Friday, December 16, 2011

On how "Newvember" became "Restvember"...

I started out November with super-great intentions. "THE WAY TO FIX MY LETHARGY IS TO SET NEW GOALS!!!" "I'M DOING THE 30-DAY SHRED FOR 30 DAYS!!!!!!!!" "IMMA SWIM SOOOOOOOOOO MUCH!!!!!!!!!"


So, I did Jillian's "30-Day Shred" for, I think, five days in a row before I A) got bored with it, B) lost motivation, and C) realized it may have been contributing to some knee pain I was having. Feeling a bit frustrated, I quit. Do I regret not meeting that goal? Not especially. As the days went by, I found myself wondering why I had set this goal in the first place. I suppose it was to prove to myself I could do it. But quitting didn't give me the feeling of disappointment I thought it would garner. Instead, I just let it go. Letting go of a goal you didn't meet feels a whole hell of a lot better than beating yourself up for not meeting it.

As for my swim goals, I can't say I didn't swim for all of November. I made it my business to get in the pool at least once a week, some weeks twice. I was mostly pleased with the effort. However, with all of this, the lethargy and tiredness was still hanging around. There are few things more aggravating than having the desire to run or swim, and having about 20% capacity for doing these things. A good friend of mine suggested a video to me early in November, citing that athletes (especially those of us who train for endurance events pretty consistently) need rest. Rest? What is this rest you speak of? Like, I have to not run? Or swim? Or do my usual weight training? This sounds harder than any of the challenges I had set for myself early in November.

After watching this video (, I set my mind to take the week of Thanksgiving off. Ladies and gentlemen, this was much harder than it sounds. No running, no swimming, no biking, not even yoga. The most I did was a couple of 1/2 mile walks. I think I put on a few pounds that week (who's good idea was it to take the week of THANKSGIVING off???), and not working out made me feel grumpy. But I rested. I got some sleep, I drank some water, and I vegged a bit. I read. I knitted. I just relaxed.

And amazingly, I think it did the trick. After a whole week off, I eased into a few workouts. I did an indoor triathalon with some friends earlier this month, with the events "reversed" (15 minute run, 15 minute bike, 15 minute swim). I felt really, really good about it- my run was solid despite not doing much speedwork last month, my bike wasn't terrible, and my swim was smokin'. Just shy of 700 yards in 15 minutes? I'll take it! Since then, I've started up with a new season of Borgess Run Camp (training for the half instead of the full marathon this year), and this week I had my first run in quite some time where I didn't feel sluggish the whole way.

So how important is rest? I think I've deduced that rest is just as important as the workout. Get 7-9 hours of sleep. Turn off the TV. Read a book or play a board game. Listen to music, knit a hat, have a glass of wine. Take some time every day to unwind and relax; isn't the point of exercise to improve your stress level, not raise it?

until later...

"I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting." ~ Mark Twain

Monday, November 7, 2011

Considering a vegan challenge...

For the last couple of weeks, I've been considering the idea of doing a week-long "vegan challenge". Not forever, my fiance would kill me (you should have seen the look on his face when I mentioned it). Not because I'm a big animal cruelty adversary; I tend to think if we didn't eat a chicken or two, there would be over-crowding and chickens running amok everywhere. For me, it's more for the experiment of it, seeing how my body feels after a week of vegan/"clean" eating. It seems kind of fun, in a "this sounds like way too much work" kind of way.

Not one to jump into something without just a little research, I'm beginning to realize just how difficult a week of vegan living sounds. I already knew the basics: no animal products or by-products, which means no milk, no cheese, no eggs. ("No eggs" is a hard one for me, I eat the little wonders nearly every day.) But the more I read, the more I became somewhat disheartened. No honey??!! Are we really that concerned about how hard the bees are working? Are we worried that the living conditions of bees are unfair?! Seriously. They're bees. Their sole job in life is to pollinate flowers and make honey. It's not like if we stop eating honey they are going to find a new job changing oil at the local Uncle Ed's. They'll probably die out.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I find veganism to be somewhat pointless, if not actually detrimental to animals in the longer run. Yes, we can find alternate sources of protein from ancient grains and other plant-based foods. But what happens when we all suddenly stop eating animals and their by-products? For example. Let's say the year is 2080. Humans have become intolerant of an carnivore's diet, and thusly America is a completely vegan society. Now, I'm no farmer, but a cow has to be milked. I'd imagine that for all the cows that are now over-populated to be milked, everyone, including city-dwellers, would have to own several cows. They would have to be able to afford to own and milk those cows. And then, after paying to own, house, and feed that cow, they have to milk the cow and throw the milk out. Which makes so little sense to me; a cow has to be milked. It's not like we're doing it to be mean.

And that's just the cows. Imagine how many chickens we'd have to own, how many eggs we'd have to discard... good luck working. There's a reason moms stayed home in 1880; they had to take care of the kids and take care of the farms. Perhaps this simpler way of life worked then, but capitalism and consumerism have taken over this country in the last 100 years, and I have a feeling not too many people are willing to give up their iPhone so that they can take care of a roost full of chickens they can't eat.

I understand and support that the living conditions of many stockyard animals are far from ideal. I would like to see more farms raising animals in an ethical way, which is better for them and healthier for the people who consume the products they produce. I imagine if organic continues to catch speed, more farms will make the switch to better practices. So, if you're going to buy meat and dairy, keep buying organic meat and dairy! And in the meantime, I think I'll continue to eat a balanced diet of mostly organic plants, with meat, fish and grain as my side dishes.

Which is, most probably, the best way to support this eco-system and yourself. In my own opinion.

until later...

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat? ~Author Unknown

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jillian Michaels attacks again....

Okay, so towards the end of October I made all of these big claims about November, because it wasn't November yet and therefore I didn't have to worry about them until it was. It's funny how invincible you feel when you set a goal in advance, isn't it? Funny like a treadmill set to 10mph.

Yeah, November is here. I'm posting this somewhat unflattering picture of myself, as earlier this week I began the Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred for an actual 30 days, an idea that was much more fun two weeks ago. (The picture was shot the night before I started, in an effort to see change and hold myself accountable.) Today I finished Day Four, and let me tell you, I'm a little sore. Actually, I think the only thing that is keeping me from total muscular meltdown and skeletal disinegration is the fact that I am doing it every day; I'm not even giving my body a day to process it's in pain.

A typical morning goes a little like this:
BODY: Heeeeeeey, Jen. Whaddya say we lay off the anterior raises today, huh? We could just do a little extra squatting? Huh? Huh?
JEN: Sorry, body. Jillian says pain is fear leaving the body. It might be bullshit, but what if it's not?
BODY: *big sigh*
JEN: I know, I'm tired, too. But change comes when you push past fatigue. So, yeah. Let's go push for 25 minutes.

The funny thing is, as much as my body tends to protest beforehand, once it groans to life and starts warming up, the rest happens pretty fast. Like it's no big deal, really. When I finish, I almost always wonder what I was whining about. Are you kidding? It's 25 flipping minutes. It's an episode of The Office. It's a drive to Battle Creek. And it's less than a game of Chutes and Ladders with Anna.

Point being, by the end of the workout, perspective lets me remember why I did the workout in the first place. I did it because I wanted to ignite a change in my spirit more than anything. I'm not on a big weight-loss quest. I'm simply trying to reignite my brain into remembering what an extraordinary creature I can be, when I put my mind to it. What extraordinary creatures we all are. Are we capable of greatness? Yes. Is it work? Yes. Do all the crappy things in our lives tend to weigh more than the good? Unfortunately, too often the answer is yes. But it certainly doesn't have to be that way, when we're open to the possibility that we are worthy of the best life can offer.

Make a goal; face your goal when it's hard; applaud yourself when you reach it.

until later...

I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion." ~ Muhammad Ali

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beating the Blahs

I came to a sad realization yesterday: I am really bored with running right now.

You know, it's not bad when I get to run with other people. However, most of the time, it's just me out there, chugging along solo. Sometimes I have a new Jillian Michaels podcast to listen to, which helps. Or the weather is extra-pleasant, which usually puts me in a super mood. But it seems that more often than not, I feel like I'm running because I'm supposed to, rather than running because I want to.

With that said, I really am looking forward to starting up Borgess Run Camp in a few months here. There is something about the energy and friendship that gets me going on a snowy Saturday morning. People to chat with, a giant breakfast to enjoy, a long run to brag about for the rest of the day... I do love those Saturday runs. (By the way, I'm taking this pause to remind you that whether you are an experienced marathoner or a beginning 5ker, you really should sign up for BRC. It is a great experience, and they are adding some fun new things like weight loss camp and performance enhancement support... Check it out at )

So what does one do about feeling "blahs" toward any particular exercise? For starters, I'm trying not to panic about it or beat myself up to much for feeling this way. It's natural to get bored with something if you've been at it for awhile. In the meantime, I'm declaring November "NEWvember", where I am going to set some new goals for myself in different areas that do not include running goals. I'm not saying I won't run at all, because while I may be a bit bored, I do have my days where only a run can quench my thirst. =) But NEWvember will hold some different challenges for myself...

MAKE IT THROUGH 30 DAYS OF THE 30 DAY SHRED. This may be a crazy idea, but I am going to see if I can get through 30 straight days of Jillian's 30 Day Shred. It's been awhile since I've even done a workout with her, I'll blame moving to a new space before I'll ever blame my own laziness (which is probably the more likely cause). So, let's see what happens if, starting November 1st, I do 30 days worth of "Shred". Hey, it's only 25 minutes a day. I must have that somewhere.

SWIM A MILE STRAIGHT. Okay, I started off at the beginning of the summer able to swim 25-50 yds before I needed to stop. Earlier this week, I managed 1,000 yds without stopping. So, I think a mile without stops is tangible; that's 32 laps. And swimming is something I'm excited about right now; it's new, it's fresh, I can hit new goals pretty easily. Who knows, maybe I can crank out TWO miles? =)

So, those are my main goals for NEWvember. I'm hoping to come out the other end refreshed, energized, and ready for another season of BRC! Remember, it's not unusual to feel some ennui with something you've had a long dedication to. Just enjoy a break (everyone needs them), and try something different!

until later...

"Boredom: the desire for desires." ~ Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good morning?

I am, admittedly, not a morning person.

When my alarm went off at 5am, I wanted to stay in bed. I did stay in bed, for about 15 minutes, debating whether I should go to the pool or not.

"I could just go to the gym later and do the elliptical," I thought. "But that is not a swim. You said you wanted to swim today," I debated with that other half of myself. "It's so early, though! And gloomy out. It's nice and warm right here," I wheedled. "Shut up. Get your ass out of this bed, go eat some frickin' toast, and quit your whining." Man. The side of me that wanted to get up and swim was BOSSY.

But I did, in fact, get up this morning and put my suit on. I ate my toast and almond butter. I got back into bed at one point, thinking maybe I should just scrap this crazy plan. I got back out of bed, promising myself that my reward for swimming so god-awful early would be to go back to bed. I made it out the door. Into my car. Down the highway. I made it through the parking lot, the locker room.

As I slipped into the freezing pool (GOOD MORNING!!), I just started swimming. A few laps to warm-up. A few laps with a kick board. My body started remembering how to swim, after a few weeks off. I did 300 yards or so without stopping, until my body started keeping rhythm with itself and it started feeling a good bit like natural. After all the hemming and hawing when my alarm went off, it was kind of like the swimming was the easy part. I took a breather, and watched the other swimmers. Strong swimmers, weaker swimmers. But all people who got up extra early on a Tuesday, just to get in the pool and get some exercise before the day got crazy. I was not the only one, and we would all get out of this pool in our own time, satisfied with the work we'd done.

After my workout, I didn't go back to bed as I'd promised myself. Instead, I went grocery shopping. Let me tell you, 7am on a weekday is probably the most peaceful time to go to Meijer. Nobody but shelf stockers, a few cleaning guys, some cashiers... and a couple of people grabbing an apple or a frozen entree before work. I found myself focused, energized, and ready to face the challenges of the day.

And maybe that's because few things are more challenging for me than just letting my feet hit the carpet at 5am. Just taking the step of getting out of bed and saying, "Today, I'm going to put myself to the test."

Today, put yourself to the test. You are capable of great things!

until later...

“If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do all the rest have to drown too?” – Steven Wright

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A sticky struggle...

The battle for a sugarless lifestyle is not an easy one.

I don't mind the birthday cakes or the Christmas cookies. I don't mind not eating cotton candy at the amusement park.

What I mind is trying to find healthier ways to cook and bake things, and hitting dead end after dead end.

I've spent the last near four years trying to rid my life of extra sweeteners, and not because I think I'm better than anyone or even because I'm on some crazy health kick. I did it because, frankly, sugar terrifies me. Petrifies. For the first time in probably my whole life, I feel in control of my weight and my body, and it began when I gave the sugar up. So, of course sugar holds some very negative connotations for me. I'm fearful of it as a disease that used to control me, a road block that derailed my sense of self more times than I care to count.

How many of us think this way? "I ate that cookie, so I already failed. I may as well eat more."

This week, I found myself wondering if I am going to spend my whole life fearful of even the most natural of sweeteners. Further, I questioned why, in my brain, it's okay to eat some of the artificial sweeteners I know I'm guilty of eating. They are probably more dangerous than organic cane sugar or even the refined stuff; they are full of chemicals that we don't even know the long-term effect of. How could someone such as myself, who enjoys healthy veggies grown without pesticides, healthy meat sold without antibiotics, be SO hypocritical?

We come back to fear. It boils down simply to a fear that I'll gain back the weight I've worked very hard to get off. The weight I've kept off. Do I not believe in myself? Do I not trust myself enough to be in control? Have I actually learned nothing in four years of diet and exercise?

I know the answer to that. I have nothing to fear. I've learned how to control my portions. I've learned how much better I feel when I run than when I eat a carton of ice cream. I've learned which foods to pick at the supermarket, which foods to pass. I've learned all this because I wanted to, I wanted to take care of myself. That want hasn't gone away, it's gotten stronger.

With this realization, I'm making the choice to dump the artificial sweeteners in favor of more natural sweeteners that I have been terrified of. I have to face that fear, I have to stand up for myself and the body I have worked so hard to attain. A tablespoon of honey in my granola bar recipe is not going to negate the five miles I ran. Calories in, calories out. That is what matters most.

Does this mean that you are going to find cartons of Chips Ahoy in my cupboard? Definitely not. I still plan on sticking to my organic, unprocessed ways. I feel better knowing I put good things in my body every day. And truthfully, I think once I get over the initial scariness of natural sweeteners, I'll feel better with the satisfaction of going without the chemicals I was making excuses for.

until later....

"A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of
honey left inside." ~ Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another summer turns to fall....

A friend has reminded me that it has been an extra-long time since I updated (thanks, Sherri!), so let's go ahead and chalk that one up to a very busy summer! I've been out there, trying new things.... quite literally. I made it through my first triathalons this summer!

When last I wrote, I had just begun my training. I did a "practice" tri in July (Allegan) to prepare me for the big one in August. What took me by surprise the most during that triathalon was probably the biking; I figured biking would be a no-brainer, but that is just not the case. It turns out, you cannot just put a helmet on and take off. For one, biking is HARD work. And unlike most sports, you can buy speed in biking. I did not buy speed when I bought my Schwinn hybrid back in May. I bought a nice bike to ride around town and on trails with. This became increasingly apparent during the Allegan Tri. I should note here that in a tri, your age is marked in thick, black permanent marker on your calf. This is a blessing and a curse. Blessing, because you can see people in your age bracket and theoretically pass them. Curse, because when a 70-year-old passes you during the bike portion.... well..... enough said. The major lesson I learned was that I definitely needed to buy or borrow something faster for the Aquaman Tri in August!

As for Aquaman, I did, in fact, borrow a bike (saw a big improvement in that division).  That was a HILLY course!!  It was definitely hard, but I felt a lot more comfortable with what was going on than I did in Allegan.  I was very glad that my friends pushed me to do a "practice" before I got to all of those hills.  

So, let's see if I met all of my bullet points from my post in June....  

1. IMPROVE MY SWIMMING. I most certainly managed to improve my swimming this summer... although in actuality, I really had nowhere to go but up. I may not have become Dana Torres, but I went from being able to swim 25 yards without stopping to swimming 500 yards without stopping. I grew to really enjoy the swim, once I got over my fear of drowning. I have to give a shout-out to Sherri and Casie, too; they helped me more than any of my Friday training swims, mostly with their continual encouragement and optimism. Definitely improved my confidence. My plan for the fall and winter is to keep getting in the pool, keep using swimming as a core strengthener and cross-training tool, and get even better. I recommend it to anyone as a GREAT low-impact workout!  

2. BECOME A STRONGER RUNNER. This is a tricky one. I felt like running kind of went the wayside by the end of the summer... but I guess that's not unusual. This is traditionally the time of year that my body gets tired and I decide to give it a little rest (ie get on the elliptical or bike and do some weight training). The summer was good to me, though. I posted some awesome times through the 5k season, PRing with a 22:26. I suppose I can partially credit some new strong competitors in my age bracket this year... really pushed me to work hard in my races. I feel like I could have done more with my training throughout the week... but you can't really train for everything at once. I definitely learned that it's best to concentrate on one major goal... not "I'm going to do a triathalon AND PR my 5k AND do a trail half-marathon..." Not the smartest.

3. HAVE FUN. Did I have fun this summer? Definitely. I got better at swimming, I hit new highs in running, I made new friends and strengthened some existing friendships, I got some kick-ass medals (including one for Warrior Dash and one as big as my face for the North Country Trail Run)... I spent a lot of time outdoors. Oh, and did I mention I got engaged? =)

And now I face fall, the season I typically stop "training" and start "exercising". I'm excited for fall colors, apples, Halloween. I'm excited to go for a quick 3-mile jog after dinner just because I feel like it. Fall is a gorgeous time to get out with your family and walk or bike. Make sure you utilize the cooler temps and beautiful foliage.... one of the perks to living in the Mitten State. Until next time!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Triathalon training.... WOO-HOO!!!

Apparently a marathon just wasn't enough for me.

I started training for an August sprint triathalon (Aquaman in Three Rivers) last week through Gazelle's Trizelle program. I mean, sure- obviously I run. And I know how to ride a bike. But swimming? Yeah. Swimming. Not my strong suit. I took swimming lessons when I was about 11 or 12 years old... just enough to prevent me from drowning when I got near water. But water makes me a little crazy. I'm not sure if it's a fear that I'll drown, or get tired and be stuck in the middle of the water? I mean, if you get tired when you're running, you walk. If you get tired when you're swimming, well... you drown.

So, I'm hoping to overcome this somewhat irrational fear I have. I actually do *like* to swim. It's easy on the joints, it's great for your core. And truthfully, the run/walk ratio can apply to swimming, too; you get tired, you elementary backstroke it. Ah. The swimming version of walking. (Aside from the fact you can't see where you're going.)

With all that said, the tri training is a blast. I get a great workout, and it's so much more fun than just running forever. Swim for a while.... recover on the bike... run a few miles. Today I was so warmed-up after all that, I decided to do steep hill repeats on Academy St. A nice quarter-mile climb, back down, back up, back down... I probably could have kept going!

So, I guess what I'm most hoping to get out of this summer is to:

1) IMPROVE MY SWIMMING. I'm not saying I'm going to be Dana Torres by the end of the summer. Actually, can I please be Dana Torres by the end of the summer? That girl has some serious abs. I should Google what she does to work out. And she's like 45 years old, too. Man, she's a rock-star. But yeah... I won't be her, but I plan on being a stronger swimmer. I think a good goal is to feel confident enough that I can make it through a 500-yd swim without worrying that I'll die in the water.

2) BECOME A STRONGER RUNNER. I know running is my strongest suit. But there is this one girl in my age group that I can never seem to beat. She's not in KAR, and she doesn't race everything. But every time I race her, I seem to get 2nd or 3rd (I know, stop complaining). It's just aggrivating! And she's like a fricking ghost, I have no clue what she looks like. I never seem to see her. So I'm hoping that between the cross-training I'm doing, and the speed-work that will start in the next month or so... yeah. Hopefully I'll catch her.

3) HAVE FUN. During marathon training, I could feel my running "rut" settling in. Ruts are hard to shake. It's like you want to run, because you know you love it. But it just isn't as fun as it used to be. With 5k season picking up (and starting off with a bang, I'm 4 for 4 in the 5k/10k medaling department), I've seen some improvement in my attitude. But I know that varying my workout is going to help immensely. It's awesome to do new things and push myself in different ways.

So, June is here with an exciting burst. My challenge to all of you is to throw caution to the wind and try something new this summer. Find a way to get exercise in that you enjoy. Love yourself enough to improve your quality of life. I know exercise can be hard, and sometimes painful. But I read somewhere: "Don't let what you want today change what you want most." In other words, don't let temporary discomfort affect your bigger picture.

until later...

"The only one who can tell you 'you can't' is you. And you don't have to listen." ~ Nike

Monday, May 23, 2011

corn syrup vs sugar vs high fructose corn syrup

My top two least-liked commercials of the moment are...

a) The Dole commercial that implores us to enjoy Dole fruit cups because, "Finally, you can enjoy fruit without added sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc etc etc". I'm sorry. It's too much trouble to pick up an apple or a cup of strawberries? I wasn't aware that was suuuuuuch a challenge for people! News flash, people: it's better to eat fruit out of your own cup than god-knows-what out of a prepackaged cup. No brainer.

b) I'm sure you've seen this one: a pleasant-looking mom is totally worried because she keeps hearing how evil corn syrup is. Well, rest assured, Americans- corn syrup is just like regular syrup! The corn farmers of America promise! And commercials never lie, so definitely trust this actress playing a mother! (sarcasm, sarcasm, sarcasm.)

Listen. Corn syrup is a cheap sweetener that has made its way into virtually every processed food (another great reason to eat whole foods and cook for yourself!) So I'd like to talk just briefly about what the chief differences are between sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and regular corn syrup (and yes, there are differences between the last two!) I don't want to give corn farmers or even corn a bum rep, and it's important to know a few things for your own well-being.

SUGAR. Sugar is processed by every cell of the body. Your body turns the sugar into glucose. Yes, your body needs some sugar, because it gives us energy. I do not mean go eat a candy bar and say I told you to. Processed sugar has zero nutrients, it does nothing to help you out. Fruit, dairy, vegetables, even meat... your body turns these foods into glucose and gives you the nutrients and minerals that you need. So yes- while it's true your body processes sugar into glucose in a way like-minded to fruit and vegetables, you will reap no benefit from eating cane sugar. Other than the possible enjoyment you may get from a cookie.

CORN SYRUP. Used to soften the texture of things and sweeten things, corn syrup is different than HIGH-FRUCTOSE corn syrup (HFCS). Your body processes it similar to sugar; ie, it is processed by every cell of the body. It is less dangerous than HFCS, but what I said about "sugar" also applies here; you're not going to garner big benefits from eating it.

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Now here is the garbage everyone has their knickers in a twist about. With good reason. HFCS is corn syrup that has gone under an enzymatic processing, converting glucose to fructose, to desired sweetness. What is distinctly different about HFCS is that it is NOT processed by every cell in the body. The liver is made to do all the work processing HFCS. And news flash, the junk is in almost every processed food you have in your cupboard or fridge. So while it may be safe "in moderation", it could be problematic that your liver is constantly being forced to process this "sweetener" (HFCS) that is hanging out in a lot of your favorite foods.

So is "corn sugar" just like "table sugar", like industry bigs want us to believe? Maybe it's too soon to tell. Or maybe you can look around and see how bad health in this country has gotten. Personally, I'm on the side of better safe than sorry. I think fresh strawberries taste sweeter and more delicious than any Little Debbie brownie, and I like knowing that the food going into my body is there for the purpose of nurturing it and making it strong. And I am also on the side that companies are there to sell you things. If you don't buy, they have no income. So of course someone trying to sell you a product will say that their product is the best, or their product is totally safe.

I mean, just ask the tobacco companies.

until later...

"Roughly $40 billion in federal subsidies are going to pay corn growers, so that corn syrup is able to replace cane sugar. Corn syrup has been singled out by many health experts as one of the chief culprits of rising obesity, because corn syrup does not turn off appetite. Since the advent of corn syrup, consumption of all sweeteners has soared, as have people's weights. According to a 2004 study reported in the American journal of Clinical Nutrition, the rise of Type-2 diabetes since 1980 has closely paralleled the increased use of sweeteners, particularly corn syrup." ~ Gabriel Cousens

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Veggie "Fried" Rice

Today I was in the mood for some "fried rice", so this is what I scarfed down. I mean, came up with.

1/2 cup frozen (organic) peas
1 cup frozen (organic) broccoli
1 cup Seeds of Change 7-grain medley (comes pre-cooked in a microwavable pouch, but I almost always heat up in a separate container or pan- you shouldn't microwave plastic, period!)
1 egg white
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder or one glove of fresh garlic

* Sautee the peas and broccoli in a pan with some cooking spray until the frost is gone.
* Add the cup of rice mixture, as well as the seasonings.
* When everything looks cooked through and is a little sizzly, add the egg white.
* Keep mixing until the egg disperses throughout and is cooked.
* Enjoy!

I would have loved to add some fresh ginger to this if I had it... alas. I'm betting chicken or shrimp would be delish in this, too!! Also- buying frozen organic produce is a great way to save money and get the freshest vegetables. Most veggies/fruits are picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, and are even more nutritious than the so-called "fresh" stuff that has journeyed for miles. And it stays good much longer, being frozen and all!

Happy noshing...

"Rice is great if you're really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Great Big Marathon Adventure...

May 8th, 2011 marks my first completed marathon. It was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done.

All of the warnings in the world about "when you'll hit the wall", or how overwhelming the entire experience is, or how "going out to fast" will affect you in mile 21 can not really prepare you for just the massive and epic feelings I faced Sunday morning. Elation and misery both come to mind first. Then pain. Then defeat. Then success.

I remember at 6 miles, I turned to a friend and joked, "Ok, we just ran the last 10k. Now we just have to run a 20-miler." I wish that would have worked!

But I had a very solid 20k. Hell, I had a very solid 17 miles. I believe it was the bottom of Bronson Blvd where I started wondering if I could finish this. I was less than 10 miles away from my finish, but I struggled. Both mentally and physically. My legs felt heavy. My mind felt exhausted. I smiled and waved to the people I passed, high-fived the little ones on the sidewalks, just trying to push myself along any way I could. Thank God for the crowds. They were outstanding.

I walked some. Walking in a marathon is like "breaking the seal" at the bar. You do it once, you're screwed. You do it once, and your mind makes you think you need to keep doing it over and over.

When I met my friends on Park Ave in mile 22, I had some serious doubts about how much running I'd be doing in the last 4 miles. One of my best friends met me at the top of the hill, ready to run those last four with me. I told him we'd be walking for a bit. I'm so thankful he was there, ready to walk or run with me until I found the end of the course. I literally was concentrating on the next tree. The next orange cone.

Mile 24. Never in my life would I imagine that two miles, a distance I usually run as a cool-down or a recovery jog, would be the hardest two miles I'd ever run. They felt like they took forever. We ran through the park, walked up Brook Drive Hill. I didn't feel the need to run on the hills anymore. I just had to keep moving.

At that point, my boyfriend jogged down to meet my friend and I, with just one mile to go (even though he had already run 26.2 miles himself!). We jogged down the never-ending street, with the last leg of the course in my sight.

The last bit was a blur. Cheering spectators. Photos. Friends waving and hollering. A sense of pride, of accomplishment that pushed my legs faster. I smiled. I beamed! I could see the finish, I heard my name called out as I crossed the mats. I had pushed through the despair, and finished strong despite it.

I stared those fears and doubts right in the face, and I conquered them. I couldn't be prouder of my achievement.

until later...

"It's a long, hard road and it's going to have its bumps; there are going to be times when you fall and times when you don't feel like going on anymore, times when you're just crazy tired but it takes focusing on that one step you're taking. That's what I'm trying to do with the marathon; I don't think about the miles that are coming down the road, I don't think about the mile I'm on right now, I don't think about the miles I've already covered. I think about what I'm doing right now, just being lost in the moment." ~Ryan Hall

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blueberry Protein Pancakes

On this morning's breakfast table, we have some delicious, low-cal, blueberry protein pancakes. These are quicker to make than regular pancakes, a great source of protein and fiber, and there isn't any sugar added. (Makes 4 small pancakes; about 300 calories for all of them!)


* 1 egg
* 1/4 cup lowfat organic cottage cheese
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 2 Tbsps wheat flour (for thickening)
* 1/2 cup blueberries
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* unsweetened applesauce


* Mix all ingredients together, except the applesauce. (If you don't use the flour, I can safely say the pancakes will not stay together.)
* Heat griddle/pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Drop pancake batter with a spoon into small discs, about orange sized. Heat until browned on each side. (They may not seem cooked through because of the cottage cheese; cook until not leaking much.)
* Serve topped with applesauce.

These pancakes are NOT SWEET. If you want to sweeten them up a bit, go for it; but I made them for a sugar-free protein option. The applesauce sweetens them just right!

until later....

"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art."
- La Rochefoucauld

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Weight loss isn't easy. It's amazing how unwanted pounds can pack on so perfectly, so simply, and then sit there so stubbornly. They don't want to move, they like it there. But those extra pounds can be dangerous, depending on how many of them you have. And whether you have a lot to lose, or just a few "vanity pounds", there are tools out there meant to help you understand the process better. And with spring and summer just about upon us, it's the best time I can think of to get out with your families and start a program that works for you. So, here are a few tools that I have found helpful!

#5: THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT! Truly, there is a app for everything under the sun these days. And most people seem to have an iTouch/iPhone/Andriod/whatever that can host different apps from distance trackers to cadence counters to calorie counters. My favorite is the Tap and Track app ($4.99, iTunes). You type in your personal information like your height, weight, etc, you enter in how much you'd like to lose a week, you figure out your BMR (not BMI; your BMR is your basal-metabolic rate, or the rate your body burns calories without exercise, based on your level of general activity), and you're pretty much ready to go. From there, you can enter in meals from the database, or exercise to bank those activity points. Calorie counting is terribly important- calories in mean calories out!! You may be surprised to find you're eating way more calories than you suspected, or way less. A person trying to shed a few pounds doesn't need more than a 500 calorie deficit; any more and it confuses the body, sends it into starvation mode. You can end up packing on weight instead of shedding it! I know it's a pain to enter your meals in. But after a couple of weeks, you get a great idea of what actual portions look like, and I'm willing to bet you'll see results.

#4: WEIGHING YOUR OPTIONS. For goodness sake, get a food scale. You can get one for less than $20 at Wal-Mart if you're hard up for cash. You will be shocked when you see how much an ounce of hummus and an ounce of pita chips are, or how much 4 ounces of salmon is. Eating healthy is great, but if you're eating more calories than you're supposed to by not controlling portions, it won't give you the results you're looking for.

#3: JOIN THE CLUB. How did I get my own ball rolling when I started? I needed support. So I made a club, found people with a similar goal, and started jogging with them. I promise you, there are other people out there who are goal-oriented. Poke around Facebook. Join dailymile, where community members log miles and provide kudos for each other. If you live in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Area Runners has group runs and summer training for all skills of runner, from beginner on up. Join a baseball league. Find two friends who will go walk with you. Have a healthy cooking party, or teach your kids some healthy recipes. There are lots of ways to make healthy habits a lot more fun.

#2: SLEEP IT OFF. How many hours of sleep are you getting a night? 6 hours? Less? You should be getting at least 7-9 hours a night, people. Studies show that not only does less sleep make you tired and less able to function in everyday tasks, but it can aid weight gain. For more on the connection between sleep and weight loss/gain, visit

#1: YOU. I can sit here and tell you to buy a food scale and count your steps and count your calories. But in all honesty, you are your own best tool. You have to make a decision to care about your health. You have to get up and go out. You have to cook for yourself, instead of taking the easier way. Because this isn't about a fast and easy fix. This is about a slow and deliberate CHANGE. I just read a startling fact: 40% of New York Public schoolchildren are overweight; 25% are obese. Think about that. We, as parents and mentors and aunts and uncles and friends, have learned bad behaviors, and are passing them off to the innocent. And it's largely because many don't know any better. Take it upon yourself to educate yourself. Find out where your meat comes from. Find out where your fruits come from. Check out your child's school lunch menu. Buy a reusable water bottle. Cook dinner a few nights a week if that's all you can manage. Make small choices, and they'll add up.

And never, ever think "I'm just one person." Think, "I'm a person, and I am the difference."

until later....

"When I finish a run, every part of me is smiling." - Jeff Galloway

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easy Cheesey Turkitos

The three girls I work for are rather finicky with their foods- "....but what's IN it?" I've figured out the hard way that if I want them to eat something, I'd better stress that it is ground turkey or chicken in the recipe. This was a burrito experiment last night that went over to favored reviews! It has a delicious zesty cheese sauce on top, too.

Plan on about 15 minutes of prep time, and 15 or so minutes in the oven. Makes 6 burritos.


* 1/2 package extra lean Jennie-O ground turkey breast
* 1 cup frozen/canned organic corn
* 1 cup pre-cooked brown rice (I opened a single serve container of brown Minute Rice and just used that)
* 1/2 package taco seasoning
* 6 whole wheat tortillas
* glass baking dish

* 1 Tbsp flour
* 1 Tbsp butter (or butter spray for lower fat)
* 1/3 cup milk
* 1/2-1 cup 2% cheese
* 2 Tbsp salsa (I recommend Jack's Special Mild!)

* Start by preheating oven to 350.
* Sautee the ground turkey until the pinkness is gone. Add the rice and corn when the meat is almost cooked. When the meat looks white and brownish, add the taco seasoning with a little water, maybe a 1/4 cup. Don't worry- the water will cook off.
* I recommend microwaving the tortillas for 25 seconds before you fill them. (Makes them much easier to fold.) Fill each tortilla with about 3 or 4 spoonfuls of the turkey mixture. Fold each end in, then roll until it's a nice, neat burrito. Line them up in the baking dish. Go ahead and bake it for 5 minutes while you make the cheese sauce.
* FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE: It's my standard cheese sauce with a kick. Put the butter/spray butter in the pan and let it heat until it bubbles. Add the spoonful of flour, and I usually kind of smush it all together with a spoon. Add the milk, and get those butter lumps to mix with the milk. Again- the spoon smushing can help with that. Next, add the cheese, and stir until smooth and bubble. Add the salsa, and mix well.
* Pour the cheese sauce all over the tops of your burritos. Slide the pan back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese gets a little brown and burritos are hot through.

Top with a heap of salsa when you eat it... just delish! I hope your family loves them as much as we did over here.

until later....

“To support mother and father, to cherish wife and child and to have a simple livelihood; this is the good luck.” ~ Buddha

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In less than a month, I will turn 31 and become a marathon runner, all in the same day.

It's kind of surreal- the work I've done (and subsequently complained about), the social life I've forgone, the changes I've made to my already fairly healthy diet. I've run through terrible cold and sometimes blizzard conditions, and I've had a few bright, unexpectedly warm days. I've had flat courses and face-slapping hills. I've had IT band problems, shin aches, knee pains, sore muscles, back issues...

...all in all, not too bad for a four month length of training.

Pushing myself is something I've had to practice. It doesn't come that easily for me. I went into this thinking, "OK, it'll be hard, but it's within my realm of capabilities."

But I have had my days where I wasn't sure that was true. Where I thought if I didn't have a team to lead into the miles every Saturday, I may have given up by now. Because this training went above and beyond "hard". I tapped into stores of focus and determination I've never touched before.

I had to make up my mind that succeeding at my goal outweighed being comfortable.

We should all live our lives in a way that challenges us. We should do things that are hard, so hard that we doubt our abilities. We you meet a hill, go up it. When you want to stop, focus on a point ahead and keep moving until you touch it.

Decide to do something not because it's easy, but because the challenge will make you feel good about what you can do.

On race day, I'm going to bring focus, optimism, and pride in the work I've done to get me to the starting line.

"Running takes me back to square one. It gives me a basic measure of accomplishment from which all other challenges take relevance." ~Brian McIlrath

Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Here's a little breakfast sandwich that'll take you 15 minute or less to make... and I guarantee it'll taste much better than any Mickey D's or Jimmy D's warmed up piece of garbage.

But before I get to the sandwich deliciousness, I need to give you the ingredients you'll need for my Magic Avaoado Spread. Pretty simple:
* 1 ripe avocado (If they're soft, they're ripe.)
* 1 Tbsp mayo made with olive oil
* 1/2 tsp basil (I buy the squeezey tubes in the herb aisle, produce section, at Meijer. They keep longer than boxed herbs.)
* OPTIONAL: dash of salt and lemon pepper


* 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg beaters (add a splash of milk to the egg if using real eggs)
* 2 slices Applegate Farms uncured turkey bacon (they sell it at Sawall's for $3.99), or any other turkey bacon (but it won't be as gooo-oooood...)
* 100% Whole Wheat hamburger bun (or substitute whole grain bread... and English muffin might be a bit small)
* 1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
* 1/4 tsp dill
* dash of salt
* 1 Tbsp of olive oil
* 1 Tbsp Magic Avocado Spread


* Heat up a pan. Sautee mushrooms in the olive oil.
* While the mushrooms cook, beat the egg with the dill, salt, and milk (if you're not using Egg Beaters).
* You can also whip up the Magic Avocado Spread while the mushroom cook. Just open up that avocado, get the pit out, and dump the flesh in an airtight container. Add the mayo and basil, and stir rapidly. Add a dash of salt and lemon pepper for added fresh taste.
* Add the egg mixture to the mushrooms.
* Toast the bun/bread/whatever.
* Cook the bacon. You can use another pan, or do what I did and dump the eggs into a bowl and use the same one. It'll still take you 15 minutes or less if you're managing your time! =)
* Spread the avocado spread on your bun- add the eggs and bacon, and enjoy!


* low-calorie
* fat-free
* cholesterol-free
* low in sodium
* phytochemicals that help safeguard against cancer
* about 20% of your daily recommendation of selenium (antioxidant) and 1/3 daily rec for copper
* source of potassium, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin D
* retain their nutrients when cooked!

Mushrooms are often overlooked as a food powerhouse- I don't know if it's because it's a fungus? Regardless, mushrooms are so easy to cook and add nutrient punch to almost any meal.

As for the avocado spread... stop using things like ranch or plain mayo that don't do much for you. I know avocados are high in calories and fat. Avocado is full of good and healthy fat, as well as fiber to keep you feeling full. I'm not asking you to eat an entire avocado- just a spoonful. And pairing the avocado with other fruits and vegetables will actually help you absorb the nutrients from those other foods better!

until later...

"As a child my family's menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it." ~Buddy Hackett

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Healthy fats and Omega-3's

If you, like me, have spent the last 10-20 years of your life thinking all fats are bad and the secret to weight loss is to slash all fat... you're doing yourself a major disservice.

In fact, all fats are not created equal. It's true that some fats are hazardous to your health (such as the dangerous trans fats that are working their way out many foods), but we need some fats to survive. In fact, some kinds of dietary fat (like mono-unsaturated fat or poly-unsaturated fat) actually energize our bodies, like protein and carbs do.

No doubt you have heard the words "omega-3"s by now. Now here is an example of a healthy fat! This powerful fat can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as reduce symptoms of ADHD, joint issues, some skin issues, depression, hypertension.... and there is research showing how it can help protect us from Alzheimer's. All by its ability to encourage all the body chemicals that help keep inflammation under control- in your joints, your bloodstream, your muscles.

So why aren't we getting enough omega-3's? A lot of us don't know where to find it. We can get it in many cold-water fish, like salmon and anchovies. But after the FDA started warning us about mercury in fish, people started to freak about eating fish. The good news is- a couple of servings of salmon a week will do ya'. And two 4 oz servings of salmon is certainly well under the 12 oz limit the FDA wants us to eat... so DO NOT BE AFRAID! Fish = good.

If you're not a fish person, here are some other ways to get your omega-3's in:

* WALNUTS: Just a handful of walnuts will pack about as much as a 3.5 oz serving of salmon.
* FLAXSEED: You can find flaxseed just about anywhere these days, but I can attest to the deliciousness of Meijer brand organic flaxseed bread.
* EGGS: Not all eggs... but Meijer organic brown eggs and Eggland's Best both have omega-3's added by way of feeding their chickens flaxseed.
* VEGGIES/FRUITS: cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, grape leaves... all sources of omega 3's.
* BEANS: Beans are a superfood for a lot of reasons, but kidney beans will help you out with some omega-3's.

Just don't go crazy and go out and buy a bunch of fish oil capsules. We rely too heavily on supplements, which the body just does not absorb as effectively as real vitamins from real food. It's not that hard to get a couple of servings of these omega-3's in, just a few tweaks to your shopping list!

If you'd like more info on healthy fats and omega-3's, check out this "healing foods pyramid" from U of M.

until later....

Lois: So doctor, is Peter healthy?
Doctor: My goodness, you'll be dead within a month.
Peter: What?
Doctor (revealing comic he was reading): Oh, Hagar the Horrible, if you keep up that lifestyle of pillaging and eating giant turkey legs, you'll be dead within a month. Now, onto you.
Peter: So, what do you think? Pretty healthy, eh?
Doctor: Well, Mr. Griffin, let's take a look at your physical results. Argh! There's a spider in here. Now, here we go. Mr Griffin, you're going to expire in a month.
Peter/Lois: Argh!
Doctor: This is your driver's licence, isn't it? Now, unfortunately, I'm afraid you're going to die...
Peter: Argh!
Doctor: ...when you watch these Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.
Lois: Will you just tell us how Peter's health is?!
Doctor: Ah, Mr. Griffin, I'm not quite sure how to say this. Kim Bassinger? Bass singer? Bassinger? But now, onto the cancer.
Lois: Oh my goodness!
Doctor: You are a Cancer, right? You were born in July? Now onto these test results. My, they're much worse than I thought.
Peter/Lois: Oh!
Doctor: My son got a D minus on his history test. Now Mr Griffin, that liver's got to come out.
Lois: What?!
Doctor: It's been in the microwave for three minutes, it'll get dry. Now-
Lois: Please, please, we can't take any more schtick.. Please just tell us, is Peter healthy?
Doctor: Oh, yeah, he's fine, he's just really fat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Marathon Looms....

I totally had an "OMG" moment when I realized this marathon I've been steadily pounding towards is just a little over a month away. What happened o, "Oh, I have five months of training, it's so far away"???

On a recent long run, I took the time to think about the marathon. I mean, REALLY think about it. Now that the snow has dissipated (I'm hoping permanently, but this is Michigan, after-all), it's a lot easier to get out there and think clearly. With the snow, it was always "Wow, I'm running so slow but I feel like I'm exerting so much effort!" So it's especially nice to have clear roads for a clear head.

It's important to have goals when striding into a storm like this. Without goals, how do you have anything to work for, to hope for? I encourage all of you, whether you're running a marathon or training for your first 5k, to set some goals for yourself. The tricky thing with me and goals is, of course I don't like to be disappointed. Who does? So I figure, the more goals I set, the less likely I am to be disappointed if I don't meet ALL of them.

I have had a notorious "hit or miss" attitude this winter. It has ranged from, "Wow, what a terrific speed workout!" to "I hate that it's mile 15 and I'm all by myself because the rest of my team is so much faster than me, wah ,wah wah...." I have, admittedly, been very had on myself. No more of that. The time has come to focus on myself, not every other runner I know. I can only do the best "I" can do, not the best "everyone else" can do. I have trained hard, I have overcome obstacles, I'm doing well. And I will keep doing well.

This may seem like an obvious one, but hell, I've never ran 26.2 miles before. I could drop into a puddle of my own sweat in mile 23. So yes, I would like to run across the finish line. But I will also walk across the finish line. Or cartwheel across it. Or maybe crawl across it. Or piggy-back across it? As long as I get across it.

Do I think I can finish this thing in 4.5 hours? Yes. 4.15 hours? Probably. 4 hours? Maybe. I think this is a good window of goal for me to feel like I'm comfortably pushing myself without making outlandish promises I can't keep.

This may seem another obvious choice. But from beginning runners to experienced ones, I think it's really easy to fall into the trap of knocking yourself down for "not being good enough". The fact of the matter is- if you lace up your sneakers and walk 5 minutes on the treadmill, you're a winner. If you're running a 14 minute pace, you;re running, and you're a winner. You don't have to qualify for Boston or get a medal to win. You just have to put your mind to something, whether marathon or 5k, and push your limits. Believe in yourself. And be proud of your effort, and your accomplishments.

"The challenge of a significant physical journey on foot unleashes some primitive connections to our identity as human beings." ~ Jeff Galloway, Marathon runner

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How this marathon thing is going....

So, I've been doing this marathon training for what, three months? It actually feels a little like an eternity. I'm going to blame winter for getting in my way all the time. I'm all, "Hey, I need to run 6 miles today," and then Winter is all, "Ice storm! BOOM. Roasted."

And then two days later, I'm like, "I better get my 8-mile tempo run in." And Winter's like, "What? You wanted more snow and less shoulder to run on? I'm on it."

I hate winter. It's not a secret. I just don't like being cold and/or wet. I don't ski. I tried to take the girls I watch sledding, and while we had a grand old time when it was happening, I have barely been able to put my socks on for three weeks. My spine has abandoned me.

The only thing I've been able to somewhat successfully manage in the winter is running. Which is silly, considering it's one of the hardest things to DO in the winter. Everything is against you- the snow, the ice, the freezing temps (January was so cold everyone had frosty eyelashes with sun in the sky)... basically, Michigan winters are like a big eff you to anyone who runs. (Be kind when you drive by the us bundled-up kids running out there; I know we're using some of the road up, but we are working SO hard. Slow down a little, maybe give a little wave?) =)

But then again... running in winter is a great challenge. The fact of the matter is, if you're training for a marathon and you're not injured, you need to get your miles in. So, whether like four inches of snow in the road or not, you better just run through it.

There was one day I ran a week or two ago that the wind was so obnoxious I could barely move. I felt like I was running frickin' "Chariots of Fire" out there... yeah, the slowed-down version. "Bum bum bum bum buuummmm buuummm..." I was scheduled for six miles, and around 4.5 I was ready to quit. I thought, "I could just do five. This is dumb. I don't have to take this." Then, I thought, "Jen. If you were actually running the marathon for realsies, and we had this weather, you would NOT quit. You'd keep going." That was enough to steer my mental vibe in the direction it needed to go.

So overall, how do I think my training is going? Mostly well. I have days where I don't want to run because I'm exhausted. (It turns out, marathon training is very tiring???) But I have days where I feel pretty amazing, too. Sometimes I have to run on the treadmill, which I hate, because it's like running in place. But on the up-side, I can get some great tempo work done on a treadmill. Training is all about keeping a positive attitude, even if things suck a little. Think about what great muscle strengthening running on all that snow must be! By the time these roads dry up, we're going to be basically Hulks out there. So if you see a crew of 700 muscle-y beasts out there, running, come April? It's probably us.

So get ready.

"Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running." ~ Julie Isphording, Marathon winner

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Treats!

I'm wearing red tights, I'm licking envelopes, love is in the air or something... yeah, it appears to be Valentine's Day. Normally, I hate Valentine's Day with a fiery passion. It doesn't matter whether I'm in a relationship or not; it has to do more with the fact that a) red is simply not my best color, b) it's a giant waste of money, and b) it's a holiday based entirely on candy and cookies, whoop-dee-doo. The whole thing is just kind of lost on me.

BUT. In the spirit of the holiday (and ok, I *do* really like these red tights), I thought I'd post some low-sugar Valentine options. No sense in eating a whole box of chocolates just because it's February 14th... because I guarantee it wouldn't be widely acceptable on February 15th!

#5: WARM CINNAMON BANANAS. I feel like I've posted this before (it's a favorite of both myself and my boyfriend), but few things are more satisfying (or easy) as this dessert. Slice up a banana, sautee it in a frying pan with some butter/butter spray/butter flavored cooking spray. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. You can serve it a host of ways. My favorites are with applesauce, or drizzled very lightly with warm peanut butter and/or very dark warm chocolate. (And when I say drizzle, I mean lightly. A little goes a long way.)

#4: LINDT 90% DARK CHOCOLATE. This chocolate tries to tell you that a serving size is four squares... but you certainly don't need that much. One square (which is enough to appease, honestly!) has a mere 55 calories, 5 grams of fat, and less than a gram of sugar. I like to have a square with a glass of red wine when I have some calories to spare!

#3: GREEN AND BLACK'S ORGANIC DARK 85%. If 90% is too much for you (some people think it's bitter, especially if you are just weaning yourself off of sugar), try this 85% from Green and Black. It is melt-in-your-mouth delish. A serving size is 12 pieces, which is practically half of a bar- you don't need that much. Six squares give you 125 calories, 10 grams of fat, and four grams of sugar.

#2: PLAIN GREEK YOGURT AND.... Vanilla. And bananas. Or strawberries. Or warm peanut butter and pecans. Or diced ginger and pears. Or... or.... you get the idea. Greek yogurt is thick, creamy, and you can dress it up any way you like. Much better for you than ice cream, and you can pack it up with nutritious and delicious fruit/nuts!

#1: FROZEN MANGO. Frozen mango is probably one of the things I always, always keep in my freezer. Sometimes, I eat it straight out of the bag. Sometimes, I let it sit for five minutes in a bowl and then eat it ever-so-slightly softened. And sometimes I mix it with other fruit or put it in a smoothie. My point is- mango is the whip. And frozen mango is even better.

Here's wishing you and yours a happy Valentine's Day. From my heart to yours!

until later...

"I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon." ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garlic Chicken Chili!

From the "just throw this in the crock-pot and forget about it all day" department....


* 1 lb lean ground chicken (or turkey)... remember to look for the words "grass-fed", "antibiotic-free", "no hormones"... and Meijer has a pretty good ground chicken that was less than $5. The brand is Smart Chicken.

* 2 cups beans (I used leftover black and kidney beans, but feel free to use whatever you like. They're best if you take the time to buy dry ones and soak/boil them, but I know how time-consuming that can be. Canned is ok, too- just shoot for organic if you can. Meijer has tons of organic canned beans in their brand, so no excuses!!)

* 1 lg can of chopped tomatoes (again, Meijer has them in organic!)

* 1 green pepper, diced

* 1/2 sweet onion, diced

* 1 cup of your favorite salsa

* 1 whole garlic bulb

* 1/2 cup chopped green onions

* 1 pouch of taco seasoning

* sour cream (optional)


1. Chop up those green peppers and onions!

2. Brown the chicken meat in a frying pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Crush up the garlic and add half the bulb to the pan while you're browning. Once the pink is gone, add the taco seasoning according to pouch's instructions. Set aside.

3. In a large crock-pot, combine the chopped veggies, green onions, the rest of the garlic, the salsa, the tomatoes, the chicken mixture... am I forgetting anything? The beans! Whatever you have on that list up there, put it in the pot. EXCEPT the sour cream. That's for later.

4. Simmer on low for 4 + hours. It's good to sit there pretty much all damn day if you like. This is dinner that takes care of itself!

5. Enjoy with a dallop of sour cream. (Again, organic! Especially dairy- you don't need the extra hormones.)

Don't skip any of those veggies, or the garlic and scallions! Everything in this dish is in here because of it's health benefits. It's full of protein, fiber, lycopene, antioxidants... a heart-healthy, digestive-happy, cancer-fighting super dinner! And it will leave you feeling satisfied. =)

until later...

"Wish I had time for just one more bowl of chili." ~ Last words of Kit Carson, American frontiersman (1809-1868)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snack Time!

Here's a yummy afternoon snack or lunch side dish that will satisfy your spiced sweet tooth and give you a boost of protein!

1/2 cup lowfat organic cottage cheese (I say organic, because if you're going to dairy, your estrogen levels will thank you. You should REALLY be buying organic dairy.)
1/2 cup natural unsweetened applesauce (or one individual serving cup)
1/8 cup unsweetened raisins

Stir together and enjoy instead of an afternoon candy bar! I'm sure you could easily add a fiber to this, but I'm having mine with a sandwich.

until later...

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A quick sound-off...

I don't eat much junk food. Not fast food, not cookies, occasional chips. (I do fall prey to the bowl of chips and salsa, because salsa is my Achilles Heel.) While some people interpret this as "not living life to it's fullest" or something, I just don't believe in that kind of mentality. Why are we brainwashed to think that way? To invest our "feel-good" vibes and heart into something processed to the Nth degree, only to digest it and send it back to whence it came... it doesn't make sense.

Food is just food. It is there to feed your body. It's not there to feed your soul, it's not there to love you back, it's not there to occupy your children while you work on something.

By eating healthy, nutritious foods, I am free. Free to run, if I like. Free from the chains of a 2:30pm sugar-crash. Free to climb up a mountain and see the world, if I like. Free from the guilt that comes from the candy bar you weren't supposed to eat. I am free, because my body embraces healthy foods, knows how to feed my body well with healthy foods.

I am awake, I am healthy, I am alive.

And with that freedom comes a happiness that can only come from one place; your soul.

until later...

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Coupons! Coupons! COUPONS!

So, in case you're still convinced that buying organic is too expensive for you.... how about I sweeten the deal?

Here are some links to print coupons for organic foods!

This is a link to coupons for Organic Valley, dairy products/eggs that I know for a fact they sell at Sawall's here in Kalamazoo.

Shop at Meijer? They sell Horizon milk. Answer a few survey questions and you're on your way to some coupons.

The Natural Food List is an all-around good source for information, but they also offer coupons here:

One of my favorite's, Bob's Red Mill, runs monthly specials if you're inclined to order some quinoa or oatmeal or even 13 Bean Soup Mix. They send you a case, or 4 bags, of whatever you order, at a percentage off. (They also sell Bob's Red Mill at Meijer.) Here's a link to the specials this month: (And think about this; at $30 for a case of quinoa, a delicious ancient grain with more protein than rice, a case being four bags? There are 39 servings in ONE bag. That's 156 servings of a side dish. That's pennies a serving, people.)

Have a baby/toddler? Here are some coupons for Earth's Best chlorine-free diapers... baby food... formula...

Lastly, if you want to do some leg-work yourself, the following site has links to a lot of manufacturer's websites. Since most organic foods come from small, family-run farms, you can't usually get coupons at your local supermarket. You have to go online, check the farm's website, and print your coupons. But that's not so hard, is it?

until later...

“A man in love is like a clipped coupon -- it's time to cash in.” - Mae West

Monday, January 10, 2011

Going Green

I'm about halfway through this new-ish Jillian Michaels book called "Master Your Metabolism". I'm finding it both informative and terrifying. And it supports a theory I've been mulling over for some time:

What if the obesity problem, the hyper-activity problem, the adult acne problem, the kids starting their periods at age 10 problem... what if all of these problems (and many more!) stem from the pesticides and chemicals being used to grow our food? What if this army of chemicals is sending the wrong signals to our hormones, mixing them up, causing them to flounder around like a drunk kid outside of Monaco Bay?

Think about it, because it really is common sense. If the human body was built to consume, digest, and process natural, organically-grown foods- how could it know what to do with the abstract things we try to give it as "food"? Red Dye. Corn Syrup. Genetically modified fruit and veggies, grown to be super-huge for super-appetites.

I won't even get into the cleaning products... the plastics we store our food in... the antibiotics we piss right back into the ground and our drinking water... see? Terrifying.

But before you go freaking out (like I did), slow down and take a breath. There are some small changes you can make not just to lose weight, but more importantly, for your HEALTH. Because even if health officials say that the pesticides/antibiotics we use are being used in "safe amounts" on each fruit or vegetable or chicken... if EVERYTHING we eat is covered in garbage, then that is a lot more than a little old safe amount.

BUY ORGANIC. Yes, yes, blah blah blah, it's expensive. I get it. It costs more money than the garbage made with corn, and the garbage covered in pesticides. But think a second of the money you spend going out to eat. Or money you might spend on Diet Coke. Or maybe cigarettes. (By the way, stop smoking.) Point is, if you pulled from some other area into your current food budget, you might find you have more money to work with than you thought. And speaking as someone who has been buying "mostly organic" for some time: I can safely say that if you buy things that are "in season" (and you shouldn't be buying out of season fruit anyway, unless it's in the frozen section, because it loses it's nutritional power), buying organic isn't as expensive as you think. Especially at Meijer.

In a perfect world, we'd all be able to buy organic all the time. (Read "The Organic Manifesto" by Maria Rodale if you want to read about the power chemical companies have over our nation's farmers.) But the world isn't perfect, and organic is growing, but not as readily accessible as we'd like. And maybe you're working on a budget. But there are some things you really should buy organic if you're going to make a switch. And yes, even a little bit helps. Just think of it as one less pesticide going into your body.

So here is a link to an informative slideshow featuring "The Dirty Dozen", 12 foods you should buy organic if you can only afford to buy some organic.

And here is link with some info about "Organic Manifesto" and its author:

And if you want more information on the subject of hormones and how they're affected by what we eat, give "Master Your Metabolism" a read. It's scary, but important.

Buy for yourself. Cook for yourself. Enjoy for yourself. It's your health, and your life.

until later...
"If you build up the soil with organic material, the plants will do just fine." -John Harrison