• bite-sized challenge: eat inside the box

    August 29, 2010

    It’s time for another challenge for VK, and this time we’ll backtrack to the successful outcome we previously skipped on her list:

    I know a lot about nutrition, and I make choices about what I eat that reflect my knowledge.

    I know of no better way to up your nutrition education and your nutrients (while benefiting the environment to boot!) than signing up for a weekly produce box from your local organic farm. In the US, these are called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in the UK (where VK lives), they’re known as veg-box schemes.

    Many of these farms deliver; in some areas you’ll need to drive to a collection point to pick up your goodies. Either way, the outcome is the same: local, organic food that’s in season. And that means you’re forced to come up with some creative solutions when something like celery root (celeriac) shows up in your box. You’ll find yourself reading that dirt-covered little newsletter that comes with your box for inspiration or finally thumbing through those dust-covered cookbooks you haven’t opened in years.

    When I first signed up for a weekly box back in 2006, I was so thrilled with it and what it taught me that I started a small catering business. Every week, I made two vegetarian lunches for two guys at my office. These guys were omnivores, yet they absolutely loved this. I’d make two dishes based on whatever came in the box that week, and I wrote up a little newsletter of my own that explained what was in their lunch and why it was good for them.

    I came out of that enterprise learning a whole lot about nutrition…and that catering is a hell of a tough job!

    So, VK, your challenge is to sign up for an organic vegetable box and come up with a unique recipe that uses at least half of the contents. Then send me your recipe and photo so I can put it up for all to see. Happy cooking (and learning!)

    Search for a CSA in your area in the USA at Local Harvest
    If you’re in the UK, try Riverford Organics or Abel & Cole

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  • bite-sized challenge: belly blasting

    July 1, 2010

    So V.K. has mastered the green smoothie kick start, fruit-bowl sugar fix, daily body meditation with aplomb…what now?  Here’s the next successful outcome on her wish list:

    My stomach is flat and muscular.

    Ooh.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  Well, as someone who has always had a bit of a belly even when I was the skinniest kid in the class, I definitely know the desire for a smooth midriff.  When I used to take yoga classes in gym studios, 3/4 of my time was spent looking in the mirror marvelling at how other women managed to have such perfectly toned abs while mine were in need of atonement.

    I also know that the only time I’ve ever felt incredibly proud of my abs (aside from when I was fasting in Thailand) was when I was training for the London marathon in 2005.  I remember bending over just for the hell of it so I could see (once again) that no squishy rolls would ensue.  And this despite that I was chowing down entire pizzas from Strada in one sitting!

    So here’s what I learned for free (if you don’t count sweat): when it comes to targeting that mid-section, nothing beats the combination of running and yoga.  For the running part, slow distance runs are the key in order to burn fat.  That’s exactly what happened after those 2-3 hour long runs I was doing in the build-up to race day.  And the yoga?  Core strengthening as a nice bonus to the stretching/relaxation/meditation.

    Here’s the other thing I’ve learned: fat around the middle is very often due to high cortisol levels from too much stress.  That’s where yoga also comes into play.  See where the running/yoga combo kicks butt (and ab flab)?

    So what’s V.K.’s challenge for the next two weeks?  Well, I know she’s already a runner, so her task is to start increasing her weekly long run by 10 minutes each week while lowering her speed slightly.  We’ll focus on yoga in another challenge.

    If you’re following along and have not already discovered the cheap yet incredibly effective and satisfying exercise that running is, you have to take it very, very slow and start off with a walk/run program.  That’s how I went from not being able to run more than three minutes straight in Central Park back in 1999 to sprinting (okay, crying) past Big Ben at mile 25 five years ago.

    And you need a plan.  My favorite is The Complete Book of Running For Women.  Also check out Brendan Brazier’s new Thrive FitnessI’ve written about this professional Ironman triathlete before and how he gets his fuel entirely from plant-based food.

    Oh, and here’s yet another thing I’ve learned: all the iconic women in Renaissance art – including Venus herself – display quite generous bellies as a sign of fertility and are very in your face about them.  Bellies back then were beautiful.

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  • another day, another fruit bowl

    June 18, 2010

    Aside from doing a fine job with her bite-sized challenges, V.K. has also been a great ambassador for the project and has recruited several of her friends to play along.  This one is from Julie, who was very cool to send a rendition of her bowl along with her caption:

    I make fruit salad for breakfast every day – this is our fruit bowl today.  The green grapes had just been washed and weren’t quite dry so they have reflected the flash which makes them look a bit dodgy!  Honestly they are nice!

    AJD 001

    Thanks, Julie, and this is most nice of you!  Beautiful work.

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  • bite-sized challenge: feeling her weight

    June 15, 2010

    If you’ve been following V.K. (formerly known as Noelle) through her bite-sized challenges, you’ll know she is now a green-smoothie convert and that her desk is flanked by a beautiful bowl of fruit.

    Here’s V.K.’s third desired successful outcome:

    When I look in the mirror, I can say confidently, “My body is just right how it is.  I wouldn’t want to lose any weight or gain any weight.”

    When we spoke on the phone, V.K. told me she believes part of the reason she can’t seem to shift a couple of extra pounds is because she really can’t find a good reason to.  For me, that’s a good enough reason not to worry about those extra pounds.  But she’s worrying, so there’s something underlying that’s making her feel both guilty about the weight and resistant to doing anything about it.

    I want V.K. to start a simple meditation practice.  Every day for a week, she is to sit for five minutes in a quiet spot and simply be in her body – she should feel the weight of her body supported by the Earth.  The idea is to become very present and simply feel the sensations in her body.

    Then the following week I’d like her to add another five minutes to this daily practice in which she envisions her ideal weight and feels it in her body as if she is already that weight.  She should really imagine that she is her ideal weight right now – how her belly feels against her clothes, how she breathes feeling lighter.  She should also notice how she feels about herself in this new weight.

    For added inspiration, Kathy Freston has a series of guided manifestation meditations including one called Perfect Weight.

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  • v.k.’s a.k.a. noelle’s fruit bowl

    June 9, 2010

    On the heels of her coming-out pictures showing her caught in the act of the green smoothie, “Noelle” has also decided to reveal her real initials.  So, from now on she’ll be known as V.K.

    Her latent exhibitionist tendencies are now moving at a feverish pace as you can see by these new images.  Here we spy V.K.’s evolving fruit bowl at work – evidence that she is tackling her recent bite-sized challenge with gusto.  Isn’t it pretty?  I am equally impressed by the minimalist desk space.  Very Zen.

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    2010 06 08 005

    Have you been following the bite-sized challenges?  Send me your fruit-bowl pics and I’ll post them.

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  • the green-smoothie challenge in action

    June 6, 2010

    I was delighted to see Noelle’s enthusiasm in these pics of her in the midst of bite-sized challenge number one.  Here she is slurping a drink your greens smoothie.  She also made one for her flatmate who gave it rave reviews.  That’s definitely a smart move for Noelle: as with any effort, enlisting the help of a buddy is always worthwhile – for both of you!  And since these smoothies taste so good, it’s easy (and smart) to get someone else along for the ride…especially if they live with you.




    I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Noelle looks fantastic, which goes to show this isn’t about losing weight but about feeling good.

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  • bite-sized challenge: sugar SOS

    June 2, 2010

    I’m back with another task for Noelle, this one to challenge my ugliest, most stubborn food demon.  Here’s how Noelle would like to feel:

    I rarely eat refined sugar – my diet contains only natural sugars.

    Yep, me too.  Sugar cravings have plagued me for life.  I’d like to take the favorite cop-out and blame it on my family.  I was born into a Cuban American household, so this meant that as soon as I was weaned I went straight onto café con leche with generous spoonfuls of the sweet stuff – cue Beastie Boys: “I like my sugar with coffee and cream!”

    But here’s the thing: humans are born liking sweet stuff for a perfectly good reason.  It’s the form we choose that’s the problem.  Our sweet tooth is there to instigate an appetite for juicy fruit – and the natural sugars in them.  The natural sugars are of course diluted with the heavy water content in fresh, whole fruit – quite different from anything processed or even from dried fruit.

    So here’s Noelle’s challenge: she needs to keep a big, beautiful bowl in both her kitchen and office and make sure they’re always filled with whole fruit.  The more colors, the better.  The assortment should be as alluring as candy, and it should be in season if possible.

    Then she must allow herself to eat from them freely.  That’s right, if she wants to down a bunch of bananas in one sitting, go for it.  An entire tub of strawberries?  Eat up, girl.  It’s a free for all.  The only rule is that she allow the fruit to be as ripe as possible so that it’s also as sweet as can be.  Contrary to what one might think, eating lots of fruit (as part of a healthy lifestyle) does not cause unhealthy fluctuations in blood sugar – again, the water content in whole, fresh fruit takes care of that.

    Noelle will be posting her feelings and feedback over the next two weeks in the comments section.  Hopefully, you’ll follow along, too.

    Ready?  Sweet!

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  • bite-sized challenge: a smoothie a day

    May 19, 2010

    And make it a green one.  If you look at Noelle’s list of successful outcomes, the first is:

    I rarely eat processed food – I almost always eat fresh food.

    The quickest way I know of to get more whole, plant-based food into your diet is to chug or slurp one large green smoothie a day.  I’ve written about the magic of green smoothies before, and you can try one of my favorite recipes here.  But you really don’t need a recipe at all: just lots of greens (spinach is flavor-neutral) and then fruit to sweeten it out.  I normally put a banana in mine to make it creamy and then top it up with any variety of chopped fruit I keep in the freezer.

    This one little change is a great kick-start and is really motivating since it’s so easy to do.  You can have the smoothie as a snack or even in place of a meal – it’s more filling than you might think.

    This challenge goes for the next two weeks so everyone has plenty of time to perfect their smoothie moves.  But keep checking the comments section, because Noelle will be posting her experience being a newbie to green smoothies.  And I know some of you are green-smoothie veterans, so please chime in to support Noelle!

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  • introducing the bite-sized challenge

    May 18, 2010

    A friend of mine in London recently asked if I would be up for coaching her on the path to healthier eating.  Noelle (not her real name to protect her privacy) is a productivity coach, so she was very clear about her goals.  I’ll quote her words:

    In my work, when we start a project we always recommend defining the “Successful Outcome.”  In other words, how do you know when this project is “DONE”?  The idea is that if you feel unhappy about something, you ask yourself, “Well, what would I like instead?”  That question is usually enough to get the ideas flowing!  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    I rarely eat processed food – I almost always eat fresh food.

    I rarely eat refined sugar – my diet contains only natural sugars.

    When I look in the mirror, I can say confidently, “My body is just right how it is.  I wouldn’t want to lose any weight or gain any weight.”

    My stomach is flat and muscular.

    I know a lot about nutrition, and I make choices about what I eat that reflect my knowledge.

    I have a healthy body – inside and out.

    My body is almost always in great shape.

    I am a conscious eater – I know what foods have what impact on my body.

    I eat foods that give me energy (and not foods that zap my energy).

    Wow!  Are you as impressed with Noelle as I am?  My first thought was that she doesn’t need me.  But here’s where we all need each other: Noelle told me that a money-savvy friend of hers is giving her a bi-monthly money challenge, and it’s working so well that she wants me to give her the same kind of challenge when it comes to food.  And me?  Noelle’s helping me get better at being more decisive.  My successful outcome: to feel more confident in my decision-making and not stress myself out in the process.  We’ve created our own little barter economy!

    And the marker of any worthwhile goal is that it also benefits the greater good.  Which is where you come in.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll be taking each of Noelle’s “successful outcomes” and detailing a challenge she can do to make them a reality.  The idea, of course, is that it takes time to implement a change until it becomes habit.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Noelle will be posting her feelings and feedback in the comments section, so I hope you’ll follow along.  She’ll also post both a physical (weight) and emotional indicator of her progress.

    I’ll be doing each of the challenges along with Noelle – I need to coach myself every day to have the same successful outcomes, otherwise I’m bound to backtrack.  And here’s where the real beauty of coaching comes in: peer support.

    Feeling motivated to join us?  Take this as your first challenge to write down your own successful outcomes like Noelle did.  And please be sure to share your thoughts/progress/support in the comments section!

    The next challenge will be posted tomorrow.

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