Category Archives: Healthy

My Three Keys to Sticking to a Workout Routine

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I’ve talked about my journey to becoming a “runner” on here before. I still feel undeserving of the title “runner” considering I could barely run a mile in high school, but after a full marathon, several half marathons, and a boat load of other races, I think it’s fair to say that I am a runner. But getting to that place was not and still is not easy.

For years I looked at exercise and running as a means to be thin. My day would be judged as a good or a bad day on whether or not I slogged away for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This mindset made me dread working out, but at the same time, I’d feel terribly guilty if I skipped it. So it was this vicious cycle of dread and guilt that wasn’t getting me any thinner and certainly not any happier.

I’m not sure when exactly my mindset started to shift, but I think it was around the time I started doing races with New York Road Runners. I loved the feeling of training towards a goal that wasn’t related to losing weight and the adrenaline of the race itself. Over time and many, many miles, running became more of a habit, just something I did every day (or every other day), and not something I had to do in order to feel good about myself or waste so much brain space on dread or guilt. And I think what happens when running or any type of exercise becomes a habit instead of a chore is that you do get addicted to the feeling of feeling good – not feeling good because you burned X calories, feeling good because your blood is pumping, your head is clearer, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in yourself. But how do you get to from that place of chore to an everyday habit? Well besides a healthy dose of time and perseverance, there are 3 other keys I’ve identified over the years that were crucial for me.

Know Yourself               

This one applies to any habit, not just working out. How can you really make a change without really knowing what and why you want to change first? What are your true motivations for wanting to exercise? Most people would say to lose weight, but push that even further. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you think you’ll be happier? It may sound a little much for something as straightforward as exercise, but I promise that really being honest with yourself about why you want to make this change will help those new habits stick.

The other part of Know Yourself is a little bit easier. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you need a teacher or class to hold you accountable, or can you work out on your own? Do you like to be inside or outside? Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll wake up to run every morning at 6am in the winter if you’re a night owl who hates the cold. If you really hate to run, then don’t do it! Find what is most enjoyable and what works best for you. Again, just be honest with yourself and don’t feel bad it.

Convenience

This one is huge for me. There’s nothing I hate more than wasting time just to go somewhere to workout. I think that’s why I enjoy running: you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t require much planning or equipment. Think about your schedule and your commute and pick the gym or the running route that’s on your way home. Keep a bag of gym clothes and sneakers in the car so you don’t have to stop back at home. Because let’s be honest, once you’re home you’re not going back out (at least I know I’m not).

Monitoring

Much like those charts your parents kept to track when you did your chores or ate your vegetables, getting that gold star or checking off that list is a satisfying feeling. When training for a half marathon, I like to write out exactly what we need to do each day on a calendar just so that I can visually see it and then see each day crossed off as I get closer and closer. It’s such a simple act, yet so powerful and motivating. Plus, how will you know how much progress you’ve made unless you keep track of it all?

I also highly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before – it’s all about mastering habits and she provides 21 great strategies to do so.

What strategies do you follow to stick to your exercise habits? Or what would you like to start implementing today?

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Our Whole30 Experience

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A few times on this blog I’ve mentioned my attempts at a detox or cleanse. Usually I ended up feeling worse or just abandoning ship after a few hours. But I’m a glutton for punishment (i.e. my love of crossfit and marathons), so I’ve always been interested in trying a strict cleanse just to see if I could do it. I read many positive things about the Whole30 (like here and here) and I liked that you still eat real food, not just juices, so this one in particular piqued my interest.

I’d talked to Kevin for probably over year about wanting to do the Whole30, but never followed through because it just wasn’t the right time. There was always someone’s birthday, holiday, or weekend away that I didn’t want to miss out on. But finally, this past July we committed to doing it (even though I knew I had Allie‘s bachelorette party during the last weekend of the 30 days). And here’s how it went…

I’ll start with the hardest. Surprisingly the hardest part, was not the feeling of missing out or feeling deprived. Thankfully with the Whole 30, there’s no calorie-counting or measuring your proteins on a scale; just eat what you need to feel full that follows the guidelines (no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, anything processed for 30 days. See here for more details on the program). But what was most challenging, was the extensive planning that goes into it. You can’t leave the house on an empty stomach and easily expect to find something on the go that’s Whole30 compliant. Even seemingly simple roasted almonds at Wawa have hidden added sugar in them. Whenever we’d go to the beach, I’d have to get up early to cook lunch for us to bring since the chances of finding something we could eat at the beach shack were zero. Even for someone who loves meal planning and grocery shopping, there were some days I just didn’t want to have to think about what we’d make for dinner before 6AM.

Even though the Whole30 rules out all of my favorite foods – cheese, bread, chocolate – those weren’t the things I missed most. What I did miss was relaxing with a glass of wine on a Friday night. One of the goals with the Whole is to banish your “Sugar Dragon” and break the habits of the nightly sweets or glass of wine because you think you have to have it. We loaded up on coconut La Croix and dabbled with some Kombucha, but it still wasn’t the same as a glass of rose on a hot summer night. Sorry, Whole30.

But despite the planning, grocery shopping, and wine FOMO, it was 100% worth it and I would 100% do it again (and plan to). The sense of accomplishment and self-command is enough reason for me to start another Whole30 tomorrow. I felt confident, both mentally and physically, which is not easy for me to come by. I physically felt lighter and less bloated. Running, even in the summer heat, didn’t feel as hard. And it definitely felt good to not have to hide a food baby in a bikini on the beach. Probably the best benefit was that all of my digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for years – gas, bloating, serious cramps – completely disappeared throughout the entirety of the program. BIG win!

It was hard and exhausting and annoying most some days, but it was the best I’ve felt in so many ways in a long time. We did spend a lot more money on groceries, though we saved on eating out and alcohol, and I do think it would be a challenge to follow as a vegetarian, but I would absolutely recommend the Whole30 to anyone who’s even remotely thinking about it. There is never going to be the perfect time to start the Whole30 (or any new routine or project), so you might as well start now. And if you start and decide it’s not for you, no one is saying you can’t abandon ship, but I have a feeling you’ll get addicted to feeling the best you ever have. I know I did.

If you have questions about the Whole30 or need help with meal planning, please reach out! Here are some of the resources I went to over and over again throughout the 30 days: The Whole30Well FedLexi’s Clean Kitchen.

This post is not sponsored or affiliated with the Whole30, I just love it that much!

Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame

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After a weekend of indulgences, I could feel my body craving some real, whole foods. The cookbook Clean Slate from the editors of Martha Stewart Living has become our clean eating go-to when we feel like we need to hit the reset button in the kitchen. All of the recipes we’ve tried have been delicious, easy to execute, and because it’s clean eating, the number of ingredients is always minimal. I even enjoyed the recipes we made during our cleanse earlier this year, I just got sick of eating carrot & dill soup 3 days in a row. We made this Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame  for dinner last night and I’ll be eating it for lunch today. It’s light but still filling, which is perfect for today’s 90-degree temps. It’s also easy enough that I was able make the entire dish while chatting on the phone with a friend! Now that’s a double whammy.

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Barley with Brussels Sprouts & Edamame adapted from Clean Slate

Serves 4

Ingredients:

16 oz quick-cooking barley (I used this one from Trader Joe’s)

12 oz frozen shelled edamame

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch fresh ginger, peeled & minced

1 lb Brussels sprouts, stems removed and roughly chopped

12 oz baby spinach

crushed red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook about 15 minutes until tender. Add the edamame to the pot in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until just fragrant, about a minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute until just caramelized and tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the remaining tbsp oil to the pan and add in the spinach. Toss until wilted. Add in the barley and stir until combined. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

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Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken & Chili Oil

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: lunch is my least favorite meal of the day. Typical lunch foods – sandwiches, salads, soups – get boring fast and even though I’ll try to bring my own salad to work, they are never as satisfying as those you can get at a restaurant. What works best for me is to treat lunch like another dinner and not limit myself to another blah salad. Granted bringing leftover fish that you need to heat up in the office microwave is probably not the way to go, but by bringing for lunch what you would usually have for dinner opens up so many other options and gives me something to look forward to at lunch time. Like this Soba Noodle Salad – even though it has the word  “salad” in there, do not be fooled, I could and would eat this for dinner, lunch, or breakfast. It’s so flavorful and holds up well so you won’t be chomping on soggy lettuce. Though still easy to make, it does take a little more time to prep, so I would make this on a Sunday afternoon to eat throughout the week – the longer it sits, the more the flavors come together!

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Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Chili Oil adapted from How Sweet It Is

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

chili oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 star anise pods
2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup vegetable oil

soba salad
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces soba noodles
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
5 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly torn cilantro leaves

chili oil
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Cook until the garlic and green onions begin to brown, then remove from heat and let cool completely. This can be stored in the fridge and made a few days ahead of time.

soba salad
1. Season the chicken with the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add the chicken and sear until golden brown on all sides. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Cook the soba noodles as directed. When finished cooking, rinse the noodles under cold water and add them to a large bowl.

3. Toss with the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil. Add in the chicken, cucumber, radish and cilantro, tossing well. Serve with drizzles of the chili oil.

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Coconut-Almond Baked Oatmeal

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I’ve always been a big breakfast eater. I’m usually starving as soon as I wake up and can easily scarf down cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. But since about mid-December I’ve had almost no appetite in the mornings, so finding something that appeals to me at 7AM has been a challenge. I think it all started with pre-holiday work stress that I was too anxious or tired to eat breakfast and unfortunately it’s become a habit now. The other piece to the puzzle is that we only have about an hour from the time we get up to the time we have to leave in the morning, so having a breakfast that’s equal parts hearty and appetizing sometimes just doesn’t happen. Until this Coconut-Almond Baked Oatmeal, that is. It’s filling and not too sugary-sweet, but also portable if you don’t have time in the morning. Heat up a square with some milk, slice fruit on top, or just eat on its own. I’m hoping that by adding this recipe into our weekly recipe rotation, my appetite for breakfast will return with a vengeance.

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Coconut-Almond Baked Oatmeal adapted from this recipe

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, at room temperature

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and 8×8 baking dish with coconut oil.

2. Spread chopped almonds on a baking sheet. Toast for 3 minutes. Add the shredded coconut and toast for 7-8 minutes more, until just golden. Let cool.

3. Combine oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat together eggs, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and then add in the melted coconut oil. Stir until well combined.

4. Spread into baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes until set and lightly golden brown on top.

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Kevin Cooks: Lemony Spaghetti with Collard Greens

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Kevin’s cooking skills have seriously improved – not that they were in bad shape to begin with – since starting this column that I feel like Kevin Cooks is really just an excuse for me not to have to cook after being in a kitchen all day. It’s getting harder and harder to find things to actually teach him or help him with – usually I end up just relaxing on the sidelines with a glass of wine while Kevin does all the work. I think one of the keys to Kevin’s kitchen confidence  is frequency. The more you cook, the better you get at it. You know how to read a recipe, map out what tools to use and when, cleaning along the way so you don’t have a pile of pots and pans at the end. Cooking is much like a dance and the more you practice, the more seamless it becomes (though there is definitely some actual dancing that happens in our kitchen too). There are always things we can improve upon or new techniques to learn – I’ve still never made my own  pizza dough or mastered pie dough – but once you have that basic confidence and comfort in the kitchen, doing those more complicated things aren’t as intimidating. So bravo, Kevin!

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And now for today’s recipe: Lemony Spaghetti with Collard Greens. This pasta is super simple with only 5 ingredients and comes together nice and quick – the longest part is waiting for the water to boil. Because it’s in such a light sauce, you don’t feel bogged down after like many pasta dishes do. This would make a great Valentine’s Day dinner to impress that special someone and still leave room for dessert after…

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Lemony Spaghetti with Collard Greens

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti

2 tbsp olive oil

2 gloves garlic, sliced

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch collard greens, chopped (we used half a bag from Trader Joe’s)

juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving

1. Bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper flakes until fragrant, about 2 minute. Add the collard greens and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice.

3. Add the cooked pasta to the collard greens and toss to combine. Stir in the grated Pecorino Romano. Serve and top with more cheese.

Kevin Cooks: Fish Tacos with Avocado-Mango Salsa

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Ok so we only got about 6 inches here in NJ, which is about 12 inches less than I was hoping for, but being snowed in but not really snowed in was so fun. Even though I did  have to work yesterday, seeing the rest of the town completely shut down and not a car on the road gave me this jittery excitement (and also made me slightly jealous that I too wasn’t at home). So when I got home, Kevin and I had some catching up to do on our snowed in activities: boozing. After half of an Old Fashioned I was sufficiently tipsy and hungry. So in an effort to get dinner on the table a little faster, this week’s Kevin Cooks was more like Kevin & Cara Cook.

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We made these quick, healthy, and surprisingly un-snowtormy fish tacos. I was in charge of the tilapia and Kevin took charge of the salsa. My best tip for cooking with someone else, be it a friend or significant other, is to select a recipe that has separate components (or break your recipe up into different components). For a control freak like me, I tend to just want to take over in the kitchen, but having separate tasks will help to prevent any backseat cooking. This also allows for divvying up tasks based on cooking skill level – everyone gets to cook something they’re already comfortable with so that everyone is happy and satisfied with the finished dish. Our dividing of tasks was more in an effort to finish cooking before Parks & Rec came on rather than based on skill level, but it made for an excellent dinner to cap off a snowy day.

DSC_0173Fish Tacos with Mango-Avocado Salsa

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8-12 6-inch corn tortillas (depending how many tacos you want per person)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb tilapia filets

2 avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced

2 mangos, peeled, seeded, and diced

4 limes, juiced

1/3 cup olive oil

handful of cilantro, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Warm the tortillas in the oven while you prep the rest.

2. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tilapia with salt and pepper and cook until opaque, about 3-4 minutes per side.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the avocado, mango, lime juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and cilantro. Season with salt & pepper.

4. Gently break up the tilapia into smallish pieces. Layer fish then salsa in your taco and serve!