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I’m not talking about his certainty that we would someday find the rainbow connection (although I have my doubts on that as well) – I’m talking about classic Sesame Street number, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (I am totally dating myself with my Sesame Street references here – anyone who was a toddler in the age of Elmo is reading this and wondering what I’m talking about.)  (To be fair, there is a good chance that *anyone* of *any* age that is reading this is wondering what I’m talking about).

With my most favorite Christmas present ever (that would be the Vitamix blender), I am find it very easy indeed to be green. To be more specific (and possibly start making sense), I’m really loving the spinach smoothies I can make with my new blender.

The first time someone told me about putting spinach in a smoothie, I looked at them like they’d just suggested I throw Kermit himself in the blender.   It sounded revolting to me and no matter how many times I heard people talk about them, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

To be fair, I must admit that I struggle with getting enough green veggies even under optimal conditions.  I wish I was one of those people that naturally gravitate towards fresh salads (they *do* exist – I’ve met them), but I’m not.  So the idea of pulverizing said green veggies and mixing them with a perfectly lovely fruit smoothie was slightly blasphemous to me.

But after using my Vitamix to make everything else under the sun (oh the soupy goodness!) and after reading Johanna’s “Sneaking In The Veggies” post (https://livewellwomen.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/sneaking-in-the-veggies/) from earlier in the month, I decided to give it a try.

I fooled around with some recipes and my calculator and came up with a 200 calorie smoothie that I could fit into my meal plan (spinach, half a banana, blueberries, light soy milk and ice if you are curious) and decided to give it a whirl (please excuse the blender pun!).

The first time I tried it, I grew weary as soon as I threw the ingredients in the blender.  It did not look very appetizing to me.

Things did not get any better after blending.  This just did not look like something I wanted to consume.

However, I fought my impulses and toasted to my health.  And it was quite simply a delight!  Despite looking kind of like the cartoon spinach Popeye used to squirt out of can, it tasted like the banana Laffy Taffy candy I loved last week when I was a kid.

I’ve fallen into a routine of having one every day (being a creature of habit, I haven’t tried any new recipes – but I will soon).  I go to the gym after work and then I have to trek out to Roslindale, so by the time I get home I am famished and likely to eat the first semi-edible thing I can get my mouth on.  This sometimes results in my snacking on string cheese or something similar (which I, ahem, sometimes forget to log) while I get my actual dinner ready.  Now I’ve been coming home and whipping up a smoothie as soon as I walk through the door.  I then sip it while I’m getting everything else ready.  And as a bonus, if I forget to throw a salad together to go with dinner, I’ve still consumed some fruits and veggies with dinner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy my smoothie…

I’m feeling in need of pithy, clichéd sayings because I’m battling the impulse to throw in the sweaty gym towel.  Not when it comes to the gym in general mind you – just when it comes to my dismal performance in TRX TEAM training.  From a rational point of view, I know that it is perfectly fine that I’m struggling with TRX TEAM.  It means I have plenty of room for growth and I know that the challenge is good for me.  I know that if I stick with it, I will get better (and stronger!) and I will once again be in love with TRX TEAM.  However, if my rational point of view was always in charge, then I would be able to say that I have never once spent an entire day eating pizza and watching bad TV – and I can’t truthfully make that claim.

So I find myself battling the evil voices in my head telling me that I should just give up (side note:  why do the evil voices *always* manage to yell louder than the nice ones).  It has been so long since I’ve fought this impulse (that is, to just give up an exercise that is too hard) that I’d thought I’d totally conquered it.  When I first started seriously working out, I dealt with it a lot.  There was a six-month gap between my first and second BURN classes because I just decided I couldn’t handle BURN classes after the first one (and it took me six months to get back up on the horse – well in this case the treadmill).  And now, even when a BURN class leaves me wondering where the nearest AED is, I still love it.

So I know that I can work through this.  It is just really hard to focus on that fact when I’m struggling to get the TRX straps around my feet and then I’m barely able to do even one atomic pushup or when I fall out of the TRX while trying to do a one-legged squat (oh yeah, did I mention I fell flat on my butt in the middle of the gym?  That was awesome).  And it is especially hard to keep the proverbial “can do” attitude when I start comparing myself to the awesome ladies that are rocking the TRX on either side of me.  That kind of comparison I something that I firmly believe should be avoided in pretty much *any* circumstance – but this time I just can’t help myself.

Luckily, the TRX instructors at Healthworks are amazing and Tracy manages to keep me in the game even when I feel like my only option is flee the gym and never look back.  And I was so excited about starting TRX TEAM that I know all of the amazing things about it. And I know, to bastardize Eleanor Roosevelt, that no workout can make me feel inferior without my consent.  So, I’m going to keep at it.

My plan for this to not pay attention to how well anyone else is doing (unless I’m doing it to be inspired by their awesomeness) – I’m just going to focus on my own progress (no matter how incremental it is).  And I know that in a few weeks, I’ll be writing a post about how I can’t believe I ever thought I wanted to give up on TRX.

When was the last time you got out of your culinary comfort zone? The start of the New Year is a perfect time to look at your habits with fresh eyes and attempt to try something new. Today I ventured out of my food shopping routine and visited Reliable Market, an Asian grocery shop in Union Square, Somerville. I had already gathered necessary ingredients to make this Post-punk Kitchen curry udon recipe, but hadn’t been able to find the udon noodles during my usual trip to Trader Joe’s. At Reliable Market, I found the udon (big, chewy, Japanese noodles) plus a bunch of other fun additions to my kitchen. I brought home a few bags of dried shitake mushrooms ($.99 a piece), teriyaki-flavored seaweed snacks, and some matcha green tea powder—another ingredient that had eluded me during trips to mainstream stores in the past.

Besides the healthy, bargain deals, just the act of wandering around an unfamiliar environment, looking at different types of produce, spices, and sauces, was enough to make me feel refreshed and inspired.

Curry Udon

udon curry stir fry

I made my beautiful curry udon stir fry, with the shitake mushrooms, as well as broccoli, red pepper, and tofu. I always try to add in as many veggies as possible when it comes to stir fries, an easy way to get a big serving of vegetables in one delicious meal.

I’m in love with the teriyaki seaweed snacks, and looking forward to going back to Reliable and picking up more. They had about 30 different kinds of seaweed snacks at this store! There are only 10 calories in 10 flavorful, crunchy strips of seaweed, as well as 50% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin A. And, medical journals like Nutritional Reviews have shown sea vegetables to be high in many essential vitamins and minerals like iodine, copper, and zinc. Make sure you read the labels of seaweed snacks, though, as some contain MSG.

I also made a matcha green tea smoothie, blending my new matcha powder 

Matcha green tea smoothie

(1 tbsp.), with 1 cup of hemp milk, 1 tbsp. of honey and a few ice cubes. A refreshing alternative to iced coffee, and high in cancer-preventing polyphenols.

 

Have you tried any new foods or places to shop lately? If you’re interested in visiting in the Reliable Market, or other interesting ethnic shops in the Somerville area, check out Nibble, a new blog by the Somerville Arts Council, highlighting recipes and ingredients from local shops. Go explore!

I spent the Christmas and the New Year at my parents’ house in Omaha (and lest you think that Omaha is not a very glamorous place to holiday, consider the fact that none of than Lady Gaga also spent Christmas in Omaha and the local paper splashed all over the front page on December 26th).  Thanks to the fact that my parents belong to a wonderful gym and the fact that preparing healthy meals is a breeze when you have nothing else to do, the vacation was very compatible with healthy living.

Of course, the New Year often turns thoughts towards resolutions.  I’ve never been one for “diet” resolutions – I tend to make the same two resolutions every year (master both French and the guitar- neither of those things have yet to happen.  Maybe this year…).  But this year I decided to think about things to which I’m looking forward.  There is always a bit of a letdown at this time of year and winter can seem long and bleak (even for winter lovers like myself).  I’m hoping that by focusing on a couple of things that I’m excited about that I can keep myself from slipping into hibernation mode.

So here goes…..

1.        TRX!!!!  I start my TRX Season next week and I can’t wait.  I actually took a TRX interval class at my parents’ gym and realized just how much room I have for improvement on the TRX.  That is my nice way of saying that I’m really not that good at it – and I am so looking forward to getting better.  I think it is going to be a great way to jump start some serious fitness gains this year.

2.       Vita-Mix!!!  I got a Vita Mix for Christmas and I’m really excited about all the different ways I can use it for healthy eating.  I’m particularly looking forward to the fact that I can make soup right in the blender because the motor generates so much heat (I’m pretty sure that is how it works – maybe it is just fitness magic).

3.       Dolphins!!!  My family is all meeting up in Florida in December.  I’ve never been to Florida (fun fact:  it is one of only four states that I have never visited) and I haven’t seen my brother in over a year, so I’m really excited.  But back to the dolphins….My brother, sister-in-law and I are going to spend the day at some resort where we can snorkel and swim with dolphins.  I realize this is incredibly dorky, but I don’t care – I can’t wait to the whole cheesy dolphin kiss thing.  Also, you have to wear a wet suite at this resort.  If that isn’t incentive to hit the gym, I don’t know what is.

4.       Enell!!!  I got a new sports bra last week – and I splurged and got an Enell Sports Bra.  It looks like a girdle and it costs more than I normally spend on sports bras (or on shoes, for that matter) – but it was 100% worth it.  I hope I’m not just in the honeymoon phase because I’ve had other sports bras that I thought were amazing at first and then ended up feeling like they weren’t that great.  But this time it feels like true love.  I’ve already put it through the paces – and through all my jump roping, running and jumping jacks it kept everything where it was supposed to be.  The thing is so supportive, I’m pretty sure it actually makes me stand up taller!

All those exclamation marks have exhausted me, so it is time to sign off.  I hope everyone has a happy and health New Year!

“Don’t eat anything that comes from a package”.

My doctor dared me as I was leaving her office after my annual check-up. Clear to both of us was that my weight and creeping cholesterol levels were publicizing the stressful changes in my life. In the six months prior to my November appointment, I had not only gained almost 20 pounds but also experienced a wide array of not-so-serious- but-hard-to-miss stress related symptoms. And so, my trusted physician threw this very salient morsel of advice my way.

It’s not that this statement is especially profound. It doesn’t provide a sparkling insight. It may, however, offer the stripped down reminder and inspiration that I need. The single rule is simple enough to follow. It seems to keep the focus on choosing rather than dieting and controlling. There is no measuring or weighing, judging or guessing. There is only one question to ask.

I do like some things that come from a package, I must admit. And I do believe that I could eat very healthily with some packaged foods in my diet. Perhaps, though, it’s time to experiment. I remember with fondness a guided, 9 week Auyervedic cleanse that I did years ago and look forward to once again letting go of all that is clogging my body and my life. Adding the healthy never seems to be the issue; it’s subracting the unhealthy and low energy that seems to be the block.

My life flows more smoothly when I eat food that reflects the intention to be healthy and clear. I laugh more heartily, connect more easily to others and feel better living in my own skin when I eat and drink well. And so, at this moment, why are my choices littered with foods that bring neither health nor clarity? Why, with all of my knowledge and desire, do I find it difficult to embrace conscious eating as a continuous and natural setting? Who knows.  Perhaps today is the day to explore even more deeply what “foods that come from a package” offer me.  Perhaps today is the day for even more change.

The 12 Step adage, “One day at a time”, wields tremendous power and makes all things seem possible. I am sure that even one day without packaged foods will resonate with the woman whom I want to be and will bring her forth once again.

One of my biggest goals for the new year is to eat more vegetables.  I’m lucky, in that I really like most veggies, but in order to hit 5 servings a day you really have to plan and think about things.  This week, I have no plan (oops).  We got home from vacation on Sunday night and I had to hurry up and get some groceries for our bare cupboards.  I couldn’t handle the thought of one more meal out and I really wanted to cook something that wasn’t beige, the food color of choice in my holiday travels, so I ran to the store.  FYI, not having a plan is expensive.

So yesterday I knew I was going to have a salad for lunch.  That was my husband’s request and I am too lazy and uncreative to think of something else for myself, so that settled that.  But the rest of the day was a mystery.  I made up for it by throwing veggies at myself at every turn.

For breakfast I had a standard bowl of oatmeal with some canned pumpkin stirred in.  According to this website, pumpkin has a ton of nutrients and vitamin C.  Heading a cold off at the pass with breakfast that tastes like dessert?  Yes, please.

For dinner I made my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, from Rachel Wilkerson.  This uses skim milk and a smallish quantity of good cheese, so the calorie count is not out of control.  And it also uses a whole bag of spinach, so Popeye would be proud.  I love macaroni and cheese almost as much as I love my husband, and he loves this recipe too.  Win-win.

Before bed, I was still kind of hungry.  Because I brilliantly decided on our 6 hour road trip home that we were going to institute meatless Mondays, and because I forgot the key ingredient for the meatless meal I had intended to make, I wound up making the mac and cheese that I usually serve as a side dish and calling it dinner.  I needed something else to fill me up, so I pulled out the blender and made myself a green smoothie.  Check out www.greenmonstermovement.com if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  I combined coconut milk, frozen peaches and pineapples, a few ice cubes and a big handful of kale in the blender.  I would have used spinach, but we ate it all for dinner.  When you make one of these, as bizarre as they look, you can’t taste the greens that you throw in there.  I swear.  I tried to take a picture of me and my green monster, but after all of that traveling, I looked worse than my smoothie did.  This is one of the best ways to sneak some greens into your life.  Make it taste like fruit!  My husband always claims that if they could make broccoli taste like apples he would eat it; now I just made kale taste like peaches.  He still didn’t want it, but I didn’t want to share anyway.

This is the third time I’ve tried to write this post because of my traveling ways.  The first time, I wrote on my phone on an airplane, but clicked somewhere wrong and lost it.  The second time, my mother-in-law’s computer decided to be tempramental and I lost it.  And now, I am crossing my fingers!

Writing is not the only difficult thing about traveling for the holidays.  Our whirlwind week has included a roadtrip from Boston to Pennsylvania to see my dad and my in-laws, a flight to Texas to ring in the New Year and celebrate my college roommate’s 30th birthday, and lots of trying to cram everything in between.  My eating and exercising has been totally off this week.  I am ready to get back to real life, for sure!  All of this travel has presented me with several obstacles: loss of control over what I’m eating when staying with friends and family; emotional eating coming from not having my mom with me for Christmas and mindless eating coming from sitting around and visiting with family; that whole it’s vacation, I deserve this treat feeling; let’s try to meet these friends we never see for lunch/drinks/coffee/dinner.  I can handle the car eating and the airplane eating, but what’s in between has been an issue.  I am trying my best to eat the clementines that my mother-in-law stocked up on instead of the cookies that everybody baked, and at this point it’s not too hard, but only because I think my body is exhausted from the excess it’s been having for the last week.  Somebody get me some kale.

I’ve also been trying to sneak in some exercise here and there, but that’s been tough with my recent injury (the doctor said to ease back into things, and told me I should be better after the New Year – which is now! Yay!).  I’ve been walking a lot as a tourist in Texas and doing laps in the airport while waiting to board, but I can’t wait to get my butt back to Healthworks asap.  Usually, my husband and I will go to gyms down here in PA while we’re visiting family – with the Healthworks membership to IHRSA I’ve been able to work out at gyms in different cities for a small fee, very easily.  (And once the guy at the gym near my dad’s house couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to do, so he gave us a week pass for free!)  This time, though, we let the hectic schedule be an excuse to skip working out and I regret it.  Funny how I never regret actually going to work out.  There’s something to think about during an internal debate.

I know that one week is not going to make me or break me, and I can’t wait to get a fresh start when we get back home tomorrow.  I have a hot date with my vegetable steamer and the cardio theater in my future.  Happy holidays, but even more, happy back to routine days!

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