Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Meals Easy, Where Sparks Fly

by Kris Pitcher

I'm on a nutrition role here so I'm just going to give you one more on this topic. You might not like it, because I'm also feeling a bit of tough love coming through. I think people have a misinformed fantasy idea about meal time. And I'm not talking about everyone sitting down together, don't be crazy. But sparks are not going to fly each time you sit down to eat...they're just not. It's not going to be exciting, or new, or different. Give up the idea that it's a wild variety of culinary wonder. Let it go. Bye-bye...

When we are making changes, managing our weight, trying to lose weight, gaining control of our choices, increase our performance, run a marathon, go off insulin - fill in your own ad lib style goal there - our food becomes fuel. It's a tool. No longer is it recreation, celebration, or medication. It's fuel to run our body, and if we use it correctly we will meet our goals.

Making meals easy means preparing and planning ahead. Take a day and prepare food for at least 4 days. At any one time, we've got 2 or 3 kinds of protein cooked and ready in the refridgerator. When there are carb days, there's rice prepared ahead. Frozen veggies are waiting in the freezer. At meal time it's a matter of selecting your protein and veggies, done. Spice it up with different spice mixes, or sauces and your meal is ready. As things run low, it's to the freezer to bring something up to thaw, or put more chicken in the crock-pot.

Let go of the idea that your meals will be exciting and different every time, and begin to shift your view of food. You have to work for what you want and unfortunately our socialized views of food don't align with what most of us want (regardless of how fun that Happy Meal was). Look at where those views have gotten us. Trust me, meeting your goals is where the sparks will fly.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fresh vs. Frozen, The Veggie Debate

by Kris Pitcher

Canned, fresh, or frozen? Vegetables and fruits that is, and the great debate goes on. This is certainly an issue where you may have a personal preference, or opinion, or value. That's great. But I can offer some clarification, and quite possibly some serious simplification for you.

Americans eat about one third of the daily recommended servings for fruits and vegetables. And we're more likely to eat more fruit than veggies. Hmm, why am I not surprised. Fruit is good for us, but tops we should get 2 servings per day especially if we are watching our calories. At 100 plus calories of nature made sugar per serving...there isn't much room in our food plan for a lot of fruit depending on our goals. Sorry.

But with a recommendation for 7-10 servings of vegetables - we could use some easy ways to get these guys in. So which is better canned, fresh, or frozen?

If you are fortunate enough to grown your own, by all means go fresh. And if you can get fresh when it's in season, very nutritious. Canned vegetables lose nutrients in the canning process, except for tomatoes, and pumpkin - go figure. For the most part, canned are the least nutrient dense of the 3.

Frozen veggies are often more nutritious than fresh. They are processed at their peak ripeness when their nutrients are at their height. They are typically blanched, and then flash frozen locking in all those nutrients.

Vegetable destined for the supermarket are picked before they are ripe, they have a long way & time to travel. They have less time to fully develop their nutrients. Often fresh are less nutritious than frozen.

Steam or microwave vegetables to get the most out of them in terms of nutrients. When you boil them, you lose additional nutrients. Frozen veggies are convenient, cost effective, and ready when you are. There's no washing or prep work, just steam and go. Look for variety blends to give your taste buds a little something different.

Which ever you choose think of your fiber rich veggies as go to tools for weight management. Go easy on sugary and starchy veggies including: red peppers, carrots, potatoes of all kinds, yams, corn, sugar snap peas, peas, edamame, etc.

Go for it with your dark green leafy and water packed veggies like: lettuce, cabbage, bok choy, cucumber, mushrooms, bean sprouts, celery, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.

We are in a constant state of food prep at our house and for us, frozen vegetables fit both economically and in ease of preparation. Canned veggies do have their place, and I've got some in my pantry. And in season, we eat fresh veggies too. But our staple is frozen broccoli & green beans to give away the secret. Now pick one and eat your veggies!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Amy's Sweet Potato & Apple Whipped Casserole

by Kris Pitcher

This recipe was shared with Jacques by Amy...which I'm publishing without permission. Admittedly, I'm not good at instructions, or rules for that matter. This morning I had my apples and sweet potatoes on the counter ready for this recipe, then I got out my peeler and large stock pot because I was going to boil them.

But then I remembered my sense of inquiry being squashed by my 5th grade teacher who had a sign which read, "When all else fails, read the directions." I guess that teacher was tired of little 5th graders asking lots of questions. I thought I'd better double check the recipe before I started forging ahead on my own.

I did follow the directions for Amy's recipe, and the casserole is warming in the oven and smelling delicious. I highly recommend you give this a whirl!

Amy's Sweet Potato & Apple Whipped Casserole
  • 4 sweet potatoes (equivalent 4 cups, cubed)
  • 3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated orange rind
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best, if you have it)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Roast sweet potatoes whole at 450 degrees until tender, about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven and size of the potatoes. (Make sure you poke holes in them with a fork, first!)
  2. Bake apple pieces on a pan sprayed with non-stick for the last 20 minutes or so, until soft.
  3. Whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Keep in the frig until ready to use
  4. Let sweet potatoes cool enough to scrape the pulp out of the skins, add to mixer with softened apples. Using the paddle attachment, blend until as smooth as possible, adding the single egg, OJ, orange rind, spices, and vanilla.
  5. When thoroughly mixed, slowly fold in the whipped egg whites to the sweet potatoes and apples, gently mixing by hand until a uniform, lighter color. (Nor egg white streaks)
  6. Spray 9x13 inch baking pan with non-stick, carefully pour mixture into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.
Before baking, sprinkle with pecans for crunch and a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar for sweetness. Or, another great topping is chopped candied ginger, about 2 Tbsp - adds a nice bite of spice.

You can add a little Splenda or brown sugar to the sweet potato/apple mixture if you like things on the sweeter side, maybe 1/4 cup.

 Much more than a great cook...
Amy Hatvany's newest novel BEST KEPT SECRET
is due out July 19, 2011

BEST KEPT SECRET: "Amy Hatvany's powerful language, delicious imagery, and tender treatment of motherhood is a love letter to women everywhere, who try and sometimes fail, but who always get back up again. She is a gifted writer, whose compassion and clear-headed view of addiction and recovery are inspirational and empowering." ~ Rachael Brownell, Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Portion Distortion

by Kris Pitcher

Super size doesn't begin to describe what has happened to our portion sizes. Further, there is a consumer sense of entitlement that comes with getting big portions. People feel entitled to eat a lot, regardless of their goals to be a certain "normal" weight. We see "everyone else doing it" socially - through very strong marketing, and we think that is normal. Let me tell you something straight...it's not normal unless you are choosing obesity.

In order to get a handle on our portion sizes we need to know how much should be on our plate. The Mayo Clinic describes a portion as the amount on your plate, not to be confused with a serving which is a specific measurement of food. They have a handy little slide show on their web site to help explain the difference.

How do you know how much food you're getting? You have to measure it or weigh it. Simple. You need a scale to do that. I like one that has a digital readout, and a zero function - meaning I can add something, zero out and then add another item. You can't rely on guessing when it comes to getting portion sizes right. 

Our scale has a permanent home on the kitchen counter. Every meal is weighed, every time. Period. Otherwise, you don't know what your putting in. And when you want a specific outcome, you need to control what's going in...make sense?

You can begin to get a good feel for serving sizes by familiarizing yourself with labels. Portion sizes are the amount of food you are taking in based on the outcome you want. But Kris, that seems like a lot of work?! Well - you're right it is but there's no room here for portion distortion.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Get Organized! Where It Matters!

by Kris Pitcher

This is what's in my cooler.
I'm not organized in many areas of my life, but when it comes to food, food-prep, and food storage...I've got a system down. Being prepared (my inner Girl Scout) is the only way to have what you need when you need it. Seems simple, yet how often have you found yourself out there in the cold world without your meals and snacks. Once you're out there defenseless, you are forced to choose between the better of bad choices. Why put yourself through all that when you can just take what you need to keep yourself on track and in good graces with your values...ie. guilt free. Now that's priceless.

When I travel for work I plan ahead, look for a hotel near a grocery store, and I've been known to take my big purse with baggies of frozen chicken on the plane. When you sit next to me, you'll be noshing on your tiny pouch of salted cracker shaped things, and I'll be eating my protein. I have no shame.

Most days I take my cooler to the office and it's stacked with 3 meals, 2 containers of nuts, an apple (when I'm really splurging), and a diet grapefruit pop (the joys of off-season eating!). I use Pyrex glass containers with plastic lids that fit snug as a bug. My boss studies environmental toxins and she badgered me out of my plastic containers at the microwave - she's right I don't need those in me. So, I choose glass. Ah! Value laden Choices! There's one of mine. But, I found a nifty little gadget that's worth taking a look at to help you organize your meals on the go.

What I like about this gadget is that it's got one main compartment and 2 smaller ones so you can take 3 meals with you. If you're going to be away for 8+ hours you should have at least 3 meals with you. Add travel time, and a trip to the gym before or after and you may have a 10+ hour day. Be prepared and organized. It matters and you'll be a happy little Scout! I'm also a big fan of treats that are not food based...so here's something to get yourself when you meet your next goal, or add to your wish list.

Organize where it matters! On the go! Lunch on the Go by Fit & Fresh

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Your Fat Quarter

by Kris Pitcher

Beautifully hand made by Diane Fink aka. Nana
"A fat quarter is not a body part." Read the license plate cover of a car owner who obviously has a great sense of humor. Laughing, I did a double take and read it aloud to my husband as we walked into the grocery store.

A fat quarter is a quilter's measurement of fabric, it's like a baker's dozen, a little generous. "You'll have to tell Nana." He said. You see, my mother is an amazing quilter, with a clever sense of humor.

It got me thinking about approaching ourselves and our journey with health and fitness with some gratitude. We live in a serious world, with serious problems. Sometimes it's difficult to see the forest through the trees where our own journey is concerned. Are we celebrating the tiny steps? Have you thought about the amount of change you have accepted in your life? Is it time to take a step back and look from a 30,000 foot view to see what you're doing right rather than focusing on what you might have messed up this week?

This is an excellent time to take stock of your life's fat quarter - what are you thankful for, grateful for, proud of? What things have you worked hard for that you should smile and take a little credit for? What impact are you having in your life and in the lives of people around you? In my mind, I have a lot to be thankful for, grateful for and proud of. My life's fat quarter is rich, colorful and ready to become part of a much larger work of art.  


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How's Your Sleep Hygiene?

by Kris Pitcher

Trouble Sleeping?
For Halloween I was a Zombie, Ms. Ery. (Misery - very clever). The best part of my costume were my completely blood shot eyes. "How'd you get your eyes like that!?" was a comment I heard at least four times. At the time I was struggling with insomnia. So, my costume was simply playing up the natural beauty of those poor eyes. But lack of sleep is no joke, and many people struggle with it. Insufficient sleep is associated with chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity (yes, it makes people fat), and depression.

How much do you need? Teens need 8.5-9.5 hours, that's why those kids will sleep all day on Sunday if you let them...you might want to let them. Adults need 7-9 hours each night. This comes from the National Sleep Foundation. Insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep that can result in functional impairment throughout the day. Boy howdy, no kidding. I had become a walking zombie. I couldn't make decisions. It got to the point where I felt I shouldn't be driving.

The promotion of regular sleep is called "sleep hygiene". Here are some simple sleep hygiene tips:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning.
  • Sleep in a quiet, dark, relaxing environment, which is neither too hot, or too cold.
  • Make your bed comfortable and use if for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, movies, or listening to music.
  • Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
  • Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.
Your sleep hygiene makes the difference between a great night or a restless night. Like my dental hygiene, I also have great sleep hygiene. It really makes a difference for me, I am all about my schedule. And with the exception of a bad night here or there, my insomnia isn't getting the best of me. Getting those much needed hours of sleep is critical to our health. Our body needs that recovery and repair time. Get a nap in over the holiday weekend if you get a chance, and get to bed on time. Night night!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Crust Pumpkin Pie

by Kris Pitcher

Being both sensitive and inclusive I recently made what turned out to be a ridiculous suggestion to my husband. In light of his rather aggressive personal goals, he has been eating very clean. So, I suggested I could make him a crust less pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Well, the look on his face was almost indescribable. You'd think I had suggested he stay home, while I enjoy Thanksgiving...where he didn't have to watch me eat it! That kind of look. Anyway, I got the message.

Needless to say, I won't be fixing this pie. But it's a great recipe, and I've fixed it before. Last year, I was dieting for contest preparation myself...all by myself (I had to start early because of what a great value that wonderful cruise was, boy did I eat my money's worth!). Through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, my birthday, Valentine's Day, our anniversary...I dieted. So, I made this pie for at least two of those occasions.

It's a great way to save quite a few calories, and still enjoy dessert. Does this count as a vegetable serving? Enjoy!

No Crust Pumpkin Pie:

  • 1/2 C buttermilk baking mix
  • 1 2/3 C canned pumpkin
  • 12 oz. evaporated mild
  • 1/3 C milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C white sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 10 inch pie pan; dust with baking mix. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, evaporated milk, milk and eggs together. Stir in baking mix, pie spice, vanilla and salt. Continue stirring while gradually adding the brown and white sugar. When thoroughly blended, pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for additional 35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. 

Makes 12 servings. 128 calories, 2.7 gms fat

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stress Free, Tops The List

by Kris Pitcher

As the words came out of my mouth, I could barely believe I was saying them. Standing in the doorway of my colleague's office I announced, "I'm not really doing Christmas this year." Her smile was that southern kind, the kind where on the inside she's thinking something very different. By the look on her face, I must have sounded convincing.

She REALLY does Christmas...very well, and enough for many of us...including the festive sweaters.  Making my announcement to her could have been like poking a sleeping bear. But she quickly started to tell me about how she was stressed out about finding the perfect gift for something or other, and on and on. Then I put on my southern smile.

Once I'd vocalized my approach to commercialism this holiday season...I thought I'd better get some consensus. Suggesting a non-gift giving season came as a relief to my mom and my sister. They were in. Gifts for the kids, none for the adults. Super low stress. And, check - that was easy!

We can create a lot of stress around the holidays. The lists of must haves, and must dos are in my mind negotiable. Traditions and family are important, but stress over gifts - let's just skip it this year.

Same goes for most areas of our life, we can choose how much stress we create. You might not realize just how much control you have over it. It begins with not over extending ourselves, with negotiating and considering different ways of doing things. As the holiday season progresses, I know you'll be making your list and checking it twice - add "stress free" to the top this year!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nutrition, The Key

Nutrition, it's the key!
by Kris Pitcher
I borrowed this quote from Team Pitcher's fb page because it captures a topic I've been thinking a lot about lately. Nutrition is a powerful topic for a number or reasons. The power in what it can do for us when we use it as a tool is remarkable.

We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are.
~Adelle Davis

The old adage, you are what you eat is really true. So, what are you? I got stuck yesterday at the grocery store. I was looking for a sauce to go with a shrimp appetizer. Every bottle I picked up was filled with high fructose corn syrup. Empty handed and broken hearted...I pushed my cart away. I didn't want that for my shrimp, or for my family.

Right there in the isle I decided I could do better, way better. So, I picked up a few items and I will make something home made, and "made up" to bathe the shrimp in. Sure we'll be celebrating and having extras, but that's no reason to throw caution to the wind.

During my same grocery trip I momentarily hovered over the 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Did you know there's corn syrup in there too? See, these are things I don't normally buy...so I had to double check the labels. What's in the real stuff? [Pasteurized milk and cream, cheese culture, salt, stabilizers (carob bean and/orxanthan and/or guar gums)] That's a little easier to swallow although I don't know why they can't/won't just tell you either/or which is in there.

You have a lot of choices to make about what and how you fuel your body. Choices about whether you medicate or celebrate with food. Do you drink alcohol, or skip it? Vegetarian, organic? All choices. There are no right or wrong answers either. Certainly, based on what your goals may be there are choices that are better than others. Choices which are necessary, or foods which don't fit in...for the goal you want.

Nutrition is a value laden subject. As you become more aware of your choices, think about how nutrition can help you become much more than you are. It really is the key to our success.   

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Menu Time! Wild Mushroom Stuffing

by Kris Pitcher

Many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week. A holiday full of tradition, family, and food. Traditionally heavy food that is. There are many ways to lighten up the menu if people are willing to move a little bit from the old standbys. We divided up the menu amongst the family and I'll be fixing stuffing this year.

Now, this isn't the exact recipe I'll be using...I don't want to give away any secrets to readers who may also be family members. But this is a great recipe from a wonderful website. Eating Well where you will find a whole Thanksgiving menu of ideas to replace Grandma's wiggly green jell-o & mayonnaise salad. You can also turn in those sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows for a more grown up version.

As we discussed the menu we found there are certain items people must have, and others they could do without. It's good to have these frank discussions about such deeply rooted traditions. Why just continue to have something if nobody really likes it...tomato aspic salad for instance? Mom, you're not making that are you? Best of luck at the supermarket and may you find the perfect turkey! Enjoy this recipe and the others you'll find at Eating Well. Now, I've got a few last minute items to pick up myself...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are You Getting Enough?

by Kris Pitcher

Water water everywhere. And I'm not talking about all those people who just found themselves stuck on a cruise ship for 5 days without food or, well...water. Did you know water is one of the most essential components of our body? That it's a macro nutrient? That it regulates our temperature, cushions our organs, aids in digestion? Did you know our muscles are 75% water? Water acts within each and every cell of our body to transport nutrients and dispose of waste. OK, now my internal science geek is just getting excited...

We lose water through elimination of waste, sweating, and the number one way...exhalation. That's right you big breathers, we're breathing 24/7. Replacing water means we need to be drinking water. Sounds simple, but I know people who never drink water. Never. Women need 2.7 liters (91 oz.) daily and men need 3.7 liters (125 oz.) daily through beverages 80% (preferably water) or in our food 20%. Active people (like us) need even more. Any of you lucky enough to live in a sunny place...more for you.

Dehydration can lead to muscle fatigue and loss of coordination hindering performance. We're less efficient at cooling and subject ourselves to cramping, decreased blood volume which makes our heart work too hard...heart attack. No thank you. But for most of us, just plain water will do. We don't need carby "replacement" drinks for our 30 minute treadmill hill-climb program.

Tired and head-achy? How's your water intake? Always my first questions. Most of us don't quite get enough in and it can be especially difficult in the winter months. The general rule is that caffeinated liquids don't count toward your water replacement because of the tax they put on your liver and kidneys. But herbal teas, juices (watch these liquid calories, they go down quick) and things like that do count. Paying attention to your water intake is essential to your health. Are you getting enough?  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wielding Scissors

Don't try this at home...
by Kris Pitcher

In the late 1990's I forgot the basics of the color wheel and through a very unfortunate "incident" turned my hair green. As it turns out, yellow and blue make green. Remember? My frugal attempt to color my hair at home with a box containing a very dirty word...ash, did not work out in my favor. A frantic call to the salon, a baseball cap, a scrunchie (it was the 90's), and a very expensive process later, I was fixed. It was at that time I promised my now husband I would never color my own hair again. Ever. This promise did not however extend to cutting my hair.

Sure, at some point I may have promised my mother I wouldn't cut my own hair...but that's different. You can't be held to a toddler-made promise. So last week when I stood in the mirror wielding scissors at my reflection...I knew I needed professional help. Much can be hidden in curly hair. Mistakes. Chipmunks. But I had gone WAY too long, and this mop was too long. My favorite stylist to the rescue I put the scissors down knowing that help was on the way. And there has been a lot of hype (self induced) leading up to the date...so there was a little confusion as to when it was.

Last Wednesday during our back work out my husband said, "Did you get your hair cut?" "No!" I laughed, eyes disappearing in the back of my head. "Good. Cause if you did you should get your money back. All they did was hold the scissors behind your head and make cutting noise. They didn't cut anything off." This was really our conversation.

Tuesday was FINALLY the day! And I look AWESOME! I feel like a million bucks! I don't even know what I was thinking holding those scissors near my head! I have zero knowledge of cutting hair. Zero. Yet I was going for it. I wouldn't know the first place to start. I had no plan, no clue how or what I was about to do...but there I stood...ready to go. Sure for disaster. And another promise to never.

Are you trying to get somewhere without the first clue how or where to begin? Health and fitness is just one area where we should consider elisting a professional. Someone with information and knowledge to guide us and create a plan. There is a lot to learn along the way, and I'm glad you're here reading and learning. Think about it, how long have you been standing in front of the mirror wielding scissors?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Did You Hear That?

by Kris Pitcher
Don't worry devil, she'll listen to me!

"Those cookies aren't for us." Said the pedometer wearing angel on my left shoulder. "What about the oatmeal raisin ones?" Piped up the devil sitting on my right. "No, not even the oatmeal ones!" I said, remembering my latest body composition numbers lower than the last. This is a common occurrence as I make a cup of tea in the work room at the office. I'm sure it happens to you too. You do hear those voices, right?

But what else are those internal voices saying? What dialogue is running through your head, judging you? Calling you names? Bringing up your past? Keeping you from making progress? If your internal dialogue needs a stern talking to, here's a good place to start.

Breaking negative self-talk starts with positive affirmations. You can do this in a literal and deliberate way. Posting affirmations on your mirror, in your day-planner, on the dashboard of your car...where ever you will see them, and read them is a good starting point. Can't think of any? Try, "I am a strong and capable person, able to make decisions that will move me toward my goals." If your internal dialogue says nice things, good for you - you're the exception.

The truth is, most of us wouldn't keep a friend who said the things we say to ourselves internally. It's time to change the internal dialogue. You are your best supporter, your greatest champion...and once you believe it, you will hear it. Start believing it.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fitting In

by Kris Pitcher

Where do I fit in?
For many people dealing with weight management, feelings of wanting to fit in are a constant under riding current. Having the right things, living in the right place, wearing the right clothes, and being the right size. Never really feeling like I fit in, this has been something I've given a lot of thought to. The challenge becomes the exhaustive battle, the ongoing struggle...for something you'll never have.

Internally you fight, you beat yourself up, you eat, you don't eat. But what you may not realize is...IT does not exist. Wandering aimlessly, it's impossible to even identify what you're looking for. What are you looking for? You are looking for happiness. When I fit in, I will be happy.

Try this resolution on for size. Want what you have. Your search is over. Happiness is where you are right now! It isn't some other place, in some other clothes, or some other size...it's right now. Have you been missing it because you've been wandering...aimlessly?

My point is if you allow yourself that feeling of happiness now, you will do the things you need to do and want to do in order to meet what ever goals you have. You will have the motivation to move forward, and stop fighting. You already fit in, and so do I. I always have, right where I am.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chocolate Protein Cookies

by Kris Pitcher

It's a bit of a blustery wet Sunday. A great day for sleeping in, check that one off the list. And a great day for making soup! Except I don't use a recipe when I make soup. I'd classify myself as a "refrigerator" chef when it comes to making soup especially...use what you have. Besides, soup is soup. So let's experiment. Which brings us to cookies.

Chocolate Protein Cookies:
1/4 C Splenda
1/4 C wheat flour
3 C oats
1 C chocolate protein powder
1/2 C semi sweet chocolate chips
3 egg whites
1/4 C apple sauce (always natural - no sugar added)
1 tsp. vanilla
*mix egg whites, vanilla, add flour, oats, protein, apple sauce, stir in chocolate chips. Makes 20 cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, remove immediately to cooling rack (or they will forever be on your cookie sheet) [170 cals/3.5 gm fat/18 gm carbs/13 gm protein]

For any non-wheat eaters, you could substitute rice flour, or even almond flour...it just changes the nutrient values. But come on it's still a cookie, you're going to have one, not the whole batch. So cozy up this Sunday where ever you are and make yourself a treat!  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Abs, Back, Butt & Hips - No Equipment Required!

by Kris Pitcher

I walked into the kitchen the other day to find my husband crouched on the floor. "What are we doing?" I asked just barely able to contain my giggles. "I'm working on some moves for my routine." He said unable to contain his. And that got me to thinking...there's a lot of exercises we can do at home, no equipment required.

This one is for the abdominals, back, glutes, and hips - how much better can it get? It comes from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) one of the leading certifying bodies for personal training.

This is a great exercise designed to work our core (ooh, buzz word), improve our stability, and targets our often forgotten back side. It's an intermediate exercise and is performed on your hands and knees. You can perform the same exercise lying on your stomach if kneeling causes discomfort to your knees.

Remember as your getting back up from the floor to roll to your side, bring your knees in and tuck your toes, and come up from the floor slowly on your way back up. We don't want to be seeing stars *%! Clear some space and get to it, no one's looking - let's see you do the "bird-dog"! 

Bird-dog - Abs, Back, Butt/Hips - Get Fit Exercise Library - American Council on Exercise

Friday, November 12, 2010

100 Calorie Smack Down

by Kris Pitcher

Many nutritional issues are "value laden" meaning you need to make a decision based on your personal values about that issue. I've been a little worked up over this one, so I'm just going to share my opinion. I'll count to ten first while I take a few deep breaths...

You need to stop eating those 100 calorie snacks. Did that come out wrong? Let me try again. Eating pretend cookies is like smoking candy cigarettes! There that's better. But really, isn't it the same? You want to have your cake and eat it too, literally. It doesn't work that way. So, instead of trying to fool yourself by eating pretend cookies maybe you should give those up for real food.

Get your head in the game by eating a snack that will give you some actual nutrients. Here are a few ideas:
  • 6 oz. plain yogurt (ok, 4 oz. low fat flavor no sugar)
  • 1/2 oz. raw almonds
  • 1 (level) T natural peanut butter
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 oz. cheese, or 1 mozzarella cheese stick
  • 3 oz. chicken breast
Pair any of those with a cup of veggies to crunch on and you've got a snack. If you're paying attention to your nutrition (aka. "diet") you don't get to eat cookies, or other pretend carby snacks. We simply don't need the head games. Put those candy cigarettes down, you can do better.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Pusher

by Kris Pitcher

"Do you know what Saturday is?" My husband quizzed. "Saturday? Saturday's your Birthday!" I said. Then I remembered what else Saturday is...his cheat meal day. "You get a cheat meal!" I said. "What do you want to eat for your Birthday!?" And with that sentence I realized, I'm a pusher. It came out a little more wide eyed and excited than it should have, I might have even been rubbing my hands together in front of my toothy smile. Too much enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of a pusher. That was Monday.

Now it's Thursday and still no birthday meal planned, I'm not worried about that. He'll decide what he wants to have. What concerns me is the instinct to celebrate with food. With so many celebrations coming up for all of us, it's a good time to take stock and think about other ways we might celebrate. How do we enjoy spending time with our loved ones that isn't about food? What traditions do you have with your family? What things would you like to do instead of food based "activities" over the holidays?

Thinking of different ways to celebrate and have fun is important to staying the course of our goals. And when you eat clean you become kind of snobby about what your cheat meal consists of. Homemade pizza is a standby at our house, and he's not a cake-eater, so maybe a piece of pie or just a scoop of really good ice cream. Regardless, our Saturday will be spent celebrating his Birthday, not his meal. And I'll put that over excited food pusher in check, she's got no place here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fitness Fads Anyone?

by Kris Pitcher

There's nothing quite like the next great...thing! The excitement, the allure of it's claims, oh and how quickly it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER! That's the best part about fitness fads. How many of these fitness fads have you done? I've not only done some, but I've taught some of these, in groups...to other people...to music, with a microphone. Yikes! I don't know if water aerobics is a fair classification of a fad though really.

I do love the one on the vibrating platform, although I think I just peed a little thinking about it. Anyone remember slide aerobics? Still a useful tool, the slide went by the wayslide, I mean wayside along with the mullet. I did like wearing those booties - choreography was tough on that contraption. I mean where are you going to go? Lots of rhythm work with sliding. Double step lasted for about 2 minutes there in the '90s. Oh boy I loved that. You'd take 2 steps and place them in an L formation. Class size maxed out at about 6 people because each person needed about 25 square feet. That didn't last long.

The funny thing about fitness fads is they tend to happen in big groups of people. I guess we're drawn to a dynamic instructor, those fancy outfits. We had rebounding for a while where everyone had their very own tiny trampoline. Bad idea? How many sprained ankles did that produce? BOSU is still around, but I'm not sure if it ever really took off in a group class. Now it's Zumba (take it easy - I'm not saying it's a fad). But I know that we weren't drawn in to these old fads. Our closets aren't full of thigh-masters, or ab-rollers. We're not hanging our bathrobe on the Nordic Track we promised to use. Hey, is that a Gazelle in the corner? Where are my leg-warmers? I wonder what the next great thing will be..?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time to Take Note

by Kris Pitcher

My relationship with food has been a long and evolutionary one. It's developed over the last 17 years, and become very refined over the last 5 years. I certainly don't expect people to eat the way I eat. Having said that there may be some things that you can pay attention to in order to get you where you want to be. It's really all based on what you want, on your desired outcome. There's no more difficult time to be paying attention to this, at the same time there's no better time to have your eyes wide open.

And a fair place to start is reflecting on your intake. Do you need to eat more food? Do you need to eat less food, or different foods? Do you have any idea what you're eating or how much? It's time to take note...and literally I mean take notes. Write down everything that passes your lips for 3 days. Write down what time it is, what you ate and how much. This is the ostrich head in the sand piece of your wellness, it's keeping you from success. What do you do with your three days of information?

Some of you have a pretty good idea of what you should be doing...you just haven't quite been doing it. Others can look at your notes and recognize where you can make better choices. And many just need a plan. You can work with a nutritional coach like Jacques at Team Pitcher to build you a nutritional plan and give you the accountability you need. A professional can look at your nutrient breakdown, see where you may have deficiencies and balance out your plan.

You will know when you're ready to take this step. You'll know when you're sick and tired of making excuses, of feeling out of control...of sticking your head in the sand. Your relationship with food is also evolutionary...get your pen out it's time to take note.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Maddness, Or Just Routine?

by Kris Pitcher

My morning routine is exactly the same. Every. Single. Day. Having curly hair (that photo of me, I know - straight iron) means a very precise routine following the shower. It's like decommissioning a bomb, you only have so much time before you've got a disaster on your hands (I'm not sure my husband understands this). Knowing this keeps me on track; precision towel drying, product number 1, product number 2, just the right amount of finger styling. It's a relief every time...I made it! If something gets in the way of this routine as silly as it seems, all bets are off for a good curl day.

Next it's off to the kitchen to pack meals while we air dry. Meals weighed & measured, all packed the cooler finds it's place by the door, ready to go. It's back to the bathroom for the blow dryer armed with giant diffuser. Dry hair, drink coffee. Routine. Same thing every day. What's the point?

The point is there is no guessing. And that's why it works. And I apply this to everything I do. It begins the night before when I hang what I'm going to wear on the back of the door. My gym bag is packed, no forgotten socks here - and it's waiting for me guess where...by the door. If I have early meetings, I pack my meals the night before (those I keep in the fridge).

You're getting the idea. My morning runs smoothly because I plan it that way. My commitment to my health and fitness doesn't just happen to me, and it won't just happen to you. It happens because I plan it. More importantly, it happens because I do it. Every. Single. Day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Protein Waffles!

by Kris Pitcher

It's Sunday morning and the coffee is brewing. It's quiet now, but pretty soon tummies will be growling. Waffles are the perfect Sunday morning breakfast and here's a recipe to keep you on track. Heat up the waffle iron, we're ready to go!

3 egg whites, 1/4 C dry oats, 2 scoops protein powder, 1 T apple sauce (no sugar added), dash cinnamon, 1 packet splenda

Mix it all up and get ready for a treat. Cook on your heated waffle iron, sprayed with non-stick spray. 235 calories/35 gm protein/8 gm carbs/3 gm fat

Top your waffles with a tablespoon of healthy nut butter, or some fresh fruit, maybe a little pumpkin puree with a tablespoon of applesauce and a bit of splenda. Enjoy your healthy breakfast!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Become A Fat Burning Machine!

by Kris Pitcher

I don't mean to brag, but I am a fat burning machine. Burning fat by doing cardio actually isn't all that efficient...my preference is to burn more doing nothing. That's right. Nothing. How do I do that? Muscle! Our metabolism - the amount of energy we burn - is based on a number of things, but one thing we can control is our lean body mass, muscle. The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn, all the time (doing nothing).

"But Kris! I don't want to get all BULKY and muscley and gross!" I'll tell you what - I'm not gross. I'm a lightweight bodybuilder, this is a hobby. Currently it's 'off season', and I'm trying to gain mass, which means I'm eating well and training hard. Here are my current stats and you can decide if I'm gross: at 5' 4" 137 pounds (62 kilos), 20% body fat, I'm a size 8. Sick! When I compete, I step on stage between 118-120 pounds. Next season, I'll be a little heavier.

By knowing my body composition, I know that I'm carrying 110 pounds of lean body mass, or muscle (and about 27 pounds of fat). I'm working to increase my muscle mass. How? Strength training! Think of fitness like a three-legged stool; strength/cardio/flexibility. If you're missing one, your program is imbalanced.

But the point is ladies you are not going to get bulky from building muscle. Pound for pound muscle is more compact than fat, it takes up less space. You'll get smaller. If you are short for time, always a trip through the circuit machines before more cardio. There are a lot of rules and guidelines about strength training, we can cover some of that in the near future. For now, start to think about ways to incorporate strength training into your program. It's time to become a fat burning machine!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Pound of Truth!

by Kris Pitcher

The truth is, it's hard to lose a pound of fat. I'm going to share a pound of truth with you by running the numbers to prove it. This is going to sound a little like a story problem (because it is a story problem) but don't get all panicky and sweaty-palmed...just stick with me, I'll make this easy.

A pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. We store calories, these units of energy, for later...oh, just in case there's a famine. Our body prefers to use other sources of stored energy, glucose - stored in our muscles and liver - for most of our activity. But that was just a side note so let's go back where we started. A pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. Here's the story:

Jane weighs 150 pounds. She does 30 minutes of cardio 4 days a week and burns about 250 calories per session. Jane will burn 1000 calories doing her cardio per week. A week is 7 days. You're doing the math in your head aren't you? It will take Jane 3.5 weeks to lose 1 pound of fat. HELLO 3.5 WEEKS! Jane needs to pay attention to her diet in addition to increasing her cardio. If Jane bumps her sessions to 6 per week at 30 minutes, now she's expending 2500 calories through her exercise.

By reducing her intake (yes, this is food) just 150 calories each day, Jane can create an additional deficit of 1000 calories. Add that to her 2500 calories through exercise, and Jane just lost 1 pound this week! Great work Jane! Jane won't even miss that 150 calories once she gets going. It's a manageable change that she's going to be able to live with. She's not going to starve, let's put it that way.

When you do the math, you can see why this is hard work and why it takes time. Don't be in a rush, if you are making progress to the tune of 1-2 pounds per week, you are doing A LOT of work. Now you've got a pound of truth to back that up!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Get Your Feel Good On!

by Kris Pitcher

Things are about to get dark, real dark. For many of us, this week marks the annual "Daylight Savings Time" change. I've never understood exactly what we're saving it up for. All I know is it will be dark when I leave for work, and dark by 3:30 in the afternoon. Dark. One of the challenges that we face in the winter is wanting to fill our face with carbs. There's a chemical reason for that. Oh, I can't help it...here's a little bit of science.

Yesterday I told you that my daily (very early) morning cardio sets me up to have a good day, chemically, by releasing feel good serotonin into my brain. Well, carbohydrates do the same thing. So when the weather gets cruddy & the days get dark, wanting to hunker down and nosh on bowls of carby carbs isn't just in your head. It's actually having a chemical reaction, well...in your head.

You're destined for bulky sweaters unless you make a switch. And that's just what I suggest, switching one for the other. You need to get your feel good from somewhere, right? So, choose where to get it now that you know. There is one more reason to get yourself motivated to stick to your plan. And now you know, why I don't hit the snooze! Get up! It's time to get our feel good on!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Love It? Unrealistic Expectation

by Kris Pitcher

Let's just clear this up right away. Remember that talk we had a little while back? I'm committed to being honest with you, and I'll be candid with you too. I'll say this as nicely as I can...

If you think there has ever even been one morning when my alarm has gone off at 5 am (& sometimes before) that I've jumped out of bed with a smile on my face so excited I could hardly wait to get on the treadmill and do my cardio...you can just catch the express bus back from F-A-N-T-A-S-Y L-A-N-D and join me here in the real world!

Did I mention that my birth was scheduled? I love to sleep. I love to nap. I need 8 hours a night, at least. My loved ones will be the first to tell you how crabby I am when I don't get enough sleep (heads are nodding, right Mom?). So, waking up to the alarm at o-dark-thirty to do cardio (which I don't love) is a double whammy. Surprised? Don't be, it's an unrealistic expectation to think you will love to exercise. Period. Now, don't get me wrong. I love to work out, I love to lift weights. I love being sore, I love getting stronger, and I love building muscle.

Confused? Here's the thing about cardio for me. I have never once been sorry I did it. Never. Every single time, I've been happy after I did it, proud even. That's right. I also know every cardio session I do sets my body up chemically to have a great day - stress reduction, plus happy serotonin release. Further, cardio is an integral component of my fitness goals. Doing it gets me the results I want. I'm never sorry about that.

Sure, I enjoy walking the trail with my husband. It's relaxed and recreational, the scenery is nice and the company is great, the hand-holding is nice too. And I enjoy listening to pod casts, or watching movies or TV while I walk on the treadmill. These things help make it tolerable, enjoyable even. Listen to books on tape, find a class, swim if you like to swim. Find ways to make it enjoyable.
Don't set yourself up for disaster with unrealistic expectations by thinking you have to love it. And don't go around thinking that I'm different because I love it, we cleared that one up. You just have to do it, trust me you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Challenge We All Can Do!

by Kris Pitcher

My friend invited me (mild peer pressure) to join her in a challenge. The last challenge she did involved push-ups before each meal. I did not do that challenge, I'm not crazy. So when she invited me, I immediately said yes. Then I remembered the push-ups and added no, followed by a non-committal, safe...maybe. But this challenge is one we all can do!

Step Up Spokane, right here in Spokane USA, is challenging us to take 10,000 steps per day. I'll be honest, I'm not a "participator", I like to do my own thing. But I figure, I'm going to do my cardio anyway because it's part of my lifestyle. Why not measure it? I'm active anyway. Why not measure it? I park further away, take the long route & walk a lot during my day. Why not measure it for 120 days? If I can do it so can you!

For between free and about $15 you can get yourself a pedometer which will measure how many steps you take. There are also calculators online that convert your activity into steps. The Step Up Spokane website will even convert it for you, how easy is that?

So, as the clouds threatened rain yesterday, I looked down at my pedometer & grabbed my umbrella to hit the trail for my 45 minute lunchtime walk. When I got back, I could hardly wait to see how many steps it had added. I was more excited than I could remember for a long time!
Today will be my first full day of counting steps. I have no idea if I'll get to the recommended daily 10,000 steps. Certainly, I'll never know if I don't measure. I'm willing to step up to the challenge, are you?

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Healthy Is Your Attitude?

by Kris Pitcher

"Choose your attitude young lady/man, or I will choose one for you!" Those are piercing words. I know you've heard them in your lifetime, and it's likely that you've even said them. This is not a suggestion either, as you know, it's more of a mandate to shape up.

Recently, I heard them in the grocery store parking lot followed by, "Now, let's get moving!" I was by myself so I was pretty sure this sharp talking dad wasn't talking to me, but I did a double take just in case. Now, he was right his melting-down 5 year old needed an attitude adjustment...and sometimes we do too.

The truth is we do choose our attitude. We choose how we perceive the world around us and how we see ourselves. Things don't happen to us...things just happen, and we choose how we think and react. It's all in our attitude. Maintaining perspective is important to keeping a healthy attitude. Remembering the choice is yours will keep you on track with your healthy attitude. Now get moving!