Monthly Archives: November 2010

Turkey Day S.O.S.

Hey folks, happy (almost!) weekend.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my absolute favorite holidays: Thanksgiving.  Memories of thanksgiving involve: making up plays with my cousins to perform to all of my family, the smells of roasting turkey throughout my grandpa’s house, my mom going nuts with all the cooking (obviously thanksgiving isn’t complete without the yearly meltdown), a nearly-severed finger while cutting apples for a galette (fancy french word for an apple pie), and of course….AMAZING FOOD.

On the down side, I often feel like Thanksgiving (and the days following) are spent in an eating haze with unending amounts of leftovers, pie for breakfast (not the best idea if you don’t want to crash and burn by 11 o’clock) and lazing around the house doing not much.  Not the best for staying in shape through the holiday season, especially if you plan to be able to zip up that gorgeous sparkly dress you got for New Years.  Here are some simple tips I’ve picked up over the years to help get you through Turkey Day unscathed:

Start an Active Holiday Tradition

Ok so I’m not saying that you can’t be a little lazy…however, there’s lots of fun things you can do over Thanksgiving that take advantage of the beautiful season and get your butt in gear.  Taking walks to the grocery store or around the neighborhood can be a great way to spend quality time with your family and while getting some exercise and taking care of last minute errands (where’s that damned baster anyways!).  For the outdoorsy, has lists of local hikes outside main metropolitan areas – a perfect opportunity to get some fresh air with your family and see the beautiful fall leaves.  For the more ambitious, many cities host “Turkey trot” runs, which are open to all ages and is a great ways to get some exercise prior to Thanksgiving dinner, so you can really earn that slice of pumpkin pie!

Potluck It!

If you are not hosting Thanksgiving, offer to bring something nourishing.  Great ideas include salad, or veggies with homemade hummus or bean dip.  Try making lightened version of a traditional holiday dish, such as homemade stuffing using chicken broth instead of butter.  Not only are you a help to the host, you’ll know that there is at least one healthy item on the menu!  If you’re hosting, try to do lighter versions of some of your holiday favorites — my family usually does a mix between traditional recipes and healthy ones. has some really droolworthy, healthy recipes for Thanksgiving.

Don’t STARVE YOURSELF before the meal!!

You may think that by skipping meals or not eating enough the day of Thanksgiving that you’re “saving up” for the big meal.  But in reality, if you walk into a party full of tempting foods when you’re starving, you may be setting yourself up to gorge on sweets and other unhealthy fare.  Try to have a nutritious snack beforehand, such as yogurt with fruit, a banana with peanut butter, or a handful of almonds to take the edge off your hunger.  If you choose to indulge in alcohol at the party, try to limit it to 1 or 2 glasses and make sure to drink plenty of water in between.  No one likes a sloppy cousin/aunt/uncle.

Make Time for Yourself

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be incredibly taxing on both your physical and emotional health.  Make sure to schedule private to do the things you love, whether it be taking that weekly yoga class or reading a good book.  Try to get a proper amount of sleep.  Not only will you feel more calm, your body and immune system will thank you for it!

and finally….

Thanksgiving is ONE MEAL

While it may be tempting to eat pecan pie for breakfast…I wouldn’t recommend it.  If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, try to give your more fattening dishes away and keep the healthier ones (aka turkey, simples veggie side dishes, fruit) for yourself.  Hey….you’re the boss!  Keeping all those holiday desserts, stuffing, and buttery potatoes around all week isn’t gonna do anything for you and it certainly isn’t helping starving children in Africa if you eat it!  So get rid of it  — give it to your neighbors or guests instead.

And as is tradition in my family, I am sharing one thing that I am thankful for this year, and that is ….YOU, my readers!  Thanks for your interest and your enthusiasm!  I hope that this blog continues to inspire you to make healthy choices and enjoy all that life has to offer!



p.s.  Stay posted for a delicious fall recipe that will knock your socks off!

Spin, cycle, repeat

This past week I’ve been taking it easy and recovering post-marathon — taking a break from running, getting a massage, and eating plenty of fruits and veggies.  Everyone tells you how tough the ACTUAL marathon is, but no one tells you how unbelievably SORE you are after you run!  After 3 days of hobbling around, I finally was starting to feel like myself again.

Yesterday, I was feeling particularly ambitious and decided to try out a new spinning class.  The place is called SoulCycle. And the verdict: it TOTALLY rocks.  It was really unlike any other spinning class I have ever experienced.  Immediately upon entering this clean, well maintained exercise studio, I was warmly welcomed by the folks at the front desk, who handed me a pair of cycling shoes (the one down-side — you have to ride in cycling shoes which you can rent, but you can’t wear your own sneaks).  I grabbed a locker and a towel — another perk is that they have a very nice shower/locker area — and headed in the spinning studio to set up my bike.  I was welcomed by the awesome instructor, Jenny, who helped me align my bike perfectly (ok it’s been a WHILE since I last spun) and made sure I was totally comfortable.  The room was clean and really calming – which is odd considering that I usually feel slightly terrified when I enter a spin studio.  Clearly, these classes are super popular because the studio of about 50 bikes was completely full by the time the class got started.

Immediately Jenny’s bubbly enthusiasm got everyone pumped for the ride ahead.  The music was awesome — a little Michael Jackson, a little Kanye, a little upbeat techno.  The class itself was definitely tough, but overly so (I’ve had some traumatizing spinning experiences in the past).  And the best part?  It was a total body workout.  How can you do that on a spinning bike you may ask?  It’s called freeweights.  In the middle of the ride, we picked up 1 lb freeweights on the side of our bike and rode while working our biceps, triceps, and abs.  Pretty cool right?  I think so!  After a very sweaty 45 minutes, I emerged, feeling strong and rejuvenated.

While the classes are a bit pricey ($32 dollars a sesh), I got the inside scoop and found out that they offer “community rides” on Wednesdays at 1 pm, which are free classes where new instructors can use you as their guinea pigs.  Which I personally am ok with!  Soulcycle has studios on the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and Tribeca.  Check them out!


My Marathon

I wanted to take the post today to commemorate a day that will certainly go down in my life as one of the most exciting, incredible, and thrilling days of my life.

Yesterday, I ran my first marathon. After four months of training, logging thousands of  miles, dozens of energy bars, and a black toe (ew) it had finally arrived!  The night before the race I felt so nervous I couldn’t sleep, and kept trying to wake up D (who of course was sleeping like a little child) who unfortunately was comatose.  I woke up at 5 am, feeling tired but ready and pumped for the long day to begin.  After a LONG bus ride to the start, I got out at the racing grounds and even in my layered sweats was still freezing my butt off!  After standing for an hour shivering in my corral, all the sudden people started a fast walk/jog to the start, tossing off their sweatshirts as they went.  Adrenaline coursed through my veins like lightning.  Mayor Bloomberg announced the start, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and then BOOM – we were off!

Then all of a sudden we were running over the Verrazano Bridge and I was looking out on a sea of humanity — literally thousands of runners, and on my right and left, nothing but a clear blue ocean and a sparkling clear sky.  After several miles we crossed into Brooklyn and the crowds were unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  People were screaming and cheering, little kids were high-fiving runners and handing out orange slices and paper towels.  Bands were playing — including gospel singers!   I was so inspired I knew I couldn’t stop there.

Then as we moved on towards the end of Brooklyn and through Queens (still incredible crowds!!), past the halfway point (13.1 miles) I knew that the hardest part remained ahead – the Queensboro Bridge — a mile and a half of a grueling uphill climb, followed by 1st avenue, also uphill.  I gathered my wits about me, downed an energy gel, and began the uphill battle.  All of the sudden people started dropping like flies, and started to walk up the bridge, and my hip flexor started throbbing in pain.  I knew that I couldn’t stop.  Because if I stopped it would be even harder to start running again.  In my head I just kept thinking “One foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.”

Then we were on first avenue (uphill of course!) and I got so excited because I knew that my family and friends were going to be on 71st st cheering me on.  I started moving a little faster, even though everything was starting to hurt and all of the sudden could hear people in bright green shirts screaming my name.  I felt so much joy and pride and I knew that if I had my family at my back there was NO WAY I was going to stop until I made it past the 26.2 mile mark.  But little did I know that “the wall” lay ahead of me.

As I ran down first avenue I knew I was getting closer to mile 20.  Mile 20 is called “hitting the wall”, because basically by that point your body has depleted it’s energy reserves and you’re running on fumes.  And even though I was mentally prepared for the pain, you can never be prepared enough.  Not only was every muscle in my body screaming, my head started to get foggy as well.  But I thought to myself, just get through this and you’re almost in the park!  So I pushed on.

As I passed by mile 21, 22 (everything still hurt like hell) and finally crossed mile 23, we headed into Central Park.  I thought to myself – this is it!  This is what you’ve been working so hard for!  And again at mile 24 my family and friends were there, shouting my name, cheering me forward in the last stretch.  I WAS NOT GOING TO STOP.  I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT!!

All of the sudden a wave of emotion swept over me — seven years ago, and forty pounds heavier, running 3 miles, let alone 26 was not a possibility.  I thought about how far I had come, and while not all of it was easy, I had done it and I had transformed my body and my life.  I started to get choked up — but realized that I still had 2 miles to go, and if I cried I couldn’t breathe.  I took a deep breath, turned my music a bit louder and committed to finishing the last stretch strong.

As I turned the corner for the last 500 meters of the race, I went into a fullout sprint to the finish — I still had a little bit left in me (I have no idea from where!).  The crowds were screaming and flags were lining the race and I could see the finish line!  I passed it in 3 hrs 35 minutes!  I HAD DONE IT!!!!!!! As I hobbled to meet up with my friends and family, I felt wave after wave of emotion hitting me – I had really just run 26.2 miles.  I was a marathoner.  Time for my cheeseburger and wine!

As I reflect back on the experience now, I realized that running the marathon is a lot like life itself.  There are moments of immense joy and pride, and also periods of incredible pain.  There are times when you don’t know how you’ll get through, and times when you feel like the whole world awaits you.  But in the end, all that really matters, is the not the glory of passing the finish line, is not the race time or the competition — it is the simple truth that I know that my friends and family have my back unconditionally, cheering me on and supporting me on this journey.  I can’t imagine a greater gift than that.

Is Splenda the Devil? The lowdown on artificial sweeteners

I like my coffee in the morning with a little equal.  There.  I’ve come out and said it.  I know that that’s somewhat hypocritical since I value eating mostly natural foods.  Is it really that bad for you?  There’s a lot of confusion out there about artificial sweetners.  And the truth: well it isn’t quite clear!

There are three leading types of sweeteners on the market right now.  The pink ones, Sweet’N Low, are made from saccharin, and are 300 times sweeter than sugar.  The blue ones, Equal, are made from aspartame and are 180 times sweeter than sugar.  And finally, the new kid on the block, Splenda (yellow), is made from sucralose, and is 600 times sweeter than sugar.

While there were some scary studies done in the 70s linking saccharin to cancer in rats, there’s little evidence that it has the same effect in humans.  The only conclusive study  on sweeteners was done in 2001 and found that aspartame can cause headaches (so beware my migraine-prone readers!).  The FDA established some safety guidelines: the average adult can consume 8.5 packets of Sweet’N low, 87 packets of equal, or 25 packets of splenda daily.

So sweeteners won’t do you any REAL harm, and it’s much better than consuming hundreds of calories in sugary drinks.  HOWEVER, it’s not so cut and dry.  A 2004 Study in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that consuming sweet diet drinks without any calories , we crave sugar even more.  Lona Sandon, R.D. at the Univesity of Texas Southwestern Medical Center states, “Substitutes may not signal the same satiety hormones as sugar, making it easier to overeat.”  Furthermore, saving 100 calories on a drink may make you more likely to eat a cookie (hey you saved them right?).

So what’s the bottom line on all this.  It’s OK to use a couple packets of sweetener in your morning coffee or tea.  I would suggest limiting your daily intake to 2-5 packets.  Try using vanilla or chocolate soymilk in your coffee if you like a smoother flavor.  And rather than eating fakely sweetened drinks — try to drink water with lemon, tea or flavored seltzers instead.  If you craving something sweet, try eating a little of the REAL thing.  A couple squares of dark chocolate will make you feel a lot more satisfied than the sugar free stuff…and contain healthy antioxidants.  Now that’s a sweet treat we can all feel good about!