Archive | March, 2012

Eat Clean, Get Fit: 5 Easy Recipes To Help You Get Started

21 Mar

“I exercise because I like to eat”!  Are you someone who says that to people?  Many individuals enjoy satisfying their taste buds, but there are ways to do that while still maintaining healthy eating patterns.  Cooking using fresh ingredients that provide the body vital nutrients it needs to function properly is vital to maintaining a healthy physique and sound mind.

I’m fortunate to have many friends who enjoy cooking.  They frequently cook for the families and have their favorite recipes.  I’ve included five favorites from those I collected.  Give them a try!

Spinach Dip: Submitted by Pam White

Ingredients

1 (16 oz.) container low-fat cottage cheese

10 oz. container frozen spinach, thawed

8 oz. can water chestnuts, chopped fine

2 tbsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried parsley

2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Step 1 – Using a blender, blend the cottage cheese until it is smooth and creamy.

Step 2 – Put the cottage cheese in a large mixing bowl, and add all other ingredients. Stir well.

Turkey Chili Recipe, Slow Cooker Style. Submitted by Shannon Jay Dougherty

Shannon’s website: www.shannonjaydougherty.com

Ingredients:

2 lbs Lean Ground Turkey

2 Jars (16 ounces each) Your Favorite Chunky Salsa

2 Cans (14.5  ounces each) Diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cans (15 ounces each) Red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 bag (16 ounces) Frozen corn kernels, thawed

2 tablespoons Chili Powder

2 teaspoons Cumin

2 teaspoons Garlic Salt

2 teaspoons Dried Oregano

Greek Yogurt

Step 1 –  Spray slow cooker.  Brown ground turkey breaking up large pieces, drain fat and place in slow cooker.

Step 2 – Add all ingredients and stir. Cover on Low for 8 hours. Garnish with your favorite toppings. My choice is a dollop of Greek Yogurt on top!

Leek, White Sweet Potato & Mushroom Soup.  Submitted by Jennifer Zlaket

Jennifer’s website: http://www.holisticzwellness.com

Ingredients:

1 medium onion

1 bunch of leeks

1 large, white sweet potato

2 carrots

2 stems of celery

1 large bunch of mushrooms of your choice

thyme

fresh parsley

celtic sea salt

black pepper

Step 1 – Dice the onion, leeks, sweet potato, carrots, and celery.

Stock:  Sauté the chopped onion, carrot, and celery with a sprig of thyme and the stems of the mushrooms in 1 tbsp of coconut oil, until tender.

Step 2 – Add 6 cups of water, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of black pepper and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for half an hour.

Step 3 – Sauté the diced leeks and sweet potato with another tbsp of coconut oil for 15 minutes.  Add diced mushroom caps and sauté another 10 min.

Step 4 – Strain the stock and add only the liquid to the leeks, sweet potato and mushrooms.  I run this through the blender to make a soft, silky consistency.  You will have about  4 ½ cups.

Step 5 – Put it back in the pot, add about 1 tbsp of minced/crushed thyme leaves, another pinch of sea salt, another blast of pepper, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Garnish with chopped, fresh parsley.

Protein Quinoa Pancakes: Submitted by Thomas Miller

Ingredients

1-1/2 cup cooked quinoa

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

Topping Suggestions: Fruit, Honey, Agave syrup, Avocados

Step 1 – In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, eggs and egg whites. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

Step 2 – Mist a non-stick pan with oil and cook as you would any pancake. Do NOT cook these on high heat. The outsides will burn and the insides will still be raw. Use medium heat and cook for a little longer until golden brown.

Step 3 – Top with any clean topping.

Curried Cauliflower: Submitted by Jennifer Zlaket

Jennifer’s website: http://www.holisticzwellness.com

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower

1 large brown or yellow onion (you can also use leek instead, or in addition to the onion)

Curry powder

Turmeric

Cumin

Black pepper

Step 1 – Finely dice the onion and sauté in coconut oil with few teaspoons each of the curry powder, turmeric, and cumin (about 10 minutes.)

Step 2 – Add diced cauliflower and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes.

Step 3 – Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley.

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What Makes Us Believe

15 Mar

Just a little girl, I believe I can do anything.  I want to be a dancer and I dance to the beat of my own music.  There’s no regard for the way it should be done.  There’s only the music, and laughter, and confidence.  “I will be the best dancer ever,” I chant.  I look in the mirror and I smile at my reflection.  I’m happy, and I twirl in the center of the dance floor doing my very best impression of a ballerina.  Yes, that’s what I’ll be, a dancer.

I’m joyful.

And along the way someone says, “You’re not tall enough to be a dancer.  You’re not graceful enough to be a dancer.  You’re not disciplined enough to be a dancer.  There are others that are better.” So maybe that means I can’t do it.  “Dancing is done like this,” I’m told. I try to follow, but I misstep.  I think maybe they are right.  As time goes by, the music dies.  I don’t hear it anymore, so I stop moving my feet.  I just quit, because maybe….. I’m just not good enough.

I doubt myself.

Years and years go by, and I become a mom.  I listen.  I want to be a “baseball player mom.”  I am going to be on a professional team someday.  I look at my son, not fast enough, not strong enough, and in my mind I just see doubt. I see heartbreak.  I watch his passion, his drive, with no regard for what it takes to be the very best, he plays for the love of the game.  Who am I to take that joy?  My responsibility is to make him believe that anything is possible; that if he wants it bad enough than he should play.  When I watch him hit a home run I can see the joy swell within him.

I have faith.

I tell him to chase his dream.  “I’ll chase it with you.  If you want it bad enough, together we will find a way to get there.”  As I am saying this to him I can hear the music playing softly.  I close my eyes and I can remember the dance, and the dream, and the struggle, and the fear.  The fear that I’m not the best, so therefore I must give up. I can hear the words, “you might not make it,” and I believe that.  But looking back, dance takes many forms, and a person who believes they can do it, almost always finds a way through the journey.

I have hope.

So my goal is to make him believe.  To make the others around me believe.  Because the way you get there is by thinking you can.  It’s falling down, hearing you’re not good enough and saying, “Yes I am.  I know I am.”  It’s falling, and getting up, and falling again, and crawling through, and saying “yes I am good enough.”  It’s refusing to stop dancing.  It’s refusing to stop believing in you.  We tell children they really ought to grow up.  It’s really us that ought to be more like children, to see ourselves with wonder.  To dance even when we know we are not the best.  To believe that it’s not just talent that pulls us through, it’s not just being the best that allows us to get there. More importantly its passion, our love for the things we do, that make us successful. Passion sets the world on fire.  Who would ever give that up?

I believe again.

I don’t doubt. I choose to believe.  I believe in that little girl who dances. I believe in the boy playing baseball for the love of the game, and I believe in you!

Partner Up: How Exercising with Friends Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

13 Mar

One of the most difficult aspects of any fitness journey is maintaining motivation.  The key to being successful is having a solid support network, often times made up of friends and family, that can keep you motivated.  What better way than to develop a buddy workout plan to keep you on track.

Finding the right person is critical to your success!  You may be tempted to look to your closest friend, or the easiest person to connect with; however, that person might not always be the best choice.  Finding an individual with similar goals, abilities and schedule is important!

The idea of finding the right friend might sound difficult because it involves putting yourself out there, but it actually may turn out to be easier than you think.  Many people have a desire to get in shape and value creating relationships through the process. Take a risk and let people know you are interested in partnering up to get in shape.  Try these strategies to find your fitness friend.

  • Place a note in your local coffee shop on their community board
  • Talk to the staff at your local gym
  • Find a community online forum that offers you a place to advertise
  • Join a meet-up group (www.
  • Ask friends to suggest friends.  It’s highly possible that even though your close friends might not be the best fit, they might know people who are interested.

Once you find a buddy it’s time to create Your fitness achievement plan (FAP).  This plan should clearly outline your goals and the specific steps you plan to take to reach success.  Use the following steps to creating your plan.

  • Identify what specifically it is you want to achieve.  For example, do you want to lose weight, lower your body fat, successfully run a race, build muscle or improve your endurance?
  • Create a schedule. Try to include at least one work-out a week with your buddy.  Developing relationships can easily be fostered by talking on the phone, communicating online and texting, but face-to-face contact will always remain the best way to achieve this.  Lasting memories will be the ones that you create in person.  Furthermore, it will aid in your ability to push each other harder.  Your buddy workout can be one you meet and have someone lead you in or one that you do together.
  • Identify ways you can communicate virtually that keep you on track.  You might decide to e-mail each other every day with the exercises you did.  Another idea is to create an online shared document where you post your weekly goals.
  •  Plan for results.  You should have an end goal in mind, and a plan for a celebration.  If your goal is to run a race successfully, you and your friend might plan to travel to a fun destination to participate.  Maybe you aim to have a spa day once your reach your weight lose goal.  Whatever it is you hope to accomplish, plan something special to commemorate your success.

Achieving your fitness goals can be fun.  Enlisting the support of a friend and working at it together is one sure-fire way to insure that your plans don’t derail!  Find the right person, create a fitness achievement plan and identify ways to celebrate success.  If you can make it fun and find people to help you stay accountable, you are already on your way!

Simple and Effective Weight Loss Strategies

7 Mar

What works?  That seems to be the magic question. Lately I’ve had a number of people writing with the intent to lose that last ten or fifteen pounds, which has prompted me to think about some of the best strategies I’ve seen people implement.  Here a five simple tips to help you achieve your goals.

1) Don’t eat before you go to bed.  There are obviously exceptions to this.  When I was competing I couldn’t make it through the night without putting something in my stomach, as hunger pains would wake me in the middle of the night.  However, I was incredibly lean then.  For the average person, I think eating a meal and allowing it time to settle for a handful of hours before bed is the best approach.  Whenever I am consistent in doing this I feel better. In the following article, the author cites studies that suggest the body doesn’t have time to process food, and that eating late can interfere with sleep patterns.  I think there is some interesting insight here, and worth the read.  http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/does-it-matter-how-late-we-eat/

2) Eat clean most of the time.  Try to pick foods that have one ingredient.  It’s that simple.  Aim to do this most of the time.  For example, given the choice between a bar with nuts in it or a handful of mixed nuts, pick the latter.  No artificial ingredients.  Check out http://www.cleaneatingclub.com for lots of great recipes and tips for clean eating. www.cleaneatingclub.com

My clean eating breakfast. 3 egg whites, lean ground turkey, onions and tomatoes.

3) Give up soda.  I know, I hate this one!  I really do enjoy diet coke, but I notice that when I drink it I am almost always hungrier as a result.  In addition, often times when we take soda out of our diet we tend to drink more water, which is also incredibly important. Cynthia Sass , a Registered Dietician and Contributor Editor to Shape Magazine discusses the benefits of giving up soda in this article.  http://www.shape.com/blogs/weight-loss-coach/another-reason-ditch-diet-soda.   She also offers some great alternatives to soda as well.

4) Keep a food journal.  This might sound pointless but you would be surprised how much you put in your mouth without thinking about it.  Keeping a food journal helps you stay accountable.  Plus, it helps you recognize what eating patterns work for you.  When keeping a food journal, you can also chart how you feel.  This will allow you to look back and make observations on how food affects your body.  For example, one individual I know realized through charting that every time she ate dairy her stomach bloated and she didn’t feel healthy.  Many people suffer from food intolerance and keeping a journal allowed her to recognize her sensitivities. For those who are interested in tracking their patterns online, take a look at www.fitday.com

Try implementing these tips to aid you in achieving your goals.  All of them have worked for me and many people I know.  They seem simple but surprisingly many people don’t do them.  Decide, commit, succeed!

God Puts Strangers in Your Life for a Reason

5 Mar

The women I’m watching from across the room wears a beautiful long red dress.  I’m casually dressed up in boots and a grey sweater dress, and she is striking in color.  I watch her thinking, I’m not sure I could get away with wearing something like that tonight, but she seems to pull it off.  I see her snapping pictures; she’s completely enjoying herself.  I can feel her confidence from a distance.  I’ve never met her but for some reason I’ve wanted to, and decide that tonight I’ll make an effort.

While it usually comes naturally for me, I’m drained this evening.  Sitting at the hospital with my husband for the past two days causes me to pour a bit of water out of my cup, making it barely half full.  I’m holding onto the belief that our attitude determines our destiny, and while some things are not preventable, the way in which we handle ourselves through the process dictates our path.  With that, I decide to pull myself out of my funk, and make a connection.

I know a little bit about the girl wearing the red dress.  Her career fascinates me, from what I have seen she is multi-talented and has a unique ability to re-make herself as she goes through life.  My mind is racing trying to process how she’s done this, because for the past handful of weeks I’ve been thinking, “Back-up, you need to re-make yourself a bit, define what you love, represent that, drop everything else and go from there”.  From the minute I meet her she’s talking to me as if she’s known me for a while.  Our conversation takes the direction of career and I carefully listen to a few of her experiences, and make mental notes of some of the things she tells me.  I ask her advice on my career goals and of course, she says the one thing that always jumps….”Just do it.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Sometimes I think I get jobs because I decide I want something and I ask for it.  A lot of people don’t ask.”  Okay, maybe she’s right.  I’ll keep asking.

I think my conversation with this woman is done for the night, and it has certainly given me a bit of motivation, when somehow a bit later I run into her again.  This time, our conversation doesn’t touch career.  It quickly develops into thoughts on being a mom.  It’s not the conversation I expected to have with her, but it is by far a powerful one.  The heart of my struggle this month has not only been career, it’s also been with parenting.  Raising a spirited child can be both empowering and draining all in one.  It’s easy to feel like no one understands.  She quickly reveals that she gets it.  She shares such personal information with me, and I’m not sure why, but in doing so she gives me hope that I can manage.

I leave the conversation with this thought.  In business, we work to separate personal and professional.  We hope to portray an image because we think that’s what the world wants to see.  We worry that in truly being open we might alienate ourselves from opportunity; however, in doing so we show a human side.  Understanding something about someone personally makes me trust them more.  Maybe this woman’s ability to so easily share personal experiences with me is a gift.  I begin to think; this could be what makes her successful.  Whether that is the case or not, she’s made an impact that evening.

On the way home I ask myself the following question.  How do I make an on impact people?  How do I give to others in the way she just did to me?  How do I harness that “what do I have to lose” attitude all the time that will keep me pushing forward?  I want to ask her how she handles disappointment or frustration, whether it is in her career, parenting, or life in general.  Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity!

Through the ups and downs of life, sometimes you find yourself having a moment.  Okay, maybe it’s me. Maybe I sometimes find myself in a moment.  It’s that point where you start quickly going downhill, and one piece of bad news turns into another, and another, and then even things that are not the worst news begin to seem like it.

At that moment, maybe the answer is to focus outward and make a difference in the life of someone else.  Navigating through that moment greatly depends on attitude, how we perceive what happens to us.  The woman in red has had her share of challenging moments.  I know this because she tells me; but she lights up a room with her smile and candor.  I think she’s chose happiness.  I’ll use her light to help guide my path, to remember that our destiny is determined by our attitude, and often the way through the difficult moments is by sharing your stories with others.  In doing so, you never know with whom might connect.

The Stay-at-Home Work-at-Home Mom Dilemma

1 Mar

My husband likes to say he married me with the intention that I would make the money.  Shortly after we announced our engagement I made the decision to attend graduate school, and the images of having a steady job went out the window.  Being that I was driven in college, he figured I’d be a working wife, and someday a working mom, which pretty much is what happened.  Until which point I had two children.  Up at 5:00, out the door by 6:00 to get to work by 7:00 to leave at 4:00 to get the kids at 5:00, and heaven forbid if some was sick.  That was a major problem.  By the time my children were 2 and 4 I was exhausted and literally falling asleep standing up.  One day I said, “I want to quit” and I did.  We had no idea at that point how we would financially handle the loss of my income but I hoped we would figure it out as went along.

Being a stay at mom was no easy job though.  The allure of enjoying my house, baking, taking the kids for walks on sunny days quickly became two-year-old tantrums, constant messes being created, meltdowns in Target, and dinner sitting cold on the table when my husband was late from work.  I’d find myself talking his ear off as I craved the an adult conversation.  Barney, as it turns out, can only hold your attention so long.  The days were long, and somehow looking back, I remember then with nostalgia.  I know that in those moments there were times when I basically wanted to jump of a bridge some days.  “Please”, I’d tell my husband at the end of the day, “make him stop talking”.  My little one talks incessantly. “Mommy, mommy, mommy”, all day long.  I’ve since been told the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I’m not sure that’s really a compliment, but likely true.  Our children reflect us in many ways, and sometimes it’s like looking through the mirror and seeing yourself first thing in the morning.  You jump back in shock, that can’t possibly be me.  But it is.

I hold the many years I stayed home with my children very dear to my heart, something I personally wouldn’t change; however, when I initially quit I knew there would come a time when I’d go back to work, if for nothing else than financial reasons.  After all, my husband aims to retire at 75 at this rate.  I remind him he doesn’t like to be bored so why retire.  He’s not really buying it.  So when the time came last year for me to pursue a career, I jumped on it.  I think I surprised some people, but it’s something that I’d been thinking on for some time, and once I make a decision, I just do it.

The return to the work force has been a difficult one.  Not because I don’t enjoy it, but because I now sit on the stay-at-home, work-at-home mom fence.  It’s kind of feels like barbed wire some days.  Having been home for so long, my kids have expectations of me.  To carpool, sit and do homework with them, volunteer at school, play games, and fix dinner.  With the introduction of working, things balance differently.  However, not having childcare before or after school, or breaks for that matter (note to self, one week till spring break) means many of the parenting duties still rest on my shoulders.  Fortunately, my husband is a big help in this, but it’s forced me to truly examine and digest societies interpretations, and because I care deeply what about what people think (knowing that please refrain from sending me any hate mail if you don’t like my blogs), this matters to me.

The bottom line, I really do feel like women are expected to be super people.  There are a million amazing dads I know, trust me, but there is the feeling among working moms, myself now included in that mix, that despite the fact that we are legitimately trying to work, whether it be for financial reasons or personal reasons, we are still expected to take care of things at home.  People notice when I am not around.  I don’t think people do as much with my husband.  The welfare of everyone  feels like it rest on my shoulders, so I frantically fly around the house getting things done so that everyone is happy, and when I pass off some of those duties, I feel judged at times.  Part of me thinks, all things considered, why exactly am I trying to work at all?  Obviously money is a factor in that, because it does cost to live and my family has a unique way of running up medical bills…I have three specialists on my speed dial, need I say more!  More importantly though, I want to be an example. I want my children to see a mother who doesn’t give up on her dreams.  Who works hard at finding her passion.  I want my husband to have a wife that feels fulfilled.  I want him eventually to be able to take a step back after building his career and let me build mine.  That’s was always the deal, after all.  I want more, it’s time now.  Maybe things will change eventually and I’ll decide to take more time off, or maybe God willing if I can ever pull in enough money my husband will have that opportunity. Who knows?

For now though, my decision has been a stark reminder that women wear many hats.  In this day and age, we work, and we parent, and we often do it at the same time.  My husband came home the other night to find me carefully examining the screen doors.  He looked down, “wow, how did all that build-up get in there, no wonder nothing opens and shuts lately”.  I looked at him with a smile, and gently said, “Remember all those stay-at-home mom days?  Remember when I said if I try to work something will have to give”. To which he replied “yes”.  “Well, this is what I used to do all day…clean door frames, scrub finger prints marks off the walls, soak dirty clothing, clean garbage disposal, power wash the house, vacuum up crumbs, dust the patio furniture, organize the refrigerator, and the list goes on”.   Our house is a bit of a wreck lately, but we are getting by.

You can’t be everything to everyone all the time, but you can be someone important to some people some of the time, remember that you know what is best for you and your family.   The best moms are those who work hard day in and day out to achieve some sort of balance.  That’s the goal.  Balance provides perspective, it’s the leveling force in life.  When things are out of alignment you struggle.  With that, I’m off to start the day. Two hours of work done and it’s still dark out, off to get the kids up for school and the day begins.  Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Want some fun reading on the decisions smart women make about whether to stop working after children, check out Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Ten Year Nap, and excellent read!