Couscous & Creativity

Since accepting my first meal prep client, who just so happens to be a vegan with a taste for variety, I have been forced to up the ante in the kitchen and whip out my apron, arsenal of food blogs, and even my kitchen aid to produce healthy meals that are not only clean but are also tasty and satisfying.

Since everything is fresh and made from scratch (for the most part…), grocery shopping happens on a weekly basis. Saturday morning, when mom’s and babies are on play dates and a huge chunk of society is sleeping in recovering from Friday night, is when I have my standing date with Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Kroger and this new fine place called Sprouts. To make sure I have everything needed for each meal, I take time to jot down my meal plan for the week and from there compile my grocery list. This saves loads of time on Sunday afternoon because I have everything I need when I’m ready for my rendezvous with the kitchen.

Meal Prep Starts With Clean Ingrediants

Most people prefer to relax on Sunday, savoring the last morsels of the weekend. Not me. I find joy, pleasure and sometimes peace massaging kale in the sink or stirring a pot on the stove. My favorite ingredient is creativity. Stepping outside the box can be the winning factor for a meal plan that you actually stick to. Let’s face it, we all have to eat (starvation diets don’t work), why not make it good? Clean and healthy doesn’t have to translate to dull and boring. My goal is to expand my palate and strengthen my skills in the kitchen by trying new things.

This leads me to me to a new old friend from the grain and/or pasta family (versatile already… gotta love it). Often found in traditional North African cuisine, couscous, a quick cooking and quite filling –perfect-with-everything side dish has quickly risen to staple-pantry-item worthiness in my kitchen. I made it for the first time and it couldn’t have been easier or more delicious!

Simply add it to boiling water, turn off then heat, and let it steam for a minute then fluff. But why stop there?  I vowed to be creative so you know there’s more. While the couscous was absorbing the veggie broth (and the magic that happens when you add a bay leaf to a pot of anything), I minced a clove or three of garlic, tossed it along with fresh dill into a big bowl and topped it with the fluffed couscous. To this I added cooked (or canned with no sodium added) great northern beans, tomatoes, red pepper, chopped kale (just a few leaves for color and iron) and cucumber. To season it up (a very important step to remember when cooking with grains- they’re only as tasty as you make them to be), I added fresh lemon juice, Greek seasoning (thanks to the international farmer’s market, I can get my hands on some incredible exotic and unique seasonings), and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to the ingredients then tossed.

Clean meals - Couscous Salad

I thought it’d make the perfect filling for a convenient wrap but only after smearing made-from scratch pesto (toasted pine nut and parsley pesto to be exact) on the inside of the whole wheat tortilla.

And voila! This delicious Mediterranean Wrap was born and has become legendary in this week’s meal plan and couscous has found a permanent place in my pantry and will be a contender for side-dish-in-a-pinch situations.

Clean Meal Prep Mediterranean Wrap

It’s all Falling Into Place

“Eventually all the pieces fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.” – Someone great

The leaves are changing, the nights are lengthening and there Honeycrisp apples (my favorite) are filling the produce section whop-whoop!. The year is officially shifting gears and the evidence of change is all in the wind.

My life is following suit. It feels like one day I woke up and everything I thought I knew, I didn’t, the questions I thought I had the answers to changed and suddenly life had a new meaning. There were new people in my space, renewed interests, passion and discomfort in all the right places. I even felt the urge to change my look and whacked off several inches of my locs (I literally just randomly text my loctician to see if she had a same day appointment, sat in her chair, and told her to chop it off). Now I know it may sound a bit early-life-crisis like (I am approaching the big 3-0 in a few months),  but I in no way feel any regret, sadness or fear of impending doom. I feel excited, confident and ready to take on the next chapter of my life. My heart  just knows that it all will fall into place.

Change can bring with it a roller coaster of emotions and where there are emotions there is emotional eating lurking somewhere in the shadows. I find that during times of change and when life is all over the place there is great comfort in knowing that the one thing I can control is what I eat. Overeating and over indulging are choices… choices that I do not have to make. In times of change and transition, mental agility is just as important as your physical health. You are required to dig deeper, work smarter and the quantity and quality of the decisions you make increases. Fueling yourself with good, clean, food empowers your brain and body by not only providing nourishment, but also helping to stabilize your mood, give you energy and relieve stress.

Don’t let emotional reactions associated with change  sabotage your progress. Focus on controlling what you can choose to put in your body. Be kind and gentle on yourself. Remember that with eating clean comes the energy and clarity you need to. It’s time to tighten up on meal preparation. Remembering to allot a few hours of your schedule (we all slack off in the summer time, no judgement here) to preparing deliciously clean meals for yourself puts you in control- it’s a whole lot easier to eat healthy when it doesn’t involve a hot stove after a long day at work. Get ahead and set yourself up for success. Here’s what’s on my menu this week:

Meal Prep Menu

I’m choosing to laugh at the confusion and live in the moment, praying for the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things I can, and I am grateful for the wisdom to know the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

Free Your Mind and the Weight will Follow

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.” – Buddha

 

Meditation is a powerful tool for life in general and when applied to weight loss has several benefits.  It helps you overcome sabotaging psychological triggers like anxiety, stress and depression that lead to overeating. Meditation also helps reduce the body’s response to stress which reduces the stress hormones that promote weight gain (especially around the belly area). Meditation increases your natural supply of wellbeing hormones such as serotonin, which actually make you feel more satiated and reduces the desire to over indulge.

After over a decade of dieting and falling off the wagon and saying to hell with the wagon all together, I figured out the not so secret and found success in weight loss through mindfulness. Personally, meditation keeps me grounded in positivity, helps focus my mind and keeps me balanced.  Through meditation I get a chance to refocus and I am reminded that I am strong, in control and capable of making the right choices for my highest happiness and wellbeing.

The weight loss industry caps over $20 billion annually. Yet 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. Clearly, the problem is beyond simply “knowing what to do.” The gap is in doing it. Closing this gap is the most important task for sustainable weight loss. Understanding what’s going on mentally and emotionally when it comes to what, when and how I eat has contributed exponentially to my weight loss success.  A great way to build mindfulness is through regular meditation.

TRY IT: If you’re new to meditation and the idea of quieting your mind is, well, mind-boggleing, check out one of these guided meditations from Jamie Zimmerman, a contributing writer for Sonima << a pretty cool wellness site I recently started following.

Namaste, y’all

Laugh yourself slim

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”Audrey Hepburn

Did you know that a hearty, gut-busting laugh actually helps you lose weight? Now before you break out in a full on Comedy Central marathon or dust off the old Katt Williams DVDs, and expect to lose 10lbs in front of the TV, let me explain…

Laugh out Loud

According to the International Journal of Obesity, laughter increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, reduces muscle tension, exercises the heart, produces happy endorphins, and, for the undercover calorie counters, thanks to the extra movement and increased heart rate, it burns about 10-40 calories per 15 minutes of genuine laughter. Yea, yea, yea, I know- 10-40 calories isn’t a lot- but as with most things regarding weight loss, it’s about the small steps.

Laugh out loud 2

*These images are not my own (how I wish to have been so privileged to share a hearty laugh with all of these beautiful people). They we’re found here at the La Vida en Fotografia Blog

This small step does a whole heck of a lot more than burn a few measly calories. Laughter is good for the soul. It, like kindness, has a language of its own and transcends cultures, languages, backgrounds, education levels and socio-economic status. It connects us with other human beings. It breaks the ice, eases a bad day (much better than a calorie rich cocktail) and is the perfect soundtrack for a night out with friends. Besides, we take ourselves way too seriously these days. So go ahead and find something to laugh at or even better- find someone to laugh with.

 

Learn a New Trick

An old dog can learn new tricks.

An old dog can learn new tricks.

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”Drake

Over Independence Day leftovers, my grandma and I enjoyed Sunday girltalk. Girltalk for she and I meant her filling me in on the latest happenings around church, the local senior center and of course within our family. I am a firm believer that the secrets of the universe are contained within babies and universal truths reside within our elders. So needless to say, when the elders speak- I listen.

“One of my choir members led a song for the first time today,” she said. This struck me as interesting because let’s just say she sings in a choir of seasoned adults. So I had to clarify-

“Was this her first time ever leading a song?” I asked. Indeed it was. Grandma sings in the senior choir where the majority of members are seniors and have “been there and done that.” So to hear that a sweet, meek and very soft spoken friend of hers, faced her fears and at sixty/seventy/eighty something, accomplished something she’d always wanted to do, really resonated with me.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? New tricks aren’t just reserved for new dogs. It has less to do with age and more to do with willingness and openness to veer off the beaten neurological pathway and try something new. All of the magic that lead us to more fulfilling lives happens off the beaten path. Problem is, our brains are incredibly efficient and creating patterns and pathways based on our consistent behaviors and decisions is its brilliant way of conserving energy. According to this NPR article about forming (and breaking) habits, the more automated a behavior gets (read routine life) the brain starts working less and less.

The good news is your brain has limitless capacity for new pathways. Not to say you’ll learn to play the guitar over night, but over time if you make the choice to take lessons and practice, your brain will create the pathways and before you know I you’ll relish in the learning of a new trick. It all starts with you choosing.

So what does this have to do with weight loss and wellness? Glad you asked. Our current situation is a result of the choices we’ve made. Based on the decisions I consistently made and the behaviors I consistently performed, my brain use to be on auto-pilot and caught in an unhealthy neurological web of over indulgence followed by self-loathing which triggered emotions that cued more over indulgence. By making different choices and performing different behaviors I’ve been able to create new neurological pathways and routines that have helped me not only lose weight, but sustain weight loss.

LoveMoreLoseMore

Love More Loose More Challenge Day 4: We are what we repeatedly do, the road to wellness starts with a choice. You have the power and control to choose differently.  So go ahead and try something new. Try a new hair style, take a different way to work, go to a new coffee shop, or even lead a song. It doesn’t even have to readily do with weight loss. The goal is to make a decision to choose differently, then do it. Get comfortable making new, healthy, positive choices and enjoy stepping outside the worn box of routine.