Hungry for Change

I recently watched the documentary Hungry for Change, which provides an in-depth look into how what you put into your body affects your general health. This film is a must-watch for anyone interested in health and nutrition, but there are a few takeaways everyone should hear.

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Avoid Sugar, Not Fat 

The majority of diet foods jump out at us because the labels scream “FAT FREE!” But, fat free foods are typically full of additives and a ton of sugar. Even foods we generally consider healthy can be deceiving. For example, greek yogurt brand Chobani has come under pressure for misleading labeling and high sugar contents.

Here’s what Hungry for Change has to say about sugar:

  • “Sugar is in everything. In America we’re eating about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.”
  • “It’s not fat that makes you fat, it’s sugar that makes you fat.”
  • On eating foods filled with sugar that don’t fulfill our nutritional needs: “People are over fed, but they’re also starving to death.”
  • “Sugar is without question the cocaine of the food world.”
  • “If you walk the aisles in the average grocery store and you look at the amount of sugar in a child’s breakfast cereal, you might as well be rolling up the kid’s sleeve and putting in heroin, because it’s the same thing.” (Ok, extreme, but gets the point across)

The simple takeaway from Hungry for Change is that sugar is addicting. Ever wonder why you plan to only have a few bites of ice cream, but then, magically, the entire pint is gone? Hungry for Change explains that when you eat sugar it stimulates a part of your brain that creates dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Then, as our dopamine levels begin to drop, we crave the same feeling… thus, leading to sugar addiction.

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The film also stresses that we need to expand our definition of sugar to truly avoid it. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, turn into sugar as soon as they enter our bodies. It’s not just white sugar that we should avoid, but all refined, processed carbohydrates (think: cereal, white bread, crackers, cookies, etc.).

Health is A Lifestyle, Not a Diet

Whenever I hear someone talk about a new diet, detox, or cleanse they’re on, I honestly can’t listen. Diets don’t work. They may work in the short term, especially if you’re on a “cleanse” that only provides about 1000 calories a day. But, as soon as you return to your normal eating habits, the weight returns. Maybe I’m biased because of my love for working out, but any short-term diet that restricts calories and instructs you not to work out while you’re on the diet is bad news in my book. (10 Truths About Juice Cleanses)

  • “I think we’re barking up the wrong tree. People are looking for a result that is superficial, they’re looking to look good. And they don’t really consider that that could be done from the inside out. So people go into diets and fads in order to lose weight and lose weight fast, and that’s just not the way to approach it.”

Hungry for Change promotes the idea that weight loss and health come from a change in lifestyle, not from limiting, constricting, painful diets. They suggest shifting your thoughts from “I want that, but I can’t have it” to “I can have that, but I don’t want it.” If you add fruits, vegetables, organic lean meats, and healthy fats (e.g., avocado, nut butter) to your diet, your body will no longer crave refined carbs and sugars.

  • “The problem is we are no longer eating food, we are eating food-like products.”
  • “Inevitably you’re going to feel so much better eating the good stuff, that the choice for the bad stuff is no longer valid.”

Beauty Comes from the Inside Out

Listen to this:

  • “The truth is that we are programmed as a species to be attracted to the people who look good. Why? Because they’re the healthy ones.”
  • “The skin is a true symbol of our health because it’s the last place to get nutrition. If you can drive all those nutrients through to the skin then you know it’s gotten everywhere else too.”
  • “Your skin looks better when you’re eating a diet that’s low glycemic. As a matter of fact that’s one of the first things that happens: your skin, your nails, your hair begin to look better.”
  • “Ultimately, that to me is what we’re striving for: a deep richness of skin tone, a deep richness of hair, a luster in our nails, an overall feeling of shine and glow, almost an aura. This is possible through natural foods.”

I mean, if the thought of having fabulous skin, hair, and nails isn’t enough to get you to change your diet, then I don’t know what is.

Self-Love

My favorite takeaway from Hungry for Change is that health and nutrition go hand in hand with self-love. The film addresses the fact that we need to let go of feelings of guilt and shame about our bodies and food. It’s absolutely crucial to find self-worth in ourselves as we exist today, not as we hope to be one day. This message needs to be heard. You only have one body, and you have it as it is right now. Love it, accept it, and do everything in your power to treat it right.

  • “Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” -Tony Robbins
  • “The concept of loving yourself is the key to all of it.”
  • “As a doctor, let me tell you what self-love does. It improves your hearing, your eyesight, it lowers your blood pressure, it increases pulmonary function, cardiac output. So if we had a rampant epidemic of self-love, then our healthcare costs would go down dramatically.”

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Overall, Hungry for Change will (hopefully) change the way you view food. The film isn’t perfect. It seems to be vegetarian focused, and stresses juicing as the best way to get vegetable nutrients. But, the film’s overall message of promoting nutrition and self-love makes it worth the watch.

Fitness in the New Year

Every year we say we’re going to do things better. We’re going to work out more, eat less, be productive, and start the things we’ve been putting off forever. New Year’s resolutions are nearly impossible to keep. Fitness-related resolutions are even harder to keep because they require us to change our comfortable, normal routine. But, there are ways to incorporate fitness into your life without making massive changes. Small changes can start you on the path of reaching your ultimate fitness goals.

In 2012, I made a New Year’s resolution to work out four or five times a week. I was sick of rationalizing not working out because I was “too busy studying.” I felt bad about myself physically and mentally, and I was ready for a change. I got through January and was honestly shocked that I’d made it through the first month. So I kept going. Every time I wanted to skip a workout I thought about the fact that I had made it this far. And then I kept it going for so long that I literally forgot that it was my resolution. Now, two years later, I couldn’t be happier that I’ve kept that resolution.

Incorporating Fitness into New Year’s Resolutions without Failing

Corgis-on-a-treadmill-GIF Step 1: Think of how you want to incorporate fitness into your life.

Why is fitness important to you? Think of the big picture and where you see yourself at the end of 2014. If you want to succeed at keeping your resolution, you have to really want it. Envisioning yourself at the end of the year can be helpful in motivating you throughout the process. Be clear on your big picture, ultimate goal.

Step 2: Start small.

Now that you have an image of yourself with washboard abs floating around in your head, think of how you can reach that goal. It’s important to start small. If you don’t currently workout, start by walking, jogging, or going to the gym once or twice a week. If you are already in shape, think about what you can do to increase your current fitness level. For example, I really want to get into yoga and be much better at it by the end of 2014 (I’m literally awful at it right now). So, one of my goals is to do yoga once a week. Once a week doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than I’m doing now and over time it will add up.

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Step 3: Be flexible.

There will inevitably be times, days, or weeks, where you’re unable to keep your goals.  I succeeded in keeping my 2012 resolution because I gave myself wiggle room. My goal was to workout four to five times a week, not every day. But, even four days a week was too much for me at times. Things come up: vacations, illnesses, etc. There were definitely weeks that I worked out less than four days. But, instead of beating myself up about it and quitting on my resolution, I just started again the next week. When you make a new year’s resolution the only person you are accountable to is yourself. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes. It’s important to realize up front that there will be obstacles. Prepare ahead of time, and be ready to resume your schedule when you can. Don’t use breaks as an excuse to give up completely.

Step 4: Create a schedule.

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Any time you start something new, it takes a few weeks to adjust. It’s easier to adjust if you schedule times to work out, and stick to that schedule. For example, maybe your goal is to workout twice a week. Pick a time on Tuesdays and Thursdays when you go to the gym, run, or walk. Once you stick to this schedule for a few weeks, it will start to feel like a regular part of your life.

Step 5: Reward yourself!

I think this might be the most important part of keeping your new year’s resolutions. If you keep your goal for the first week, celebrate it! If you make it through the first month, treat yourself!

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When I made it through the first month of working out in 2012, I bought myself a bunch of new workout clothes. Now, workout clothes comprise 99% of my wardrobe. So, yes, I take treating yourself very seriously.

Step 6: Have fun!

Envision your ultimate goal, start small, be flexible, and have fun along the way. Challenge yourself. Try new things. You never know what you might end up loving!

8/20 Workout

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Hi guys! In my workout today I really focused on shoulders and push ups. The workout is still a total body workout, but my shoulders were absolutely dead by the end. Push ups and shoulder exercises are really hard for me, so I always try to incorporate them as much as I can into my workouts and hope that eventually they’ll get easier… still waiting for that to happen.

Today’s workout consists of 2 circuits, and in between the circuits I added a back squat exercise. I didn’t perform the squats timed, I just did 5 reps at each different weight until I was done. I used light weights to warm up, and ended with a heavy weight that felt difficult for me. If you’re not comfortable doing this type of exercise, I would just leave it out! The circuits by themselves are more than enough.

I’ve also gotten some feedback that people don’t always know what the exercises are in my circuits. For each exercise, I provide a link that is either a photo of someone doing the exercises or a short (usually less than 30 seconds) video of someone doing the exercise. If you are confused, click the link and watch the video. If you are still confused, google the exercise. Sometimes, if I think the exercise is confusing or I changed it a certain way, I explain that in my exercise notes section. If I don’t explain an exercise in the exercise notes section, just do it exactly as the video or photo shows. You can also leave comments asking me to clarify, I’m more than happy to answer any questions!

Circuit 1: 50 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, repeat circuit 4 times (total time 24 minutes)
- Front squat & press (30 lb barbell)
- Push ups with feet elevated on bench (about 10 reps each time)
- Standing deadlift (60 lb barbell)
- Plank with feet on ball, bring knee in (see exercise notes below for description)
- Row (35 lb barbell)
- Bridges with feet on workout ball (25 lb plate on hips)

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This was my set up for Circuit 1, nice sweat marks from the bridges.

Back Squat: (instructions for back squat)
- 5 reps of 65 lbs
- 5 reps of 95 lbs
- 5 reps of 115 lbs
- 5 reps of 135 lbs
- 5 reps of 145 lbs
- 5 reps of 155 lbs

Circuit 2: 40 seconds on, 10 seconds rest, repeat circuit 4 times (total time 20 minutes)
- Up down plank
- Bicep curls (12.5 lb dumbbels)
- Alternate between 5 push ups and 5 tricep dips
- Oblique twists with med ball, raise in the middle
- Left arm to opposite leg ab crunch (holding 5 lb plate)
- Right arm to opposite leg ab crunch (holding 5 lb plate)

Exercise Notes
Circuit 1:
- I wanted to change up regular push ups a little so I did them with my feet elevated on a bench. It just changes the weight distribution and makes it a little harder. I tried to make sure I completed 10 reps each time.
- For the plank on the ball exercise, I don’t know what they’re called, but I used one of these squishy ball things:

photo 1Then, I got in a plank position, with one foot on the squishy ball. Then I brought my knee in towards my chest, then back out. I did 5 knee bends, then switched to the other leg. It was very similar to this, except my foot was on the squishy ball and not on the floor:

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- For the bridges, in the starting position your calves and feet should be resting on a workout ball, and your hips should be on the floor. I added a 25 lb plate and rested it on my stomach/hips. Then slowly raise your hips up off the ground (you’ll feel the burn in your hamstrings and glutes) and then slowly lower them back to the ground. Adding the weight realllllllly made these burn.

Circuit 2:
- For the third exercise in this circuit, I wanted to add more push ups, but knew I wouldn’t be able to do push ups for the whole 40 seconds. So, I decided to alternate between doing 5 push ups and then 5 tricep dips. If you can do push ups the whole time, do that!
- For the oblique twists, I wanted to work my shoulders along with my abs. Here’s what I did: in the starting position your butt is on the ground, and your legs are raised slightly off the ground with your knees bent. Hold the medicine ball in the middle then twist to the side, return to the middle, then twist to the other side. For this exercise, when I was returning to the middle I raised the medicine ball over my head. It was like drawing an A shape with the medicine ball: side, up in the middle, side. The medicine ball I used was really heavy, and this ended up being the hardest exercise for me.
- For the last two exercises in this circuit, you should lay down completely flat on the ground. Your right arm should be at your side, and your left arm should hold a light weight extended behind your head. Then raise your left arm and your opposite leg (right) at the same time. Then lower back down and repeat. In the video that I linked to, the man switches between raising his right and left arms. For this circuit, I did left arm only for 40 seconds, and then did right arm only for 40 seconds.

Have fun!

Zucchini Spaghetti with Turkey Meat Sauce

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I was home in Connecticut over the weekend and wanted to make dinner for my mom. I’ve wanted to try making zucchini or squash spaghetti for a while, but the whole process seemed kind of difficult. This recipe ended up being ridiculously easy. Like so easy that it literally takes less than 5 minutes. That’s my favorite kind of recipe!

Not only was this recipe easy, but it was seriously delicious. I really liked it, and even my mom (who really doesn’t eat that much) asked for seconds! So simple and easy, I strongly suggest trying this.

“Pasta” Ingredients:
- 2-3 zucchini or yellow squash
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- olive oil
- box grater

You can use any sauce for this recipe, and to save on time you can just use jarred sauce. I don’t really have a go to spaghetti sauce, so I just threw something together. It was pretty good, but any recipe you really like will work.

Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- ~1 tsp oregano
- ~1 tsp basil
- ~1 tsp italian seasonings
- splash of red wine
- olive oil

1. To make the sauce, sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat in a tiny bit of olive oil. Add the ground turkey and cook until it’s browned. Reduce the heat and add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and all of the seasonings and wine. Let simmer over low heat for however long you want. I let mine cook for probably about 2 hours before we were ready to eat.

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2. Now the fun part! To make the “pasta” wash the zucchini or squash. Then lay the box grater on its side, and run the zucchini along the grater like this:

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 I used 3 zucchini and it was enough for my mom and I.. It made about this much:

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3. Sauté a clove of garlic over medium heat in a little bit of olive oil, and then add about half of the zucchini. Cook the zucchini until it is soft, this took about 2-4 minutes. Then cook the rest of the zucchini in garlic and olive oil.

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4. Enjoy!

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