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June Goals

It is very rare that you get a new month on the first day of the week. It seems right that you should wake up feeling refreshed and excited about what could be possible this month. For whatever reason, that made me feel like it might be a good idea to make some goals for the month. I mean why not?

1. Practice yoga at least 10 minutes daily. I’ve been doing yoga challenges, but not really focusing on my yoga practice. I need to get back into that.image (10)

2. Get up early every morning. It’s summer! This means I have more daylight in the evenings, which means if I get up earlier and get more things done sooner I can take advantage of it.image_4

3. Try a new funtivity every week. I love funtivities, and right now is the perfect time to integrate them into our plans. They can be an active activity, or just a new adventure (e.g., a new restaurant).

4. Cut back on sugar. I’ve been really bad about the extra dose of sugar. I am going to try my darndest to limit my “sugary” snack intake to twice a week…I am talking candy and ice cream here. Maybe next month I’ll cut my fruit (but let’s be honest).SourPatchKids

Healthy Eating: Stuffed Peppers

I’ve been eating stuffed peppers for as long as I can remember. My mom used to make them when we were younger. I am pretty sure I used to take them for lunch sometimes. They are just such a good Sunday meal prep option, that are also good for lunch leftovers.

I’ve stuffed them with pretty much everything at this point….they’ve been vegetarian (with Morningstar Crumbles), they’ve had rice or quinoa, and then of course other ground meat…turkey, chicken, buffalo. You can really stuff them with almost anything.

I used to have to get creative in how I positioned the peppers to bake. Then I got a fantastic pan for our wedding, literally designed for peppers. It’s awesome.

 

Below is a recipe I’ve been using recently, it’s clean, simple and tasty.

Italian-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers

What you need:

4 bell peppers

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1/2 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

1 pound ground beef, bison, turkey, or chicken

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 375 F. While that is preheating, let’s get to chopping.

Peppers 002

 

In a large skillet heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they are translucent and slightly brown. You can lightly season the onions with salt and pepper. I also like to add a little more pepper and saute those.

Peppers 004

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and tomatoes, and cook for about two minutes.

Peppers 005

 

Now we add the meat and cook until fully done. I usually add a little heat here with some red pepper.

Peppers 006

 

Fill the peppers and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. This will leave the peppers soft, but still a little crunchy.

Peppers 008

 

Peppers 007

News That Makes You Think: Obesity Risk, Lunch Shaming, Double Chin

The last two days has been filled with some interesting news items that has led me to shake my head, and go hmmmm.

A test that can gauge your obesity risk?

I come from a family that has often struggled with weight — we have one of those really unhealthy relationships where we eat our feelings. It’s a learned response….and while that has a significant impact on our waistlines it is a habit that in theory can be broken.

On the other hand, researchers have now said they can successfully link certain byproducts of digestion to the risk of excess body fat. Something we can’t change…yet. It’s possible that these findings might lead to more personalized interventions for people who are identified as “at-risk” for obesity, including diet, exercise or supplements.

In a study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, researchers note that obesity risk is driven by many factors. They include, “amino acids and muscle metabolism, energy metabolism, and [the] involvement of gut metabolism.”

In a not so shocking finding, the researchers say that obesity is complex and one magic bullet isn’t going to fix the situation. Read more here. Do you think having this information would make a difference?

Lunch Shaming

On my ride back from pilates this morning, I heard the story of the teacher’s letter to a parent regarding her child’s lunch. Then I got home and saw that it was on GMA. Is this really a thing? I know and appreciate the hard work that has gone into revamping school lunches, but being uber judgey about what is packed from home is ridiculous. Also, since when is peanut butter NOT a healthy snack? I’m pretty sure it is one of those “in moderation” snacks that is good for you. And another thing, how are you suppose to keep milk cool for lunch?

I'm pretty sure this lunch wouldn't make the cut
I’m pretty sure this lunch wouldn’t make the cut

Double Chin Remedy

Forget contouring like a Kardashian, and don’t you fret about bad angles anymore. The FDA approved a new treatment for adults with “moderate-to-severe fat” below the chin. The treatment, Kybella, apparently naturally absorbs fat, and has the potential to be a big seller. That is IF, patients are ok with the potential side effects including trouble swallowing or nerve damage to the jaw that an result in an uneven smile or muscle weakness in the face.

I can't tell if I qualify for "moderate-to-severe" here
I can’t tell if I qualify for “moderate-to-severe” here

Why I Changed My Training

For the last few years (read at least six), I have been a devoted runner. While I may not have crossed the finish line of more than 100 races, I have still completed at least 20 halves, 2 fulls, and a smattering of 10Ks and 5ks during that time. After this past running season (training for the NYC Marathon), I knew I was going to have to hang up my competitive long distance runs. My body just couldn’t handle it anymore. In fact, I had one doctor tell me three weeks before the race that I was heading toward a serious injury. Though he knew I wasn’t not going to run the marathon, we needed to talk about what that meant for after the race.

Since then, I haven’t been out for a true run. I’ve run at OTF but if we hit 3 miles total without stopping it’s a rare day. Instead, I’ve focused more on HIIT workouts or combo workouts with cardio bursts and weight lifting/body weight exercises.

Truth is, my body has changed because of that. The scale may not shift to the low number that I once was, but I am leaner. If I catch my arms in the right angle I am shocked by their definition, but even more than that, I am not carry any pudge in my tummy.  It isn’t like I am rocking a 6-pack, but I am just flatter.

I’ve been using the Skulpt Aim to keep me on track and take my mind off the scale number. It is really hard to do that, but once you understand what you are measuring, you kind of get into it. And if you are crazy like me, you get competitive with the machine especially when it says you are “average.”

skuplt 005
Just measuring my ab MQ

 

Skulpt Aim measures the following:

  • Muscle Quality (MQ): is a rating of your muscles’ fitness that was designed to be intuitive. Aim uses EIM technology to send a small current directly through your muscle. It uses 12 sensors and multiple frequencies to get very accurate readings. Since current flows differently in muscles based on their composition and muscle fiber size, Aim is able to evaluate the quality of each muscle. It lets you see your strongest areas, focus on the ones that need improvement, or change your routine for the muscle groups that have plateaued. 

MQ Score Chart | SKULPT

  • Body fat: Aim comes pretty close to delivering results similar to Hydrostatic Weighing Measurements. You take measurements on four muscle groups to get a total body reading of the fact percentage, plus you can get measurements on individual areas so you can see where the fact is located. image1 image2

WIAW: Sur La Table Cooking Class

Last night we had the opportunity to attend a cooking class at Sur la Table. It was the first time I had ever been to a formal cooking class, and I was so excited. I made sure we were front and center…because I wanted to take everything in.10647398_10105641241079471_1033180862_o

Aaron, Jenna, Josh and I took turns making everything for our dishes. We should have waited for instructions (my bad on over dressing the salad), but overall I think we learned at least three things.

Our menu was surf and turf and included scallops, steak and a banana pudding. Since you wanted the dessert to set, we started off with that first.

Bourban-Banana Pudding with Candied Pecans

Double teaming the candied pecans
Double teaming the candied pecans
It took a lot to caramelize that bourbon
It took a lot to caramelize that bourbon
Assembling the pudding
Assembling the pudding

 

Pan-Seared Scallops with Oranges in a Ginger Vinaigrette

In addition to learning how to properly cook scallops (something I have always wanted to make at home but was just too darn scared), I also learned the trick to chopping shallots and onions…and using a paring knife on oranges to create a garnish. That last one needs a little more work.

You have to remove the membranes before you cook. Sometimes that makes for a not so round scallop.
You have to remove the membranes before you cook. Sometimes that makes for a not so round scallop.
Learning to chop
Learning to chop
Making the ginger vinaigrette
Making the ginger vinaigrette

Herb-Crusted New York Steak with a Red Wine-Peppercorn Sauce 

I feel like I am still a newbie to steak. It certainly isn’t something I feel comfortable cooking. Last night I learned that you should let the steak come to room temperature to cook (same apparently goes for fish). Also, and this was a big learning for us…we need to be using vegetable oil instead of olive oil.

I jumped at the chance to learn how to make the sauce. I want to be a better sauce maker…and last night I got my chance.

You place the steak away from you
You place the steak away from you

 

Making sauce
Making sauce
There is serious concentration here
There is serious concentration here

We also made green beans to accompany our steak. They were roasted and were delicious.

Seasoning the green beans
Seasoning the green beans

Our finished products

Which we actually ate and didn’t die from…

Scallops
Scallops
Steak and green beans
Steak and green beans
Banana pudding
Banana pudding

 

I believe this was a success…and of course am now addicted. Private pasta making class anyone?

The chefs!
The chefs!

 

Bringing Breakfast Back

I was never big on breakfast. I started being bused to school in fifth grade, which meant early wake ups and not a lot of time to. Enjoy a hot breakfast. Throughout middle school and high school I relied on breakfast bars and fruit….by the time I was in college breakfast was something I had on the weekends only, and to be honest that wasn’t very often.

Eating before heading to the office usually meant I was hungry by 10, so I started eating breakfast at work. Oatmeal, cereal and when I was really adventurous microwaved eggs. Basically, I ate breakfast because I had to and very rarely enjoyed it.

My lack of breakfast imagination and desire for something quick lead me to toasted PB&J, waffles, my trusty oatmeal and Greek yogurt. Wasn’t the best option, or healthiest.

To reintroduce a healthy breakfast into my life I’ve started making egg dishes that I can re-heat. It’s a nice easy way for me to have a “grab and go” option without relying on carbs.

So far we’ve made a spicy breakfast casserole and little egg muffins. Pairing those with berries and breakfast sausages have made for some delicious mornings.

Mini-muffins (uncooked) and the tasty casserole
Tasty-casserole
Mini-egg muffin
Mini-egg muffin

Below are the recipes for both.

Spicy Breakfast Casserole 

½ onion, diced
1 lb. hot Italian turkey/chicken sausage (approx 4 links, casings removed)
3 c. broccoli florets, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 medium sweet potato, shredded
1 ¾ c. liquid egg whites
5 whole eggs
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 Tbs. Sriracha
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. fresh black pepper
1 tsp. coconut oil or olive oil, to grease pan and sauté onions
½ c. smoked pepper jack cheese, shredded (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×9” or 9×13” glass baking dish.

In a large skillet, add ½ tsp. oil and add chopped onions.  Saute until translucent.  Add sausage, breaking it up with a spatula and stirring occasionally until evenly browned.

Bring a sauce pan of water to boil over high heat.  Add broccoli florets and blanch for 2 minutes.  Immediately empty to a strainer and let drain.

In a large bowl, combine eggs and egg whites and whisk with a fork until blended.  Add shredded sweet potato, garlic salt, Sriracha, and salt & pepper. Whisk until incorporated.breakfast 006

Shredding sweet potatoes is a workout
Shredding sweet potatoes is a workout

To your greased baking dish, add the blanched broccoli florets and the onion-sausage mixture.  Pour the egg and sweet potato mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle lightly with cheese (if using).

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until center is set and eggs are no longer runny.  (If you use a 9×9 baking dish, it may take slightly longer to set in the middle.)

Let cool for 10-15 minutes.  Slice into squares and serve.

Mexican Turkey Frittata 

1 (20-ounce) package JENNIE-O® Extra Lean Ground Turkey Breast
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cups sliced small mushrooms
1 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (we used Siracha)
2 cups egg substitute or 8 eggs
¼ cup milk
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded low-fat Mexican blend cheese
⅓ cup green onions
Mexican Turkey Frittata (Continued) 3 of 3

Directions:

Heat oven to 350°F. Mist 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. Cook ground turkey as specified on the package. Always
cook to well-done, 165°F. as measured by a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with cumin; stir to mix.breakfast 014 In large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil, green pepper, mushrooms and chipotle peppers. Cook 5 minutes, stirring
occasionally, until mushrooms are cooked.
In large bowl, whisk eggs, milk and cilantro until well mixed. Stir in turkey, cheese, mushroom mixture and green onions.
breakfast 017Spoon mixture into muffin cups, filling approximately ¾ full.

Bake 20 minutes or until set.

On My Healthy Lifestyle Radar

Every January I make a promise with myself to stay out of the gym, and workout at home or by running outside (polar vortex obviously has that on the sideline). I just can’t handle the crowds, fighting for machines, my favorite spin bike or these people. So I pull out my trusty DVDs, or go to our apartment gym at odd times when I know no one will steal my treadmill as I do my sprint/weight lifting intervals.

So here is what’s on my radar/keeping me in check this month.

P90x3

One of the things that kept me from fully dedicating myself to P90x when Josh first got it last year, was that they required a significant amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 60 min+ workout, but that usually involved cardio and weights, with a few breaks in between, and those workouts are usually reserved for weekends. images

The 30 minute workouts do not disappoint. I have decided to do the “lean” program, which means a lot more cardio and less weight lifting (though that is in there too). I’ve done one full week, which reminded me why I hate plyos and Tony Horton (in a good and bad way) and decided to alternate my P90x and yoga days so that my back didn’t tense up.

Ultimate Yogi 

I am deep into my second set of 36 days for Ultimate Yogi. We had a minor set back with vacation, but are back full stream. The second 36 days include a focus on balance and flexibility. These routines are no joke. I think I was more sore after balance than I was after strength. And I don’t think I have seen my abs as flat as they are right now in a very long, long time.

This is Irene...look how impressive she is
This is Irene…look how impressive she is

Trying New Yoga 

Speaking of yoga, I took my first class with Irene last Saturday. Aside from being right next to Carson (are you serious? this was like the most intimidating thing ever) it made me remember how desperately I want to become a pro at headstands and tick tocks and all those other fancy yoga moves. (Also, Carson was really encouraging, so now I think I caught the bug, and will likely be attending more classes with those two). I also really want to try aerial yoga, and just found out there is a studio not far from me that has it!

Food Prep

I don’t make resolutions, I am just too Type A to handle failing at resolutions. Instead let’s just say I make healthy goals…one of those is to take our menu planning a step further and actually do food prep on Sundays. We’ve made it two weeks in a row (hazah!), and so far it has actually helped decrease stress after work and allowed more time for us to hang out at night. It’s been nice, and certainly takes a lot of pressure off us when it comes to making dinner and cleaning up after since most of the hard work is done.

Bringing Back Running 

And finally, after a year of retirement, I am contemplating returning to the racing world. Last year, I didn’t really train that great and didn’t really run aside from a few treadmill sprints and terrible 5M outings. This year is my last to use my guaranteed entry for NYC Marathon. I am still trying to decide if it is worth it. Deep down I know I will regret NOT doing it. We are also going to try to register for Lululemon’s Sea Wheeze race. Yes, I did say we.

I’m In Need of a Detox

This isn’t the first time I’ve contemplated a detox, but lately I’ve just really been feeling like I need it. I’m cranky, sluggish and feeling a little bloated…like all the time. Maybe it is the stress. Maybe it is all the travel. Whatever it is I need a swift kick in the butt to start feeling like myself again.

The last time I cut refined sugar out of my diet it went pretty well. So I think I will start there. Otherwise, my diet is pretty focused on non-processed foods.  I don’t do white flour and surprisingly have been able to cut rice out too. Dairy (aside from my ice cream) is plain, nonfat yogurt and even my milk is almond-base.

Juice cleanses intrigue me, and I’ve always wanted to try them because they sound so simple and people rave about them. Here are your juices. Drink them every 2 hours, drink lots of water and go forth and be energized. The problem is all the work that you have to do BEFORE you start…cutting out the meat and what not. I would essentially be zapped of energy before I even start.  (TRUTH: I have filled out forms and then closed out of the browser window more than once on some of these.)

This month’s SELF featured a 7-Day Detox that includes a meal plan with real food AND a workout plan.

The Plan
The Plan

The meals are a little intensive and the workout plan includes AM and PM sessions, which is a little daunting, but I think this might be the right thing for me. Plus, since it includes real meals, I can possibly get Josh on board for at least the dinner plan.

Cardio in the AM, plus these in the PM
Cardio in the AM, plus these in the PM

So that’s the plan beginning this weekend. Hopefully, come October I will feel back on track.

 

 

 

Can’t Resist: Spring Runs, Chobani and More

I can’t resist running in this weather. I am literally exhausted with tight quads and an aching back and the mid-60 weather and clear blue skies call to me.

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When you see that, you have to run

I am still getting used to running in my Kinvara 4 from Saucony and because the weather was super perfect I ran a bit longer in them than I had before.  My first run this week had me out for almost six miles and I swear I was running faster than I have in years, despite the tightness in my legs.

These shoes are miracle workers. Even today when I went out for my four miler that I was only doing because it was too pretty to be inside, I was cruising.

This week also marked the first time I tasted Chobani’s new key lime flip. I don’t know how I survived without these delightful little snacks for so long. (Side Note: Even though I have been a yogurt eater for a long time I never knew that those types of yogurt containers were made so that you can flip the topping…stop I know.) Key lime is my ultimate summer flavor, and these glorious little 170 calorie fun pack is going to help me keep my summer sweet tooth in check.

mmm key lime, white chocolate and graham cracker (can't resist)
mmm key lime, white chocolate and graham cracker (can’t resist)

I am a fruit lover. And lately I have been craving fruit in my salads. It can be pretty much anything, but mostly I have been dropping apples in there. The combination of apples and chicken has become my absolute favorite, but now that strawberries and blueberries are on sale I am buying them in spades to add to salads.

Some of my favorite spring salads are:

  • Shrimp, green apple, avocado with lemon juice (easiest thing you’ll ever make)
  • Berry Delicious Summer Salad (blueberries & walnuts, amazing)
  • Watermelon, feta and basil with lemon juice
  • Strawberries, walnuts, goat cheese and spinach (balsamic vinegar)
Watermelon and feta = amazing combo
Watermelon and feta = amazing combo

Basically lemon and balsamic vinegar become staples in my house during the spring and summer.

Finally, our current go-to treat comes courtesy of Skinny Cow. It is their limited edition ice cream sandwich in Snickerdoodle flavor. If you haven’t had them, run now to your grocery store.  I don’t feel guilty indulging in these at all since they are only 140 calories. We are talking low-fat cinnamon ice cream between two oatmeal cookies. You can’t go wrong.

Deliciousness
Deliciousness

 

Exercise As A Threat?

Over the last few years we have acclimated to seeing calories next to our favorite food items. At first it seemed to deter some people, but eventually you just shrugged it off and ate it because you wanted that personal-size Uno pizza that is like a  1,400 calories. (Not me, because I just can’t, but I know there are people out there that do.)

Fries are my weakness
Fries are my weakness

So if this doesn’t deter people like everyone hoped, what’s next? Displaying how much exercise would be required to burn it off. A new study tested this idea and found that when restaurant menus listed the amount of brisk walking required to work off each dish diners we less likely to overeat.

Personally, I don’t like to think about what is required to burn it off after I eat. I think that just makes eating less enjoyable and more guilt ridden. Yes, there are times when I over indulge and think “I am so going to need to run an extra mile tomorrow,” or I might switch a yoga day for something more intense, but I don’t like to think about it until after I am completely satisfied with myself.

It is important to me to overindulge from time to time
It is important to me to overindulge from time to time

I know I am a rare breed who enjoys exercising for the endorphins I feel during and after, but come on no one is going to learn to enjoy a healthy lifestyle if we keep making it a chore or a punishment.

You have to separate the guilt from eating. That is the only way you overcome food demons or avoid creating new ones.