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.

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?

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

YOU are the authority of your own body

Hey, guess what? You are an authority. Yep, that’s right. YOU are the authority of your own body. There is no one else that knows your body in the way that you do and guess what? No one ever will.

Your body can (and does!) tell you exactly what it needs regarding food, exercise and rest. Cravings? Exhaustion? Digestive issues? Skin problems? These are all ways your body communicates with you. All you have to do is listen!

It’s my job as a future health coach to help you figure out what your body is telling you and guide you in taking action steps to achieve and maintain your wellness goals.

View yourself as an authority and you’ll be more inclined to care for yourself with respect. Be empowered and practice being an advocate for your own body and wellbeing. But just like any new skill, it takes time before it becomes second nature.

Speak up and ask questions whether at the doctor’s office, at the gym or with your health coach. I personally love to get questions from training clients as it’s much more valuable for them to understand the “whys” rather than the “how tos.”

If there is one thing I wish to teach people (and hope I already do in my Pilates and Booty Barre classes) is that it’s on you to make the change. No one else can do it for you. But you don’t have to do it alone. I’m thrilled to start working with health coaching clients soon! I’d love to help you change your body and more importantly how you FEEL about your body both internally and externally.

So go on, be that authority today. Act as if your life depends on it…because it does!Relaxing Exercises On Beach At Sunset

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

Adventures in Oil Cleansing

I love oils. If a package arrives for me, my husband jokes that it’s either oils or boots. And while J cooks with his oils, I mostly use mine topically. I’ve tried jojoba, argan, sea buckthorn, tea tree, coconut, olive, sesame, sunflower, avocado, castor, emu, fermented cod liver – the list goes on and on.

But I also love (loved?) my Clarisonic skin brush and I never thought two inexpensive oils would pretty much replace the pricey Clarisonic and fancy cleanser. Details of the oil cleansing method (or OCM) can be found here or here, however, this is the basic rundown:

You’ll need two different oils: castor oil and a nourishing carrier oil (popular choices include jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, olive, sunflower and coconut). Coconut oil is thought to be one of the more comedogenic or acne causing oils but I haven’t had any issues. I’ve tried avocado and sunflower and keep coming back to coconut it has anti-microbial properties and a more pleasing texture to me.

You’ll mix the two oils depending on your skin type. Castor oil has the deep cleansing properties that make this method effective so the more oily your completion the more castor oil you can use. In my own experience, I’ve been successful with 4 parts coconut oil to one part castor oil or with the summer weather, 3 parts coconut to one part castor. You can mix up a batch each time you wash your face or keep a small amount pre-made in a resalable jar. There’s lots of wiggle room to play with different carrier oils and different ratios. It’s encouraged to make individual or tiny batches when you first start out so you can find the formula that works best for you before you mix a big jar. I find even just quarter cup of oil mixture (that’s roughly one tablespoon castor oil) lasts me a long time.

After you have your oil blend, take a small amount in your hands, rub your palms together and start massaging your face, focusing on areas like your nose and chin. You’d think rubbing oil on your skin would feel gross—it actually feels super-luxurious, something I imagine Cleopatra doing. It’s recommended that you massage the oil into your skin for about a minute. Depending on the night, I like to go a little longer.

Now the cool part happens—things start to get grainy as you can actually feel the dried sebum of your pores coming out of your skin. It’s the rule that like dissolves like: the oil of the cleanser dissolves the hardened oil in your pores. There is something very satisfying about a super successful oil cleansing experience! Once you’ve massaged for a couple minutes or more, take a wet, hot washcloth, squeeze out the excess water and place over your face for about 30 seconds or so for a quick steam. You can do that again once the washcloth cools or you can start wiping the oil off your face. Don’t skip this step as it helps open up the pores and softens the oil so it’s easier to remove. You’ll likely have a little oil still on your face (it’s not going to feel squeaky clean) but you still want to end with a tiny amount of another nourishing oil or moisturizer (I like this argan oil). That’s it!

Right away, I saw that my skin was smoother and plumper and after continuous use I still think it looks slightly better (definitely not any worse) than with my Clarisonic and traditional, chemical-laden product regimen. Sometimes I do breakout and think I should try my old way of cleansing again. When I do, I break out MORE and my face feels raw. I never thought I’d retire my Clarisonic skin brush and I can’t say I’ll never use it again. For right now, I’ll stick with the natural and gentle chemical-free oil cleansing.

Drop falling from dropper of essential oil, aromatherapy essence

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


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 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