Yesterday I wrote about one of my most memorable Valentine’s Day meals. But, in the four years since my husband and I have shifted our eating habits, our Valentine’s Day traditions and activities have reflected the change in our lifestyle. There is no pressure to give, or receive, Valentine’s Day candies and chocolates. And, going out to eat isn’t as appealing as cooking together in the kitchen. The intent of the holiday is to express love…and what better way is there to show love than by creating healthy, nutritious food and spending quality time together?
So, what will you be doing this Valentine’s Day? Leave your vote or a comment in the space below!
Years ago, before my husband and I were married, he took me out to a very nice dinner for Valentine’s Day. Now, my husband has taken me out for many excellent meals in the 12 years we have been together, and most of these I remember for the food and the experience of dining in the restaurant. But, this particular experience I remember not for the meal or for the experience. I remember it because I never want to eat this way again.
I was a Weight Watchers devotee in love with the points tracking system. In the week leading up to our Valentine’s date I worked to bank as many points as possible. I ate the minimum number of points allowed per day and exercised as much as I could to earn as many activity points as possible. I saved the extra points and worried if I had banked enough to keep me in my point range for the week.
My only memories of this meal are this – my husband had the duck and I wrote down everything I ate, and how much, while sitting at the table. When my husband finally brought me home I immediately calculated how many points I had eaten. It was twice the number of points I would normally eat in a day. I remember being horrified, feeling guilty, and worrying whether or not this would make me gain weight.
Looking back on it now, this is some seriously scary behavior. I was completely incapable of enjoying an experience because I was afraid, and I had absolutely no sense of moderation. This is no way to live.
Diets fail because they are an all or nothing endeavor. Screw up once and the whole thing goes in the toilet. But who can be perfect all the time? Wait…who would even WANT to? When we so rigidly stick to a set of rules, we set ourselves up for inevitable failure and miss out on the experiences in the mean time.
We eat several times per day, and those meals…the everyday breakfasts, lunches and dinners determine the quality of our health and the size of our waistline. There is a vast amount of cultural and social significance that comes with sharing a holiday/event meal or food related tradition – even if it’s one only made up by commercialism.
So, here are some tricks to consider when Valentine’s Day strikes tomorrow.
If you can cook…COOK because nothing says love like good food from the kitchen! Cooking your own Valentine’s Day meal gives you the most freedom to indulge in dishes you may not have had in a while, but allows you the opportunity to modify those recipes to suit your health goals. And, let’s be honest here, Valentine’s Day is mostly about the desserts. Use this link for some inspiration to whip up some decadent, delicious, and healthy desserts!
If going out to dinner is your thing…go out and enjoy the experience. Choose something exotic from the menu, or go for your favorite dish if it is something you wouldn’t normally cook at home and you haven’t had it in a long time. Savor every bite. Have a glass of wine, and go ahead, order dessert.
If a box of chocolate is your thing…buy the nicest chocolate you can afford. The biggest box of chocolates from the grocery store never tastes as good as the few pieces of fine chocolate you can get from your local chocolatier. The added bonus – built in portion control. And trust me, you’ll saver each and every bite when you spend more on less!
Are you in a place where on meal will turn into many that aren’t in line with meeting your health goals? Opt for a flowers only treat instead. Splurge on your favorites and put them where you can see them…or carry them from room to room to room with you so you can always see and enjoy them.
Never have I struggled with this concept more than I have these past 5 months. It was early September when I found out I was pregnant and to say it was unexpected would be the understatement of the century. Did I ever tell you I’m not big on surprises?
The first few weeks were the toughest and I cried, a lot. I felt very guilty for all of the negative feelings I was having. I mean, I should have been excited and joyful, like my husband. Thousands of women would give almost anything for the privilege of growing another human being. But, I wasn’t. I was absolutely terrified.
One of the things I like best about myself, one of the attributes I use to define me, is that I am a competitive CrossFitter. As that person I was happier, healthier, and more fit that I ever had been. Training intensely 5-6 days a week, sometimes with double sessions, was just part of my normal routine. I took a lot of pride in being able to do what I could do and I was more comfortable in my own skin than I ever had been. But, I couldn’t be that person and pregnant at the same time. So, who was I?
In those early weeks when visible changes had not yet begun to happen it was easy to keep my perception of myself. I didn’t look any different and I could still keep doing what I’d always done. Until one day I couldn’t. I remember trying to move a weight that earlier that same year would have been a piece of cake. Instead it felt like a million pounds and I was forced to confront the reality that my body was indeed changing.
More often than not I am finding it hard just to keep up with the regular programming and make it to class 3-4x per week. Week by week, the list of things I would have done with ease a few weeks ago and now know I will struggle just to get through gets longer and longer. This time of year is also Team training season and, for three consecutive years, since I began CrossFit, I have been a part of my gym’s competitive Regionals team. This year I can not be a part of my team, or participate in training, and I desperately miss being a part of it all.
My perception is, because I can not do what I used to do, I have lost what makes me – me. The reality, that part is just on hold. But, what drove me be strong and compete is still – and will always be – a part of me. Every day is not going to be a good training day. I may not use same weights or be able to do the same movements, but every day I am able train I make myself, and this tiny human, stronger. The goal has shifted from increasing strength to be a better competitor, to maintaining my strength in an effort to facilitate a healthy pregnancy, to ease labor and delivery, and to facilitate a healthy recovery.
I have good days and bad days. On good days I am able to appreciate and find joy in the changes I am experienceing. I can look forward to the future, and feel confident in who I am. On bad days think only of the negative and what I can no longer do. It is on those days that I am most grateful to have a husband, friends, coaches, and a community that help bring me out of my perceptions and back into reality – the reality that this is a precious experience…one that deserves to be savored , enjoyed, and appreciated because it will all be over before I know it.
There was a time in my life when I’d classify myself as a runner. During that time I trained for, and ran, two marathons and a Sunday wasn’t a good Sunday until I’d put at least 10 miles on the road with my favorite training partner. I felt better and looked better than I had in a long time because exercise was finally a consistent part of my life.
The thing about running is that it often doesn’t play a transient role in people’s life the way it did in mine. I’ve never met anyone more tenacious about their exercise regime than a runner – and especially a runner in training. Sick, hurt, it doesn’t matter…the running must be done!
Every year millions of runners take to the streets. For some, the local 5K is their goal. For others, perhaps a 10K or a half marathon. But for a growing number of runners, especially new runners, the goal is to run a marathon. Proper preparation and training, especially for newbie runners, often takes more than 20 weeks. And, for the majority of those weeks, total weekly milage exceeds 30 miles. But, is all that running good for you?
When I was living in RI, and running a ton, I knew several runners would train for 2 marathons per year, one in the spring and one again in the fall. Their days were scheduled around their running, they usually ran every day, and often for longer than 90 minutes. And, strangely enough, they were often some of the most injured and chronically sick people I knew. At the time, I couldn’t figure it out. They were exercising, often despite their injuries and illnesses, and they seemingly ate well. What was going on?
This article, posted today by Women’s Health, sheds some light on what may be going on inside the bodies of endurance athletes and is based on research published in several studies by the British Journal Heart, European Heart Journal, and the US journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This article answers questions like, how much running is too much? And, if running a marathon is one of your New Year’s resolutions (or just something you’ve always wanted to do), how to train and increase your health instead of putting yourself at risk.
Running may not be for everyone, but exercise most certainly is. Exercise shouldn’t take hours a day…if fact, it shouldn’t! Read here to find out why. Today is a new day and a brand new opportunity to start your journey to better health. Now go out and GET SOME!
Well, its the new year and, I don’t know about you, but it seems every TV commercial and pop-up add I see, and every Groupon/Living Social deal that has appeared in my inbox are all related to the New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss/Fitness Phenomenon. From cries of, “This year I’m gonna loose weight,” to “This year I’m gonna get in shape,” it seems everyone is on the bandwagon. But ask any gym owner, or visit any gym now and then again in February, to see how long these resolutions hold on.
We are an instant gratification society with the belief that if I work harder then the results I desire will come faster. Unfortunately, when it comes to achieving the results we desire via exercise, that belief is doing us more harm than good. Case in point, the New Year’s Resolution exercisers.
Full of good intentions they enter the gym to do some cardio, maybe hit a few weights and get in some crunches. Over those first few weeks the “quick trips” to the gym take longer than expected. Time gets tighter and meeting the normal obligations of the day become more difficult. The to-do list gets longer and longer as the days pass. Then there is the soreness. When you first go back its hard to know how much is too much and more often than not we over do it. It is this combination of time requirements and soreness that ultimately derails even the best intentioned individuals.
So, if your resolutions for the New Year include getting fit or getting healthy, how can you turn them into a reality in 2013?
Step 1 – Build SMART Goals
Getting fit and getting healthy are great goals to have, but what do they mean? Can you define them? How will you know if you’ve gotten fit? How will you know if you’ve gotten healthy?
How can you define health? Learn here.
Avoid not knowing when you’ve gotten there by building SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Let’s face it…nothing is a better motivator to keep you on track than a looming deadline. Take the time to construct the specifics of your goals. When you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there it makes it easier to stay the course.
Step 2 – Less is More
Spending 2 hours at the gym isn’t doing you any good. And contrary to popular belief/conventional wisdom less is more when it comes to gym time. In a study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, researchers found that 30 minutes of exercise was as effective in reducing body weight and body mass as 60 minutes of exercise.
“The participants in our study trained every day for three months. All training sessions were planned to produce a light sweat, but participants were expected to increase the intensity and give it gas three times a week,” explains Mads Rosenkilde, PhD student at the University of Copenhagen in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and author of the study. Over the course of 13 weeks the participants who exercised only 30 minutes per day lost 2lbs more than those who exercised for 60 minutes per day.
But wait, the news gets better. In addition to weight loss, participants who exercised for only 30 minutes reported having more energy and eating less throughout the day. Plus, when it came time to exercise, they had the desire to do so, and they simply felt better all day long.
Over exercising – a classic mistake of the New Year’s crowd – leaves us starving and exhausted, eating more and moving less as the days pass. Not seeing the results you are striving for makes motivation hard to maintain, and before you know it you are back where you started. So, get in, get a good sweat going, and keep it to 30 minutes.
Step 3 – Great abs are made in the kitchen
No matter how many days you train, no matter how much weight you lift, no matter how many miles you log, you will never get the body you desire if you don’t feed it right.
Not sure how to feed your body right? Follow these simple guidelines to build healthy plates meal after meal. You’ll find that you sleep better, your energy is more consistent throughout the day, and you’ll recover faster from workouts that previously would have sent you over the edge.
- Get white sugar and white flour out of your diet.
- Fill your plate with fresh vegetables, lean meats, and fresh fruits at every meal. Yes, this means vegetables for breakfast.
- Drink lots of water. Whenever you think of it, take a sip. Carry a water bottle so this is possible at all times.
- Incorporate healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, butter from grass fed cows (Try Kerrygold), cage free/free range egg yolks and coconut milk/coconut oil into your daily meals. Read why coconut oil is more than just a healthy fat here and here.
When asked to recall the events of 2012, either events in your personal life or world events, what do you most remember? Go ahead…take a minute and think. If you’ve got a pen and paper handy, or can quickly open a word doc, write down what comes to mind.
How many events were you able to recall? What percentage of those events would you consider to be positive? What percentage are negative? Unfortunately, most of us human beings have an easier time recalling the negative events that have taken place than we do the positive events. And focusing on the negative will only bring about more negativity. Now, I don’t know anyone who’s ever said, “I could use some more negativity in my life,” but I know plenty would could benefit from a whole lot more positivity (myself included – I am a natural born pessimist).
The solution? A Jar of Good Things. Instead of making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions this year – that, let’s be honest….won’t be kept – find a large jar or other container with a lid that can easily be opened and closed. Starting on January 1st, put this jar someplace conspicuous with a pen and scraps of paper near by. Then every day, every week, or every time you remember to, write down something positive and place it in the jar….accomplishments, things you are thankful for, health milestones, friends you have made, memories you want to cherish, anything you can think of. Encourage everyone in your household to add to the jar with their own positivity. At the close of 2013, open your jar and revel in a year’s worth of positive thoughts and memories.
So, if the law of attraction is really true – you attract back to you whatever type of energy you put out into the universe – think of what a whole year of positive thinking could do for you.
- What is Positive Thinking? (corporatewoowoochick.com)
- Positive Thinking’s Biggest Threat (corporatewoowoochick.com)
- Putting the Power of Positive Thinking to Work in Your Life (corporatewoowoochick.com)
It’s less than one week until Christmas…welcome to the craziest week of the year. Without a doubt you are going to at least one Christmas party this weekend. The goodies at work have likely been rolling in all week. And the alcohol is flowing freely. You want to be good, you know you should be good, but the constant temptation is just too much. Trust me, I’ve been there too.
Here’s the thing though. What you do once in a while doesn’t matter very much. It’s ok to indulge when it truly is a treat. Like when your Grandmother makes those cookies that taste just like your childhood, or a box of Godiva chocolates makes its way around the office. There is no need to fret about every morsel you consume at Christmas dinner or on New Year’s Eve. Go ahead, have a glass of champagne and toast the New Year!
Because it’s not what you consume at a holiday party, or even what you consume in the days between Christmas and New Years. It’s what you do every day matters. Your daily habits – all the other days of the year – that are the biggest contributors or detractors to your overall health and whether or not you reach your goals.
So, for the rest of this week and this weekend don’t add to your overall stress load by stressing out about all of the “food/drink mistakes” you’ve made. Instead choose the best options you can when the next opportunity arises. Treat treats like the treats they are. Don’t house all Grandma’s cookies and don’t hoard the whole box of chocolate.
Looking forward to the week between Christmas and New Years, eat as well as you can as often as you can. Move your body even if it is just for a stroll around the block or from store to store in the mall as you make returns. Drink as much water as you can and most importantly RELAX. We’ll all be back to the grind soon enough, so enjoy this time and enjoy each other’s company…it only comes once a year!
I love egg nog. There, I said it. It is one of those treats that only comes around this time of year, and honestly, who can resist that sweet, creamy, spicy brew? With or without the rum, of course! My favorite way to enjoy egg nog? Instead of creamer, I love to add egg nog to a steaming hot cup of coffee. Hot, spicy….delicious!
Back in the day egg nog was made at home. A simple recipe of cream, egg yolks, sugar and spices all blended to perfection. But oh, how times have changed! Most of us probably have no idea how to make egg nog, let alone understand the plethora of chemical terms on the back of the container.
So, let’s start a new holiday tradition! Let’s get ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and artificial colors out of our glasses! Instead, let’s gather up some real ingredients and make a holiday drink worthy of the days of yore!
- 1 c organic whole milk – grass fed if possible
- 1 c organic cream – grass fed if possible
- 2 eggs – free range & organic if possible
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- cinnamon & nutmeg to taste
*add rum, brandy, or whiskey to taste if desired
- Add all ingredients to a blender or magic bullet
- Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated
- Serve cold with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
When most of us think holiday treats, we likely think of the traditional sugar and flour laden cookies and breads, decadent chocolates or other sugary goodies. But, what if those kinds of treats no longer fit in your lifestyle? And, more importantly, what if your goal is to share your healthy lifestyle with those who mean the most to you? Do you forgo the holiday treats for good? Absolutely not! Healthy and tasty are not mutually exclusive. Use these homemade goodies to treat those you love to how delicious healthy eating can be!
And for a delicious topping to spread over the Berry Good Scones or Banana Bread try:
Orange Honey Butter
- 1 stick Kerrygold butter, softened to room temp
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp orange zest
- With a fork cream together all ingredients until well blended.
- Place in decorative containers, or in jars for gifting.
- Refrigerate until firm
And, if cooking just isn’t your thing…give these gifts a go! Perfect for anyone looking to jumpstart their health in the New Year.
Tis the season for cold and flu prevention. Everywhere you go there are wipes, wall mounted dispensaries, and pump bottles full of hand sanitizer. Bathrooms are stocked with antibacterial soaps and we are encouraged to throughly wash our hands at every opportunity. We’ve even gone so far as to make articles of clothing, shoes, even household items like cutting boards with antibacterial properties. Though it may seem beneficial to rid ourselves of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and even fungi at every opportunity, what effect does contact with so many antimicrobial items have?
Through the Skin
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. However, most of us don’t think of our skin in the same category as our liver, per say, because the top layer of our skin is actually dead tissue. Despite this fact, our skin is very much alive. It is the single external barrier between our insides and the outside world. But this barrier is anything but impermeable. Our skin is constantly taking in and transporting whatever it absorbs into your blood stream and throughout your body. This is how patches like the nicoderm, the birth control patch, and even some hospital administered pain patches work. The substance in the patch is absorbed transdermally – meaning through the skin.
In the case of most commercial hand sanitizers isopropyl alcohol is the main antibacterial ingredient. Though isopropyl alcohol evaporates so quickly it poses little threat in the way of absorption. However isopropyl alcohol is extremely drying to the skin. With repeated exposure your skin can become so dry that it begins to crack thus creating even easier access for bacteria, viruses and other pathogens to enter into your system.
In the case of antibacterial soaps as well as other commonly used personal care products like deodorants, mouthwashes and toothpaste but also including other household items like bedding, clothes, carpets, toys and trash bags a chemical called triclosan is often used. Never heard of it? Very likely. Exposed to it every day? Almost guaranteed – even if you dont use antibacterial soap or other antibacterial products. In 1998 he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that more than 1 million pounds of triclosan were produced annually in the United States. And because it is used in so many products triclosan can be detected in waterways and aquatic organisms ranging from algae to fish to dolphins. Even more frightening triclosan can even be detected in human urine, blood and breast milk.
What’s the big deal with triclosan?
According to a study published earlier in 2012 conducted at the University of California, Davis triclosan negatively impacts muscle function. Although a decrease in muscle function may not sound that serious, it is when you consider your heart is a muscle and your very survival depends on its proper and consistent function. “We have shown that triclosan potently impairs muscle functions by interfering with signaling between two proteins that are of fundamental importance to life,” said Isaac Pessah, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and principal investigator of the study. After exposing mice daily to the chemical, the researchers noted that triclosan reduced gripping strength in the rodents by 18 percent and slowed down heart function by a terrifying 25 percent. In addition the UC Davis research team has previously linked triclosan to other potentially harmful health effects, including disruption of reproductive hormone activity and of cell signaling in the brain. Dr. Pessah, the study’s lead author, wants consumers — and the FDA — to be aware of its effects. “Regulatory agencies should definitely be reconsidering whether it should be allowed in consumer products. Triclosan is found in virtually everyone’s home and is pervasive in the environment. The risks definitely outweigh the benefits,” he says.
Common sense may have already told you that constantly exposing yourself to antibacterial products may not be in your best interest. It is proven that individuals who live a healthy lifestyle and subsequently have a healthy immune system have a decreased susceptibility to both bacterial and viral illnesses. So, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and happy this winter. The answer is much simpler that you might imagine.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is your body’s opportunity to recharge your immune system. If your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for you to fight the flu or any other potential invader.
- Check your stress. Stress is the root cause of 99% of all illness. Stress, emotional or physical, supresses your immune system’s function and prevents your body from fighting off the bacteria and viruses that make you sick.
- Avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar, like stress, suppresses the function of your immune system. The cells of your immune system will take in sugar instead of the vitamin C necessary to destroy bacteria and viruses when both are abundant in the body. It is especially important to avoid sugar if you feel you are getting sick, but keeping sugar out of your diet on a regular basis will make it harder for viruses and bacteria to bother you in the first place.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise increases the circulation of blood and components of your immune system. This increases the chances of your immune system finding any bacteria and viruses before they have a chance to spread. Exercise also increases your immune system efficiency in deciphering and acting upon viruses and bacteria before they make you sick. .
- Get some sunshine, or a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D increases the potency of your immune system. The BEST way to get your vitamin D is from safe sun exposure. However, getting enough sunshine to support adequate Vitamin D production at this latitude is almost impossible, especially in the winter. The next best option is to take a 2000 IU Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement, which is the same vitamin D your body makes when exposed to sunshine.
- Take your Fish Oil. Your immune system can’t function optimally without the necessary omega-3 fats DHA and EPA. Research has shown that EPA and DHA support your immune system to provide increased resistance to common colds and illnesses like the flu.
- Take a probiotic. Approximately 70% of our immune system is located in our intestines. When you take a probiotic you control the type of bacteria that inhabit your intestines and thereby makes sure that those bacteria are fighting FOR you and not against you. Choose a probiotic that contains at least 1 billion organisms and 10 different strains per serving.
Read the full University of California, Davis study here.
Get a list of common items containing triclosan here.
- Allergy Risk May Be Increased By Triclosan In Cosmetics And Personal Care Products (medicalnewstoday.com)
- 8 Scary Cleaning Chemicals to Avoid (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- 5 Reasons to End Our War on Germs Before it Kills Us All (alternet.org)