Healthy Summer Eating

Healthy Summer Eating

Now that the temperatures are going up it’s time to consider changing your foods. Foods are not just nutrients; they can also be energizing, grounding, warming, cooling, etc. Ever wonder why you get more cravings for ice cream in the summer? Yes, it’s because it’s hot, but it’s probably also because you’re still eating some of your warming foods that are causing your body to need the extra cool down. If you drink lots of hot coffee or tea throughout the day try switching to iced teas or iced lemon water to stay energized and hydrated. Freshly pressed juices and smoothies can also be great on hot summer days.

Here are some alternatives that will keep you cool, healthy, and fit this summer:

*Cooling Fruits- Mangos, Coconut, Kiwi, Melons, Blueberries, Citrus fruits, Tomatoes. Save the kumquats and papayas for the fall.

*Cooling Veggies- Cucumbers, Green Beans, Broccoli, Zucchini, Avocados, Celery, Asparagus. Stop using leeks, mustard greens, scallions, and fennel.

*Cooling Spices- Peppermint and Cilantro. Ditch the cinnamon, ginger, coriander, chives, dill, cumin, and rosemary.

Here are some tips to beat those crazy cravings for a healthy summer:

-Habit/ Emotions: The kids are out of school so for some of us that means that our daily schedule is completely overhauled. This can lead to excess snacking if we’re not careful. Think before you snack or allow your kids to snack. Are they really hungry or just bored? Are you just following the well-worn path to the fridge or pantry? Are you having snack time to avoid struggling with them to get their chores done? Grabbing for a snack because you are procrastinating doing something that you don’t want to do is very, very common. Whether it’s avoiding making that return phone call that you need to make, delaying putting away the laundry or emptying the dishwasher, or putting off starting that project that you need to get done, we all have things that we don’t like to do. Having a snack of our favorite comfort foods can give us that shot of dopamine that we need to put off the feelings of dread that we know are coming. At that time, the best thing to do is imagine what it will feel like to complete the task and stay positive. We tend to do far more to avoid pain than to go after pleasure so procrastination can make us feel good short term, but it will definitely not last for long. Keep yourself busy and blast through those things on your to-do list that are dragging you down. That feeling of accomplishment will last longer than the sugar high you’ll get from your favorite cookies.

-Have Breakfast: Be sure to have a good breakfast within an hour of waking up. I know this can be especially hard in the summer because there’s no school and you may sleep in a little later and just not feel like eating when you wake up. Breakfast is key for fat burning, energy, and craving control the rest of the day. Your body has been rebuilding and repairing all night and you need a good meal to kick off your day. I have two favorite breakfasts. The first is my egg white casserole with ground turkey, spinach, pico de gallo, and mushrooms. I top this with some flax seed and a little salsa with some oatmeal and blueberries on the side. The second is the IsaLean or IsaLean Pro Shakes by Isagenix. I add some coconut oil or Udo’s oil for some extra healthy fats, have some Isagenix Greens on the side, and it’s the perfect meal.

-Small meals and/ or snacks regularly: Eating small meals or snacks every two to three hours can really keep your blood sugar regulated as well as keep your metabolism burning. I know when I go too long between meals during the day I tend to have more cravings at night. Incorporating the cooling fruits, veggies, and spices into your snacks can help a little more with the summer heat.

-Nutrient dense foods and snacks- Protein digests much slower than carbs. Carbs can also cause a spike in your blood sugar which will either leave you wanting more later or make it hard for you and your kids to relax at the end of the day. Some good light proteins to reach for are whey protein shakes, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat Greek yogurt, cheese sticks  or peanut butter with apples. Fresh veggies slices are also good to pair with your protein because they are nutrient dense and have lots of water in them to help keep you hydrated. One thing that I do to make sure I have veggies readily available for snacking is that once I get home from the store I cut a few of them up and put them in bags in the fridge. Of course, if I buy 5 cucumbers I don’t cut them all up or they’d go bad, but having 1 or 2 at a time ready to eat in my fridge makes sure I can beat a snack attack.

-Drink lots of water: Many times thirst is mistaken for hunger, and being dehydrated can lead to overeating of snacks, especially with all the playing outside that we do in the summer. When we play in the pool we still sweat so we need to make sure that we get plenty of water throughout the day. I know most of the time when I feel hungry, if I take a big drink of water I feel satiated. Of course, if you really are hungry then a drink of water won’t help, but at least staying hydrated will help you know the difference. The average sized woman should drink 2-3 quarts of water per day, more if you are more active.

-Portion control: If you are going to have a not so healthy snack. Open the container and give each member of the family a small portion instead of eating from the bag of potato chips or sharing from the ice cream carton while you’re watching your movie.

-Sleep: The longer days can make us feel like we need to stay up longer, unlike the dark winter when we feel like hibernating in the dark. It’s still important to get the average 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. This is still when your body is doing the rebuilding and repairing it needs to keep you lean and full of energy. Many people experience cravings for sugary snacks or caffeinated beverages because they’re not getting the sleep that their body requires and the external stimulants are required to get through the day. I can’t stress enough what a difference sleep makes in my eating habits the next day. If I sleep terribly then next day, I get lots more hunger signals throughout the next few days.

Well, I hope my take on summer eating will help you keep your cravings in control so that don’t spend all summer cooling off with cartons of ice cream and sugary iced beverages.

Questions? Comments? Please ask.


To Compete or Not to Compete…

At the start of the year I had these big plans to compete on May 18th (this past Saturday) in Houston, TX and then again at the end of Jun in Miami, FL. I thought that my second season was going to be so much easier because I knew a little bit more about what I was getting into.

However, there are several things different now. I have started my own training business as well as began the Health Coach Program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Next, I started my son on a new nutrition protocol that I think will help him with his developmental disabilities and have focused more time on helping my daughter deal with her dyslexia. Both changes have made me think about why I wanted to compete. Plus, now that I’ve been eating healthy for a while I am truly feeling more and more of the benefits. Sliding back into an unhealthy lifestyle is not the temptation that it used to be so I don’t feel like I have to have the motivation of being on stage to keep me eating healthy.

To me, it’s more about the journey than the ten seconds you’re in the spotlight on stage. But you really have to have a lot of focus on yourself: get the right amount of sleep, get in all your prescribed workouts with the proper weight to cardio mix, and monitor every bite of food that goes into your mouth. The intensity starts about 12 weeks out, gets even more focused 8 weeks out and gets really intense the last 4 weeks.

I don’t feel that I can give myself that much intensity right now with everything going on. My body has just not wanted to be tricked into letting go of the body fat that it needs to in order to be where I need to right now. I know some coaches would just say that I should cut out all my carbs, do two-a-day cardio sessions, or spend a longer time lifting. But that’s what I like about the Cathy Savage Fitness program. They recommend doing it slowly and safely so you’re not a crazy carb deprived person that will start crying at the drop of a hat or go off on an angry rant. My coach has encouraged me to be honest with myself and my goals so I really had to sit down and think about this.

I know there are some things that I need to deal with, the healthy way, before I try to get on stage again. I need to focus on my kids and my family without worrying about every single bite of food that I put in my mouth.

When I published my last blog my son wasn’t feeling well, but then eventually found out he had mono. It was kind of crazy. I had just renewed my focus to my competition prep and then it was back to worrying about him, constantly monitoring his fever; trying to keep food and fluids in him that didn’t come right out or go straight through; getting up during the night to check on him and make sure that the fever didn’t get to high; stopping what I was doing to spend some cuddle time with a sick little boy. Then, just as suddenly as his fever reached almost 105, it went back down. While he was sick I was really struggling with foods to give him that he would keep down as well as foods that would fit with the GAPS nutritional protocol.

The GAPS diet has not been easy to do while trying to prep for a competition, at least not now while I’m just getting into the groove and trying to find recipes that will work for my family. Experimenting with recipes, cooking, and baking are never recommended during competition prep and forbidden during the last 8 weeks, but I can’t avoid it, unless I wanted to wait until after my competition to start my son on the GAPS plan. But that seemed selfish to put aside something that I think will help my son get better so I can look good on stage in a bikini.

I do feel like I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the difficulty of GAPS food prep. I’m finding some good recipes for dinner meals and I recently discovered TexanErin’s baking blog. She’s a Texas girl that’s currently living in Germany and loves to bake. She has lots and lots of tasty whole-grain, gluten-free, and even grain-free baked goods. I was surprised at how good her grain-free baked goods tasted. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to bite into her Grain-Free Cinnamon Roll Donuts or Grain-Free Lemon and Blueberry Muffins and think that they taste like a regular cinnamon cake donut or lemon-blueberry muffin, but for a little boy that hasn’t been able to eat much in the way of baked goods and desserts, they were a big treat. I thought they were pretty darn good, especially compared to some of the grain free recipes that I had tried in the past.

She did bring up a good point about the grain-free baking though. It’s a low-carb, higher protein, and higher fiber way to have your baked goods for those who are carb addicted. She had some grain-free pancakes that I may try for Wyatt as well. These would be a great way to get some extra protein and reduce the carbs. Wyatt has always loved all dairy: milk, cheese, and yogurt. He also never said no to white breads, pastas, and other processed foods so taking those away from him has been very hard. He eats more protein and veggies then he used to, but low carb is not a problem anymore. It’s still a struggle though.

Well, with all of this recipe experimentation and trying to keep my already-too-skinny little boy healthy, happy, and well fed, I have just plain lost the focus that I need to have as a competitor. I am still very focused on eating healthy, exercising, and helping others to do the same, but now I am just less stressed.

I don’t see myself doing competitions on a regular basis, but I do have the Miami and Vegas shows on my bucket list. I think I’ll be able to do Vegas this November. Maybe Miami next summer. I do feel like I’m letting everyone down who has been so supportive of me and cheering me on in my competition prep, but I won’t let you down for long. I do plan on getting back out there at a time when I can truly give it my best.

Thank you for your support. Questions? Comments? Please let me know.

Life…It Is What It Is


Okay, so I’ve been absent from my blog for a while. I’ve had so much going on in the past few months that I have had a hard time sitting down and putting it in writing.

First, I started the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Program mid-March. The information that I have learned in just 8 weeks has been amazing. I think, “Oh, I need to blog about this,” but by the time I sit down to do it, I’ve listened to another lecture that I also want to write about. I think this is a major example of what tends to go on in the mind of an analytical person- paralysis by analysis. I sit down and look at everything, then keep looking at it, and looking at it. I have every intent to do something with it, but I enjoy the analysis portion too much. Maybe you can relate or maybe you think I’m crazy.

Anyway, one of my pre-course lectures was by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. She is a neurologist with a nutrition clinic in London. Her book is called the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) and she talked about how the gut is the basis of all disease and many disorders that we have today stem from a leaky or dysfunctional gut that does not properly absorb the nutrients we eat. As a neurologist she focused mainly on treating depression, dyspraxia, autism, seizures, and other learning disabilities.

As I listened to her lecture, I thought, “Wait a minute, what’s dyspraxia?” so I went and looked it up. Well, kids with dyspraxia often are later than other kids to sit, crawl, stand, walk, speak, potty-train, build a coherent vocabulary, etc. Besides speech problems they also have problems with fine and/ or gross motor skill control. Um, that was describing my son. He doesn’t have any gross motor skill issues now, but he had major physical therapy through ECI as a toddler and eventually walked at 22 months. His fine motor skills are a little behind and his speech is delayed as well.

I kind of struggled with this info. I had been wondering if his developmental delays were something that he would grow out of or something that required intervention and treatment. It seemed like this was the answer. I had spent so much time searching when he was a toddler, why did I never find dyspraxia? I was reluctant to start to get an official diagnosis because I don’t want some doctor to push a bunch of drugs on him. Plus he’s been poked and prodded by lots of “ologists” and I didn’t know if it’d be worth it go to another one. Especially since the treatment for dyspraxia now is mostly speech, physical, and occupational therapies. He already gets speech through the school and has done amazing. I finally decided that an official diagnosis would help, but started him on the GAPS diet anyway.

The GAPS nutritional protocol itself is not easy. He can’t have sugar, only naturally sweet foods like fruit and honey. It’s not just gluten free, it’s completely grain-free. The only dairy he can have is the fermented kind, like yogurt and kefir and I have to make those for him from scratch to make sure that all the lactose is completely fermented out. The week before we started this diet I spent more than 50 hours shopping, prepping, batch cooking and freezing, and finally cleaning up the bomb that my kitchen had become. Ever since then I have done a lot of cooking from scratch and playing around with recipes to figure out something that my kids will like.

GAPS is a very high animal fat diet to help the brain and fix the gut. However, competition preparation requires food that is lean with healthy fats like coconut, olive, flax, and walnut oils added in. So I actually end up cooking two different meals. Pretty awesome, right? Not really. I had these grandiose plans of doing a competition in Galveston in the middle of May, but just did not have the focus to get done to competition shape during all this chaos, especially during that crazy prep week when I spent so much time cooking.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever tasted grain-free baked goods, but let me assure you that you wouldn’t be impressed. The only flours you can use are almond and coconut and, besides being very expensive, they make very dense heavy breads and pancakes that end up tasting very “eggy.” So, as I’m cooking and baking, I’m also sampling to see how it’s going to taste, and to get an idea if Wyatt will like it or not. Then I would add a little something and sample again. After that week of poor sleep and too much sampling of high fat, dense seed and nut flour foods, I was a wreck. I decided the May show was a bridge too far.

Another thing that hit me hard while all this going on was that my daughter had to get glasses and she got diagnosed with dyslexia. I had been nearsighted when I was younger, until I had the eye surgery in my twenties and so was my husband so I didn’t even think that she might be farsighted. Devin could always read stuff far away so I wasn’t sure why she all the sudden stopped liking to read books. I wasn’t too worried though. My husband can pick anything up by watching it being done once. He’s fixed multiple complex problems with my car by watching a YouTube video and then going out and doing it. I just figured that’s how she best learns as well so I didn’t want to push her and make her hate reading all together.

She finally admitted that things were blurry when she tried to read so I took her to the eye doctor. Again, this was something that caused me a lot of guilt too because I hadn’t taken her sooner. I haven’t had any vision problems since I had eye surgery so it’s not something that I thought about. Well, anyway, she got to pick out her cute glasses and she likes wearing them.

Then a few days later the school district tested her for dyslexia and said that she did have it. Double whammy. She’s made mostly A’s her whole time in school. I had no idea that she might have dyslexia. Her attitude has been great though. I’m not sure if you watch the Disney Channel, but one of the shows for older kids called “Shake It Up” has a teenage actress on it named Bella Thorne. She has done some Disney Channel PSA’s for dyslexia and told the story of how she found out she had it when she was a kid, worked hard and read more every day and now reads one grade level above her peers. Devin loves that show and has seen that PSA numerous times. When we got the results back from her test, she ran upstairs, grabbed her books and said that she was going to read more like Bella Thorne so she could beat dyslexia. That’s my girl!

Meanwhile, I have regular every day stuff going on, like trying to build my business, clean my house, do laundry, and get my workouts in. Sometimes things are really slow in the business department and I get kind of frustrated. I mean, they always say that it takes a couple of years to build a business, but it’s hard to remember that when you feel like you’ve been at it for a while and progress is slow. I keep thinking of Oprah. To say the woman is amazing is an understatement. Even though she had built herself an empire, it still took her several years to get the Oprah Winfrey Network off the ground. That’s how all new business are, they just take time to build. I’m definitely not a better business woman than she is so I keep telling myself to keep plugging along, keep being consistent and getting my message out there. People will eventually hear it.

Okay, so you can see that I’ve been a little busy and stressed as well as feeling guilty. Some may think that my stress is a walk in the park, while others think that they would not be able to deal with it. It’s all a matter of perception. I just let stress build up until every little thing just bothers the heck out of me. That kind of stress and subsequent lack of sleep can completely ruin any weight loss efforts, forget about getting lean enough for a show.

How? Well, in all the spare time that I don’t have I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Libby Weaver called Accidentally Overweight. Her PhD is in biochemistry and her theory is that there are 9 different puzzle pieces that have to be in place for a person to lose weight. They are: calories, stress hormones, sex hormones, liver, thyroid, insulin, gut bacteria, alkalinity, and emotions, and she talks about why each and every one of them plays a role in our biochemistry. Your eyes may be glazing over at the thought of reading that, but I have found it very interesting.

Stress wreaks havoc on our goals because when we are stressed we tend to pump out a lot of adrenaline. Our body doesn’t know that stress is more psychological these days instead of literal so it is preparing us to flee from danger. Our autonomic nervous system is the nervous system that controls the processes in our body that happen automatically and it has two main components, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Parasympathetic is in charge of the rest, digest, and recover functions, like muscle rebuilding, digesting food, fighting infection, hair and nail growing, etc. Sympathetic is in charge of the life saving measures like breathing, heart rate, pupils dilating to see more in less light, the fight or flight instinct, etc.

The sympathetic nervous system is fueled by glucose, which is quick burning fuel while the parasympathetic is fueled by fat, or slow burning fuel. If you are always stressed, your body thinks that you are in danger and is constantly preparing to run. All of your rest, digest, and recover processes are put on hold. Your body can store lots of fat, but it only has so much space to store glucose so after a while of sympathetic nervous system dominance, when the glucose levels get low it will either take it from your muscles or cause you to have a craving for a quick sugar source. Prolonged stress can lead to increased cortisol which packs even more fat on. Basically, at that point your body is preparing for a long-term stressor like famine or a war. If you were to cut your calories at that point, you would be telling your body that it is right, there’s a shortage of food due to a famine and it better pack on the fat if it wants to survive.

You may think, “But I’m not THAT stressed. I’m not in danger.” The truth is that your body doesn’t know the difference. It can’t tell the difference between the physical stress of eminent danger and the psychological stress of today’s world. We have to be able to deal with stress better in order to lead healthier lives.

I know that I don’t deal with stress very well, I like to hold it all in. As far as my body is concerned, I may as well be constantly on the verge of getting ripped apart by a bear. As a result of all the stress, my body wanted to hold onto the fat. I’ve been doing some awesome muscle building in the off-season, but you won’t really see it, until I can coax my body to lose the fat. I also had some bad cravings for sugary things that I hadn’t had in a while because my body needed the glucose. My immune system has not been what it used to be either. I recently got sick for the first time in over a year. Last fall I took care of two sick kids and a sick husband on two separate occasions and barely got the sniffles. Now, with my compromised immune function, some usual seasonal allergies turned into a horrible sinus infection.

I have had to learn a lot really quickly in the past few months. To start with I take more adaptogenic herbs in the form of Ionix Supreme by Isagenix. They help my body deal with stress the healthy way. I also have learned to stop and take several deep breaths. Not lung-only breaths, but ones where I stop holding my stomach in and let it fully expand. That calms me down and lets my body realize I’m not in danger. I mean, you can’t take deep breaths when you’re running from a bear. I also have had to take more time to relax and stretch. Not only has that helped me recover from some grueling workouts, but it’s also helped my body just loosen up in general. On top of that I am lowering my caffeine intake, from coffee in particular. I just drink black coffee so there are no calories, but caffeine works by stimulating the adrenal glands which have already been over firing and causing too much in the way of sympathetic nervous system dominance. I drink less caffeinated teas like unsweetened green tea, kukicha, rooibos, oolong, etc.

My point of all this is that whether you’re trying to bust a weight loss plateau or get down into a single digit body fat percentage, your body is not going to lose fat when you’re stressed and not getting good recovery time. Forget looking good in a swimsuit, you’re going to be more open to sickness and other kinds of degenerative diseases as well.

I’m now about 7 weeks out from a competition in Miami and I’m getting things together and getting my focus back. I’ve got a little bit of a groove going with making Wyatt’s food as well as batch cooking my food, but I still have to decide, am I going to do this competition or not? Feeling guilty and kicking myself for not catching something sooner or being too hard on myself for not being perfect will not help at all. I am so grateful for the wonderful husband and kids that I have. They are healthy, happy, and well adjusted. Their learning disabilities will only affect the way they learn, not who they are or who they become. They just need to be kids and know how much I love them. Being stressed and guilty is not going to be helpful to them in anyway. I’ve got to just own my chaos and move forward.

If I’m going to do this contest, which I am, I have to have laser focus in these next few weeks. There’s no “kinda” prepping for a show. I don’t want to walk out there next to all those ladies and say, “Well, I’m a little more jiggly because I didn’t get to prep as well because I had stuff going on.” There’s no category for that in the judges’ criteria. It’s not like golf where I can calculate my handicap based on life events. You either do it, or you don’t. I have to keep my diet exactly on plan as well as keep my stress to a manageable level and make sure to get all my workouts in.

I hope my confessions with stress and other things helped you see how stress may be effecting you as well. Unfortunately, too many in the fitness industry have given the misconception that fat loss is only about calories in vs calories out. If someone is overweight it’s got to be because they are too lazy or eat too much. It’s just not that simple. While that does work for some, the body is far too complex for that most of the time.

In future blogs I’ll let you know how I’m doing on my competition prep as well as explore the other “puzzle pieces” to fat loss and true health.

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.