Break it Down Now

Food that is, I’m talking nutrients not killer dance moves. (Sorry)

So something I find that tends to happen when people are trying to eat healthy and make good food choices is a strong sense of guilt when they go off plan. Just like that your positive and healthy choice to eat better can quickly become an unhealthy relationship with food. This sense of “guilt” from occasionally indulging in food is so common, and to be honest most of the time, unnecessary.

Ever hear the expression “one unhealthy meal won’t make you fat, just like one healthy meal won’t make you thin”? There’s a lot of truth in that. If you eat clean and healthy 90% of the time a slice of pizza on the weekend doesn’t suddenly undo all your progress. It’s not all or nothing.

I think that we tend to forget that our bodies don’t recognize foods as we eat them, our bodies actually digest and process food based on their nutrient makeup. Your body does not recognize that you’re eating a donut or a cupcake and immediately say, “that sucker in going straight to belly fat!” Our bodies break down food based on their nutrients and digest them based on the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in them. When a certain food brings more of a certain nutrient than our body’s needs to form energy it generally gets stored adipose (fatty) tissue, but that’s not forever!

So chill out on all the guilty feelings! You don’t need to hit the treadmill for an extra 30 minutes the next day if you’re feeling guilty over you one cookie. Your body can process the nutrients in small occasional treats, so stop beating yourself up! I used to feel totally guilty if I caved and had chocolate or ice cream, like I was somehow erasing my great workout from earlier. Then I’d start stressing about it. That’s where it gets problematic. Not only is this an unhealthy attitude towards food, but also stress tends to trigger our bodies production of Cortisol, a hormone that actually tells our bodies to hold onto its fat. So the overproduction of Cortisol from all the unnecessary stress about a bite of cake or occasional hamburger actually is making it harder for ourselves to lose the weight than if we just enjoys our small occasional treats and stopped the stress and the guilt.

So it’s good news! Enjoy your cheat meal once a week if that’s how you roll. Or follow the 90% 10% rule and eat clean 90% of the time and splurge on goodies 10% of time. Allow yourself to enjoy those well-deserved indulgences. A positive outlook and healthy relationship with food will serve you so much better than trying to exercise some sort of superhuman self-control and be perfect 100% of the time and beating ourselves up when we inevitably stray. Remember you’re only human enjoy the ice cream cone!

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Here’s a photo of me post- workout shamelessly double- fisting ice cream cones (full disclosure only one is mine) but still guiltlessly enjoying a well- deserved treat!

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lets get – psychological

Sorry Olivia Newton John

So as I’m sitting here after spending what seems like an eternity scrolling through Pinterest for recipes ideas, I realize I’m drooling over all this digital food – and I just ate! There’s no way I’m actually hungry. Unfortunately we live in a world where the millennial generation is more likely to get obese than any of the previous generations because we are constantly exposed to images of food. I can’t open Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, even Snapchat without seeing at least one picture of mouth-wateringly delicious food I’d love to be devouring. Psychologically speaking, this exposure to these kinds of images triggers our minds to tell our bodies that we want to eat, even if we’re not actually hungry. Well shit.

Seems a bit problematic to those trying to live a healthy lifestyle and practice some self-restraint huh? Yes and no. It made me think of class I took back in college, the psychology of self-control. Psychologists studying self-control found that statistically a person’s self-control is highest in the beginning of the day and then wanes as the day progresses. It makes sense, we all have those days that start so promising with a kale smoothie and somehow by the evening you’re elbow deep in the carton of Gifford’s ice cream… yeah. Good news is we can use this information to our benefit. Knowing our resolve is strongest in the beginning of the day I always try to take advantage and make breakfast as healthy as possible, knowing I’ll be more likely to cave later in the day. Green smoothies are totally the new bagels right? No? Fair enough. I also try to get my workout in early in the day if possible. Just get up and get moving, sleep in your workout clothes if you have to. Whenever I leave my workout to the end of the day it takes way more internal convincing to get my ass in gear.

Psychologists also found that people who were subtlety subjected to images promoting healthy food, for example posters in the supermarket advertising healthy, diet-friendly food, made significantly healthier food choices than those who were not. So the mere exposure to images that reinforce healthy choices actually helps us make better choices. So simple yet so smart. So to use this finding to my advantage I made my phone home screen a picture of glistening berries to reinforce healthy habits and remind me of my goals. It worked for a while, but after seeing it so much I had to switch it up to a new image to keep the association fresh.

Furthermore, scientists also found that by simply referring to foods that one is trying to avoid as something they DON’T eat as opposed to something they CAN’T eat, changed the game. In saying that I don’t eat, say cake, it becomes an empowering, personal choice not to have it, rather than saying “I can’t eat cake”, which insinuates I have no control and am enslaved by my diet. See how that works? Cool huh? Try it!

So much of health and fitness is psychological. Our legs are almost never actually giving out, our heads our giving up. Our bodies aren’t craving cheese; our mind just thinks a slice sounds good. So take advantage of knowing better, and make it work for you, don’t be like Kevin from The Office and break your TV by charging at it during an all you can eat shrimp commercial (God I miss that show). You’re better than that.

A complete ranking of “healthy” snack bars

Based on taste & nutritional content

Power bars, protein bars, granola bars, you know the drill. Handy, convenient snacks, perfect for throwing into a purse of gym bag and marketed to us as healthy. But not all bars are created equal. gasp. Most are packed full of sugar and other unpronounceable ingredients and are anything but the healthy snack they are masquerading as. So I broke it down for you, ranking this little guys from best to worst in terms of their ingredients, nutrition and taste so you can make an informed decision next time your standing paralyzed with options in front of the
massive health bar section of the grocery store.

  1. Winner winner (Larabar) dinner! These guys win for a few reasons, the ingredient list is almost too good to be true, just dates, nuts and that’s pretty much it depending on the flavor. No unpronounceable ingredients, totally “clean”! They’re also damn tasty and come in a huge variety of flavors. I love to cut them up an eat them like a cookie after a meal because they basically taste like dessert. They’re also on the less expensive end of snack bars (Kroger always has them for a dollar each!) They don’t have a ton of protein only 5g, and do have some sugar, 16g, but its all natural (from the dates) so overall, it’s a winner! larabar.jpg
  2. Next up, Rx bars. I’d been wanting to try these for a while, they look like the cooler, hotter, older brother of the Larabar as they have the same minimal, clean ingredients but more protein, 12g (thank you egg whites). Sadly this was not quite the case, when I finally tracked them down in Trader Joes for $1.99 each, I was a little underwhelmed. While they have a mostly superior nutritional content to the Larabar, they actually have more sugar, 17g, and are just not as tasty. It may be just me but I found them very chewy, a little bland and definitely “healthy” tasting rather than “yummy”, but I can’t ignore that squeaky clean, “no B.S” ingredient list.rx-bars.png
  3. Third place goes to the Quest bar, America’s favorite protein bar, or so they claim. They come in at an impressive 20-22g of protein per bar, about 17g fiber and less than 1g of sugar which sounds pretty damn good. They taste good too, again like dessert and come in a medley of fun flavors, shout out to the mint chocolate chip, you my bud. However, they cost upwards of $2.50 each and they have a few unpronounceable ingredients with things like “Lo Han Gou” seriously WTF is that, it sounds like an item on a Chinese food menu. But most of the ingredients are things like stevia and raw almonds, so it’s not all foreign, but it ranks them behind their more simple-minded shelf buddies the Larabar and Rx bar. They’re a great choice for those looking for high protein option but I would be careful not to over do it, I ate a whole bar once and got a gnarly stomach-ache, so I’d be mindful of portion size.3DProteinBars_Fan_300dpi_01.jpg
  4. Fourth place goes to the Squarebar, the “organic protein bar”. These yummy little chocolate squared are damn tasty, if not difficult to track down. I finally found them at Whole Foods for about $2.50 a square. Yikes. They have mostly healthy and recognizable ingredients like egg whites but also include cane syrup and brown rice syrup and weigh in at 13g of mostly added sugar and only 6g protein. I like these cute little squares, it tasted like eating a chocolate bar, but only a slightly healthier version. It wasn’t bad, but I was kind like, F it, at this point I’m having a Reese’s. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKNAAAAJDgxYzI5M2RjLTY4ZjMtNDk4Zi1iOWI1LTJkZWEyY2E1ZGVmYw.png
  5. Fifth place, almost a tie with fourth really, goes to the Kind Bar. Full disclosure I lived off the Cherry Dark Chocolate flavor for like a month in college, they are so tasty! Sadly their nutritional content suffers a little at thisexpense. Most flavors have around 9g of sugar and only 3g protein. They have some great ingredients like whole wheat oats and buckwheat, but like the SquareBar they also have added sugars like brown rice syrup and also contain a few unfamiliar looking ingredients. Anyone know what gum acacia is off the top of their head? No? Me either. king bars 800.jpg
  6.  Luna bars. A classic. I totally loved these as a kid. They have since updated their formula so it’s a bit more health conscious, but I think they still fall a bit short of those ranked in the top five. They have a huge number of flavors and not totally unreasonable cost, but the nutrition just isn’t quite there. They have around 10g sugar, 9g protein but 25g carbs and have a very long list of ingredients you almost need a magnifying glass to read. Overall they’re an OK option, but I’d choose one of the above before I went for the Luna bar. Luna-Bars.jpg7. Lastly I just wanted to address these guys. The Think Thin high protein bars because they just look so tempting, I mean 22g Protein and ZERO g sugar?! Get at me. Except after a little research, I realized not so much.. They take the cake for the most unfamiliar ingredients and have 11g sugar alcohol, so not exactly sugar-free huh? Plus the protein blend and the sugar alcohol can cause big time bloating and digestion troubles. So while I will concede that these little guys don’t taste half bad, I’d say skip it and pay the extra $1 for the Quest bar if you really need a protein fix. b23561fce7d9b823c5667a76a5cd3835.jpg

So there you have it, one girls attempt to make sense of the mesmerizing wonderland that is the health food bars. Of course this is just my take, my opinion on a few of the more popular options, it’s of course not all-encompassing (if anyone has tried a GoMacro bar let me know!) Everyone values different things in their “power” bar, be it protein, lack of sugar, overall taste or even fiber, I just tried to give an overall breakdown to help make sense of whats worth it in the health bar isle. Happy (and healthy) snacking!

Smoothie Style Coming up Strong

So if you’ve been anywhere near a social media site the past few months I’m sure you’ve seen the smoothie bowl craze. To say I am a fan is an understatement. Whatever simple minded genius came up with the concept of putting a smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon instead of a straw deserves a major shout out. Somehow my brain seems to almost believe it ice-cream and in the hot summer weather who can turn down a refreshing, delicious and healthy summer treat!?

Here’s my favorite smoothie bowl recipe! breakfast, lunch or dessert!

1 cup berries – whatever kind you like

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 /2 cup kefir or plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup vanilla protein powder

1 tbsp peanut butter – bonus points if you use trader Joe’s chia and flax seed one!

sprinkle of cinnamon

1 tsp Acai berry powder (optional)

Blend and pour into a bowl. Then you can dress is up with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, chia seeds, honey, granola, whatever floats your boat!

 

 

Fitness as a Democratic Practice

Fancy, I know, gotta put that college degree to work.

So a few months ago I was meeting with a professor about a thesis I was writing about the inherent naturalization of the fit body and the resulting sense of alienation this can cause and my professor referred to fitness as a democratic practice. As soon as I heard this phrase I was like “YASS GIRL YASS”, except my professor is a 40-year-old Bulgarian women who has a dog that looks alarmingly like her, so I just politely nodded instead.

But the more I thought about it, the more I was like, this is exactly what I love about fitness. Fitness truly is for just about everybody. Anyone can participate in it, whether they are fat, thin, white, black, Asian, rich, poor, republican, straight, gay or some kind of mix. Anyone can get out and reap the benefits of exercise. Anyone can strive towards the fitness ideals, better their bodies, better their minds, and quite frankly better their lives.

Sure maybe that’s a touch idealistic, everyone is sadly not afforded the same opportunities and there are always politics and social dynamics at play within workout spaces, but the fitness community is expanding. Look at the plus size yoga movement, a movement that features bodies that are not typically seen as yogis now breaking that mold and embracing the practice for themselves. So at a time when our political democratic rights are being put through the ringer with the 2016 candidates, (straight outta options, am I right?) why not embrace a different kind of democratic practice and get that body moving!

What happened when I stopped working out

honestly – a lot, brace yourself for a long post.

About a month ago  I underwent surgery, so I knew in advance I would have to take it easy for about 4 weeks in terms of exercising. To be honest I was terrified to stop working out. I haven’t taken more than a day or two off since I made the decision to live a healthier life about 4 years ago. I’ll bust out HIIT in hotel rooms if I have to. But I was afraid if I let myself break my routine, something terrible would happen, I would like taking time off, like really like it. I’d love watching an episode of Freaks and Geeks (which if you haven’t seen, do yourself a favor and Netflix binge it, who can resist young James Franco?) before dinner instead off working out then, or getting an extra hour of sleep instead of a morning workout. I was afraid I’d slip right back into a lazy pattern and lose the motivation to work out that I spent so many years cultivating.

So what actually happened? The first week off I was pretty medicated with little appetite and an inability to stay awake. So I did not immediately gain 10lbs as soon as I stopped working out, which I’m ashamed to admit was a very real thought that crossed my mind. But the first week off actually felt good for my body despite being forced to be so sedentary. I de-bloated quickly and overall felt better than I thought I would.

The second week my appetite came back and I was itching to get moving. I’ve never walked by dogs in the entirety of the time I’ve had them as much as I did these past few weeks as I tried to incorporate gentle exercise.

Week three I started to lose it, I just wanted to move by body! To run! To sweat! I went for a hike, took a few yoga classes, tried some light weights only to be told by the doctor I had to wait another 2 weeks. Frustrated and bored that’s when I started noticing other changes. I started sleeping in more, like a lot more, even when I shouldn’t have been worn out. I craved sugar and junk food more than I have in the past. I’ve never thought I needed pizza in my life so bad. I wanted to eat all the time but I wasn’t hungry and I had so much less energy than I usually do.

But more than all that I felt puffier, I felt the muscles I worked so hard for slowly disappearing. I felt strange and alien in my body. I felt like all my clothes fit wrong and uncomfortably. I didn’t feel like myself in my own skin. In short I just didn’t feel anything like the person I usually am.

So I needn’t have worried, because right now I can’t wait to get back to the gym, 4 days until I’m cleared and you better believe I’ll be the first one at bootcamp that morning. From this time off I learned just how fundamental health and fitness are to who I am, how much they’re part me. The couch has far less appeal than I thought I would. It also became so clear that the effects of fitness stretch far beyond just bodily aesthetic. Finally, I realized that I should chill a bit, take a week off if I need to and it won’t undo something that has become so much a part of who I am.

So if you can, run while you can. Working out shouldn’t always feel like a chore, it’s also an amazing gift. Okay that was way cheesy, I think gym withdrawal is affecting my brain.

Guess who’s back…

Back again.

Sorry it’s not Slim Shady. I know I’m disappointed too. It is however your favorite inconsistent blogger! In my defense it’s been a crazy few weeks. I graduated college, hauled my life out of Ohio and back to Massachusetts (thank God), and now I’m attempting to figure out how to adult. Tips are appreciated.

I also recently had a small surgery, I’m fine no need to send flowers; I’m sure you all want to, but it means I can’t work out for four weeks. Six days in and I already convinced my muscles are melting. I haven’t gone more than 4 consecutive days without working out in years. While some rest was probably due for my body, it has still been difficult. When I first heard I’d have to take a month off my first thought was dear God how? Which was quickly followed by the internal declaration that I’ll just be very careful with my nutrition until I can resume my regular high intensity grind.

But after a few days of rest I began thinking about fitness and wellness and why exactly I care so much about my health and fitness. Sure I started my journey to shed that pesky freshman 15, but it’s evolved so much from there. Embracing my body for what it can do, pushing my limits, feeling my muscles work, paying attention to the food I put into my body and how good they make me feel is something I truly love.

Furthermore, learning to take care of my body physically also led me to a much healthier mindset. While the endorphins sure don’t hurt, I can honestly say that since I started working out and paying attention to my health, my overall wellness, both mental and physical has improved so much. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my passion for health and fitness being so interwoven into my life.

So as I take a few weeks hiatus from fitness I want to spend some time focusing on wellness, on why I love working out rather than just being determined to get a sweat on everyday. With beach season upon us it is high time for body scrutiny and self-dissatisfaction. So take a second and instead of running for the treadmill dreading the impending bikini weather, take time to appreciate your body for everything it can do for you, and what you can do for it, aesthetics aside.