Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hey There Sweet Stuff!

Ok, I am just going to come right out with it. This week's post is about sugar, and I am going to tell you not to eat so much of it. It tastes good, I know. I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next person. But this stuff is bad for you. Real bad. And the average American consumes 2-3 pounds of it a week. Pounds. Most likely, many of you out there are probably addicted to it.

How could you not be? Nowadays, it's in practically everything.

B went food shopping at Trader Joe's earlier this week. Like the thoughtful fiance that he is, he came home with many "health conscious" choices.

Like this bread:

Looks good. Honey sweetened! Honey is still a sugar but it has a slightly gentler effect on the body.

Well, if we flip the bread over and take a look at the ingredients...

Yup, there's honey in there, but there is also molasses... and I guess that wasn't sweet enough, because they added sugar as well!

Kinda misleading right?

If you look closely at most ingredient labels you are going to find sugar. Today's packaged foods are so processed and refined and full of chemicals that the only way to make them taste good is to load 'em up with sugar and salt, and lots of it.

So, why is sugar bad for you? Well for a lot of reasons.

It spikes your blood sugar. Sugar is already in it's simplest form (does not need to be broken down much) so it gets released immediately into the bloodstream. That's the high you get immediately after eating it. But we all know that what comes up, must come down. So then what happens? We don't like feeling down, so we go and get ourselves more sugar! And so on...

Sugar majorly messes with your insulin level. Insulin is responsible for getting food to your cells so it can get burned for energy. When your insulin is messed up you cells don't get the food they need, even though you have sufficiently eaten, so your brain gets the signal to eat even more!

Sugar is also known to suppress your immune system, lead to mood disturbances, and a whole host of other health complications.

For a really great, much more articulate and scientific explanation of all of this check out this video.

It's long (an hour and half), and pretty academic, so this is only for those of you who are really interested in this stuff, but I found it really worthwhile. (Thanks Leslie!)

For the rest of you, just believe me when I tell you that you want to watch your intake. I believe that artificial sweeteners are even worse, but we'll save that for another time.

So, you may be reading this and saying, yeah, I avoid sweets so I'm all good. But as we see from the bread, it's not as simple as that.

My recommendation to people is to be more ruthless about avoiding sugars in their "regular" food, like bread, pasta sauce, jam, instant oatmeal, etc. and save your sugar intake for the special things that make life sweet, like the occasional dessert.

How do you avoid all that processed food loaded with sugar and salt? Eat whole foods. Think veggies... meat... grains...

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I imagine it growing?
It is easy to picture a wheat field or an apple on a tree.  Tough to picture a field of marshmallows.  I know of no streams where one can scoop up a bucket of diet soda, no trees where one can pick fruit loops.

2. How many ingredients does it have?
A whole food has only one ingredient - itself.  No label of ingredients is necessary on simple foods like apples, salmon and wild rice.

3. What's been done to the food since it was harvested?
The less, the better.  Many foods we eat no longer resemble anything found in nature.  Stripped, refined, bleached, injected, hydrogenated, chemically treated, irradiated, and gassed; modern foods have literally had the life taken out of them.  Read the list of ingredients on the labels; if you can't pronounce it or can't imagine it growing, don't eat it.  If it is not something that you could possibly make in your kitchen or grow in a garden, be wary.

-From:  Feeding the Whole Family (third edition) by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008)

Are there healthy foods that are not "whole"? Of course. Olive oil is processed, so is hummus, and many others. But thinking from a  "whole foods"  perspective is an easy and effective guide to helping you to start make healthy choices in your shopping and eating.

How does sugar make you feel? Is it hard for you to avoid?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Well, color me...

I made the picture above using Microsoft Paint. B is really into this dinasaur of a program for making art, so I decided to give it a try. This one was made about a year ago. It's funny because at the time I didn't think anything of it. But the other day B found it saved on his desktop and I said, "Whoa, that's pretty.  Who made that?" (yes, I was temporarily blinded and did not see my name scratched out in the corner)

I have always had some blockages around expressing myself creatively.

Maybe it has to do with the counselor at summer camp who, after hearing my rehearsal for a choral performance we were going to give for the parents, said to me, "you know, we all have different talents in life, and perhaps for the concert you should use your inside voice." 

And then there was the time when our art class was assigned a self-portrait assignment and mine came out looking more like a deranged sociopathic version of myself....

But, when I give myself the opportunity, I actually love to express myself artistically. I love seeing color spread itself on paper. I take great pleasure in expressing myself through fashion and home decorating. I like to make collages. I am a secret intepretive dancer.

Yet, increasingly in my adult life, I allow very little time for these modes of expression.

I realized that when you are younger, your life is set up to support you in expressing yourself in diverse ways. In school you have Art, English, sports, and even dance. However, as we get older, and discover our talents, we tend towards the same modes of expression and rarely challenge ourselves in this department. 

The other day I had an opprtunity to draw as a part of my work with teens and it was so amazing! Playing with color and form awakened foreign parts of my brain. It reminded me of how important it is to challenge myself to push into less-traversed territory.

So, I have a challenge for you in. wellness readers. I want you to try to express yourself today (or in the coming days) in a way that you don't usually... whether that means taking a dance class or painting a picture, or writing in a journal. If you are already an artist, perhaps you want to do something academic, or switch your medium, etc. The point is to try to stretch to express yourself in way you don't normally do. It may feel uncomfortable, and well, that's sort of the point! The challenge is to push through the discomfort and see what you find on the other side. You may be surprised.

As an added incentive, the first person to post a comment about what new form of expression they tried and what they discovered will receive these journals from the MoMa Store!

*** Update. Overnight, Kylie Larsson won the challenge! To make this fair to the email subscribers (who get the post this morning), anyone else who posts a comment today will be entered into a lottery to win another set of the journals!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eat your chips!

The other night I hosted the 1st night of the in. Wellness Shake off. An inspiring group of women gathered together and we shared our challenges in trying to live healthier. We laughed a lot, strategized together and set goals for the coming weeks. It was awesome! I'm sorry fellas, but there is just nothing better than a great group of women sharing with and supporting each other. There are still 3 more Tuesday's so if you are in NYC, reach out and let me know if you want to join in.

I had promised the ladies some snacks, so on Monday I headed off to the health food store to see what inspired me. I already knew I was going to make the tart I posted several weeks ago but I wanted some other fun treat as well. As I was walking down the snack aisle I noticed a group of women in a feeding frenzy as boxes of Kale Chips were being re-stocked on the shelf. These women were freaking out. Over kale!

But with good reason. Kale chips are actually really, really delicious. They are crispy and salty and have a unique way of almost melting in your mouth.  Plus, Kale is packed with Vitamins A, C &; K, and lots of cancer-preventing phytonutrients, so this is a highly nutritious snack.

Ok, so listen up because I am going to let you in on a secret, you don't need to elbow your way through flocks of women or spend $8  to get yourself some kale chips. They are actually very easy to make right at home, and a large head of kale shouldn't cost you more than $2.50.

Try this recipe, and see for yourself!

Sesame Kale Chips
1 head of kale
1 Tbl. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbl. Olive Oil
1 Tbl. umeboshi Plum vinegar or rice vinegar
2 Tbl. sesame seeds (try to find unhulled)
Ground black pepper, to taste

If you prefer more simple ingredients, olive oil with salt and pepper does the trick! Or add parmesan, nutritional yeast or crushed red pepper…

1. Rinse kale leaves and shake dry. Tear leaves into chip-sized pieces (don't use the thick stems)
2. In a large bowl, combine kale pieces with oil, vinegar and sesame seeds. Mix.
3. Preheat oven to 350F. On two large cookie sheets, spread out kale leaves so they are mostly not overlapping.
4. Bake for about 7 minutes. Flip and move chips around to cook evenly. Bake another 7 minutes or so until crispy (but not burnt)
(adapted from recipe on

All dressed up
and ready to bake.

And... voila!


Want to learn the secret to weight loss success?
Come out to this event that I am doing with Fit 4 Life, Thursday Jan. 21st at 7:30pm. Plus, from 6:30-7:30 you can attend a complimentary Slim Down Fitness class! Email me if you would like to sign up or you can contact Fit 4 Life directly.                                                          

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The keys to less clutter and healthy living in 2010

Happy New Year in. Wellness!

I've missed you! I hope you'll forgive my absence. I needed some time off. Plus, today is my birthday, so you can't be mad at me!

I actually can't say that I have been relaxing much in my time off, mostly B and I have been hard at work. The week between X-mas & New Years was spent doing a full-on deep cleaning of the apartment. No corner went unexplored.

It's a pretty humbling thing to do a big clean like this. It forces you to realize that you are living with heaps and heaps of what is essentially garbage.

Here is a picture of all the old keys I found.

Mind you I have no idea what door any of these keys actually open. Some of them were in the house when I bought it, and I have been holding on to them, imagining they might become relevant at some point.

We got rid of some stuff.

We're talking bags and bags of stuff.  Books, clothes, knick knacks, kitchen utensils, old papers...

It can be hard to throw things away, especially if you are sentimentally inclined like B & I. Something as simple as a mug can carry tremendous meaning.  One of my biggest problems is thinking that somehow, someday, I will eventually need said thing or piece of clothing.  I think, "I might eventually want to use that small box to hold rubber bands in!" or "I'll totally wear this old, torn cashmere sweater around the house on a cozy Sunday."

But what you gain in holding on to things, you lose in having a cluttered, congested home.

Here are some of the rules and techniques we used to guide us in our purge:

1. If you haven't used it in a year, it goes. If you aren't using it now, it's highly unlikely you will use it in the future. You can always buy another one if the need does arise.
2. Everything in your home should fall into two categories: useful things and beautiful things. If it's not either, out with it.
3. If you come across something sentimental but you know in your gut it is not worth saving, blow it a kiss (we literally did this) and send it on it's way.
4. Rather than immediately throwing things away, start by just making piles: Trash, maybe trash, donations, re-gifts, etc.  Once you get started and see how good it feels to get rid of things, the stuff from the "maybe trash" pile will sneak its way into the trash pile.
5. Remember, these are just things. We imbue them with meaning, but at the end of the day, they really don't matter. The space you clear up in your home will help you clear up space in your mind, in your lungs, and in your heart.  Space in which you can be more creative and spirited with your life's endeavors, you know, the stuff that really matters. 

Happy cleaning everyone!

in. Wellness women readers who live in NYC, this next part is for you!

Speaking of getting rid of junk, here's the invite from the Facebook launch I did for an upcoming event I'm hosting, and I'd love for you to join in:

First Annual January Shake Off!

Bugger.  I seem to have somehow done it again. I made it through the holidays without over-indulging but then the past week did me in.

Chocolates… late night eating… popcorn at the movies…

I was on vacation. So sue me!

But now the fun and indulging has left me feeling not at home in my body. My clothes don't fit right, and I had a few cringe moments while looking at pictures of myself from a recent party I attended.

Oh, also, I need to floss more.

I know I am not alone. From talking to others, I have heard grumblings about getting out of sync with weekly workouts, wanting to quit sugar, or watch less TV. Let’s face it, it’s hard to stay healthy through the winter months.

I am not a fan of self-loathing. I know it doesn’t lead anywhere good.

However, I am a fan of putting care and attention towards being healthy and happy, and sometimes that means a little tough love.

If I am honest with myself, I know I have picked up a few unhealthy habits recently that I am ready to Shake Off.

Want to join me?

Announcing, the 1st annual in. Wellness January Shake off! For the next 4 weeks I am going to be opening my doors! Come and join this women-only group as we bond, share, learn and inspire each other to get back on track (or stay on track) with our health goals. From losing weight, to work/life balance, whatever your goal is, you’ll find support here.

Each week you will get to:
• Set goals and be held accountable in a supportive environment
• Receive wholesome recipes and tips for healthy living
• Take part in fun activities that will give you insight into yourself
• Share your challenges and progress

When: 7pm-8pm

4 Tuesdays starting Jan 12th – Feb. 2nd (Come to one or come to all!)

Please invite your women friends to join!

$10 per evening. Bring a friend and get a special 2 for $12 rate.

Please RSVP  to

Light refreshments will be served.