Sunday, May 26, 2013

Picture This!

I’m excited about this next week’s challenge and hope you will be as well. I think it is a particularly good one if you have slipped from being fully dedicated to our Spring Skinnie Healthy Living Competition. Why not jump back into fully participating with us through this challenge?
 Let me introduce the challenge by sharing an article written by Brigid Moss the health director of Red Magazine:

“You would think I'd know exactly what I eat each day - after all, it's me who picks up my food and puts it into my mouth. And as the health director of Red, a women's magazine, being careful about eating well is my job.
But four months ago, it struck me that I never really looked at my food - and you probably don't either. For while we are fairly aware of what we eat every day, few of us ever take the time to consider exactly how much we consume and what the elements of our meals are.
With this in mind, in April I started really looking at my food - in fact, I started photographing it . And the effect it's had on me is remarkable.
This strange plan was born out of necessity - for several months I'd been putting on weight and had no idea why. Every time I stepped on the scales I knew something needed to be done.
So when I heard there is a new theory that photographing food can make you lose weight by making you painfully aware of your consumption, it seemed the perfect solution: a sensible way to work out what I was doing wrong and, hopefully, slim down in the process.
Armed with a camera I vowed to record every item I ate in a food diary.
The project began on a Monday with my usual breakfast at home: two pieces of rye toast spread with cashew nut butter, which I tried to make appear as pretty as possible on the plate - a habit which continued through the day as I had a salad for lunch, a trio of rice cakes for a snack, and a stir-fry for dinner.
The psychological effect was dramatic. Every portion size was painfully obvious and there is no avoiding the amount you are actually consuming.
Since the first day of photos, I haven't had a second helping; I could tell from the pictures one plate is plenty.
Going out for dinner proved embarrassing - thankfully other diners assumed I was a tourist when I started snapping away - though my husband was indifferent, having witnessed countless crazy health fads in the past.
The photographs in week two proved I am definitely not able to resist temptation when it comes to food: several chocolate bars show up which I stole from my husband's secret stash in moments of weakness.
It's incredible how predictable these cravings are - when the pictures show a huge amount of food eaten in a single day, I can work out it was a time when I was tired or stressed.
Tiredness shows. When I travelled abroad on a family holiday, by the evening I arrived exhausted and turned to chocolate. The journey home had a similar effect: incriminating photos document chicken satay, Thai fishcakes and a creamy coconut curry that day.
Conversely, I also realized when I looked back through the images that I comfort eat when I'm happy, having chicken burger and chips or some sweets on a relaxing Saturday.
Some days I was shocked by what I'd eaten - a bowl of cornflakes after dinner, a whole bag of yoghurt raisins, my son's breakfast as well as mine: things I usually choose to forget.
Yet despite those bursts of unhealthy eating, it's reassuring to see that lots of the dishes contain plenty of greens. I've always been so busy worrying about avoiding unhealthy food that I've never noticed how many vegetables I eat.
The pictures made me accept that you can't eat perfectly all the time, so there's no point beating yourself up over it. I know now that I eat well most of the time and that's enough.
I love looking at pictures of meals people have cooked for me. My husband's shepherd's pie and chicken noodle soup look delicious, and remind me how much love goes into cooking.
I also have happy memories from the photos, and understand how nice sharing can be - the cheese and bread on snow when we had a family picnic at a ski resort, the dim sum lunch with friends and the vegetable pie I ate at the Natural History Museum when I took my son there for a day out.
By week three, taking the pictures meant I had become fixated on what I was eating. Looking back, though, I can see that there was a self-discipline creeping in because I was being confronted every night with what I'm putting in my stomach.
Portion sizes gradually shrank, and knowing what I'd eaten meant that if one day I'd overindulged, the next I deliberately ate less.”

You’ve guessed it ladies this week’s challenge is:
1. Take a photograph of every bite you eat and every gulp you drink.
2. Before going to bed at night look through the photos
3. If possible become more accountable by sharing the photos daily with someone.
4. This does not override your assignment to also enter daily into
5. I’d love it if you want to share any of your photos with me!

There is quite a bit of recent research that shows that photographing your food can be even more powerful than merely writing down what you have eaten. So let's give it a try! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Repeat of past favorite challenge- Mix it up!

Get out of rut: Try new fruits and vegetables
I was inspired the other day by a friend’s story of how she had grown up hating eggplant and was disappointed to have a friend serve it at a meal they shared. Not wanting to appear rude she felt she must choke down at least a little of it, when to her surprise it was delicious! Who would have thought that what had been a slimy ordeal from childhood was actually yummy when prepared with garlic and cooked on the grill?
I had a surprising experience just this evening as I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints just a week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.
Thinking that you too may be in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit I thought I’d challenge your variety for our bonus challenge this week.
In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”
So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.
The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”
Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.
• Dried figs: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular. (Note this is one of my favorite snacks when I am craving sweets. Honestly the plain dried fig is as yummy as a fig newton. I buy them at Costco)
• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip.
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.
Here’s a recipe that might be fun to try and please feel free to share any recipes on the blog that you have found for our more unusual fruits and veggies!
Baba Ghanouj 
Makes 2 cups or 8 (1/4-cup) servings
Hands on: 30 minutes 
Total time: 90 minutes
2 pounds eggplant,
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice,
1 small garlic clove minced,
 2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste),
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Grill the eggplant over a hot fire or under the broiler until the skin darkens and wrinkles on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The eggplant should be uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes.
Set a small colander over a bowl or in the sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the hot pulp from the skins and place the pulp in the colander. You should have about 2 cups of packed pulp. Discard the skins. Let the pulp drain for 3 minutes.
Transfer pulp to a food processor bowl and add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the mixture has a coarse, choppy texture, about 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until lightly chilled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
To serve, use a spoon to make a trough in the center of the dip and spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.
— From “Perfect Vegetables From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)
Per serving: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.
Nutritional bonus points: Don’t let the 72 percent of calories from fat scare you. This is a low-fat, low-calorie dip, and the small amount of fat comes from heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and tahini.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strengthening Your Core

Part of my weekly exercise routine includes a 10-14 mile bike ride with girlfriends on Monday mornings. When we first began our weekly rides I noticed that for 2-3 days after the ride my neck was really sore. I have always complained about “my weak neck”. Yoga hurts my neck, sit ups kill my neck, and I’ve even noticed a sore neck after extra long walks.

You can imagine how surprised I was when complaining to my oldest daughter (the Pilates instructor) about my neck issues. She said “Mom it’s not your neck it’s your core.  Because your core is weak your neck is trying to help your body get the momentum you desire and it is wearing out your poor neck muscles that weren’t intended for that task.”

Our body core muscles are the central link in a chain connecting our upper and lower body. Whether we are hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it. And no matter where motion starts, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. Thus, weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs (and even you neck) function. And that saps power from many of the moves you make. Properly building up your core cranks up the power.

Additionally a strong core enhances our balance and stability. My daughter explained that although most of us experience occasional trips, a strong core enables us to correct our motion and stabalize ourselves before we fall all the way to the ground and incur a really serious injury. Most often when older people fall it wasn’t the tripping that caused the serious accident but the weak core that couldn’t stop the hard fall. Thus core strengthening can help prevent falls and injuries. In fact, a strong, flexible core underpins almost everything we do.

While teaching Pilates recently my daughter had a married couple (+ 50 years old) in the class. As part of her instruction she challenged the students to get in a plank position and hold it for 2 minutes straight. She said the wife exclaimed “We can hold it for 6 minutes.” And so the class all did a 2 minute plank and then watched while the older couple continued on. The husband held a plank for a full 6 minutes and the wife went to 7 minutes. Once completed the husband said “I could have gone to 7 but if I did my wife would have tried to go to 8 and she might have hurt herself.” Astounding!

One of my friends from church mentioned to me that she does a 1 minute plank every morning before she gets in the shower just to maintain her core strength.

So you guessed it that is your challenge for this week. Grab a watch and time yourself doing a plank at least once each day. And then try to increase your time. Each day you accomplish this you earn the 5 daily challenge points. As always I encourage you to continue these challenges and make them part of your regular daily routine. Try to eventually (this may take effort beyond our challenge week) work up to a minimum of at least 1 full minute per day.

The photo pictured at the top of this page is a standard plank. Here are two variations if you are unable to do it in standard form. It's always important to begin where you need to begin and respect your edge. Don't push too far and injure yourself and in all of our challenges if you are unable to complete the task e-mail me and we will work out an alternate assignment! Happy planking! 

Some Plank Tips

1. ADJUST YOUR ARMS Keep them in line with wrists, directly beneath shoulders. Shrug off the urge to hunch your shoulders to ears, which makes the move uncomfy and harder to hold. 
2. GET IN LINE Neck should be long, with a 6-inch distance between chin and chest. Look a few inches in front of your hands to align head and spine.
3. STRAIGHEN OUT A flat back is the key to flat abs. The transverse abdominis engages to stabilize the spine and hold you as stiff as a board. If you drop or lift your hips, you let your abs off the hook. Assume the position by a mirror, and do a form check.
4. NO SAGGING Sagging in the middle puts pressure on your lower back. Ouch! Remember: Hips shouldn't dip.
6. NO HIKING-You don't want to hike your hips high, either—that forces quads to take over. The goal: spine in a line.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A lovely meal

According to Susan Albers of Washington and Lee University “Mindful eating is eating that fully engages our senses and attention--the exact opposite of the way most of us eat. Because so many of us feel rushed to accomplish the tasks of the day, eating is something that we often do while we're on the run--in the car, on the way to class, while we're reading or surfing the internet. However, eating in this manner increases the likelihood of weight gain, since we are not fully able to notice when we are full, and reduces the likelihood that we will enjoy our food and the act of nourishing our bodies.”
Yes ladies this week we will be eating mindfully! To earn our daily challenge points we will:
1. Sit down every time you eat and no your car does not count. Sit at a table or a bar area designed for eating. No TV tray or lap eating. Yes you must sit down even to enjoy a snack.
2. Take a moment to be thankful. If praying is part of your faith life offer a prayer of gratitude for the variety and bounty we enjoy.
3. Present your food beautifully. Put your water in a glass (or goblet) your food on a pretty plate or in a bowl. (Note if you must eat fast food eat it at a table or in a booth-NOT DRIVING. Remove the tray from the table. Set the napkin to the side of your food. Do the best you can to make it a lovely setting.) Eating all of your food from a plate is also a good way to insure ALL of your food is measured or weighed. No eating chips out of the bag or crackers out of the box.  This makes it too easy to lose count. Instead prepare and present a meal or snack on a pretty plate. Arrange things as attractively as possible. 
4.  Set aside time for eating-don’t rush! Notice the color, texture, shape and variety of your food. Take time to look at your food and then taste your food and thoroughly chew it.

5. Eat slowly. Between bites set your silverware down to better pace your eating.

6. Notice your thoughts while eating and if you find yourself experiencing negative thoughts or feelings about eating (e.g., this is going to make me fat, I can't believe how out of control I am), try to replace these thoughts with positive ones (I am learning to enjoy food, I need food to nourish myself).

7• Notice when you no longer feel hungry and stop eating. Do not feel obligated to clean your plate or eat past the point of enjoyment just because the food is in front of you.

8• Focus on your own plate. What the person sitting across from you has on their plate may not be what's right for you. Eat according to your own needs.

So for every day you do your best to follow these guidelines and eat every bite of food from a plate and while sitting down you earn the 5 daily challenge points.

*Note: I think this is a challenge you may dread but will end up enjoying. I can remember on a past, similar challenge I began cutting my breakfast protein bar into tiny bites and eating it with chopsticks every morning from a pretty white plate. Honestly it was much more enjoyable and satisfying