Canadian Bacon and Crispy Egg Breakfast "Unsandwich"

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Sometimes having a gluten allergy is fine, I don't miss bread at all and I happily chow down on all the things I can have. Other days (ahem...yesterday) I see a picture of a breakfast sandwich and I want to cry. So after the sadness subsided I started thinking about how I could recreate one sans bread and thus the Breakfast "Unsandwich" was born. Sure, I've dabbled in the lettuce wrap world before, but this is a whole level. The collard greens are sturdy enough to hold in the eggs, Canadian bacon and whatever else you dare to try. If you're tired of the 'ole bacon and egg combination try this version next time and I promise you won't be disappointed.  

What you need:

3-4 collard green leaves

2 eggs

4 pieces thinly sliced Canadian bacon

½ avocado

½ lemon, juiced

¼ cup clover sprouts

2 T chopped herbs of choice

Hot sauce of choice

1T avocado oil

S+P to taste

 

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How it’s Done:

Fill a shallow 12” cast iron pan with two inches of water (salt) and bring to a boil over high heat.

Using a small paring knife, remove the toughest parts of the stems from the collard greens, 3-4 inches.

Preheat a separate pan, over medium-high heat. Add oil and fry Canadian bacon for 1-2 minutes a side until lightly browned. Remove the bacon, add more fat if necessary and fry two eggs until the bottom whites are nice and crispy and the yolks are runny (about 2.5 minutes). Don’t forget to salt and pepper them!

When water comes to a boil, add in the collard greens. Blanch for 60 seconds, flipping half-way through. You want the greens to soften, but retain their color and a bit of firmness for your wrap. Remove and place on a paper towel to pat dry.

Mash your avocado, squeeze in the lemon juice adding a dash of salt and pepper. Mash a bit more to combine. (Bonus points for adding a dash of hot sauce here!)

Now you’re ready to assemble. On a cutting board lay your collards in an overlapping pattern so that the stem ends meet and overlap in the center by about 2 inches. You’re going to layer in the remaining ingredients starting with a spread of avocado, sprouts, one egg, a sprinkle of herbs, Canadian bacon and then repeat! When all the ingredients are at home inside the greens it’s time to wrap. Starting with the shortest leave fold it in towards the center, tucking it up and under. Do this with the remaining leaves, keeping your wrap as tight as possible as you go. Gently turn your wrap upside down and using a serrated knife, cut in half.

I’m not going to lie, this can be a little messy to eat, but, hey, life isn’t perfect even those this breakfast Sammy is damn close.

Beef and Pork Kofta Kabobs

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Beef and Pork Kofta Kabobs

If you know me, you know I love middle eastern flavors. I’m obsessed with spices for their ability to transform simple ingredients into extraordinary dishes. This recipe transports ground beef and sausage into spectacularly flavorful kabobs that would be just as good on the grill as in the oven.

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Spiced Coconut Carrot InstantPot Soup

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Spiced Coconut Carrot InstantPot Soup

I'm a sucker for creamy, bisque-esque soups. Something about the lusciousness of a beautifully, creamy soup just does it for me. My version is packed with flavor but I've left out the dairy to make this Paleo and Gluten Free. I love making this in big batches, freezing individual portions and adding whatever protein I have on hand to it make it a little heartier. 

This recipe can absolutely be made on the stove top, following the same steps, simmering for 1-2 hours before blending. However, if you have an InstantPot, USE IT! The flavor that develops in such a short period of time is really remarkable. While time savings is a key factor in this tool's appeal, my love for it lies in the intense flavors that come from cooking under pressure. Cumin, coriander and cardamon have literal superpowers when combined and they absolutely make this soup!

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Self-Experimentation: Intermittent Fasting

Well, it looks like it might be Summer(?).  

For me, Spring and Summer mean new beginnings and fresh starts.  For the last few years, I’ve used this time as an opportunity for experimentation on myself.  As a fitness and nutrition professional, I feel a responsibility to try things that may be of use to my clients or me as a tool or lifestyle change.  After all, if I'm not comfortable trying it myself, I don't think I should be telling you to either.  

Last year it was The Master Cleanse, which you can read about here.  Long story short, I found the week long fast to be an interesting personal challenge filled with lots of naps and disdain for others, but other than that was less than enthused by my experience, and have so far recommended it to exactly zero clients.  

This year, I’m trying Intermittent Fasting.  IF has become en-vogue lately, and like most new practices, has experienced an avalanche of purported benefits from experts, celebrities and anyone who likes to believe they’ve found the newest, latest and greatest thing and/or just want to sell books and magazines.  

Despite the tone of cynicism in the above, I believe that Intermittent Fasting can and probably does have benefits.  HOWEVER, the vast majority of people I talk to, meet or hear about doing a form of Intermittent Fasting are not necessarily great candidates for such a plan.  More on that later.

So, what is Intermittent Fasting?  

Intermittent Fasting is a loose term that can apply to a variety of protocols.  These protocols have a window of “feeding” and a window of “fasting”. (I bet you could sell a lot of books if you were just able to change the name from "feed window" to something more sexy and less equine sounding). The feeding windows can be as much as 6 days with one day of fasting, or as little as 6-8 hours with 16-18 hours of fasting.  Typically, a workout is performed during this fast, preferably at the very end, when the most amount of readily available energy sources have been depleted, and the increased metabolic load must rely on stored fat for fuel.

I’m going to skip the science and nitty gritty because a. There are better resources and smarter people out there than me (one such resource can be found here), b. because quite frankly, IF is quite new in the field of research, and realistically, we aren’t going to have any major conclusions or reliable bodies of factual information for many, many years.  Most conclusions are based on opinion and anecdotes rather than actual research.  And c. because "who gives a shit? If it makes my ass look good in a swimsuit, I'll do it, right?!" 

My Initial, Knee Jerk Reaction to Intermittent Fasting

IF is not rocket science, but, like most nutritional dogmas, it can and will be abused by those who look only at one piece of the overall puzzle.  Just like the Paleo junkie hitting the almond flour brownie buffet with the justification that “it’s Paleo!”, the newly Christened Intermittent Faster can 8 hours of complete crap, but not eat anything for the other 16 hours and technically still be Intermittently Fasting.  

Before embarking on any advanced form of nutritional intake, like Intermittent Fasting, you should be very comfortable with all 12 of the steps that I outline here. 

It’s important to get the Fundamentals down before you skip ahead.  Going in reverse is not a good plan, as you may have some major logjams in your profile that could easily be cleared up with the basics before you go turning your life upside down.  I really like Renaissance Periodization’s “Diet and Health Pyramid” shown here.

Why am I doing this?

Well, as a nutrition professional, I like not only knowing about different protocols and approaches, but I like trying them myself as well.  I think it’s important to have had the experience to know if something is effective and/or feasible, as well as to be able to identify with the potential pitfalls of those who are experiencing something while I’m working with them.  Additionally, with all of the benefits and claims that I’m hearing about this type of nutritional practice, I’m certainly intrigued.  Who wouldn’t want to improve all of those things?  Lastly, of course there are aspirations of vanity as well.  Again, who wouldn’t want to be leaner and look better in a pair of swim trunks?  

So, aside from the aesthetic benefits of being effective at dropping body fat and being able to increase muscle mass at the same time, what are these supposed benefits of Intermittent Fasting? 

Abbreviated List of Potential Health Benefits:

  • Improved blood profiles (including decreased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides)

  • Decreased inflammation

  • Increased cellular turnover (old cells dying off and being replaced by new cells more frequently)

  • Body composition (this is beneficial health-wise in addition to aesthetically due to the reduced stress and strain on your body with extra fat)

  • Blood sugar regulation

  • Improved Gut Health

What I’m Doing for my Experimentation

I’m doing the 8 hour feed, 16 hour fast.  This is a pretty common protocol as it fits well into normal life and doesn’t completely interfere with the fact that people are bound to have social events in the evening that revolve around eating.  Attending a dinner with friends and declining all food because “I’m doing this thing” is something I am determined to avoid except for extreme circumstances.  Let’s be honest, we all hate that person, regardless of how many abs they have. 

This feed/fast window works great in regards to workout timing for me as well. I typically work out with our noon CrossFit class 3-5 times per week and dabble in other recreation on most if not all days of the week.  

I should comment that CrossFit is probably not the best protocol of exercise after a fast.  It’s too intense and relies too heavily on burning quick burning carbohydrates for fuel to be feasible to do while fasted.  In a perfect world, the exercise protocol would be lots of high repetition weight training and very moderate intensity aerobic work. 

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, but if someone claims they can go very low carbohydrate and operate at a high intensity, they are either grossly underestimating their carbohydrate intake, or are grossly overestimating their intensity. 

My Results and Experience

After 8 weeks, I can say that I’ve been 95% committed to Intermittently Fasting. I’ve had a few days where I ate early and I’m sure there are a few where I ate late.  Outside of that, I’ve stayed on track for only eating between 1:15pm and 9:15pm.  Additionally, I have made no other changes to my daily diet.  I’ve tried to stick with the exact same macronutrient plan that I’ve used for the last few years, I’ve just fit it into a smaller window. This macronutrient profile is roughly 35% protein, 35% fat, 30% carbohydrate.  It's what keeps me feeling the best, at a reasonable (but not exactly bikini ready) physique, and allows me to perform quite well (if I don't say so myself).

I eat pretty darn "normally".  I drink alcohol a couple of nights a week, mostly on the weekends.  When I have a cheeseburger, it comes with a gluten-rich bun.  I like tacos.  I'll have a legit dessert once a week or so.  And I probably have a minor addiction to apples and a good quality, freshly ground peanut butter.  

All in all, after these 8 or 9 weeks, I have only lost 3-4 pounds, which I’m happy about for reasons other than that I actually like to fill out my clothes. I’m happy about that because I have lost about 2% in overall body fat according to caliper measurements, and I have gotten a wee bit leaner. 

However, I don’t necessarily contribute this to Intermittent Fasting in particular.  I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of people, myself included, who are seeing results with Intermittent Fasting are seeing those results not due to some revelation of science and nutrition, but because they are accidentally skipping ⅓ of their meals, they are incidentally cycling their carbohydrates, and because they are cutting out other opportunities to eat that they had previously been indulging in (raiding the pantry after dark after an eensy-weensy bottle of wine or two).

In other words, I don’t know that Intermittent Fasting is any more effective than intentionally modifying caloric intake and nutrient timing (eating a majority of your carbohydrates after your workout).

In fact, I'm absolutely 100% positive that I could achieve the results that I did by just eating less peanut butter, only eating tacos for lunch on days that I workout instead of most days, and resisting all of those yard-work beers that are so damn tasty in the summer.  To emphasize that point, I was actually leaner about 4 weeks into this process than I am currently, for which I blame the onset of that dastardly social misfit named Summer.  

However, outside of that opinion, I have experienced and formed the following opinions regarding pros and cons of Intermittent Fasting:

Pros:

  • It’s extremely black and white.  If it’s not after 1:15pm or before 9:15pm, don’t eat.  No, blurred lines of whether or not something is technically “paleo”, no measuring portions, counting calories, etc.

  • Effective Aesthetically.  I have lost body fat.  My numbers, pictures, and comments from those around me echo that truth.  I'm certainly not about to grace the cover of Muscle and Fitness, but with a week of gnarly restriction, a serious spray tan and some Photoshop, I could probably be ready for a local radio calendar or something.  

  • Socially viable (for the most part).  So far, I haven’t had to be the person at dinner who has to be vegan, dairy free, gluten free, and only eating Kosher.  No one has rolled their eyes at me at dinner, and I'm still getting invited places, so I can only guess that no one hates me yet. On occasions that I’ve had a social breakfast or meeting situation where others were eating outside of my window, I just tell them I already ate, that I don’t eat breakfast, or explain what I’m doing and just have black coffee, which I love.  Again, no blurred lines or maybe sorta kinda.

  • Understanding hunger.  I used to be very prone to the effects of “hanger” whenever I hadn’t eaten in too long.  It’s great to have developed the "skill" and ability to function without food for a period of time and not want to kill anyone/everyone.  Additionally, I think that it’s important to recognize that being hungry isn’t an emergency.  In the beginning, I was pretty hungry during those morning periods where I had typically eaten breakfast.  As I got more comfortable, I was not, and have gotten to the point where skipping meals isn’t all that big of a deal.

  • It’s easy to go “off” and “on” if need be.  If I take a trip, go on vacation, or am otherwise not able to follow my IF protocol, it’s not a big deal to take a few days off, then go back on when I need to.  It’s not recommended to go off and on all the time, but it certainly is possible and feasible.  

  • It makes mornings easier to get rolling!  I’m typically up at 5am for our morning classes at 6am.  Skipping breakfast means I get to sleep an extra half hour, which is nice.

  • Self control.  It’s a great exercise in self control to have things be put under your nose or temptations during your daily fast.  The black and whiteness of eating window vs. non eating windows makes it easy to say no and know for sure that no, you cannot in fact have _____.  This makes it easier and I believe trains you to be able to say no in other situations.  

Cons:

  • My eating schedule is all messed up.  The point of this is not to skip a meal, it’s to fit all your normal meals into a smaller window.  This is difficult to do, and means that I’m eating full meals at 115, 345 and 845, with snacks at 230 and 645.  I have a fairly flexible schedule, where I can be away from the gym for a short of time and run home, so it works for me.  

  • Chronological Anorexia is not a recommended way to eat or live.  As I mentioned above, I would hazard a guess at this that would believe that a lot of the weight loss benefits that people see are due to them actually skipping these meals instead of moving them backwards.  

  • I love breakfast.  I just do, it’s my favorite meal.  Now I eat it at 345, which is ok, but it’s a little weird.  Not everywhere serves breakfast all day, which, at this point would be a part of my developing political platform, along with getting rid of daylight savings and having the Super Bowl on Saturday instead of Sunday (seriously, it's a good idea).

  • Workouts/Performance Suck.  Working out at noon means that I haven’t eaten anything in 15 hours before my workout.  This means that I’ve got no fuel to run off of, and doing CrossFit on no fuel is damn near impossible, and probably somewhat dumb.  Doing intense shit requires carbohydrates/sugars for fuel.  Not having those means your exhausting your immediately available stores, which are not long lasting.  Your body is then forced to metabolize other fuels (ideally body fat), which takes longer to produce.  Therefore, going full bore for a period of time means that you’re suffering after about only a minute or two of hard work if you aren’t careful with your pacing.  There are way, way, way better ways to approach fasted exercise than CrossFit style workouts.  I just happen to enjoy CrossFit, and I like working out at the noon class, so that’s what I do.  

  • It can lead itself to binging type behavior.  When someone suffers for a while food wise, often times they feel like they’ve “earned” the right to eat an abnormal amount of crappy foods that would normally be off the menu or protocol.  This can lead to a dangerous cycle of binging and fasting.  To continue to beat the dead horse, it is absolutely imperative that someone develop quality food habits before embarking on this advanced prescription.  

  • We really don’t know what we’re doing or the long term results of this will be.  It’ll be years from now until we figure out the facts on what this means for our bodies and health.  People can say all they want about history and make anecdotal statements of how this is good or not good, but the truth is, we really just don’t know.  I might be taking years off my life every hour of this fast.  Everyone wants to talk about ancestral nutrition, but no one remembers that those losers died at like 30.  

So, with those things in mind, who would I recommend this to?

Who this is for:

  • Advanced, nutritionally savvy people who eat mostly whole foods, have a great relationship with food (“relationship” doesn’t mean snuggling with ice cream cartons, it means you’ve maintained a solid program of daily nutrition habits for years and years), who are looking to take it to another level in hopes of further lowering body fat and/or experimenting with how something works for them.

  • Aesthetically interested fitness participants.  Your performance will probably suffer, but especially in any intense type work or any sprint type work.  

Who this is for not:

  • Basically the opposite of the above.  This is not a “get lean quick” strategy for someone who is constantly jumping from program to program hoping “this is the one” or that eating whole foods and getting in a routine is too hard.  This is getting very high up the pyramid of nutritional strategies and techniques, not the baseline for everything else to be modeled from.

  • Performance minded athletes.  I’m sure there is a way to tweak this to make this more feasible for someone in a performance setting, but I just don’t see it as beneficial if performance is your utmost priority.  It’s just not the right tool for the job.  

Think Intermittent Fasting is right for you?  Or, been trying Intermittent Fasting to no avail, and want some real answers?  Shoot me an email and I'll set you straight.  

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Know Your Nutrition: Fats

Let’s get it out of the way right now; eating fat will not turn you fat.  Eating vegetables doesn’t turn you into a vegetable.  Eating chocolate doesn’t turn you into chocolate.  Eating a supermodel doesn’t turn you into a supermodel. 

A lot of what we are doing now in fitness and nutrition is undoing the wild pendulum swing that happened a generation before us.  A generation from now, we'll probably be doing the same thing.  20 years ago it was all step aerobics, Nordic Tracks and low fat diets.  Now it's "no pain, no gain", "taser me while I do burpees in cow sh*t" and low carb diets. 

Inherently, none of the above are necessarily "bad".  In fact, they've all got their place, and I promise you with 100% certainty that when used correctly, on the right person in the right application, all of the above can work great. 

(Side note: If anyone out there wants to be a study subject for a blog post, I'd love to design a program and document someone losing fat due to using a Nordic Track and a high carb/low fat diet in 2017.  Seriously.)

Anyways, back to the pendulum swing of the 80's and 90's.  One major mess we created in that era was the fear created around consuming fat, and that eating fat would make you fat.  As with most trends in the United States, more is always better, and it's always best to take things to their absolute extreme. 

This mentality led to fat free everything, causing everyone to do their best to completely eliminate a very important macro nutrient from their diets.  Unfortunately, most people exchanged their dietary fat for trash disguised as food.  While fat was demonized, sugar and it's derivatives made a sneaky appearance.

Did I just lie to you?

Kind of.  The above statement is should be recognized as slightly tongue in cheek, and there are some things to know that complicate it's black and white nature.  Fats are very calorically dense.  A gram of dietary fat is worth 9 calories in a calories in, calories out equation.  A gram of protein has 4 calories.  A gram of carbohydrate also has 4 calories. 

In other words, if you were to eat the same physical quantity of a fat vs the same quantity of a protein or carbohydrate, you'd end up with more than twice the calories.  This is neither good nor bad, it just is, and is a very good reason why although dietary fat itself will not necessarily make you fat, leaving a 5 pound bag of salted almonds within reach of your drivers seat during a long drive will probably mean that you're going to be prone to gaining weight (believe me, I've done it). 

Is that reason enough to eliminate it from your diet?  Absolutely not.  In fact, you should do everything you can to include dietary fats in your diet for a variety of factors.

Satiety

Eating quality fats are a good way to stay full.  Especially if you are replacing carbs with fat.  Fats are very satisfying and can curb cravings.  As I briefly touched on in the protein piece that can be found here, carbohydrates can stimulate a huge swing in insulin levels in the body, causing cravings and the body to store excess sugar in the bloodstream as fat.  (More on carbs next week, but it should be noted that carbs are not the devil either, so don’t go eliminating those either).  Quality nutritional fats will not cause that insulin spike, and will keep you more full for longer.  

Energy Levels

Good quality fats are a tremendously efficient form of energy.  As I mentioned above, fats contain 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 grams for carbohydrates and protein.  This means that a smaller portion of fats can boost your energy more efficiently than other macro-nutrients.  This is extremely beneficial for hikers, backpackers and anyone who needs to be able to maintain their caloric input but also has to consider weight and space.  Hence, the creation of Trail Mix. 

Better Brain and Cell Health

Our brain and the cells within our body are made up of fats and cholesterol.  Consuming fat ensures that these cells have the building blocks to maintain their health and ability to communicate with other cells.  If I have to explain why this is important to you, you should stop right here and go eat an avocado.

Good Fats, Bad Fats and Sources of Fat

Not all fats are created equal.  There are good fats, there are bad fats, and there are fats that can fall in between, depending on their consumer.  Good fats should be consumed with every meal, bad fats should be severely limited, and in between fats should generally be consumed in moderation, depending on who you ask. Bad fats are the ones listed under the "Trans Fat" column in the image below.

Good Fats

Good fats come in the form of nuts, seeds, vegetables, meats and fish.  They are known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated depending on their chemical bonds.  

Monounsaturated fats have a single carbon to carbon bond (hence: “mono”).  Good sources of monounsaturated fats include oils like olive and canola oil, nuts like almonds and macadamia nuts, as well as avocados and olives.

Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds in its carbon chain.  Polyunsaturated fats are essential, meaning they are not produced by the body, and must be ingested through the diet.  These include many seed varieties (sunflower and pumpkin seeds are good examples), fatty fishes like salmon and trout, nuts like walnuts and pecans, and oils like corn oil and flaxseed oil.  

Bad Fats

Trans fats are considered unhealthy.  They are man made fats that come from hydrogenation, a process that turns liquids into solids.  Foods on the trans fat list are fried foods like doughnuts and french fries, desserts like ice cream and cookies, as well as other fairly obvious unhealthy choices like frosting, pancakes, and margarine.  Eating these kinds of fats will definitely make you fat.  It should be noted that the items listed above can be made with alternative recipes which may not include trans fats, so before you slap that cookie out of grandma’s hand, ask her where it came from.   

So What Does it All Mean?

With this new knowledge of fats, you should be able to recognize that eating fat will not make you fat, at least not in the way many people think it does.  In fact, substituting fats for carbs and fats for sugars will make you much less fat than the opposite.  For many of you who were a part of the low-fat craze in the past, this will be hard to accept and change, but it’s the truth.  

You should also be able to recognize which fats are healthy fats and should be a part of the diet.  Try and include a selection from the good fats with each and every meal.  

You should know which fats are bad for you, and which should be limited if not eliminated from your diet.  Hopefully this post isn’t what alerted you to the fact that french fries and frosting are bad for you.  If so, we should probably have a chat and look at your diet. 

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Pastrami Lettuce Wrap

Pastrami Lettuce Wrap

This recipe isn’t really a recipe, it’s more of a lesson in assembly. But we’ve discovered the key to staying on track is having healthy, easy go-tos that come together in no time. While we’re not against carbs, we love recipes that taste like their carb laden predecessors while packing way more nutrients and a much better macro profile. This lettuce wrap can be made in a hundred different ways. A BLT version of this would be fantastic or try it with tuna salad!

 

What you need:

4 large romaine leaves

3 oz Natural Pastrami Lunch Meat (look for one with no nitrates or nitrites)

1 T Mayo

1 T Mustard

Thinly sliced dill pickle

½ avocado

¼ cup bean sprouts, other micro greens or finely chopped herb of choice

Parchment paper for wrapping

How it's Done:

Lay romaine leaves out in a fan. Spread mayonnaise and mustard across the leaves. Lay pastrami out evenly across the leaves then top with pickle, avocado and microgreens. Starting on the outer edge gently roll the leaves tightly into a burrito.

Cut a piece of parchment paper 1.5 times the size of your lettuce wrap. Place wrap in the center of the parchment. Begin by setting your paper vertically in front of you, just like with the flat-sandwich technique. Then place the sandwich diagonally across the paper, near one of the corners. Now lift that corner up and over the sandwich, pressing it flush. From there, roll the sandwich in paper toward the far opposite corner, folding in the sides as you go.Once the sandwich is fully rolled in the paper, with everything tucked in, use a piece of tape to secure the package. And there you have it: a neatly(ish) wrapped lettuce sandwich, ready for transport! When you’re ready to enjoy, cut the wrap width-wise on the diagonal.

Knowledge Does Not Equal Results

Knowledge Does Not Equal Results

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Most of us know way more than we’d ever need to in order to achieve our goals. We know that we shouldn’t be eating junk foods, candy, soda (pop if you’re East of some arbitrary line in the US), etc.  We know that we should be eating mostly meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit and as little sugar as possible.  We know that we shouldn’t just lie around all day, and that we should probably get some physical activity in on most days of the week. 

I’ve personally written enough blog posts and articles on the topics above that you should have enough knowledge and tools at your fingertips to become as lean, as strong, as whatever you want to be.  (In fact, literally following the paragraph above will get you to a better physique and physical condition than most of the nation can dream of.)

If, perhaps, my writing style doesn’t speak to you, there are thousands and thousands of other authors and books and seminars to get you going in the right direction.  In fact, if you’re like most people, you own several of these books, visit several of these blogs and know of at least a handful of fitness and nutrition resources that should have you in the right direction. 

Yet, most, if not all of us are not where we want to be in either health, fitness or nutrition.  

That’s pretty crazy if you think about it.  All of us seem to be searching for some grand answer to our question of what we’re supposed to be doing.  Yet, we already have those answers.  I don’t mean to be crass, but you are not special, and you probably already know the next thing you need to be doing. Yet you don’t do it, and you’re not alone in that struggle.

Why is that?

Well, we are a dynamic representation of our habits, our past, and our deep seeded behavioral traits that we’ve been practicing since we were infants. We’ve got beliefs and things we do that we can’t explain and that are too comfortable to change for the long term.  Despite our surface level desires, our internal wiring is about as set in stone as the rising and setting of the sun.

I bet this sounds familiar: 

You’ve finally hit your rock bottom.  That point at which you say, “enough is enough, I need to get (back) in shape and I need to stop eating so much crap. Starting Monday, I’m doing “x”, and my whole life is going to change.  I’ll have ripped abs by the 4th of July and I’ll be the envy of everyone.  So what if I’m the annoying person at dinner who doesn’t eat dessert, drink alcohol, or have bread.  I’m going to smash this new lifestyle and no one can stop me!”

 Of course you'll be able to meal prep every week.  How hard could it be to spend an hour or two every Sunday?

Of course you'll be able to meal prep every week.  How hard could it be to spend an hour or two every Sunday?

A week goes by: You think, “I can do this forever.  This is easy!  I can’t believe how much better my life is because of ______.  I need to tell everyone how awesome this is.” 

Two weeks go by: You’re still going strong.  “And they said this would be hard! Why didn’t I do this sooner!”  You’re probably in the annoying everyone stage of this, but that’s ok with you.  Screw them if they aren’t going to get on board with your new passion.

Three weeks:  “That birthday cake certainly looks delightful.  And Carrot Cake is my favorite.  I’ve been perfect basically forever at this point, I deserve to let off the gas for a few minutes.  I’ll go right back to it tomorrow.”

Four weeks:  “Well, you know, I don’t think this is really working that well for me.  I think I’m going to add _____ as well.”  (“Or, this is working so well for me I think I’m going to re-introduce _____ to my life and see what happens.  I can always eliminate it again, but this should be real life right?”)

And so on, and so forth.  You know how the story ends.  Slowly but surely, you’re back to “normal” (and sometimes worse off).  Part of you hates yourself for relenting on what you set out to do, but part of you feels much more at ease in your normalcy.  No more being the special person at dinner.  No more dramatic swings of self control or feeling like you’re missing something.  You figure, “we’ll, I’m just me, and that’s ok.”   

Rinse and repeat.  Perhaps dozens of times.  Maybe every January and Spring. Paleo, Primal, High Fat/Low Carb, Low Fat/High Carb, High Protein, Intermittent Fasting, Carb Cycling, Beach Body, South Beach, etc, etc. 

I’m painting a pretty dismal picture here, but it’s the reality.  Almost every one of my clients expresses to me that they’ve tried at least a few of the above, alongside other nutritional “coaching” before.  Yet there they are, sitting in front of me.  When I ask them whether _____ worked, they say yes, yes it did.  Until it didn’t.  

What gives?

A great analogy for the process that is going on here is originally credited to psychologist Jonathan Haight, and is reintroduced in the book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath.  The metaphor goes that we are the embodiment of an elephant and its rider.  The elephant is represents all all of our normal and ingrained responses and behaviors.  Things we’ve been doing forever, and we can’t even explain why we do them.  This elephant is trudging slowly down a path that is right in front of it, and the path is clear. 

The rider is a thoughtful, rational being that can see far ahead and plan for the future.   The rider makes decisions based on reason and wants to steer this elephant into the best path possible, even if it isn’t the path immediately in front of him.  The rider knows what is best for the elephant, even if it’s not what the elephant wants or can see.

Unfortunately, getting an elephant to move is an enormous task.  You can will it, beat it, reason with it all you want, but the elephant is going forward and will never just jump over to the path it’s rider wants it to be on.   You can exhaust yourself pulling with all your might, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you might get that thing steered over there for a moment, but inevitably, you won’t be able to keep that pace up.  You’ll fall asleep or quit, and while you’re not paying attention, back to the original path it goes.  Or perhaps worse, it’s now stuck in the weeds, unsure of any direction at all.

However, slowly but surely, you can divert that elephant over.  It won’t be instantaneous.  It probably won’t be tomorrow, or even next week. 

But, if you can start to slightly cut that new path, without the elephant even knowing, you’ll be headed in the right direction.  It may not happen as soon as you want it to, but it will happen.  Once that elephant is on the new path for a while, and has some momentum, it’ll never even know the difference.

So, now you know the difficulty that lies with making major, long term sustainable changes.  The question now becomes, well then what are we supposed to do? 

First, you need to figure out what you want to change.  Identify a long term goal that you want to achieve and really nail it down.  Then, think to yourself what you can do today (tomorrow is fine to) to take a step towards that goal.  Notice, I said, “a step”, not “totally turn your life inside out, burning down anything and everything that gets in your way starting Monday”.

A good way to do this is to work backwards.  

If your goal is, “I want to run a marathon”, you should reduce that down to something you can do today that works towards that goal.  So, to work backwards you could say, ok, I’m going to run that marathon in one year.  In the weeks leading up to the race, I should be running 50-60 miles a week.  I’m currently running 0 miles a week, and I haven’t run in 2 years.  I need to build up to that volume of training.  So, right now, I could get up out of my chair and go run for 10 minutes.  

I can do that tomorrow, the next day and the next day.  I could literally run for 10 minutes a day with absolute certainty for as far as I can see in my schedule. If you think it sounds almost too easy, you’re on the right track.  Get that nailed and prove to yourself that it is, in fact, too easy.  If after two weeks to a month, you’ve done with with a great amount of certainty, you can move on.  In this case, you could run for 15 minutes, or you could run start running 2 miles everyday.  


This step should be something you can do with 90-100% certainty.  It should be something that will slightly challenge you, but that you can do rain, sleet or shine.  Even if it’s your birthday, Christmas, and you win the lottery all on the same day, you should be able to pull this off.  In this situation listed above, too small would be, “If I want to run a marathon, I need to run, and to run I need to put on shoes, to put on shoes, I need to tie them. Tomorrow, I’m going to tie my shoes!”  Too big would be, “I’m going to drunkenly sign up for a marathon that’s happening in 90 days tonight!”.

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Try it.  It works!  It won’t have that constant rebirth and smash yourself on the rocks in epic failure cycle that most 30 day commitments have, but it will work over the long haul.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “I know what I want, but I don’t know how to get there”, or you try this approach a few times, and you don’t seem to be making the progress you’re hoping for, hire a coach.  We can show you the path, give you exact action steps to follow, help you overcome the inevitable obstacles that you will encounter along the way, and we will provide you accountability as you venture along your new path.  

Coaches are pretty awesome, and for less than most people spend on cable and internet every month, you have someone standing behind you, supporting you and guiding you to achieving your dreams.  
 

If that sounds like something you need, you can contact us here to explore it further.  Or, you can sign up for one of our plans here.   

 

The Calorie Game

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The Calorie Game

Pros and Cons to Using Calories for Nutrition Management

Counting calories is often portrayed as either a horrible idea or the only idea.  As I’ve posted about before, everyone is out to sell their way of doing things.  In an attempt to consider both sides of this somewhat complicated picture, I’m going to lay out some pros and cons to help explain why calorie counting can be a very effective tool despite it's flaws. 

Con #1: You are a unique individual with a very different metabolic equation than anyone else. Even if you’re the exact same weight, body composition, and move around the exact same way as someone else, you will burn through more or less calories in the day than that person.  So the idea that if you’re 150 pounds and define yourself as moderately active, you should eat “x” amount of calories is crazy.  Consider the idea that even if you’re just 10% off, and you’re told you should eat a 200 calorie diet, that you could be over or under eating by 200 calories (or 1 Krispy Creme glazed donut per day).

Con #2:  A calorie does not equal a calorie.  This is discussed a lot these days in regards to macronutrients, etc, but it should still be mentioned that eating 2000 calories of lean, unprocessed meat and vegetables will not have the same reaction on your body as 2000 calories of donuts and skittles.  

Con #3:  You can’t measure your calories like you think you can.  Humans are just prone to miscalculation.  There’s no reasonable way that you’re going to be able to accurately weigh and measure all of the things that you intake in your daily diet.  Even if you use the most accurate food scale you can buy, you just won’t get it 100% right.

Con #4:  Calorie numbers on Nutrition Labels are inaccurate.  Even within the standards of FDA regulation, nutrition labels can be off by as much as 20%.  Taking the example we have been using; if you’re supposed to be eating 2000 calories, but you’re over or under-eating by 20%, that’s a difference of 400 daily calories.

Con #5: The caloric estimates of your daily activities, exercise, etc are grossly inaccurate. This is especially true if you’re doing anything more complicated than running.  Anything mixed, like CrossFit or weights and conditioning will completely ruin any chance you have at getting anything accurate.  

Con #6: Calorie counting can lead to major bargaining with your food intake.  When people get too attached to their calories in/calories out, it often leads to a habit of bargaining with your intake, which is neither healthy, productive or feasible long term.  It leads to thoughts like, “well, I had 1000 calories too many yesterday, so I’ll have 1000 too few today”, or “I’ll exercise really, really hard tomorrow to earn off that brownie”, or “I had a crappy breakfast and lunch, so I don’t have any calories left for dinner…”  In extreme examples, this can lead to major eating disorders.  

Ok, ok, we get it.  There’s a lot of flaws in the Calories In vs. Calories Out method.  Are there any positives to this?  Yep, as a matter of fact, there are:

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Pro #1: You’ll learn a lot.  I have never sat down with a client after a two week food log and had them answer, “no”, when I asked them if they learned anything.  There is always something that you’re doing that will be exposed by doing a food log that involves calories and macronutrients that you didn’t know was there.  Some common ones are, “holy shit there’s a lot of sugar in Orange Juice!”, or “I had no idea I was eating 1000 calories of almonds!”, or “ummmm, so I think that my 1 drink a night is slightly more than 1 drink…”  These things are not life or death revelations, nor are they bad necessarily, they are good to know though!

Pro #2: It provides structure and guidelines.  We like to pretend otherwise, but we humans love to be told what to do.  If I tell you to eat a well rounded diet of mostly meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, I’m giving you decent advice, but most people need more structure.  They want to know how much, how often and the specific amounts of each.  Even knowing all of the flaws and errors mentioned above, most people are at least consistent in their inconsistencies, so they can effectively use the tool even if they’re not even close on the correct numbers.

Pro #3: It’s a great tool.  As long as you can recognize the flaws, using a method of calorie counting is a great tool to figure out what you should or could be doing.  If, according to your calculations, are eating 2000 calories and are gaining weight, you should probably reduce your portion sizes, or find the thing that’s pushing you over that edge and get rid of it.  Or, if you’re losing weight, but have no energy to sustain your normal existence and you find yourself hating everything you once loved, you might want to bump your numbers up a little.  If you sleep like shit once in a while, and you figure out that it’s on nights that you jack yourself up with a bunch of refined sugar and carbohydrates before you go to sleep, using a calorie counting app will allow you to see that in pretty clear form.  

Pro #4: Accountability.  Related to Pro #2 and #3, if used correctly, using a method of calorie counting will provide you with some accountability.  If you’re supposed to be eating a certain amount, but you’re way over, or way under that, you’ll have someone or something to answer to in regards to where you’re supposed to be instead of just saying “I ate too much or too little yesterday”.  

Pro #5: Macronutrient Manipulation. As you get more advanced in your nutritional knowledge and training habits, a calorie counting approach allows you to better track and control the things you eat on training days vs. non-training days.  Most people generally respond well to a lower carbohydrate diet, but will need more carbohydrates on days they do any sort of intense training. Counting calories and macros will allow you to do this much better than just guessing or estimating.

That should be a great place to get you started.  However, if you’re still left with more questions than answers, don’t hesitate to email those questions, or sign up for a consultation here.  

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Grasshopper Protein Shake

grasshopper shake

We’ve been trying to find the perfect protein powder for years. Enter collagen peptides! We love that peptides are high in protein (20g per serving), flavorless and straight from grass-fed, sustainably sourced animals. Plus collagen is fantastic for your nails, bones and hair.

This shake looks like dessert, tastes like dessert and packs a TON of nutrients. We love it for an afternoon pick me up! Using liquid chlorophyll (the peppermint flavor is the secret ingredient here) makes this shake a gorgeous shade green that makes you look super healthy while drinking it!

WHAT YOU NEED:

½ Frozen banana (p.s. frozen bananas make this so smooth and creamy!)

1 T Dark chocolate cocoa powder

2 Scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

1 Handful spinach or kale (about a cup)

1 T Natural peanut or almond butter

½  C Water

1 Dropper full of Sunny Green Ultra Chlorophyll, ½ t peppermint extract or peppermint essential oil.

 

HOW IT’S DONE:

Add all ingredients to your blender of choice. Blend until very smooth. Pour in your favorite glass, add a straw and feel smug about how healthy you look while drinking your "greens".

THE STATS:

Total Calories: 247

Fat: 8.7g

Carbs: 21.5g

Protein: 24