Friday, June 28, 2013

Repost: Fresh and far away

We are so far removed from our food and its sources. A lot of our food, so-called food is made from a slew of hard to pronounce ingredients, in far away factories, packaged, and then shipped to the grocery store.

Animals no longer graze their natural habitat. Instead, they are confined and slaughtered in giant factories, known as feedlots. It’s very rare to have seen or known the animal that we prepare and eat. Most of us would prefer not to see Emily the cow get electrocuted and then have her throat slit. We cringe at the thought. We don’t even want to be bothered with the skin or bones anymore. Hence, skinless, boneless chicken breast. Think about it…If you had to hunt, kill, and clean the animal…How much meat would you eat?

Fruits and vegetables are grown in massive fields and sprayed with gross amounts of pesticides. We’ve never touched the soil, or pulled up the roots. Some of our fruits and vegetables travel thousands of miles before they make it to the grocery store. That’s how we can enjoy strawberries in the dead of the winter. Such an oddity, we all know strawberries are the taste of summer. Or do we?

We are so very disconnected from our food. As we evolve, we try to do things more efficiently, but along the way we’ve created quite a mess with our industrialized food system. It’s all convenient. It’s all nicely packaged. It’s all wrong.

I’m just one gal on a mission to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.  Along the way, I’ve done a lot of reading, viewing of films, and realize that a healthy lifestyle begins with the food that I eat. I want to share what I learned with others. I hope I don’t come off as a pretentious, know-it-all. I'm not. I really just want to help you make better informed decisions.

Originally posted April 16, 2012.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Repost: Retrain your brain

Eat a meal that doesn't consist of meat, by choice. Never. Brown rice instead of sticky white rice. Seriously. Greens and eggs for breakfast. Nope.  It's been a long time coming, but I've changed my eating habits for the good.

When I first learned that brown rice was the best choice, I resisted. Sometimes, I would prefer to go without the rice because it just didn't taste the same. It was too crunchy, too nutty. Ha. But, since it was the better alternative for me health wise I continued to prepare and eat it. Low and behold the very reasons I use to not like it are the very reasons I like it. White rice just seems like fluff, there's no substance. When you eat brown rice you are eating the whole grain which makes you become more satisfied.

The way I see food now is completely different than in the past. I now understand food is fuel for my body, so my goal is to fill it with premium goods. My latest food discoveries:

- Kale is king of the greens!
- Sautéed collard greens are just as good if not better than the southern cooked way.
- I can enjoy a meal without meat. Actually, kinda prefer it.
- Buns are overrated. If I indulge in a cheeseburger I omit the bun or replace it with 
  tomato slices.
- I really, really like whole grains. Especially, my new found friend, wheat berries.
- Fruit is nature's goodness.
- Vegetables make all meals better

I love food. And, like I've said before, food isn't like any other addiction, you can't just walk away from it and never use again. I'm proud of myself for retraining myself to enjoy it without abusing it and make better conscious choices. I've retrained my brain. You can do it too, start with some small adjustments and if you don't particularly like a food the first time try it again. You may find that you can learn to like it. Think of the health benefits. Food is meant to nourish our bodies. If you think of it that way, retraining your brain will come easy.

Originally posted March 2, 2012

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Repost: From Within

Once a miserable 388 pounds, I decided I loved myself enough to try. Try to be better. Be happier, be healthier, and lose the weight. All the weight: emotional, spiritual, physical.

When you're in a dark, cold space trapped under 388 pounds light seems non-existent. I traveled many dark, foggy tunnels before I saw a glimpse of light. I had a negative spirit, negative attitude, and a negative outlook. In the depths of darkness, however, there was a nagging voice within, telling me: I deserved more. I was worthy. I could be better. After sitting still with myself and some serious soul searching I was able to hear that voice loud and clear. The voice within instructed me to stop wallowing in my pity, put my thoughts to action, and create the life I envisioned for myself.  The voice within gave me hope, courage, and belief. The voice is the very reason I was able to see my way out of the dark, foggy tunnel. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life. Today, I stand in the light. 

Originally posted on December 30, 2011

Sunday, June 23, 2013 Party @ Paola's

I've been here, there, and everywhere in the community teaching cooking classes and delivering healthy food presentations. Now I want to bring my passion for food and cooking right to you in the comfort of your home. Instead of going out, invite your friends or gather your family for a Party!  A Party is a fun way to learn and share new recipes and simple cooking techniques.

Cooking can be a delicious, fun social event. Take a look-see at Paola's Friday Girls' Night themed party!

Paola and I at the grocery store

The lovely hostess, Paola  

The crowd
A nice mix of friends, professional women (an insurance agent, lawyer, interpreter, educator, an upcoming star) and mothers coming together for an evening of fun and looking for new Outside of the Box recipes.

The personalized menu:
 Lettuce Wraps with made from scratch Teriyaki Sauce
Simple Slaw with homemade Peanut Sauce
Kale Chips
No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bars

The experience
Let me tell you...These Latina women know their way around the kitchen. Since they all cook at home regularly after our introductions and a little chit-chat we started right in  prepping and cooking.

Ivonne hand-chopping the Simple Slaw

Myrna mincing ginger

Ivonne & Myrna prep, prep, prepping

Mother (Rosalba) & Daughter (Saylem)

Delicious, fun


Ready to serve
The table's set

It's time to enjoy the meal

"It's my pleasure to sign your cookbooks"

This was a wonderful evening full of laughter, good food, and good times. Party!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Less Is More

I've said this many times before, my weight loss journey is not only about what I've lost, but what I've gained. This is a journey of self-discovery, learning, and striving to be a better person -- inside and out.

I laugh at myself when I look back at the workout path I've traveled. In the very beginning I knew nothing about working out. I just knew I was overweight, out of shape, and needed to burn calories. My plan of action was to try every machine at the gym. Every class at the gym. It was very typically for me to workout five to six days a week. Sometimes even taking back-to-back weight training and cardio classes. Sometimes being in the gym upward of three to four hours. Insane! Anyone who knows me well knows how I am. I go hard. Once I'm into or onto something fugetaboutit!

My workout craze was just that a craze.  Oh my goodness, I recall the first boot camp class I took. I was about 290 pounds and had only been working out for about a month. Can you say, deconditioned? And to boot, I pumped up a couple of friends and my teenaged daughter to join me. Wow. What  a train wreck! We all made it out, alive -- barely.

When I think about it now, I see how ineffective my workouts really were. I was working out for long periods of time with no focus. No road map. During this time, I got sick with cold/flu like symptoms all the time. Wonder why? My diet was questionable, I rarely got enough sleep, and I overworked the same muscle groups. On and on. So, as workouts were concerned, those workouts were ineffective. But, in retrospect, they were effective in other ways: I was meeting people and making friends at the gym, learning about my body, and my fortitude.

While I am a little disappointed at myself for taking the past six months off from the gym. Honestly, the time away was just what I needed. I needed a break. A reboot. Now I'm more focused. My workouts are my purposeful. Thanks to my hiatus, I realize that it's less about how many days or hours I spend in the gym and more about how I spend the time there. It's also about how I take care of myself in between workouts: eating well, proper rest, etc. Quite frankly, it’s a relief knowing that I don’t have to be at the gym everyday for several hours at a time. Gone are those days. Less is more.

Helpful articles:

Less Is More: Is Too Much Exercise Bad for You?
Why Four Workouts a Week May Be Better Than Six

Monday, June 17, 2013

Criss-Cross Applesauce

Being overweight makes some physical things difficult. A basic everyday task like picking something up off the floor can cause a scene for an overweight person. At my heaviest weight of 388 pounds somethings would have to just stay on the floor until someone else offered to pick it up for me. Sad, I know.  Now that I've lost weight it's gotten much easier, but I still am unable to kneel.

Kneeling for most "normal" sized folks seems like an easy task. But, think about it kneeling is virtually a very deep squat. If you have excess weight on your body it becomes more difficult. If I have to grab something out of the bottom drawer or off the bottom shelf instead of  kneeling, I bend. Bending is much easier on my knees, but it's incorrect form. The more active I've become I notice stuff like that. I'm always envious when I see someone kneel down with ease. I think to myself one day, I'll be able to do that too.

Another simple function that I have on my to-do-list is to sit comfortably in criss-cross applesauce position. Again, I can do it, but it's a little problematic. It's the getting up and down off the floor that causes me havoc.

As most of you know, I never learned how to ride a bike because my weight hindered me (read previous blog post here). Today, with my new active lifestyle and renewed spirit, I'm ready to conquer riding a bike. I've decided that no matter what I want to do in life - big or small - I'm just going to go for it. So no more waiting around until I'm smaller, fitter; the time is now.  I'm going make it a point to kneel instead of bend. My wobbly knees will have to eventually get use to it. And, I'm going to practice sitting in criss-cross applesauce more often too.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

shop.prep.cook @ home

It was a shop.prep.cook kinda day at my place. After gathering goods from three grocery stores, I went to work prepping and cooking for the upcoming week.

Here's a couple of salads I whipped up:

Bungalow Chicken Salad

This salad is inspired by the "Waldorf Chicken Salad," but since I created it in my bungalow and changed the ingredients I felt a new name was in order. Chicken, red grapes, celery, green onions, sliced almonds, a light lemon, olive oil mix replaces the original creamy caloric dressing.

Kale & Carrot Salad

This salad is a play off of New Seasons Market Kale & Carrot salad. While there version is really good, I made some adjustments and it's ridiculously good.  A bunch of curly Kale, carrots, sunflower seeds, a unique dressing with: Tamari, rice vinegar, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic, fresh ginger, sour cream, and a hint of fresh lemon juice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Some days are just better than others. Especially when it comes to working out. There are days when I'm in cycling class and I can't seem to get my legs to go any faster, when I can't seem to push myself to go to the next level. If I'm low energy a day here, a day there, no biggie. We all sometimes are off of our game. But too many off days and I have to wonder. I have to really ask myself if being at the gym is enough.

I've struggled with answering that question for a long time. I mean, sure, I walked through the doors of the gym. I seated myself on the bike and I rode for the entirety of the class.  Sometimes throughout the class I matched the instructors intensity becoming uncomfortable and breathless. Sometimes blanking out and thinking of all sorts of other things. But I finished. I was there. Some would say I should give myself some credit for being there.  I can appreciate that. I also can't help but feel that If I want to become stronger, fitter, and lose more weight being there is simply not enough.
Everyone has to determine for themselves if being there is enough. I tuned into to watch The French Open on and off over the last couple of weeks. Playing in a grand slam is as big as it gets for those tennis players. The Women's Finals was a competitive match with both women playing hard and going for it. Serena Williams was the winner. Best believe she wasn't just there. She went for it. In the Men's Finals, however, Jo-Wilifried Tsonga didn't quite seize his opportunity. He was beaten in straight sets and from my position on the couch it didn't look like he gave it much of a fight either. Sure, he can say he was there. He can say he played in The French Open Finals and was runner-up. Maybe for him that's enough. Only he can answer that.

I'm proud of myself for battling obesity publicly and honestly. I do give myself credit for what I've achieved. But, I can't rest on my laurels. I'm playing to not only battle but to beat obesity. I'm playing to win. So, for me being at the gym is just not enough.

Monday, June 10, 2013

shop.prep.cook with The Soanka's

I've been here, there, and everywhere in the community teaching cooking classes and delivering healthy lifestyle presentations. Now, I want to bring my passion for food and cooking right to you in your home. shop.prep.cook is a more personal experience. The way I see it, this is your food, you should have it your way. Having it your way means being involved in the entire process from meal planning to cooking. What I've learned is most people may want to cook at home but their busy lifestyles make it challenging, some are looking for new ideas, and others may just not know where to start. No matter where you are I want to help. I'm full of ideas and passion for home cooked food. 

About The Soanka's
As new parents and thriving personal trainers Derek and Christie Soanka were in a need of a little help. As personal trainers there job is health and wellness, but with their busy schedules sometimes they just don't have the time to prepare home cooked meals. I admire them for not being afraid to seek help and am honored to be the one to help them. They've also bought a few copies of my cookbook to give to some of their clients. They realize how important nutrition is in helping their clients meet and maintain their goals.
The experience
It was my great pleasure spending Sunday afternoon with Derek, Christie, and baby Olivia in their home.

After our consultation they decided to do their own grocery shopping with a customized grocery list that I provided. When I arrived at their home the counter tops were a sea of color thanks to the fresh produce.

After giving one my spiels about cooking and timing the meal.  Christie and I got to work prepping and cooking. Derek was nearby in their home office cracking jokes and baby Olivia was napping.

Christie admits she's not much of a cook but with me by her side was eager to learn. Her first task, boil water. Hey, you have to start with small steps.

With me coaching her Christie made the No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Bars, Hummus, and Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

Olivia awoke from her nap so she joined in on the delicious, fun! I fed her, her first potato. She liked.

After a while Olivia wanted mama so Derek took over in the kitchen. Watch out!  I started him off by chopping the slaw and he helped make the peanut sauce. He loved the peanut sauce he said, "It's legit."

We spent the afternoon prepping, chatting, laughing, cooking and creating magic, food magic. Christie and Derek done a great job in the kitchen and can feel proud of the meals they prepared.  This week they'll have an array of home cooked tasty dishes they can reheat with ease -- Outside of the Box!

The Soanka's personalized menu:
Classics: Macaroni & Cheese
Dips & Sauces: Hummus, Peanut Sauce, Teriyaki Sauce
Snacks: Kale chips, Sweet Potato Fries, Crudités (raw vegetables)
Salads: Green Bean & Potato Salad, Black Bean Confetti Salad, Simple Slaw
Meat: Sautéed Chicken

Taste Testing Fun!

The Spread


The Obesity Epidemic is REAL!

The evidence of an epidemic is everywhere.

· Two-thirds, more than 190 million Americans are
overweight or obese.

· Obesity-related diseases are a $147 billion dollar
medical burden every year.

· Childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years

Source: CBS News