Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July Goals Evaluation

July 31 - time for to see how I did with my goals to Enjoy July.

1. Read: A

I definitely read for at least a half hour each day.  If not during the day, I always read at night before bed.  And so, I successfully completed (in time-consuming order)...
  • Game Change: Incredible piece of historical, factual literature.  Whether you're politically-minded or not, this is fascinating on its own, and also offers real insight into the way campaigns work.  Seriously, read it. 
  • This is Where I Leave You: I highly recommend this novel. Snarky Jonathan Tropper bares all in the story of this dysfunctional family. 
  • It Starts With Food: Another healthy eating, Paleo great read.  Learn about re-calibrating your psychological and biological relationship with food by doing a month of Whole30 paleo-inspired eating. Get clean.  Full review on this to come soon! Also check out Krysten at Darwinian Fail - she's doing her Whole30 now! 
All of these get 5 stars.  I am two-thirds through The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking (a VERY interesting book my Dad got me.  Offers insights into our psychology and superstitions), which I actually began before It Starts With Food but then got antsty and breezed through ISWF in the middle.  Then reading got put aside while I did big important things like schoolwork and moving. But I'm giving myself the A because I did manage to read a LOT this month, daily, even with packing and schoolwork and course readings and more.  This last book will get done! 

2. Try some Recipes: B-

I did try some (sometimes w/ alternative flours), but not twice per week, and not the types I really wanted to.  Life is busy, and July was BUSY.  Still, some yummy happened out of this...
  • Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Bread, from Sweet Tooth Courtney 
  • Fluffy Pancakes, made gluten-free with corn flour, because I had it on hand.  They were good, but a little grainy, as I was worried they'd be. Next time I'll try using coconut flour!
  • After all that dessert and floury goodness, I wanted something more light and refreshing, and maybe something for acceptable use in meals.  Enter: Raw Vegan Basil Salad Dressing, from Bexlife. 
    • This was perfect, because we had basil growing outside!  Really refreshing and delicious on both salads and salmon! 

This month, I'm going to be trying a lot of bigger, nutritious recipes!  I'll be using this book and can't wait to share more of it with you - again, very soon!

3. Continue with regular yoga, including HOT!: A

Trial month of Hot Yoga, COMPLETE! Oh man.  I know I loved my first session, but I quickly learned that hot yoga, like everything else in fitness, varies by instructor and class type.  I found two instructors that I really liked, and a few that were just okay, and one class session that really made me understand why some people respond to hot yoga with "I'm never, ever, doing that again."  It takes a lot to stay in that heated room, and if the pose sequences and movements don't keep me engaged, I won't be able to think about anything but the sweat and heat.  Simply moving a lot doesn't make it better.  It's got to make sense, too.

One of the classes was shorter--an hour instead of 1:15--but a BOOTCAMP!  It was intense but pretty awesome.  Still, my favorite class was my first, where the instructor made it feel as calming, cleansing, and rejuvenating as I know it was.

Did it change me?  Did I benefit?  Well, I'm not really convinced.  I think that for serious change, you'd have to do it REGULARLY, and maybe for longer than a month.  What I did notice above all else, that I was very surprised by, was the improvement in my skin.  As I mentioned after my first class, my face would just glow for the day or two after a class, and I think it helped my complexion, too.  As far as flexibility or balance, I don't think I reaped those benefits YET, although I can see how the class really stretches your limits in those arenas during the class itself.

Would I continue?  Yes, if I had the spare cash and could join a studio, I'd do it from time to time, but hot yoga is truly exhausting, and not something I can see myself doing daily or even every other day.  It takes a lot out of you, literally!

After the June Yoga Challenge and my hot yoga month, I'm still eager to keep it up!  To help me continue my yoga practice in a very busy and transitional month for me, I treated myself to Jillian Michaels's Yoga Meltdown.  This way, I can practice at home, in just 30 minutes, and even at a high intensity!  It'll be a step up from the AM and PM Yoga for Beginners DVD; I'm sure Jillian doesn't make it easy... :)

4. Run outside: A

That first Thursday the 5th, I finally ran up and down a nearby road, because my ankle was feeling mostly better.  It was HOT. I ran a mile, slow for me (11:14), before hobbling inside ready to chug water and shower off.  Too hot. Not a fan, but I did it.

The following Thursday, I ran 2 very hilly miles outside, in the gross humid heat.  The dense air makes it harder to breathe properly and steadily.  But: 2 miles in under 20 minutes! Check.  Ran the first mile entirely, and went maybe a mile and a half before I snuck in a walk or two.

That Monday, did 3.1 miles (5k) out on steady flat road path.  Ran the first 2 miles nonstop, and then waved in and out with my music.  Had no Garmin, no idea of pace or time!  That was kind of nice, to just GO.

And I didn't write it down but I'm fairly certain I ran outside once more after that, completing the once a week requirement.  That all being said, I also did a LOT of running indoors on the treadmill!  A few 3-mile runs, one nonstop 3-miler, and a four... looks like 31 miles run in July.  As always, you can follow my training on DailyMile.com!  So, mission accomplished. Gotta keep it up this week, adjusting to actual distance in the heat before a big, fun 5k next week... stay tuned!

That wraps up July!  How did you do with YOUR goals for July?  Got big plans for August?  
Make the most of what's left of summer!  Don't forget to relax, enjoy, and maybe even plan a brief staycation :) 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Take a Staycation!

In the beginning of the month, I vowed to Enjoy July and dared you all to Be Selfish this summer.  It's important to set aside time in our busy schedules to sit back and just plain have fun!

That's why my friend Becky and I planned ourselves a "Staycation" for this weekend!  For the month or two beforehand, we kept our eyes out for good deals, good ideas, and good eats to enjoy together.  In the end, we celebrated some professional successes with a staycation in our home city.

The result?  Two days, under $200, and a lot of fun and bonding time.

It began on in the morning with none other than a WALK!  Becky and I are both fit-minded people who enjoy physical activity and (mostly) healthy food.  We planned to walk/jog through Central Park, but with an ominous weather forecast and limited time frame, we decided to walk around from midtown to Washington Square Park and Soho instead.  We were still in our workout outfits and sneaks, and the heat definitely made us sweat!

We found ourselves at the brand new flagship Chobani Soho shop (not by accident) and admired their sweet and savory yogurt bowl combinations.

The staff were all SO helpful and friendly, the ordering process was simple, and our bowls came out so quickly!  The staff in the kitchen (behind the glass window) were hard at work preparing everyone's orders, and the storefront displayed Chobani yogurts proudly.

Our yogurt came in adorable little Chobani bowls, which can be taken to go or eaten in-store and recycled.

Becky got the "Toasted Coconut + Pineapple": pineapple, toasted coconut, hazelnuts, light agave, and I opted for the "Fig + Walnut": Turkish figs, walnuts, and honey.

Fig & Walnut

Other flavor combinations included "Blueberry + Power" (sounded like my morning ritual yogurt), "Plain Chobani + Cucumbers", (served with pita chips!), and even a "Peanut Butter + Jenny" version.  Something for everyone.  

We were both pleased with our selections!

But of course, it wasn't a quite full lunch, so we walked up to Union Square to supplement our yogurt with vegetables at Whole Foods.


From there, we hiked up to Flatiron to Queen Jane Day Spa for some pampering.  We'd purchased Groupons that entitled us to a basic facial, a swedish massage, sauna time, and a pedicure, all discounted.  Yay!  This was to be our relaxation time.  The facility was beautiful and well-run, but I was not entirely satisfied with our services.  It seemed as though we didn't receive full "Basic Facial" treatment, possibly because of our Groupon status.  The staff said we did, but it was not 45 minutes and there was no exfoliation, just a slathering of nice moisturizers.  This was disappointing, because online coupon deals (which THEY offer) are meant to bring new customers in, not turn us away.  Oh well... I did like how my pedicure turned out.

Last chance for fun summer colors?

After that, we parted ways, because we each had a friend with a going-away-party that night.


The next morning, we reunited bright and early for Yoga.  We went to Hosh Yoga in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where the class is donation-based.  It's hidden in a warehouse-looking building, but inside had a studio room and a back room with mats, blocks, and cubbies.  The studio was pretty crowded, squeezing everyone in, and for some reason it was HOT, at least 85 degrees, even though this was NOT Hot Yoga or Bikram.  A few vinyasas in, we were certainly sweating.  He made the theme for today's yoga lesson planking.  Lucky us!  Tons of planks.  It was definitely a workout.


An hour fifteen later, we were back outside, sucking in the fresh air and guzzling water.  We went back to shower quickly and then set out for a quick lunch at Smorgasburg!  Always so many flavorful options to choose from.  It was surprisingly crowded for such a cloudy day.  We did one lap before choosing the first booth we'd looked at: Bombay Sandwich.

They had a cool sandwich press that not only pressed it into a panini-like state, but also sliced it diagonally! Very cool.

Quinoa mashed with chicpkeas and veggies, seasoned with tumeric,
fennel seeds, dried funugreek leaves & garam masala

Becky got the Quinoa Chickpea Sandwich, and I got the Gluten-Free Platter, which is the "Quinoa Chickpea"and the "Roasted Eggplant" without the bread.

Roasted eggplant, onions & tomato,
seasoned with cumin, carom seed, asafetida & a punch if jaggery

We brought our lunches over to some park benches with a great view of Manhattan.

The food was really tasty, flavorful, and oddly light.  I felt good as we went to our next activity...


With a Living Social deal, we got half-off at Brooklyn Charm's "Basic Assembly" jewelry-making class.

We measured and cut our chains, toiled over our charm selections, carefully opened and closed our jump rings, and modeled our new necklaces for the remainder of the day!  (Without intending to, we made very similar designs!)

We recalled how we used to enjoy crafting jewelry like this, and considered getting the pliers to do it on our own. It's a fun, focused activity!

Grown-up version of friendship bracelets?

Back at Becky's place, we hung out for a "chill" afternoon of lounging around; we were both pretty spent from the heat, walking outside the day before and sweating through yoga this morning.  With the Olympic games on, she did some reading and I did some work.  Then we turned girly: She turned on Bravo and I painted my nails.  We got changed and toasted with some TJ's wine she had on hand before heading back out.


That night, we had a date <3 at The Stanton Social, sister restaurant to Beauty & Essex.  Becky picked it out and made the reservation about a month ago.  After oggling at the menu for so long, we were eager to eat! 

Becky :)

The restaurant was dimly lit, quite packed, and very loud--a modern, chic type of place.  We discussed the menu at length before settling on four dishes: two each and two to share.  Before our food arrived, we were given Tequila-Spiked Gazpacho as an amuse bouche.

I started with the Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi (pickled jalapeno, avocado, yuzu ginger dipping sauce, and seaweed on the side), and Becky got the Chicken Taquitos.

Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi  -  Chicken Taquitos

Both came with beautiful presentation, and we swooned over the tastes.  My fish tasted so fresh!

Yellowfin Tuna, Avocado, Seaweed

Then we shared Stanton's signature item: French Onion Soup Dumplings.  Deeeelish. So savory and decadent. Highly recommended.

French Onion Soup Dumlings

We liked the dumplings...
and the bowl!

Our meal concluded with the Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizzeta.  I almost didn't, but was glad I chose to indulge in this very thin-crusted and flavorful flatbread.  Just like the dumplings, worth it.

We left quite satisfied, glad we stuck to four dishes instead of a fifth, a drink, or dessert.  This way, we had room for one more stop...


Il Laborotorio de Gelato!  This was also on Becky's "to try" list, so we walked right over.  The whole factory (hence the name) was right in the back, with small storefront for purchases.

There were so many unique flavors of sorbet and gelato, like "Mexican Cinnamon," "Black Mission Fig," "White Peppercorn," "Toasted White Sesame," and so on.  See the extensive list here.  I went classic with Dark Chocolate and Banana Chocolate Chip.  It hit the spot :)

Dark Chocolate and Banana Chocolate Chip gelato

And so concluded our date, our day, and our Staycation.  Great success!  It was nice having some time to just catch up, girl talk, hang out, do nothing, and do everything.

When was the last time you treated yourself to a nice meal?  To a fun new skills class?  To an afternoon at the spa?  Dare you to treat yourself from time to time, and take a Staycation when you can!  

Thanks, Becky, for an awesome weekend!  <3

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eat Sauerkraut

Today, instead of daring you to cook a new food (although that's coming up, don't you worry!), I'm just going to dare you to eat a new food:


This is a food that I had nothing to do with growing up.  Never ate it.  Never wanted to.  Didn't quite know what it was.  Didn't care to look past its slimy appearance and pungent smell to give it a try.  No interest whatsoever.

In my paleo and general nutrition readings, podcasts, books, etc., I repeatedly find suggestions that Sauerkraut is one of the absolute healthiest things we should all be eating.
  • At Paleo FX (March 2012), a "Whole Foods vs. Supplements Mastermind Panel" of nutritional and digestive gurus (Chris Kresser, Amy Kubal, Diana Rodgers, Liz Wolf, Diane Sanfilippo, Dr. Dan Kalish, Joe Johnson) were all asked to name 3 foods or supplements they recommend.  Guess which food was essentially unanimously agreed upon?  (Hear discussion on that discussion in this Balanced Bites podcast episode.)
  • Presenters at the Real Food Summit were equally enthralled with fermented foods and the positive impact of probiotics.  Several mentioned the benefits of including fermented foods like sauerkraut in the diet, and Jenny McGruther even gave an entire presentation on Reviving the Tradition of Fermentation: How and Why Fermented Foods Heal.  She explained that fermentation is a process of microbial action, in which bacteria and yeasts consume carbs (in the food) and produce lactic acid, acetic acid, and alcohol.  As a result, the foods become richer in vitamins, food enzymes (to help us digest them), and become a source of beneficial bacteria to support digestion, the immune system, and overall health.  See a similar presentation on her website, The Nourished Kitchen.
  • Chris Kresser includes sauerkraut in his Top Fourteen Foods.
  • Mark Sisson sums it all up in his Definitive Guide to Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods. Sauerkraut, fermented carrots, kefir, kombucha, chocolate, kimchi, cheese, bread, lox... and more. 

Since when?  What are these things?  Who knew it was so good for you?  Is it ALL so good for you, or are some types, brands, jars, concoctions better than others?  I finally started to pay attention to this weird item: the what, why, when, and how.

What is sauerkraut?  

Sauerkraut is cabbage that has been finely shredded and fermented.  Yes, it seems weird at first, but if you get a quality product (see below), it actually can be somewhat tasty.  I find that I acquired a taste for it fairly quickly, once I got the good stuff.

Learn about different varieties here, and know that it can be prepared plain (just cabbage and salt) or can be spiced up with different flavors!  There are lots of recipes out there.

Why should we eat it? 

If the aforementioned benefits weren't enough for you, how about these?  In brief:

Note: The effect on digestion is potent. Real. No joke.  Don't go eating a whole cup of sauerkraut if you're not used to it. Start small (~1/4 cup) and be prepared for results.

Where can should we get it?

Sauerkraut as most people know it can be found in any regular supermarket, or even in the metal carts on the streets of New York, but is that really what we're talking about?  NO.  In the words of Mark Sisson, "Even when we do eat foods that are traditionally fermented, like sauerkraut or pickles, they’re usually bastardized versions produced quickly for mass consumption."  He and others claim that store-bought versions are less flavorful, more acidic, and less good-for-you.  This is because they're preserved in vinegar instead of the natural brine.  Why must commercial packaging processes always toss extra junk into our food to make it last longer?  Especially with fermented foods, which have a long shelf life all on their own?  

Look, who needs this extra stuff in the ingredients?  I don't want anything I can't pronounce or picture in my head. Let's keep it simple, raw, clean.

The best forms of sauerkraut won't have those extra foreign ingredients.  For example, Whole Foods' 365 Organic Sauerkraut has only 3 ingredients: organic cabbage, water, and sea salt.  Sounds good to me!

Even better, make your own.  (Gasp!) 
But that's for another post (Update: THIS ONE!). (If you want to get a head start, find instructions here or here.)  

For now, I dare you to start eating sauerkraut, just a little bit each day.  I really never ate it until this past month.  Now, I'm used to it!  Just give it a chance - it's worth it.

Do you eat sauerkraut regularly? 
Do you buy it (where from?) or make your own? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Minimize Flavor Variety

I'm not talking about limiting flavor. Flavor is good. But variety?
Does less variety mean more satiety? 

Because I love frozen yogurt so much, I couldn't resist reading when I stumbled upon Glamour's The Dos and Don'ts of Frozen Yogurt.  In it, Carolyn Brown (M.S., R.D.), Rachel Beller (M.S., R.D.) and other nutrition experts give great advice involving cup size, toppings, flavors, and more, but the one that most caught my attention was slide 7: Don't Mix Flavors.

"Sure, swirling your two favorite flavors sounds like a great idea,
but there's a good reason to resist. 
'We have a limit to where our taste buds start fatiguing on a certain flavor,' Blatner says.
'If you pick only one topping and flavor, you actually feel more satisfied
than if you were picking multiple things.'" 

Hm.  Interesting.  I thought about this for a while.  I've done both ends of the spectrum; I've swirled 4 flavors into my single cup at 16 Handles, and other times I've gotten one solid flavor (like plain old tart) at Red Mango or Pinkberry.  I also get single flavors when having more indulgent desserts, like frozen custard or ice cream.  Am I generally more satisfied (physically, mentally, however), when I get only one flavor? 

16 Handles

... Maybe.  I'm usually far more satisfied with my one-flavor Red Mango cup than my multicolored 16 Handles (where I'm known to look sadly into my empty cup and ask "Can I go refill?").  Does this just mean I like 16 Handles better?  Again, maybe... but maybe not.  Maybe having only one flavor (and perhaps one topping) allows me to better enjoy and savor the flavors and feel like I've had enough.  I might need to experiment.

More overboard than I usually go
But I ran a race that day.

But then I got thinking even more about satisfaction with enough of one good thing, vs. feeling unsatisfied with just a drop of everything.  This need not apply only to frozen yogurt; what about a salad?  What about a buffet table?  What about hobbies and activities? 

  • Salad: Do you make salads with a zillion different items, or limit yourself to a few?  When I do the former, I get sad when I run out of whatever my favorite item was, so why not only include my favorites, in greater quantity?  Don't get me wrong; I'm not talking about having just lettuce plus one item, but rather just not having, say, 10 different things in one salad. How about 4 or 5 as a limit?  Or maybe when you order a salad from a make-your-own menu, don't feel compelled to get four different vegetables just because you're allowed to without being charged more.  Maybe get three different vegetables, and double up on your favorite. 
  • Buffet: Endless options make us want everything, but taking a bite or two of ten different dishes might only leave us wanting those flavors that appealed most.  (And then, we're more likely to get up and have a second helping.)  A better plan might be to survey the entire buffet first, select two or three items that we want the absolute most, and stick to only those. A single appetizer, entree, and dessert might leave us more satisfied, because we get more of what we enjoyed.
  • Hobbies: Ever fall in the halfway-there trap?  Have so much on your to-do list that you tackle it all at once and then nothing gets done?  f I am forever in the middle of reading a book, writing a blog post, cleaning out my closet, and creating a scrapbook, but don't complete any of them, will I feel satisfied?  It may be more fulfilling to devote all of our energy to only one or two items, just like it might be more fulfilling to satiate our taste buds with only one or two flavors at a time.

Perhaps it's better to truly enjoy less than to go overboard on flavors without really becoming satiated. I might try this "less is more" approach and see how it works.  

What do you think?  Do more flavors inhibit our satisfaction? 

In what other ways might less variety lead to more satiety

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stay Healthy

It's Freeky Friday! My friend Amanda helps host this weekly summer blog series, with different prompts for us all to ponder and share about!  She explains the background here, and you can see some of the past prompts and her posts here

Freeky Friday

This week's prompt:
How do you stay healthy?

Excellent question!  I'm so glad you asked.

Learning about health & fitness
at the FITNESS Magazine Meet & Tweet

Really, the way I stay healthy happens to be through the four tenets of FitFluential, the main areas underlying everything we do: EAT, SLEEP, MOVE, ENJOY

EAT: I nourish my body by eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, fish, and real foods.  I (mostly) avoid eating foods that I know are harmful or that make me feel lousy.  I try to stay cognizant of the connections between my foods and my physical health, so I can eat to promote my own health and longevity.

Fish Avocado Slaw mishmash

... and might I add, DRINK.  Water, that is.  Anyone who knows me know I drink water like I breathe oxygen.  With meals, on the go, and while working.   Always have a glass or bottle by my side.  Without being properly hydrated, I get groggy and headachey.  Water keeps me going.

By the way, tea is another really healthy drink option!  Each sip brings many benefits, from antioxidants to fighting cancer to boosting metabolism.  Plus, how nice is it to wake up or wind down with a cup of tea?  Speaking of winding down...

SLEEP: Like water, sleep keeps me going.  Seven to nine hours, every night, no excuses.  I make sleep a priority, and do my best to shut down before bed, often by reading a book for 30-60 minutes (see "enjoy").  Getting 6 hours or less really affects me, especially if it's a few nights in a row. For that reason, I try to get in bed at least 8 hours before I know I have to be up. Keeps me sane and alert.

MOVE: Fitness is one of the best ways to stay young and healthy, from the inside out.  There's something for everyone's abilities and preferences, whether it's kickboxing or Pilates, yoga or running, CrossFit or Spinning.  For me, it's some combination of all of those!

We can get and stay fit through cardio endurance, through sprints, and through strength training. Another great option: Play Sports! Go hiking! Walk around a new city! (Again, lots of great overlap with "enjoy", below.)  Release tension, relieve stress, have time to think, or get lost in a run.  Even just walking outside is enough to keep us moving--good for the mind and body!

5k Resolution Race with my cousins

ENJOY: What good is staying healthy through quality food, sleep, and fitness, if we don't take the time to enjoy our good health?  Last week, I wrote about taking time to enjoy our summer.  Enjoy life all year long by going on adventures (any good hiking trails nearby?), taking classes (try new things, acquire new skills!), and simply setting aside time for ourselves or our loved ones.  Things I enjoy include reading books (both fiction and nonfiction); playing games (scrabble, cards, board games... also sports but don't play often enough); spending time with friends and family; seeing (and memorizing) musicals; listening to, singing, and signing music; watching TV (good thing The Newsroom showed up before I went into MadMen withdrawal!); blogging and journaling; being artsy (drawing, scrapbooking); traveling and exploring new areas, and, of course, BAKING!

Sidenote: Sometimes "Enjoy" means loosening up the reigns on one of the other three foundations for health. Sometimes I eat foods I know aren't so good for me, and sometimes I must skip a workout in favor of getting necessary work done, relaxing, or socializing with friends and family. These things happen, and they're okay. Life is also about balance, and happiness is important, too.

Love me some Froyo!
Enjoying an ice cream cookie
at the Hester Street Fair

Eating right, getting sufficient sleep, staying fit, and taking time to do what I enjoy -- that's how I stay healthy :)

How do YOU stay healthy?  Share your path to health in the comments below, or head on over to Amanda's blog to take part in Freeky Friday.