Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Questionable in Queens

If you live on the East coast,  you recall this past Saturday’s weather. If you do not, chances are you heard about it. When a day stands out weather-wise in the midst of a summer long heat wave it has to be pretty hot. Saturday was also the day of the Queens half marathon. Last week, I started to hear rumblings of a super hot day on Saturday but didn’t think much about it. I had signed up for the ½, it was on my rigid running schedule, I was excited about it and wasn’t about to cancel because it was going to be hot. A couple of my running friends dropped out but I wasn’t budging. My running coach, who to give you an indication of his mental stability was in Napa doing a ½ ironman in similar weather the week prior, said I should give it a try. He told me if the Kenyans cancelled their runs due to especially hot weather they would never run. As a New Yorker and not a Kenyan, I wasn’t entirely buying this logic but was set to run.

I made a playlist, packed my Honey Stinger drops, money and a Metro card and left the house a little before 6am Saturday morning. I tried to ignore that it was already steamy. Before you start to think I’m this tough and determined person please note I took a car service from Manhattan to Queens. Throughout the ride the radio repeatedly mentioned the weather, warning signs of heat stroke and many other things that helped calm me down (not!). In about 25 minutes we were in Flushing Meadows right near Citi Field and the site of the US Open. I paid the driver and followed a pack of runners toward the starting area. I then did what all runners do before a race and located the porto potties. I smiled to myself as looming over the line-up of green porto pots was the top of the exquisite Unisphere (pictured above). Little did I know that the scenery, though not the course, was mostly downhill from there.

I checked my small bag and headed to the corral, the lovely equine term used for the starting area. I stretched and set my watch (Garmin forerunner 405 with GPS in case you’re curious). As runners lined up it seemed like business as usual. There was no talk of the temperatures and at least a few thousand people. I was convinced all the “you’re crazy to run” talk was hogwash. And then Mary Wittenberg president of NYRRC said a few words into the microphone. I listened carefully for encouragement and heard “BE CAREFUL, IT’S DANGEROUS OUT THERE, THIS IS NOT THE DAY FOR PRS (PERSONAL RECORDS), THIS IS A DAY TO TAKE IT EASY.” So much for a pep talk. Minutes later the horn sounded and we were off.

After about 30 seconds I realized I was already sweating but then, as is the case with races, I settled into a groove and just ran. We exited the park and ran for a few miles down a Queens Avenue that couldn’t be less scenic. We passed bodegas and bagel shops and breathed a sigh of relief with each mile marker. I was feeling absolutely fine, used my GPS watch to make sure I didn’t go out to fast, and stuck to my race plan. I decided I would use my iPod at the 6 mile mark so for the first half of the race I was just looking around. There were heavy people and tiny people, couples running together and a girl whose shorts were definitely going to fall down at some point in the 13.1 miles. There was also a noticeable quiet. I didn’t hear the usual chatting that can sometimes be a nice distraction for a few miles. I am not one to chat but love to eavesdrop.

At about 5 miles there was a turn around and we literally retraced our steps down the same urban avenue. I said to myself that I was going to keep to pace I was at and at 10 miles, if I felt good, I’d pick up it up. I dutifully stopped at all fuel stations for water or Gatorade or simply to get hosed down. At 6 miles I received my musical reward. I enjoyed my motley mix ranging from Paul Simon to Rihanna, Michael Franti and Madonna. At the 8 mile mark I noticed I had been running alongside a fellow from the Van Cortland track club for some time. I hadn’t looked at him but knew we had been running similarly. When I caught a glimpse of his face I realize he was well over 70! By the 9 mile mark it seemed they were placing the water stations further apart. Of course they weren’t but I was starting to feel off. At 10 miles I had transitioned into the put one foot in front of another strategy. Runners around me were having a hard time, many walked, and a good number got sick on the sidelines. I had never witnessed anything like this.

At the final water stop I stood under the hose for a good 2 minutes, my time goal wasn’t going to happen; I just wanted to finish. I did finish, though it was without the usual final burst of energy I tend to have upon spotting the finish line. I walked to the subway still out of breath a good 10 minutes later but I was already happy with my decision. It was hard and I was exhausted but also proud of myself. I am not one to climb mountains or bungee jump and though active stick to my comfortable cocoon running and yoga. It’s not often that I really push it but I did in Queens and I would do it all over again.
When was the last time you pushed yourself physically? Have you contemplated signing up for any sort of a race? If you haven’t what holds you back? Why do you think some people like a physical challenge and others do not?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

McDonalds Smoothies not lovin' it

On Friday, I revealed some of my smoothie secrets. After I wrote the post, I saw an ad for McDonalds New Real Fruit smoothies. My initial thought was that one shouldn’t need to use the word “real” before fruit unless you are McDonalds. My next thought was that all smoothies aren’t created equal and the cup full of nutrition I had blogged about was many, many golden arches away from these suspiciously pink “real fruit” drinks. Before jumping to conclusions or rather to support the conclusions I had already made I did a little digging.

One multiple McDonalds franchise owner reported he was “selling the dickens out of the new smoothies.” And sales were so brisk in certain parts of the country that McDonalds cancelled a free giveaway of the beverages. After all, why give away what you can get good money for, right? Hearing that the beverages were selling well only secured my suspicions. As we know, in this country sweet sells. So just how sweet are these smoothies? A small, Wild Berry Smoothie has 44 grams of sugar. A cup of blackberries or strawberries has 7 to 8 grams which makes the 44 grams seem very “wild” indeed. If 44 grams doesn’t mean anything to you that’s 11 teaspoons of sugar, over ¼ cup, equivalent to 6 popsicles, 10 grams more than the same size frappaccino, it’s a ton. Hmn, how come there’s more sugar in a 16oz smoothie than in 7 cups of fruit? Well, because there’s sugar added to the “real” fruit purees and “real” fruit juices and a lot of it.

Is there anything good about these smoothies, any nutrition with that sugar? To be honest, there are 3 grams of fiber in the small smoothies. A cup of blackberries has 7 grams of fiber but 3 is something. And if this fiber came from the fruit I would be happy but there’s cellulose powder and xanthan gum listed in the ingredients both of which could comprise these 3 grams.

There is some confusion over these smoothies. Message boards alluded to the fact that Innocent Drinks (another name I’m not thrilled with) provided the ingredients to McDonalds. Innocent drinks advertise that there is nothing artificial about their beverages and make a lot of healthy claims. It seems, I could be wrong, that in the U.S. Innocent Drinks are not the source of McDonalds smoothies. In any case, sugar is “natural” as is fruit juice and I just don’t think it needs to be present in diabetic-coma inducing amounts. So I dug, I researched, I even entered the “fruitiverse” on McDonalds website and I’m not convinced. I like the universe and homemade smoothies better.
Have you tried these? I’d love to hear from someone who has. What do you think is the most disturbing part of this? The language in the ad suggesting “real fruit”? The amount of sugar in a seemingly healthy menu item? The cancellation of the free give away?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Smoothest Hits

In our July Monthly Morsels newsletter we revealed the truth about Pinkberry, reported our favorite supermarket ice creams and also discussed smoothies. We promised a follow up blog most with our “smoothest hits” and here they are. These are a little unusual you can always stick to fruit, protein powder, ice and water.

Giadaesque Smoothie- I watched Giada make a basil smoothie on her show that sounded, as many of her recipes do, delicious. It need, as many of her recipes do, some healthy tweaks.
Ingredients: 5-7 fresh basil leaves torn, lemon zest, 1 scoop vanilla Organic Whey protein powder, ½ frozen banana, additional ice, dash of agave nectar, ice water to desired thickness start with ¼ cup can add more.

Peppermint Potion- There is a restaurant called Peacefood CafĂ© not far from where I live. They have amazing smoothies and juices and used to have a chocolate mint smoothie. They took it off the menu so I had to create my own. Ingredients: Nutiva Chocolate Hemp protein (or other chocolate protein), ½ avocado (you will not taste it), a few fresh mint leaves, few drops of mint extract (I prefer Frontier brand), tsp unsweetened cocoa, ½ cup ice, dash agave and ice water to desired thickness.

Bikini Blend- Perhaps you eat well, that’s good but sometimes well isn’t enough. When a bathing suit or beach vacation looms we often want to kick into a higher gear . This smoothie will help with bloat and anything that’s unwanted yet hanging around…Ingredients: Socal detox powder (1-2tsp), 1 cup frozen watermelon and peaches, thin slice peeled fresh ginger, tsp aloe vera juice, dash agave, additional ice and ½ cup plain coconut water.

Energy Express- One of the things I like about smoothies is the ability to combine so many healthful ingredients in a 1 or 2 cup drink. Try this smoothie for a little boost in the morning. Ingredients: Teras Whey Protein, maca , coromega packet, pineapple, 1 cup pre-washed baby spinach, 1 cup ice, green tea to desired thickness.
What is your favorite smoothie? Any ideas you’re excited to try from the suggestions above?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gwyneth: not every woman

Last week, I was aimlessly reading tweets when something caught my eye and my interest. This is not a direct quote but the tweet said something to the effect of “Gwyneth tells moms to lose weight, moms tell Gwyneth to shut up” or something similarly harsh. Curious beyond belief I clicked the link. I was directed to a website fittingly called The Stir and a piece scolding Gwyneth Paltrow regarding comments she had made about losing baby weight. Gwyneth had discussed with a UK writer
the trouble she had losing weight after the birth of her second child, Melon, I mean Moses. The Stir’s writers’ main gripe, and there were many, was in response to the quote below:
"Every woman can make time -- every woman -- and you can do it with your baby in the room," she said. "There have been countless times where I've worked out with my kids crawling around all over the place. You just make it work, and if it's important to you, it'll be important to them."

The source of the outrage stemmed primarily from the use of “every woman". On the attack, the writer detailed all the ways in which Gwyneth wasn’t like “every woman.” Everything from Gwyneth’s predisposition to thinness to her tiny and talented trainer was picked apart making a pretty good case for the fact that Gwyneth is indeed different from most of us. Surprised? Of course you’re not. Gwyneth is tall as a tree, comes from a Hollywood family, is married to a rock star, has unlimited funds at her disposal and could not be more different from “every woman” which is exactly why practically every woman reading The Stir or Huffington Post wanted to hear how she lost her baby weight. And perhaps I’m biased as someone who helps people lose baby weight for a living but most women, rich and poor do in fact care to lose baby weight.

I concur with the fact that every woman can make the time to eat well or exercise. Sure, it may be easier with a trainer and a chef but at the end of the day it comes down to determination and motivation whether you’re a celebrity mom or more like me. If money was the deciding factor Oprah would be waifish and I love Oprah but she’s shown us that wealth doesn’t necessarily govern weight.

I was firmly on team G. and though her words hadn’t been polished by a PR person, I understood her point of view. All women like to feel their best, have to make the time to make this happen and it takes work. I was fully with her until she said “losing baby weight was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”Hard would’ve been acceptable, even grueling would’ve been OK but “hardest” coming from someone who lost her father way too soon? I’m handing over my team uniform. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on this one but thought I'd leave you with something amusing. I read hundreds of comments after many articles on this subject and most reader’s joined the Gwyneth bashing bandwagon. Here is one particularly poetic response from The Huffington Post comments:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

She had so many children but she still worked out, too.

She gave them green smoothies without any bread;

Then gave them a laxative and put them to bed.

What do you make of this baby weight brouhaha? Does G. need to get off her soapbox or does she have a point?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Are you there ADA? It's me, Lauren Slayton

Do you know what ADA stands for? Have you heard about the ADA's activities recently? If you don't and haven't, I'm not surprised. It's a little sad though because I'm an ADA member and have been for a decade. I guest posted about the ADA on a fantastic blog called Fooducate.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
Have you ever been a part of a group and disappointed with the groups' activities? Are you more likely to politely exit or attempt to enact change? No judgements here but tell me what you think I should do.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Onion Ring Excuses

For some reason, the posts where I detail my dietary digressions or explain the embarrassing seem to stimulate the most feedback. Fast Food Slaytons and Potty Talk are 2 of these posts. In fact, after reading Potty Talk, a friend at a cocktail party said to me “I think of you every day you know” wink wink. And so something happened Monday night that I could easily overlook but after writing about Maca and green juices I feel I have to paint a full picture and get off my “healthy horse”.
I don’t write much about my family here and definitely not too much about my mother. When I talk about what I do for a living , my mother is still confused that people pay to talk about their food and weight loss. So while she doesn’t come up, you’ll need a little background information to set the scene here. My mother and I have always been close. She’s always been solid and straddled that line between being relaxed (no bedtimes or curfews growing up) and still parental (nobody gives better advice). Last June, my mother became a widow as my dad passed away after a long illness. We worried about my mother tremendously. We were of course grieving too but had our families to turn to. My mother was alone…but not for long.

In the fall my mother met someone at a photography class she enrolled in. Watching a parent date was new territory but we welcomed it and joked about it, that is, until it got serious. Suddenly my mother was cancelling plans with grandchildren, constantly checking her phone and texting her new beau. Roles radically reversed as I held my ears from TMI and declarations of love. As my sister Diana put it “nobody wants to hear about 71 year old sex!” While I joke, this has been difficult and my mom and I have drifted. We communicate via email and through my nanny most of the time. Monday night, at work, I got a call from my nanny that my mother was over. She was taking my boys out to dinner and sleeping over (cocktail please). After doing as much paperwork as I could justify, I left the office at 8pm.

I walked in to the apartment. My mother sat in the living room. My 6 year old was playing piano for her and she had a huge grin on her face. She told me they had been at Five Napkin Burger, that the boys were so easy, they ate so well and are so smart and handsome and loving and…anything else she could in an effort to butter me up. I was more in the mood to be bitter than buttered and excused myself to cook dinner in the kitchen. “Oh and Weston didn’t finish his onion rings so I brought them home, they’re on the counter.”

I feel we all have our food weaknesses. You can dangle a doughnut in front of my lips and I’m not tempted. I don’t have the urge to taste the cake at birthdays and if I never have a gummy anything for the rest of my life, I’ll survive. I like fried foods. I said it. My name is Lauren, I’m a nutritionist and I like, OK LOVE, fried foods. I like fried calamari and French fries, fried artichokes and fried clams. My son Myles covers his French Fries because though I may order the salad, I tend to sneak a few fries. I even have a no fries for July rule in place because fries, even 3, and bathing suits don’t go well together.

Back to Monday, I headed into the kitchen to make my shrimp stir fry and the cardboard box of onion rings said “hello Lauren.” I looked at the box and opened it. Two gargantuan onion rings sat overlapping, like Olympic rings. I didn’t think I should close the box and make my dinner, I didn’t think to cut off a small piece or any of the other mindful, nutritionisty things I normally would have. I didn’t think at all. I picked up ring #1 and ate it. I wasn’t thinking but if I was I would have noted that it was cold, semi-hard and not that tasty. After all, the woman who taught me “if it’s not delicious don’t eat it” was sitting on my couch probably sexting her boyfriend. I ate all of ring #1 while carefully measuring a tablespoon of expeller pressed canola oil for the stir fry. And as my shrimp sizzled, I returned to the kitchen island and the box. It occurred to me that I didn’t really want the other ring, I somehow remembered the first one not being all that great and with that picked up ring #2 and ate it anyway. So they were gone and not worth it and consumed in semi-violation of my no fry in July rule.

I could say my onion ring eating was because I was hungry and it was 8:30pm, I could say it was because they were sitting on my counter talking to me, I could do what I’ve never had reason to do and blame my mother but I will not make any onion ring excuses. I ate them and still had my mother in my living room. And so I did, what I tell clients to do (after having done exactly the opposite) and made the next meal on track. I enjoyed the shrimp stir fry and tucked my mother into the bottom bunk bed and went to sleep.
Do you like fried foods, what’s your food vice? Have you ever emotionally eaten and been completely aware of it? Do the 2 rings violate my no fry in July rule? Are your parents dating?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Excellent Energizer

Mondays can be rough. I for one had nothing to drink last night and still felt the morning came too soon today. Despite a mere two days off, our routine seems out of whack on Mondays along with everything else. Monday involves hitting the reset button for our brains, for our bodies and for our eating.

As you may know from reading this blog, I am somewhat smoothie obsessed. Our blender gets a lot of use. I love summer fruit but also love the idea of lopping many healthy ingredients into a couple of cups. One of these ingredients is maca. Maca is a root from South America. It is said to resemble a turnip but I haven’t ever seen it whole. I buy it in powder form from a fantastic company called Navitas Naturals.

Some of you single or sex-crazed folks may know Maca has alleged libido boosting properties. It is also widely used for both menopausal and PMS symptom. Mostly, maca is used by athletes and non athletes to combat fatigue throughout the day. It has a malty or butterscotch flavor. You can add 1 teaspoon maca to smoothies, yogurt or batter (such as pancake powder). So have a maca Monday and let me know what you think.
And be sure to sign up for our Monthly Morsels newsletter. This month  we’re talking smoothies, fro-yo and other cool treats.
Do you drag a little on Mondays? What do you do for energy? Any smoothie or fro-yo questions you’d like answered in our Monday newsletter?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Multipurpose Foods

I was really excited when The Daily Green came to me with the following story idea. A reader submitted a question asking if we could eat all the things a multivitamin contains and if so how. My gut reaction was of course we can…. See if I was right  by going to The Daily Green’s site where you can read about my findings, food rules to avoid popping pills and fantastic “multipurpose” recipes.
Do you take a multivitamin or certain separate supplements? Do you think you could follow my Foodtraining rules instead?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Exercise Edition

 A couple months ago I responded to a reader’s request and wrote about what I eat in a typical day. Clients had a lot of feedback, as they always do. Some were happy to hear my day was “as clean” as their food plan and others weren’t as positive. One client even told me “I found what you eat unappealing” which is fine, as long as she doesn’t feel that way about her own food! On the blog, one of the comments included the following question:
This was great. Would you share a week in the life of Lauren--exercise edition? Would love to know what you do for exercise.

Before I share my exercise diary, I will say I think people fall into one of 2 camps with exercise. There are some people who hate exercise (or think they hate it) this either prevents them from doing anything or they do their exercise “because they have to” possibly enjoying the satisfaction of completing a workout though nothing else. Others love exercise or sports. They would exercise every day if they could usually limited only by time. I fall into this group. I realize exercise-lovers are pretty much Martians to exercise-haters and that it is difficult to switch groups.

I am training for the Chicago Marathon in October. My training schedule has me running 4 days a week. One of these runs is longer which right now is about 12 miles. The other runs are shorter. I have written about yoga before and it’s rather new for me. I started at the end of 2009 and was convinced I wouldn’t like it and didn’t like it at first. I now look forward to it and feel it has helped my running enormously. Nothing hurts! The tennis is a summer thing. I split a lesson with a friend once a week. If you’ve read this blog you’ll realize I am a guinea pig and my exercise routine reflects this. For 2 years I was addicted to core fusion, have worked with amazing personal trainers and if you check back who knows? Maybe my next craze will be Zumba, not likely but we’ll see. So here it goes:

Monday: Hot Yoga and Run

Tuesday: OFF

Wednesday: Run 4-6 miles

Thursday: Tennis and Yoga for Runners

Friday: Long Run 10+ miles

Saturday: Yoga

Sunday:run 4-6 miles
So perhaps I work out more than you do or if you’re one of my tri clients you may think I have it easy. Regardless, there are a few things I think are important with an exercise routine:
• Schedule your exercise- whether you are an exercise hater or lover. Most of you have busy days, the exercise cannot be fit in after everything else. If you’re not exercising, start with 2-3 days and attempt to keep those days consistent each week.
•If you want to change your body, change your workouts. Even if walking is your preferred form of exercise choose 1 day as your longer walk, maybe another day as a faster, shorter walk.
• It’s very hard to generalize recommendations but most people need 150 minutes of “sweaty” cardio (or more) weekly to get results.
• And finally (and I would hate myself if I read this on my screen) attempt to make it fun. If you hate the gym, maybe Wii fit will be better. Did you like to hula hoop or ride your bike as a child? Maybe that’s your answer. There is only so much time in life one should spend on the elliptical machine.

I promise, that’s it for writing about exercise for a while. My next post will be about the new wave of Aloe drinks or competitive eating or perhaps answering one of your questions. And to my honest client, I hope this wasn’t “unappealing.”
What do you do each week for exercise? Any current exercise or fitness goals? Type of workout you want to try? And are you a “lover” or a “hater”?