Snow Day Hunger-Buster Soup

We had a rare snow day in the South this week, so I took the opportunity to make a hearty sirloin vegetable soup.  There’s nothing like simple, filling comfort food on a cold day. As pretty as a little snow can be, I’m glad the Polar Vortex is moving on out. I just hope it takes Justin Bieber with it… Anyway, all that business about insatiable hunger was definitely taken care of by a bowl of this soup and a yummy, gooey, grilled cheese sandwich.

I started by marinating some sirloin beef tips in worcestershire sauce, garlic, and spices (can’t remember exactly which ones I used) and chopping up lots of veggies. I used zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, celery, grape tomatoes, onions, green bell pepper, and potatoes. Supposedly potatoes are good for curbing hunger pangs.


Then, everything went into a slow cooker with vegetable broth and bay leaves. Adding some tomato juice probably would have been good, too, but I had none. I seasoned very lightly with salt, as I try to keep a low-sodium diet and have a penchant for salty, crunchy snacks and would rather have my salt there than in food with plenty of other flavors.


A couple hours later, and it was ready to enjoy. As for the grilled cheese, I went with a classic version, but some of these updates are begging to be tested…


Marbella Omelette (like a spanish omelette – but orange)

This looks delicious & BJOD has the best blog- check him out!

Big Jew on a Diet

I made this for my friends the other night and they loved it. I’m not being cocky but it’s literally insane.

The sweetness of the sweet potato and peppers combined with the saltiness of the Bresaola and feta is genius. It might sound long to make but it’s super super easy. I used to make this with chorizo (sorry Rabbi Leibovitz) but the fat content is MUCH lower in Bresaola… and it’s beef! If you’re being a bad jew then use chorizo for sure.

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Serves: 4 people 

Shit you need:                             

12 eggs (or alternatively 1 ostrich egg, or 1,000 quail eggs)

3 peppers (red, yellow, orange are the sweetest)

2 sweet potatoes

6 slices of Bresaola (Sub for chorizo if you want)

A pack of olives and feta from the supermarket

1 onion diced


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Why Am I So Hungry?!

I’ve been extra hungry lately. I’m talking Hungry, Hungry Hippo, eat everything in site, ravenous, every two hours. Though I’d like to say it’s because I’ve amped up my workouts and just need more calories, unfortunately, I cannot claim that feat. (And according to the MyFitnessPal app, I definitely don’t need more calories.) Could it be all the food porn I consume on Pinterest? (Maybe. And it doesn’t help caloric intake when I turn said food porn into a reality in my kitchen. Why are the sweet dishes so much more fun to make than the veggie dishes??) How about the cold weather? Surely there’s some type of evolutionary mechanism in my brain that’s activated to hoard food when it’s really cold, right? (Answer: Eh, probably not.) Given that I can’t control or blame the weather, I decided to do a quick search of reasons I may be hungry and what to do about it. Turns out, there’s no shortage of advice out there. The most likely culprits (that don’t include a major medical issue):

  • Maybe I’m not actually hungry. Dehydration, boredom, anxiety, or any number of other factors can be masked as hunger. Occasionally, boredom does get the better of me, and I know I need to drink more water. Hot tea can help with hydration and easing cravings. But a growling stomach isn’t always satiated with water.
  • I’m not getting enough sleep. Well, probably not. Perhaps I should take my own advice on sleep hygiene
  • I don’t slow down to eat. Mindful eating, again. Okay, so I’ll stop the working lunches.
  • I’m not getting the proper nutrients. It’s not just the calories that count. We need certain amounts of fat and nutrients. Though my food diary is close to being a nutritionist’s dream (save the red wine and chocolate cupcakes), perhaps there are some adjustments I can make.
  • I didn’t eat enough for breakfast. That’s definitely not my problem, but a good point for many who skimp on breakfast.

This week, I’m going to up my water intake (including tea) and pay more attention to what I’m eating (behaviorally and nutritionally) and hope that keeps me from getting hangry. NOBODY wants that.

Sticking With It, Part II: Techie Tricks and Tools

Yesterday I posted about environmental tweaks that may help with sticking with a plan for reaching healthy goals. Today I present a list of apps and other services that may add some convenience to engaging in valued activities. Vowed to eat healthier and get in shape? Want to learn a new language or increase your brain power? Just trying to find a little calm in your day? There’s an app for all of that! This certainly is not an exhaustive list (and not an endorsement) – just some I have tried out or read about and found to be interesting/ helpful. Feedback on any of them or other suggestions are welcome!


Diet/ Exercise Apps

Fooducate – track your food and learn what’s really in what you’re eating

MyFitnessPal – enter your daily food intake and exercise to calculate net calories

RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Garmin Fit – use GPS to track your runs

Couch-to-5K – offers a training schedule to ease you into running                                                                                                                




Brainy Apps

Lumosity – give your brain a workout with the rest of your body using challenging games

DuoLingo – offers language courses in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, and English

Vocabology – learn a new vocabulary word each day and seriously impress (or confuse) your friends and co-workers





Wellness Apps

Breathe2Relax – helps you time inhalations and exhalations to practice diaphragmatic breathing

The Mindfulness App – set reminders to practice mindfulness meditation and get guided meditations

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Other Services – make it easier to cook meals at home by having fresh ingredients and recipes delivered right to your door – download running mixes from all different genres to keep you moving – for healthier snacking, with options for special dietary needs

Sticking With It

Apparently yesterday was Ditch Your Resolution Day. If you haven’t ditched a resolution or are just working on some type of behavior change and could use a little boost, there are some ways to set up your environment to facilitate your hard work. Some of these may seem obvious (and maybe they are), but sometimes it helps to revisit things you already know.

  • Give yourself smarter options. If you’re working toward healthier eating, your behavior change starts in the grocery store. Shop the produce section first, then move on to other sections, and be choosy about what you put in your cart. If you take home fruits and veggies instead of chips and ice cream, you’ve already set yourself up for a healthier snack. Likewise with lunches and snacks during the week. Packing healthy options to take to work makes it easier to reach for them when you need an afternoon snack. I have a much harder time justifying a trip to the vending machine for a sweet treat if I have yogurt and fruit ready at my desk.
  • Make a deal with yourself. At one of the offices I work, there are always tempting treats. I don’t know what is so magnetic about a piece of cake, but I can’t seem to resist. However, after checking in with myself, I realized I don’t actually like all cake. In fact, I really could do without the white stuff with sugary icing. It just isn’t satisfying for me. So, I made a deal with myself that I would turn down any treats that weren’t chocolate. Having this rule in place makes it much easier for me to ignore treats that aren’t chocolatey. You also could make a rule about taking the stairs instead of the elevator (for example, you’ll only use the elevator if you have to go up more than two floors) to sneak in extra physical activity.
  • Plan ahead. It can be so easy to talk yourself out of going to the gym. I find that packing my gym bag or setting out workout clothes the night before takes away one of the steps I would need to make things happen in the morning and also serves as a visual cue of my commitment. Planning ahead is also helpful for staying on track with a diet in social situations. If you’re meeting friends for dinner/drinks or going to an event where healthy food options may be limited, have a healthy snack before you head out so you won’t be as hungry and will be less likely to indulge later.
  • Schedule it. Sometimes life just gets busy, and it becomes difficult to find time for things that we don’t “have” to do. Putting these “non-essential” but vitally important activities in a calendar, as we would with meetings or other obligations, ensures time will be protected in our day for pursuit of our goals. Some gyms allow you to sign up for fitness classes ahead of time. Take advantage of that options that you’ve already committed and scheduled it.It’s also important to schedule time off. Allowing yourself breaks from pursuit of all those worthy goals is a more sustainable option than striving toward something 24/7.
  • Find someone to hold you accountable. If you find that you do better with tasks when someone else is counting on you, find a buddy to check in with about your progress toward your goal. Knowing that someone else will be asking you about how you’ve been doing can guilt motivate you to stick with it. Meeting up with that person for a fun outing also can be a nice reward for sticking with your plan. Accountability also can be helpful in terms of working out. I know I don’t push myself as much left to my own devices as I do when there’s an instructor or trainer watching over my shoulder. If possible, sign up for fitness classes or personal training sessions to give you a boost toward your fitness goals.

What other strategies do you use to reach your goals?

Try a little tenderness

I find it’s very easy for my brain to judge. Myself, others, whatever the situation, there always seems to be a judgement statement ready. These judgmental thoughts can put us on alert for threat, causing chronic stress in the body. Various forms of meditation have been shown to be effective for re-centering attention away from negative judgements, cultivating present-moment focus, increasing cognitive flexibility (e.g., being able to think about a situation from different perspectives), and generally enhancing health and well-being.

One form of meditation, compassion meditation (or loving-kindness meditation), involves cultivating acceptance and positive thoughts about ourselves and others. To practice, one is encouraged to visualize a loved person, a neutral person, and a difficult person, offering each of these people well wishes. This warmth is then turned toward ourselves (though some practices begin with an inward focus and then turn compassionate thoughts to others). Often, a series of phrases or mantras are repeated (e.g., “May you be free from pain and sorrow. May you be at peace. May you be well.”). When beginning this practice, it can be helpful to have a guided meditation.

May you all be free from pain and sorrow. May you all be well and happy. May you all be at peace.



I’m OK, You’re OK

I consumed a few pieces of media about self-image this past week that have been rattling around in my brain ever since. Seems like something I should write about, no?

The first, a Huffington Post article about Jennifer Lawrence, makes some very valid points about how it’s acceptable for women falling within a standard definition of “beautiful” to make comments about their weight and diet habits. If you’re overweight – you better not even mention eating! And if you’re petite – well, you don’t have a “real” body. The other bit was a Dateline piece called “Second Chances” that chronicled the experiences of teens who were bullied for their looks and underwent cosmetic surgery to correct their identified “flaws.” This was a tough one that has me struggling about what I would do in that situation (oops, that’s another show). On the one hand, I think everyone has been teased or criticized at some point (by self or others) about their physical appearance. It’s almost a right of passage to go through that awkward phase in the adolescent/early adult years where you learn what is most important about yourself (which may not, in fact, be that you have a perfectly straight nose, as your peers would suggest), and it seems somewhat extreme to have cosmetic surgery at such a young age. Further, who is some teen without a fully developed frontal lobe or a magazine editor with no personal interest in my life to tell me what I should look like? And why the heck should I undergo painful cosmetic surgery to change my appearance so that said person is satisfied? Now I realize I say this as a person who has matured past her adolescent years and has some experience with building self-confidence under her belt. (And I do have some experience overcoming body shaming. My personal favorite is when a date told me I’d be the hottest girl he knew if I had a push-up bra and a spray tan. Um, thanks? Needless to say, that didn’t go very far.) I also realize that teens form their self-concept based in part on feedback from their peers. It also seems that teasing has gotten much worse over the years, particularly with Twitter and Facebook, which allows people to attack others from the security of their own homes, making the self-concept building process ever more precarious.

Like it or not, looks do matter, and not just for teens or celebrities. Psychology research shows that people who are rated as being more attractive also often are rated as having other desirable characteristics and may enjoy advantages regarding employment. So what’s a person who doesn’t look like Gisele (the highest paid supermodel) or Adam Levine (reigning Sexiest Man Alive) to do? Certainly it isn’t desirable or feasible for everyone to have surgery to look like carbon copies of a physical ideal that changes over time (it wasn’t that long ago that Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian swayed popular opinion on backsides). Further, drastic weight loss or cosmetic surgery, the supposed fixes, don’t always make people feel better about themselves.  Before you despair, there may be other options. I’m not talking about Spanx or makeup tricks (though nothing wrong with using those, either). Instead, we can shape how we feel about ourselves by focusing not on our physical flaws but on things that are important to us, doing what we are passionate about, doing things we excel in, and building upon our personal strengths.

To start, take stock of your values (see my post on Resolutions, Goals, and Values). Are aesthetics important to you? If so, maybe there are ways that you can engage that value without focusing on your flaws. For example, maybe you can decorate your office space or buy a new outfit or interesting accessory. Not so much a visual person? Find another valued activity to pursue (and friends with similar interests).

Next, focus on the things that you appreciate about yourself. Sometimes people need to seek input from others in identifying their positive qualities. These can be physical (nice hair, eyes, smile, abs, etc.) and from any other domain (maybe you’re a great cook, really funny, care about animals).


Feeling good this day

Now, let’s work on building our feelings of worth and competence. The key here is on building. This can be done by practicing tasks with which we have some success, challenging ourselves ever so slightly more each time, and receiving some type of encouragement from a social support along the way. This means stepping away from the mirror and stepping into something we enjoy or can master. Not feeling like a supermodel? Really awesome at finishing crossword puzzles? Complete a challenging puzzle to give yourself a boost in the “I can do it” department. Although building self-confidence in one area may not increase self-confidence in another area, with enough of these boosts, you may start to feel so good about other talents (and be so busy with them) that you have less attention to devote to your physical insecurities.

Finally, and this is the biggie, practice radical self-acceptance. Learn to appreciate all aspects of yourself, trying not to label them as “good parts” or “bad parts.” This is not easy.* (Really, nothing related to self-growth is. As one of my fitness instructors reminds the class, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”) Even as a “mature” adult, I have good days and bad days. There are times when I’m ready to be signed up as the next Victoria’s Secret model and days when I can barely concentrate in barre class because I’m too busy noticing every flaw I see in the mirror and comparing myself to the perfectly coiffed, barely sweating, willowy blonde next to me. At these times, I try to remind myself that the dripping sweat, smeared makeup, and wild hair, although perhaps not my best look, are not proof that I’m not pretty enough, but instead are signs that I’m working this class and that my body is getting stronger with every move.

*Lest I sound too preachy, I should again say that these practices often are much easier said than done. Lots of practice is required, and these alone may not be enough. There are tons of resources for self-improvement available, and counseling may help for some people, too.