How a Little Detoxing Can Boost Your Brain Function & Mood (A bonus to a Tighter Tummy)

It’s a very rare occasion that I decide to endure a detox, which means a week without cheese, chocolate and (yes, shocker) without a drop of coffee. (Though honestly, the “no coffee” is more like Monday - Friday, if I’m lucky.) While some extreme detoxes and cleanses, like those entirely plant-based, dairy-free or Paleo-focused (no dairy, no beans, no grains - I’d go crazy), can be very beneficial. But I’ve discovered such drastic approaches aren’t always necessary. After all, what is life without cheese and coffee, right? But doing without processed foods for a set period of time, can drastically improve your mental and emotional state of health.

Cleaning house every now and then, in terms of your diet, is a great way to reset your body and mind. And it turns out a little detoxing may give you that mental sharpness and emotional clarity you've been looking for.

Such a mood-boosting detox would entail going without sugar, refined grains and processed foods for a week or so. While I know many are opposed to any idea of detoxing, because of the poor body-image or eating habits it may encourage, I want to clarify that I’m suggesting a detox here where you actually eat food. There are also those who hate the school of thought that says you should not deny yourself what you feel you need, but sometimes it is just good for us to do without.  A little detoxing, or, better described as learning to fuel yourself with what is essential for your health (vegetables, fruit, nuts, lean proteins and whole grains) and avoiding what is unnecessary (sugar, processed foods and caffeine) has a way of resetting your body, brain and overall mood. 

A little cleanse doesn’t have to mean consuming nothing but green juices all week (though don’t underestimate a good green juice). Still such a commitment can be a little scary. The thought of a week without chips and Diet Coke, or finding replacements to your usual Pinkberry fix is just too much for some and keep many from ever discovering dependancies that may be altering your mood or train of thought.  

There is a twofold here to our strong connection to food: eating processed foods not only affects our weight, but has a direct affect on our gut, which in turn affects our brain and mental state. These foods we’ve become fixated on are foreign to our bodies and we are excessively reaping their affects. Studies show that our brain responds to sugar the same way it does to cocaine and heroine, excessive caffeine can increase anxiety and high-blood pressure and salty foods can be the cause of our cognitive decline. It’s difficult to deny the direct implications our diet has on our brain function and emotional wellbeing.

While we manage to find ways to adjust to the changes that life throws our way, making simple adjustments to our diets in order to improve our overall health seems impossible for many of us. True, you only live once. And certainly, life is meant to be enjoyed - my point exactly. So... you could keep eating Oreo’s and telling your-sad-moody-self just that or you could make small, attainable adjustments to incorporate more foods that are nutrient-dense, full of antioxidants into your daily diet. You may be surprised how much more you will enjoy life eating this way and your brain just might thank you.

Did I mention coffee is chock full of antioxidants and is great for your skins? (I could write a whole post on it, but I don’t want to bore you.) 

 

Yoga Myths Debunked: #1 Yoga Can't Make You Stronger

Transient

On the rare occasion I find myself at a coffee shop (oh, so rare), I’ll hear (overhear, listen in, eavesdrop, what have you) the most interesting conversations; interesting as in so intriguing, entertaining or bizarre that I’ve been tempted to start a series simply on these discussions I overhear. I think I would call it “Starbucks Snooping,” or maybe “Chronicles of a Cafe Pryer.”

Typically it’s a pet peeve of mine to be working on something and wind up overhearing the world problems of those around me. But every now and then someone says something that grabs my attention (and yes, I think, “That would be a fantastic topic to write on!”). Excuse my dorky self.

Well just the other week I sat down in a cafe at one of those inviting lengthy wooden study tables, that are either the most wonderful invention for the solo studier at coffee shops or the most annoying concept, because essentially you're sitting at a wide-open invitation for anyone to join you. (Now I’m sure I sound like a community-avoiding loner, but I guess thats what earbuds are for.) Soon I was joined by a 60-something southern belle who was sharing just how “famished and parched” she was and before I knew it, the conversation led to a series of questions (she was doing all the asking) that wound up revealing a rundown of my resume. After I mentioned I was a yoga instructor, this lithe, elderly Scarlett O’Hara responded “Oh, yoga! I hear that’s relaxing and good for you. But it doesn’t really strengthen you, so it’s not really like... a workout.” Au contraire!, I wanted to reply, but I held my tongue like the good reserved northern girl my southern dad raised me to be. In conversation one does not always have to have the last word and in the presence of the elderly (aka - anyone older than you), one never takes the last word. 

What I did want to tell this little lady (side note, but too hilarious not to note: my Mac proofreader just suggested I avoid using “little lady” because it is sexist)... Rephrase: What I did want to tell this sweet, capable wise woman was, Yoga* will undoubtedly make you stronger, and you don’t have to be doing a P90X routine to discover it.

This is a misconception I had for some time that held me back from giving yoga a go. How can focusing on balance, breathing and flexibility actually lead to a stronger physique? But Iet me be honest here: at the time I was more concerned it would not melt calories away like my spin class or Tracey Anderson dvds. If I couldn’t burn 400 some-calories, why would it even be worth 20 minutes?

When I did make the dive, and exchange my high-impact runs and spins for some soft, varied and restorative routines, I found my strength was challenged like nothing I had ever tried. Granted, I’ve never entered a Crossfit (and likely, never will) so this is not a claim that yoga will make you a body builder or the show-stopper in your Crossfit clique, but if you’re looking to challenge your body in a new way and strengthen skills you rarely tap into, you may want to give yoga a chance.

So how can this odd form of “working out” make you stronger?

1. Yoga will strengthen you’re coordination.

Learning to allow your body to release (opposed to forced stretches) and still hold poses for lengths of time, is both a mental and physical challenge. You’re constantly battling the “I can do this”, “No, no I can’t do this.” “I can hold this a few breathes more.” “Nope, there’s no way. I’m going to fall!” thoughts. 

Yoga challenges your strength on a whole new level.

I recall being in classes in NYC with firefighters and gym owners, who would sweat and pant, attempting to hold poses instructors would lead us through. 

2. Yoga will strengthen your focus.

In one study it was found that after a yoga practice, individuals “were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly,” and were overall more productive. (The Journal of Physical Activity and Health)

3. Yoga will strengthen your breathing.

Yoga will make you focus on your breathing.

 The benefits are endless for better breathing: Stimulated brain growth, improve heart rate variability, lower stress levels, alleviate anxiety and negativity, lower blood pressure, the list goes on. (Huffington Post)

4. Yoga will strengthen your emotions (or self-control).

Studies suggest yoga may have a similar affect as antidepressants and psychotherapy on the body. Of recent, it has become a form of therapy used for many struggling with PTSD and even Psychiatric disorders. (Time)

5. Inevitably yoga will make you stronger. 

Simply put, by an aspiring neuroscientist, “Yoga is a scientific technology that harnesses the innate capability of the body as a vehicle for transformation.” (US News)

Male aspiring neuroscientist, I might add. 

Yes, yoga can and will make you stronger. Even you, men.

*Though many programs are incredibly restorative and invigorating, Yoga can be a very loose term. Some programs, such as P90X, can be counterproductive. You should feel a sense of recovery and energy. If you feel like you’ve been run over by a mack truck you may want to look elsewhere.

Free and approachable yoga routines by Tara Stiles are always a sure thing.

 

How Female Insecurity Adds to our Weight Woes

“Do I look fat in this?”

We women tend to ask questions we already know the answers to. And often we're not necessarily asking for  answers we don’t know but for the ones we want to hear.

The feminine species can be tricky sort.

Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we ask the right questions (and probably in just the right way, in just the worst scenarios) to get the right answers. And sometimes we like to nurture a little thing called insecurity.

A women’s level of self-confidence and esteem has an impact in just about every aspect of her life; her choice of clothing, her facial expressions, her job performance, her interaction with other women, her interactions with men, her sense of drive behind the wheel, her eating habits and possibly even her tweets. Yes, we women can gear a lot in life simply by how we view ourselves. The power of insecurity can be paralyzing, affecting the way we communicate, conduct ourselves and even may have a domino affect our progress in attaining a healthy weight.

If we haven’t been that girl asking those question, (which whohasn’t at some point) we’ve all known someone who’s questions and conversations are directed in such a way to edify themselves on a regular basis. Truly it’s a common mind game we like to throw on one another (and it’s exactly the kind of behavior women in my family have no problem calling each other out on) but it is also often the rooted insecurities we culture in our minds that wind up complicating so much more in life than is necessary, even possibly our weight.

It’s no shock to most of us that we are our worst critics, but we also are our worst enemies. Functioning in such thought patterns of self-doubt disables our ability to move forward, accomplish and achieve much of anything. Really spending the time we do analyzing, sorting and making a science out the simple task of “eating well” derails us into more emotional frustrations than our mind can contain, so tasks as simple as changing eating habits or being more active become like science formulas to us that we can’t unlock. (And instead we buy into the health industry, who’s books, diets and programs feed most everyone the same crap in just different forms. ) Women can also allow such a self-image to discourage them, feeling that they aren’t good enough or of a certain status to be worthy of a healthy and happy life. This creates a sort of cynicism to the idea of being happy and healthy for some females, as if it’s unattainable and far-fetched, as if it’s a joke. If we were to view ourselves as deserving and capable of a healthy weight, of a healthy and happy life, the steps to getting there would probably look entirely different, as would our view of physical fitness and emotional well-being.

More than likely, nothing and no one effects our weight loss efforts more than our level of self-confidence. Insecurity keeps us from doing what we love, dreaming of to reach for next and essentially living life. So with all these trickling effects of insecurity, could a healthy image of self play a key role in obtaining healthier habits, weight loss goals and overall holistic health? Now, why would I ask a question I already know the answer to?

The Stress-Eating Effect

At various points in life I’ve definitely been a stress eater, a closet-stress eater if you will. Sometimes I almost planned and strategized my stress eating for very specific days, in specific setting with very specific foods (surprise, surprise for those who know me.). I’ve gone in and out of these seasons like a singer with a bad smoking addiction.

But life can be stressful. Food can be momentarily comforting. We can’t eat perfect all the time, right? These are things I'd always tell myself, especially after any stress-induced noshing. Somehow this reasoning had a way  to make such indulgences completely justifiable.

Speaking of stress, let’s just say I wanted this post up, like, last Tuesday, the very morning my week was hit (once again) with just that. sTreSs! Ironically, of all the things I had planned to next post on was the  effects of stress-eating. It was just that kind of week.  The one that would make a great movie. Who knows. Maybe one day it will ...

Sidenote: Life gets a lot easier when you just learn to laugh at these crazy moments/seasons.

There have been days lately that would've turned the Kristin of 4 or 5 years ago, into reasoning a Oreo-peanut-butter-dipping, chocolate stashed bowl, cookie evening frenzy. You can just ask a certain former college roommate just how these evenings went. Sometimes I feel I've been bad influence with my bizarre eating habits.

Uncertain patterns of life collide with our eating habits, creating less than healthy attachmenst and daily rituals with our food, no matter what it is your polishing off. Stress eating is more than just simply sulking after a breakup with a can of Redi Whip and Ben & Jerry's while viewing a rerun of Jerry MacGuire. It's running out the door scarfing down toast for breakfast when your late for work, scarfing chips while waiting on dinner to arrive because you haven't eaten since noon or stuffing your face with chocolate chip cookies on fridays nights because the week has finally come to an end and no one is around tell you you can’t! Been there. Done that.

Our society lives in a perpetual state of stress we’ve become dumb to. Yet when stress isn't dealt with it’s effects are  going to to show up regardless. And if it’s not your crappy attitude, it’s likely going to be your waistline.

The past few months, when life has hit me blindside, I’ve tried to make a more conscious effort of my settings and moods when I eat.  Few in our Americanized culture truly know how to live in the moment let alone enjoy meals at a pace our bodies can  keep up with what’s being shoveled in. When stress isn’t dealt with and we continue to feed such emotions (literally), we’re just propelling a vicious cycle.

Last month Psychology Today titled This Is Why We’re Fat & Sick: Stress in America:

Americans are more stressed and more unhappy than our counterparts in other countries. According to Columbia University's First World Happiness Report, the United States does not even make the top 10 in happiness rankings, logging in at number 11, behind Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. And our level of happiness has remained about the same for decades. As Paul Rosch, a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College and president of the non-profit American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y., succinctly puts it, "We have more or less accepted it as a way of life..."

And, accept, I’d rather not.

The more we are aware of these tiny inhibits on our healthy, hopefully, the more we can make a conscious effort to change our currents state of stress. And it sounds like there may be more to change than just our level of stress...

Females, Food, our Freak'n Crazy Minds (& why bv is back)

“If I took all the time I’ve spent thinking about calories I could’ve learned Japanese!”

Through my healthy, mindful seasons and my not so healthy, not so mindful season it was sickening when I read that sentence and realized how much French I could’ve learned by now. Just how much time we women can waste worrying food, how much we ate, what to eat, when to eat, how to eat to fix how we ate earlier - it is mentally exhausting.

One study shows women think about dieting more than relationships and sex (if that gives you guys any ideas just how much we obsess over it). After trying nearly every cleanse, elimination diet and every quirky personal tactic I could to tackle discontent with my body, I discovered at the root, food was really not the problem. Organic, gluten-free, local or not, there were deeper issues with my frustrations than just eating right. Linked to all my pitfalls, and weight gain were my warped emotions, mind-set and outlook on life.

It’s no news now, but “dieting” isn’t the permanent solution. Still I constantly found myself in a cycle of “needing a good cleanse” or “detox.” Call it what you will, but ultimately it was making life more difficult than it needed to be. Why do we feel it necessary to restrict so much just to wind up overindulging and again return to this “need to cleanse myself”? It (and I) was becoming nonsensical. In the past I had embraced a healthy way of eating and living, yet somehow stumbled back into this bottomless pit of trying to perfect the way I eat. It was time to explore  these innate wrestling matches with my body that I couldn't seem to shake off and simply stop dieting, detoxing, cleansing... you get the picture.

We think about food and our weight way too much. We’ve allowed an obsession with perfection to either make us legalistic in our diets or just throw in the towel altogether. But there is something much more rewarding than perfection. Truth is your ideal body will never be perfect, because NO. ONE. IS.

While you can’t be perfect (and do not need to be) there is something more enriching and freeing. It is about “living,” not perfectly, but better. We have to start somewhere.

Enjoy Holiday Feasting without Letting Yourself Go

Tonight you might be scarfing down swedish meatballs and several helpings of Auntie Mae’s special brownies, but come January 1st you’re getting a membership and losing 10 pounds. Afterall “Tomorrow is another day.”

So yes, at every party you’re going to help yourself to another glass of eggnog with an extra helping of sugar cookies. Already you’ve committed to a gym membership, a carb-free diet and a guaranteed horrible time working out to strip the extra holiday weight from your body. Isn’t that how every American starts their new year?

Maybe most of us succumb to gaining weight every Christmas more than we have to.  ‘Tis the season. But before facing the holidays feeling totally powerless to maintain some kind of restraint, or healthy mindset rather, when faced with a never-ending Christmas smorgasbord, here are a few suggestions to approaching Christmas and New Years celebrations without completely losing yourself.... (or gaining another self, rather.)

1.Eat when you’re hungry -

I know - groundbreaking. While it sounds like a obvious idea, those who actually eat 3 meals a day or more (snacks don’t hurt) are probably the minority. By eating before you’re famished you’re more likely to savor, choose wisely and actually enjoy your meals.

Some of us girls like to micro-manage the way we eat and for most guys it’s just convenient to skip a meal if you know there’s going to be free food in 3 hours. Overall there’s this idea that by skimping on breakfast or keeping lunch to a minimum of a bowl of salad, we’re somehow leaving room for a third helping of pecan pie later tonight. Trouble there is, you can’t really outsmart your gut. So try listening to it. Eat when you’re hungry, which is probably more often than not. Stop when you’re satisfied. Simple.

2. Don’t save the gym for Jan. 1st.

An effective workout doesn’t have to be a P90x sweat session with Tony Horton everyday (thank God!)You don’t need a trainer or gym membership to stay active through the next week. In 20 minutes you can get a decent workout at home on days when you’re crunched for time, though 30 - 60 is always ideal. Recently I’ve enjoyed short cardio circuit sessions by James Duigan. Wait til you get to the “burpee” on the link below and 20 minutes will be more than enough.

Here are some ideas for simple & quick workouts -

3. Forget about deprivation & diets

I can’t count the number of holidays I’ve faced thinking, “Ok, after vacation I’ll nix this and that and feel better.” I’ve done the whole no sugar, dairy, processed foods cleanse thing a handful of times and while there are endless benefits to this, the aftermath of supressing every urge for chocolate or cookies can get you in more of a mess than where you first began. You don’t have to be a certified nutritionist to grasp the idea of  healthy eating. Just keep it simple. Plenty of greens, lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, nuts and learn to moderate sweets and processed foods. Enjoy a variety. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

Why is it that Americans revel in the extremes of holiday weight gain? The reason most of us continually fail or backtrack during these weeks is more connected with our train of thought than anything else. You can enjoy the holidays, those special brownies and a healthy lifestyle. Give yourself a Merry Christmas and don't give yourself up so easily this year.

Female Food Fixation

   

This one’s for the girls ( and no I have not been listening to Martina McBride), because for females, food can be so confusing. All women want to be able to actually enjoy half the delicious things we posted on Pinterest while being able to wear the outfits we equally drool over, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting this. But most of us girls can be preoccupied with how to have our cake and eat it too - which, in this case, is more attainable than we often make it.

If you're like me, you anticipate that by the time you hit adulthood, say late 20’s or early 30’s (if you can call that adulthood these days) you've learned how eat in order to reach a desired weight, and maintain a balanced diet without raiding the chocolate stash every night. But, being the women that we are, we complicate things.

Some seasons have been easier for me than others when it comes to my “food philosophy”; eating in a way that keeps me where I want to be, both mentally and physically. At times I’ve been very regiment about it. I’ve had my list of do’s and don’t and felt the need to abide by it rigorously and I’ve had my not-so-angelic seasons, staying up late, raiding that chocolate stash, often due to times of being too "angelic" throughout my day to begin with.

Things get confusing when food becomes a fixation. Some of us formulate, sometimes manipulate our diet, with foods we think will effect either our a) comfort or b) physique. By comfort, I’m referring to foods we believe will make us happy, viewing them as awards, while the latter are those we think are ideal, healthy foods. In layman’s terms, a) is “bad” and b) is “good.” Now, maybe I’m the only female who has spent her fair share of time in both modes, but I find many women’s eating habits are driven by a desire to look good or feel good.

Food is just food. While the word “food” is used so loosely, as to now define, what Michael Pollan calls, “edible food-like substances,” please take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. But - food is just food. Food is meant for nourishment, as it is meant for pleasure, kinship, creativity, tradition and some sense of consistency and stability in our lives. I’m not saying we should throw caution to the wind and eat whatever (if you read my blog, you’d know that is not my philosophy whatsoever) we could benefit ourselves to learn about our bodies, by being mindful and sensible, rather than obsessing about every morsel.

While there's always new diet trends or some life-changing celebrity cleanse, as promising as they may seem, none of them have the answer we want. Sometimes we try to transform our habits to a list of do's and don’t’s, in hopes of a dramatic physical transformation. Most women, nowadays, understand “eating healthy” to mean a gluten-free, dairy-free, non-processed virgin-like approach to life. Not that these aren’t good ways of eating, but perfecting it and not allowing some kind give in your diet is not only unattainable, it sucks the life out of food. It sucks the joy out of eating with others and sucks the possibility of reaching a state of health that you will ever feel confident in - because forcing food plans makes us forever fixated on what we should and shouldn’t have, making us rather imprisoned to these ideals. If you are constantly relying on Health newsfeeds or some calorie counting App to navigate how to eat, instead of learning how to understand what you need and crave, you will likely face endless cycles of frustration and obsession.

If there’s one thing I’ve found, the harder I work at it, the less I’m able to maintain it. In other words, the more I try to tame my taste buds or I force rigid plans, the more unlikely I am to be at a weight I’m happy with, or maintain a peace of mind for that matter. A constantly hungry girl is not a happy girl and a unhappy girl isn't always a pretty girl.

 

The Monster Diet

America should call it's diet The Monster Diet. Through our 200 some years of existing as a Nation we've established some very interesting habits towards food, that have set certain trends that are very much, let's say, "American". While some countries daily diets include tea-time, lingering lunches or savory breakfasts at cafes most Americans average diet probably looks quite different. Breakfast is coffee and a granola bar if you're lucky, lunch is a salad and if you haven't raided the candy aisle before dinner, you last meal of the day (if you're being honest) is probably bigger that all the rest of the day combined. For some reason we've taken on this novel notion that being ferociously hungry through most of our day is how we are suppose to function. That or we are so driven in work, school or chasing kids all day as a Mom that we just "forget" to eat. But really how do you "forget" to eat? It's like forgetting you need to use the bathroom. Unless you work for Channel Five News or work under some crazy dealines like for UPS, I don't think many of us can forget that our stomachs are growling at us. But staying on a steady Monster diet - subsisting on a cycle of hunger and large meals, then more hunger and large meals - does more than just wreak havoc on your waistline.

Going through most days hungry or always eating past the point of comfort makes us on edge, and unpleasant. You can tell that many American's eat this way just by how startling it is when you meet a pleasant smile in public. Not only does not eating make us grouches, but we tend to not always make the best decisions when we're pushing past the point of hunger. We're hasty, we're pushy, we're scatter-brained and a bit of a mess.

What you eat can have the same effect. We all know at this point how we're suppose to and why. But did it ever cross you're mind that what you ate could be making you cranky? Particularly women. Hate to single us out here but if you're anything like me and you eat too much, or allow you diet to be healthy doses of Frappaccino's and chocolate, well you just not going to feel to hot - no pun intended. To top it off women tend to crave sugar, while guys crave protein. (So this idea that women have a harder time then men losing weight is just a fib we like to feed ourselves.)

Anytime my family would go to Sam's Club when I was a kid, we always knew we could forget about lunch. My parent's had this great idea that we could "fill up" on samples mid-day, call it lunch and save the extra bucks. (I don't quite think it to be abuse since my parents were blessed with feeding 6 hungry mouths at every meal - My poor folks). By 3 o'clock I would always ask for lunch, in which my Dad would reply  "But you just ate."  This often left me as the whiny "high-maintenance" individual in the family (which I still am teased for being from time to time.) Through the years I've tried so many different approaches to lose my extra weight. Believe it or not went into high school about 3, pushing 4 sizes bigger than I am now. But I found what worked for me was - drum roll please - eating when I was hungry. What a novel idea! Which in all honesty is more often then not. This means a few small healthy meals throughout my day.

None of us want to be ruled by food, but when we just ignore that our body's need substance we're not really doing the body good. There's got to come a point where you take responsibility and take time to understand how your body functions best. How could our country be so obsessed with food, be such infrequent eaters and still manage to top as the Nation with the highest rate of obesity? We often don't eat when we should and what we should. Moderation in all things is key. But I think most monsters are foreign to moderation.

Why Admins Can Easily Get Depressed (& The Purple Radish)

 

So I have come to the conclusion that sitting for too long makes me depressed. This may seem like a random place to pick back up but I’m in the midst of learning and growing (I'm  forever learning and growing,) the very reason why I should probably be writing here more often. But when I feel like I have a lot more to learn, or am in the process of growing, I kinda feel like I’m feeding you all a load of crap (or fill in the blank ...) if I’m not feeling all hunkey dorey and healthy. But I would gather that not even all my favorite writers embody the ideals they convey 100% of the time. So I write...

For those of you whom I’ve kept ill-informed, I have been giving much of my attention to another blog - The Purple Radish.  It’s a blog I’ve had for almost a year now, where I write or meander about life, love and culture. Post to post, it may come across as random, but that’s me. In a nut shell it’s where I write about what I’m passionate about. I hope to soon join Better Vita and The Purple Radish.

You don’t always hold jobs that are necessarily positions you’ve dreamed to be in. For me, that is any job where I’m serving coffee or sitting for an ungodly period of time. Currently I hold an administrative position, where e-mailing, documenting, mail-merging and meetings are just part of the job. Granted I’m working with several teams at a large church, so events and church services with 200 plus volunteers do get me off my feet a few days a week - obviously. But for anyone who works in a church, you understand that the prep time heavily outweighs the service and interaction time, though I wish this were reverseed. (When I was working on a College Campus I was always getting up to meet with students, be at services, classes, events... let’s just say there was a bit more movement required of me.) Since my hours are somewhat long and I live a bit away from work, I’m up earlier and try to get some movement for 30 minutes before I leave. Just some kind of activity to wake up before arriving to a desk.

Those of us who carry administrative jobs can often times feel like we’re the only one’s sitting at a desk while life and exciting things are  happening to everyone else outside these pasty walls. Or am I the only one who’s been struck with this thought from time to time? But I'm finding many of my biggest frustrations in life can be remedied with very practical solutions.

Frustration: "I feel lowsy and miserable after sitting behind a desk all day long!" (8 hours, if we’re counting)

Remedy: Get up!

It’s that simple, get up and start moving around. Who ever said I have to e-mail or submit room requests for a meeting while sitting down? When your sitting for long hours your body eventually adapts to a sedentary state. NBC.com news covered a Men's Health article, "Why Sitting Down All Day is Slowly Killing You" examining the health risks of desk jobs. "If you spend too much time in a chair, your glute muscles will actually 'forget' how to fire," says Hartman, a Men's Health Advisor. If you've ever had a desk job you know how this feels. There's a reason why so many people feel dead by the end of a work day, and often it's not from too much activity. Whether you exercise or not, if you're at a salary paying-desk job, though you may be making a significant amount more than a Starbucks Barista or grocer, you aren't expending as many calories as you would with a job where you stand. Basically, if your not moving as much, your not active as much and the inactivity eventually gets to your head.

It’s too easy to let life and our situations define us. Defining how we want our lives to look takes a bit more work than just rolling with the punches. Our bodies weren't even created for inactivity and how we feel after sitting for lengthy periods (when you’re legs are screaming at you to move) is a perfectly legitimate reason why we should not sit for so long at all (unless of course you're catching up with Breaking Bad or plan on attending "The Master" premiere). So if you’re working at a desk today, or for this period of your life, don’t succumb to feeling like crap. Get up and move! You will find your mind is sharper, your body will feel lighter and mood will be much sweeter (for you and everyone else you work with.)

You Can Have It All... (In Due Time)

Food is a force of life, a source of energy that keeps us going. But being the human beings we are, we easily can confuse food to being our source instead of a source. Sometime we just don't know when to stop. It's why buffets will never go out of business here in Florida. We are ravenous creatures whose eyes are a great deal larger than our stomaches. But it's not abnormal to deal with this unsatiable appetite. We all deal with this at one point or another - at least if you're human.  Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, is that type of woman, that relatable human being (at least to me.) One whose blunt, unapologetic and unfilitered thought process and impulses can probably relate to most of us. (Sorry : I know 30 Rock may be a dated example, but I don’t watch much tv except for a recent fixation about a certain chemistry teacher turned meth producer, that may have the best health-related materials, at least for now.)

I think Liz Lemon relates to food the way most of us are afraid to admit we do on a weekly basis (particulary women - sorry girls, just being honest)...
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brb_2-Y7FUA
“I CAN HAVE IT ALL!” Some of us eat like it’s our last meal, with no tomorrow in sight. I’ve done it, and particularly struggled with this when I’ve put too much food off limits (like major food groups.) If your trying to be too angelic everyday (ex. low-fat foods, substance-lacking salads, sugar-free fat-free froyo), your cravings will likely turn you into a 'lil devil. Certainly it explains some of our mood-swings. But this all or nothing mentality, in relation to our diets, seems to be a common eb and flow ( or a rather vicious cycle.)

Granted we deal with this “I want it all” idea, with nearly every aspect of life. How often are we completely content in the moment? Especially when we've got our eyes on something that we can't have or that's limited.   But just like you learn to budget your money, organize your time, and allot some relaxing or entertainment in your week, you must “budget” your eating patterns. Or you will forever find yourself in such situations...

So how do you control this ferocious voice inside you that says, “I can have it all!” and be satisfied?

1. Eat Breakfast - You all hear it all the time. But this will truly make a world of difference to your day.

2. Avoid Eating late - Unless you're wake up call isn't until 2pm everyday, avoid 2am Taco Bell runs. ( And one effects the other. of course if you eat too much at night you’re not going to feel like eating first thing in the morning.)

3. Cut Your Portions Way Down - Leave meals feeling satisfied rather than full.

4. Eat about 5 Small Meals Instead of 3 Big Onse -  But don’t think captain crunch, pizza, and big macs 5 times a day, but whole, clean foods.

                                                        Here’s an example of one day:

                                                       Breakfast - Oatmeal w berries, almonds w a dollop of greek yogurt

                                                       Snack - handful of sunflower seeds and an apple

                                                       Lunch - Grilled chicken, roasted broccoli & squash w olives

                                                       Snack - Carrots and hummus

                                                       Dinner - Sauteed Fish with green beans, quinoa & avacado

5. Cheat Meal/Day - Now I know I've said before I don't like the idea of "cheating" but really it's another way of "budgeting" or allowing indulgences while staying on track. So one meal (or one day) a week let yourself eat whatever you’re craving. This is all apart of the Clean and Lean philosophy, that I've been applying & sharing with you. It works!

Just a little patience and you can eventually have it all. Eventually....

 

 

 

 

 

Watermelon Whaahhtt?!?!

Wherever most of you are, those outside of Florida, it might not feel like summer just yet. But dang, it's hot here in muggy Florida.  I regulate Starbucks about as often as..., well let's just say I go often. In the summer, this escalates with the heat and humidity. Since I know coffee isn't the best thing to be drinking all day (if you can't tell by now, Better Vita has a strong vice) I've been trying out some amazing smoothie recipes in the morning to replace my cup of coffee (one of them at least.) So Refinery29 just made my day and shared an insane smoothie that has a ton of my favorite things all in one: Watermelon, sparkling water, mint and lime.

Rain or shine this weekend, I'm making this crazy concoction...

 

Click on the pic for the recipe

Click on the pic for the recipe)

For All You Salad-Haters

If you hate salads, chances are haven't had a good one. A bowl full of romaine drenched in fat-free ranch would sounds about as appetizing to me as munching on strafoam insulation as well. A few weeks ago I mentioned the "Clean and Lean" Cookbook I began using (now available in the states!), altering and cleaning up some eating habits, and the best reminder through it has been their simple but creative approach to salads and vegetable. Veggies should never be bland and boring, but delish! I know I sound ridiculous, but seriously these recipes are freak'n ridiculously good! Yes, I said freak'n (sorry Mom.) I'll still be trying out more new recipes from James Duigan's cookbook until I tire of them, so hopefully they'll appeal to all of you as much as they do to me! Thanks Bodyism for keeping eating clean and lean, scrumptious! Or as James Lipton would say "Scrumtrulescent."

Yummy. Eat your veggies...

 

Roast Squash with Feta, Pumpkin Seeds and Sprouting Broccoli

Serves 4 

Ingredients  1 large acorn or butternut squash  2 tablespoons olive oil  1 teaspoon chilli flakes  1 teaspoon cumin seeds ( you can also use about 1/2 of ground cumin - go light, cause this stuff is pungent! A little goes a long way)  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper  1 cup purple sprouting broccoli  (or cauliflower, asparagus, whatever sprouts are around) 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (I used sunflower seed) extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling  feta cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F

2. Peel and cut the squash into wedges or large chunks, then toss in the olive oil, chilli flakes, cumin seeds and salt and pepper. 

3. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast in the preheated oven for approximately 35-45 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked. 

4. Meanwhile, blanch the broccoli in salted boiling water for approximately 4 minutes, or until al dente. Once cooked, toss with the squash and pumpkin seeds. 

5. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the feta crumbled over the top. 

*Top Tips: This would go great with any grilled meat or oily fish. You can substitute the feta for goat’s cheese if you prefer.

Timely Eating

Calories in, calories out... that seems to be our fixation when we want to lose unwanted weight. It’s a common idea that cutting way back on calories will somehow cut back on weight. We think less food equals less fat. But, that’s not always the case. On top of that we have a tendency to cut out entire food groups or deprive ourselves. This is what I call dieting. And this is why I don’t diet - it doesn’t work.

What does work? Timely & mindful eating.

Timely Eating

What do I mean exactly? Well, look at this way : You wouldn’t take your car on a road trip and drive your car on empty, then not fuel up until you've reached your destination, would you? Of course not. A car can’t run on empty so why do we think we can? The time you decide to eat is just as important as what and how much you eat. You fuel your car to get you somewhere, so think of fueling your body just the same.

Timely eating provides proper energy for your body so your days will be productive. It’s great to plan to eat about 5 small meals a day. The plus is you’ll keep your metabolism humming along while you’re at it. Also consider when you start and finish eating each day, to give your digestive system a break. In The Clean Program, Dr. Alejandro Junger calls this “The Twelve Hour Window”; leave a twelve-hour window from your last meal in the evening to the next mornings breakfast (hence, “break - fast”.) “If you fill up your belly late at night, and eat early again the next day, your body isn’t given the opportunity to clean house.”

Mindful Eating

Being mindful of what you eat means being aware of what you’re eating. For example, if your famished and after scarfing a bowl of ice cream down in front of the tv  find you’re still hungry or craving something else, likely you aren’t being mindful of what you’re eating. Mindful eating takes the time to ask what your craving, to savor (or at least takes time to chew down) each bite and then realize when your satisfied. When you're unattached from these senses, you will likely overeat and not even enjoy your food, which is what typically leads to sugary and processed cravings, that never satisfy us like we think . So taking time to be aware of taste, quality and portion sizes will help you be more satisfied and keep you from over-indulging.

So mindful, along with timely eating should lead to a much more sound relationship with food and your body. We are in a lot more control of this and often give food or our schedules too much credit for controlling us. If you can be more mindful of what and when to eat, by the end of the day you'll feel satisfied and deal with less cravings to over-induldge.  We're often famished by supper time and can’t get enough food. That’s normally where the cakes, cookies and ice creams come in. Bringing a little more attention and awareness to when and how you eat can bring you to eating more sensibly.

Things to remember to eat more timely and mindfully...

  • Eat a satisfying breakfast about an hour after waking up
  • Eat what you enjoy
  • Chew thoroughly through eat bite (this will help you feel more satisfied, eat less & make food easier to digest)
  • Fuel & stock up on smart snacks (like fruits, nuts, veggies & hummus)
  • Keep snacks at a reasonable portion (fist-full not platter-full)
  • Avoid waiting over 4 hours between meals
  • Leave every meal feeling satisfied, rather than full
  • Make your last meal a few hours before you go to bed to get more shut-eye and feel more alive the next morning

Bon appetit!

Clean and Lean

Image from Womenshealthmag.com

Image from Womenshealthmag.com

So I’m not one to tweet every “tweetable” thought  or instagram every morsel of food that goes into my mouth. It can be a little overwhelming, for me and everyone else, when your life is exposed via social network, but I have enjoy writing (be it ever inconsistent and sparse as I it.) So here’s what’s going on with me currently health-wise. A few weeks ago Hillary, a friend (and former boss,) asked me to help her get healthier and wanted to go on some type of cleanse to kind of purge her system of sugar and processed foods. Prior to hearing from her I had been reading up on random health books and bought a new cookbook called  “Clean and Lean” by James Duigan, a well-know Australian trainer. His plan and approach, never mind the fact that he’s worked with the likes of Elle MacPherson and Hugh Grant, struck me as sensible and doable.

A few months ago my sister went on the plan for some wedding-prepping. She lost 7 lbs the first 2 weeks, and loved it so much she's kept up with the approach and lost 12lbs altogether, which helped her look crazy-hot for her wedding day. I suggested Hillary try the same plan and decided to join her, since I was feeling the need for a little tweaking myself. One too many movies nights of popcorn and chocolate can do that to me.

So Hillary and I have been kinda tackling this plan together.

Duigan's approach is so simple and satisfying, there's no reason anyone couldn't maintain this approach for life.

Here's the gist of it: For 14 days you...

CUT OUT  (what Duigan calls) CRAP : Caffeine, Refined sugar, Alcohol & Process foods, basically anything that comes out of a box. But Duigan says you can go ahead and have up to 2 coffee a day (sans the syrups & whipped creams.) So of course when I heard that, I was all over th plan.

EAT & EAT OFTEN - The approach for the first 14 days is just to get your body on track, eating less but more often.  The focus is a lot of greens, veggies, fruits, nuts, avocados, lean proteins like chicken, fish, yogurt and whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa & brown rice.

While I know the whole “Gluten-free diet” can be a whole other gimmick to get you to buy a lot of processed “gluten-free” nonsense, a whole foods approach cuts out processed food entirely. So technically this is a Gluten Free diet.

It may sound hard at first, but I honestly haven’t craved chocolate or junk in a week. Though I’ve done the whole yoga, pilates, health-foodie-blogging thing, it doesn't mean I’m not human and crave crap on occasion. I do look forward to my next splurge. But committing to a week or two of this helps you balance things out to make sure you're feeding yourself right, so that occasional treats are just that - occasional. Once you get through these 2 weeks you can allow a “cheat-meal” once a week. (Not gonna lie, mine may look more like a cheat-day,) but we'll see how things go.

CHEATING – I hate this term because it sounds like a free-for-all approach. But once you start eating whole, unprocessed foods all the time, really your body won’t be craving a day full of junk ( if you’re being honest with yourself.) Over time you may be able to understand when your body really is craving chocolate or can share a dessert with someone once or twice a week. The "Cheat meal" is a good approach to let yourself eat what you want and keeps things from getting boring or too restrictive. Essentially, following any kind of cleanse, you want to be able to maintain and live with more of a 80/20 approach.

This was just a taste of what a "cleanse" could look like. Let me know if you guys have any questions. More to come…

 

Are Sweets Making us Stupid?

 

It's probably the last thing  you want to hear, but the latest is that sugar is making us dumb. This latest study from UCLA  researchers found that excess sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, may be decreasing your brain power, disrupting learning and causing memory loss. Apparently the study was done on rats and the increase of sugar overtime "stupified" the rats from  "performing easy tasks." Of course I'm not sure what tasks exactly that these rats perform outside of running & eating, but whatever the case, it seems the effects on us are similar.

While I know everyone tires of hearing how everything is bad for you these days the study says that increasing Omega-3-fatty acids can minimize the effects. All in all, stop eating corn flakes for breakfast and consider brushing your teeth with a toothpaste rather than twizzlers. Try consuming less sugar. Eat an apple.

Meatless "Mun"days

So it's been a weekend of pure insanity with my sister's wedding being in less than a week.  AHHHH! (think Macaulay-Culkin-jaw-dropping-AH!) It's all good insanity, but craziness none the less. This weekend we had a Bachelorette Party and had good food for Mother's Day, and so here we are on Monday, lacking sleep and sanity. If you're not familiar with Meatless Mondays (because they actually do exist) Goop can inform you further. It's a pretty practical idea, to have a meat-free day once a week, for anyone trying to be, feel or look healthier.

Vegetarian dishes can get really complex, but the other day a friend (vegetarian friend no less) was telling me about her favorite salad and it reminded me how creative I used to be with salads. So it sparked up the idea for this quick fix. I've had this for lunch twice since last week and plan on having it again soon.

Hope this inspires you to have creative Meatless Mondays!

All you need is some:

Spring mix, romaine or spinach

black beans

green beans  (or any other leftover steamed or roasted veggies)

green peppers

dates (this is where the magic is - so don't leave it out!)

red onion

slivered almonds

cilantro

balsamic vingegar (I used a pomegrate one) & olive oil

sea salt & cayenne pepper (if you can handle the heat)

squeeze of lime

Ok, so it's a bit more than a 5 ingredients kind of dish, but what can I say? Sometimes lettuce and olive oil just doesn't cut it.

Mix ingredient together and have a happy monday ;)!

 

 

Keeping it Simple for Spring

 

The K.I.S.S. approach, Keeping It Super Simple (or Simple Stupid - depending on the day,) helps me keep peace of mind in my most stressful seasons.  In college I knew, in order to feel functional the next morning, I needed at least 7 and a half hours of sleep a night. Nowadays I seem to have to remind myself this. Both to keep it simple and to sleep. Sometimes we complicate losing weight or how to "be healthier" means, when really it's suppose to be simple. A simple tweek like more sleep may be what you need.

Consider this...

Most of us, when wanting to lose weight or feel healthy turn to diets and detoxes that guarentee speedy results. Of course these results are achieved quickly, but rarely last long. And to top things off, when you gain weight and are working extra hard to keep up with rigorous diet and excersice,  you tend to gain more stress. This only adds to your cortisol level, a stress-induced hormone ( which tends to add bloating and more weight. All that fun stuff.)

As one ages, we often want to blame age on things like  stress and weight-loss, when really it may just be lack of sleep, lack of a healthy diet and lack of planning ahead. First on my list to tackle (before I let age, my job or an insane schedule become a reason for any increase of  this stress-induced, weight-gaining hormone called cortisol) is to get more sleep.

Do yourself a favor,  keep things simple and sleep more.  I don't know about you, but I'm ready to fall asleep right now...

Sweet dreams.