5 Commitments for Balance + Productivity

It’s Sunday night, and once again as we stand at the close of this week and the start of the next, I keep coming back to the same thought: the weekends are too short.

fuel sweat grow: weekend days

It’s not that I necessarily need more rest — I’m not sure if the weekends are actually better for that these days.  My focus has been on trying to do less constant gear shifting,  and getting into a better rhythm of taking things to completion without a constant emphasis on multi-tasking.

It sounds somewhat like an oxymoron, but what I’m really going for is organized and balanced structure.  Organization in my environment, structure in my schedule, and a combination of the two when it comes to my calendars and work streams.  Time blocking is my best friend, and OneNote is my deepest passion — the only thing that I’ve been putting a little on the back burner is the food part.

It’s really not common for me to ever cook anything that isn’t Paleo, whole30, or 28toLife friendly because I’m just so used to it by now that I don’t really even know what I would cook otherwise.  What I’ve been slacking a little on lately is meal prep and planning, keeping things interesting and not monotonous, as well as doing actual at-home cooking.  The emphasis on restaurants and my red wine security blanket to get through these last four weeks of winter brutality has thrown me and my system off a little — so it’s time to re-organize, re-structure, and re-energize ALL the aspects of my life(style) and not just the work pieces.

So here are 5 things I’m doing on Monday to kick off the week:

1.  Email Organization. By the end of the week my email is usually out of control, so it’s helpful to start off monday morning not only clearing out the lingering unread messages, but also following up on anything that may not have been urgent at the moment but needs to be actioned.

2. Create a list of 5 action items to tackle each day before the first meeting of each day.  They can all be small milestones towards a bigger task, or completely unrelated, but I always like to start with the things that I either keep putting off or struggle to remember once I get caught up in the day.

3. Set a sweat schedule.  My daily schedule doesn’t always appear conducive to a regular fitness schedule, but my lifestyle is intertwined with it, so taking the time to be intentional not only with my schedule, but also the balance, brings me both sanity and a structure I can work around.

4. Plan meals out + go to the store.  I usually do this on Sundays and spend the afternoon prepping a number of different meals for the week, but with the craziness that has been filling up my weekend days lately, this can sometimes fall onto a Monday. And that’s exactly what’s happening this week.  I’ve got a little ‘whole damn thing’ spin-off brewing inside my head, so stay tuned for those updates coming soon, and as always, please join me.

5. Commit to down time.  This is everything right here — it’s the thing that constantly gets compromised or squeezed out, and it’s the most important part of the whole.  When I’m not zoned in on getting something done, or hyper conscious of my every-loving and constantly growing to-do list, every thing seems to become more clear.  When I slow down my mind is able to wander, creativity is heightened, and ideas generate at a faster and more connected way than normal.  It’s a 2015 priority for me, and it certainly deserves it’s space in my week.

So here’s to the start of this week, of March, and the hopeful ascent in temperatures and vitamin D. It all has to circle back at some point.

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The Rules: Paleo, Potluck + The Whole Damn Thing

It’s prep time my friends.  With The Whole Damn Thing ‘officially’ kicking off on Sunday at MADabolic Cville, it’s time to talk about the rules.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

1. Whole 30 allows meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

Key points:
* Protein every meal
* 3 meals per day, pre-workout, post-workout
* Limit fruit to 1 or 2 serving if fat loss is a goal
* two cups of different veggies every meal
* Limit nuts to 1-2 oz if fat loss is a goal
* Beverages are coffee, tea, mineral water. Unsweetened.

[more information available on the website]

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2. 28toLife allows meat, fish, vegetables, low sugar fruits, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar, and alcohol.

fuel sweat grow: 28tolife real food freedom

Key points: 

* Food pairing: protein, natural carbohydrate (i.e. vegetables), and healthy fats
* Limit high sugar fruits, opt for lower sugar dark berries
* Sweet potatoes ARE allowed, but in moderation, and preferably within an hour after working out / intense intervals….
* No corn!
* Beverages are coffee, tea, mineral water. Unsweetened.

[books with full details available for sale at MADabolic Cville]

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3. Paleoallows for grass-fed/finished meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts & seeds, and healthy oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut); it excludes cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt, refined vegetable oils.

Key points: 

* The goal is to create a diet high in the beneficial nutrients (soluble fiber, antioxidant vitamins, phytochemicals, omega-3 and monounsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbohydrates) that promote good health.
* The key is in eliminating foods containing nutrients (refined sugars, grains, transaturated fats, salt, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and processed foods) that are key factors in weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health problems.
[check out website for more information on the FAQ’s and specifics]

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Again, the common foundation of all of these methods is eliminating all processed foods, and reading all the labels on the basic items (coconut milk, almond butter, marinara, etc) that are allowed but are frequently packed with added sugars and chemicals if you don’t check the ingredients on the label. The basic allowances are lean meats (preferably grass-fed / grass-finished / local), fish/seafood, vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts and healthy oils.

For the Whole Damn Potluck on Sunday, here’s what you need to remember:

– Bring an entree, salad, snack, or treat of your choice, fitting within the nutritional guidelines of at least one of the preferred plans above (please leave a comment on the Facebook Event with what you are bringing so we can keep track in one spot)

– With your entree, include a sign/index card with the following information: Name of Dish, ingredients, which plan it falls under (or ALL), recipe + cooking instructions, and source of recipe (if applicable)

– Since there will likely be leftover food, feel free to bring an extra container or two to take or share leftovers home for an even more solid start to the week.

Most of all, enjoy.  Even if it’s far from your norm, try to enjoy the routine, the organization, and the preparation.  Appreciate the struggles and what they’re telling you about what your body is detoxing from.  Love all the good fuel, and clean nutrition that you’re putting into your body, and (after you’ve passed through the sugar-quitting phase) notice the difference each day in your energy levels, focus, and performance — in whatever it is that you are passionate about.  That’s the whole point — to nourish your body and self up to the same quality/standards that you expect it to return to you day in and day out.  If you fuel yourself with garbage, that’s about what you can expect it to give back to you.

Next up is a list of some of my favorite blogs, recipes and resources for creative (or just plain delicious) meal ideas to shake things up a bit, and also shed some light on how diverse the options really are for creating your favorite flavors without sacrificing quality of food.  There are so many truly amazing resources out there, and work-arounds for all your favorite meals/flavors, so don’t panic yet.fuel sweat grow: 28tolife real food freedom

[source]

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Gratitude, Vegetables + Love: Featuring Zoodles [ Day 7 of #23to30 ]

The last 5 years have taught me more than I can fully communicate in the #23to30 chronicles, but these three concepts have proven to be critically important day to day.  When one is missing, the whole day is off balance.70b009db8decb19162818bffee458eea

I’ve always been a vegetable lover – growing up my dad had to have a backyard garden – we ate fresh food, we learned to like all food (mostly) and fast food was not something that came around often.  My mom did have a thing for Dairy Queen, but we all try not to talk about it.

I truly grew up thinking that salad made with home grown produce, and whole wheat pasta sautéd in olive oil with pine nuts, arugula and sun dried tomatoes was a typical tuesday night dinner for all families.  Add avocado? Obviously.   That’s how I learned to cook (and eat); watching my dad cook, acting as his sous chef, and being second in command to conduct the evening assessment of refrigerator contents to determine what meals are actually possible (aka Fridge Disposal Meals).  When my dad would travel I was automatically promoted to head chef, a scenario which my mom was both intrigued and terrified by; but outside of a few small and thankfully contained kitchen fires, I steadily honed my craft.

As an adult I can honestly say that things have only gotten worse, which of course really means exponentially better.  My love for locally grown and organic food has become more obsessive, I live in a town that is focused on locally sourced foods and culinary uniqueness, and I have slowly (but certainly) become more compulsive about cooking and eating clean and delicious food.  That being said, it should come as no surprise that Zoodlers and spiralizers are one of the greatest things to happen to me in the last decade.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles  Anyone who has peeled or sliced zucchini into ribbons knows, these kitchen toys have completely changed the game.  Lately I’ve been loving zoodles sautéed in coconut oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and ultimately topped with browned ground beef and sautéed peppers, carrots, and mushrooms.

fuel sweat grow: zoodles and ground beef

I love this as another grain free option, in addition to spaghetti squash, to create and replicate meals.  Obviously it’s an amazing pasta replacement, but it also works as an amazing addition to scrambled eggs (like below), fajitas, and pretty much anywhere you might want to mix in some greens.fuel sweat grow: scrambled eggs and zoodles

You can definitely expect a series of zoodle heavy recipes to come out of the winter months, so get excited.  You’ll be zoodling before you know it.

While I never really lost touch with my love for vegetables and ‘fridge disposal meals,’ it wasn’t until the last few years that I’ve really focused on creating more in a clean and grain free arena.  The first few months were a little scary, and I missed the meals that I was so used to, but slowly I figured out how to recreate them; how to work with different ingredients, pair different ingredients, and create more flavorful and exciting meals than I ever had before.

This is going to be the winter of amazing meals and I’m inviting you all to dinner, one way or another – so join me with plenty of gratitude, vegetables, and love.

Prepping for the Week + The Whole 30 Challenge

There are some weekends that stand out from the rest, and this weekend was one of them.  Fall is in full swing in Charlottesville, and things in MADville are getting crazier by the day.  A full social, sweat, and food recap of the weekend is in order, but I need to take a day or two to get myself in order and honestly just recover from what feels like a week of constantly being on the go.

While this week is another over-full week of work and life (in a good way), the most exciting for me is a client-driven restart on the food front.  Some of our clients signed themselves up for the Whole 30 challenge from Whole 9 and are starting tomorrow.  Hearing this was awesome not just because I have a group to motivate and recipe share with me, but also because it’s such a huge part of the lifestyle and health change we continue to love seeing slowly take over this community.

Since I was out for most of the weekend and didn’t have a kitchen at my disposal to prep meals, I’m a little behind, but I’ve committed to getting my life together tomorrow to walk (or eat, really) side by side with this group as they start this 30 day push.  That being said, here are a few of my favorite / must-have ingredients, recipes, and just generally amazing food to lead off week 1.

fuel sweat grow: Whole 30 Grocery list

STANDARD Grocery List:

– Chicken (skinless, boneless, thighs or breasts)
– ground beef (or turkey / chicken)
– applegate farms chicken sausage
– yellow & purple onion
– zucchini / yellow squash
– red/orange/yellow bell peppers
– mushrooms
– cauliflower (2 heads – I ❤ it)
– celery
– carrots
– spaghetti squash
– avocados (MANY)
– asparagus
– (local) Keswick Gourmet Marinara Sauce (the only one WF sells that does not  have added sugars…and it’s local, so that’s a bonus)
– kale
– romaine
– cucumbers
– broccoli slaw (only at Trader Joe’s)
– blueberries
– green apples (usually 6, but if i’m making the streusel recipe about a dozen+)
– bananas
– strawberries
– lemons / limes
– almond butter
– coconut oil (for cooking)
– olive oil (for salads only)
– coconut milk (light)
– eggs (I buy 2-3 dozen at a time….but I’m also usually feeding Dar)
– plantain chips (only at Trader Joes — NOT to be confused with banana chips)
– almonds (whole and slivered)
– sunflower seeds
– fresh ground almond butter (if it’s not ground fresh, check the ingredients to ensure it’s just almonds and doesn’t have added sugar or chemicals)
This isn’t totally exhaustive, but for the most part every recipe that I make that is an ‘everyday’ recipe includes these ingredients.  Every once in a while I’ll really branch out, but only if I’m making a new/special recipe.  These staple items will still be stocked in the fridge.   The MOST important part of staying sane during the first week or two as you quit sugar and adapt back to real food is to HAVE food available.  This is not a starvation diet — you NEED to eat, so make sure you have good clean food available and prepped to keep your energy up and balanced.
fuel sweat grow: grocery list and meal prep
The easiest thing to do is to make a big dinner on Sunday night (or any night really) with several sides and spend some extra time chopping things up (like zucchini or celery, etc) to have ready for cooking or snacks.  I’ll usually roast a spaghetti squash or two on Sunday while I have time so it’s ready in the fridge for quick meal assembly since my week nights (and days) are usually much tighter on time.
Here are a few favorite meals that can all be made with the food on the grocery list above, and save amazingly well (read: amazing leftovers and quick grab-and-go options).
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Thai Chicken Stir-Fry is probably my favorite rainy-day or winter meal, but it’s still awesome in the summer with cauliflower rice OR over spaghetti squash. There are no exact measurements, but the feedback we’ve come up with is that adding a little more coconut milk for a thinner sauce is better than a really thick one.
  • [Lunch / Dinner] Spaghetti Squash Bolognese.  It keeps AMAZINGLY well as leftovers, so this is a great one to make in excess and pack up for lunches during the week.
So, to our Whole 30 first-timers getting ready to give up all of their ‘favorite foods’ tomorrow…. congratulations, you’re about to know what it feels like to be fueled with the best stuff on earth – REAL food.  It will change your life.
For other general ideas, search salads, vitamix (for smoothies) or dinner, or check out the eats or fuel categories on the blog.

 

Grocery List, Breakfast Favorite + Monday Things

From the moment I opened my eyes this morning I could just feel the monday-ness looming in the air.  I had the classic weekend where I had more to get done than I could have ever reasonably accomplished, and it was actually a struggle for me to admit defeat at 10pm on sunday night to allow myself a good night sleep.

It was totally worth it.  The still-unpacked box that was abandoned in the corner is still staring at me, but I don’t care.  I’m prioritizing me this week – my sanity, my health, and my own piece of mind.

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I committed to an 80/20 style 28toLife program with Sarah and Georgi, good friends and trainers from MADabolic, and it started today.  Over the past year I’ve gotten pretty used to cooking according to Cristina’s preferred plan and can make a meal out of just about anything at this point — as long as there are groceries stocked.  That’s one of the challenges — making sure that there is good, fresh food, constantly stocked in the fridge.   Meat, fruit, vegetables, and a few other critical essentials to allow for spontaneous meal creation.   The point is not to feel hungry and deprived — it’s to change what you’re using to fuel your body and teaching it to run on good quality food.

Depending on what your preferred tastes and meals are, you might want to meal plan ahead of time and buy groceries a little more frequently than usual, or, you might want to go all-out on Sundays in preparation for the week.  Totally your call.  I do a little of both, but I would say that I do have a staple MUST-HAVE-THESE-THINGS at all times list:

Basics:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut Milk (canned from Trader Joes)
  • Sesame Oil
  • Almond Butter (Fresh ground from Whole Foods if you can)
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Chili Powder

Meat:

  • Chicken Breast
  • Ground Beef
  • Flank Steak (get a big one so you can take advantage of extra)
  • Chicken Sausage ( Applegate Farms)

Fruit & Vegetables:

  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Cauliflower
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Lettuce / Kale
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocado (MANY)
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli Slaw
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Lemons

Additional staples:

  • Whole and/or slivered Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower Seeds

It looks like a huge list — and it is, but for the most part you can ALWAYS find these things in my fridge, and they are the best and most versatile basics I’ve found.  There are certainly other things I like to pick up at times — beets, arugula, and spinach included, but usually only when they’re planned in a specific meal.

This morning’s breakfast was straight out of my critical ingredient handbook, and was the perfect way to start off this Monday.

Fuel Sweat Grow: Egg Scramble
Saute broccoli slaw, zucchini, and yellow squash in coconut oil
Add chicken & Eggs
Add chicken & Eggs
The finished, and delicious, product.
The finished, and delicious, product.

Lunch was a salad with chicken from a little spot next to my office, accompanied by about 10 huge cups of water that were strategically consumed to help me prepare for (hot) yoga at Y2 tonight — more on yoga tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was grilled chicken, cucumber, avocado, and sea salt seasoning all chopped and mixed together for a chunky chicken salad.  It was super quick to make since I had some chicken already cooked and awaiting it’s destiny in the fridge.

And that marks the end of this super long monday.

Goodnight.

 

Upcycling + Food Inspiration

I have a habit of grabbing coffee at Whole Foods when I go in to buy groceries, but somehow despite my frequent drop ins I had perpetually missed some very important facts that they have posted on the wall.

fuel sweat grow: whole foods upcycling

I love Whole Foods for their foundation work, and knew that they were leaders in renewable energy and upcycling materials, but they actually used the bleacher seating from UHall (the old University of Virginia basketball arena) for their cafe table tops?  That’s awesome.  This method of recyling (and upcycling, if you will) was a serious inspiration for helping to minimize my time spent cooking this week, and maximize the meals created.

I was craving two of Ralph (my dad)’s old clutch meals, tweaked to be clean and balanced fuel meals.  The first half of the inspiration was a meal  I replicated a few months back with (gluten free) spinach fettuccine, an avocado/greek yogurt blend dressing and veggies.  The other half was inspired by his pasta primavera, my childhood favorite which was always rich with vegetables and popping color.

The base of this meal was a mix of sautéd zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, and red peppers.  It was all cooked with coconut oil and seasoned with Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning and ground kosher sea salt.

fuel sweat grow - sautéd veggies

My goal with these types of meals is to over produce the most fundamental parts of the recipe so that there are leftovers in the fridge to make future meals much faster.

To stay true to my inspiration for this first version of the meal, I cooked more of the gluten free spinach fettuccine.

fuel sweat grow: gluten free spinach fettuccine

Once the pasta was nice and al dente (yes, I like it a tad firm.  I’m italian.) it was mixed up with the greek yogurt and avocado (2 whole avocados and 12 oz of chobani greek yogurt) and seasoned even more with ground sea salt and ground peppercorn.

fuel sweat grow: spinach fettuccine

Add on the veggies, and voila!

fuel sweat grow: spinach fettuccine primavera

So, here we have our carbs for the meal (probably more than would be ‘suggested’), with our good fats in the yogurt/avocado sauce, and just need our added protein.  Per my favorite grilling trends, the other side of the plate was filled with steak.

fuel sweat grow: fettuccine primavera and steak

This was by far my favorite meal of the week, which was a pretty safe bet since it was a blend of my two old favorites and a little bit of a comfort food ‘treat’ with the pasta and yogurt add ons to my typically dairy + grain free eating.  So here’s where it gets fun: primavera veggies, day 2.

First I should say that these exact leftovers, with slices of avocado for some additional good fats, did weasel it’s way into my lunch the next day.

fuel sweat grow: primavera leftovers

But the veggies didn’t stop there.  They went on to fulfill their meal destiny two nights later when I hastily roasted spaghetti squash and turned it into a yogurt-less meal of squash overload that was amazing.

fuel sweat grow: spaghetti squash primavera

Of course, to accompany the squash primavera was grilled chicken and an amazing fruit and nut salad, but there will be more on that coming later this week in a full post on some of the amazing salad combinations that have been happening recently.  I can’t explain it scientifically, but there’s something about the warm weather that invites creativity and frequency of amazing salads as the summer meal anchor, and this one was no exception.

fuel sweat grow: chicken and salad sides

With less kitchen time required this week, and a little too much time on (or wine in?) my hands, I even tried to upcycle two of Bug’s toys, covering up the chicken that she feels both active aggression and paralyzing fear towards with her old favorite buddy Cat R. Pillar.  bug says: upcycled babies

Since we don’t allow Bug to drink wine (if we can help it) she found this stunt less than amusing, and is likely working on her emancipation letter as we speak.

fuel sweat grow: freaky chickenHope you’re all enjoying the start of the weekend!