Tag Archives: health

From the Archives: Our Unhealthy Attachment to Volume

This photo has nothing to do with this post, or with food, but it's a good inspiration to get outside and be active!

Maintaining a healthy weight is, for the most part, about what you eat. Yes, working out and being active definitely helps; but, for most people, food is about 80% of weight maintenance. Unfortunately, we’ve developed a really unhealthy relationship, as a country, to food.

From the post I wrote in May, 2011 to kick off my “Back to Basics” nutrition series.

“We’ve been mislead about how to have a healthy relationship with food. For some reason, we’ve been taught to think that “good” or “healthy” eating and nutrition is about getting the largest volume of food into our stomachs with the least amount of calories. I am not sure where this trend started, but it’s definitely perpetuated in our food marketing, media, and a lot of nutrition advice.  Our society’s idea of nutrition has become about how much sheer volume we can pack into ourselves without “exceeding calories.” Read More…


From the Archives: Your Body Isn’t a Game

No matter how hard you try to crunch those numbers, eating a salad doesn’t make that ice cream have less calories.

“So, stop trying to min-max your diet like it’s a character sheet.

I can’t tell you the number of questions I get about random, weird “diet tricks” and nutrition. These things pretty invariably come from people who want to keep eating an unhealthy diet while griping that they can’t lose weight and keep it off.  Truth for those people: you know what you need to do, so stop trying to play the numbers.” Read More…

What’s My Magic Diet?

I get asked quite a lot about my diet, and what I eat that keeps me energetic and healthy looking.  The truth is, it’s not any one thing. Heck, it’s not even all about the food. Yes, you read that right. As much as I go on and on about healthy food, just eating healthy alone isn’t really enough to keep someone at the top of their game (though it’s a considerable improvement on eating like crap, of course). It’s about all around lifestyle. Would I look and feel like this if I ate as I do now, but smoked? Or, didn’t exercise? Or, drank excessively? Probably not.

All of these things work together for me. Eating healthy gives me energy, good skin, boosts my immune system, and protects me from many illnesses. It also keeps me at a good weight (most people’s weight is 80-90% about what they eat, and only 10-20% about how active they are: you can’t out-train a bad diet). The energy I have makes being active fun and doable. Being active, in turn, generally keeps me more interested in healthy foods and cuts down on unhealthy cravings, and it keeps my metabolism boosted for calorie burning.

There is no magic bullet, no single thing that works for most people. It’s an over-all lifestyle that creates a cycle where good habits beget other good habits.  I’d love to read some of your thoughts on integral parts of your lifestyle that keep you healthy!

I’m a Chef, Not a Miracle Worker

Whenever someone new hears that I am a chef, I immediately get “I wish I lived at your house!” This is followed up by “I’d love to eat gourmet meals every night!” and “I’d be so much thinner/fitter/healthier if I lived with a chef, because you could make things I like healthier!”

Here’s the hard truth: I am a person with two jobs, both of which are fairly time-consuming. My fiance’ is a full-time student and works. And, I am a chef, not a magician.

What do these things mean? They mean that we largely eat simple meals we design to fit our schedules, not 4-course dinners. They mean that, just like pretty much everyone else in the world, I don’t have unlimited time to sit around preparing complicated food. They mean that we often eat things that are healthy, filling, and reasonably good, but not super-gourmet awesome. And, they mean that I cannot turn unhealthy food magically into healthy food, so living with me is unlikely to give anyone who has bad eating habits better ones  just because they eat at my table.

Each week, I post what we’re  eating at our house in my On the Menu series. Sometimes, you’ll see something super fun and fiddly, but about 98% of the time, you’ll see food. Healthy food, but not fancy food. Slow cookers, batch cooking, and planning ahead means that we cook 95% of our meals at home, and that we have reasonably good food to eat; but, we don’t have the time or budget for what most people consider gourmet food every night.  Can I cook gourmet food? Yes. I do it every week for my clients. Which, like most working stiffs, leaves me precious little time to cook it for us. Instead, I try to use the time and money we have wisely by planning basic, flavorful, SIMPLE meals that don’t take hours on end to make or the entirety of our paychecks to buy.

It also means we eat a lot of “weird” foods. These foods are not actually weird, they’re just not typically American.  And I certainly don’t spend the time I do have to plan, shop, and cook finding exotic ways to mimic unhealthy food with “healthier” options. We just eat healthier foods. Meaning that if someone doesn’t like vegetables and refuses to eat them, living with me isn’t going to make them magically eat vegetables. It’s just going to mean they go hungry and get pissed off a lot. We know, because we’ve dealt with this in former roommates. I don’t find ways to hide vegetables in cake, macaroni and cheese, or pizza. We just eat those unhealthy foods less often, and opt for things like lentil soup and crustless quiche far more frequently.

Could I figure out a way to make mac & cheese healthier? Yes. Actually, I don’t have to figure it out, because I already know how–and it’s incredibly time consuming (making a squash and yam puree isn’t quick, for example). There are some dishes that don’t take extra effort to make a lot healthier, like my meatloaf and lasagna, so of course I do that. I am just not going to go acres out of my way to do it when I could just opt for something that is naturally healthy and less work.

People need to stop looking for excuses as to why they eat poorly. Being a chef doesn’t change reality–either you make healthy meal preparation a priority or you don’t. If you have other priorities, that’s fine–we all have our own lives. But, me being a chef doesn’t mean that I somehow have less to do than other folks, or that I just walk into the kitchen and food transports itself in from some alternate food dimension and onto a china plate on my dinner table. I probably have some advantages in that I am faster at chopping vegetables because I do it more, and that I probably have more recipes at hand; but, the reality is that most of my more advanced cooking skills aren’t deployed at home all that regularly.  Almost anyone can read and execute a slow-cooker recipe. And no chef I know doubles as Houdini in the kitchen.

A Dinner from My Nephew: Wild Rainbow Trout

My youngest nephew is quite a fisherman. He lives several states away from me, though, so I rarely get the chance to eat his catches, something I lament regularly. I try to fish with him whenever I get back home, and if I had him around, I’d fish a whole lot more here in VA. I’ve watched him grow up with a fishing pole in his hand, a proud smile on his face with every catch. He’s gone from randomly tossing a line in the water at age 5ish to an accomplished, seasoned fisherman at the ripe old age of 17 (how did that happen–man, I am getting old fast!).

Last time I was home, he sent me home with a cooler of frozen, vacuum packed rainbow trout, venison, and wild pork (yep, he and his brother also hunt!).

When we pulled the first package a couple weeks ago, they were beautiful:

We wanted to grill them, so I stuffed them with onions and herbs, and put them on skewers, then rubbed the outside with olive oil, salt, and pepper:

And onto the grill with fresh sweet corn and homemade ciabatta bread:

We put them right over the hottest coals for about 7 minutes a side. Don’t forget to brush the grill with oil first, or they’ll stick and that’s just a mess you don’t want to have to deal with. They came off the grill perfectly, with crispy skin and fully-cooked, roasted meat:

To top off this all-local meal, we sliced tomatoes and basil from the garden, then topped with some local feta cheese:

At the end of the meal, all that was left were the bones:

I can’t wait to make more of this fish. It was beautiful–nutty, smokey, no fishy flavor at all. It was even better because it was wild-caught, responsibly, by someone with a passion for what they do. Thanks, Josh, for the fish and the memories that go with it.

And now, I need to find a place to fish that doesn’t require a boat, because I really miss this kind of fresh fish. My current fishing holes aren’t so productive.

Shaking It Up: The Lifestyle Rut

You know I am a huge proponent of fitness and healthy eating, that I am a Chef and fitness instructor, that I take my lifestyle seriously for both personal and medical reasons. What I don’t talk about often is that it’s not always easy to stay motivated to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching MMA kickboxing, pilates, spin..they’re all great classes, and it’s wonderful to see people get into fitness and improve their bodies. I am there to motivate the people in my classes, or the people eating my meals, to stay on track, to push harder for a better life.

But, sometimes I still need outside motivation, too, and it can be difficult to find. There are great instructors who motivate me, like my friend and fellow Y instructor Anne, but given how long I am already at the gym teaching, it’s usually difficult to find time to take another huge chunk of time out of my day to hit her classes as often as I’d like. So, I was in a “lifestyle rut,” and have been for several months. I was doing everything right out of habit, but not doing much to improve or push, either in eating or in fitness.

Then, I stumbled upon Bodyrock.tv. I realize this is going to sound like an advertisement, but it’s not. This site has given me my motivation back. I’ve added their workouts in each morning that I don’t teach. On days I teach in the evenings, I do one of the shorter (4-12 miute) ones, just to kick up my metabolism. And, I am taking some of her diet challenges, too. I eat incredibly well most of the time already, but there are some things I need to tweak, and this is really helping me stay on track with it. I’m already seeing and feeling a difference, and it’s only been about a week.  So, starting next week, you’ll see some Bodyrock.tv-inspired recipes here, too! We didn’t do the meal plan around it this week, but Thadd’s being very supportive, and so we’re going to use some of the diet challenges in the coming weeks. He’ll need far more calories than me, of course, so lots of snacks and smoothies for him!

Here’s the starting point:

Yeah, crappy webcam. Sorry. Anyway, this is where I started with the new motivation. At 39, I am fit and feel good, but I am excited that I already feel better. There have been a few other changes in my lifestyle, as well, including being a lot more rigorous about not eating calcium (or at least as little as I can manage) at breakfast. It’s one of those dumb little things I always forget about, but it makes my adrenal meds less effective when I eat it within about 3 hours of taking them. So, this has helped, too. I’ll check back in a month or two, and see if I am still motivated, and where it’s gotten me.

I’d love to hear about your diet and fitness challenges. How do you stay motivated?

On the Menu

I am not going to bother backlogging my meal plans for the time my internet was down, so we’ll just pick up with this week’s. It’s August, so that means a lot of fresh produce and veggies!


Monday: Black Bean Chicken. This is a recipe from my friend, Bethany, that is great for days when you just don’t have time to cook. It’s done in the slow-cooker, is healthy, and makes a pile of leftovers (which is good for us, since Thadd’s taking his lunches to work).

Tuesday: Chickpea saag over brown rice. Thadd’s night to cook. He’s really perfected this Indian dish, and while it’s usually served as a side, it works great for us as a main course. And, talk about getting in your veggies!

Wednesday: Crustless quiche and tuna salad sandwhiches. A great meal for hot days, crustless quiche is fantastic served right out of the over, or cold. It’s also a great way to use up those little bits of leftover veggies, which we’ll be doing here. It’ll be sort of a Quiche Lorraine, since we have a lot of greens and tomatoes. Serving it with tuna salad on the bread Thadd made from our grain-CSA whole wheat (locally & organically grown whole wheat, freshly ground). I have to say, this stuff has totally converted me to using fresh-ground grains. It’s so much better than pre-ground that I don’t have words. He made tortillas out of it last week, and they were just spectacular.

Thursday: Lasagna with salad and garlic foccacia bread. The lasagna was made earlier this week, when I was running the over anyway. It’s got all kinds of goodies in it, from grass-fed beef to fresh tomatoes and greens. The bread is another one of Thadd’s latest creations using some flavored oils we made out of our dehydrated tomatoes and herbs. It’s so good.

Friday: Thai Peanut Noodles with Scallops. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t leave a ton of leftovers. We’ll be swamped with leftovers by this point in the week. Scallops were on sale.

Saturday: Grilled fish, with sliced tomatoes and Some Other Veggie.  We’ve got rainbow trout to use up (be watching for the grilled trout recipe I did a while ago to show up in the next week or so!), tomatoes in abundances, and I am hitting the market Saturday.

Sunday: Leftovers.

Lunches: leftovers, sardine & tomato salad lettuce wraps for me, Greek yogurt with fruit. Breakfasts: eggs, oats with coconut milk, leftovers. Snacks: raw milk, fruit, nuts, cheeses, boiled eggs, veggies.

What’s on your menu?