The Inexact Science of Business, Life + Pumpkin Muffins

When I bake, I typically use a recipe (or two) as a framework, but the actual mixing of the ingredients is usually more of an inexact science.  For the last few years, trying to eat and cook clean has led to a fair amount of substitution and modification – mostly through trial and error – to figure out what combinations do or don’t work.

It’s a lot like life and business (the business of life?); systems and framework are critical to the foundation, but the rest is somewhat of an inexact science – an art if you’re lucky – that either blends into something amazing, or something that warms your garbage.

I’ve been thinking about it all lately as I try to navigate the ebbs and flows of the different businesses, my day job, and all things life.  So, today, I decided to dive into the metaphorical, and fulfill a few of my core desires in the moment: pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and kitchen therapy.

Without naming names, there’s a coffee shop in town (cough:: Mudhouse) that in the fall makes amazing pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  I became addicted years ago when Mudhouse was the only real local coffee game in town, and I would buy them in pairs like a little muffin hoarder out of fear that they’d run out the next morning before I got there.  Over the last few years the debut date of the pumpkin muffin has been more and more delayed –probably for the best, since eating sugar-laden muffins two-by-two is not consistent with any of my life goals.  Regardless, I still think about them every fall as the weather turns crisp and just like the stroke of midnight, everything turns into a pumpkin.

So today I pulled up this recipe from paleOMG and decided to fall in love with a muffin that I can have a reasonably stable relationship with.

fuel swat grow: paleOMG pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Of course I had to make some modifications; in part due to ingredient preferences and availability, and in part due to my inability to painstakingly measure anything out exactly — that’s the art part for me; the outlet and liberation from following all the rules.

Modification #1: Date Paste subbed in to replace Maple Syrup.

fuel sweat grow: raw date paste

My main objective when cooking/eating clean is to eliminate most processed sugar, and leverage the flavor and sweetness of the natural sugars.  There are a number of different replacements out there, but dates are usually my go-to and were at top of mind this week after our friend Lisa geeked out over date paste to make what looked like some pretty amazing waffles this weekend.  Here’s a pretty basic and easy walk through from the chalkboard to get your sweet on without delay.

fuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplementfuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplement

Once I had the paste set and ready to go, it was out with the maple syrup and back to the muffins.

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

I ‘followed’ most of the rest of the instructions, pretty loosely, substituting in ‘pumpkin spice’ to replace the majority of the spices (except for cinnamon), eye balling most of the measurements, and multiplying the recipe by 2 (or maybe 2.5…who knows).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Yeah, I went a little rogue, but we all survived, and 10 minutes later it was all in the oven ready to prove whether or not my ‘art’ of mixing works, or not.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

While I waited for the moment of truth, I checked back in with the recipe and blog to get a good vision of what they ‘should’ look like, you know, if my muffin babies were ever going to be brunch models.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin muffinsSince I pretty much just used the recipe as a suggested guide for basic structure and context, I wasn’t counting on my muffins being anywhere near as photogenic as the ones in the recipe, but I don’t think they’re half bad (if I do say so myself).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin muffins paleOMG Maybe I’m just having a proud parent moment, but outside of looking appealing enough, they also happen to taste AMAZING. I’m sure they’re not perfect, but I’m just saying, if they’re wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

[Disclaimer: if you’ve never had anything made with coconut flour before, the texture will likely seem odd at first, but once the taste sinks in, and you’ve had your first one, you’ll never turn back.  Just don’t freak out because it’s all in your head.]

They also apparently smelled pretty good, because this little diva begged incessantly before giving up to watch the rest of Harry Potter, in a full on pout, alone with her chipmunk.

fuel sweat grow: bug says pout

So, in short, I think what these pumpkin muffins are representing today is the reality life requires flexibility and modification.  There’s no one way to do anything, but if the basic systems aren’t there and the foundation is weak, it doesn’t really matter how you modify the rest.  It’s metaphorical, sure, but I really think there’s something to it.  The trick is having the patience to stay focused and committed to that core structure so that the modifications can just strengthen the goal.  I guess bells and whistles are nothing without wind.

And if that’s wrong, well, I gave it a reasonable shot, and whether the outcome is perfect or not, hopefully the modified version will still be tasty in it’s own right.

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The Whole Damn Lifestyle: Beyond the Trend

Today was day 28.  The final day of the hard push, and just another day further along in sustaining a lifestyle that slowly starts to feel ordinary.  I think the whole point of developing a lifestyle is to create habits that become the standard of ‘normalcy,’ or the standardization of the typical — but that’s not really what we’re going for here.

I don’t think there’s anything ‘typical’ about what our community has accomplished.  The words that come to mind are more like extraordinary…incredible…committed…supportive….and most of all inspiring.  Everyone began this challenge for different reasons and from different places.  The changes to each of our routines has been different, our new routines continue with difference, and our outcomes could not be any less standardized. There’s no single or exact outcome, but it doesn’t matter.  From where we stand now, different is still nothing short of amazing.  I’m so proud of everyone who participated, and everyone who supported this community shift.  The impact has been far larger than we ever could have imagined, and has truly created a lifestyle movement that’s beyond any trendy hype, and simply based in honest results that are changing lives for the healthier.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

I think if there is one big moral that I’d hope is apparent to everyone who participated, and I want to integrate into the understanding of anyone who didn’t (but is still listening), it’s that it isn’t really about weight loss or even fitting better into clothes.  It’s about giving yourself better odds and living a whole (full) damn life. The rest is just a bonus. The chemicals, sugars, and horrible additives that exist in processed foods aren’t just pushing forward obesity in this country, it’s actually killing us.  It’s killing active, ‘toned,’ people who didn’t realize what it was doing to their body internally and how it was triggering disease and illness.  It’s so easy to throw around the concept of a healthy ‘lifestyle’ these days – and it’s a trend that had lost meaning to me for a while.  It’s easy to preach a healthy lifestyle, to grasp at inclusion and community through vocabulary and hype, but without living it you’re doing yourself a disservice.  You’re a high performance sports care and you’re putting low-octane gas in your tank expecting to win — it doesn’t matter how good you look on the outside, none of that matters if your engine is clogged.  You also aren’t going to be able to go if you don’t put in any gas at all.

It’s too easy in our culture to get calorie and fat obsessed, but that’s the least of our worries.  Cut the crap out of your diet, learn where your foods come from, and clean it up, And if you have any questions, we’ve got about 85 folks who just participated (probably more) in a month of cleaning out our own engines, and it’s looking like it’s going to be an amazing year.  So, let me step off of the soap box for just a moment and re-iterate just how inspired I am by our community and all of the amazing meals, strategies, connections, and support that they brought to the table for this challenge.  I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and even more excited at the visible shift I’m seeing define such amazing new lifestyles.   Thank you all for sharing it with me.

Last week — the dreaded first week back to work after a long holiday break — was nothing short of exactly what I had feared.  Now, it could have been that at work there was a quick ramp up to handle all the million loose ends that carried over from the incomplete to-do’s that time didn’t look kindly upon — it could have been that.  It also could have been the fact that I have a million little things going on outside of work that required time and attention; or the ups and downs of 28toLife / The Whole Damn Thing days 4-11.

Truly, there couldn’t have been more variables in the mix to promote stress and anxiety, and somehow I did manage (albeit probably just barely) to get through the most challenging and critical portion of 28toLife.  While it’s not the first time, and this is not so far from my typical eating/cooking style, I have to say, giving up wine and fully embracing the challenge amidst all the moving life pieces would have been next to impossible without the amazing folks in Cville, MAD, and beyond, participating and pushing me.  This ‘group’ has gone from being a small group of devotees, to a huge group of amazing contributors, food innovators, community builders, and inspirations, who collectively and individually committed to forming these new lifestyle habits together.  It’s so amazing.

Today is day 12; the bad habits have been just about lost, and the good habits have begun to strengthen and grow within the framework they had previously existed.  While I’ve been a little tight on time all around, I’ve still managed to have some great meals, including some awesome ones with friends, and absolutely killer sweats in MAD this week.

I’ll start with Friday — it was a pretty long day of work, and a great + grueling durability interval at MAD, only to be capped off by a sweet night with friends.  Kiks is one of our MAD coaches, Todd is one of Dar’s top boyfriends, and they’re both not only great friends, but the parents of two sweet and sassy little munchkins who we love to hang with — so Friday was exactly that, but with the added bonus of an amazing 28toLife compliant chili and paleo corn(less) cornbread.

fuel sweat grow: paleo chili whole foods

Truly, this was amazing.  It was stock based so there was a super warm almost soupy vibe, and it was exactly what this frigidly cold week needed.  I forget sometimes just how much I love this type of dinner, so it was the perfectly timed reminder.

Saturday morning, which came way too soon, kicked off at MAD – sort of a weekend tradition – with packed 7:30, 8:30 & 9:30 classes.  There’s really nothing like Saturday morning in MAD when all of our weekday friends from different time slots all come together to really define and connect the community end to end (pictured here in my pretty choppy panoramic shot).

fuel sweat grow: MADabolic Cville

Saturday night brought a little heartier of a meal to try and help combat the cold, which has been nothing short of bone chilling these last couple of weeks: cole slaw w/green and red cabbage, carrots, and thinly sliced green onion, alongside two big fat NY Strips.

fuel sweat grow: steak / salad

 

When I tell you I needed that, understand that ‘needed’ is an understatement.  I was so desperately craving red meat that I knew my body was in serious need, and after the intervals at MAD on Friday and Saturday, I had no doubt in my mind that it was a legitimate need.

After dinner Saturday turned in to a fun night with some of our favorite friends and MAD ones, their families, and a couple crazy pups.  Does it get much better than that?  Not usually.

I can’t put into words how happy I am that the first climb with 28toLife is over and it’s clear sailing into week three with a much fresher, healthier, and lighter (just in general feeling) whole self than I came into 2015 with.  I mean, that’s really the point right?  While the whole clean eating thing is detoxing your body from all of the garbage that passed through it and was stored, there’s a certain need to also free yourself of the garbage that you carried with you emotionally, and that kind of lightness, well that can be the best feeling of all.

 

6 Habit Reminders to Help Stay Charged

‘I’m not sure….what day is it again?’  That’s how most of my conversations (and thoughts) went this week.  More than just not being recovered from the holidays, I seem to have adapted to the work Monday, Tuesday, vacation, work friday, off again, holiday schedule — which doesn’t seem to be catching on as an on-going national trend, unfortunately.

We’re going strong, heading in to week 2 of The Whole Damn Thing, and while I’m clear through the sugar quitting phase, I was dragging.  I could tell you what day of the challenge I’m on, but ask me for a day of the week and I’ve got nothing.

On Tuesday, instead of going to the 7am MAD class, I slept in until 7:30.  I worked all day mostly in a fog, and with a considerable pace deficiency.  By 6:30 that night I was fading fast; low on energy, low on general capacity, and I continued with what was my constant assumption for the day — I’m just hungry.   I’m definitely guilty of getting lost in work for hours, and lunch between 11 or 3:30 can be pretty normal for me, so throw in The Whole Damn Thing, and the probability that I would not be eating regularly enough seemed like a definite possibility….only that wasn’t it.

fuel sweat grow: smoothie

It wasn’t until after I had dinner (and then another big post-dinner snack to make extra sure) that I realized that perhaps food wasn’t my issue.  I had eaten — all day really; I ate great meals, clean, balanced, and nourishing meals that are right in line with some of the best I could have managed (including a killer smoothie in the vitamix to power me through the mid-afternoon hour).  But what I didn’t think about, and what can often get buried behind the focus of fueling with food, is making sure I’ve gotten enough rest to even be able to function on good fuel.

I’ve been burning it at both ends.  Even though I took ‘off from work’ for the majority of the last two weeks, that was just off from my full-time job and didn’t really account for the fact that all of the ‘free’ time that comes with vacation was then immediately allotted to the other businesses, strategic planning, and the million little things that I haven’t been able to get to with all of my working and traveling full time.  While this is pretty normal for me and I actually function better on a tight timeline with lots of moving parts, I needed just a little extra recovery time.

With The Whole Damn thing, with MAD, and just life in general, it’s great to have focus and commitment, but forfeiting that recovery time amidst craziness was a major miss for me.  So, I’ve tried to adjust –  where I can.  Here are a few habits I’ve been trying to revive (or in some cases form) to help bring a little balance and rest into my life:

1)   Sit down to eat.  I’ve gotten into the habit of rushing meals, eating at my desk…standing… and taking zero time to just de-load.  Making this change is so critical in really creating a little quality time for my mind to slow down and my body to re-set.

2)  Drink Water.  Seriously, our brains are something like 70% water, right?  We need water, so the 6 hour IV of coffee that I was in the habit of living on had to be adjusted to stop the midday headaches, keep me fully functioning, and most of all have me hydrated enough to truly handle our intervals.

3) No phone in bed.  This is a big one, and something I’ve heard a number of our coaches talking about as well.  From causing a divide in relationships, having late-night chime/text/call wake ups, to even the risks the constant screen time plays on your eye balls and sleep habits, the phone has got to go.

4) Sleep. Seriously, sounds stupid, but I can’t tell you how much I’ve been benefitting from shutting EVERYTHING down before 10 and letting my body rest in full.  It’s too easy for me to keep burning the candle into the middle of the night, unproductively shifting between everything, unable to keep my wheels from turning when I’m trying to fall asleep.

5) 7th hour stretch.  I work predominantly from home — for all my jobs.  While I’m definitely luck that one of them includes owning fitness businesses with unlimited opportunities to sweat, I spend at LEAST 11 hours a day sitting working for my ‘real’ job and trying to crank out a few things each day for  the businesses.  It’s a thankless position, and even though I do try to stand for portions of the work day, there’s nothing quite as necessary as a little childs pose and ad-hoc office-floor stretching to mitigate some of the stress.  Maybe this should really be about breathing…so here you go…

6) Keep Breathing. Pretty self explanatory, and pretty important.  Just do it.

7) Take time for food prep.  Regardless of if you’re eating clean or not (though clean eating DOES help regulate hormones, sleep patterns…stress…) make sure you are taking time to prepare meals, and have good healthy food available when you need it.  There’s nothing worse than literally having nothing good to feed yourself, causing you either to cave and eat processed garbage, or to venture out into the world in a full out hunger-panic — which isn’t safe for anyone.

None of these things are life-altering discoveries, or new information at all…in fact, most of these I used to do as a habit in my younger years when things seemed less serious, but these days I sometimes just need the reminder.  All in all, this week has been laborious, but necessary in getting back on track and re-balancing life.  Today is day 8 for us on the challenge and I have to say, outside of the complete smash back into reality, it’s been a pretty smooth ride.

Potluck: Complete.

The Whole Damn Potluck happened this afternoon at MADabolic Cville, and it was magnificent.

fuel sweat grow: WholeDamnPotluck paleo potluck

For my main dish I brought my favorite spaghetti squash bolognese, made with 2lbs of ground beef (no zucchini, yellow squash or carrots this time) white mushrooms, and a jar of Keswick Gourmet marinara – all to top some fresh spaghetti squash.

fuel sweat grow: meat and mushroom bolognese

Since I was already in a prepping place, I threw together some fresh guacamole with 3 large avocados (diced purple onion is optional, and I omitted this time), chili powder, ground sea salt, and lemon juice, all mashed up.

So, that’s what I brought, and it was fine.  But it pales in comparison to the amazing spread of Whole30, 28toLife, and Paleo foods that the 70+ dinner guests brought to make this first kick off even more amazing than we imagined.

fuel sweat grow: TheWholeDamnThing Paleo Potluck

fuel sweat grow: thewholedamnthing paleo potluck

So, first of all, all of the food was amazing.  Truly amazing, delicious, and incredibly diverse, which was so exciting.  When starting something that feels or presents as ‘restrictive,’ it can be so easy to feel like that means no options, but the potluck proved just the opposite – which was exactly what we were hoping for.  The best part is that we could do this once a week for the next 4 (or 12?) weeks and likely not repeat meals because that’s how much option and diversity really does exist within the parameters.  It’s about getting clean food, and good fueling nutrients into your body, eliminating the garbage — that still leaves a lot of room for flavor, creative food combinations, and yummy yummy goodness.

So what’s the real point? Thank you.  A big huge thank you to all who came out and didn’t just ‘participate’ in the potluck, but actually embraced it with seriously creative thought, intention, and commitment to make it the awesome community event that it was.  That’s the point.  It’s so much easier to approach a challenge with a little extra strength in numbers, and you blew us completely away.  You’re awesome + it’s so on.

We’ve got all the recipes and will be putting them together in a little ‘first potluck’ recipe book, so stay tuned for that tomorrow or Tuesday.  In the meantime, congratulations, you’re really doing The Whole Damn Thing.

fuel sweat grow: the whole damn thing

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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