Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hows and Whats.

I have a lot of stuff I want to talk about today and thought it would be fun to combine the topics into one post, my current Hows and Whats.

HOW I'm currently sweating:

Personal Training With Jackie: Xtreme Timesaver Training

It's been far too long since Ms. Warner has put out a new DVD and her Power Circuit Training DVD left me anxiously waiting for more. Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment.

I must admit- I had this DVD sitting in my living room for about 5 days before I actually tried it. Jackie Warner + "Xtreme" = apprehension. But this morning, I put on my big girl pants and finally gave it a try. The verdict? Love it.

Back-to-back circuits of compound exercises quickly raise your heart rate and constantly challenge your muscles. (Check out this great Amazon review for a detailed list of all the moves!)

Since the pace of the Power Circuit DVD was so fast, I was worried that that was going to be the case with Xtreme. Not so much. While there is a general steady pace to the workout, Jackie seems to be more focused performing the moves properly and with full range of motion. This causes you to work harder because you're recruiting more muscles not only for strength, but for balance as well. The pacing of the reps and the compound moves create a unique cardio effect, without having to do typical cardio moves like jumping jacks or running in place. And of course, you get a good strength training workout as well; some of the moves were so new and challenging for me that I had to brush the dust off of my 3 lb. set!

In short, love this workout (you can't beat 30 minutes), love Jackie and loved how I felt afterward!

WHAT I'm currently reading:

LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle: A Full-Circle Guide to Developing Your Mind, Body, and Soul.

I checked this book out at the library mostly for kicks, but also just out of plain curiosity. LL obviously knows a thing or two about maintaining a great physique, so I wanted to learn a bit more about his approach.

The first part of the book is really just about taking some time to clear your mind and learn to love yourself before picking up a dumbbell or chopping a tomato. LL wants you to cultivate the mental strength necessary for building a better body. He explains why you're worth the effort and how to create more positive vibes within yourself and the people around you. I was caught off guard by how honest and solid his advice was. Some of what he had to say may have been a bit simplified or maybe even a bit preachy, but overall, it made sense and I appreciated what he had to say.

The second part of the book is all about working out. I have to say, I really didn't pay much attention to this part of the book because the majority of the exercises are restricted to machines at the gym. Not a bad thing if you have a gym membership of course, but I was hoping there would have been more at-home routines and there simply weren't any. For what it's worth, this section did emphasize the importance of weight training and proper form. The workout plan also includes cardio, both high-intensity and lower-intensity. For cardio, LL suggests using the treadmill, bike or elliptical. Pretty standard advice, but effective nonetheless.

The final section is about nutrition. LL's diet plan is essentially a carb-cycling plan, something I'm familiar with and have tried in the past. If your ultimate goal is to lose weight within a specific time frame (in the case of the book, 8 weeks), this may be a plan to consider. After looking through his sample meals and recipes, there's nothing dangerous or strange about what he advises you to eat... Lots of lean protein, healthy fat (from nuts, avocado and olive oil), unlimited vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, beans and whole grains. He also wants you to stick with 3 meals and 3 snacks (mid morning, afternoon and a pre-bedtime protein snack so you don't go to bed hungry), each day.

The idea behind LL's carb-cycling plan is that you gradually reduce the amount of carbs you eat throughout the week and then replenish with a "cheat" meal (yeah, I kinda hate using that word) Saturday night and have a carb "refuel" day on Sunday. One aspect of his plan that I respected is that even on "low carb" days, you still can eat carbs like oatmeal or brown rice. The main goal, as with most successful nutrition plans, is to eliminate processed foods and refined sugars. I can dig it.

Personally, I haven't followed his plan as it's written because I simply have no interest. However, the recipes and sample meal/snack ideas are right up my alley and that brings me to...

WHAT I'm currently eating:

Protein Pancakes. I can't get enough of them. Perfect breakfast. I got the idea from LL's breakfast recipes. This is the version I've been using:
  • 3 egg whites (or 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites)
  • 1 scoop Designer Whey French Vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • Splenda to taste (or sweetener of choice)
  • cinnamon
That's the basic mix. Whisk together a cook in a pan as you would a pancake. (I like to pour all the mix into the pan at once so I end up with a giant plate-sized pancake.) I've added different mix-ins like blueberries, pumpkin and bananas & walnuts. I think the banana-walnut combo is my favorite so far. Serve with syrup and enjoy! Definitely packed with protein and relatively low in calories, depending on your choice of protein powder and mix-ins.

That's all for today- hope you enjoyed this edition of Hows and Whats!

Monday, October 25, 2010

New twist on tacos!

Today, I came across a recipe on the Athenos Facebook Page for Chicken & Feta Salad Tacos! (Well, technically the recipe says "Tostadas," but tostadas always strike me as a lame version of a taco that's way too much of a hassle to eat.) It called for radishes and since I actually had some on hand (a rare occasion), I thought, "Heck yeah! Why not?"

I ended up not following the recipe 100% though (of course).

For the salad mix, I used green cabbage, radishes, red onion, about 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and Kraft Light Balsamic Vinaigrette salad dressing. Just toss everything together and set aside.

Cook the chicken breast in a pan, chop it up and assemble:

We built ours with soft white corn tortillas (which, I have to brag and note that I snagged them fresh from the Rancho Liborio bakery, complete with warm pillow-y goodness), avocado slices and feta cheese.

Awwww yeah.

Definitely a success! I loved the fresh taste of the cilantro, the crunch of the cabbage & radish and the creaminess from the feta and avocado. I'm also glad we went with the balsamic dressing instead of Italian; it seemed to brighten up the chicken quite a bit. Lots of distinct flavors that went well together!

I love experimenting with tacos at home and look forward to making these again (hmm, tomorrow perhaps?). Give 'em a try!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Beet It.

After finishing last night's dinner, I found myself whistling this song:

Why? Because I ate delicious beets. And I'm a huge dork.

I tried my first beets a few months ago and instantly became a fan. So I was super stoked when my grandma brought me some fresh beets from her garden last month.

When I got home after work, I immediately turned on the oven. I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to make at that point, but I knew roasted beets had to make an appearance somehow. I sliced them up, tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and stuck them in the oven.

I also had a couple of acorn squash and decided to roast one as well. While the veggies roasted, I started brainstorming and ended up with this:

Roasted beet salad, made with: arugula, red onion, dressing (a simple whisk of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder) and tomato-basil flavored feta cheese.

On the side, mashed acorn squash, mixed with butter, salt, cinnamon and splenda (or your sweetener of choice).

AHHHH! This instantly became one of the best meals I've thrown together. How do I know? Because I was literally giggling with delight after the last bite (seriously? I need to keep track of these rhymes and just start rapping about food).

The salad was perfect in so many ways... The sweetness from the beets complemented the bitterness of the arugula; the red onion added a nice bite; the lemon juice in the dressing provided a fresh, clean taste and the feta cheese added a delightful creaminess. Best. Salad. Ever. The only thing that was missing was some hot walnut action. I think walnuts would have been the cherry on top. Oh well. Next time.

And the mashed acorn squash? Delicious, as always. I never get sick of acorn squash prepared like that. It's a treat every time. And so warm and filling.

Yes, I have leftovers for lunch. And yes, it's going to be just as amazing as it was last night. I can't wait.

I'm sure I'm probably late in the game when it comes to eating beets, but if you still haven't given them a try, roast some! I noticed that some of the smaller slices roasted in beet "chips" and that flavor with an added crunch was amazing. Hello new favorite food!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meatless Monday, Italian-Style.

Last night's dinner featured a new (well, new to me) spin on tofu. I always seem to prepare tofu Asian-style and I've gotten kind of bored with it lately. I did a quick recipe search and came across a listing for Tofu Parmigiana.

I made my own sauce with tomato, spinach, mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves, onion powder, basil and oregano. While that simmered, I got started on the tofu:

Fried in olive oil (I used less than what the recipe called for).

Added to the baking dish with sauce...

Topped with grated parmesan and mozzarella...

And baked to bubbly perfection.

Doug ate his serving over pasta. I skipped the pasta for my serving, but still used a picture of Doug's plate because it looked 10x more appealing.

This was a really tasty, satisfying meal! We both noticed that the bread crumb coating kinda disappeared off of the tofu after being baked, but the flavors and textures still held up quite well. And really, it's hard to screw up tomato-y, cheesy goodness. Looking forward to my leftovers for lunch!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Madness.

I'm sure some, if not most of you have heard about the Marie Claire article on healthy living blogs this morning and perhaps have read and/or contributed to discussions on the topic.

I was a bit surprised after reading the article, but at the same time, I do feel it brought to light some thoughts that myself and other bloggers have had but didn't take the time to discuss openly, for various reasons. I think the article recap on Hollaback Health captures a lot of what I felt after reading MC's view on the healthy living blogosphere.

That said, I'm curious... What are your thoughts on this topic? Below is my two cents...

When I first started journaling about food in a public online format, my primary goal was to track Weight Watchers Points and exercise. As I got further along in my weight-loss efforts, I opened up more and more about the how's and why's that made up specific food and exercise choices.

In the past 1-2 years, I discovered some of the more popular blogs devoted to "healthy living" and slowly began modeling my blog to try and fit the mold designed by "The Big Six" (though really, am I the only one who has never heard of the term "Big Six" until this morning?!). More recently though, I've realized that trying to mimic the efforts of others is a horrible idea and that while I do have readers to take into account with each and every post, I still need to blog for me. I of course would like to feel like I'm offering up new (or at least different) perspectives on food and exercise to my readers since I've gotten such great information and inspiration by reading other blogs, but I need to remember that I am not obligated (or professionally qualified) to disperse such information. Does that mean I can write irresponsible posts, week after week, without abandon or consideration for my readers? Hell no! I'm always revisiting the reasons for why I blog in the first place. Firstly, I like writing about the things that I'm passionate about and/or things that have had significant impact on my life, be they good or bad. I feel that weight, food, fitness, health, body-image and self-esteem all fall somewhere into those categories. Secondly, I'm continuing to blog because I feel I've finally reached a point where I'm starting to find my own voice. I know some readers may disagree, but I think some of the posts I've written the past couple of months (or past year?) have been some of the best. Not in the sense that the grammar, spelling, structure and photos were perfect, but that I felt better after hitting the 'Publish Post' button. I felt like I had strengthened my sense of self and my well-being by taking the time to organize my thoughts and reflect on what being healthy means to me.

That's not to suggest that I think the bloggers mentioned in the article were irresponsible; quite the contrary. But since I've experienced first-hand the process of reading these blogs and trying to, essentially, copy their eating and exercise behaviors based on what they posted, I understand the point MC was trying to make, given the large number of followers these bloggers all have and knowing the countless number of women out there who are constantly looking for "the best kept secrets" in losing weight and maintaining health. It's very easy, whether you're a self-defined "healthy living blogger" or a writer for Marie Claire, to have what you write be taken out of context in order to meet the personal needs of the reader.

While the article came off a bit mean-spirited toward those mentioned, I do think it served as a well-needed wake-up call to the blogging community. Our readers all come in different shapes, sizes, abilities, social and economic backgrounds. Clearly, it's not possible to serve the needs of every individual reader (nor should that be a goal), but it certainly doesn't hurt to do a self-check every once in a while to re-establish not only your goals of the blog but more importantly the goals of yourself. And are those goals and the steps taken to reach them likely to be misinterpreted by your readers?

I'm not claiming that my blog is exempt from the criticisms mentioned in the article, not by a long shot. In fact, I'm actually quite thankful that it was written because it forced me to pause, reflect and think a great deal about some of the issues that can arise from both following and creating food/fitness/health-focused blogs.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday a la Forrest Gump.

Friday is finally here! This morning, I rolled out of bed at 5 am and started prepping for a trip to the gym. Once I got there, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for my work out, but I headed to the treadmill and figured I'd warm up first and figure the rest out later.

A few minutes into my warm-up jog, this guy showed up:

I soon realized that indeed, I just felt like runnin'. I settled into comfortable pace, about 11 min./mile and stuck with it. A little slower than what I usually aim for, but I didn't see the point in aiming for super-speed if I was just gonna burn out and keep taking walking breaks anyway.

I kept changing my mind about how long I wanted to run. Four miles? 5k? I finally said "fuggit" and just went with how good I was feeling. Five miles later, it was time to cool down and start getting ready for work. I surprised myself because I haven't ran in over a week. I thought I'd top out at 2 miles, but I guess my body was just ready to move for a little longer. A lot of good songs came up on shuffle, but one of my favorites was a fun track from We Are Wolves:

I love music so damn much. Even more so when it makes me want to pick up my speed and keep going!

I suppose that's all for today. Hope everyone has a great weekend!