The “food-attitude” connection

I took this photo last Wednesday. I’m not big into selfies but I was trying to capture a moment: I’m sitting on a bench outside a bodywork clinic owned by one of my very best childhood friends, across the street from my childhood dance studio watching the older, advanced class progress through a jazz warm up. I’ve done that warm up a zillion times myself.
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I’m waiting for my son to finish his dance class and, as I sit, I realize how things come full circle. How am I this “grown up” version of me and why don’t I feel much different? I contemplate how weird this seems, watching these dancers in a place that I spent most of my formative years, a place that sparked my passion for body movement and teaching others. I’m listening to an IIN lecture by health guru Victoria Moran on how to live a charmed life. She says this:”The stories of our lives are not about what actually happened. It’s about what you FEEL about what happened.” And so it is. It matters less about what you do than what you feel about what you do.

So how do I feel? In general, I’m prone to worry. I worry a lot about upsetting people, not making the right choice, not making any choice, not taking action, taking action hastily…you get the picture. My worry is my biggest personal health ailment. But in this moment, I do feel charmed. Life is sweet.

I’ve learned so much through my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition so far (I’m not even half done yet!) about dietary theories, coaching techniques and holistic wellness practices but my biggest takeaway is the realization that, for me, food changes my attitude. When I eat better, I feel better. When I feel better, I think better. When I think positively, I know I’m attracting more ‘good’ into my life. Perhaps you, too, find yourself wanting to change your attitude. Have you thought about first changing how and what you eat?
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Early morning coffee alternatives

They say moving is in the top three life stresses, just under death of a loved one and divorce. I’m feeling it. As a creature of habit, it’s hard being some place new. I say this is the reason I started drinking coffee again. Earlier this year, I gave up caffeine as an experiment to see if I would, in fact, feel better for it (I did). I’m now finding it’s become a habit again. With the fall season approaching (pumpkin spice latte or chai tea, anyone?), I want to make sure I scale back enough that a coffee is an indulgence, something to savor, rather than a necessity or a lifeline. I don’t think coffee is bad for you – it’s not (it all boils down to individuality). But if you are looking to cut caffeine, reduce acidity or just try something new, here are three coffee alternatives that have worked for me before:

To initially wean myself from coffee, I tried this: Teeccino Caramel Dandilion Herbal Coffee Tee Bags.  It’s sweetened with dates, this smells and tastes really good. For a stronger brew, use two tea bags. This coffee-like tea contains dandelion and chicory root, carob, dates, almonds and figs (75 percent organic). It smells amazing (very much like caramel!) and tastes pretty good, too. If you like a big cup, make sure you use two bags so you aren’t left with a weaker brew. You still get antioxidants plus potassium and soluble fiber, without the acidity of regular coffee.

Dandy Blend is more like an instant coffee—it’s a powder that dissolves in water and you can drink it hot or cold. It’s more cost effective than the Teeccino and you can easily control how strong you want it and feels and tastes more like regular cup of coffee. It tastes better than it smells. This semi-sweet herbal blend is made from the extracts of dandelion, chicory and beet root plus barely and rye. It’s gluten free and non-gmo.

With immune-boosting, digestive-soothing properties, my current favorite early morning wake up is ginger lemon “tea.” I’ve tried it three ways: Simmering ginger in a pot and adding fresh squeezed lemon juice (a more traditional method of making ginger tea); Blending the ginger and lemon in a VitaMix (or other high-powered blender) with water and strain with a cheese cloth; Juicing the ginger and lemon into a concentrate to which boiling water is added (my preferred method).

Interested in reasons why you might want to consider cutting coffee? Check out this article from Mark Hyman, MD. Mark Hyman is a physician, educator, Founder and Director of the UltraWellness Center, Leader in Functional Medicine—and a guest lecturer for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition!

What’s your favorite non-coffee morning drink?

 

Photo Credit

Cabbage, kohlrabi and choi…oh my!

My hope in participating in a CSA program this year was to try vegetables I normally wouldn’t buy from the grocery store and farmer’s market. Mission accomplished. Case in point, my latest delivery: choi, romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas and kohlrabi. Peas and romaine lettuce, I know what to do with. Swiss chard sometimes appears in a green smoothie. But choi? Kohlrabi? What the heck do you do with those?

Here are two recipes—one raw, one cooked— that we tweaked to get the most out of these glorious greens. I say “we” because my husband is the chef of the household. If he ever reads these posts, I want to make sure I’m not passing off his culinary skills as my own!

Thai Crunch Salad – I love Danielle Walker and her recipes (she makes amazing deserts) so I had to give this one a try. This salad calls for Napa cabbage, peas, jicama, carrot and mango. We added the kohlrabi which tastes very similarly to a radish. Don’t skip the dressing.

Pak Choi with Smoked Bacon – Mix bacon with any green and you have it made. Instead of just choi, we added the swiss chard. This was delicious alone but would have been equally yummy on a bed of romaine.

Why eat greens?

  • Green veggies are alkaline. Meaning, they help to neutralize acidic conditions in the body brought on by emotional stress, the Standard American Diet and environmental toxins (having an excess acidity in the body may result in health problems such as cancer, chronic fatigue, depression, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, osteoporosis, viruses, weight gain, skin conditions and more).
  • Greens, especially the leafy kind, support the respiratory system.
  • In ancient Indian teachings, green vegetables feed the heart chakra which is home to love, joy and inner peace.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine, greens promote liver health plus emotional stability and creativity.
  • Greens also aid in blood purification, cancer prevention, circulation, immune function, and gut health.
CSA Greens
An example of my weekly crop share haul from the week before! I was in too much of a hurry last week to wash and store all the greens to snap a photo.

What’s your favorite green and way to prepare it? Leave me a comment!

Six tips for recovering after a sugar binge

I’ve written about my relationship with sugar before and while I feel like I have the upper hand most of the time, once in a while (during a birthday celebration weekend, perhaps) I may find that one dessert can easily turn into three and the “why not?” careless attitude takes over and overshadows what I know to be true— that sugar gives me headaches, makes my belly hurt and my skin break out. I’m less present as a wife and mother. Fortunately, I know that getting back on track—while a little challenging—is totally doable. Regardless of if this is something you’ll put into practice right away (after Independence Day BBQs) or if you’ll bookmark it for a later date, here are six tried-and-true tips I personally use to recover after a period of over-indulging on sweets.

Tip #1 Drink water

Why it works: Extra H20 will help eliminate water weight, flush body of toxins and ward off cravings as we often mistake thirst for hunger. Besides, who doesn’t feel better sufficiently hydrated?

Tip #2 Move your body

Why it works: You know the feeling of pleasure you get from eating sugar? That’s dopamine being released in the brain. Exercise can stimulate dopamine release and produce that same feel-good sensation. I find intense exercise can temporarily suppress my appetite (great for keeping the sugar monster in check) and I’m more likely to refuel with something healthy if I’ve just worked out.

Tip #3 Support digestion

Why it works: After consuming high levels of sugar, the body’s gut bacteria are most likely out of whack. A probiotic supplement can aid in rebalancing the good bacteria. Get similar benefits from eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. Soothe an upset tummy with one of my current favorite beverages—a homemade lemon ginger concentrate with immune-boosting and digestive-soothing properties added to boiling water.

Tip #4 Have a plan (and know your triggers)

Why it works: If you have non-sugary snacks and meals on hand, you are less likely to succumb to a treat craving. Nuts, eggs and sweet potatoes are a few of my favorite foods post sugar binge (or any time, really). Also, know your triggers. If eating bread makes you crazy for cookies, steer clear of those refined carbs for a few days. Likewise, if any area of the grocery store temps you (bakery aisle or bulk candy), be honest with yourself and try to avoid those when shopping.

Tip #5 Fill up on the double F’s (fat and fiber)

Why it works: Fiber and healthy fat can both help you feel fuller, longer. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels, especially helpful when eating fruit. Grab a small handful of nuts with berries (naturally high in fiber) or blend a banana with an avocado and raw cacao powder for a not-to-sweet chocolate pudding.

Tip #6 Avoid the double A’s (alcohol & artificial sweeteners)

Why it works: Not only does drinking alcohol put strain on the liver, your body’s detoxifying organ, lots of drinks are high in sugar themselves. Plus temporarily abstaining will make sure no bad choices (food and otherwise) are made under the influence! As for artificial, no-calorie sweeteners—your body can’t tell the difference between that and the real stuff.  You’ll keep perpetuating the cycle.

Keep in mind, a few days of unhealthy eating won’t derail all of your previous efforts so don’t be too hard on yourself. It means you’re human—we are biologically adapted to crave sugar. It happens to everyone (even fitness instructors and health coaches-in-training) so take it as a learning experience, bringing you one step closer to figuring out what works and what doesn’t in your personal journey to optimum health.

The words "too much sugar" written in sugar grains.  Overhead vi

My experience with a 3-day juice cleanse

I’m a sucker for freebies, BOGO offers and gifts with purchase. I used to buy things from Sephora just to get the free samples. I love trading Booty Barre® classes for massages, haircuts, acupuncture—if don’t have to pay for it, who cares if I need it or not? I want it!

A perk for enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition school this spring was a gift certificate for a Pressed Juicery cleanse. Located in California, Pressed Juicery was created by an IIN graduate and is popular with the celebrity set. While I’m no celeb, I’m no stranger to juicing. I’ve owned several juicers and worked at a juice and smoothie stand in high school. Over the last years, the juicer has taken a backseat to my VitaMix as I’ve wanted the benefits of the fiber of the whole vegetable or fruit rather than just the juice (plus it’s so easy to clean). But, since this was essentially free (and a $200 value), I decided to give it a try.

The Pressed Juicery cleanse comes with six juices (well, really five plus one almond milk) and I splurged on the extra chlorophyll and aloe vera waters. Hey, if I’m going to make a commitment, I go for it. I ordered level two, their most popular and balanced cleanse and scheduled delivery for last Tuesday. All 24 bottles were shipped overnight in a big box with a disposable cooler lining and ice packs. The raw, unpasteurized juice can last up to three days refrigerated.

Day one: Not too bad…hungry at times but I get hungry when I eat real food, too. I noticed the juice was very clean tasting with a smooth mouth feel, not gritty like at-home juices I’ve made before. The PJ website talks about the difference between their juicing process and others. I like it.

I had a green juice to start my day, a pineapple-based juice, another green juice (this time with ginger—yum), a beet ginger lemon concoction (tasted like lemonade), a pineapple coconut water and to end the day, a delicious almond milk with dates and vanilla. Throughout the day, I sipped the chlorophyll water and before bed, I drank the aloe vera water. While it’s recommended you listen to your body and ease up on your normal exercise routine if need be, I had energy to teach a few classes and go on a shorter run.

Day two: I miss fat. I crave roasted root vegetables cooked in butter or coconut oil. Or nuts—lots of nuts. The juices, even the green ones, taste so sweet to me. I have energy as I’m still consuming enough calories but I feel as if I’m vibrating at a difference frequency (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing). I think I’m craving foods to ground me.

Day three: My most hungry-feeling, lowest energy day. I tried to scrape every last ounce of almond “paste” at the bottom of the bottle. But my tongue looks so pink and clean! I And while I don’t think I lost any weight my body feels lighter. Giving your digestive system a bit of a break is one of the main benefits of doing a juice cleanse.

I actually miss how I felt after drinking the juice. Was it the sugar rush (although natural—still a lot!) or the flood of nutrients? Surprisingly, I still haven’t eaten meat as I’m more inclined to go for veggies and nuts. I’m even eating less eggs than normal as they don’t sound as good. If you have ever heard me talk about my hard boiled eggs, you know this is a big statement.

Bottom line: although this was quite different to my current way of eating (loosely Paleo-inspired—veggies, limited fruits, healthy fats, eggs and meat) I could almost feel the surge of nutrients from the juice. I’m always open to experimenting as there is no one perfect diet. Plus it was nice not to have to think about my meals or snacks for three days. I want to make this recipe and next time I’m at Studio Blue, the host location of my Pilates teacher training, I’ll try Portland Juice Company. I wonder if they give out free samples.

Vegetable juice, tomato, carrot, cucumber and beetroot

Disclaimer: This is just my personal experience and does not qualify as medical advice. Please discuss any diets with your doctor or healthcare professional.

Food changes everything: feel full, fueled and fulfilled

I need to write a fitness-related post—it’s coming I promise. Yes, physical activity is extremely important to overall health and well-being, but lately I’ve been compelled to focus on those other areas that nourish us. Food profoundly affects everything we do. Our energy, mood, feelings, how we interact with other people. So many people think nothing of what’s being put into their bodies. But food changes everything.

I’m currently enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a certified health coach with an emphasis in holistic nutrition. Not only will I be learning over 100 dietary theories to help people choose the foods that compliment individual biochemistry for a vibrant life, I’ll also be learning how to holistically incorporate other important factors (say hello, physical activity and positive relationships!) in my own life and in the life of others.

Most of my life I subscribed to the notion of calories in versus calories out. If I exercised long enough or hard enough, it didn’t matter what foods I ate (good for the fitness industry, not always good for achieving optimum health). Not all calories are created equal. We have access to some of the best food in the world, especially the fresh and local produce and meat grown and raised right here in our own backyard. When we get the nutrients we need from real, whole foods we feel satisfied, we feel full. When we eat processed, packaged “food” not fit for human consumption our bodies are still crave nourishment. That’s one reason we can keep eating even after consuming more than enough calories—our bodies are seeking nutrients. You can eat to the point of over-fullness but still not feel fulfilled. You can, in fact, be overweight AND malnourished.

My challenge: take note of what foods make you feel amazing (full, fueled and fulfilled) and what foods make you tired, irritable and down-right crappy. Think about the most nourishing and nutrient-dense food you’ve eaten today. What was it and how did it make you feel afterwards?

Fresh farmers market fruit and vegetable from above with copy space

 

Two Words: Oregon Strawberries

After completing just about two weeks of the 21 day sugar detox I dined at the Silver Grille. My original plan was then to start the detox over again from day one. A week later, I attended a birthday celebration, complete with a gluten-free, organic cake. On Mother’s Day, it was a pineapple. I’ll just start over again, I thought.

Today, my son hands me a strawberry and says, “Eat my strawberry, please.” This is a big deal. Strawberries (okay, all berries) are D’s all-time favorite. Sometimes, he’ll bring me food that I just pretend to eat. But a strawberry, a fresh Oregon strawberry? I couldn’t say no and, at this point, I don’t want to.

After the over-indulgences of the holidays, a January detox was exactly what my body needed. With summertime festivities and the availability of fresh and local fruit, 21 days—in a row—of a strict detox might not happen right now.

Biggest accomplishment: going so long without dairy. I don’t drink milk but I like good cheeses (feta is my fav – still waiting on a feta ice cream) and real cream. I feel better, plus going dairy-free deters me from eating the feta crumbles out of the Costco container with a fork (what, it’s not supposed to be eaten that way?) or stealing sips of cream from the carton.

Unless I find that feta ice cream, I’m going to still limited dairy but may have it as an ingredient in a recipe or use a little cream in my coffee once or twice a week (coconut milk is pretty tasty as are my almond milk lattes, but sometimes you just need the real deal). I won’t stress if my banana isn’t green enough.

I still definitely recommend the detox if you have never done it. It changed the way I fuel myself and how food tastes. It sparks an awareness of how your body functions and how you feed it. I’d love to do it again with a group for accountability and support (if you are looking to start – check out this Facebook group!). Fall detox, anyone?

Timing is everything.

Strawberry

Coconut Butter: A Paleo Pantry Must-Have

I have a bit of an obsession with coconut butter. This stuff is dangerously good, so I can’t always keep it on hand. Coconut butter is different than straight coconut oil. Made from the meat of the coconut, it has the consistency of a peanut butter, but with a semi-sweet, coconut-y flavor. Just like natural nut butters, the oil rises to the top. If it’s cold,the coconut oil solidifies so you’ll need to warm it up (I wrap my jar in a heating pad) to give it a good stir. Once it’s soft and runny, I dump it in a bowl and use electric beaters to blend thoroughly (I actually do the same thing with peanut butter minus the heating pad step) and then pour it back in the jar. I don’t mind having the beaters and bowl to lick!

You’ll find coconut butter in many Paleo recipes, but it rarely makes it that far for me—I eat it right out of the jar. I’ve tried MaraNatha, Artisana and Nutiva (it’s called Coconut Manna, but it’s the same thing). It’s not cheap—the best deal I’ve found was the Nutiva version at Whole Foods with a sale price of $7.99 for a 15oz jar. Locally, Roth’s carries Aunt Patty’s Organic Creamed Coconut (it looks like coconut butter to me) but I’ve never used it as it’s more expensive for a smaller jar. I’ve even gone as far as to make my own in the VitaMix, but I haven’t been able to recreate the same consistency and flavor.

coconutbutter1_crop
Mmmm…sweetener-free Paleo deliciousness.

 

If you are embarking on a sugar detox and/or just love all things coconut or want something that feels like a splurge that’s actually good for you, you’ll want to scoop up a jar of coconut butter next time you are at a natural foods store. Beware: it’s easy to eat more than a serving size. Essentially, if you are eating real foods you won’t need to count calories, but it’s easy to go overboard with this stuff. If your goal is weight loss or even simply maintenance, watch how much you consume. For built-in portion control, Artisana makes individual packets—great for an on-the-go snack or for traveling.

coconutbutter2_crop
Jar after one week: I told you it was dangerous! I’d like to point out that Lil’ D eats it, too! Note the tablespoon for attempted portion control.

 

Sugar Detox

People who don’t like dessert are like people who have the “pushed six times and then he was out” birth stories or complain pants don’t fit because their booty is too small. I know they exist, but I cannot wrap my mind around any of those concepts as actual reality. I just don’t get it. It’s too far beyond my personal experience and what I know and feel at the very core of my being.

Unfortunately, my sugar addiction really does go so deep that, in a way, it almost defines me. “The Reetz and her treats,” has been my motto, my mantra for so long. I should feel lucky I’ve stayed in my current physical shape with how much sugar (even “healthy” sugar) I’ve consumed on a daily basis, let alone the weekend free-for-all baking extravaganzas. I’m an addict through and through. As a child, I remember feeling anxiety during parties with piñatas or cake because I had a hard time waiting for my sugar fix—I wanted it NOW! I didn’t understand why my brother was fine with having a piece or two of Halloween candy when I wanted to finish the whole bag. At one point my parents found quite the collection of Skittles wrappers under my bed. We lived a few houses down from the corner market and I’d walk there once or twice a day for a treat to eat while I read my Babysitter Club books.

Monday I started another 21-day sugar detox alongside my pal Jessie at www.myselfimprovementkick.com. I first completed the sugar detox in January with great success. It was actually the most in control I have ever felt with sweets. Since then, I have been able to keep my sugar monster somewhat in line with healthier versions of treats and the occasional splurge. With the past holiday/birthday weekend, White Rabbit cinnamon roll, Silver Grille meal and then more White Rabbit cake, I felt the need to check myself.

Just like in January, I’m following Diane Sanfilippo’s plan laid out in her book “The 21 Day Sugar Detox.” She’s also written “Practical Paleo” and both are awesome in explaining how sugar reacts in your body. Her detox program is strict—no sweeteners of any kind (natural or not) and no foods that act like sugar in the body (wheat, other gluten containing grains, legumes). Peanuts and cashews are also out. Fruit is limited to one piece a day of a green banana, green apple or grapefruit. Even sweet potatoes, a paleo staple, aren’t allowed unless you’ve completed a hard workout or are pregnant. Depending on which of the three levels you choose, you may also cut out all grains (gluten containing or not) and dairy. I bit the bullet and committed to Level 3 (no grains of any kind and no dairy). Be mindful that if you decide to keep dairy in the mix, you’ll eat only full fat varieties.

One thing about having a blog, even if I have no readership, is that I feel held accountable for things I write. Even if no one reads or cares, I feel compelled to follow through. I do need to throw this out there, one loophole or clause in my agreement to you: I will only deviate from my detox if J and the in-laws decide to celebrate a special occasion at the Silver Grille at the end of this month. I will splurge, I will have gluten, I will have sugar, and I will enjoy every last bite of the life-changing Strawberry Cheesecake. Because a treat shouldn’t be a pack of Skittles you eat alone and hope no one finds the evidence. It should be something savored and enjoyed with family and friends. I’m learning that there is no “bad” or “good” but rather “balanced” and “unbalanced,” when it comes to food or life. But believe me—if put my detox on pause for that one meal, I’ll back at it, starting the 21 days over again.

Jelly Beans

Birthday Cake

Damn you, Peppa Pig.

Not only has my son’s interest in puddle jumping skyrocketed to an obsession-like level (he even says ‘muddy puddle’ in a British accent) but he asks me, “You Mommy Pig, right mom?” and calls J, “Daddy Pig.” That would be fine, I suppose, if he didn’t say “Daddy Pig has big, big tummy,” like they do in the show (J is not amused). And now, thanks to you Peppa (and probably Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat), Lil’ D keeps asking for cake—more specifically, a birthday cake.

For the last two years I chose not to give D a traditional cake. Year one, I still wanted the obligatory cake smash photos so I adopted a sweetener-free oatmeal banana baby cookie recipe and frosted the “cake” with coconut milk “whipped cream.” Year two, I still wasn’t giving D processed sugar treats so he celebrated with his favorite fruits (he’s still my little fruit bat).

This year D asked about a birthday cake and even showed me how to blow out the candles. While I love to bake (eat?) treats, I wanted this first cake to be special (and since I battle my own sugar demons, baking can sometimes—okay, always—leads to overeating).  I ordered a small chocolate cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting from my favorite White Rabbit Bakery in Aurora (home of lots of gluten-free, vegan and even paleo goodies).

Even during pregnancy, both my husband and I were adamant that our child would be refined sugar free for as long as we felt was possible. Although I love all things sweet, it’s pretty obvious that sugar is detrimental to optimum health. Numerous studies prove that sugar feeds disease like cancer and is as addictive as crack but people still ask why I choose to feed (or not feed) my son in this way. I’m told he only “likes” healthier food because he doesn’t know better. My response, simply: D will get to eat his fair share of cookies, candy, cake, ice cream and other treats in his lifetime but why start now? I don’t want to prime his palette to choose sugar over whole, nutritious food.

Now that he’s close to three, I’m much more lax: D loves ketchup (he’s even had the regular kind with—gasp— high fructose corn syrup) and jelly and likes to go on Mom/Dom dates for coffee and hot chocolate. He loves cookies but I try to make a healthier version with almond flour and coconut sugar or honey. He may only like them because he doesn’t know better but I’m happy he doesn’t know worse.

I want to clarify: this was important to me and my husband—I do not judge the parents of babies given sweets in moderation. With my relationship with sugar (more on that at a later date), this was really the only way I could feed my son. It makes me feel, at least in one area, like good mom—not a better mom than anyone else but a good mom. And I hope that cancels out some of my bad parenting habits, because, let’s face it; I obviously let D watch way too much Peppa Pig!

Cake2

 

Update:

D ate his first cake! He liked it, but seemed to like the show if it more: the presenting of the platter, singing “Happy Birthday,” blowing out the candles (“I blow really really hard,” he said) and slicing the cake.

With every bite, he’d point to a different layer and ask, “What’s this?” I’d answer (chocolate cake, frosting or raspberry filling) and he’d nod his head in a why-of-course-it-is kind of way. I asked him if it tasted good and he answered, “Tastes like birthday.” D ate about half a slice before wanting to play, but I made sure his cake didn’t go to waste. I did leave him another bite for when he woke from his nap.

His first cake experienced was exactly what I had hoped for—utterly yummy, but without the crazy sugar high and crash. He ate a bit, but wanted to play with his birthday puzzle more. I hovered over his plate like a sugar vulture, swiping finger-fulls of frosting when no one was looking.