Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making the Switch to Full-Fat

Today: 1 - Julie: 0

Seriously, today just kicked my butt. We didn't get up for our workout this morning, I rushed to get ready for work, I forgot my parking pass (thankfully that worked out okay), I wasn't excited about my food, and some of my classes were just a little more exhausting than usual.
But then, at the end of the day, a very respected colleague who had recently observed my more "difficult" class told me that she thought I was fantastic. It's amazing how a compliment like that can really boost your confidence. Honestly, I sometimes get very discouraged when I can't tell whether I'm succeeding with my students. It helps to have an outsider provide some perspective.

Another area in life where I'm finally gaining some perspective is with whole foods. For about two years now, I've been trying to subscribe to a "real food" lifestyle, as defined by 100 Days of Real Food and Michael Pollan. We've made some really positive changes:

  • Cooking almost everything from scratch and avoiding packaged foods as much as possible, especially those with ingredients I can't pronounce.
  • Switching to whole wheat flour, whole wheat pasta (only one ingredient), whole wheat pizza crust, and 5-ingredient whole wheat bread from Great Harvest.
  • Focusing on mostly natural sweeteners (honey and pure maple syrup) instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners (but see below for an exception).
  • Switching to grass fed beef, free-range poultry and eggs, and other organic meats.

Foods I really miss that I rarely indulge in now:

  • Non-real-food cereals
  • Snack crackers
  • Store-bought ketchup
  • Movie popcorn
Foods Terry misses:
  • Chicken McNuggets 
  • Hot dogs
  • Candy
  • Miscellaneous fried foods/fast food

But I'm far from perfect:

  • I still bake with white and brown sugar--and sometimes white flour--when I'm making sweets.
  • When we don't have time to go to Great Harvest (the closest location is 45 minutes away, and our freezer only has so much space for bread), we buy bread with some non-real ingredients.
  • We don't shop at the farmer's market nearly as much as we could. Local ingredients are always better!
  • We still use Pam most of the time when cooking eggs, etc.
  • We have our regular indulgences, like M&Ms, chips, etc.
  • Until recently, we still drank 2% milk and ate other low-fat dairy products.
So over the last several months we've been slowly transitioning. First it was buying full-fat cream cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and cheese. Then we tried out whole milk for our tea, baking, and scrambled eggs. And this week, finally, we went all the way: There are officially NO low-fat or non-fat dairy products in our house.

I'll be completely honest here: It's not easy to switch. I definitely grew up reading food labels--but only to look at the number of calories or the amount of fat. Seeing those high numbers on milk, yogurt, and cheese made me super hesitant at first (hence the long time it's taken to switch), but we're ready now.

It's all about moderation...

100 Days of Real Food has a fantastic post all about low-fat, lite, and nonfat food products, and Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food describes it all in a way that helped me decide that full-fat is the way to go. What it comes down to is:
  • We're better off eating full-fat products in moderation than overdoing it on low-fat stuff.
  • Often, companies take out the fat but then add sweeteners (often artificial) to boost flavor.

Interestingly, 100 Days of Real Food blogger Lisa recently asked her Facebook followers whether switching to full-fat products has actually helped them LOSE weight. (Check out her page and scroll to January 26 to see.) The response? An overwhelming (800+ comments) YES! If that doesn't convince you to at least consider it, what will?

Some reading for you:
If any of this post interests you, I strongly encourage you to try out the 10-Day Challenge. It changed my life!

And now I'm off to enjoy some (whole) milk and cookies! Happy February!

What are your thoughts on full-fat vs. low-fat/lite/nonfat products? 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Workout and a WIAW

Folks, we have two days left in the work week (unless you're my husband and have Friday off), so how's about a midweek workout?

This strength workout focuses on the entire back of the body. Very often I find myself creating workouts for my upper body or lower body. While that division (called the transverse plane) is legitimate, the body can also be divided into left and right (the sagittal plane) and the coronal plane or frontal plane. The last divides the body into front and back halves, so I thought that this week I would work on the front half Monday, back half Wednesday.

Honestly, Monday's workout wasn't great, as I mentioned, so I'm going to rework it before I share. But this morning's superset workout was great!

It's not an I'm-going-to-be-sore-for-three-days type of workout, but it strengthens muscles I usually ignore and focuses on stability at points.

Some pointers:

We finished up our workout with 15 minutes of 60 sec/60 sec HIIT. My IT band was aching a bit (I haven't been doing a good job of foam rolling lately), so I stuck to incline walking (4.5 mph + 12 incline / 4.0 mph + 6 incline), but my heart was RACING during those fast intervals! 

And now for a day of delicious delectables:

Check out the other WIAWs!

6:30 am - Breakfast
Greek yogurt with peanut butter and honey, plus tea

10:30 am - Snack

1:00 pm - Lunch
Brown rice cake from Trader Joe's (new to me--super bland but great crunch to put tuna on!) with tuna; 1/2 pear; 1/2 cup blackberries

4:00 pm - Snack
Chocolate cookie and bowl of Erewhon Raisin Bran

6:45 pm - Dinner
Two servings (!!) whole wheat spaghetti alla carbonara plus Caesar salad with homemade dressing

8:30 pm - Dessert
Two chocolate cookies and a glass of milk

Hope you had a great Wednesday! 48 hours to the weekend! (But who's counting?)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

That's Better

Today turned out much better than yesterday. We didn't exactly hop out of bed when the alarm went off, but we were on our treadmills by 5:15 to tackle this cardio workout. Definitely tough, but engaging and a great way to wake up. I covered four miles in about 42 minutes!

The rest of the day felt a little rough, but that workout at least set the tone for a positive day. I always feel more patient with my students when I've already gotten a good sweat session done.

But the highlight of the day? This seriously delicious burger, courtesy of my husband.

To create these masterpieces, Terry topped the grass-fed beef with a fried egg, pepper jack cheese, tomato, avocado, and hot sauce (though I omitted the hot sauce). We used toasted whole wheat English muffins for the bun--so good!

And on the side: diced pears and blackberries. Our little "breakfast" was phenomenal!

I also promised you another recipe that Terry created yesterday. You remember that he decided on this week's dinner menu; well, so far, his two dinners have been AMAZING! Last night he made California Caprese salad, and it rocked!

California Caprese Salad
Serves 2

  • 2 tomatoes, preferably heirloom
  • 1 avocado (or more, if you want)
  • 3-4 ounces mozzarella, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar (a particularly sweet version is best!)
  • Salt and pepper, optional (we forgot and it still tasted great!)
Slice the tomatoes and avocado(s). Layer a tomato slice, a mozzarella slice, and then the avocado. Repeat until all slices are used. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over everything; then sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

So simple. So fresh. So delicious. My husband is amazing.

I also made these cookies in response to a vicious brownie craving.

I followed the recipe exactly and added an extra sprinkle of salt on top of the cookies at the end. Because I'm a little bit of a cookie genius. (But really only in terms of choosing recipes, because if I ever tried to make up a recipe from thin air I would likely end up with something that resembles goop.)

And now a little school work and Downton Abbey before bed!

What was your most recent craving? Did you go for it?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Not Feeling It

Today was just one of those days. Terry and I did, indeed, get up at 4:45 to hit the gym, but it was ugly. Neither of us felt even remotely inspired, and--despite plenty of planning on my part--I just didn't want to do the workout. So when I got to the gym, I wasn't my usual go-big-or-go-home self. We were working through a drop-sets upper body routine, and I selected lighter weights than I normally would. I did two circuits instead of my usual three. When it came time to hop on the treadmill, I did a walking workout, which barely spiked my heart rate enough to be called a workout.

Yet, the entire time, I heard myself saying, "Well, I could be sleeping right now, so at least this is better than that."

Is it, though? Honestly, it may have been better for me to skip the half-assed morning workout and complete a much more productive workout in the afternoon instead. As it was, I told myself that I had worked out, but it certainly wasn't up to my normal standards. This afternoon I could have really benefited from another 30-minute walk or something, but I didn't do it.

There's nothing wrong with a light workout day, but I didn't feel the need for that today, and it wasn't part of my weekly plan. Truth be told, I was craving noodle arms and a tough HIIT workout. Instead I just felt that ugh feeling all day of being tired and lethargic and kind of grumpy.

I have a terrific recipe (a la Terry!) for you, but I'm going to hit the sack early to recharge for tomorrow. I need some sleep, but I also need to adjust this attitude to make tomorrow a much better day.

What do you do when you just aren't feeling it?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scenes from a Sunday

Started the day with a killer cardio workout

A delicious breakfast of Greek yogurt (with peanut butter and honey), a blueberry muffin, and tea--all while watching Downton Abbey

Lunch: bacon, avocado, tomato, and Havarti sandwich on toasted sourdough, plus an apple

Cooked up bacon for a meal later this week and for random sandwiches/salads

Made a big batch of tuna for the week

Terry planned all the dinners for the week--I'm so impressed!

Clothes all ready for a workout tomorrow! (You'll notice I have to hook my FitBit onto my workout pants the night before; otherwise I forget in the morning.)

A great day, a great weekend. I hope all the prep work we did today (making lunches, planning dinners, grocery shopping, breakfast prep for tomorrow) will make the week easier.

Any big plans for the week? What meal/health prep do you do on Sundays?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Disgustingly Sweaty

Well hey there! Been awhile, huh? Jenn texted this morning to tell me she feels like she doesn't even know me anymore because I haven't posted since Wednesday. But I'm back! I know you were getting nervous...

Let's review some highlights before things get out of hand:

  • We hit the gym early Thursday morning for this cardio workout:

  • But we skipped the gym Friday morning in favor of a little extra sleep. 
  • Thursday night we had a blast hanging out with fellow UCLA alums and watching the Bruins beat the Wildcats at South, a local bar and restaurant. The environment was super fun (another table was filled with Arizona fans!), but the menu definitely caters to those looking to indulge. I felt kinda gross the rest of the night from all the fried greasiness. 
  • Yesterday marked the last day of first semester, so I'm officially halfway done with the school year. I can't believe how quickly those five months flew!
  • Friday afternoon we finally made it to the gym; Terry did a full-body circuit workout while I loosened up my legs with 30 minutes of cardio. 
Jenn and I bought an unlimited yoga pass for a local studio and took our first class yesterday. The tiny studio was packed, despite my prediction that the rain would keep people at home. False. Rain, apparently, encourages people to attend their yoga classes. And it was HOT (though, oddly, not a hot yoga class), so by the end fourth pose we were all drenched. I've never been so disgustingly sweaty--the teacher actually told us all to wipe up the floor after class because we had dripped all over. GROSS. Thankfully the awesome class made it all worth it.

After a much-needed shower and a seriously delicious salad (avocado, greens, balsamic, red onion, salt, and pepper), Terry and I headed out to celebrate a scuba buddy's birthday at a local pub. It was so fun to meet some new folks, but we didn't get home until midnight, so there was no way a post was happening.

We've decided to take a rest day today; our bodies are achy and tired from a week of great workouts. We woke up slowly, enjoyed scrambled eggs for breakfast, and did a little work. For lunch, I had a major craving for a cafe-style sandwich and salad. Some Yelping helped us decide on Amandine, a nearby French cafe we hadn't even noticed before. We shared the turkey avocado sandwich (I wasn't impressed with the bread and wished it had come on a baguette, but otherwise it was tasty), and I loved the simple side salad. Terry also got a bowl of ratatouille, which really hit the spot. It's even warm enough in LA today that we were able to sit outside!

This afternoon I whipped up a batch of Ina Garten's Blueberry Muffins with a streusel topping, a little splurge that I'll likely send to work with Terry. I love baking, but I often find myself wishing I could just bake a few servings. Ah, the troubles in life.

Some awesome healthy reading for your weekend:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Deck of Cards Jello Legs Workout

Today started with a fantastic workout, inspired by the Last Chance Workout from The Biggest Loser that I mentioned the other day. As we continued to hit the snooze button, I worried that we weren't going to feel motivated to get up, but we did it!


Some notes: 
  • I used two 15-lb. dumbbells for the deadlifts, and I did the rest of the exercises with no weights.
  • As it is, the workout requires 95 reps of each exercise. To get it to 100 reps, my nerdy husband added two Jokers, and we did five reps of the spades & clubs and then five reps of the hearts & diamonds.
  • The walking lunges are EACH leg, so two lunges (right, left) is one rep.
  • We warmed up for five minutes and cooled down for five minutes (treadmill walking).
  • To round out the workout, I added about 30 minutes of treadmill walking this afternoon.

Get excited to feel those wobbly legs!

And now...some eats for today.
Check out the other WIAWs!

6:30 am: Breakfast - Whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, banana, and honey, plus tea

10:00 am: Morning snack - Orange

12:30 pm: Lunch - Leftovers from Monday (spaghetti squash with eggplant, onion, spinach, marinara, and goat cheese)

2:30 pm: Snack - graham cracker with peanut butter and a glass of milk

6:45 pm: Dinner - salad with mixed greens, avocado, red onion, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar (delicious!), homemade bruschetta, and half a serving of shepherd's pie (Terry ate the rest)

8:45 pm: Dessert - the last of the homemade strawberry ice cream, 1/2 banana, and chocolate/white chocolate chips

A seriously delicious day. We have plans the next two nights, so we're enjoying this lovely, quiet evening at home together and catching up on our DVR (why does it always feel like we're so far behind?). 

What was the most delicious meal you ate today?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Don't Care for That

This evening, our planned menu of shepherd's pie faced possible disaster: we didn't have any zucchini. Terry's suggestion: use carrots instead. And I did--for his half. Sadly, I'm not such a big fan of cooked carrots, and my generous husband darted out to pick up zucchini anyway. (I am aware of how awesome he is.)

As he ran to the store, I got to thinking about foods I'm not too fond of, which led to a little brainstorming sesh, and that's why you are now going to read about my favorite and not-so-favorite foods.

(A word about the title: When I was young, my mom taught me that if I don't like something at a meal, I should say, "I don't care for that." It's supposed to be a more polite way of declining foods. Terry thinks it's cute.)


Breakfast: French toast
Lunch: Grilled veggie sandwich (eggplant, zucchini, roasted bell peppers, grilled onions, maybe some aioli and/or feta)
Dinner: Burgers (obviously)
Dessert: Brownie sundae (love the hot/cold combo!)
Healthy Snack: Greek yogurt with applesauce and cinnamon
Appetizer: Mom's mushroom pizzas or baked brie

Fruit: Pear (at least lately)
Vegetable: Eggplant
Salty Snack: Buffalo Bleu Kettle Chips
Spice: Cinnamon or sea salt
Drink: Champagne

Splurge: Sweet potato fries
Most Likely Impulse Buy: Trader Joe's Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Most Frequent Craving: Pepperoni pizza


  • Cooked carrots
  • Most canned fruits and vegetables
  • Blood oranges (new discovery)
  • Tofu
  • Extra-spicy foods
  • Coffee
  • Juice and juice-based smoothies
Take It Or Leave It
  • Some seafood (has to be cooked just right)
  • Goat cheese
  • Cupcakes (my uncle still hasn't forgiven me for this one)
So, who's hungry now? We'll be enjoying our nightly dessert in a few minutes (latest favorite: homemade strawberry ice cream with a few chocolate chips and white chocolate chips), and we're getting up early again for tomorrow's leg workout. 

Speaking of which, today's 5 am sweat session was a quick 35 minutes on the treadmill, and we each hit three miles. We're both really getting into the new morning routine. The best part? We work out together almost every day! I really love this healthy habit, and it's so important to me that my husband is willing to get healthy with me. I want to live a healthy lifestyle, and I want to set a healthy example for our future children. We're doing all this work now so it's easier later.

Okay, tangent over. Hope you're having a great week!

Your Turn: What's your favorite vegetable? Favorite dinner? Favorite splurge? (Link up to recipes if you're so inclined!) And what foods do you hate?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Off

Before we get started tonight, I have to share what looks to be a fantastic workout from Bob Harper. We're catching up on one of my favorite shows, and I think this no-equipment-necessary workout would kick anyone's butt!

Bob Haper's Last Chance Workout (from The Biggest Loser)
Use a shuffled deck of cards and randomly select one at a time. The suit of each card drawn dictates your exercise, and the number* (obviously) tells how many reps to do.
  • Clubs: Push Ups
  • Diamonds: Squats
  • Spades: Thrusters
  • Hearts: Burpees (because, you know, we all <3 burpees)
*All face cards are 10 reps; Ace is 11.

Yeah, I'll give that a try when I feel like torturing myself sometime soon. Anyone care to join me?

Today was a fantastic was to spend my day off. Jenn came over for a terrific workout (will share soon, but it needs some tweaking), and we finished off the last of the pancake batter for breakfast. Delicious and perfect to round out our workout!

A bit later I joined Jenn at her place for a work session (I graded almost an entire set of essays--miracle) and for a scrumptious lunch. I love eating meals with Jenn because she's so creative. Instead of the usual Greek salad (which I already love), Jenn added some delicious olive oils and vinegars, lemon pepper, baby greens instead of Romaine, and avocado. SOOOO good!

(I love Jenn's bowls and the natural light in her apartment.)

Finally I headed to the grocery store and then home for a few chores. I even sneaked (<--had to look it up, but "sneaked" is preferred, and "snuck" is more of a slang evolution of the term) in about 20 minutes of reading in the warm sun--with sunscreen of course! For dinner, I whipped up a super easy and delicious spaghetti squash dish with roasted onion and eggplant, sauteed spinach, marinara, and goat cheese.

Looks gross, so you just have to take my word for it. Or try it for yourself!

Also, Terry and I are trying to find ways to spruce up our evening choices of liquid--but in a healthy way. Instead of beer, wine, or cocktails, tonight we made a little fizzy delight--pomegranate sparkling juice (from TJ's), club soda, and a squeeze of lemon. Quite refreshing, and more fun than water, especially in a mason jar!

Tonight Terry and I are catching up on some DVR action and prepping for the week ahead. (There may or may not be some strawberry ice cream involved.) We have all four days of morning workouts planned!

How do you like to spend your three-day weekends? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Buttermilk Pancakes and Winter Core Circuit

Well, friends, today just might be a random assortment of all that's gone on around here over the last 48 hours. But you'll see a new recipe and a new core series, so I hope you won't mind the hodgepodge.

Terry left late last night and spent the day diving in Santa Barbara today, so I had the house to myself. I did a little school work and got to sleep pretty early, but didn't sleep very well (I'm inclined to blame the helicopters, which circled over our apartment for at least four hours, but who knows?). So instead of working out right away, I kick started the day with my new pancake recipe. And OOOHHHH man, I can't say enough about how delicious this breakfast was! So as promised:

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes (and the buttermilk trick!)
Serves 4 (8 medium-sized pancakes)

  • 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¾ cup buttermilk*
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Butter for frying
  • Maple syrup and/or fruit for topping

*To make buttermilk, squeeze the juice of one small or ½ medium lemon into your measuring cup, then fill with milk to 1 ¾ cup mark. Let sit a few minutes, while you measure the other ingredients and start the batter. The milk and lemon juice curdle slightly to thicken the mixture, and you can’t taste the lemon in your final result!

First, stir together all the dry ingredients (flour through salt). Make a well in the middle of your dry mixture and add the honey, eggs, buttermilk (see note above), and melted butter. Stir until mixed, but do not overstir. Your batter might be lumpy, and that's just fine.

Heat a griddle or large pan over medium heat; grease with the butter. Pour the batter in 1/4-cup rounds and cook on medium until bubbly on top and golden brown on bottom. Flip and cook on the other side for another minute or two, until golden brown. 

Serve warm with maple syrup, fruit, and mimosas (optional). :-) 

I have been trying to find a non-banana-based pancake recipe (my favorite with bananas is Lisa's recipe), and this one is really phenomenal! I like my pancakes thick and dense, so if you prefer thinner pancakes, use only 2 cups of flour. The batter also keeps in the fridge for a few days, so you could make the batter on Sunday and enjoy pancakes for a quick breakfast the next few days!

After those pancakes digested, I finally got around to the gym for 30 minutes of this walking workout from The Fitnessista and a core circuit.

Some Tips:
Let me know what you think! 

In other news, we tried two new recipes this weekend: Grilled cheese (Manchego and Sharp Cheddar) with applewood bacon and spinach (YUM!)

and strawberry ice cream with our ice cream maker! 

We had some about-to-go-bad strawberries and decided to make the most of them. Deeeeeelicious! I'm pretty sure we're never going back to store-bought frozen treats. I have a feeling Terry will be enjoying an ice cream cake for his birthday!

The rest of the night will be spent celebrating the Niners' win, scrounging up something for dinner (I really need to go grocery shopping), and gearing up for...another day off tomorrow! Jenn and I are planning a workout (she doesn't know yet, but I've created a killer circuit for us), and then we're eating the rest of the pancake batter before settling in to get some work done. Not exactly the most riveting three-day weekend, but a productive one. 

How was your weekend? Anything exciting to share?