even though it is the last possible thing I want to do at that moment, I need to be courageous (my favorite word!) and to be open to newness, to something “different”, to a surprising observation, to growing internally, to people traveling into or out of my life. Easier said than done, I know.

I often want to clutch to the way things are, or even the way that I think they are, rather than just let time, circumstance, and friendships unfold in the way they are meant to do. This requires surrendering to the present, and to the way things are, rather than remembering how things were in the past or hoping for things to be different in the future. Staying present can be challenging, but living wholly in the present is a gift to ourselves that helps us to become “lighter” in thought, heart, and body. When we live in the present, we are not weighed down by the past or the future. We are just willing to accept what is, and surrender to it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fully Embracing Food...and Your Body

I recently read “Women Food and God” by Geneen Roth, a long-time overeating and body image guru, and author of many books including “When Food is Love” and “Breaking Free from Emotional Eating”. I subscribe to her e-mail club and yesterday received a message that included a concept that I finally understood before I gave up sugar 43 days ago.

She said that a Zen master once told a friend of hers who was trying to quit smoking that, “only when you give it to yourself completely can you completely give it up.” The same is true for food – or, in my case, sugar. I have heard this concept over the years and I never really could understand how this could be possible. I mean, aren’t you trying to reduce something in your life, not wrap your arms around it and embrace it as if it were a good thing? I always felt like if I “accepted” or “surrendered” to my love of sugar that it would consume me and I would be out of control eating sugar hand over fist. If I said it was “okay” to eat sugar, then wasn’t I just giving myself permission to eat and eat and eat? And then, wouldn’t I be doing exactly what I DIDN’T want to be doing? No, that concept never seemed to work for me. I thought it would backfire for sure.

Lots of self-help and body-image experts talk about how you have to fully accept your body, flab and all, before you can truly change it. Again, this made no sense to me. If I “accepted” my body in the state it was in with my too-big thighs, love handles, and stomach pooch, wouldn’t that just mean I was acquiescing to the state my body was in? I hated the way my body looked! Why on earth would I want to embrace it? I didn’t want to “approve” it, I wanted to change it!

Well, fortunately for me, perspectives can change over time. Here is how I finally “got” this principle. Knowing that I was going to attempt to give up sugar for good, back in June, I allowed myself 2 weeks of an unfettered consumption of sugary foods – ice cream, crème brulee, doughnuts, candy bars, you name it. Foods that I never even really ate on a regular basis (candy bars, really?), but decided to eat just because I could. I went nuts! I truly ate lots and lots of sugary foods. I gained a pound or two in 14 days, and I mentally accepted that this would happen. What was so ironic was that even though my body gained weight, emotionally and mentally, I could feel the “weight” of judging myself every time I ate sugar just lift away. It drifted upward like a balloon pulling a big, dead weight off of me. I could feel my self-inflicted judgment and tension just melt away. I felt so much lighter and freer, and for the first time in my life, I did not judge myself for eating whatever I wanted. It was an incredible feeling, and I let myself fully feel it, knowing that I had put a cap on my feeding frenzy of just 2 weeks. I knew that 2 weeks was long enough to really feel like I could just indulge, but not too long that I would do serious damage to myself. Amazingly, it was the best gift I could have ever given myself because after that…everything changed.

Seriously, everything changed.

I realized that I was always free to eat sugar anytime I wanted because I had finally given myself full permission and now I know what that felt like. I realized that every time I ate that sugar, I made a choice to do so.

When you truly feel free to do something, that means you also have the full freedom to choose to do it or NOT do it. You are not forcing your own actions against your will or judgment. It is totally and completely your choice. The exercise of free will at work. Having the freedom to choose to eat sugar in copious amounts also gave me the freedom to decide not to eat sugar at all. I know that it was MY decision that I made willingly, not a knee-jerk reaction to the never-ending war in my head between The Dictator which spoke to me in a judgmental voice (“Do NOT eat that sugar!”) and The Wild Child which always had a rebellious voice (“You MUST eat sugar now!”) (Besides, I know from experience that in that war, the rebellious side always wins. Read The Four-Day Win by Harvard-educated Martha Beck for more about that struggle.) When I decided to give up sugar the day I got back from my vacation on June 20th, I knew it was my full, free, beautiful, unfettered choice. And, I truly think that is why I have been able to do it.

I now know that every day I am making a conscious choice to live sugar-free. In fact, now that I have been doing it a while, I don’t even have to remind myself that it is a choice. It has become a habit. It is now a part of the fabric of my being, and part of who I am. Remarkably, I now do it without much effort. It’s kind of like brushing your teeth. There is no judgment around it. It’s just part of what you do every day because you know it keeps your teeth and your body healthy. End of story.

I never ever would have thought that I would get to a place where I don’t feel confined in the battle between The Dictator and The Wild Child in my head. It has completely surprised me. And, if I hadn’t given myself full rein to eat sugar – if I hadn’t “given myself completely” to it , just as the Zen master instructed, I know I would not ever have been able to “completely give it up”.