My aching tush (and arms and hamstrings and calves)

As some of you may know, I’m currently training for the New York Marathon, on November 7th.  As the mileage keeps increasing, I find that after certain workouts, I just get INSANELY sore.  On Monday after running 10 miles (woohoo!) I was literally hobbling around my apartment afterwards, hoping the aching in my thighs would end!  While stretching regularly after workouts (stretching cold muscles before a workout can be damaging and may tear muscles if done too vigorously) is always a good thing, sometimes stretching just isn’t enough.  What else can you do??

While most of you may not be training for something like the Marathon, sore muscles are common whenever you do a strenuous, ball-busting workout.  Particularly when you start a new workout routine, sore muscles can be really hard to overcome.  But the worst thing that you can do in this situation is to stop exercising altogether.  Sore muscles means the exercise is working!  Delayed-onset muscles soreness (DOMS) is the muscles soreness that occurs 24-48 hours after doing a strenuous workout.  Basically your muscles get teany-tiny little tears in them, and the pain is caused by both these microscopic tears, and the accompanying inflammation that goes along with it.  Sounds a little scary right?  But, your body is a pretty smart machine, and muscles eventually adapted to the new stresses placed on them by getting stronger.  Or in other words…No pain, no gain.

So what can you do to make the pain go away faster?  While there isn’t a be-all end-all cure for DOMS, there are several things that you can do to alleviate some of the pain and make recovery quicker.

First, STRETCH!  Stretching is a HIGHLY underrated activity that goes a long way towards making you feel better, faster.  I always find that I’m rushing to get home or to go somewhere after a workout and stretching really is the last thing on my mind — but incorporating just an extra 5 minutes to quickly stretch can make such a difference!  While stretching won’t make the pain go away immediately, stretching after a workout can, according to Rick Sharp, an exercise physiologist at Iowa State University, “help break the cycle.”

If the pain is truly awful, try taking a day off, or do light exercises that are easier on your muscles, such as swimming, elliptical or even walking.  Getting the blood flowing through these muscles will help to alleviate the soreness by providing fresh blood and oxygen to these muscles, leading to faster repair.  Also, anti-inflammatory meds can be taken to alleviate the symptoms of DOMS.

Finally, applying heat to the muscles can be effective at increasing blood flow to the areas of soreness and providing “healing nutrients to the injured site”.  Heat wraps such as Thermacare (you can pick up at any drugstore) help.  I find that sometimes just taking a hot bath with some salts in it can really reduce my pain and make me feel a million times better.

The bottom line is that the pain will go away — just take it easy for a couple days and don’t let the temporary soreness sideline your exercise goals!

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Tailgating without expanding your tail

Football and food naturally go hand and hand.  I mean clearly when you are watching huge, beefy men go at in on a field you think — nachos!  wings!  But football season is pretty long, and if you’re trying to stay on track with your goals and be healthy…indulging in these foods every weekend may not be your best gameplan.  So how can you enjoy football season and stay healthy?  For this question I turned to SELF magazine’s nutritionist, Cristin Jones for some helpful tips on how you can make any tailgate healthier.  Here are her great tips!

Grains: A simple swap to make is whole grain buns instead of typical white buns. You likely will be eating hot dogs, hamburgers, meatballs, sausages and pulled pork at some point this season so serve them on something with a little fiber! You might be making a pasta salad or baked ziti for your crowd of guests so use whole wheat pasta in there as well to make everything a little more filling. Lastly go for baked chips – you’ll save a lot of calories and fat by doing so.

Fruit: If you watch the game outside of your house, pack an apple to eat it after the game. You likely didn’t eat much fruit at the game so snacking on a piece now won’t be as awkward as eating it pre-game and it’ll be a nice way to get back on track. If you are hosting at home, make a fruit salad to go along with the other fare.

Vegetables: You really can get a lot of vegetables into a classic tailgate. Saute peppers and onions to have on your sausage, burger, or fajitas. Make homemade salsa with fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro for your baked chips or burger. Or try a pasta salad but make it so that has at least as much vegetable as there is pasta (ideally a little more Veg:Pasta). Coleslaw is another great side. If you make it yourself you can chose light mayonnaise and use less salt.  And of course a veggie tray with ranch dip (use lowfat sour cream or whipped cottage cheese) is great for snacking on throughout the game.

Meat & Beans: Swap out your hot dogs and sausages for their healthiest alternative. Try chicken sausage and all beef, uncured hot dogs. Hamburgers and grilled chicken are excellent choices. Shrimp makes an easy, healthy, filling appetizer. Be sure to grill or bake your meats rather than have them fried. Don’t forget about beans! They make a nice appetizers and side dishes or can be incorporated into a main entree like chili.

Beverages – Beer calories add up fast, especially when you are eating typical football fare along with it. There is really no way around it, you need to limit your beer intake if you want to avoid gaining weight. It’s fine to have 1-2 beers but that is the max. Zero calorie alternatives are seltzer, diet soda,  coffee, tea and of course water. Whether you are hosting at home or tailgating at the stadium you should have a few of these on hand as beer-alternatives!

Now go and get your game on!

Kickoff into Fall

Hey folks!

So after a LONG vacation..I’m back up and blogging.  And it seems like all of a sudden since I’ve gotten back — Fall is here!  I must say…fall is my favorite season in the city…between Fashion week, Halloween, the leaves in central park, and amazing fall cuisine (think delish roasted sweet potatoes and baked apples!!  mmm) there’s plenty to enjoy.

Perhaps one of the things that I’m trying to learn (at the begging and pleading of D) to enjoy this season is….Monday Night Football.  As someone who originally thought that a defensive lineman was a type of argyle sweater and that Tom Brady was another member of the Brady Bunch, I’ve decided to tackle football season – Gotham Skinny style.  This week’s posts to all things fall football — a delish chili recipe, what to eat at a game, and an outdoor workout that will get you running down the field faster than your average running back.

Nothing screams football and fall more than a bowl of homemade delicious chili.  Chili can be a great way to meet your protein and veggie needs and pretty much tastes delicious on just about everything (chili on scrambled eggs is a personal favorite and a delicious brunch meal!).  Plus, chili is a great meal to make for a crowd.  Here is a vegetarian chili recipe that I have made several times and that is a huge hit (even with meat lovers) it tastes totally sinful but is chock full of veggies and fiber-rich beans.  Round it out with some homemade cornbread and you’ve got a taste of culinary victory!

Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili

courtesy of Cooking Light, January 2010

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2  red bell peppers
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1  teaspoon  paprika
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2  cups  organic vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1  (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  thinly sliced green onions

Preparation

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place pepper halves in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel and chop peppers.

3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cumin and next 4 ingredients (through garlic); cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with green onions.

Nutrition Information:

Calories:264
Fat:8.3g (sat 1.2g,mono 5.2g,poly 1.3g)
Protein:9.5g
Carbohydrate:40.9g
Fiber:10.7g
Cholesterol:0.0mg
Iron:4.4mg
Sodium:787mg
Calcium:145mg

Is my Jewish grandmother making me fat?

Last night, D and I went to dinner with a dear family friend who is practically like a grandmother to me.  She is probably one of the most vibrant women I know — at 87 she is full of life — she tap dances several times a week, does pilates, goes to work every day and attends plays, Broadway shows, and has a warm and caring family.  Talk about having it all!

As we were eating, she kept asking D “eat more!  You must be hungry!  Try some of this…are you full?”  It was very cute, and even though D was stuffed from his huge steak, he managed to polish off some of her food too.  But it got me to thinking, most of us do not have the freakish metabolism that D has (seriously it makes me SO jealous!) and can eat a steak that is the equivalent of small football field every night… so what do the rest of us do when we’re put in this kind of situation?  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been at dinners or family events and had food pushed on me by family members.  I don’t want to be rude…but I also don’t want to feel guilty about not cleaning my plate.  It’s a delicate balance, but here are some good tips I’ve picked up along the way that quell even the pushiest of relatives!

  • Just say no

If you’re really full or you just don’t want to eat dessert, try just saying a firm “no”.  Not only does this strengthen your own willpower but often a simply no or a “you know what, this meal was so delicious I don’t think I possibly have any more room!”  Let them down nicely, but make sure that the “No” is heard.

  • Honesty is your best policy

Sometimes a simple “no” doesn’t work.  Example: “How can you not want dessert?  Look at you…you are so skinny!  Eat something!”  Let’s face it, a lot of grandparents/relatives/parents get enjoyment out of nourishing their kids.  It comes from a place of love, but sometimes it can be really hard to face, especially when you’re watching what you’re eating and trying to be healthy.  In these instances, it’s best to just be honest.  Say to grandma “You know what, that dessert looks truly amazing, but I’m really trying to watch what I’m eating these days, so I’ll have to pass.”  Or ask for just a sliver if you’re in the mood or some fruit or tea instead.

  • Offer to help out with the cooking/meal planning

A lot of times when I go home, my mom will ask me what food I want to have in the house or want to have for dinner.  I think this is really great because she knows that I’m pretty health conscious (and picky!) so it makes me really feel at home and cared for.  But you don’t need an invitation to do this.  Offer to bring a healthy dish with you such as salad or a light dessert.  Not only does it make your host feel appreciative of your efforts — you can bring something that you know is healthy as part of the meal.

  • Suggest doing activities that don’t just center around food

A lot of times, especially around the holidays, I feel like every family get together is all about the food (as in, let’s all stuff our faces until we have to unbuckle our jeans).  Try to switch things up a bit…suggest a game of football in the park, go for a walk around town, grab a coffee, play frisbee, go for a long bike ride.  These are all fun activities you can do with your family that aren’t centered around food and are great bonding opportunities.

  • Don’t fall into the guilt trap

This is a tough one…but you should never feel guilty for not cleaning your plate.  If you’re full you’re full.  Starving children in Africa would not be able to eat your food anyways — it’s already been made – it’s not like you can ship it over or something!  You do yourself a disservice by not listening to your body and your needs.  You are taking care of yourself by realizing when you’re full and doing something about it!  Even the pushiest grandma can’t argue with that!

Sexercise

I could go on and on all day about the benefits of exercise.  It promotes good health in so many ways — combatting diseases, improving your mood and sleep, managing your weight, boosting energy levels….but one area that people rarely talk about when it comes to exercise is that dirty word — SEX.  Just another reason to get your bum in gear — exercise can not only improve your general health, it can also VASTLY improve your sex life.

So how exactly does it do this??  According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, doctors at UC San Diego tested 78 healthy but sedentary middle-aged men to document changes in their sex lives when they began to exercise 3-4 times a week.  According to this study “the former couch potatoes reported more reliable sexual functioning, more frequent sexual activity and orgasms, and greater satisfaction”.  A study done by the University of British Columbia found that just 20 minutes of exercise spurred greater sexual response in women participants compared with no exercise at all.

Physically, exercise helps to increase your endurance, aerobic capabilities and muscle strength.  Exercise gets the heart pumping and increases bloodflow to all the organs in your body, including sex organs.  Exercise also helps to release those little happy hormones called endorphins.  Endorphins promote relaxation and reduce performance anxiety, which will definitely help you in the sack.  Another interesting finding, is that in men, exercise promotes weight loss, which is a good thing because obesity has been linked to erectile dysfunction.

Internally, exercise does a lot for your mood and self confidence.  Let’s face it, when we feel that we look great, we’re happier, more confident, and feel…well…plain old sexy.  Exercise, by improving your physical appearance, in turn does amazing things for your confidence levels and body awareness, which by extension, can make your sex life that much better.

And if that doesn’t get you booking it to your gym ASAP…well, I don’t know WHAT will!

Cooks I love…

I have to admit…I’m a big fan of the Food Network.  Nothing makes me happier than curling up on the couch with a cup of tea, and watching the Barefoot Contessa whip up something delicious.  As a culinary enthusiast, I love watching cooking shows because it always gives me great new ideas on different preparation, seasonings, and exciting new flavors.  At the same time, I have one BIG gripe about some of the shows on the food network.  HOLY BUTTER!  Ok…if you’re trying to be healthy…these shows definitely do not promote it AT ALL.  Every show, from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, to Home Cooking with Paula, to even my dear Barefoot Contessa use recipes that often call for sticks and sticks of butter or cups of olive oil.  However, there is one Food Network star that I would love to highlight for her beautiful, vibrant, veggie-ful cuisine that doesn’t rely simply on fat for flavor.  Giada De Laurentiis’ food is like a breath of fresh air in a sea of butter.  Her bubbly personality is fun to watch and her food is full of healthy ingredients that would make any nutritionist happy!  And yes…she’s also very pretty (according to D)…haha

Here are my take on a couple of recipes that would be perfect for a light summer dinner with friends, with some slight modifications to make as healthy as possible!

Skewered Greek Salad

Ingredients:

Skewers:

  • 24 grape or small cherry tomatoes
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, cut into 12 (1/2-inch) cubes
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 small red or sweet onion, cut into 12 (1/2-inch) pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Special equipment: 12 (6-inch) bamboo or wood skewers

Vinaigrette:

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Skewers: Thread the skewers starting with a tomato, then a piece of feta cheese, an olive, a piece of onion and finish with another tomato. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

For the Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and oregano. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Spoon the vinaigrette over the skewers and sprinkle with the chopped oregano.


Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde

Salsa:

2 large oranges
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil — I might use 1/8 cup instead of 1/4, see how it tastes though
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salmon:
Vegetable or canola oil, for oiling the grill
4 (4 to 5-ounce) center cut salmon fillets, skinned, each about 3-inches square
2 tablespoons amber agave nectar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salsa: Peel and trim the ends from each orange. Using a paring knife, cut along the membrane on both sides of each segment. Free the segments and add them to a medium bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, scallions, mint, capers, orange zest, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes. Toss lightly and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

For the salmon: Put a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the grilling rack with vegetable oil to keep the salmon from sticking. Brush the salmon on both sides with the agave nectar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to a platter and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Spoon the salsa verde on top of the salmon or serve on the side as an accompaniment.

And for dessert……

Shaved Melon Salad with Mint Sugar

This salad looks like tricolor pappardelle pasta, with vibrant ribbons of pink, green, and orange melon. If you don’t want to bother making the melon shavings, just use a melon baller or cut the fruit into cubes—the salad will still be beautiful.

1/2 small seedless watermelon (about 1 lb)
1/2 honeydew melon, seeds removed (about 1 lb)
1/2 cantaloupe melon, seeds removed (about 1 lb)
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus mint sprigs, for garnish
1/2 cup turbinado or other coarse sugar  — I would use 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 here!

1. Cut each melon lengthwise into inch-wide slices. Hold melon slices at the peel end and use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave long ribbons of melon flesh into a large serving bowl.
2. In a small bowl, combine mint leaves and sugar. Add mint sugar to the shaved melon and gently toss.
3. Arrange melon salad on individual salad plates. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

Secret Eating

I’m taking this post to address something that we ALL do….whether we admit it or not, particularly women.  This is a little something called “secret eating”.  Secret eating, simply defined, is when we eat something in secret, or hide eating it because we feel ashamed or feel that we might be judged.  It can be something as simple as grabbing a spoonful of peanut butter when no one is looking, to more serious late night binges.  I want to take the time to address this because I’ll admit, I’m as guilty of it as anyone else.  There have definitely been moments when I’ll steal to the kitchen at midnight while D isn’t looking to grab a spoonful of ice cream or a piece of chocolate.  But ultimately, this behavior isn’t healthy and leads to a bad cycle of shameful eating.

For anyone who is watching what they eat, there are definitely foods that we avoid more than others: sweets, fried foods, salty foods, soda, etc…  Secret eating, I would argue, is the fulfillment of eating foods that are “off limits”.  It feels sneaky, dangerous, and a little fun to do this, and of course…if no one is looking, it doesn’t count!  But ultimately, if it becomes a regular thing, secret eating can sabotage your health in more ways than one…because guess what??  Unfortunately, EVERYTHING counts.

A lot of secret eating is psychological.  We eat to comfort ourselves, and food can be particularly soothing in times of depression or stress.  We eat in secret because the food is naughty and we feel guilty for eating it.  After we eat it, we feel even MORE guilty or deny having done it at all.  This leads to a really bad cycle of guilt and shame around eating foods that are less healthy.  So how do you break the cycle??

First, don’t put any food “off limits”.  This is easier said than done, but really, this is the reason I am so against diets.  Any time you deprive yourself of something, it gives the food a certain “naughty” mystique.  It makes you crave the food even more than you would regularly.  So quit it already!

Second, don’t eat in the dark!  After you’re done with dinner, have a piece of gum or brush your teeth.  I have found that this makes me less likely to go back to the kitchen for a little treat and more likely to forget that I have a craving for something at all.  If you have a craving, also drinking a glass of water or sitting for 5 minutes helps to take my mind off of it, and before you know it, the craving is completely gone.

Eat your food on a plate.  This signifies to your brain that you are eating a filling, balanced meal and makes you ultimately feel more satisfied.  This move also helps eliminate all the little bites of things, nibbles, etc…  that we all do when we’re hungry.

Finally, dont feel guilty!  If you do slip up and eat something in secret, remember it is just a one time thing and cut yourself some slack.  No one is perfect and tomorrow is a new day!