Stay Fit While Sick

A few weeks ago, a brutal cold knocked me OUT. I mean sleep-for-three-days, don’t-leave-my-house and drink-nothing-but-green-tea sick. I was forced to rest because I didn’t have much of a choice, but the second I got better I went right back to working out. What can I say? Old habits die hard.
The first day I felt a little better I played a soccer game, woke up the next morning for a morning swim and played another game that night. Except I couldn’t play much, because my body completely gave up. My legs locked, my lungs ached and I couldn’t breathe. It was bad enough to that I finally gave in and went to the doctor.

I found out I had bronchitis, because I hadn’t rested properly and let my sinuses and lungs heal from the congestion. Now, I had to pay the price of taking a full week off. Which for me sounded like torture.

I was training hard for a half marathon before I got sick, and had built up strength, stamina & endurance I did not want to use. Even though I couldn’t work out per say, I used my free time to focus on these activities to stay as fit as possible while I was sick.


1. Stretch 

If you’re a runner, you know the plight of stiff muscles – such a buzzkill. To keep my legs and core strong & loose, I did a few gentle yoga routines every morning and stretched liberally before I slept each night.

I found this to be really good for my sanity, too. I woke up peacefully and drifted off to sleep with ease. This is one practice I’ll keep in my daily routine even after I’m back to 100%.


2. Walk

People tend to underestimate the power of walking, but our grandparents had it right. Walking is good exercise and a great way to keep legs strong & loose. It also provides some mental clarity and a spiritual boost, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Walking is also really easy to fit into your routine. I walked during my lunch break, to the store, on the beach, with my boyfriend’s dog…you name it.

3. Eat well

This one is super import if you’re sick, injured, of healing. I filled my meals with nutrient-rich fruits, nuts, veggies, seeds and herbs that offered a breadth of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins to boost healing. I cooked all my dishes with coconut oil, garlic, ginger and tumeric, threw spirulina & dark leafy greens in all my smoothies and covered my salads with nuts and seeds.


I also kept my food relatively bland and easy to digest, so my body could focus on healing. Eating this well made a huge difference in the recovery process; I actually could feel myself healing from the inside out. 

4. SLEEP


The best part about being sick was given myself free permission to nap. I went to bed at 8, took naps after work and on Saturday mornings. Sleep is a pivotal cornerstone of health, wellness and recovery in general – even more so if you’re active.

Happy healing everyone 🙂 hope you have a great week!

Low Carb Cauliflower Spaghetti


There’s nothing like the deep tomato & basil-y smell of spaghetti wafting out of the kitchen on a cold winter day or during a late-night study session. Practically everyone can whip up a bowl cheap & easy, and we each have our own way of lovingly customizing this universal staple to make it exactly our own.

The anatomy of a bowl of spaghetti is similar to that of a pizza; the fabulous inflammation and fat-fighting properties of tomatoes coupled with the nutritionally void, high calorie simple carb. Tomatoes tout excellent levels of carotenoids, bioflavonoids, potassium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C & E. Simple white pasta, however, offers little more than calories and carbohydrates.

I found myself seriously craving a good old bowl of warm, yummy spaghetti. I had eaten a bit carb heavy earlier in the day, though, and figured I could compensate for the noodles with some sweet potato and cauliflower.

I’m a very rambunctious, disorganized, and spontaneous cook, so my spaghetti endeavor spiraled out of control rather quickly. I suddenly had chopped up a skinned sweet potato and some cauliflower and threw it in a pan, sporadically adding diced turmeric, chopped beets, chili paste, cubed tofu, and sweet onions. I let it all simmer and burn – with a little water to help soften the starches – and found that the smell somehow was getting more and more delicious. 

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I almost didn’t add the sauce, since the dish had adopted a type of thai-sweet-chili smell, but since I was craving spaghetti, I figured I’d go for it. That’s what makes cooking fun and enjoyable, right? Spontaneity, creativity, and a little calculated risk resulted in a dish sooo good I had to stop myself from licking the pan.

Here’s a quick summary of how I (most likely) developed this accidental masterpiece.

½ head of cauliflower

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 tbsp (ish) diced turmeric

1 tbsp (ish) avocado oil

1 chopped sweet onion

½ can chopped, pickled beets

1-2 cups organic tomato & basil pasta sauce

1 tbsp chili paste

 Coat a frying pan in avocado (or other plant-based, organic oil) and toss on sweet onion and turmeric. Simmer for a few minutes and add cauliflower and sweet onion; add a little water and stir occasionally. Let the mixture burn/brown just slightly; scoot to one side of pan and brown tofu & beets on the other side. Drop the chili paste directly on the tofu and cook and flip till both sides are brown.

 I  Next, toss in the pasta sauce and mix. By now, the mixture should smell pretty freakin’ amazing. Enjoy and serve 🙂

Fit Girl’s Guide to Chocolate

  
There are days where chocolate is, quite simply, required. There’s random cravings for no reason; monthly cravings for an annoying, painful, girl reason (because being a chick just sucks sometimes); and the simple fact that chocolate is a treat meant to be enjoyed. And isn’t life meant to be enjoyed? RIGHT? Right.When you’re a fit chick and the chocoholic tendencies kick in, you’re faced with a few options – you can ignore it (if you have superwoman willpower), accept it and go nuts, or settle somewhere in between. Personally, I like to find healthy hacks that let me enjoy my chocolate and eat it, too.

Here are my favorite fit-friendly chocolate treats:

  
1. Cold Brew w/ SF Mocha Syrup

I know, I know – sugar free is not a great option. But, every once in a while, I do enjoy in a cold brew coffee with a few pumps of skinny chocolate syrup. Skipping the full-blown mocha option cuts out the sugar & carbs of the milk as well as the sugar free vanilla syrup. It’s a little easier on my wallet, to boot.

Coffee offers a breadth of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, as well as a cognitive and metabolic boost from the caffeine. The chocolate flavor mixed well with the strength of the cold brew, giving you a robust, rich, but not too sweet treat.

  

2. 80% Cacao Organic Dark Chocolate Bar

For more of a nibble, organic, high-quality dark chocolate bars are the stuff of chocoholic dreams. The 80% or more of Cacao bars offer less sugar and carbs with a high antioxidant, nutrient, and soluble fiber count. Of course, portion size is key – I usually try to slowly enjoy ¼ to 1/3 at a time. The good news is that the taste is strong and the fiber makes it more filling, so wolfing down an entire bar in one sitting is at least less likely in this case.

Some of my favorites are Chocolove, Green & Black’s, and Endangered Species – just be sure to check the sugar, carb, cacao & fiber content before you indulge.

  

3. Chocolate Protein Shake

Occasionally I have an odd, insatiable craving for sugary, old-school chocolate milk. The best remedy for this is to whip up a healthy, low sugar, low carb, nutrient-rich protein shake or smoothie. Here’s my favorite recipe:

 

photo courtesy of dashofbutter.com

 

4. Banana Nice Cream

Since we tackled chocolate milk, we might as well look into ice cream. This is an easy fix; a few frozen bananas, cacao nibs, some cashew milk & powdered peanut butter becomes a delicious, creamy, dulce-de-leche type fantasy – with no added sugar and brimming with vitamin c, potassium, and other micronutrients.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: Eating Well = Self Respect


They say that abs are built in the kitchen, but I argue that a healthy lifestyle is founded, rooted, and based in the kitchen. Not everyone has time or money or means to get to the gym – but everyone has a kitchen. We all have to eat. Making healthy choices, prepping food for loved ones to take to work and kids to take to school benefits the family as a whole. The boost of energy and pride in eating well is usually the beginning of every lifestyle change. It’s natural that, once we start taking care of ourselves in one area of life, it spills over. Next comes getting enough sleep, exercising, and confidence and focus all around.

Since I moved to the city, I have enough time to make a good breakfast, prep all my food, and cook a nice dinner when I get home. The meref act of having prime snacks and meals on hand made me excited to run to the gym, get in a solid lifting session, and run back home. I then slept soundly, started walking to work instead  of driving, and even take walks on my lunch break to give myself a mental, physical, and spiritual boost during another hectic day in the office.


Confession: I L O V E meal prepping!


What’s unexpected, though, is that I’ve become just as zealous in other aspects of life, too – not just fitness & nutrition. Eating well and working out have brought out this inner angst to get.it.together in every adult-y sense. I’m writing more, did my taxes on time for the first year EVER and find myself googling things like “how to build your credit score” and “ways to boost your financial portfolio” at work. huh? Since WHEN was I a real adult?

I truly feel that taking good care of yourself physically encourages you to take good care of yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It teaches patience, boosts confidence, and empowers us to be selfish in terms of our own health and happiness. These benefits spill over into how we conduct ourselves in the workplace, relationships, family and friendships. True self-love and confidence are difficult for anyone to ignore. Simply put, they just shine through.

We teach people how to treat us, but I think we truly project how we treat ourselves. When we love, cherish, and honor our own health and happiness, we attract those that respect and love us for who we are. Our vibe attracts our tribe, and a tribe of self-love and positivity just brings even more love and light into an already blessed life 🙂

Take care of yourself, folks.

Travel Tuesday: Vegetarian in London!

Eating animal-free on the go can be troublesome stateside, but in Europe, it’s a cinch. Even in London, I was amazed by the plethora of plant-based choices at pubs, mom & pop’s, hotels and the like.

Warning: If you’re vegan, it’s a whole different story. Cheese, butter & sometimes eggs are prevelant in meat alternatives. All of these choices are sans-meat, but not all are vegan.

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My first (& one of my favorite) vegetarian meals was at a local pub, recommended by the concierge at our little hotel. There, I immediately spotted vegetarian bangers & mash, a meat-free take on classic English fare. The plate featured yummy veggie sausages (the “bangers”) atop a pile of mashed potatoes & peas. I’m not a huge fan of peas, but the English seem to put them on everything – whether they be mashed, creamed, mushy, or firm. I think I’ve officially hit my lifetime limit of peas. Anyways, I loved that I got to try some English food the veggie way, particularly at the very first pub we went to!

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Thankfully, beer is always a good choice anywhere in the world 🙂 Our trip was off to a really good (animal-friendly) start.

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Just like in the States, ethnic food is an easy way to garauntee that delicious, healthy & plant-based abound. In many cousines, veg dishes aren’t just an accident or tossed in the menu to appease vegetarians – they’re main dishes, delicacies and staples. One of my favorite things on the entire planet is Lebanese food, and local spots were dotted all along London’s quaint streets. I feasted on a Batata Harra wrap, a spicy mix of diced potatoes and sautéed veggies, creamy sauce and hummus. It was so delicious I honestly almost cried! I love pairing spice with creamy, and this wrap was cheap and totally blew my mind.

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Thankfully, we were wise enough to order some baba ganoush, an hummus-type dip made of cooked eggplant, oils, tomatoes, onions and spices. Ours even featured some pomegranate and bell peppers, alongside homemade Lebanese pita bread. Yum!!

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As if the meat-friendly meal couldn’t get any better, it totally did. Every table finishes off with a plate of fresh fruit and varieties of Baklava. Each one was so insanely delish that we were fighting over the crumbs like little kids. My favorite was the one in the back with green filling – an uber-yummy pistachio delicacy.

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Another English staple is the crispy, greasy, fried fish & chips – with, of course, a side of peas. I was stoked to find two different pubs that served up a vegetarian-friendly version. The fish filling is made of a certain kind of cheese, which sounds really odd – but the thick texture of the cheese and fishy seasoning were surprisingly close to the real deal. Again, if you’re vegan, this wouldn’t have been an option, but it’s still a welcome gesture that it’s even offered.

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English tea time: a beautiful, adorable, and necessary food-related experience while on the British isle. Tea time was quaint, cool, and a total blast – and eating meat-free was a cinch. My sandwiches came with peeled grapes & brie, and were arguably the best little sandwiches on the menu. I’m totally going to make these at home, tea party or not. The second tier (you work your way up) was filled with yummy scones and clotted cream, followed by some super-sweet little desserts. If you’re vegan, again, tea time would be a toughie.

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We also stopped by an adorable little French cafe on the river outside of Windsor Castle. We feasted on warm bread, a beautiful pea & pumpkin soup (there’s the peas again!) and this delicious, flaky pastry stuffed with goat cheese, olives, and ratatouille. Yea, you read that right. I’m salivating just writing about it – the flaky pastry and ratatouille combo blew any soup & sourdough Stateside experience out the window.

IMG_0405American airports are known for being crammed with overpriced fast food and mile-long Starbucks lines. To be fair, they have been getting a little better with their food chocies, but still pale in comparison to every experience I’ve had in Europe. The UK was no different – we found ourselves starving & overtired, struggling to pick what and where to eat. Since we were also nearly out of money, we popped into a convenience store and found an awesome combo deal for a drink, wrap & snack. I chose this insanely good wrap and a side of edamame & hummus, coupled with an all-natural, no sugar added ginger rootbeer. Why don’t we have this many healthy, affordable options in the States??

I had an amazing time in England – I honestly can’t wait to go back! And, of course, eat more food 🙂 happy travels!

 

 

 

 

Vegan, Dye-Free Shamrock Protein Shake



With St.Patrick’s Day upon us, McDonald’s has brought back its famous Shamrock Shake. The eerily green, minty concoction might mark Saint Patty’s, but its quite the nutritional sin. A sixteen-ounce medium touts a whopping 550 calories and eighty-two grams of sugar (yea, you read that right!) This seasonal treat racks up almost four times the daily sugar intake recommended for the average woman.

Thankfully, we can curb our shamrock cravings with this healthified version. This easy-peasy vegan version is comprised of a few ingredients thrown into a blender and viola! instant minty yumminess. 



This shake is packed with protein, potassium, and micronutrients and is low in calories, carbs, fat and sugar. Using frozen bananas for texture and kale & real mint for color, sip this mock shamrock shake instead. It only takes a few minutes to whip up, and you can customize by adding less or more mint, kale and sweetener.

Ingredients:

1 large frozen banana

1cup kale (frozen works best)

1 cup almond milk

1/2 packet stevia ( or honey/sweetener of choice)

1 small handful fresh mint leaves

1 scoop protein powde

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy! 

Why Cheat Days Don’t Work (For Me)

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Ah, the cheat day. That lustrous, wonderful day at the end of the week where hard working, iron-pumping fitness die-hards can go batshit crazy. It seems a little too good to be true that you can eat clean all week and then bask in a sea of pizza, ice cream & cookies without derailing your fitness goals.

4304b14c6fc0b00076fe4251540adb9fThe idea is that eating a bunch of junk once a week ‘confuses’ your metabolism, making it work harder and burn faster once you’re back on track. But does it really work, or is it just a euphoric myth? Wouldn’t it be it be better to not cheat at all, or perhaps just a teeny bit?

Like most things, the answer depends on who you are and what works for you. Some people do epic cheat days, some indulge in cheat meals, and others skip them altogether. For me, personally, they just don’t work.

Cheat days, or even meals, mess me up psychologically, emotionally and physically. I feel incredibly guilty, as if I’m undoing the week’s hard work with each spoonful. My guilt probably stems from the fact that I’ve been fighting my genes since middle school; I have to work really hard and eat reasonably well  in order to stay healthy. I know what foods like chips, cookies & ice cream do to my health and self-esteem; most of the time, it’s not worth the short term pleasure to compromise a week of work and years of habit.

Furthermore, I don’t even really like the cheat day food (except for pizza!) and I don’t find myself enjoying it most of the time. I’m not just pushing to hit a number on the scale; I can’t shake the knowledge of all of the artificial dyes, sweeteners, coloring, chemicals, animal products and GMO’s likely lurking in whatever processed delicacy I’m going HAM on. 

29a30600dbcd5723768ad0791b31cc3eEven when I am seriously craving pizza, I can’t help but think – how can i make this healthier? Maybe I’ve spent way too much time on Pinterest, but I feel like the balance of hard work and enjoyment come from enjoying cheat foods that serve as a compromise. They’re as delicious as the real thing, but made from healthier, fresh, real ingredients. The perfect example would be making or buying a vegan, gluten free, veggie-topped pizza! Which I do treat myself to quite often 🙂

Lastly, I usually feel like complete shit the next day. Food hangovers are real. Post-cheat day (or even just cheat meal) I’m bloated, tired, gassy, emotional and just generally miserable. And feeling that bad isn’t exactly a great precursor to starting the next week off right.

I know that everybody needs to bend the rules, which is why I believe in cheating with boundaries; for example, one day, i might put in an extra-tough workout and allow myself to hit a certain number of calories. I do this all the time when I have potlucks at work, family parties, or friends’ birthdays or weddings – that way, I can indulge without the guilt and without hindering my progress.

How do you guys feel about cheat days?