Tag Archives: changing habits

Still Counting Calories? At Least You’re Not Working Out To Jane Fonda. Are You?

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Fad diets come and go with the times, as did leotards and fuzzy headbands– though leg warmers seem to be making an interesting comeback. (I still don’t know what to make of that.)

But something that needs to go away already is the useless practice of calorie counting. But. BUT. You’re going to say. And I’m going to wiggle my finger in your face because Nuh huh.

The control that calorie counting offers is more of an illusion, because it allows too big a room for unhealthy practices to be justified. “I’m 300 calories short for the day! This means I get to have a slice of chocolate velvet cake deep fried in butter stuffed with lard.” You know what I mean. If at the end of one day you discover you have consumed a smaller amount of calories than what your goal is it will be easier for you to convince yourself it’s totally fine to snarf down a bag of chips, raid the leftover cake, or finish the extra big chocolate bar. And it’s not.

I honestly believe counting calories sets you up for failure, because there is no specification about the quality of said calories. Two hundred calories of cookies is not the same as 200 calories of raw veggies. You know which one is the smartest option and yet, given the chance by having “spare space” in your calorie count for the day, you’ll choose the unhealthy sugary shit. You know I’m right.

Besides, tell me the truth: Do you really want to be a slave to counting that shit every day for the rest of your life? Do you think it’s  healthy mental practice to obsess about amounts and counts of this or that? Do you honestly want to be that person that brings their motherfucking scale to parties and reunions? Please don’t be. Those people suck the fun right out of getting together with friends.

BUT. You’ll argue. That’s what they do in The Biggest Loser, and they lose a lot of weight! And you’d be correct. But what you don’t see much of in the show is the kind of food they eat. They aren’t limiting their caloric intake and still consuming crap foods. They have a team of people showing them how to eat, when to eat it, how much to eat… it’s television and it’s in the show’s best interest that these peeps lose a lot of weight, and fast. Ratings, babeh. Their meals consist mostly of fresh food. REAL FOOD. Food that is alive and in turn gives life, because that’s the food that allows the body to shed unnecessary weight.  My guess is that thorough nutritional explanations aren’t what most of the population would describe as enthralling TV entertainment, and this is what they don’t show us much of that. Seriously, if you think they lose weight by pure magic of the brutal workouts they’re subjected to, you’ll be highly disappointed. It’s been proven time and time again, you can even repeat after me: You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

You cannot out-train unhealthy eating habits.

YOU CANNOT OUT-TRAIN UNHEALTHY EATING HABITS.

Basically this means you can kill yourself in the gym, on the treadmill, or run your dog to the ground, and the changes in your body will likely remain insignificant for as long as you keep eating the same shit you’re still eating.

And this brings us back to the calorie conundrum. You’re right in that there are amounts of nutrients the body needs for optimal functioning, so how can we know how much to have of what? I’m glad you asked.
Enter the Calorie Control Guide, from the geniuses at Precision Nutrition.

FOR THE GUYS:

                                     FOR THE LADIES:

Click on either picture to be taken to the full article, with more reasons why counting calories sucks and to access printable versions of this guide. It’s very simple to remember! Everything you need is… wait for it… in the palm of your hand. Ba dum tss.

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Ah, Sunday

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If you’re anything like me, Sunday means kicking back and relaxing. And doing laundry and baking for the week and freezing meals… When you’re done showering the dads of your life with love and chocolate (of the organic, sustainable, fair trade kind *wink*) take some time to catch up on your reading. Come on. It does your brain good. Here are some cool articles I read during the week and that you may find interesting!

And the video at the very end? Also very cool.

Growing Up With A Fat Dad, The New York Times.

A complex story, with a savior and a dash of hope.

Ultramarathon Running: How a Vegan Diet Helped Me Run 100 Miles  by Scott Jurek, for the Huffington Post

I don’t have to remind you how much I love Scott Jurek, right? I mean, we did share a moment, after all.

Ironman Champ: Train Your Brain, Then Your Body

Beautiful article in which four-time World Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington reminds us what we already know but consistently choose to ignore: To win the race, you must first win it in your head.

Brilliant TED talk by Christopher McDougall on what he learned about endurance running from living with the Tarahumara indians in Mexico. Must watch!

I was going to title this ‘Taste the Rainbow’, but then I wanted to punch myself in the face.

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I can do better. I’ll come up with a more creative title. Someday.

Now focus.

Some months ago I found an article in one of those trashy celebrity sites (now you’re gonna pretend you never read those?) and the headline said something like ZOMG JENNIFER ANISTON REVEALS SUPER DIET SECRET. Not exactly but might as well considering journalism is pretty much dead. Anyway, it was one more of hundreds of articles that promise the answer to everyone’s prayers, the revealing of the mystical elixir of youth– and skinniness. So of course I read it!

Her secret diet? She eats colorful meals.

I facepalmed and rolled my eyes so hard they almost fell out of their sockets, but not because the advice was stupid. It was because groan why did this information have to be released as celebrity news, thus completely stripping it of any credibility? Looking at it on the bright side, maybe the article helped some people change their eating habits for the better by sheer aspiration to be perceived as desirable as Aniston. Har.

Jennifer Aniston aside, I learned about colorful meals a long time ago through my reiki teacher, who also happens to be a naturopath, herbologist and a medical doctor. The logic behind this idea is actually quite simple: Every food’s color is determined by the nutrient they mostly consist of. So, by eating a bit of every color found in nature each day you’re guaranteeing your body is receiving the widest variety of nutrients.

EASY.

I laugh sometimes (and by laugh I mean I want to cry) when I see how unnecessarily complicated some people make nutrition seem. The bookstore is full of books in which the authors figured how to make money off of you and me, and we fall for it every time. Think about it: If it was absolutely necessary that we carry around our kitchen scale, calculate our intakes like a witch’s potion, avoid entire food groups, and count calories until our head explodes, then humanity never would have made it this far. None of it is sustainable for the course of an entire lifetime.

Of course nutrition is a science (and a fascinating one, too!) and it’s full of awesome complexities, chemical reactions, hormonal  releases and even psychological aspects. It is true that when there is a specific goal at hand (say, shaving off a fraction of a second in how fast an Olympic runner runs 100 m.) the elaborate details in the diet are of mayor importance, but it is also true that the act of eating normally, for everyday sustenance and health, is in no way difficult– and it was never meant to be.

If you’re thinking that by ‘colors’ I mean you can down a packet of Sweetarts and call it a day, you’re doing it wrong. These colors must come from wholesome foods: Foods that grow/exist on their own in nature with no human intervention. GASP. There is an amazing world of food out there, and sadly we have limited ourselves to a very small spectrum. Our choices aren’t always what our body needs, and we suffer because of it in the form of disease, lethargy and excessive weight. Changing this doesn’t have to be difficult.

And now, I will share with you the list of foods by color that I use myself as a reminder of some of the options there are available. Because I’m awesome. WHO LOVES YOU.

Simply click on the picture and you’ll be able to print it.

Obviously depending on your area and availability some of these items will be more difficult to find than others. Stick to what is affordable and readily accessible to you. Remember, easy does it. For example, if some fresh fruit is off-season and very expensive at the moment, maybe consider using frozen fruit instead. I do use frozen fruits and veggies when prices are too hacked up here (usually in the middle of the cold, dead winter), but I generally steer away from canned stuff. Do whatever works for you.  Also, feel free to add or delete items from the list above to your liking– make this yours.

And because I know it can take a bit of time to get used to new habits, here’s a little something to help you along the way. Print the following chart and simply write down by day the foods you’ve had so far. It’s a great way to see which color is the most evasive in your diet, and so you can focus on consuming a bit more of that.

For example, yesterday I ate

Smoothie: Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, pomegranate, flaxseed.

Hot cereal: Bob’s Red Mill mix with corn, wheat and buckwheat; almond milk, almonds and walnuts added to it.

Lunch: Chickpea soup (tomatoes, ginger, yellow onion), and avocado sandwich in whole wheat bread.

Dinner: Green salad (spinach, lettuce, beet greens, arugula), vegetable cream soup (carrots, potatoes, red onion, leeks, zucchini, almond milk), shrimp.

So my chart for yesterday would look something like this:

It isn’t necessary to write down every. single. thing. you eat, though you can certainly be as detailed as you want. I mostly conform with writing one item per color even if I ate more, just to know that I’ve had something in that color for the day. As you see, yesterday I didn’t have anything black so today I’ll remember to add some raisins to my cereal.

Bonus? This chart is awesome for kids, too. It’s like a game, the challenge of getting one in every color by the end of the day! Even better when they get to pick and choose from the list what it is they like to eat. Involvement never hurt ’em.

I find that starting my day with a fruit smoothie not only guarantees that I consume a whole lotta colors right off the bat, but it also gives me that extra humpf of energy. Plus they’re delicious.

And now you’re ready, my little grasshopper, to take charge of your beautiful body and treat it like it deserves. Go on and make me proud.

 

My body pulled a Natalie Portman

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And I don’t mean I woke up one morning looking like she did in Black Swan.

In fact, quite the opposite, you know, considering I’m pregnant.

I am! But I hadn’t written about it because I know it can be an awkward subject since every knocked up woman in the history of the world has felt her pregnancy is the most. important. thing. and of course to her it is, but so many others around her are going eh. Can’t blame them (or you, if that’s your case) because the baby baking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But now that we got the (potential) awkwardness out of the way let’s tackle today’s class, which I have lovingly titled Dear body, seriously WTF.

I love questioning myth vs. fact, old wives’ tale vs. scientific evidence, what is vs. what isn’t, and no other moment in life offers more of these comparisons than pregnancy. Oy. We’ve heard it all: tie a red ribbon to your shirt for protection! Wear this little medal of St. Whoever’s-in-charge-of-pregnant-ladies so that everything turns out fine! (at least if you grew up Catholic like I did), don’t stare at the moon or the baby will be hairy (ok I may have made that one up)… you get the hint.

But along with the myths are a myriad of facts: it’s a fact that the body will change; for some women the changes are precipitous and obvious, while for others they’re imperceptible and almost only internal– but they’re there.

It is also a fact that during pregnancy the body produces all sorts of hormones and baby forming ingredients. However, this fact comes hand in hand with a shitload! of myths. It is a myth that you have to puke. It is a myth that you have to end up with the emotional stability of a ravenous murderer. It is a myth that your hair has to fall out or your skin has to break. While all of these are possibilities, there are many different variables that will determine what, in the end, will be our own personal outcomes, symptoms and effects.

With this in mind I was pretty determined to not be a textbook pregnant. I decided I was fine without morning sickness and that the change in shape of my body would be gradual and slow. Awesome, right? I was like, bitch, I got this.

But then something happened that I wasn’t expecting. The body reveled. The body was like dude, fuck this shit. Surprised and in shocked awe, all I did was sit back and observe it happen.

It all began with a salad. I love salads! For a few weeks out of my first trimester though, my body was having none of that. I could have slapped whoever dared offer me spinach. RAGE. Also my beloved fruit smoothies: Just opening the freezer and seeing the bags of fruit made me want to go she-hulk on someone’s ass. It was awful.

But the worst came after: I was all, get me fucking fried chicken NOW or prepare to DIE. Is this embarrassing to admit? Absolutely. Did it ground me down from any shadow of a holier than thou attitude I may have been flaunting? Hell yes.

Everyone and their pet fish will have a theory of why this sort of thing happens: The regular meat eater will use it as obvious evidence that the body needs meat and will feel vindicated. The militant activist will point fingers and blame a faulty will power and lack of commitment. One opinion or another, it doesn’t really matter; this personal case of mine is for me to understand and learn from, and boy, did I ever!

And this is the story of how Natalie Portman and I are twinsies: From a life of predominantly vegan eating, to a pregnancy where the body says fuck all and takes a different direction. It’s ironic, too, because I’m willing to bet that Portman, much like myself, really desired to eat only the healthiest, purest and most peaceful food during a time in which what we eat matters most. Has the occasional cheese and burger turned me into an awful, unworthy mother? Well, I believe that if there’s anything that poisons the body more than unhealthy food that would be guilt, so I’ve chosen to free myself in this one.

What about you, any psycho swings experienced during your/your partner’s pregnancy? OR AM I THE ONLY ONE.

If you think I’m a mean workout machine, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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I’m certainly not one of those who’s always all OMG RUN YEAAAH or I CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE GYM. No. I procrastinate, I look for excuses, I work trade-offs with myself in my head. I’m a pretty regular human being most of the time.

I think the only difference is that I’m aware of the tricks I play on myself. I recognize the voice in my head, and I know it’s lying. Maybe I don’t need to work out, maybe I don’t have to work out. Most of the time I don’t necessarily want to work out. What I do want, what I do like, are the results. I love feeling strong, I like seeing my body defined. It makes me happy when I can do things I couldn’t do before. And because I enjoy the results, I know the work that must be put into achieving them is worth my time.

This doesn’t mean that I’m automatically transformed into a work out beast. Right now, after over three weeks of doing ZILCH (because I was away for holidays in Mexico visiting my family, whom I hadn’t seen in three years) I’m discovering I need to coax myself into starting over.

For some people it may work great to just dive into the madness of spending hours exercising after a period of inactivity. Not for me– at least not this time around. My approach is beginning slowly, building back up to where I was pre-vacation. And I think I found the perfect way to start!

I just came across this website, myfreeyoga.com, and found it to be a great resource. It’s full of free yoga class videos, and I did this session this morning, in my house, still in my pj’s– so no excuses as to why I couldn’t. It felt great to get moving, but OY. So many things cracked and popped, and my muscles were super stiff– a big wake-up call as to how weeks of inactivity slowly creep in and regress a bit of what we’ve worked hard to achieve.But, it only gets better from here :)

So, if you’re looking for a way to get back into the exercise mindset, but haven’t been able to convince yourself to hit the gym or train for a marathon, you may find it beneficial to start slow like I did. It doesn’t matter how small or slow you start. JUST START.

The story of our life is still unwritten

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Juan Carlos Romero (right) celebrates his silver medal

The 2011 Pan-American games, which took place in Guadalajara, Jalisco, in Mexico, recently concluded and as is common in international sporting events, we are exposed to the history behind the heroes– personal stories that helped form today’s winners.

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You have probably never heard of Juan Carlos Guerrero; neither had I. In this excerpt (translated by me) he describes his life in an interview, the day after he won a silver medal:

An evening in the summer of 2004, at a billiards bar in Zacatecas, began a dream that yesterday concluded in a silver medal for Mexico in the ten thousand meters, for running.

Juan Carlos Romero, with a drink in his hand, watched Ana Gabriela Guevara racing in TV, in the Olympic Games of Athens, and the inspiration he felt made him resolve to change the course of his life. “I ran in middle school and junior high and then the life I had was of alcoholism and smoking, I grew up, it was a dangerous neighborhood”, he recalled.

“When I’d come out of a bar drunk, I couldn’t even stand up straight so I would sit for a little while on the curve and then I’d wake up the next day, at 11 am with people starting at me”.

He assures that [Mexican runner] Ana Guevara was his inspiration. “I was 26 years old, and one day they aired the Olympic Finals of Ana Guevara, and seeing her, I stopped drinking right there. I told my friends I was going to start running, even though at that moment I was holding a beer and a cigarette”, he admitted.

“I have friends in jail, dead friends, others still in rehab centers; I was able to get out, I studied a career and one good day I bought my running shoes and now here I am, with a Pan-American medal”.

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Immediately after the race was over a reporter asked him what had been his key for not giving up, for finishing strong; he responded with a simple yet meaningful “Endure, endure, endure”.

In racing, like in life itself, he sure has.

 

Information is key: Vegan resources

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As some of you have read I’m getting ready to face PCRM’s 21-day Vegan Kickstart, and to my great fortune I have discovered friends and readers alike who want to dip their toes into veganism like I do. First of all, kudos to you guys! I think the moment we let ourselves try something outside our norm, something different to what we’ve done for years, we’re allowing our vision of the world to expand. If or not you feel the benefits, if or not you stick to veganism for the rest of your life, I think that’s all secondary. Right now what’s worth applauding is your willingness to try. You’re giving yourself a chance at something new, and that’s worthy of recognition. How many lives go by and end in the sleepy lull of boring routine? Far too many, if you ask me.

The countdown is ON. One week left before we begin on September 5th!

I think planning will be essential in order to succeed.  Eating purely vegan meals isn’t a part of our normal habits yet, and so planning will prevent us from falling– out of convenience, laziness, or plain ole hunger– into the typical meal options we would choose if we had nothing vegan already made and on hand.  In preparation for the Vegan Kickstart, here is a list of some of the resources I have found helpful so far:

This is Vegan

Custom-made life    Mostly vegetarian, though a lot of vegan recipes included.

Choosing Raw   Vegan and raw cooking.

Going Vegan: My Journey

A Midlife Vegan

Vegan Dad

The Vegetarian who hates tofu  Some vegetarian, some vegan recipes.

Show me Vegan

Rawdorable

Little House of Veggies

Lean to the sun

Living Vegan

Peas and Thank you

Fat free Vegan

Vegan for $3.33 a day  A blog on being vegan AND frugal?  BE STILL MY HEART.

My Vegan Journal

Your Vegan Guide

The Vegetarian Resource Group  With lots of info on veganism as well.

Pure 2 Raw

Nutrition MD

This is what I eat

Vegan skinny bitch

Veganizzm

Really, there are tons of websites and blogs where you can find fantastic and easy to follow vegan meal ideas, all you have to do is google. Are you on Facebook? Since I ‘liked’ a gazillion vegan pages and groups I’m constantly reminded of my upcoming challenge, and by reading their articles I feel much more prepared to face the changes. Every day my news feed is inundated with vegan information– and information is key!

Do you have any other blogs or resources you’d like to share? I’d love to learn more!