Fitness and nutrition for foodies, from foodies.
 
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I'm back!

Sorry for hiatus, everyone. I started to take on a bit too much with my personal life, part-time jobs, auditions, food exploits, etc - I needed some time to refocus.

I haven't stopped thinking about the blog, though. I want this to be accessible, so I'm thinking I'll aim for shorter, specific posts. I like to talk, I know!

So this post will be short and to the point- let's talk about snacking/grazing.

Carry snacks with you, if you can. That way if you aren't able to eat as soon as planned, you're ready with reinforcements. Now of course I'd prefer if you pick up some farmer's market fare for your snacks (apples, granola, etc,) but in case you don't get the chance (I get it!), here are some recommendations:

Nuts! Pistachios have the least calories and are delicious, so those are my favorite pick. Also, since they take actual work to de-shell, you have to eat them slowly, and realize when you're full faster. Plus, they're so great for you- full of vitamins, proteins, and fiber. But you can go with any favorite nut. I'm a big fan of Trader joe's spicy nut mix and wasabi almonds, but I tend to like spicy more than most. Just be careful... some nuts like almonds and walnuts can add up in calories if you mindlessly snack on them, so pay attention to your portions.

Here are some other good options: Granola/trail mix (try to steer clear of too much added sugar, I make my own at home!) Easy fruits like apples, bananas, and pears are great (try to eat them with a protein like almonds or a nut butter to slow down their digestion though, fruits high in sugar can spike your blood pressure.) Rice cakes, nut/almond butters, hard boiled eggs, kale chips, seaweed snacks, and nutrition bars are some other great picks.

Now beware with nutrition bars because a lot of them are stuffed full of either sugar or (even worse) artificial sweeteners to make them either a candy bar or toxin stuffed. Beyonce and Jay-Z eat 22 days bars, which you can order in bulk here: http://www.22daysnutrition.com. Or just stick with the whole food snack options if you can.

Now that being said- if you can avoid snacking and grazing, DO! When you snack all day, you're way overworking your metabolism and sending your insulin levels on a wild goose chase. Ideally? Eat 3 full meals and one light snack a day, eating the most at breakfast and tapering off through the day. I get that this isn't always possible, but this will put your body on a regular schedule so that you don't have crashes and cravings all day for your usual snacks and then mindlessly rack up the calories. You then help control your hunger hormone gherlin, too, so you wont be craving food to help you get a quick energy boost. 

Stuck in the middle of nowhere and the only place to grab snacks is a crappy deli/shop? I bet there are healthier options than you think. Do they have any fruit? Plain yogurt? Hard boiled eggs? Trail mix? Even 711's have options- I found myself stuck in one the other day and ended up torn between the hardboiled eggs, apples, and organic popcorn (I went with the organic popcorn- I was afraid of the egg/apple's pesticides. Also, I just love popcorn.) Don't go crazy on the trail mixes with M&M's and raisins, but steer clear of the ever-so-tempting candy bars if you can.

Always be prepared! We're busy, I get it, but that doesn't mean you have to grab the crap. Fuel yourself instead of setting yourself up for crashing and guilt later in the day. You'll feel better. I promise.

Jillian

 
 
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No wonder obesity rates in America are rising. Figuring out how to eat "healthy” in today’s society is exhausting.

 I've spent these past few weeks trying to figure out what my next post should be based off of the events, seminars, and talkbacks I've been to. And I change my mind about every five minutes. There's so much that is being kept from us that I don't even know where to begin.

When I first started this blog, I wasn't quite sure what my "voice" would be. I figured I'd take it one step at a time, and start looking into more NYC "foodie" events to help me learn more about what "healthy eating" even means. 

The more I learn, the sadder I get. It would, or will (if I'm being hopeful,) be so tough to repair all the damage we've done.

Very few of us even know what food is anymore. We're all eating chemicals, toxins, and additives. Our grocery stores, convenience shops, vending machines and local restaurant's bombard us with these "ideas" of food. Even the "fresh" products they offer are usually coated with chemicals and toxins to allow them to stay on those shelves longer and to allow them to grow any season of the year. You can get any fruit or vegetable in any season now. Doesn't that seem strange?

I never thought when I started this journey that it would make me passionate about farming. But it has. The more I learn, the more I realize that even all these "healthy" things I'm snagging at health stores are fake. This past week, Michael's Pollan had a short talk back at Barnes and Noble based off of his new book COOKED. He made a great point- all the products screaming at
you how "healthy" they are probably aren't. The real, true food is sitting
silent and happy off in the produce section. Or better yet, at the farmer's market. Touche', Pollan.

But let me say this: the more I try to support this mission, the more frustrated I become. 

I'm busy. I'm sure you are, too. I work 4-5 part time jobs, have rehearsals and auditions throughout the week, am pursuing food/acting seminars and talkbacks, and like to keep a social life. I'm not home a lot, and when I am, I'm usually not in the mood to spend an hour to an hour and 1/2 trying to cook something that may or may not come out to be delicious and/or edible.

On top of that, even if I pre-cook my meals and pack them the day before, sometimes I’ll be out of my apartment from 8am until midnight. So I’m carrying that meal in my bag until 8pm? And it’s supposed to have fresh organic, local vegetables in it? Either I pack them raw and then they taste disgusting, or I cook them before but then they lose their appeal (and nutrients) by dinnertime. 

The point I’m trying to make with all this complaining is that no wonder no one wants to eat real food anymore. It’s exhausting. Also, I don’t/(didn’t-I’m improving!) really know how to cook. I’m getting better and better with practice. But I’m still learning how to cook things I see at a Farmer’s Market in a way that appeals to me. I look at something like Cathy Erway's site Not Eating Out in New York or Amie Valpone's blog The Healthy Apple and see so much potential. But it’s a lot of work. When I come home from a long day of running around, the last thing I usually want to do is wash, cut, season, and cook fresh produce. Not to mention all those DISHES afterwards!

New York’s take out is pretty tempting. And delicious. And requires no cleanup or work on my part. 

No wonder no one cooks any more.

But at that same talkback, Michael Pollan had some great counterpoints on my “exhaustion” with cooking. He talked about how we’re all obsessed with cooking, more so by watching others doing it than doing it ourselves. The average American generally spends 25 minutes making dinner. Yet he noted that we all watch food network shows like Chopped than run about 30 minutes. So we spend more time watching other people cook on TV than we do actually cooking.

In an ideal world, we’d all grow our own fare and trade between each other in a beautiful, food-loving and cooking community with nightly potlucks. We’d each bring our specialty dish and talk over the dinner table as we pass around our fresh dinner items, excited to share and discuss our meals. We’d eat slowly and happily to celebrate the end of a long day and connect with
each other in a much more rewarding way than we ever could online.

But we don’t live in this ideal world, unfortunately. We’re busy. We’re stressed. We’re tired. We have a microwaveable pizza in the freezer than
only takes 20 minutes in the oven… and it feels delicious because it excites our sensory organs just the right way, sending our serotonin levels soaring. Or, even better, we have a customizable pizza that will be delivered to our
doorstep. And we can watch a little screen that track's the pizza’s status as someone else puts it in an oven for us. And I’m not being sarcastic when I say I love that. I get so excited when that little Domino’s bar reaches the end.

I wanted to make this post because I want you guys to know that eating healthy is not easy. I get it. I’m pretty passionate about this, and I still get lost and confused and frustrated pretty much weekly. Every day, I learn something that I thought was healthy is actually pretty crappy for me. Like those animal-product-substitutions I’ve been buying? Full of crap. My "healthy”kashi cereal? Full of additives. My soy products? Unhealthy levels of estrogen. If I’m frustrated after how much I know/have learned through this process, I can’t even imagine how the general public must feel.

What “gets” me the most is that big corporations (Nestle, General Mills, PepsiCo, Kraft,) work hard to make sure people don’t understand what they’re eating. This is worse than the any cigarette campaign. They market
to children in disgusting ways- by using our public school system that is desperate for financial help- they can’t deny milk and Pepsi when they shove
money and product at them. McDonalds sends “study packets” to schools with
“educational crosswords”- don’t miss that free coupon for a McBurger on the way home! They use clever television commercials, pay “slotting fees” for their cereal to be at the most convenient place on the middle shelves, sponsor events… 

You get the picture. And those last three aren’t just to market to kids- they
use those tricks for young and adult alike. Ever noticed the stuff by the
checkout is always the candy? Yeah. They pay for that. Even down to lobbying against how a nutritional label is designed (be sure to pay attention to the serving sizes on those labels), these companies hate the idea of the public catching on to how processed food is affecting their health. And it’s scary.

So here’s my new goal: to cut myself a break. One step at a time. I’m going to try to make itto a local farmer’s market at least once a week every week. I don’t have to buy a ton of things, because they’ll probably go bad and/or stress me out that they’re going to go bad. But even getting my half dozen eggs, grains, beans, and a few veggies for the next day or two is income for those farmers that they wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t made the effort. And to me, that’s something.

If I have time to cook, I will. If I can buy organic, I will. If I can buy local, I will. If I can’t, that’s okay. Doing it once a week is better than not at all. I’m going to buy less things that are overpriced for the sake of being “healthy”, and stick to real food that is quiet and sitting on the shelf. (I.E. instead of those $7 kale chips from the health food store, why don’t I just get some kale, drizzle olive oil and salt on them, and bake them myself?)

And most of all, I’m going to be patient as I figure out how I can help fight the good fight. Whether I end up an R.D., a nutritionist, a food journalist, or working somehow in food politics- I care about this. And I want to help.

Because I get it, you guys. This is hard. They made it hard. And I don’t think it’s fair.

 
 
“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their
word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as
unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: 

Celebration.” 

- Michael Pollan
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Food is a necessity. For all of us. We must eat to live. Now here's my question for all of you- (I'm serious. Leave your answer in the comments or send it to the email under the home page!) Do you eat to live, or live to eat?

 I'll tell you my answer: I live to eat. I adore food. I go to sleep thinking about what I'll make for breakfast the next day, and finish every meal daydreaming about the next. I could spend hours looking up recipes, finding neat restaurants, and I'm always up for trying something new (I've had chicken heart before. Not kidding.) When I go to social events or out to eat, I'm usually most excited for the food. I used to be so ashamed of this. But now that I'm eating the right things? I'm proud of it. I am, 100%, a foodie at heart.

It actually took me a while to realize that most people don't
think about food this much. I just figured everyone loved it as much as I do. 
Then, I admitted that my favorite part of craft fairs are the pretzel samples
and fudge stands and my grandma noted... "That's you're favorite part? Of a
craft fair?"

Everyone has a different relationship with what they eat.

Overeaters

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Overeating can come about for a number of reasons. I've probably experienced them all. The majority of the food that is available to us has been chemically engineered to be the perfect combination of addicting. (Learn more about this by reading Michael Moss's Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us. I'll be posting a review soon, I'm halfway through and amazed.) Feel like you're in a better mood after you finish that snickers bar, Starbucks Frappuccino, or fried chicken? That's because you "are". When you consume refined sugars, your blood sugar levels rise, causing your pancreas to release insulin. This is fine with moderate intake of natural sugars, like- let’s say, fruit- because your body is prepared to digest that amount.

But when you digest the obscene amount of refined sugars that are found in most of what we eat? Excess insulin is released, and the insulin converts that sugar into an instant energy source. In laymen’s terms, it does give you a
sort of “jolt” or “high.” It gives you energy… But not for long. After levels of
insulin that high are released, your blood sugar levels decrease rapidly, and
then you experience a “crash.”And let the cycle begin again... 
 
Don’t feel bad- these are actually chemically addicting products! It's like smoking or drinking, except not accepted on the same level because of heavy marketing that keeps us all from understanding what were actually consuming. I have no qualms making a comparison of a coke addict constantly surrounded by coke... everyone snorting it and giving you a hard time about not joining them. Same thing.

Food can be a great escape. I know this because I used to use food as just that. I would feel so guilty afterwards. After a long day, I would  crash after dinner and fill up on Oreos, candy bars, ice cream, cookies with milk... You name it. It was something I could control, and it made me feel better and “less stressed”. Then the next day I would "punish" myself and not eat breakfast, eat a light salad for lunch, and inhale my dinner then load up on the crap again. My poor, poor metabolism! 

It's not that I don't enjoy sweet food anymore. Now I just enjoy the right sweet foods. Ever try toasting a piece of fluffy, pumpernickel toast with almond butter, banana, berries, and a little bit of organic, raw maple syrup on it? Try it. Better than any Oreo I've ever had.

If you're an overeater, think about what you're eating. Did you have a long day and feel like you "deserve" this? Are you bored and mindlessly snacking to have something to do? Did you not eat breakfast and so now you want
that giant Frappuccino more than anything? (Again. I have known all of these. That's why I'm listin' em.)

Under-eaters

I've gone the other way with food, too. I thought that maybe if I drastically cut my calories and amped up my gym hours to the point of ridiculousness (and unhappiness/stress on my poor body,) I would look good. I didn't. I looked, felt, and was sick. Mentally and physically. This isn’t just about how you look- it’s about how you feel. Your daily caloric intake is based off of how much you weigh, how active you are, if you're male or female, etc. You're welcome to look it up online, but I'd urge you not to. And to not weigh yourselves constantly. I haven't weighed myself in almost a year. It's not about the number- it's about how you feel when you look in the mirror. Be sure you're eating a minimum of at least 1200 calories a day- and even that is scary-low for most... slightly-active, functioning humans.
I'm no longer ashamed of loving food. I look up healthy restaurants to go in the city for family and friends when we go out. I try to cook and buy local and organic as much as possible. Michael Pollan likes to say that you vote with your fork. Stores track our purchases and base their stock off of consumer interest. I'm not saying it's easy- even I am nowhere near as efficient as I would like to be about being local. For my fellow New Yorkers though... We really don't have an excuse to not at least buy some meals local. Did you know there's at least one farmers market open every single day in the city? And it tastes so. Good. It's what our food is supposed to taste like. Ever
tried an organic egg right off the farm? You don't need salt, cheese, or hot
sauce to taste how delicious it is.

And overall, cut yourself some slack. Food should be something you love and look forward to. It should fill you up, energize you, calm you. It should be eaten sitting down, slowly, and fully enjoyed. The more you cut out the crap, I personally promise you, the less you will crave it. I used to sit around and think about sugars and sweets all day. Now I daydream of my fresh, hearty dinner that I will slowly enjoy after a long day that's packed full of nutrients.

Industry giants have made us all forget what food should really be like, and it's a shame. Trust me, it tastes even better when it's real.
 
 
"90% of money spent on food in the United States in spent on proccessed foods."
- Eric Schlosser, author of Food Inc.
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This past Saturday, March 30th, I attended the second day of the Just Food conference at the food and finance high school in Manhattan. I went with three goals: to meet people as interested in food justice as I am, to learn more about the current state of food production, and I'll be honest- to eat the amazing catered local, organic food.

(I may or may not have looked up the menu the day prior to daydream about what I'd be eating the next day... Guys. I really love food.)

I had such a lovely afternoon at the conference. As I've decided to explore my
passion for health and nutrition, I've been trying to figure out my
place in the community. The Just Food conference not only taught me quite a bit, it gave me a hunger (pun intended) for more. 

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We started the morning with an amazing breakfast catered by Beth's Farm Kitchen, Chobani, Orwashers, Vitamix, Red Jacket Orchards, Hot Bread Kitchen, Wilklow Orchards, and Organic Valley. Needless to say... this was a huge highlight of my day.

The keynote speaker on Saturday (I was sad to miss the day prior that featured some great panels, but alas- I work Fridays,) was Byron Hurt, the award-winning filmmaker responsible for Soul Food Junkies. We watched clips and reflected on what community/ culture means for our own health and relationship with food. Now, to workshops!

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Workshop 1: Food for thought: An introduction to food systems. Presented by The Food Project (Boston).

The Food Project works with youth communities to raise awareness about our highly processed foods. We did excersizes to demonstrate the state of processed food in the United States, such as arranging drinks in order of added sugar (pictured).

The amount of processing our food goes through is both scary in terms of our own health and threatening to our environment. We talked the FTGE (Florida Tomato Grower's Exchange) and their horrible livelihoods/wages. We also talked about how long it takes proccessed foods to travel from the source to our mouths. What stuck with me was when we passed around a two-year old plate of a mcdonald's strawberry milkshake, with the "ingredients" list right behind it. Can you say creepy?

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Workshop 2 - Growing microgreens: The secret to a healthier lifestyle with Brendan Davidson.

Brendan Davidson is the founder of Good Water Farms. He started by growing micogreens in his own apartment and expanded into his the greenhouse he works out of now. He talked about the highs and lows of figuring out his place in the food/farming community.

Brendan grows microgreen tendrils- mustardseed, sunflower, kale, pea, broccoli, and much more depending on his mood & the season. Apparently, business has been better since a recent study published that microgreens can have 4 to 6 times as many nutrients than macro. I left the seminar bummed we didn't get to try any... but then was pleasantly surprised to see he provided one of the salad's for our catered lunch!

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Lunchtime!

Catered by Owashers, Whole Foods, Good Water Farms (Brendan!) and Great Performances. I'm including this because, again... food is my favorite part. Of everything. And this food was delicious. If I had to choose a favorite, I'd go with the farro salad by Great Performances with chickpea, olive, and artichoke. I usually don't like olive, but something about the vinegarette/farro combo made it all so smooth. I obviously went back for seconds.

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Workshop 3 - Curd Nerds: The basic of milk chemistry and cheesemaking with Sascha Anderson.

Oh, this was so neat. Sascha Anderson from Murray's Cheese taught a packed cafeteria what milk is on a molecular level and how you can make your own cheese right in your kitchen. She explained the different kind of cheese consistenties and how they're achieved, and discussed the process not just from the cow to our mouth- but from the cow's mouth to it's digestive track. The kicker? She made cheese. As she taught us about milk and cheese. It was a little soupy, but at the end, you could go up and play with it. Attendees were also welcomed to enjoy delicious samples which I will let you drool over:

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Closing Panel: Breaking Ground - Advice from Beginning Farmers

Our day was summed up with an awesome panel by local farmers. They discussed the challenges of being a farmer in this day and age- i.e., how difficult it is to find a community/consumer that care about where their food comes from. They ended positive- saying they would never trade the feeling of waking up to their own farm every morning.

Overall, I had a blast. Although, it made me think a lot about this blog and what goals I hope to achieve with it. Here's the thing: anyone can make their own blog nowadays. But I don't want this to be like that! I want to be as well-researched and current as I can so that what I'm relaying to you is thorough. So... I'm asking you to join me, talk to me (what interests you?), and be patient with me. I'll keep working, growing, reading, meeting- and with time, I hope this blog will be specific and as fun for you to tune into as it has been and will be for me to write.

If you're interested in learning more about this particular conference, JustFood, or are interested in joining a CSA/finding out what a CSA is (at a basic level, you pair with a local farm to have them deliver fresh food to you,) - check out their website at http://justfood.org/. I personally love their mission and their work, and look forward to whatever upcoming projects they have in store.
 
-Jillian

 
 
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So. Let's do a post about common dieting misconceptions. 

Myth 1) You should fast to lose weight/do a juice cleanse/ starve yourself. 

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Sure, of course you'll lose weight if you stop eating/do a cleanse. But you're also basically committing metabolism murder. Our bodies are incredibly well designed- and they are trained to react accordingly in times of famine. If you don't feed your body, it starts eating away at your muscle to protect itself. It also stores whatever you DO feed it as fat to tap into once you starve yourself again. 

There are countless side affects linked to severe calorie restricting diets. Your body needs nutrients. It fuels us, keeps us strong, gives us energy. The reason people get confused and think they need to eat less because the TYPE of food readily available to most of us are completely devoid of nutrients. Don't starve yourself. Eat as soon as you wake up and every four hours after to keep a healthy balance. Eat a big breakfast, a hearty lunch, a small snack, and a light dinner. Limit snacking as much as possible... (This is my personal Achilles heel.) It's much better to eat enough at your three meals to not snack or graze all day and night. This is because every time you eat, your body does a great deal of work to begin the digestive process. It breaks the food down into glucose, and then releases insulin to help clean the glucose from your blood. No matter how small the meal, your body is going to work every time you eat. So when you're snacking all day, you're overworking your insulin release. This makes it tougher to control the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, and then you're snacking mindless calories. Eat until you are full, but not stuffed- that way you're not craving snacks a few hours later. 

Also, a note on juice cleanses... While I personally don't believe in juice cleanses and fasts, juicing can be an awesome way to help you get your recommended vegetable intake for the day. It's tough to eat as many veggies as we're supposed to, so I'm a fan of a good juice (without added sugar or agave) to help your body/skin stay healthy and happy. My favorite is mixed greens (kale, cucumber, spinach, celery, romaine) with lemon.

Myth 2) A low-fat diet will help you lose weight. 

I'm guilty of this one. (I've fallen for a lot.) Here's the bottom line: FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT! Calories do. I want to do a whole post about fats later, but for now just know the only fat you need to completely avoid altogether is TRANS fats. They're man-made and means whatever you're eating is probably full of lots of gross additives and hydrogenated oils that clog up your system in all sorts of ways. 

Keep saturated fats in heavy moderation for heart health, but it depends on what you're eating. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and Omega-3 fatty acids are the way to go- think nuts, avocados, fish, flaxseed, healthy oils, etc.

Myth 3) Sugar substitutes like splenda, aspartame, and sugar alcohols will help me shed pounds and avoid eating sweets. 

Wrong- the opposite is actually true. (Again, fell for this one.) Many studies have shown that those who consume artificial flavors and sweeteners end up crashing later and consuming more calories than those that did not substitute. That means staying away from fake-sugary drinks, too (vitamin zero, diet coke, etc.) Your body doesn't know how to digest artificial foods because, well... They artificial! They've also been linked to scary side effects like problems with vision, etc. (For more info on artificial sweeteners, check out this awesome article completely breaking down aspartame.) Oh, and agave being the better substitute... another myth. Just have the brown sugar/raw honey instead- as always, in moderation.

Myth 4) If I go gluten free, I'll lose weight.

This is weird and silly. In fact, a lot of gluten free products are less nutrient dense than the original version of the product because they had to extract the gluten. If you have an actual gluten allergy (which is rare and needs to be diagnosed by a physician,) then by all means steer clear. But otherwise, don't worry- just eat clean.

Myth 5) Going vegetarian will make me skinny.

No. Not at all. You can be a vegetarian and still eat cupcakes all day. In fact, it's tougher for vegetarians (and especially vegans) to maintain a healthy and well rounded diet because it limits many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. I personally hate the way meat&dairy is manufactured in the US, but because I limit meat I have to be sure to get my fill of nuts/beans/legumes to make sure my iron levels don't get too low. It's also much harder for vegetarians to find lean proteins- I get mine from egg, dairy, and nut products- but a good deal of vegans struggle with this. 

Now, a vegetarian will be thinner (and more importantly, healthier,) than a meateater if they eat more vegetables... Which everyone should do regardless. And don't give me your sob story about how you hate vegetables. There are way too many vegetables for you to hate all of them. Try cooking them different ways- season them, bake them, mash them. You don't have to have to choke down a salad you hate to enjoy them.

Moral of the story? Diet's don't work. Lifestyles do.


Don't obsessively count calories, don't try diet "tricks", don't ever completely deprive yourself of what you love. I'm a fan of Jillian Michael's 80/20% rule- every day, eat 80% well and 20% treat. That means greens, veggies, lean proteins, complex carbs etc for the bulk of your day- and then a sweet, or a salty snack you enjoy. I don't like the idea of a "cheat day" because to me that means I'm in "trouble" the other days. And then when the idea of getting to a "cheat day" and crashing my poor body with crap sounds mean, but that's just me- whatever gets you eating healthy and feeling happy.

-Jillian

 
 
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So! Since Emma and I have been talking about nutrition so much lately, I thought we were due for a fitness post. Everyone is different. Some people like to run, some people have an organized sport they enjoy, and others pick out home DVD workouts. My choice workout: different group exercise classes. I can't tell you enough how the classes at my gym (I'm currently a member of New York Sports Club,) keep me motivated. 

First of all- they are taught by certified trainers, so to me, I feel
like I'm getting some of the benefits of a trainer without the personal training cost. Since I usually try to get to the gym about five days a week, I want to make sure everything I'm doing is with proper form so I don't overstress or injure myself. So, (unlike some of my classmates), I make sure to always pay attention to the instructor/trainer- and quickly adjust if they come around to help me with my form.
 
Another perk is the community of people that a class offers to keep you motivated. While I love the idea of a home dvd because it would save time and energy to get to the gym, I'm the kind of person that performs stronger in a group setting. I personally get bored without constant stimulation- I'm a multitasker. Hence, the loud music, other classmates, and fun class instructors tend to keep me bopping around. Also, I personally enjoy being around other fit, happy people. I've had friends express to me their hesitancy about being around others when working out- but in a class setting you don't know them personally- so don't think of it as a competition. Everyone there wants you to succeed as much as you do! And think about how awesome it will be  to keep coming back to that class looking better and better every time, which
you will if you keep up the good work.
 
The other great thing about class is the VARIETY. It took me some time to figure out which ones I did and didn't enjoy, but I've started to figure out my favorite classes and can seek them out depending on my mood. If I'm a little cranky and need to blow off some steam I'll find a good kickboxing class. If I've been laying low and want to kick it up a notch I'll take sports circuit or cross training. If it's been a long week and my muscles are feeling sore, I'll settle into a yoga class. Gauging by my own body and mood is the key ingredient that keeps me in the gym 5 days a week every week. I never push myself, I know when to take a break, and I know what I'm in the mood for depending on what's been going on in my own personal life. An hour at the gym is only 4% of your day! And when is the last time you left the gym angry that you went?
 
I also firmly believe the instructor can make or break a class. I have a passport membership to my gym, so I've started to learn who teaches the best classes at my local gym clubs and I seek them out accordingly. Again, I choose them depending on my mood- some of them are a bit more in-your-face and others are calmer and in the background. It just depends on if I need that extra push or not. And you don't just have to find good instructors/classes at one particular gym like me! There are yoga, cycling, crossfit studios all around. See what's local that interests you. I hear soulcycle has themed classes by outfit colors and music themes- that sounds like SO much fun.

My personal favorite instructor is named Anthony Truly, TruDog for short. He teaches a cardio jam class that can always pull me out of my funk. It's a lot like a zumba class except with less variations and more specific aerobic dance moves (jumping jacks, knee-highs, kicks,) that are easier to memorize, which I adore because I'm a little lacking on the coordination department and felt like that always took away from my zumba workout. It's so high energy that the class flies by and then I realize I'm completely wiped, sore, and happy. The music is all fun, modern and classic pop like Lady Gaga, Madonna, P!nk, etc.

He also teaches an ab and body conditioning class that he helps move along with fun gossip and anecdotes... (This is particularly great when you're 20 rep's into leg-lifts and don't think you can keep going. You can distract yourself with his games like "which celebrity would play you in a movie?" and current events like "will Demi Moore or Ashton Kutcher end up paying more in the divorce?") I always leave trudog's class in a better mood- not only because of his fun workout plans, but because of his energy and good spirit. To me, that's the sign of a good instructor. If you're a NYSClubber, his full schedule can be found on his site at www.thefitandthefab.com. Also, a pretty glorious picture of him as a muscle merman can be found there as well... so I reccomend clicking either way. 

TruDog's cardio jam may not be the class for everyone (although I would argue it is!)- but the point is that there IS a class for everyone. If you're just starting out, do it one step at a time. Trial-and-error is the only way I've found my favorite classes that I look forward to all week now. I'm not as much of a pilates or cycling girl, but some people swear by it. (And to be honest, again- it depends on the instructor. I once had a cycling instructor that kicked my ass and played perfect music for high energy and I frequented her classes.) There's no "right" answer- it's what works for you.
 
The last tip I'll leave you with is to try and vary your routine as much as possible. I generally try and aim for at least one yoga and body conditioning day a week, and the rest I vary with cardio classes and/or cadio workouts on my own. Sometimes it works out that I can't take a class for a whole week, which is fine. I do my own work on the cardio machines and/or with the equipment and weights. I also take what I learned in these classes into
either an empty classroom at the gym or outside if the weather's nice. 

Aim to get some strength training, cardio, and stretching every week. (If you're doing this through class- try different classes, cycling, yoga, kickbox, conditioning, etc.) My personal goal is 5 days a week, but if it's a busy week, I don't stress over it. I get to the gym when I can/want, but sometimes a break is nice because then I'm itching to get back to work the next time I go. Find what works for you and make it happen- classes work for me, but not for everyone. It's all about making sure you're relieving stress with your workouts instead of causing more stress. That way it's something you want to do for life- not just for now!

-Jillian

 
 
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Let's talk about everyone's favorite go-to when "dieting"- cutting carbs. This is coming from a place of total understanding, I did a low carb diet myself. Silly, silly, silly.

Carbs are a macronutrient. (This is important- I'll continue to reference this- there are 3 macronutrients, Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates. Aim for 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat daily. Healthy fats!) 

We need carbs. They also come in so many healthy forms, so the idea of cutting all of them out of your diet altogether is absurd.

"Simple carbohydrates" (fructose, glucose, lactose,) are only recommended in their natural form- generally, fruits (strawberries, raspberries, grapes, oranges, etc). The other form of simple carbohydrates is the reason carbs got their bad rep in the first place- white, refined or white bread, pasta, rice- all rank extremely high on the glycemic index. (Don't worry, I'll do a whole glycemic index post at a later date. For now, just now the higher the glycemic index, the quicker your body turns that food into sugar which is then stored as fat.)

Obviously, you want to steer clear of these. White rice, pasta, etc is man-made and completely stripped of any precious nutrients for a longer shelf-life. You might at well just eat the sugar at that point. Croissants, white bread, etc… all turn into sugar.

What you DO want are whole wheat, whole grains, whole oats, whole bran. Don't be tricked by multi-grain! Multi grain means they stripped it, went back and tried to weakly re-add nutrients. Silly. Stick with whole. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta- all good for you in moderation. (Always try and pair your carbohydrates with a protein for better/slower digestion.) 

Better yet, oats, barley, live grains- all amazing carbohydrates for you with levels of iron, magnesium, fiber, proteins, vitamins that you cannot get from other sources. Also, beans, legumes- wonderful carbohydrates, load them up. (Red beans in particular are a superfood!) Some starchy carbs are also loaded with vitamins, but try not to overload on them - if you do, try a sweet potato or squash instead of white potatoes… Again, that pesky glycemic index.

All carbs are not created equal. Those who completely cut carbs end up putting the weight on FAST when they crash into carbs again. And if you're one of those people who can't imagine giving up your refined carbs, whether they be white bread, sugar, etc- don't worry, you're not alone. Carbohydrates send your blood sugar spiraling, which makes you crash, which makes you crave more. It's a vicious cycle.

Some of my favorite recommendations are Ezekiel bread/grain products (the picture above is their 4:9 english muffins, a favorite breakfast of mine paired with greek yogurt, almond butter and berries,) including their cereals and grains - [http://www.foodforlife.com/about_us/ezekiel-49] and Bob's Red Mill oats, barley, and un-flavored granola. [http://www.bobsredmill.com/]. Emma actually got me hooked on Bob's Red Mill products, look how cute we are.

Also, get creative with your carbohydrates! Emma has some great whole wheat/grain pancake recipes that we'll get posted soon enough, but look up whole wheat french toast, pancake, waffle recipes, etc. Eating clean doesn't have to be boring, contrary to popular belief. 


-Jillian

 
 
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Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast!

Today I'm posting about something that took me way too long to come to terms with. Breakfast actually IS the most important meal of the day, guys. You've heard it a million times (and have probably made a million excuses as to why you don't eat breakfast- you don't have time, you aren't hungry, etc...), but it's TRUE. You need to eat a solid breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up if possible. Not only does it start your metabolism working (think of your body/metabolism like a car and breakfast is the key to rev it up,)  it also gives you the energy not to crash into crap cravings throughout the day. 

I used to skip breakfast. I claimed it was the "only time of day I'm not hungry, so I'd rather save my calories." I'm the first to admit how dumb that was. Why would I want to save my calories for later in the day when it's tougher for my body to digest? By then, I'd also be burnt out and starving. A good breakfast is worked off all day long and gives you the energy to stay awake and active.

Take the extra time. I'm busy too- I still make breakfast. You can also make something the night before, like an egg white wrap with veggies. Or do something quick like high fiber/bran/whole grain cereal with skim milk and berries or an Ezekiel whole grain English muffin with Greek yogurt and fruit. I almost always pair my breakfast with berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), but find what YOU like and make a well rounded breakfast- part carb, protein, and fiber. My favorites are fiber one and Ezekiel cereals (skim or almond milk depending on my mood,) Old Mill oatmeals, Greek yogurt and ezekial English muffins, and protein pancakes (Emma has some great recipes for these that we'll eventually post). I sprinkle everything with flaxseed and chia seed for energy, extra protein and fiber and add seasonal berries to every breakfast. I aim for fresh fruit but always keep frozen berries around just in case.

A key tip- when looking at cereals and other breakfast products, look for as few ingredients as possible, and avoid high sugar additives and fake sweeteners. I eventually plan to make an entire post devoted to sugar and sweeteners, but for now, feel free to reference the image at the bottom of this post with a list of all the different names for "sugar". If you have no choice, always choose real sugar (brown sugar, organic honey, etc) instead of the sweeteners (corn syrup, sorbitol, aspartame). Yes they have more "calories", but at least your body knows how to digest them. Sweeteners disrupt your digestive process and metabolism and cause you to crave real sugar and crash later on in the day. No Splenda. No equal. No aspartame. Try organic stevia if you have to, that's my trick. I always carry some in my purse just in case. Don't be fooled by oatmeal packets loaded with sugars! I used to love quaker's apple cinnamon oatmeal packets until I realized they were half of my day's recommended sugar intake and contained no apple. Want cinnamon sugar oatmeal? Use a half cup of bob's old mill steel cut oatmeal and add one packet of stevia, sprinkle cinnamon, and add berries and apple. Delicious.

Okay last breakfast tip- CINNAMON. I. Love. Cinnamon. Not only is it great for you- it's a great sugar substitute for me because it gives the illusion of a sweet breakfast. Put it on cereals, oatmeals, coffee- whatever ya fancy! Now let's get eating...All this talk has made me ready for my French press. 

-Jillian

 
 
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Hey there fellow foodies! Jillian posting this time. I'm cheating by making the first post without Emma- but I can't help it... I'm too excited.

This blog is going to be so much fun to run, and hopefully just as fun for you to enjoy. While Emma and I have quite a bit in common when it comes to loving nutrition, fitness, and an altogether healthy lifestyle- there's also quite a bit that sets us apart.

Emma is a certified trainer at New York Sports Club and knows the in-and-outs of weight and strength training. Instead, I rely on gym classes to make sure I'm getting well rounded workouts. Emma has several allergies (gluten, dairy, peanuts, coffee, tree nuts, avocado, egg yolk, bananas, apples, shellfish- corn and soy sensitive). She also knows how to use protein powders correctly for lean, strong muscles- whereas I try to eat my proteins. I have no allergies- but tend to substitute meat as often as I can... Let's say a "flexitarian". Emma is a certified nutritionist, while I'm self-studied. I've done extensive reading not just on nutrition, but on food politics, psychology, and production in the United States. 

Hopefully, you'll come to know our differences over time- What WE hope is to help everyone see that no matter what obstacles you face, how you like to eat/train, what your profession is, etc- A healthy life can work for anyone. Please contact us with any requests, questions- etc. I can't wait to hear from you all.

And so! To end this post and begin our day-to-day, I'll share my late night snack with you all. My best friend Frank actually turned me on to brussel sprouts- I had never tried them baked when he introduced them to me. Bake them with your favorite cooking oil of choice, (I prefer extra virgin olive oil,) until they're super crunchy and soft in the middle on 350 degrees - (try one before you take them all out, if you take them out too soon they're not nearly as delicious)! Then put whatever seasonings you prefer- I tend to enjoy lemon juice, garlic pepper, and tumeric. I'm telling you, they're divine. And a great late night snack because they're full of nutrients and carb-free. 

Not sure if you know this folks, but eating carbs at night isn't optimal for weight loss/maintenance... which has always been tough for me because my favorite late night snacks are all basically carbs. I'll go into detail about hormones & your metabolism another day, but long story short- carbs disrupt your Human Growth Hormone (HGH) release at night, disrupting your natural sleep cycle's process of digesting the day's food. Either way, if you love snacking (like me!) try something like veggies and salsa, kale chips, or these lovely brussel sprouts! Have a late night sweet craving? Trust me- I get it. My favorites are greek yogurt with cacao and stevia, dark chocolate, or dark chocolate dusted almonds that have been in the freezer. Either way- enjoy, and happy reading, folks!