Cotopaxi’s Journey to Good Health: Good Eats

I love food. Like, a lot. I love food so much, this is the second food-related post you’re getting from me this week!

But my focus this week is prompted in part by Cotopaxi, a company dedicated to making a positive impact on the world. Our friends there shared their mission:

At Cotopaxi, we’re all about encouraging people to get out, stay active, and do something good everyday. Giving is a huge portion of who we are, and as a Benefits Corporation, our hiking backpacks tend to be the most popular and create a big impact. We donate a percentage of every sale to various organizations that support global health initiatives, which is why we’re excited for all ways that we can promote better livelihood!

That’s totally rad, if you ask me! Not only providing equipment and promoting healthy living, but giving a portion of those proceeds to help fund initiatives dedicated to global health? Yeah, that’s a cause I can get behind.

When Cotopaxi contacted us, they also provided this cool infographic, highlighting ways to live a healthy lifestyle. I’m going to break it down over the next few weeks and share with you my favorite ways to do each of these things.

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This week? I start with Energy.

I talk a lot about healthy eating and meal planning and making sure I’m eating the right food to fuel my workouts. One of my favorite tips they offer is “focus on adding nutritious foods rather than eliminating food groups and specific foods.” Can I get an amen?! That’s probably one of the hardest things for people to understand, especially in a society that has been completely inundated with fad diets and nutrition styles. I mean, if you’re going to eliminate something from your diet, getting rid of soda and highly processed foods isn’t the worst plan, but entirely cutting out carbs? NONSENSE.

Carbs are fuel, guys! Your body needs them if you want to feel good and perform well. The same can be said for proteins and fats. And making sure you get lots of veggies in during the day? Yeah, that’s another awesome tip. Veggies are so delicious – and I’m always working on making sure I’m getting enough.

Homemade Turkey Burger on a bed of mixed greens and advocado. Mmmm.

Homemade Turkey Burger on a bed of mixed greens and avocado. Mmmm.

I typically work out 5-6 days a week, and my workouts are usually made up of a healthy mix of cardio and strength – and I usually go to the gym after work, before dinner. Consequently, if I don’t have a snack beforehand, I’m usually starving and have a crummy workout. I like to have something small before I head out just to make sure I’ve got the energy to work hard and feel good.

Some of my favorite things to snack on? There’s a variety! Lately, it’s been a Quest protein bar, an Rx Bar or a handful of trail mix. I try to find something that doesn’t have a ton of sugar and doesn’t make me feel too full – having an upset stomach during a heavy training day is no bueno friends. Sled pushes will turn into pukies otherwise.

Quest Bars are heavy on protein and light on sugar!

Quest Bars are heavy on protein and light on sugar!

Rx bars are great because of their simple ingredient list!

Rx bars are great because of their simple ingredient list!

To be fair, this trail mix is kind of candy...

To be fair, this trail mix is kind of candy…

These snacks are easy to keep on hand – I have some stashed in the pantry and at least one protein bar in my car all the time, just to make sure I’ve got fuel when I need it. My philosophy? Put good in and you’ll get good out. Fuel your body with good, healthy, well-balanced food and your body will reward you with solid performances in the gym, on a run, on a hike and in life!

Stay tuned next week for a fun yoga adventure, featuring my fiance, who has never really done any yoga before! #tryallthethings

Recipe Box: Crock Pot Hawaiian Pork

I’ve written before about the importance meal prep plays in my life: it makes eating healthy very easy, and packing lunches in the morning for work is a cinch when all I have to do is grab a pre-made Tupperware on my way out the door.

My fiance and I have been pretty diligent for the last few months about prepping our lunches for the week on Sunday nights. For a long time, we were doing grilled chicken and broccoli. Let me tell you, though. After about three months of essentially the same lunch, every work day, chicken is kind of the last thing you want to eat. Not to mention the fact that grilling what amounts to about eight chicken breasts in one night and prepping them for lunches is really time-consuming.

Mmmm. Chicken. And Broccoli.

Mmmm. Chicken. And broccoli.

We are not about that life anymore. Or right now, at least.

And then, two weeks ago, we remembered that we have a crock pot and that it’s a life saver. We planned a recipe for the week that would not only not be chicken, but also be able to be thrown in the crock pot, and left alone for seven hours, so we could run errands and enjoy couch time without having to spend a chunk of our Sunday cooking.

Since we didn’t want chicken again, I suggested looking at alternative options at Costco – which, if you didn’t know, is one of the best stores on the planet. We ended up finding a huge pork loin (that could be halved, and frozen, and last us two weeks!) We got home, got to brainstorming, and put together this tasty recipe:

Ingredients:
3lb pork tenderloin (or whatever you have)

1 pineapple, chunked and thrown in the food processor until pureed

Teriyaki sauce, to taste

1 tsp-ish ginger

1 Tbsp-ish honey

Instructions:

Put tenderloin in crock pot – make sure it fits nicely, cut in half if needed. Peel pineapple, and cut into chunks. You can either leave your pineapple like this if you want big pieces in the final product, or you can use your food processor to puree it – I like this option better because it releases more of the juice. Cover pork in pineapple puree, add teriyaki, honey and ginger. You’ll notice that none of these measurements are accurate, because we don’t really measure – we eyeball. Oops. If you’d like, you can also add a little bit of BBQ sauce, too. I usually top my lunches with a little bit, too.

Cook for 6-8 hours, or until the meat falls apart.

That’s it! Super easy, super tasty, and a definite improvement over chicken and broccoli for months on end.

What are your favorite summer crock pot recipes? 

Recipe Box: Pumped Up {Healthy} Cookie Dough

I don’t know about you, but I love to bake. And even more, I love to eat. While I’m baking. Don’t get me wrong, I love cookies and cakes and brownies – but even more, I love cookie dough and cake or brownie batter. Something about the pre-baked goodness just makes me feel some kind of way.

Now, I know there’s always the risk of the “raw egg” situation – but I’m a risk taker. Honestly, until the cookie dough betrays me, I’m going to keep eating it. I like to live dangerously.

However, worse than the raw eggs is all the sugar. My favorite cookie dough makes my favorite cookies: oatmeal chocolate chip. My great aunt’s recipe calls for both brown and white sugar. They’re delicious, but generally, not that good for you. And I gave up junk food for Lent. So while I may want to eat cookie dough, I can’t.

I’ve also set some higher fitness goals for myself with regards to the weight room and that means upping my protein intake – I typically get my protein from a protein bar in the morning, tuna or grilled chicken at lunch, a protein shake after the gym and either more chicken or ground turkey as part of dinner.

This all gets me pretty close to meeting my protein goals, but some days I just need a little more umph.

Enter one of my favorite snacks: Healthy Cookie Dough Dip from Chocolate Covered Katie

cookie-dough-dip

photo source: www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Now, her recipe is pretty well on-point. I’ve made small tweaks to fit my needs.

 

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas or white beans (1 can, drained and rinsed very well) (250g after draining)
  • 1/8 tsp plus 1/16 tsp salt
  • just over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter of choice (I prefer peanut butter, but any will do.)
  • up to 1/4 cup milk of choice (unsweetened almond milk is my go-to)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder of choice
  • Sweetener of choice  (No sweetener needed for me!)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (Or none. Again, Lent)
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oats

Throw all of these things (except the chocolate chips) into a food processor. Let it spin for a minute or two, empty into a bowl (or a tupperware if you’re me and you like to snack on it over a couple of days), mix in your chocolate chips if you’re using them and enjoy! You can serve it with graham crackers or don’t even bother and just use a spoon. #guilty.

The biggest changes I made to Katie’s recipe are taking out the sweetener – Lent, duh – and adding the protein powder. Obviously, you can use whatever protein you prefer, but right now, I’m a little obsessed with this:
pb protein

Quest Peanut Butter Protein. This shizzzzz is so delicious. Easily the best-tasting protein with the best composition. Less than 1 gram of sugar, 23 grams of protein and only 110 calories per serving. It tastes mixed just with water or almond milk as a post-workout shake and it is incredible in any other kitchen concoctions. That’s one of my favorite things about Quest products – they bake so well! Granted, I’m not actually backing this cookie dough, but you totally could!

Needless to say, I’m obsessed. I think the last time I went to Wegman’s, I picked up four cans of chickpeas. Specifically so that I have them on hand to make this whenever I want.

The best part? It fulfills my cravings for something sweet without blowing up my entire diet, which is always a win. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is a thing I am alllll about. Food is delicious and I enjoy eating it and I don’t like feeling guilty when I do. This absolutely keeps that from happening. Happy tummy, happy Kyle.

 

Diet is a Four Letter Word

So is cult. Hmmm.

Last week, Meri sent me a link to this very interesting post from Triathlete Magazine’s website.

You should give it a read. I’ll wait right here.

*folds nine millionth load of laundry*

So? Did you spend half of that article nodding like a bobblehead? Because I did.

Now, keep in mind, I had just come off on my less-than-30 day stint on Whole30, a diet with a decidedly cultlike following. But Whole30 is certainly not the only diet that meets at least a few of those criteria. In fact, most of the ‘diets’ I’ve been on over the course of my life fall into at least one of those categories, most of them more than one.

Similar to religion, I’ve spent years trying to find the one diet that just fit. Except that I accepted years ago that no one religion fully encompassed my belief system, yet I’ve continued to try on diet after diet, looking for the perfect one.

But no sooner had I adopted a new diet plan, then I would immediately start feeling the chafe of the restrictions and questioning whether the principles of the diet were even based in sound nutritional science at all. What do you mean no fruit? Why is peanut butter forbidden, but almond butter is fine? What do you mean no substitutions, I hate beets! Why does everyone need me to drink the Kool-Aid? WE’RE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO HAVE KOOL-AID!!

Clearly, the part of the article that really spoke to me, the part that gave me one of those elusive ‘A-HA’ moments, was where the author, Matt Fitzgerald, talks about “agnostic healthy eating.”

Boom. Like a ton of bricks. This made so much sense to me.

I’ve said to more than one friend over the years, and even my doctor, that I keep waiting for the ‘magic plan’ that will finally work. And really, I’m an intelligent adult. Logically, I know that unicorns don’t exist and that the rabbit was really in the hat all along and that any number of diets will help me to lose weight if I’m willing to do the work. Still, there is a part of me that likes to believe that magic exists. And that a magical perfect diet exists.

It doesn’t. When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic. There are no fairy godmothers, waiting around to grant our wishes of instant and lasting weight loss.

Sorry. I know, I’m bummed too. (Let’s hug it out, we’ll get through this together.)

The funny thing is, the fact that a diet that is loaded with high quality food and light on processed food is the best option? This is not news. Anyone I know that has had significant, lasting weight loss, has done so by eating more whole, natural foods and less (or no) chemical laden junk, regardless of what name their diet plan had.

It seems so simple when it’s broken down like this. And really, without even really realizing it, my head was already kind of going to this place. Immediately after giving up my quest for a Whole 30 halfway through day 5, I immediately bopped over to twitter and tweeted the following (in several tweets because I am wordy and 140 characters is not a lot):

So, in the wake of my opting not to finish Whole 30, I needed a new diet plan. Decided to come up with my own and I’ve got it! It is a combo of vegan, clean eating, Paleo, weight watchers, low Carb, and a few others. I’m calling it Eat Food That is Good for You in Reasonable Quantities and Don’t Go Off the Rails When You Occasionally Indulge. The name needs work, admittedly. I took my inspiration from the Michael Pollan quote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Brilliant.

I’m a little sassy on Twitter sometimes.

Look at that. I’m cured! Now that I have had these realizations, the weight will fly off my body like magic!

Oh. No. It won’t. I will still have to do the work. I will still have to make the tough choices, like ‘Cookies for breakfast? No. Not today.’ And I know myself well enough to know that cult-like or not, I do best with some kind of a plan, something with structure. It doesn’t have to be rules, especially if those rules are ‘no ice cream shall ever pass those lips again’, but the support system and the community aspects? Those parts of diets work for me.

Enter Weight Watchers. Surprisingly enough, when I joined, confetti did NOT rain from the sky and I was NOT handed a free toaster for being the member that had signed up the most times. Hard to believe.

While Weight Watchers definitely holds some of the characteristics of a cult-like diet, the one thing it definitely does not do is make any food forbidden. So, while cookies can’t be an everyday thing, and most certainly should never be for breakfast, they are something I can indulge in on occasion.

Weight Watchers is not the answer for everyone. Heck, it may not be the answer for me. But it’s a place where I feel like I can have my agnostic beliefs, where I can do it my way, and still be part of the ‘cult’.

I really wanted to make a commitment, to give this long enough to start to feel ‘normal’, so I prepaid for six months of meetings. I went for my first weigh in on Sunday morning. It was nothing unexpected. The plan hadn’t changed since the last time I joined. The number on the scale was nothing I hadn’t seen there before.

But it isn’t one I care to see again. So, let’s get to work.

*blows an eyelash of my finger*

Just in case.

In It to Lose It

Errrr, win it? Well, be the winner. Or the loser. The biggest loser. Which is the winner of money. And the loser of…some weight.

That made sense, right? No?

Today marks the official start of my company’s ‘biggest loser’ style weight loss competition. This is our second year running it and the person who coordinates all of the health and wellness events for the company (*points to self*) has really amped up the contest this year. Team t-shirts. Lots of prizes. Weekly prizes. Team prizes. And one big mother of a top prize.

$1000

I want it. I really do. But with that much money on the line, I’ve got a lot of competition. 36 people signed up and that is out of a company of just over 100 employees. Which, for the success of the program, I’m thrilled. We’re working to implement health and wellness programs, because unhealthy employees have higher health insurance costs, etc etc. So, if I can get a third of the company the shed some pounds, I’m a ROCK STAR.

But man, I’m scared. Last year’s winner lost 16.9%. At my current weight, that would mean losing 63 pounds. Did I mention this is a 12 week competition? Yeahhhhh.

I mean, really, I don’t think I’m scared of not winning. I’m scared of falling into the same pattern I did last year – stay on track for three weeks, go off track for 7 weeks, get back on track for 2 weeks, lose 3%. That was less fun than it sounds. Oh, it doesn’t sound fun? Yeah, it wasn’t. Even if I don’t win, I’m trying to use these 12 weeks to really kick start me into losing weight, getting exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. And if I also win $1000, that’s cool. (I’m so nonchalant, right?)

I signed up for Weight Watchers online to keep me on track with food. I rejoined my gym to get me moving.  I’ve got my husband on board with cutting back on the junk, and my 16 year old daughter asked if she could be my gym buddy. What else do I need?

I’m going to need cheerleaders. Coaches. Volunteers to toss water in my face as I run by. Maybe we can skip that last one. But all kidding aside, I’m asking for help. Which is something I almost never do. But I’m asking. Help a sister out? If you see me on Twitter and I’m tweeting about how I really want to consume mass quantities of gelato, kick my gently in the rear end? Spam me with healthy recipes? Text me at 5:00AM and ask if I’m on my way to the gym? Or outside shoveling, because heyyyyyy New England.

Footnote: Due to the shockingly unshocking Massachusetts weather conditions in winter, we are currently buried in snow. (If you say ‘It’s so pretty!!!’, I might slug you.) So the start of the program actually got moved until Monday.

runDisney’s Kids Races

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If you read Scoot a Doot on the regular, you know that we surprised our kids with the trip to Disney. Well, the surprises just kept on coming throughout the week.

On Wednesday night I picked Aunt Victoria up at the airport, only to have her scare the living daylights out of them the following morning. Seriously, I wish I had video of her jumping out of the bed from under the covers and their reactions. I’m so mean. After their heart rates slowed, we surprised them with a breakfast at ‘Ohana.

And we also surprised them with the runDisney Kids Races on Saturday morning! Ever since the kids caught wind of mommy heading to Disney World and Disneyland for races, they wanted in on the action. I mean, duh, who wouldn’t?

While I was at packet pick up the previous day for the half, I also got their shirts and bibs. runDisney is really good about getting the whole family involved on race weekend, with Kids Races and 5ks (along with the longer races).  The Kids Races had Donald as their mascot, wrapped up in Christmas Lights – the boys were thrilled to see this! Little was signed up for the 200, while Pooks was in the 400 (one of his favorite distances during Track and Field).

kidsraces2Each of the kids bibs had a little tear off strip for us to collect the kids after their race if they were running alone. The plan was for me to run with Little and for Pooks to run alone with Jay stationed near the finish line to take pictures.

It was a nice plan. It didn’t exactly work out that way. More on why in a bit.

kidsraces3

We got there with plenty of time to spare so the kids danced to the songs and limbered up before they went to their respective starting areas. The plan was for all the 100 heats to go, then the 200 heats, and then the 400s (I believe the mile and diaper dash were to follow). I walked Pooks over to the 400 starting line and found a nice family for him to hang out with, pointing out the volunteers in the purple shirts.

Little Dude and I headed to the 200 start area and waited as the 100 waves started going. Then, in the midst of the 100 heats… the 400 group began to round the track! I guess one of the kids misunderstood, there was a false start, and they all took off. Whoops!

Little and I both cheered for Pooks as he passed our area of the track.

kidsraces5

He was pretty focused as he made his way to the finish line but there was a bit of a snafu as some of the little ones doing the 100 were still finishing their race. Jay snapped this picture of him just before he crossed the finish line.

The rest of the 100 heats still needed to go and Pooks got a little worried when he didn’t immediately see Jay after his race so he went up to a grown up who looked nice and asked if he could use their cell phone. He was wearing his Road ID with our phone numbers on it so he called Jay’s cell and told him where he was.

kidsraces4

Of course, while Jay was off collecting Pooks, Little and I were running the 200. So, there aren’t any pictures of that! The logistics just weren’t in our favor but Little couldn’t have been happier. This was his first race ever and he had big plans. “Momma, we’re going to hold hands during the run. And go really, really fast! And then we’re going to cross the finish line and put our hands in the air and then I’ll get a medal!”

Naturally, that’s exactly what we did!

I think that they did a part two of the 400 but Pooks was content having done it once and being awarded his medal. Yup, my kids are all about the bling.

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While we were walking toward the car I asked them their favorite part of the races. Pooks said, “Running!” and Little proclaimed, “Holding your hand!” (Insert the “awwwww” here!)

Once we got home their bibs immediately went up on their walls and their medals were hung right along side. They’re already asking when they get to run another race again. Mission accomplished!

The Most Important Thing About Me

My 8 year old daughter recently had to write a paragraph on the most important things about herself. I was excited to read this because my daughter is quite precocious.  She comes up with some pretty unique ideas and I couldn’t wait to read about her view on herself.  She included a lot of the typical 8 year old priorities: her pets, her toys, she wants to be a comedian when she grows up…but the MOST important thing about her was quite alarming.

She wrote that the MOST important thing about her was that she’s skinny.

Gasp! Choke!  Surely, this must be a mistake! My child can’t possibly be that shallow!

How could this have happened? I spent my young life with eating disorders and poor self-esteem and I spent my young adult life recovering from it.  It wasn’t until I read the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole that I really made peace with food.  I’ve gone out of my way to promote healthy eating habits in my children.  I don’t make them eat when they don’t want to.  I limit their food choices.  I make sure they pay attention to their bodies when they’re choosing snacks.  It’s always been the one thing I want to protect my children from – food and body issues.  And yet, somehow, my daughter came to the conclusion that being skinny was the most important thing about her.

She's got spirit!

She’s got spirit!

My gut reaction was to start looking for the culprit.  Who did this to my child?  Was it the Disney Channel and their preteen sitcoms?  Or because we let her do cheerleading?  Was it the kids at school or the commercials on television or the magazines or the books…

Was it me?  Was it my five gym memberships and my protein shakes and my race medals?  These are good things, right?  Exercise is a good habit, right?

It could very well be all of the above.  It could be none of these.  But somehow, in her 8 year old brain, healthy and active translated to skinny.

I made her change it.  That’s the benefit of having my kids attend the school I teach at.  I can obnoxiously intervene any time I want!  And intervene I did.  We had quite the discussion about how body shape doesn’t make anyone any better than anyone else.  We talked about how people come in all shapes and sizes and that what matters is how people treat others.  We came up with better adjectives.  Active, strong, athletic…and we finally agreed upon healthy.

Healthy.  We rarely see health being advertised on television.  No celebrity is revered for their excellent organs or spectacular blood pressure.  At one point in our evolution, healthy meant viable meant offspring meant survival of the species.  And now healthy has become a synonym for skinny.

I do not accept.  My kids deserve more.  They’re always watching, listening, learning the rules, learning how to cope, taking this world apart and putting it all back together so they can see how it works.  And how it’s working lately is not so hot.

Hopefully, I cleared this up with my girl.  Because the most important thing about ME is this job called parenting.  It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do and being skinny isn’t going to make it any easier.  But being physically and mentally healthy just might.

We are the champions!

We are the champions!