Aggressively Inserting Vegetables into Your Thanksgiving Feast!

Several friends have asked me to share a few of the recipes that I am making for Thanksgiving this year.
I know some of you have made your lists, checked them twice and have no intention of shifting plans or shopping from this point forward!  Others are still looking for ideas or might want to sneak in one more special dish!   This is what we are having…but I have also included a few other really great recipes that I found that would be an awesome addition to any meal…Thanksgiving or the day after…or the day after that or the day after that!  Forgive me for being a bit link-happy in this blog, but being the week of thanksgiving, it was a bit more efficient than copying and pasting all the recipes.  Just wanted to be sure to get the recipes in the hands of anyone interested.

Theme:  The Cockerhams’ are “aggressively inserting vegetables” on to our Thanksgiving table!  
Our family plans to make a Turkey Day Trot part of our morning Thanksgiving tradition.  Starting this year we will “trot” and then head home just in time to be hungry for an early afternoon “snack”.  To be prepared and not have small children whining all through meal preparations I am going to be armed with…

Veggie Tray with Hummus and Peas and Thank You’s… 

Fire Roasted Salsa in a Cinch…


2 14.5-ounce cans organic fire-roasted tomatoes (drained)
1 cup onion, finely diced
3 teaspoons minced garlic
½ lime juiced
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times, until just mixed, but not pureed.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas (Peas and Thank You)
My kids pop roasted chickpeas like they are popcorn…hoping they will love them even more with a little sweetness!  
Hopefully this will bide my time long enough to prepare this mouth-watering feast that we are so excited about:
Indian Shepherd’s Pie
I had many ideas for our main dish but Chris loved the word PIE in the title.  It is a new receipe…looking forward to how it will turn out?!
Classic Mashed Potatoes with a Twist
Caleb’s one request was mashed potatoes!  (He doesn’t know that mom makes them extra “special”…with cauliflower!)  This is not the recipe I use but it is close.  I liked this blog and concept so figured I would show you her recipe and take you to her blog!  I will say that I think my recipe throws in a turnip!  Shhhhhhhhhh…Caleb loves them!

Farro Salad
Because I would prefer carbs in THIS form…I am making this for ME!  
(It is the salad Janine served at our Clean Eating luncheon.)   Thanks for forwarding Jenn–glad I bumped in to you at Great Harvest!?!  
Farro Pilaf
4 cups low sod chicken broth
2 cups whole grain farro
3/4 cup unsalted pine nuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lg clove garlic minced
1 yellow onion diced
1 lg carrot diced
1 lg stalk celery diced 
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped 
1/2 unsweetened dried cranberries
1/2 unsweetened dried apricots diced
sea salt & pepper

bring broth and 2 cups water to boil, add farro reduce to simmer for 20-25 minutes. (until soft but still firm in center) Drain place in separate bowl than set aside. Reserve the liquid!

While farro is cooking toast pine nuts, 3-5 minutes til nicely browned. Remove from heat, set aside.

In lg saute pan heat olive oil, add garlic, onion, carrot and celery. Saute until soft not brown about 5 min. Add thyme, cranberries, apricots, salt and pepper about 2 more minutes. Add farro and 2/3 cup of reserved liquid, stir, than add pine nuts. Ready to serve! Enjoy!!!!
Sauteed Kale
In honor of Chris’ love for the food network and his “man crush” on Bobby Flay…
Green Beans
My mom is bringing green beans…but a friend passed this recipe on and so I can HOPE that this is the recipe my mom will make…a girl can dream right?   If not, we will be having this very soon!  

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without PIE!
Kylee requested pumpkin...Chris and Caleb pushed for chocolate so we will also be having…
TWO pies!  

Pumpkin and Chocolate Silken Pie.  Don’t exactly know whose recipe I will follow but since we are giving lots of shout outs to Peas and Thank You might as well give her one more!
The pie recipes are in her book…but if I don’t use her book I will go to:

to find something tasty! 

I love that pies are easily made in advance!
(I will probably cheat and use a pre-maid crust unless I get insanely domestic, but it is not likely that bug is going to bite me between now and Thursday!)
Here are a few more recipe ideas that were super fun and if I had not already started to make my arrangements–just might have taken a few of these!
This is such a cool site that gives pictures, recipes, and even has a live cooking show demo if you happen to have the time between now and Thanksgiving to watch it!
Whatever you cook, wherever you are…
I pray that you have a healthy and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 

The Most Disturbing Animal Images I Have Ever Seen…

Wanted to take a moment to follow up from Facebook as they only give a certain number of characters and I know I put together a provocative post…but it was worth sharing. 

I am a wimp with a capital “W” when it comes to scary movies.   In my teenage years I could convince myself that the blood was ketchup, but the older I have grown the more scary movies seem to haunt me.  I just couldn’t seem to mentally trick myself any longer.  Tonight I watched some of the most disturbing images I have ever seen.  It was simply the trailer (I am not sure if I have the stomach for the entire documentary) but all the images are real.  No ketchup.   I will be honest I turned away more than once.  It was more than disturbing because it is reality.   A daily reality.

My choice to eat plants has never been about the animals.  It has been about the science that supports a more whole foods, plant based diet.  Let’s be honest it is doubtful that we as Americans are really getting 4 servings of vegetables each day if we exclude ketchup and fries from our “vegetable” intake.  We are eating way too many processed foods and this combined with our lack of fruits and vegetables is creating a major epidemic of disease and obesity in our society.  Plants heal. 

Tonight my mind shifted.  I now eat plants for the health benefits and for the sake of the animals.  Our food industry is out of control.   I share these images with you…not to shock or shame you in to a different choice.  I simply hope to raise awareness on where our favorite chicken sandwich and burger come from.   And at what expense?

There are more responsible ways to eat meat and I hope if you choose to watch the trailer or movie in it’s entirety you will consider exploring those options if you do not already do so.  

We were created for so much in this life.  We were created for much more than we are settling for.   There are great human injustices in this world…I very often have over looked animal rights for human rights.  (Ultimately I believe this is how it should be.)   There is human devastation and brokenness happening all over the world across the globe, in our backyards and even in our homes.  My heart bleeds for the brokenness of this world. Having said this, our food system is broken too.  I could not abstain from sharing this information as we are daily making choices to eat food that is making us sick and overweight–and the cost for many of those mouthfuls is greater than we ever imagined! 

We were designed with a great purpose and responsibility.

For SO many reasons please think before you eat.

Is Clean Eating Sustainable????

The answer is a resounding YES!  If you WANT it to be!
Eating clean is a life long choice.  It is NOT a diet.  It is meant to be a nutritional life shift and choice.  Ideally if you eat clean for 2-4 weeks your palate will begin to shift.  You can actually pick up on artificial ingredients and you can tell when something is processed.  Usually your palate is NOT pleased by the taste.  Your craving also begin to change.  If you crave an afternoon salty snack or cookies your lean protein and complex carb should do the trick.  Your “triggers” are usually less…and when you walk by a “temptation food” it usually does not have the same pull or effect.  In essence your BELIEF power takes over–and you do not need to exert your WILL power over every negative option that crosses your path. 
“Belief power is 1000 times stronger than will power because belief power uses the unconscious mind to create behavior change with automation, while will power uses the conscious mind to create behavioral changes with force.”   -Tom Venuto
Will you ever crave again?  Will you ever be tempted again?  SURE.  Venturing in to the holiday season will reintroduce old temptations and former cravings.  If you slowly start to reintroduce sugary, salty, and fatty foods in to your diet you will slowly begin to crave those things again.  Does that mean you can NEVER have something sweet, salty or savory again?  NO.  But I would proceed with caution.  I have watched many women move from a “defending” place where they not only KNEW what the best choice was…they were eating that way regularly.  The problem was that the busyness of life crept in.  They chose convenience over their health and wellness.  They chose value over quality.  They let their taste buds make their decisions.  Belief power was ignored and will power caved.   
Be encouraged.  This way of eating IS sustainable and takes a call to vigilantly continue to educate yourself on WHY you eat this way.  Not because of a challenge or studio prize but because you are WORTH the wellness!  Not because Janine and Jenni tell you this is a better way of life but because you BELIEVE it.    You will need to find others that desire to eat this way and connect with them.  Share recipes, go shopping with them, and go out to eat WITH THEM.  They GET YOU.  Eating clean in many ways will feel like you are swimming against the current.  You may grow weary…JUST KEEP SWIMMING!  One meal at a time, one healthy snack at a time.  Over the next few months this will BECOME your lifestyle.  Go for it…it is worth it.  YOU are worth it!

Clean Teens…

I was SO very proud to hear that Janine encouraged her whole family to go clean last month.  I knew they were all healthy eaters but to truly go clean is the ultimate challenge.   Cleaning up a teenager’s diet especially with the external pressure of peers tempting and mocking their every move adds it’s own set of challenges.  Her boys are to be COMMENDED!

Luke and Seth McGann share their stories…

“This month taught me how to eat clean.  During this month I felt lighter than I have ever felt before.  I never noticed how much food had sugar in it.  Before I started this challenge I used to hate the taste of almonds.  I have now changed my taste buds to like that snack because it is one of the healthiest snacks you could have.  All of my friends at lunch would always tease me for eating clean.  But some of my other friends would ask me many questions like, “Is it hard”, “do you like doing it.” I would respond to these questions saying, “It sounds hard but it really isn’t.”   I would do my best to influence my friends to try to do it with me.  They all said, “No I can’t go without sugar for the whole month”, except one of my friends on my soccer team.  I convinced Will Tomlinson to do the clean eating challenge.  I don’t think he enjoyed it as much as I did but I was still happy he tried it.  I felt like I had so much energy this month from all the clean food I was eating.  I also felt like I was getting rid of all the sugar and crappy foods I was eating before because I farted and pooped a lot more.  I did not think this month was that hard, it just took a lot of commitment.  I would encourage everyone my age and older to try this challenge.  I felt so much more energetic and lighter on my feet. ”                                        Seth McGann, 13
“My mom made me do this! I was not looking forward to this at all. I knew this would be very difficult for me. When I told my friends about this extremely difficult challenge they laughed and tried to convince me to have a fruit roll-up. I just put it down and ate my wonderful great harvest bread with organic naturally ground peanut butter and pure fruit jelly.  Since I started eating clean, I noticed a huge change in my athletic performance. I am a cross-country runner for my high school and my personal best was 19:48 for 3.2 miles. Within one week of eating clean, I felt like I was stronger and had more control over my body.  That week I ran a 19:43. If I could cut five seconds off my time for practicing only two times that week I wonder what I could do if I practiced the whole week and ate clean for an entire month. That next week I found out. We had our last conference meet of the season. I had been eating clean for three weeks now. I stepped up to the starting line and felt a huge difference in my energy level. When the gun went off I flew through the course. I set a new personal best of 19:32 with energy left over. Clean eating also helped me in school. My grades went from a 74 in English honors to an 88. I immediately knew this was the right thing to do. I will continue to eat clean with a few chips here and there but will still eat healthy. I am sold!!”                                                 Luke McGann, 15 

Well done Luke and Seth…hope to hear more about your journey over some carrots and hummus some day soon!    

How do I get the FAMILY CLEAN?

You may be saying,  “Okay, I personally enjoy (most days) eating clean.  But what about my family?  How in the WORLD do I begin to help them to make the shift??”

Unlike the “culture shock” that we put our POWER girls though in our 30 days clean eating challenge…I would say SLOW AND STEADY is the BEST option! 
Over the past 3 years we have made a 180 degree shift with our family and their nutrition. Here are a few “dos and don’ts” that I would suggest.  We have seen the good, bad, and UGLY when it comes to clean eating as a family!  (Feel free to chuckle or commiserate with our families’ meal madness and battles with the “gag reflex”!
EDUCATE.   It helps for them to know a few of the “whys” behind the shift.   Don’t just say, “because MOM says so!”   Give them stats of childhood obesity.  Tell them food is fuel and explain when you go to the gas station it is important that you don’t put garbage in your car…it would not run!  If they are old enough have them watch Food Inc., or Super Size Me, etc.  
Include them…Take them with you to the grocery store and local farmers market.  Tell them they can pick out ANY vegetable they want to try.   Allow them to help cook.  Eeek!    Sometimes if they help prepare it they are more likely to try it!
Introduce 2-5 clean meals a week.  This depends on your level of family’s “buy in” and your ability to get family friendly clean meals on the table.   
Give Choices…we often have 3 vegetables and tell them they must pick 2.  Or ask, “do you want Quinoia or Cous Cous with your dinner tonight?”  When THEY are in the drivers seat battles are often diffused.    I have even had a “Tuesday Try It” with a huge “buffet” of raw veggies and different types of hummus that they can pick from and try.
Take out the worst stuff:
Go through your cabinets and THROW AWAY (or GIVE AWAY):
Anything with high fructose corn syrup, white sugar and white flour, additives, colors, preservatives, and foods high in sodium and fat. 
(Just as it is a process to change your palate…it is tough for theirs to change if Fruit Loops, and Teddy Grahams are begging to be eaten each day.)  It creates more of a fight and drama than you want.  We say, “our home is a DRAMA FREE ZONE”.   
Make them take a “POLITE BITE” (thanks Cathy).  No one wants dinner to be a battle zone but it will become “understood” if you stick to your guns. 
Throw them a bone.  At each meal I tried to ensure that there was SOMETHING on the plate that they would eat.  A fruit for dessert, a type of bread or protein that they liked, etc.  If it is ALL new it will bring about an automatic fight and empty tummies.  The amazing thing is that as they get better and their palates change so do the “bones”.  Our bone tonight was kale chips.   
Give incentives…
Bribe my kids to eat clean??  YEP.  Once a month my kids earn a dime for every bite of NEW food they eat.  WE choose the meal.  Usually it is one we know could become a new favorite but because it is new we suspect resistance!  You would be surprised how much of the plate will be clean with just a few dollars out of OUR pockets!  I also know Janine has had her teens receive a “point” per day and there will be substantial rewards at the end of the week/month for their clean days.  We only started this recently…I would not do this right away…you do not want them to associate every “clean” meal with pay outs! 
Do not b.s. (be specific).  If you use the ingredients names to tell your children what they are eating:  they THINK they hate everything that is new including lentils, Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash.  Get creative…think of new names.  Don’t lie but maybe tell them what it is similar to—or focus on the color…tonight’s Butternut Squash and lentil soup was “Halloween” soup.
Do not quit!      It can be discouraging when they “balk” at your attempts!  It can take as many as 10-12 INTRODUCTIONS to a new food before children’s palates adapt or change.  Some of my kids least favorite last year, are their favorites this year!   One day they DO wake up and like a veggie or fruit that they refused before! 
Do not tolerate disrespect.   Yelling, “GROSS”, “DISGUSTING” is unacceptable.  This is wonderful wholesome meal that you found, shopped for, sweated in the kitchen and served.  It is worth repeating, do not tolerate disrespect.  
I can easily type these dos and dont’s because it has been a huge game of trial and error.  Some days are better than others.  The BEST eater in my house is my 3 year old.  He downs olives, black beans and just about any vegetable placed in front of him.  Let’s do the math…yep, he has really not known life without clean food in it.  This makes it easier.  He is not perfect—but is the least resistant to new things and that is certainly because he has been exposed to this type of food the longest.  The sooner you can get your kids on board the better!  The sooner you can make a few healthy shifts the better. 
Here are a few extra resources if your kids are older or your hubby is not on board:
Here is my favorite blogger she has some great thoughts on creating “clean teens”! 
These are also good thoughts when it comes to encouraging your hubby:
Check out the utube interview with Chris, who was ANTI-Clean and ANTI-vegetable until just 3 years ago!   He has some good thoughts and words of encouragement!
I am PASSIONATE about this subject because it has been a very intentional undertaking for the past 3 years.  Shifts CAN be made. Hang in there…I continue to say YOU are WORTH this shift…YOUR FAMILY IS WORTH IT TOO! 

Eating Clean While Eating OUT?

Eating out and eating clean can be QUITE a dilemma.  It seems safer to stay home!  (And sadly, it may be!)  Restaurants have studied what keeps consumers coming back and it is their mission to load up each morsel of food their with a “time tested” trifecta:  sugar, fat, and salt.  These 3 things little ingredients have addictive qualities…they are RARELY found in nature and yet, we as Americans are obsessed.  Our diets (often unknowingly) are filled with them!    The book entitled, “The End of Over-Eating” pulls the curtain back and interviews a top food industry executive who shared, “Sugar, fat, and salt make a food compelling, they make it indulgent.  They make it high in hedonic value, which gives us pleasure.”  When asked if they design food specifically to be “highly hedonic” the answer was “absolutely, we try to bring as much of that into the equation as possible.”  (Kessler, 18) The exec goes on to describe the ways that they “layer” or “load” each dish with as much sugar, fat, and salt as possible.  This brings their customers back for more.  Why???  Scientifically speaking, fat, sugar and salt are strong reinforcers, especially when combined together!  UNC Chapel Hill has done a ton of research on this subject and Sara Ward found that the breaking point for animals who would no longer “work” for a fat and sugar combination was just slightly lower than the breaking point for cocaine.   (Kessler, 31)  Yep, you read that right…when you say, that is so “addictive” you are actually correct…it is…and it was designed to be! 
Knowing that it is the job of the restaurant to lure you in and keep you coming back for you more it is OUR job to be great detectives on what we are putting in our bodies.  It is okay to ask for ingredient lists and nutritional fact sheets.  Even better I would encourage you to go in and “create your own meal”.  In other words…GET CREATIVE…BE HIGH MAINTENANCE!  Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want and how you want it prepared. 
  • Ask for WHOLE WHEAT options for bread, pasta and tortillas.   (Even if you know they don’t have it…it raises the awareness of management that this is something patrons WANT)

  • Ask for your veggies to be steamed and cooked without butter
  • Ask for things without a bun or in a “bowl”
  • Ask for the chips to be left off the table
  • Ask how things are prepared…ask for meat to be grilled instead of fried
  • Order several SIDES instead of a main dish…(i.e. black beans, veggies, sweet potato, side salad, etc.) 
  • Box ½ of your meal before it is brought to you…portion sizes are OUTRAGEOUS
  • For a kids meal…create your own…ask for grilled chicken instead of nuggets and veggies instead of fries, more often than not they will do it. 
  • Create your OWN meal.  Don’t feel confined to the menu…often you can clean up something by just requesting it the way you would prepare it at home.
Let me be clear…I am not trying to start a WAR with big business and food industries.  I understand that they are dealing with the “bottom line” and their job is to bring customers through the door.   I am not saying all restaurants (or restaurant owners) are evil!  I am trying to raise awareness.   I believe that it is all about supply and demand and if customers start to demand healthier, nutrient rich options then businesses will respond.  I was thrilled to hear one of my pod girls who works for CFA share that they are now offering steel cut oats as a breakfast menu option!    It is our job as a consumer to be informed as to what we are putting in our bodies; and then by choices and where we spend our money, positively effect change.  
Here are a few restaurants locally that are Janine, LeAnne, and I frequent.  They are NOT perfect and at each one you could eat a nutrient rich meal or a meal filled with fat, sugar, and salt.  These particular places have MORE clean options than many, and for that reason they made the “list”.   
Quick Bites…
Doc Greens
(coupons in citipass)
Greek Fiesta
(coupons in citipass)
(kids eat free on Tuesday night)
(coupons in citipass)
Sweet Tomatos
(coupons in citipass)
Urban Turban
(awesome weekday buffet)
Whole Foods
(such a great salad bar and buffet…they also have yummy made to order sushi!) 
Z Pizza
(lots of options:  whole wheat crust, gluten free, tons of veggies and even soy cheese)
(coupons in citipass)
Date Night
La Shish
Irregardless Cafe
Shopping Around Town
Farmers Market (Western Wake and Raleigh)
Fresh Market
Great Harvest
(coupons in citipass)
Trader Joes
Whole Foods
Good options can be found and it is worth the search.  YOU are worth the search.  

Happy hunting!  

ALWAYS Be Prepared!

This fall I got in to a “dangerous” hunger place.  I had taught some classes, prepared my kids lunches, quickly drove them to school, flew to a meeting and then immediately ran to an appointment.   I exited the appointment and found myself deep in North Raleigh starving.  I am not familiar with North Raleigh.  All that surrounded me were fast food options.  Immediately I thought, “I could go grab something quick just this one time.”  You canfind some clean fast food options but they are more the exception and not the rule.  And quite honestly, I was not sure once I got to the counter that I would make the best choice…because I was SO famished.  Would I actually choose the salad with no dressing and a baked potato? On a normal day under normal conditions yes, but I was in a bit of a “frantic” food place.  I would not be home for another hour due to traffic.   I NEEDED to get back home asap because I had to pick up my kids from school.   I took a deep breath and began to drive.  I sucked down the last of my water that I had in my bottle and then said a prayer to have the will power to stay out of the drive thru and just get home.  20 minutes in to the drive I passed a grocery store and was able to quickly stop and grab something clean and then hop back in the car.  When I got home I was able to fully appreciate my long overdue lunch.  It was a close call though, and it was a tough decision.  Earlier in my journey I am certain I would not have made the same choice.

To help avoid the CRAZY BAD HUNGER place I compiled a few tips that help me and my family to stay prepared: 

·      Pack a lunch or (several) snacks the night before or in the morning
Even if you work from home this will help to not “think” and have healthy options and portions at your fingertips!

·      Chop your veggies over the weekend. 
Keep bags of carrots, snap peas, peppers, broccoli, and other quick veggies ready to go for easy prep throughout the week. 

·      Keep a basket in the car
I have two.  One for my children with tons of snacks for them and their water bottles.  Another one for me with my favorite lara bars, apples, almonds, and walnuts…individually packaged and ready to go to create ease and convenience.

·      Prep meals on the weekend. 
That way you will have a few “go to” items, some clean soups, muffins or granola bars.  We even freeze our “lentil burgers” (you could do the same with turkey burgers) so that we can pull them out throughout the week.  This helps to avoid panic on a full evening, knowing that you will at least have something to pull out for the evening! 

·      Have a weekly plan.
You don’t have to adhere to it perfectly.  You may wake up and not be in the mood for spaghetti squash that day.  But at least have an idea…especially on full nights, you will have something you can throw in the crockpot or something that you can pull from the freezer.  Preparation and planning are KEY to staying clean. 

·      Be High Maintenance.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a microwave and fridge when you travel.  When you go to a restaurant ask for exactly what you want, how you want it prepared, etc.  Even at a drive thru or coffee shop, “have it your way”.   
·      Stay fueled throughout the day!
Keep snacks on hand in a cooler, at your desk, in your purse, car, fridge and cabinets.  That means frequenting the grocery store to stay stocked.  

It is important to keep your metabolism burning throughout the day and it is important to not get to the crazy bad hunger place…hopefully a few of these tips will help along the journey!  



Hands Off My HO HOs!

Why is FOOD so doggone personal?   Why does the hair on the back of our necks raise when we are confronted with something different than our own diets or preferences?
I keep wandering down memory lane to just over 3 years ago when Janine issued a Nutritional Challenge—a “Clean Eating” Challenge for her studio.  I keep trying to remind myself why I was SO ticked at her and at the suggestion that my food might be “dirty” in some way?  I NEVER want to forget where I was…
Three years ago I worked out so that I could eat whatever I wanted.  I ate when I was hungry or when something looked or smelled good.  I ate for the joy of eating.  I ate when I was bored, lonely, angry, tired or depressed.    Food was a social common denominator:  every event whether it be a party or a play date,  food found it’s way in to the equation.  Food was comfort.  Food was a friend.  Food was entertainment.  Food was not in any way “fuel”.    That was a foreign concept.
I took the challenge because I was preparing to join P.O.W.E.R.’s staff and eventually own my own studio.  It would seem highly inappropriate for her first employee to throw a tantrum about the “RIDICULOUS” challenge she had put forth.  I spent the first week whining to the other pod girls about the fact that I could ONLY eat lettuce, and lettuce with NO dressing at that.  I complained, went to stores, read ingredients, got annoyed and went home empty handed.  I didn’t have TIME for this.  I didn’t have the stomach for it…literally.
Our family was not “so far” off the beaten path when it came to food…was it?  Sure we ate out SOME but not every night.   We ate vegetables…or at least brocolli and carrots…and I loved salads.  We didn’t deep fry everything that was placed in front of us and we didn’t eat a ton of red meat.  We drank sodas, but we were not addicted.  I loved cran-apple juice and probably drank 2 gallons a week.   We liked dessert and had sweets available but it was not an every day occasion.  Our kids didn’t eat white bread…but what was wrong with “fruit chews” that come in Disney Princess and Cars shapes?   What was high fructose corn syrup and why was it so “evil”? 
Apparently everything on our grocery list was “dirty” except for the broccoli and carrots and even our whole wheat bread had problems.  I was finding every excuse in the book to dump the challenge.  I didn’t have time to find new recipes; I was studying like crazy for my personal training license.   We didn’t have the money to buy less processed foods, never mind organic while my hubby made just over $40k a year?!?  Besides, I had three small children 3, 2, and 8 months…there was NO WAY I could get them to do this.  Did I mention my husband was a “meat-aterian” and balked at most new vegetables that I brought to the table?  This wasn’t going to work!
The first week I rolled my eyes, complained and simply refused to be apart of the madness.  The studio was buzzing though.  Women were complaining but also attempting this insane challenge.  I looked at their lives and went back to my excuses:  “yes, but she is single and doesn’t have to make 2 meals or find a ton of new recipes!”  “Yes, but her hubby brings in more cash each month!”  “She is a stay at home mom and totally has time for this!” And yet, their enthusiasm was wearing me down.  That weekend I went back to the store and started again.    I came home with a bunch of “tasteless” things and a higher grocery bill!  The 2nd week I probably ate clean 3 of the 7 days.  They were not fun and I remember feeling like I was eating like a gerbil.   I was eating more often and that was a pain because I didn’t have time to stop (yet again) to eat something!  I did not feel a difference in my energy level and was in general agitated by the process.
The 3rd week I think I added another day to a grand total of 4 out of the 7 days “clean”.  I did this partly due to peer pressure and the desire to potentially win a prize!  The conversations at the studio helped and I realized that I was going to have to resign to the process if I was going to get through the next 6 weeks.   I put together a facebook group…a “support group” of sorts, where P.O.W.E.R. girls could come together, complain, share recipes, and finish out the challenge before the holidays hit!   Somewhere between week 3 and week 9 my attitude slowly shifted. I found a few recipes that I liked and I found that I was actually not preparing as many “meals” as I was eating healthy, “substantial snacks” throughout the day.  
Somewhere between week 4 and week 9 my clothes became a little looser which was nice.  (It was jeans season and I HATED the out of the dryer, suck in and pray they button dance I used to have to do!)   Amazingly, I think I might have even dropped a jeans size by the end of the challenge.  THIS, (if I am honest) and this alone was motivation to continue considering what it would be like to shift to a “cleaner” diet.   So I began to educate myself more on WHY people should eat less preservatives and more whole foods.  I began to find out what was IN my sodas and juices.  I began to read, research and became absolutely convinced that this was a better way.  
Interestingly, and I SWEAR this is not just what healthy people who eat plants say, my food preferences CHANGED.  
I did not CRAVE sugar, sweets, salty, and fatty foods.  As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember eating a piece of processed candy and felt slightly disgusted by the “fakeness” of the flavor.  (I—gasp—spit out the Reeses cup that my child brought home for Halloween!)   This was such a shock to my system as I was sure that this was just what people “said” happened but deep down I knew it would never be true for me!   I began craving water, fruit, and vegetables,. 
My body was leaner, it moved more quickly, I had more energy and it even was more “flushed”…things moved through more naturally.  (Sorry if this is TMI!)   Over the past 3 years our family has slowly continued to change and transform our nutrition to what it is today…SUPER CLEAN!   My hubby eats and tries all vegetables that I serve.  He actually orders vegetables on his own merit—and lots of them!  It took a good amount of education to get him there, but he is there.  My kids eat lots of fruits and veggies and the processed snacks are to a minimum.   If their snacks aren’t homemade, I can pronounce and tell you what is in their food, where as before most of their snacks were chemically engineered!   This actually does help me to sleep better at night. 
The month of October (and now April) is exciting in the POWER studio as women are going to be given a similar challenge to the one that was put forth 3 years ago.  I want to remember.  I never want to forgot how angry I was.  I never want to forget how HARD it was.  I never want to forget all the reasons (most valid!) for a need to keep things the way they were and avoid change.  I also never want to forget where that challenge brought me!  If I haven’t thanked her—I should—Janine, THANK YOU for making me start the journey.  I am a MUCH healthier version of myself.  My kids will hardly have memories of processed food in our home and my husband, too, is a grateful man for this lifestyle change. 
Much more to come on this subject!   But as you consider the challenge placed before you, be ENCOURAGED, take HEART it IS a journey WORTH taking! 


A Collection of Lies: Truth on Nutrition

My daughter started kindergarten last year being able to identify a few site words, able to print her letters and spell her name.  The few times I offered to work with her on reading she claimed utter disinterest.  She enjoyed being read to, but became hostile and frustrated when she tried to sound out a word that she did not know.   Mrs. Downen on the other hand, did a beautiful job explaining the “rules” of reading to my daughter.  By the end of the year Kylee’s reading world was unlocked and she began a new journey of reading with an insatiable appetite for more.  Kylee is a reading machine, she is obsessed with a fairy series right now and is reading a chapter book a night…it really is practically a miracle!  The pace she and I were on together would have brought about an illiterate 15 year old!   I realized as I embarked on this journey with women discussing the lies that they believed, it was incredibly relevant to my little Kylee.  On more than one occasion, she shouted in my face before running out of the room, “I just can’t do this.”  She absolutely could do it—it was just going to take time and effort, patience and perseverance.  It was going to take learning, “I” before “E” except after “C” and other charming nuances of the English language.  I wonder at what point Kylee realized that she actually COULD in fact read?  It was clearly a life-changing moment for her.  I am SO thankful that Kylee found truth.  I am so thankful that a whole new world has been opened to her.  I am so glad that she is not stuck in ignorance, but her eyes have been opened.  The world is her oyster.  
When I began “collecting lies” from the women in my studio a little over a month ago I had no idea it was going to result in a series of blogs.  Blogs varying in topics from exercise and nutrition to balance and self worth.   I am taking on the topic of lies to help women become healthier; my hope is that they will replace their lies with truth.
Nutrition has become a passion of mine.  When I began my exercise journey several years ago I really did so with the intention that I would workout so that I could eat whatever I wanted.  My “lies” ran the nutritional gamut but sounded mostly like this:
“I could never give up fatty, salty, or sugary foods…they bring me too much comfort and happiness!”
“I will always need Papa John’s pizza the week of my period!”
“People who say healthy food actually tastes good, are lying to themselves and to others.”
“I workout so that I can eat however I want…because I don’t want to give up how food makes me feel.” 
I can honestly say that through much education, mental shifts, and a commitment to this part of my health and wellness, these lies have been dispelled in my life.  I truly was an emotional eater in every sense of the word.  It took asking myself WHY I was eating or thinking I NEEDED to eat to tackle some of the deeper more ingrained habits that I had.  It was bigger than purely changing some components of my diet.  It was a mental shift.  It was a HUGE time commitment that spent hours investigating more about what I eat, why I eat, and how to prepare food in a healthy way.  It took an investment of time and money to figure out where to shop, what to shop for, and to find out what new foods I liked.    
I made the shift initially because I was given a “challenge” to eat clean for 9 weeks.   I did so kicking and screaming.  You can ask those closest to me about my whining and angst.   When I surrendered to the process and actually started to research what was good for me and what wasn’t I became more motivated.  When I found out what I was putting in my body was not only making me fat, sick, and lethargic…but also the way that I was eating was slowing my metabolism down, it made me realize that I was having to work even harder in the gym to make up for my nutritional mishaps.  I also became convinced that the things that I was feeding my family were not only “unhealthy” but some things were not even “food”.  They held no nutritional value.   My plight to better nutrition started with a challenge but ended with a stronger, leaner body, a healthier family and a new perspective on food and nutrition. 
This subject area is super personal.  Each lie listed is followed by truth that has either been shared by myself or someone else in her pod.  I think sharing truth affirms what we know—and deepens our convictions.   It is part of the exercise.  See if any of these ring true for you…
“My nutrition will never be as consistent as my workouts.”
Just like the hours and hours of hard work that you put in the gym…you will have to invest the time and energy in to making nutrition a focus and priority.  You will have to train your mind and your taste buds to a new way of living.   Just as your were sore and fatigued to the point of pure exhaustion when you first started pod—you will be exhausted mentally to have to continue to choose options that are not convenient or as “appealing” as the typical American appetite. Over time just as your workouts have become habit—so will your food preferences!  PROMISE!

I definitely have peaks and valleys in my nutrition but I think it’s all in the way I frame my beliefs and priorities.  I would never say I could not keep up daily showers or brushing my teeth.  Healthy eating is just as important if not more so, as it sustains impacts every other part of me.  When it’s that level of priority to me of course I can be consistent.  Find healthy dishes and recipes you enjoy–it will be much easier to be consistent.  
“If I don’t get a $1  32oz sweet tea from McDonalds everyday, I’ll never get in the goal of 64 oz of fluid.”
That “fluid” really is best found in H2O.   Sweet tea not only has 280 calories…which is like a “mini meal” or “snack”.  It also has 69 grams of sugar.  We really should be taking in very limited amounts of sugar—primarily that are found in our food in the form of carbohydrates.  The “additional” sugars should be limited to about 40g per day…and that one tea is pushing you over the edge before you have started your work day.   (This does not even speak to the caffeine ingested—but there is only so much room to write this!)  You absolutely need those 64oz of H2O per day.  75% of your body is made up of water and 90% of your brain!  That alone should be motivation to keep hydrated.  That wonderful liquid helps to sustain your life, keep your system flushed and your organs functioning properly.   Go buy a couple of cute water bottles or cups with a  straw and get to work.  Make it your JOB.   Drive on past the drive thru and get excited about the $30.00 you will spend at the end of each month on a new cute little skirt or shirt! 
I don’t want to lecture, but I’m guessing you know that sweet tea doesn’t count toward your goal.  The caffeine in tea acts as a diuretic and will actually dehydrate you.  And don’t even mention the sugar!!  It is hard to get the water in.  Here’s a tip – try getting 2 glasses in the morning while you’re getting dressed and having breakfast.   It gives you a jump-start on the day! 
“Eating when I’m not hungry—even if it is in preparation for a workout or to avoid hunger later–will slow down my weight loss process.”   
Truth…it might, if you are eating double stuff oreos!   
One of the best ways to raise your metabolic effect is to fuel your body continuously throughout the day.   Unfortunately many of us have confused our “natural hunger signals” or quieted them to the point of non-existence.  We often have to begin again re-training our body and placing it on a new eating schedule with 5-6 small mini meals throughout the day so that is keeps our resting metabolic rate up.   A small amount of a protein and a complex carb prior to a workout is a great option.  You would not start a long car ride with little to no gas in the tank.  The snack can be as few as 100-200 calories.  (Slightly higher on the carb side.)  This just ensures that you are fully functioning at peak performance every time you step foot in the gym.  Suggestions might be piece of whole wheat toast and almond or peanut butter, a small apple and half a string cheese, single serving Greek yogurt with fruit, an apple and nut butter, half whole wheat bagel and spreadable fruit, cereal with reduced fat milk or almond milk, a banana, Kashi or lara bar.  Your body will respond to this new scheduling and your signals will become better indicators in the future.  In the meantime trust your brain over your body.  
Not true!!! Definitely a lie!  You need to eat to fuel your body for the job ahead.  Does your car get better mileage with no gas?  I don’t think so!   It’s a known fact that skipping meals makes you gain weight.  Skipping breakfast slows your metabolism and gets the hunger hormones going which makes you eat more later in the day.  Skipping any meal will also result in overeating at the next meal.   Eat to fuel, eat what God put on this earth, stay away from processed foods and you should see results.
“If I eat more than 1200 calories I will gain weight.”
The U. S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that a sedentary female 4 to 8 years of age requires about 1,200 calories per day!   You are neither sedentary nor an 8 year old female!  Your body NEEDS FUEL.  If you are only consuming between 800-1800 calories in a day and you are ACTIVE…(and you are if you are in pod)…then you are totally shutting down your metabolism.  Your body is going in to hibernation and starvation mode.  This mode sends messages to “store fat” because it NEVER knows when it will be given food again!  I don’t like to look at caloric intake scales very much because they vary greatly and most experts have a difficult time actually calculating exact amounts consumed.  I personally HATE them because people believe that 1 calorie simply equals 1 calorie.  But the focus should be on the nutrients you consume.  Your body has never “needed” an oreo cookie for it’s functioning…but if you consume 1 double stuff oreo it has the exact same number of calories that ½ an avocado contains.  That avocado is high in fiber, is a good source of protein, “good fat”, and is a complex carb—which my pod girls know is a good thing!  That avocado will give you significantly more energy and is not choked full of preservatives and sugar.  So calories cannot just simply be “counted”.  Shift the focus away from caloric intake and on to the nutritional VALUE of what you are putting in you body.  Small portions (5 to 6 mini meals) of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbs. If you do—your metabolism will fire up again and your body will begin to run properly.  Until then your body will SUSTAIN weight and use other resources…i.e. your own muscle to nourish itself! 
Uh-oh. I recognize this talk… I’ve done it to myself. I’ve been a slave to calorie counts. I’ve eaten below what I knew to be an acceptable amount of calories in an effort to lose weight. I’ve gone over and over in my head what I need to eat that day or do that day just to stave off my fear: weight gain. This is an exhausting way to live. Clearly you care about your physical health or you wouldn’t be in POD… don’t deprive your body. It’s a good sign you recognize this is a LIE. So stop telling yourself this lie! Let go of your fears and live a conscientious life without all of these rules and mantras that lead to unhappiness. 😦 

When I started exercising with pod and also following the Eat Clean method I started eating way more food/calories per day but I lost 7 lbs and dropped inches in several places.  The book says, “Food we eat works to either stimulate or slam the breaks on metabolism.”  To maintain healthy weight you must nourish your body with high quality food at regular intervals.  When you wait too long between meals or skip one entirely, you trigger a starvation response in metabolism, which causes it to slow down.  Eating small meals every day 3-4 hours ensures metabolism will stay hyped all day.  I can’t imagine a day of counting my calories, let alone do it every day–that’s just no way to live.  I think you also know not every calorie is equal.  Calories from ice cream are quite different from eating black bean soup that will keep you full much longer.  I pray you find a way to free yourself of the calorie counting and focus on being healthy and enjoying food and exercise.”  
My nutrition shifted because I was externally motivated by Janine who issued the “challenge”.  I also had a few other women who were willing to walk with me on the journey.  I would encourage you to find a friend to come along side and learn with you.  Here are some WONDERFUL resources that speak TRUTH over this area of our lives:
The End of OvereatingDavid A. Kessler, MD
The New Rules of Lifting for Women (has a great section on nutrition)
The Body Fat Solution Bill Venuto  (has a great chapter on emotional eating)
Food Inc.
Forks Over Knives
The China Study
Recipe Books and Blogs
For many of the women reading this blog you may have found a lie that touched a nerve or a theme in your life.   If something did in fact affect you today, my encouragement would be to start a journal or a diary of sorts.   Maybe start to dig a little deeper…
Questions for self reflection…
What are lies that I believe about food and nutrition? 
Are there things that I do to shape my day surrounding my food decisions?
Were there things mentioned today that have challenged me to change my thoughts on this subject?
What do I hope to actively do to combat this lie in my life?
I am so thankful that Kylee did not stay “stuck”.  That she did not cling so deeply in fear and frustration to the lie that she could not read.  I am so glad that she opened herself up to the experience and tried.  She found a hunger for something more.   The mystery of when her defenses went down and she surrendered to the process is unknown…but I am thankful she did.  I am hopeful for the same in your life.  Can you imagine not being able to read this blog because you simply stayed stuck the lie that you “couldn’t”???  I am thankful you pushed through…and I hope you will continue on your own journey to dispel each lie that surfaces, because alas, the world is your oyster.