Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sleep to Perform

It's a well-known fact that quality sleep is important, and it's also all too well known that it can be hard to come by.  FitFluential knows that quality SLEEP is one of the cornerstones of a healthy life; it affects everything we do for the remainder of our day!  But how many of us actually get a good night's sleep, every night?  Busy schedules, psychological stress, physical discomfort, and blue-light technologies all get in the way of a deep, quality sleep.

So what can we do to remedy the problem?  We can try setting a strict bedtime, eating nutritiously, enjoying 15 minutes of sunlight during the day, or shutting down electronics... but there's only so much we can do if our body is not comfortable.

When I wake up in the night to shift positions, or suffer through my morning with noticeable neck pain, I know something's not right.  Unfortunately, these are were common occurrences for me, and such disrupted sleep patterns left me tired, cranky, and in pain.

Enter: Technogel.

Technogel is a patented gel that's been used in since the early 90s, providing comfort in seats, mattresses, and... PILLOWS!

The beneficial properties of the technology behind Technogel are outlined clearly on their website, so check it out to learn about...
  • 3D Deformation: The gels curve to fit your body in all 3 directions, unlike foam.
  • Durability: The materials do not harden, age, or split free.  The pillow may be pricey, but is a worthy, lasting investment!
  • Ventilation and Thermal Regulation: This is neat.  The Technogel technology prevents your pillow (and thus, head, neck, and body) from warming up
  • Sleep Tests and Research to back up its effectiveness
  • Ergonomics - made to fit your body. Comfort, plain and simple.


Experience a visual demonstration of the gel layer technology here.

But enough about technology!  On to the pillow:


When offered the chance to review the Technogel pillow as a FitFluential Ambassador, I was elated.  I waited eagerly until the box arrived.  It did not disappoint.


It was clear that this was no ordinary pillow.

Sleeping, Redefined

Andddd..... It was love at first hug.

It's hypo-allergenic. I can bury myself in it if I want!

The pillow itself is surprisingly heavy.  This is the first sign that it's made for sound sleep, rather than a pillow fight.  It is dense (filled with that fancy gel!), but, at the same time, is also soft and plush.  It feels firm, yet cushiony... It's sort of like foam, but definitely feels more like it embraces you rather than giving way under your weight.

I took my time getting to know it before taking it to bed.

The pillows come in different shapes to suit your sleeping needs: Classic, Deluxe, Anatomic, Contour, and Travel versions.


I selected the Anatomic Pillow, designed for back- and side-sleepers, both of which describe me.  I tend to start on my back and then turn on to my side to fall asleep.    It is also suggested to relieve back, neck, and shoulder pain.  Again, that's me!


The anatomic shape conformed perfectly to my neck and shoulders when sleeping on either my side or back.  I usually feel like my shoulder gets crushed under my torso's weight when I sleep on my side, but with the Technogel pillow, I didn't feel like my shoulder was rounding out at all. This pillow seemed to hold my head and shoulders up on its own, leaving me comfortable on my side.


This conformity of the pillow to my body was noticeable immediately, and I was pleased.  It felt like it was made for my neck.  I slept comfortably for the first few nights, falling asleep quickly, and staying asleep, to boot.  After only a couple days, noticed that my typical morning neck pain was no longer bothering me.  It's been a few weeks, and I'm still free of neck pain and sleeping soundly through the night.  For someone who used to wake up frequently and have a sore neck every morning, this has been a welcome improvement.

Needless to say, I'll continue using my Technogel pillow.  My other pillows have gotten pushed away.  I feel a little bad for them, but not bad enough to welcome them back to my sleeping routine. I'll save them for sitting up and reading.  For sleep, I'm all about my Technogel.  I'm even considering looking into their other products!  Their Deluxe pillow looks like it's fit for a king, and I can't even imagine how glorious it'd be to sleep on a Technogel mattress.  Heaven!

Think a Technogel pillow or mattress could improve the quality of YOUR sleep?

They've got some great Tips for Quality Sleep on their website, and there, you can also check out the different pillows.  At $150+, they're not cheap, but definitely worth the investment.  When you think about the amount of time you spend sleeping (what, a THIRD of your life??) and the way your sleep quality affects your waking hours, it's worth investing in the comfort and soundness of your sleep.

Connect with Technogel to learn more!  Like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and view the YouTube Technogel World.  Of course, you can also learn from the TechnogelWorld Website and research products and Where to Buy.

You could improve the quality of your sleep,
just like Technogel has improved mine.

And when you sleep better, your PERFORM better.  With quality sleep, I'm more alert at work, in class, at the gym, and with friends.  I dare you to sleep to perform.  Make necessary changes to help ensure sound sleep, and see how a good night's rest can improve the quality of your DAY, too!



Have you ever invested in a high-quality pillow or mattress?  
What types of products help improve YOUR sleep?  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learn about Sugar and Setbacks: 21 DSD Reflection

Just 23 days ago, I began the 21 Day Sugar Detox.  It's something I'd wanted to do for a long time now, and the new year seemed like the perfect time.  Well, it wasn't perfect, because I knew that I had a trip on January 19, during which I would not want to restrict myself, but I figured a 19-Day Sugar Detox was better than nothing. It would be a good chance to dabble in it and see how it went!


And now, my first go-round is complete :)

Here, I'll give you a small background on it (but go to the website for all the details!), a glimpse at some of my eats during the 3 weeks, and a set of lessons learned about myself and my food--thanks to the detox program.

A bit of background: 

The 21 Day Sugar Detox is not intended to be a permanent lifestyle.  It is a nutrition-based program for anyone who experiences sugar or carb cravings, energy spikes and dips, brain fog, lethargy, and other undesirable symptoms of an unhealthy, unnatural diet.  It's carefully designed by Diane Sanfilippo to kick your sugar addiction and detox your body from the bad stuff, while fueling it with the good.  (Even she doesn't live it; she does the program once or twice a year to detox her body and feel fabulous.)  Basically, it takes basic paleo principles a step further by eliminating not only refined, but also natural sugars, such as those in fruit and honey.  It also (obviously) meant taking the too-often chocolate treats out of my daily regimen.

However, there are three different levels to choose from, which range from more or less "paleo" based on your current dietary choices.  The program itself comes with a ton of PDFs to help you get through it: Getting Started guides, food replacement suggestions, very clear-cut Yes/No food lists, guides to sugar and sweeteners, and SO MANY OTHER tips for dining out, preparing meals and snacks, recipes, etc.  When I first downloaded it, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information!

My downfall, I think, is that I was overwhelmed and did not prepare properly.

But I'll start at the beginning:

Week 1 was awesome Seriously.  I don't know what I expected, but it was fantastic.  Whether I can credit the sugar-free eating or simply my return to paleo, I felt fan-TASTic. Bloat, gone. Hand eczema, improved.  The first few days I was still foggy and lethargic, but soon my energy returned.

The choices were easy. Maybe it's because it was fresh and new, but I did not struggle to stick to the program.  I prepared all my meals at home during the week.  Here's a glimpse at what I ate:


Mmm eggs

Chicken and Veggies over/in Baby Spinach

Salmon, roasted bell peppers (SO SWEET!)
The one sweet potato I bought before I realized it was off-limits.
BUT stayed on the 21DSD Guidelines by consuming it after a workout. 

Click below to see more and read how it went and what I learned from the 21DSD:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Prepare Weeknight Paleo

January Paleo is going well!  Or, well, was going well.  First, let me say that it's amazinggg how much more energized and slimmer I feel after just a week, or a few days, even, of paleo, sugar-free eating.  My digestion stopped bothering me and my hand eczema began clearing up again, very quickly.  Awesome.  My second week was toughest, as predicted, both just because it was week 2 and because it was a particularly stressful workweek.  Thus, I had a few setbacks and noticed the negative effects immediately, but I'm back and finishing out my month.

Eleven months into my experience with paleo nutrition, I've learned a lot...

Planning and preparation are KEY.  If you say, "I'm going to eat the paleo way" and then just wander out into the world, you will almost certainly struggle and fail. That's just the way it is. I found great success by preparing my week's meals in advance on Sunday.  It greatly helps with enforcing any dietary goals.  We don't live in a paleo world, so following a paleo diet takes work when you first get started.

But--if that "work" is simplified and becomes routine, it's actually pretty easy to adjust to the paleo lifestyle.  With the right planning and tools, you can and will succeed.

One invaluable tool for the busy paleo eater is...

Weeknight Paleo: 
9 Weeks of Quick and Easy Gluten-Free Meals
Foreword by Melissa Joulwan, author of Well Fed (and theclothesmakethegirl.com)

Weeknight Paleo

Melissa’s foreward explains how the drudgery of making dinner when you’re hungry, tired, cranky, overworked, or out of patience can be eradicated by a little prep work in advance, helping change your cooking regimen to something entirely manageable on busy weeknights. 
  • “With Amber’s friendly guidance, it’s easy to dine sumptuously on weeknights without sacrificing your kitchen creativity, your entire evening, or your sense of goodwill.”
  • “These recipes are so flavorful, so grounded in good taste and attention to culinary detail, you and your dining companions will forget these meals were born of the desire for good health and weight loss.”
  • “Amber’s done all the hard work of creating paleo recipes that taste like real food so you can reel in the art of cooking, even when you’re making dinner.”

The Book: 

The Table of Contents quickly shows how the weeknight dinners are divided up not by type of ingredient, but rather by full weeks of dinners.

Introduction
-       The main idea of the cookbook is that the meals are “easy enough to pull together on a weeknight, but tasty enough to satisfy my family."  They all include make-ahead instructions, so you can spend 60 minutes or less in the kitchen on the weekend, and then reduce weeknight prep time significantly.
-       Meal plans will include "This, then That" recipes, where Amber helps you transform one ingredient into two distinct dinners.
-       Quick Cooking Meals: Some made-from-scratch meals can be quick but flavorful!

Who is this book for?  “This book is for anyone who practices a special type of diet—Paleo, Gluten-free, Grain-free, or Allergy-free. It’s for mom, dad, grandmamma, a busy professional, all the single ladies and gentlemen, and kids.”  AND you don't need to be an experienced culinary chef to make these recipes! The instructions are made for anyone and everyone.

Then, Amber shares her own story—her own path to Paleo, comments on the “true cost of paleo” (“Either you pay the farmer or pay the physician"), and includes notes on applying Paleo and finding success through balance.  I found her perspective enlightening.

There was only one bit that concerned me, at the end of intro (p. xiv-xv), where she says she uses  “extra virgin olive oil for roasting and sautéing vegetables.”  I used to do this, and it's not a huge gaff, but if using a high temperature, these should be cooked with coconut oil.  But, of course, she quickly came back into my good graces: “You may feel more comfortable substituting coconut oil for extra virgin olive oil, coconut aminos for gluten-free soy sauce, or leaving out the natural sweeteners altogether. That’s totally acceptable.  Feel free to tailor recipes that include special condiments to suit your nutritional goals.”  Excellent. 

The book contains 9 weeks of quick and easy weeknight dinners. Each week-long plan has a...
  • Menu: A list of the meals for the week
  • Make-ahead schedule: Instructions for prepping vegetables, blending a sauce, making a vinaigrette, cooking the longer-to-cook items, etc.  This was GREAT.  I really like the make-ahead instructions, because ever since I started doing my own Sunday prepwork, I was often left wondering how long I could realy wait before consuming certain dishes.  Here in Weeknight Paleo, Amber tells me!  She writes right there in the meal plan: "Serve within 2 days," or "serve within 5 days."  Just what I needed! 
  • Shopping list: Contains all the items you'll need to cook a given week's meals, and categorizes ingredients by grocery store department for easier shopping.  Thank you!

In addition to the week menus and recipes, Weeknight Paleo also has sections on "Stocking Up," which provides tips for a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator, and "Flavor Boosters." Like many other cookbooks I’ve seen and reviewed, these few pages are dedicated to specific, commonly used seasonings and their uses.  Amber shares her “Paleo Savvy House Seasoning,” “Paleo Mayo,” and “Homemade Pesto,” and suggests various uses for all three.

Ah, at least:Meals

First, I flipped through and salivated over pictures and descriptions.  These meals look good, and by good, I mean great.  

Then, I observed two challenges to my effective use of these meal plans:
(1) I still choose not to eat certain types of meat (pork), so certain recipes were off-limits, OR could be adjusted for with beef. 
(2) I'm one person. I'm not cooking for a family, and these recipes yield PLENTY.  This is hardly a problem, just something to be aware of for those following the recipes, like any recipe.  

Clearly, these were small obstacles that I easily overcame.  Instead of following meal plans to the letter, I made adjustments as needed.  


To begin, I passed over Week 1, which contained pork and required a slow-cooker.  However, I made a note to go back and try the salmon recipe, which looked divine.  Jumping ahead to Week 2--more appropriate for my dietary preferences and tastes, I prepared my shopping list, which is right there in the book.  


Weeknight Paleo so generously provides the shopping list upfront.  I didn't have to do the math and guesswork across recipes; it was all done for me!  I simply checked my kitchen for what I already had and copied down what I needed!  How comforting it was to know that I wouldn't end up with excess of one thing or not enough of another. 


Hello, REAL FOOD!

Here's just some of what the Weeknight Paleo recipes yielded:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Herbes de Provence-Crusted Salmon
with a Citrus-Herb Sauce and Asparagus

Spaghetti and Meatball Sauce

(And leftovers!)

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Caramlized Onions
Paired with Tuscan Steak that was a fail on my part. 
Recovering vegetarian still learning how to cook steak.

And it was all delicious.  I've made more since that first week and been enjoying the recipes.  You can keep up with more of my #weeknightpaleo meals on Instagram and Twitter

Although adhering to the literal week-long dinner meal plans didn't really work for me, it's definitely a great outline to have for people cooking for a family.  For me, choosing just two to three meals and cooking the full recipe was enough to last me lunches and dinners all week long.  So many recipes approved, and so many more I have yet to make.  So check it out for yourself, experiment, and see what works for you!  

I am so thankful that Amber was gracious enough to share her e-book with me. If you're interested, you can find Weeknight Paleo on Amazon!  You'll get tons of delicious recipes, and actionable prep instructions to make your paleo weeknights easier.  If you want a sneak peek, check out the Paleo Savvy blog.

Do you plan your weeknight meals in advance?  Would a book like this help you better live up to your nutritional goals?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Know the Difference: Setback vs. Failure

My 21-Day Sugar Detox: Two weeks down, one to go!  

Since I started on January 1, I confess that I've ever-so-slightly fluctuated in my adherence.  Week 1 was outstanding.  It was fresh and new and I was turning down sugar-laden food and drink like it was nothing. Then, Week 2 caught me with... not even caving to suggestion but simply giving in to my own temptations, my own crankiness and whims, maybe simply because I could.  I made a couple choices that I am not happy about, but they taught me about myself, and now I continue on.

Each morning, I receive an email from Diane Sanfilippo, creator of the 21-Day Sugar Detox, in which she offers some words of motivation and some tips for simplifying the task. This week, one email contained some words that really spoke to me:


Yep, that's exactly what I needed to hear.  A setback means I slipped up, lost focus, got lazy, and made an undesirable choice.  It was not me "giving up," and it may not have furthered my goal, but a setback does not mean that I failed.  I did not decide that my health wasn't worth the effort.  Instead, I recognized my setback, learned from it, and got back on the horse.

With that said, I plan to finish my 21 19-Day Sugar Detox strong!  The first week and a half showed me the great benefits I feel from removing sugar, and then the detrimental effects I felt after those few moments of weakness.  (This likely goes hand-in-hand with the return to more clean paleo.)  I'll keep those wellness and blech memories in mind as I move into the final week and finish out the third week.

Whatever your goals or desired habits and lifestyles are, I dare you to recognize the difference between a set back and failure, and to not let setbacks discourage you from moving forward with as much momentum as you began! 

Have a great week :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cook with a New Food: Artichokes

Time to try out another new food!

I must admit that I already knew I liked to eat artichoke hearts. However, tossing the jarred hearts into a salad and cutting the heart out of a fresh artichoke... those are two very different things.  So today, I tried cooking artichoke hearts, from the raw.

There's a recipe in Make It Paleo that looks delish, so I went and bought some baby artichokes to give it a try.


Aren't they cute?  Or they were, until...


OUCH. Immediate fail. NOT cute!  Who knew that artichoke leaves were so pointy?!?

Some cold water and a bandaid later, I went about cutting the leaves off and chopping out the heart. I honestly have no idea if I did this correctly.  Learning by doing!


I boiled them first to soften, and then sliced and pan-seared them according to the Primal Palate recipe.



Cut up up and added some coconut oil...


Et voila!


Paired them with a little dip that I whipped up. Couldn't even really tell you what's in it (coconut milk? dijon mustard? oil? basil?), but it worked!


It felt like a lot of work and scraps just to get to the heart of these little babies, but they were so tasty that I gobbled them all up.  Moderate success?



Check out Primal Palate and my review of the Make It Paleo cookbook.  
You can find the full recipe here to make it yourself!  

I dare you to eat and cook artichoke hearts!  Whether this or another nutritious addition, remember to eat your vegetables!

Have you ever cooked artichokes, or do you get the jarred or canned varieties?  

Any tips to help make the process simpler and less painful for newbies like myself? 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Features

All workweeks should be 3 days! Who agrees?

A new year, and some new interesting articles to share with you!

Looking back on 2012 and beyond 2013, Mark Bittman offers this comprehensive overview of health-related current events, news, and trends in The New York Times Online.

Water, Coconut Water, or Sports Drink -- Which is best for you?  Brad Gouthro helps you choose.

Mark Sisson asks if you're eating these important supplemental foods.  I've got about a third in my diet... dare me to try the rest?

Whether you're making this common interval training mistake or simply want to take your workout to the next level, Dr. Ray Hinish has the trick to get the most burn out of your high-intensity interval training.

Looking for some new recipes?  Jenn has you covered, with colorful recipes, from A to Z!

Or, check out Balanced Bites if you're interested specifically in 15 egg-Free Breakfast Ideas.

More news on negative effects of fructose (which is in SO MANY PROCESSED FOODS) via Greatist.

Speaking of fructose, aka sugar...

Checking in: How am I doing with my January goals?

21daysugardetox.com
It's been fine so far, but I have already faced a couple challenges. Fortunately, I was able to hold out and stick to my guns, not caving in to sugar or non-paleo foods.  I passed by a bowl of holiday chocolates at the office, and I declined wine while out to dinner.  Now, the weekend, on and upwards!  It's only four days in, so this is the easy part.  Cravings are just starting to creep in, but I think week 2 will be the toughest.  I just keep telling myself how great it will feel when I've completed the 21 Day Sugar Detox, and I no longer feel like a slave to chocolate!  Once I get there...

Now, I am not giving up sweets forever.  No way!  I just want to kick the habit, and it seems like Diane Sanfilippo has come up with a successful program for doing so.  As always, it's really just sticking to real foods, as they're found in nature (except fruit and a few others), and eating as much of those foods as I like.   The goal is to stop depending on sugar for energy.  Learn more about it at the21daysugardetox.com, where she explains the reasons behind it, describes the program itself, and offers many testimonials. I hope I can experience similarly pleasing results!

Wish me luck, and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Set January Goals

Happy New Year!  My 2013 resolution involves having a different focus each month, and that begins with....

January: New Year Nutrition.

Really, before I tackle any other goals and focuses, I need to feel good, first, right?  That's why 2013 will start with the inside, which, of course, starts with food.

Paleo Eats from Dare You To...


Step 1: Return to Paleo

I've gushed about the paleo lifestyle before, and I've shared my personal experience going paleo to "mostly paleo," and yet, in spite of my conviction that it is incredibly healthy and yields undeniable positive results, I've fallen off the wagon.

This fall, I got busy, and tired, and just sort of consciously gave concessions for a while, going beyond just 80/20 or "flexible."  In that craziness, I also came to rely on sugar for energy.  My poison of choice?  Chocolate-covered almonds, cashews, and blueberries. It was a temporary sweetness, that soon left me feeling foggy-headed.

Just as I discovered last spring, the food I eat really relates to the symptoms I experience. Sure enough, my hand eczema returned with the wheat, and I constantly felt fatigued.  I also began getting migraines from time to time, which I suspect are linked to excess nut consumption.  The symptoms have piled up, and even a few days of nice, clean eating was always enough to make me feel a bit better.  Well, I'm finally ready (again) to stop feeling lousy for good.

Enter: Basically, I'm re-committing to paleo, with a solid, strict month of paleo eats.  It's not that I don't think that eating "mostly paleo" can't work for me (I do!), but I need to remind myself how great it feels to follow the protocol, truly, for 30 days.  Really, I wanted to do this a month ago, but I didn't want to sabotage myself with the holiday season and all.  Plus, what better time than the new year to begin?

As part of this, I was also planning avoid sugar to try to kick that sugar and chocolate-covered treats addiction.  If I'm going to go all-in, why not just do it all at once?  I think I'm more of an abstainer than a moderator, so I want to do this right. I'd like to really buckle down, feel good, and then re-integrate and target my personal problem foods.

To help with the sugar-free month, I signed up for Diane Sanfilippo's 21 Day Sugar Detox.  I know that I have an event at the end of the 3 weeks where I'll likely end my detox a couple days early, but a 19-day sugar-free streak is better than nothing!  With Diane's guides, suggestions, recipes, and reminders, I'll have the tools and motivation to really follow through.  Plus, my friend Amber, who helped convince me to take the plunge, will be right there with me.  It's great to have an encouraging friend!

See for yourself!

If you're interested, join in at 21daysugardetox.com!  It's her biggest group participating, yet!

Step 2: Increase protein consumption to 90 grams/day

Last spring, I first recognized the effects of protein on my feelings of fullness.  I started making salads packed with fish rather than just vegetables, and couldn't believe how satisfying it was; my afternoon snack cravings vanished.  Since then, I've done a good job of making sure I get a significant amount of protein at every meal, but I'd like to actually start tracking it and increasing my protein to about 90 grams/day on average.  When I pay attention, this is easy.  When I don't pay attention, I fall short.  This month, I will be tracking my protein intake to make sure I reach my goal!


Step 3: Eat slowly, sitting down.

This is a habit change.  I'm finally good about sitting down to eat, but I'm still awfully speedy!  Sometimes I don't even realize I've been eating until I look down and my food is gone!  I'm not sure how to measure this other than timing myself, which seems a bit tedious, but I'll do my best to slow down, chew each bite thoroughly, and savor my meals.

-----

That's the plan for January!  I'll do my best to check in on how it's going. Even if I'm not posting on it, you can follow along on Twitter and Instagram.  Also check out Amber's updates, too!

What are your goals for January and Resolutions for 2013?  
How are you going to improve or keep up your nutrition habits for the new year? 
Have any tips for slowing down at meals?