Friday, October 29, 2010

Salty Tooth

All this Halloween talk has made me realize something I’ve probably known for a while. There are sweets I like. I mentioned Wednesday that I liked Mounds’ bars. I also like caramels, lemon meringue pie, crystallized ginger and dates. My mother used to give me Teuschers’ champagne truffles while I sat when she had her hair done and I still like those. If forced to choose between any of these treats and say delicious cheese or a French fry, the sweets will lose. I googled “salty tooth” and found a lot of information on various dental procedures and salt water rinsing. While that expression may not be legit, I know I’m not alone. At Foodtrainers, all of us are more salty than sweet. And so I offer some of our favorite “salty tooth” foods.
(photo above is from India, these are salt gatherers and photo take my the mother who bribed her child with champagne truffles)


My friend, chef Julie Negrin had a great blog post about popping popcorn in a pot and it changed my life. You put a little oil in a pot, add your kernels and cover the pot leaving a little room for air to escape. When the popping stops a little Kosher salt or a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Salty and crunchy.

Cerignola olives
Olives have to be one of the great salty foods and these are the king of olives. These large green olives have a firm flesh and amazing flavor. They are 3-4 times the size of a typical olive and fantastic for parties or snacks. In NYC, I get them at Citarella market.

Applegate Sunday bacon What’s salt without bacon? My kids love bacon but the nitrites and nastiness of bacon worried me a bit. I was happy to discover this Applegate product. Two slices are 60 calories and 290 mg of sodium (a serving of canned soup has 500). It’s gluten free and really good.

Marcona almonds
I referred to the Cerignolas as the king of olives and just read these almonds described as the “Queen of almonds.” What a great couple they would be. This “queen” hails from Spain. The almonds derive their saltiness from sea salt and there’s olive oil involved too. Add these to a salad or simply pop them in your mouth.

Nori snacks

I love nori (the black seaweed used for sushi) and often use it as a sandwich wrapper. A client brought me these snacks and they’re delicately salty and very low in calories. I could see these used in soups or one their own.

I wrote about McClures  before and have jars of their pickles, bloody mary mix and relish in my pantry at all times. They would go in my salty hall of fame but they might have another pickle with them. I love NY Deli Pickles Horseradish Kosher Pickles . Ricks picks are pretty darn good too.

As far as my fellow Foodtrainers, Melissa loves salted edamame and crumbled feta cheese and Lisa likes avocados with kosher salt. None of us are advocating salt up the wazoo. The funny thing is many of these foods are far lower in sodium than processed foods. One still needs to exercise caution. Too much salt isn’t good but a little sure is.
Do you have a sweet tooth or a salty tooth? What are your favorite salty foods?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ignore Candy Calories

Yesterday, I found myself clicking on a list for a Halloween candy calorie counter. I’ve also read numerous Halloween-focused blog posts and advised concerned clients providing them with my suggestions for Sunday. It no longer surprises me that a day meant to be child-centric takes up a lot of mind time for weight conscious adults because of the candy situation. Other holidays have their accompanying sweets there’s chocolate on Valentine’s Day and pie on Thanksgiving. Yet on Halloween candy, loaded with childhood memories and perhaps mentally off limits, trumps the others in terms of temptation and trouble. To soothe a potentially scary situation a few of my trick or treat tips:
1. Ignore candy calories.
We can all do the math and in fact, for a few publications, I have done more than my share of candy math. There are charts listing the higher calorie candies which includes many of the chocolately ones (Reese’s, Almond Joy, Mounds, Take 5) and the lower calorie (candy corn, 3 Musketeers, Peppermint Patty) but as I mention above I feel you should ignore them. Here’s the deal, it doesn’t matter to me that I can have 35 (35.2 to be exact) candy corn for 3 mini Mounds. I don’t like candy corn and would never forego a chance for an adorable and delicious Mounds. I don’t think we should pick our treat based on a chart. If you’re like me at one time or another you’ve tasted them all (actually I have never had a Take 5) and know your favorites. Go with them and you may not have to eat 35.

2. Children will not care about candy after 48 hours.
It happens every year. It’s mid November and I’m in my office. Without fail a few sessions will start like this “I was doing laundry and I spotted the kids’ candy, I had hid it from the kids.” Or, “it was late at night; I went into the kitchen and decided to have 1 piece of the Halloween candy.” Let’s just say the latter example doesn’t end with 1 piece of candy. I suggest letting your kids enjoy, within reason, their stash on Halloween. After that, present them with a small container and let them put 5 of their favorite candies in there to save. Do what you will with the rest but it needs to leave the house. You can donate it and send it overseas to soldiers (although lately according to reports not sure they need the extra calories), you can, as a client of mine does, put it out for the “candy witch” to take. Candy Witch takes the candy, brings it to children without candy and like the tooth fairy leaves some coins in return. I have no issues tossing candy. If that sounds wasteful I would argue that eating nutritionally void treats isn’t helping anyone.

3. Better Options Exist
I have to admit, I’m not anti sugar. Kids and adults have sugar, even the ones who say or whose parents say they “eat no sugar.” Everything from yogurt to oatmeal can have sugar in it. An article in the New York Times today states “candy provides only 6 percent of the added sugar in the American diet, while sweet drinks and juice supply 46 percent.” Having noted that sugar is prevalent there are better and worse ways to sweeten things. I am wearier of the dyes and high fructose corn syrup than I am of sugar. My kids selected Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks and Surf Sweets Sour Worms  to give out. Are these healthy? Appetizing? Absolutely not. They are free of corn syrup and use natural colorings. I also don’t happen to have any sort of a gummy habit so they’re also “safe” in that respect.
What’s your favorite Halloween candy? Do you intend to have it this year? What are you giving out? Do you agree with my trick or treat tips or have any of your own to add?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not Just Jack O Laterns

When I say pumpkin, what do you think of? Jack O Laterns and Halloween? Perhaps pumpkin pie? Yet, before there were Jack-o-laterns (the Irish are responsible for this tradition) or pumpkin pie the colonists filled this Native American fruit with milk, spices and honey. Turns out they were onto something; pumpkins are great in many recipes. If you do plan to use your pumpkin for cooking or baking look for Sugar Pie and Sweet Pumpkin, these are the best edible varieties. Pumpkins labeled sweet or sugar can be easily baked, roasted, mashed, and puréed like other varieties of winter squash.

I really like canned pureed pumpkin. I use an organic brand called Farmer’s Market. Pumpkin is very high in Vitamin A, a source of both iron and calcium and has 4 grams of fiber in half a cup (vets often suggest it to help canines “go”). Try a little pumpkin in your Greek yogurt. You can layer it like a parfait and use a little honey (ala the colonists) or agave and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Pumpkin also works nicely in oatmeal. I add a little of the pumpkin to cooking water for the grains such as quinoa or brown rice. Pumpkin is also great in soups, chili and in smoothies.

And don’t forget about the pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas. Pumpkin seeds are a great immune booster and a fantastic alternative to nuts as an afternoon snack. Stick to a ¼ cup or less. This Halloween Party Mix from Vegetarian Times is a more festive way to eat pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Smoothie

½ cup pumpkin

1 scoop Organic Whey or plain or vanilla protein powder

½ cup milk of your choice

½ cup ice

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

1 tsp agave nectar
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

What's your favorite pumpkin purpose?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crunchy or Smooth?

Are you a morning person or a night owl? An exercise lover or exercise hater? Chances are answering each of these questions required little thought. Most of us fall into one of the 2 categories. It’s not so much a matter of what you want to be but what you are. I would venture to say the same is true of peanut butter or “nut butters” as we now inclusively refer to them. The world is divided into “crunchy” and “smooth.” While I don’t dislike smooth peanut butter, I can’t for the life of me understand anyone choosing it over crunchy.

I was reminded of my place in the crunchy camp recently when I tasted the most delicious nut butter, Nuttzo. Nuttzo brings crunchy to another level. There are all different kind of nuts: hazelnuts, almonds and brazil nuts. The peanut free version also has flax and chia seeds. This makes it a “multicrunch” nut butter with all different flavors and textures in every bite. Two studies, one by Murakami et al and the other Cassady, connected crunchy foods with increased satiety. If we apply this to nut butter, crunchy may be the better choice when it comes to weight management.

If I am going to go smooth, it’s never for an average peanut butter. I happen to enjoy Peanut Butter and Co.'s Dark Chocolate Dreams which is now available in squeeze packs. . This is unbelievable on an apple. Peanut Butter and Co. also makes a spicy peanut butter called The Heat is On. This makes a great dip. These flavors may distract me from their “smoothness” but I’d be open to tasting crunchy versions.
Another peanut-free great tasting, crunchy option is the Natural Crunch Sunbutter . Sunbutter is used in many schools, has a nice mild taste and is made primarily from sunflower seeds.
Are you smooth or crunchy? Do you think there are peanut butter personalities? What is the stereotypical “crunchy” or “smooth”? And what is your favorite nut butter?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trader Joe's Greatest Hits

A new Trader Joe’s store recently opened a few blocks from Foodtrainers. I headed over a few weeks ago to scope it out. The check-out line snaked around the store and it was very crowded. I walked around a little and left. To be honest, I have never grasped just what makes people rave about Trader Joes. I asked Melissa, aka Market Melissa, to fill me in.

What’s the Trader Joe’s craze about? I don’t always get it, is it price? Prepared food? Help!
One great thing about Trader Joe’s is that they have standardized pricing, which means that just because you live in a city you won’t pay more than at a store in the suburbs. Also, most of their products are Trader Joe’s brand, which helps keep the prices down. You can also find many single serve, portion-controlled foods and pre-cut fresh veggies and fruit. Some may argue this produces extra waste due to packaging; on the other hand it can be great for those who are busy and looking for shortcuts. Frozen food is abundant at Trader Joe’s and some are great finds (but many are loaded with sodium so always remember to read the food label and skip anything that contains more than 500mg of sodium per serving). Speaking of servings, many contain 2-3 servings per package, another important fact not to overlook when shopping.

What are your top Traders’ items? Clients like the single server brown rice, how’s that?
Below you will find some of my favorite items at Trader Joe’s. While there are many more than make this list, I tried to give you the MVPs that always seem to make my own weekly shopping list. As far as the brown rice goes, TJ offers a frozen organic brown rice – ingredients are: brown rice. Plastic single serve bags can be great, just empty the contents in a microwave safe bowl and cook it that way, rather than in the plastic pouch it comes in.

1. Trader Joe’s Lite Kettle Corn – individual sized bags. Perfect combination of sweet and salty offering up a generous portion for only 110 calories plus 3g fiber.

2. Trader Joe’s just a handful of almonds – portion controlled bags of almonds. Great for the on the go and the snacker who can’t be left alone with a full bag of nuts.

3. Trader Joe’s edamame hummus – For a different spin on traditional hummus.

4. Trader Joe’s Super Seeded Tortilla Chips (made with organic flax, chia and hemp seeds) – Everyone needs a go to tortilla chip, why not get some nutrients while you’re at it?

5. Trader Joe’s Organic Split Pea soup – While I always like recommending making your own, a prepared one is always good to have on hand and this one is delicious.

6. Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds – Sometimes I just need a taste of something sweet. 2-3 of these does the trick.

7. Trader Joe’s Frozen Steal Cut Oatmeal – In a hurry in the morning? Pop this in the microwave in the morning and you get a serving of oats sweetened with just a bit of maple syrup and brown sugar. Not bad for 150 calories.

8. Trader Joe’s Almond Butter – Great alternative to peanut butter and cheaper than other brands I have seen.

9. Trader Joe’s Organic High Protein Tofu – Great to add to salads or over Quinoa for a quick meal.

10. Trader Joe’s whole wheat pretzels – You won’t usually find pretzels on my clients’ food sheets, but these stood out to me due to their 100% whole wheat flour content and therefore fiber. If you have a pretzel craving, these would be the ones to choose.

11. Trader Joe’s High Fiber cereal

12. Trader Joe’s Pomegranate Cranberry Bran muffins – For 100 calories and 14g of fiber this can really get your system “going” if you know what I mean.

13. Trader Joe’s grilled chicken ready to heat and eat. Balsamic vinegar and rosemary or lemon pepper are both good choices.

14. Trader Joe’s steamed lentils – ready to eat warm or cold as a side dish or on top of salad.

15. Trader Joe’s black bean and roasted corn salsa – delicious topping to grilled chicken or fish.

16. Trader Joe’s ready to eat shelled edamame – there is a little salt added, which may be why they are so good. I like adding them to salads or mixing them into quinoa.

Great list, it seems as though there are a lot of snacks. If you were getting a day’s worth of Trader Joe’s food what would your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks be?

Breakfast: TJ’s steel cut oatmeal

Snack: Organic Fuji apple

Lunch: TJ’s has many prepared salads – the southwest one is my favorites, but I suggest swapping out the dressing that they provide with olive oil and lemon juice.

Snack: One package of just a handful of almonds.

Dinner: Balsamic vinegar and rosemary chicken breast (ready to hear and eat) with a side dish of TJ’s steamed lentils.

Thank you  Melissa. You mentioned a few items I now want to try. If you’d like to contact Melissa O’shea, here email is Melissa leads our Market Foodtraining tours at various NYC markets.
Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? If so, what are your MVP’s?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dreamgirl before or after?

Yesterday, a client walked in for her session and the first thing out of her mouth was “what do you think of Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss?” The truth is, I had some thoughts on her massive weight loss but diplomatically deflected asking my client what she thought. She said “she was this seemingly confidently curvy woman and then lost all this weight.” I joked and compared it to a person who gives the impression they love their large nose and then has a nose job. It leaves you thinking perhaps they didn’t love it as much as they said they did.

I did a little google-ing and found that many people are happy for Jennifer, they think she looks great, are impressed with her weight loss post pregnancy and generally wish her well. There is though, along the lines of what my client mentioned, this undercurrent that she was a “real woman” before and “real women have breasts and curves.” This logic would categorize me as not especially real and I don’t necessarily subscribe to bigger or curvier being better. I can understand though how Jennifer before appeared she was not trying to fit a mold and Jennifer now seems molded. Sure, Jennifer doesn’t have an obligation to larger women to stay heavy, she isn’t the pudgy poster child but I think I wanted to believe she was “happy at any size” even if she is probably healthier now.

I also can’t help but connect the tragedy Jennifer experienced and her weight loss. This is complete speculation but in my experience, grief and loss often has one of two effects on weight. Either people turn to food for comfort, to numb some of the pain or they control their food. Perhaps Jennifer, though a Weight Watchers spokesperson, is exercising control of her food after life seemed so out of control. If that’s the case let’s watch out for too much weight watching, if you know what I mean.

Finally, and I know I am going to get myself in a little trouble here and that’s ok,is it terrible to say that some people look better heavier? We can look at Star Jones and now at Jennifer Hudson and if I had to be superficial and choose before or after, I would go with before. Shoot me.
What do you think of Jennifer Hudson’s weight loss? Do you tend to overeat or under eat when emotionally stressed? And do you think some people look better heavier?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kids' Cravings

This is a guest post from Juli Novotny, founder of Kookie Karma (yum) and  the PUREmamas blog. What started as a "baby blog" for curious friends and family members transformed into PUREmamas with the intention of giving new moms, pregnant women and modern conscious parents healthy food ideas, recipes and motivational tips.

Kids’ nutrition is my favorite topic in the world. I love to see little ones, often the pickiest of eaters, getting excited about food, but not any food. I'm talking healthy food. It's not always easy to get children to enjoy fruits and veggies so when I come up with a recipe that kids want more of, it's a huge feat for me. Just because I'm a healthy person and own a health food company doesn't mean my kids are born without a sweet tooth or food aversions. It has been challenging to find foods that are palatable and flavorful that my little boys won't spit out!  I'm lucky in that my life revolves around being creative in the kitchen. I created my PUREmamas blog, and write articles such as this, to share the results of hours of culinary experimentation with others.

Here are a few lessons I have learned first and recommendations:
Parents shape their children's habits and desires based on their own. For example, I hate when I get water in my ears. So, I assume my kids do too and always cover the up when I wash their hair. I also hate little spiders and sometimes freak out when I see one. Now, my son is grossed out by them. Food is no different. Kids will do, say and eat, as we do. We are their role models and habit formers when they are young.
If at first you don’t succeed…I guarantee you that with some effort and multiple tries, every parent can find something that grows from the Earth that your children will actually touch.

Fruit: both my sons HATE fruit, I think it's a texture thing. They won't even take a small bite of an orange, pear or strawberry. Strange, right? So I put all the fruits I want them to consume into a blender, blend it up with a little goats’ milk or a little homemade almond milk and suddenly fruit is no longer the enemy.

Greens: my sons will not touch f pasta or rice if there is just one spec of a green leaf in it. They will pull it out with their fingers no matter how well I cover it up with sauce . Crunchy kale chips  on the other hand? My kids devour the entire bag and want more.

Add healthy stuff to something they already LOVE. Or replace the junk with a little LESS junky!

1. If your child loves milk, throw it in the blender first with a little green juice or add a few drops of flax oil. Add just a little each time.

2. Kids obsessed with apple juice? Make your own at home - get out your juicer and use only organic green apples - these are less sweet.

3. If your children eats oatmeal buy plain oats add hemp oil, probiotics and fresh almond milk to them. Add your own sweetness with agave nectar, raw honey (not for children under 2 though) or pure maple syrup. Just a drop.

4. Throw out the candy. Instead of giving candy as a treat (or a bribe) - give chewable vitamins from the health food store. We have these ones that are made with xylitol and molasses and tons of greens! My son is obsessed with them and he only gets them once a day.

5. Exchange the wheat based crackers for the brown rice based. And choose those without any added sugar.

6. Do they love chocolate? Make your own chocolate milk. Or make a large batch of raw truffles and keep them in the freezer. They are easy to make.

7. Are your children suckers for cookies? Make your own healthy macaroons and store them in the fridge.

8. Soda? Don't even get me started. Throw it out. Instead add lemon or orange rind and juice and agave nectar or xylitol to bubbly water. Mix and serve.
Any questions for Juli? What are your favorite healthy food tweaks?

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Roll Model

I was on a phone session last week with a client on the West coast. We were talking about exercise and this client told me she hadn't been doing anything regularly for exercise until she found this class she loved. It was an interval class with spinning and weights taught by an “inspiring person.” While this client clearly liked the class and the teacher’s energy she explained to me that the teacher was extremely fit. The instructor’s physique was something to aspire to. We continued talking about lots of things but when we hung up I was stuck on this.

I cannot say, in my own life, I am very different from this client. I can recall a core fusion class I took last spring. I signed up for a class at a time I didn't usually exercise and walked to see an overweight instructor. I don’t remember the class, it may have been fine, but I remember thinking that I wasn’t inspired. I also remember giving myself a hard time about noticing the teacher’s size and objecting to it. In this case the person leading the class was significantly overweight. I’m not sure I would’ve recalled if the teacher was average size.

At work, my clients aren’t shy at all commenting about my appearance. Some clients look at me and ask if I’ve ever struggled with my weight, another recently asked “how do you run so much without losing weight, you must eat a lot!” I always joke that if I gained 20 pounds I would be out of a job…and there’s some truth to that but isn’t this sad? Many of us don’t analyze our doctor’s health habits or our shoe salesman’s shoes but we do judge a book by its cover when it comes to food and exercise.
Would you be as “inspired’ by an instructor who was overweight? Have you ever chosen a teacher, trainer or nutritionist based on size or physique? Do you feel this is normal or embarrassing?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Race Day in Chicago

I woke up at 5am on Sunday. Waking up implies sleeping and while I did get a decent 5 hours worth, I didn’t need an alarm to get me up. Ten years ago when I was running the Bermuda marathon, I happened to ride down in the hotel elevator with the race director. He asked how I was feeling and I said “I would be a lot better if I slept.” He told me what I now know saying “nobody sleeps the night before a marathon.” At 5am I jumped into the shower and my husband went to the hotel lobby for coffee. We researched the day before and knew Starbucks opened at 530AM. When Marc got downstairs, there was a line 100-people long for Starbucks which hadn’t opened. He resourcefully went across the street and returned to the room with our coffee. In the event that Starbucks didn’t open on time, we had another coffee on ice in the room overnight. Call that what you will, there was no way I was running a marathon without coffee and enough time for that coffee to “digest.”

I had a hand written schedule for the morning as I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget anything and that I followed my timeline. I had the coffee with a banana and a container of peanut butter puffins cereal (dry) that I had transported from New York. My stomach was doing flips but I managed to eat enough. I am not someone who can tolerate a huge volume of food before a race. After eating I got dressed, packed up my clip on “Gu” pouch (though not with Gu), body glided any area with chafing potential and in my back pocket placed 2 rewards. One was the “mile 27 beer ticket” and the other was my secret marathon weapon, more on that later.

I grabbed another banana and a bottle of water, said goodbye to Marc and headed to the lobby. I have to admit that while waiting for the elevator, I felt a little emotional, ok truth be told I cried a little. It’s just a marathon but I had trained hard, felt support from so many clients and friends (and of course Marc) and felt lucky and proud. In the lobby, I met up with my sister in law Jenny, my friends Diane and Eric and a couple of their running friends. We all walked out in the semi-darkness to the starting line. After waiting on the Porto potty line and joined our 38,000 “friends” in the corrals.

 We were entertained by the sounds of Bruce Springsteen (what’s a marathon without hearing Born to Run) and the Stones and though we didn’t hear a horn or any other indicator, at some point people started moving. It took about 10 minutes for us to cross the starting line but we did, my Garmin watch found a satellite and we were off (see below aren't we fast?).

There were a lot of turns for the first few miles of the race which served as a good distraction. I also generally run alone so the conversation about the race and sights propelled me forward. At every mile marker I said to myself “it’s mile 3 Jen and I’m still enjoying myself”. At the water station around mile 6 I had my first of 3 Clif Shots. All 3 of my shots were caffeinated (mocha and berry) which I swear by during longer runs or races.

At around mile 10, a searing pain my foot told me it was time for some Tylenol and at mile 12 the second “shot”. Somewhere along this point I realized the alert system had changed from green, indicating no danger, to yellow. This would change to red before long. The temperature displayed outside banks was climbing well into the 70s. After hitting every water stop, I had to hit the bathroom around mile 15. Normally, I would’ve done everything in my power to avoid wasting precious time going to the bathroom but with enjoying myself came a decision that I wasn’t going to make the day about my time goal. This is a decision I regret a bit now but it seemed right at the time.

At the 17 mile marker Marc was waiting, waving a Blackhawks hockey stick so that I could find him in the crowd. He was standing with supplies ranging from chap stick to band-aids, depending on what I needed. I had my 3rd shot, some water and one Tylenol and was on my way. At this point, I put on my music. My plan was to have Excedrin, my secret weapon, at mile 20. The only problem was at mile 20 when I reached for those 2 green capsules in my back pocket, all I felt was powder. I saw Marc again on the sidelines and barked “Excedrin, I need Excedrin.” “Where is there Excedrin?" he asked, confused. I ran off realizing I hadn’t packed the Excedrin in his supply pile and also realized that the powder in my back pocket was my Excedrin, it had melted. As we approached the next water stop I stooped to a new low. I pushed my hand into that back zipper pocket “fun-dip” style and pushed some bitter green Excedrin into my mouth, I chased it with water or Gatorade. I repeated this at the last couple of water stops.

For whatever reason, maybe the Excedrin or a conservative early race, I was feeling strong. I was enjoying the Beyonce’, Lady Gaga and Michael Franti on my iPod and was definitely starting to “count my chickens”. Suddenly at mile 24 or 24.5 I felt very tired. I thought about J and J and told myself I wasn’t allowed to walk until the water stop but I wasn’t sure I was enjoying myself anymore. Then, out of nowhere, I saw that Blackhawks hockey stick. It was Marc, I wasn’t supposed to see him again until the finish line but he was there. I told him I couldn’t run anymore and he told me to follow him. I kept thinking he was going to look back and I would be on the ground. He had a backpack on and the mini hockey stick peeking out the top. Despite my fatigue, I had to smile. Soon there was a sign that said 800 meters to go. I have no sense of distance but I knew I was close. Marc wasn’t allowed to run any further but I made a right turn and went up the largest hill of the race to the finish line. I receive my medal and the tin foil cape for fun (85 is a bit too warm for insulation). I spotted the sign that said “mile 27 beer party” and despite the sweaty coupon in my pocket I decided that was the last thing I wanted. It turns out I didn’t really need my secret weapons after all.

And, not for the faint of heart as I promised yesterday the world's biggest blood blister, ick.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chicago Marathon 10 10 10

We left New York for Chicago on Friday with a plane full of runners. I know they were runners because 2 days prior to the race passengers were in full running gear sporting sneakers and apparel from previous races. I felt a little left out in clogs, jeans and a sweater. After training for 4-plus months and treating myself like a china doll for the past week sleeping over 8 hours a night and hydrating compulsively, I was ready to go. I flipped through Runners World during the flight and wasn’t that thrilled with an article entitled “The End” which basically served as a reminder (confirmation wouldn’t come for another 2 days) that the end of any marathon is difficult.

We arrived in Chicago to some Obama-related traffic. My sister in law, Jenny,  and I headed directly to the expo to pick up our race numbers and swag bags. If there was any doubt about the race date we were welcomed to McCormick Center by gigantic 10-10-10 banners and thousands of other runners. We watched a virtual tour of the course at the Nike booth, gathered some clif shot samples and headed to dinner with our other 2 team Chicago members. We were short for time and decided to go straight to the restaurant. In we walked to The Publican,  some of us were in sneakers, all of us had our big red and white marathon expo bags. Though discrete on the flight there was suddenly no denying we too were runners, in town for the race. The Publican is a fantastic green market based restaurant with a menu that changes daily. We had a delicious meal that included a beet salad, oysters, mussels, steak and Brussels sprouts all served family stlye. If I’m being totally honest, I will say all members of team Chicago had a beer or glass of wine and the 2 there-for-support husbands had much more. I enjoyed my glass of Gruner, the first alcohol in a week and hoped it would calm some of the pre-race jitters I was starting to feel.

The next morning we took a walk to the starting line.

Music was blaring and despite the fact that there wasn’t anyone around, it was pretty exciting. It was hard to picture that same area with 40,000 people crowded in it. We toured around the city, went on the architectural boat tour and to a leisurely lunch (did I mention none of us brought our children) and then back to the room. At the hotel, I did a dress rehearsal trying on my race day outfit: J&J pink tank top, lululemon groovy run shorts (there’s always hoping), Wright “blister proof” running socks (will post a picture of my clearly non blister proof foot tomorrow, consider yourself warned) and Nike sneakers. I pinned on my race number and as Coach Mindy of The Running Center had taught me for my first marathon, I “prepared my altar” for the next morning.

Have you ever run a marathon? If so which one(s)? Do you experience pre-race jitters? Do you wear running clothes on the airplane, be honest.

Friday, October 8, 2010

For J & J

I’m leaving today for Chicago and will be running the Chicago Marathon Sunday. The photo above is the pretty pink shirt I will be wearing on 10/10/10. I’ve been asked if I’m excited, and I am, but more than anything I had been feeling a little anxious and just ready to have this over. On Sunday I received an email that changed some of this:

I am so excited for your marathon next week. If you get tired running just think of the fact that many of us take for granted what a privilege it is to be able to run. I miss running so much. With my stomach cramps and tumors, I haven't been able to truly run in years. I miss it so, so much. So enjoy all 26.2 miles because you can! I will be cheering for you from afar and can't wait to see pictures

This email came from a friend, I’ll call J, who is in bed during her chemo. J is about my age and she’s had chemo before, in fact she’s had it 5 times before I believe. This time is especially tough she’s nauseated and worn out from a recent surgery. She doesn’t complain and never appears anxious. She even has a fantastic website and blog called “You Fearless” where she writes about her life, her real marathon. This email had a huge effect on me, not because my friend has a disease and I do not but because she wasn’t merely wishing me good luck, she was telling me to enjoy it. As if, in my anal (I just printed out a pacing wristband to wear for the race) pre-race mind I had even given enjoyment any airtime. And yet, enjoyment is a choice.

This past Tuesday I had the pleasure taking my son on a play date after school. One of Weston’s best buddies is a little boy, another “J”. Weston and J were in Kindergarten together, they play soccer together and were just starting 1st grade together. Days into the school year, we received an email from J’s father, our friend, that J needed brain surgery for a tumor that had found. They described it as “large” and seemed to be moving very quickly. I worried for J’s mother who had so recently lost her father or “her rock” as she referred to him. I also, as any mother would, spent extra time tucking the boys in that night. More than anything though, I worried for J. Would he be ok? Was he scared?

J’s surgery was 2 weeks ago now and the great news is that the tumor is gone, he is ok. The bonus? He was super brave. The day after surgery he was eating vanilla ice cream, singing his father “happy” birthday and on Tuesday played video games and had snacks with Weston as if nothing had changed. Before the surgery, I would’ve described J as sensitive and sweet. We all learned he’s also very, very strong. How does someone so little have so much courage?

I am beyond inspired by J and J. For this silly race, I plan to enjoy it and to take it all in. I am lucky to be able to train and run and go to Chicago this weekend. And when things hurt, because inevitably in 26 miles they will, I will try to be courageous like little J because I can.
Who inspires you? Do you think it’s silly that many of us test ourselves and stress about running and races when others have far greater non-optional challenges?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Perilous Plastics

Yesterday, I dropped my kids off at school and headed across the park. This time, I wasn’t running but rather was in the car, in real clothes and a little make-up, headed to an apartment on the Upper East Side. Here, approximately 35 women and a few men gathered to hear Dr Philip Landrigan give a talk entitled “Toxins, Our Children and Global Health.” It’s no wonder that this group, many of whom were mothers, made sure this was an 8:30AM date they didn’t miss.

Dr Landrigan is a member of the Global Heath Center at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He started his presentation discussing how the disease profile has changed dramatically in a fairly short period of time. Whereas deaths used to be due to many of the childhood diseases such as small pox and polio, environmental changes in water quality and ventilation eradicated many of these diseases. The unfortunate fact is that new challenges to our health and our children’s health have presented themselves: asthma, autism, childhood cancers, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Chances are it’s not a medicine or vaccine that’s going to solve these pressing problems. Once again, the solution is largely environmental.

On one hand it’s reassuring that scores of doctors are working to pinpoint the links between these various medical issues and our surroundings. On the other hand it’s hard not to feel a little as though the boogie man is lurking in your house, perhaps in your kitchen or bathroom, and we don’t know exactly where he is yet. I always get a pit in my stomach in these talks. I feel fairly on top of my families’ food and nutrients but can easily feel as though I’m remiss in other areas. So what can we do?

Dr Landrigan gave a short list of toxins to avoid:

1. Lead- old lead laden pain still exists especially in old buildings and houses. As this paint chips it can cause brain injury in young children. It’s very easy to have an EPA inspector come in and check your apartment and the common areas in your building if you live in an apartment.

2. Pesticides- when I first heard this I thought about pest control with food and the importance of going organic. Then Dr Landrigan mentioned that the largest consumers of pesticides in New York State, by county, were Manhattan and Brooklyn. These pesticides aren’t used on farms but rather to kill cockroaches. Chemicals should be the last resort for roaches, instead something called IPM or Integrated Pest Management was suggested.

3. Plastics- there are many chemicals in plastics that can leach out into our food and water. Compounds in plastics called phthalates (pronounced thallates) can cause birth defects when women are exposed during pregnancy. NEVER MICROWAVE IN PLASTIC. I obnoxiously used caps because I feel this is an easy change that people ignore or do not know. Plastic water bottles are banned in Dr Landrigan's department at Mount Sinai and I wish we all followed suit. We have our favorite kleen kanteen water bottles at Foodtrainers. There are also glass serving containers and BPA free doesn’t always mean healthy. Phthalates are also in our cosmetics,food packaging and our children's toys. For cosmetics there is a great site, to learn more about the makeup of your makeup.

I would say if there was a word of the day it was phtalates. Rather than panic, be proactive. Purchase a reusable water bottle and encourage your friends at the gym or at school pick up to do so also. When microwaving, use ceramic, glass or paper and also remind anyone cooking for your children to do so also. If you are pregnant or hope to be pregnant, pay close attention to these points. And at the grocery store, make sure you choose paper and not plastic.
What measures do you take to improve your exposure to chemicals? Do you, like me, feel you’re great in certain areas (organic food or shoes off in house) and lax in others? Any other ways to lower phthalate exposure?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ripa/Consuelos Theory: Salads and Sex

I was watching an episode of Live with Regis and Kelly  a couple of weeks ago. On the show Bryant Gumbel was co-hosting and he and Kelly were discussing a dinner party he had thrown. Apparently, Bryant had cooked this delicious and not-so-small meal including an entrée of Cornish hen. Bryant was lamenting that he made “too much food.” Kelly smiled and shared a theory her husband, Mark, has. I’ll paraphrase but she said that when her husband sees her eating a salad for dinner, he gets a little excited thinking there’s a good chance he will get “lucky” later that night. On the other hand if he sees her chowing down, he knows “it” may not happen that night. Kelly shared with Bryant that when she devoured the hen (which she called chicken), her husband realized his odds were not good. Brilliant theory.

Saturday night, my Marc and I and 2 other couples went to Lavo for our own not-so-small dinner. It was the kind of meal where a ton of appetizers are ordered for the table. There is no need for entrees in this scenario but you order them anyway. I was full way before my branzino arrived. We passed on after dinner drinks and headed home. I got to thinking, does anyone feel sexy after a large meal? And is there a physiological component for this or is it just knowing that we just consumed too much?

You really wouldn’t believe what turned up as I googled every version of “big meal” and “sex”. I received a little too much of an education. If you’re curious or perverted see what Urban Dictionary defines a tossed salad as (blush). I did find some legitimate and interesting research. One study, though not focused on libido and eating, explained that post large meal food coma. This study mentioned , in NewScientist, explained why we often feel we need a siesta after a large meal. Researchers discovered that high blood glucose levels (after eating a meal) can switch off brain cells that keep us awake and alert. The group of brain cells are orexin neurons, found in the hypothalamus.The author added that “it makes evolutionary sense for animals to turn off their wakefulness and conserve energy once they have eaten their food, since it could be risky or wasteful to expend too much energy looking for more food.” Now I haven’t been in research for some time now but I am selectively hearing that one should conserve energy after a large meal, maybe even read a magazine and watch Project Runway? However, it also must make “evolutionary sense” to further the species, so to speak, maybe after dinner just isn’t the time for this.

I recalled another study that came out last year that I looked up to refresh my memory. In Canada, a team of researchers examined the eating habits of single, college-aged women. Their primary conclusion was that women’s caloric intake was significantly lower when their eating companions were male versus female. The explanation given was that women feel it’s more attractive or think they appear more attractive when eating less. Aside from this finding being rather depressing, in keeping with the “Mark” theory, I had a different spin. Rather than conforming to some gender eating role, perhaps women feel sexier when eating this lighter meal. After all, women like to “get lucky” too at least single, college women…

There is a rather well established connection between being overweight and sex. Female sexual functioning is significantly lower in overweight women than those who are normal weight. The British Medical Journal found obese women “29% less likely to have had a sex partner in the previous 12 months.” We also can’t isolate this connection to women. Overeating can decrease a man’s libido as well (I said decrease not eliminate) and excess weight can cause erectile dysfunction. Fat cells also produce estrogen, thereby reducing testosterone and sexual drive.

Aside from weight, eating well enables us to feel our best and that is what this is really about. When we feel good we’re more confident and this has a carryover effect. Meanwhile, I started this by saying that when Mark (Consuelos) sees his wife eating a salad things look promising. I am not sure what the male equivalent is but my husband just dropped the kids off at school. I couldn’t find anything on Medline but I’m fairly certain this increases his chances.
Do you subscribe to the salad and sex theory? Do you think it’s “women only” or do men experience this also? Do you feel sexier when eating well? Don’t be shy, we’re just talking about salad.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rainy Day Rations

It’s raining today in NYC and with the exception of a brief break on Wednesday; it’s been raining off and on all week. I’m usually more than happy to put my complaining hat on but the rain bothers me far less than it once did. A couple of incidents are responsible for this. First, in 1998 my husband and I were married on what may have been the rainiest day of the year (possibly the decade). It was the year of El Niño. We lost electricity while we were getting ready. In order for me to leave the inn where we were staying for the car, I had to be covered in a giant trash bag, body bag style, and be carried out the door. The funny thing is, the rain didn’t bother me and we have some fantastic wedding pictures, umbrellas and all. Then, in 2002 I was gearing up for the NYC marathon. Myles was a few months old and so training runs were carefully scheduled and practically carved in stone. When it came time for our 20 miler, the weather gods were not cooperative. I woke up and looked out the window at the pouring rain. I checked to see if the run was cancelled. It wasn’t and we did it; I’ll never forget it. I ran 20 soggy miles with my now dear friend Meg. We still talk about it.

Unlike many of you, I have grown to like the rain. I don’t love my frizzy hair or the lack of taxis but I don’t complain. This morning, after dropping my boys at school, I headed to Central Park. It was peaceful and quiet. I didn’t bring my iPod  in  the rain but  had a great 8 mile run, retracing part of the route Meg and I ran 8 years ago. I arrived home soaked and a little chilled andstarted up the tea kettle and water for oatmeal. My oatmeal of choice is usually The Silver Palate “Thick and Rough Oatmeal.” I put some sliced, fresh ginger in the oatmeal water, added the oats and after about 8 minutes a couple crushed walnuts. When the oatmeal was done I looked in my pantry and spotted an unopened jar of lemon curd. I added a tiny spoonful of the lemon curd to the oats.

By this time the tea was boiling away. I realized I had a box of Tea forte’ tea I had purchased as a hostess gift yet absentmindedly forgot  to take to the hostess (sorry Erica). Today, I decided to make the mostess of the teas and used one of the White Ginger Pear silk infusers. If you haven’t had this tea, you really have to. White tea is good for your immune system but the taste is the real draw. These are some of the most delicious, intensely flavored teas I’ve ever had.

They (whoever “they” are) say rain or your wedding day, or is it rain in general, is good luck. This strikes me as something crafted in order to make rain-haters or sad brides perk up. I say these oats and tea forte felt pretty lucky and I hope it rains again tomorrow.
Are you a rain-hater? Do you have any go to rainy day foods? What do you put in your oatmeal? And what’s your favorite tea.