Monday, September 30, 2013

Kissing Dairy Goodbye

If you’re anything like me, then you have grown up loving and enjoying an array of dairy products. From gallons of whole cows’ milk and cheese, to butter, yogurt, sour cream and ice cream.  These products are high in fat and they’re extremely hard for us to digest. Learning how difficult it is for the human digestive tract to digest dairy has made me rethink this classic food product in my life.  Keeping my cheese or keeping my expanding midsection at 36, has become a very real question for me.  My taste buds are beginning to come very secondary to my heart-health.  What I didn’t prepare for was how difficult walking away from these products would actually be.  Think about it, we’re told that yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese sticks are excellent low-calorie snack options when trying to maintain a healthy diet. Add those I listed, plus my morning cup of coffee with half-and-half and my morning bowl of cereal with milk and by midday, my diet mostly consisted of dairy products. My body virtually struggles for the remainder of the day trying to break what I’ve digested down.  In my previous article, I discussed our intimacy with our favorite foods.  We have this passionate love affair with foods and with desserts so much so that giving them up can be worse than breaking up with a beau.  Before I started this challenge, I had to identify how many of my favorite dishes and vegetarian meals actually incorporated dairy and I was nearly floored when I realized that there was nearly nothing in my diet that didn’t consist of it.  That was extremely eye-opening for me.  I immediately wondered how I was going to clean this up.  Have you ever dreaded cleaning your closet? Well this was how I was feeling.  Fall is an extraordinary time of year that makes me feel fearless!  My openness to try new things during this particular time of year never ceases to amaze me.   With the cool crisp air in the wind, I feel motivated and encouraged to change with the season.  The vibrant colors of the leaves inspire me and I know that I can push myself outside of my own comfort zone.

 I initially started by being aware at all times of what I was eating or drinking. As a vegetarian I was very use to doing this anyway.  I swapped out dairy in the places that I found it easiest like Silk Milk for cow milk, Earth Balance for butter, and veggie cheese for whole cheese.  Sounds easy so far right? Not so much.  I quickly realized that my morning coffee on the go wasn’t as easy as it once was; if I was unable to drink my coffee black (which I wasn’t), I had to leave Dunkin Donuts behind and make the switch to Starbucks that at least conveniently serves vanilla soy milk and makes delicious soy latte’s.  Of course, when I have time I make my coffee at home but that isn’t always an option. My newest challenge was kicking my ass, because some days I just didn’t want soy milk or veggie cheese or Earth Balance for butter.  Some days I just wanted what I was habitually accustomed to eating and drinking.  Here’s where your self-discipline must kick in. I will be brutally honest with you in this, we can train ourselves to get used to anything as long as we have the willingness to work through the resistance and the power to quiet our minds.  My first two-weeks without dairy I realized that I would have to go the fight in very small intervals.  I didn’t always have the willpower to pass up a cannoli dessert or a piece of spinach lasagna.  Even my favorite salads were garnished with cheese shavings or feta crumbles. I initially couldn’t believe from breakfast to dinner how many dishes used dairy products. At one point I even considered the fact that I was ok with my expanding waistline and maybe dairy wasn’t so bad but WAIT!  I was taking a daily CLA supplement, which goes deep into the body’s stored fat pockets and flushes them out.  What in the world would make me take this supplement only to be reloading those same fat pockets with dairy products that my body was unable to digest?  The numbers wouldn’t add up mentally so each time I fell I just got right back up.  If I slipped up on a Saturday and ate a slice of cheese, by Sunday I was back on my, “No Dairy Bandwagon”.  The faster you regain your focus, the more control you’ll have over the change. You must be reading this thinking, “What a vicious cycle this is”, and I have to tell you it really is.  I never thought that what I ate would take so much consideration and effort on my behalf, but we all know that nothing worth having comes easy.  We’re taught to watch portion size and to eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables but when do you really hear people say, “Dairy doesn’t digest well, it keeps you bloated and your stomach will continue expanding if you keep eating it”.  On a more positive note, I did start to hear, “Your skin is glowing”, “You look amazing”, and these were the compliments that assured me that I had to keep fighting my addiction against dairy products.  “We are what we eat” and this statement is so underrated here in the United States. The beauty of our bodies is that they tend to work with us. When we move it moves yet, when I’m doing too much of anything, I either suffer the consequences or reap the benefits.  For example, if I successfully make it 5-10 days without dairy and then decide to indulge, guess what happens next?  My stomach is typically unsettled for days which is an instant indication that my body handling the shift in diet well. The discomfort I feel reminds me that the indulgence wasn’t worth it.

Finally, what’s been working best for me is an increase in both fresh vegetables and fresh fruit.  There is such a variation of both in the market today that it would be impossible for one to get bored or to be limited in options.  I feel less guilt, when I snack on fruits rather than the traditional dairy options that I was once loved.  Ladies, if you struggle with cellulite you will especially want to stay away from dairy even in your morning cup of coffee.  A licensed-esthetician recently explained to me that it’s not the coffee we drink that contributes to our cellulite but what we put in the coffee, (milk & sugar).  She also advised me never to eat ice cream or pastries, EVER! For help with unsightly cellulite, (if you are serious about changing your diet), I recommend VelaShape massage treatments; again only if you’re serious about changing your diet (If you’re going to eat the same, and have these massage treatments which gently reduce the appearance of cellulite on the top surface of the skin by heating it and smoothing it out you will definitely be wasting your money). If I wasn’t seeing the results on my own skin, I might be willing to argue with the esthetician but seemingly she is absolutely right.  Will all of these tips work out perfectly all of the time?  Of course they won’t, yet I imagine that these small intervals of trial and error are far better than never having tried at all. It’s all about implementing valuable substitutions. Starting with the little things like waking up the water in your home with a twist of lime, mint, and cucumbers (altogether in a pitcher) and gradually working your way up to bigger changes.  I drink this every morning before doing anything.  It’s a natural way to detoxify.  I would also suggest drinking one glass of this right before going to bed. I’ve also replaced my regular carbs with slow carbs like quinoa, and brown rice.  I go gluten-free whenever I can and when I just can’t resist a craving for something like eggplant parmigiana, I make it myself!  This way I have total control over what goes into it.  Instead of using eggs to coat the eggplant I use Original Silk Milk, and instead of my once beloved mozzarella cheese I use, “Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds”.  I find beauty in all of the dietary options I have and I hope you will too.   My advice for someone just starting out would be to pack your own snacks and meals for the day.  Lunch bags have become so trendy these days that carrying one around actually makes you look smart not cheap lol.  By having your snacks and meals pre-packed you will completely bypass the root of evil/tasteful temptation.  Wishing you all success with this Fall Fitness Challenge Series, and if you need any assistance please don’t hesitate to reach out.  God Bless You All.
Much Luv,

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall Fitness Focus for the Family


Last week, I challenged adults to consider making healthier food choices.   A challenge that incorporates motivation, discipline and exercise even as chilly fall weather begins to settle in.  What I left out of that article were our children.  Whether you are a parent or you spend loads of time entertaining your nieces, nephews, cousins or younger siblings; if you’ve committed to a more health conscious lifestyle than you are obligated to take them along for the ride.   Behind the eyes of my little guy, {pictured above}, are the eyes of the future generations of my family.  When these eyes stare back at me I know that they trust me for everything.  I am very pleased to say that my 3 children all practice a vegetarian lifestyle.  My middle child started the journey for all of us and gradually we each adapted at our own pace.   I would love for the entire world to consider a plant-based diet, but obviously I know that just won’t happen. What I want you to know is that this journey has never been easy and temptation is at every turn.  Childhood is where all of our habitual eating habits begin.  Whether those habits are good or bad, they began when we were children.   Had someone come to me 5 years-ago to pitch a vegetarian lifestyle to me, I would have looked at them like they were nuts!   I was trained to believe that I needed meat and dairy in order to survive. Secondly, I believed that I loved these foods. Cheese was like a glorious experience for me that felt like a warm and passionate embrace.  We have this intimacy with the foods that we enjoy and whether we intend to or not we pass that onto our children.  The problem with this intimate relationship is that we tend to adore the richest, fattiest and most unhealthy foods.    The beauty of personal growth is that as we learn, we teach the generations after us.  Back to school is in full-effect around the country and I wonder how much thought you put into what your child will eat daily.  My best advice is to have a pre-planned menu.  Poor planning whether it’s for breakfast, packed school lunches or dinner will result in a drive-thru run to Burger King or McDonald’s and our children don’t need the sodium in the food or the sugar in the beverages.   

My son Jessiah and I typically always discuss what’s going to be on the menu a day in advance.  For breakfast during the week, he has a choice of wholesome cereal and almond milk, whole fruit or a fruit and veggie smoothie infused with nuts for added energy which is great when we’re in a rush.  Jessiah, is a 11 years-old now and he loves cereal by a company that has been around for years and is ironically called, “Barbara’s”,  What I’ve been discovering across the board is that many parents don’t find that a vegetarian lifestyle offers enough alternatives for their child.  I try to come up with as many variations as I can because my son is a very picky eater with a long list of food allergies.   Weekends, are obviously a lot easier to manage because there aren’t any time constraints.  The same child that once loved tasty turkey bacon for breakfast has learned to love veggie bacon.  His favorite veggie bacon on the market is MorningStar Farms This veggie bacon is a little higher in sodium than I would like but I serve it to him with pancakes that are loaded with fresh blueberries for a healthy balance.  His weekday, “on-the-go, morning smoothie is a joy for me to make.  He likes spinach, bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries, cucumbers and almonds.  Having a nutribullet at home will help you to whip up a smoothie for your child in less than 3 minutes.  No sugar, juice, or added sweetener, just water and the ingredients that I listed above.  If you don’t have a nutribullet at home you can take a moment to look at what they have to offer and see if this system is something for you I never have to trick Jessiah when it comes to using our nutribullet.  He likes being involved in what we chop up in the kitchen and blend in the system.  Breakfast on the run used to include a croissant from Starbucks which is loaded butter, fat and calories.  When he’d hop out of the car to head into school last year, I’d find myself finishing his half-eaten pastry which had the type of calories that I absolutely didn’t need.  

When we eat healthy we inspire our children to do the same.  We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for taking them into fast food restaurants.  There are no proven nutrients in fast food and we aren’t doing our children any favors by feeding it to them.  Realistically, we will all find ourselves in situations where we just can’t make it home at a decent time to cook a good meal.  On those days, Jessiah and I pop into Boston Market {a meat-lover’s haven}, and we as vegetarian’s order what’s called a, “sides-sampler plate”, which allows us to pick 3 of their fresh vegetables.  Their veggies include the likes of, garlic or creamed spinach, mixed veggies, string beans, and fresh corn. An added treat is that each plate comes with 1 small piece of sweet cornbread that Jessiah simply loves!  I give him bottled water for a drink versus the fountain sodas and juices that are offered by the, “not so fast food”, chain.  Every now and again I also let him have lemonade because I do realize that he’s still a kid. Overtime, his cravings that were once for chips, unhealthy snacks and food have completely changed for the better.  Last night, he suggested that we have brown rice with broccoli and zucchini for dinner tonight. A huge misconception that parents and adults alike have is that grains and vegetables can’t fill us up.  Everything is possible but it starts with us and it takes discipline and strength.  While some of us were privileged enough to grow up in homes that ate healthy, many of us weren’t.  The changes in our home start with us.  We can break the chains of diabetes, heart-disease, and stroke by changing ordinary food choices into extraordinary intellectual decisions that are heart healthy. It won’t happen overnight but what really does?  My same child that was on a crusade against veggies now realizes that there should always be something green on his plate because his mother and father have taken the time to teach him that.  As your little ones embrace being back to school please encourage them to make healthy food choices.  Leading by example today will help our future generation embrace a healthier and fit-conscious tomorrow.  Challenge yourselves this fall and keep in mind that by adding your children to the challenge will also help you to attain your fitness goals. 
Much Luv,

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Fitness Challenge

How bad do you want it?  Good health, great skin, a more toned physique?  How much work are you willing to put in to get it?  The things we ingest speak volume in regard to how we view, love, and care for ourselves.  Some have very little regard for this area of their lives and I too once participated in that same level of ignorance.  Since childhood, most of us have been introduced to the likes of fast food, dairy products and in some cases junk food by the truckloads.  Retraining my mind over the past two-years to eliminate my cravings for these particular foods and to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle has been difficult.  My eagerness to learn about my new diet of plant-based, well-harvested and organically grown products has helped me tremendously with this transition.  Staying out of my former hot spots like McDonald’s, Applebees, TGIF’s and Chili’s has also proven to be quite beneficial.  Once I began eating differently, I realized that most of my favorite restaurants served up food that was loaded with sodium, cheese, and pork.  These were some of the things that were bloating me, causing acne breakouts on my skin and assisting my body to store unneeded fat in places that I definitely didn’t want it. A few of these restaurants also serve alcohol for an additional amount of added calories. My vegetarian lifestyle has now begun to manifest itself in my newfound muscle tone and body structure which continues to surprise me.  Thank God for wisdom and discernment; this former glutton has been set free.  I love the saying, “When you know better, you do better”, and the reflection in my mirror is a much healthier woman.  I have to consciously make decisions throughout my day which constitute what will and will not go into my mouth. From alcohol to cigarettes what we allow into our system will ultimately determine what is going on inside of our bodies.  How we feel, how our spirit feels and how we view life can all be transformed by the things that we eat and in some cases drink.  Greasy foods that are loaded with fat and sodium weigh us down and can play a tremendous role in daily fatigue. The more fatigue we feel, the less capable we are of any type of exercise.  Alcohol can lead to depression and addiction, cigarette smoke and drug use can lead to the malfunction of precious life organs, suffocating them of oxygen and resulting in death or life-threatening diseases.


Fruits, vegetables and organic teas can make us feel light and airy throughout the course of our day which can increase our desire for increased mobility. During the summer months I find that more of us are prone to opt for refreshing salads, healthy fruit smoothies and water but what happens as fall rapidly approaches and the weather changes?  How many of us, still opt for the crispy garden salad versus a fast burger and fries in a to-go bag?  A colder season can force us to lean on hotter food choices and can also encourage our desire to stay indoors. In some instances, the sadness of seeing the summer go can cause a natural reaction of introversion.   About a week ago, it dawned on me that many of us will stop whatever exercise and outdoor activities we had in place during the summer months.  Many of us will get back to the television remotes or our favorite indoor activity and we’ll begin layering the clothes.  What if, you had a spectacular vacation planned in the Bahamas set for December 1st?  Could your body really afford to wait until New Year’s Eve to get back into your rusty gym membership resolution?  This is the mentality I’d like to see you adapt for fall.  Brooklyn has a ton of outdoor landscapes that are beautiful to speed walk or even jog along side of like the, Brooklyn Bridge Park where I took these photos and the Belt Parkway are two of my favorites.  Be childlike, and pretend that the vacation of your life is right around the next corner even if you don’t realistically have the funds to plan one! Most importantly, let’s not give up on moving our bodies!  Don’t let garden salads flail in the wind just because there isn’t warm summer sun to enjoy them with.  Challenge yourself!  Challenge your body to come along for the ride. Don’t pack your bikinis away with the intention of not seeing them until next June.  What if, you just ate salads, fresh fruits, raw vegetables and you sipped on organic teas that felt more comforting to your soul than a warm chocolate cookie?  What would your New Year’s resolution be this year if that’s how you spent the fall?   You would crave more healthy, more exercise and more nutrition.  It would all make sense!  It might even spill into other areas of your life you’re your personal relationships. One positive action attracts another. That is the beauty of God’s wisdom; when you can separate yourself from conditions that have become habitually negative for your life.  You can free yourself from all the chains that are weighing you down and start fresh; knowing that it’s never too late.  It might sound trivial to compare what’s going into your mouth with what’s going on with your soul but I’m sure that you’ll be able to see the correlation.  In order to win and to truly have the victory you need to be good to your body. Be careful what you eat, who and what you let enter your temple, and what stress you do and don't take on.  All of these things will be contributing factors to your levels of peace or misery.  When you set your standards higher than you can actually reach, you'll always win and you'll more than likely exceed any expectations that you've placed on yourself.


Finally, as I say goodbye to my favorite time of year I want to encourage you to come up with the sun every morning.  Breathe, and go out into the crispy air before it gets too cold to be out there.  Connect with your workout.  Connect with the location of your workout.  Brooklyn has great beaches and when I head over to a local favorite of mine actually called, “Manhattan Beach”, I love to just run on the sand.  Running on the sand feels similar to wearing ankle weights and offers a fair amount of resistance for muscle toning.  I fully take my surroundings in and I use this time to pray as well.  In Psalms 23:2, there’s a passage that says, “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams”.  Exercise is the perfect time to connect and really talk with God.  The Bible says that Jesus used to go out into the wilderness to pray.  The wind, the sun, the water, the sand, the trees, the birds, the sky, will all help you to connect with your own inner peace. I never feel closer to God more than I do when I’m outside and fully submerged in nature.  Gratitude engulfs me when I’m outside; the full realization of a new day, a new opportunity and another 24-hour chance at life; all because my Heavenly Father keeps choosing me.  So with an incorporation of mind, body and soul connectivity you too can implement a system that works to improve your overall quality of life. From workout clothing that makes you feel empowered to supplements and ideas that will help you to get rid of stubborn fat that seems to never go away.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts and my insight throughout this fall season that will enlighten you and have you proudly jamming at your next New Year’s Eve celebration!  No more sulking and hiding in another resolution of guilt and shame resulting from overeating, bad food choices, and lack of mobility and prayer.  Let’s move!  Let’s Breathe! Let’s Exercise!  Let’s Connect!  Let’s Live! And most importantly.. Let’s Talk About It…
Much Luv, 
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