Change your life in 15 minutes

We're all busy. I don't know one person who isn't. We all have demanding jobs with long hours. Almost every person I know is stressed out. We lead busy lives and live in a society where working from morning till night is the norm. But what isn't acceptable is to let your health decline because of a busy schedule.

Somewhere out there, there's a CEO of some large company who wakes up every morning and works out and eats well. He makes multimillion dollar decisions and has a stress level higher than I will ever have. How does he do it? Two things....priority and preparation.

First, you must make YOU a priority. Nothing on this earth is more valuable than your health. Without it, you're done. It's time to start loving yourself and treating your body with respect. You only have one life and one body, ya know?

Second, you must be prepared. So where does this magical 15 minutes fit in?

I'm asking one thing of you. Always be prepared for your meals of your day. When you wake up, take 15 minutes to plan and think about what you will put into your body that day. It's easy. Think about it while you're eating breakfast. Questions to ask yourself...
-what will i eat for lunch?
-what will i eat for dinner?
-how many hours will pass between those two meals?
-how many snacks must I bring to sustain myself between those meals?

If you're eating out for lunch or dinner, that's fine. Just be prepared mentally for what healthy thing you will order. If 7 hours will pass between lunch and dinner, bring one or two snacks to hold you over. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy proteins are all great options for snacks. Throw them in your bag, it's EASY. It will be the difference between a day of healthy eating and a day of bad choices. Go to the grocery store on your day off and make sure you're READY. Don't let yourself get starving.

15 minutes. That's all. Yes, I sometimes work really long days. I ALWAYS take 15 extra minutes in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast and to plan out what I'll need for the day. I pack workout clothes, toiletries, snacks, and lunches. Sometimes I feel like a bag lady with all the stuff I carry around. But I want to be prepared for my workouts, recovery, meals and snacks. Go to bed 15 minutes won't miss any sleep that way.

"To be prepared is half the victory." -Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Yes, you can do this.

The Seventh Commandment

i was raised in the catholic church.  the seventh commandment is "thou shalt not steal."  screw that.

coming up with new ideas and ways to prepare foods is always challenging.  eating healthy should be fun and explorative.  but you should always stick to healthy non processed ingredients.  in other words, your days of a "meal in a box" are OVER.

if you're not a culinary genius, and are new to fresh wholesome foods, walking through the vegetable section of any grocery store can be heart attack inducing.  green onions, cabbage, spinach, broccoli...yeah, they're all wonderful and i know they're healthy, but what the hell am i supposed to do with them?  cue the whole foods deli counter.

i wish i made enough money to eat solely from this counter.  unfortunately, i've gotta prepare my own yummy meals like pretty much everyone else.  so how do i steal from this counter? every sunday i stalk this counter like it's prey,  tasting and nibbling.   i'm a visual learner.  seeing these dishes gives me ideas.  i take mental notes of what i see as side dishes for veggies and also for new ways of preparing meats.  on this day, the broccoli crunch salad was to die for.  i order a small side of it.  here's where it gets good.  the deli counter worker puts my broccoli in a dish and weighs it.  then, she puts the sticker receipt on the container.  guess what's on the receipt?  a listing of EVERY INGREDIENT in the salad.  perfect.  now i can scoot on over to trader joe's and create my own broccoli crunch salad for the week without breaking the bank.  thievery tastes so good.

okay, if you refuse to steal or are just too strapped for time to prepare your own meals, this counter is the best for prepared foods. pretty much everything is organic and healthful.

Shhh. Our secret. How to cheat

pssstt. come here. closer. real close. i have a secret. this is JUST BETWEEN US.

this weekend....i'm gonna cheat.

don't tell the broccoli

-so this week was pretty normal for me nutrition wise. all the usual subjects were present and accounted for.

herbed chicken strips with leftover grilled asparagus and roasted sweet potato with butter & cinnamon (stick the potato in the oven till it's ain't hard to do)

sauteed chicken with snow peas over quinoa

trader joes buffalo burger with oven roasted cauliflower and asparagus (veggies drizzled with extra virgin oo before roasting. amazing things happen to veggies in the oven. i'm convinced it's magic.)

maria's lazy breakfast...2 eggs sauteed with whatever i can find in the fridge (spinach, turkey, mushrooms, chicken, leftover veggies & coconut oil) & brown rice toast with apple butter or almond butter spread....half caff coffee (i have yet to reach full decaf. it's a goal...hey, i'm working on it!)

it was all pretty tasty. i was happy and satisfied. i tried my best to balance out every meal. i could have eaten more veggies. you can never overdo good quality greens.

so now what? it's the weekend. i'm gonna let my hair down and have a cheat meal. every once in a while, it's important to eat a meal that's atypical of your routine. why? well, to keep myself sane so i don't go postal on you guys in the gym. no, seriously, it's good for the soul. so, what's it gonna be? taco bell? mcdonalds? never. NO WAY. i'd rather lick the bottom of my shoe.

a cheat meal for me is an INDULGENCE. it's a meal that is so rich and flavorful that i eat it twice as slow as my other meals. it's strategically planned out; nothing this special happens spontaneously. it's a meal that deserves a fine glass of wine and maybe even a dessert. i still try to stay within my parameters for my cheat.

pa⋅ram⋅e⋅ter  [puh-ram-i-ter]

Usually, parameters. limits or boundaries; guidelines: the basic parameters of our foreign policy.

TODAY. My challenge to you is to set your parameters. Do it today, before you go to bed tonight. Make boundaries in your mind of what, FOR YOU, is an acceptable food and what is not. And then STICK TO IT. No falling off the wagon, no ooops. Unless you walk into the gym with a busted chin, don't tell me you slipped.

What are my parameters?

No wheat or gluten

Occasional dairy (mostly during cheat meals)

No sugar

No white or wheat flour

The fun thing about your parameters is that over time, they change. My parameters took me almost 2 years to figure out. How did I start? My first parameters were: no soda & try to eat more wholesome foods. I felt better, so then i tinkered with no white flours. Then, my wonderful trainer saw that I was on the cusp of a big breakthrough and challenged me to see if I could keep my performance in the gym and ONLY dine on animal proteins, veggies, fruits and healthy fats. I did it and felt AMAZING. I got stronger in the gym. Then I got rid of dairy, and guess what happened? My sinus problems disappeared and I stopped catching colds. Is my journey over? Absolutely not. Now, I'm trying to reintroduce raw dairy to see how my body reacts to it.

This is a big puzzle and it's up to you to figure it out. Set your parameters now. Decide what you will eat and what is not okay. Then reevaluate in a month or so and see how you feel. Then, if you are totally satisfied with your performance in the gym and feel great and fit into your favorite pair of jeans, then great! You've done it. If you're still longing for more, then set new parameters. You can't go from a crawl to a full sprint. Go slow. Walk first. Try to enjoy this journey. Think of this as the coolest science experiment you'll ever do. Always listen to what your body is telling you.

So then, how in the world do I manage to "cheat" and stay somewhat within my parameters? how does this sound?

crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese crumbles and bacon with creamy cheese dressing

ribeye, medium. the more marbled the better.

mashed potatoes with butter.

creamed spinach and sauteed mushrooms.

heaping glass of red....australian? french? argentinian? whatever the sommelier recommends

and the grand finale....creme brulee. a creole classic egg custard topped with berries. (hmmmnnn, it's got sugar in it but it's still wheat and gluten free. desserts are just a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.)

I wouldn't eat this meal often. First, I can't afford it. Second, it's got lots of dairy and i've figured out that my body doesn't do well on too much dairy. Third, it contains lots of fats, so it's a little out of the zone that I try to stay within. Fourth, I don't have wine every night. Fifth, the sugar in the dessert is a no no for me so that's why it's an occasional treat.

Two closing thoughts:

1. Set your parameters TODAY. Let's talk about them. Tell me what they are.

2. If you're gonna be bad, you'd better be damn good at it.

Give me the bird

"Mother Nature is a Smart Chick"

She was smart enough to provide us here on earth with everything we need to survive and be healthy. We're not smarter than her. This is why I try to eat foods that mother nature gave us. Healthy, grass fed proteins like chicken, buffalo and beef, as well as fresh fish. Hearty fruits and veggies are always satisfying. I choose non vegetable based oils.

So where does soy fit into the picture?

Again, these are all my opinions and some of you vegetarians out there may not be too happy with what this post is about, BUT...

I have yet to see a cow that produces soy milk. Or a buffalo that can be turned into a soy burger.

I am referring to NON FERMENTED soy products. If you must have soy, make sure it's fermented.

Here are a few facts about non fermented soy...

1. It contains estrogen. Menopausal women who would rather not take hormone treatments drink soy milk during hot flashes for the estrogen. Yes, it contains that much estrogen. Consumer groups in New Zealand and Canada are working to ban soy in infant formula. One resarcher, Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick, estimates that a baby that is given ONLY soy formula is getting the equvalent in phytoestrogen of five birth control pills a day- or more. Would you feed your baby birth control pills?

2. It can cause hypothyroidism. Your thyroid controls metabolism. If the gland that helps you metabolize does not function properly, your body will begin to slow down. Weight gain, hair loss, fatigue and dry skin are all symptoms of a malfunctioning thyroid. Guess how to correct a malfunctioning thyroid...synthetic hormones...sounds like fun yet? (oh....and a proper diet can help cure it too)

3. So just how do those little soybeans make their way from a bean to a burger, or milk, or chicken form? They're bathed in hexane gas. Hexane gas is extremely volatile and is used in the making of glues for shoes, leathers and roofing. Hexane is used in the food industry to extract oils out of substances. But it gets better...the use of this gas is a pollutant. Areas near soy and grain processing centers are more polluted and have bigger holes in the ozone due to the use of hexane gas. In 1999, an explosion at the Indianapolis Centra Soya Plant was due to a hexane gas spill. Another explosion happened four years later at an Iowa plant, killing two workers.

I imagine Mother Nature as a wise old grandmother. She knows about nutrition and good health. I imagine that she would want us to eat from the land and eat as healthy as possible. She would want us to feel good and vibrant.

Make wise choices when deciding what to put into your mouth. Labels like "organic," "natural," and "whole grain" don't mean anything. I don't care what's on the front of the box. All I care about is the ingredient list on the back. Know where your food is coming from. Educate yourself. Your health depends on it. (FYI...all those "multigrain products" are mostly made from corn...sorry.)

So if I have to choose between a chicken nugget that's supposed to taste like chicken but made out of soy, then altered to taste like chicken....give me the bird.

Food For food makes you feel

A meal should make you feel BETTER than before you ate. It should energize you for at least 3 or 4 hours. You should feel satisfied and pleasant after a meal. If, however, you finish your meal and you feel groggy, bloated, sleepy, still hungry, craving sweets or even depressed....something went wrong somewhere. Maybe you had too much fat. Maybe not enough. Something in your ratios was off for YOU. This is where food journaling comes into play. I want you guys to all start being aware of how you feel after eating a meal. Keep a mental (or physical) log of those meals that worked. Try to figure out why they worked. Also be aware of when a meal didn't agree with you.

This whole nutrition thing is a puzzle. Each person is different and you have to start paying attention to the messages your body is giving you. It's trying to tell you something...just listen.

Here's a breakfast idea for you guys. OKAY...don't fall out of your chair, but I actually learned how to poach eggs. These weren't my best, but hey, I TRIED.

Two poached eggs (the yolks get all runny and cover the spinach and it just makes a lovely tasty mess in your plate!) - Protein & Fat

Wilted Spinach - Carb

Almond meal bread (yes, i actually attempted baking gluten free bread this weekend. the bread's about a 6 out of 10 on the edible scale. but least I'M TRYING new things!) - Fat & Carb & Protein

Apple Butter (unsweetened) - Carb

Sliced Turkey - Protein

* Any slice of toast would work here. Make sure you try to get sprouted multigrain. If you're into trying a gluten free option, you can find them at whole foods or TJ's.

You guys are all doing great. Give yourself leeway to experiment and to have fun. This is something you'll be doing for the rest of your life, so have fun with it. Yea, sorry to break the news to ya...but this is a lifelong journey toward fitness and wellness. Even if you reach a level of "fit" you still have to strive to maintain it. Your goal is to come up with a way to LIVE AND EAT and stay healthy and happy. Look, I don't have nutrition degrees and, to be quite honest, until about two years ago, I didn't know how to boil an egg. But you learn. And you keep experimenting until you find what works for you. Use me as a tool. I'm here to help.