Category Archives: fitness

Crunchy Crunchy Chips!

Our Love Affair with Crunchy

Do you ever wonder why you love eating crunchy foods? I love crunch. LIke, really really love it. I hadn’t thought too much about it (I assumed it was the salt) until a few days ago. I happen to be reading an amazing book called Gulp, by Mary Roach. She is one of my favorite authors. Somehow she manages to take really taboo subjects and make them accessible and hysterical. Gulp is all about digestion. Another favorite of mine is Stiff, which is all about what happens to our bodies when we die. Sounds morbid, but it’s so so informative, interesting and funny!

gulpAnyway, back to crunch. According to Roach and the experts she interviews, there are a few reasons we like crunchy foods. One reason is that humans have a penchant for destroying things. Think about video games, going to the gym, boxing, popping bubble wrap (thanks, Alex), or any of the other things we do to “let off steam”. When we eat crunchy food, we are getting sensory feedback that we are destroying something, from the sound of the food breaking into pieces, to the feeling of the pieces in our mouth. Way to go! Who needs violent video games when you can eat crunchy food!

But, even more importantly (to me, and maybe you if you’re reading this because you’re into health), we have evolved to prefer foods with a crunch. In nature, we can tell if a food is fresh by its firmness. What a carrot is just picked, it’s full of nutrients and has the most nutritional value it ever will. At that point, it will be crunchy because it’s cell walls are all intact and full of water. As the carrot gets older, some of the cell walls break down, leaving the carrot limper and limper. In this case, there is no longer a nice crunch. This is the case with many vegetables. So, pre-nutrition label times, our wonderfully smart bodies evolved to prefer crunch as a sign of maximum nutrition.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years and in comes processed food. Now our bodies are confused! We’re wired to love crunch, and now there is more crunch available than ever before, all in shiny bags! What do we do!

Right, what do we do?

With all the crunch readily available, we’ve become desensitized. The crunch of a pepper or piece of celery is nothing like the crunch of a chip. It’s the same with sweetness! A fresh berry used to be one of the sweetest things we could get our hands on. The sweetness gave us the feedback that this berry was ripe, delicious and nutritious. Now, a ripe berry barely tastes sweet at all because of all the sugar we consume on a daily basis.

Well, now that we’re aware, we can start the process of re-sensitizing ourselves. What does it take? It takes looking at the foods in our diet and refocusing on the things that are actually good for us. Take note of your cravings. When you’re craving something crunchy are you looking for stress relief? Is your body craving nourishment? Instead of reaching for a bag of chips, try reaching for a fresh carrot or pepper. At first it may not satisfy you, but over time, your body and taste buds will recalibrate. Then, the crunch of a pepper will by music to your ears, and berries will be lusciously sweet again.

 

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New Year Vision Boarding

Happy almost New Year! A few weeks ago I looked at the last vision board I made and realized that, in one way or another, I had accomplished everything on it. What an incredible year it’s been! I decided to make another one with a friend and realized how appropriate it was to start reflecting on what I want for my life as the year comes to an end. I would have made the new vision board anyway, but creating it at the end of the year seemed like a great way to honor 2015, reflect, and move into 2016 inspired and with a clear purpose.

I’m fairly new to vision boards. A wonderful teacher of mine, Anne Margaret, was the first one to give me an “assignment” to do one. I resisted it soooooooooooo hard! I felt like it was another one of those corny new-age hippie things. But, I made that vision board (it was my homework after all), and it actually changed my life.

For me, it seems like the power in vision boards is two fold. Primarily, it helps you get clear. It pushes you to think in a new way that is actually kinda uncomfortable.

We don’t often spend time actually thinking about what we want in our life. We definitely spend more time focusing on things we don’t want. Thinking about what we don’t want is important, but without thinking about what we do want, it’s hard to pull away from old patterns. For example, take “I don’t want to be sick”. Ok, that’s great. But what does that mean? Does that mean you want to eat clean? Does that mean you want to exercise? Does that mean you want to take medication? Or move out of the city to get more fresh air? Vision boards help us actually put together some ideas about what we do want and how we can get in action to start living out the things we do want.

The second power of the vision board is taking action. On my first vision board I had a photo of a beautiful baked/stuffed red onion. The photo was gorgeous, and I had no idea how to make the dish. At the time I was still a social worker and becoming a private chef and health coach was not even a seed of a thought in my mind. I had to take an action based on my vision board, so I signed up for a cooking class I wouldn’t have normally treated myself to. In that class I met an amazing teacher, who I eventually interned for (8 months later). She also encouraged me to go to an open house at the Natural Gourmet, where I ended up getting a job within the year. Who knew a picture of an onion would lead me to working at a place that I have seriously idealized for more than a decade.

Putting some pictures on a piece of poster board is great, but that in itself isn’t going to make magic. You still need to push yourself, you still need to take action. After all, it’s your life! And, the scarier the better! The greatest rewards come from doing things that push us outside of our comfort zone. So yes, be afraid, and put that image up there anyway. Think about what you truly want without any modifiers or doubts. It may not happen this year, next year, or even within the next decade – but you never know. Just articulating what you want is the beginning of the magic formula.

I’d love to see your boards! I’ve been getting photos from clients and it’s so amazing and inspiring. I’ve been hearing back that just the process of creating one is transformative (and I agree :)). Mine’s right here with this post. For me, this year is about amazing friendships and communities, physical badass strength, honoring and continuing to trust my intuition, heart expanding collaborations with women I love, and cooking for yoga and meditation retreats in beautiful places around the world. And, just to be totally honest, the little girl on there that’s kinda hiding, well, she represents the family I hope to have one day. It’s not a 2016 goal, but it’s just something I like to acknowledge as a deep desire.

So much love to you always,

Samantha

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Raw Corn Salad – Recipe

The Farmers’ Markets have been so beautiful and inspiring over the last couple of months. I feel so lucky to be at a market almost every day! Corn has been amazingly fresh this summer, and it’s been a big hit at the markets. Check out the recipe below, courtesy of the Just Say Yes to Fruits and Vegetables program, for a refreshing, healthy and simple salad. Corn is also a great source of fiber. Who said healthy couldn’t be delicious? Make sure to read to the end, too. That’s where I give away my pro tips 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, I’m also chronicling my Farmers’ Market and cooking journeys on Instagram, so stop by for some photos and inspiration!

Raw Corn Salad

71cbbf65-21de-49c6-905d-fc00f8b1c882Corn is one of those vegetables that almost everyone loves. It’s bright and sweet, and just screams summer. While corn is quite popular, a lot of people don’t realize you can eat it raw! Yup, you heard me. RAW!

I remember the first time I had raw corn. I was driving back to NY from working at a retreat site in Maine. When we got to New Hampshire, one of my friends saw someone selling corn on the side of the road and demanded we stop. He bought a few ears and proceeded to eat the corn as it was, no cooking, no salt, no butter… nothing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t reluctant, but I was surprised at how sweet and delicious it was right off the cob.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn
2 tomato, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, grated
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Remove the corn kernels from the the cob by running a knife along each side.

Mix together all ingredients and enjoy!

Pro tip: Get all the delicious juices from the cob by running the back of your knife along each side of the corn. No toothpicks or floss required!

Pro tip #2: If you’re anything like me, you hate to waste. Instead of throwing away the cobs, you can make a delicious and sweet corn stock by simmering them for 45 minutes with some onions and herbs (optional). Corn soup is awesome!

Till next time!

Samantha

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What’s a Healthy Diet? Plus 3 Ways to Create Your Own

The other day I was eating dinner outside with a friend and a man approached us and said, “Hey! I see you’re eating diet food, this is my wife’s card. You should call her. She sells (insert company name) weight loss shakes.” You might be able to guess that we weren’t interested.

While I appreciate his intention, I also found the conversation frustrating. We weren’t eating “diet” food. I had quinoa, some roasted vegetables, kale, tahini and avocado. My friend was eating greens with fruit and some raw veggies. For me, these aren’t diet foods, they are simply real food. I choose to eat these foods for lots of reasons, here are some of them:

  1. Vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats taste awesome
  2. They make me feel good
  3. They give me energy
  4. They keep my body healthy and happy

The foods we were eating were simply whole, unprocessed foods. A variation of the foods my grandparents ate, and the foods his grandparents likely ate. Some people may eat this type of food to lose weight, which is great (and effective). For me, health isn’t a quick fix that can be found in a shake or packaged food. It’s about a lifestyle that places value on real, whole foods. While I use the term diet, as in a “healthy diet”, I am not on a “diet”, nor do I encourage my clients to follow “diets”. The way I eat is a part of my lifestyle, and there isn’t an end in site. It’s hard to know what to eat when there are so many quick fix diet programs and fad diets out there. I once had a coworker tell me about a diet she was on that involved eating 3 soda crackers each morning, another 3 in the afternoon with a can of tuna, and an allowance for some grapefruit and mayo. She lost some weight, but it’s not sustainable.

So what’s a healthy, whole foods diet?

balanced-plate1. Keep packaged foods to a minimum. Even if it has all sorts of buzz words on it like “healthy” “organic” “high fiber” etc.
Stick to foods you can find in the produce section of the grocery store as much as possible. Broccoli doesn’t need a nutrition label. Marketing teams aren’t spending millions trying to make fruits and vegetables look good. You get exactly what you see. No trickery or buzz words involved.

2. Eat whole and unprocessed foods.
When choosing grains, always go for the least refined option. That means brown rice over white, whole wheat or whole grain bread or pasta, and other fun grains like millet, quinoa, buckwheat or barley.

3. Fill half your place with veggies!
Ok, the USDA says fill half your place with fruits and veggies, but I say fill up on those veggies! Especially green ones. I like to call green leafy veggies the gold of all the veggies. Try to eat some at every meal. The simplest way to make greens is to saute them with some olive oil and garlic. It’s super easy and makes a great addition to any meal. (Needs more ideas? try adding frozen spinach to beans, or thinly sliced kale to your omelets. You can also check out my instagram to see what I’m eating).

Give it a try and let me know how you do. I love photos, too!

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Why I hired a Personal Trainer

When I wstrong womanas in college I worked at the gym… swiping people’s ID cards 🙂 I was not a fan of working out, in fact I thought it was silly.

I always loved to dance, and that’s how I would get my exercise. I’d go out one night a week and dance for hours and hours. It felt great, and that was that. Sometimes friends would remind me that regular physical activity was an important part of a healthy lifestyle, not just the way you eat. I would “yeah yeah” them, and move on. I’ve always been active, walking everywhere (I live in NYC for goodness sake!) and dancing, and that’s about as much mind as I paid to exercise.

Then a year and a half ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I didn’t want to go on prescription drugs to regulate my hormones, so I had to find some other ways. Regular exercise happens to be a great way to regulate estrogen, so I jumped on board. I’m also a bit type A (and wouldn’t change that!) and store a lot of stress in my body, just like most of us. And we all know yoga, cardio and almost all exercise is a great stress reliever.

I started going to the gym three times per week. And, for a year that was enough for me. I did the same thing almost every time I went, and I felt super proud of myself. I would tell my trainer and fitness friends that just walking into the gym was a victory in itself, and I was cool with that (and still am to a certain extent! baby steps!).

Until…

I’ve always wanted to be strong. But I thought it wasn’t attainable. And because I didn’t think it was possible, I didn’t want to try. After all, some of us feel it’s better not to try if there is a risk of failure. If you never try, then you’ll never have to face the potential failure. Except you constantly face it! It’s like a little whisper in the back of your mind that never goes away. In fact, it’s so constant that it becomes like white noise and you can’t even tell it’s there after a while.

Well, I’m not in the business of staying in my comfort zone anymore, so I decided to face my fears head on. I hired a personal trainer because I had no idea what it would take for me to get strong, and I knew that on my own, without accountability, I would likely weasel my way out of it (that whisper and I have quite a long history and it has a lot of influence!).

I still go to the gym three times per week, but I have a routine to follow that someone who specializes in this stuff customizes for me (shout out to Will at NYSC Astoria!). I have someone who watches me to make sure that I’m doing things the correct way and not hurting myself in the process. I pay someone a lot of money because this is valuable to me, and that helps keep me motivated (I want my money’s worth!). I also have someone who is going to ask me if I did my exercises each week. That bit of accountability really helps me step up my game. And I have someone who is cheering me on and who gives me high fives and fist bumps, satisfying the part of me that loves affirmation. And (I can’t believe there are still more ands!) he can let me know when I’m making progress, even when I can’t see it myself. Having a set of outside eyes committed to my progress is huge.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because we all need coaches sometimes. They are an incredibly valuable asset and tool. Over the years I’ve hired health coaches, life coaches and trainers, and I am so thankful I did. In fact, I wish I knew coaches existed years ago when I first got sick. The support would have made a huge difference. And that’s why I do what I do, because I know it makes a difference for people.

If you’ve been thinking of hiring a coach, whether it’s a health coach, life coach, personal trainer or career coach, send me a quick email. If we’re not a good match, I know tons of other coaches and I guarantee you I can find you someone that will help you rock your world.

Sending you lots of love,

Samantha

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