Saturday, April 12, 2014

Take a Break!

Today is the first day of my spring break. I have been looking forward to spring with a fervor. A desperate, clawing, needy fervor. And now spring is here!

I looked back through my blogs to see if I had already written this blog before. Sometimes I think I have a new idea, but I've already used it. Well, they say everything old is new again. So I'm not going to worry TOO much about recycling my ideas. Maybe I'll even have a new take on an old subject.

Last February, I wrote a blog titled, "Give Yourself a Break!" I went ahead and reread it today. I sounded back then exactly the same way that I feel today. Burned out. Tired. Injured with a slew of painful problems just minor enough to allow me to keep teaching. But a constant nag and a drain on my energy. Back then, I dropped my bootcamp classes and enrolled in a gentle yoga class, hoping to learn some new techniques while healing my injuries. The class turned out to be a bust. The teacher only showed up HALF the time! (Unbelievable to me as I NEVER miss a class!) She got a sub each time, but I had paid to take HER class. It was very disappointing.

And now, despite the fact that I haven't been teaching bootcamp since December, I am still tired, injured, and burned out.

So over this spring break, I am going to rest. Yes. A novel concept.

I'm planning to take a bath. At least one. It has been AGES since I last lounged in my clawfoot tub.
I'll walk my dog and plant some stuff in the garden, but I'm not going to EXERCISE. I'll do a little stretching and some yoga, probably foam roll my muscles. Maybe lie in the sun. No zumba. No weights.

I talk a good game, especially in my yoga classes, about taking care of the body. Listening to the body. Being kind to the body. But do I follow my own advice? (Insert rude noise here.) No. The answer is no. I do not.

I have been pushing my body non-stop for the past 30 years. It was fine in my twenties. I was almost never injured. It was less fine in my thirties. In my forties, I got a second wind and thought I could keep going. Maybe forever! But then I hit that magic number: the big 5-0. And my body started talking to me in a LOUDER voice.

"STOP THIS!" my body said.

Okay. I'm listening now.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Organic Strawberries

This week at Costco in Columbia, Maryland, we found 2 pound containers of organic strawberries. If you are a regular Costco shopper, you know they don't always carry every type of fruit and veggie in organic form. Strawberries are one of those heavily sprayed fruits, so it is more important to seek out organic ones whenever possible.

The 2 pound container of organic strawberries was $7. 49 (I believe) instead of $6 and something cents for 4 pounds of regular strawberries. Yes, you will pay more for organic. (Not always, but often.) However, in the case of strawberries, I honestly believe you get a better product for your money.



Regular strawberries are hit-or-miss in terms of flavor. I often find them large and watery, or hard and sour. In my limited, personal experience, opting for organic has meant strawberries that are ripe, sweet, juicy, and packed with real flavor. In short, a vastly superior product.

Strawberry season will arrive in our neck of the woods toward the end of May, and last for about 3 weeks or so. At that point, we will be able to purchase fresh, LOCAL strawberries from our farmers markets and roadside stands. You will also be able to pick your own at Larriland Farm and other local venues. Strawberries are not difficult to grow, so if you have a patch of sunny land, you might consider purchasing a pack of plants now. You won't be able to harvest berries this year, but after tending your patch for a year, your plants will be ready to produce for you.

For now, head over to Costco and snatch up a box of these beauties. They are so delicious, you don't need to add anything at all to them. Just sink your teeth in and enjoy!

#hocofood

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Six Simple Tips to Change your Life

How can you change your life? One habit at a time.

Yes, it's that easy.

You already have plenty of habits in place. Think about it. What are the things you do every single day, without having to plan or remember? I'll give you some examples: brush your hair, floss your teeth, walk your dog, feed your goldfish, drink your coffee, drive to work, check your email, watch TV, set your alarm, and the list goes on. There are loads of things you never forget to do.

So why is it so hard to remember to drink enough water? Or take your vitamins? Or get to the gym?

Well, it's not. You just have to make each of these things into another one of your daily habits.

1) How do you make something a habit? It certainly helps if you can do the action every single day, at the same time, in the same place, in the same way. And it will be way easier to make it a habit if you can link the new action to something that is already an established pattern in your life.

For example, if I want to drink a liter of water in the morning before I leave to go teach my classes, I usually fill my water bottle and bring it with me while I walk the dog. The walk takes place every single morning, no matter what day it is, no matter what the weather is. If I bring the water with me, I can drink and walk simultaneously (I am highly skilled that way), killing two birds with one stone. Voila, instant habit! (I just have to remember to fill my water bottle and bring it!)

2) Is there a habit you would like to break? Do you hit the drive-thru for burgers and fries on the way home from work every day? If you want to break yourself of a bad habit, you need to replace it with a better habit. Drive home from work a different way. Instead of hitting the fast food window, go to the park for a brisk walk before heading home. Or hit the gym. Or the salad bar. Decide on the best habit for you. And the best habit is the one you will actually do.

3) It is much more likely you will implement the new habit if you only change ONE THING AT A TIME. Decide what you can handle. Don't join a new gym, bring home a puppy, start a new diet, and sign up for an evening class all at the same time. You will end up with chewed furniture, poop on the floor, a headache, and an empty wallet. Better to change one small thing. Commit to taking your vitamins every single day. (This is one habit that I have yet to make stick. I am open to suggestions!) Or drinking 3-4 liters of water. Or walking a mile.

4) How long does it take to establish a new habit? Experts usually say about a month. So give each new habit at least 30 days to become a part of your life before you try to add something else. Yes. A full month.

5) Keep in mind that starting a new diet means changing your habits EVERY TIME YOU EAT. This is multiple times per day (I hope!) so it is not surprising that people fail. If you are looking to change the way you eat, start with one meal per day. Decide on a healthy breakfast and stick with it for a month. Don't worry too much about lunch, dinner, and snacks. When your healthy breakfast is a habit, then move on to improving lunch.

6) Save the hardest changes for last. If you know that giving up sugar or alcohol or meth (just kidding!) is going to be tough for you, start with an easier switch. And remember to replace that candy bar or can of soda with a better alternative. Find a healthy power bar that you enjoy or drink a bottle of sparkling water. Convince yourself that you are simply having a NEW treat, not denying yourself the old one.

See? Habits are not that difficult to establish. After all, you already have tons of them in place. Give them a tiny tweak and you will be on your way to a healthy lifestyle in no time flat. Please share your experiences (what works and what doesn't) so we can all benefit from what you learn.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Was Wrong.

How many times have you heard me say this?

Do you question yourself? Your own opinions? The things you think you "know?" How frequently do you revise your opinions?

I'm guessing you are mistaken now and then. Do you admit it? To yourself? To anyone else?

This past week, I tried to watch a DVD I borrowed from the library. I had hoped to pick up where I left off with the latest season of Downton Abbey. I know it has already aired on PBS (where you all have no doubt already seen all the latest episodes, so don't ruin anything for me!) but I prefer to wait until the library gets the newest set of DVDs. I have watched the first disc of this newest season and so I ordered the next disc. But when I put said disc into my DVD player, an old episode from another season started playing.

How strange! I must have gotten the second disc of SEASON TWO, is what I thought to myself. I assumed an overworked librarian had misread the label and gave me the wrong disc. So I went straight back to my computer, pulled up my account, and requested the second disc of Season THREE.

But when I examined the disc I had attempted to watch, this time with my glasses ON, the outer cover and the disc itself both read "SEASON THREE" as well as "DISC TWO." Hmmm.... It seemed like a very long shot that both of these materials would be mislabeled, but that is where my mind went next.

Until I returned to my computer yet again, pulled up the library catalogue, and discovered, to my great chagrin, that the season I had started watching was...SEASON FOUR! I had requested a second copy of the WRONG SEASON!

Okay, yes, this is another story of me having a senior moment. We can blame menopause, for sure, as I feel entitled now to use this hormonal havoc as the reason for everything that goes wrong in my life. But the point of my blog today is the not-so-subtle resistance I exhibited in the face of the fact that I had made a mistake.

It got me wondering: how often am I wrong and I simply refuse to see it? I mean, the evidence in this case was very clear. And although I did recognize that the disc I was trying to watch was incorrect, my mind REALLY wanted to blame someone else for the error.

These days, especially in the world of nutrition and dietary science, myths are being revealed as hooey and old "truths" are being turned upside-down at a ridiculous rate. Many of us have avoided butter, bacon, saturated fats, cholesterol, egg yolks, beef, liver, and whole milk for decades when it is now coming to light that these may be some of the healthiest, most nutrient-dense, and best foods for human consumption. As the studies of the Paleo diet start to bring in results, we are learning that this type of eating (giving up grains, sugar, processed foods, etc.) can in fact relieve the symptoms or completely cure numerous diseases. (If you want more information, there are many reliable online sources: google Mark's Daily Apple or The Paleo Mom for two such examples.)

I'd like to think that I have an open mind. I'd like to think that my ego is not so fragile as to need to deny my mistakes. I'm hoping that I can continue to grow and change and absorb new information for many decades to come. And I am also hoping, in the not too distant future, to watch the rest of SEASON FOUR of Downton Abbey.

Just some food for thought!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Paleo Chocolate Mug Cake

If you are currently trying to quit sugar or complete the Whole 30 or basically avoid treats of all kinds, then please delete this post immediately. Do not pass GO! Do not collect any Monopoly money! Just do it NOW!

I know I shouldn't tempt you like this. But it's Paleo, you're thinking. Doesn't that mean healthy and pure, like the food our ancestors ate? Well, yes and no. Technically speaking, this microwaved mug cake is a Paleo-approved treat. It is grain-free, although not really sugar-free. I used maple syrup to sweeten the batter slightly. On a Paleo diet, you are allowed small amounts of honey or maple syrup as these are considered "natural" sweeteners. I have been trying to avoid all sugars and all sweeteners. Until today. As you can see.

Sometimes you just need a treat. Did I say that?

While my mug cake is cooling, let me give you the recipe before I forget it!

Ingredients:

1 TB coconut oil
1 TB pure maple syrup
1 egg
2-3 TB almond butter
2 TB cocoa powder
dash of salt
1 TB coconut flakes (optional)
1 TB dark chocolate chips (optional)

Melt your coconut oil in a large, microwaveable mug. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, one at a time, in the order listed. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. The cake will pull away from the sides of the mug. Let cool slightly. The cake comes out moist, light, slightly sweet, and very yummy! Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Paleo Meatloaf (With a Surprise!)

My friend Susan totally hooked me up. Not only did she find a source of grass-fed beef liver (Relay Foods) which was inexpensive ($4.75 per pound) and local (Wolf Creek Farm in Virginia), she also delivered the liver to me AND gave me a recipe to use. I've told you about Susan before-- this is the woman who writes award-winning novels, paints and draws beautifully, runs marathons, and has recently become even thinner on a Paleo diet. She has inspired me over and over again. Today I will share the recipe she suggested for this healthy, delicious meatloaf.



If you want to check out the original recipe, just go to thepaleomom.com. You will find tons of recipes which are strictly Paleo, often eliminating eggs, nightshades, and other common allergens as well. The original recipe is called Hidden Liver Meatloaf. This is a great way of incorporating beef liver into a dish your whole family will eat and enjoy. Why add liver to your diet at all? Because it is loaded with nutrients. Every nutrient present in muscle meat is about ten times more in organ meat. If you'd like to peruse a chart indicating the levels of most major nutrients in liver, go to chriskresser.com/natures-most-potent-superfood. 

Of course, I made a few minor changes to the original recipe. I chose to use an all-natural, uncured pork sausage instead of plain ground pork. I added ground lamb, in addition to the ground beef and beef liver. I used both eggs AND ground flax seed as a binder. I added parsnips to the array of veggies already listed. I also added freshly ground nutmeg. When I make it the next time, I'll probably add some nuts, too. Walnuts or pecans would be great for a bit of crunch.

Yes, this recipe is time-consuming. Sorry. I hope if you try it, you will feel it was worth the time. My version makes a VERY large loaf, so it will feed a family of four at least 2 meals, if not more.

PALEO MEATLOAF
Ingredients:
1 pound beef liver, grass fed
1 pound ground beef, grass fed
1 pound ground lamb, grass fed or free range
1 pound uncured pork sausage, sweet Italian
2-3 TB coconut oil or bacon fat
1 large or several small carrots, finely chopped
1 parsnip, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped,
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1-2 TB molasses
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flax seeds, ground into meal

Toss the whole beef liver into the food processor and grind into a paste. Mix all the ground meats and sausage with the liver. Saute the chopped veggies in oil until soft. Grind the whole flax seeds in a coffee or spice grinder. Mix all ingredients until well combined. 


Place in fridge and chill for several hours to meld the flavors. Shape into a loaf and place loaf in large cast iron pan. Bake for about 1 and 1/2 hours at 350F. Serve with mashed cauliflower.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Key to the Universe

Yes, it's true. This past week I discovered the key to the universe. No, it's not changing your diet or joining a gym. It's not Zen meditation or pigeon pose. It's quick and easy, practically free, and almost anyone can and should do it. Daily, at least.

It's brushing your hair.

Now, you're probably thinking that you already do this. And what exactly is wrong with this woman typing this blog if she never brushes her hair?

Well, never is a bit too strong. But hear me out, because I have irrefutable evidence that hair-brushing is the key to happiness and success.

On Wednesday morning, I neglected to brush my hair before arriving in the studio to teach my classes. This was not due to laziness. Oh, who am I kidding? This was at least partly due to laziness. The other fifty percent was Facebook. Every morning when I log on, I need to scroll through a whole new batch of puppy pictures and click LIKE on every single one. This is time consuming. If you have a similar FB addiction, you know what I'm talking about. So less vital things like a beauty regimen can fall by the wayside.

Anyway, my point is that my Wednesday morning was ruined by a lack of hair-brushing. Things just went downhill from there. I couldn't find my CD which I had planned my entire class around. I had to switch gears completely, reuse my CD from the week prior (BORING!) and pray that no one had absconded with my precious disc from the other studio where I knew I must have left it. Ugh.

However, this story has a happy ending. The following day, before heading out to teach, I DID brush my hair. Very carefully and thoroughly. When I arrived at the studio, HURRAH! My missing CD was waiting for me on top of the stereo.

Believe me, I have brushed my hair every day since. And plan to continue. As you can see, there is an obvious correlation between smooth, brushed hair and other things going smoothly.

Try it for yourself and see if my discovery holds true for you as well. If you're one of those people with perpetually perfect hair, it is possible you will have to find your own personal weak spot. Maybe you will need to clip your toenails or floss your teeth. Let me know what happens!