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Fit Foodie’s Guide to Dining Out

Recently, a challenge group participant posted “How do I know that I’m making the right choices when I’m eating out?” I thought for a moment and realized that most of the fit-work I do when I have a night out actually happens before I get to the restaurant. Once there, I sit back, have fun, and let my plan guide my actions.

Know Before you Go — Research!
Depending on where we’re going, my approach changes slightly. But the general  principle is that I know what I will be eating before I get to the restaurant. This way, I won’t be persuaded by what others are choosing (“if she’s getting fries, I can have fries”), my decision is made before I’ve had any wine to make me think the “one night doesn’t matter” argument seems reasonable, and it also it gives me time to do some “research. ” If I’ve made my mind before I get there, I focus on conversation and not thinking about the food I’m not eating.

Research comes in three categories: chain restaurants, typical nationality based restaurants, and what I’ll call local/unique restaurants (which tend to be my favorites).  Chain restaurants usually have nutritional information online so you can plan a meal that works in your caloric allotment.  If not, follow my guidance below for the non-chain, non-nationality based restaurants. Almost always, you should plan to take home or give to someone else at the table half of your dinner at chain restaurants. The servings are out of control humungous. Restaurants like Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Japanese tend to have the same types of typical items from restaurant to restaurant so it’s a matter of finding the healthiest general choices. I usually google something like “eating healthy Chinese restaurant” and find an article like this health magazine article to give me  foundations and ideas on what to order (for example, I would never have thought to ask how the edamame is prepared… if its tossed in oil!)

For non-chain, non-typical nationality type restaurants, it’s a little trickier. Philly has tons of these: little BYOBs, Gastropubs, new American cuisine – these get a little tricky. If a menu is online, if gives me a chance to look for key words that either make something a thumbs up (grilled, steamed) or a thumbs down (fried, cream sauce, cheese). I also scope out the accompaniments/ side dishes.  If there are lots of veggie options I will usually swap out my carb (potatoes, rice, pasta) for extra servings of veggies. I do this quite often and have never been given a hard time or charged extra for it.

Let’s do a quick menu case study. Vernick is one of my favorite Philly restaurants and the menu changes seasonally so I like to prepare before I go to make the healthiest choices. As a quick sidebar – I’m not paranoid when I eat out- I make smart choices but don’t go nuts over a little oil or a macadamia nut or find out details about how each item is prepared. I expect that making healthy choices in my kitchen 80% of the time offsets a little extra oil  or bacon (!) when I’m dining out.  Also, you’ll  notice a lot of healthy options on the menu. I notice that many of the nicer restaurants gave reasonable or smaller portions and not those out of control portions from chain restaurants. Lastly, vegetables always seem to taste amazing from these types of restaurants.  So back to Vernick- here are the top items from each category I would choose: skip the toasts – the toast part means bread and that doesn’t add anything as far as nutrition just extra calories; almost any of the raw items would be great and on plan. The three that I would probably focus on would be the oyster, tuna or scallop. The veggies look good but I would likely stick with the roasted cauliflower or grilled artichoke. The crispy potatoes and the Parmesan custard are a no way (key word — custard).  As far as the small plates, I might get a little more info on the mushrooms but the grilled octopus or mussels would be a great choice. For the large plates the grilled sea bass is a hands down winner since its grilled and comes with veggies that seem to be prepared healthily.

Let’s open up the challenge — send me your favorite menu or “type” of food and I’ll suggest healthy options!

Eat Before you Go – Really!!
For years I would skip lunch and “save” my calories or points for dinner out. Huge mistake. I would arrive at the restaurant HANGRY–  eating the bread basket, my first drink would immediately go to my head, and I would make poor decisions for the rest of the night. Now, I eat my normal portions all day – including an afternoon snack so when I get to the restaurant, I can skip the bread basket.

That brings us to the what happens at the actual restaurant. We’ve already planned our meal, so it’s a matter of not straying from it.

No Bread Basket
The coolest experience I had was at Will in Philadelphia, where the waiter noticed I wasn’t eating the bread and asked if I’d like some lavender scented popcorn (or something like that). It was the highlight of my night!

Drink A Lot (of water or seltzer!)
Order you still or sparkling water when you first get there. My goal is to skip the first round of drink ordering, get some seltzer, and then order my drink. For the rest of the evening I strive for one water/seltzer between each drink. Also, during the meal itself, I drink only water/seltzer. We don’t need to wash dinner down with calories!

Order According to your Plan
Enough said since you already did the prework.

Drink Your Dessert or Taste Someone Else’s
Since you weren’t boozing it up during your meal, why not treat yourself to a really delicious ice wine for dessert?  Don’t “share” a dessert with anyone – but ask if you can have one taste. That’s enough, and dessert doesn’t taste good with wine anyway! In full disclosure, I used to be a huge dessert person. I’m not sure if it’s the Shakeology or just not really have dessert as often, or that I’ve decreased my drinking to the point where an extra glass of wine is an indulgence — but I actually can leave a fabulous dinner completely satisfied without having dessert. You a can too.

If an after dinner alcoholic drink isn’t your thing, how about a cappuccino made with non-fat milk or an herbal tea in an interesting flavor (I like mint tea after dinner!)

Have Fun!
Really, this is about a dinner out and conversation, right? Don’t be a fanatic about your decisions. If you go a little astray in your ordering, it’s OK. Don’t use a poor choice at dinner an excuse to hunker down to cheesecake for dessert. Or, even if you do – it’s one night, one dinner. Just like one workout doesn’t make you skinny, one dinner doesn’t make you fat. What you chose to do the next day is what matters. Get back on plan. Drink your water and Shakeology and get on with your day.

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Belly Up to the Barre

I tried my first barre class over the summer after my bestie became certified as a barre instructor. She was telling me about barre: up an inch, down an inch; shaking muscles, toned abs and areas of the legs and butt (oops, I mean “seat”) that only barre could transform.  I wanted to be able to “get it” when she told me about the routines she created for her classes and asked for music ideas. Since her class is in New Jersey on weekday mornings while I’m on my way to work, I decided to try a barre class here in Philly. I went to Focus Barre and Yoga on Chestnut Street. I immediately realized this was going to be very different from my usual workouts when I saw the carpet, everyone in little matching black grippy socks and the mini two pound weights. I approached the instructor to let her know this was my first class and ask if there was anything special I needed to do. She asked if I ever did barre before. I responded with my fitness resume that included power yoga and body pump, not realizing at the time that neither of which resemble barre except maybe in planks and push-ups.

I now know, having done Pure Barre, that the bar workout I did at Focus was not quite the same as PB (a lot less tucking at Focus).  That said, both have the same format (warm-up, arms, legs, seat, abs) and much of the same concepts (an inch up, and inch down; up and hold, up and freeze). Since I had off from work for a couple of weeks in December, I decided it was a great time to get a one-month pass for PB and do a mini PB challenge: as much Pure Barre (plus a couple of my friend’s barre classes) as I could fit in over winter break and through January. I made it to about 16 classes over the four-week period (plus some of my usual workouts: body pump, body combat, and power yoga). I was pretty surprised by the difference four weeks could make in my mind and body.

Physical Changes

The first thing I noticed, after only 10 days, was increased strength in my legs. I’ve been doing body pump for two years now and have worked up to 44lbs on the squat track. The fact that 10 days of barre created a noticeable change in strength shocked me.  In early January, I did my first body combat class after three weeks and was worried about how difficult it was going to be (due to winter break group classes were cancelled). I could not believe how much easier the lunge track felt. Not easy as if it wasn’t a workout, but with ease, I was able to get really low in my lunges, and stay with it to complete the entire lunge series without breaking. This was a first for me! I am assuming that my barre workouts increased my leg strength – particularly in those muscles that lunges target: glutes, hamstrings and quads. I also suspect that my barre workouts trained my mind to be stronger, in that I could suffer through the burning and trembling because it would be over soon. More on the mental changes soon.

At the end of the four weeks, I could feel that my abs were noticeably stronger in both my barre workouts and non-barre workouts. Some of the ab-work at the barre (drag, lift, circle, tuck) were still challenging but do-able at the end of four weeks (plus, I could feel by abs working, while in the beginning I’m sure my legs were doing the majority of the work). In combat, I was able to do the dreaded “jaguar” move on my toes, without dropping to my knees for much of the track.

I couldn’t imagine that barre would do much for my arms being that both body pump and body combat focus so heavily on the arms, and in power yoga I’m chaturang-ing til the cows come home. Well, first shoulder track in body pump after winter break rolled around and I did the entire set of push-ups on my toes. Another first.  Shocked.

Most excitingly, my clothes fit better!!

Mental Changes
For the first couple of weeks of my challenge, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t look forward to going to barre. During the class, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. In my other classes I feel more present. I just go when it’s time to go (no dread or emotion, I just go sometimes even looking forward to it), and while in class I think about my form, how I’m feeling and if I can push myself harder. I assumed it was the newness of barre – that the difficulty level for me compared to my usual workouts was giving me that dread.

Then, I took a very different barre class. My barre-instructor friend, mentioned above, teaches a class regularly that is not your typical Rittenhouse Square barre. Her class, while fluid and en pointe, was also strengthening and empowering… maybe even a little bad ass. Fun music (“nothing says barre like a little Ozzy Osbourne”), her commentary (“how does body combat feel now?” directed at me during the biceps track), and her motivation (“no other exercise shapes you entire body like planks -come on…  only 15 seconds more!”).

Aside from the fact that the workout was really a great combination of barre, pilates, strength training, and empowerment, I realized that most of the instructors I had in my barre classes up until that point lacked the personality that I need to get motivated. Now, I don’t doubt the impact of the workout nor the need for consistent instruction style particularly for a franchise like PB. That said, why do all the instructors have the same voice? I’m not sure if it was because I’m not a regular, but it felt really impersonal – almost robotic. The instructors did come over to help me adjust my position and technique so it’s not that I felt neglected. Oddly enough I’m not also someone who needs a lot of positive reinforce  and atta-girls. My motivation comes from getting stronger and how I feel before during and post workout. So I wasn’t sure why I was feeling the need for this personal connection that I don’t think that I usually need. Did I feel vulnerable since it was a traditionally female class and expected nurturing? I guess in body combat it would be strange to get a compliment on the fierceness my “street brawl…” But no, I don’t think that was it.

At brunch after my second of barre-friend’s class I asked her. “So what’s with the instructors in Pure Barre?” “I mean, they like all have the same voice and count the moves the same way (up up hold up up freeze) and its so creepy how they all sound the same and like we’re a bunch of step ford wives robots.” She thought for a moment when my rant was done, then pointed out that this is a ballet based workout and that ballet teachers just tend to be bitchy. On my drive back to Philly, I thought about it some more and it was starting to make sense. If I am a ballerina, I guess I don’t need to hear what this workout is going to do for my muscles or my body – I do these moves to get stronger, lengthier and better at ballet.  So having the amazing ballerina body just comes from being a ballerina not from the exercises to look like a ballerina.

This realization was such a game changer for me! I approached my last two weeks of classes as a ballerina (at least in my head) and with the understanding that I’m not going to get a lot of motivational pep talks, compliments on getting low or my good form. But what I am gonna get… is an amazing ballerina body (haha, or at least as ballerina-esque that this body can get).

From that point on, my mind changed in class. I realized that the key to barre success and improving in class would be to force my mind to allow my body to feel the shake and burn. To not give up when there’s only 10 seconds left, but to push on because there’s only 10 seconds left. Those 10 seconds were the key to getting stronger.

So yeah, my mind changed. Instead of “how much time is left?” It started to become, each segment is short, so of course I can do this for such a short time. I wanted to shake there so I didn’t jiggle later.

I miss barre. My last class was a couple of days ago (last class at PB… for now) and I immediately started to worry that my muscles will forget what they learned, and it would be really hard when I came back. That said, the experience of trying something new was invaluable and I have plans to do more of it. This weekend I am signed up for a Lithe class, and the following weekend its Fly Cycle. Next month, I’ll be taking “Naughty Bits” at Ploome and promise to report on that, too.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

Refined Palate, Relieved Scale

Bon Appetit magazine puts out an annual two-week series of healthy, whole food recipes which they call the Food Lover’s Cleanse (FLC). The idea behind the cleanse is not to go on a diet in January but to recalibrate your pallet and lifestyle get re-accustomed to meals from scratch after all the holiday parties and eating out we do during the holidays.

Last year, I did a modified version of the food lover’s cleanse.  I tried (and wrote about) a bunch of salad recipes that became a full on part of my recurring salad menu since the recipes used proteins or grains from the previous nights’ dinners, homemade dressings, and a variety of greens as bases. My favorite go-to from last year was a chicken salad in napa cabbage with oranges, almonds and a soy-miso vinaigrette. This year, I decided to do both lunches and dinners since the lunches were based on the dinner’s main ingredients there wasn’t much extra effort. While the breakfasts look delish, I am a Shakeology girl and there is nothing Bon Appetit can do to remove that blender bottle from my grip.

My first year, awaiting the release of the cleanse menu was like waiting for Christmas. This year, I somehow forgot about the cleanse until it started and Bon Appetit released the menu online. It’s ok (although, I hate anytime I miss the opportunity to have a “Christmas Eve Equivalent” experience), I had a lot of  meals out the week before and had a few nights of meals left from my primary source of menu planning (NoMoreToGo). So I write this post one week into the two-week cleanse, while in actuality the FLC proper is now over.

I also had some items that I unintentionally overstocked for my holiday cooking (kale or pears anyone?) which was perfect since these ingredients were featured in one of the meals. PUB QUIZSo I actually decided not to work chronologically through the menu but rather pick five dinners (and the accompanying lunches) that used leftover produce I already had on hand. I should also mention that the menu for the cleanse required a trip for the Asian supermarket, due to some specialty items that I couldn’t get from Fresh Direct. This was the fun part of the cleanse for me – experiencing some new flavors and textures that I might not normally know how to incorporate into my cooking.

The first night’s dinner was Red Rice Congee with Chicken, Kimchi, and Mushrooms accompanied by Roasted Butternut Squash with Gochujang — THIS WAS INCREDIBLE. IMG_6527The red rice took a long time to get porridge-like, as called for in the recipe. I actually precooked it over the weekend and then started the dinner with another four cups of broth (my homemade broth of course) and the chicken thighs. They simmered for  about an hour before the rice was the consistency described. But wow, this was worth the wait, as the chicken was incredibly flavorful and tender. For the mushrooms, I used oyster and beech adding a little extra since we’re all mushroom fans in the family. I never feel like mushroom-focused recipes use enough mushrooms. this was my first time working with beech or oyster mushrooms. The beech are like one big mushroom with a bunch of little cute baby mushrooms growing off of it. They had an earthy, meaty mushroomy texture once cooked. The oyster mushrooms actually looked and texture-wise felt like oysters once cooked. While I’m not a huge fan of squash, this recipe changed my mind – the squash is thinly sliced to almost char when roasted and the Gochujang adds such a spicy kick to offset the sweetness of the squash. It is then topped off with scallions and sea salt, which added spiciness and crispness. Yum!!!I took a picture of this meal (after I started devouring it), I’m sure it doesn’t convey all the lovely colors and definitely can’t convey the colorful medley of flavors.

The chicken from the congee became part of the next day’s lunch which was a salad that in IMG_6500addition to the chicken had napa cabbage, cilantro, miso-kimchi dressing and peanuts.  The miso-kimchi dressing was ah-mazing and tasted really good as a dip for carrot sticks!

Next we tried the Roasted Turkey Breast, Broccolini and Black Rice with Hazelnuts. I messed up a little and the turkey tasted a little overlooked to me (hubby said was fine), but this was a nice easy meal to get to the table. The black rice takes awhile to cook (so I actually prepped it earlier in the week) but had a great nutty flavor and the hazelnuts were a perfect additional crunch. Whole garlic cloves cooked under the turkey, which were then mashed around with the broccolini for a ridiculous garlic flavor.  IMG_6538The real star of this meal was the next day’s lunch made out of the turkey. This lunch had a bunch of ingredients that I don’t like on their own (turkey, pears, pomegranate seeds, radicchio, hazelnuts and the homemade mustard seed vinaigrette) but this salad is my favorite thing so far on the cleanse. I almost didn’t make it thinking I wouldn’t like it – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I would eat this every day if I could. And lick the bowl clean (not that I did that or anything).

The other star so far for me is the Quick Miso Soup. QuickThink instant soup but really fresh and delicious.  I packed all the ingredients (miso paste, silken tofu, scallions, shredded carrots and furikake) into a mason jar and then just added hot water at snack time and it was such a nice warm protein rich snack!!

The Pork Tenderloin in Porcini Broth was another favorite of mine. As with the congee, I added extra mushrooms above the recipe’s requirements. I used chanterelle and baby bellas (only because I happened to have them around and forgot that I needed more shrooms after using up the beech and oysters on the congee). The dried porchinis were added to hot water where they rehydrated to create a delicious broth that I drank from the bowl once the food was gone! The pork was accompanied by a hearty barley with leeks. I don’t cook with barley often but after this meal my husband decided he’s “not a fan” of barley. Not sure why, there was nothing weird going on taste-wise or textures-wise. I loved it and had a mini second serving (with more broth 🙂

The next night we had the Tofu and Brussels Sprout Stir Fry with Red Rice. My new favorite seasonings were in it: furikake and gochujang. This meal was solid. Not my favorite of the cleanse by far, but definitely yummy, filling and healthy – so I served it’s purpose. Mike and I joked about these being the leftovers we were least looking forward . I mean, for dinner -sure, but tell me that Tofu and Brussels Sprouts doesn’t sound like the least desire able leftovers in the world? We both agreed that our procrastination was unwarranted. The salad using the leftovers was delicious. Crispy napa cabbage and peanuts added a nice crunch, while the kimchi-miso dressing changed the flavor so it didn’t even feel like the same meal as the prior night’s stirfry. It wasn’t my favorite meal but also wasn’t my least favorite.

The dinner that created the least enthusiasm (and put off cooking until the following Monday) was the Bistro Salad with Roasted Vegetables. Since I have salads for lunch, I’m not usually into doubling up and having a dinner salad – but wow!! This one was delicious. It had roasted veggies (celeriac – which I’ve never had before, and after googling the best approach to dealing with it – I sliced off the ugly outer shell to reveal a smooth pale yellow inside that smelled almost citrusy). The celeriac was roasted with parsnips, carrots and olive oil, then tossed in smoked paprika and shaved garlic. Next, these garlicky roasted veggies were placed atop a bed of arugula which was all topped with a poached egg and some of the mustard seed vinaigrette (same dressing as my favorite turkey salad earlier in the week). I think even my husband was shocked by how flavorful of a salad we were enjoying. Once the yoke combined with the mustard, greens and garlicky sweet veggies.. I could have eaten two servings!  This dinner was supposed to be served with the beet soup, but I didn’t have my act together in time for this to make it to the table.

Last dish for the week was Mahi Mahi with Smashed White Beans and Sautéed Kale. This was supposed to be a kale salad but remember that leftover kale from the holidays, well now it was a little past prime so sauteing it with some garlic and broth made it a little more palatable to me. The real star of this meal was the beans. Even hubby who typically doesn’t like white beans liked these! The bonus was they were super easy — canned beans, rinsed and then sautéed in some olive oil and garlic, smashed with the end of the spatula and topped off with a little broth which, once simmered down and combined with lemon zest and juice, made a thick beany garlicky purée. Think refried beans but with more freshness and crispness due to the lightness of the beans and citrus of the lemons.  The mahi mahi was good, not the most flavorful fish dinner but the beans complimented the fish and added so much flavor that it didn’t matter. There was also a little user error – I think I overlooked the fish a little bit so it wasn’t as juicy as I would have liked. It was, however, perfect for the salad the next day.

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t looking forward to fish salad for lunch. First of all, the unspoken rule at the office is no fish in the microwave (which is right near my good friend’s office – and who wants their office stinking like fish?) Since this fish wouldn’t be reheated I figured I was safe… And I was. Actually mahi mahi may be the least offensive fish ever and was quite delicious in my salad. It was firm enough to hold up to a little shake with the ingredients and has a nice mild flavor to let the other ingredients shine. This salad had an interesting combination that I wasn’t sure how  would play out: in addition to the fish, there was fennel, blood orange, black olives, butter lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil. I needed to add a little touch of flaky sea salt and it was solid.

So all in all,  I’m quite happy so far with the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse! I’m down two pounds and don’t feel like I’m dieting. Actually, I feel like I’ve elevated my meals. I’m looking forward to week two!!

Meal Prep: the picture book edition

After seeing my post, Meal Prep is the Key to Clean Eating Success, a friend asked for more details about HOW I do it (“it” being the process I follow to prep for a week’s worth of meals in a couple of hours). So I took some pictures of a recent meal prep session from Fresh Direct box to various stages of preparedness for eating or cooking during the week.

Here it is!  My family loves grocery delivery day almost as much as Christmas morning! Seriously, my son runs around the house with cucumbers shouting “look everyone! we got cucumbers!!”

GROCERY DAY!

Next, as I unpack everything and begin to put away the pantry and refrigerated items, I wash all produce. I use a giant bowl in the sink where I triple wash just about everything and set it out on towels to dry on the counter top. While each item soaks and dries, I prepare a list of my prep needs. This list may include breakfast, snack, or lunch items for the week as well as various of stages of preparation for dinner items.  For example, in this particular prep session, I prepped:

1. Broccoli (prepared into florets for use in dinner recipe later in the week + steamed for  mini omelets + stalks for broth)

2. Onions (skins used in broth + chopped for various dinners during the week and the pumpkin soup I would make for lunches that week)

3. Apples (washed for snacked throughout the week + roasted and made into applesauce for my son’s snacks + in my pumpkin soup)

4. Rotisserie Chicken (taken off the bone to be used in a dinner recipe later in the weeks+ salads for lunches + the bones for broth).

5. Citrus (washed for snacking + infusing in water + in salads + in my roasted citrus vinaigrette (recipe from my favorite meal planning site No More To Go).

6. Other Greens (this particular week, I also prepped parsley, scallions, and asparagus which were all components of recipes that week + the end went into the broth)

Let’s get started!!!!

BROCCOLI (1)

I had big plans for this broccoli, as the steamed florets became part of my mini omelets for my AM snack that week. The remaining florets went into a large ziploc baggie for use in a dinner recipe later in the week. The chunky thick ends went right into the broth to add a little extra nutrients and flavor.

Then, I cried….

BEFORE

Onions hold up really well once chopped and refrigerated so I usually will chop, dice, and slice the onions up so they are ready to go in whatever I have planned that week. The peels go right into the broth to add lots of flavor.

I also worked on prepping the greens so that I could throw then ends right in my giant pot so the broth could simmer the rest of the time I prepped and into the afternoon. I mentioned my asparagus tip in my broth post,  but its really important and worth repeating. Always remove the woody ends of the asparagus. Its not the time to be cheap, either — snap the asparagus in half and where ever it breaks is the “right” place. It may feel wasteful to not use the end (or sometimes almost half of the stalk) but it ends up being nasty — chewy and woody. You’ll feel better about the “waste” if you use it in a broth. It adds asparagus nutrients and a nice soft taste to the broth but you don’t have to eat the woodiness.

ParsleyAsparagusScallions

Scallions, herbs, and celery stay really nicely for up to a week or possibly more when wrapped in paper towel and then placed in ziploc baggies. Asparagus is a little more temperamental, so I usually plan to use it within a day or two, place it in about 1/2 inch of water with a little saran wrap over the top.

Once I have the veggie ends I need for my broth, I start to remove the meat from the bones of the rotisserie chicken and get the broth working. Plus, it makes the kitchen smell awesome, like I’m really doing some cooking in there!

Bones-Meat for broth

At some point during the session, all of the produce is washed and laid out looking all beautiful and colorful, like this:

SqueakyClean

An Apple a Day

25

We eat a ton of apples in my family. I tend to carry up to three apples around with me for snacking while out and about with the kids (one for each of us!), plus Tyler loves bringing an apple to school in his lunch. This week, my pumpkin soup recipe called for apple sauce, so I thought we’d shake things up by making a batch of it to use not only in my soup but for him to enjoy with his lunches.

It was really easy: (1) cut the apples in half and removed the cores; (2) roast at 350 degrees until they are soft when you insert a knife through the skin (about 30 minutes); (3) let them cool just enough so that you can handle them; (4) scoop our the delicious, soft apple and dispose of the skins; (5) add some cinnamon; (6) puree….  and you’re done! Roasting the apples makes them so sweet that I find that sugar isn’t necessary.

Pumpkin’ Lunchin’

In a prior week, I roasted and pureed our leftover Halloween pumpkins. I froze the puree that I wasn’t able to use that week and thought this would be a fun week to pull it out and use to make pumpkin soup for lunches that week!

pumpkin soup

Next, I washed and prepped my citrus for a variety of purposes.

Roasted Citrus

I drink a hot glass of water with lemon  every morning, so I like to have my lemons washed, sliced and ready to go each morning. This particular week, I also made a really fabulous roasted citrus vinaigrette for my side salads. The recipe was from my favorite meal planning website, No More To Go.  The recipes (and shopping list) are revealed once a week – 5 meals and one “bonus” (either a dessert, brunch or snack item for the weekend). The meals take about 30-45 minutes to prepare (more or less depending on how much prep I did in advance!), and are healthy and nutritious. This website has been the key to my success in staying organized since I’m ready for the week before I’ve even done my shopping!

Let me know if this post was helpful for cranking out a week’s worth of prep in a couple of hours.  Happy to post a future prep session to give you some more ideas – or more details if helpful. Happy Prepping!!

No Weakness Weekend

I managed to lose five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. This was a shocker to me because I drank a ton, wasn’t in “diet” mindset, and I had a two week break from work (being at a University, we’re closed for winter break which means my gym was closed too). It was a pure recipe for disaster. Reflecting on that time, I realized that the rules I followed during this six-week period could easily be applied to weekends keeping me on track throughout the rest of the year too!

PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

I’m not saying I need to be fully scheduled to the brim on weekends. Heck, after such a busy week I love when I actually have no plans at all for the weekend.  But at a minimum,  I need to schedule my workouts. Rather than a really formal schedule, I typically think of what’s going on and then think about where some holes are in which I can work in a workout. For example, dinner out with friends on Saturday night and Tyler’s play date Saturday afternoon means I need to get my ass in gear and squeeze out an AM workout. On Sunday, my son has an afternoon soccer practice, so hubby and I can schedule a late morning power yoga class.  Planned workouts that I can’t cancel are especially motivating (such as a scheduled power yoga class with the husband. No matter how much I drank the night before, knowing he’s counting on me to drink some water and get my yoga pants on the next day —  I will make it to class). Over winter break I signed up for Pure Barre classes that had only a four hour cancellation window.  Or another way I motivate myself is to just tell a bunch of people I’m planning on working out. When I signed up for Barre, I announced on Facebook to all my “Barre friends” that I was doing Barre every day during the break.  If all else is failing me and I’m ready to break the appointment with myself, I just put on my workout clothes and then decide if I want to cancel. Most of the time I’ll just do it!

The planning concept also applies to my nutrition. I make sure to have plenty of healthy snacks available (fresh fruit, graze snacks, mini omelets). If I’m dining out, I try to have input on where that will be – someplace where I can preview the menu or know there will be healthy options or not too much temptation.  I won’t “save my calories” (see below), but I might plan the timing of meals a little differently depending on the time we have dinner reservations.

BEAT THE “I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME” EXCUSE

If all the planning in the world doesn’t allow enough time to get out to a class, go for a run or do a complete workout video – show yourself some love and find a quick 15 minute workout online. To test my theory that 15 minute workouts are plentiful and easy to find, I googled “15 minutes _____” and filled in various muscle groups.  Here’s what I came up with within seconds:

Abs: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/15-minute-hot-abs-workout

Butt: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/butt/exercises/bootylicious-15-minute-butt-workout/ (side note: if you google “buns” you will get a bunch of hamburger roll recipes)

Arms: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/arm-sculpting-workout

Legs: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/thighs/exercises/hot-legs-exercises/

And be real with yourself. Is it the time (i.e. you don’t have enough of it) or is it an excuse? If you’re completely honest and are actually making an excuse, then make a deal with yourself. For example, “I think logistically I can squeeze in a 15 minute workout but I don’t feeeeeeeel like it.” “Ok, self. I’ll make a deal. You don’t have to do the full 15 minutes. If you work your hardest for 7 minutes, you can stop after that”.  So first of all, most of us would probably just finish the 15 minutes.  Sometimes, I feel great and continue on one other body part for another 15 minutes. It is really just getting started.

WORKOUT CLOTHES ARE MY WEEKEND LOUNGE CLOTHES

OK, I get it if you have to go somewhere that you can’t where workout clothes. But for me, I usually have a few hours at home before I need to get out of the house to go errands, kid, stuff, etc. So I put those babies on as soon as I wake up because I am 1) more likely to make smarter nutrition choices (who eats a stack of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with workout clothes on?) and 2) I’m halfway to working out, especially if I need to squeeze a workout in at home before I do anything else.

SNACK AND EAT “REAL” MEALS

On the weekends I tend to miss my morning snack (which, when in the office is usually mini omelets and blueberries). I’m not usually hungry when snack time rolls around during the week, but I know that by 11am I need to get my snack in before I work out. On the weekend I get busy with the kids, cleaning, or running errands and typically miss that snack. Big mistake because lunchtime starts to roll around and I’m HANGRY! Like fast food hungry eat a two cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s hungry (ew, did I really just say that?). And when hunger like that strikes a salad doesn’t feel right. I need to bite into a big juicy burger. But really, if I had just eaten my snack, lunchtime would be much more civilized and I would just be ready for my typical healthy lunch (soup, salad, etc). The same principle goes for my afternoon snack. At work I typically have one of my graze snacks (which would involve some sort of nuts and fruit) But on the weekends I would typically skip snack if I’m going out to dinner. Save those calories right? No!! If I don’t have the snack, I am famished when I get to the restaurant and make poor choices: bread baskets, appetizers, the booze hits me faster and by dessert time I make more bad choices. A snack of about 100-200 calories seems counter-intuitive to a night out, but it really helps manage those hunger pangs leading to smarter decisions at the restaurant.

Also, on the weekends it may seem easy to grab a snack right out of the bag or container. But I always put food on a plat or in a bowl, so I know how much I ate. This is especially important for snacks like nuts where it’s easy to overdo it!

HYDRATION STATION

During the work week I have a very precise water routine, I fill up my 32 oz. water bottle every time I get up from my desk to go to the bathroom (repeat cycle). On the weekends, I tend to not use my water bottle AND drink coffee all morning. As opposed to the weekdays, when I have my two cups at home before leaving the house and then switch to water and green tea once I get to the office. When I started getting serious about keeping weekends in check, I needed to make sure I followed the same weekday water timeline. The water, by the way, kept me fuller longer and less prone to snacking. I started my day with my usual water before coffee (hot water with lemon). Then, after my first cup or two of coffee, I have a large glass of water while my next coffee is steeping in the French press.  After that final pot of French press, coffee is over for the day! Time to switch to infused water (or seltzer).

Infused waters add a little pizazz for the weekends (making it a little more special than my work-water) and also create a sense of urgency by using fresh ingredients. Since I usually plan two different waters for the weekend (say lime, cucumber and mint on Saturday and cinnamon, pears and cloves on Sunday), if I don’t drink Saturday’s water, I won’t be able to get Sunday’s water infusing in time to enjoy.

BOOZE MANAGEMENT

Being on a full-on weight loss regime, I try to go alcohol-free for the weekend.  Each time I did a 21-day alcohol-free stint in my challenge groups I was very successful in meeting my weight loss goals. I followed a lot of the advice I gave in my blog post on the topic when I am a teetotaler on the weekends. That said, between Thanksgiving and New Year I didn’t restrict myself as I do during a 21-day challenge, but I was careful how I drank. I chose mostly wine or mixed drinks (mixing gin or vodka with sugar-free lemonade, seltzer water, or light tonic – never with a sugary drink or juice!) I also suggest drinking a big glass of water or seltzer water before each drink. This one is usually easy in the beginning of an event but gets harder to do as the event rolls on – which is when my inhibition is coming down! I also tried to minimize the alcohol I drank during the meal, and focus on my seltzer while eating knowing that once dinner was complete, I could have another drink if I wanted.  I love dessert, but love my wine more. At Christmas Eve dinner, I treated myself and ordered a really fancy delicious ice wine as my dessert! It was completely satisfying for my sweet tooth and felt really special.

BE AN ANNOYING CUSTOMER

When I eat out, I’m not afraid to ask for a different dressing (or on the side) for my salad, or swap out extra veggies for the mashed potatoes on my dinner plate. Instead of feeling like a pain in the ass, I try to think like a healthy person. Healthy people don’t eat loaded mashed potatoes!!

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!

On the weekends, I tend to stay up later catching up on my blog, online shopping, or cleaning/organizing around the house. But it’s a terrible cycle. When I don’t get enough sleep, I make poor eating decisions the next day and often don’t feel like working out. So to keep to my nutrition and fitness goals, I try to get to bed no later than an hour after my normal bed time if at all possible.

DON’T EAT LIKE A KID

My kids and I tend to eat out quite a bit on the weekends. During our fun excursions to the Zoo, birthday parties, soccer practice we’re around unhealthy kid food quite a lot.  My number one rule is to never eat their food. No matter how much grilled cheese sandwich or french fries are left on their plates, I don’t touch it. This was a very difficult skill to manage because I hate wasting food, especially their yummy indulgent food! My other rule is to not feel like I need to get ice cream or froyo just because my kids are having it. If I’m treating them, I can still get a delicious mint tea and still feel completely satisfied. I always, always plan to bring some emergency snacks when going to a kid’s party since the main entrée is almost always pizza (which I never can stop at one slice) and I need to avoid birthday cake at all costs (plus, it never really tastes SO good that it’s worth the indulgence. So I throw either a kind bar or a graze snack in my purse in case I’m feeling tempted and I’m good to go!

KEEP YOUR MOUTH BUSY

As discussed in my post on stress-eating tools, I’ve never been a huge fan of gum (and maybe it’s hypocritical, but I hate when others chew gum), but it is such a lifesaver on a healthy eating plan.  I pop in some gum when watching movies with the kids (at home or in the theatre) to keep me from pigging out on snacks or while doing my weekly prep in the kitchen where I’m in close proximity to the snacks and treats.

SLIPPED UP? MOVE ON FROM IT

I like to consciously plan my indulgences – so I can truly savor and enjoy these infrequent moments. Notice, we’re not calling it a cheat meal because it was planned! But, we all have those moments when the indulgence maybe turns into the entire meal of indulgence, then the next meal, then maybe screw the whole weekend!  Success comes from how we move on from those slip ups. If I over-indulged, I move on from it. I stop thinking about it and know that it was a single moment that has now passed. It is time to move forward according to plan, not according to the string of indulgences.

This is probably a lot to take in all at once – so start with small incremental steps and add one of these in to the upcoming weekend.  Add a second healthy habit in the following weekend and continue to add until you’ve mastered the weekend for once and for all!

Doubling the Penny

Weekends, especially around the holidays, tend to take me off my routine which makes it harder to have the will power that I might have in  my “normal” weekday life.

Even though I’m a finance person by trade, I was first introduced to the concept of “doubling the penny” as an application I could use in my every day life in one of the first challenge groups I participated in with my coach, Jillian. The key question is: would you rather take the the sum of a penny doubled over 30 days or $1M? Of course the million dollars right? How can a penny possibly add up to anything significant in 30 days?! Check out this Bloomberg Video for the mathematical explanation, but the “answer” is that a penny doubled every day for 30 days becomes $10.7M on the 31st day. The overall idea is the fact that small incremental activities add up to big progress — even more so than the instant gratification of a one-time windfall.

Mathematics aside, the big takeaway here is that if we make the many good decisions even little ones, everyday– the end results and reaching our goals may take a long time to achieve…. but it will mean more than the quick fix or the not-so-good decision you’re contemplating at that moment. But how do you remind yourself of that when you have something you can have NOW that seems like it feels better than the “right” decision?

To remind myself of this concept in my daily lift throughout temptation, I have an “anchor” — a physical object — that reminds me that reaching my goals may be a long road but that little daily successes are usually more meaningful than whatever is tempting me at that moment.  I got this idea from a friend who is a Weight Watchers coach. She actually lost weight on a recent trip to Disney World. When I asked her how she did it, she told me about the concept of an anchor – and her anchor was her weight watchers keyring that she received upon being a lifer. She kept it her pocket throughout the trip and gripped whenever she faced temptation that wasn’t part of her plan. I loved this idea so I originally used a penny (to remind me of the double the penny concept), which I recently changed it to a marble. I have two jars – one containing “lbs to lose” (and the number of marbles equaling the number of pounds I need to lose) and the other is “lbs lost” where the pounds (i.e. marbles) move as I work towards my goal. Not only is the marble cleaner than the penny, it is a symbol of the my goal and an actual physical way that I track progress towards my goal.

The anchor is for real — there have been difficult decisions that I’ve faced all week in the break-room at work (cookies, truffles) and at home (the wine calling me after a long day, skipping a workout when I don’t “feel” like it). I literally reach in my pocket and grasp the marble to remind me of why I started this journey, how far I’ve come, and that success isn’t over night. It works!

Can you find something that might be an anchor for you – to remind you of your success and remind you of why you started?

21 Days to Healthy Habits – a sneak peek into a challenge group

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

I write a lot about challenge groups both from the perspective of organizing and leading and also my experiences participant. As I’ve mentioned in my prior posts, participating in challenge groups for almost a year was a truly transformational experience. In that time, I developed healthy habits including: 6-day a week workout schedule, increased water intake, clean eating nutrition plan, breaking a late night snacking habit, breaking a stress-eating cycle that included the chocolate drawer at my office, switched my coffee to green tea (at work, still have 2 cups at home before I start my day), creating a healthy bed-time and night-time routine, making healthier choices while dining out, and healthier choices/preparing for weekend temptations.  These huge lifestyle changes didn’t happen over night –  but each month when I participated in a 21-day challenge group, I chose a new area of focus and created a new healthy habit over those three weeks. Overtime, all of these habits made big changes in not only my physical appearance,  but my stress-levels and energy.  I really believe that these groups work, and now that I’m organizing and leading my own challenge groups its become even more fun since I get to choose the fun, supportive and motivated people who participate along side of me.

Since I talk about them so much, I thought it might be fun to offer a sneak peak into a typical group. A challenge group is a 21-day group that runs in a secret (ie private, in that no one outside of the group can even see the group to know it exists or know that any of the participants are in the group). The ideal size of the group is about 15 participants who are interested in sharing, supporting, and making positive healthy changes to create permanent habits.  Twenty-one days seems to be the perfect length to be able to stay motivated and focused while being long enough that the new habits begin to become second nature and permanent. The hope is that participants will actively “check in” daily sharing both successes and failures with the group, although some participants prefer to stay behind the scenes, reading the posts but not frequently commenting (which is fine too!)

Generally the challenge begins with a couple of pre-posts to set up the group, introduce the participants, and begin to think about goals for the 21 days. The goal setting is key, since it is the driver of the choices and habits that will form over the span of the group. I like to plan specific, measurable, positive goals. Measurable can be interpreted a couple of ways, I like the data point for the measurement to be something that I have control over. For example, my goal could be to lose 5 lbs in 21 days. While that is measurable, it’s not directly in my control. Instead, I like to plan my goal around measurable activities that will lead to my reaching that weight loss goal, such as: I will workout for one hour a day for each of the 21 days of the challenge and will replace alcoholic beverages with water and tea except for two glasses of wine on the second Saturday of the challenge. Can you see the difference? Doing those two things will likely lead to a weight loss of five lbs but those things are completely within my control. So at the end if week one, I will know with certainty whether it not I had wine and worked out six times. If I ended the week with a two lb loss that is great, but if it’s that time of month and the scale hasn’t budged, I’m not frustrated because I know I met my two primary goals which will over time lead to a loss. I also like to frame my goals positively rather than negatively or restrictively. Instead of “no booze” did you notice I spun it in what I could have? Instead of “no sweets” think about how you’re going to do that- is it by adding fruit or herbal tea after dinner instead of chocolate? Is it a walk around your office in the afternoons instead of a trip to the snack bowl?

As the group start date approaches we start to plan our nutrition, meal plan and prep, and schedule workouts for the upcoming week. While the workout piece isn’t a requirement of the group, movement is strongly encouraged. In the course of a year, as a group participant I went from a twice a week (on a good week) workout schedule to a workout schedule of 5-6 times a week consistently. I’m at the point now that this habit is so deeply engrained that if I miss a couple of days, I start getting antsy and need my workout! It is my lifestyle now. In recent groups, I’ve had participants go from walking as their only form of exercise to adding in Pilates and yoga twice or three times a week. I have a participant who was doing treadmill workouts a few times a week at the gym and now attends four body pump/ body combat classes per week along with weekend workouts at home such as combat, 21 day fix or hip hop abs. I have participants who reconnected with their prior favorite workouts (such as barre) and participants who tried new workouts that they now love.

As far as nutrition, the goal is for participants to work on adopting healthy habits and begin to eliminate those that aren’t so healthy. We focus on drinking more water, eating the right amount of protein with each meal, finding healthy alternatives to soda, etc.   Participants have accountability to their goals by checking in about their nutrition every day and getting ideas and recipes from other participants.

Once the challenge begins,  participants are encouraged to take measurements (weight, measure around waist, hips, arms, legs) and before/ after pictures.  My favorite form of tracking progress is pictures (you really can see a difference in only 21 days) but especially after a few months of challenges it’s been so rewarding for me to see the progress. Check out my article of how I came to terms with finally taking a “before” picture and how glad I was that I did!

They actual day-to-day flow of the group is generally an early morning post by me, with a topic of the day, usually accompanied by an article or two to support the key points of the topic or provide addition information. Examples of typical posts in a challenge group might include: protein, fiber, snacking, strength training, and goal check-ins.  The best part for me in running the groups has been seeing how the participants have really started to support and care about each other… and how much they’ve motivated me to reach my goals!

Here’s what participants have said:

—I’ll be taking a picture tonight just for me but happy to report I lost three pounds! And best new habit is no alcohol. I think I may keep that going except for very special occasions! Thanks for being a motivation to getting me back on track!

—I can definitely tell from the way things fit that I lost 2 inches from my hip and during this challenge 0.5 from my right thigh. Overall since August I lost 10 pounds. But for me it’s not just about the inches and weight. I’ve gotten addicted to shakeology and really take a second look at what I eat. I look forward to continuing my progress in the next challenge.

—I could not get this skirt over my a$$ 5 months ago. Now I’m back in it and it’s a 12! Go me!

—I lost 6.5 lbs and 1.5 inches off my hips and thighs!


If you’d like more information or are interested in joining a challenge group (January 2015’s quickly approaching as I type!) contact me at fit.kitch.mom@gmail.com.  LET’S DO THIS! 2015 is our year to have the healthiest lifestyle yet!

The inside scoop on the 3-Day Refresh

I have never done a cleanse before. The idea of not eating, losing weight only to bust up my metabolism and gain it right back seemed like a certain way to mess up the healthy fitness and eating habits I’ve worked so hard to adopt.  When I heard about Beachbody’s 3- Day Refresh and how it was specifically designed to keep your metabolism stable while cleansing your body of toxins and giving a fresh start /regular tune up  – it seemed like this could be the cleanse for me. I can’t describe the overall premise any better than Beachbody:
The 3-Day Refresh is a scientifically designed program that helps you fast-track your weight loss, kick-start healthy eating, and get a clean break from bad nutrition habits. 3-Day Refresh is a simple, straightforward program that will help cleanse your body and improve the way you feel— without starving yourself. Unlike juice cleanses or liquid fasts which tend to be high in sugar and low in protein (leaving you feeling weak, hungry, and sluggish), this easy-to-follow program helps support your metabolism while nourishing your vital organs. For 3 days you’ll follow a program of 3 shakes a day, a fiber drink, plenty of filtered water, plus a wide array of fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats throughout the day to keep your energy and metabolism going.

Whatever your “maybe” may be, we all have those times when we want to get our nutrition on track—and that’s what the 3-Day Refresh is all about. This program is the easiest way to break the cycle of bad eating habits while creating new ones, conquer your cravings, flatten your stomach, feel lighter and more energized, sleep more soundly, detoxify your body, and dramatically improve the way you feel—ALL WITHOUT STARVING!**

I was in. All in. The night before the cleanse was like Christmas Eve for me. I had so much fun planning my healthy fruits, vegetables, healthy fats (hummus?? avocado???) and choosing my dinner options.
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The recipes (all vegetables prepared with minimal oil and some nuts) looked great and can all become part of my standing veggie side dish repertoire. I made some homemade veggie broth to accompany dinner as suggested by the plan.  Using my recipes for my usual “leftover end” chicken stock but added some extra veggies and left out the chicken carcass. This is worth a sidebar in and of itself because I may do this regularly now as my dinner drink. It was THAT good. See my entirely separate post on Veggie (and Bone) broths, which I actually posted prior to my refresh recap because I am apparently a huge fan.
Day one of the cleanse started like any other morning (I recently adopted a “water before coffee” mantra thanks to my challenge group so I’m accustomed to downing 8oz first thing. I drink my coffee black so I still had my usual up of coffee and then my usual chocolate Shakeology but without the PB2 and had a half a Banana with it.  I decided not to blend the banana into the shake so I could have something to chew since I’d be doing a lot of drinking over the next few days. The addition of the half a banana was really satisfying and I think I may continue that going forward to sustain me until my morning snack. I’m usually ok but drink a lot of coffee. I’d love to continue post cleanse with just one cup each morning!
I heard from friends and read in the materials that water is critical, so I filled up my 32-ouncer and took it on the commute with me (in place of cup #2 of joe) I actually drank the whole thing while commuting to work.
Upon arrival at the office I got a cup of green tea (usually would have been coffee #3) and filled old faithful water bottle again. I finished both of these by around 11:30am and then it was time for morning snack: fiber sweep.
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I heard fiber sweep had a gritty texture (being made from flax and chia seeds) so I was prepared with my blender ball and added cinnamon. I was not at all a fan but choked it down. I heard from others that it gets chunky if you don’t drink it fast enough but luckily I didn’t have that problem. (Doing beer funnels in college really paid off here). By the end of the cleanse, I actually liked the fiber sweep (not sure if it was hunger or the adjustments I made) but here are some tips:
1. Use cool water but do not add ice
2. Use a blender cup (with the metal ball in it) and shake it vigorously for a bit
3. Add lemon juice. I added a quarter cup and it tasted like a lemonade. I also know someone who used “true lemon” orange packets and said it was good. I imagine you could also do lime juice.
4. Don’t dilly dally. Just drink it. Do you want results or what??
Also, I thought the fiber sweep was going to be like a colonoscopy cleanse and I’d be running to the bathroom after drinking it. I actually didn’t have my first “movement” until day 3… so no issues on that front (actually the reverse).
After fiber sweep I went to body combat. I did a much less intense version than I usually do. Since my fuel at this point very different from what I usually have by this point in the day, I felt great and normal. If anything, I was probably more hydrated than usual so that was beneficial. I had another 32 oz during my workout. By the end of workout I was pretty hungry.
I got my lunch together: a red pepper, 2 tbsp avocado, 6 strawberries, 1/3 cup of blueberries and vanilla fresh shake. The first day, I added some cinnamon and ice cubes to the vanilla fresh mix and shook it around. Still wasn’t great. So  by the third day after some experimentation (and hunger) I actually enjoyed the shake. The best add-ins for me were vanilla extract (a hearty pour) and cinnamon (good cinnamon like Vietnamese cinnamon and a hearty tablespoon of it).  By the day three dinner it was like a dessert to me! On day one, I was a little worried that I had 5 more servings  of it. If you do the cleanse know that it gets tastier as you get hungrier and your taste changes.
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I felt satisfied after lunch and drank another 16 or so ounces of water and then had my green tea. I was starting to get hungry but it was only 3:30 and I wanted to wait a little longer before next snack. So I had more water. Before I knew it, afternoon snack time! Boy, was it delicious. I had off the vine tomato (sliced up) and drizzled with a teaspoon of really good olive oil and some pink Himalayan salt.
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It was delicious. I drank the seeds and pulp and licked the salty olive oil from the container. Next: time to go home! I packed up a water for the road and felt good on my commute home. When I got home an hour later I was starving. I couldn’t make dinner fast enough, but I have kids and needed to get them going first. So I had a bottle of seltzer (wow that really helped) and then prepared the asparagus recipe from the refresh guidebook. Roasting asparagus with olive oil and sea salt is my typical preparation method, but usually it would be my side dish. Tonight it was my entree along with the veggie broth (yummmm what a delicious warm drink that accompanies dinner so well!) and the vanilla fresh shake.
I made things easy for myself and doubled the asparagus recipe so my family could have have it as their side dish along with pre-made scallop potatoes from Fresh Direct and already marinated chicken breast. Interestingly, their food didn’t tempt me.
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Dinner was surprisingly satisfying and when complete, I drank some more water and then sleepy time tea before bed. I had adopted a pre-bed tea when I did my booze free challenge in October and occasionally kept it up but sometimes ran out of time between dinner and bed to feel the need for tea. Since I was eating earlier, the tea was a nice nightcap as I settled in for the night (about and hour earlier each night). Day one was over and I went to bed happy, calm and satisfied.
I woke up day two and had a little hunger but immediately felt better once I had my water. Had some black coffee again and then my shakeology and banana. I forgot my water bottle and was really thirsty on my commute so I drank my son’s water and then refilled it once we got to his daycare. I was surprised that I felt so energetic considering my light dinner the night before.
Day two went similar to day one:
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10am green tea with stevia then more water
11am fiber sweep (no ice plus lemon juice) followed by more water
12pm body combat (more water during and a modified workout: lower weights for all tracks)
1:30 lunch: 6 strawberries, 1/3 cup blueberries, one red pepper, two tbsp avocado and vanilla fresh with vanilla extract and cinnamon. And water.
3pm green tea with stevia followed by more water
4pm a vine ripened tomato with a tsp of olive oil and a dash of sea salt (and more water)
6pm seltzer
6:30 recipe #2 from the refresh guidebook. I chose the veggie stirfry and it was delicious! As the ginger and garlic were cooking in the pan, Mike came in the kitchen and asked what smelled so amazingly delicious. It also had sliced carrots, fresh green beans, red peppers. This was a really good recipe that I plan to make again and again as a quick side dish. Kept things simple again and made hamburgers for the family to have with the veggie stirfry. I also enjoyed my delicious broth again and vanilla fresh with extract and cinnamon.
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8pm herbal tea with stevia and… More water.
My stomach was growling a little so I had some more water and went to bed.
Oddly, I wasn’t hungry when I woke up on day three which seems strange considering a felt hungry 8 hours prior. Anyway, I drank my water, then my coffee, followed by shakeology and a banana. Brought my water with me for the commute and I would say that day three went exactly like day two except I did body combat and it was incredibly challenging for me to get through the workout even at my moderate level of excursion. I took it easy but made it through. For dinner, I tried the carrot and seaweed salad from the refresh recipe guide. Holy cow this was good! A little onion sautéed in sesame oil accompanied by shredded carrots, a touch of seaweed (could easily be left out if not your thing), red peppers and edamame. The recipe called for the veggies simmer in some water, but I used my veggie broth for extra flavor. All topped off with some green onions. Yum yum yum. I could have that again as my dinner and would be completely  happy.  Family had the seaweed salad along with some Korean BBQ flanks steak and brown rice.
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I was a little surprised that the fiber sweep didn’t cause anything different in terms of my “movements” until later that morning. I definitely felt swept but not in any unusual way. (‘Nough said)
I also found myself craving my healthy foods (couldn’t wait for that delicious juicy tomato! Or that creamy avocado following a sweet crispy pepper). I’m not sure if my taste buds changed, if I was hungry or if my palette grew accustomed to the fiber sweep and vanilla fresh.
I realized that so many times when I thought I was hungry water or tea were completely satisfying. Interesting. I wonder how many times I mistook thirst for hunger in the past?
My results? Well, I did something sort of dumb and forgot to weight in at the start of the cleanse. So I’m not entirely sure since the last weigh in prior was before Thanksgiving, after a body combat class (during which I drank 32oz of water but probably sweat out 64 oz of water!) Anyway, I’m down two pounds since prior to Thanksgiving is  incredible for me!
I think my picture shows it all. My belly is smaller. The post baby belly that I have been trying to lose for almost four years (including rigorous abwork almost daily) seems to have shrunk in size. I’m not posting belly shots here on the web for the whole world to see just yet, but if you’re curious I’ll personal message you my result pics.
Want to try the 3- day refresh? Contact me for details and join my january 2015 challenge group. I’m going for a round two!

The Stress Eater’s Toolkit

In my monthly 21-day challenge groups, participants have a chance to reflect on not-so-healthy habits that may cause them to get off-track or stray from goals. In a recent group one member was having a particularly rough day (and since we continue to reflect on being on autopilot versus mindful and intentional), she realized food and/or booze was her go-to stress reliever. This is an area close to my heart because for a long time snacking was my go-to tool for stressful situations. I guess you can say the first step is recognizing you do it, and once you’ve realized it, you’ve won half the battle.

Every person has their own triggers and  as such, tools that will help deal in times of stress. I’ll give you some of my triggers and the tools that have worked for me (and others I know) and maybe they will work for you…. or at least give you an idea for ways to customize this for you.

I divide stress for me in two groups– stressful situations in which I need to use or occupy my hands to prevent my hands from shoving food in my face and situations where I need to occupy my mouth instead of mindlessly eating while something busy is going on around me. Let me explain:

The “occupying hands” tool comes into play when I’m stressed but not actively involved in something physically stressful but more mentally stressful. Examples include: helping kids with homework (I’m not the one doing the writing but am present and need to continue the nagging and nudging); waiting for something and growing impatient (arrival of out of town visitors traveling in bad weather, the repair guy working on my furnace (do I need a new one and how much will it cost?), a big presentation at work that happens in an hour, boredom (which rarely happens to me anymore but think of those times you might sit in front of the TV and mindlessly chomp on chips), or when prior mentioned out of town guests arrive and you all sit around a table filled with food and talk and for hours.  That said, if your tool in these times consists of stuffing your pie hole you should find another way of occupying/calming your mind and hands. This may not include occupying your mouth!!

Some activities that have worked for me (and work in various of the situations above): —organizing/cleaning — for some of you this may be daunting or stressful in itself. For me, it is a release. I wouldn’t start with a huge undertaking (I imagine having a giant mess of a project on your hands would be pretty stressful!) but take a drawer, the medicine cabinet, one shelf of the pantry, one rack of a closet, the  freezer,  and clean, organize and purge. This also has a fabulous high associated with being productive!

–workout (or put on your workout clothes)– this is two fold. If I don’t feel like working out sometimes being in my gear gets me motivated. If not, I generally don’t pig out on junk food in my workout duds. If I do make it to the mat, we all know that working out releases serious endorphins and reduce stress.

— go for a walk – this is a good one if you’re sitting around with family and mindlessly nibbling. Plus you get some fresh air and a little workout in to boot!!

–change your sensory experience— light candles, take a bath or shower with scented bath soap, make herbal tea, give yourself a manicure or pedicure, use scented lotion.

–occupy the hands while staying “put” — I like this one while in front of the TV or helping kids with homework. Get some fun new crayons or markers and color– yes color — in a coloring book. You can use your kids books or get an “adult” coloring book from Amazon (wow, that sounded x-rated but it’s not!) Do sudoku, word search, doodle, make lists (grocery or gift shopping), play solitaire.

There are other times when I’m otherwise occupied so the “occupy hands” tools won’t work. But I might feel stressed out and want to snack while my hands are busy. These are the times when I need to occupy my mouth and I can’t take a bath or organizing break. Maybe I’m at the office working on a stressful project, paying my bills, or helping the kids do holiday arts and crafts (come on… we all know pinterest projects never come out like they look!)  During these times I need my hands free but might want to grab some holiday cookies from the break room, grab a glass of wine, or snack in whatever is in sight. So while I’m totally not a gum person, I have found that gum rules in these situations. I can chomp away, keep my mouth busy and not much tastes good on the palette after mint! This is also a great time to take a break from what you’re doing, get up from the desk and walk around, stretch and get some tea. Or, use the sensory vacation tool (burn a delicious candle and take moment to apply some scented lotion to your hands. Sometimes I find that just putting in some lipstick makes me less  apt to snack.

I guess it all boils down to being mindful (am I truly hungry or am I actually stressed?), what sort of tool would help me work through this moment (sensory vacation, using my hands, occupying my mouth, or something else?)

What are your go-to non-food stress relievers?