Craving Something?

Magnesium and the Chocolate Craving Connection

Ghirardelli-Asst-Bag-131037Every night, for longer than I’d like to admit, I’ve been turning to my husband sometime around 9 at night, and asking him, “Do we have anything sweet to eat?”  Dutifully he would rise from the couch and bring back the only thing he knew I wanted.

“Is the 70% ok?  I know it’s not as dark as you like…”

“Yes,” I’d say as he would hand me 2, sometimes more of these little babies.

Together we would sit back down and I would eat my chocolate.  In less than an hour I would be fast asleep.   Read the rest of this entry »

Bone Broth

Baby, it’s cold outside!

photoAnd, this little munchkin has kept me seriously busy over the past 20 months!  She is currently obsessed with “The Snowman” and it is a scene in the video, as well as a plethora of press coverage, that inspired this post about…BONE BROTH! Read the rest of this entry »

Should You Get the Flu Shot: Part 1

I don’t know about you, but it seems everywhere I look lately there are advertisements for the flu shot.  CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens…even Target and WalMart are promising to provide you with the vaccine “in 15 minutes or less without a trip to your doctor.”  vaccinations_1

When I got pregnant last fall it was treated as a matter of course that I receive my vaccine for the protection of my unborn baby.  And, now this fall, because my daughter Elliot is only 4 months old, its the same story…vaccinate yourself to protect your child (who is incidentally too young to get the flu vaccine, but when it comes to the multitude of other vaccines there is no age restriction – but more on that later!).

But is this vaccine as necessary as our local pharmacies would like us to believe?  And, does it really offer the protection it promises from the flu?

What is the Flu shot?

The flu shot is an annually administered vaccine designed to protect you from the seasonal flu.  It can be given as an intramuscular injection which contains a “dead” virus, or as an intranasal mist containing a “live” virus.

What many people don’t realize is that the seasonal flu shot is different each year and each vaccine contains 3 different strains of the influenza virus.  The 3 virus strains that are chosen are the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.  However, over the course of the flu season (October to May), many different influenza viruses can circulate at different times and in different places.

How does the Flu shot work?

undertheweathergraphics-1261342232FVVmBb1261343122The flu vaccine, like all vaccines, introduces a known pathogen into the body for the express purpose of creating antibodies against that pathogen.  The presence of antibodies creates future protection against that particular disease.

When a vaccine is administered either a small amount of pathogen, a less virulent version, or a killed version of a pathogen is introduced into the body.  The immune system launches an attack and creates antibodies to destroy what has been introduced to the body in the vaccine.  Because only a small amount, a very weak, or dead form of the pathogen is present, the immune system has (almost) no trouble defeating the intruder and you (almost) never get sick from the vaccine.

Many of the vaccines we receive as either children or adults are for what are known as stable viruses.  This means the DNA or RNA of these viruses changes very little over time.  The more stable the virus, the more effective the vaccine.  The influenza virus, however, is not at all stable.  It can mutate very quickly and can even borrow genetic material from the influenza viruses of different animals, namely pigs and birds.  Yup, you heard me – pigs and birds…that is where the names swine and avian flu come from.  Human, pig and bird flu can easily exchange genetic material because they are so similar.  In places like SouthEast Asia where people, pigs, and birds live in close proximity, these viruses readily exchange genetic information.  These places are also where the seasonal flu is “born”.

But even without the help of pig or bird DNA, the influenza virus will mutate over the course of the flu season.  Often the virus that causes illnesses at the start of the flu season is not genetically identical to the virus causing illness at the end of it.  According to the CDC, the ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends on 2 factors:

  1. the age and health status of the person getting the vaccine
  2. the similarity or “match” between the viruses or virus in the vaccine and those in circulation.

Get a flu vaccine for the wrong flu virus and its like you’ve received no vaccine at all.  This was exactly the case during the 2003-2004 flu season when the CDC announced that the administered flu vaccine that season had “no or low effectiveness” against influenza or influenza-like illness because it was not a genetic match.

And there is no way to predict how the virus will mutate over the course of the flu season. Doesn’t sound very promising, does it?

Stay tuned for Part 2 to learn how the flu shot is made (if the effect of unpredictibility of the flu virus didnt make you think twice about the vaccine, perhaps this will…) and what you can do to REALLY protect yourself!


V-Day Vote


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!

Valentine’s Day

cute valentine love wallpapers (5) 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.

chocolate_of_the_monthIf 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. (14)

Perception vs. Reality

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.

That's me hoisting a #70 dumbbell over my head at the 2012 Regionals.

That’s me hoisting a #70 dumbbell over my head at the 2012 Regionals.

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.

Me, at 23 weeks pregnant.  Taken 1.18.13

Me 23 weeks pregnant. Taken 1.18.13

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.

Healthy Cookie?

No matter which way you slice it, “Healthy Cookie” is an oxymoron.  Sorry Girl Scouts.

new-girl-scout-cookie-mango-creme-nutrifusion-abcAs part of the 2013 cookie season, the Girl Scouts have unveiled an new “healthy” cookie called the Mango Creme.   What is it about this cookie that makes it “healthy”?  Is it the mango?  Nope.  In fact the only mango in this cookie is mango flavoring.  It’s something called Nutrifusion.

When I visited their website to find out what NutriFusion was, I was intrigued by this posted factoid –  Only 21% of shoppers are satisfied that manufacturers and retailers are offering enough enhanced foods.  Enhanced food?  I didn’t know food (as in REAL food) needed enhancement.  Anyway, I digress.  According to its website NutriFusion is a “product using a unique scientific process that allows for the preservation of all-natural nutrients, that when added to foods and beverages, supercharges their nutritional value.”  A patented process is used to extract vitamins and antioxidants from  apples, oranges, cranberries, pomegranate, limes, strawberries and shiitake mushrooms.  In addition to enhancing the nutritive value of the food it is added to, NutriFusion is used to extend the shelf life of that food.  Yup, you read that right…extend the shelf life.  Yummy!

So, what does NutriFusion offer as a nutritional boost?  According to the cookie’s label the new Mango Creme cookies offer 15 percent Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of Vitamin B1 and 5 percent RDI of Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6 per serving (3 cookies).  Since when does 5% of the minimum daily recommended intake count as a boost?  Especially when that “boost” will cost 180 calories, and whose ingredient list names sugar as the second ingredient and includes palm oil, corn syrup, artificial flavor.

Check out the quote at the top left of the box.  Does this quote seem Ironic to anyone else?

Check out the quote at the top left of the box. Does this quote seem ironic to anyone else?

Here’s my idea for the 2013 Girl Scout cookie season.  Why don’t we do our pancreases a favor.  Instead of getting one box of cookies – or seven – this season, why don’t we  just donate the $4 per box we would normally spend directly to the organization.  Help the Girl Scouts and help yourself…what could be better than that!