My favorite kitchen tool:
My Microplane. I got this for Christmas a few years ago and love using it to quickly and easily grate garlic and ginger into my stir-fry sauce. It’s easy-to-use and does not take up much space in my limited apartment kitchen drawers.
My favorite mindful eating book:
EAT.Q. Seriously, this book changed my life. When I first tried mindful eating I thought “this isn’t for me.” Then I read the book and realized it doesn’t have to be just sitting in a dark room in complete silence with your food to be mindful.
My favorite fast-food:
Most of my clients will tell you, I’m pretty much obsessed with Avo toast + egg.
Avo Toast w/ Egg
Here’s how easy* (and delicious) it is:
(1) Toast a piece of whole grain bread
(2) Slice 1/2 avocado into small pieces
(3) Fry 1 egg in a pat of butter (that’s ~1 tsp for me)
(4) Spread the avocado onto toasted bread, season with sea salt
(5) Top with the fried egg
*I timed myself making this – for all you thinking “that must be nice to have time to cook” people – and it took 5 minutes 37 seconds. I included pineapple to make it Well-Balanced.
Why is dinner time so daunting?
Kristen shares some sanity-saving strategies she uses to make cooking at home a more feasible task.
Dinner time is crazy time in my house. On the days I work in the clinic I don’t pick up the kids until 5:30. We get home around 6pm and then I have to scramble to get dinner on the table. I do not exaggerate when I say that my kids will cling to my legs or be stuck at my side from the moment we get in the door until they have food on their plates. They will be asking for a snack, to be held, for a drink of juice, a piece of candy…. They want all the things… and they want them NOW. It’s really a mad house and it’s dreadful if I don’t already have a plan to get dinner on the table and do it fast!
Whether you have young kids at home or not, making food decisions at the end of the day can be daunting. Our will power has run dry from already making thousands of decisions, we’re exhausted from the responsibilities of our day, and we might be feeling famished. Not a great combination.
I don’t enjoy the madness of not having a dinner plan ready to execute and it has really motivated me to become more efficient and consistent with meal planning. So here I share what has helped me save time and sanity around dinner. Maybe they can work for you too!
My Two Step Plan and How I Make it Work
- I create a very flexible meal plan 3-5 days at a time. I simply jot down some ideas based on what we have in the kitchen and what was fresh and affordable at the store. This is a good first step if you are used to “winging it” at dinner time.
- I chop and prep as much as possible before work rather than after work. In the morning, before I check all those emails or notifcations popping up on my phone, I take a second to jot down my thoughts, my to-dos, my projects, and what I’m having for dinner. Then I pick out things I can do that morning to get dinner started. Can I chop up some vegetables? Can I use the crockpot? (Chopping and prepping can be done on the weekends, too, if there isn’t enough time in the mornings.) Sometimes mornings are crazy but I’m so committed to getting dinner on the table quickly and making it healthy, that on one occasion I actually brought my vegetables to work and chopped them in the break room on one of my breaks. When there is a will, there is a way. =)
I keep it simple.
I used to think I needed to make a fancy meal every night, especially after using the Blue Apron service for awhile. Fancy and well-plated meals are awesome but a healthy meal does not have to be all those things. Furthermore, when you have kids, you kind of have to keep it simple or they will turn up their nose to whatever you make. For a well-balanced meal, you simply need to toss together 1. a protein-rich food, 2. a complex carbohydrate, 3. a bit of healthy fat and 4. a big helping of vegetables.
I use theme nights.
Having a theme night makes the dinner decision so easy. Everyone knows what to expect and makes planning a breeze. We have pizza every Friday. Some days we order the pizza, some days we go out, and other days we make our own. Taco nights, spaghetti, and pizza can all be healthy with the concept of balance and wholesome ingredients.
Here are some themes to consider
- Meatless Monday – Eating more plant-based meals can help us live longer so why not start off your week with a meatless meal?
- Marinated Monday – Simply throw chicken breast or pork chops in a Ziploc bag with your favorite marinade, like Tessemaes Green Goddess or make your own. Pair them with one cup of veggies and a complex carbohydrate and you’ve got a simple, healthy meal.
- Taco or TexMex Tuesday – This needs no explanation. Just try to keep your plate balanced and not overwhelmed with toppings. We like taco salads so we can keep our veggie portions big. Be mindful of your cheese, sour cream, and avocado as they can add up in calories. Double up on your cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce.
- Pizza Friday – have a side salad or pile on the veggies to make it balanced.
- Soup and Salad Sunday – Light and easy!
I’d love to hear from you.
What tricks and tools help you get a healthy, homemade dinner on the table more often?
Monday, January 9, 2017
Last week, I met Peggy*, who has prediabetes. She, like many of you, is interested in managing her health and wellness without prescription medications. Peggy has a strong family history of diabetes and heart disease but does very well managing her weight with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet. She also lives with a professional chef who loves to bake cookies, cupcakes, and other sweet treats. Despite being at a healthy weight and doing regular physical activity, Peggy’s blood sugars are higher than normal and her physician recommended she start drug therapy.
In our conversation, Peggy wanted to know her options. We talked about the pros and cons of taking medications and also reviewed the importance of being a detective of her blood sugars. During our conversation, Peggy decided she would regularly monitor her glucose – sugar in the blood – to identify what times of day, meals, and snacks may be causing her elevated blood sugars.
This action plan includes several steps including: (1) buying a glucometer to check her blood sugars, (2) buying the test strips to draw the blood, (3) setting a reminder to check her glucose at different times each day, and (4) recording the results in a journal or electronic device. While this may sound excessive, to Peggy it is worth finding out the information in order to make the best decision for her health and well-being.
This situation made me remember the choices conversation we had last year. Life is nothing but a series of choices to decide how to use our time, energy, money, and other resources.
*Name changed to protect identity
Food for thought:
- Are you trying to change your eating habits?
- Are you feeling brave enough to try that new exercise class at the gym?
The only thing stopping us is the story in our minds. What’s worth the effort for you?
This year Lucy and I will be sharing some of our favorite finds on the internet on alternating Fridays. This is a fun way for us to share some of the things we enjoy from recipes to funny pictures to new research articles. It’s meant to be fun and light-hearted, you’ll see our personalities shine through and we also hope you get some inspiration from the things we share. So without further ado, check out the first edition of Friday Favorites.
Favorite Winter Veggie Recipe: Honey Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts from Kevin is Cooking. I did not like Brussel sprouts until I had them roasted and this recipe adds a wonderful dressing that takes away all bitterness. You’ve got to try it – even if you don’t like Brussel sprouts! It’s a great recipe all by itself but sometimes I toss in cubed butternut squash as well!
Favorite Emoji – I don’t use emojis much but this makes me want to! This emoji keyboard featuring odd-looking fruits and vegetables was created by Hungry Harvest to raise awareness of food waste. The fruit and veggies are imperfect like the ones that get thrown out or rejected by grocery stores causing 20% of farm fresh produce to go to waste. Hungry Harvest recovers the food that would normally go to waste and delivers it to people’s homes and offices.
Favorite Author: Brene Brown. She is a shame researcher who writes about wholehearted living and her books are truly life changing. I love how she is completely open and honest about her journey to wholehearted living which leaves you inspired to be brave yourself. I’ve read Daring Greatly (which is what we will be discussing at January’s nutrition/wellness book club) and Rising Strong. Now I’m starting The Gifts of Imperfection and taking one of her related online classes about parenting wholeheartedly.
Favorite Food Pun: Happy New Year!
One of the easiest things you can do for weight loss is simply to step on the scale every day. I know, I know… you would rather eat a frog than see that number on the scale but hear me out. Once you own a scale it’s free to use, it takes just a second to complete, anyone can do it and research has shown that it is an effective weight loss tool.
In one study, participants were asked to weigh daily on a smart scale. The weight was sent automatically to researchers and the participants received weekly feedback by email. Participants were not told to change any other behaviors. On average, the intervention group weighed 6 days a week and consumed fewer calories/day (approx 300 calories less!) compared to the control group who weighed sporadically. That led to an average 13.5-pound weight loss in the intervention group and all they had to do was weigh themselves! Other studies that included daily weighing for weight control had similar results.
But what if the number you see on the scale makes you fret? Doesn’t it have negative effects on how you feel? Contrary to what you might expect, intervention participants in the study mentioned above, perceived daily weighing positively. And results of another study indicate that daily self-weighing does not cause adverse psychological outcomes such as depression, binge eating or other signs of disordered eating.*
While it may seem scary at first, the scale is not your enemy. The magic is all in the way you use it.
Here are some rules for daily self-weighing.
- Expect some fluctuation. Your weight will fluctuate 1-3 pounds every day regardless of your behaviors. Any fluctuation within that range is normal and to be expected. This is your grace period. Weight gain beyond 3lbs should serve as a warning sign to change your behaviors.
- Use your weight as feedback that lets you know what’s working and what is not. When you see a significant change on the scale think back to what you’ve been doing the past day or two that may be affecting your weight. If your weight is going up, use the opportunity to make tweaks to your eating and exercise habits now before it creeps up even higher and becomes harder to get off.
- Weigh at the same time every day on the same scale. Your weight not only fluctuates from day to day but also hour to hour. For example, you will likely weigh more in the evening than you will in the morning. Sticking to the same time every day gives you the most accurate comparison.
- Be consistent. Research shows those who way every day lose more weight than those who weigh 4 or 5 times a week. Think of it as a morning ritual just like brushing your teeth.
- Remember that your weight is only part of your health picture. It shouldn’t be the ONLY tool you use to monitor your eating and exercise behavior. Use it in combination with how you are sleeping, how much energy you have, how your clothes fit and so on. Weighing every day does not mean you shouldn’t look for those other non-scale victories.
So there you have it. While it may not sound fun to face that number every day, daily weighing is a simple tool that can influence your lifestyle habits and help you lose weight.
Were you shocked to hear that weighing every day can help you lose weight?
What fears, hesitations or thoughts do you have about weighing regularly?
What’s the worst thing and the best thing that could happen if you started weighing every day?
Will you give it a try? Let me know in the comments!
*An important caveat: These studies have screened out people with a history of eating disorders — who might obsess about weight and respond to falling or rising numbers with extreme dieting or binging.
Monday, Jan 2, 2017
We are all story tellers. I used to say I’m a terrible story teller, mostly because of my tendency to get off track and ruin the punch line (I call it my “shiny object syndrome”).
Now I see the story my mind is telling me on almost a daily basis. If I’m tired or run down the story is not all sunshine and butterflies but instead my thoughts are focused on what it difficult or “wrong.” Most days I choose a better story. I am healthy. I love my job. I enjoy helping people. I am blessed. I am grateful.
As the New Year began I asked a few healthy people – like yourself – about their own wellness story that separated them from the pack. After listening to many stories I noticed a trend. For most successful well-balanced people their lifestyle choices are simple, mindful, and fun/delicious.
A hair stylist and friend of mine was telling me his own 20 pound weight loss story of 2016. He said it was “almost so simple it’s silly,” but he stopped buying the trigger foods that were preventing
him from reaching his goal weight. When he cut out fast food, stopped buying Oreos, and included breakfast daily the weight easily came off (and that was without exercise!). Instead of going out for fast food he bought pita bread and alternated between hummus, peanut butter, or deli meat with cheese as an easy lunch or dinner option. He consistently eats boiled eggs with fruit for breakfast and occasionally treats himself to fried eggs, bacon and hash browns.
A client of mine, who we will call Janice, was mostly on-track when we started to meet last Summer, but she struggled with her snack habit. Janice knew the candy, granola bars, and other munchies at the office were preventing her from reaching her goals. She worked in a high stress environment and often turned to snacks as a stress reliever. Janice put the DATA system into action and practiced mindful eating consistently for three weeks. In that time she lost 6 pounds! Each time she thought about reaching for a snack she paused, described the situation to herself, acknowledged it was just a temporary craving, and turned to a different activity such as deep breathing or a walk around the office. Janice soon discovered she didn’t need to force herself to eat salads for lunch every day and instead she cut the mindless snacks out and remains on-track today.
It’s fun or delicious
I met a gal, Carla, last week who loves cheesecake. She is a diabetic and knows how carbohydrates and simple sugars affect her glucose (sugar in the blood). In the last 4 years, she has progressively changed her diet to primarily eating fruits, vegetables, protein, and some complex carbs – such as whole wheat bread or pasta, quinoa, and oats. However, she still hears the call of the cheesecake when she goes grocery shopping. Carla will occasionally give into the call and buys a small cake with the intention of eating one slice a day for a week. She admits the cake is usually gone within 24 hours. While we talked, I suggested a delicious alternative to the cheesecake. Now, Carla mitigates her cheesecake cravings with 1 graham cracker, a bit of all fruit spread, and whipped cream cheese. She reports this offers a sweet and creamy alternative without guilt or running the risk of high blood sugars!
Another example, when Mama Cathy decided to get more active she knew weight training and walking on the treadmill at the gym was not her idea of a good time. Instead, she tapped into her love of group fitness classes and religiously signs up for the 10-week water aerobics sessions every quarter. She looks forward to playing in the water and getting a great workout every Monday and Wednesday evening. Having a fun exercise also stops her from making less healthy food choices so as to not “undo” all of the work in the pool.
Food for thought:
New Year’s resolutions aside, when thinking about your own wellness goals and initiatives are they simple, mindful, or fun?
If not, how can you simplify your good habits?
How can you make them more mindful?
And where’s the fun?!
If you’re looking for more guidance in 2017, we hope you’ll check out Restart, Rebalance to get you the personalized support you need!
If your house is anything like mine, the carols have been sung, the party was enjoyed, the presents have been unwrapped and now Santa and his elves have gone on vacation. Nothing remains but the mess: a mess of toys, a mess of food, a mess of the budget and a mess of all the usual routines. This can make it hard to see past this week and into the New Year let alone the Summer.
BUT if you can, for just a moment, consider this. In a recent study, researchers found that Americans gained more 10 days after Christmas, compared to the 10 days leading up to Christmas and HALF of that weight didn’t come off until the Summer months and beyond. Perhaps it is because we spend the time before Christmas running around preparing for all the events and then once it’s over we sink back into our chairs, take a deep breath and finally get to relax. It can also be easy to over indulge in all the excess food and drinks remaining from the celebrations. It’s important to kick back for a bit and recharge with family and friends, but not to the point that our health should suffer.
You don’t have to stay on this path if you don’t like where it’s taking you. Yes, it is hard to get back on track after a major holiday. Yes, you can do it. Don’t shy away from doing hard things. Instead, remember that today’s choices affect tomorrow’s experiences. We can have the best intentions but it’s our actual choices that will lead us somewhere.
So today is your chance to focus on what you want the most (good health, energy, longevity, positivity, a well-balanced lifestyle, a healthy budget and so on), in order to say no to what you might want in the moment.
Here are some choices to get you thinking:
- Choose water or tea instead of soda, wine, beer, and other sugary beverages.
- Choose to stop when you are full and satisfied regardless of food pushers around you
- Choose to put the sweets away, off the counter and hidden in the back of the fridge
- Choose to put a bowl of fruit on the counter and the vegetables at eye level in your fridge
- Choose to move more and get outside instead of watching Christmas movies all day
Food for thought:
What DO you want most?
What could happen when you choose to focus on what you want the most, rather than what you want in the moment?
If you are ready to lose weight and do not want to do it alone, let us help. Check out Restart, Rebalance to learn more.
Monday, December 19, 2016
Fold your laundry! Do the dishes! Why do you always leave your toys on the floor??
A few years ago, I received a book called The Gift of Feedback from my mentor and friend, Heather Miranda. Prior to receiving this book, I had a serious conversation with a supervisor regarding my tendency to be late. At the time, I did not see the feedback about my tardiness as a gift. It felt more like a punch in the gut!
What happens if you criticize or offer constructive feedback to someone? Likely, they get defensive and tell you why you’re wrong. Or they start making excuses to explain or defend their behavior.
Sometimes, especially during the holidays, (aka the season of sugar) we make decisions that we think are bad or wrong. The “bad food” does not perfectly follow our diet or we may have overeaten the good stuff. For example, a friend of mine went to a holiday party last week and decided not to eat any sweets, but after being persuaded by coworkers she ate a few bites of dessert. The next day, my friend checked her weight at the gym and instantly felt terrible because of the number on the scale. She attributed the weight gain to the 3 bites of dessert she ate the day before. Inside, she was highly critical of herself and the story in her mind focused on the “mistake” that she made.
As discovered by the world-famous psychologist, B. F. Skinner, animals learn more rapidly when rewarded for good behavior versus being punished for bad behavior. Studies show this concept applies to us humans too. Some parents may agree they are more likely to get their kids to do chores or homework when praised versus being nagged or threatened.
Food for thought:
If we know criticizing doesn’t work why do we keep doing it ourselves…? As my lovely business partner, Kristen, says: Would those comments in your head be the same thing you’d say to your best friend or mother?
What are 3 accomplishments you are proud of from the past year?
What are 3 choices that you’re proud of from the last week?
It’s 2pm and you’re starting to feel exhausted. Your brain is a little slow and you are day dreaming about a nap. There’s a good chance that you are on a sugar crash from all those holiday treats or maybe it’s just been a really long day. You could reach for another sugary pick me up from the break room OR you could try some peppermint tea instead! A study found peppermint tea improves brain function and alertness – a boost we could all use when the afternoon slump has us feeling foggy.
This study took 180 participants and randomly allocated them to receive a drink of peppermint tea, chamomile tea or hot water. Analysis of the results showed that peppermint tea helped improve long-term memory, working memory and alertness compared to both chamomile and hot water. Chamomile tea significantly slowed memory and attention speed compared to both peppermint and hot water.”
From this study, we also see that chamomile tea lives up to its reputation of being a sleepy time tea. Have a mug of it before bed to slow down and relax.
Monday, December 12, 2016
I have a client, we will call her Clare, and last week she told me how she is such a procrastinator after not implementing the evening exercise routine we discussed at her previous appointment. Clare works a desk job in Durham from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM Monday-Friday. After work, she has a 30 minute commute home, a puppy to take outside, and dinner to fix for her elderly father. When finished with dinner, cleaning up, and getting ready for the next workday, Clare enjoys lounging on the sofa watching TV or visiting with her father. This is not the time of day she feels motivated to get up and start exercising!
Clare spent 4 weeks between appointments feeling guilty about not getting into the exercise routine we had planned. She continued to work hard monitoring her eating and portion sizes; however, all of that work was overshadowed in her mind by her lack of physical activity.
What went wrong?
We can see the exercise strategy we put together was not conducive to Clare’s lifestyle. The other underlying issue, that’s less obvious, is the story that played in her mind over those 4 weeks. Clare was convinced the only way she could be successful at exercise was to walk or do another activity that raised her heart rate for 30 consecutive minutes. In this scenario, Clare demonstrates a fixed mindset, meaning when she was not successful she could not think of other options that would work better for her. In our conversation, I gave Clare a gift – the gift of a growth mindset! Now she can use these barriers or “problems” as learning opportunities instead of brick walls that stop her from achieving her goals.
Food for thought
Have you been hitting your head against a brick wall?
Most of us have a personal or professional improvement goal, and sometimes all we see are the barriers keeping us from reaching that goal.
Today, take a moment to think of your barriers as learning opportunities instead of problems. What can you learn and do differently?