Top Two Tips For A Guilt Free Thanksgiving

So here we are again, huh? 

The Holidays. 

The dreaded food-everywhere-sugar-frenzy-packed-schedule holiday season. Also known as the guiltiest time of the year. 

From pie to cookies, to stuffing and green bean casserole, the upcoming six weeks can be a nightmare of temptation for dieters, riddled with guilt and “shouldn’t”. 

If you ask me though, the holidays are already packed with too much other stuff to be filled with guilt too. With all of the parties, get togethers, family time, gift shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, etc, how does anyone even have time to feel guilty? So here’s a thought: just don’t. 

My top two tips for a guilt free Thanksgiving? 

1. Eat what you really want. 

2. Don’t feel guilty. 

I know, it sounds like I’m being a jerk, because we all know it’s not that easy. And you’re right– it’s not always easy! But making a conscious decision to enjoy the food choices you make, eating them mindfully, and letting yourself actually enjoy them will go a long way towards your holiday sanity. 

What do I mean when I say to eat that pie or stuffing mindfully? It really comes down to 3 things: 

1. Note the flavors, textures, etc. The reasons that you love this food are exactly what you should focus on. 

2. Acknowledge the emotional or mental component. Does this apple pie have a nostalgic pull for you because you used to make it with your grandmother when you were young? That’s ok. Food is often connected to memories both good and bad, and I think it’s important to acknowledge and embrace this rather than shut it out. Whether we like it or not, food has an emotional sider that can add to your enjoyment of it, but it can also take that enjoyment away. Make sure that this food does the former, honor that feeling, so that suppressing it doesn’t lead to over indulging or binging later on. 

3. Make sure every bite still tastes good. You know when you eat too much of a good thing and it just doesn’t taste as good after a while? Even your favorite foods can fall victim to this tastebud paralasys as I like to call it. Stop before you get to that point– what’s the point in eating something if you’re not going to enjoy it? At first, this will take practice. But over time, you’ll begin to recognize this point without even thinking about it. 

And what about this not feeling guilty? How are we supposed to do that after all of the goodies that we come across at each and every holiday event? 

This one also takes practice. It takes patience and self love, and careful thoughtfulness when it comes to the three steps listed above. It’s ok if you eat pie and cookies…and stuffing and candied yams…and a second helping of mashed potatoes. Even if you do go a little bit overboard (let’s face it, most of us will), it’s one day. One meal. One tiny percentage of your time when your focus should be on family and love and laughter, not on the calories on your plate.

The food you eat on one day will not completely derail you from your goals. If you are trying to reach certain body goals though, be aware that going all out for the entire holiday season will probably set you back a bit. If you’re ok with that, own it, and drop the guilt. If you’re not, pick the times/parties/foods that you will indulge with, do so mindfully, and free up some brain space for creating new amazing memories with your family and friends– not calorie guilt. The bottom line is that this time of year doesn’t have to be stressful when it comes to food. This is just another day, another week, another month on your journey. You’ve got this! 

Repeat after me: There is no room for guilt at the Thanksgiving table. 

Especially this year– the political turmoil will take up enough space as it is. And after that awkward family argument, you’re gonna need that pie. Just enjoy it, ok? 

Good Reads: Tackling Fitness and Nutrition Myths

My oh my, things have been a bit crazy around here this week! I apologize for not getting any posts up, but I’ll hopefully have some updates for you soon.

Just a reminder for those of you in the Boston area, bootcamp classes will be starting on Tuesday, May 17 (that’s next week!) and I hope to see some of you there!!

Today I’ve brought you some good reads from the past few weeks; things that have caught my eye and that I think everyone should read.

 

Shut Up About Toxins – From Erika at Hurst Strength. Think you need to go on some sort of crazy juice cleanse to remove the toxins from your body? Nah. Erika reminds us that that’s what our liver is for and breaks it all down in a pretty bad ass, no BS way.

4 Reasons Rest Days are Just as Important as Time in the Gym – From Athena at Achieve With Athena. Athena’s got it right here, rest days are just as important if not MORE important than your days in the gym! Think you’re getting stronger while you’re at the gym? Spoiler alert: Not quite. Read up for some more insight on this from this awesome lady.

5 Myths About Cardio Exercise  – Another from Athena. (She’s crushing it lately). For some people, cardio is the Holy Grail of exercise, and for others it’s the 8th deadly sin. Athena gets into some common myths and gives us the info we really need on this heart healthy form of exercise!

The Real (And Surprising) Reasons Healthy Movement Matters – From Precision Nutrition. If you read one thing on this list, read this. Yes, it’s a bit long. Yes, it’s worth every second of your time. Move well, be well — that’s about it.

Why You Can’t Lose Weight On A Diet – From The NY Times. This one was sent to me by a great friend and it is quite the interesting read! We’ve all seen articles and posts lately about the tactics used on The Biggest Loser and why they aren’t effective — but what if losing weight slowly ends up with the same outcome? Why is it so hard to keep off weight that is lost?

Enjoy these reads everyone–  hopefully you all get some downtime this weekend to sit with a nice warm cup of coffee and peruse all of this good stuff. And maybe, just maybe, if this beautiful spring weather holds up (Bostonians), we could all spend some quality time outside this weekend! Just think, a comfy chair or blanket, the sun shining down, and some good reads at your fingertips. Sounds like a plan!

 

 

 

Cranberry Almond Energy Bites

I don’t know about you, but I’m a snack-a-holic.

I’m one of those people who has to have snacks on hand — in the purse, in my desk at work,etc — because if emergency hits, snacks are essential. And by emergency, I mean it’s been more than 2 hours since I’ve eaten. 

I kid, I kid.

But I do keep snacks on hand because while I can go more than 2 hours without eating, when the hunger monster does strike it’s really not pretty. Plus, without healthy snacks at the ready, being hangry can do some crazy things to the brain, such as forcing you to down an entire bag of Goldfish crackers without stopping to breathe. Not that I know from personal experience.

On this token though, keeping healthy snacks on hand can be a challenge in and of itself! Many prepackaged bars and other convenience foods, whether labeled “healthy” or not, often include tons of sugar, preservatives, or ingredients that just don’t belong in my body on a daily basis. While there are a handful of bars and pre made snacks out there that I have come to love due to their short, natural ingredient lists, sometimes it’s nice to make your own. Am I right?

Today’s recipe can be thrown together in about 15 minutes, and will give you enough energy bites to last the week. Unless you fall so in love with them that you down them by the handful. Be careful — you’ve been warned!

I made these last week on a whim–  I just threw a bunch of ingredients together in my kitchen and ended up loving the flavor combination. Not only did I love them, but so did Will, and trust me when I say that he’s the biggest critic of bars/snacks/etc.

And because of this, I decided to throw them together again this weekend, only this time I actually measured everything so that I could share them with all of you!

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Cranberry Almond

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As the recipe states, these will make about 16-18 bites. Due to the combination of ground almonds (I just pulsed mine in my Vitamix about 6-10 times) and peanut butter, these are calorie and energy dense!! Just 2 make a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, or as a pick me up before a workout. A great mix of protein, healthy fats, and a small amount of carbohydrates, these are sure to give you just the energy boost you need when hunger strikes.

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*Note: I use crunch peanut butter because that’s my preference — I’m a texture gal! Of course you could substitute creamy here. Also, if you are using unsalted peanut butter, I would add a pinch of salt to really bring out all of the flavors.

Enjoy!

Why ‘Eat Less Move More’ Doesn’t Work

We’ve all heard it. You want to lose weight? It’s simple, just eat less and move more! If it sounds easy, that’s because the concept is a little bit too simple to be true.

Yes, for someone who eats calories in excess and leads a sedentary life, the ELMM mantra can be useful to guide them towards a more healthy life. It can even help them on the beginning of their journey to weight loss. In the beginning, going from 3500 calories consumed to 2500 calories consumed and adding in a daily walk is a perfect recipe for weight loss. But what happens when your muscles adapt to a daily 30 minute walk?

Eventually, this walk must get longer, include more hills, or otherwise progress. Our bodies are adaptive creatures, and the exact same “movement” every day will stop producing results at some point. The same can be said for calories. As you begin on your weight loss journey, a caloric deficit may be easy, but what happens when your caloric intake gets down to 1800? What happens when you stop losing weight at 1800, and now have to move down to 1500 calories per day? What happens when you’re moving more, but are now down to eating 1200 calories per day?

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…but only at the beginning 

Eat Less Move More is not a finite solution, because our bodies don’t work that way. Metabolism can be a tricky creature, one which you do have a good amount of control over, believe it or not. And at a certain point, that ELMM way of life will actually become what hurts your metabolism and causes you to stop losing weight, usually once you get to that last 5, 10, 20 pounds that you want to lose.

First, let’s look at the “Eat Less” portion of this. At some point in time, women came to believe that the magical number for weight loss was 1200. Women of all ages believe that they need to eat no more than 1200 calories per day to lose weight. This is ridiculous for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is no magical number by which every woman on the planet can lose weight. What determines the number of calories you should be eating to lose weight? Your RMR, or resting metabolic rate, combined with your activity level.

And what determines your RMR? That would be your age, size, and activity level. Keeping that in mind, a 5’8″ muscular woman can eat a lot more calories (and still lose weight) than a 5’2″ sedentary woman with the same goal. It’s also worth mentioning that there is a point at which caloric intake (or lack thereof) can cause a decrease in RMR, as well as hormonal problems which make weight loss more difficult.

Now, imagine that you’ve been on the weight loss train for a while, or even that you’ve just started. You’re consuming 1200 calories per day, because some women’s magazine told you that’s what you need to do to lose weight.  So, will you lose weight? Heck yes, of course you will. You’ll also lose a significant amount of muscle mass, decrease your metabolism, and increase your levels of the dangerous stress hormone Cortisol.

What you’ll also do is without a doubt, set yourself up for failure. 1200 calories is not a sustainable amount of food for just about anyone, especially someone who is physically active (move more, right?). At some point, you’re going to reach a point where you can’t move more because you’re not consuming enough calories to support that movement. Then what? You can’t realistically and healthfully eat less than this, so how are you supposed to continue on your weight loss journey at this point? Eating less only works to a certain extent, for a finite amount of time.

So what do we need to focus on instead of eating less? Eating smarter. Consuming nutrient dense foods, avoiding an over abundance of “empty” calories, avoiding overly processed, artificial ingredients. These are the things that we need to be doing to become healthier — less is not always the answer.

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See this? Eat healthy… not “less”

Now let’s pick apart this whole “Move More” aspect, although I do think that this is the more realistic part of the equation. As I mentioned before, our bodies adapt to the stresses we place on them, that’s just evolution. The first time you run a mile, your body is working hard to accomplish that mile. However, if you continue running one mile, three days per week for a month, that distance will become much easier for you. This is because your body has adapted, and has made running one mile much  more efficient. This means that you are expending less and less effort (calories) to cover the same distance as you were when you first started.

So while yes, I do believe that as a whole, we need to more, it’s again not the end-all-be-all of weight loss. There may come a certain point where you don’t necessarily need to move more, but you may need to move a little bit differently. If you’re a jogger, it may not be realistic for you to move “more” than the 3 miles per day that you’re already jogging, due to time constraints and other responsibilities.

(Wouldn’t it be nice if our only responsibility was staying fit?)

So if you don’t have time to do more, does that mean that you’re doomed to stay the same weight or size forever? Absolutely not. Maybe more isn’t the answer in this case, maybe you just need to be moving differently. Adding in some strength training, switching out a couple of those jogs for weight lifting sessions could make a world of difference. In that case, you’re not necessarily moving more, rather you’re just moving in a better way.

Your muscles and bones need to be challenged in order to stay strong, and to grow even stronger. Progressive weight training can help you to create these challenges without spending hours and hours per day on your fitness routine.

That being said, overall movement is very important, and is the reason why this is the part of the equation that I actually agree with. We should all be walking more, standing more, and just moving our bodies more. Park farther away, take the stairs, get off the train a couple of stops early — whatever it takes, just move your body on a regular basis.

So, what should we call this one? Move more efficiently? Move better?

When all is said and done, yes, Eat Less Move More will work for a very finite amount of time. But is it the ultimate answer to weight/fat loss and a healthier body? Not necessarily, depending on your situation.

I would be totally on board with changing it up just a little bit though — Eat Smarter, Move Better.

It might not flow as nicely as Eat Less, Move more, but you will get more out of it.

Sweet and Savory Salad: Massaged Kale with Farro

I don’t know about you guys, but when the summer temps start creeping up into the 90s, the last thing I want for lunch is a hot meal.

I find myself turning to salads a lot more, and sometimes even just a snack plate. Just a couple of days ago for lunch I had 2 rice cakes with peanut butter, some sharp cheddar cheese, and some homemade pickles. Weird combo? Yes, but snack-lunch is the best lunch!

But when I’m feeling a little bit more civilized and don’t want a random collection of snacks to make up my meal, I do enjoy a good, hearty salad as a meal option, for lunch or dinner. This latest creation was a huge hit, and was inspired by a Saturday trip to the farmer’s market here in town.

I came home with a huge bundle of kale, with absolutely no plans what to do with it, so it was time to get creative. I ended up deciding to make a massaged kale salad, but I knew I wanted to include some delicious grains in there to make it a little bit heartier, so that it could be a full meal instead of just a side dish if we wanted.

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The first question you may be asking yourself is “what the heck are you doing massaging your kale?” But trust me, it helps this coarse, bitter green turn into a softer, sweeter version of itself in just 5 minutes of massaging. All you have to do is drizzle a little bit of olive oil, a dash of salt, and some lemon juice to really bring out those sweet notes in the kale, and get your hands in there. Massage it like you love it, and it will love you back. 😉

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After about 5 minutes, my kale was softer, brighter, and ready for the rest of the salad. And this is where you get introduced to my creation:

Sweet and Savory Kale and Farro Salad

Forgive me for the lack of stellar food pictures — I am not usually patient enough to wait for the right lighting, nor do I have any kind of know-how when it comes to food photography. So please let the recipe speak for itself, and give this a try!

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale

3 cups cooked farro (more on this below)

3/4 C chopped cashews

3/4 C dried cranberries

3/4 C crumbled feta

And for the Lemon Vinaigrette: (Adapted from this vinaigrette recipe)

1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 C Olive Oil

Juice from 1-1.5 lemons (start with one, add to taste)

1.5 tsp honey

Instructions:

With your kale already massaged (as described above with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice), place kale in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Prepare farro (I prepared about 1.5 C dry faro to produce the 3 C cooked grain). Add farro, cranberries, pecans, and feta to kale, stir to evenly distribute salad toppings. Mix together ingredients for vinaigrette, whisk or shake in a mason jar, and pour amount desired over salad. (I ended up using almost all of it because I made a massive salad). Serve immediately.

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This dish is also great to make ahead if you are going to a potluck or preparing lunches for the week — many greens will not last once already dressed, but kale is hearty enough to stay structured for a few days in the fridge even with dressing already added. The flavors might have even been better the next day with this one — letting the farro soak up the other flavors made for a very tasty grain!

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With this recipe, I ended up making a massive salad. It was enough to be had as a side dish (for 2) at two separate dinners, and lunch for 1 as well. And at one of those dinners, Will had seconds of the salad so it actually made 6+ servings! (I add the + because we had pretty large servings — can’t get enough kale, so with smaller serving sizes, it could feed a larger dinner party as a side no problem).

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So now, why farro? 

You might be asking yourself why I decided to use farro, the reason is quite simple. I wanted to add something to this salad that would make it hearty enough to be a meal on it’s own, and farro is a wonderfully hearty, nutritious ancient grain.

Not only does it have a wonderfully nutty flavor and provide a satisfying chewiness, but it is also packed with protein, B vitamins, and zinc. There are several different ways to prepare this grain, and it all depends on what type you have bought (whole, pearled, or semi-pearled).

I won’t go into all of those here, but if you do give farro a try (and I recommend you do!), a quick Google search will help you out. I used the “whole” variety, but you could use any for this salad.

Readers: Do you tend to eat more salads in the warmer months? Have you ever tried massaging your kale? Do you enjoy cooking with farro or other ancient grains?

Is Sugar The Devil?

Hi all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve been on here, I’ve been in vacation-brain mode since I was away! I have a couple of full recap posts coming for ya soon, but they’re not quite ready yet. Since it’s been a little too long since my last post, I wanted to jump in today with these thoughts on diet and nutrition.

For the past few years on this blog, I’ve been fighting the good fight when it comes to dietary restrictions. I’ve put my foot down many times in the defense of fat, and even saturated fat and the necessity of these things in your diet. It’s been a very long time since I’ve jumped on the “low-fat” or “no-fat” train, as I’m very well aware that the research backs up the positives of including fats in your diet. Thankfully, it seems that the “no-fat” craze of the 90s has officially fizzled out, save for a few chemical monstrosities masquerading as food here and there.

As the media and general public finally catch on to the ideas that fat and cholesterol aren’t actually the devil, there has been another victim of fear mongering to replace these two. Sugar. I’m not here to break down research studies and tell you what exactly sugar is doing to every cell of your body, rather I just want to have kind of a philosophical conversation about all of this today. Now that fat and cholesterol are “okay”, is sugar really the poison that’s going to bring down the human race? Should we really be demonizing sugar and removing it completely from our diets, or looking at the bigger picture?

There have been a few articles that have come out over the past several months detailing the new food guidelines and the changes between fat, cholesterol, and sugar. I read this one a while ago, and although I’m very happy about the changes, I can’t help but wonder are we just going on another witch hunt?

Again, devil’s advocate here.

I agree that sugar needs to be controlled, I’m all about moderation — but is this really the singular key to a healthier society? Or should we be looking more at “bigger picture” — sedentary lifestyle, posture, time spent outdoors, working too much, etc. I just have a really hard time believing that sugar is everything that is wrong with our society’s health as a whole. I went completely sugar free last year, and stayed very low sugar up until my wedding in July. But do you want to know what happened when I became a little bit more lax with my sugar intake in the months following the wedding? I lost weight. In fact, I lost about 8 pounds which is pretty significant on my frame. And believe it or not, that weight is still off. I kid you not when I say that I even thought something was wrong with my health because I couldn’t figure out why weight was just falling off of me.

Do I think that eating more sugar than I had been previously is what made me lose this weight? Of course not– I think there were a lot of other factors at play– less stress, for example. But the point is, it was the bigger picture that lead to this, not my sugar intake.

Scientific research this is not, in fact it’s hardly even anecdotal evidence of anything at all, but my point is that when I stopped being the sugar police, I saw improvements in my body that I had been striving for until then– and failing. So yes, I agree that as a whole, our society consumes far too much sugar. From sodas to juices to sugary coffee drinks, it’s pretty out of control. But what I don’t want to happen is for people to place more value on sugar than is necessary, and miss the importance of other big changes that may be necessary.

Reducing sugar but still sitting hunched over at a desk for 8-10 hours a day is not going to make you that much healthier, in my opinion. Reducing sugar but remaining sedentary and spending 90% of your time indoors is not going to make that big of a difference in your health. Yes, reducing sugar from an extremely high level of consumption is important, but it’s just one small piece of the health puzzle. There is so much more that we need to focus on, so much more that we need to be conscious of in order to make true strides in our health.

So am I saying that we should all eat all of the sugar that we want? No, of course not, I just don’t think we need to become fanatical about eliminating sugar from our diets. A little sweetness in life is not a bad thing, and as long as sugar is treated as a treat, and not a constant component of your meals, it’s not something to stress about.

Besides, I like cupcakes, and a life without cupcakes is no life at all.

Readers: How do you treat sugar in your diet? Do you eat it without abandon? Do you limit it or restrict consumption completely? How do you feel about the newer dietary recommendations? 

On Food: Letting Go Of Shouldn’t

This weekend was full of great times with friends, but it was also full of decadent foods. Will and I went out to dinner with friends on Friday night at Bondir, a lovely restaurant in Concord, MA. It was an amazing 4-course meal, including dessert. Granted, each of the plates/courses was quite small, but it was 4 courses nonetheless. The entire meal was absolutely delicious, full of rich flavors and interesting pairings, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave a morsel of food on any of my plates. It was a wonderful dinner, but with great conversation flowing and a few cocktails, I probably consumed more than I should have at one meal.

The following morning, I went out with some girlfriends to the Langham Hotel’s Chocolate Bar for a birthday brunch. Yes, you read that right — a Chocolate Bar. There was basically a whole room full of all of the chocolate and desserts that you can imagine. From truffles and cookies, to mousse and pastries, to crepes and a chocolate fountain — it was like a chocolate lover’s dream. And even for someone with an impressive sweet tooth like myself,  it was almost a little bit too much.

I ended up filling my plate with lots of yumminess (although the pictures I took didn’t come out great, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one), and took a few bites of each selection. Since there was so much to choose from, I really just had a little bit more of the things I loved, and passing on those that I didn’t love as much. Even with this strategy, I ended up eating more chocolate and sweets than one should eat before noon on a Saturday. Trust me, I paid for it in the “sugar shakes”, and it’s not something that I’d do regularly every weekend. But for a treat once per year or so? Chocolate me up.

As a “healthy blogger”, is this something I should have done? Should I have followed up a 4 course meal with a chocolate bar the next morning? Probably not. But would I do it again? Probably, with the right circumstances. As I mentioned above, this is not a typical weekend of eating for me; I would not do this on a regular basis, because honestly it didn’t leave me feeling great. But the experiences with friends made it worth it, and the way that life works means that I can’t always control timing when it comes to dinners out, birthday brunches, etc. Sometimes, schedules only match up so that we end up over-doing it for a few days.

What if after dinner on Friday night, I had called my friend and told her that I would no longer be going to her birthday brunch because I had had a big dinner the night before and I “shouldn’t” go to the chocolate buffet? No, we don’t always have to eat cake when it’s offered to us, but missing out on experiences with friends just because you “shouldn’t” do this or that seems pretty sad to me.

On the flip side, there are those times when we’re offered a treat that we know won’t make us feel great, or maybe we’re doing really well with healthier eating and don’t want to be de-railed by a mediocre cupcake. These are the times when “shouldn’t” tends to escape our mouths, but might that be doing us a disservice?  IMG_0018

If you’re constantly telling yourself that you shouldn’t have something, you’re putting an awful lot of negative connotations around certain foods. That tells your brain that the next time you do have a delicious cupcake or slice of birthday cake, that you’re breaking the rules and doing something bad. We’re conditioned to think that when one breaks the rules, punishments are necessary.

Congratulations, you’ve just entered yourself into a damaging negative feedback-loop with food, all because you told yourself you “shouldn’t eat that”.

So how can we go about changing this mindset? How can we avoid the negativity, the punishments, the self-berating for eating something that you “shouldn’t”? The answer, simplistically, is that it’s all about perspective.

If you are offered a treat that you don’t think will be amazing and worth every bite (because those are the ones that are worth splurging on, in my opinion), instead of the “S” word, try using a phrase that puts you in control, instead of letting some set of arbitrary rules control you.

“I choose not to”

Yes, giving yourself the control over what you do and do not eat will help you to believe that you are not allowing/disallowing foods because of rules, rather you are doing what is best for you. You are choosing to eat what makes you feel good, you are choosing to treat yourself to those things that you feel are truly worthy of your splurge. But more importantly, you’re choosing not to shame yourself out of eating certain foods, and you’re choosing not to shame yourself when you do indulge.

So let go of “shouldn’t”. Take it out of your food vocabulary, and take back control of what you choose to eat (or not). Your choices are up to you, what you put into your body and how you treat yourself are under your control and your control only. The only thing you shouldn’t do is shame yourself for the choices you make.