Friday, September 3, 2010

New Blog Layout!

Hey guys,

There's lots of changes going on lately, one being my new blog forum that you can find at http://healthychicks.wordpress.com. From now on, this is where I'll be blogging from so be sure to follow me and add me to your RSS : )

-Rachel

Friday Shenanigans: What's On My Mind


Today was a pretty random day, hence making for a pretty random blog post. I started my day off amazingly with a nice 3-mile run in the sun with my best friend, followed by an even more amazing breakfast that consisted of an egg white omelet with veggies and feta and two pieces of Ezekiel toast (I guess it was more like brunch since we ate at 11 a.m.) Anyway, I then threw on my cute, new sundress for a meeting at Panera, only to be graced by rain later this afternoon. (Go away Earl!) Now I'm sitting here on my couch half-soaked, hair a mess but still ready to write, write, write. Random, I know. Alas, five random thoughts on my mind this lovely, rainy Friday evening...

1. People Watching : Seriously, I think this is one of my favorite hobbies of all time. This afternoon I went to a cafe, ordered a large iced coffee, then parked myself on a window-side stool facing the busy streets of Boston. I not only got to write and enjoy my deliciously perfect coffee, but I also got to observe hundreds of interesting people walking by. From construction workers who stared at me through the windows and adorable elderly couples to families sprinting to get away from the rain (quite amusing) to little girls dressed in cute Little Mermaid outfits, I got a little glimpse of everything. I always find it interesting to observe other people's habits, styles and conversations. Call me weird or a stalker, but I'm telling you it's so much fun, especially when you're writing and need some extra inspiration!

2. Vodka:I know, I know...I call myself a "Healthy Chick" but even us healthy chicks have to treat ourselves to a good drink once in a while. And this has been quite a long, stressful, hectic week so I think I deserve a drink...or three. Since I don't drink beer (I'm weird and think it tastes like stale bread), I am planning on making some Vodka seltzers tonight (with maybe a splash of Crystal Light) to enjoy with friends before we head out to face the rain. Earl, you are not stopping us from having fun!

3. Dinner-In: Last week, I went out to dinner with my family nearly every night. Of course each meal was delicious, but my single, budgeting city-gal self couldn't handle the HUMUNGOUS portions. Of course I cleared my plate most of the nights because hey, I'm going to take advantage of free food while I could. But, this week I've never been so happy to cook single portions at home for myself. I've had some delicious dinners this week, including fresh salads, vegetable stir-fry, and a yummy Thai-style Lime Rice with tofu (you have to take a peak!) What's on the plate tonight? Homemade turkey burgers topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese...MMM!

4. Boys: Honestly, is the entire city of Boston taken, married or just plain un-datable? Really, I could use a date or two...While I may have it together with health and fitness, dating may just not be my forte...Guess "it will happen when you're not looking for it." (I've been hearing that since I was 15.)

5. My Recipe Book: As some of you know, I'm in the process of publishing my very own healthy recipe book, filled with simple, nutritious dishes to make from home. Anyway, I put a lot of thought into it today and am so excited to get this baby going (still have some tweaks to figure out). Be sure to stay tuned for updates on this exciting project of mine!

TGIF!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Power of One Little Compliment



Today when I was ordering my food at Panera, the barista caught me by surprise. While normally it's just the usual place your order, fake smile, take the buzzer and go, today was different. "I absolutely love your dress," the woman said. "It looks so cute and comfy!" Not only did the lack of robotic communication take me by surprise, but I was also completely flattered. She then continued by telling me the salad I ordered was a good choice, and that I seem like one healthy girl (little did she know I'm a "Healthy Chick" after all). Anyway, back to the point: this stranger's simple compliments completely made my afternoon. And they weren't even over-the-top or extravagant in any way. I walked back to find a seat beaming in confidence, just because of two little nice lines from a stranger.

This got me thinking about how I wish we saw more of these kind exchanges more often in life. Too many times throughout the day, I see people frowning and looking completely pissed off, or watch as people blurt out rude comments without thinking. I see it every day in line at Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Yelling. Shouting. Snide, sarcastic comments. Impatience. It's as if people have completely forgotten how to have friendly conversation, or somehow feel as if they're superior in some way. It's sad, really. Sometimes I wish I could smack some sense into these people or force a smile onto their face. Seriously, it just makes me plain angry.

Did you ever stop to think what a teensy weensy smile or one little simply compliment could do for someone else's day? I know it sounds cliche and we've heard it a million times, but still you don't see enough of this "happy talk" anymore. And you know what? The best part about it is it's completely effortless.

So I challenge you to turn your iPod off during your next commute to work and smile at that stranger. Or actually engage in some sort of conversation with the guy that bags your groceries every. single. time. Compliment a woman you admire for her true beauty. Really, it can't hurt. And I can bet you that your tiny, little act of kindness will actually make some sort of difference on anothers day...even if you can't SEE it right away...

What are certain kind exchanges you've had lately, or something someone told you that completely brightened your day?

How Pilates Can Turn Your Life Around (Feature Interview with Jennifer Blaine of Jennifer Pilates)



I have to admit: While I consider myself a health and fitness enthusiast, I know very little about Pilates. I tried a class a few years ago at my local gym and boy was it a challenge (in a good way of course). Let’s just say every participant in the class was 100% ripped (especially the instructor), and my abs hurt for the next three days.

However, that one little class is the extent of my Pilates knowledge. But there has got to be more to it than that! After all, magazines rave about how it’s the most amazing workout for your body, and celebrities swear by it. So what is it that makes this exercise so darn great?

Since clearly I don’t know the answer to that, I interviewed Pilates instructor Jennifer Blaine of Jennifer Pilates to find out more about this mysterious, miracle exercise. With studio locations in Boston and on Cape Cod Jennifer truly does live and breathe Pilates. Alas, I’ll give the floor to her…

RC: When were you first introduced to Pilates?

JB: I was introduced to Pilates in 1997 after being in a car accident in Boulder, Colorado. I had such severe internal tissue damage and Pilates was actually recommended from my doctor. So I rehabbed with it for about two years…

RC: Wow, you’ve come so far! How did you get to where you are today?

JB: Well one day one of my instructors couldn’t show up to class and asked if I could sub in, since I’d been there for two years. So I kind of helped out a little bit that day, and from then on Pilates changed my life…I left my corporate job and dove into Pilates. It really was a blessing in disguise.

RC: That sure is. What’s unique about your background?

JB: I’m trained as a classical third-generation master Pilates instructor, derived from the classical methods of Joseph Pilates himself from the “Harvard of Pilates Schools” The Pilates Center of Boulder, Colorado.

RC: And you have locations in both Boston and Cape Cod? Or do you just stay here in Boston?

JB: I’m in Boston [at the Newbury Street location] three days a week and on the Cape (at the Osterville location) two days a week.

RC: Wow, that’s great. You’re a busy girl! What’s something you would tell someone who knows NOTHING about Pilates (like myself) or may be weary to try it out?

JB: Pilates is great because virtually anyone can do it. I have clients who are 8 years old and clients who are 90 years old. It’s especially great for people looking for something new.

Pilates works from the core outward so in one session you’re working your entire body from head to toe. There’s no messing around…you’re in, you’re working and then you’re out. It’s just so wonderful…I don’t even feel like I’m working out. With Pilates you really can get a great workout in just an hour.

RC: That’s wonderful! I know some people who spend hours at the gym only to see no results. How is Pilates beneficial to your body?

JB: Well, after 10 sessions, you’re really feeling a difference in your body. After 20 sessions, you’re beginning to SEE a difference—losing inches, toning, strengthening, and gaining stamina. Then after 30 sessions you completely change your body and really see such a big difference. After all, the sessions are 50% stretching, 50% strengthening.

RC: What is some of the feedback you’ve heard from clients? Any unique stories?

JB: I have a golf pro who has been following me from my studios forever because I changed his golf game. Everyone asks him, “What happened? What did you do?” Focusing on the core outward really changed his body and his game…his ball is now going further and straighter.

I’ve also worked with downhill skiers and tennis pros in helping them stay in tune with their bodies. Even clients returning after having twins who are trying to find their abdominals again. Pilates is great for everyone!

RC: That’s amazing that it’s extremely versatile, good for both men and women. What are your other hobbies and interests besides Pilates?

JB: I’m an avid golfer and an avid tennis player. I also enjoy skiing, hiking, boating and sailing. I’m a real outdoorsy girl. The ocean is a big part of my life in the summer and skiing is a big part in the wintertime. And so is Pilates of course. I practice what I preach!

RC: Definitely, it makes all the difference when you’re doing what you love. Thanks Jennifer!


Purchase your very own private session with Jennifer Blaine today! Click here for more info.

[Interview also featured at CoupMe.com]

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Charge Through a Morning Workout (Or Any Workout) Pain-Free


I’m a morning person. I always have been. My roommates in college used to envy the fact that I could wake up right when the sun came up perkier than ever. They also used to loathe the fact that I’d stomp around the apartment with my sneakers slamming cabinets and shuffling around pots and pans to make my morning omelet, as they tried to get their beauty sleep (sorry girls!) So yes, I’ll admit that getting up in the morning is a tad easier for me than the average human being.

However, I am not Superwoman and I too have my days where I want to throw my Blackberry out the window as the annoying alarm rings in my ear. Take this morning for instance. I set my alarm for 7:30 a.m. because I wanted to get my morning run over with before the horrendous 100-degree weather hit. However, I was angry when I heard my alarm go off this morning. Not only did it interrupt a good dream (don’t you hate that?) but I also was not ready to get up. So I sat there for a few seconds debating whether I should go back to sleep or not, and decided to rip the Band-Aid off. Yes, the first few seconds are painful, but once I sprung out of bed I was good to go. Then when I put on my running outfit and sneaks, I knew there was no turning back!

So, no I wasn’t born with super powers, nor do I have any magical advice to give you on how to get yourself going in the morning. But I do have some motivational tips that’ll help you make it through a tough workout painlessly.

1. Spring Out of Bed: As I already mentioned before, getting out of bed is the hardest part, then the rest is a piece of cake! Do whatever you need to do in order to move your body from your comfy cloud-like mattress to a standing position. I use the “rip the Band-Aid off” method, where I give myself a few seconds of recuperating then just jump up before I can talk myself out of it.

Thinking about how great I’ll feel AFTER my workout also helps me get through the initial doubts. Just think: if you go back to bed you’ll already waste a few hours of your day, and probably won’t end up achieving your goals for the day. Just take the day on my friend…really you won’t regret it!

2. Fuel Up! Confession: I didn’t listen to my own advice this morning, and boy do I regret it. Before you set out, make sure you’re properly fueled. First things first: drink a good amount of water before you head out. Then, eat something small yet substantial that’s going to get you through your workout. An apple with some natural peanut butter, Greek yogurt, piece of toast, protein bar, or half of a fruit smoothie all work. Eat something small that you know your stomach can handle. Then when you return from your workout, you can dive into something more filling.

3. Set a Goal… It’s always good to have some sort of goal in mind, whether it’s going a certain distance, doing a certain amount of reps at the gym, or trying a new yoga class. Today my goal was to run another 5 miles, as I hit the 5-mile mark last week and wanted to see if I still had it goin’ on. Alas, I mapped out a route and set off to see where my legs would take me…

4.…But Don’t Take Your Goal Too Seriously: Goals are always great, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve what you set out to do. Today was HOT out. Yes, even at 7:30 a.m. the temperature was already nearly 90 degrees. (So much for beating the heat). Anyway, midway through my run I had to re-access whether running the full five miles was right for my body. I thought about stopping and walking the rest (around mile four) but realized that my breathing was in control and another mile was definitely doable, so I simply slowed down my pace.

Sure, I didn’t run the five miles in record-breaking time, however I DID IT and felt amazing afterward! Had I felt faint or dehydrated, I would have stopped and felt OK about that. It’s all about listening to your body, and not pushing yourself beyond what you’re comfortable with.

5. Take Advantage of Mind Tricks: I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes exercise can be strenuous and downright painful. That’s when I start playing tricks with my mind. If you know you still have another three miles to go (or another 30 minutes in a challenging group fitness class), thinking about it (and looking at the clock every 10 seconds) is going to drive you absolutely crazyyyyy.

Instead, play mind tricks. Today I blocked out any discouraging thoughts, and instead started thinking about what I was going to do the rest of the way. All the sudden, I was half way around the loop again without even thinking about it. I also like to look at the smaller picture; that is when I’m running a far distance, I’ll use street signs or telephone poles as different benchmarks. That way, instead of thinking about an ADDITIONAL THREE MILES, I’ll take it one sign at a time. Music also helps get your mind off the struggle, which leads me to my next point…


6. Jam Out: Seriously, I don’t know how people exercise without amazing tunes to go with it. But I suppose if you aren’t an Ipod person, chatting with a friend, watching the TV at the gym, or listening to the surrounding noise helps—any distractions really! But if you’re like me, I like my jams, and lately I’ve been really feeling my newest playlist, “Workout Baby.”

I recently downloaded “I Like it” by Enrique Iglesias (feat. Pitbull) and absolutely love it. Actually that’s an understatement. Confession: I played it THREE times during my run this morning; that’s how obsessed with it I am. So, download some new tunes, have your hip, music-obsessed friend burn you a few CD’s. I’m telling you: new, upbeat songs can make all the difference during your next workout.

Hope this helps! Please share your personal motivating tips that help you charge through…

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ta Ta For Now Expensive Gym Membership: How Quitting the Gym Can Actually be a GOOD Thing


So, as some of you know, I quit the gym at the beginning of the month in order to save money—a whole $65 a month to be exact. And now 30 days later that day has come; today is my very last day of using the lovely gym facility. So of course I’m going to use it up to the very fullest. I’ll take advantage of all the equipment, use every little weight I can get my hands on, prance around ‘til I touch every cardio machine, and of course soak up some relaxation in the steam room at the end of my workout.

To be completely honest, the steam room and laundry services are what I’m going to miss most. The rest I can do on my own. Really, I’m not the least bit upset. No, I’m not nervous I’m going to gain weight or become one of those people who’d rather watch TV and eat a box of pizza than get some exercise. I already have a healthy lifestyle engrained into me, so I know—gym or no gym—nothing is going to change. I’ll still find a way to energize, challenge and move my body in order to feel my ultimate best.

Anyway, back to my plan: My goal is to become more of a “runner.” My dad’s a runner, my cousins are all runners, but running really never was my thing. I used to dread the mile run in gym class when I was younger, and I once started to cry on a 5K with my dad when I realized we weren’t even half way. However, lately things have all changed. I’ve suddenly began to enjoy how wonderful it feels to move my feet and take my body as far or as short I want to take it. Instead of cringing when I’m only two miles in, I give myself a mental pat on the back and feel inspired to keep going. Suddenly, I feel as thought I could run forever, like something finally snapped and said “this girl is meant to run.”

OK, enough of the deep stuff. I’m mostly excited to become a runner because it's FREE; I’m going to use the money I would have spent on my gym membership (yup, that $65 a month that I mentioned before) to sign up for races a few times a month instead. This way I’m still getting my exercise and doing my body good, but also am putting the money toward a good cause. As some of you know, my grandmother (who was by far the kindest, loving person in the world) was taken by cancer a few months ago. This makes me want to run for her, and every other person our there who didn’t (and doesn’t) deserve to lose their life over such an awful disease. I’m planning on signing up for a few 5K’s this fall to “race for the cure” and help raise money to find away so these terrible things don’t happen anymore. And I encourage others out there to do the same. After all, every little bit counts and each one of us really can make a difference.

So off I go. Bye-bye gym membership (well, after I totally use it up this evening) and hello runner girl!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Margaritas, Scales 'n' Stupid Numbers (and Why You Shouldn't Take Them So Seriously)


So last night was Mexican night i.e. way too many margaritas, chips and salsa in one sitting, with salt overload might I add. The margarita glasses were rimmed in salt, the chips were swimming in salty goodness and our limes (for the tequila shots later on) were even coated in salt. Why, I don't know? However, I didn't beat myself up over it at all because I eat healthy every day, and had eaten "clean" all day long. What's a little fun gonna do?

That doesn't make up for the fact that I felt like a huge bloated blob this morning when I woke up. And, expectedly, when I stepped on the scale this morning I was two pounds more than I usually am. While two years ago I would've cried and beaten myself up over the fact that I "gained" two pounds in one day, I am a much wiser version of myself now. Instead of freaking out, I laughed and thought to myself, "Yep, that's what salt will do to you." Ladies, I'm only going to say this once: IT'S ONLY WATER WEIGHT. There is no possible way you can gain two pounds in one day, unless you literally ate lard for 24 hours straight (and even then you'd probably, um, poop it out). It's amazing that it took me years to figure this out and to finally stop over-analyzing and obsessing over the damn number on the scale.

I love that after all these years, I can finally be rational and happy about my weight. Yes, it's going to go up and down. Yes, there will be days I feel "fatter" than others, and days I feel ultra skinny. However, what it comes down to is the way I feel in my own skin, how I fit in my clothes and the general healthy lifestyle that I live. I wish everyone could realize that when you lead a healthy lifestyle most of the time you are allowed little indulgences here and there, and they WON'T I repeat WON'T affect your overall goals and weight.

So, simply put: enjoy life and stop freaking out about stupid numbers all the time. Instead, dive into that third margarita and know tomorrow will be a new day, and the number on the scale will go back to normal as well! I promise you that.

XoXo,

The Healthy Chick

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The "Mini-Vacation" (and why you should take them)


I have to be honest: Ever since I left my full time job, I've pretty much been living the life. So far since I've been home, I've dyed my hair, attended a wedding, went out to dinner at least three times with my family, went to an authentic Lobster Bake on Fisher's Island, saw Phantom of the Opera with my family and today am going to the beach with my dad for some tanning (finally). Granted, this isn't going to last forever. Once I go back to Boston Monday it's time to crack down on my writing and my books, but still, it's pretty sweet.

The original plan for this week was a trip to Cape Cod for tanning, nice hotels and delicious dinners. However, the weather didn't really cooperate, so we made do. And I couldn't be more happy with our decision. These "mini-vacations" (I like to call them) are absolutely fabulous, especially for families, young professionals, and busy bees. Think about it: instead of taking a week off of work (or life), you can take little bits of hours here and there instead. I hear so many people complaining that they never get a vacation, and would die for a couple weeks to themselves. Well, I'm here to tell you that vacation is just around the corner, no matter how busy or chaotic your life is!

Next time you get out of work early, take your husband and kids to a nice dinner somewhere by the shore, followed by some good, authentic ice cream. Or maybe take off and go mini golfing or go-carting to change it up a bit. Have some time on your lunch break? Escape the office for a mani/pedi with your sister, your mom or even yourself! If you have a free weekend, do something crazy like taking a day trip to Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod (if you're from the North), or going for a long hike with the family. If you're a single working gal, grab a bunch of your pals (men and women) and hit the mountains for a mini camping trip fully equipped with tents, S'mores and yummy food for the grill.

It doesn't matter what you do. The point is that we all deserve a little vacation once in a while, and these "mini vacations" are perfect for anyone's schedule. So clear a few hours and watch what a little trip can do for your attitude, your mind and your overall happiness!

XoXo,

The Healthy Chick

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stuck in a Rut? Go for a RUN!


This may sound strange, but years ago when I was applying to college, I began my college admission's essay...wait for it...at the gym! Yes, while hundreds of other students put in hours at the library or glued to the computer chair, I began scribbling my essay (that got me into JMU) on the elliptical machine...with a pen and piece of scrap paper. What can I say; a light bulb hit while I was trucking along on the machine and I went with it. I've also thought of article ideas on long runs, have worked through job stresses by lifting weights and have tackled my way through life's toughest decisions simply by going for a long walk.

While this may sound completely out there to you, I promise I have a point. That is that 99% of the time problems can be solved through exercise. Hear me out. Normally when we're stuck in a rut (whether it be a deadline or a mini life crisis) we tend to shut down and fall apart. That's how I used to handle problems in high school. If I was upset about a guy, an assignment, or a tricky decision, I'd shut down completely. I'd run into my room, slam the door and just sit there with my problems feeling sorry for myself. But let's be serious: that gets us no where. In fact, it's working backwards, and no one wants that.

Instead, next time you find yourself in a tricky situation, or even when you're having one of those "brain farts," go for a swim. Or lace up your running shoes and hit the road, even if you only go a couple miles. It's amazing what our minds can do when we let loose and relax. And that's exactly what exercise does for us. Not only is it beneficial for weight management and healthy hearts, but exercise is a 100% mind-clearing miracle drug. It cures problems thick and thin, whether it's anger from your unreasonable boss or a difficult financial decision you're not sure of. The thing is: exercise gives you all the answers you normally wouldn't think of yourself. Whether it's the change of environment or simply getting your body moving, all I can tell you is that it works. And boy does it work well. So I challenge you to tackle your rut the right way, the healthy way for once, and see how wonderful you'll feel afterwards.

Feel free to share any stories or successes you've had by "running through a rut."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Be Creative & Colorful With Your Food!

I'm often asked many questions when it comes to fitness, diet and healthy cooking. Today I was asked on my website what the best options are at the grocery store for healthy cooking that'll ensure a good look by next weekend. Then there's my sister who would call me nearly every week when she was in college asking what the "best" or "right" choices are for her meals.

While I'd give her (and many others) my two cents plus some nutritional wisdom, the thing is: there is no RIGHT choice when it comes to what you put on your plate. Sure some options are much better choices than others, but it's oh so much fun to experiment and try new things, rather than go with the usual boring "health foods." What's the fun in same old, same old? Spice it up with a little variety, girl! Instead of loading up on bananas and apples like you do every weekend, buy oranges, grapefruits or berries that are on sale. Tired of the usual rice pilaf? Mix it up with long grain or brown rice with some olive oil and fresh herbs, or substitute a hearty sweet potato for your usual starchy go-to choice. Eat grilled chicken every. single. night? Purchase some fresh salmon or tuna to saute or bake in the oven! Liven up your salads with pretty colors by adding mandarin oranges, berries, avocado, egg whites, sugar snap peas or edamame. And add some spice and zing to your food with garlic, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, cilantro and any other herbs/spices that intrigue you!

Sometimes I buy new, fun things just to try them out and change things up a bit. For instance, they other day I bought fresh corn because it was on sale and some pineapple, even though that's not a usual staple for my weekly grocery list. I also purchased some fresh dill because I was making homemade salmon and didn't want to use the usual dried dill flakes; I wanted to make it special. Lesson learned: variety is the key to a healthy, balanced, delicious diet!

What are some funky, delicious recipes you've created by adding a little variety?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Little Bite Goes a Long Way


I have a confession: Sometimes when I go into Dunkin' Donuts for my morning coffee, I ask for one munchkin. Yes just one chocolate glazed munchkin donut. (They usually give it to me for free.) And sometimes I just take one nibble of it and throw it out, but boy does it satisfy my sweet tooth. I also tend to pick at pizza (I nibble at the pepperoni or cheese), burgers, nachos, and other such indulgences.

Don't get me wrong: if I want the whole thing, I'm going to eat it. However, if I'm not that hungry or know something is going to upset my stomach later on (I am supposed to stay away from wheat after all), I settle for a bite or two and move on. My parents and friends used to make fun of me, calling me a "bird" because I pick and nibble at things. However, that's not really the case. Boy, CAN I EAT, when it's something nutritious, energizing, tasty and satisfying...when it's something I'll enjoy to the fullest. However, when I just want a little, teensy weensy bite of something, I really don't see a reason for eating the whole damn thing. Who cares if other people will judge you. If you just want a bite of the burger or don't want the bread, so be it. If you want the whole steak, FINE...go for it girl. Get what YOU want, and don't be afraid to pick 'n' choose or not finish your plate.

I thought about this today and realized the whole just-a-bite-of-the-donut method holds true in many aspects of life. If you aren't ready to run a full three miles, run the first two and walk one. Hey, it's better than staying inside on the couch saying "I can't do it." If you're ready to make a big change but don't think moving to a new city is right for you at the moment, get involved in some new clubs or redecorate your house. Do you see what I'm getting at? So many of us think we have to go all or nothing, but that's not the least bit true. So go ahead: take a bite of that munchkin with your next iced coffee or walk that second lap. And don't worry about what anyone thinks of you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Make your life all about "me"



So in the past month I've done quite a lot: I've lost a few pounds, learned to love running, quit my job to pursue my dream as a writer and dyed my hair brunette. And I have to say it feels pretty darn good. It's refreshing to make some healthy changes to your life once in a while, and I felt that I was well overdue for some.

Of course I've made changes in my life before, but this is the first time that I've done all of it for me, myself and I. Yes, while that sounds a little selfish, I think we all need to take some time to live for ourselves once in a while. Not for anyone else. And that's exactly what I'm doing. My more in shape, running-obsessed, free spirit, brunette self are all things I did for me, things that that define me. I didn't make any changes for a guy, my family, or a friend for once. This is all about Rachel.

So my advice to you is to break that habit of living for someone else and go out and get what you want. Tackle it and make it your own. Trust me, you'll feel much better afterward.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Runner's Diet: Hot Tips From RD Allison Rovtar!



So, I wouldn't really call myself a "runner" per se. However, that doesn't mean I don't absolutely LOVE doing it. I remember seven years ago on my 16th birthday when I couldn't even run a mile without getting winded and let down. Now at 23, I run nearly every day, sticking to 3 to 4 miles at a nice steady pace. I absolutely love the way it makes me feel afterward. I love the wind blowing through my hair. I love how it gives my face this unbelievable glow like no other when I'm finally finished. And I love how it makes me feel strong, healthy and beautiful. Let's just put it this way: I love running and admire all of you healthy, avid runners out there. But let me ask you this: do you know the BEST way to eat when training for a race? How about what to grab in the morning before your quick 2-mile loop? Do you need to guzzle lots of water before and after? Not a clue? I wasn't 100% positive myself. That's why I asked Registered Dietitian, Allison Rovtar from Chicago, to be featured on my blog as a guest columnist. Here she shares hot, exclusive tips and advice for all you runners out there!

RC: So, you just woke up and you're going out for a quick 3 to 5 mile run in the morning. Do you suggest you eat/drink anything before? Wait 'til after?

AR: I always encourage my clients to eat about 45 minutes prior to working out. This allows them the energy they may need to have a good run. A good rule of thumb is to have something that includes protein, carbohydrate, and fat. This could mean an apple with 2 tbsp peanut butter, oatmeal with chia seeds, or even Greek yogurt.

RC: What should women in particular be aware of when following a runner's diet? Anything you'd eat more of? Leave out?

AR: People used to believe that you had to load up on carbs weeks before and this just isn’t the case. Yes, you do want to be sure you are taking in adequate calories from carbohydrates but no need to overdo it! Overdoing it and consuming too many carbohydrates the night before can leave you feeling bloated for race day. Carbohydrates are, however, a necessity as they provide us with the glycogen needed for energy! Complex carbohydrates are key and generally my endurance athletes consume 55% calories from carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 20% fat but these numbers can vary a bit person-to-person. In the days leading up to your event you can up your carbohydrate intake to 60% if desired.

RC: I know many people (not myself) who run well over 13 miles-sometimes more-on a regular basis? What should they be fueling up with? Do you suggest gu, gels, etc? What should you drink?

AR: I suggest runners carry Gu or Gu Chomps with them when planning on running anything longer than 45 minutes. This will help with energy levels and for most people stop them from hitting a “wall” during the latter miles. A good rule of thumb is 1 packet (Gu) or 2-3 Chomps every 45 minutes to 1 hour. During a half marathon or marathon I encourage runners to switch between water and an electrolyte drink at each station. They usually have both throughout the race. For some runners it may be important to walk through the water stations. This way they get enough water in and don’t spill most of it while trying to drink and run!

RC: How do you prep most effectively for a race? A 5k? A half marathon? A full marathon? What kind of meals do you suggest you eat drink before/during/after? The night before?

AR: Each race is going to be different. The mileage plays a significant role in the prep before, during, and after. I always encourage runners to add chia seeds to their meal plan. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3’s and calcium. A lot of research has shown that when chia seeds are ingested they form a gel like consistency in the gut. This can help slow the breakdown of carbohydrates.

The before routine is going to vary from person to person. Before the Rock ‘N Roll Chicago half, I had a banana with peanut butter and 8 oz. of an electrolyte drink. Experiment with what works for you and do not try something new race day! Marathon runners may need more to eat the morning of. I have had some clients who will have three pieces of whole wheat toast and almond butter the morning of so they are not starving mid race!

Hydration post race is especially important. Be sure to consume water and pay attention to the color of your urine. If it is light yellow a few hours after your race, more than likely you have adequately rehydrated yourself!

RC: What's your #1 nutrition tip for women athletes?

AR: Rest days! Be sure to listen to your body. Women tend to push themselves to the point where there body begins to breakdown and this is where injuries can happen. Taking a break from running and doing yoga or Pilates is always a great idea!

RC: What do you do to stay fit and maintain a healthy diet? Are you a runner? Do you go to the gym? Any special diets you follow?

AR: Along with being a Registered Dietitian I am also a NASM-Performance Enhancement Specialist, so staying healthy is important! I enjoy running and boxing for my workouts along with resistance training. I work at a gym so it is very easy for me to get my workouts in! As far as special diets I try to ensure complex carbohydrates and adequate protein. At the end of the day my calories usually add up to about 45% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 25% fat.

RC: Thanks Allison! I definitely learned a lot. Be sure to check Allie out on Twitter at Allie_RD for more sweet nutrition tips!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Healthy, No Fuss Guide to a First Date



So, I’m going on a date tonight and I have to say I’m quite excited. Hey, dates are fun. While some of my friends (whose names I won’t mention) get nervous, sweaty and, well, gassy, before a first date (HA), I think about other things. “What do I eat? What will I wear? What do I order? How much do I drink? I’m a “light weight” these days…what if I get too drunk? Will I look OK? He’s older then me...what will he think of me?” Seriously, that’s what is going through my mind right now and it’s not even 9 a.m. OK, I’m exaggerating a tad, but really these are things you need to think about ladies. Alas, here is my quick-fix Healthy Chicks guide to a first date. Hope you enjoy!

What to eat the day of the big date:
Yes, what you eat the day of a date really does affect the way you look and feel that evening. Let’s just put it this way: today is definitely not the day to try out that sugary coffee you’ve been eying, or order the burger at lunch. No, no, no. Today you must be cautious so you feel like a complete babe later on. This means cut back on sugar, sugar substitutes, refined starchy carbs, extra salt, sodas or other fizzy drinks, hefty meals, and even sugar-free gum. These are all things that make you feel BLOATED and no one wants to feel bloated right before a night out in the city. I packed my bag for work accordingly so that I can feel extra-good tonight.

Breakfast=2 pieces Ezekiel toast with 1 TB smart balance butter; 1 egg mixed with 1 egg white, cup of black coffee (I wanted my breakfast to be filling, so I went with 2 pieces of sprouted grain toast served with an egg+ egg white for ultimate protein, then obviously coffee for my caffeine fix)

Snack=ANOTHER iced coffee+ banana (The first coffee didn’t quite do it for me so I picked another one up at Dunkin’ on my way to work for an extra kick (iced with a little skim, no sugar)…and gotta love fresh fruit in the morning, but this would be even better topped with all natural peanut butter or almond butter!)

Lunch=Lemon Zest Luna bar with Clementine (I chose a light lunch today because I know I’ll be drinking and probably eating appetizers later, plus the Luna bar is great for protein. Not to mention, it’s packed with calcium, folic acid, vitamin D, and iron, all super good nutrients for women.)

Afternoon snack=large bowl of pineapple topped with Greek yogurt and cinnamon (for a sweet ‘n’ fresh afternoon pick-me-up)

Dinner*=large salad with fresh spinach, feta cheese and lots of fresh veggies drizzled in olive oil and lemon (skipping the salt this time in my salad so I can feel bloat-free) *If you are going out to dinner, order what you want and eat until you’re full. If you loooove salads and grilled chicken, get one. If you’re a steak girl, go for it baby! Just take into account how it’s going to make your body feel later on, and if you’re having lots of cocktails cut down on the high-cal dinner options. For me, I usually get a fresh salad, grilled chicken or a seafood entree and skip the fried or carby entrees because they upset my stomach due to my gluten intolerance. So, eat what you know your body can handle…do your body good.

How to Make Sure You Have Enough Time:

If you’re like me, I like to get in a kick-butt sweaty workout session the day of a date. It not only makes me feel fabulous, but it also works wonders on your confidence. Since I knew I wouldn’t have time nor want to exercise after work, I decided to get it over with in the morning. Yes, I woke up at 6 a.m. and forced my butt to the gym. While getting out of bed was a little bit of a struggle, I couldn’t have felt better once I was there. I went for a quick yet sweaty workout since I knew I only had 45 minutes, an hour at most. I started with 25 minutes of intervals on the elliptical, alternating 30 second full-out sprints with a minute of steady paced jogging. Once I was dripping in sweat, I knew I did something right. After all, that’s the goal. After I spend the next 20 minutes or so doing weighted lunges and squats, mixed with shoulder exercises (overhead press, shoulder presses, etc). I then jogged home to end my workout the right way!

Also, if you have time in the morning, pick out your outfit ahead of time. Yes, I know it sounds a little Elementary school-ish, but no one likes to be running around last minute like a chicken with their head cut off. I mentally decided what I’m going to wear tonight so it’s in my mind. That way, when I get home from work, I can eat dinner and get ready without all the last minute hustle bustle.

What to wear:

It’s always good to be aware of what kind of place you are going to before your date. Luckily this time I know exactly where I’m going, so I’m going to dress accordingly. The place is nice and on the waterfront, so I’m planning on wearing a bright-colored dress with nice flip-flops. Classy yet not over the top (i.e. no high heels). However, sometimes you have to make a judgment call when you’re not exactly sure where the date will be held. I always say go classy over tight and skanky and wear something YOU’LL feel comfortable in. That’s the most important thing for me.

One time, I was completely UNDERDRESSED on a date and couldn’t have felt more awkward. I was under the impression that we were doing something low-key and chill (i.e. going out for ice cream) so when the guy I was going out with told me to meet him at Eastern Standard last minute and I rolled up in jeans and a tee, I couldn’t feel more of an outsider. He was in a collared button down and nice pants, women were dressed to the nines in jewelry and cocktail dresses, there were white tablecloths and candles on the table, and there I was in my girl-next-door t-shirt. YIKES. Never again…never again. I guess I learned my lesson to always dress a little bit above average at least.

What to Drink:

Typically, I go for a glass (or two) of red wine or a vodka seltzer with a splash of pineapple or cranberry juice. These are great choices, especially during a hot summer night by the waterfront☺ However, use your best judgment and drink what you want…just know your limits…don’t want to get sloppy!

When I want something more indulgent, I usually go for a margarita on the rocks or a vodka pineapple…mmm!

To Kiss or Not to Kiss...
Well, this one's up to you!

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy your date!

XoXo,

The Healthy Chick

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What's a Nutcake?



As you know, I absolutely love anything and everything local. Forget brand names and packaged foods with more than 100 ingredients. EW. Local food artisans are so much more interesting...and they make tastier products. Seriously, you should see me when I walk into Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or a local Farmer's Market. I'm like a little kid on Christmas morning...walking around with eyes bigger than my head and a grumbling stomach. I want to taste everything; I want to taste it ALL. From wineries and cheese producers to homemade breads and ooey gooey brownies, local is totally the way to go.

Today at work we discovered Effie's Homemade, a local company crafting up biscuit-like cookies out of Hyde Park, MA. Two life-long friends (Joan Maclsaac and Irene Costello) started the company in honor of Joan's mom Effie and her amazing Oatcakes recipe. And there you have it: Effie's Homemade was born, baking up fresh, simple oatcakes, corncakes 'n' nutcakes daily! These tasty gems beat a cookie any old day...serve the biscuits with tea, a piece of cheese or enjoy as a light, tasty snack any time of the day! Better yet, the ingredients are fresh and simple so you don't even have to feel guilty about it.

You can purchase at many local MA stores, several Whole Foods and online. Visit their website for more info!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cleaning Up after a Weekend of Too Much Fun



I'm the girl who in college would be teased by my roommates because my idea of "drunk food" was peanut butter and an apple or fruit and nuts. As my roommates munched on large, extra-cheese pizzas and overflowing chicken finger orders with colossal fries, I'd join in on the fun with a plate of what they called "bird food." One thing's for sure, however. While my drunk eats were a tad abnormal and definitely not as fun, I'd wake up feeling somewhat better (minus the pounding headache).

You can image then why I feel so blah today after a weekend of "fun" eating. I have to say while it's good to eat loudly and proudly most of the time, too much fun sometimes isn't good...especially considering how I feel now. I always say it's OK to treat yourself--every day even--but scarfing down chicken fingers, cheesy Reubens leftover from my roommates post-bar "snack" and french fries took things a little too far for me. Not to mention my sister was visiting all weekend, so what can I say? We wined and dined...hard core.

So while I am ecstatic I had a fun, event-packed weekend, I am now paying the consequences on this dreary Monday morning. Another cup of coffee please? Anyway, listen: this happens to the best of us and your body will not feel this way forever, and your diet is not, I repeat NOT ruined. If you follow my little tips to clean up after a weekend of "fun," you'll be back to your happy, feel-good, Healthy Chick self in no time!

1. Eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat: Yes, six times a day i.e. a wholesome breakfast, a healthy snack, a clean lunch, another healthy snack, a feel-good dinner and something refreshing before bed. So many times I see friends simply not eat the day after a food binge because they think that'll be the easy Band-aide fix. NO. I'm here to tell you it is not. If you don't eat for a day, your metabolism will shut down making things worse. Giving up food all day is not the miracle trick to skinny. Really, it won't to anything but harm. Not to mention you'll probably become ravenous late night and end up eating your roommates leftover pizza. So eat. And eat often. Really, don't be afraid to.

2. Go Clean: No, I'm not talking about cleaning the house, although maybe you want to get that out of the way too (especially if these sink is piled high from dishes and your laundry is starting to smell). But back to the point. I mean eat clean. Clean as in fresh, non-packaged, wholesome, natural foods. Clean eats include raw nuts, fresh fruit and veggies, lean grilled chicken drizzled in lemon and herbs, olive oil, etc. Clean-eating is a surefire way to get you back on track by tomorrow morning! Your body and your mind will be thanking you later.

3. Guzzle the h2O: Think you already drink enough water throughout the day? Drink even more! After a weekend of overindulgence, you need to clear out your system with lots of fluids...and I'm not talking about vodka sodas. Guzzle water all day long: in the morning, at work, before your run, after your run, before bed. Don't stop! Drinking tons of water will encourage you to pee which will clear out your system making you feel as good as new.

4. Go for a light workout: No need to go crazy and spend two hours at the gym today. Let's be honest: your body isn't quite ready for that yet. However, a nice two to three mile run outside or some weights followed by a 20-minute cycle of intervals on the treadmill will do the drink! Basically, you want to make your workout short and sweaty. If you break a sweat, you've reached your goal. And if you have access to a sauna or steam room I HIGHLY recommend it for the ultimate cleanse.

Cheers to a day of feel good fix-its!

XoXo,

The Healthy Chick

Sunday, August 15, 2010

SoWa Open Market: The Perfect End to My Weekend



Today my sister and I ventured into South Boston for SoWa Open Market: Boston's Original Art and Indie Design Market. While at first we complained on our never-ending, mile (plus some) walk from Arlington Station, I think it's safe to say it was totally worth it! And also safe to say that we probably needed that walk anyway considering the amount of food we consumed this weekend. Hey, walking is the perfect detox.

Anyway, back to the point. I don't know how I've lived in Boston for nearly a year and have yet to visit this lovely Sunday tradition.
The two of us casually walked around the market, browsing a variety of artwork, homemade gadgets, local produce, and clothing lines. I felt like I was in creative heaven. It absolutely blew my mind to see all the unique, inspiring homemade creations, from personalized dog collars and signature greeting cards to beautiful jewelry and recycled beer bottles turned into artwork. "SO COOL!" I thought. "We really need more creative people in this world."

As if these homemade gadgets weren't; enough to make me fall in love with SoWa, then came the food! There were a variety of breads and baked goods (including gluten free sandwiches), fruit and vegetables from local farms, fresh ground coffee, hummus galore, and cheese spreads. There was even a guy selling his signature " Sailor's Swagger Pineapple Hot sauce," which my sister loved so much that she ended up buying a $6 bottle for my dad.


Although I didn't end up buying anything myself, it was a great way to meet people, get out in the city and sample a variety of local goods! The hot sauce was amazing, the hummus was fresh and delicious and the people were bright and friendly! I highly recommend you take a trip here yourself for an inspiring, creative, sunny day in the city.

Hope you all had a lovely, healthy, wholesome weekend!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sticky Notes Just Got So Much More Fun!



In a world where rude comments are tossed around daily, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air to hear something nice once in a while. An old coworker and I once discussed that if it was someone’s job to simply go around and compliment people, the world would be a much brighter place. It’s amazing how the simplest compliments can completely turn someone’s day around. And if that’s the case, why aren’t we tossing out these compliments more often? I’ve always been one to follow the motto: be careful of what you say and do because you never know what kind of day someone is having. That’s why (for the most part) I choose to be bright, happy and well…nice. There have been times where I’ve been told I’m even “too happy” or “too nice,” but I don’t think there is such a thing, and well…that’s just who I am.

That’s why I am 100% absolutely obsessed with these “Happy Notes” my sister got me for my birthday: “101 sticky note surprises to make you smile.” Now doesn’t that just sound lovely? Not only are sticky notes cool as is, but these little colorful gems actually have inspirational, “feel good” quotes on each one. From “Being With You is Having the Time of My Life” to “Most Problems Don’t Look so Bad After a Glass of LEMONADE,” these little puppies are sure to brighten anyone’s day, or get someone to smile at the very least. The best part? You can tear them out and stick them onto a friend’s desk, door, mirror or shirt to make their blah day a little bit brighter.

So go ahead, toss out a compliment…every one could use a little more love.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Embrace Your Inner Chef & Win Some Mullah While You're at It!



Do you pride yourself on making tasty apps and one-bite desserts? Are you looking for a way to let our your inner Rachael Ray? Don’t lie…we know you pretend you’re on your own celebrity chef television show when no one is watching (well, other than your dog Spot).

Well, maybe Whole Foods' last chance contest is exactly what you need to embrace that inner chef! Today, Wednesday August 11th is the last day to enter into the exclusive “Contest for Small Bites,” hosted by Whole Foods Market. The challenge is to craft up a delectable “small bites” holiday recipe that costs no more than 50 cents per piece.

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. “A holiday recipe? But it’s only just August…” Well, guess what? If your bite size goodies are selected, you’ll receive a $50 gift card and be featured in the December issue of The Whole Deal.

So put on that snowman apron, whip out those oven mitts, and start cookin’! But hurry up, today is the LAST day to enter. Click here for more details on the contest and to post your recipe...and good luck!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quit Taking Life So Seriously: A Lesson from My Yoga Class



This morning during my Vinyasa yoga class the instructor said something that really caught my attention. In the midst of our downward dogs, chair and tree poses, he shouted, "Go ahead, have fun with it! I promise you if you let loose and don't take yoga so seriously you'll enjoy it a lot more." It was true: the entire class was wayyyy to serious, as that's the "normal" way to practice yoga. When I looked in the mirror and saw my fierce, intense, semi-scary looking expression, I decided I needed to relax and put a smile on. After all, that's what yoga's all about anyway, right? Relaxation, enjoyment, restoration. Why the need to be so serious all the time?

I have to say while it was a little odd at first to break my usual yogi mindset, I had one of the most enjoyable classes of all time. The instructor was upbeat, the room was buzzing with positive energy and instead of the usual music (you know the serene sounds of waterfalls and other instrumental tunes that make you want to fall asleep), he played an energizing mix of jazz and light rock. I was diggin' it. I was able to let go of all thta tension and extreme focus, and just be.

So, learn a lesson from this inspiring yoga class of mine: try to take life a little less serious. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Goof off. Be your crazy, wonderful self. Really, it's OK. Actually, it's more than OK; it's absolutely fabulous.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bold Moves



I suppose I've always been one to make bold, spontaneous moves. When I was a sophomore in college and wanted to hop on a plane to visit a guy I'd been "seeing," my dad told me I needed to stop following my hormones, and follow my heart. Then when I moved to Boston three months after graduation (without a job) because I was bored , many people thought I was absolutely crazy. But you know what, I didn't care a bit about what others thought of my decision. After all, it's my life after all, and I knew I'd figure it out. I always have. When I want something, I waaaantttt something, and go and get it.

That's why I've decided to make the boldest decision of all, a decision that at first shocked/stunned/surprised and maybe even frightened many (especially my mother). I've decided to leave my full time job (yes, even in this terrible economy) to pursue my dreams of publishing a book and becoming a writer. I guess I finally took my dad's advice of following my heart; it definitely isn't my hormones speaking this time.

As I sit in a cafe writing and eating a fresh, delectable salad from Espresso Royale Cafe in Boston, I couldn't be more happy about my life and the decision I've made. I've realized many people have these passions/desires/wants/needs/ideas but never have the guts to actually go with them. I'll admit, it was scary. Leaving a job that pays for my rent, coffee addiction and social life was not easy. In fact, it was frightening as hell to go through with it. However, deep down I knew where my heart was at, and knew what I needed to do. I will write my butt off. I will do everything I can to get published and make a name for myself. Everything is in my control now, and the same goes for you. The future is in our hands and there's no better time than now to start really living your life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Seven Simple Stress Tamers for the Working Woman



When you work 9 to 5 (or 8 to 4 or all freakin’ day long) every day, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get stressed out from time to time. With deadlines, nonstop buzzing phones, grueling assignments, and noisy coworkers, you’d have to be non-human not to let the stress monster get to you every once in a while. I know for me, I don’t let stress affect me very often, but when it hits me, it hits me reallllll hard. So what are we to do? The only places you want to be right now are your bed, the beach or on a massage table, but you’re stuck in the office for at least five more hours. Doomed? Not just yet. Use these seven simple de-stressing tips and you’ll be back to your perky, happy, stress-free self in no time!

1. Remember to Breathe: Sometimes it’s just as simple as taking a few deep breaths once in a while. Breathe in, breathe out. There you go! Feel better? If you work in a small office, where people won’t judge you, take a few moments to lay down on your back and close your eyes (think: final relaxation phase in Yoga). It feels heavenly!

2. Have a large supply of tea on hand at all times: The best thing about my office is that we have a shelf fully dedicated to tea: black tea, green tea, pomegranate green tea, breakfast teas, you name it. And even better: We have an in-house tea expert who makes his own loose leaf tea right here in the office! Lucky me got to enjoy his creations two times this week, a chai tea and a combination of Jasmine Dragon pearls and a Rooibos. Purely delicious…and if that doesn’t tame stress I don’t know what will!

3. Bring a stress ball to work: Seriously, these little stress balls work wonders! If you don’t want to buy one, you can make them with a balloon and baking flour like the good old days in Girl Scouts. Crunching up paper, punching your desk (lightly) and chewing gum also helps. Just don’t smack your lips too loudly, and never punch a coworker!

4. Remember to Eat: Sometimes, when you’re ultra stressed out, you forget to do one of the most important things: EAT! Make sure to eat a few healthy snacks throughout the day (apple with peanut butter, string cheese, fresh fruit, carrot sticks and hummus), as well as a wholesome lunch. Stuck in the office ’til God knows when? Have a few go-to eats on hand, like dried fruit and nuts, bananas, yogurt, or some whole grain bread for emergency situations (i.e. deadline change).

5. Squeeze in an afternoon gym sesh or quick walk: I know lots of people who squeeze in a quickie gym session during their lunch break instead of heading out to Panera with the rest of the crew. Why don’t you do the same? Lunch can wait ’til your desk; your wellness can’t (unless you plan on doing push ups under your chair). If you don’t have the luxury of a nearby gym, take a mini stroll outside to get some fresh air and clear your head. The other day, I was extra stressed, so I took a simple 5-minute walk outside, and when I came back I felt MUCH better and much more productive.

6. Know When to Say “No”: Of course, it’s great to take on lots of tasks and help out a coworker, but when you are drowning in work of your own, it’s OK to say N-O once in a while, politely of course. Explain that you are extremely busy with your assignments at the moment, but can help out later during the day, or find someone else who has the time (and energy) to help out.

7. Change Up Your Location: If you work in a job where you’re always sitting (like me), stand up a few times throughout the day to get the blood flowing and your mind clearing. On the run all day bouncing from appointment to appointment? Do the opposite! Sit down on that enticing park bench for a few minutes or eat your lunch at the cafe (instead of in the street) for once!

If Ya Can't Read it, Don't Eat it!



Like many others, I used to be one of those people who immediately went to the back on the box, wrapper, bag, etc. to check calories and fat content. If it wasn’t in the ultra low calorie range, I’d chuck it back like a little kid grossed out by broccoli. Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser about what healthy actually is, I still go straight to the back of the package…but for something else: ingredients.

Yes, many “healthy” eaters are unaware of the importance of knowing exactly what you’re putting in your mouth. Forget calories, fat, sugar, and sodium for a second and take a good, hard look at the actual substance. For instance, many people would think that fat free flavored rice chips would be a semi-healthy choice, but when you read the ingredients on some of these “diet-friendly” choices it’s absolutely frightening. In fact, more often than not these diet foods have more than 20 ingredients, half of which you can’t even pronounce. If you wouldn’t dare try a diet you’ve never heard of before or date a guy without knowing his background, then why the heck would you put unknown, foreign ingredients in your body? Instead, go for something that you clearly recognize the ingredients, like Food Should Taste Good chips. Not only are these chips all natural, but they're Kosher, low sodium, Trans fat free, gluten free, and lactose free with no preservatives, cholesterol, or MSG. I especially love the Sweet Potato flavor, that has only six ingredients: Stone Ground Corn, Sunflower Oil, Sweet Potato, Corn Bran, Evaporated Cane Juice and Sea Salt. They taste great alone, dipped in natural peanut butter or dunked in fresh salsa!

Another example of this is all that sugar-free crap. I won’t lie: I used to add sugar substitutes to nearly everything. I’d pour two packets of Splenda into my iced coffees, buy sugar free candy, and even sprinkle packets onto my oatmeal or fruit to sweeten it up. Looking back, I really don’t know what I was thinking. Listen up folks: our bodies aren’t made to process that crap; it’s NOT natural. Now, I use Agave syrup or honey instead, much natural, healthier choices.

Now, forget about packaged foods for a while. The absolute best thing you can do for your body is eat 100% natural, meaning fresh fruits and vegetables, lean unprocessed meats, nuts, oats, whole grains and dairy products without any additives in them. I promise you that if you eat 100% natural most of the time, you’ll be surprised of how amazing your body will look and feel: energized, refreshed and renewed!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Live in the Moment. . . And Don't Feel Bad About Doing It!



Can you believe it’s already August? It seems like yesterday I was freaking out in early June about the horrendous bathing suit season and my non air-conditioned apartment. But now it’s already August?? WHAT??! That means only four months ’til the holidays come, and before you know it, it’s Valentine’s Day again. OK, OK…maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But the one thing I know is time sure does fly by. And while it is cliché, it flies by even faster when you’re having fun…and I have to say I have been having a lot of fun lately.

When you’re living in the glorious city of Boston, it’d be a waste not to be having fun. So go out and try that delicious, hip restaurant your friends have been raving about. Go ahead ask out that certain someone you’ve been eyeing for the past month! Forget about work and bills for a day and take your beautiful family on a mini vacation to Maine or New Hampshire.

We have to seize the moment, live for the day and make the most of every single second of our lives! Yes, that sounds a little intense, but it’s true. So go out and enjoy yourself. Pamper yourself. Relax. Explore. Breathe. Do whatever it is YOU want to do for a day. I promise, you’re allowed and most importantly you deserve it.

Happy August! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Plans? What Plans?



Today I got to thinking about schedules, and how they are such a large part of our lives. As Americans, we take schedules so darn seriously. Work schedules, eating schedules, gym schedules, task schedules; the list goes on and on. And while normally schedules and being on time are thought of as responsible, good qualities, are they really all that healthy for us? Of course, it's good to have some sort of "plan", but is it really necessary to fill in every little detail in our day to day lives?

I used to be one of those obsessive food schedulers. You know the type...My diet was like clockwork. 8 a.m. breakfast, two hours later a healthy snack, lunch at noon, snack two hours later, dinner at 6 p.m. Dessert if hungry. It was insane, and if I didn't follow my "schedule," I'd drive myself absolutely crazy. Not to mention that most days I had exactly what I was going to eat pre-planned out. Thank God I no longer stress about that. Sure, I eat healthy but if I'm starving before lunchtime, I'll eat a healthy, filling snack like some all natural peanut butter with an apple. If I have zero appetite around 3 p.m., I'll wait for dinner to enjoy a nice meal. It's so much more peaceful (and sane) when you're not thinking so darn much.

I have another friend who used to be obsessed with going to the gym...at certain times...for certain amounts of time. And she had to follow her plan to a tee or else she'd be upset with herself. Cardio and weights one day, yoga that day. Running 8 miles another day. Now, three or four years later, this same friend does exactly the opposite. I talked to her recently about her workout regimen, and she told me she does what her body feels like doing. She runs and takes walks for mental clarity, and does boot camp for energy and a good time, but other than that she doesn't plan anything out. If she feels like staying in to veg on the couch instead of going for a run, so be it. If she'd rather go out for Happy Hour than hit the gym, FINE. But the most important thing is that with this mindset, she's more happy, healthy and beautiful than ever!

Other people I know live their whole lives on a schedule, as if they are always going to be late for something. Sometimes I wonder if these types of people ever take a second to just take a deep breath and relax. Life can't be fun when you're always thinking and living in the future. We should be able to enjoy the presence, live for the moment and take in all the little things that come along the way. Be a few minutes late on purpose. Don't wake up in the morning RIGHT AWAY; instead lay their for a while, toss around and think about how great of a day it's going to be. Linger a little longer with your breakfast, or walk a little slower to work, taking in all the beauty that's around you. Take a deep breath. Do some yoga. Just be...

Now that I'm done with that mini rampage, I challenge you all to throw your schedule to the wind for a day, and just try and enjoy each moment as is. Turn off your cell phone if you need to or don't look at the clock for a few hours and just go along with the day how YOU want to, not how your schedule wants you to. We all need to take a little stress off our plates each day and dig into a clean (unplanned) slate...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pack it Up: Healthy Workweek Lunches!



The other day at work, my CEO ordered the entire team lunch from a local deli. A few of us chose from the "green" section of the menu, including myself. When a section claims it's "green," usually people assume the food is lighter, healthier, and well, a good option for lunch. But I usually keep my guard up, as I'm always a bit weary with these claims. After all, many people go to Panera when they want to eat light, not realizing that a good portion of their dishes are well over 1,000 calories-eek. Anyway, I ordered a field green salad with chicken salad on top. The menu said chicken with walnuts, onions and "just a touch of mayo," so I thought: decent choice. Luckily, I felt OK after my not-too-healthy "healthy" meal, especially because I only drizzled on a little bit of light Balsamic. However, one of my coworkers was not as pleased. He ordered an Egg White Omelet with veggies and cantaloupe instead of home fries. You'd think something that comes with CANTALOUPE instead of home fries would be the cream of the crop in the world of healthy. However, that was not the case. He said it tasted greasy...probably because it was loaded with oils and fatty butters.

The lesson learned from all of this? BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH. COOK YOUR OWN MEALS. Not only will your hips and stomach be thanking you, but your energy levels will soar and you'll save loads of money! Honestly, it's seriously the best thing you can do for your health, your mind and your budget all in 1! I know so many friends and family members who buy lunch nearly every day of the workweek, including my dad. And my dad's a pretty smart, rational healthy guy but he does it for the most obvious reason: it's easy. So instead he settles for greasy, not even tasty cafeteria food-blah.

Well you know what else is even easier? Making your own lunch and crafting your own meals. It honestly takes me about five minutes in the morning to whip up a quick, healthy lunch before I head out the door to work. And that’s all the time you need really! Today, for instance, I made a salad with spinach, chopped red apple, sweet onion and tuna with a little olive oil, celery salt, dill and pepper on top. I didn’t plan to make that for lunch, but I made the best out of what I had in the fridge. Some days that’s mixing up leftover brown rice, veggies and turkey burger from the night before. Other day’s it’s making a summery salad out of mozzarella cheese, tomato and fresh basil.

It’s fun to be creative, and cooking for yourself allows you do to that. When you order from a menu at a restaurant, you’re constrained by what’s on their menu, with no room to alter anything according to your diet. It’s no fun to just order something and have that be your meal. What ever happened to pick ‘n’ choosing and adding a little extra zest? I promise you if you start to get in the habit of doing it yourself, you’ll reap all those delicious benefits ☺

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to Conduct a "Me" Day



So this morning I woke up at 8 a.m. Yes, 8 a.m. on a Sunday...I honestly can't recall the last time I've done that. The reason being? I laid low last night with two of my friends-we made dinner together, watched a movie, then walked to get some late night frozen yogurt before hitting the sack by 11. With nine solid hours of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, healthy and rejuvenated (definitely can't complain about that).

Anyway, since I woke up so early, I decided to make the best of my day and do things for "me." So I skipped out on a beach trip with my two friends and really thought about what I wanted to make out of my day. Sure, I very well could have crawled back in bed and took this gorgeous Sunday as a day for R+R, but I decided to cease the day instead! After all, weekends only come so often and I'm a firm believer in making the most out of the day...out of life in general, really. Life's too short to bum around...we have to put ourselves out there in this beautiful world we live in!

Well, it's not even 2 p.m., and I've already make a lovely breakfast (scrambled eggs, half of a banana and a piece of Ezekiel toast), hit the gym for an intense strength training routine, took a loooonnnngggg hot shower with 15 seconds of cold refreshing water at the end (love that!), dug into some nonfat yogurt with fresh fruit, bought a new iPod at the beautiful Apple store in Boston (with the friendliest customer service may I add), browsed Sephora in the Prudential Center, and am currently sitting in my favorite cafe-Trident on Newbury Street-with a large glass of iced coffee for one of my favorite things to do: write. I think it's safe to say that my day has been filled with "Rachel" things. My additional plans include blogging a bit, people watching in the city (one of the best activities if you haven't tried it yet) and making a healthy dinner tonight followed by some Sex and the City episodes (a must in any Rachel-fied day).

Now, I'm sure if you were to make your perfect, do-whatever-you-want day, it would look much different than mine. Hence the reason for having a "me" day, that is a day just for you and doing whatever the hell you want! Yes, that's what it would be defined as in the Dictionary if there were such a thing. Well, I'm telling you these types of days CAN exist...you just need to make them happen. And it's really as easy as 1, 2, 3!

How to Conduct Your Own "Me" Day
1. Sit down and seriously think about the things you reallllllyyy love to do (shopping, photography, painting, eating, etc).
2. Take that list and combine 5, even 15 things into the perfect day, according to how much time you have. Really, there are NO limits. Who's to say you can't go out to your favorite cafe, paint your room, take a few pics downtown, chat with a long lost friend and write a "thank you" letter all in one day? Trust me, it's possible!
3. Execute! Go ahead and do it girl! This is your time to shine...there is no day but today and today is all for YOU, so go do "you" things and make today the best "me" day ever!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Body Rant




As women, we tend to naturally hate a particular body part (or two). For me, it was always my thighs. I used to absolutely HATE them. With a thin waist and not-so-big boobs, I couldn't understand why I had to be cursed with the massive thighs. I thought they were ugly, unfortunate and humongous, So I in turn spent the past five or so years covering them up. I'd never dare wear jeans, and would instead conceal my legs with flowy dresses and skirts. At the beach, I'd wear shorts over my bathing suit, risking an awkward tan line over potential humiliation.

However, something changed this past year. No, my thighs didn't miraculously melt. But, I gained a few doses of confidence, and am now able to accept my body the way it is. The other day, I laid on the beach in only my bikini for the first time in as long as I remember, and felt incredible about myself (and actually got an event tan for once). Yes, my thighs aren't teeny tiny and I'll never have big boobs, but I learned to love and embrace my fit, healthy curvy body the way it is (with all its imperfections). I realized that women are much too hard on themselves when regarding their body concept. The truth of the matter is that no one else picks out these body "flaws" except for you. As women, we tend to be our #1 critic (a very harsh critic at that), when in fact we need to become our #1 fan.

Everyday I hear women expressing their concerns about their body, be it they feel fat, don't like their flabby arms or can't stand the thought of their tummy in a bikini. However, the funny part is that the women who I hear talking this way tend to be absolutely beautiful in my eyes. While you may scrutinize the little things you dislike about yourself, others are admiring your beauty every day.

So I challenge you to work on admiring yourself for the next couple of days. Every time you think, "I wish I had her legs..." or "I'd kill for those abs..." or "If only I could have..." stop yourself. Instead, think "Wow, she's beautiful, but I love my killer smile and fabulously strong legs from all the running I do. I am strong. I am beautiful." Seriously, give it a try and watch your confidence levels soar!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Maybe You CAN Always Get What You Want...



Day in and day out, our schedules are jam packed with appointments, meetings and other tedious things to do. From work to picking up that perscription from CVS, it's hard to get the chance to simply be (let alone breathe). While these monotonous daily tasks are automatically made your priorities, what ever happened to things you want? And no I'm not talking about that $200 dress you just have to have; that you can go and splurge on any day. I'm talking about the bigger picture, things that don't necessarily involve money. A life list of sorts all about YOU.

This really got me thinking about what I want in life. Sure, a new wardrobe and smaller thighs would be nice, but those aren't things I realllllyyyy want. When I thought a little deeper about it, I was able to come up with quite the list.

For one, I'd love to set aside more time for personal R&R. It's not that I don't get enough down time. Right now I'm laying on a couch in PJs. However, that's not R&R for me. I'd like to take 10 to 30 minutes each day to simply close my eyes, relax and breathe. No computer. No cell phone. No assignments. Just me alone with my thoughts. I think we could all use a little more private time each day; you'd be amazed by what just a few minutes can do.

On the complete opposite end, I'm going to make it a point to do more activities in Boston. I live in this beautiful, culture-filled, buzzing city and I definitely don't savor that to its full potential. After a long day of work and sweaty session at the gym, it's so tempting to just plop on the couch, throw on some PJs and call it a night. However, I realized I'm missing out on some great things to do in the city-jazz clubs, dancing, trendy cafes, book clubs, concerts, comedy shows, art shows, fairs, etc. The list goes on and on.This week I'm going to make it a point to try a few new things, whether it be going to a new coffee shop or attending a poetry reading (and hopefully going on a few dates in the meantime). Life is way too short to stay in every night. Check Boston.com's "Things to Do" section for some fabulous idea to try out yourself!

Lastly, I'd like to focus more on my writing. After all, it is my utmost passion and something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It may sound silly, but after writing an article or posting on my blog, I feel extremely confident and accomplished. Hence, I'd like to write more throuhgout the day even if it's just a little note here and there. I think we all need to remember to never let go of our passions. Into photography but haven't brushed up on your camera skills in God knows how long? Go ahead and pick up right where you left off...you'll be surprised at how natural it comes (and how good it feels).

Remember: if you want something (and I mean realllly want something), and you believe it in you can definitely do it. That is a fact.

What are some things you'd like to work on in life? Share yours below. . .

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hot Yoga 'n' Other Current Obsessions. . .



So a few weeks ago, I took a hot yoga class for a work promotion. While hot yoga is something I'd never think to do on my own, I thought it would be a good idea to take the class, understand the practice and get some good footage along the way. What I didn't expect was that I'd actually fall in love with it.

I'll be honest with you, I didn't like it at all at first. In fact, I felt uncomfortable, hot and overwhelmed a good portion of my first class. However, it's the after effect that really did it for me. I've never felt so healthy, connected and energized in my life. It just makes you feel so alive. In addition to aiding with weight loss and digestion, hot yoga works wonders for your mind, body and spirit, making it a miracle yoga in my mind.

Since my first class, I've taken two more and can honestly say I completely love it. OK, that's an understatement. . . I'm 100% obsessed. If you're looking for something to change up your run-of-the-mill workout, challenge you and make you look and feel beautiful, then hot yoga is definitely for YOU!

Speaking of obsessions, now that the weather is getting hot, hot hot I have a lot of new "favorites" on my list. Number one on my list is lemon water with mint. Oh my god, I simply can not get enough of this wonderful, yet ever so simple invention. I've been filling up pitchers of water, fresh lemon slices, and fresh mint I picked from a neighbor's garden. It's seriously a miracle refresher that you must try if you haven't yet. Just keep filling up your pitcher, pop it in the fridge and have it ready for whenever you need a morning wake up call, or mid-day energy booster on a super hot day.

On a different spectrum, I'm also really into researching new tunes to work out to (or dance to before a night out with the girls). My current obsession is "Hold Yuh" by Gyptian. It's Reggae meets pop, and it's got such a great beat to get you pumped up wherever you may be going!

Lastly, I can not get enough of fresh fruit. All my faves are finally in season, making me wish I lived in a field of fruit! Strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, you name it. It's the perfect way to start your day (with some oatmeal and a cup of tea) or end your day for a healthy after dinner treat.

So, that is all for now. I'd like to open the discussion for YOU to share your current summer obsessions. . .

Saturday, June 26, 2010

7 Little Things to Smile About Right Now. . .




1. Roof deck bars are officially opened, making for a refreshing, scenic alternative to the typical crowded, sweat-filled bar.

2. You can get away with showing a little too much leg, back or chest (in a classy way, of course). Hey, it's summer after all!

3. Large pitchers of iced tea, lemonade, lemon water (with fresh mint), and other summery sips. . .mmm

4. Sweaty men with their shirts off. . . running, walking, biking everywhere.

5. Now that the weather's nice, you can get away with ordering a Sex on the Beach, Pineapple Vodka (with an umbrella of course), and other beachy, girly drinks.

6. Flip flops, every day all day. Enough said.

7. Picnics 'n' parties booked every weekend 'til the end of August