Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Year Without Illness

Well here it is!  It's been one year since we travelled out to California for the Western States 100 and one year since either me or my husband has had so much as a sniffle.  No annual cold, no losing my voice, no flu - no nothing!

It's estimated that 65% of marathon runners contract an upper-respiratory tract infection within two weeks following a marathon.  The many weeks of training, the travel, the stress (and ultimately the joy!) all take a toll on the body.  But because the body is a freakin' miracle, it will sustain you to the finish line and then "get sick when it can".  Between me and my husband, we ran five marathons in the past year and beat those odds every single time.  Coincidence?  Fluke?  I think not.

You might be thinking "Sick? You live in Barbados. It's not cold. There's no winter. When would you get sick anyway?" But it's not cold weather that makes you sick, it's germs from people.  This heat is like an incubator and every day thousands of tourists from around the world are touching the things that I'm touching - hand rails, bathroom doors, bar tops :)  I also work in a building with a closed ventilation system.  Our windows don't open and all of the entrances are air locked. When someone sneezes on floor 1, eventually I'm breathing it on floor 4.  Gross but true.  A few years ago I tried to quickly take off my nail polish at my desk and got a complaint about "fumes" 20 minutes later from a worker two floors below me. Like I said - gross. 

So what has changed this year?  We've been drinking green shakes with 100% consistency.  We haven't missed a single day in the last year.  I've never done ANYTHING with this much consistency!  For the first few months it was an effort and I had to tape my running schedule/calendar to the fridge at eye level and cross off the days "prison style". Now that we're addicted - no calendar required.

Sometimes I make the shakes right after a run.  Sometimes a little before I start with my clients at 11:00 a.m. Sometimes I substitute a shake for dinner and I've had a few nights 'out' that required a bedtime shake.  What could be better than slamming a green shake before bed and letting it work its detoxifying magic while I sleep off a few well-intentioned rums?   

We've used Enerprime by Impax for the most part but recently started switching up with ORAC-Energy Greens by Paradise Herbs two days per week.  I think both are fantastic and I like the variety of ingredients.  Our shakes have developed over time.  My last post about the shakes was Shake It Don't Break It.    To those ingredients I now add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed, 2 tablespoons of hemp protein powder and 1 bunch of kale when available.  All of these extras are just me playing around and seeing how many calories and nutrients I can get into one blender.   No need to get bogged down in any specialty ingredients.  The important thing is to get those greens in!

If you feel that your immune and digestive systems aren't all they could be or if you aren't getting at least 10 servings of vegetables per day why not consider a greens powder/shake?  It can't hurt to consistently use one container of greens. Roll the dice!  If you can stay free of illness, your body is free to regenerate itself and do the other 1 million amazing things it does!

Reset the clock... I'm going for two years!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Baking Soda Experiment

Picture taken from "Daily Inspirations For Healthy Living"
Day One:

Although washing your hair with baking soda and rinsing with vinegar costs almost nothing, it requires some set up.  I put a container of baking soda, a small ramekin, a spoon and an old toothbrush in the shower and then cleaned out an old shampoo bottle to store the vinegar mixture.

About twice per week I use baking soda as an exfoliant on my face and I brush my teeth with it every other day.  Did I mention that Crest ProHealth mouthwash turned my teeth BROWN?  Oh yes - I almost died.  You can read about this train wreck of a product here.  The baking soda brushing has finally restored my teeth to normal - almost.  Never buy that product. Ever.

For the vinegar rinse I used one shot glass of white vinegar and 4 shot glasses of water + 2 drops of lavender essential oil in the old shampoo bottle.  Because everything should smell like yoga!

I got a tip to use the baking soda 'shampoo' asap once the water is added so I mixed it in the ramekin while in the shower.  2 big spoons of baking soda and 6 spoons of shower water.

The first dollop went on my face to exfoliate.   Then I moved onto my hair and scrubbed the baking soda into the roots only.  I did not pull it through the ends.  I let it sit for three minutes.  While it was "baking" I dipped the old toothbrush into the remaining mixture and used it to clean my wedding ring.

When I rinsed, I panicked a little.  My hair felt like it had expanded into 50 strands of rough twine.  I double checked that my "real" conditioner was in the corner - safety net. Then I rinsed with the vinegar/lavender/water by tipping my head back and letting it run through.  Surprisingly, my hair suddenly felt conditioned.  Weird.

Dried my hair as usual.  My hair is pretty fluffy but feels a little like I didn't wash it.

6:00 p.m. - During yoga (outside) I can smell vinegar when I break a sweat.  Not cool.

Day Two:

8:00 a.m. - Same wash/rinse regiment.  My hair feels dirty and thick after blowdrying.  Not a good look.  I'm hosting a lunch time party at work today that will require lots of running around outside so I'm packing a pony tail holder just in case.

4:00 p.m. - Hair was a mess and was relegated to pony tail for the party.  I never thought I looked much like Robert Pattinson but...

Now I have dinner out with people I've never met.  I can't go out like this - I'm washing my hair with shampoo.  Sorry.

Day Three:

8:00 a.m. - Nothing special today but I have another party tonight.  I'm torn.

8:15 a.m. - I became "un-torn" when I got into the shower, 'washed' my hair with baking soda and then realized that I forgot to mix the vinegar rinse in the kitchen before I got in the shower.  This is a sign from God.  I am not made for this "no-poo" routine.

Day Four:

8:00 a.m. - I thought briefly about washing with Baking Soda but realized that even if my scalp adjusted and my hair looked great, I have too many grays and root touch ups to use baking soda as shampoo.  Why color and then strip it out?

Relieved.  I happily washed my hair with L'Oreal Sulfate Free Shampoo and Conditioner.

The baking soda is back in the refrigerator where it belongs :)

I know a lot of you wanted to try this so PLEASE give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you. I have a feeling that my fine hair just wasn't the right texture to make this work.  I would love to hear your experience!  Good Luck!


Friday, June 14, 2013

The Queen of Cooler Nation

There aren't enough words in the English language to adequately express the importance of a cooler bag when you're trying to improve your diet and subsequently, your health.  Being prepared with whole, minimally processed foods is the number ONE thing you can do - not working out with a trainer, taking a CrossFit class or going to yoga.  Those things are all beneficial but only worth a small hill of beans unless you've cleaned up your food.  It is impossible to "out work" a bad diet.  Number ONE is eating whole foods that are cooked by you and are available in the moment you are hungry.

Every single day, I hear at least one person complain about the cafeteria at work and/or the food options available nearby - too expensive, too Bajan, too American, too oily, not enough variety, ran out of food - blah, blah, blah.  Packing a cooler will eliminate this entire conversation (and a boat load of crappy calories) from your life.  Problem solved.

Do I look like a huge geek with my cooler bag?  Yes. Absolutely.  Do I care?  Absolutely not.

Here are my handy tips toward getting you to join Cooler Nation:

The size of your bag may take some trial and error.  I started with one too small, then I tried on my husband's for size and it was too big.  When transporting food and drinks, too big can leave you with a huge mess of spilled beverages and soggy food.  When you sling it over your shoulder it needs to be pretty full to keep things upright.  I also needed dry storage for my appointment book, phone, pens, wallet and ever-present lip gloss.  (I'm hearing the collective gasp of women who are realizing that I use my cooler bag as a purse. Guilty as charged.)

This is the one that finally won my heart:

This bag was developed for flight crews and has every available luxury.  You can read more on Amazon at the provided link but can I say that the dry storage on top and the front are both expandable and have zippered interior mesh pockets to keep everything organized.  It also has a zip out liner in the cooler section for easy cleaning.  The two side pockets unzip to hold different size water bottles.  It comes in several colors and has been incredible durable.  I beat the crap out of this thing and it's shown no wear and zero leaking.  I love this bag. 
eBags Crew II

The interior space will not stay cold all day in the Barbados heat without some of these:

I cut them down to fit our two coolers and I still have two sections to spare each day.  Ultimately, I forget to refreeze my sheets at least once per week.  Thank goodness for the extras!
Flexible Ice Sheets

For drinks, please invest in a few 24 oz Tervis Tumblers.  Anyone who has seen me in public knows I am never without my "big cup".  Get two to start and purchase the plastic lids.  The cups are incredibly durable and you need this amount of liquid - especially in the heat.  They will never leave a ring on a table and they're great at the beach, tailgate, the gym.

The knock-offs are cheaper but when it comes to insulated cups - you absolutely get what you pay for.  The cooler bag will fit two Tervis Tumblers and your lunch and snacks.   Our house has been pared down to Tervis Tumblers and wine glasses. Stay Classy San Diego!
Tervis Tumbler 24 oz

To store snacks, I use SNACK SIZE Ziploc bags.  Snacks are supposed to be small and it's way too easy to fill a sandwich size bag with calorie dense foods and then call it a "snack".  "I'll only eat half" rarely works.  It takes 20 minutes for the brain to get a satiety signal from the stomach.  Using a small bag helps control the portion while your brain waits for the signal.

To store meals, I use a variety of containers that all share one common characteristic:  They must not hold more food than will fit in my two cupped hands.  That's the size of the stomach and filling up to just 80% of that will allow space for digestive enzymes to do their work.  Again, planning to eat "just eat half" doesn't work for me so I resort to guiding my portions via tupperware.  Whatever it takes! 

Here are a just a couple of the lunches & snacks that travel in my cooler bag:

Black bean, quinoa and avocado wrapped in a gluten-free wrap - then sealed in a zip loc.
Sauteed tofu, broccoli & edamame with sweet chili sauce.
Lentils with diced Field Roast Italian 'Sausage'
Tomato soup and a black bean burger.
NuGo Dark Chocolate Mint Bar (discovered in Pittsburgh.  I love)
Enerprime Green Shake in a Tervis Tumbler
Snack bag of soaked and portioned almonds.  Nuts = big trouble if not portioned.
Snack bag of unsalted soy nuts and Craisins
Homebaked Lentil Crackers (recipe found in Thrive by Brendan Brazier)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Biggest Label Scam EVER

I consider myself a pretty astute food consumer and yet I am still astounded by the trickery of food manufacturers.  While the following may be perfectly legal, I call total b.s.

After watching Forks Over Knives, I started to spend a lot of time reading up on the effects of fat, cooking with oil, etc.  Dr.'s Esselstyn, Campbell, Barnard and many others recommend removing oil from the diet but I took that to be for people who were already consuming a lot of fat in the Standard American Diet or those with signs of Metabolic Syndrome - i.e. don't pour fat on fat.   I don't get a lot of fat in my diet unless it's from natural non-animal sources (avocado, nuts, ground flaxeed) but I believed that cooking with a bit of olive oil or non-stick spray wasn't a biggie.  In fact, cooking with olive oil was a little luxury while non-stick spray was making a huge appearance in my kitchen. 

Then I spent an entire evening watching talks by Nutritionist and Registered Dietician Jeff Novick. I love him btw.  (I swear sometimes he was married to Miranda on Sex In The City) He's a straight talker who has a crazy passion for pulling apart the nutrition myth of the day, analyzing the clinical data and then literally obliterating the theory.  I love facts - ergo - I love Jeff Novick.

Here's the video that set me straight about my friend PAM.  More than anything I'm mad at myself for not figuring it out on my own.  Duh.

I know that we've been beat about the head and shoulders with the mantra "olive oil is good fat" but there is a whole other school of thought out there.  I'll be writing about it more in coming weeks but for now, I'm heading to the kitchen to clear out the PAM!

I encourage you to watch ANY and ALL of Jeff's videos on YouTube.  It takes a battle mentality to earn our good health. Jeff and many others can arm you with the knowledge!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Orange Food

I saw an add for Popeye's Chicken where they featured three different "combos".  It dawned on me that all of the food was completely orange.  No other colors (or God forbid vegetables) were included in any of the featured meals.  This not only indicates that all of the food is deep fried BUT that the company executives looked at that ad and no one was concerned that none of the items is indistinguishable from the other.  Big baskets of orange food is what they're going for.

And yet, each morning as I head into work with my 32 oz green smoothie, at least one person will look at my cup and recoil at the sight of the green.  Many people make a face like they just smelled dog poop and then remark "what is the hell is THAT?"  

How did we get here?  How did the color green - the color that sustains all life through chlorophyl and oxygen, the color of green grass, palm trees and fields of produce become the color of disgust?  How did baskets of orange food that don't contain a single actual 'orange' become desirable?

Do me a favor and Google Image "vegetarian meals" and behold the color of life, health, vitality and nature.  Get inspired to bring LIFE and COLOR to your table and share the message with everyone around you.  Life is too short to eat paper boxes of orange!


Chili's again - two orange ads!

Long John Silvers

Monday, June 3, 2013

Balsamic Bomb Green Beans

When I realize that I've eaten something every night for four nights, it's time to write it down.  I feel confident that you can visualize green beans so I won't wait another day to take a picture.  Tonight I ate the whole pan of beans before a camera could enter my mind.

I got this little gem from one of my clients.  Her mom has been making these green beans and she hasn't been able to stop talking about them... and now here I am... 4 days into the beans with no end in sight.  True love.

1 pounds of fresh green beans
2 cups vegetable stock
1 small yellow onion diced fine
1 or 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic
1 heaping tablespoon of Grey Poupon mustard
1 -2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Seasoning salt and pepper to taste

Snip the end of the green beans and break them into your favorite length.  Boil in vegetable stock until slightly softened but still have some snap to them.

In a large skillet, saute finely chopped onions and garlic in a bit of non-stick spray.  You can also ladle some of the vegetable stock from the beans into the skillet to help the onions along without using additional oil.

Strain the beans and add them to the skillet for about 5 minutes or until desired doneness.  Green beans are a personal thing - cook em' til ya like em.

In a small coffee cup, mix the Grey Poupon and balsamic vinegar until a delicious dressing comes together.  You can't go wrong here with measurements - just keep adding what you like until it's done to your liking.  Spoon the dressing in with the beans and toss to coat.  Turn the heat off  and take the pan to the living room to devour in front of the television.

I can't get enough.  I made two pounds of beans tonight - enough for me and the huz - 2 hours later all of mine and over half of his are gone.  I keep circling the kitchen like a little green bean vulture.