I’ve been meaning to share a find I recently made: the spice Sumac. My friend Mastaneh had us over for dinner a few months back and we had seriously, the most delicious grilled chicken kabobs. They were flavored with Sumac. I had never heard of it — but apparently it’s a commonly used spice in the Middle East.
From my research, The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. The spice was long used in Europe to add tartness to many dishes until the Romans introduced lemons to the area. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.
It also has antioxidant health benefits and is an anti-inflammatory. I was able to find it at Whole Foods, but like almost anything – it can be found online via Amazon too!
I sauteed chicken thighs, onions and garlic and add Sumac to the chicken as they are cooking. It’s so so good even my kids like it. And the leftovers even keep their flavor which is a bonus. Here are some ideas for using Sumac when you are cooking!
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This weekend I took a trip to NYC. A huge part of my mini-vacation was eating. Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, Cannolis, and Drinking. I swear I gained back a ton of weight just over the weekend. And then I got to thinking about how hard it is to maintain a healthy weight even though I workout hard regularly.
I, like so many of you, grew up thinking if you work out enough you can compensate for eating a ton of crap food. I have since found out that’s not necessarily completely true. It doesn’t tell even half the story of how it all works. If it was, I would be stick thin with how much I work out. And as I have shared here, I struggle each and every day to focus and make the right choices to fuel my body.
So, I decided to Google the topic and found this really good post by Authority Nutrition: Why “Calories in, Calories Out” Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story by Kris Gunnars. Gunnars really breaks it down in a way us layman peeps can understand. Here are a few of the standout points he makes:
- The food we choose to eat on the regular is just as important as how many calories we actual eat.
Depending on the food, the metabolic and hormonal impact varies depending on the person. So it’s a lot more complicated than just thinking a calorie is a calorie.
- Weight gain can change your physiology. That change can make you crave more, which in turn means increased caloric intake.
If your body has more weight to support, your body may crave more to keep the train running. So the idea that increasing caloric intake drives weight gain, but the gaining of fat actually is driving the need for increased calories.
This whole notion of calories in = calories out incorrectly simplifies a very complex topic and can set up so many of us to fail. We have these unrealistic and unattainable expectations. There are so many influences involved in maintaining a healthy body. Knowing about them can help us make the right choices to live our healthiest life!
I came home to a special package from Melissa Joulwan. If you aren’t familiar with her, she’s the author of the popular blog The Clothes Make the Girl, which is now renamed to just her name alone and her Well Fed book series. I’ve been a supporter and fan of Melissa’s for years now and have recommended her first Well Fed book before. If you are looking for really good recipes that meet Whole 30, Paleo, Clean Eating guidelines – look no further than her cook books. Her recipes are by far the top of the top in terms of just being good food. When people ask me for advice on going “paleo’ or starting a Whole 30 program — the first thing I recommend is to buy her cookbooks. Honest.
Want to buy the Well Fed books? Here’s a link to her online store and you can buy them through Amazon as well. If you are looking for even more Paleo and Clean Eating resources, visit my Paleo/CrossFit resource area.
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I had no idea when I mentioned how my boxing place was closed for a death in their family, that would mean that they would close permanently but I got the notice a week or so ago that indeed they are closing their doors. I’m pretty bummed about it but can you imagine in the course of a few weeks the life shock that family has gone through? My heart breaks for them as they figure out how to adjust to their new life. With that said, I have to figure out another cardio/strength option now that there are no close by boxing places for me to move on to….
And change must be in the air because it looks like my long term contract that I had is probably coming to an end early December. It’s been a great experience, and my original boss was awesome. She taught me so much, was fun to work with and had perspective about the work we were doing. But, she left this past spring and as usual, with new management and changing of the guard – they want to bring in their own people. So, come end of the Fall, I will be looking for more consulting work. I’m not going to lean into the fear though. I have sent out some emails — and have some meetings already set up. And, I keep repeating to myself —what’s the worst that can happen? to help keep the fear at bay and get perspective.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Fear Loop
In this article about using fear to your advantage, they suggest reminding yourself that most of your fears are irrational, that you will get through the situation that is making you uncomfortable, and most times getting through it will make you stronger. A while ago, I shared some info about Tony Blauer’s fearloop, and how you need to be aware of how it works so you don’t get stuck in it and become paralyzed by fear.
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Sometimes I take a few moments to remind myself why I took the steps to live a healthier life all those years ago. And I figured, we all can use the reminder – so lucky you! You get to read it too!
As most of you know 8 years ago last month – Scott and I heard the scary words: You have cancer. He was 37 years old, no family history and cancer invaded his colon and our lives. You never know what can happen in your life at any given time, so you need to do whatever it is you need to do to live your best life. Do you want to be that senior citizen that we all know that has a hunched back, needs help taking a crap, is immobile? I certainly don’t. Taking steps now to strength train so that your heart and muscles are strong is important. There are so many stories of older people, who strength train and workout, that look younger and don’t suffer from many of the ailments that others their age do. One hour of your day – to do what you can to ensure a healthier aging process.
Do you have kids? What message are you sending them when you don’t take time to practice self care? In my mind, you are telling them that you aren’t as important. When you put your fitness and health at the top of your priorities, you are teaching them that you do matter. You are showing them that being healthy and finding time for exercise can happen even if you work full time and run your house. Is it hard to find the time? Yes. Sometimes it requires outside of the box thinking – asking a friend to watch your kids, carpooling to soccer practice, asking your spouse/kid to take on extra so that you can go workout. I have heard from so many women – oh you are lucky that your husband helps you. Luck has nothing to do with it. We talk about it and I share with him what I need to make it work. He and I talk about how important that time is to me -I’m happier and feel and look better. It’s rare to find a spouse or partner that wouldn’t support both of those things and step up to the plate when asked. The key is you HAVE TO COMMUNICATE what you need. Oftentimes, men don’t get it looking at it face value. You have to actually spell things out — which can get frustrating but my mantra when I start to get mad or resentful:
Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right? You choose.
And lastly, remember when you were single and started dating your partner? You had hobbies, you had interests, you looked a certain way. Are you still all of those things (hopefully improved)? What happens many times is that we get so wrapped up in being something to someone else, that we forget who we are. We become so wrapped up in being a soccer mom or <fill in the blank>, that we no longer pay attention to that person our partner fell for. I’m not saying that being a soccer mom or whatever shouldn’t be a part of your identity, but I have seen it become a person’s ENTIRE identity. What will happen when your kids become the adults they are destined to be and you are left there, with your partner? You need to nurture and tend to your own self and the relationships you are in. Too often, we let ourselves go for the sake of our kids. Make sure you are practicing self-care. The person you were when your spouse fell for you is important and valuable and needs to be remembered always.
Hopefully my reasons resonate with you as well. Life is so short — none of us know what the future holds but we can do our part to ensure that we have the best foundation to handle whatever comes. Now get out there and move your body!
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Summers are hard on working parents. Now that my kids are older, it’s hard to find camps to occupy their days and it’s even harder to figure out how to get them to the camps that are available. So many of them are only half day – and I am left wondering how am I supposed to work and get my kids to and from camp during the day? I am lucky at least right now in that I have quite a bit of flexibility with my current work situation and can handle what needs to be done but there are days when I feel less than adequate. Like today:
HB is trying out for volleyball and I forget to get her forms handled completely. I made an assumption that she could use a different form and it would be ok –and last night in a mad scramble we realized it was not going to work, so I had to rush to the Medi-Clinic at Target to get her a sports physical. Thank goodness it worked out but it was another reminder that this parenting deal is hard. Then Nate had a dr appointment that we had to rush to — and then I had to get HB to the actual try outs. I’m not sure how this would all workout if I was not an independent consultant and able to work odd hours of the day. It wears me out physically and mentally and I actually have it pretty darn good overall. I can’t imagine being a single parent trying to keep up with all of the parenting demands. It’s been a very trying week or so…
Fitness/Health Progress Update
I’m down another pound – so total loss is 13#s and even more body fat, although I’m not sure how much. I’ve been told by quite a few people that there is a noticeable difference in my arms and shoulders. They look leaner and strong! It’s been hard to keep focusing on eating right all the time, but I have been doing pretty good. Before I would say I was 90% true to eating clean. Now, I would say 75-80% true to it. It all comes down to planning and focus. I’ve been feeling stressed out and crunched for time – two saboteurs of progress. But -I will get there.
Beauty and Wellness
I don’t spend a ton of time on the blog talking about beauty products, but I do think looking your best is a huge part of living well. For the ladies, as we age – we should make sure we keep up with the latest skin care products, treatments and techniques. I’m lucky that HB, who is 14, is heavily interested in fashion and makeup because she helps me stay current. There are a ton of really great beauty products out there that do amazing things that weren’t available when I was in my 20’s or even 30’s. I’m not talking about contouring and thick costume-y make up either. I’m sure on some people those styles work, but for most of us – Just NO! Can you imagine walking into work with blue lips and a fully contoured face? I can’t and unless you work in a business that is all about that –you shouldn’t either. So, I was recently sent some Kat Von D Lock It products via a program called Influenster Vox. I had never used her products before — and they aren’t cheap but I have to tell you, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the concealer. It is lightweight, covers what it’s supposed to, and lasts. That along with the Lock it setting powder — I am sold. If you are looking for a high quality concealer – head over to your local Sephora and try it.
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It’s been way too long since I updated the blog –I know, I know. So much ‘life’ going on –that any downtime I have is not spent on the computer. I haven’t even taken a look at Pokemon Go if you can believe it. My kids have of course!
The latest on the refocus on my health and wellness – I’m down about 12.5 pounds and want to lose about 10 more but I am struggling. It’s a constant battle in my head to eat more carbs vs protein. I want, love, am obsessed with carbs. But I definitely notice that I am hungry much sooner than if I had eaten protein. It all comes down to planning and being prepared -which I have not been great at the last few weeks. Lots going on work wise and the kids are out on summer break and have camps to carpool to. Nothing major but it all adds up to being stressed out. I have also been working to de-clutter my house. My 14 year old daughter has been helping me go through the piles and piles of clothes, shoes and random junk. Her help has been awesome but I am finding it’s an exhausting process. It definitely has been weighing me down and I don’t have issues with actually getting rid of stuff. My issue is with setting aside the time and focus to do it. I wouldn’t say that the stuff has any real deep meaning to me –there just is so much of it, collected throughout the years that it’s an overwhelming feeling to make any progress. Does that make any sense?
But as I am feeling better overall — I am doing it. I even scheduled a pickup for the crap this week, so it will be completely out of my life! Freedom….
Training is going well – My work with Wayne, my trainer has been great. I can see my body changing. I am seeing real definition in my arms and back – something I have NEVER had before. 30 minutes/2x a week with his expertise and my focus and ability to work and focus, the changes are happening. I’ve been trying to get to Solidcore 2x a week and Boxing 2/3x a week. I also have been wanting to try Muay Thai Boxing as a nice progression from just heavy bag boxing work. I sent a note to a friend who trains at a place in Herndon and am going to check it out next week I think. The key to staying active and fit is to continually challenge yourself and keep learning new things. Which is why I am attached to so many fitness programs. I get bored way too easily and need the constant challenges. I will share an update about that experience afterwards, of course!
My daughter has been in a Volleyball camp the past two weeks and when I go to pick her up, I see this “Healthy” Vending machine. They share some of the profits to combat childhood obesity. Sounds Great, Right? Well, it would be if they actually sold healthy foods. I would say that most of what they are selling CONTRIBUTES to childhood obesity. I’m not saying that my kids don’t eat stuff like that, but I am not making claims that the money goes to fight obesity when the foods I am offering contribute to it. This is the problem… Goldfish, Potato Chips, Gatorade – Sugar, Processed Foods, Chemicals. This is not HEALTHY VENDING! When I mentioned it to HB, she said well the food choices are healthier than others … REALLY? This is what my daughter thinks or is that what she tells herself? Scoty said well they wont get any money to contribute if they only stocked healthy food. SMH! WTF?
I understand the challenges with keeping fresh food in machines like this — but then don’t disguise it as healthy and that by buying stuff you help combat obesity? You aren’t — you are contributing to the problem in your own community.
Last week was a good week – I’m down another 2 pounds, making it 8 pounds total so far. Five weeks/8 pounds. I’m eating a lot more protein and have not had any major cravings for sugar. And it doesn’t hurt that people are noticing my loss — even one of my boxing coaches asked me earlier last week if I was losing weight. I feel so much better too — more energy and as I mentioned before, a renewed sense of inspiration.
I’ve been back to Solidcore quite a few times the past week or so — and each time I am noticing improvements. It’s still not easy, mind you — still very, very challenging but not as brutal as the first time. I think what I like so much about it is how challenging it is — it’s all very slow movements and it’s all about the core. It’s also a very mental routine — pushing yourself when your muscles are twitching.
Personal training is going really well as well. Last week we worked on the TRX for one session and did a bunch of back and shoulder work for the other. There have been a few times I walked into training and really did not want to do it – I was dreading the workout Wayne was going to put me through – but it’s supposed to be a mental challenge as well. So walking lunges up and down the weight room holding kettle bells is supposed to make me strong –mentally and physically and it does –trust me, it does!
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I didn’t see any weight loss this past week, but I also didn’t see any weight gain – so it’s still a win. I’m not going to lie and say it doesn’t bother me though. I have been on point, eating well, no crap snacking and exercising as usual. You would think my body would step to it and show results. Although in fairness, I am about to hit that monthly time, so it could be the cause of the lack of results this past week. I’m going to go with that and see what next week’s weigh in produces. My clothes are looser and I have had more than one person mention that I am looking leaner -so I am going to try my best to focus on those positives. It’s not easy though. I want proof!!!
I’ve been doing a lot of exercises to open up my shoulders and chest during strength training. Not only is my posture less than stellar in general, I also tend to pull in during boxing as well. I’m becoming more excited each workout to see the changes happening to my arms. shoulders and back.
I’ve also been mixing things up too. Solidcore has opened in Ashburn, so I bought their opening rate special and will be adding that to my weekly schedule one day a week. With boxing and Body by Wayne training — it’s a pretty well rounded fitness routine that includes Core, Strength and Cardio Work. With two rest days each week –which I know I get asked about constantly. Working out is my stress releaser – it’s hard to take rest days but I schedule them just like other stuff.
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I’m down another 2 pounds this week. Which means I’m down 6 pounds in 3 weeks. Seems adding more protein, cutting out the majority of processed crap/extra snacking, and being focused – in addition to appreciating how much better I am feeling..mentally and physically has made all the difference. Funny how the old fashioned/no gimmick way works if you commit (which is the hardest part).
Slow and steady — is the name of the game; 1-2 pounds a week.
The other thing I have noticed, besides feeling better and my pants aren’t cutting off my breathing is my face looks less puffy. It’s one of those subtle things that most people don’t even notice but I do. I had been eating gluten and dairy at least once a week regularly for months, and it was causing inflammation and puffiness. I am starting to see that go away now that I am 3+ weeks into re-energizing.
So-am I doing anything mind blowing or off the charts to see progress? Nope.
First, my mind is right. I am all aboard on this — committed and focused and present.
Second, seeing progress and hearing about my progress from my support system around me. I try to surround myself with uplifting, awesome and like-minded people who give me props and understand the importance of lifting one another up- so we can all win.
Finally, I am making sure that when I go to eat – my first thought is what am I going to eat with protein. I am so used to eating more carbs – no matter the form – that I have to really make an effort to include a protein source each time I eat. I have not been eating enough protein overall. And even though it’s only six pounds, I have had a lot of comments about how much leaner and cut I am looking. I haven’t changed up my fitness routine all that much, but I am considered very active – so I definitely need more protein.
I have been using an organic veggie protein powder that I mix in my Ninja blender with almond milk and ice to get more protein. I also have been adding in a really great tasting and healthy super food/protein blend powder to give it an extra boost. The blends are made by a small company: Philosophie. I read about the founder Sophie and her products via an article a while back. Here’s the description from the website…
Each of the Philosophie Superfood + Protein Blends is vegan, raw, gluten-free, and has absolutely no filler ingredients. The detoxifying Green Dream blend, beautifying Berry Bliss blend, and energizing Cacao Magic blend contain nothing but the purest, most healing ingredients that have been deemed “superfoods” due to their exceptional nutrient density. Because these blends can be added to absolutely any food, it is easy to enrich every meal with the amazing health benefits of the world’s most potent superfoods. When the body receives optimal nourishment from these wholesome, plant-based sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals, it more readily releases unneeded material and toxins, leaving you feeling renewed and vibrantly healthy.
I have tried all three blends and like them all – although the Cacao Magic is my favorite because CHOCOLATE. I also read a pretty good review/comparison of another super food blend that shares my same views about Philosophie: Smoothie Food Fight: D’Vida vs. Philosophie.
So, there you have it – I’m sure you can sense my energy and excitement as I get closer to my goal — and I gotta be honest, it feels so good to be excited about it again.