THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF IN 2021

As trainer and nutritionist, my views have been shifting over the years. As a trainer, I have been consistent:  I want people to build muscle, have strong bones, be cardiovascularly sound, enjoy moving, and feel energized and alive. As a nutritionist, my philosophy has evolved: My approach is not about weight loss. It’s about learning how to nurture your body with good nutrition. Since so many women are in a bad mental place when it comes to food, my goal is to lower the volume on all the mental chatter that we have about our bodies and food choices. I want to slowly change the internal dialogue from mean/judgmental to kind/compassionate. It’s moving to a place of acceptance and having more mental freedom. This doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to weight loss, it is just not my primary focus.  Most people come to me, for just that.

Unfortunately, we live in a DIET CULTURE, which entices us to try the latest plan that will FINALLY make us feel happy about ourselves and our bodies. This is total BS because diets don’t work. In fact, diets only make things worse. They make us feel that we somehow failed. We did not fail—the diet failed us! This sense of failure leads to self-deprecating thoughts, crushing our spirits. The stress of all of this has profound effects on our physical well-being. In my view, the diet industry preys on our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It tells us that we have to eliminate food groups , detox our bodies, look a certain way, and be “fixed”. If you are old enough, you’ve been bombarded with these messages for decades. These messages seem to get louder and louder at the end of each year so we can “start over” in the following year.

In 2021, I want you to throw out the diet culture and move towards focusing on how you can nurture your mind, body and spirit. This will not be easy. I know you will be tempted to go back to Weight Watchers or to try, once again, the Keto diet or Whole 30. If you’re going back to a plan that didn’t work, please don’t think that it will work this time. It won’t.

A great way to start the process of changing your mentality is to listen to a podcast that focuses on doing just this—ditching diet culture. The podcast is called “RUN, SELFIE, REPEAT”. While this is a podcast about running, the founder, Kelly Roberts does an 8-part series about getting rid of diet culture with her friend and nutritionist, Kayla Reynolds. Unfortunately, you will be able to relate to EVERYTHING that they’re saying! We have almost been brain washed when it comes to food, eating and our bodies.  Like most things, this is podcast is not a panacea but you will find it thought-provoking, disturbing, and funny all rolled into one. Some of you will want to listen to all of the episodes. For others, one or two will suffice. Either way, you’ll get the message loud and clear. Just a warning—the episodes are long. The hosts are young and sassy, and while they are extremely knowledgeable, they also use the word “like” way too for my liking! (a pun!). Do not let that deter you—there’s great info in there!

Once you’re done, if you want to talk about this with me, reach out! Nothing would make me happier.

Let’s hope 2021 is better for us in every way: No more COVID and no more DIETS!

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CORONAVIRUS: STRIVING FOR “JUST RIGHT”

I find myself wanting to write more and more about this pandemic and how it’s impacting all of us in so many different ways.

I have a bunch of clients who, in the past, have been dedicated, consistent exercisers. Now, because of the pandemic, some of them are struggling to barely maintain a routine. For the first time, they are experiencing “never-before-twinges” in their bodies, coming from a lack of exercise.

On the other extreme, some people, because of the pandemic, have extra time in their day and are actually exercising more than they ever had before. After all, exercise helps alleviate stress and this is a stressful time. For the first time, some of them are experiencing “never-before- twinges” in their bodies, coming from too much exercise and not enough rest.  

In both cases, the balance is off. And in both cases, ignoring those “never-before-twinges” is not a good thing. Our bodies feedback a lot of important information to us—we just have to pay attention and listen. A lack of exercise, accompanied by too much sitting, will cause back and neck pain, as well as stiff knees and hips. Your body is letting you know that you need to move more. Likewise, if you are overdoing it, your joints and muscles WILL tell you what’s going on. Ignoring those messages and pushing through the discomfort, never works out well in the long-term. What your body needs is good nutrition, rest, and in most cases, stretching.

Striving for that middle ground—that “just right”, is what we all need to do. It’s not easy–especially in a pandemic!

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SHEET-PAN BAKED FETA WITH BROCCOLINI, TOMATOES AND LEMON

Oh my goodness is this a work of art in every way!! Enjoy this super easy, delicious masterpiece of nutrition!

ingredients

1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed, thick stalks split lengthwise, or broccoli, stalks trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)

1 small red onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 2-inch wedges

1 lemon, ½ cut into thin rounds and the remaining ½ left intact, for serving

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 (6- to 8-ounce) blocks feta, cut into 1-inch slices

Cooked orzo or farro, for serving

½ cup fresh basil or cilantro leaves and fine stems, roughly chopped (optional)

directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack set in the lower third. On a sheet pan, combine the broccolini, tomatoes, onion and lemon slices with the olive oil and toss. Add cumin and red-pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and toss again until evenly coated. Nestle the feta slices into the vegetables. (It’s OK if they break apart a little.)

Roast 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through but leaving the feta in place, until the broccolini is charred at the tips, the stems are easily pierced with a fork and the tomato skins start to blister and break down.

Serve over orzo or farro. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with the remaining lemon half for squeezing. Top with fresh herbs, if using.

(Recipe found on https://cooking.nytimes.com)

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CORONAVIRUS: SANITY, NOT VANITY

Well, we survived the strangest Thanksgiving ever. With the pandemic, one day blends into the next and often, we don’t even know what day it is.  While the days drag on, time also seems to be passing quickly—this is the LONGEST-SHORTEST TIME.  (FYI: That is the name of a podcast focusing on parenting, another “long-short” experience.)

The other day, I heard an interview with a celebrity, who was talking about his rigorous exercise regime during the pandemic. He said, “At this point, it’s not about vanity, it’s about sanity.” I couldn’t agree more.

This pandemic is stressful for all of us. Even if you’re convincing yourself that you’re “fine”, you’re not. (I tried that and it didn’t work!) The best way to combat stress is to MOVE your body. I know it is getting more challenging with the darkness and the colder weather. The problem is, if you don’t move, you will actually feel physically and mentally worse. And this starts the negative cycle: you don’t feel great, so you don’t want to move, and you don’t want to move because you don’t feel great. I am telling you that a positive cycle is also possible: The more you move, the better you will feel and the better you feel, the more you will want to move.

Given that there is no relief on the immediate horizon, if you have been stuck, it’s time to get going. The most important thing is consistency so you are going to have to experiment to see what form of exercise will work best for you in this pandemic. Can you safely see a trainer, who is not a gym? Can you find an exercise zoom class? Perhaps try a YouTube video? Invest in a peloton? Get some warm clothing so you can still exercise outside? Don’t get overly focused on what “the best” exercise regime is. The best one is the one you enjoy because then you’ll do it! 

Exercise is a natural antidepressant. Like most things, it is not a panacea and will not make you feel ALL better. I’m moving around like crazy but still have plenty of bad days. However, it will definitely take the edge off and will definitely help you de-stress and make you feel energized. I say…….strive to stay sane and give it a try!

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OH, THAT FEAR OF FAT!

In the good ole days, if you were up a few pounds, all you needed to do was cut calories and, voila, the weight would come off. This method worked every time. Then, one day it stopped working. HOW COME? 

Well, let’s just add this to the list of the “cons of aging”. I’m seeing this happen more and more with my clients over fifty, where cutting calories no longer promotes weight loss. This leads to A LOT of frustration. The solution?  Instead of cutting calories, you need to reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar and add healthy fat.

As you age, you can become more sensitive to carbohydrates. This sensitivity starts a domino effect: Too much sugar leads to chronic inflammation; chronic inflammation can lead to becoming insulin resistant; both of these factors prevent you from losing weight because you become much more efficient at storing fat.

Here’s something fascinating: When I encourage my clients to add more healthy fat to their diets, most of them BLANCH at the idea. I can even see the fear and panic through their masks! This is probably because we came of age in the “low-fat era”. We were told that fat was bad.  Product after product proudly displayed “low-fat” or “fat-free” disclaimers. To make lower fat foods taste good, food companies had to add sugar for palatability. In spite of the low-fat craze, Americans got fatter. Even though we now understand that sugar is the real culprit, we still carry that emotional fear of fat.

Healthy fats are unsaturated. Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids), come from plant sources, and stay liquid at room temperature. They are not only an essential part of your diet, but have more than 2x the calories compared to protein and carbohydrates. That’s why fat is filling! This means that a little bit of fat goes a long way. Unsaturated fats can be found in in nuts, nut butter, avocados, olive oil, and fatty fish. These are the fats that I want you to eat. AND, I don’t want you to be afraid to eat them.

I want to give you a couple of examples of what I’m taking about.

Example 1: Let’s say you love to eat 2 slices of whole wheat toast for breakfast with ¼ of an avocado. I would much prefer, 1 slice of toast and ½ of an avocado.

Example 2: Your favorite breakfast is ¾ cup of oats for oatmeal served with 1 cup of blueberries and sprinkled with brown sugar. I would prefer, ½ cup of oats, ½ cup of blueberries, ¼ cup of chopped nuts and sprinkled with chia seeds.

Notice–in both of these examples, I cut down the carbs and added healthy fat. Often, when I make these suggestions, the first question I hear is, “Isn’t this just too fattening?” The answer is no. If you are trying to lose weight and are stuck, you need to reduce those carbs. Adding healthy fat will increase satiety and satisfaction.

I am not suggesting for you to have a fat “free for all”. Remember—fat is calorically dense so you must watch your portions. If you’re used to using a “shmear” of peanut butter on a slice of toast, but feel hungry soon after, do an experiment:  try using a portion size, which is 2 tablespoons. You might be surprised at how this fills you up. In addition, the protein and the fat in the peanut butter will slow down the absorption of the carbs in the bread.

We all know that eating carbs leads to eating more carbs and wanting more. That’s why fat is so fabulous—fat doesn’t cause a rise in the hormone, insulin.

One last detour: I want to mention Weight Watchers, because most women I know (including me) have been on Weight Watchers at some point in their lives. Weight Watchers, in essence, counts calories via points. I know it has morphed over the years, but I think Weight Watchers has contributed to the “fear of fat”.  I still hear, “That’s just too many points”, when I suggest getting an extremely high-quality olive oil and using more than a teaspoon on a salad.  Many of my clients over fifty find that Weight Watchers no longer works for them. Again, it’s not a calorie issue, it’s what those calories are made out of.

So, between the low-fat era, and Weight Watchers we are paralyzed to add fat. I say, let’s stop the madness!  If you are stuck and unable to lose weight, try an experiment: Cut the processed carbs. Add some healthy fat. Initially, measure a serving size of fat so you understand how much you’re eating. You might be very surprised at the results!

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