Snatched

Hi all. Anna here. I’ve recently started reading a blog called What I Weigh Today and the author weighs in basically every morning and jots down a few notes about her day/her life/her relationship to her body/her surroundings. I’d like a space to do that and so am going to try a format like that. I won’t be weighing in but rather just giving you a little check-in somewhat regularly.

I am about to start a six week jump-start program towards health and hotness. It’s through Mark Fisher Fitness whose basic mantra is Ridiculous Humans. Serious Fitness. I actually did this same program before my wedding in October.

                 Photo Credit: Marielle Solan

However, I was also directing a show, working a full time job and trying to commit to 5 days of working out — not to mention seriously managing what I was eating. It was too much. I felt exhausted and I didn’t get as much out of the experience as I wanted to. As hard as I tried to do it all, I couldn’t and though I did get some good results, I didn’t give it my best shot and so now that life is calmer, I want to give it another go.

I’ve had a rough winter — it’s cold here, one of my very close childhood friends passed away, I am feeling general dissatisfaction — and my focus on my own health/wellness has suffered. I’ve gained 10lbs in 5 months and it’s time to be accountable to myself. I have always had trouble motivating myself and so now I’m trying to develop a good “WHY?” Why do I want to succeed at Snatched? Why do I want to lose the weight? Why am I even bothering? I am going to try and bullet point this for you.

  • I want to fit comfortably in my clothes. Everything feels tighter these days (reasonably) and I am really not willing to go out and size up all my clothing.
  • Life is a gift. You only get one shot at it (as far as I believe). I want to be as healthy and sexy as I possibly can!
  • I want to feel more confident in myself and presenting myself well. My self image tends to suffer as I gain weight and I want to work towards love and acceptance.
  • I want to feel myself taking up less space in the world. Not personality-wise, of course, but I feel larger and want to work towards feeling smaller.
  • I want to succeed at Snatched. I want to get everything out of this experience that I can and that I felt like I didn’t make it before.

I am still working on this list but that’s a start anyway. I am also going to be meal planning here. This program requires eating a LOT of protein (somewhere around 45% of my diet is meant to be protein here). So keep that in mind as you see these recipes. I am also going to log my food religiously on myfitnesspal and if you want to be my friend there and follow along — my username is foxygazelle (because why not!). My diary is public to friends so just send me a request!

I ordered some groceries on PeaPod (SO much cheaper than FreshDirect — or even my local grocery store). Though PSA: I find that their fruit/produce isn’t usually that great — no one is sifting through it for freshness/ripeness so I basically use this to buy packaged things and meats while getting produce I can see in person.

So here is my cooking plan for this weekend/ideas for the week.

Breakfasts

Broccoli/Cheddar mini omelet

Snickerdoodle overnight oats

Ninja Spinach Pie

Lunch

Salad with poached chicken breast

Leftovers from dinners

Turkey Meatballs (On salad? With zoodles? TBD)

Dinner

Slow Cooker Pulled BBQ chicken on RF English Muffin

Skinny Chicken Tikka Masala

Skinny Turkey Meatloaf

Most of these I will serve with some oven roasted vegetables (really into roasting broccoli and brussels sprouts with a little lemon pepper seasoning — to DIE for! Can’t wait for asparagus to start popping up). I am debating trying a cauliflower rice thing — perhaps for the Tikka Masala.

Dessert

Obviously I am trying to LIMIT the dessert intake but I have a SERIOUS sweet tooth.

This Cookie Dough Dip looks TO DIE FOR

Black bean brownies FTW

I will probably have some protein shakes (I have this peanut butter cookie protein powder but am not loving it — though I’ll keep using it until the jar is up. Anyone have any suggestions on a protein powder they like?) — definitely on days I’m working out perhaps with some protein bars. Pure Protein is my favorite.

I hope to take a bunch of pictures on Saturday when I’m planning on doing the majority of the cooking. Stay tuned and thanks in advance for cheering me on to get through this, take some control and feel empowered to accomplish my WHY!

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Why do SMART people fall for DUMB scams?

1) I am going to admit to you here that I would love to lose 4lbs a week without adjusting diet or exercise.

2) I also know this is not going to happen for me.

3) I also may click some ad promising 1) even though I know 2) to be true.

WHY?

New York Magazine published a really interesting article for why this may be. I tend to do a lot of reading/research on food and diet and so Google and Facebook — while monitoring my web usage — constantly target me with ads using some random clip from Doctors or Dr. Oz or HOW DID JESSICA SIMPSON LOSE 10lbs OVERNIGHT? The more I’m exposed to these scammy articles the more it gets into my head and the more I want to click. How DID she do that? (Spoiler: She didn’t. She probably killed it on Weight Watchers with dieticians and trainers.) ImageAlso perhaps the more I’m invested in an outcome of weight loss the more I want to believe that whatever miracle lotion will actually rid my body of cellulite.

The article presents a few ways of reviewing weight loss plans to make sure your expectations are in check when potentially facing a scam. It also links to a Bureau of Consumer Protection article that really clearly lays out some things to avoid as well (mostly for advertisers but still) and is a pretty short but interesting read.

What I want to add is a terribly over-simplified yet truthful article from Business Insider. The advice they have is simple: the way to lose weight is to eat real food. And while weight loss certainly is more complicated than that, I found that in my two week pullback I lost weight and did not worry too much about calories or fat grams or portions. Instead I ate real food that fill you naturally and managed to shed a few pounds. Now maintaining that is the issue (always, right?) but the idea rings true. Whatever fad diet rages, if you eat your vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats — you’ll lose weight no matter what you call it.

Imageimage from: http://www.eagle-crest.com/blog/?ai1ec_event=redmond-farmers-market&instance_id=

Cleaning Fruits and Veggies with Vinegar

I just saw this really great thing on Pinterest about how plain old white vinegar is a great rinse for cleaning fruits and veggies. I figured I would do a little research to see how effective it really is.

Photo from Flickr user Jason Popesku

Photo from Flickr user Jason Popesku

I had always thought that just rinsing things in the sink was fine, so why the extra step? According to the CDC, produce is actually the biggest source of foodborne illness outbreaks. Fresh produce has a lot of opportunities for contamination during its long journey to your plate from contaminants in the soil and water, to unhygienic handling during harvest, transit, and stocking. By the time that apple makes it home with you, it has probably already been handled by several people. 

Contribution of Different Food Commodities (Categories) to Estimated Domestically-Acquired Illnesses and Deaths, 1998-2008

Contribution of Different Food Commodities (Categories) to Estimated Domestically-Acquired Illnesses and Deaths, 1998-2008

So, does a vinegar solution really do anything to help clean produce? A 2003 study from the Journal of Food Protection showed that a vinegar wash of 10% vinegar reduced the numbers of bacteria present on strawberries by about 90%, and reduced the numbers of viruses by 95%. They also tested products that are sold as veggie washes and found that plain old vinegar was often more effective.

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/attribution-image.html#foodborne-illnesses

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12597475

http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm256215.htm

 

Probiotics 101

“To say a product contains Lactobacillus is like saying you’re bringing George Clooney to a party. It may be the actor, or it may be an 85-year-old guy from Atlanta who just happens to be named George Clooney. With probiotics, there are strain-to-strain differences.”

Gregor Reid, director of the Canadian Research and Development Center for Probiotics

George Clooney wants to make sure you get live and active probiotic cultures

George Clooney wants to make sure you get live and active probiotic cultures

I’ve definitely noticed that there is a lot of new research is looking at probiotics and how they may be involved in helping with everything from stomach issues like IBS to improvements in stress management and strengthening the immune system. But is there any research to back these claims? Is there a difference between regular old yogurt and yogurt that is advertised as having special probiotic benefits?

Probiotics are living microorganisms (often bacteria but they can also be other types of microorganisms like yeasts) that are shown to have some sort of health benefits. I most often think of probiotics as being in yogurt, but they are also in all kinds of fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, and kimchi (future posts on specific probiotic foods to come!). Probiotics can also be taken in a pill or powdered form as a supplement.

Look for "live and active cultures" on the label

Look for “live and active cultures” on the label

The American Gastroenterology Association provides a great comparison of different probiotic products specifically tested for gastrointestinal disorders. This is important because different strains of probiotics have been shown to be helpful for different conditions. It is also important to note that the FDA has not yet approved any health claims for probiotics.

 

SOME RULES OF THUMB FOR PICKING A PROBIOTIC

  • In yogurt, look for the phrase “contains active cultures” on the label to confirm that the product includes the living organisms that make probiotics work. Lots of products, like pickles and sauerkraut, are pasteurized before being sold which kills the live bacteria. If the bacteria aren’t active, they can’t do their thing.  (USA Today)
  • Some of the common strains to look for include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species such as: bifidobacterium lactis HN109; lactobacillus reuteri ATCC55730; lactobacillus rhamnosus GG9LGG; and lactobacillus casei DN-114 001. (USA Today )
  • In general, not all probiotics are the same, and they don’t all work the same way. Each group of bacteria has different species and each species has different strains. This is important to remember because different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. For example, Lactobacillus casei  has been shown to support the immune system and to help food move through the gut, but Lactobacillus bulgaricus may help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance. (American Gastroenterological Association)
  • Beware of products that promise a specific health improvement. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any specific health claims for probiotics. Many probiotic products are sold as dietary supplements, which do not require FDA approval prior to marketing (which also means the product hasn’t been tested by the FDA for safety or effectiveness). (NIH)
  • Remember to store your probiotic according to the package instructions and make sure the product has a sell-by or expiration date. Probiotics are living organisms. Even if they are dried and dormant, like in a powder or capsule, they must be stored properly or they can die. Some require refrigeration whereas others do not. They also have a shelf-life, so make sure you use them before the expiration date on the package. (American Gastroenterological Association)

 

For more information on probiotics here are some great articles:

American Gastroenterological Association – Probiotics: What They Are and What They Can Do for You http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/diet-medications/probiotics#Choosing a Probiotic

American Gastroenterological Association – A Gastroenterologist’s Guide to Probioticshttp://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(12)00369-2/fulltext#tbl2

NIH National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine – Oral Probiotics: An Introductionhttp://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm

How to Regrow Scallions

Growing in the sun

Growing in the sun.

I love the idea of growing my own vegetables. However, I also live in a small apartment in Manhattan and I’m pretty sure it would be illegal to grow tomatoes on my fire escape. New York is also an expensive city and I’m frequently looking for ways to budget. As a fairly active Pinterest user, there are seemingly miraculous oh-my-god-have-to-try-these tips all over the site. However, when I caught a glimpse of this tip it seemed so simple I knew I had to try. I was anxious to see if it was true — scallions can regrow if you simply put them in water on a windowsill. And it just so happened I already had some scallions sitting in my fridge. Fate. After I used them in this recipe (which is delicious — you should try it!) I “planted” the bulbs in water and crossed my fingers.
I was nervous about my experiment for two reasons:
1) All my glass cups and jars were dirty so all I had was a mug which doesn’t allow light through.
2) As I live in a small New York City apartment — I don’t get much direct light.
Sure enough, after only half a week, these babies were sprouting over the edge of my mug (you can even see the outer layer is where I chopped them for dinner).
scallionmug

Look at ’em go! Shout out to my Sing for Hope mug.

These guys were on my windowsill for about four weeks and here are the tips I have for you:
  • I ended up transferring these to clear jam jar and they seemed to grow even faster.
  • I changed the water every few days because it would start getting a little smelly if I didn’t.
  • It seems like every time these regenerated they got one layer thinner so this is a limited-use project. By the time I had chopped them down for the fourth time they were looking a little sad and I tossed them.
  • Make sure you have some recipes that need scallions! These grow quickly! Alex and I are going to come up with some recipes for you to use these with really soon.