Lazy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe)

Veganuary is going great so far. I’m definitely noticing changes in my body: my skin is clearer, I’m sleeping better and my stubborn midsection is thinning out.  I poop four times a day and sometimes I crave deep dish pizza so badly that I want to cry, but generally things are great.

I’m fortunate (?) enough to be funemployed right now so I’ve been spending my endless spare time using my parents’ money to experiment with a ton of exciting new vegan recipes. The last time that I went vegan for an extended period of time, I subsisted mainly on fruit, steamed vegetables, Greek salads from Panera (hold the feta!) and Amy’s canned soups with frozen brown rice. This time around, I’m trying to better myself and improve my (frequently contentious) relationship with food by actually cooking it.

One of my  recent late-night hallucinatory episodes revolved around chocolate chip cookies. Like a meth addict in withdrawal, I sat in bed shaking and dreaming of gooey chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven as my stomach growled and demanded the sugar and butter of which I have been depriving it all year. In that moment, I decided that I needed to make some vegan cookies to keep myself from going completely insane.

These cookies definitely did the trick, although take note: they aren’t like regular chocolate chip cookies. This batch didn’t come out super sweet (which I appreciate, I haven’t been eating a lot of sugar lately so “normal” cookies would have sent me into diabetic shock) and they are more scone-like in their consistency than a gooey, buttery cookie. Ultimately, they did the trick for my sugar cravings and I can’t wait to make them again. Continue reading “Lazy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Recipe)”

I Am Too Famous for Muffin Top

In 29 short days I will be dashing through the streets of downtown Baltimore in just my underwear. Unlike most people, I have no inhibitions and would probably run naked if they would let me (it is a charity run, after all). For me, it is not my bathing suit area that I am worried about showing off – it is my midsection! To steal a line from my fitness icon Tony Horton, the holidays have left me a little “loose in the cage” and I need to whip myself into shape before appearing on camera in just my skivvies.

I had a similar come-to-Jesus moment with myself last year and completely changed the way that I think about eating, exercise and my body. Although I initially dubbed my fitness regimen “The Miserable Bitch Diet”, I ultimately ended up making most of my changes permanent and was quite triumphant. Throughout 2013, I made excellent fitness progress: I significantly reduced by body fat percentage, ran my first half marathon, discovered yoga and went vegetarian. I am ready to (or, rather, the horrifying threat of muffin top in my Instagram pictures is forcing me to) take my training regimen to the next level in preparation for my almost-nude appearance.

Diet

DAIRY

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 9.48.22 PMEight months into vegetarianism, I am feeling better than ever. Although originally intended to be a temporary experiment, vegetarianism has become a way of life for me and I am not planning to ever look back. I try to eat vegan as much as possible but lately I have been slipping, especially with my dairy consumption. Cheese has slowly crept back onto my pasta, my salads and my sandwiches and I have been eating pizza with embarrassing frequency. As I have aged, I have become increasingly lactose intolerant; cheese and milk bloat me horribly and give me the shits. It is time to bid them both farewell once and farewell in the name of having a bangin’ body.

Protein

The only part of vegetarianism with which I still struggle is my protein intake – without animal proteins in the picture, eating enough protein requires a bit more effort. I love me some rice, beans, lentils, nut butter and chickpeas but I need to step up my protein game if I want to hold onto any of the muscle that I am building. I alternate between a few different protein/superfood supplement products (Shakeology being my favorite) but I need to commit to consuming them daily.

Refined Sugar

Sugar is literally the bane of my existence…all I will say is that I seriously need to cut down my sugar intake.

Exercise

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 9.47.59 PMI basically spent all of 2013 running. I barely ever picked up a weight and, although I was successful in trimming a lot of fat off of my body, I ended the year feeling rather lanky. My 2014 workout regimen needs to be much more balanced than last year’s.

For the time being, I am going to do cardio 2x/week, strength training 2x/week and yoga 2x/week. I would love to be able to do some yoga every day but my schedule this semester is packed to the brim.

Until it gets warmer outside and I can start running regularly, I have been cycling at the gym to get in my cardio fix. Those of you who know me know that I hate going to the gym; sometimes I struggle (to say the least) to find the motivation to go to spin class. The yoga class that I attend is a heated power vinyasa flow which honestly I would almost count as a strength workout – there is a lot of upper body work involved (shout out to my teacher Jessie!) and I have noticed great progress in my upper body since I started doing yoga.

Time and time again I return to P90X and this year is no different. Core Synergistics and Legs & Back are my respective upper and lower body strength workouts of choice. Tony Horton never lets me down!

handstand

By putting my fitness plan out in the world I am hoping that I will hold myself more accountable than ever. As much as fitness is about health and wellness, I am a vainglorious narcissist who works out and eats well mainly so that I look great and, as such, the next 29 days will either make or break my self confidence on race day.

PS – If you’re feeling generous, please donate to fund neurofibromatosis research. It’s for the children!!

Living Well On The Weekends

“I only need to be healthy during the week!”

Every time that I hear these words spoken, I die a little bit inside. In believing that you can achieve permanent success in fitness by picking and choosing when to behave, you are cheating yourself of the success you deserve. To achieve permanent results, you must initiate permanent lifestyle changes that you intend to hold on to for the long haul.

That being said, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t have fun on the weekends while living well and treating your body with the respect that it deserves. The weekend is an opportune time to decompress and let the stress of the work week temporarily fall by the wayside. Here are a few quick ways to avoid blowing your progress on the weekends and still enjoy yourself:

1. Be conscious of your alcohol intake. Chances are that you are going to drink on the weekends. There is absolutely nothing wrong with consuming alcohol as long as you are cognizant of what you are consuming along WITH the alcohol. Mixed drinks are black holes of sugar, carbohydrates and chemicals that can easily exceed your daily allowance.

A ten ounce margarita has more calories than a BIg Mac, according to CalWineries. Other high-calorie offenders include mai tai’s, piña coladas and mudslides. Fear not: there are more nutritious alternatives. A 4 oz. glass of wine or a 6 oz. vodka & soda both come in at under 100 calories. Get your buzz but get it the right way!

2. Make exercise a social activity. Group workouts are a great way to mix up your fitness routine and get more people involved. My INSANITY Challenge Group meets every Saturday to get in a team workout – not only are we getting in shape but it’s also a great time to spend time together and catch up. Group runs are a great way to stay fit together – meet up and jog through the park! Let’s face it: friends who sweat together stay together.

Group sports are also a wonderful way to meet new people and get a great workout, especially around this time of year. There are recreational kickball leagues popping up all over the place these days (we have a great one right here in Baltimore!) and they are increasingly seeing corporate teams joining their ranks. Recreational leagues are great for all experience levels and are usually very flexible with scheduling.

3. Use the weekend to plan your meals. I am always hearing from my clients that they struggle to find time during the week to plan and prepare their meals. I totally understand: it takes time to go grocery shopping, do prep, cook and clean. I struggle with finding time to cook, too, but guess what? It’s the weekend! You have time! Use this time not only to prepare nutritious meals for Saturday & Sunday but for the entire week! I have friends who do almost all of their cooking on Sunday and then freeze their meals until they are ready to consume them later in the week. Good news: freezing food does not result in widespread loss of nutrients. The National Center for Home Food Preservation also provides a handy guide to freezing foods.

4. Stick to your sleep schedule. Inconsistencies in your sleep schedule do more harm than good. While some people think that they can sleep four hours a night during the week and then hibernate for 14 hours on Saturday, studies have proven this to be grossly ineffective. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule keeps your bodily functions (including metabolism!) regular and will make it easier to get back into your work week routine on Monday. While you certainly shouldn’t wake up at 5 a.m. on the weekends if you don’t have to, avoid laying in bed until 3 p.m.!

indulge5. Have fun! Do things that you enjoy and surround yourself with wonderful people. Indulge in small treats and put your goals and achievements into perspective. Happy people are healthier, after all.

My favorite weekend indulgence right now is natural peanut butter and dark chocolate; dark chocolate containing 70% or more cacao is low in sugar (only 3g of added sugar per serving in 90% cacao Ghiradelli chocolate!) and high in fiber. Satisfy your peanut butter cup craving the healthy way!

Have a great weekend!

Getting Fit in 2013

“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.”

-Kevin Mark Trudeau

After the overwhelmingly positive results that my diet has generated and the heightened interest from friends/family/followers, I decided to pen a comprehensive guide to my fitness plan. There are five major tenants that comprise the plan that I have devised; here they are in detail with the research to back them up. I have:

1. Cut out red meat

From my research, red meat is a hidden threat that has flown under the radar undetected. I was unaware of the potential dangers of red meat until I began to do comprehensive background research. Similarly to dairy, red meat is high in saturated fat (which raises cholesterol) and can cause digestive problems. Many foods that come from red meat also contain preservative agents and astronomically high levels of sodium. I wasn’t aware until I began researching that certain grilling techniques can also increase the amount of carcinogenic compounds in red meat.

Protein is certainly an integral part of any diet. Instead of beef, I have been substituting turkey in many cases. Turkey burgers are a frequent favorite of mine. Turkey is high in protein and vitamin B and contains very little fat. Chicken is also a go-to protein in my diet (grilled or baked, never fried). When I’m not eating meat, legumes provide and excellent source of protein.

Continue reading “Getting Fit in 2013”

Oops.

I have gotten fat.

Perhaps more accurately, I have gained a few pounds. Most people probably would not be able to notice an outward difference in body but to me this development is rather devastating. After dedicating myself to weight loss for ten months of my life, I was able to lose a considerable amount of weight. I didn’t weigh myself before hand but, for perspective, I went from wearing larges and extra larges to now wearing smalls and mediums.

My weight loss success did not come from any extreme changes; I simply had espoused an extremely sedentary lifestyle and never tried to eat well. As I began to exercise regularly and improve my diet, the weight came off quickly and painlessly. I was so proud of my accomplishments and my new body. My secret was Tony Horton’s Power 90 and subsequently P90X; both programs are phenomenal and tie very well into each other for beginners. I never bothered with any particular diet; I simply endeavored to eat fewer processed foods and more whole foods. All summer, fall and winter I was extraordinarily dedicated to eating well and working out every day.

Then, spring arrived.

My stress level from my job and from school increased exponentially. I was losing sleep, eating my feelings and frequently felt too lethargic to exercise. Although I know that I ultimately am responsible for what has transpired, there were a lot of external factors that influenced my fall from grace.

As always, the inciting incident was the worst part of the ordeal. While sitting at my computer, I was reaching forward to grab a pen when I felt something dreadful: my stomach. As my abdomen countered, all I felt was my gut folding in on itself. It was dreadful. I felt as though the last ten months of my life had been erased in a split second as all of the cookies from Panera and slices of cake from work manifested themselves on top of my (formerly) killer abs. I looked in the mirror and suddenly my mind was flooded with questions. “Is my face usually that round?” “Are those my hips or love handles?”

Subsequently, I am here today declaring my intention to return to my old ways. To find continued success, I must focus on myself and nurture my body. No more excuses; from here on out it is all about keeping it healthy.

“My weight issue isn’t about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It’s about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry.” Oprah Winfrey