We’re Leaving Las Vegas
Actually, we left Las Vegas and I’m here to tell all. It was a nice change of pace for us, a re-set for body and mind. For three weeks we were able to focus on nutrition, fitness, and business. Rob and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with my sister and her two dogs, Zoe and Zeus. It certainly didn’t hurt that for a good two plus weeks the skies were blue and the temperatures ranged between 85-93 degrees.
Even though I was ready to ditch the suitcases and get settled into our new home in Bend, I was sad when it came time to pack, load the car, and say goodbye to Chris.
As you know, I’m working towards becoming a health coach. I offered to help my sister on a “reboot.” She wanted to become healthier, and I wanted to help someone become healthier. And on a side note, our condo in Bend would not be available until the first of April. So, off to Vegas we went.
I arrived in Vegas, or more accurately Henderson, with one simple question. Would a plant based, “real” food nutrition program help someone feel better, have more energy, and lose weight?
Nutrition with Real Food
My primary goal was to guide my sister on a path to better nutrition and to help her feel better by preparing three real food meals every day. When I say “real food” I am talking about foods that are in their most natural state possible without added sugar, preservatives, or artificial ingredients and with the least amount of human intervention. At the end of three weeks I hoped that Chris would notice a big enough difference in how she felt that she would be motivated to continue eating real foods.
In addition, the stresses of moving had thrown us off course. We were eating out more frequently, consuming fewer fresh veggies, unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, and my coffee consumption had doubled. Rob wanted to shed a few pounds and I secretly thought I could get him to change a few of his eating habits. I knew we needed a course correction.
Zeus vs Penny
I wasn’t sure we would be able to stay after our first night there. Zeus, a seven year old lab-shepherd mix, was overly rambunctious in his welcome. He was so excited to meet Penny, our small Silky Terrier, that he wouldn’t leave her alone. She was not amused and told him off quite firmly. He cried and scratched at the locked door for hours that first night. In the morning he was pouncing on Penny and chasing her all around. She lashed out and caught Zeus’s ear in her teeth. Even with blood dripping from his ear he was not deterred. As Chris left for work she said, “Please don’t drive back to Oregon today while I’m at work.” I took Penny and Zeus for a walk. With both of them on leashes and the distraction of smelling they pretty much ignored each other for the hour. When we got back to the house they were fine and soon settled on a way to coexist. It’s a good thing they did, because I did not want to leave.
My basic plan was to hydrate first thing in the morning, prepare three meals a day, include healthy snacks, and educate and motivate with video documentaries each night after dinner. I used the recipes that came with the 21-Day Food Matters Program found on the membership site FMTV. A membership also gives you access to a plethora of documentaries, recipes, yoga videos, and extended interviews. There is a wealth of information available for $9.95 a month. I felt that the motivation and education was worth it. It’s like Netflix for health-related documentaries that cover topics like:
•Food & Nutrition
•Detox & Weight Loss
•Depression & Anxiety
•Mind & Body
We started each morning with 12 ounces of lemon water. Our bodies need hydration after sleeping and before consuming anything else. Since lemons were also an ingredient in some of the recipes we probably used 60 lemons in three weeks. I wished that I had a lemon tree like my nephew has in California. Although it is recommended to abstain from coffee while on the 21-day program, I didn’t think we had to go through caffeine withdrawals to achieve the goals I wanted.
I brought my Vitamix with me and used it five mornings a week to make green smoothies for our breakfasts. There was a smoothie recipe in the 21 Day Program and I got inspiration from Simple Green Smoothies, but most mornings the smoothie was my own concoction. My basic formula is 2 cups liquid, 2 large handfuls of greens, a scoop of plant based protein, a greens powder that includes spirulina and chlorella, a healthy fat like coconut oil, 1-2 cups of frozen fruit. This is Chris’s favorite smoothie.
2 cups coconut water
2 cups greens (spinach and/or kale)
1/2 TBS coconut oil
1-2 pitted dates
1 peeled orange
1 scoop (~ 2TBS) plant based protein powder or hemp seeds
2 tsp green powder like Sun Food Sun is Shining
Blend until smooth and then add
1/2 -3/4 cup frozen pineapple and
1 frozen banana
Blend again until smooth
To make menu planning easy I used the Food Matters 21 Day Program for our lunch, dinner and weekend breakfast recipes. I used my menu planning sheets to map out our weekly meals and create a grocery list. After my first trip to Whole Foods I learned that I would need to shop twice a week. There wasn’t any way to fit all of the produce for an entire week into Chris’s fridge. I found that using two different colors of ink helped me know what to buy for the first half of the week and what to buy mid week.
Lunch, Dinner & Snacks
I packed a lunch for Chris to take to work with her each day. Mason jars made an easy to-go container for salads. The dinner recipes were easy to make and, with the exception of the chicken soup, took less than 30-45 minutes. We had our favorites, but everything was tasty. We enjoyed a large variety of fresh, colorful vegetables. The salad dressings, hummus and gluten-free bread were all made from scratch. We incorporated nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and brown rice into our meals to complement the vegetables.
Off to work with her lunch bag.
What was Different?
Before I arrived this was Chris’s typical meal plan:
Breakfast – Cereal and banana
Snack – can of onion soup
Lunch – Salad or frozen Lean Cuisine
Snack – nuts or hummus with crackers
Dinner – 1 or 2 frozen lean Cuisine
Snack – peanut or almond butter or lemon cookies
Breakfast – tuna sandwich and raspberries or left-over pizza
Lunch – Take-out
Dinner – Pizza, take-out or slow cooker beans and sausage variations (Wine)
Snack – peanut or almond butter or lemon cookies
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is based on speed and convenience. It is made up of foods that come from a drive up window or are packaged up in factories with a host of chemical additives. Big food companies use chemists to create the perfect combination of sugar, fat and salt to get consumers hooked on their products. Meals are void of bright and varied colors with little that comes in it’s natural state. White flour, white rice, white potatoes, white sugar and salt are staples. It is also often lacking in variety. People will eat the same ingredients or foods day in and day out which leads to some nutritional deficiencies. What would happen if we avoided the SAD and ate more real food?
The End Results
At the end of three weeks the results were in. Rob and Chris completed before and after surveys that showed a positive change in their perceived wellness. Chris found that she felt better, and she lost 8 pounds. She reported that she felt healthier, happier and wasn’t struggling with hunger. One of the things we learned in the documentaries is that you can eat and eat and eat, but if you aren’t feeding your body the nutrients and minerals it needs you will still be hungry. She said that with an increase in energy she was starting to think of things she wants to do instead of thinking, “what can I put off.” What did she learn? “Eat better to feel better, to live longer, and to live healthier.”
Rob had more energy and lost 9 pounds. He’ll tell you that he didn’t go hungry or have cravings that couldn’t be cured with a healthy snack. His biggest aha was learning that more exercise was not the answer to weight loss. When he gave his body better fuel he was running faster than he has in years and his recovery time was significantly shorter.
What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Stay in Vegas
In the end it was an awesome three week re-set. Rob and I joined a nice yoga studio called Hibs Yoga in Henderson. We succeeded in going two times a week. Thank you Roxanne, Joey and Rachel for the great training! We found a bike trail to run on and a killer hill route. We even ran in a 5K race out near Hoover Dam where we finished 5th and 7th in our age groups. Rob could have done better than his 7th place finish if he had cut loose from me, but he says he was there to run with me not break any records. You’ve got to love a husband whose running goal is to run with his wife.
Two Saturday day trips took us into the Red Rock Canyon and Grand Canyon West. Both were beautiful areas to hike and take pictures. I made multiple trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for groceries. Chris was amazed at how I filled her refrigerator with fresh produce. Thankfully there was time left in our days to get some work done as well.
The three weeks in Vegas slipped by quickly, but the balance we felt is something we want to hang onto. We want to take this with us and not leave it behind in Vegas.
On the Horizon
As I continue to coach Chris remotely and continue to experiment with new recipes and menus I am starting a list of potentially interested friends for a small beta (trial)? group that I can coach through a similar 21 day healthy eating experience. Leave your name below in the comments or send me an email if this intrigues you.
Live With Vitality
I want to share with you my 5 steps on how to live with vitality. However, first I’ll tell you a story. In February as I stepped off a plane the lady in front of me struggled to get seated into the waiting wheelchair. When she finally got herself turned around and sat down she looked up at me and, with a heavy sigh, said, “Don’t get old. Die young!” I tried to tell her that my intention was to live well, strong and vital until 100 (maybe even longer). She responded with, “That’s what I thought.” The thing is, she didn’t look that old. I don’t think she was more than ten years my senior, but I can assume that her choices have been different.
I truly believe that we all have the ability to avoid her pain and despair if we choose to live with vitality. Follow my 5 steps to living with vitality and let’s see what happens. Are you in?
Looking out over the Grand Canyon.
Several years ago I became intrigued with the Blue Zones while watching an episode of the Dr. Oz Show. Dan Buettner was on the show sharing the research behind his new book, Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. He studied five areas in the world with higher than average centenarians, areas unrelated geographically. Buettner concluded that there are nine common themes that contribute to longer lives, regardless of where one lived. As you can see these five Blue Zones are located in four different continents.
Becoming A Centenarian
Each region has several lifestyle components in common that Buettner has identified as contributing factors to longevity. In fact, experts say that if we adopt the right lifestyle, we could add at least ten good years to our life and suffer a fraction of the diseases that kill us prematurely. These lifestyle choices include what the inhabitants choose to eat, how much physical activity they get, how they socialize, how they handle stress, their connection to a community and their purpose in life, all of which influences their quality of life and wellness. As a result of his research he identified nine lessons for longevity:
- Move Naturally; be active without having to think about it.
- Hara Hachi Bu; painlessly cut calories by 20%.
- Plant Slant; avoid meat and processed foods.
- Grapes of Life; drink red wine (in moderation).
- Purpose Now; take time to see the big picture
- Down Shift; take Time to relieve stress.
- Belong; participate in a spiritual community.
- Loved Ones First; make family a priority
- Right Tribe; be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values
A trail marker keeps us on course during a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
5 Steps on How to Live With Vitality
After reading Buettner’s book Blue Zones: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, I consolidated the lessons into 5 steps on how to live with vitality.
Focus, Nourish, Energize, Recharge & Relax, and Regroup
First, find your purpose. Why do you get up in the morning? What motivates or inspires you. It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have a “why”, a destination, or ambition to your life. You can’t live with vitality without happiness.
For 18 years my “why” was to take care of my family. From making breakfast, packing lunches, planning menus, buying groceries and other necessaries, laundry, house cleaning, carpooling, doctors’ appointments, managing schedules and the list goes on. My purpose was to be a stay at home mom. I loved it and I am so thankful that I was able to focus my energy and time to this role. Since both children are now in college I am finding a new purpose with my blog and living an active, healthy lifestyle.
Juniper tree at Guano Point in the Grand Canyon West
Secondly, eat to live. Replenish your body with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Eat a variety of fresh vegetables. Cut out the heavily processed foods. Michael Polan, author of Food Rules, calls those products “edible food-like substances.” Polan’s advice is “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
I like to think that with every meal I have the opportunity to nourish my mind, heart, and body or deprive them of the nutrients they need to thrive. Sharing this knowledge with others motivates me to continue to learn and experiment.
Thirdly, make room for activity each day. It can be a 30 minute brisk walk, taking the stairs a little faster, a yoga session…something that makes your heart beat a little faster and makes you break a sweat. To have more energy you need to energize with exercise. For many of the Blue Zone inhabitants exercise is part of their daily life. They don’t spend an hour at the gym or train for marathons. They tend gardens, herd goats, or go on nature hikes.
For me, exercise includes trail running, hiking, skiing, yoga, and walking my dog. I also know that as soon as I become sedentary I have more headaches, shoulder and neck pain. Without exercise, I get the blues and brain fog. My goals for leading an active lifestyle are not just to keep my body in shape now. It’s so I will maintain my mobility, balance and strength as I age.
mountain stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Eastern Oregon
4. Re-CHARGE AND RELAX
Next, take time to unwind and have fun. Most of us live with some degree of stress in our lives. Stress causes inflammation which is a contributor to many diseases. For that reason it is important to find healthy ways to de-stress. This is done by taking time for yourself. Find things that you enjoy doing that help you unwind like reading, engaging in a hobby, or taking a bath.
I’ve been exploring meditation. There is a lot research that credits meditation with a number of health benefits from reducing inflammation and curbing pain to improving mood and dropping blood pressure. I’m still in the exploration and learning phases of meditation. Finding a quiet distraction free space is a challenge as I’m living with three dogs right now. This morning as I tried to find my zen one dog was barking at cars, another wanted to sit in my lap and the third nudged in close begging for a scratch behind the ears.
Brown Mountain and Lake of the Woods; Southern Oregon
Finally, connect with others and cultivate relationships. This final step encompasses family, friends and community. Love, support and social activity are vital to our emotional health. They also help to reduce stress and therefore health problems associated with high stress levels. Stress can trigger migraines, body aches, and weaken the immune system. Persistent stress, when untreated, can lead to heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes according to an article written by Jancee Dunn in a special edition of TIME called MINDFULNESS the new science of health and happiness.
With our move to Bend I will need to stay connected to my friends while building new friendships. In the past our boys were a forcing function in meeting new people and being connected to a community. We established friendships under umbrellas on the sidelines of soccer games, in the bleachers at lacrosse games, on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, playdates and school programs. I will need to find other ways to meet people through joining similar interest groups. It won’t be easy for this introvert. I will have to face the challenge and step outside of my comfort zone.
Grand Canyon West Arizona
You now know that my intention is to live with vitality until I’m 100 years old. Or, at least live as close to 100 as I can feeling strong, well, and happy. In other words, vital. I won’t get there by accident. It is a challenge I have embraced, and I must live every day with the intention of taking care of myself. T
Consequently, this means making choices that support my current health and will provide me with long-term health benefits. Following my 5 steps on how to live with vitality will help guide me along this path. My hope is that it will help you as well.
What are you doing to stay healthy and strong? Which of these steps are part of your life? Is there something that you struggle with? Please leave a comment below.
Focus on Nutrition
March is National Nutrition Month! I have had an acute interest in nutrition for nearly 16 years, and as a result I’ve devoured books, magazines, shows, and websites to gain more information. This month I’m sharing my knowledge and enthusiasm with my husband and my sister. Since we had a few weeks before our move to Bend, I offered to be a health coach to my sister who wants to get healthier before an incredible European vacation planned for September. My goal is to make a big enough impact on how my sister feels while eating whole, real foods that she will want to continue eating after I leave. Follow me (Vitality in Focus) on Instagram or my Facebook page to see what we have been eating for dinner.
Vegetable fritters are amazingly flavorful. I paired these with a green salad.
Respite or Reprieve
With my husband in tow, I am spending the month of March in Henderson, Nevada with my sister. She is the middle girl in our family and older than me by 17 years. While that may not matter, I think it helps paint a picture if you don’t already know us.
The drive to Nevada started off very snowy. We couldn’t wait to find sunshine and dry roads.
It’s an incredible opportunity to get warm and dry and a chance to focus on our health and our work with fewer distractions. Especially since February was a huge distraction that, as a result, put this blog on a back burner. Read Moving and Mounds of Memorabilia to find out why.
This picture was taken on a day hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas. The weather here is unseasonable warm. We are getting our wish for warmer, dryer weather.
3 Weeks to Build New Habits
One of my goals while we are staying with my sister is to help her cultivate healthier eating habits. You may know that research supports the philosophy that it takes 3 weeks to build a new habit. As luck would have it, that’s exactly how much time we have here.
I think that Romanesco is quite possibly the most beautiful vegetable. I chopped it up with zucchini, lightly steamed it and served it on top of quinoa with a dollop of satay sauce.
The fact that March is National Nutrition Month is serendipitous. Whether you call it “clean eating” or “real foods” or “whole foods” the idea is the same. Cut out the crap! Eliminate all of the processed foods with additives, artificial anything, preservatives and ingredients you don’t recognize or wouldn’t stock in your pantry. This is the foundation for our healthy adventure.
A really good chicken soup starts with homemade bone broth.
We are implementing the menus and recipes from the 21 Day Food Matters Program. The meal plan is based on gluten-free, highly nutritious recipes with a balance of alkalizing greens, proteins and healthy fats. In general, it’s a guide for those who want improved health. We each have our own goals. I’d like to experience better focus and clarity, increased energy and reduce the headaches I get almost every day. My sister wants to improve her fitness, focus and resiliency. We are both looking to be joyfully alive. Rob’s goals are to be fit, focused and energized. Focus appears to be on all of our lists. Did you know that what you eat has a correlation to how well you can focus? Eating a diet full of additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients can cause brain fog.
A lovely lunch with homemade gluten free bread and homemade hummus. We topped it with watercress and cilantro with carrots and celery on the side to dip into the extra hummus.
Half Way Point
We are half way through our 21 day eating journey.
The meal plan, recipes and shopping lists provided in the 21 Day Food Matters Program make the planning easy. I’ve made a couple adjustments to fit our schedules, but we have kept to the recipes given in the program. We start every morning with a tall glass of water enhanced with the juice of half a lemon. I send my sister off to work each day with a lunch box packed with a green smoothie for breakfast, lunch, snacks, four bottles of water and a couple of detox tea bags. Dinner is nearly ready in the evening when she comes home. This morning as she left she said to me, “I’m down another pound and I’m happy!” While she has a weight loss goal, I hope she discovers that eating a diet of foods as close to their natural state as possible makes her feel better. I know it works for me. While not knowing that he was going to have a health coach, Rob has fully committed to the program. His body fat percentage has dropped 1.5% in just nine days.
For easy to-go lunches pack your salad in a Mason jar.
Quinoa Tabouleh is one of our favorite lunches on the Food Matters 21 Day Program.
Essential Kitchen Tools
My sister has a well equipped kitchen with many of the necessary tools of the trade. However, when I started cooking in her kitchen there were a few items missing that I couldn’t cook for a month without.
- A good sharp chef’s knife. This essential for all the chopping required when cooking with fresh ingredients.
- A large, sturdy, bamboo cutting board.
- A fine mesh sieve for rinsing beans, rice, quinoa.
- Ball mason jars. I’m using a 32oz wide-mouth jar to pack salads for her lunch. I also like these small jars to portion nuts & seeds, hummus and snacks.
- My Vitamix blender came with me. I couldn’t get through three servings of smoothies every morning without it. It is the best blender I’ve ever owned. It can be used for salad dressings, soups and more. I like this one (6500) because it has the automatic “smoothie” option.
The other tools that I use daily when cooking are ones she had.
- A sharp pairing knife
- A small cutting board
- A set of measuring cups and spoons
- A set of nesting prep bowls
- A citrus juicer The one pictured is her’s, however, I really like the handheld squeezers. This particular one is stainless steel so there isn’t any paint to chip off like the yellow one I have at home.
Ingredients Not Calories
In honor of National Nutrition Month I challenge you to take the rest of March to focus on your nutrition. The easiest place to start is in the produce section of your grocery store. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables you eat. Make them a larger portion on your plate than any other item. In addition, read labels and eliminate my list of deal breakers. If a product has any of these ingredients listed on its label it will not make it into my shopping cart.
- Trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners
- Enriched flour
- Sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate
- Dried fruit with sulfites
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Soy (because I have a sensitivity to soy)
Those are my deal breakers and a good list to start with. Of course when eating out I can’t control this, but I can control what I buy. In general, I look for ingredients I recognize. You know, the ones you might have in your pantry and would use in your own cooking when starting from scratch. As a result, when you focus on eating real foods there’s no need to focus on calories. Finally, my attention has recently been drawn to a few others that should be eliminated. These include, Potassium Bromate, Propyl Paraben, Aluminum Additives, BHT & BHA.
National Nutrition Month
I’ll come back with a report on how we did at the end of the month. Happy National Nutrition Month!
What can you do to up your nutrition game? What are your health goals? Are you a label reader? Do you have any “deal breakers” when you are shopping for food?
Another favorite lunchtime meal is this Waldorf salad. The dressing uses yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Perfect for National Nutrition Month.