“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I was hesitant to write this post. It’s not the sort of topic I usually write about, but that quote by Theodore Roosevelt got to me and I just couldn’t shake it.

He was right. Comparison is TOTALLY the thief of joy.

Often with clients I discuss how destructive it is to compare yourself to others. And we all do it. We look at someone in the gym, in the grocery store, at work, or in a magazine, and the comparisons begin:

She’s SO skinny. (I’m not)

Her hair is so shiny and long. (mine isn’t)

Wow, she is really strong and fast. (I’m slow and weak)

He has a really great car. (my car sucks)

He is super successful. (I’m not)

What’s the common thread? All comparisons begin with lack. Something you don’t have, that you think that other person has, that you know you need in order to be happy.

Joy stolen.

But, and please, please get this: YOU MADE IT UP. It’s not “true”. It’s your story. And guess who is the only person that notices the lack?

You.

This is a form of negative self-talk that we all do and it must stop. It is disempowering. It achieves the opposite of what you want. It stops you before you even start: “I can’t workout at the gym, those people are all in great shape and I’m not!” Really?? That doesn’t even make sense when you look at it written down, but I can’t tell you how many times someone has said that to me.

Or, “Nicole, I’m not as disciplined as you when it comes to food.” Um, I did not come out of the womb eating kale and quinoa. I had a HUGE sugar addiction that I battled for most of my 20’s. Oreos, Ding Dongs and Sour Patch Kids were my jam! Seriously. Ask my mom.

We are all wholly, beautifully, perfectly, fucked up human beings. ALL of us. And that is just as it should be. So stop comparing. Stop taking your joy away. Experience joy.  Every day.

Three-pink-daisies

You know what brings me joy?  When I prepare a recipe that turns out crazy good.  This is one one that I would have NEVER guessed would taste as good as it did.  Even my son liked it and asked for seconds!

Savory Cauliflower Cake

Taken from Eating Well.

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and broken into small florets
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • ¾ teaspoon caraway seed, ground or crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¾ cup garbanzo bean flour
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper, rinsed and chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ¾ cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper
  2. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add cauliflower and steam until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add caraway seed, coriander, crushed red pepper and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring , until fragrant, about 1 minute. Gently stir in the steamed cauliflower, doing your best not to break up the florets, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to combine flavors.
  4. Whisk garbanzo bean flour, all-purpose flour (or gluten-free blend), baking powder and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until mixed. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the eggs and whisk to combine and eliminate most of the lumps. Stir in roasted red pepper, feta and 2 tablespoons dill. Add the cauliflower mixture and gently stir to combine. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake until the top is golden and the cake is set, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool to warm; remove the pan sides and the parchment. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill.

*Nicole’s Notes:

  • If you don’t have a springform, or if your pan un-springs as you are putting it into the oven (yes, that happened), feel free to use any old baking pan. Just spray liberally with oil as it is a little sticky. The presentation is definitely prettier with the springform pan, though.
  • Garbanzo bean flour can be found at Whole Foods.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Leave me a comment below!

Eat well.

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Psst. Want to learn my not-so-secret secret?

My secret isn’t about how to get through the holidays without gaining a pound.  (I don’t want to read another one of those articles, much less write one).  It’s not about how to get through the next month without COMPLETELY losing your mind due to stress.  (Here’s that article in a nutshell: deep breaths, don’t try to be perfect, bottle of wine).  Nope.  This post is my not-so-secret secret to getting the most out of your workouts.

Ready?  Here it is ladies:

LIFT WEIGHTS.  OFTEN.  HEAVY ONES.

That’s it.  Short and sweet and totally doable.

Here’s an example: the exercise is a weighted walking lunge for 40 seconds.  One woman picks up 10 pound dumbbells and another woman picks up 20 pound dumbbells.  At the end of the 40 seconds, the woman carrying the lighter weights has completed the exercise easily.  Her heart rate hasn’t increased, her respiratory rate has remained constant, and she hasn’t broken a sweat.  The second woman, by contrast, needed to stop before the 40 seconds was up because she had fatigued her muscles to the point of (almost) failure.  Her heart rate has increased, her respiratory rate has accelerated, and she is sweating.  Who accomplished the most during the 40 seconds?

This is important for two reasons.

First, most of us don’t have the time to spend hours at the gym.  We want to get in, get our workout done as quickly as possible, and get out.  If this sounds a lot like you – LIFT HEAVIER WEIGHTS.

Second, all of those markers (increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and sweat) means you are forcing your body to work.  And the harder you work inside the gym, the more results you will see outside the gym.  Lift heavier weights.

And let me stop you right there.  I know what you are about to say.  “But, I don’t want to get bulky.  I want to be lean.”

Women can’t get bulky by merely lifting weights.  We do not have the testosterone necessary to do so.  The women you see in magazines and in competitions are taking supplements to look that way.

For those of you interested in losing weight, resistance training has proven to be more effective than cardiovascular exercise in burning calories.  COOL!

For those of you who love to eat, (I fall squarely into this category), the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, and the more calories you can eat.  HURRAY!!!

For those of you who think women rule, I really enjoy it when I am lifting heavier weights than the men in my class.  Be a badass and lift heavier weights.

Questions?  Thoughts?  I’d love to hear from you!

Eat well.

Top 5 Nutrition Myths

MILK DOES A BODY GOOD?

For years we were all told that if we wanted strong bones, we should drink milk because milk contains calcium and calcium=strong bones.  Wrong!  Science is now proving that there is NO RELATION to calcium intake and bone density.  In fact, a recent study from Uppsala University in Sweden suggested that consuming more milk could actually be associated with higher risks of fractures.  The vitamins more important to bone health are Vitamin K and Vitamin D.  Vitamin K is found in vegetables like kale, spinach, mustard greens, parsley, broccoli and Brussels sprouts – just to name a few.

EATING FAT CAUSES HEART DISEASE?

Thanks to an erroneous conclusion made back in the 1950’s by Ancel Keys, we have all been told that there is a direct relationship between saturated fat intake and coronary heart disease.  Turns out his study was severely flawed and there is no link.  However, don’t go reaching for the butter just yet!  Fat is a macronutrient and a crucial component to a balanced diet, but that does not mean you can eat it with abandon.  The basic tenants of a good diet remain the same: balanced meals eaten consistently throughout the day. And incorporating butter as well as those healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds accomplish that balance.  If you want to read more about fats, click here to read a more in depth discussion regarding fats in my recent blog.

BREAD IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL?

Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get from clients is, “Do I have to stop eating bread?”  My answer is, “Absolutely not.”  Humans have been eating gluten for thousands of years, so it is not gluten that is inherently the issue.  What is the issue is how processed and refined most breads have become, rendering them physiologically akin to eating sugar.  Unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, eating whole grain bread OCCASIONALLY that contains a minimum of 3 grams of fiber is perfectly okay.

YOU CAN SUPPLEMENT YOUR WAY TO HEALTH?

Supplements are an increasingly popular and incredibly lucrative industry that has NO regulating body.  As a result, I call the supplement business the snake oil industry of old.  When you go to buy any kind of supplements (including multi-vitamins) there is absolutely no assurance that what you think you are buying is actually what is in the bottle.  Additionally, our bodies don’t have tanks to store all those excess vitamins, minerals, amino acids, protein, bee pollen, that-herb-you’ve-never-heard-of-but-sounds-amazing that we are ingesting.  As such, Americans have the most expensive pee in the world.  What’s the answer?  Get your vitamins and minerals from food.  Whole food.  Real food.  Food you prepare at home.

EGGS SHOULD BE AVOIDED?

This is probably the second most popular question I am asked by clients.  The answer is a resounding NO.  Eggs are the protein most easily assimilated by the human body and contain numerous vitamins essential to a balanced diet.  Yes they are high in cholesterol, however it has been proven in study after scientific study that eggs and dietary cholesterol do NOT adversely affect blood cholesterol.  “In fact, eggs raise HDL (the good) cholesterol.  They also change LDL cholesterol from small, dense LDL (which is bad) to large LDL, which is benign.” Conclusion?  If you like eggs, eat them!

And, because sometimes talking about food just gets to be a drag, here’s something to make you laugh:

Questions?  Thoughts?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Eat well.

Calorie in, calorie out – right? Wrong.

The diet industry was based on this premise – you need to burn more calories than you eat. Sounds so simple and easy. The reality, however, is that this could not be further from the truth.

The human body is a complex and only party understood biological instrument. Our energy systems are incredibly complex – Krebs Cycle, anyone?   And what we are most definitely NOT is a mathematical equation. So it is quite simply ludicrous to believe that what goes in < what goes out = weight loss. Ask anyone who has ever tried to count calories and lose weight. Ask the $60.5 BILLION dollar (as of 2013) weight loss industry. Do you think there would be that much money to be made in weight loss if it were that easy?

Something that I intuitively believed to be true was this: when we eat whole food it affects our metabolic pathways very differently than when we eat fast or processed food. And then Dr. Stephen Devries said something in a lecture I attended that blew my mind:

Calories in a serving of almonds = 170 calories
Calories absorbed in a serving of almonds = 129 calories

Happy dance time.

That is a 32% overestimation. That’s a lot. He went on to say that a commonality amongst people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off is that they consume nuts. And that a serving of nuts “appears to decrease caloric absorption over 24 hours by approximately 3%”.  Conclusion?  Eat nuts, y’all!

So when we EAT FOOD, NOT TOO MUCH, MOSTLY PLANTS (thank you Michael Pollan) we don’t need to fixate on calories.   That’s because the satiety of whole food is very, very different than the satiety of processed, high-sugar food. Think about it. Eat a plate of broccoli. Could you even eat a whole plate of broccoli? And, if you did, you would be full. However, eat a slice of chocolate cake. Easy, right? Well that chocolate cake has about 10x the amount of calories the broccoli has, but eating the cake was a hell of a lot easier. Because, my friends, the more fiber, protein, and water a food has, the higher the satiety. The fuller you feel. And that causes you eat to less naturally rather than trying to eat less by deprivation.

Which never works because life is too short and there is just way too much chocolate cake out there to be eaten.

In celebration of the power of nuts – here’s a recipe for you:

ROSEMARY CASHEWS & SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Taken from Giada’s Feel Good Food

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups raw cashew nuts
  • 1 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white and salt just until foamy. Add the maple syrup, rosemary, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the nuts and sunflower seeds and toss until coated.
  3. Spread the nut mixture on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until the nuts are crisp and brown, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool before serving or storing.

Eat well.

What’s the skinny on fats?

This is one of my favorite topics to discuss with my clients as it highlights both the good and the bad about the science of nutrition.  So, what is the skinny on fat?  Read on.

Back long, long ago, fat was demonized.  If you ate fat, you got fat, right?  Low-fat dietary guidelines were released in 1977 and the food industry jumped aboard and created fat-free foods that we all ate with abandon.  Mmmm, Entenmann’s…..

Interestingly enough, guess what statistic rose accordingly?

Obes

Obesity.  Hmmm.  Makes you think, right?  So when the food companies removed traditional fat (like butter) from their products, what was used as a replacement?  Yep.  Sugar.  Refined carbohydrates.  And the consumption of highly processed, sugar-laden foods began in earnest.  This is an example of the aforementioned bad nutrition.  Oopsie.

Fast forward to present-day nutrition.  What scientists are discovering is that there are many factors that go into health and picking one nutrient, i.e. saturated fat, as the culprit out of all the nutrients we consume isn’t the answer.  As Dr. Robert M. Knauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute states, “It doesn’t make sense to focus on just one feature of the diet, such as saturated fat, while ignoring the health affects of the overall diet.”

I sat in on a lecture given by Dr. Knauss who spoke at length on this topic and his specialty: SIZE MATTERS when it comes to cholesterol particles.

Who knew?

LDL is comprised of subclasses of particles with differing cholesterol content and cardiovascular risk: large (the “good” kind), medium, and small (the “bad” kind).  (using good and bad to describe the particles isn’t quite accurate, but helps to simplify things)  The SMALL particles are the ones with which to be concerned because they are dense, enter the arterial walls easier, and have a greater tendency to cause plaque buildup.

Saturated fats generally contain more of the LARGE particles that are the “good” LDL.  Hence, while saturated fats raise not only your HDL, but also your LDL, it is the good kind of LDL.  Conclusion: butter is not the problem.

So what, you may ask, raises the “bad” kind of LDL?  Refined carbs.  Sugars.  White bread, pasta, and rice.  Those not only RAISE the small LDL particles, they also LOWER your HDL.  As Dr. Knauss stated, “Carbohydrates (especially sugars) have a major influence on smaller LDL particles.”

So does that mean we can eat saturated fat to our heart’s content?  Not so fast.  What Dr. Knauss went on to state was that it MATTERS where the fat is coming from.  Higher red meat intake is associated with increased mortality:

Red meat

However saturated fat from dairy is associated with LOWER risks:

 

Fat dairy

I don’t know about you, but I think this is really interesting stuff and is an example of what I called the “good” nutrition.

What’s the conclusion from all of this?  Simply that focusing on saturated fats is the wrong strategy.  Rather, focus on the big picture: what FOODS you are eating, not what NUTRIENTS you are eating.  And the diet that Dr. Knauss recommends?  One that is filled with lean protein, vegetables, and many kinds of fats (both saturated and unsaturated), with little to no consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Bottom line on fats?  No, they aren’t the pariah we all once thought they were, but neither are they something to consume with abandon.  Moderation, people.  Covers pretty much everything!

Questions?  Thoughts?  I’d love to hear from you.  Post a comment below!

Eat well.

Coffee talk. Can we talk?

Please tell me someone got that reference.  I’m not the only person who watched SNL in the ‘90s, right??  Awesome.

 

So, coffee.  Coffee is one of those topics, at least in the nutrition world, that can get confusing.  Is it good for you or is it to be avoided like the plague?  I like to go to the science when I weigh in on a potentially divisive topic and I’ve got lots of it when it comes to coffee.

 

Back in May I attended Dr. Andrew Weil’s nutrition and health conference in Dallas, Texas.  It was filled with presentations by leading scientists in the field.  One such scientist was Dr. Frank Hu who is a professor of Nutrition & Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.  He’s a really smart guy. Dr. Hu presented a study that caught my attention.

 

Hold on to your hats.  This is good stuff.  In the study they found that those who had increased their coffee intake by more than one cup a day over a four-year period had an 11% LOWER RISK of having type 2 diabetes.  Got that? That is HUGE!!  If they drank MORE coffee than they had been, they LOWERED their risk of diabetes.

 

That’s not all.  Participants who decreased their consumption by more than a cup a day were at a 17% GREATER RISK of having type 2 diabetes.  Let me say that again.  If they CUT their coffee intake, they RAISED their risk of Type 2 Diabetes.  Science graph:

 

Coffee

 

This was not the case for tea or for decaffeinated coffee, though.  Hmmm.  Wonder why?  Well one hypothesis Dr. Hu threw out during the presentation was that it could have something to do with the chlorogenic acid found in coffee which is a potent antioxidant.  Tea does not contain it, and through the decaffeination process, decaf coffee loses much of it.  Interesting, right?

 

Wait – there’s more!

 

Coffee drinkers also have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Yep.  That scary disease that is on the rise?  A study published in the Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease found that people who drank coffee have a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Now THAT is interesting information.  And the sweet spot in most of the studies I’ve looked at is 3-5 8-ounce cups of coffee PER DAY.  Not occasionally drinking coffee.  Drinking 3-5 cups of coffee every day.   Here’s your graph:

 

Coffee

 

Now, I want to be very clear.  I am NOT talking about this kind of “coffee”:

coffee

 

That is not coffee.  That is a milkshake, people.  Don’t fool yourselves.  If you buy a grande Carmel Flan Frappucino from Starbucks, you are drinking 390 calories and a whopping 60g of sugar.  60 grams!!!!!  That is 15 teaspoons of sugar.  15 teaspoons!  OF SUGAR!  So bad.  So, so bad.  Nope.  Not talking about that.  I’m talking about regular coffee.  Black with maybe some half & half or some whole milk or some almond milk.  That’s it.  Nothing else.

 

In case anyone is still reading, the recipe today is for Cold Brew Coffee.  Not really a recipe, more instructions.  Many possibilities abound on the Internet, but I purchased this contraption which cuts out many of the steps in some of the DIY-style methods.  Why Cold Brew Coffee?  This method extracts the wonderful flavor of the coffee bean without the bitter acids and fatty oils.  I love it.  Very smooth and refreshing.

Ready?  Here you go:

  1. Fill it with cold filtered water.
  2. Place fresh, coarsely ground coffee in the filter basket.
  3. Pour more cold filtered water over the grounds until the container is filled.
  4. Let it sit in your refrigerator from anywhere to 12-24 hours and, voila!  Coffee.

Now this coffee is concentrated, so it is meant to be diluted.  Drink this straight and you just may be up for days.  Not recommended.

If you have any questions or comments or have your own favorite cold brew recipe, I’d love to hear from you!

Eat well.

 

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I’m back! Did you miss me?

Where, you may be asking, have I been??  Or, maybe you haven’t been wondering that because your life is a little busy and well, I’m not at the forefront of you thoughts – I get it.  So, to fill you in, I’ve been gone for awhile.  But I’m back and ready to debut my brand new website, new logo, and new direction for my business.

I AM SO EXCITED.

This new direction is just much more me and, in my opinion, much more effective at helping people reach their health goals.  Which is my driving passion and why I do what I do.

So here’s the nuts and bolts of it:  instead of working with people in 1-on-1 counseling sessions, I am getting into people’s kitchens and working with them to create individualized menus that work for themselves and their families.  I start by coming to their house and cleaning out their pantries and then design weekly meal plans complete with recipes and shopping lists.  Cool, huh?!

It is my fervent belief that no matter WHAT kind of food you eat, you will be healthier if you are preparing it at home.  And my menus are based on what YOU want to eat, not what I eat.

Which is why I am now calling myself a Kitchen Coach.

So please, go poke around on my new site and, truly, give me some feedback.  Let me know what you think.  And, if you like it, forward it on to a friend or two.

DON’T CLOSE THIS EMAIL YET!!!  I have a present for you! Click here to download my FREE two week menu plan with recipes.  No more reading cookbooks or flipping through magazines.  I do that work for you!

Now, get cooking everyone.

 

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