Friday, April 29, 2011

Food Preferences: Why I Love Beets and Hate Broccoli Rabe

On our Foodtrainers Questionnaire we ask new clients “what are your favorite foods (healthy or unhealthy)?” and “what foods do you dislike or prefer not to eat?” Blue cheese, beets, Brussels sprouts, spicy food, cilantro and tomatoes are often listed.  The funny thing is that they are listed as both favorite and least favorite foods.  So, did you ever think about what determines whether we adore or despise a particular food? There are a few theories.

Some feel our food preferences are an evolutionary survival skill. “The senses of smell and taste evolved to evoke strong emotions because they were critical to finding food and mates and avoiding poisons and predators.” A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave an example that the preference for spicy foods in certain cultures was based on the protective effect of spices against microbes and food borne illness. What’s sad is that our food instincts or preferences do not seem to be keeping us safe anymore. Instead of detecting artificial or extreme tastes we are now conditioned to enjoy them. I mean, do you get more “poisonous” than diet soda?

There is also interesting research focusing on the diets of pregnant women. The theory is that we are conditioned to like what our mothers ate while pregnant or breastfeeding (brandy anyone?). One study found that the infants of mothers drinking carrot juice during their pregnancies were more accepting of rice cereal with carrot juice in it than those in a control group. We know nutrients pass through the placenta so it makes sense that tastes would too. Yet how do we explain twins or siblings with very different food likes and dislikes?

A Washington Post piece entitled “Our Taste Buds are Just One Reason We Love Some Foods and Hate Others” explained the nature versus nurture side of taste. “Culture often overrides our genes and takes over the mouth’s role as the body’s gatekeeper. Few people immediately like bitter beverages or extreme spices, but many learn to love them through repeated exposure. We often learn to like what people around us like.”  You see this often with children. They initially may reject a food only to eat it the eighth or tenth time around.  And you see tastes changing with time. I grew up disliking salty foods or certainly not seeking them out. Now? I can’t get enough. Does it have something to do with being married to a saltaholic? It might although he doesn’t like mushrooms just because I do, hmn.  

So much of nutrition has to do with what foods are good for us or praiseworthy for their vitamin content. Taste can get lost in the shuffle. At a seminar entitled “Field to Plate” on Tuesday, I learned about an interesting way to think about taste and flavor. Our host, Amanda Archibald presented vegetables in flavor profiles and flights, much like wine. Romaine, green beans, asparagus and celery were in the “Grassy” group. Mustard greens, arugula and watercress were all in the “Spicy” family.  You may be able to guess some of the "Sweet" vegetables that include snap peas, parsnips and my beloved beets. Do you tend to like one of these groups more than the others? Or perhaps you eat some of these vegetables and can branch out to another member of that group. If that’s not up your alley you can return to the prenatal argument and blame your mother for the foods you dislike.
How do you think our tastes are formed? What vegetable family do you like best? And where do you stand on blue cheese, beets and Brussels sprouts?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Skinny Jeans and Size Lies

Many new clients come to my office with weight goals. Some want to lose 10 pounds, others more. There are women who want to reach their “wedding weight” and men who want to be under 200 pounds. The brackets on the scale are meaningful. I have a doctor’s floor scale and the each bracket represents 50 pounds. Other people declare that they do not care about “the number” on the scale that they just want to be a certain size or for their clothes to fit.  These clothing-based goals appear sensible but have some inherent problems.

Last week, the NYT ran a story about the confusing state of clothing sizes. “One Size Fits Nobody: Seeking a Steady 4 or a 10.” The article discussed what many women already know and that’s that your “size” depends less on how much you weigh or what size you are and more on the whim of the retailer. Depending on the store your size can vary by a few sizes.

Many retailers, responding to their, ahem, growing consumer base have resorted to a practice called vanity sizing. Vanity sizing involves labeling clothes with smaller sizes so that a size 10 customer feels as though she’s a size 6 because that’s what fits her. I don’t think most people are gullible enough to think they’ve dropped a couple of sizes unbeknownst to them; rather it just makes shopping confusing.  A company known as My Best Fit developed a potential solution. My best developed kiosks at malls across America. Basically, your measurements are taken and you are given a report indicating the size you should select at various different retailers. To me, vanity sizing is like the mirrors at a carnival distorting what you look like and the kiosks some sort of fortuneteller. Knowing your size shouldn’t be that hard.

Aware that sizes are unreliable many people rely on a certain article of clothing as their litmus test. I don’t know why but this piece of clothing is a pair of jeans more times than not. We’ve all heard about “skinny” jeans, I have a client who calls her test jeans “reference jeans”. Others know they’re in good shape when they can buy jeans- period. I caution using clothes as your arbiter of size or fitness. For starters, your body can change. I have female clients who, like Aidan who we discussed last week, get back into tip top shape after babies. Yet, your body may change. Sometimes your hips are permanently a little wider after childbirth or things simply redistribute.  Changing your workouts can also alter the way apparel fits. You may have a certain look when you were running and your “inches” may be different if you start kickboxing. Slip your skinny jeans on in these instances and you may feel discouraged but the truth is clothes that fit at one time may just never fit well again even if you look great.  I also have to add that laundering and dry cleaning can shrink clothes or at least we think it can…

So what to do? We try to be more evolved and not let a number on the scale determine our success with food and exercise but other assessment methods have their flaws. It may come down to what Crunch gym said so well in one of their ad campaigns, we just need to see when we “feel better naked” although I like the jeans concept better.
Are you a scale person or do you go by your clothes? How do you know when you’re making progress with food or exercise? If there’s a piece of clothing you use as a reference, what is it?

Monday, April 25, 2011

It Is Possible To Overfruit

Not long ago, I wrote a post for Blisstree (love Blisstree) entitled “Eight Things to Never Put in Your Smoothies.” I talked about sorbet (does this need to be in your breakfast?), soy protein and “too much fruit”.  Regarding fruit I said, “sure, smoothies seem healthy, but the problem is that calories add up, even from fresh fruit. So avoid smoothies that are bigger than 16 ounces or are made with more than two cups of fruit.” Let’s just say people didn’t like me saying anything negative about their beloved fruit. I was told, “too much fruit, really? With all the things wrong with the American diet, too much fruit isn’t what I would hone in on.”

If we’re talking about eating habits of Americans, I’d agree. Processed food, pesticides, food dyes, hormones in our food and heavily sweetened and salted foods are all bigger problems than fruit. Most Americans, after all, eat too little fruit versus too much (unless we count juice, fruity pebbles and “fruit” snacks). However, if we’re talking about the ideal diet or what to eat in order to lose weight, I’m sorry folks it is possible to overfruit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit and think fruit is a part of any balanced diet providing fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Weight Watchers’ new points system allows unlimited fruit. While this may work for someone switching from the standard American diet (fast food, processed food, lots of food) to a healthier one or for someone with a significant amount of weight to lose, I think it’s a mistake for those with less to shed.

My reasoning is based on a few criteria. First, what would be a weight-related post without mentioning calories? Between breakfast, smoothies and snacks I see many new clients consuming over 400 calories from fruit. Second, this amount of fruit would contain over 70 grams of sugar or over 16 teaspoons. In case you’re shouting “but it’s fruit sugar silly” that’s part of the problem. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that fructose consumption reduces circulating levels of leptin (the hormone that inhibits appetite).  “the combined effects of lowered circulating leptin and insulin in individuals who consume diets that are high in dietary fructose could therefore increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae.” Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics had this to say, “the metabolic problems that result from sugar intake are mostly due to the fructose content.  Less is better for health.  Fructose is sweeter than either glucose or sucrose.” Dr Nestle’s comments happened to be about soda and not fruit but fructose is fruit sugar. Speaking of sugar, the most alarming, must-read sugar article I’ve read recently was by Gary Taube’s in the NYT magazine.

If you’re just starting to make weight loss efforts or you’re losing weight and results have slowed try reducing your fruit intake. I would suggest two cups of fruit a day which is still four servings according to the USDA. If this is your current intake reduce further to 1 cup (or 2 small pieces) of fruit a day. The intention is not to eliminate fruit but just not to overdo it. And to be more of a buzz kill specific, stick to fresh or frozen fruit and skip dried fruit or fruit juice.
Do you think fruit plays a role in weight loss? How much fruit do you eat a day? Is it possible to overdo anything we eat? What is your favorite fruit?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Does Slimming Down Make You Shallow?

I love reading other blogs and the corresponding comments. One of my favorite blogs is Ivy League Insecurities. Aidan, who writes ILI, recently had a baby, her third. Although she had the baby just six weeks ago, she’s eager to get her body back and posted about this. In my line of work, this is totally normal. At the 6 week mark, most women are cleared for exercise by their doctors and starting to emerge from the new baby fog. Yet, Aidan was somewhat reluctant to share her desire to downsize. In her words “I feel a bit embarrassed and ashamed that I am writing about something that is admittedly so much more superficial than other things I could write about.”

I chimed in and told Aidan she’s shouldn’t apologize for her interest in “losing it.” How we feel about our bodies influences how we feel in general. Taking control of your body, after carrying a baby, or after gaining weight for other reasons often has a carryover effect. Taking the reigns, as I see it, is a good thing and about more than simply fitting in your “reference jeans”. If Aidan had been writing about confidence or carving out time for herself she might feel it was less superficial. Weight loss is as much about that as it is getting physically smaller.

Another commenter had a very different opinion of the post. Someone named Mary said “when I saw the title my heart dropped a bit and I was saddened… sad because with a newborn and 2 littles you were already dissatisfied with yourself.” Now I (vaguely) recall those early days after each of my boys were born. I remember staring at them amazed that they had been inside me for nine months. Yet, this infant adoration didn’t blind me to my post baby pooch. I don't know if I was "dissatisfied" with myself, it was more like I wasn't my, physical, self.

Aidan closed her post indicating she should honor her body more. She asked readers “when it comes to your body and your own appearance, are you forgiving or exacting?” I don’t think these qualities are mutually exclusive. There isn’t a day I go for a run that I’m not grateful that my body works. Having lived with a parent who was an amputee later in life, I do not take health for granted. I would say I absolutely honor my body AND like my jeans to fit.
Do you think it’s sad to want to lose weight? Should we be thinking and writing about more “important” topics? What would be your answer to Aidan’s question, are you “forgiving” or “exacting” when it comes to your body?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How much water do you need?

On Monday I taped a segment with Dr Max Gomez, from CBS, on water. Two Foodtrainers’ clients participated. One is a triathlete who talked about nutrition for performance. The other a lawyer and frequent traveler talked about changes she’s seen from improved hydration. Dr Max’s first, semi-leading question for me was “isn’t it simple, don’t we just drink when we’re thirsty”? It would’ve been a very short interview if I said “yes” but I didn’t. It’s not that simple and when we’re thirsty we’re already mildly dehydrated.  Whether you’re prone to crankiness or looking to lose a few pounds (or both) here are some hydration questions and answers I often hear.

Do we really need 8 glasses of water a day?
We do not; we actually need more than that. The National Academy of Sciences determined women are generally adequately hydrated after consuming 2.7 liters and men 3.7 liters of total water a day. Total water includes water from food and beverages. If you remove water from food it’s still a little over 2 liters (8 cups) for women and over 3 liters (12 cups) for men…if you are sedentary (workout water not included).

The silver lining? The Nat. Academy report concluded that caffeinated beverages can count. The diuretic effect of caffeine is transient. Score one for coffee.
*Drink 70-100 ounces of water, seltzer, herbal water, herbal tea or hint water. 8-16 ounces of your water can be caffeinated.

Can hydration help me lose weight?
A few studies, in the journal Nature and others, have found that drinking water (2 cups) before a meal reduced the number of calories consumed at that meal (75 fewer calories).  Another study found increased metabolic rate after participants consumed an additional 6 cups of water a day.  This study, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, reported that the increase in metabolism was based on additional energy needed to warm the water to the body’s temperature. Finally, we often mistake hunger for thirst and can eat when a glass of water would suffice. Rethinking our water intake and timing can in fact help your weight (and certainly can’t hurt).

How do you know if you are dehydrated?
For the warning signs for dehydration there are three D’s and two C’s:

Dark Urine- monitoring your urine is the best way to assess your hydration. Urine should be pale, like pale lemonade, and plentiful.  It should not look like concentrated chicken broth; if it’s dark yellow drink a couple cups of water.

Dizziness- if you’re at your desk and stand and feel a little woozy you may be dehydrated. Perhaps you had a few too many the night before or simply had been working and not hydrating, either way see it as a sign.

Dry Skin- dry environments such as offices or airplanes can take a toll of your skin. Dry lips, dry mouth and circles under your eyes can tell you about your hydration.

Constipation- when liquid is decreased stool frequency and volume decreases along with it. You body needs water from your intestines to pass stool. With insufficient water stool is hard, dry and difficult to pass.

Crankiness- the second “C” is for cranky. It may not be your job that’s making you stressed; it may be your water or realistically a combination of the 2.  If you are chronically dehydrated you may not realize the effect insufficient water has on your mood.
Despite the fact that I talk about hydration every day, there were a few tidbits I hadn’t heard and hopefully some that were new to you as well.
Are you a good hydrator or do you have any of the warning signs of dehydration? How much water would you say you drink in a day? Any tips for increasing your intake?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kosher for Foodtrainers: Top 10 Healthy Passover Snacks

At Foodtrainers, we help clients, of all religions, adapt their food plans for various holidays. After all, we see many holidays as weight loss opportunities and recently suggested nonreligious lent for all. . Passover starts tonight at sundown, do not stop reading if you aren’t Jewish. An unleavened week isn’t a bad thing for anyone. I asked Market Melissa to present some of her favorite Passover snacks that are not only Kosher for Passover but Kosher for Foodtrainers as well. Take it away Melissa.

 I find myself each year reviewing Passover food rules as I create client's food plans. Some clients feel they can actually eat better during this week, while others struggle to find appealing snack choices. After all, there is only so much matzo (aka intestinal mortar) you and your digestive system can handle.

For those of you not familiar with the dietary rules, during Passover Jewish people refrain from eating chometz or hametz, which is anything that is leavened or fermented. This includes anything made from barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt. The exception is matzo, which is made from wheat, but has not been allowed to ferment. Many Jews, who don’t regularly keep a Kosher house, will clear their cupboards and fill their home with “Kosher for Passover” only food.  

Here are some Foodtrainers’ top 10 Passover snacks that can be enjoyed all year round:

1. ½ a bar Matzel Toff Dark Chocolate Matzo (available in NYC at Zabars and Dean & Deluca) 

2. 1 cup of Dannon Kosher for Passover plain yogurt with ¼ cup fruit compote

3. Mock (mushroom) Chopped Liver or 2 oz. Kosher for Passover Tuna wrapped in a large  romaine leaf 

4. 2 Medjool Dates with 1 oz. of Natural & Kosher Goat Cheese – slice dates in half, remove pit and spoon goat cheese into the 4 halves 

5. Quinoa Almond Butter cookies *use Ancient Harvest Quinoa for Passover

Pesach Pizza: 1 Whole wheat matzo or Lakewood gluten free matzo 2 tbsp  Geffen tomato sauce  and 1/2oz natural and kosher pizza cheese (they actually have a pizza cheese).

Trader Joe's individual trail mix and nut packs (We like the Go Raw Trek Mix)

8. 2 oz. Empire
turkey slices rolled around 1/4 of an avocado (sliced) and a dash of lemon juice

9. 1 Haolam
string cheese with 1 cup bell pepper and celery sticks (if you’re going to eat any matzo you need the fiber)

10. Pre-Seder Smoothie –1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen strawberries, handful baby spinach, 1-2 tsp. chia seeds, honey. Combine ingredients in blender; add ice water to desired thickness (note frozen banana slices are a tasty treat on their own).
If you observe Passover are there any other snacks you enjoy? If you're not Jewish would you consider an unleavened week? Do you ever  find it difficult to follow food rules during a religious holiday?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Your Grocery Bill Says About You

Tuesday I attended the Museum of Natural History’s “Spring Environmental Lecture and Luncheon”. Each year there is a different theme and a panel of experts assembled. I couldn’t have been more excited that this year’s topic was food. Lynn Sherr moderated and we heard about vertical farming (in skyscrapers), programs educating New York City school children about the environment and healthy eating (43% of city public school children are overweight) and my favorite fact of the day- that the museum’s giant dinosaur’s consumed around 100,000 calories a day.
After the presentation the floor was opened up for questions. An audience member stood and introduced herself as a local farmer. She asked “why is it that people will pay $4 for a latte but not the same for a few pounds of organic carrots? Nevin Cohen, an expert in urban food policy, explained that each of us “votes” three times a day. With these votes we can support smaller-scale farms or whatever it is we deem important when it comes to food.
The day before this lecture I posted about a new drinkable probiotic from Siggi’s yogurt. Some people chimed in that they loved Siggi’s, a couple that they didn’t particularly enjoy it. These divergent opinions were expected. What surprised me was that a couple of commenters, authors of fantastic nutrition blogs, said that they hadn’t tried Siggi’s yet because of its price tag. It was “too expensive.” While I’m all for being mindful of what you spend (with the exception of shoes) I believe we have to “vote” for our local farmers and for small companies producing quality products. We have to vote for them and buy them or they will not be there.
In 1949, Americans spent 22% of their income on food. In 2009 that figure decreased to 10%.
While it seems like saving money is always a good thing, this isn't anything to cheer about. Cheap food is often the product of factory farming and industrial agriculture. With jumbo size products being sold for cheaper, Americans may be gaining more for their dollar, but they're also gaining more weight, losing their health, spending more on their healthcare and supporting environmentally unsustainable practices.
 The comments above and this poignant, must-watch video clip are from a Huffington Post piece “How Much do Americans Spend on Food". 

Now I’m in no way saying that everyone needs to eat organic carrots or Siggis yogurt. The nutrition bloggers I referenced earlier are definitely not in favor of the processed food harming NYC children and children around the country. I just think we have to reconsider what “value” is when it comes to food and what we deem “too expensive”.  The domination of our food supply by factory farms and food conglomerates has been alarmingly costly in other ways. And just in case Starbucks takes offense to the Natural History mention, I have nothing against a latte (make with organic milk) either.
Are you budget-conscious when it comes to food? What do you feel your food splurges are? Would you rather spend $4 on a latte or organic carrots?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Foodtrainers' Favorite Probiotic

At Foodtrainers, we love delicious food but we love a good story even more (truth be told we would rather not chose between great food and great stories). Siggi's yogurt or “skyr” has a great story behind it. I first met Siggi about two years ago. After inquiring about the delicious, agave-sweetened, beautifully packaged, orange ginger creation I was obsessed with, we set up a meeting. It was then I heard this story that started with Siggi’s dislike for the yogurts here in the U.S. when he came from Iceland. He started testing his family recipes for “skyr” and went into Whole Foods with a backpack of product and well...the rest is history.

Siggi’s skyr is a huge success and they have a new product, a probiotic drink. I adore the plain but there are fruit flavors too. I asked Siggi a few questions about these little bottles. It's hard to tell in the photo but these cute bottles are a couple of inches tall, shot glass size. They are low in calories and fantastic for you.

How did the drinkable probiotic come about? 
Our skyr yogurt had been on the market for a while when our customers started asking for a probiotic drink. We looked around us and didn’t see any products of this type that were low in sugar and without artificial sweeteners so we decided to go for it!

How can you tell a good probiotic product from an imposter? 
The best probiotic products give you full information about not only the type but also the particular strain of probiotic cultures they use. They also guarantee you a certain number of these strains per serving. This way there is full transparency about what you are getting. To put it simply, you can Google the probiotic strain and find all the information you can about it.

What does “10 billion” on your label tell us? 
It tells us that each serving of the product has at least 10 billion of the good bacteria, Lactobacillus Acidophilus per serving. This is an important number since most of the time these types of cultures only exert their positive effective if they are present and consumed in sufficient numbers.

Anything we should know about specific cultures in the probiotic shot? 
Siggi’s drinkable yogurts contain a well-documented strain of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, called NCFM, which was discovered 30 years ago by researchers at North Carolina State University.  It is one of the best-known and most researched strains of probiotics. Research indicates that consuming it in sufficient doses, regularly, may help digestion and improve immunity.

Who should drink this? Any specific populations?
Anybody really…although if anyone should look into it more than others it should be people who have been taking antibiotics since antibiotics kill not only the bad bacteria in the body but also the good one so they need to refresh the flora of good bacteria.

Can this be blended in a smoothie? 
Of course. Our drinkable yogurts make a great addition to any smoothie; here at our office we sometimes make one that has mango, pineapple, 1 plain Siggi’s drinkable probiotic yogurt, one cup plain Siggi’s skyr and ginger.

Some people who don't digest dairy well can eat yogurt, why is this? 
This can be true for yogurt that contains live active cultures. When yogurt with live active cultures is digested, the cultures convert lactose to lactic acid; hence the yogurt might be better tolerated due to lower lactose content than milk or yogurt without live cultures.
Have you tried Siggi’s? Do you consume probiotics via yogurt or a supplement? What’s your favorite new food or food product?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Biggest Loser or Winner?

Yesterday, I spoke to a writer who was doing a story on reality weight loss shows. In case you think the Biggest Loser is the only one of these shows, there are now many others and these shows are really a phenomenon. I’ve written about The Biggest Loser before but it has been some time and I think it’s worth revisiting. 

I mentioned this topic to Lisa and Melissa in the office yesterday. The both pointed out how unrealistic it was to live secluded from “reality”, exercise hours a day and focus your life on your weight loss. To me, this is not unlike an alcoholic or drug addict going to an in-patient treatment center. Though I don’t think everyone needs to stop their life for their weight loss, this isn’t my main concern with these shows. The difference though between treatment centers or detox and reality television is that many do not provide treatment from a dietitian or psychologist.

In fact, emotional eating is virtually ignored on the shows I’ve watched which is probably what got many contestants so heavy in the first place. It’s no wonder that a large percentage of people on these shows regain their weight. However, clients I speak to aren’t focused on how much weight contestant’s regain they are mesmerized by how much they lose. I was in a meeting with a client who recently had a baby. She gradually losing her baby weight but asked me “how come I don’t lose like they do on the Biggest Loser?” It’s as though one or two pounds a week isn’t good enough anymore because people see gigantic seven, eight and ten pound losses on TV.

I must’ve been in a good mood when I last wrote about BL because I posted about its ability to inspire people. There is something about watching people massively change their bodies that just may get us off the couch and taking action. Yet with larger and larger contestants I worry that it can also do the opposite. If someone has 20 pounds to lose, they very well may say, “I’m alright, I don’t have to lose 200 pounds” thereby ameliorating their own issues. There is a voyeuristic element here. What will Lady Gaga wear? What will Chris Brown say? And what will happen when a 400-pound person runs sprints? Uh oh.

The writer asked me what my ideal reality weight loss show would look like. As a massive fan of HBO’s In Treatment (how great is Gabriel Byrne?) I would love a weight-focused version of this show but with real people. I think everyone could benefit from watching others sort out their real food issues and the issues behind the food issues and I know a nutrition that would do a decent job in case anyone wants to start filming (shameless I know).
Do you watch reality weight loss shows? Any you like better than others? Do you find these shows inspiring or frustrating to watch? 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Don't be so hard on yourself" doesn't always work

I keep a notebook on my desk during client sessions. Here and there I jot down tidbits that strike a chord with me and I feel others can relate to. Today I was in session with a client we’ll call C because C was confused. C had a history of beating herself up when it comes to food. Recently I wrote about the importance of self-compassion something C didn’t have a whole lot of in the past. Prior to coming to see me though, C decided not to be so hard on herself and she was succeeding. The problem is she wasn’t feeling very well. In her words (the words I wrote in my notebook) “I decided not to be hard on myself and now I’m not accomplishing anything.” C’s clothes weren’t fitting well and the problem wasn’t isolated to food. She was having a hard time organizing her day in general. It’s as though “don’t be so hard on yourself” in some ways wasn’t working or was working too well. For the record, C looks great, unlike the stock photo above, but she doesn’t feel great.

I think many of us can relate to this. Whether it’s the runner who goes from marathon training to rarely running or the person who goes and vacation and decides they will eat whatever then want while away and continues to do so once home. It’s very hard to find the correct balance when it comes to guilt and goals. This isn’t just about being on or off or black and white. This is about finding a way to be productive without punitive measures we all know end up backfiring.

So how does one do this? I have a couple of ideas:
The first I call negative splits a term runners will recognize. In a long training run or race the goal is to be conservative in the first half of the race so that the second half can be run faster than the first and a better overall time is achieved. I apply this to food behaviors. In my first session with clients I find many are surprised. If a client isn’t already exercising I may suggest 60 minutes of exercise over 2 days. Or, if a client never cooks I may recommend cooking (or “assembling”) one dinner a week. This is generally met with a “this is supposed to be harder, I want to lose weight” look. I assure clients we will ratchet things up but encourage them to trust me, lowering the bar initially will lead to confidence and feelings of success. It will also eventually lead to better long-term results.

The second tool is called a victory list. A victory list is the direct opposite of beating yourself up. At the end of the day, think of one thing you did well and record it. My professional world is food-centric and so examples would be “hydrated well” or “skipped bagels at the meeting” or “ate lots of vegetables.” If you think this sounds hokey, chances are you would really benefit from trying it.
I will let you know how it goes for C. I really hope C soon stands for “confident” instead of “confused”.
Do you think it’s possible to be too easy on yourself? How do you strike the balance between self-critical and self-control?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foodtrainers Goody Bag

On Friday I wrote about our first night at Blackberry Farm. The weekend got better and better from there. Friday, I met the boot camp group after they completed a 2-hour bike ride.  As everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch of grilled fish, asparagus, beets, cranberry beans, kale bolts (the word I forgot Friday) and green tea in mason jars I gave a quick talk about my favorite spring foods for training and answered sports nutrition questions. We then hiked 8 miles on the Appalachian Trail back to Blackberry. I met up with my family and heard about their morning of fly fishing (all good until Myles fell in the stream).

The next day was a major step outside our comfort zones as the boys, Marc and I spent the morning horseback riding and the afternoon shooting “clays”.  Our final dinner was in the wine cellar of the barn at Blackberry and included a Strawberry Gazpacho, Swiss Chard stuffed with herbed quinoa and Bison. My closing talk to the group focused on self-compassion.

In the guest rooms we left Foodtrainers’ goody bags (is it goody or goodie, sources seem split) with some of our favorite products.  Want to know what was in the bag?
Eboost a great pre-workout beverage option or as it turns out great pre-hike too.

Barney Butter- the creamiest almond butter around. Their 90-calorie snack packs are now used on Jet Blue flights. Be careful though, airlines may confiscate jars of nut butter (who knew?).

Herbal Water-I’ve written about Herbal Water before. They make both flat and sparkling water in fantastic flavors. The Blackberry boot camp trainees received lemongrass, mint vanilla water.

Food Should Taste Good- I read a great article on Food Should Taste Good founder in Rachael Ray magazine on my flight down to Tennessee. I wish all mini bars stocked these.
Real Bar*- those in boot camp used these for before the final hike of the trip. I love the ingredients and vegan version of this fudgy bar. Most of all, I love the taste. *Beware habit forming
Glow Cookies- these are the best gluten free cookies around.  We included Snickerdoodles in the goody bags. They were all the talk at yoga class the following morning. 

Not bad for turndown snacks, huh?
I cannot thank Blackberry Farm enough for including me, next time I'm signing up for boot camp myself.
When’s the last time you stepped outside your comfort zone and tried a new activity? Have you ever done shooting clays (I quite liked it)? What is your favorite hotel snack or mini bar item?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blackberry Farm

I am writing this from post from Blackberry Farm. I’m here giving a series of short talks to some guests participating in a motivational boot camp.  If you aren’t familiar with Blackberry Farm it’s a farm to table property in the Smoky Mountains. All of the produce served here is produced on the farm. Last night on the way to dinner we passed the truffle farm and saw the building where the cheese and jam are made. Before dinner, I met the participants as they returned from a hike.

I introduced people, singles and couples, from Texas, Mississippi and Westchester to Foodtraining. The premise of the talk is that we all know the “shoulds” in terms of exercise.  Yet there is a gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do. Whether it’s cooking or exercise or snacking or drinking we each have our behavioral Achilles heel. My proposed antidote to these weak areas is planning (more on that later). It was my first talk I’ve ever done with a glass of champagne in my hand. I raised a glass to the group and we headed into dinner.

Dinner was a delicious four-course meal with a wine for each course. I worked with Sam Beall, the proprietor of Blackberry, offering a few suggestions (they clearly don’t need my help). We started with a Beet Carpaccio served with Hen of the Woods mushrooms and “crispy buckwheat.” Buckwheat is gluten free and the crunch in the salad was fantastic. The following course was a vegetable soup utilizing the last kale of the season here. Also in the soup were the flowers from the kale this time of year. These flowers have a name but two wines in, it’s no wonder I cannot recall it. Our entrĂ©e was Guinea Hen serves with ramps (wild leeks) and brown “basmati rice grits”.  The flavor of the ramps with these polenta-like grits was insanely good. I chose not to lick my plate but scraped it clean. And finally, on a beautiful slab of slate we were served Blackberry Farm’s “Singing Brook” cheese with Honey Turnips.

It was one of those nights where I felt the rest of the world was so far away. Marc and I were seated with Mary Celeste and Sam Beall who live at Blackberry Farm with their four children. Marc was next to a couple married when they were in their 50’s in the French Quarter. Stories were shared about travel and cooking and wine and more. As I relaxed from a long week I realized I was supposed to talk “sleep tips” after dinner. Everyone grabbed his or her tea or coffee (or remaining wine) and we walked down a path to another house. In a living room-like setting we all talked about sleep which I didn’t think would be too hard after all that good food and wine.
What do you feel is your Achilles heel when it comes to nutrition or exercise? Are you at all sat to say goodbye to root vegetables or kale as spring arrives? What are your favorite meal memories where the menu and company seemed perfect?