Tag Archives: nutrition

FitMentality Podcast | Episode 2

The FitMentality podcast is up and running. Listen here!

This episode we welcome my good friend, Sham Sanghera, of Inspired Wellness. We chat about things to consider about when food is pasteurized, as well as why we choose to eat organic when we can.

Please enjoy, share, and comment to let us know what you think!

 

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Why I Changed The Way I Eat

This is how I felt about not being able to figure out why I wasn't feeling so great.

This is how I felt about not being able to figure out why I wasn’t feeling so great.

 

This is a story all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down.

Seriously, it is. I felt like the baby in the picture above; frustrated.

I want to share a personal experience that you, my friend, may identify with. “But I don’t know you, how can we be friends?!” Well, reader, the fact that you are reading this post means that you visited fitmentality.com. The fact that you are here means you, at the very least, somewhat care about living a strong and healthy life. I also share this interest. This makes us friends.

Let’s hop in our FM version of the Delorean. We’ll go back in time to 2005. I was in college, loving life and preparing myself for the real world. I was happy, working hard, and excited about the future. I would study hard, workout hard, and try my best to enjoy what was supposed to be “the best years of my life.” I had no complaints, other than my own lack of time management skills that would lead to me making multiple promises to myself to never procrastinate and have to write a paper the night before it was due. Just don’t tell my parents that. It’ll be our little secret ūüėČ See? We are keeping secrets for each other. Like I said, we are friends.

Then, something began to happen. I started to notice that periodically, my body would feel exhausted and achy. I would go through periods of time that for a few days I would want to do little else than lay on the couch. After some time would pass by, I would feel better. ¬†At first, I figured “oh, I just got sick, it’s okay. It happens.” It’s true, we do get sick, and it does happen. However, I didn’t have many other symptoms along with feeling this way. Also, it would happen almost regularly, every couple months. Not only did it make it tough to do the things I needed to do during these episodes, I would need to completely abandon any physical activity I had planned. This was more than an inconvenience. I wasn’t able to force workouts, either. Being able to be active is something I cherish. When it was taken away from me, it was more than “aw man, oh well.”

I went to the doctor, and found nothing. My blood sugar was fine. My thyroid was fine. No other diseases were found. I was grateful¬†that this was the case. However, I still didn’t have answers.¬†This went on for years. Without warning, I would be down for the count every month or two, for a few days. “What is going on hereeeee?!?!?!” I asked myself. Now, there are folks who live with conditions worse than this on a daily basis. I respect very much when people with difficult situations, find the strength necessary to achieve their goals. I don’t pretend to think that I had it worse than anyone. It was simply a personal struggle.

Fast forward to a year and a half ago. I was getting my internet surf on, while listening to ESPN in the background. I forget who the report was about, but I remember hearing about a professional baseball player who would go through periods of time where exhaustion would keep him from practice. The report stated that he even fainted during a practice while feeling this way. They explained symptoms that he would have periodically. I wasn’t paying full attention to the TV, but when I heard this, I immediately stopped what I was doing. The report went on to talk about how the baseball player discovered he had an intolerance to gluten. When he started eating gluten free, he started to feel better. I quickly turned my attention to the TV and had a light bulb go off in my head. “OMG, what if that’s what’s happening to MEEEEE?!?!?!?!” I’m not sure if I actually said ¬†“OMG,” but i wouldn’t doubt it. I was pretty excited. I immediately started looking into this way of eating as a lifestyle. I began to do some research and was on my way to give it a shot.

After a few months of eating this way, I did notice a difference. I felt less bloated throughout the day. I would still feel the way I described before, but there would be longer periods of time in between. Over time, this would happen less and less often. I also realized I would either get less upper respiratory infections (colds, etc) than before, or I would get better quicker. The more time went on, the more time would pass between feeling like a punch to my health’s face. I have been eating this way for about a year and a half. I feel great and I have been able to stay more consistent with being active. I don’t pretend to be Superman, but I do notice a difference. Thank you, ESPN.

This doesn’t mean I think you should immediately drop the piece of bread you are eating. I don’t mean for the reader to think that I feel that everyone should eat gluten free. I am simply sharing an example of when I wasn’t feeling all that great, and decided to take an active approach to trying to feel better. How do you feel? Have you been wondering if maybe you could feel a little better, more often? Taking a close look at your fitness level and your eating habits could be a great place to start.

To be clear, when you don’t feel good, talk to your doctor. I am not advocating for us all to be our own doctors. Modern medicine is incredible and should not be overlooked. Always check with a health care professional when looking to make diet changes. However, there is nothing wrong with knowing that eating better and getting more active, more¬†consistently,¬† just may help us feel a little more awesome.

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Compare yourself, to yourself.

Many times when we learn about someone who has reached a similar goal that we have, we compare ourselves to them. Or maybe they seem to be farther along in reaching that goal than we seem to be.

It’s natural to compare yourself to someone else. We do it all of the time. Many times without doing so on purpose. It’s healthy to gain inspiration from those who seem to have a better grasp on their fitness, or seem to be more consistent with their nutrition. However, be careful not to sink too far into the “they are so much better at this than I am, how can I even compare? That way of thinking doesn’t help.

Instead, feel encouraged that at some point they made a decision to slowly but surely improve their nutrition and fitness. Little by little, they got to the point where they are. Maybe you are comparing yourself to someone who works out five times a week and you wish you could do so. Don’t feel discouraged; take inspiration from their commitment and use that to fuel you to add one more workout to the week.

Maybe you have a friend who compared to you, is night and day with the food that they eat. You wonder “how do they eat so well? I ate In n Out three times in two weeks!” Instead of getting down on yourself and focusing on how different your diets are, spend your effort on improving your own diet just a little bit this week. Add one more vegetable every day this week. Just one, in addition to what you are already eating. You can do this by going to the store and buying a bag of a frozen vegetable or vegetables. All you need to do is pop a serving in the microwave and you are good to go. Add one more fruit each day. If you already have one piece of fruit each day, the next time you are the store, buy a few pieces of another fruit. If you already eat a few bananas a week, buy 5 apples also, and eat one a day. Baby steps.

Organic? Grass Fed? Free Range? Stayed at a 5 star resort before it made it on to your plate?

Yes, these are great things to consider when buying food. However, don’t worry about them if you have had trouble having a balanced diet to begin with. Improve the situation you have already consistently followed. Not eating many veggies during the week and then jumping to organic only everything, is a dramatic jump. I would say, slowly work in more veggies and fruits on a consistent basis (organic is great, if you can), then once you get that under control, put more effort into where you food is coming from and how it’s treated.

Gaining inspiration from others is great, but that is where the comparison should stop. We can learn from each other and put into action tips that have worked for others. Beyond that, it’s YOU that matters. What changes can YOU make? How can YOU keep these changes consistent? What can you realistically do, that will slowly move you to a stronger and healthier life?

Personally, I gain lots of inspiration from friends who are more fit or eat better than I do. I try as hard as I can to not get discouraged that I am not at their level, but take the inspiration that I feel from them and use that to make the gradual changes that are applicable in my own life.

The only comparison you need to focus on is how committed you used to be about fitness and nutrition, and what changes are going to be necessary to move beyond and consistently into the future.

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Healthy FitMentality Pancakes!!!

 

I am on a constant crusade to prove that just because you want to eat good, nutritious food, doesn’t mean you love food less than others who aren’t quite as concerned with the nutrient value of their food. Yes, I try to eat clean as often as possible. Yes, I eat gluten free as often as possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love food!! I’ve posted and written about healthier takes on pizzas, chips, smoothies and even protein bars.

The other day, I had a hankerin’ for some pancakes. Many of my friends love going out for breakfast and getting a big pile of pancakes. I love breakfast, as well. However, since I started eating gluten free, and being more aware of what food I put in my body, I hadn’t had pancakes for quite a while. Knowing that one can make almost any food they love, with alternative ingredients, I set out to bake some gluten free, not too ingredient dense, pancakes. The result was awesome.

The term “healthy” or “healthier” is subjective. I’ve written about this and it’s something I think about often. However, compared to most commonly found pancake mix, it’s pretty clear this is a (if at the very least) health-IER take on pancakes.

Here is an example of an ingredient list to a common pancake mix found in most supermarkets.

ENRICHED BLEACHED FLOUR (BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), SUGAR, LEAVENING (SODIUM BICARBONATE, SODIUM ALUMINUM PHOSPHATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE.

I don’t even know what some of those ingredients are, therefore, I would rather they not be in my body. However, you be the judge.

 

I looked online for recipes with the ingredients I knew I wanted to use (oatmeal and almond flour) and made some tweaks.

 

The following is the recipe for FitMentality Pancakes:

 

Ingredients:

Organic Lactose-free Milk (1 Cup)

Oatmeal (1 Cup)

Protein Powder (2 scoops)

Almond Flour (3/4 Cup)

Organic Free Range Eggs (4)

Sea Salt (1 tsp)

Baking Powder (1 tsp)

Organic Blueberries (1 cup, or so)

Coconut Oil

Cinnamon (optional)

The amounts don’t have to be exact, but this recipe worked well.

Instructions:

Turn your stove top on to about medium-ish heat.

 

While the pan is warming up, get your mix on! First, in a mixing bowl, combine the milk and oatmeal. Little by little, stir in the rest of the ingredients. The blueberries I used were thawed from being frozen, so I made sure to stir them in last, as to not make the batter too watery from the melted berry juice. With fresh blueberries, or any other berry, this would be less of a concern.

Mixing blueberries into the batter

Not too complicated, right? That’s one of the best parts of this recipe.

Once it’s all mixed together, put a bit of coconut oil into the hot pan. You get to decide how much to use. In my case, I used raw organic coconut oil that was a bit solid in the container. I took out a small chunk with a butter knife and melted it on the pan. Then, with a small cup or measuring cup, pour some of the batter into the pan, just like you would any other pancake. You’ll notice the batter is a bit more watery than most pancake batters, but never fear. The batter firms up once it starts to cook. How much batter per pancake is up to you. It depends on the actual size of the pancakes that you would like. In my case, I made some pretty big ones, that covered most of the surface of the pan.

Pouring batter onto the pan.

 

How do you know when to flip? Good question. That is something all breakfast cooks have had to deal with since the beginning of time. Or, at least, since pancakes were invented. A good rule of thumb, is to wait until the edges of the pancake seem to firm up. Also, if you give the pan a shake back and forth, and the center seems to be less watery, then you can try to flip the pancake over. You’ll notice, as well, that if you are able to slide your spatula under the pancake without it falling apart, then the firmness is about right. If you do not follow the previous advice, and try to slide the spatula under the pancake when it is still too watery, it just won’t work. When you are able to pick up the pancake in one piece on the spatula, do the best you can to turn it upside down, and still land IN the pan. It cooks much slower on the floor.

Once you have flipped the pancake and have given it a few minutes to cook on that side, it will be done! Put it on to an empty plate and repeat with the rest of the batter. When you are done, you get a serious pile of good quality flap jacks.

 

 

 

You can tweak the recipe in any way you like. You can use different types of berries, or even use different types of milk. The taste will just be a bit different depending on the substitutions you make. These pancakes don’t taste exactly the same as the ones you make from batter bought at the store, but I still think they taste good. An almond and oatmeal base is right up my alley. There are also different types of flour you can use. In the future, I will try to make these with a Quinoa flour. If you would like, you can add some sugar to the batter, if you wanted it to be a bit sweeter.

I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon and drizzled some honey over the final product. It.was.amazing.

Try it out!

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Can Food Affect My Mood?

I do not own this image. If you do, and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

Can food effect your mood?

First, that phrase rhymes, and that is kind of funny.

Second, yes, it can. Studies have shown that eating certain foods can effect the chemical and physiological functions in our brains. We don’t know exactly how this happens, but we know enough to try a few things that seem to work.

Before I get into the examples, I want to make a point. You’ll notice how the examples of the foods to eat for this topic, are already what we have heard we should be eating. It’s important to note that eating clean, nutrition foods (as opposed to over processed, fast foods) improve our health in general. Health, in a general sense, already encompasses all of the specific health examples that we would like to improve, individually. Food affecting your mood in a positive way, is just another reason to add to the million other reasons to choose good, whole foods. Eating right, allows your body to do it’s job.

Ok, enough philosophical stuff (which I believe is important to highlight), let’s get to the actual food examples!

Don’t be too scared of all carbohydrates: ¬†Tryptophan is a non essential amino acid, found in most protein rich foods. When it enters the brain, more¬†serotonin¬†is produced. As we know (or are about to learn), serotonin elevates our mood. Fish and Vitamin D have been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. So where do the carbohydrates come into the equation? I’ll tell you, my friend. Even though tryptophan is found in many protein rich foods, other amino acids are more easily transported to the brain. When you eat carbohydrates, they seem to help tryptophan get to your brain. Therefore, improving mood. If you were to go TOO low on carbohydrates, this would negatively effect the amount of tryptophan that would get to your brain, which may make you feel like this ūüė¶ .

If you have a friend or family member who cut out almost all carbs from their diet and seemed to not be in the greatest mood. Mayyyybe this is why. Make sure you make smart choices of where your carbs do come from. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains will give you the carbs your body needs, and will also contribute other nutrients and fiber as well.

Omega 3 fatty acids: Studies have shown that Omega 3s may help protect against depression because of the affect they have on neurotransmission in the brain. This hasn’t been a directly proven link, but foods such as fish, flaxseed and walnuts have other health benefits as well. Might as well give it a shot!

Eat breakfast:¬†Studies have shown that eating breakfast not only helps more energy and better memory throughout the day, it can also positively affect our mood. Here is another one. We all know we should be eating breakfast. If you don’t; start. If you already do, good job, champ.

Folate and B12: A spanish study found a correlation in low intake of folate for men, and women with a low intake of vitamin B12, with depression. Whether these low levels of vitamins lead to depression, or are depressed people eating less of these nutrients, remains to be seen. However, it still is a good idea to get enough of these nutrients.  Folate can be found in nuts, fruits and especially dark green vegetables. You can find B12 in lean animal products.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps the brain produce serotonin. How much you need, depends on man factors, including where you live. One recommendation is to shoot for 600 IU (international units) a day, from food. Vitamins from food are always better than from a supplement. However, I still believe multi vitamins are a good idea.

Check your caffeine intake: Caffeine can make depression worse for some that have it, depending on how sensitive they are to it. Also, if you consume too much, or too late in the day, this can affect your sleep. Not good sleep = not good mood. I’m not good at math, but I know that equation is true. If you’re at risk for depression, chill out on the caffeine for a few weeks and see how you feel.

“But if I don’t have caffeine in the morning, don’t talk to me cause’ I”ll be in a bad mood.” If you were thinking that as you read the previous paragraph, then maybe this is just the right advice for you ūüėČ .

Chocolate: I know some readers were thinking “Yeah yeah, get to the CHOCOLATE, that’s good for mood right?! That’s an excuse to eat chocolate, right?! Give me a reason to eat more chocolate!!!”

Don’t lie, I know some people were close to thinking that.

Actually, yes, chocolate seems to be linked to better mood other than simply for the reason that it makes you happy because you like the taste. However, don’t go finding any chocolate you can, and shoving it in your mouth just yet.

Make sure to choose dark chocolate, to get the most health benefits. The higher the cocoa content in the dark chocolate you choose, the better for you. Polyphenols have been shown to be linked to improved cognitive function, and they are found in high amounts in dark chocolate. Chocolate also contains¬†neurotransmitters¬†called,¬†phenylethylamines.¬†Phenylethylamines promote feelings of attraction and giddiness (teehee). And, for what it’s worth, chocolate and sex have been shown to activate the same parts of the brain (another appropriate place for the phrase “teehee”).

There you go. Another example of how eating a balanced diet of real foods, positively effects your body’s ability to function how it should.

Here’s to taking control of our lives and making sure we are in a good mood as often as possible!

I do not own this image. If you do, and would like me to take it down, please let me know.

Reference:

Elaine Magee. “How Food Affects Your Moods.” Web MD, 15 December 2009. Web. 22 April 2012.

Other random places I have read information but can’t remember exactly where, woops.

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What to eat at night: Guidelines for eating before bed/sleep

 

It happens to all of us. We already had dinner and it’s getting later in the night. We notice we are still hungry!

 

“But I already ate dinner!” You may tell yourself. Hopefully not out loud if others are around you, because that might make you sound like a weirdo. Or maybe you think to yourself “Aw man, I’m hungry but I don’t know what to eat, I wish FitMentality would share some ideas about what foods to eat at night so that I can see what works best for me.”

 

You probably thought the latter option many times before, word for word. For that, I thank you.

 

Ok, guidelines for eating at night.

 

A few things to avoid

 

Eating too big of a meal too close to bedtime: Think about it. Your body has to put in some serious work to digest all that food from a big meal. Yes, a big meal can leave you feeling tired (as referenced in a previous post about Food Comas, check it out). HOWEVER, this does not mean what you would think it means. Trying to go to sleep for the night right after a big meal is one sure way to lay there and feel uncomfortable enough to keep you from falling asleep, or getting good sleep. Try to have that type of meal at least 3 hours before bed. Struggling to digest food during the night is no fun.

Caffeine:¬†This one is obvious, yes. But we all need a reminder of even obvious things, from time to time. Caffeine gets your central nervous system hyped up, which can get your nerves and thoughts excited. If you’re really sensitive to caffeine, stop drinking anything with it by early afternoon. How long before bed to stop drinking caffeine is really going to be an individual type situation. Trial and error on this one.

Alcohol: But alcohol relaxes us, right? You might think alcohol before bed is no problem because it can make you feel sleep, but you’re missing the big picture, my friend. Alcohol can disrupt your quality of sleep during the entire night. It can cause you to wake up at random times during the night, therefore causing an overall less effective rest. This is why on nights when you threw back too many drinks and you fell asleep fast, you don’t exactly wake up feeling refreshed (even if you aren’t hung over).

Too much liquid too close to bedtime: Captain obvious strikes again. If you catch yourself waking up in the middle of the night to go pee pee or wee wee or tinkle tinkle, then you drank too much liquid too close to bedtime, sport.

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Options for nighttime eating

 

Yogurt with a bit of granola. Get plain or greek yogurt, you don’t need the extra sugar in flavored varieties. Fruit is also a great way to add flavor.

Popcorn: Satisfies your craving for a snack, but not too heavy.

Fruit: The fiber will help keep you full and satisfied.

Cottage Cheese:¬†This one is especially good if you are doing strength training workouts. The protein in cottage cheese is broken down slowly and therefore provides the muscles with protein for a longer period of time, perfect for when you are about to not eat for hours. Even if you aren’t working out, this is still an option. A bit of honey and/or fruit may help if you have trouble with the flavor.

Oatmeal: Sprinkle some cinnamon and add a bit of fruit if you would like. BAM, not just for breakfast, SON! Sorry, I got excited. I like oatmeal.

Warm Milk: It actually does work. Those old wives got it right with this tale.

 

It really depends on what food seems to work best for you. Stay away from eating too greasy/fatty, too many calories and you should be just fine. Keep an eye on the amount you eat and how close it is to bed and how it affected how rested you feel in the morning. Change accordingly.

 

Now, for dancers or people who are active at night, this is a tough situation. For many of us, we have late night practices/sessions/workouts. We come home STARVING. In this case, a small snack before bed may not cut it, depending on how you feel and how long before you go to bed. It happens to me often. I come home ready to eat a whole building and eat everything in my path. Then, I can’t go to sleep for a while because I just ate so much. And therein lies the problem. Oh, life, how tricky you are. What you can try is a protein shake after practice and before bed. It will be easily digestible and the protein will help satisfy your hunger as well as promote recovery for your body.

 

I want to re-iterate that I am not a nutritionist and do not pretend to be. I love nutrition and fitness just as much as I like to share and exchange inspiration with those of similar passions. This is simply me sharing the things I have learned and have applied to my own life, that seem to work well. In the end, we all make our own choices of how we treat our bodies.

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