Monthly Archives: September 2010

You’re not eating enough food

I’ve been doing more research into raw food and while I’m definitely not about to become a raw foodist, I am interested in the concepts behind it and in trying to incorporate a few more raw food recipes into my diet. (Especially the ones that don’t involves hours of prep in a food dehydrator!)

While looking up new websites, blogs and forums to find new recipes, I stumbled across a forum post called “If you’re overweight or unhealthy, it’s because you aren’t eating enough food”. Of course, after reading that title my mind immediately went to “Who is this crazy person and what on earth is she on about!?!” I clicked on the title and started reading her post. And it made absolute sense!

Food (noun)
Material, usually of plant or animal origin, that contains or consists of essential body nutrients, and is ingested and assimilated by an organism to produce energy, stimulate growth and repair, and maintain life

Now think about what you eat. Does is meet the criteria set out in that definition of what is “food”? Does it produce energy, stimulate growth and repair, and maintain life? It’s amazing how the answer to that, for a lot of things we eat, would be a resounding “No!”

Let’s take a look at a slice of pepperoni pizza (yum!) using the criteria above:

1. Will pizza produce energy? Will it help me feel good and get through a long day?
Not really. I might get a bit from it, but I’ll probably feel worse off by the time it starts digesting.

2. Will the pizza stimulate growth?
Well, there is calcium in the cheese, which may help build strong bones… but there isn’t much else that will contribute to the creation and growth of healthy cells, tissue, organs, etc. (Unless waistline counts. It could certainly stimulate growth there!)

3. Will the pizza stimulate repair?
Nope. In fact, the fats and sodium levels will probably do far more to harm vital organs than it will to repair them.

3. Will the pizza maintain life? ie: Is it contributing to my overall health and ensuring my body has all the nutrients it needs to live a long, healthy life?
Yeah, that’s another big no.

What does that mean? Well, in short, a slice of pepperoni pizza is not food. It’s just stuff that we eat.

Now give that a minute to sink in. Really absorb what this is saying. I’ll wait.

Just because we eat something, doesn’t mean it is food. Just because we swallow something, doesn’t mean our body knows what to do with it. Our bodies know what to do with fruits and vegetables and grains and nuts – with food. They know how to break them down and how to use their nutrients to nourish, feed, heal and grow our bodies. Our bodies have no idea what to do with stuff. So we get tired and irritable. Bloated. Sick. Overweight.

I’m going to try to remember this and consider it when deciding what to eat.
Is this FOOD or just STUFF that tastes good?
In theory, eat way more food and way less stuff will lead to improved health – including your body returning to a more natural, healthy size and weight.

Do you eat more food or more stuff?

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Natural beauty

I’ve had a bad few days (so much for that “final week” push!) Again, not any sort of binge or entire-day-eating-junk-food bad but following a big omelette dinner with about a bowl of salted tortilla chips kinda bad. My stomach also isn’t all that impressed as I spent most of yesterday afternoon/evening feeling like something just wasn’t right. It definitely wasn’t a stomachache… it was lower. A kind of bloated, unhappy, “I’m digesting this but not easily” kind of feeling. I think it might have been from eating granola all afternoon instead of just as a snack when I didn’t have a chance to go out and grab lunch.

So instead of me moaning about my bad eating or unhappy gut or whatever, I’m going to write about something that makes me feel good and that I think you guys might be interested in. It’s not technically diet or exercise related, but it is health and beauty related, so I figure it fits with the overall idea of looking and feeling as good as possible. Plus it involves food products!

It’s amazing, to me, that so many people can be super conscious about what they are putting in their bodies – eating only organics, drinking purified water, etc – and yet continue to use commercial beauty products that are absolutely loaded with all sorts of crazy chemicals. Your skin absorbs these chemicals and they get into your body!

When I was trying to figure out why my hair was thinning, I started reading about SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and how bad it can be – including causing hair to thin. Eventually I read enough and decided to cut it out completely.

I started washing my hair with about a bit of baking soda dissolved in water followed by a rinse of diluted lemon juice to close the cuticles and balance the pH levels. (Most website you read will suggest apple cider vinegar as the rinse, but I just can’t get over the smell. Lemon juice is similar and, to me, smells much better!) It doesn’t get all soapy and bubbly like normal shampoo, but it gets my hair clean without drying out my scalp and I’m finding I don’t need to wash my hair every single day. In fact, I can go about 3-4 days before it starts looking a little greasy and I need to wash it. It’s been about 8 months since I’ve cut out traditional shampoo and I can’t see myself swapping back anytime soon.

My other little natural beauty quirk is extra virgin olive oil as moisturizer.

It is amazing.

I have always used moisturizers. My skin is just too dry naturally to go without. It was always a balancing act to try to find a moisturizer that actually moisturized my skin and didn’t just sit on top of it. Trying to find something like that which also didn’t cause breakouts (and didn’t cost a fortune) was always a struggle. When I ran out of my beloved Vichy moisturizer – which I can’t get here in New Zealand – I started searching around for a replacement and read about extra virgin olive oil being used as a moisturizer. I was a little hesitant about slathering oil on my face, but after reading so many glowing reviews I decided to try it. (On a weekend when I didn’t have any plans, of course!)

I now won’t use anything else. Right out of the shower, while my skin is still damp, I’ll smooth about 1/2 a tsp on my face and neck and another tbsp or two onto my arms and legs. My skin absorbs it and stays soft and smooth until the next shower. Olive oil actually helps balance your skin’s oil production, so it’s good for both dry AND oily skin. It’s also a great makeup remover as well as an exfoliant when salt or sugar is added to it.

There are so many other mass produced, chemical-ladened products that have green, natural alternatives, but those two are the two I use regularly and have so for an extended period of time and that I would recommend everyone try for at least a few weeks to see the results.

Are you conscious about chemicals and toxins in your makeup and beauty products or do you focus more on what’s going in – not on – your body? Do you have any natural alternatives to traditional beauty products you use regularly? Would you be likely to try a natural alternative or are you happy sticking with traditional products?

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Hello spring! You’ve been missed.

I am definitely struggling this morning. I’m on my second third cup of green tea, hoping the caffeine will kick in soon. Monday mornings, in general, are always a bit of a challenge after two glorios days of staying up – and sleeping in – a little later than usual. Never mind the first Monday after a time change. Yep, yesterday we here in the southern hemisphere gained an extra hour of sunshine with daylight savings. The sun is now starting to set around 7:15 pm and the days are only going to get longer for the next few months. And can I tell you how good that feels? Add the fact that yesterday was the first day that actually felt like spring and I suppose I can’t really be all that grumbly about an hour of lost sleep.

And despite the earlier-than-appreciated morning, I’m glad it’s Monday. The solid, reliable, “I’m going to eat well again” workday. The more I pay attention to what I eat, the more I notice the effects when I don’t. This weekend didn’t have nearly enough fresh fruits, vegetables or water and my body is absolutely feeling it. Craving the nutrients. 10 pm Sunday saw me peeling and cutting carrot sticks because my body was screaming for something raw and simple. All I could think was “Where is all the healthy food!?!” and wishing I had a fridge full of fresh produce.

When did I start craving vegetables???

I recognized the feeling. That “omg I MUST eat _______, NOW!” thought consuming my brain – but it had always been something I shouldn’t have. Chocolate, mostly, but also pizza or ice cream. Sometimes fried rice of pad thai. Certainly never anything good for me. It was surreal and exciting. I actually craved raw produce after not having enough over a couple days. Who’d have thought!?

So, I’m going to try to make a point of stocking up fresh fruits and vegetables at home as much as I do at the office and try to keep my diet a little more regular and produce-rich on the weekends as I do during the week. Obvious, right? Well, up to now I always thought I could be really good and conscious about what I eat for breakfast and lunch during the week and I could relax a little on evening and weekends. Not going wild, but not really worrying as much about what I ate. I don’t think that’s going to cut it anymore!

Other than the poor diet choices, the weekend was pretty good! I spent a lot of Saturday touring around New Zealand Fashion Weekend – where I scored some amazing Inika natural mineral makeup samples and bought an adorable “Forget Me Not” silver keychain ($5) and a gorgeous Oyl hoodie ($350 on sale for $60!) at the Desginers’ sample sale. The fact that the hoodie was a size 8 and fit was almost reason enough to buy it!

Sunday featured a gym workout followed by a Subway wrap. (Reason #1 for feeling bad later in the day. Bad, bad gluten!) It also involved lots and lots of playing around in the kitchen making:

Granola

– muesli/granola. Oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, coconut, dried apples, cinnamon, vanilla and honey. Toasted then mixed with some seedless dried currants.

Raw macaroons

– Megan’s Detox Macaroons. I don’t have a dehydrator, so I made these in the oven on the lowest setting: around 75*C. I did only half the recipe and made it half blonde and half chocolate (adding some cocoa to the original recipe). They’re not quite on par with traditional macaroons, but still good.

And cheesecake!

– Another one of Megan’s recipes: Raw cheesecake. Except I made a different crust – 1/4 cup almonds, 2 tsp cocoa, 2 dates and a smidge of coconut oil. Chop up & blend in food processor, then press to bottom of cups to form crust. There was a bit left over, which I sprinkled on top. I would add a little stevia or honey next time, though. It’s just slightly bitter for my taste.

So I’m now thoroughly stocked up on healthy treats for the week. Just need to get out to the grocery store tonight and I’ll be a happy little bunny!

Did you have a moment when you realized your cravings had changed? Do you crave certain things since altering your diet? Do certain foods trigger cravings for you? (ie: sweets trigger salty, savoury triggers sweet, etc.)

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One week to go…

It just hit me. Right now. BAM!

This time next week I will be celebrating my 27th birthday.

Now, I’m not stressing out about this and I’m certainly not all “omg I’m getting old – where has my life gone!?!” or anything ridiculous like that (though I am getting to about the age I though I would be married by… *ahem*). The reason this is hitting me a little more than any other is because, in a lot of ways, this birthday is the reason I started this blog.

Way, way, way earlier this year, I told my mom that I was going to look and feel great by my birthday. A few months later, I realized there was less than 3 months to go and I had done NOTHING to get myself any healthier. (I’m pretty sure I’d even polished off an entire bag of “fun sized” Bounty bars earlier in the week…) I decided I was going to get serious, commit and start actually doing something to reach my goal. Starting a blog was one of the things I did to try to be accountable to myself and stay focused.

Now I’ve got one week. 7 days. 168 hours… give or take. One week until that once distant day is here.

How much can you really change in 3 months? It’s a bit of a rhetorical question, really. The answers can vary from completely to not much at all. I think I’ve learned lots – like the idea of food combining, green smoothies, raw foods and heaps of new recipes, for starters. I’ve changed the way I eat a great deal. I’m way more conscientious of what I eat, when, amounts and how different foods affect me. I’ve all but cut out refined sugars and greatly decreased my intake of red meat and alcohol. I walk to and from work and I joined a gym I now attend regularly.

Am I where I ultimately want to be? No. Am I on a good path to get there? Yes yes yes.

While saying I was going to be in “the best shape of my adult life” by now was definitely a little over ambitious, I had definitely made strides towards that goal. I still have a long way to go, but I know I’m in it for the long haul now. I’ve changed my lifestyle and it’s only going to keep getting better. I feel a lot better than I did 3 months ago. I have more energy. I don’t crave sugars or junk foods. And while I haven’t been forced into buying a new wardrobe yet, my clothes fit more comfortably and I feel better in them.  (And I’m getting SO close to being able to wear those short shorts!)

And just to keep me motivated, a little reinforcement came yesterday when I walked into my regular sushi place to order a sushi platter for tonight. One of the girls, who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks, looked at me and asked if I had lost weight. “You look skinny! You look good!” I smiled, said I didn’t think I’d lost much weight but thank you! Then said it must be from all the sushi I’ve been ordering from them and laughed. It felt good.

3 months ago I thought my birthday would be the finish line in some crazy health & exercise race. Now I’m realizing, it’s just the beginning.

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If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.

(I promise I won’t keep posting about smoothies every day!)

This morning was attempt #3 at a Green Monster.  I took pictures of the entire process – mainly because I’d like to start adding more photos to my blog but I’m always forgetting to actually take any – and what do you know? This smoothie is the best one yet. Not that I’m attributing it all to the photos, but I have a sneaking suspicion that helped in some way.

Laying everything else - ready to start

I started by getting everything out and onto the countertop. I was toying with the idea of adding frozen peas. I’m not sure why. They aren’t “leafy greens” – but they are veggies. And they’re cold. I nixed them for frozen berries, though.

Spinach & bok choy

Taking Cammy‘s advice, I tossed the spinach (and baby bok choy – fancy!) into my food processor with a splash or water and started blending away, occasionally scraping down the sides. I left this running as I ran around the apartment getting ready for the day.

Mmmm - healthy!

After a few minutes – and a little foam – I was content that there were no more little spinach bits left. Blending all the greens with a little water before adding anything else is definitely the key. It was silky smooth and completely green-bit-free. Yes!

The last step.

When I was happy with the consistency of the greens, I tossed in the rest of my smoothie ingredients: frozen banana, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and some ice cubes. I added a little more water to thin it out a bit, as well. And since the greens were already set, I only had to blend this enough to break up the fruits – minimizing any potential extra foam.

Ta da! All done.

(You can still see a little bit of the leftover greens on the side).

I can say this is definitely far and away the best of the 3 smoothies. No little green bits. Minimal foam. And very, very yummy. I think the ice cubes are important, too. They keep the smoothie colder for longer AND if there were any little bits of greens or fruits, they blended in with the bits of ice and I wasn’t bothered by them.

So, there you have it. My “best yet” smoothie – with photos!

And while those of you back up in the northern hemisphere are chatting about the cooler weather, shortening days and coming of fall, here in the southern hemisphere we’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of summer. The clocks spring forward this weekend and even with the crazy storm, you can tell summer is on its way. And I can’t wait!

For those of you who have just been through summer – do you have any advice? Is there something that you wish you would’ve done this summer? Or something you wish you would’ve known when summer first started? In-season fruits and veggies you should’ve taken advantage of? Workouts that take advantage of the nice weather? Recipes that helped you make it through the hottest months without consuming tubs and tubs of ice cream?

If you could do summer again – what would you do?

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Foam, foam, go away.

Green Monster attempt #2 this morning wasn’t any more successful than my attempt yesterday. In fact, I think I like yesterday’s smoothie better. bah!

It's so foamy!

Ingredients:
– 4 handfuls of spinach
– 1 rose apple (peeled)
– 1 banana
– some water to thin it out a little
– a dash of cinnamon

Blend, blend, blend – about 5 minutes.

It tastes pretty yummy. Almost like a very healthy, vegetable-based apple pie?

Problems:
–  it STILL has the little chunky pieces (of spinach and apple this time) that I find myself chewing as I drink it.
– it’s foamy. Due totally, I’m sure, to the long blending time.

Any advice? Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe I should be using a juicer, not a blender, to make these things if I expect a nice, smooth drink. Maybe I should be adding ice so it’s more like a slushie and I don’t notice the bits of food as much? All I know is that something’s gotta change.

Hmph.

Ignoring my failures to make a perfect smoothie, I’ve been impressed with myself recently. I’ve been eating pretty well, drinking lots of water and green tea, walking lots (despite the Australia-sized storm that’s been bashing NZ since Friday). I feel like I’m back in the groove. And while it’s not suddenly super challenging, I feel like I’m starting to work on it again. Maybe it’s all the new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. Or the fact that I rocked out a 40-minute chest and shoulder workout with free weights and machines while every other girl in the gym was either on a treadmill/elliptical/bike or stretching. Or the fact that I feel like my waist is getting just the teensiest bit smaller.

Whatever it is – I like it.

Speaking of new recipes, when I got home from the gym last night, I decided to try the Raw Cheesecake I made the night before.

Raw, vegan chocolate "cheesecake".

I didn’t have any cute little springform pans so I just made it in our microwave egg poacher – which happened to be the perfect size. Mine’s the one on the left. Andrew’s is the pure chocolate one on the right. He was skeptical, to say the least, when I was making them. “Add cocoa to mine. I don’t want it to tastes like veggies!!!” In the end, he liked mine better and we both agreed it really, really had the same taste and texture as cheesecake. I think I’m going to make the next batch with a smidge less lemon juice (I found it slightly overpowering) and with a gluten-free crust. Will be testing them out on a couple vegan friends this weekend – exciting!

What was really funny about eating the cheesecake, though, is that even though it’s a healthy version – with no dairy and only a little honey as sweetener – I felt like I have totally cheated and indulged in some forbidden treat by the time I was done! Except it came with no sugar crash, headache, stomachache or cravings afterwards. Guess what else is going to turn into a freezer staple along with my frozen bananas?

Do you have any ideas or suggestions to get my smoothies velvety smooth without all that foam? Should I be trying a juicer instead? Make it the night before and chill it? Help!

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Healthy Hoggin’

I spent a good few hours last night reading through Megan’s blog: Healthy Hoggin. (If you haven’t been there before – go!)

I think she’s going to be my food bible for the next little while. Or, at least, she’s going to be where I turn for some yummy, yummy raw, vegan treat ideas and inspiration for indulgent healthy treats. Plus she uses a food processor lots and I’m totally all about that right now.

After looking through pages or posts and recipes, I decided I wanted to try:
Raw cheesecake
Raw chocolate macaroons
Detox Mac n Cheese
Roast broccoli
and Cherry Chocolate Bomb pudding

Of course, being the clever girl I am, I figured I could remember all necessary ingredients without writing them down if I went straight to the supermarket after reading the recipes. Needless to say, I came home from missing at least an ingredient or two from most recipes. (Though, to my credit, that’s because the supermarket didn’t actually have a few of the ingredients!)

I did whip up some roasted broccoli and raw cheesecake, though!
The broccoli was okay, but I think know I was overly generous with my olive oil and they ended up being too greasy for my tastes. But I can see the potential, so I’ll definitely be trying that again with a little less EVOO. The cheesecake has to sit in the freezer overnight to set, so I can’t give you a verdict on it yet. I can tell you that the leftover “batter” was delicious, though! Can’t wait to try the real thing tonight.

I also whipped up my very first Green Monster for breakfast this morning. Well, technically, it’s more of a Purple Monster…

Roar!

It’s about 2 cups of spinach, a banana, a handful of frozen strawberries/blueberries/blackberries, a splash of rice milk and  some water – blended to bits! Bits is actually a good description… I was running late this morning and, never having made this before, I blended til it looked liquidy. Then I tossed it in a container and ran out the door. It is yummy – I won’t argue that! – but it definitely could’ve used some more time in the processor. I keep having bits of spinach I need to chew and I don’t think that’s really how it’s supposed to be. I think the berry seeds are adding to that, too.

I’m definitely going to keep making these and adjusting the recipe to taste until I find some perfect Green Monster recipes which, of course, I’ll pass along here.

Do you have any websites/blogs that you turn to for food and recipe ideas? Are you a Green Monster fan? If so, what are your favourite ingredients? How long do you blend it to make sure there are no little pieces left?

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