Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A gluten-free vegan?!

So for the past few months, I've noticed a change in the way I feel right after eating. Typically, that feeling is "crap on a cracker;" fatigue, headaches, and tummy cramps. Seeing as it wasn't completely disrupting my daily routine, I blamed it on the stresses of schoolworksorority and moved on. After doing a weekend-long "gluten cleanse" free of wheat, I returned to a vegan grilled cheese sammich for an evening meal. Sure enough, symptoms return. After a few experiments with different foods, I pegged it on what seemed to be every vegan's nightmare: I have a gluten intolerance.
If I didn't already get the "What do you even eat?!" reaction enough at vegan alone, imagine the reactions of my friends to the addition of the fabulous gluten tack-on. While it's a sad goodbye to my favorite vegan cookie dough milkshakes and late-night toast fests, I'm not altogether missing out, either.

But what exactly is gluten? Simple: wheat protein. Basically, gluten is the protein that is left when the starches of a cereal grain are removed. Those with celiac disease experience disruption in digestion in the small intestine, where instead of absorbing nutrients and vitamins, gluten harms the intestine's helpful digestive lining. From here, errthang gets crazy!

The truth is, gluten can cause a disruption in blood sugar levels and encourage weight gain. This is largely due to the spike in the body's fat-building hormone, insulin (yup - the same stuff diabetics are having trouble with!) caused by many grains and simple carbohydrates. While the low-carb craze encouraged many to drop carbs and grains, it is not always appropriate to do so...we'll get to this later.

But as for going gluten-free and keeping with veganism, it's not as hard as it sounds. The first thing I tell newby vegheads is "the first month is the hardest and then it becomes habit." So while I'm cringing at the sight of a veggie gyros at work, I'm starting to recognize all my options elsewhere. Love pasta? Try a corn- or rice-based noodle. I even found No Oodles, noodles made from yam flour...with no calories (needless to say, I bought two bags)! EnjoyLife, a favorite brand of mine because of it's vegan-friendly recipes, just happens to be devoid of the 7 major allergens, including gluten and soy. Gluten-free cinnamon raisin bagels? Yes, please!

While the gluten-free diet seemed super intimidating, my body's already thanking me for it. Because I've dropped typical convenience foods, I'm refocused on the good stuff -- lots of fruit, veggies, and nutrient-rich substitutes. I feel lighter on my feet and more aware and awake...always great for that terrible mid-day class! So while I thought I was set on label reading and encrypted messages, I guess it's time for another awesome adventure. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

b&bbb is BACK!

How ironic that beautyandbalance by baynes should be back and ready to go with the comeback of GT's Synergy Kombucha. Coincidence? I think not. :)

Leave comments with suggestions for upcoming posts!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Urban Outfitters outrage

If you've been following the blogs of various celebrities or fashion critics, you've witnessed more than just a few grievances about trendsetter Urban Outfitter's latest creation, a tee advising its wearers to "eat less."

Icons like Sophia Bush have voiced their dissent with the company demanding that the corporation apologize for its "sickening" message, most often citing that the shirt encourages girls to "starve" themselves and only furthers the crisis of body image in teen girls. Quite frankly, these icons are missing the point.

Those who have followed UO's edgy and affordable mission have recognized its early jump on the "green" trend, often times using words with double meanings to provide that edge its buyers have come to know and love (come on, what twenty-something urbanite doesn't love the attention and the controversy?). The "eat less" shirt has once again followed in that selling strategy.

First and foremost, "eat less" is in no way referring to anorexia or eating disorders of any kind -- it is the latest mantra in healthy eating; that in our day and age of overconsumption and ginormous portion distortion (that's kind of catchy...), nutritionists and health specialists alike are regularly recommending that America, well, eats less! The fact that our favorite celebrities have chosen to take a stand on a controversy that is not built-in with this slogan only points to the little follow-up these celebrities do in the realm of health and beauty.

Sure, UO probably left the true intention of the shirt open for discussion. But considering they're a business, you can bet they did this on purpose; controversy is free advertising! To say that the company is promoting unhealthy body image or should donate "hefty" amounts of money to an eating disorders unit is ridiculous. The tee's message is actually one worth considering, one of eating less junk for the sake of our health, less processed food for the sake of our bodies, and less carbon-creating products for the sake of our earth.

Yeah, I said it -- these celebrities don't know what they're talking about! So buy away, spend your hipster dollar at the UO guilt-free. Make sure to tell Sophia hello for me while you're there.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Agvocacy: advocacy in the fields

When the typical suburban/urbanite hears "farm," picturesque visions of tractors and bales of hay under a dandelion sun play across the screen, complete with perfect black and white-patterned cows munching grass, muddy pigs sitting behind white picket fences, and a head farmer in overalls and a straw hat. But Facebook? Not exactly the first though that comes to mind. But believe it or not, farmers are jumping on the latest trend in communication and tweeting about their tractors and YouTube-ing farm tours.

This new form of agriculture advocacy, dubbed "agvocacy" (or "agucation" when it comes to the educational aspect), has sparked more than just a trend in the world of farming and cultivation -- it's sparked the national conversation that the field has been desperately attempting to start for so long! How often do we know the source of our food, let alone the work our area farmers have put into that very food? When have we been able to sneak a peek at the routine of the workers of the land; the four or five am wake-up calls, the prayers to the weather gods, the Sundays and holidays that demand work over play?

By equipping farmers with the skills to use technology most effectively, we're opening doors for ourselves and our communities. When Farmer Bob's corn is at its prime, your Twitter feed will remind you to pick up a few ears. When you're low on ideas for dinner, you can register online for your area CSA and discover a world of produce fresher than you'd ever imagined. Even when you're simply curious about the where your cage-free egg came from, a simple click can transport you to the family farm in the form of a Facebook video. When we are able to make connections between our food and our farmers, we take on more responsibility for our actions and our power as buyers. We begin to trust the people behind the produce, then build a relationship based on that trust and fuel that relationship with our dollars, votes, and voices. This pools money into our local economy, boosting the need for the farms of our community to grow, leading to more jobs, more resources...and more yummy product!

While the average American is two generations removed from the farm, social networking can again reconnect the public with the plow. Who knew that being an agricultural activist would eventually only require a click?

P.S. A prime example of the effect technology is taking on farming, check out Local Harvest, a search database that can help your find the farmers market near you!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time-crunched treats

Life is busy. With only 24 hours in a day and a third of that dedicated to sleep (at least, in a perfect world), we're left with a measly 16 hours to cook, clean, work, play, and save the world with little free time to devote to meal planning and label reading. I'll be the first to admit, between the early hours of school, homework, and activities and the late hours of waitressing, meetings, and -- dare I say it -- fun, I'm quick to suggest a drive-thru dinner or opt for an assortment of pre-packaged snacks for lunch.

But all is not lost! For those of you who like it fast and no-nonsense, area convenience stores and grocers are not entirely at a loss for sufficient snack foods. Next time you're on hour two of your three hour commute and your tummy's growling for some grub, check out these yummy choices:

5. Hummus
Believe it or not, many convenience stores now carry containers of hummus in their refrigerated deli displays. The only downside to this protein gold mine is the fact that your leftovers need to keep their cool while in your car; save this one for when you have a carload of hungry passengers! Look for it right next to that awful bean and beef burrito (who eats those, anyway?!).

4. Pretzels
This one's for the snacker who craves salty. While far from low-carb-friendly, pretzels offer a low-fat option high in fiber and fill-ability. Unfortunately, Combos do not count...cheaters.

3. Nuts
Your best bets, if available, are shelled nuts like almonds, pistachios, and cashews. These varieties serve up a good dose of healthy fat that will keep you satisfied long enough until dinner. Plain peanuts are also a good choice, just make sure to opt against the salted and "honey roasted" Planters!

2. Salad
Seems obvious, but it's the type of salad that matters, too! Those with creamy dressings, croutons, and loads of cheese defeat the purpose of these vivacious veggies, so do some snooping and settle on a delicious Greek or bacon-free cobb salad.

It's a big trend nowadays; 7-11 hosts its own "fresh fruit" displays and refrigerated section. Not only is an apple or banana dirt cheap, fruit is a quick and easy way to recharge with a little bit of natural sugar and loads of vitamins and minerals.

There's no need to give up your occasional visit to White Hen for an on-the-go snack! Take two seconds to scan the store and you have nothing to lose. Well...except your excuse for having Twizzlers for breakfast. ;)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Portrait of a former self

It's no joke that the food in our public schools (or any school, for that matter) is JUNK. Considering that french fries serve as the staple "vegetable" accompanying our mozzarella sticks and gourmet greasy pizza, food service has provided little to the kids and the communities it serves. One of these effects can be seen in my own fabulous past as - you guessed it - the fat kid. Don't worry, we'll get into the logistics of the typical school lunch and proposed solutions soon (Farm to School, anyone?), but for now, a look into the eating habits that so shaped my awful former self.

1. Middle school Friday specials
Friday always means the fun food, a celebration of the weekend of sorts. My typical meal? A slice of cheese pizza, a slice of pepperoni pizza (you know, gotta have a balanced diet), a large fry with cheese sauce, a slice of cake, and two chocolate milks. Needless to say, one of the highlights of those Fridays involved me leaning out the window to say hello to a parking lot's pavement.

2. Saturday night deliveries
My sister and I were big for Domino's pizza. We also understood the importance of splitting bigger meals between two people, so we always shared the medium thick-crusted cheese pizza, full order of Buffalo Chicken Kickers with ranch, and hot order of Cinnastix and icing. Too bad there were never any leftovers.

3. Eighth grade exercise
My mom was one of the types that encouraged me to sign up for whatever activity I pleased, so naturally when an ice rink opened in the neighboring mall, I signed up for skate lessons. These got old after a while...but the large order of cheese fries I'd down while watching the lessons never did.

4. Dancing and donuts
Summer school came around and I joined a hip-hop dance class. Of course, the teacher brought breakfast food to celebrate near the close of the session, including orange juice, apple juice, and the ever-popular army of Krispy Kreme donuts. I was so excited, I cut in line, only to have one of my classmates yell, "Erin, I know you haven't eaten in the past half-hour, but you're going to have to wait in line like everyone else!" See, my healthy example was already being recognized for its excellence!

5. Bag it up
In seventh grade, I opted for bringing a healthy lunch from home. "Healthy" meaning a pepperoni pizza Lunchable and full-size bag of Skittles. Hey, at least I had a bottle of flavored water to wash it all down.

Any habits you blame for your childhood chunk?

Monday, May 10, 2010

My pseudo-entry

So in this space was supposed to be two FABULOUS new entries for you sort-of readers. But instead of sitting on my butt cranking out some words of wisdom, I opted for riding my bike, followed by Crunch class, followed by cardio kickboxing.

You should try it sometime. :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yummy alert: Clif Builder's bars

This morning at my training sesh with the fabulous Ashley Bond, I headed to the protein bars counter for post-workout breakfast. We looked at the nutrition labels for any sign of dairy or egg until finally settling on a Clif Crunchy Peanut Butter bar - kind of disappointing considering I'd already had it before.

Other than setting a life goal to market a yummy vegan-friendly protein bar that's not entirely sugar, I went in search of the best protein bar at none other than Whole Foods. I'm pretty sure the staff there thought I was a crazy for label reading for twenty minutes, but it was so worth it!

Meet the Clif Builder's bar, a dairyeggwheat-free energy overloader with 20 GRAMS OF PROTEIN. Yeah, you read right, TWENTY. As in "40% of your daily protein needs." And to much surprise, it doesn't taste like sheetrock! Instead, we get a fabulous array of flavors like Cookies 'N Cream, Chocolate, and Lemon, and this means never reaching for a Hershey bar for your sweet fix again!

While the twenty grams of sugar isn't fabulous, the amount of protein in this baby will keep you full until you can sit down for an actual meal (and this can make a great breakfast on the go!). Throw one in your bag for that long haul in rush hour or sneak a bite during your eight hour shift. So cheers to Mr. Gary, owner of Clif, for giving us yet another reason to eat chocolate.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good riddance, energy drinks

As you probably know by now if you know me at all -- I am a recovering energy-drinkaholic. It's true, I used to challenge the warning labels asking you to limit your consumption to three cans a day, pull all-nighters thanks to Full Throttle after Full Throttle, and I was pretty convinced I could be the poster child for Monster Lo-Carb. I even started a collection of the difference gas station varieties as a summer project. Realizing how I quite enjoy, um, SLEEPING, I gave them up for a while, but pick one up every now and then just to get through the whole schoolactiviesworkhomework process.

Naturally, it didn't seem like a huge deal when I picked one up before class. I sipped my gianormo can of Sugarfree Red Bull (which, by the way, is super hypocritical considering my last entry on artificial sweeteners...) and we seemed to have no problems. I had a sudden headache but chalked it up to drinking my liquid caffeine too fast.

Then, I kid you not, my right arm went numb and my vision blurred. A wave of nausea came over me, but I figured I could at least make it to the end of class. Walking out, however, my entire arm and tongue fell asleep, my words slurred and collided, and I couldn't put together a simple text message.

My aunt suggested I go to the campus health provider to have my blood pressure checked, but I opted for stuffing my face with bread and water at the student center. Luckily, I feel fine now, but I learned my lesson.

Case in point: no more energy drinks. I'm twenty years old and suffered a possible stroke? Yeah, this isn't okay. It's hasta la never to you, energy drinks, hope you enjoyed my company.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Myth: diet soda

An easy way to cut calories from a typical American diet seems simple enough. Step one: switch from regular to diet soda. The old joke goes, "I'll have a quarter-pounder with cheese, large fry, apple pie and a Diet Coke." I mean, where do you go wrong - you've got all the flavor of a regular soda without the nasty sugar and calories; it's the fizz without the fuss, right?

Taking a deeper look, though, we find one Frankenstein of a monster lying right in our aluminum can. Artificial sweeteners, especially those in diet soft drinks, are notorious for their claims to deliver all the flavor without the guilt, "the sweet sans the sacrifice." Splenda, NutraSweet, Equal, even the latest craze known as Truvia, all sit on top of your diner table, next to your coffee creamer, and snuggled in your sugar-free cookies, but these are far from healthy, and this is obvious in several ways.

1. Aspartame was denied by the FDA on eight separate occasions. It wasn't until a little deal was struck between the inventor and the FDA's leading attorney hiring the man to lead the inventor's law firm that aspartame was deemed "safe." Aspartame is now a $1 billion industry. Interesting.

2. Sucralose (Splenda) is a chemical. Sure, it's said to "taste like sugar because it's made from sugar," but that's only if you consider manually altering its chemical make-up to feature arsenic and heavy metals as sweet as sugar. Mmm.

3. Artificial sweeteners will make you fat. Sounds harsh, but studies have found that artificial sweeteners alter your body's ability to detect sweetness and moderate how much sugar or junk food you take in. Trust me - just because they're "sugar-free" Oreos does not mean you can eat the whole box in one sitting.

4. Sugar replacements are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

5. And cancer. And birth defects. And fertility problems, diarrhea, kidney failure, hair loss, weight gain, blindness, migraines, joint pain, bloating, depression, seizures, and schizophrenia. And, ironically enough, diabetes.

This doesn't necessarily free you up to drink your favorite Mountain Dew by the gallon, though; most regular soda is chock-full of high fructose corn syrup, another yucky food additive found in nearly every kind of processed food. When it comes down to regular versus diet, however, stick with regular and include the sugar and calories in your intake for the day.

Better yet, try the real stuff, the natural kind of sugar found in one of our best friends: fruit. Orange juice is a great way to give yourself an AM boost and fresh strawberries can help protect teeth enamel (not to mention their whitening effect!). Opt against cranberry cocktail for the organic apple juice and you've saved yourself a whole boatload of who knows what.

Just like you wrote in everyone's high school yearbook, "Stay sweet! Don't ever change!", stay away from the modified junk and you can still satisfy that sweet tooth.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

An FYI to my being MIA

YIPES! I haven't updated in years -- forgive me?

NEW POST TOMORROW! The hiatus is over! Yay!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yummy alert: Kombucha tea

Whole Foods is the Holy Grail of grocery stores. From the best Indian curry to freshly ground peanut butter and organic anything, it's no surprise the chain is taking over the health foods market. Naturally it follows that they'd be the first to debut the latest trend in tea - Kombucha.

Kombucha is a tea brewed with active yeasts and cultures similar to the probiotic strands in new digestive yogurts (like Activa). The cultivation stems from Chinese medicinal methods and was advertised as a "fountain of youth elixer." The included probiotic strands are incredibly beneficial in smooth digestion and many claim their abilities to combat a crazy number of ailments from balding to cancer. Kombucha comes in a variety of brewing flavors and styles, including a new juice-like tea that I'm 100% obsessed with!

The funny thing about Kombucha, however, is the fact that it is fermented to produce more of this beneficial yeast. Sound familiar? That's because beer is brewed the same way! This leaves your Kombucha like a pseudo-wine with the slightest bit of alcohol. It's like getting the healthy benefits of wine without having to watch how many glasses you've had, haha!

Check out the fabulous tea at your local health food store or brew it yourself if you're ready for an adventure! Yay, tea!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Know your farmer, know your food

Today, the university was visited by Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for the USDA. Woah, what a woman! Aside from her years-long list of achievements in food and environmental policy, the lady rocks a Bachelors from MIT and is spearheading several initiatives through personal visits across the nation.
Perhaps the most pertinent of all that she brought, however, was her message -- "know your farmer, know your food." Essentially, Dr. Merrigan is working towards changes in policy that embrace local and sustainable agriculture, particularly in supporting farmers in the struggling economy. Several initiatives have been either passed or pondered within the higher parts of government, and Dr. Merrigan spoke about creating a national dialogue to attract more success stories in their efforts.

So why do farmers matter? It's simple - without farmers, we have no food. Think about it: as Merrigan stated, "Every time you buy a loaf of bread...every time you shop at a farmers' market...every time you dine at a restaurant, whether white tablecloth or Applebee's, you are connecting to the land." And it's true! Each piece of your meal had to begin from the ground up (literally) in order to make it to your tummy.

Farmers are the key to a sustainable and healthy society. A critical issue discussed in the lecture involved that of food deserts, or areas that are lacking in food providers and grocery stores. Don't think this is limited to rural areas, either; there are food deserts right here in Chicago. If we're lacking food in Chicago, a prominent and densely-populated city, what does the rest of the nation look like?! (Check out the recently-debuted US Food Atlas here.)

But supporting farmers can change this. Encouraging farming outreach allows farmers the resources to become more mobile and touch more areas, more people, and more individuals. By encouraging the embrace of agriculture, school districts and food service providers are more apt to take up salad bars and fresh produce in schools as opposed to the universal appliance known as the fryer. The possibilities are endless.

Take a look at the facts and figures at Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food and check out the benefits of supporting US agricultural efforts. Remember, "every family needs a farmer"!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In celebration of March coming in like a lion, take the chance to check out this yummy fruits and veggies while they're in season!

Artichokes - now in season!
Romaine lettuce
Bell peppers
Pears - last month until August!
Pineapples - now in season!
Button mushrooms - last month until September!

Stop by your local farmers' market and stock up - if you're in the Chicagoland area, check out Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Eat your root vegetables like leeks now, it's almost time for spring crops to come in!

Weight training: cardio's best friend

It's not uncommon to hear that women are against the weight. You know, the whole "I don't want to look like Arnold" kind of excuse. Believe it or not, without some sort of weight training incorporated into your exercise routine, you're only going halfway!

Women are, first and foremost, not equipped with the same type of bulking ability as men (without juicing, anyway). This is the same reason for those SlimQuick commercials, where the couple makes the same change to their diet, but the man is the only one to see any results -- men got the muscle! While weighing more because of its higher density than fat, muscle burns more calories more often, leaving you with a sleek, toned (not shiny!) body. This also means that you should be wary of the numbers on the scale; this higher density also means more weight, so pay more attention to the way your skinny jeans fit than how many pounds you've seem to have "loaded" on. Keep in mind that weight training burns more calories than cardio not only during your workout, but that burn keeps working post-workout, too!

The best way to start pumping iron is to begin with low reps (10-12) three times a week. Choose a weight that is just heavy enough that your last rep also causes you to sacrifice your form. Women's Health cites that this can help you lose 3% body fat in ten weeks...and this is without changing your diet!

Give it a shot! Try integrating some hand weights into your usual yoga sesh or hold onto a weighted exercise ball during your morning 8-Minute Abs (the products from Savasa's line come in pretty feminine colors, too...and for cheap!). The free weights at your gym are always up for grabs, too! No need to feel intimidated, I'm pretty sure there's no sign around calling the weights "for men only." Maybe the boys' club will even lend you a few tips. ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chilly chow

More and more lately, I find myself standing in line at the -- gasp -- Student Center Grille, aka the only "cheap" food on campus. Today was one of those days. I'm waiting patiently to order my fabulous black bean veggie pita sans sauce and cheese when I overhear the orders in front of me. "Chicken strips, cheese sticks, and a Dr. Pepper." "Chicken strips and fries and a red Gatorade." One older woman ordered only a side of fries, then turned to her friend and said, "They don't have ice cream here, it's on the other side."
What!? No wonder college kids (and increasingly, staff) have become so lethargic. I know it's winter, but the Chicago chub is never fashionable, as warm as it may be. So what is it about winter and college that keeps us from living well, and how can we combat it?

First point -- it's cold outside! No one wants to go for a run or so much as walk to class in the Midwest mess, let alone abandon the blankey to head to the gym. I admit, I take Public Safety the four blocks from the train station back to my apartment to save me the walk in the cold. When we make this seemingly "little" sacrifices, however, we lose the few calorie-burning, health-churning events of the day that come absolutely free and without doing anything extra. Walking a few blocks makes up for some of that cookie you splurged on at work...and lets you have one next week, too!

Warm foods are comforting. There's a reason we have an affection for hot cocoa when it's snows; it warms you up from the inside out. So naturally, what happens when we walk into the Student Center or restaurant? We want something warm and snuggly. This makes the salad and fresh fruit look awfully unappealing, so instead, we go for french fries, a burger, or creamy soup. If you're looking for a hot way to get hot (ha), try some steamed vegetables or a plain baked potato instead of fries, green tea instead of a latte, and or a baked apple with cinnamon instead of an apple pie from McD's (and those babies are tempting -- two for a dollar and vegan?!). Not only will you feel yummy in the tummy, you'll feel fab even in that puffy marshmallow coat!

Believe it or not, the lack of sunshine in winter makes you sad. You may have heard of a Seasonal Affective Disorder, dubbed SAD for a reason. Sunshine is responsible for stimulating vitamin D production in our bodies which in turn creates a balance internally. This gives you energy and stimulation and helps your endorphin production! Conquer the winter blues by using a full-spectrum light bulb, a Sun Alarm, or visiting your tanning bed once a week. Up your leafy dark green intake and vitamin D-fortified orange juice to help your happy, too!

Indoor workouts are always a great option during winter, whether that means taking a class at your gym or renting a few workout videotapes from the library (excuse me...DVDs). Don't let your routine get dusty during colder months...keep in mind the rockin' bod you want to show off this summer and you'll stay motivated all the way until April showers bring May flowers!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Calorie counter: how much should I stuff my face?

So you've decided to brush up your eating habits, now what? In order to effectively jump-start your healthy lifestyle and keep it up, it's important to know the basics!

Obviously, step one is beginning to read your food labels to understand their nutritional value. This will allow you to find a balance during the day between levels of fat, sodium, fiber, and so on. But what about calories? Few realize that a typical nutrition label is based on a 2000 calorie diet - calories that not everyone needs (or sometimes, isn't enough)!

I stumbled across a FABULOUS tool to calculate how many calories you should consume in a day. Keep in mind that, regardless of caloric intake, a body still needs a balance in all areas of nutrition; calories are just one measure of that.

1. Calculate your basal metabolic rate:*

FEMALE: 665 + (4.35 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

MALE: 66 + (6.23 x weight in lbs) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

Or click here!

2. A few further calculations can help you meet your goal intake. Measure your level of activity (honesty is key here, lying to yourself will only keep you from that great look) and use the appropriate formula.

Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
Lightly active (light exercise, 1-2 times/week): BMR x 1.375
Moderately active (moderate exercise, 3-5 times/week): BMR x 1.55
Very active (intense exercise, 6-7 times/week): BMR x 1.725
Extremely active (intense exercise or physical labor): BMR x 1.9

3. For weight maintenance, this is your goal number. For weight loss, reduce this number by 15-20%.

I remember in high school asking my health teacher if eating more could help you lose weight if you weren't eating enough; she looked at me like I was crazy. Believe it or not, though, eating too little is almost as detrimental as eating too much. When you eat too sparingly - or skip meals - your body goes into "starvation mode" and begins to store calories and fat to protect itself from, well, dying. So no, you can't live off 100 Calorie Packs for the rest of your life; it's okay to eat!

Reassuring, isn't it? :)
*Thanks to The Pageant Place for this info!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Sleeping Beauty had it right

I never sleep. Recently, my best friend has pulled enough all-nighters at school to have been diagnosed as medically nocturnal. I never believed the hype until I got here -- college isn't just professors and classes and being away from home, it's a lifestyle. The difficult part about this, though, is how that lifestyle means crazy stress levels, late-night calls for Chinese takeout, and 5 am bedtimes. No surprise one of the biggest threats in college is the freshman fifteen!

It's tough to balance the due dates and research papers, not to mention the work shifts, club meetings, and some resemblance of a social life. I can attest to this in the three all-nighters I've pulled in the past week. When we're so overloaded in life, whether in college or balancing mom-dom and a career, it's easy to steal time away from what should be our time to relax and recharge. So what's the deal with sleep? Can't I just balance myself out again over the weekend? If I feel fine during the day, it can't be that big of a deal, can it? Check out why sleep is so vital to our health and why it's time to keep it at the top of our "to-do" list!

Sleep deprivation affects your thyroid and stress hormone levels.

The thyroid is responsible for balance within your body system, including serotonin levels (the hormone responsible for putting you to sleep when it's dark outside) and endorphin release (your happy hormone!). Sleep heightens your ability to deal with stress, making you more productive throughout the day and more readily-abled to conquer that jerk at work!

Sleep is your body's natural defense against daily wear-and-tear.

Cosmetic companies have advertised their product's ability to "reverse the effects of free radicals in the air"...but you have that ability already, better than any lotion or cream, and for free! Sleep reconstructs body tissue and clears your mind of irrelevant thoughts from the past day, freeing up your focus for the next morning's activities and embedding in memory the important ideas from yesterday.

Not sleeping will make you fat.

One of the other hormones affected by sleep is leptin, which tells you when you're hungry and when you're full. Tie two and two together and you'll notice that not sleeping causes your leptin levels to go berserk, leaving you stuffing your face for the entire day, but never feeling full. Aside from this, sleep deprivation often causes us to make yucky eating decisions, either by eating a snack right before we try to snooze or by encouraging us to stray from our healthy eating plan. No good!

Most importantly...lost sleep can't be made up!

It's the most commonly used excuse to stay up all night: "Eh, I'll just sleep in 'til noon on Saturday, no big deal." However, sleeping isn't like eating, where what you've eaten across a few days can balance itself out. Sleep is exclusive to every 24 hours (following the circadian rhythm)...meaning that sleeping for three hours Tuesday and 11 on Wednesday doesn't average out to the healthy 7 hours a night. In reality, all you did was oversleep on one day and not sleep enough the other, both throwing your body off track!

If you're having trouble sleeping, try using the power of scent to lull you to bed. Lavender has an all-over calming effect and will ease you into your beauty sleep. Hiding light, whether from streetlamps, alarm clocks, or charging laptops, will have a huge impact on your ability to stay asleep; studies show that even the smallest amount of light can disrupt sleep wavelengths and keep you from achieving REM. Avoiding caffeine after noon, turning off electronics an hour or two before you hit the pillow, and taking a bath pre-bedtime can also help you relax and calm down.

If you still find yourself up and awake at night or unable to sleep straight through a solid 7 to 9 hours, contact a sleep specialist or doctor. You may have a sleep disorder (i.e. my best friend) or an hyper/underactive thyroid -- even food allergies can keep you awake when it's time to sleep!

So even amongst the high stress of that seemingly-irrelevant class and the ever-increasing cost of groceries, sleep is extraordinarily beneficial in productively addressing this chaos. After all, she wasn't a sleeping beauty in her ability to stay up for 36 hours.

Now, if I could just get to bed earlier than sunrise...

My biggest vices

I've learned something over the years: I have an addictive personality. Considering I'm a huge foodie, this becomes an issue when I'm trying to cut back on what I shovel in my mouth! Here's to highlighting my top edible vices and how I've learned to "cope" with them.

5. Monster Lo-Carb

As someone who readily gets herself involved in far too many things, the idea of sleep is often times way too tempting to beat. Thus, the addiction to energy drinks. While these little beasts pack quite the powerful punch, they're notorious for spiking energy levels only to cause a dramatic energy crash not long after and wreak havoc on your immune system, eek!
Solution: Lack of energy is usually a result of one of the following: dehydration, low B-12 levels, or too little sleep. My answer is d. All of the above, so instead of opting for the quick fix, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night, 8 glasses of water, and a liquid b-12 supplement. I like Now Ultra Liquid B-12.

4. Mini OreosLet's face it -- Oreos really are America's Favorite Cookie. Plus, this convenient fun-size version of the original snack makes them easy to pop in your mouth by the handful. Sugar seizure, anyone?
Solution: Try a super-sweet fruit before diving into that bag of cookies. Dates are a good choice; try date rolls, little dates covered in coconut with an almond center. Low in processed sugar, they'll trick your tongue into thinking it's candy! If your craving still refuses to back down, eat a few Minis and wait. Because you haven't deprived yourself, you should feel satisfied.

3. Taco BellCheap. Fast. Open late. I'm a broke college student; need I say more? Oh, but I can, and in just two simple words: Baja. Blast. My order: "Beef & Potato Burrito, substitute the ground beef for refried beans so no meat, Fresco it, so no sour cream or red sauce, add guacamole, crunchy red strips, and lettuce, and grill that for me, please? With tons of Fire sauce!"
Solution: While the best solution is no Taco Bell, the menu does offer some flexibility. Skip the sour cream and cheese and ask for your taco "Fresco style," which replaces the fat with a leaner tomato salsa. Soft shell is lower in fat than hard shell, and the refried beans are a fabulous and vegetarian substitute for the Grade-D meat.

2. Jalapeño kettle chips
If the loads of Fire sauce didn't clue you in, I like my food hot and spicy. We're talking Chipotle Tabasco and Cholula hot sauce on everything. At just 79¢ a bag at 7-11, every little bag reminds me that you "can't stop eating 'em."
Solution: Instead of chips, go for spicy crunchy vegetables. Carrots dipped in red pepper hummus make a great snack and provides necessary protein and nutrients to get through the day!

1. ChipotleYou've seen their ads advertising their burritos: "Usually when you roll something this good, it's illegal." And by golly, they've got to be putting something in that cilantro-lime rice that's less than ethical. SO. GOOD. SO. ADDICTING.
Solution: I switched from a burrito to the burrito bol. The simple switch saves 220 calories, woah! Try the vegetarian bol and go for guac instead of sour cream and cheese. To cut back on fat, I ask for half a spoonful of guacamole instead of the heaping glob they shovel on. I also cut out the spicy red tomatillo salsa, cutting out 520mg of sodium (that's 21% of your recommended daily sodium!), and use a few extra shakes of the Chipotle Tabasco provided at the soda counter. Also, it's pronounced "cheh-POHT-lay." Just saying.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Monday Myth: chain restaurants

I work in a chain restaurant. That being said, you may think it's the idiot that asks for a refill every two seconds or the tables that can't comprehend the concept of tipping that has scarred me for life...but in all actuality, it's in the way I've seen the food being prepared that I've become extraordinarily skeptical of the idea of chain restaurants being "healthy."

So often, we opt for a sit-down restaurant like Chili's or Outback in an attempt to avoid the fattening images we've built around McDonald's and Burger King. We're constantly reassured that we're receiving higher quality food because of the friendly server who brings it to our table and the twenty minutes we wait for our meal. It's like waiting for food fools us into believing it's being made fresh or from scratch. Check out the reasons why some restaurants may be just as unhealthy as their fast-food counterparts:

1. Portion distortion

TGI Friday's recently debuted a new "3 Course" menu, where guests choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert for an alluring low price. The funny part about this meal deal, however, is how these full-size courses are meant to be shared! The Fried Mozzarella normally divided between two or three people becomes a 660 calorie starter - and you still have an entree and dessert on the way! Humongous salads pack over 1,300 calories and 50 grams of fat (almost the entire daily recommendation for a 2,000 calorie diet) and steaks come prepared at two to three times the standard serving size.

2. Hidden food additives

"What do a hot dog from Yankee Stadium, potato latkes from the Four Seasons in Manhattan, and a sirloin steak from Applebee's have in common? They all come from Sysco...a food wholesaler." Working at a restaurant opened my eyes to just how many items come frozen or from a box. Hooters's wing sauce nutritional facts have yet to be disclosed, but it's rumored that the famous marinade hosts a whole party of unhealthy friends, like partially hydrogenated margarine and xanthan gum. It's no wonder your brain screams for naptime after eating out!

3. "Would you like fries with that?"

Whether in a paper cup or on a china plate, a fry is a fry is a fry. Don't forget, however, what else is shared in the same fry grease as our favorite side; Burger King French Toast Sticks are thrown in the same oil as Chicken Fries, BK Fish patties, pork sausage, and onion rings. Mmm, good morning, Fish Toast Sticks, you taste good in my maple syrup.

4. Refills, bar drinks, and extras

Since liquid calories don't register with our digestive system like solid foods do, it's easy to get carried away with the soda. Every free refill your server is trained to bring you adds another 200-450 calories to your meal, not including the sugary syrup added to the popular strawberry lemonade or cherry Coke. Mixed drinks from the bar, especially ice-cream based drinks like mudslides, offer no nutritional value but contain heavy amounts of carbs, sugar, and/or fat. We tend to forget about the impact the request for extra sauce carries, but a seemingly tiny side of ranch dressing boasts 200 calories, and almost all of them from fat.

Not to ban all dinners out, though! There is a sensible way to consume restaurant food. For one, take half of your meal home with you. Not only will you have lunch ready to go for the next day, you'll skip that yucky bloated feeling that usually comes home with you. If you want an appetizer, save dessert for next time or vice versa. Don't be afraid to share a normal-sized portion with someone else at the table! This keeps both your tummy and your wallet full, double whammy! Read the fine print in the menu; "creamy," "loaded," "crispy," "fried," and "sauteed" are keywords for added fat, so ask for your menu item grilled or with the sauce on the side. Most nutritional facts are available on the restaurant's website to check out, too!

Eating out can be the pitfall of any healthy diet, but realize what you're eating and bring a friend or two and you can still enjoy a night out. Oh, and don't forget...tip your waitress/waiter 20%. If you're not sure how to figure that out, we'll be more than happy to help you. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Myth: high fructose corn syrup

Get the facts: you're in for a sweet surprise.

If you've watched television at all lately, you've seen this fabulous strategy of a commercial more than once, the one that quips high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) is "made from corn, has no artificial sweeteners, and is fine in moderation." What few people know, however, is what the "sweet surprise" the Corn Refiners Association is literally sugar-coating and force-feeding Americans across the country.

Log on to Sweet Surprise and you'll find masses of "expert testimonials" citing HCFS as equivalent to honey, table sugar, and other sweeteners. Yet the sweetener, primarily based in fructose and a combination of other sugars like glucose, is NOT metabolized by the body in the same way as sugar! The fact that the artificial sweetener is completely derived from genetically-modified corn and subject to extreme processing already only emphasizes the unnatural basis of HCFS. Sure, HFCS has no artificial sweeteners...because it IS one.

Whereas glucose in standard sugars is metabolized by the body and converted into blood glucose affecting insulin levels, HFCS is processed by the liver and converted into fat and cholesterol. Insulin helps tell your body when to stop eating; because of the different way HCFS is processed, a person may be more likely to overeat without this heads up. This fructose also ups your levels of bad cholesterol (or LDL) and triglycerides, an extraordinarily unhealthy fat linked to the hardening of healthy arteries and increased risks for heart disease.

Diabetics and at-risk diabetics especially should be on the lookout for this nasty food additive; a 2007 study by the American Chemical Society revealed that HFCS in soda and other drinks was linked with cell and tissue damage that triggers diabetes. Diabetes in itself has been linked to obesity and heart disease and only makes the healthy living battle that much more difficult, so why put another hurdle in your way of crossing the finish line at the top?

Next time you're loading up the pantry, check the labels -- you'll be surprised how many products use HFCS as a sweetener, everything from soda to soup to bread! Instead of indulging in this Frankenstein of a beast, try some actual fruit; fruit is low in yucky fructose but offers loads of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes for healthy digestion and energy. Opt for water over Coke and you'll have saved yourself an average 8 tablespoons of sugar per serving...think of all the calories you don't have to feel guilty about! Your little heart and liver will thank you.

Pretty sure the website should be renamed "Sweet Deception." Eh, better luck next campaign.