France, Food, and Fat

Oh, the french. They smoke like chimneys, drink like poissons, and bread and cheese is practically a religion there. But I can count on one hand the number of obese people I encountered on my trip— and two of them were from Texas. Now, I’m not suggesting these habits are a path to health. Indeed, the idea of the “French Paradox”— that coronary heart disease death rates are low despite high consumption of saturated fat— has been pretty well put to bed (here,  and here). Yet still, obesity is not the problem there that it is here. Why are Americans fat and the French aren’t?

You’ve heard it before, but in my observation, it’s true:
  1. Meals are an event. They are eaten at a table, in good company and with plenty of time. Hardly ever on the go or in the car or at the desk.
  2. Food is high-quality. Organic, fresh, made in farms and shops and kitchens more than factories.
  3. Portions are much smaller than what you get in the U.S. It’s always enough, but it’s less that we’ve come to expect You don’t have to feel completely full to be nourished. Indeed, by lingering over the meal, you often realize you are, in fact, satisfied.
  4. They walk, bike, skate, and otherwise get around using their legs.

Nothing here is surprising, not even a little. But it’s powerful.


FROMAGE

hello, lover.

I just got back from a week in Paris, and despite my living the vacation life, wine,cheese, and croissants included, I don’t feel gross. I like this food, when I have it. BUT: I like it in small portions, when I’m walking six miles a day and enjoying the beautifully crafted and plated meals. And interspersed with beautiful veggies and fruits, of course.

I don’t have the same love for this rich food that I do for fresh vegetables, light flavors, greens and berries and flowers and fruits. Some of it is in the taste and the aesthetics, certainly, but most of it is in my body, my energy. Maybe my spirit too, if that isn’t too woo-woo (I know. I know. It is). I don’t live the French life all the time— sometimes I eat at my desk, or watching Netflix. Sometimes I’m in a rush. So eating a primarilty plant-based diet works for me, at home. But I sure enjoy the reminder to put that food on a pretty plate and sit down for a few minutes to enjoy it.

Hacks, Trends, and Distractions

There’s a new thing in the health and wellness space about every five minutes, no? A superfood, a supplement, a piece of equiment, some new game-changer. It’s usually expensive, weird-sounding, and above all, new. (And as always with the brand-new, lacking credible evidence). And they just seem so promising! Like this could be the solution— the things that’s finally going to help me get a PR, lose five pounds, be amazing. So sign me up, take my money!

And some of these things probably work. They do lead to some small improvement. But here’s the catch: the added benefit of a hack like this pales in comparison to just doing the work. You can’t add acai to your McDonalds diet and become a new person. There’s so much low-hanging fruit— and that’s where the real magic happens. Start with the tried-and-true basics. Figure out your movement. Your sleep. Your diet. Your stress. If you have those basics truly dialed in and you want to mess around with tweaks and bonuses here and there, you have my blessing. Those fun little gadgets and tonics might give you a tiny boost if you’re already at the pointy end of performance and an ounce or a millisecond is of the essence. But sorry–  you can’t buy health from a link on instagram.

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psst. want some of this? it’ll really help.

I see peeps at my gym fall into this trap– they just need the right creatine or BCAA supplement, and then they’ll get their butt in gear. Meanwhile, they’re hitting the drive through on the way home from class. Or they’re not at class at all. They get frustrated with their lack of immediate and complete transformation. . . and then they fall off the wagon. GUYS. Spend your hard-earned cash on veggies, not vitamins, and call me in a few months. I guarantee you’ll be better off. Also you will have more money, and lots of beneficial side effects. Win-win!

Delicious, yet malicious: Reading Salt, Sugar, Fat

No one, as far as I know, will be surprised to find out that highly processed, manufactured food isn’t the healthiest option. No, what’s compelling about Michael Moss’s Sugar, Salt, Fat isn’t some surprising revelation. Rather, it’s the breadth and depth of an issue we kind of already knew about, laid bare. And it ain’t pretty. Here are the take aways, in the cliff’s notes version:


  • Food companies are not interested in your well being. They’re interested in their bottom line. They will make things healthier if and only if it helps them sell more. They are for-profit companies in a cutthroat competitive market. Capitalism, folks!
  • The executives and scientists who make processed food and drinks generally don’t partake of the products they design and sell. Make of that what you will.
  • The copy on food packages is disingenuous. The only information about a food’s
    Ginsburg_11565-006-Crop

    keeping supremecourt.gov fly.

    nutritional value is on the actual nutrition facts and ingredients labeling.

  • The history of the government’s dietary guidelines is apalling— this isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s pretty blatent. The department of agriculture steers the ship— and this department’s primary mission is not, in fact, health. RBG knows— Moss wrote of Ginsberg’s opnion in a 2005 case about the checkoff program for beef marketing that the USDA was simultaneusly promoting beef (advertising paid for by the government program) and telling people to eat less meat (in the USDA guidelines). She couldn’t square that circle, and neither can I: these folks have a texas-sized conflict of interest.

Bottom line: if you want to eat healthy, you have to pay attention, and it’s up to you because neither the food industry nor the government has your back. Bon appetit!

Sunday Smoothie: Summer Lovin’

It’s that time of year where it’s hard not to buy more fruit than you can possibly eat before it spoils. Everything looks good– and it’s ripe NOW. This week, I bought up an incredible bunch of juicy, sweet plums. They were great by themselves and on toast with almond butter, but this post-run smoothie was my favorite of the week!

summer_plum_green_smoothie_recipeNotes:

  • Got peaches or nectarines? Sub or add. Any stone fruit would be delicious! You could really add fresh fruit, but I love the bright green color this smoothie retains if you skip the berries. . . they tend to turn it muddy.
  • Vanilla protein powder would kick this up a notch if you need some extra boost.
  • If you didn’t pre-freeze the bananas (this is my #1 overall smoothie tip!), try adding some ice to up the creaminess factor.

welcome to the sunday smoothie!

smoothies. they’re trendy. they’re delicious. and depending on what you read, they are either the key to health, happiness, and the city, or they are why you’re fat. what?

here’s the thing: some smoothies are glorified milkshakes, and some are unbeatable nutritional powerhouses. and if you go to the juice bar, they’re probably six dollars (at least), and possibly contain frozen yogurt, juice from concentrate, and other sneaky sugar bombs (?).

do you have a blender? good news! i’m going to show you some of my favorite concoctions, starting with a great smoothie i made this week. this one has a lot of protein and not as much sugar, making it a great choice to keep you going all morning. Ready?

Berry protein smoothie recipe

notes:

  • no, you don’t need a cadillac blender to make smoothies. if you make them a lot though, you might like it! i have a basic two-speed vitamix, but you could do it in a ninja or nutribullet, too (or a blendtec if you are in the money). even your standard oster will handle this stuff, you just might need to blend a little longer and make sure you add enough liquid.
  • one of the things I love about this one is that it’s not a milkshake. it’s really not sweet at all. the creaminess comes from the tofu rather than from bananas or yogurt. if you need a little more sweetness, you could add a few dates or other fruit. if you’re in the mood, you could even add some cocoa powder or cacao nibs.
  • any kind of tofu will work– even extra-firm is soft enough for your blender to handle it, so use whatever you have!
  • it’s an art, not a science. max likes his smoothies thick enough to eat with a fork; i like mine a little lighter. you can fiddle around until you get it just right.
  • i like to use frozen fruit. it ups the thick and frosty factor. if you want to use fresh, add a little crushed ice before you hit blend.
  • i buy unsweetened almond milk. you can use any kind of milk. to keep the sugar in check, though, do try for unsweetened.
  • hemp seeds have lots of great nutritional benefits, and they add a little fat and protein. you could sub in some nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, or leave ’em out.
  • what’s that on top? it’s granola. special treat. YUM. you might need a spoon at the end, but i have this amazing glass smoothie straw that usually does the trick!

Food: sin to atone for or fuel for the fire?

We have been conditioned to think of exercise as punishment for eating— especially women. While men’s fitness magazines often discuss how to fuel for a workout or eating to build muscle, women’s magazines usually focus on how to burn calories. Prime example: Shape magazine’s “you ate it, negate it” feature that tells you how many minutes you’d have to run on the treadmill, say, to burn off that candy bar. it’s all about burning calories, as if that were the be-all end-all of exercise.

fun, friends, fitness

fun, friends, fitness

But this approach sells exercise short,  it sets us up to feel guilty about our food choices, and it teaches us to think of exercise as punishment. Exercise is good for us in many, many ways. It increases energy, fitness, and stamina. It improves cardiovascular health. It boosts overall metabolic function. It increases longevity and improves mood and mental clarity. It can be fun and social. And yes, it burns calories.

Let’s put to bed the notion that exercising has to mean a punishing slog on the treadmill or elliptical, calibrated to counteract the damage done by eating. Let’s reframe it as a way to take care of ourselves, feel good, and have fun. It’s an inherent good. And there are endless ways to partake, so there has to be SOMETHING you can find to enjoy. It could be running or crossfit, sure, but it could also be yoga, dancing, rollerblading, boxing, hiking, zumba, biking, swimming, archery, karate. . . you get the point.

fuel for whatever is coming today.

fuel for whatever is coming today.

So let’s flip this thing on it’s head: we aren’t excercising to burn calories, we’re eating to fuel our activity. So yes, that means workouts and exercise, but it also means performing well in everything else we do all day.

Long days at the clinic call for serious fuel.

Long days at the clinic call for serious fuel.

Have you ever eaten lunch and then immidiately just shut down, ready for nap time, and lost a few hours of the afternoon? I have. What about planned on a morning workout, only to wake up feeling too bogged down to get out of bed? Yeah, I’ve done that too. It doesn’t have to be that way. Now, I think about what I have coming up in a day, and I plan my meals to help me do it. A long morning with no  break until 1 calls for a solid breakfast with protein and complex carbs. 4 PM yoga means a 2PM snack like an apple might be good. Long run planned? A banana or toast with nut butter usually goes down easy. A rare lazy sunday with no plans and a rest day from training? Hell, let’s get bagels and mimosas!

We’re not thinking about calories anymore— we’re thinking about energy (which, after all, is what calories measure). This shift in thinking might seem tough at first— but once you start to connect your food to your performance and your energy, you may never want to go back.