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Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’

Hey gang. I’m back from Texas. Sorry for the dry spell here on the blog. I’ve been working my tail off in the humid, heat waved NYC. This is a busy time of year for me, so if bloggage isn’t as regular, you’ll forgive me and we all can pretend I’m keeping leisurely “summer hours,” right? Which, in a way, I suppose I AM keeping summer hours. Long hours, not leisurely hours, but whatevs. Ha!

Oh, and let me apologize upfront for the randomness of the images in this post. Beauty shots will have to wait, because I’m busy 😉

Luckily, it’s not all work. Mostly work, but not all. You might recall my “Big Fat Afghani Wedding Adventure” post from back in April, where I posted pics of the lavish buffet dinner at a wedding I attended. To be sure, it was a meal to be remembered, and I didn’t eat lightly. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?

I drafted this here post a while back and never got around to publishing it. Now I”m glad, because what better time to publish it than in summer, where there are lots of parties, but also lots of pool and beach and bikini and bathing suit time? For me, this post is especially timely, as I’ll be spending some time at the beach in the coming days.

There’s no need for a large meal to cause ongoing drama. So can we indulge a bit yet still keep on track overall? I definitely think so. It’s important to look at the big picture. One large meal doesn’t have to make or break our eating and health goals. It doesn’t have to be the start of a downward spiral!  But there are a few things we can do before, after, and during the meal to put the odds of bouncing back  in our favor.

As a Yoga teacher, I try to maintain balance, both in my eating and exercise habits. It’s also important to not be rigid–to be flexible and not such a slave to one’s own principles, as of of my friends (also a fellow Yoga teacher) likes to say.

So here are a few tips I find helpful for celebratory special occasion meal. The tips that follow are tips I’ve gleaned from nutritionist friends, research, and my own personal experience, and I share them with my clients, and now, with my readers, too.

I’m using these tips now myself, as my friends Denise and Rich are getting married and their engagement party is coming up. They’re foodies, so you know the cuisine will be excellent. An aside: Denise actually has a really hilarious website called Really Bad Dates that she hasn’t updated in a while, so I encourage everyone to go on over there and submit bunches of bad dates you’ve been on. Your tales of woe are completely anonymous, of course, I’m hoping that she’ll see some fresh new submissions and start updating the site again  (in between bouts of wedding planning and working). Her site’s a winner.

Ok, now on to the tips. Remembering that these tips are not medical advice, and that your mileage may vary. If you have any tips of your own to add, please leave a comment. I’d love to know your tips and tricks for enjoying a big meal without big misery after.

Before the Meal:

1. Cut out or at least limit bread and desserts for a few days (or at least a few hours!) ahead of the meal. Eat lots of vegetables to have a good fiber intake.

2. Daily: Drink a warm cup of filtered water with fresh lemon or lime juice as your first drink of the morning. It’s very cleansing to the digestive tract, liver, and blood. For an extra boost, add in a splash of apple cider vinegar, which can help ease bloat.

3. Consider taking a probiotic, or eating or drinking something with natural probiotics. These helpful bacteria help to ease our digestion. Probiotic sources include kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. Or you can use this vegan probiotic that I happen to like a lot.

4. The day of, eat lightly but don’t starve yourself. What works for me is a green smoothie for breakfast and a large salad with some sort of protein for lunch. For example, the day of the Afghani wedding, I had a late lunch of a spinach salad with a wedge of a vegetarian frittata as a protein source. A filling, nutritious, yet light meal.

4. To further prevent bloat: Only eat fruit on an empty stomach, and well ahead of any protein. Since fruit digests quickly–usually within 45 minutes–it’s important to time when we eat it carefully. Eating it too close to a big meal (either before OR after) can cause bloating, because the fruit gets stuck in our digestive tracts as the bigger, heavier proteins and fats digest. In other words, things get, uh, “backed up.” We start to feel bloat and perhaps constipation. Not fun!

During the Meal:

1. Scope out the buffet/menu choices ahead of time if at all possible, to get a sense of what is available, what you want to eat more of, and what you might prefer to skip.

2. Slow your roll. As in, eat slowly, putting your utensils down in between bites.

3. Use small plates if possible. You can always go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Studies have shown that we do tend to eat what’s put in front of us, and I find the small plate trick really works. I do this at home most of the time, except for big servings of salad and veggies.

4. Enjoy. Seriously, this important. If you’re going to have a lavish meal, enjoy every bite. You might even find that by tuning into each bite, you are satisfied with less food overall.

5. Enjoy not just the meal, but the company you’re with. Savor the moment. Life is short, and we have to remember that every moment is precious.

After the Meal:

1.  MOVE! Walk around and/or dance a bit (or a lot!) to stay active.

2.  Lemon Water, again. Start your next morning with warm lemon water again.

3. Probiotics again. Take another probiotic to aid digestion.

4. Drink some unsweetened cranberry juice. This will ease bloating. My double whammy trick to get a healthy dose of  both probiotics and cranberry? Cranberry kombucha.

4. Then drink a green smoothie for breakfast, but only sip it when you’re hungry. You can always make it and take it with you to enjoy once the hunger pangs hit.

5. If you’re not hungry, don’t force yourself to eat. It’s okay to eat very lightly for a day or two after a large meal.

And what of these green smoothies? Well, here is one basic recipe to try:

Summer Green Smoothie with a Tropical Twist.

Ok, so if you made it to the end of this post, congrats. Got kinda long-winded there! Now go out and enjoy that summer fun!

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Avocados are the foundation for today's recipe, a smooth, cooling, and creamy no-cook chilled soup.

Ahhhh summer. The ice in your tea glass melts instantly.  When your inner warmth might just start to feel more like a raging fire inside. And yes, when tempers (and sometimes complexions) flare.

Can you tell summer isn’t my favorite season? 😉

I suppose I’d like summer much more if I had a cool mountain cabin, or a beach house, or a luscious, breezy  island to escape to. But, alas, I don’t. At least not yet! What do I have instead of a quiet, soothing getaway? Two busy jobs in a sometimes hot, sometimes fetid, and always crowded city.

Enjoying a cooling and refreshing green smoothie, something I do a lot these hot days.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful for my work, enjoy New York City much of the time, and am not immune to summer’s charms. Free concerts in the park, the occasional beach day, the ice cream truck’s passing jingle.  It’s just that for me, making it through the season is a bit of a project. I thrive more in fall, spring, and to a lesser degree, winter. I find winter’s chill refreshing and invigorating, but I don’t necessarily long to spend days on ski slopes or anything like that, if that makes any sense.

For all of the above, I blame/credit my dosha. I’m a Pitta, with a bit of Vata and an even tinier dash of Kapha thrown in. Dosha, you say? Is that some sort of wrap sandwich? Nope, it’s actually our individual constitutions, according to Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga. Constitution meaning things like energy levels, temperament, skin tone, and body type. Curious to know more? Click here for a quick, easy, free dosha test.

So, with my dosha in mind, one of my strategies in the summer consists of  enjoying yet more smoothies, minty teas, cold, crisp salads, and cold soups. Today’s cooling avocado soup is the perfect antidote for those occasions when you’d like a velvety, cool soup, but prefer not to cook. I served it recently at my Bollywood themed dinner party. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy.  The version I’m sharing today has a bit of a Persian flare, because I added in fenugreek.

And, full disclosure, this is an adaptation of a recipe I got from my new favorite spa/holistic clinic, Pratima, right here in New York City. I just started going there this past week, and already am seeing improvement from my seasonal eczema and breakout flareups. Pratima herself literally wrote the book on Ayurvedic beauty, and uses a holistic, natural approach to healing the skin and entire body. Go see her if you’re in New York. Her presence is powerfully calming and reassuring. If you’re not in NY, never fear; she does phone consults. And no, they did not pay me or compensate me in any way for the enthusiastic shout-out. It comes from my heart 🙂 They have no idea I even have this here blog.

Ok, so now for the recipe, with my slight tweaks:

Chilled Avocado Soup

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Erica Corte, Ayurvedic therapist and jewelry designer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 2 cups fresh carrot juice
  • 1 kirby cucumber, skin on, halved
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Braggs’s amino acids
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Celtic or sea salt to taste

Directions:

Put all the ingredients,  in a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade. Blend or process until contents are smooth. Season to taste with salt and cover. Chill in a refrigerator for 20 minutes before enjoying. I served mine straight from the blender (classy, I know 😉 ), but feel free to transfer your soup to a serving bowl.

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A random recent snap to go along with a random post. Hee hee!

This is really random, but if any of you are in the NYC area, I’ll be demo-ing  a Belly Dance workout on TV on Monday morning, on WPIX, Channel 11, at around 8:30 A.M. I won’t be leading the workout–another instructor will be doing that. But I’ll be in the background gettin’ my shimmy on.  In my NYSC shirt, of course  😉

What qualifies me to do this, other than my general fitness background and, uh, being half-Persian? Well, I took belly dance for several years, and teach it from time to time as well. So while I have no aspirations of being a hookah bar dancing queen or Shakira or whatever, I do know my way around the moves.

It’s fun, and yes, Belly Dance is a great workout. It is very toning and quite good for posture, gait, and body awareness. In other words, with regular Belly Dance classes, you can get  toned, stand taller, and might even have a nice little (sexy?) spring to your step. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, right?

You can bet that after the shoot, I’ll be chugging my green smoothie and squeezing in some Yoga and/or another workout of my own, before heading off to tackle a long to-do list. I’ve grown to love early call-times. I’ve really starting turning into that early bird. Sure, it hurts to get up early some days, but on the days that I do (most days, since my schedule,  body, and mind have all adjusted in that direction), I’m very glad to have gotten up, and find that feeling of productivity and infinite possibilities quite life-affirming and motivating.

I hope everyone has a productive and happy week ahead. I’ll be back very soon with an amazingly easy and tasty one-pot lentil and chickpea stew. Wearing a hip scarf while prepping the stew? Completely optional, of course!

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Yup, that's me in a Vasisthasana (side plank) variation. How did I get here? Certainly not on the first try. Patience and hard work were key. No matter where we are in our practice, it helps to "See the good," as one of my teachers often says.

Patience and gratitude have been on my mind a lot lately. It started, perhaps, with my students. The first recent scenario was a new-to-me student asking me if the class I was about to teach (as a sub), “is going to be athletic?” Mind you, we’d not yet started class. Some people hate to feel as if they’re wasting their time. I get that. Fair enough. But sometimes it’s good to be open to new ideas and forms of movement. And by the way, the class was indeed athletic, as I usually teach more on the vigorous side to begin with. I assure you that the student in question was challenged and then some.

The second incident was a student I know interrupting my introduction to that night’s class by saying, “Well I need to get a workout because this is my only chance to work out.” Funny, because I’ve never not challenged that particular group. But the mere fact that I’d mentioned putting some restorative poses into the mix that day apparently set off alarm bells in this student’s mind.

Then another student seemed to think forcing herself into a headstand in one of the first Yoga classes she’d ever taken was reasonable, despite explicit instructions to not force one’s way into the asana. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. Oh dear! 😦

It’s moments like these that force me, as a teacher, to take a breath, take a moment, and regroup. To remember to see the good. To turn that positive into a negative. Clearly, each of these students was having a moment of impatience, and dare I say, a moment lacking in gratitude for where they were at in their practice and lives at that very moment. Frankly, it’s hard for me not to lose my patience with them sometimes in moments like these. I’m a fiery Aries and my dosha is pitta, after all  😉

BUT on the flip side of that, they were present, enthusiastic, and wanted to work hard and be challenged. That’s actually pretty cool, when you think of it that way.

We all have moments of impatience and ingratitude. Myself included. Bet on that!

But what Yoga teaches us is how to live through these moments. How to quiet the mind so the moment can pass. How to bring gratitude into our lives. Gratitude that we are well enough to even attempt the poses. Gratitude that we are well enough to use the breath. Heck, gratitude that we are indeed breathing! Gratitude for whatever our teacher offers us.

We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. The standard. This wasn’t always so, but today, we have cell phones, the Internet, Twitter, blogs (yes!), the grinding 24 hour news cycle, email, and countless other distractions to contend with. Can anyone say overwhelming?

The Yoga mat and the meditation practice offers us a safe space to step away from all of these distractions. It’s key that we do disconnect from all of that noise sometimes, in order to re-connect with ourselves and our higher selves!

Some days my mentor pushes us really hard in the Yoga practice. Other days, he gives us deeper, more restorative asanas to attempt in class. I’m grateful for it all. In the past, I might have felt differently, but getting deeper and deeper into the mind-body connection has taught this impatient woman a tiny bit about patience. Like another teacher I really admire often says, the Yoga has helped my mind be more open to “See the good.” And for that I’m grateful. Shanti!

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A little shift of pace just for today, then back to the cooking stuff, I  promise. . .

That's me in a Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) variation. Photo by Conrad Turner.

I’m not a big calorie counter, truth be told. I like to be aware of calories, but not to obsess. Yoga has taught me a lot about the mind-body connection. The connection has deepened to the point that I can now almost instantly feel my body shift from “We’re hungry” to “We’re just eating for recreation at this point.” I do my best to listen. 😉

Please understand that this connection did not happen overnight. Quite the opposite–it happened with time, with patience, and with dedicated practice. So if, perhaps, you’re hitting fatigue with your New Year’s resolutions (remember those?) take heart. Putting in the time and effort is key, and you’ll rarely regret doing so. What you will regret? Giving up or slacking off.

Staying active isn’t an all or nothing proposition, either. I still sometimes catch myself slipping into this mentality. I take a step back and remember: If you can’t do a full-on session, try at least a few minutes walking and/or stretching to refresh you and to keep the energy in your body and mind moving.

That all being said, it’s fun for me to keep active. I really do enjoy it. Love that endorphin boost! Sometimes I even get to be active on TV.

Recently, I showed up to a call time to shoot a TV fitness segment, and who did I spot but Kafi Drexel, who is the NY1 Health and Fitness reporter. We see each other around sometimes since we work (and run in) similar circles. But we also know each other from “back in the day.”  Yes, we attended Columbia University together, the Journalism School in particular.

Bosu Balls are great for training the body to balance in multiple ways.

The workout featured in that day’s segment involves lots of balance and lateral exercises designed to prep your body for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. It was no joke, folks. A serious calorie burner for sure! Everyone demonstrating the workout was sweating. Bet on that.

I’m just providing linkage for now. . .gonna figure out how to embed video before long! Click below to play. Try to find me–I’m the one doing my best to balance on the Bosu Ball. Kafi was kind enough not to put in footage of me wobbling 😉

http://tinyurl.com/NY-1-slope-workout-segment

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