Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Three Easy Tweaks to Fix Your Diet

Everyone's an expert when it comes to diet. Have you ever noticed this? Whether they follow a vegan, vegetarian, low-fat, low-carb, Paleo or Atkins program, everyone already knows everything there is to know about diet and nutrition.

So why do we have an obesity epidemic?

Despite having loads of information, most people are still making plenty of mistakes when it comes to eating well. Today I'm suggesting three easy steps to help get you on the road to better health. This might include some fat loss, if you are currently overweight.

Step 1) Drink more water.

Water is cheap. In many cases, free. You will save yourself a boatload of cash if you substitute plain tap water for your fancy coffee drinks, smoothies, juices, sodas, iced teas, and other beverages. Not to mention all the calories you will save. Plus the excess sugar which ends up around your waistline.

People tell me they don't LIKE water. But after only a few short hours of hiking across the desert, I believe these whiners would suddenly have a change of heart. Water is the stuff of life. It is what we are quite literally made of. Without it, you will perish. So quit your complaining and drink up!

Maybe you are one of the VERY few people who already drink plenty of water daily. Do you drink a minimum of three liters (quarts, okay?) each day? This is the basic amount most of us need without exercising, sweating, etc. If you exercise, you will need more.

When you are fully hydrated, you will feel better. No, you will feel AWESOME. Your joints will stop aching, your back will stop hurting, you will no longer get those pesky headaches. Give it a try and see if you agree.

Lastly, many people eat when they are actually thirsty. Before you pop some snack into your mouth, try drinking a large glass of water. Wait twenty minutes. If you still feel hungry, then go for it.

Step 2) Eat more veggies.

Even if you are vegan, my guess is that you don't eat vegetables for every meal. And when I say veggies, I don't mean fruit. Fruit is a delicious treat, but veggies are a STAPLE. Vegetables should comprise the bulk of one's diet. This is the way to excellent health because veggies contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants per ounce than any other food.

I can hear you already: What??? We need to eat veggies FOR BREAKFAST? The answer is YES. In many cultures around the world, breakfast includes meat, fish, seaweed, and vegetables. I know you have become accustomed to having sugary treats for breakfast, but this is a rotten way to start the day. A sugary breakfast (even if it is organic granola!) sets you up for a blood sugar crash mid-morning.

Americans typically eat one or two veggies at dinnertime and that's about it. We think corn and ketchup are vegetables. Let's turn this around and figure out how to get some veggies into three meals per day.

Step 3) Eat more protein.

This is the number one problem we see in most people's diets, especially those who think they are already eating healthy. People who read a lot of magazine articles about diet have added chia seeds, goji berries, acai juice, and hemp oil to their smoothies, but they often are not getting the very basic amount of protein needed to build and repair muscle.

If you are trying to get all your protein from vegetable sources (like soy) then you are missing many essential amino acids from your your diet. There is a reason there has never been a native people or tribe who consumed a purely vegan diet. Humans cannot survive on vegetables alone. This is a fact. Although Step 2 is essential for improving health, so is Step 3: protein.

The highest quality protein comes from animals: dairy, eggs, beef, fish, poultry, and other meats. Sure, you can find SMALL amounts of protein in stuff like quinoa, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains. But this is not the kind of protein that will allow you to THRIVE. And I believe those reading this blog want to do more than just survive.

Add some form of protein to every meal of the day. Aim for a minimum of 20 grams per meal. (If you are a large man trying to build muscle, you will need 30 grams per meal.) This looks like 3 large eggs, 3 ounces of lean turkey or chicken, 4 ounces of tuna or salmon, one cup of Greek yogurt. (Be sure to read labels as brands differ in protein content.)

So there you have it: my recommendations for fixing the holes in your diet. Please notice that I haven't insisted that you drop anything. I want to start with the positive! In order to add both protein and veggies to every meal, it is possible you might need to remove some of the junk food. Choose the least nutritious element of your diet to eliminate, substitute the veggies and protein, and your body will thank you.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cape May in August

Last summer, my daughter and I started a tradition of taking a short (3-day) beach vacation together, just the two of us. Since she works all summer as a camp counselor and only gets one week of free time, I felt she deserved a special trip. Last summer, we explored Chincoteague. This summer, Cape May.


We stayed at the Captain Mey's Bed and Breakfast on Ocean Street. We were about 2 blocks from the beach. We parked the car in the VERY narrow space on the property's lot and didn't move it once until we left to return home. We walked EVERYWHERE!

Captain Mey's Bed and Breakfast feels like staying at your grandmother's house. That is, if she collects loads of antique stuff and doesn't come to the door to greet you. Self-service is the name of the game here. The hospitality you might expect in this type of setting is completely nonexistent. There is no "front desk" and no staff are visible for most of the day.

Our room was on the third floor, and the stairs offered an excellent workout several times per day. We had a large jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, as well as a walk-in shower. The window-unit air conditioner did not cool the bathroom, however, so it felt like a sauna in there. The bedroom, thank goodness, was much cooler.



Breakfast included fresh bagels, cream cheese, hard boiled eggs, bananas, cereal, coffee, tea, juices, and yogurts. Being from New York, I enjoy a good bagel, despite the carbs! And these were the real thing.
I made coffee each morning in the Keurig machine, as well as iced tea in the afternoon. In the evenings, we purchased take-out meals from Zoe's Beachfront Cafe and ate on the front porch. We watched the horse-drawn carriages go past, listening to the drivers recite stories about our B&B. The wrap-around porch was shady and cool, with a nice breeze. It was a great spot for people-watching.




Our room was $225 per night. I booked well in advance, back in January, as many places fill early at Cape May during the season. In comparison to the hotel where we stayed in Chincoteague, this price was quite a bit higher. But Cape May doesn't have the mosquitoes which made it impossible to walk anywhere except close to the ocean on the beach at Chincoteague.


What is there to do at Cape May? We enjoyed a day at the county zoo, which has free admission and free parking. We saw everything from lions, tigers, giraffes, and zebras to snakes, frogs, alligators, and newts. There was plenty of shade so even on a hot, sunny day, it was a pleasant place to be.


Of course, there is the beach. We spent an entire day walking the length of the beach from Cape May, around Cape May Point, to Sunset Beach. Along the way, we saw the lighthouse, the migratory bird sanctuary, the shipwreck, the World War II Lookout Tower, and the concrete bunker covered with graffiti. At Sunset Beach, we collected "Cape May diamonds" which are quartz pebbles polished by the waves.


If you're interested in shopping, Cape May definitely has something for you. There are the usual tee shirt shops, plus salt water taffy, fudge, and ice cream places. But there are also antiques, cookware, estate jewelry, clothing, and freshly made peanut butter stores! You could easily spend days wandering through the town, browsing in the windows. We barely skimmed the surface.

The drive from western Howard County to Cape May zoo took us only three hours, leaving at 6am on a Tuesday morning. Coming home in the middle of the day took four hours, but that included heavy downpours with very poor visibility on I-95. So not much longer than the drive to Ocean City. Very doable!


Most Cape May restaurants and shops are open through the second weekend of October. After that, many businesses shut their doors until the following year. So don't wait! Get there while the sun is still shining and the stores are still open.

#hocotravel


Monday, August 10, 2015

Three Types of Recovery--You Need All Three!

In my last post, I talked about building muscle in three easy steps. Those steps included: diet, heavy weights, and rest. I specifically outlined the amount of protein needed on a daily basis in order to efficiently build muscle. Today, I want to get more specific about rest.

When coaches and trainers talk about recovery, they usually mean a day (or longer) without working out. But that time off might include other activities. For example, on my day "off" from leading group exercise classes, I always walk the dogs, foam roll, stretch, vacuum, weed the garden, etc. The dog-walking takes at least an hour and half per day. My point is that although I am not "exercising" per se, I am active. Low intensity activities like house cleaning, gardening, walking, and stretching are all excellent forms of recovery as they get the blood flowing but do not exhaust. None of these activities will make you sore, or prevent the healing needed during your recovery time. A yoga practice can and should happen on a daily basis and can help muscles recover from more strenuous activity.

Active recovery is the first kind that you need: recovery time that includes other forms of moving and stretching.

The second form of recovery is relaxation. This might include your gentle yoga practice. It might also look like meditation or prayer. You could include yoga nidra in this category. Sitting on the porch in your rocking chair reading a novel or lazing around in your hammock looking at the clouds. Watching a relaxing movie or listening to music. Receiving a massage. Relaxation is anything that calms your body and your mind. It is refreshing to the spirit. And because we are whole human beings, whose minds and bodies are ONE, we need not just PHYSICAL rest, but also holistic relaxation. The stress of working hard needs to be followed by periods of recovery, including mental, emotional, and spiritual recovery. This is where relaxation comes in.

And this leads us to the third kind of recovery: physical rest. In other words, sleep. And last is definitely NOT least in this case. Sleep is absolutely crucial for recovery. Sleep is healing in ways that no one fully understands yet. But we know that if we do not get the high-quality sleep that our bodies AND minds need, we will suffer. Lack of adequate sleep causes myriad issues, both physical and mental. Eight hours per night is considered the minimum. Because we are all individuals, you might need more or possibly slightly less. Under seven hours is rarely adequate for anyone, though. And naps do count, so if you have trouble sleeping a full eight hours at night, make it up during the day with a nap. (Highly recommended!!!)

If you are trying to build muscle, become stronger, get more fit, lose weight, or make any kind of strides forward in your life, you MUST take recovery into consideration. Give your body, mind, and spirit time to heal and you will find you can achieve more than before.

#hocofitness

Friday, August 7, 2015

Build Muscle in 3 Easy Steps!

Building muscle is not rocket surgery. But lots of women are afraid of this idea. Why? Because they think building muscle means looking bulky. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But this is not the case. Without taking steroids, most women will never bulk up because we just don't have the testosterone necessary for building massive muscles.

On the contrary, building muscle while losing body fat will actually make you SMALLER. That's correct. Although muscle does weigh more than fat, muscle takes up LESS space. Even if you weigh more, you will be thinner. Your measurements will DECREASE. You will fit into that pair of skinny jeans. And you will ROCK them!

Muscles improve the way you look. Muscles are curvy and shapely. Strong is not only the new skinny, strong is also the new SEXY. A six-pack looks great on EVERYBODY.

So how do you get those fabulous muscles?

Step 1) Check your diet.

If you are not eating enough protein, all the weight-lifting in the world cannot help you. You need high-quality protein to build muscle. And you need to consume enough of it daily to repair the breakdown that happens when muscle tissue is repaired and thus strengthened. How much is enough? Aim for about 20-30 grams of protein per meal. If you are a small woman, you only need about 20 grams. If you are a big guy, 30 grams per meal. You get the idea. Many women are not getting anywhere near enough protein to build muscle.

What is high quality protein? It comes from animals, not plants. Great sources of protein include whole pastured eggs, dairy from grass-fed cows, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, and poultry.

Twenty grams of protein looks like: 3 whole eggs or 3 oz. lean turkey breast or 4 oz. tuna or a quarter-pound lean beef burger or 1 scoop protein powder (depending on the brand). Get your protein sources into every single meal you eat. You'll start increasing muscle mass in no time!

Step 2) Check your weights.

You can only build muscle by challenging those muscles. If the exercises you are doing are EASY, then you will not build muscle. You might maintain what you have, but you will not increase muscle mass. In order to build muscle, you must challenge your muscles to do something HARD. And that means lifting MORE weight. A couple of biceps curls with a pink 2-pound dumbbell is going to get you NOWHERE!

Body weight exercises are a great place to start as you need absolutely no equipment to do them. If you have a body, you are already equipped. Some examples are planks, push-ups, air squats, lunges, step-ups, pull-ups, crab crawls, bear crawls, and dips. If you have no idea what these words mean, use your Google. And then your youtube.

Or get yourself some HEAVY weights. The kettlebell is an awesome, versatile tool. Don't get the fake kind that only weighs 5 pounds. Get yourself a REAL one. It should weigh over 30 lbs. Then get yourself a trainer to teach you how to use it. Or better yet, join a Crossfit gym and learn TONS of challenging exercises that will kick your butt! (Or come to bootcamp where we explore all of the exercises mentioned above!)

Step 3) Check your rest.

You cannot build muscle without giving your body time off to rest and heal. After working hard and challenging your muscles, you MUST give them time to recover. It is during this recovery time that the actual muscle building occurs. Muscles get stronger when they repair the damage done during exercise. Without those rest periods, you will end up injured, over-trained, exhausted, sick and weaker than when you began.

How much time does it take for a muscle to heal? There is no one answer to that question. You have to discover the formula for your own body. But a good measuring stick is your level of soreness. If you are sore, you need to rest those muscles and let them heal before resuming your workouts. Give yourself at least one day off per week at the very least. You might need more. The older we get, the slower we heal, so adjust your schedule to match your age, fitness level, and intensity of workouts.

Something else to keep in mind: muscle soreness is fine, but joint pain is not. If you have pain in your joints, either during a workout or afterwards, you are doing something wrong. This doesn't mean you have to stop working out, but you should have an experienced coach or teacher check your form. There is no need to injure your joints in order to work your muscles. Correct form is the key to avoiding injury, especially when you use heavy weights.

No more excuses! You want those muscles so go out and get them! Leave a comment below if you are a Howard County resident looking for a holistic personal trainer or a bootcamp class!

#hocofitness

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bacon Granola!

The other night, I was watching Chopped yet again. And there was an expedition chef named M.B. who stuffed a grilled hot dog with bacon granola. As soon as she spoke the words "bacon granola" my head began to spin and I couldn't think of anything else but how awesome and fabulous this must be. And WHY have I never even heard of this concoction before???

Well, first thing the next morning I began googling. And apparently I'm the only food blogger who has never heard of bacon granola. It seems such an obviously awesome combination, I'm surprised I've never thought of it. I once made a Bacon Maple Cheesecake with an oat crust that used bacon fat. And that crust was delicious. So I already know how fabulous bacon granola is going to be.

There are already MANY recipes for this dish online. The very first recipe I found was created by Honestly Yum: honestlyyum.com/10916/savory-bacon-granola
Since I already had almost all of the ingredients on hand, I decided to give this recipe a try first. Although I think pecans sound like the best nut to combine with maple syrup and bacon, walnuts are what I had on hand. I substituted shredded coconut for the sunflower seeds. And I used bacon fat instead of vegetable oil. My version is not overly sweet. In fact, it tastes pretty salty, but I think it will be great with Greek yogurt and fresh sliced peaches. Here's what my granola looks like:

If you wanted, you could make a completely Paleo version of this granola simply by omitting the oats. Adding a few different kinds of seeds and more apple pieces could make up for the missing grain.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup of rolled oats
  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup of flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup of walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup of dried apples and pears
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 egg white (I omitted this because we were low on eggs!)
  • 1/4 cup of rendered bacon fat (or coconut oil)
  • 3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat oven at 325 degrees F.
  • Cut bacon into small cubes and cook in a pan over medium heat until fat renders and just begins to brown around the edges. Turn off heat and set aside.
  • Combine oats, nuts, flax seeds, coconut, dried apple, and salt in a large bowl and toss to combine.
  • Whisk an egg white in a small bowl until frothy. (Optional)
  • Add maple syrup to the bowl of the oat mixture and add egg white. Toss to coat.
  • Pour into pan with bacon and rendered fat. Stir. Spread in an even layer on baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Cool completely and store in an air tight container.
Enjoy this granola for breakfast on top of yogurt or as a snack by the handful. You could even use it as a topping for your next peach crisp. I hope you love it as much as I do.

#hocofood

Friday, July 24, 2015

If I Were King

I want to be KING of the universe. Not queen. Queen sounds like second-in-command and I want to be in control of everything. (My husband calls me The Dutchess but this is not nearly good enough. I have tried to insist that he call me The Goddess instead. For some reason, this only gets me a laugh.)

1) If I were King, I'd make sure that Karma was a total bitch. And Karma would work INSTANTLY. Not in some future lifetime. I believe if someone is an ass, they should be amply punished. Right away. Not get away with it. And never, ever, ever should anyone who is being an ass be rewarded for that behavior.

2) If I were King, stuff would be made well and everything would last a lifetime. If you bought a phone or a computer or a toaster, those appliances would never break down or need to be replaced. Sorry to all the Maytag repairmen. You would not exist.

3) If I were King, each human would be born with an animal soulmate. This animal would live the exact same amount of years, months, days, and hours as its human. If you were a dog person, then your soulmate would be a dog. Horse person, you get a horse. Yes, you only get one animal soulmate, so don't get greedy. At least you never have to put your soulmate to sleep. The two of you will pass away simultaneously. And peacefully. There will be no violent death in my kingdom. (Only torture for those who are asses. See paragraph #1.)

4) If I were King, pollution would be extinct. All travel would be accomplished by teleporting, which requires no form of fossil fuel. (Or you could ride your horse/soulmate.)

5) If I were King, there would be no war. If you insist on fighting with others, you will first be tortured (see paragraph #1 again) and then exiled to Antarctica for all of eternity. You can fight with each other down there. Don't forget your coat.

6) If I were King, winter would last one month. Not a minute longer. The extra months would be divided evenly between spring and summer. If you are one of those crazies who likes the hideous white stuff that falls from the sky, you can join the other crazies in Antarctica. (See paragraph #5.)

7) If I were King, all food would be grown organically. Even McDonald's would only sell grass-fed burgers and pasture-raised chicken nuggets with organic apple slices. Oh, and while we're on the subject of food, all delicious treats would be low-calorie and healthy. Obesity would be a thing of the past.

As you can see, my kingdom would be a fabulous place to live. As long as you agree with me on all issues. If you don't, please review paragraph #1.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Paying it Forward

Yesterday, after my nap, I stumbled down the stairs, made an iced coffee, and flipped open my laptop. I'm addicted to Facebook (as well as caffeine) so that's where I headed. And immediately, the very first post in my newsfeed was an offer of a FREE photo collage by an artist I've been watching for weeks in the Choose Yourself group. (Based on James Altucher's book of the same name.)

I responded right away and WON the free photo collage! The artist known as Stellabelle created not one but 2 gorgeous pieces of artwork just for me! Can you believe this? I told her about a few of the images in my (unfinished) novel, and she made a stunning photo collage for me to use as a book cover! (I'm not going to post the artwork here as I want to reveal my cover when the novel is ready for publication.) Huge thanks to Stellabelle. You can check out her website: http://leahstephens.weebly.com/ or tweet her @stellabelle or view her videos on youtube: youtube.com/user/stellabelle.

And this is not all! At the very same moment, I received a message from an old HS friend. She offered to send me some FREE essential oils for natural healing purposes. I swear, when it rains, it pours. When I receive my oils, with instructions, I'll check them out and write another blog to let you know how they work.

In the meantime, I'm going to pay it forward. I'm going to offer a free weight loss coaching session to the first person to respond to this offer in the comment section below. If you read this blog on Facebook, please do not request your free session as a comment on the Facebook post. This will not count. You must sign in and comment directly on this blog.

If you're wondering exactly what a weight loss coaching session might look like, don't be afraid. I'm not going to insist that you weigh in half-naked in front of your entire community. There will be no fraternity-style hazing. No one will hit you or scream at you. We will simply go over your daily habits and current life style choices, then make some decisions together about the best place to make SMALL changes. Little tweaks. Nothing scary. The initial session is only about identifying where to begin.

So, let's get it started! Get in touch NOW and change your life!