Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hester Street Fair

GREAT NEWS!
Want to get in a great workout but don't belong to a gym?  Want to try one out with no commitment?  Get ready to thank Fitness Magazine, because they're giving away free passes to GYMS all over the country, in honor of Fitness's 20th anniversary!  

Check out the Fitness Magazine website to download a free gym pass.  On May 1, you could be working out at...
- 24 Hour Fitness
- Bally Total Fitness
- Crunch
- Gold's Gym
- Boston / Philadelphia / Washington / New York Sports Club
- A number of YMCA locations throughout the country

Thank you, Fitness Magazine

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

In other news... I had a lovely weekend.  How was yours?

I decided to take the weekend off from work.  Time for fun!  Saturday was a faaabulous (if exhausting!) day.  The BF and I had lunch at Vapiano, a chain I used to frequent in DC.  Their design-your-own salads, pizzas, pastas are delicious, and (FYI:) the individual "charge cards" makes it a GREAT place to go with groups.  No splitting of the bill necessary!

I'm SO glad they opened up in NYC last year near Union Square!  Not wanting to kill my apetite, I got a salad instead of their increeedible you-pick pastas.  It ended up being really delicious, so I was happy.

The "Petite" Insalata Mista

He got a (vegetable!) pizza.


Then, I spent all afternoon walking around with my friend Becky.  She and I love to wander the city, visit museums, and explore markets.  Yesterday was an "explore markets" day.

Now that summer is upon us, the Hester Street Fair had its grand opening for the season.  This is one outdoor market that we have not yet attended, so we were excited to try out some new vendors.  So, from Union Square, we headed south to the Lower East Side to see what Hester had to offer.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Shake up your run

I wanted to run this morning, but I woke up in an "eh" mood for it.  It was cold and damp outside, so the weather was majorly de-motivating.  I thought I could go to the gym, but then why not just do Spinning? (I can tell you why: Because there would be a substitute who never gets us out of the saddle. Lame.)
Source: Lindsay

Fortunately, Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean had just posted her recap for the week, and in it, she shared a great 4-mile run, that she reports using when she wants to cover 4 miles but isn't in the mood to run fast.  Sounded like me this morning!  See her workout here:

Perfect.  I wanted to run about 4 miles anyway, and, since I know that I'm capable of 3 miles steady at 6.0 mph, this should be right at my fitness level.  I jotted down the outline and hopped off to the gym.

I did tweak it a little bit, turning Mile 2 into a sandwich rather than intervals, and I increased the speed on the intervals in Mile 3, which I really liked.  Also went rogue for Mile 4. 





My run ended up looking more like this:


SO GREAT!  I worked up a sweat without overworking myself.  My heart rate was up almost the whole time--you can see when I was at 4.0 long enough to recover during Mile 2's sandwich.  My average heart rate was 171 beats per minute, and my maximum was 195; I torched 415 calories in 43 minutes!




After the third mile (in 31:30), I was so pleased that I decided to take the last mile at my leisure, letting my music dictate my runs and walks.  I want to thank Lindsay for sharing her routine; the constant change prevented boredom and really made the run go by so quickly!  It was fun.  I would definitely do this workout again!


Have you switched up your walking or running routine, or do you stick to the same pace or interval plan?  If you're in a rut or not in the mood one day, DARE YOU to try this -- or another -- 'shaken up' workout!  If you've got fun ideas to share, please do! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WIAW: Healthy fats and Frozen treats

Goooood morning, WIAW-ers!  Today, I'll be sharing my eats from Monday.  Before you see my food photos, please check out my guest post on Angela's blog! --> Running: A Love-to-Hate Relationship.  Enjoy, and please leave a comment! I'd love to learn about YOUR relationship with running.

And now, on to What I Ate Wednesday Monday





Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Love to Hate Running

Hi Friends!  It's "Try Something New Tuesday" over at Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat, and while Angela is away, I'm subbing in with a guest post on her blog today!  Whether you love or hate running, this post is for you:

Check out my guest post!

Head on over to learn about my 
love-to-hate relationship with running,
 and how new and old runners alike can use running 
to challenge themselves in new ways.

Please check it out and leave your comments!  
Angela has such a fun blog and I'm honored to be featured.


If you need a refresher on my own running history, you can also look back at "Become a Runner" posts, or check out the new "Fitness" page, above! 

As for monotasking, thought I'd pop in and let you know how DIFFICULT it is!!!!  Wow.  I didn't realize how much I distract myself from the task at hand!  Even something as simple as sitting down and eating my meal, rather than taking my breakfast to the computer for my morning reading.  Even when I'm at the table, I tend to flip through the newspaper or a magazine, rather than savoring the flavors.  Often, I take all this time and focus to prepare a nice meal, and then I gobble it down while giving my attention to something else.  What a shame!

It's worked quite well for my assignments.  If I sit down and think to myself, "Okay, I am going to complete this task" or "I will submit this paper before doing anything else," (or even "I will write this blog post and publish it"), then I seem more likely to just get it done in half the time it would have taken if I had simultaneously been reading one blog, writing my own, half editing an assignment, and chatting away on G-chat. It's amazing what some focus can accomplish in such a short time.

I'm only about 36 hours in to my monotasking week, and still working on it.  Whenever I notice my mind and actions seem scattered, I stop my multitasking/browsing/whatever and ask myself: What am I doing right now?  Once I answer that question, I get back on track OR I choose what I want to be doing at that moment.  It can be for work or pleasure, so long as I'm doing something, and I KNOW what I'm doing.

I'm still far from perfect, but small changes are starting to add up, and my time is being spent more somewhat more efficiently.  I hope to be a monotasking machine by the end of the week.

Join me!  Just for one day, start noticing the times when you multitask.  Dare you to attempt to single out a task to give your FULL attention.  Make note of the difference.  Report back!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Checking in; TGIM: Monotasking

Happy Monday!  Hope you all had a great weekend!  Did you try anything new?  Check out the April Adventures roundup over at Meals & Miles!  Lots of great ideas for new things to try.

Since my success with running for fun, I've dipped in my miles again, but THAT'S OKAY.  I'm still working out, and I'm still enjoying myself.  I do want to get back in running shape, though, so this morning, I was planning to attempt a long run (for me, that'd be five miles) before an abs class.  Didn't happen.  I had a really poor night's sleep and just wasn't feeling up to it.  A spent a little while feeling guilty, but then decided that it's alright so swap today's plan for tomorrow; there was still time to make it happen.  ... But then I didn't.  I'm human.  It was raining.

I DID GO TO THE ABS CLASS.  I did something.  I did not do any real cardio conditioning, (after basically taking the weekend off,) and then proceeded to spend the day planted with my computer writing papers.  I feel slumpy because of it, but these things happen.  All I can do is make tomorrow better, right?  Right.

Like I said, I've got a LOT of big, important papers to be writing.  That's why this week, I'm returning to a challenge I've mentioned before...


This is my TGIM for the week.  Copied directly from earlier this month when I unfortunately did not really stick to my focus:


In the beginning, I did an okay job of applying myself to one task at a time.  I did not do the "say it out loud" thing, because who really does that?  I'd like to try, though, because I think it will make a difference in how effectively I actually monotask.  Eg: "I am writing this blog post, and I am not thinking about my paper, watching the TV, or texting on my phone." See?  Not so awkward.  If in public, I will write it down.  The point is to make it crystal clear what I am about to focus on.

This applies to both work and play.  I will work on my paper and only my paper, closing all other internet browsers that might distract me.  I will also monotask during my workouts; I will fully engage in the class, leaving my phone, magazines, and stresses at home.  I will sit down at the table to eat and not do anything else, not even the crossword puzzle that we keep in the kitchen!  I will focus on my food's flavors, textures, aromas, and I will take my time eating and digesting.  I will sit down and tell myself "I am reading for pleasure," without feeling guilty taking time for me.

Whatever I'm spending my time on, I will be more efficient if it gets my full, undivided attention. 


Do you ever multitask your day away?  What might be some strategies for single-tasking and being more productive?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Baking: Dark Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies




After my first April Adventure getting funky in Zumba class, I kind of took a hiatus from adventuring. Last week just flewww by, but now I'm back and ready for another adventure!

adventurous april

This week, I experimented with gluten-free baking! Granted, I already did some paleo baking with almond flour (which is also GF), but this time I took a regular cookie recipe and swapped in new, never-before-used-by-me ingredients:


The recipe called for rolled oats, so I was thrilled when I happened upon this gluten-free variety!


I know what you're thinking. Beans? In a COOKIE??
I was a little nervous, too, but I chose this as my flour (rather than, say, corn flour or rice flour) because Chocolate-Covered Katie uses chickpea and white bean (and I think even garbanzo!) beans in so many of her healthy, vegan desserts.  And she is AWESOME.

Today's recipe, however, called for regular ole whole wheat flour, of which I'm usually a big fan. I was inspired (dared) by My friend Rachel, who has a blog where she shares her ingenious recipes for meals and desserts alike. I recommended her to you in my Liebster Award post, so if you ignored me then, maybe this recipe will grab your attention! Knowing my weakness for desserts, especially ones that start out as cookie dough, she dared me to make these cookies, and I hope she forgives me for making GF swaps. I promise I'll make the real deal whole wheat cookies another day soon. This weekend, perhaps?

For now, I needed an adventure. SO, I prepared to make a mess of my kitchen.




The food processor I supposedly had turned out to be a dud, so instead of grinding up the rolled oats as Rachel instructs, I just threw em in whole. I've seen that in other recipes, so figured it couldn't be a total fail.




And it wasn't! Now they're oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.



Plus chocolate...


and then time to place on the cookie sheets!


Probably due to the whole- rather than ground- oats issue, my raw cookies came out more like blobs than the round doughy balls of the original recipe, but they turned out alright, I promise :)


See?


Soft. Gooey. Perfect.

CHOMP.

Cookies were approved and praised by myself and by my taste-testers (who didn't know the secret GF ingredients!). Go ahead and make em; you'll be glad you did!  Read more for the recipe.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

WIAW: Love Grown and the Library

Ah, the life of a grad student is a glamorous one.

[Welcome to the library]

Still, we all gotta eat, right?




First up: breakfast, which was made possible in part by Jenn (Peas & Crayons), herself!


After winning her giveaway a few weeks ago, a glorious package filled with Love Grown Granola finally arrived!  She even snuck in some tea and a cute note. So Jenn.


Several bloggers have been going ga-ga over this granola this for a while, so I was excited to see what all the hype was about...


...and worthy, it was.  Mm!  One bite and I knew that was it. I'm converted. Count me in.  Good thing I finished my paleo month because this is goooood.


BONUS:  It is gluten-free!  Woohoo!  It's got all these other traits to brag about, too:


And even the "flavored" bag uses REAL INGREDIENTS for the star flavors! What a novel idea, to use real walnuts and real apples rather than "apple flavor."  Well done, Love Grown Foods.


I loved the "Apple Walnut Delight" flavor.  Normally, I sprinkle (okay, dump) cinnamon into my Greek yogurt, but Love Grown was one step ahead of me, knowing that cinnamon goes so well with apples and walnuts.  Already in there.  Boom.


I put some in my Chobani yogurt for breakfast, and when it was empty, I went back and put another quarter cup in the empty yogurt container. Whoops.


She's right. It is. YUM!  I had to seal up the bag and tuck it in the back of my fridge so I wouldn't be tempted for thirds.  Breakfast is over.  Move on, Meredith.

Then, I started my day with a 3-mile run outside.  Good thing it was early, or I might have melted.


After showering, I had a snack - [unphotographed almonds] - and then packed up my books and headed to the library, where I'd tell myself I'm in school mode and thus would (in a perfect world) not pass the time reading blogs, tweeted about granola, or writing posts for you lovely readers.

Like a good little fitblogging school girl, I packed a salad for a late lunch.  Boring, but did the job.


Also got in plenty of veggie servings.  Dare you to join Jenn and other WIAW participants as we serve up an extra cup this month!




Back home, I experimented with some gluten-free baking...



and enjoyed dinner: leftovers of a delicious quinoa dish my friend urged me to make.  Flavorful vegetables really brought it to life.  Recipe to come soon!



Winnerrrrrrr.

[ Insert more cookies and handfuls of granola for dessert ]

Thats what I ate !  What did you eat ? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pretend you're PALEO

Alright, I've been dropping hints of my gluten-free, paleo-style eating all month. Time to explain what went down.

1.  I went on vacation. I didn't eat wheat, and only very few grains.  I felt great.
2.  I finally accepted all the article, podcast, and book information on the "paleo" (short for paleolithic) lifestyle and how it's curing everything from acne and indigestion to diabetes and chronic disease.
3.  I gave it a go for one month. 30 days.



There are entire books on this, so please bear with me as I try to thoroughly (yet briefly as possible!) explain the diet, my own experience, and my thoughts going forward.

PALEO basics:


What is the paleo diet?
The "paleo diet", aka "caveman diet", is essentially eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fresh fruits, and nature's fats (nuts, seeds, healthful oils).  What you reduce or eliminate is: grains, legumes, and (depending on who you ask) dairy.  It's fairly simple, until you go to the supermarket and learn that these items are in every processed item out there, even when it seems like it should be grain-free.  The focus with paleo is mostly on proteins (lots of meat, say) and vegetables.  A few nuts, a few fruits.  Also, note that beef should be grass-fed and poultry free-range and organic, as they would be if we didn't domesticate them and mess with their diets and hormones.


Really, it's about sticking to the basics.  Fine by me; the more real food, the better!


source


Why would I eat this way?  


The paleo lifestyle is meant to imitate the diet, fitness, and sleep regimens that our ancestors in the paleolithic era followed, before the advent of agriculture.  Because our DNA has changed so little (1%) in these millions of years over which our food systems were drastically modified, the main idea is that our body is genetically designed to process certain types of foods--those most natural, nature-given foods.  Thus, our bodies thrive on paleolithic-era foods.  Paleo followers consume those foods available to hunter-gatherer societies to prevent and reverse diseases that have arisen, arguably, from the modern, Western diet.  These foods, brought about by man during the neolithic era and beyond, are seen as gut irritants, allergens... generally harmful to our bodies.  Paleo eating has been reported to have many benefits, such easing chronic disease symptoms, aiding digestion, reducing risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome (diabetes), boosting energy, and improving athletic performance.


source


Whether you believe that is reason enough to go back to ancient ways, the research does show that the human condition can vastly improve by following a so-called "paleo" eating style.  See Loren Cordain's research, or refer to Robb Wolf's compilation for many more studies and links.  They both also have books available for purchase.  (Or borrow them from the library like I did!)


(I'm also about to start the book Wheat Belly, which probably has even more on this, particularly the wheat/gluten issue. I'm excited.) (...I'm a nutrition dork.)


How do I go about this?  


There are many guides and resources on the web to help you figure out what to eat, but if you stick to meat, fish, eggs, vegetables (not including legumes--beans, peanuts, etc), fruit, oils, nuts, seeds... then you should be on track.  Check out Robb Wolf's meal plans based on personal goals for an idea of what you should be eating.  His shopping list is also helpful, as are many, many books.  Browse Amazon or B&N and you'll see all the Paleo guides and cookbooks.  You can also google "Paleo Recipes" and a zillion hits will come up.  Try Cave Girl Eats, Nom Nom Paleo, Caveman Strong, and Paleo Food for starters.  Balanced Bites also offers several free downloadable paleo guides.


SO that's a very, very brief rundown of what this is all about, in its simplest form.  Now, onto...


My Personal Experience:


It all started when I was in Aruba and decided my eats for the week would not include wheat.  I immediately noticed an improvement in both my digestion and my hand eczema!  Traveling and abrupt weather changes usually irritate these two things, so I attributed the positive change to ditching wheat/gluten.  You can read that report here.


Taking it a step further, I decided to try out the Paleo way of eating I'd been reading up on.  It would be a month-long experiment to see if I noticed any of the other benefits touted by Paleo-followers.  After clearing all grains and legumes out of the kitchen, the month began.  At first, it was pretty easy.  We all know I love vegetables and fish, and I kept my daily Greek yogurt in the mix as breakfast or dessert.  It wasn't very tough living off of foods I already ate and loved.


The real challenge lay in preparation.  Plus, it was pretty expensive.  Recall that I'm a pescetarian, so I eat fish but no meat. I did, however, buy grass-fed beef and organic chicken for my family, and it's not cheap.  Plus, eating this way meant little to no processed foods, and so everything had to be prepared ahead of time.  I came to rely heavily on nuts and fruit as my snacks, because it was easy to just eat raw, as is, with peeling as the maximum effort exerted.  I did a lot of almond-flour baking, experimenting with muffins, cookies, and sandwich bread.  Overall, the food wasn't bad; it just took time, thought, and effort to make balanced meals happen.  If I kept this up longer, I'd probably adjust and it would get easier.  Plus, there are SO MANY SHOPPING AND RECIPE RESOURCES out there that I did not take enough advantage of.


For on-the-go snacks (since processed stuff was out), I often packed an apple, baby carrots, or almonds.  A few times while traveling I brought along a Nakd Bar or LaraBar, which are technically paleo-approved, even though paleolithic gatherers never picked from a LaraBar Tree.


Check out what I ate in some throwback WIAW posts from March: Greens and Paleo.  A few more examples:

plenty of colorful salads

mashed cauliflower


garlic spinach


almond-flour pumpkin muffins


tangy tuna


caveman cookies

baked salmon with veggies
(most of my meals looked like this!)


eggs


Really, just balanced meals consisting of a protein, lotsa veggies, occasional starch, and olive oil.




Plus desserts... another teaser for the apple crisp:




I want to cook it again before I post the recipe.  Ya know, just to make sure I got all the steps down pat... Because it can be really complicated to slice apples, mix them in gooey cinnamony goodness, and bake them...


I did eat out on two or three occasions, and in those cases I ordered things I knew would have nothing off-plan except maybe being cooked in corn oil or something. Generally I stuck to salads, fish, eggs.  Or, when I dined at Westville...




Giant plate of vegetables, anyone?


Note that this is not carb-free.  It may be starch-free, with the exception of a few starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, butternut squash?), but there are plenty of carbohydrates in vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

The Result?  
  • Digestion stayed smooth, as noticed in the beginning. This was GREAT. This remains my main motivation to keep it up. 
  • 2 weeks in, I started to really miss sandwiches, quinoa, pasta, etc., even though I was eating plenty of delicious foods.  But you get used to it, really.  Now I don't crave these items very much at all.
  • Energy was up in the beginning, and dipped about 3 weeks in.  I felt sluggish and cranky for about a week before that feeling went away. 
  • Although many followers do lose weight, I did not.  However, I don't really need to lose more than 5 or 10 lbs--weight that probably stayed on because I was eating so many fruits and nuts.  (Fruit can be high in sugar and calories, and nuts are high in healthy fats, so also very calorie-dense.)  I also already ate tons of vegetables and fish and so didn't change my diet THAT drastically.
    • However, some of my bread-eating companions who joined me in the 30-day challenge DID lose significant weight (along with hundreds of other Paleo dieters), so if you're looking to lose weight, it is probably/definitely worth trying.
    • Still, the impetus behind the paleo lifestyle is HEALTH. If you're at an unhealthy weight, this may help, but paleo is meant to not only make you look better, but also feel and perform your best.
  • Hand eczema stayed away the entire month!  After I re-introduced glutenous foods after the month was up, I started noticing the bumps and cracks again, so I think the connection is there.  I'm going to eliminate gluten (but not all grains) for the next week or two or confirm my suspicion that gluten is the cause.

Overall: success
 This was the first time I ever committed to eating a particular way for a set amount of time. It helped that I had the support of family and friends. 



Now what?


Now... I'm not sure.  At this time, I do believe and agree with a lot of what I'm reading and learning about the paleo lifestyle, and I'm pleased with its effects on my digestion and skin.  Really, whether or not grains and dairy are evil, I can't imagine anything being wrong about a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, oil, and nuts. (What could be healthier??).  Plus, all my listening (podcasts 1 and 2) and reading (books, blogs) is convincing me that grains, legumes, and most forms of dairy really might be anti-nutritious.  Along with the research (biochemistry, lectins, receptor-inhibitors, gut permeability, blahblahblah), there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of positive (and borderline miraculous) testimonials.


Going forward, I'll aim to eat mostly this way at home, integrating a few other grains (quinoa, rice) into the mix, but avoiding the real dangers like gluten and processed Western-diet foods.  When dining at restaurants or at someone's guest, I'll loosen up and enjoy what's served.  I think that sounds like a fair balance for now. (Even Cordain in The Paleo Answer supports the 85/15 rule! This means 85% compliance, allowing 3 non-paleo meals per week.)


My Recommendation?  What any paleo-pro will tell you is to give it a try: do an elimination diet, an then re-integrate foods one at a time to see if they irritate your body at all.  The key is to really be sensitive and conscious of changes in your body in connection with foods you eat.  When you learn how your body reacts, you can make more informed choices about what you consume. 


-----


NOTE: Paleo is to be seen as a lifestyle (as it was the human lifestyle for thousands of years) rather than a "quick fix."  The benefits seen from this diet will fade quickly if you treat it as a fad.  Since reintroducing grains, I've already noticed a digestion slowdown!  Guess I'd better get back on the wagon...


FYI: There are deeper levels of paleo living that I didn't really go into, involving the ratios of certain nutrients and foods, having certain foods like starches (sweet potatoes) and fruit only after working out, stress reduction, and a greater emphasis on quality sleep in a pitch-dark room.  It's also linked to CrossFit, but I stuck to my regular workouts because I don't belong to a 'box.'  In March, I focused only on safe vs. harmful foods.  Perhaps I'd see even greater benefits or changes in body composition if I explored these other dimensions.  I'll keep collecting information and maybe give it another go.  For now, I'm keeping these lessons in mind when making food choices.


COMING UP: If you're interested in talking more about Paleo eating, there happens to be a Twitter Chat this Wednesday 4/18 at 9pm EST: #PaleoChat hosted by Kerri O Fitviews.  She also has her own FAQ page about the paleo diet.


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Have you ever tried paleo eating?  Do you continue to stick with it?  What inspired you to take on that lifestyle?  What are your thoughts?  Suggestions?  I'd love to hear (and share!) your story!


If not, would you consider it now?  This is a big one, but if you're up for it, I dare you to consider trying a week or 30 days to see how it affects you. Or maybe pick just one food to start with and see if you notice a difference.  At the very least, keep your eyes on "paleo," because this rising star is likely to stick around a long time.