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”.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Healthy & Refreshing Summer Refreshments

If you are like me, you need cool treats to make it through the hot summer. Since I have given up sugar and I am not indulging in traditional summer refreshments like lemonade or sweetened iced tea, I have tried to come up with some healthy ways to keep myself refreshed.  Here are a few ways I like to wet my whistle:

1. Water with a Twist – I aim to drink 8 8-oz glasses of water a day. Water gives me energy and keeps cells hydrated. On a daily basis, though, water can get rather boring, so to liven it up, I cut up lemons and limes and keep them in a container in the frig, then I just throw a few slices into my stainless steel water bottle and off I go.

2. Crystal Light On the Go Pure Fitness – Not too long ago, Crystal Light introduced a new product called Crystal Light On the Go Pure Fitness with no sugar and no preservatives - just vitamins, electrolytes and stevia. It comes as a powdered mix in single servings in 3 flavors – strawberry-kiwi, grape, and lemon. I just add one packet to my 32-oz stainless steel water bottle. I rotate between the flavors for variety. I find that if I use less water, the concoction is too sweet for me, so I use more water than called for. It is another fun way to make water exciting without using added sugar.

3. Pom Pomegranate-Blueberry Juice Pops – I LOVE making little mini-popsicles out of Pom Pomegranate-Blueberry juice. I have a 4-popsicle mold that I just pour the juice into and freeze. Because I eat fruit and 100% fruit juice (in limited quantities) as a part of my new sugar-free life, this is a perfect summer after-dinner treat that feels decadent but that is full of antioxidants and very good for you (and only about 35 calories per pop).

4. Light Coconut Milk Pops – Same as above, only I use light coconut milk. These pops are a little harder than those made with juice and have a few more calories (about 60 per pop) but coconut milk contains a form of healthy fat and is quite tasty once you get used to it.  You can also find cartons of coconut milk in the natural foods section of your local grocery store near the soy milk and almond milk as well.

5. Iced Green Tea with Lemon – On the way to work every day, I drink about 2 cups of green tea with a squirt of lemon. Green tea is chock full of antioxidants and is soooo good for you.  Using lemon enhances the tannins in the tea for better absorption by the body. (Avoid using milk in your green tea or black tea as it has the opposite effect and reduces the absorption of tannins.)  However, it is way too hot outside to drink green tea, so lately I have been making batches of it and keeping it in the frig. Very good for you and very refreshing with a tiny kick of caffeine perfect for the morning.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Favorite Snacks

It's Day 21 of not eating sugar, and I have to say that I feel so great, both physically and mentally, having eliminated sugar from my diet.  It has been surprisingly easy to do.  My energy is high and consistent.  My digestive system is flowing more smoothly.  I seem to roll with the punches more easily, too, from an emotional standpoint.  It is truly amazing!  I will say that stevia has been my saving grace.  It's the only additive that I have used in my plain greek yogurt and plain kefir.  Because it is not sugar and it does not impact my blood sugar, I am okay with using it.  That's the only natural "sweetener" I will use though.  I even made it through a Fourth of July cookout eating just a hamburger in a whole wheat bun, salad, and fruit.  I avoided the baked beans, potato salad and dessert.  I thought it would be difficult to do, but it was actually pretty easy.

To still enjoy sweetness in my diet, however, I have been eating a lot of fruit, perfectly timed because summer offers so many delicious varieties - cherries, red grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, nectarines, plums, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi fruit, and, of course, I always have apples, bananas, and oranges on hand.  In fact, just today I picked a huge bag of blueberries from our backyard and last week I picked raspberries growing right outside our house as well.  Fruit makes a great snack, but it is important to pair it with protein and/or a healthy fat so that the glycemic load is reduced.  Eating carbs is fine, but it is best to eat them with protein or healthy fat so your body is provided with more sustained energy, and it won't increase your blood sugar too much.  It also keeps you more full.  Here are some of my favorite snacks, all of which are under 200 calories:

If I want something SWEET:
Pineappple (1 cup fresh)
Whole natural, raw almonds (14)

If I want something CREAMY:
Plain Greek yogurt (1 cup)
Blueberries (1 cup)
Stevia packet (1/2)

If I want something CRUNCHY:
Air-popped plain popcorn (6 cups)
Olive-oil spritzer/spray (10 pumps)  (I use my own spritzer filled with EVOO)
Sea salt (pinch)

If I want something HEARTY:
Black cherries (14)
Cottage cheese (made with 2% milk)(small individual size)

If I want something CRISP:
Braeburn Apple (small)
Cheddar cheese (reduced-fat if possible)(1 slice)

If I want something COLD:
Frozen red grapes (1 cup) (so refreshing in the summer!  Just wash & freeze.)
Frozen peas (1/2 cup) (with no sauce - you can eat them right out of the bag)

Just thinking about all of these healthy, yummy snacks makes me hungry!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 11 of My Sugar-Free Life

Today is Day 11 of my Sugar-Free Life.  I have been amazed that the past week and a half of sugar detox have not been nearly as bad as I thought they would be.  For a full week, I did have a rash of tiny bumps on my back and a few itchy patches on my arms, but all traces of the rash were completely gone by Day 7.  I got through the physical part of detox without much distress, and I was thrilled.  I think it helped that years ago I removed many hidden sugars from my diet, and now I just had to eliminate the Big Stuff (like bowls of ice cream).  What has amazed me the most from a physical standpoint is that I do not feel nearly as hungry as I used to.  My family can attest that I used to be ravenous every day, and my eating schedule was very regular.  My body operated like a clock.  I needed to eat every 2-3 hours, without fail.  Over the past week or so, however, I haven't had that biologically-driven "I need to eat now!" feeling.  It is amazing.  I now know that I am hungry when my stomach growls, which is exactly the sign that our bodies give us when it is time to eat.

Having come through the physical side of sugar detox relatively intact, I did notice that on Days 7 and 8, I felt a little emotional detoxing taking place.  Feeling down is natural for human beings, but it is an unusual feeling for me because when you are sugar-sensitive and eating sugar on a daily basis, you are keeping your body feeling good. You literally are consuming sugar which causes your body to produce neurotransmitters like serotonin to elevate your mood.  Sugar creates a subtle "high", kind of like how running or intense exercise creates a "runner's high".  Sugar masked the feelings underneath. Naturally, when you remove a mask, you experience more emotional ups and downs. Sugar isn't there to prop you up or to mask the feelings.  I was aware that this emotional downtime might emerge as a part of my detox, but I am proud that I got through it in healthy ways through use of exercise, an infra-red sauna, and talking it out.  When I keep in mind that emotions are fleeting, it is easier to not turn to sugar for comfort because I know that those "down" feelings are only temporary and my body will right itself in no time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sugar Indulgence & Sugar Detox

I am back from an amazing summer vacation and I am now completely focused on giving up sugar.  Interestingly, in the time between my last blog and this one, I decided to do an experiment.  I knew that I wanted to give up sugar 100% cold turkey when I returned from vacation so I opted to allow myself to eat as much sugar as I wanted over a two-week period. Let me tell you, I ate TONS of sugar.  I completely indulged in candy bars, ice cream, doughnuts, creme brulee, the list goes on and on.  It was no holds barred.  Seriously.  Yes, I did gain a few pounds, and I knew that I probably would.  But, what I value even more from the experience is that it was the first time in my adult life that I can recall ever letting myself have whatever sugar I wanted without judging myself.  In the past, I have always said, "Oh, you shouldn't be eating that" and immediately felt guilt after I put any sugary treat in my mouth.  This time, I said, "Eat up!  Enjoy every minute of this sugar and eat as much as you want!"  I felt unleashed.  I felt unrestricted.  I didn't feel guilty afterwards for one second because I knew that my over-sugared tirade was limited to a two-week period.  It was an incredibly freeing experience.  And, you know what else?  I discovered that about 90% of the sugar I ate did not taste as good as I thought it would.  I learned that very few foods really satisfied my palate.  This was an eye-opening truth for me.  I realized that most of the sugar that I eat does not really live up to my expectations (and, believe me, when it comes to sugared goods, my expectations are quite low!).  The creme brulee was incredible, but it was the only dessert that was totally mouth-watering.  The rest were just average.  This revelation was incredibly important to me because it allowed me to "test" how much I really wanted and needed sugar in my life.  From a psychological standpoint, I don't think I "need" or "want" it as much as I have previously thought. However, I am in the process of detoxing from sugar, so I wasn't sure how my body would react from a biological standpoint.

Just as I promised myself, first day I was home from my trip I began my sugar-free life.  Today is Day 3 of absolutely no sugar, and I am actually doing okay.  I have experienced a few "symptoms" of sugar withdrawal, but they have been maneagable and expected.  The past few days, I have had a small bumpy rash on the back of my neck and my right arm.  I have also had pain on the ball of my left foot.  My foot pain certainly could be due to the fact that I did a lot of hiking on my vacation, but I thought it was interesting that the pain appeared the moment I got home and not while I was away.  I pulled out one of my books on Reflexology to gain some insight.  Reflexology is a therapeutic method of relieving pain by stimulating certain pressure points on the feet.  Different parts of the feet are connected to different organs in the body, and interestingly the parts of my foot that hurt me correlated to my liver and my lymphatic system.  I chuckled to myself, because, of course, those would be the organs involved!  The liver is our body's largest "detox" organ that processes everything we eat before we eliminate it.  The lymphatic system delivers fluids and transports white blood cells (which fight infection and foreign substances) throughout our bodies.  Sugar is considered a foreign substance by our bodies that needs to be heavily processed by the liver before it is eliminated.  (This is why alcoholics often get cirrhosis of the liver - remember, alcohol is sugar and the liver can become over-taxed when it has to process too much sugar.) 

To support myself during this week of Sugar Detox, I have taken my regular vitamins, drank at least 64 ounces of water per day, consumed lots of fruits and vegetables (which contain lots of fiber to help remove the sugar and toxins from my body), eaten a good amount of protein, and tried to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.  I have also added two specific supplements that are widely know to support the body during Sugar Detox:  L-Glutamine, which is an amino acid that helps to burn fatty acids and balance blood sugar levels, and Chromium Picolinate, which works to assist our cells in taking in glucose and releasing energy.  I have been taking the suggested dose of each supplement once a day. (L-Glutamine is taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, and Chromium Picolinate is taken with a meal).  I haven't had any sugar cravings yet this week.  To help with the detox, I have also been eating more fruit than usual.  Fruit contains a natural sugar called fructose which has a negligible effect on blood sugar and can help to ease the transition from my prior sugar-filled life.  However, I will gradually reduce the amount of fruit I am eating as the days go by, and add in more vegetables, protein, whole grains, nuts and seeds instead.  Wish me luck as I continue this Sugar Detox adventure....

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Preparing to be Sugar-Free

Today is the start of my journey of giving up eating sugar.  Hopefully, for a very long while, if not forever, I am going to remove sugar from my diet. Giving up sugar is something that used to be unfathomable to me.  A totally and completely ridiculous idea and utterly impossible to imagine.  Who would have thought I would actually set out to do it?

I definitely consider myself to be "sugar-sensitive" or a "sugar-addict".  My drug of choice throughout my life has been sugar.  Not all foods, just sugar.  Simply put, when I eat sugar, I want more sugar.  I have no "off" button for my sugar appetite.  This has been true for my entire life.  As I think back over the years, I remember going trick-or-treating on Halloween with my sister ever year, filling our pillowcases or plastic orange jack-o-lanterns with candy.  My sister would get home, sort her candy, and eat it sporadically piece by piece over the next three months.  I would get home, sort my candy, and eat it all within a week. If there was any candy in the candy jar at home, it was never sufficient for me to have just 1 or 2 Hershey's Kisses.  I needed to eat a handful, opening one right after the other.  To this day, if I have sweets in the house, in a matter of days, they are gone. Just to be clear, I am not a binge eater.  Binge eating is not my affliction as I am not someone who is driven to eat ALL food.  My affliction is only caused by sugar.

I have managed to keep my weight relatively stable throughout my life, given 10-15 pounds here and there, due to consistent exercise.  I am pretty disciplined about working out 30-45 minutes 5 days a week, although some days and weeks are better than others.  I am not a hard-core workout junkie, but I work out hard enough and frequently enough to counter some of that sugar.  I also have been careful to remove from my diet foods with hidden sugars like certain brands of yogurt, spagetti sauce, soup, and also "white" bread, rice, crackers, and so on.  I never wanted to waste my calories on hidden sugars or white flour, as I wanted to  allocate my calories to sweet foods I really enjoyed like ice cream (my favorite!), pizza, M&Ms, and candy.  Since I wanted to leave room in my diet to eat "sweet things" every day, I certainly wasn't going to blow my "sweet" calorie allotment on boring white rice or white bread!

I first realized I am sugar-sensitive when a number of years ago, I read an amazing book by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons called "Potatoes Not Prozac".  Dr. DeMaisons explains that some people have a biochemistry that predisposes them to reach for sugar when their energy is low, they are stressed or depressed, or they are unhappy.  It is much like the same biochemistry that causes alcoholics to reach for alcohol in times of stress.  In fact, alcohol breaks down in the body into simple sugar, so alcoholics and sugar-addicts are very similar on a biochemical level.  We crave sugar because sugar is one way to increase our "feel-good chemicals" and neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine, and beta-endorphins. For people who may have naturally low levels of these neurotransmitters, our bodies send a signal that we want sugar. The problem is that when people who are sugar-sensitive eat some sugar, we want more sugar.  Then, a few hours later, when our body has processed that sugar and our blood sugar has dropped, we want more sugar.  It is a never-ending cycle - and it is not fun.

Most people are not sugar-sensitive. This means that when people like my sister eat a piece of Halloween candy, they fully enjoy the candy they have eaten and they are satisfied.  They don't need any more.  One piece will do.  They have had enough.  However, when sugar-sensitive people eat sugar, our bodies scream for more sugar, and as a result, we have a hard time not eating the entire bag of candy in one sitting.

As someone who truly enjoys sweet foods and at times physically feel my body NEEDS sugar, it is hard to face the fact that I am sugar-sensitive, because the only treatment for this malady is to conmpletely remove the sugar from one's diet.  I have been aware for the past 10 years or so that I have needed to eliminate sugar and I have had my head in the sand for many of those years. The last thing I want to do is give up sugar completely.  I wish that I could just "reduce" my sugar consumption and just eat a little here or there, but, it doesn't work that way.  Sugar-sensitive people can't just have "a little" sugar, or eat it "now and then".  Just like an alcoholic, even the smallest amount of the offending substance can compel us to want more.  This is not a character flaw - it is simply a biochemical difference from other people.  It is not to be judged.  It's just the way it is.  It's a bummer, but it is my reality.

Knowing all of this, I set an intention to not eat sugar starting shortly after my 40th birthday. Because sugar is a drug (and, believe it or not, it is likely it would NOT be approved by the FDA if it were released today due to it's dramatic physical and emotional effect on our bodies), sometimes, our bodies go through a type of "withdrawal" when we stop eating sugar all of a sudden.  It is not as dramatic as an alcoholic going through detox, certainly, but you still can suffer from headaches, irritability, crankiness, skin eruptions, fatigue, anger, and depression.  As a result, most people, including myself, recommend easing sugar consumption down over a few weeks before stopping altogether.  This allows the body to adapt a bit as you start to wean off sugar.  So, as I am going on vacation next week, and it was my birthday this week, I have given myself 2 weeks to engage in sugar consumption before going completely 100% cold turkey.  While it is a little scary, I know I am on the right track of this very new, exciting, daunting, and exhilerating challenge to myself to dramatically improve my health and my mental well-being.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stay Focused on Today

Stay present.  Live in the present.  Focus on this moment.  Just for today....

We are always encouraged to value the moment we are presently experiencing.  We are cautioned to not live in the past or think too far ahead to the future.  Why is that?  Certainly we want to understand our past to learn how we got to where we are now, and surely we should plan for the future so we are ready for when it arrives.  Of course, to some degree, it is healthy and responsible to reflect on our past, and plan for the future.  But, when we find that we spend more of the time thinking about the past or worrying about the future than we are soaking in today, we are missing out on our own lives.  We aren't truly living in the now. 

So, what does that mean?  I remember being amazed the first time I heard that "the present is really all that you have".  Sometimes we forget that the "present" is what becomes yesterday's "past", and tomorrow's present is our "future".   In other words, we can't make any decision that will affect our past or our future that we haven't actually made "today".  It's an obvious concept, yet, it struck me as profound.  In a way, it is freeing to know that if we just stay focused on today, and spend our energy on what we think and do in this exact moment, we are actually creating the past as we would like for it to be, and we can consciously be thinking about how our decisions today will affect us tomorrow and in the future.

How does this concept apply to healthy living and self-care?  We can realize this one critical point:  All that we need to do is just concentrate our energy on making healthy decisions for ourselves today around our food, our drink, our family, our sleep, our relaxation, our work, our play, and our laughter, etc.  We can identify and prioritize the baby steps that we plan to take today.  We don't need to live in the past, worried about the cookies we snarfed down a few days ago, or punish ourselves for not taking better care of ourselves over the past winter.  We don't need to worry about the future and whether we are going to be able to control our sweet tooth before a big presentation or visit with the in-laws.  We just need to focus on this very day and make the best choices we can in this exact moment.  We can let go of the rest.  Isn't that amazing?  Doesn't that feel freeing? 

One of my favorite quotes that Oprah often says is that "When we know better, we do better".  If we now know that we only have to stay present in our lives and make small steps TODAY towards living a healthier life, our goals for healthy living become much less overwhelming and more maneagable.  We only have to think about today.  We can handle today.  We can handle this hour.  We can handle this minute.  We can handle this decision.  We can handle the present.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Baby Steps

Baby steps.  That's all you need to do. Take baby steps.  Having the courage to move outside of your comfort zone and current habits can sound intimidating, but it becomes much more comfortable when we realize that all we have to do is take baby steps.  Change is a process that takes time, and the good news is that no one but us decides how quickly we will progress.  We all want fast results in this day and age.  I know, I like them too!  When we work towards a goal, we need to be seeing the fruits of our labor, or else it can be challenging some days to keep moving forward.  At the same time, there is a lot of FREEDOM in knowing that each step that we take is our own decision and we get to decide how quickly to take it.

Let me give you an example.  I was getting a skin rash from time to time on my hands and feet.  My skin just got red and itched like crazy. I wondered if it was because I might have had a slight intolerance to wheat products, as many people do.  I decided to eliminate wheat from my diet to see if it helped. Instead of depriving myself entirely of bread, crackers, and cookies, for a while, I sought out Food of Life Ezekiel Bread which is sprouted-grain bread, Sesmark rice crackers, Mi-Del gluten-free cookies, and other wheat-free crunchy foods from the natural food section of my neighborhood grocery store.  I merely substituted some of my regular purchases for new, similar foods.  I just tweaked my purchases.  I didn't eliminate an entire food group just because I wanted to approach eating wheat differently.  It wasn't stressful.  I just took a baby step that was moving me in the direction I wanted to go.  It was really easy.  It was a piece of (gluten-free) cake!  Personally, my body feels a lot better without wheat in my diet, but I don't expect everyone to do this, of course.  I was trying to find the "cause" for a negative "effect" that my body was experiencing.  Reducing wheat in my diet definitely helped reduce my skin rashes.

Think about what your body may be saying to you.  Do you eat a lot of sugar?  Do you reach for cookies or candy when you are stressed?  Or are you more of a crunchy-food lover?  Do you go for the chips, crackers, and anything you can munch on?  Whatever the case, consider what food you can tweak in your diet.  Just as a first step.  Instead of eating Cheetos to get that crunch, aim for Santitas tortilla chips with only 3 natural ingredients (corn, oil, and salt).  Eliminate all of the additives and colorings and ingredients that you cannot pronounce in foods like your ice cream and choose Breyer's All Natural Ice Cream with only natural ingredients like sugar, cream, and vanilla.  Don't worry about the calories for now - worry about eating pure, clean, natural foods that aren't processed or full of chemicals.  Instead of eating a sugar-filled jelly or jam on your breakfast toast, try a 100% natural fruit spread. Just start with one food in your diet and think about how you can make it a healthier option.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something new that leads you towards your destination.  Then celebrate that you have taken this baby step.  Each time you eat that food, praise yourself for making a healthy decision - and enjoy every bite!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Courage to Transition

In my last blog, I wrote about the importance of shifting your thoughts about yourself and your body from critical self-talk to only positive thoughts.  Although it may feel silly to consciously "talk to yourself", it is important to be open to CHANGING the way you think and moving yourself in that direction.  One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein, and it completely summarizes the point I am trying to make.  He said that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."  In other words, in order to get different results, we have to change what we are presently doing.  We have to change our behavior, because what we are doing now is not clearly working for us.  I personally believe that the only way to get the results that we seek is to be brave and to have the COURAGE to move outside of what is currently our comfort zone.

Moving outside of your comfort zone.  I know that sounds scary.  It may sound really scary to some.  As human beings, it our nature to resist change.  We don't like to have to do things differently.  We don't like the uncomfortable or the unfamiliar. We are creatures of habit and we like repetition.  Generally speaking, we don't like surprises. We often like learning about new ideas and fresh perspectives, but we often resist changing our behavior to bring those ideas to life (especially if they weren't our own ideas to start with).  Yet,  in order to achieve a healthier body, have more energy, and reduce stress, we have to find the COURAGE to BEHAVE a little differently.  To step outside the comfort zone.

I'll let you in on a little secret.  We actually don't mind new behaviors, once we are used to them.  What we really dislike, and often fear, is the discomfort of TRANSITIONING from a familiar behavior to a new one.  Here's why:  Once we adjust to doing something new and we start making that new behavior our new habit, that new habit becomes comfortable to us.  All of a sudden, it becomes our new repetitive behavior and is now the familiar. 

What sometimes holds us back from is the fear that the transition of going from the old, unhealthy behavior to the new, healthy behavior is just too hard or it will take too much time or effort. We fear letting go of the familiar. We fear not feeling safe.  We fear that we will fail.  We fear we will let ourselves down, or let other people down.  We fear that it will take too much energy.  We naturally think of all of the barriers that keep us from achiveing what we want to achieve.  But, if you imagine yourself as a caterpillar getting ready to enter the coccoon, you know you only need to be there a short period of time before you emerge as a butterfly.  If you think of yourself like a caterpillar, you can be in the right mindset to transition to achieve your goals.  This is why I strongly believe that all you need to be on your way to a healthy body is the COURAGE to just show up and be willing to do it. (Just like the caterpillar.)  And, the best thing I can do as a coach is to help make that transition as comfortable and easy as possible.

In short, if you bring the COURAGE to go through the newness and unfamiliarity of a TRANSITION, and that transition is made as comfortable as possible for you, you will CHANGE and get the results you are seeking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Get the Body You Really Want - Start With Your Thoughts

How do I get the body I really, really want?  This is a question that I have been long asking myself.  Over the years, it has caused me to go on countless diets, follow food plans, eat certain foods, avoid other foods, count calories, and basically emotionally beat myself up.  Like many other women who are constantly dieting, at times I have felt guilt, shame, frustration, and sadness.  I have felt guilty for eating "bad" foods like ice cream (my favorite), cookies, and crackers. I have felt like I haven't had any willpower and questioned why I couldn't follow a simple diet. I always had good intentions and started off well but a week into it I couldn't do it anymore.  I definitely felt like something was wrong with me and that I was failing at this one thing that I had been trying to acheive for years and years and years. Why is that?  I was successful in other areas of my life, so why couldn't I do this?  The more I couldn't do it, the more I wanted to eat.  Why is it that we women  feel like the more that we torture ourselves with guilt and stress and shame, the more we want to eat?

As I became a Life Coach and Nutrition Consultant, I realized that everything I was learning was pointing in the same direction.  When it comes to weight loss and healthy eating, everything always seems to come back to one key concept.  It's not that I didn't have willpower.  It's not that I was a "bad" person for eating "bad" foods.  It's not that I couldn't handle things going on in my life.  It's that I needed a big dose of just one simple, but important thing...Courage.  Courage to step out of my comfort zone when it came to eating - and to stay there.  Courage to create new habits.  Courage to not reach for something sweet when I was stressed, anxious or afraid.  Courage to face the feelings that I was trying to distract myself from.  Courage to stand up for myself like I would stand up for my best friend.  Courage to let myself experience something other than guilt, shame, obsession, or discomfort when I ate. Courage to live in the present and not be defined by the past. Courage to focus on the process, not the outcome.

It all comes down to the COURAGE to change.

Okay, so you may be saying, "I get it.  I get that it is about courage.  But, how do you all of a sudden find the courage?  How do you just decide one day to be courageous?"  That's an excellent question.  I think that what it all comes down to is that you have to have the courage to step out of your comfort zone to THINK and BEHAVE differently.  Because what you intend...becomes your reality.

Let's start with THINK. The one great thing about human minds is that they believe what we tell them.  Completely. Our brains don't distinguish between what is true and what is false when we are talking to ourselves about ourselves.  This is why when you are about to give a big speech, you have probably heard people say to throw your shoulders back and "act as if" you are confident, even if you aren't feeling that way.  "Fake it until you make it."  The reason they say that is because our brains can't distinguish between "acting as if" and really believing it.  Simply put, our brains believe the messages that we play in our heads and takes them ALL as true. So, if you are someone who looks in the mirror and constantly says to yourself "I am fat" or "My thighs are too big" or "I am ugly", unfortunately, our minds trust us and believe what we are saying to ourselves.

However, on the flip side, the good news is that our brains also believe us when we say positive messages to ourselves even if we don't BELIEVE them at the time.  When we say to ourselves "I am beautiful" or "I am attractive" or "I have a strong, healthy body", our brains are listening.  So, the first step to weight loss and getting the body you want is to CHANGE the messages in our brain.  If you find yourself beating yourself up, just stop and immediately say to yourself, "You know, Self, the negative thought  I just had may not be true.  I am actually an attractive person."  You may feel silly doing this because you think you are "lying" to yourself and you don't believe it.  But, it is important to state your message to yourself in the positive. Remember that you are listening to yourself and say "I am beautiful".  If you say "I don't want to be fat", all that our minds hear is the word "fat".  Keep it focused on what you want to achieve.  Why should you do this, especially when you might feel silly or untruthful for saying it?  What I have found to be true is that when you send positive messages to your brain, the Universe automatically will lead you in that direction.  In coaching, we say that you "attract" certain results to yourself because you have put that intention out into the world by thinking it.  Some may be familiar with those who say "what goes around comes around" or know of the recently famous book, "The Secret", but it is all talking about the same concept:  The Principle of Attraction. If you change your thoughts and how you talk to yourself, the rest will follow.  You just have to trust the process.  All it takes is practice and repetition.  Catch yourself every single time you put yourself down and change your internal dialogue so that you are sending loving messages to yourself.  Practice, practice, practice.  Even if you don't believe it yet.  Just do it.

This is the first step.  But, it is an important and critical one.  When you shift the energy in yourself in a positive direction, everything changes. It's a very simple concept, but it takes practice.  Going forward, I will talk more about how Courage = Change, and I will talk more about the BEHAVIOR portion of weight loss.  For now, I will leave you to chew on these THOUGHTS for a while and really digest them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Land of Zzzzzzs

Sleep.  It is so incredibly important.  Yet, so many of us do not get enough of it.  Not only do we spend our days, but we also spend our nights, attached to Blackberries, computers, ipods, televisions, DVDs, iphones, and so on.  We are constantly easy to reach, text, call, e-mail, and instant message.  We are constantly in demand, and we are running on empty. Unlike any other generation before us, we can be contacted 24 hours a day, by anyone, from anywhere. Even if we try to tone it down and turn off the gadgets, the world is never too far from our fingertips.  This constant communication is hurting our sleep patterns, and that, in turn is harming our health.

The perfect amount of sleep that each of us should aim for is 7-8 hours a night.  The most sound sleep comes in surroundings that are cool (but not cold - around 62 degrees), completely dark (even free from the small blue lights of our gadgets and gizmos as they recharge), and totally quiet.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time getting back to sleep, lie in bed and try to quiet your mind with deep, slow breaths.  If 30 minutes have passed and your deep breathing has not gotten you anywhere, get up, read a book or a magazine or have some herbal tea, but try not to over-stimulate your mind. Avoiding computers and TVs can be helpful.  I have noticed that sometimes, if I give into the fact I am having trouble sleeping and just accept it, rather than lie there trying to fight it or be angry about it, I get tired again an hour or so later and climb back into bed.

Our bodies do a lot of work while we are sleeping, particularly between the hours of 11:00 pm to 2:00 am.  Our biorythms change, our cells regenerate, our digestive process prepares us for morning, and we rebuild our immunity.  Getting enough sleep is really critical to good health.  My husband and I need a full 8 hours to operate at our best, even 9.  We love our sleep.  Going to bed consistently around the same time and waking around the same time are best for the body.  Try to consciously aim to get to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends. You might surprise yourself with how much more energy you feel, how much less food you want, and how much more relaxed you approach life when you have had a full night's sleep.  Your mind and your body will thank you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

California Food & Fitness

I just returned from an amazing trip to California.  I spent most of my time in Santa Monica and Palm Springs.  I was excited because I was staying at The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica which is right across from one of the most amazing spas, Exhale Spa, where I attended two of the hardest Core Fusion exercise classes I have ever taken in my life. I literally felt my body being whipped into shape!  I also couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a 90-minute ashtanga yoga class at Bryan Kest's Power Yoga studio right on Santa Monica Boulevard.  I have done his DVDs for years, but to actually be in his studio was incredible.  The calmness of his energy and presence is like no other.

As for food, I was in heaven as organic restaurants were readily available on practically every block.  I ate a few meals at Real Food Daily on Santa Monica Boulevard, which was within walking distance from my hotel.  Much to my surprise, my favorite meal from RFD was called the Real Food Meal consisting of brown rice, steamed kale, marinated seaweed (who knew I would love seaweed so much!), an Asian cole slaw, and steamed vegetables with some delicious peanut sauce.  Mmmm, mmm good!  Twice I also ordered their Sweet Green Juice, which is freshly-juiced cucumber, celery, parsley, and spinach juices with a splash of apple juice (best when ordered with a double-dose of apple juice).  It was a perfect after-yoga replenisher!  I also checked out M Cafe on Melrose Avenue (try their yummy brown-rice-and-veggie burger, The Big Macro) and Urth Caffe on Main Street.
I tried to refrain from doing too much shopping in LA, but it was fun browsing at Lululemon, (a yoga-inspired atheletic apparel store I first discovered in Whistler, British Columbia on my honeymoon a number of years ago), Kitson (a Hollywood go-to boutique on Robertson Avenue), and Lush (a scrumptious skin and body care store).

I was thrilled to discover that my trip renewed my passion for exercising at a level outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself to become The Best Me that I can be, both from a dietary and fitness standpoint.  It was just the jump-start I needed to head into the upcoming Spring and Summer seasons.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time for Spring Cleaning

This weekend, I felt in dire need of a spring cleaning.  Not of my house... of my body.  On Saturday night, I decided to do a quick cleanse that releases the toxins and matter out of your bowels.  I have done this particular cleanse before with positive results.  I used a product called Oxy-Powder, which is basically oxygenated magnesium, with a few other natural ingredients added in.  Magnesium is a natural diuretic, and in fact, is the main ingredient in "milk of magnesia".  It totally cleans out your bowels by pushing the matter out - and, let me tell you, (this might be too much information) but there always is a lot of matter to be pushed out! 

Once my bowels were clean, I wanted to be very thoughtful about what I put back into them again.  The first thing I did was to take 2 probiotic capsules to increase the "good" bacteria in my gut. We all have millions of bacteria in our gut, much of which is considered "good" bacteria that are completely necessary for "eating up" the toxins and waste, and which help with elimination.  The "bad" bacteria in our guts are what multiply when we eat sugar and processed wheat, flour, etc. The goal is to feed your body healthy foods so that you can multiply the "good" bacteria and enable the proper absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream.  The "good" bacteria are also responsible for keeping our immunity high - they are very, very important to our good health.

For breakfast, I ate steel-cut oatmeal (which has lots of fiber) and blueberries (which have lots of antioxidants and vitamins) and a touch of agave nectar (for sweetness). I am a snacker so I had a mid-morning snack of plain greek yogurt  (which has twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt) with 2 tablespoons of sugar-free apricot preserves (100% fruit) and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed (I buy it pre-ground).  I commonly eat greek yogurt for breakfast, but it is good as a snack too.  For lunch, I had a piece of Ezekiel bread (toasted) with a tablespoon of almond butter on top and some green grapes.  My afternoon snack consisted of a banana and a handful of unsalted, mixed nuts.  For dinner, my husband grilled beef tenderloin (which has very low fat) and I made baked crispy kale (so easy - chopped up kale sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt, baked at 300* for 20 minutes, then sprinkled with balsamic vinegar).  Kale is full of B vitamins and fiber, and it gets crispy when it bakes - it's delicious!

I am feeling better and more energetic now that my body has been cleaned out.  I do love that the act of "spring cleaning" makes me more aware and thoughtful of what types of foods I put into my body.  Lately, I am not as concerned with the calorie count, and more concerned with the quality of the foods.  If I listen to my body, it tells me when it is full.  I just have to keep paying attention to it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eating Clean at Home and Away

I can't believe it is April already.  March just blew by.  I went to Florida for a week for work in mid-March, and would you believe that I ate good, nutritious food the entire time.  I always think that when I travel I will have a hard time finding healthy, clean food at airports, hotels, and on the run.  Yet, I think that it was precisely because I was not at home that I deliberately sought out healthy food.   It wasn't hard either.  I found a Publix grocery store in Sarasota for lunch one day where I bought fresh, super-ripe, delicious pineapple slices, hard-boiled eggs, and a spinach salad.  At the JFK airport, I was thrilled to find Cibo Express Gourmet Market where I bought sun-dried tomato hummus and pita, greek yogurt, strawberries and grapes.  Later, I found a Starbucks where I ordered a Strawberry Vivanno Smoothie (which, by the way, has 280 calories, protein AND fruit).  Eating at restaurants was easy too.  We went to a steakhouse and I ordered a nice, small filet served with asparagus and a salad.  I ate lunch at a couple of country clubs as well and just ordered big salads with grilled chicken. 

It reminded me that if I don't have sugar, sweets or junk food around me, I simply don't eat it.  Even at home, my husband and I don't have many unhealthy snacks in our cupboards.  We mostly snack on foods like fruit, yogurt, nuts, dried fruit, and string cheese. We may have some tortilla chips (but only ingredients in them are corn, vegetable oil and salt - we just have to watch portion sizes) to eat with heart-healthy Wholly Guacamole.  Sometimes, we have a homemade chocolate chip cookie or two, but I have noticed that I seem to crave sweets more at home than when I am traveling.  Probably daily stress that we carry around, or maybe due to years and years of having a bowl of ice cream in front of the TV after dinner - a hard habit to break.  I have to say that I don't do that much anymore, fortunately, but I still find myself having sweet cravings from time to time.  I am sure it is because I know that sweets are readily available if I want them that badly.  I know where I can find them at the store and I know it is only a short drive to get there.  When I travel, I am less aware of where sweets lurk.  Even becoming aware of this fact has made a big difference to me.

At home, I am trying to cook and bake more, most recently from The Eat Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno.  (Love her!) Over the weekend, I made her (vegan) protein bars with oats, protein powder, olive oil, canola oil, dark chocolate, flaxseed, and oat bran - so perfect for breakfast!  I also made the homemade applesauce, and I have tabbed about 20 recipes to make in the future. As the weather warms and the days grow longer, I am eager to come home from work and exercise with my husband and then make a nice clean meal to eat together.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Ebb and Flow of Healthy Living

Last month I was in a rut.  Not motivated to work out as hard as usual and not interested in eating much beyond my winter comfort foods (more grains and starchy carbs, less fresh fruit and vegetables).  I so dislike that feeling of being out of sync with my intentions and goals to live healthfully. 

I tend to gravitate to the "all or nothing" approach to life.  My family says that I am like my father in that I am either "on" or "off".  Either going a million miles an hour or lying flat out on the couch and watching TV.  I don't walk the middle ground very well.  It didn't help that I was glued to the 2010 Winter Olympics for almost 3 weeks last month, and thanks to the invention of the DVR, I was able to watch every single evening broadcast on NBC but one.  (Fortunately, I could condense about 3 hours of viewing into about 90 minutes or so.)  I am in such awe of Olympic athletes, but watching them day in and day out apparently wasn't motivating enough for me to get my own body up and moving beyond the occasional hike with my husband or a walk on the treadmill.

However, when the calendar page turned to March, something shifted in me.  I felt more eager to focus more on eating well and working out regularly.  Maybe it is because Spring formally arrives this month (although in Maine, it truly doesn't feel like Spring until May or June) or maybe because I have to go to Florida for work next week and the upcoming trip is making me think of sunshine.  I am not sure, but either way, I am grateful for the shift. 

Sometimes there is no real reason as to why shifts happen or when they appear, but I try to trust that my body was taking care of itself through January and February by needing some "rest" and now my body needs to "move" again.  Observing and respecting the ebb and flow of my energy, desire, motivation, and habits helps me to not fight myself as much when I seem to be less in sync with healthy living.  I try to trust the process and rhythm of my mind and body.  It is hard and frustrating at times, but I try to remember that I need to be gentle with myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Letting Myself "Be"

Ever have those days when you are just in a funk?  When you are just having a "grumpy day"?  Nothing is overtly wrong, but you just don't feel like yourself.  You can't put your finger on the reason for it, but you know that you aren't in your usual state of mind.  When this happens, sometimes, I find myself feeling quiet or withdrawn.  Other times, I just want to not tax my brain too much and let myself rest. 

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned over the years is to simply let myself "be".  This morning, my youngest niece, who is 7, told me on the phone that she was having a "grumpy day".  I told her I was having a grumpy day too.  Then, I said, "You know, it's okay to have a grumpy day every once in a while.  You can let yourself feel grumpy today, and then tomorrow I bet you will feel better." 

Often we fight our natural feelings because we think we need to present a happy face to the world, or that we need to be up and energetic, when we really are feeling everything BUT happy and energetic.  I have found that the more I let myself "be" and not fight the "grumpy" feelings, the faster they dissipate and the less I want to indulge in something sweet or unhealthy.  It's almost like engaging in reverse psychology with myself.  The less I fight feeling the way that I do, the faster my mind and body work through the emotions. 

It took me many years to learn to value this state of just "being".  I am a very active person, with an active mind, always planning and thinking about what I want to accomplish on a daily basis.  I had always thought that just "being"  - and not "doing" anything - was giving in to the negative feelings or somehow acquiescing to them.  Sometimes, I worried that those feelings might stick and not go away if I chose to "accept" them and that I might end up unmotivated, sluggish, and sad. 

Growing up, I had always valued the state of "doing" to make things better.  Taking action to fix the problem.  Seeing a need and filling it.  While it is important not to dwell permanently in the land of "problems" and "grumpy days", it is also key to know that sometimes we just need permission to accept those feelings as they just "be".  So, just for today, I am going to let myself "be" and I have resolved to be okay with that.  I am not going to fight it.  I am just going to observe and feel the emotions, let them pass through me, and watch myself naturally return to a state of balance.  In short, I am going to accept with grace that today is just a "grumpy day".