Always Learning

Lenny's

Photo from Lennysnyc.com

One of my favorite quotes is one attributed to Socrates, “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” Even when we think we know it all; there is more to learn. That goes for fitness and nutrition, even for a health coach.

This morning, I was trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner. I have a bootcamp style class at 5:30 and I’m running  to an event at 6:30, so I need something that’s quick, easy, and healthy. I decided I would stop at a Lenny’s (a NYC chain) for a quick salad or sandwich. I looked on their website to see what the choices were and found that they provide a handy nutrition counter so you can try different options and their nutritional value. I looked at the bread choices and immediately went to the whole-wheat wrap. I was surprised to see it was so high in calories! The bigger surprise was that the whole wheat roll was less than half the calories and much less fat.

As I played around with the website a little more, I was surprised to see how much I didn’t really know about the nutrition in bread. Bread is one of those things that I generally avoid; choosing whole grains when I do indulge. Clearly, I never paid close attention.

Learning something new doesn’t mean you weren’t doing well before; it just means you have one more tool in your arsenal to help you make the best choices possible. For me, this is one more lesson that I can give to my clients, one more tip to help them on their weight-loss and fitness journey.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to take a look for yourself. What I love about resources like this is you can use it for other restaurants that don’t do such a great job of posting information.

Have you ever been surprised by the nutrition information in your favorite foods? What’s one small thing you’ve learned that’s made a big impact?

3 Tips to Beat Your Sweet Tooth + 10 Low-Sugar Sweets

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SUGAR. One of the biggest challenges to anyone trying to lose weight or just be healthy. Why is it so hard to give up sweets? Whether your cravings tend towards Snickers, brownies, or Sweet Tarts, why is it so hard to say no? Well, there’s actually a reason for it and it isn’t that you lack willpower. According to the ADA, ‘sweet’ is the first taste that humans prefer. Carbohydrates actually stimulate the release of the chemical serotonin which is one of the chemicals responsible for happiness. The catch is that carbs come in many forms like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And while these are much healthier options, it doesn’t change the fact that we crave sugar. So what’s a girl to do?

I’m a little over half-way through with my two-week challenge to cut down on my sugar intake, and it’s been tough. One obstacle I’ve had is that many sweet, low-sugar processed foods are made with sugar substitutes. That means lots of chemicals that I don’t want in my body. Another obstacle is the high sugar content in fruit. A banana has 16 grams of sugar! The truth is, I haven’t hit my 25 gram goal every day, but I have learned some valuable lessons that will help me stay low-sugar even after my challenge is done.

  1. Naturally occurring sugar can be ok. If cutting down on sugar means cutting fruit out of your diet, there’s a problem. Fruits have important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and it’s much healthier to get these from real foods than a supplement. You still need to keep portion control in mind and not go overboard, but don’t stop eating apples and oranges. Focus on reducing your added sugar.
  1. Find a balance. I try to cut down on my chemical sugar substitutes as much as possible, but I’m not perfect.Therefore, I try to stick with foods that use the plant-based Stevia instead of saccharin and aspartame. The tick here is to limit them (especially the chemicals) and not beat myself up if I indulge every once in a while.
  1. Sugar hides in a lot of unexpected places. When I started paying attention to my sugar intake, I was shocked to see where it was lurking. From soups to yogurts to sauces, even your savory packaged and restaurant foods probably have more added sugar than you realize. Start looking at the sugar content when looking at nutritional information and you’ll be one step closer to making smarter sugar decisions.

So with that, here are 10 snacks that have helped me through my two-week challenge.  Just make sure to read the packaging before buying and make sure you get a version without added sugars!

  1. Cut up pineapple and shredded coconut
  2. Frozen grapes
  3. Trail mix with dark chocolate chips
  4. Oatmeal made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, and dried fruit
  5. Light yogurt (but make sure you check the sugar count and the ingredients! Not all yogurts are created equal. I suggest Siggi’s if you want a flavored yogurt, but your better off buying plain and flavoring yourself with fresh fruit)
  6. 100% fruit popsicle
  7. Banana ice cream – you just blend a frozen banana until it’s smooth. You can add cocoa powder or peanut butter for a little extra punch
  8. Fat free pudding
  9. Enlightened Ice Cream (this can be found in health food stores)
  10. A spoonful of natural peanut butter. (or on a banana, or apple, or celery, etc)

How do you beat your sugar cravings??

Listen To Your Body; It Knows You Best

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Last week, I was so excited to get back into my workouts. I signed up for classes early and if you saw my post on Friday, you know I had a workout planned for every day of the week. Here’s how my week progressed:

-After my HIIT (high intensity interval training) on Monday, I was sore, but I felt great.

-Tuesday was a dance class and afterwards, the soreness from the previous day persisted but I still felt good.

-Wednesday was a full body rowing class and at this point, I started to feel a little draggy. The soreness hadn’t subsided at all and I felt like my energy wasn’t where it had been on Monday.

-Thursday was yoga, which is usually a stress free workout for me where I can let go, stretch out my body and feel great. This week, I felt agitated when I couldn’t get the poses right, I kept losing my balance, and my sore muscles made it hard to hold the poses correctly.

-Friday was one of my favorite classes, barre. I was psyched to go because it had been awhile but as soon as we started, I felt the pain. My muscles ached so badly that I couldn’t keep up. I was sweating more than usual and my feet kept slipping. I felt pretty miserable.

I’ve heard people say ‘you never regret a workout’ or ‘there’s no such thing as overtraining’. But I couldn’t disagree more. The most important thing when engaging in any type of fitness routine is to listen to your body and know your limits. The results will be better workouts and it will help you avoid injury. Yes, you should push yourself and yes, your workouts should be a challenge, but your body will tell you when you’ve crossed that threshold.

After more than a week off from my regular workout routine, I should have started out slower and given myself more rest. My yoga class on Thursday should have been a sign to myself that I needed a day off. This week, I’m going to be a little smarter, rest more, and listen to my body when it’s trying to tell me something.

Friday Faves

Happy Friday! As expected, this was a long and full week after such a nice relaxing vacation. I was glad to get back to the real world though and enjoyed feeling productive and healthy again. Instead of my faves for this week, I thought I’d share some photos from our vacation in Vegas. Enjoy!

Workouts for the week –

Monday – 30 minute express HIIT drill workout at Pace for Success

Tuesday – Broadway Cardio at Broadway Bodies

Wednesday – Express Rowing at Row House

Thursday – Yoga at Yogamaya 

Friday – Barre at FlyBarre (part of FlyWheel)

Saturday and Sunday – Must needed REST

Have a great weekend!!

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26 years after Seinfeld first aired (1989) and he’s still hilarious. I felt like I was seeing a legend.

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Beautiful Chihuly ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel.

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Cirque du Soleil costumes up close and personal.

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Having some fun at the Neon Museum

What’s Your Motivation?

When it comes to motivation, there really isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. People are motivated by different ideas and different messages. Some respond well to extrinsic motivation – when behavior is driven by external rewards like money, fame, or praise. And some people respond better to intrinsic motivation – when a behavior is driven by internal rewards. For many people, it’s a mixture of both, but most of us lean more towards one or the other. One of the keys to being successful in anything is understanding what motivates you so you can use that to your advantage.

When I look to Pinterest for motivation (as I often do) I get a great mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Depending on the day and how I’m feeling, I might lean more towards one or another but I find these words of encouragement are great mantras that I use to keep me going strong when I need an extra push.

Here are some of my favorites:

Intrinsic

intrinsic

Extrinsic

extrinsic

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, has a great little quiz to help you figure out which way you lean. You can check it out here.

What type of motivations works best for you?

Happy New Year + SMARTer Resolutions

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Happy New Year everyone! Whether you were relaxing at home or out on the town, I hope you had a wonderful New Year and holiday season. I had an amazing vacation with Jared to Vegas and Dallas (two cities that always go together!) We gambled a little, saw Jerry Seinfeld, ate a lot of delicious food, and caught up with friends. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things after a long time off, but I’m so excited to be back on my blog, back at work, and back to my normal workout routine.

With 2015 finally here, it seems like everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions and I’m no exception.

It can be tempting to make sweeping resolutions like “be a better friend” or “eat healthy and exercise” but I’ve always found that being specific with my resolutions (and goals in general) is the best way to keep them. One easy way to think about resolutions is to ask yourself if they’re SMART. SMART is an acronym that’s often used in project management, but it can really be used for any type of goal. It stands for:

S – specific

M – measurable

A – achievable

R – results focused

T – time bound

If your resolutions fit these criteria, you’re off to a great start! If not, how can you break them down so that they’re SMARTer?

Jared and I decided to start of the year on a physically clean slate by cutting out caffeine and alcohol for the first two weeks of the year. Depending on how our bodies feel at the end of two weeks, we may add them back into our diets, but in a more limited way. I’ve decided to challenge myself a step further and cut out added sugar for the two weeks, as well. The American Heart Association suggests women have no more than 25 grams of sugar a day which is surprisingly low. It’s going to be tough, but my goal is to stick to 25 grams daily for two weeks and see how I feel at the end of it.

This resolution is:

Specific – cut down on sugar

Measurable – 25 grams a day

Achievable – It will be tough, but it’s totally in my control

Results Focused – By January 19th, I’ll hopefully have less sugar cravings and more energy

Time Bound – 2 weeks

What are some of your resolutions for 2015? Are they SMART?

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

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My vacation is in full swing and so far, I’ve been enjoying every moment of it. Everyone needs a break once in a while and I’m trying to really turn off work and relax. On Thursday, Jared and I leave for a 5 night trip to Vegas, and I can’t wait!

I know for me, it’s easy for diet and exercise to fall to the wayside when I’m away. I don’t beat myself up over it because you SHOULD indulge, that’s what vacations are for. But falling off the wagon completely always makes me feel worse, so I try to get a bit of exercise in when I can. For me, it’s all about preparation. When I’m home, my workouts are in the calendar so I do the same thing on vacation. Maybe not as specific, but I plan in advance which days I’m going to work out and which days I have off. I call the hotel ahead of time to find out if there’s a gym. If there isn’t one, I decide ahead of time what ‘in the room’ workout I’m going to do (for this trip, I’m using a barre video from Gina at The Fitnessista). It takes a little extra planning, but I’m always glad I did it. And everyone is ALWAYS impressed when they hear you worked out over vacation!

**Click here for Gina’s awesome workout!

Friday Faves

I’m so pumped for this weekend! I’ve got a weekend full of family beginning with my brother and his girlfriend spending the night at our apartment, Jazz at Lincoln Center with my parents on Saturday, and my family Hanukkah party on Sunday. I’m taking time off the next two weeks and I can’t wait to rest and relax before the New Year.

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I LOVE colorful healthy food and this simple stir-fry always fits the bill!

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Celebrating Hanukkah with the Empire State Building

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Manhattan Mini Storage is known in New York for their hilarious and spot on ads. This is one of my favorites.

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The most amazingly epic engagement photo. Shot by the brilliant photographer Ed Hafizov at Zorz Studios

Happy Hanukkah! +3 Tips for Staying on Track this Season

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Happy Hanukkah everyone! Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the decorations, the festivities, the candles, and of course, the latkes and donuts.

This month, my monthly pot-luck dinner with the girls fell on the first night of Hanukkah and I was thrilled.  I immediately offered to make latkes. They make your entire house smell like fried oil, but it’s always worth it. Our dinner included latkes, pistachio chicken, an apple and cranberry salad, plus a yummy tofu dish and sides of brussel sprouts and broccoli. We ended the meal with hot-from-the-skillet munchkins. It was a feast and we enjoyed every single bite.

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There was a time when I meal like this would have caused me a ton of stress. First of all, how are you supposed to track all of this food? And more importantly, aren’t the latkes and donuts going to completely derail my diet? But I look forward to them every single year, so what am I supposed to do?

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I’m a big fan of tracking calories and nutrition and there can be so much stress when you know you can’t track everything perfectly. I’ve learned a couple of lessons over the years to help me stay on track (and stay sane) in these types of situations. Because at the end of the day, celebrations should be just that – CELEBRATIONS! Not added stress in our lives. Here are my tips to help you track your way through the holidays.

  1. Be aware of portion sizes and make your best nutrition estimate based on what the dishes are and whatever food database you choose to use.
  1. Ask your friends for their recipes and use them to track what you ate. Again, you’ll have to be aware of portion size and try to estimate the best you can. I do this one all the time and have collected some of my favorite recipes this way!
  1. This one might be a shocker, but consider disregarding your tracking for one night. Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast and lunch and kept my snacks minimal. I didn’t have time for the gym because the dinner was at my apartment so I tried to get extra steps in. And I relaxed. I kept my portions reasonable and I tracked what I could (like the latkas, which I made and the donuts, which I got the recipe for) and this morning, I’m right back to tracking again.

Not every tip will work for everyone and that’s ok. If you have an all-or-nothing personality, tip #3 might not be your best choice. If you’re going to a party where you don’t know people well enough to ask for recipes, tip #2 might not work for you. But remember, what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. And enjoy the holidays!

Friday Faves

Happy Friday everyone! I felt a little off all week because I couldn’t work out at all due to an injury. The difference in my energy levels was really amazing. I’m doing better though and looking forward to working out tomorrow at one of my FAVORITE dance class, Broadway Bodies.  Also on the agenda for this weekend is the Brooklyn Winter Flea + Holiday Market and a beer pong tournament to support a good friend and her Team in Training team. They’re raising money for cancer research, so if you’re in New York City and looking for something to do, come join us!

Have a great weekend!

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I love getting gifts ready for Hanukkah!

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I just bought these rain boots and they were just in time for the gross weather this week.

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There’s a very good chance there will be at least 1 picture of Christmas in NYC until December 25th.

**None of the links in this post have been sponsored. All opinions are my own.