Morgan's 10 diet tips

10 Tips for When You Start a Diet

Making a big diet change comes with its challenges. Every year, I participate in AST’s Ultimate Challenge fat loss competition as a way to re-focus after the holiday season. Here are some of the things you want to be ready for.

  1.  Prepare your food: This one is pretty obvious—make sure you always have goal-friendly foods that you know the macros for in your fridge. Plan at least a couple of your next-day meals the night before and log the macros that evening so you can grab them and go in the morning. Always have veggies chopped up or on hand for when you are hungry but can’t eat anything else.
  1. Plan for “Emergencies”: Not real emergencies like your arm falling off, I’m talking about food emergencies, like when you’re caught working late or out running errands that are taking longer than expected (or, when you think you should eat that arm). In a bind, you should always know what your nearest convenient snack options are. My faves include a prosciutto-wrapped cheese stick from 7-Eleven, a bag of raw nuts from a gas station/convenience store, and a piece of fruit from the grocery store.
  1. Eating out: This is an inevitable reality for most of us. Knowing where you can go and where you can’t is important. Yes, it’s easy to order a chicken breast, piece of fish or steak with a side of veggies or a salad anywhere, but will you?  Be honest with yourself, because it can be hard to say no to “cheats” at your usual haunts. If it’s not the Whole Foods salad bar (and yes, I’m only talking about the part with leafy greens), Chipotle, or a steak house, you will not find me there during periods of more aggressive fat loss.
  1. The numbers don’t lie . . . except when they do: You are going to have to get used to this idea: your weight and body fat measurements will not always be in direct correlation with how closely you’ve stuck to the plan. I’ve been weighing myself at the same time every day on the challenge. Here are my results:

weight fluctuation

  1. Your mental capacity might suffer: What was I doing? What did you say? Did you see that? You are not losing it. These are all questions I’ve asked myself during the first week of my diet. Often referred to as “brain fog,” it’s just your brain adjusting to running on fat, rather than carbs (its preferred energy source).  It doesn’t last forever.
  1. Your workouts might suffer . . . temporarily: Mine usually do.

workout log

Chalk it up to having less energy. For most of us, we are consuming less energy, a.k.a. less food. This will be temporary.

  1. Plan your social life around activities, not food and drink: By now my friends and family know that I do this every year. I am not willing to go through a social dry spell for two months, so I see them for goal-friendly activities like having coffee, taking a yoga class, or visiting the spa. I usually go on at least one vacation during my diet and, yes, it’s possible. It just requires a little more research than the average trip.
  1. Catch up on your to-do list: In some ways I look forward to doing this every year because it gives me time to complete outstanding projects. It gives me a chance to binge-watch a show, complete a craft, or learn something new on YouTube. One year I made a rug, this year I’m working on learning a new language.
  1. When all else fails, trick yourself: Although my diet-breaking cravings vary from year to year, nothing beats desserts. I’ve learned to trick myself into enjoying the following in place of desserts:

Protein Pudding: Mix 1 cup of 2 percent Greek yogurt with 1 scoop of protein powder. Optional: 1 tbsp PB2, unsweetened cocoa powder or 1 scoop chocolate/espresso Wellness Greens.

Coconut Latte: Combine 2 shots of espresso with 2 tbsp – ¼ c coconut milk, stir in 1 packet stevia and top off with a dash of cinnamon.

I also make sure to end every night with a dessert-flavored tea. Argo Tea and Republic of Tea have some great dessert options.

  1. Forgive yourself: I’ve never had a perfect diet, but I’ve always looked better at the end than in the beginning. If you slip up, just reset the next day and start over. Don’t sweat it. It’s all about making lifestyle changes that make you look and feel better permanently.

 

chicago guide to grocery shopping

A Chicagoan’s Guide to Clean Grocery Shopping

When it comes to buying groceries, most of us are stuck in the same old routine. Out of convenience we pop in to whatever chain store is closest. We forget that Chicago is in the Midwest, the heartland, farm capital of the US, and we forget that there are so many great options for getting quality fresh food. I’ve compiled a list of specialty stores in the Chicagoland area that are worth the extra trip. Some locations even offered special coupon codes and discounts.

 

MEAT/EGGS
Green City Farmer’s Market
http://www.greencitymarket.org/
Peggy Notebaert Museum (Indoors – November through April)
2430 N. Cannon Dr.
Saturdays: 8 am–1 pm

Lincoln Park (Outdoors – May through October)
N. Clark St & N. Lincoln Ave
Wednesdays and Saturdays: 7 am–1 pm

Finn’s Ranch – Green City Farmer’s Market
http://finnsranch.com/about-us/
Specialty: Naturally fed beef, pork, poultry, and eggs

Jake’s Country Meats – Green City Farmer’s Market
http://www.jakescountrymeats.com/
Specialty: Sustainably raised pork, chicken, beef, and fish

Mint Creek Farm – Green City Farmer’s Market
http://mintcreekfarm.com/
Specialty: Grass-fed meats raised on certified organic prairie pastures including lamb, beef, pork, and goat
PROMO: organic-grassed meat CSA shares $50-100 off with annual membership

Publican Quality Meats
825 W. Fulton Market Street
http://www.publicanqualitymeats.com/welcome#about
Specialty: Whole animal butcher shop with an emphasis on quality, sourcing from local/organic farms and credited suppliers

Green Grocer
1402 W. Grand
https://greengrocerchicago.com
Specialty: Organically grown and locally sourced foods. Offers a bi-weekly bulk meat purchasing program featuring sustainably/pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic-free meats

Weekly Specials:
Mon: 25% off all produce
Tues: Free $10 gift card when you spend $50
Wed: 25% off frozen meat
Thurs: 50% off a second bottle of wine
Fri: 25% off all prepared foods

Local Foods
1427 W Willow St #1
http://localfoods.com/
Specialty: All cuts of meat, locally sourced, locally processed or sustainably produced

Specials:
Every Tuesday if you spend $100 you can get a $25 gift card to use next time
Every Wednesday we have Wine Wednesday that is 25% off all wines and $5 glasses at the cafe
Every 2nd Wednesday  of the month we have Vegetable Vednesday that is 30% off all our produce
Every 3rd Tuesday of the month we have Tomato Tuesday featuring our MightyVine tomatoes throughout the store. We have discounts on all tomatoes sold in store. $1 off tomato soup at the cafe and grab and go, and $1 off butcher made bolognese and chili
This month (and usually every month) on the last Tuesday of the month we have $5 pork chop day from the butcher shop

BlackWing Organic Meats
https://www.blackwing.com/
Specialty: Complete line of organic proteins including beef, chicken, ostrich, pork, turkey and buffalo

All Grass Farms
18N681 IL Route 31
Dundee, IL  60118
http://www.allgrassfarms.com/
Specialty: 100 percent grass-fed beef, raw Guernsey milk, free-range broiler chickens and eggs, turkeys, and pasture-raised pork available in bulk quantities

FISH
Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish
2070 N. Clybourn
http://www.fahlstromsfreshfish.com/
Specialty: 16–18 types of fresh fish daily

Dirk’s Fish
2070 N. Clybourn
http://www.dirksfish.com/
Specialty: Fresh fish and sustainable seafood

Wixter Market
2110 W. Division St
http://www.wixtermarket.com/
Specialty: Large variety of fresh and tinned seafood
PROMO: 20% off of first-time salmon purchase – mention this post for discount

Sitka Salmon Shares
109 South Cherry St
Galesburg, IL 61401
http://sitkasalmonshares.com/
Specialty: A variety of fish “shares” comprised of wild Alaskan fish delivered monthly to your door during the season. They also sell fresh, seasonal fish by the pound at the Logan Square Indoor and Outdoor farmer’s markets
COUPON: Use discount code CSF17 and for $25 off a share

Produce
Local Farmer’s Markets – Year Round

Green City Market – Lincoln Park
*see above for locations/hours*
http://www.greencitymarket.org/

Logan Square
(Indoors – November through March)
2755 North Milwaukee Avenue
http://logansquarefarmersmarket.org/
Sundays:  10 am–3 pm

(Outdoors – April through October)
along Logan Blvd. between Milwaukee and Whipple
Sundays: 10 am–3 pm

Local Farmer’s Markets – Seasonal

Andersonville
(May – October)
1500 Berwyn Ave
http://www.andersonville.org/eco-andersonville/eco-andersonville-events/andersonvillefarmers-market/
Wednesdays: 3 pm–8 pm

Lincoln Square
(June – October)
Lincoln & Leland Avenues
http://www.lincolnsquare.org/farmers-market
Thursdays: 4 pm–8 pm

Edgewater
(Second Weekend in June – Mid October)
Broadway Armory Parking Lot
https://www.edgewater.org/programs-and-events/farmers-market/
Saturdays: 8 am–1 pm

Stanley’s Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
1558 N. Elston Ave
http://stanleysfruitmarket.com/
Specialty: Seasonal fruits and vegetables (organic options) at some of the lowest prices in the city

Harvestime Foods (Edgewater Produce is their other, smaller store)
2632 W. Lawrence
http://www.harvestimefoods.com/
Specialty: Large variety of fruits and vegetables (organic options) and other organic products at affordable prices

Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks
5625 Howard St
https://www.freshpicks.com/
Specialty: Home delivery of local and organic produce, meats, dairy, eggs and more. Dedicated to green sustainable agriculture and farms
COUPON: Enjoy $10 off your first order by entering the code “FARMTODOOR” in the exclusions box of the Account Dashboard page

If you don’t have time to visit your local farmer’s market, another time-saving option is to buy a seasonal CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Here is a good article that features five local CSAs: http://redtri.com/chicago/farm-fresh-5-csas-to-try-now/#

Misc
River Valley Farmer’s Table
1820 W. Wilson Ave
http://rvrvalley.com/rvr-farmers-table/
Specialty: Fresh Mushrooms grown with organic practices, clean hot sauces, salsas and pasta sauces
(Full Disclosure: I work for River Valley Ranch. Even though I am clearly biased, I eat jars of this stuff every week.)

Dill Pickle Coop
3039 W. Fullerton
http://dillpickle.coop/about/
Specialty: Local and healthy products including meat, produce, and sauces

Amish Healthy Foods
1025 N. Western Ave
http://amishhealthyfoods.com/
Specialty: Non-GMO and organic products, produced with traditional technology

meal prep

What Kind of Meal Prepper Are You?

We all know that food prep is essential to keeping nutrition in check, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to be willing to experiment and try new things before you find a plan that’s right for you. Here are a few different styles of prepping to help reach and keep your goals.

Traditionalist: Good for people with a fairly open schedule

The traditionalist plans their menu for a couple of days at a time.  They shop once weekly or, at most, or make a couple of trips every few days. They cook each meal before eating, and save time by prewashing/chopping veggies and pre-seasoning proteins. Frozen steamer veggies and precooked proteins are efficient options for this type of prepping.

Double Duty: Good for people with extra time in the morning

This style of prepping is all about planning a menu for the week and making a single shopping trip. This prepper is a master multitasker who cooks many dishes at once, while preparing their breakfast. This is a great way to save time by prepping a couple items each day, which can then be mixed and matched throughout the week.

Weekend Warrior: Good for people who don’t have a lot of free time during the week

The weekend warrior plans their menu for the week and makes one weekly shopping trip. They are able to set aside two to three hours each weekend dedicated to prepping and cooking all food for the entire week, cooking multiple items at the same time using an oven, grill, rice cooker, etc.

The Long Game: Good for people with really busy schedules and just have a couple free days a month

World-class organization skills are required to play the long game. This brave soul plans their meals for up to a month at a time and shops accordingly. They spend a couple of days preparing large batches of meals that are then portioned our and individually frozen. Caveat: It can be difficult to freeze and reheat veggies, so try blanching before freezing.

Non-Prepper: Good for people who are EXTREMELY busy, don’t like cooking or won’t cook.

This one should appeal to the convenience seeker. The non-prepper outsources most meal prep to an individual or service. They try out services to see which best matches their tastes and nutritional needs. Saves time by leaving it up to the pros and letting someone else do the work.

How Do AST Coaches Prep?

Staff Member: Zach

What is Your Prepping Type? Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? eggs, egg whites, grass-fed beef, chicken breast, cod, basmati rice, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, strawberries, natural peanut or almond butter, coconut oil, spinach, saurkraut, Best Bar Ever

Current Prepping Obsession: a Chipotle-inspired cilantro-lime white basmati rice that I pieced together – 3 cups of rice combined with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, the juice from half of a lime, 1tsp garlic powder, 1tsp Celtic sea salt, and 1tsp coconut oil and steamed. I eat a ridiculous amount of rice for my carbs so it can get boring quickly

Staff Member: Christine

What is Your Prepping Type? Traditionalist/Double Duty

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? wild salmon, cod, eggs, Canadian bacon, avocado, almond butter, sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, rice cakes, dark chocolate 

Current Prepping Obsession: crockpot chicken and bacon (recipe from Paleo Magazine)

Staff Member: Morgan

What is Your Prepping Type? Double Duty/Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? whole chicken, chicken breast, ground venison, eggs, cucumbers, red peppers, celery, carrot, mushrooms, whole fat plain Greek yogurt, Asiago cheese, almond butter, avocados, acorn squash and rice.

Current Prepping Obsession? Chicken or Turkey Bone Broth Soup (recipe from Wellness Mama)

Staff Member: Jackie

What is Your Prepping Type? Traditionalist

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week? eggs, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, arugula, split chicken breast, grass fed beef, salmon, heavy whipping cream, red pepps, apples (or some other type of fruit), peanut butter, pecans, full fat yogurt, some type of grain (long grain rice, oats, quinoa, etc…)

Current Prepping Obsession?

Smashed cauliflower (…steam it…then smash or process it…add delicious things like olive oil or grass fed butter, rosemary, and roasted garlic)

Curry roasted cauliflower with pistachios (more cauliflower for you…because let’s be real…cauliflower is magic… http://fitmencook.com/curry-roasted-cauliflower-with-pistachios/)

Butternut squash (or sweet potato) hash (cube it…roast it in coconut oil…season it any way you want…add crumbled turkey bacon ((or pork bacon for you paleo peeps)), wilted greens…top with a fried egg, green onions, and a little sriracha)

Staff Member: Scott

What is Your Prepping Type? Weekend Warrior

What are 15 items are on your grocery list every week?
Chicken thigh, ground beef, chicken breast, frozen vegetables, frozen strawberries and blueberries, eggs, egg white cartons, spinach , Brussels sprouts , salad kits (Costco), sweet potatoes, soups. I do all my shopping at Costco.

Current Prepping Obsession? Marinating chicken thighs in chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. (recipe from TJ Davidson)

 

Healthy living traveling

Travel Woes No More

As some of you know, a couple weeks back I took a weekend trip to L.A. Like anyone traveling (especially around the holidays!) I experienced the usual concerns about being away from my routine, the possibility of falling off the wagon, and gaining unwanted body fat. However, after taking quite a few of these trips, I’ve learned that with a little bit of planning, you can stay on track almost anywhere you go.
BYO
Water Bottle: Don’t let yourself become dehydrated because airport water costs $6. Keep your bottle filled and bring it, wherever you go. For a best bet, bring one with a built in filter so you can refill anywhere. Check out this Brita Bottle.
Snacks: You never know when you might be delayed. Don’t find yourself at the mercy of the Hudson News snack wall. My favorites are raw nuts, fresh fruit or Ostrim sticks/jerky. Beyond the airport, they are easy to toss in your bag for daily excursions.

Fresh Fruit
Supplements: Bring them and take them. Separate pills and powders into single servings using Ziplocs, Tupperware or a GoStak. If you know you won’t have access to fresh fruits and veggies, bring a greens powder and multivitamin to supplement your daily intake. These were a lifesaver for me while biking RAGBRAI this Summer, where the best salad in town could be found at Subway.

What to Wear

-Always pack workout clothes, shoes and a swimsuit, no matter where you are going. If you don’t have them, you won’t workout. Even if you don’t make it to an actual gym, you may still wear them for other activities. Also, Athleisure is a trend because Vogue says so.

Nice Butt PopPhysique

Getting “Unplanned Exercise”
-Walk whenever possible. Bookmark spots you want to hit in advance so that you can easily see where you’d like to go and if walking is possible. I like to spend a little time on Yelp before I go anywhere. Mapping my “must see” spots ensures that I can hit more spots by walking between places that are relatively close. Sorry, Uber! Track your steps. If you don’t have a fitness tracker, use an app. My favorite for walking, running and biking is Charity Miles, which donates 25 cents to a charity of your choice for every mile you log.

-If traveling to a city research bike-sharing options. This can be a great way to get around and see things up close. Book an Airbnb that lists bike use or check the amenities of your hotel. I learned this tip while visiting the Hotel Monaco in Philly, which included “loaner bikes” under their amenities.

-Incorporate outdoor activities into your planning. Your body and wallet will thank you. See the photo of me and my friend atop the Hollywood Sign Hike.

Morgan LA view

Getting “Planned Exercise”
-Check out local studios for drop-in rates or join your family and friends at their favorite facility. This past year I lifted along side a friend at Industrial Strength in Portland and got my flow on at Yess Yoga in Minneapolis.

Venice Barbell

Eating Hacks
-Visit the local grocery store, co-ops or farmers markets for at least one or two meals a day. Erewhon in L.A. had a variety of clean prepared food options, as did The Wedge in Minneapolis.

Main Street Farmers Market

-Plan your cheats and stick to that schedule. Being away from home doesn’t give you license to eat anything you want. Even if you aren’t tracking, get in your protein and veggies at every meal and try to eat your cheats during your meals nearest to activities.  I suggest using Precision Nutrition’s Portion Control Guide because it requires nothing more than using your hand.

De-Stress

-Make sure you plan for at least one R&R activity, wherever you go. My faves include yoga/meditation, spa visits, beach/pool days or even an unplanned mid-day nap. This is important for your mood, health and quality of life.

 

When the Body Takes Over

Underneath the Surface: Life with GI Problems

I have been wanting to write about this for quite some time, but have always came up with excuses to hold off – I am a horrible writer, I ramble, I can’t tell the difference between 1st person and 3rd person – you get the idea.

I have always prided myself on being an open book about pretty much everything, and this particular part of my life has been all-consuming for the past 2 decades.  I have had gut issues that cause me severe pain since I was 14 years old.  I remember frequently laying on our brown corduroy couch where I would push from my ribcage down to my pelvic bone and you could hear “bubbles” popping, moving.  It was the weirdest sensation (and one that I still encounter).  I didn’t know what those “bubbles” were, but I knew that they hurt and that if I could move them around with the pressure of my hands, I would get a smidge of relief.

When I was 21 years old, I ended up in the Emergency room, still without answers as to why the pain would sometimes bring me to my knees.  On that particular incident, I was folded over unable to stand up straight with such sharp pains that it was near impossible to get a deep breath.  Doctors gave me fluids and sent me on my way.

As I got older and finished my degree in Exercise Science, I wanted to learn more and more about the body, nutrition, and what ailment I could be dealing with.  In 2011, I chose to try eating gluten and dairy free, which helped, but didn’t completely alleviate, my symptoms.  In 2013, someone in my life was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and I decided that I was on a mission to finally figure out what on earth is wrong with me.  Why can I feel ok one minute and be bloated to looking 5 months pregnant the next?  Why would I have constipation that lasted days on end even though I ate clean, kept fiber where it should be, and stayed hydrated?  Why do I have chronic inflammation and subcutaneous water retention that comes and goes as it pleases?  Just . . . why?

So, in March 2014 I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy and was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  This was a very odd diagnosis considering I had been 100% gluten free for years – even the doctor was baffled that I had obvious remnants in my system.  Since gluten had already been removed, I asked the doctor what else could be causing me so much pain.  I received the notorious answer . . . “IBS, here is a prescription for your constipation”.  In my world, I call IBS “I Bull Shit”.  I believe that there is always some underlying issue or stress or something that causes the symptoms and that no one should just roll over and accept them as normal.

In the summer of 2014, I began to work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner from the United Kingdom.  We ran a stool test and found that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth) which we eradicated with natural remedies.  I also followed with an elimination diet where I ate a total of 10 different foods for 30 days.  The first 2 weeks I felt amazing!  And the second 2 weeks I was in pure agony, curled over in pain for most of it.  It made no sense – how could I feel so great and then feel so awful without changing a single thing.

If you’re not sure how dramatic the changes can be, here you go.

Gut Before & After

The picture on the left is a bad day, the picture on the right is a good day.  Could be hours apart, maybe a day or two.

In January 2015, my inflammation and weight gain went a bit haywire regardless of no change in my training or diet.  So, in May 2015, I began working with an acupuncturist who decreased my training volume drastically, took out all vegetables, and had me eating over 70% of my diet as starchy carbs.  Sure enough, I dropped the weight and started to feel a little better.  This lasted for a few months until my gut started to hurt again and I stopped responding to the acupuncture and herbs.  So, I began working with yet another doctor in December 2015.

Currently, I am working with both a local doctor and the one in the United Kingdom still searching for answers.  It was recently confirmed that I have a large intestinal bacterial infection as well as a small intestine infection and was put on a 2 week course of antibiotics.  Needless to say, I don’t feel any better and the doctor’s suspect that I did not eradicate the infections . . . and that is where I am today.

Why was this so important for me to share?  I want my clients, my friends, my family, to know that I get it.  I get what it feels like to fight what feels like a losing battle.  I understand how hard it is to keep trying to find answers when all you want to do is give up.  I know what 1 step forward, 2 steps back feels like.  I wanted to tell me story so that others might have some hope to get up and keep fighting, keep looking for answers.  I have to believe that there is healing and that this is not my destiny, and I hope that if you are dealing with your own struggles that you keep fighting too.

Eat Better Feel Better

How to Eat Out, Eat Healthy, and Eat Well

Eat Better Feel Better

It’s easily one of the biggest battles you’ll face in your efforts to change the way you eat.

“How am I supposed to eat like this when I go out?  I don’t want to just eat plain chicken at a restaurant.  Should I just not go?”

Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to be social and still hold to your goals.  Sure, you can’t throw yourself headlong into a basket of nachos every time you get an invitation to meet somebody for dinner, but you also don’t have to order “plain grilled chicken… no oil, no seasoning, no sauce, no fries, please strip away LITERALLY anything that will bring me pleasure and give me whatever is left.  And an ice water.  Hold the lemon.  I’m on a diet.”

One easy thing to do before you go would be to check out the Healthy Dining Finder online to see if the restaurant you’re visiting has their information available.  Since only larger restaurants are likely to have their nutrition information readily available, you won’t necessarily find every place you’d like to go, but it’s a good first start.

In addition, we recommend that you check out the PN Restaurant Eating Guide from our friends at Precision Nutrition.  Even when you’re not able to be perfect, every restaurant is going to have food on its menu that runs along the spectrum from Worst to Best, and you just want to find things that sit as close to the Best end of the spectrum as you can.  Bad is better than Worst, Better is better than Good… you get the idea.

And remember – even if you can’t find something on the menu that’s prepared specifically the way you’d like, 99 times out of 100, all you have to do is ask.  After all, if they have the food in house, there’s very seldom any reason that they can’t make a special combination just for you.  Just remember to be polite about it… eating well doesn’t require a dramatic performance when it’s time to give your order.

surviving the holidays healthy eating

4 Quick Tips for Surviving (and Thriving) During the Holidays

surviving the holidays healthy eating

I am sure “Surviving the Holidays” is probably the #1 searched thing on google at this time of year.  Luckily you don’t have to spend time sifting through all the other stuff out there, you have me!  So, let’s get right to it, shall we?

Step 1: This is not feast or famine.  I read a book recently called “It’s Not About the Broccoli” about how to teach your children good eating habits and one of the concepts was to teach your child to be a good taster (you can buy it here if you want.  Don’t expect your child to clear the plate with a new food, just have them be comfortable tasting it.  The same is true of adults.  Tasting a food still lets you enjoy mom’s homemade cookies and the moist pumpkin bread that only comes around this time of year, but doesn’t require you to eat an entire pan of cookies or the whole loaf of bread.

Step 2: Eat slowly.  The food is not going to run away on you, so take your time eating and enjoying it.  The majority of people who find that they overeat do so because they eat quickly.  Slow it down, savor it, chat with friends and socialize between bites.

Step 3: Mindset is HUGE.  If you expect to gain 10 pounds over the holidays, then you probably will simply because you tell yourself “Well, it’s inevitable, so I might as well scarf it down and enjoy it”.  Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it is not inevitable.  Be smart, just as you would throughout the rest of the year.  If you know you are going to a holiday party tonight, then plan on eating more protein and greens during the day in anticipation.  We talk about balance all year long, what makes the holidays any different?

Step 4: Enjoy yourself.  This is a special time of year to enjoy time with family and friends, so give yourself some grace.  Our children had a request this year – “Mom, can you and dad stay home this Christmas and not go to the gym to workout”.  Yes, even we fall into the trap of We can’t miss a day at the gym!  You know what?  Family is more important and experiences are more important than extra training or 1 missed workout.  Get over it, move on, and know that the gym will be there another day.

Cubs Fly the W

Answering “Was It Worth It?” (and a Timely Hangover Cure)

So, we’re located in Chicago, about a half mile from Wrigley Field.  And in case you haven’t set foot near a TV, a radio, Facebook, Twitter, a Goodyear blimp, or a still-drunk-but-soon-to-be-hungover stranger dressed head to toe in blue and red yet this morning, the Cubs just won the World Series, in a Game 7 with more twists and turns than your average M. Night Shyamalan movie and three decades of Days of Our Lives reruns combined.  I haven’t checked yet but I have low expectations on our 5am session attendance rate this morning.

Cubs Fly the W
There’s no way that bear is walking in a straight line this morning.

And it would be really easy for me to call up anybody who missed their workout this morning and give them a hard time for choosing to stay out late drinking and partying.  After all, I’m their trainer, so why shouldn’t I expect anything less than perfect attendance from my clients?  And a hangover?  Surely you would have had just as much fun had you been drinking diet A&W and eaten tilapia and Brussels sprouts out of a Tupperware container at 12am?

Except this wasn’t just a regular Wednesday night in Chicago, and I would be shocked if the reason anybody missed their workout this morning was because they stayed up too late drinking Leinenkugel and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.  It was capping off a once in a lifetime experience for literally everybody.  I don’t know that there is anybody in Chicago who was alive the last time this happened.

And if any of my clients had a few too many drinks, stayed up too late, maybe had to go to the hospital from 2nd degree fireworks burns… I don’t care.  I’m happy for them, because in the end if I asked them “was it worth it?”, I can’t see any answer except “yes.”  Because life doesn’t revolve around your body fat percentage or your MyFitnessPal consistency, and sometimes all of that day to day health stuff has to take a backseat to more important things.

It’s not unlike the advice I’ve given to clients who are planning their wedding, and want to “run the menu” by me to see if it meets my approval.  “But it’s your wedding… why would you care what I think?  It’s just one day and it only happens once.”  And like I told another client of ours earlier this week, you may as well celebrate the Cubs in the World Series while it’s happening, because even if they go back again in a year or two, the shine is off of the apple.  And not unlike a wedding, it’s just not the same the second time around.

So please… if you are trying to decide whether you made the right choice in neglecting your diet and training program, ask yourself “was it worth it?”  And if you can answer “yes,” than who really cares?

And if you happen to be dealing with an epic hangover this morning, you may want to contact these guys:

http://ivmechicago.com/mobile-therapy/

Mobile IV hangover treatment.  I highly suggest you book now because 100,000 other Cubs fans are probably calling them.

cod sauerkraut spinach

Straight From Our Kitchen: Complete Meals October 2016 (Low Carb Edition)

Sorry for the lack of a column lately- we overhauled our website in August and postponed adding any new content until we got everything imported and updated just to make sure nothing got lost in the shuffle.  Then Christine and I took our first vacation together (kid-free!) since our honeymoon… 10 years ago.  We didn’t work much.

Maybe we’ll drop an extra one this month to make up for it!

This month is a low-carb meal.  We just launched our Back to School transformation challenge at AST a few weeks ago, so we have over 25 competitors trying to figure out how to make food taste good without adding the words “and fries” to the end of all of their meals.  This was my first time prepping cod this way and it turned out fantastically, and the prep time was super-short.

Baked Lemon Herb Cod

2lbs wild-caught cod fillets
juice from 1 lemon (or 2tbsp lemon juice)
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp minced garlic
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp sea salt
1tsp black pepper

fish herb seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the cod fillets dry with a paper towel and drizzle the lemon juice over top. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small dish and mix together, then spoon small amounts (maybe 1/2tsp or so) onto each piece of cod and use the back of a spoon or your fingertips to spread it onto the top of each piece.

Bake for around 15 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

baked lemon herb cod

For sides, I went super low-tech and did sauteed spinach and saurkraut.

Sauteed Spinach

Preheat a small skillet at medium heat.  Put a dab of olive oil or cooking spray on the skillet.  Once it’s heated, throw a handful or two of spinach in and mix often with a wooden spoon, until it starts to wilt down.  You can add some salt and pepper, maybe a squirt of lime juice, but you don’t need anything fancy with spinach.

Sauerkraut

Go to the grocery store.  Buy a jar of sauerkraut.  You can get some great stuff in the refrigerated section but the off-the-shelf kind doesn’t have to be terrible either.  Ingredients should be cabbage and salt.  No vinegar, no sugar.  Turn the lid counter-clockwise to open.  Put some on your plate.  You can saute it in the same skillet you used for the spinach if you’re feeling fancy.

sauerkraut ingredients

It should be 20 minutes or less from start to finish – you’ve got time to kill while the cod bakes and sauteing spinach and sauerkraut isn’t exactly a time-consuming process.

cod sauerkraut spinach

Share and comment if you like it!

Straight From Our Kitchen: Complete Meals July 2016

I've been exploiting the warm weather as much as possible by doing tons of grilled meals lately – besides making it easier to prep large quantities of food, be serious: doesn't everything taste a little better when it comes off of the grill?

Dry-Rubbed BBQ Chicken Breast

I know, I know, another chicken breast recipe.  But this one is quite a bit different from last month, and honestly, it never hurts to be well-equipped with options when it comes to making chicken breast.  This one is a bit more barbeque-influenced than last month's was and goes in a pretty different direction taste-wise.

  • 3lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (we use frozen Perdue chicken breast from Costco because they're a bit thinner and cook better on the grill than thick pieces, but you could easily use thick breast and just butterfly it before you put the dry rub on)
  • 1tbsp sea salt
  • 1tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp rubbed sage
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp black pepper

As usual, I just added all of the dry ingredients into a small Pyrex dish and mixed it by putting the lid on and shaking it.  I used paper towels to pat all of the chicken dry, then put them in a big glass dish and added about 1 1/2 tbsp of the seasoning mix and mixed it with my hands until everything was covered well.  I let it sit while I heated up the grill (I do 5 minutes on high heat).  Then I dropped the heat down to medium and did 5-6 minutes per side on the chicken breast, then let it rest for a good 10 minutes on a cutting board before trying to cut it.  Don't cut it right away or you'll let all of the juice run out of it and you'll just end up with dry chicken.  Use a food thermometer if you're not confident it's cooked through all the way and it should temp at 165 degrees.

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Cinnamon (Extra) Sweet Potatoes

Fair warning – we'll make up 5 or 6 sweet potatoes like this in our house and it will last maybe two days.  It's awesome

  • 5 sweet potatoes, sliced or cubed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1 pinch of stevia powder (or 2-3 packets of Truvia)
  • 1tsp sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the ends of the sweet potatoes and then cut into either 1/4" slices, or wedges.  If you want to do wedges and don't know how, I'm going to give you the same eloquent instructions I did last month:


How to Wedge Potatoes

Cut your potato in half, then cut that in half, then cut that in half.  Boom, WEDGED.


Melt coconut oil in a small dish, then add the cinnamon, stevia and salt and mix.  You can coat your sweet potatoes one of two ways:

  1.  Put your sweet potato wedges in a large bowl and pour the seasoning mix over top, then mix and coat with your hands.  Then transfer to a baking sheet (we've begun putting a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet first lately as it keeps the bottoms from burning and it speeds up the cleanup when you're done)
  2. Be lazy like I am and skip the bowl all together.  I just throw the slices onto the parchment paper as I'm slicing them and then pour the mix over that once I'm done, and mix with my hands.

There isn't a lot of oil called for, but it's enough to help basically bind the dry spices to the sweet potatoes and help everything cook a little faster and easier.  I'm not a big fan of a lot of oil on these as it takes away from the cinnamon/stevia combo too much.

Roast at 400 degrees for an hour.  If you're somebody who likes your sweet potatoes on the crispier side, you can turn them about halfway through.  They should pierce with a fork without being mushy (which they shouldn't be if you didn't go overboard on the oil).

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Grilled Asparagus

Asparagus is one of those veggies that 1) always tastes better on the grill, and 2) doesn't handle a lot of seasonings well.  Here is what I did:

Break the bottom stem off of each asparagus spear – if it's not past its prime you should be able to snap the bottom 2-3" off without needing any utensils.  In a large bowl or dish, put in all of your asparagus, and add 1-2tsp of olive oil depending on how much asparagus – I did 2 bunches and used 1tsp per bunch.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper but don't go nuts – you want just a bit of extra flavor but don't drown it in salt.

Lay it all out on the grill and use medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning frequently (with tongs unless you're feeling like gambling with your fingertips).

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Now, for a complete visual aid – enjoy!

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