Eating Healthy

IMG_2176 What is eating healthy? I think that is one big crazy question these days and no one really has a great answer. I can say that NOT eating healthy usually involves a lot of fast food, eating out a lot and packaged food…but in today’s confusion of vegan, paleo, primal, gluten free, low fat, high fat, Atkins, etc…it is hard to know what is healthy and what is not. Some fruit and lots of veggies are pretty well agreed upon as far as those are good things to eat. How little or much of the rest of the food groups: dairy, meat, legumes, grains…it becomes up for debate.

I think this is actually quite individual provided that the processed foods are very, very minimal. If you subtract out any food that has a food label with more than 2-3 ingredients, eat 2-3 servings of fruit and 5-10 servings of veggies at a minimum…and then layer on top what works for that person, I think a lot of this food dogma would be wiped away.

But full disclosure…I follow a mostly paleo type of food space…why? Because it works for me.

How did I figure this out? I experimented. I did the Whole30 approach a year+ ago and discovered the following things when I re-introduced different foods:

  • Alcohol makes me really tired the next day, even after 1/2 a glass
  • Sugar makes me cranky and tired
  • Gluten makes me feel awful
  • Dairy makes my skin look bad
  • Legumes don’t agree with me
  • Soy…never felt compelled to re-introduce it, but I don’t advocate soy unless it is for woman going through menopause.

So…for ME…it is better to follow a Paleo style type of eating. But I’m not a zealot about it with other people, nor myself. Except for gluten, the rest of the things float in and out of my diet in small quantities fully knowing that I won’t feel as great as I could if I were to be really, REALLY strict with my paleo…but I enjoy those things and it is way too hard to try to eat that way outside of the house.

But here is the one thing that does trip me up…peanut butter. Peanuts are  a legume. They don’t upset my stomach like other legumes do…but they aren’t perfect. For awhile I tried to only eat almond butter, but really…it’s just not even remotely the same! I just bought a container of peanut butter…oh the beauty of it. YUM! I may have to stop buying it more because I eat too much of it rather than it being not ideal for me…lol

I just got back from 1.5 weeks in Greece and ate more dairy in a week than I have in over a year. I didn’t feel fantastic, but weirdly my skin didn’t break out and no other adverse effects. Makes you wonder what the differences are between North American dairy and European. I didn’t eat much to begin with…but I definitely enjoyed it when I was in greece!!

The past few months I’ve been on a weightloss path due to my competition and the fact that the stress from the move caused a lot of stress eating and I gained 10lbs after the move. So alcohol and sweets were totally out of the equation. But having a glass now here or there or a treat are beautiful things to enjoy!

So my point is more that sometimes there are certain things that really, really don’t work for YOU. And that means you should avoid it. For me that is gluten. In my case I don’t avoid it because it is trendy. I avoid it because the ramifications on my life are so negative eating it wrecks my system. For people who are not gluten intolerant…by ALL means eat those whole grains. BUT if you have never taken it out for a month (and REALLY taken it out…all labels read) and then done a challenge with it, don’t assume that you are gluten tolerant. The side effects of gluten intolerance are a bit far reaching beyond GI issues and can be surprising if you are not aware of them.

But life is too short to be overly restrictive with all foods. Eat lots of veggies, some fruit, get enough protein in some form and then with some of those ‘questionable’ food choices…In my opinion…moderation is the key unless you have an intolerance to something.


Chocolate Pumpkin Smoothie!

It’s fall and that means PUMPKIN!! Thankfully when I moved out of the US this spring, I moved to a country that still thinks pumpkin is good stuff. As much as I like the pumpkin flavored everything, over the past few years as I have changed my eating habits, (I eat a lot less sugar and can’t eat gluten), I’ve  discovered much of what is out there I can’t have because it is full of gluten and sugar. I used to enjoy the pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks, but because of the full sugar sweetener it usually just upsets my stomach and puts me in a sugar coma…even with the caffeine.

When I was doing Lean Eating through Precision Nutrition, I discovered a pumpkin chai smoothie recipe. It was pretty tasty, but a little fussy because you have to prepare chai the night before and well…that’s a little fussy in my book. I modified things a bit and came up with my own version of this great “Anytime” Smoothie. (Anything that is considered “anytime” from Precision Nutrition means it has a lower carb impact and doesn’t need to be eaten post workout).

Chocolate Pumpkin Smoothie!

1 cup almond milk (hemp, or the coconut milk that comes in a carton might work too)

1/2 cup of unsweetened canned pumpkin (pumpkin pie filling is pre-sweetened and adds sugar to the recipe)

1 scoop of chocolate whey protein powder (i’m sure vanilla would be fine too)

1 TBSP of ORANGE flavored fish oil

1 packet of Stevia (or a sweetener of your choice to taste…you do need something as unsweetened pumpkin is not very tasty!)

dash of ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg

1 TBSP of Chia seeds (adds 6g of fiber to your smoothie!)

handful of ice if you like your smoothies cold

Directions: put everything in the blender and blend! YUM!

Optional: add some greens+ or a few handfuls of spinach to get your veggie serving with breakfast. Spinach can be added to most smoothies and doesn’t really taste like much, but you can shove 1-2 servings in and get some SUPER food in your smoothie!

Side note: this is how I get my fish oil for the day. I am not a registered dietician/doctor or whatever…if you are interested in learning more about fish oil supplementation, read this and this first and start with a 1 tsp. A full 1 TBSP of fish oil when you aren’t used to it can cause some GI discomfort in the beginning. If you are allergic to fish obviously avoid this step!! If you are on blood thinning medication or pregnant, read this and talk to your doctor FIRST before using fish oil. It can act as a blood thinner (there is even a prescription medication that is fish oil!). One thing I have found about moving to a liquid fishoil vs. capsules is I am more compliant because I don’t have to take a zillion capsuls and no fishy burps!!

The orange flavoring is the key ingredient. I might try picking up some plain old orange flavoring and see if that might work too. If you don’t use fish oil and instead opt to try out imitation orange flavoring (let me know if you do this!), just make sure to add some type of ‘fat’ to your smoothie. 10 almonds is a good choice. Makes it a little nutty and crunchy. 1/2-1 TBSP of coconut oil might work too. If you are eating this post workout… omit the fishoil/fat and increase the carbs a bit with some type of fruit…maybe experiment with throwing in half an orange??

Kettlebells and Weightloss

RKC Aug 2011I’ve seen it, I’ve read it, maybe you have too…KETTLEBELLS BURN A MILLION CALORIES PER WORKOUT!!!! Maybe that’s even why you started investigating Kettlebells. So now you have decided: THIS is it! I’m really going to lose the weight and get more active and maybe kettlebells are the answer! And then you read a bit more on the internet and think…well maybe I should just start running…I mean running burns a lot of calories, right?  Or then you find yourself thinking…no wait…i’ll do a TRIATHLON…that’ll do the trick! And before long, and too many web pages later you find yourself curled up in a ball confused by all the crap on the internet and really just looking for something that makes sense and will help the weight loss really, really quickly.

So…where to start? Obviously I’m going to be a bit pro-kettlebell since I am an instructor and compete in Girevoy Sport. But I used to be an endurance athlete and can draw from some of that experience as well as a generic love of understanding what really do people mean when they say ‘research say’…bla, bla, bla. Here is a reality about science… we are learning new things every day and it does change from day to day. Here is another reality about exercise science articles that are written…many, many are done on fit 18-22year old MEN who are not in terrible shape…OR they are FIT athletes. Does that sound like majority of the population? Not really.

So where to start? I was asked about kettlebells vs. running for weight loss the other day from a client of mine. I’m not against running in any regards…I’ve run multiple half marathons, done a half ironman…even signed up for an ironman. But here is something I learned in the 7 years of endurance exercise:

  • Biomechanics matter: When you don’t have good biomechanics, you are much more prone to injury. I have bad biomechanics. That meant I ended up making the PT my friend.
  • Running can be a jarring activity. If you are a little overweight it can be jarring on your joints and bones…if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, it can really jar the joints.
  • Endurance training made me really, really hungry. I’ll get to this a bit more later. But when I switched to 6 days a week of training, 3 days of kettlebells, 2 days of HIT (high intensity training), an active recovery day and 1 day off, I actually found it was EASIER to eat less food and put myself into a calorie deficit. I was only training 3-5 hours a week compared to 8-12hours of endurance training…but I was crazy hungry all the time with endurance training. Mark Sission seems to think that you shouldn’t go above 4000 calories of exercise per week. I think he has an interesting theory and I wouldn’t be surprised in a few years if the literature catches ups and figures out what exactly that ‘sweet’ spot for exercise is.

The funny thing about exercising is it won’t promote weight loss unless you change what you eat. Period. JB is an expert in this area and explains it way better than I would over at PN.

Back to kettlebells vs. running…there is an interesting article that is out there that shows that in a 10 minute period treadmill running burns more calories in the J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1203-7. Hmmm…that’s interesting. I wasn’t able to read the whole thing, but I did find this little gem:

Screen Shot 2013-09-15 at 5.02.58 PMWhile in the 10 minutes the Treadmill running did burn more calories, what I found interesting was variable that was kept ‘constant’ was the RPE…or the Rate of Perceived Exertion. What this tells me is that the participants ran according to how hard they thought the kettlebell swinging was equal in difficulty to the running.

Also…something a bit confusing about this study. Does it not seem weird to anyone else that the treadmill running in ten minutes burned 500 calories? I’ve always been told that 1 mile is roughly 100 calories. Runners World seems to think the same and is supported by some data to show it. So how do these participants run equivalent to 5 miles in 10 minutes? Or even 4 miles? In truth,  without being able to read the full article on how they calculated total calorie burn, I am a bit confused on how they calculated total kcal for either exercise. I may have to dig around and re-edit as I find out more information.

My main point is to show that ‘data’ that some people like to use to say “running is better” or kettlebells RULZ sometimes need to be  investigated further. (I’ll talk about the classic ‘Kettlebells burn 400calories in 20 minutes’ study in a later post.)

For an average person looking to get fitter and lose weight…what should they do? What exercise would be best for them? Well…everyone is different but with proper nutrition, one of the biggest benefits to kettlebells or weight lifting is a funny term called EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption). What this means is whether it is kettlebell swings or a properly designed weight lifting routine…you can actually trick your body into burning calories AFTER you are done exercising! This is an interesting article on how metabolic resistance exercises increases Resting Energy Expenditure (REE or the calories you burn when you are just sitting around) over a different weight lifting protocol.

Why is this important? Endurance exercise has less EPOC than weight training does. Metabolic Resistance Exercises like kettlebell swings or a well designed weight workout will keep your body burning calories when you aren’t at the gym. Alwyn Cosgrove came up with the Hierarchy of Fat Loss over at T-Nation. Basically:

1) Your nutrition is the most important thing.

2) See #1

3) Metabolic Resistance Exercises

4) High Intensity Anerobic Intervals (Those intervals you can’t breath after you are done)

5) High Intensity Aerobic Intervals (These are closer to tempo runs, fartleks)

6)Steady State High Intensity Aerobic work (Hard Cardio)

7) Steady State Low Intensity Aerobic Training (walking, etc.)

Let’s face it…we don’t have a lot of time. Cosgrove goes into to how to prioritize each of these exercise but the BEAUTIFUL thing is with metabolic resistance exercise…you get a lot of bang for your buck and in not a ton of time at the gym. Less time in the gym, more time to do other things while still putting your body in a state that it can lose weight AND paying attention to eating good nutrition.

Overtraining Syndrome


Can you overtrain?  Some people debate it. I’ve seen a lot of strength posts and read a lot of triathlon/endurance posts related to it. I used to be a triathlete for 7 years and overtraining syndrome was actually not that uncommon (I did live in the mecca of triathlon training in San Diego and every other triathlete was training for an ironman) or at least what those of us in tri-geekery circles called overtraining syndrome.

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • A compulsive need to exercise

Here is the thing…some of these will show up during a hard training cycle for an event. That’s normal…and it is key to BACK OFF. But if you back off for 2-3 days or a week or two…and DON’T bounce back that’s when chronic overtraining syndrome starts to set in.

But most people don’t really talk about it. Even doctors. They don’t really know what it is or why it happens. Hormone imbalance? Cortisol too high or something like that? No one really understands it well…at least that is what my doctor told me back in 2010. Why one person is more susceptible vs. another is a bit of a mystery.  For some people, their training will put them into a state of OTS because the body has just had ENOUGH. They have been pushing really hard for a really long time without eating enough or taking in enough fluids or recovering properly to support the training. The root cause of OTS and people’s susceptibilities to it is still not fully understood.
In March of 2010…back when I was a triathlete, I came down with OTS…possibly. I had a sports med doc diagnose me as such… and to this day I’m in a bit of denial about it, but even after I recovered…I never went back to triathlons. That *might* be a good way to say ‘loss of enthusiasm for the sport’.  In my case I think it was a combination of SUPER high stress (ie cortisol) for a NUMBER of years combined with poor digestion (due to a gluten intolerance not diagnosed til 2012) which resulted in some nutritional deficiencies (folic acid, ferrtin, Vit D, magnesium…). Mix in 8-12 hours of consistent training that had my HR over 140bpm and the body will say enough at some point.
I had a holistic nutritionist think I had adrenal fatigue…which is a little too ‘woo’ and out there for me. There is no technical definition for someone who might be having trouble with their adrenals unless they have full blown Addisions Disease…and that’s when the adrenals just don’t work. And some people think that people with adreanal fatigue should take supplements with adrenal pieces in them. Ewww…sorry that thought just grosses me out. If you are going to take supplements, please research every ingredient on its list for safety AND if it actually does anything. Just because it is in the ‘natural’ food section does not mean it is fully tested or safe. I give prescription medication and over the counter medication just as much of a ‘stink eye’ as I do things in the natural food section. Don’t stop taking anything that a doctor has prescribed…but please, please, please…ask them lots of questions. I’ll talk more about supplements later. I’m not against them…but everyone should understand what they are taking and why.
I don’t know if I truly had overtraining syndrome…I just know I felt terrible for about 5 months and could barely pull myself out of bed. Exercise…hurt……the only thing that didn’t hurt was yoga…I ignored my friends…I slept a lot…I was apathetic…I quit triathlon and never went back. I did find kettlebells…so it is a part of the story of how I got here.
But my reality is that I now live in a very different body than I had prior to the OTS melt down. I’m either more hypersensitive to my training or I just can feel my body’s reactions a bit more these days. The reality is I can’t push like I used to be able to push. I fall off that training ‘cliff’ a lot more easily than I used to and easily wake up utterly exhausted if I push too hard. The reality I have to live with is that because I sorta ‘broke’ myself a few years ago…I need to be more mindful and focus MORE on my recovery and be kind to myself. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train hard…it just means I need to be more mindful of the feedback my body tells me.
The point of this post? A new athlete really shouldn’t worry about OTS in the beginnings. It takes years of bad choices both in allowing too much life stress and too much endurance exercise to wear you to that point. Putting a large cortisol load on the body through life stress and endurance exercise can cause OTS. Generally the areas that OTS seems to pop up are endurance training (half iron distances and beyond for triathlons or marathoners and ultra marathoners) and I figure competitors. I’ve read so many posts on women’s bodies totally freaking out after a figure competition that to me personally (I am NO doctor or expert on this topic) it sounds like over training syndrome and their bodies totally rebel after competition.
So…train hard, recover well…and listen to your body.

My training sucks and it’s my fault

photo(1)Monday was my first Canada day. Maybe I feel the need to post a picture of fireworks on the 4th of July to somehow quench that nostalgic feeling of missing the festivities back in the US…although I got a lot of “Happy 4th of July” on my facebook feed that I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m not really missing much aside from crazy heat and some hot dogs I shouldn’t eat anyway.

If you have every read Jack Canfield’s Success Principles, you’d know that principle #1 is: Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life

Yes, the good, the bad…all of it. My training needs to be that way. IGSF Worlds is in a 11 weeks and I’m just mentally not in the game. I have a bum left wrist that is cranky, and hurts, I’ve recently moved for a new job and I forgot that I’m the slowest person to adjust to a new city and I MISS my coach and my old gym. But…the reality is I gotta pull my big girl pants up and get on with training or decide not to go to Worlds, because Greece is an awfully long flight to go and not be 100% ready.

So…what’s going on

#1) Sleep…for whatever reason I’m not convincing myself to sleep enough.

#2) Food…I used to be awesome at prepping my food 1x a week and eating pretty clean. Now…notsomuch. One thing that Whole30 taught me is that I am SUPER sensisitve to pretty much everything. So too much wine, cheese, grains or whatever else is not permitted on Whole30…pretty much ruins me. Not a fun way to run my life all the time, but maybe I need to be a little stricter for the next 11 weeks.

#3)Water intake…Just not enough

#4)Mentally not in the game. I’ve been indulgent with thoughts of how much I miss my old training regime and such and I’m not letting myself find something that works now and embracing it as the ‘new normal’. When you fight yourself…you talk yourself out of pushing forward.

So…next steps

#1) Go to bed earlier. Let’s just start with 11:30…and by next week…11…eventually by 10. At the moment I get up around 7:30, but I need to start adding more cardio into my mornings…so here comes the FUN.

#2)Plan, prep and execute my food for the week…on the weekend. No more excuses. Period.

#3)Limit 1 cup of coffee a day…more water. I’m just going to start with “more water” and go from there.

#4) Make a plan and stick to the plan.

So until next time…

Training with the Bodybugg and an experiment with IF

My bodybugg keeps me honest and it gives me some interesting insight into my life and habits. I have a desk job where I analyze weird scientific data all day long, but mainly I tend to SIT a lot. I have discovered a few things:

1) Hitting 10K steps/day M-F is HARD for me. I rarely hit 10K during the week.

2)45mins to an hour of strength &/or kettlebell training is about 250-320 cals.

3)if I don’t workout on a particular day if it is M-F, I might only end up burning a mere 1800 calories! Weekends, I tend to get ‘out and about’ which sometimes has  put me 500 calories above my daily ‘goal’ of 2250…just doing ‘stuff’, not even doing any training.

Overall I’m finding the data incredibly useful.

Experiments with IF aka Intermittent Fasting20120603-134028.jpg

I’m currently working on my Precision Nutrition nutritional coaching certification level 1 as well as I’m going through their Lean Eating program to ‘see what it’s like’ to be coached with nutrition as well as an outlined training program. A couple months ago we did an intermittent fast for 24 hours. It had been awhile since I have done one so the grumble monster, aka my stomach, was out in full force during the fast. But lately I’ve been reading even more on IF and have been curious about including it more into my lifestyle because:

1)More and more scientific studies are showing benefits to doing IF. Here are some good insights into the benefits of IF and the types of IF over at Precision Nutrition.

2)It’s good to be reminded that being hungry isn’t the end of the world. I don’t always do so well when I’m hungry, so practicing being hungry is a good skill for me.

Intermittant fasting isn’t for everyone, but I personally think it has been fun to play with and experiment with myself to see if it is right for me. The Precision Nutrition article I linked to above or this longer article/ebook on IF by Precision Nutrition are good places to start exploring if you are interested in IF both the how and the why behind fasting.

For a very long time I have done the: EAT 5-6X A DAY…small meals, ect, ect. But the truth of the situation was: I hated preparing all that food all the time, and the tiny portion sizes were sad and annoying. Since starting Lean Eating last year, I reduced my daily meals to only 4 meals a day, skipping the AM snack. In truth I actually prefer eating a little more at each meal and eating less frequently.

This week I decided to embark on a new adventure with Intermittent Fasting: the Leangains approach. For me this means skipping breakfast and eating 2-4 meals between 12-8pm. I’m also taking a non-dogmatic approach to doing IF. Some days I may need breakfast…and that’s OK. Some days I may not want to do IF…and that’s OK too. I started playing with a Leangains approach this week and I had a day that I knew it would be detrimental if I skipped breakfast because the day before I hadn’t eaten a solid dinner, so I ate breakfast. No biggie. This morning I had plans to meet a friend for brunch, so doing an IF today was not in the cards…and that’s OK. Biggest thing I am learning: I need to eat a LOT more at my first meal or I will be HUNGRY (or in truth…HANGRY ;-)) by the time I get to my second meal. What I have discovered is that meal timing between 1st and 2nd meal is closer together that it used to be. I used to eat lunch at 12 and then my afternoon meal around 4 and now I can only make it to about 330 before I really need to eat. So we will see if by increasing my meal size at lunch I can push the timing out. Oh…and I am doing this all the while doing my kettlebell training at 6am. Am I hungry on kettlebell days? Sure, but I tend to drink more green tea, make sure I get some BCAA pre and post workout and I have found green tea extract supplements also help curb hunger a little bit. And one last thing to mention…this doesn’t mean that I under eat a ‘normal’ calorie range for someone my size who is eating for fat loss (the last 5 stupid pounds). Even though I am trying to lose those last five stubborn pounds, I still need to make sure I am at least eating enough to support my basal metabolic rate which is about 1400 calories/day. Lately I have been also throwing in one day where I am over 2000-2500 calories so that my body doesn’t totally freak out and think it is starving. Chronic under eaters probably shouldn’t venture into IF, nor those with a history of eating disorders and there are a few other categories of people that JB outlines in the Precision Nutrition articles.

So this month I will be about playing with IF a little more seriously and see if it is right for me. On that note…I think it is time to eat. 🙂

Week of May 27th menu


I joined Precision Nutrition about a year ago and one of the BEST things I have taken away from the program as well as the Lean Eating program is how to plan and prepare my food for the week. I’ve been in the habit of weekly cooking  for about a year now as well as adhering to the 10 healthy habits of Precision Nutrition.

I also went Paleo this spring. I had tried to go last year, but I wasn’t fully committed and ate far too much dried fruit and nuts and only gained weight on it and I cheated a lot…so I really didn’t benefit much from it last year. But now that I prepare all my food in advance for a week it has made going Paleo much, much easier. Back in April I decided to give the Whole 30 program a try and truly see what all the fuss about Paleo was all about. I used the 30 day lack of gluten/dairy/sugar/alcohol/soy/legumes/artificial sweeteners as a baseline of how good I could possibly feel. And I felt GOOOD. First week was rough because I actually was exhausted all the time, and then my energy came abounding back. I discovered I am gluten intolerant (more on that in a different post) and I probably shouldn’t really eat any of the other stuff anyway because I feel amazing when I don’t, but eating outside of my house that way is a total pain. I have more or less decided to eat this way when I can and since I plan and prepare 90% of my food, I figured if I stayed gluten free 100% of the time and Whole 30/Whole 9 compliant when I cook my foods for the week, that would be the best thing for me.

I usually cook 1x a week…because I am not a big fan of cooking. Since I generally only cook for myself and don’t mind eating leftovers, I cook 2-3 meals on Sunday for the week and rotate my meals on a weekly basis. Here is this week’s menu.Oh and the other trick I have learned: try to make 3 different types of recipes, one for the slow cooker, one for the oven and one for on top of the stove. It makes the simultaneous prep a lot less time. My preparation goal is generally 2.5-3 hours (Including cleanup) per week. I also print out each of the recipes and put them in my handy dandy 3 ring binder that I have plastic sheets for the recipes (cuz I tend to spill things on the sheets).

Paleo Pad Thai (with shrimp not chicken)

Moroccan Chicken casserole

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps