Snotty-nosed nutrition

Sunday night I couldn’t stop sneezing – and Monday I woke up and felt like my head was a balloon attached to the leaking faucet that was my nose.  Attractive?  Absolutely!

But while I am recuperating I thought I’d do a little research – what are foods that help you when you’re sick, and how can you eat to avoid feeling like this (i.e. like poop).  D adds – and talking like a martian.

So what do you eat if you’re already sick??

If you’re like me and can’t taste much – this may be a struggle, but first and foremost – WATER WATER WATER.  Lemon and hot water is a particular fave – with a dash of honey if your throat hurts (the perfect trifecta if you ask me!).  Honey has antioxidant properties – basically it battle mean little free radicals in your body that damage your cells.  Tea is also great – and contains antibacterial properties that help fight viruses.  Garlic doesn’t just ward off vampires (see clip for evidence) – it can help battle your cold as well.  It’s phytochemicals fight bacteria and have anti-cancer properties to boot!  Try throwing some garlic into homemade chicken soup – the ultimate cold comfort food.  Finally, mushrooms contain beta-glucans, which can strengthen your body’s immune system to fight the cold.

Ok so you’re not sick…but this is the season, so what do you eat to avoid the sniffles?

You know I love the stuff – so it makes me quite pleased to say that yogurt can fight off disease – the active cultures in yogurt protect your gut from germs that cause colds!  Some studies have found that eating a serving of yogurt a day is better than taking immunity-boosting pills.  Grab your sushi – Fish contains selenium, a compound that helps your body produce proteins that flush out flu bacterias from the body.  Oats and barley don’t just make a totally satisfying breakfast on a cold morning, they also contain beta-glucans (the same compound found in mushrooms), compounds that have antibacterial properties.  Our final immunity boosting food is beef!  Beef provides a hearty source of zinc – a vitamin that is crucial to forming white blood cells, cells that fight off bacterial invaders.  If you’re not a red meat fan(like me), other great sources are oysters, poultry, milk and yogurt.

Needless to say, the ultimate best way to stay healthy is to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy, colorful diet.  Now back to blowing my nose…..

Ditch your new year’s resolution

January at the gym sucks.  Every year around this time, the gym gets packed with newly-minted gymrats, each trying to fulfill their respective New Year’s resolutions to lighten up and get back in shape.  Suddenly, there’s a line to get on a treadmill…  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that more people are getting in shape and getting exercise, but in my experience, come February, the gym is back to its usual capacity.

As I see it, the problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that 9 times out of 10, they just don’t stick.  In fact, some researchers have found that 80% of New Years Resolutions fail.  And what’s worse, that sense of failure at achieving health goals may be more harmful than the initial resolution, causing people to slip back even further into behaviors that are damaging to your health.

So what’s a motivated gal to do this time of year?  I say don’t “resolve” to get healthy, as Nike famously put it…JUST DO IT!  Set reasonable, achievable goals for yourself with these simple pieces of advice:

  1. Get specific.  The perfect goal isn’t “I’m going to workout more” or “I’m going to stop eating chocolate cake”.  Those aren’t achievable or realistic (and a little chocolate cake every once in a while isn’t a bad thing!).  Instead, set a goal like ” I will workout for 30 minutes, 4 times a week” and schedule it in your planner like a date or a doctor’s appointment.  Instead of setting a negative resolution like not eating a fattening food, make a positive goal such as ” I will eat three servings of green or veggies a day”.
  2. Track your progress.  Whether your goal is weight loss or running a 5k, tracking your progress as you go along helps you keep your eye on the prize while celebrating how far you’ve come.  When I was training for the marathon, I kept track of the miles I ran each week – and can honestly say that it was an awesome feeling seeing those numbers go up every week!
  3. BUDDY UP.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – enlisting a likeminded healthy buddy is one of the best ways to get more accountable and get some much needed support.  Whether it’s someone to go to spinning class with instead of happy hour, or a bring-your-lunch to work date, enlisting a friend is a great way to stick to your goals and have a little fun while doing it!
  4. PREPARE TO FAIL (a little).  So this may seem a little counterintuitive – the whole point of having a goal is that you don’t want to fail at it!  But the truth is that we are all human, and we aren’t perfect.  The people who really stick to their goals aren’t the ones that have steely discipline, but are those that know how to dust themselves off and get back on the horse they’ve fallen off.  This may be as simple as having a plan if you go overboard in the pizza/beer department one night (drink plenty of water, workout an extra twenty minutes the next day, etc..) or just not letting it get to you and  jumping right back into the swing of being healthy!

So here’s to 2012 – may this be the year that you relish in your gorgeous, healthy, balanced, Gothamskinny selves!

Getting off sugar – an addict’s tale…

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to blogging – but more importantly I have a story to tell….

There was a woman.  This woman was very healthy – she ran, she spinned, she strength trained — she worked out practically every day (except her weekly rest day of course!).  She ate plenty of greens and lean protein and whole grains and always asked for her salad dressing on the side – she was practically angelic in her good choices.  But at night, she morphed into her evil twin – the Dr Jekyll to her Mr Hyde.  This evil twin was determined to undo all her hard work.  This evil twin would make an appearance especially when she had had one too many drinks, or if she was stressed, or even if she was just bored.  This evil twin would raid the refrigerator looking for anything sugar — chocolate chips, bites of cookie dough ice cream, peanut butter cookies – pretty much whatever sweet fix she could get her dirty little paws on.

Sound familiar?  Many of us, myself included, find sugary foods very hard to resist.  And it’s understandable — the daily pressures of life and work are hard enough without sugar confronting us at every turn – in the deli food counter, in your local coffeeshop, and even at your Farmer’s market.  And the literature is only increasing on the addictive powers of sugar.  In Bordeaux, France, Dr. Serge Ahmed, is in the process of completing a study with rats.  Given the choice between sugar and cocaine – guess what those rats choose every time?  Shockingly…SUGAR.  Scientists hypothesize that sugar, produces dopamine in the brain, which is the “feel good” chemical – the same chemical that is released when you experience orgasm or do hard drugs.  When people eat sugar, they feel a temporary “high”, and when this high disappears, they need more.

So how do you break this cycle?  Here are some tried and true tips that have helped me

  1. Enlist a friend.  While a mild sugar addiction is hardly as debilitating as a drug or alcohol addiction, it never hurts to get a little extra moral support.  Tell a close friend or a significant other that this is something you’re working on.  Having another person on your side and prying your hand away from the office cookies can be a great thing.
  2. Clean house.  As I always say – if it’s not there you won’t eat it.  Take all the tempting sweets that are in your pantry, refrigerator etc… and dump them!  Yes – it may seem wasteful, but most of these foods offer no nutritional value to you, and it is more wasteful in your diet than in your trash.  If you live with someone else who wants to eat his/her junk, ask them politely to place these foods on higher shelves – so that you aren’t confronted with them every time you go to take out food.
  3. Find a sugar stand-in.  We don’t live in a vacuum and chances are that even with the best of intentions – you are still going to find yourself craving sugar the first couple of days away from the stuff.  Make sure to stock up some delicious seasonal fruit from your local grocery store or farmer’s market.  One of my favorite healthy treats is to zap apple slices in the microwave with a little cinnamon and a drizzle of agave nectar for a sweet, but not cloying, baked apple.  Dried fruit also works well – dates are my personal fave – by limit the portion to two or three pieces to keep calories in check.
  4. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Ok – so you were good all week and then you had a couple of cookies – or five.  You feel like you’ve let yourself down and you’ve failed – but before you decide to reach back in and finish the box – give yourself a break!  Nobody is perfect, and I am not suggesting that you deprive yourself of goodies every now and then.  Rather than getting down on yourself for this temporary setback – view it as an opportunity to recommit to yourself.  Every meal is a new opportunity to be healthier, stronger, and more beautiful.  So show yourself a little love and treat your body right – because it’s the only one you’ve got!

“Try something new” SUNDAY

Happy Sunday!

I must admit – I hate Sundays.  Ever since I was little, Sunday always made me feel kind of down – a “case of the blahs” if you will.  It meant that school/work was in front of me, and the carefree, relaxing weekend was behind.  And while the idea of wearing my PJs to work on Monday might make me feel infinitely better – it wasn’t a very good solution to my problem.

So today I decided to start a little tradition that will shake up my Sundays.  Something revolutionary.  Something groundbreaking.

I now introduce to you…..“Try Something New” Sundays.

What is this craziness that I talk about?  Starting now, every Sunday I am going to try something new.  Whether it be that boxing class at the gym that I keep saying I’ll do, but then don’t have the time, to renting bikes and riding up and down the Westside Highway, to trying out that new sushi place around the corner.  The only rule is that the “new” thing has to be be active or healthy in some way (i.e.sitting on the couch watching Millionaire Matchmaker reruns does not count).  After all, all those endorphins I build up should help with my bad mood and set me up for feeling refreshed and ready to power through the next week.  Plus, physical activity that is different from the norm tests your muscles in new ways and gets you out of your workout rut – helping you score a more rockin bod and outlook.

So I challenge you to take on “Try Something New” Sundays with me.  Who knows…shaking up your routine might just shake up your attitude!

I’m a celebrity…now follow my diet!

I was perusing the Health section of my New York Times lately, and came across this article on celebrities who diet.  In the article, it describes the recent uptick in celebrity diet sponsors.  It’s understandable that diet companies would want to use celebrities, the article states, because people feel like they “know” them and can relate.  And honestly, don’t tell me you don’t know the names of Brangelina’s kids or that Kim Kardashian is getting married in August!  I for one must admit that I probably read “People” and “Us Weekly” more than the paper.

For many celebrities who are under the spotlight all the time to be thin, what better press than to lose weight in the public eye?  Right?  Not so quick – the article also describes the fabulous dieting failures of people like Kirstie Alley, who after flaunting her body in a bikini on Oprah, only gained all the weight back plus some a couple months later.  What happens when some of these celebrities fail publicly, and how does it affect not only their image, but the image of the brand they represent?

I also can’t help but think, how do these celebrities impact normal people’s efforts at losing weight and staying healthy?  I look at people like Jennifer Hudson, who lost over 80 pounds on Weight Watchers, and feel very inspired by her story and her authenticity about her struggle with weight and subsequent success.  That story feels a lot more legitimate than that of Kirstie Alley, who seems to be using her yo-yoing weight gain and loss as means for publicity, rather than simply trying to get healthier.  I also feel like many of these celebrities set unrealistic examples for normal folk looking to lose a couple – in essence they make it seem so damned easy!  I think it often makes people feel inadequate when they don’t have similar success on these diets.

Which leads me to my main point – “diets” in the traditional sense don’t work.  The idea of dieting is of deprivation, about not eating what you want for a short period of time.  But in reality, being healthy (and losing weight in the process if you need to) is about changing your lifestyle and developing habits that are sustainable FOREVER.  Whether it be swapping all your breads to whole grain varieties, or getting a handle on proper portion sizes, these changes are about being healthy and fueling your body in the long run.  And being consistent with your changes!  Getting your meals delivered to you isn’t a sustainable option in the long run, but learning to cook a basic healthy meals is.  So before you waste another penny on diets…consider this – will you actually stick with it in the long run?  Or is it a better use of your money to buy a healthy cookbook and a bag full of fresh produce instead?

Hot and bothered

 

Yesterday was 90, today is 96, tomorrow is 100?  Yea I know it’s summer but does it have to burn quite so much?  Frankly, when the weather gets hot, my body feels much different – my energy is sapped, I get cranky, and my appetite?  Nonexistent.  Considering how much I like to eat, this is never a good thing in my book.  So here are my nutrition-related remedies for perking yourself up and withstanding the hot weather without feeling weighed down.

  1. Lemon water.  When the weather gets hot, I switch out my morning coffee for lukewarm water with lemon (or even cold water with lemon).  I sip it pretty much all day, not only does it make you feel refreshed and your body feels clean and light, but it also helps detoxify your liver (perfect if you’ve overindulged at the beach the weekend before!).
  2. Iced green tea.  While the thought of hot tea or coffee is furthest from my mind, iced green tea not only cools you down, but it is chock full of antioxidant, lovely little compounds that do everything from protect you from disease to make your  skin glow.  Some controversial studies have even linked green tea to helping lower obesity, LDL “bad” cholesterol and improve weight loss- green tea may help with fat oxidation.  But again, controversial – my take?  I just like how it tastes and there are so many other good properties of green tea that it is definitely worth adding it to your daily repertoire.
  3. Greek yogurt.  If you read this blog you know about my love affair with greek yogurt.  Low in sugar, high in stick-to-your ribs protein and with a silky flavor, this is truly a miracle food.  Particularly in the hot summer months, it is my go-to breakfast of choice — try throwing some ripe cherries or raspberries in it, or sliced banana for a banana cream pie flavor.  Craving frozen yogurt?  Combine greek yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 tbsp agave nectar (also good with cocoa powder added).  Place in little paper cups (like the kind you get at the dentist) with a popsicle stick in the middle.  Stick in your freezer and enjoy!
  4. Gazpacho.  This cold, refreshing soup is the literally the perfect summer lunch on a scorching day (add a slice of wheat toast with avocado slices and paprika for a complete meal).  Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has cancer-fighting properties and compounds that help fight free radicals that can damage cells.
  5. Salads.  Whether a fruit salad or for lunch, salads are the most refreshing thing to eat this time of year.  Check out my previous post on my favorite quick summer salads for some great ideas.

Above all, when the weather gets hot like this, drinking tons of water is your best bet at keeping safe and not getting overheated.  Stay cool folks!

xoxo

GS

Finding my “happy” weight

Everyone has that magic number.  You know, your dream weight.  Maybe you weighed that number when you were in high school on the track team.  Maybe when you were in college.  Maybe you’ve never weighed it but think it’s the number that you should be at if you did everything right.  Let me tell you something that it took me a VERY long time to figure out.  That number is a pipe dream.  

Before you object, I have a little story to tell you.  Last year, I fell off the wagon.  Between moving in with D, leaving my job to pursue a new career, and other major upheavals in my life, I slowly saw nearly 10 pounds slowly creep up on me.  While this isn’t a by any means a big number, by December, my jeans just weren’t fitting the way they used to, and I really wasn’t feeling very confident with the way I looked.  I knew I had to stop making excuses and just make changes!  But at the same time I felt kind of humiliated – here I was, giving people health advice, and I had let my own health get away from me.  Not to mention, having lost a significant amount of weight in the past, there was that fear in the way back of my head that I would go back to the way I was, as crazy as that may sound.

So I decided to start slow.  It had taken me about 8 months to gain all the weight, so a pound a month seemed like a reasonable goal.  While there were definitely setbacks, including the entire month of March when I totally plateaued, I stuck with it, and as of last month, I reached my “happy” weight.  So what’s the moral of my little tale?  I started out on this weight loss process thinking that I would reach my dream weight – basically what I was my junior year of college for about one week when I was recovering from bronchitis.  Crazy right?!  This clearly isn’t a number that is realistic and manageable for me (and frankly I just like food too much!).  So I revised my goal and gave myself a little more wiggle room in the process.

When dietitians figure out the ideal weight for a man it is 106 lbs for the first 5 ft, and then 6 lbs for every inch higher.  For women, it is 100 lbs for the first 5 ft and 5 lbs for every inch higher.  But this number can be minus or plus 10% depending on your frame size and build.  Simply put, no weight fits everyone and is TOTALLY dependent on your build and figure.  This tool on Self.com is a pretty good estimate of “happy weight” (although not perfect!) to help you get that number.

So the next time you talk about being unhappy with your weight – consider this, maybe you ARE at the right weight already!  Or maybe the situation isn’t as dire as you might think.  Weight isn’t the only measure of health – although it can be the most immediate and for many, the most discouraging.  Getting to your healthiest body means not only eating healthy most of the time and getting physical activity, but cultivating your mental well-being.  Simply put, constantly restricting your eating habits to reach an unattainable goal greatly discourages your mental well-being and could affect your physical health as well by slowing your metabolism rather than revving it up.  So now that bikini season is officially here, maybe it’s time to embrace your hot bod, as is.