Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What to Eat When You're Craving Sweets

Like I said before, I'm not perfect... Annnnd sometimes I crave sweets. Sometimes it's beautiful and delicious to have dessert. Sometimes you want to move on from the craving.

Have your sweets without rocketing your blood sugar:

1. Low-glycemic index fruits like berries, cherries, apples, pears, apricots, grapefruit, oranges, nectarines, grapes, kiwis. These are healthier than other sources of sugar and give you the added benefit of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Get fancy. I love balsamic marinaded strawberries with a little black pepper! (I dare you.)

2.  Dark chocolate (at least 70%) is relatively low in sugar and comes with the added bonus of antioxidants!

3. Date boats - my classic bring-along power snack. Yes, dates have a lot of sugar but one of these puppies, split open and spread with some almond butter (plus cacao nibs are my favorite) make for a carb/fat/protein balanced snack for an active day. These are fairly rich.

4. Make your own high-quality desserts! This way, you know how much sugar is (or isn't) in it. Try my chocolate coconut truffles, raw chocolate banana pudding or something simple like a mango lassi (mango + plain yogurt + cardamom if you're feeling fancy, whirled up in your blender).

5. Roasted or steamed sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, beets - any sweet root veggie of choice - can be totally satisfying, especially with a little butter, coconut oil and sea salt, or peanut/almond butter. Getting enough naturally sweet veggies during the day can help curb overall cravings.

To curb your cravings try:

1. Sauerkraut snack. Just a few fork-fulls can sate me. The sour and alkaline flavors are great sweet-cravings busters.

2. Have the juice of half a lemon or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it down. Wait about 10 minutes and see how you feel. A lot of times when we crave sugar, we're just dehydrated. Water with a splash of juice or vinegar is a quick pick-me-up.

3. Experiment with the Chinese strategy of eating more bitter foods to balance your craving for sweets. Foods like curly endive, radicchio, cooked greens (kale, chard, collards), olives, etc. 

Any desserts or tricks you like?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Coming Out (of the pantry)

This is for you if you're the constantly cheerful face with the journal tucked under your bed that says otherwise. This is for you if you've always been the straight-A student, the people-pleaser, the perfectionist, the successful one who is afraid to admit you're unhappy or that you don't have it all figured out. Because being unhappy and not knowing the answers is the opposite of success, right? This is for you if you ever feel alone in the world you've created to be so wonderful. This is for you if you work too hard and give too much and can't seem to find time to give back to yourself.

So this is me. My real coming out story. I've figured this much out so far.
I graduated from IIN as a certified Health Coach in 2010 and began teaching people how to eat to feel energized, alive and light so they could make the most out of every day. I was working really hard to get my dream career off the ground and it was super exciting!

I was a health nut - eating my greens every day, all my whole grains, shopping at farmers' markets, and cooking up delicious meals. I was eating great, my sugar cravings were more under control and I was showing other people my tricks. Success!

...On the surface. The reality wasn't as peachy...
I was working too hard and giving too much without taking any time to care for myself. I was STRESSED.

My shoulders and neck were one giant knot. I couldn't sleep well because my mind was bouncing around and I could never seem to get comfortable. I caught four or five colds this past winter, and it's rare for me to get sick more than once a year.

But I told myself I was now this Health Goddess Guru Expert Coach Superwoman. I had to keep my happy, healthy face on! I've always prided myself and been praised for keeping my cool, my upbeat positive attitude. So, as usual, I kept smiling, I kept showing up even when I should have stayed home.

It was during that time that I found myself hiding out in the pantry almost every night.
Lights off. Eating all of the cereal, the raisins, the granola, the dark chocolate, the peanut butter, the whole grain bread... every morsel of sugar and all of the healthy options I was stocking for myself and beyond.  And when I'd eaten all of that, I'd raid the fridge, I'd steal my housemate's food. If I heard someone coming, I'd pretend I was just walking through. I couldn't bare to been found out, even by my partner, Evan. Anything with sugar was like crack, it was comforting, it was sweeeet.

Using food to deal with my feelings wasn't new to me. In fact, I have a history of bottled-away depression, low self-esteem, distorted body image and binging since middle school. Consoling myself with comfort foods was just what I did when I was feeling anxious, disappointed, lonely, frustrated...

But now I was a Health Goddess Guru Expert Coach Superwoman, wasn't I?
I was supposed to have overcome all of that stuff! I kept asking myself why and how I could be failing like this. I knew why I was eating. I knew I was stuffed. But I couldn't stop. And I couldn't stop the barrage of guilt and shame and frustration. I felt so defeated, I just ate on. I put on weight, I was bloated and uncomfortable most of the time.

Mostly, I was devastated that I could not control - or help - myself.
I was completely consumed in this loop: Wake up promising myself that today would be different. Today I was done with sugar and binging! I'd eat healthy all day and feel good. At night everything would shift: other people would bring food over, maybe I'd have a drink, dessert would appear, the late-night munchies would strike... and I'd be worse off than where I started, making promises about tomorrow.

I finally reached out for help. I told Evan. I went to see a coach. I cried a lot. And I slowly got better. Still, I didn't really tell anyone because I didn't want anyone to know I was struggling. I didn't want to be seen as flawed. I didn't want to be a burden that someone had to take care of.

And then a man came for a consultation with me about emotional eating and binging - and I couldn't have been more anxious. We agreed to work together. I knew I had the tools to help him, just not yet the confidence. I felt like I still didn't have it all together and worked out for myself. But the decision to commit to what we both wanted turned out to dramatically change both of our lives. (Joaquin will be sharing his own story soon!)

My mentors, Carey Peters and Stacey Morgenstern, always say your greatest challenge is your greatest gift. It's been staring me down for most of my life. It's been about learning how to trust, love and honor myself and my body, my temple. How to take care of myself so that I can have the energy to really show up for my life and for others in the capacity I want to.

Now, it's about coming out of the pantry and telling my story. I know I'm not the only one to put on the cheerful, brave happy face every day while another dark, shamed and guilty part lurks underneath or comes out at night.

It is time to live an opened and authentic life. I'm not perfect and that's perfect. Welcome to my real, beautiful world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We Are All Made of Stars

"We are in this universe... but more importantly the universe is in us.
When I reflect upon that fact I look up....
many people feel small because they are so small and the Universe is so big...
but I feel big because my atoms came from those stars."

Neil Degrasse Tyson

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Healthy Menu Choices

I love food. And although I love cooking, not all of us do, and going out to eat is one of my favorite activities. But it can be really hard to go out to eat and not overeat, to not leave with your pants and belly feeling overstuffed and uncomfortable. I've been there too many times.

Eating healthy when you go out can be especially challenging because we don't always have control over where we go to eat and there aren't always readily healthy options on the menu. It can take some creativity and talking with the waiter, but hopefully he or she's cute.

Here is one of my favorite videos featuring my mentor, health and business coach Carey Peters (who led the Holistic MBA Live conference I just attended in NY!).

The bottom line - do the best you can and then give yourself permission to do what you are really there to do - have fun and focus on the conversation and the people you are there with.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will carbs make me fat?

So I'm going to get a little science-y on you today. But it's because knowledge is power. And when we know how our body works a little better, we can help ourselves feel better, heal better and make better choices.

The Basic Biology of Carbs, Sugar Addiction, and Fat Storage:

1. So we eat something. Sweets, bread and baked goods are super high in sugars and simple carbohydrates.

2. Our digestive system breaks carbs down into basic sugars (if they aren't already), which go into our blood stream to be moved around and used by our body. The more sugar we take in at once, the higher our blood sugar spikes. This generally gives us a kind of high. Ever been at a party after all the kids have their cake and brownies? Fun times.

3. Our Pancreas releases insulin to escort blood sugars and other nutrients into muscle cells. When our blood sugar is really high, our body actually sees this as an opportunity. Remember, it's trying to work for you. It takes care of all that sugar as fast as it can... which leads to a crash. What do you crave when you're feeling tired, sluggish, foggy and irritable? More sugar and more sugar now!

Sugar addiction IS this very roller-coaster ride. Your body, with good intention, does too good a job cleaning up the excessive sugar in your blood but then has nothing left. So then it screams for more sugar to meet its energy needs. We are not designed to take in a lot of sugar at once. Think about it, those kinds of food (refined flours and sugars) don't exist in nature.

4. Blood sugars and other nutrients are taken into our cells and used for energy, repair and revitalization. What isn't needed for energy right away is stored as fat. When insulin is released in large amounts, it triggers our body to begin storing the excess blood sugars as fat for later energy needs.

So will carbs make you fat?

It depends on what kind of carbs you eat (and what those carbs do to your blood sugar).

Processed, baked and packaged foods = massive amount of simple carbs (white flour, white sugar), which our body quickly breaks down and releases all at once into our blood stream, triggering huge amounts of insulin and fat storage.

Complex carbs - like those found in whole grains and root veggies - break down more slowly and release sugar into our blood stream gradually, producing no spike in blood sugar, a slow and steady release of insulin, and sustained energy for you to use as you go (not to store as fat for later).

So what do I eat: Love up your oatmeal! Eat whole fruits instead of baked goods in the morning. Focus on eating foods that have a low glycemic index or glycemic load. (What's that? - More on this next week.) Eat appropriate portion sizes of breads and pastas. Roast a big tray of carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, onions, turnips, fennel and eat them all week.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yoga 101 virtual class by Amber

What's all the hubub about yoga?

If you've ever been curious about going to a yoga class or want a basic class you can do from the comfort of your own living room, check out this video by my friend and colleague Amber Zuckswert. Watch this video of Amber (who wears many hats, including virtual pilates instructor, holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach, raw foodie, traveler, and professional dancer) teach a 1-hour Yoga 101 class!

Check out Amber's website at www.epicself.com.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Daily smile: Watch Matt Dance

My cousin sent me this video and I couldn't keep it to myself... Follow Matt as he continues his dancing and his journey: Where the hell is Matt?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Healthy-up your Kitchen Counter and Office

You've heard it before: out of sight, out of mind. Turns out to be true in experiments about eating habits. Maybe when you were a kid you heard someone make fun of another kid for being on the "see-food" diet - because they eat everything they see.

Most of us are on see-food diets to come degree, according to Brian Wansink, Ph.D. in his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. This is one of my favorite books because it made me aware of all the places where I was subconsciously being tricked into eating or eating more than I thought or wanted... We can lose POUNDS simply by getting conscious about where and what kind of food we leave out for ourselves to see on a daily basis.

"Out of sight is out of mind. If the candy dish sits on your desk, you consistently have to make a heroic decision whether you will resist the chocolate that has been giving you the eye all day. They easy solution is to lose the dish, or replace the candy with something you personally don't like. Same thing with the cookie jar. It can either make a debut at a local yard sale, or the cookies can be replaced with fruit.
You can also make the see-food diet work for you. Make healthy foods easy to see, and less healthy foods hard to see. Fruit bowls can replace cookie jars. Healthy foods can migrate to the front, eye-level shelves of the refrigerator." (p.81)

Given that the food you see is the food you're mostly likely to reach for, leave apples, clementines and bananas and a bowl of almonds out on the kitchen counter. Throw away or stash crackers and cookies in the back and tops of your cabinets. Always store tempting foods in your fridge and freezer behind healthy options (put the chocolate pudding behind the fresh cut veggies and hummus).

My doctor's office always has a bowl of "Cuties" out instead of lollipops - love it. Consider doing the same in your office. Your co-workers and your own belly will thank you.

And don't despair if the healthy fair seems to go untouched for a while - Wansink has found that it can take a few weeks for people to adjust to the new normal.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Make the most of big bunches of fresh herbs...

You know how you have to buy fresh herbs in impossibly large bunches. I always feel like I'm never going to use the whole thing and I hate to waste. So I got down to business and did some research on how to best store those fresh herbs so that they will last - or so I can do save what I'm not able to use.

Parsley and cilantro: These delicate herbs are a lot like fresh flowers, so treat them the same way. Trim their stems as soon as you get them home, and stick them in a small glass of water (vases or clean empty tomato sauce or salsa jars work well). Cover them loosely with a clear plastic bag, and put them in the fridge. Every couple days, change out the water and give the stems another small trim to keep them fresh.

Mint and basil: Follow the same steps as above, but no need for the bag or fridge. Mint and basil do better at room temperature; mint, in fact, is so weed-like, if you put it in front of a sunny window, it may even start to send roots down into the water and sprout new leaves.

Rosemary, thyme, and oregano: These hardier herbs will brown and mold if kept in water. Put them in a ziplock bag with a crumpled slightly damp paper towel, and keep them in the crisper or in your fridge door — the warmest spot in the fridge is ideal.

Freeze what you don't use.

 I've found it's easiest to simply pluck the leaves and freeze them according to the first method here, but some people really love the ease of ice-cube freezing and find that herbs last longer this way. Experiment and see what you like.

Method 1: 
  1. Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet. Freezing the leaves flat and individually will prevent them from freezing together into a brick.
  3. Cover and place the tray of leaves into the freezer
  4. When frozen solid, place in airtight containers and return to the freezer. Once frozen individually, the leaves will not stick together.

Method 2:
  1. Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Stuff 2-3 individual leaves or a spoonful of chopped herbs in ice cube trays.
  3. Fill the tray half way with water. Make sure the leaves are down into the water, as best you can. They will tend to float, but we'll fix that with the next step. Place the half filled tray in the freezer.
  4. Once the ice cubes are pretty much frozen, finish filling the try with water. The leaves will no longer be able to float and should be completely surrounded with water. Now place the tray back into the freezer to freeze solid.
  5. Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove from the tray and store in zip closure bags.
  6. When ready to use, toss the whole ice cube into your favorite stew or dish.