You want me to do WHAT??, or Achieving the Impossible

I am the type of person that makes lists every now and again entitled, “TEN THINGS I WANT TO DO”.  I like lists and I really like lists that make me stretch way beyond my comfort zone.  Way back in the fall of 1998 I made just such a list and the #1 thing on my list?  Learn kickboxing.  I don’t know why that was number one, but it was.  My intuition was knocking and I was listening.

A couple of months later, I moved from Northern California to LA and one of the first things I did upon moving here?  Took a kickboxing class.  Turned out, a good friend worked at a martial arts studio that taught two forms of kickboxing: Muay Thai and Savate. Savate is a little-known style of kickboxing that originated in France.  It’s not very popular here in America, but is much more widespread in Europe.

I took an intro class in both modalities and instantly signed up for Savate.  Savate is known as the “ballet” of the kickboxing world and that suited my dance background-self perfectly.  My instructors were both from France and both had fought competitively, so they knew their stuff.  I instantly began taking classes 3 to 4 times a week.  I was HOOKED.  And the classes weren’t bag classes.  I think I sparred the very first time I took a class.  I use the word “spar” lightly as I’m pretty sure I looked like a deer caught in headlights as I desperately tried to avoid getting hit.

Six months later, I got a phone call from my coach.  He left a message saying he had something he needed to talk to me about, would I please call him.  I was very confused.  What on earth did Michael want to talk to me about?  Turned out, the first World Cup Savate Championships were being held in June of 2000 in France and Michael wanted me go and represent America.

“Uh, you want me to do WHAT??”

Sparring in class, fine.  Fighting for realsies??  Like, in a ring with judges watching?? Oh, hell no!

Then I paused for a moment and thought about it.  What was the worst thing that could happen?  I could get hurt, obviously, but I got hurt sparring sometimes, so what was the difference?  But….me??  Seriously??  I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it.  I had been a cheerleader in high school and college.  I wore small pleated skirts and held pom-poms.  That girl couldn’t be a fighter.  Right??

It seemed insane.  It wasn’t even on my radar of life possibilities.  Was this something I was seriously considering?

Yes.  Yes, it was.  And so you know what I said?

“WHY NOT?”

That decision would prove to change my life.

All of the sudden, my world revolved around kick boxing.  I continued taking Savate classes 4 times a week, I was working with a personal trainer twice a week on strength and speed, plus I worked with my coach twice a week in one-on-one sessions.  I was bruised and battered, totally exhausted, and hand wraps hung like streamers in my apartment.

My eating schedule had become regimented.  I had to make weight!  Instead of eating to eat, I ate to fuel.  My whole life paradigm had dramatically shifted.  And I absolutely loved it.

But every time I thought about fighting IN A RING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE my stomach dropped and ice-cold water ran through my veins.  So, I just didn’t think about it too much.  Avoidance?  You bet.

The day soon arrived, though, when I had to face that ring.  I had to fight in order to win a spot on the American team.  I was terrified.  Every single atom in my body was screaming, “FLEE!! RUN AWAY!  FAR, FAR AWAY!”  That whole fight or flight instinct had kicked in and my body had chosen flight.  Overriding that impulse felt insurmountable.

Stepping into the ring for my first fight felt like an out-of-body experience. 

But as soon as the referee said, “Allez”, that all fell away and I was fighting.  For realsies.  In front of people!  And it wasn’t that bad.  In fact, there were moments that it was really, really, really amazing.

I was obsessed.  For the next six years my life revolved around Savate.  I went back to the Worlds in 2002 and placed 2nd.

In.The.World.

Like, the entire planet!!  It was crazy.  Unbelievable.  And I never would’ve achieved it if I hadn’t stepped into the big scary realm of the impossible.  I did it again in 2006 and it was epic.  I had the fight of my life in that tournament.  I lost again in the finals, but it was a split decision.  Meaning, some of the judges had picked me as the champion.

Saying yes to something that seemed completely out of reach powerfully altered my entire life.  Now I’m addicted to striving for those seemingly crazy, scary goals.

Want to quit your job? Take an art class? Run a marathon? What is that thing you’ve always wanted to do or try, but seems impossible, not doable, insane?

It’s that thing that niggles at you down deep. 

Maybe you’ve never told anyone about it.  Maybe saying it out loud scares the shit out of you. You know what I’m talking about.

That.  DO THAT.

For therein lies the greatest reward.

Questions? Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you!  Head over to my website and leave a comment.

Eat well.

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Please don’t use the “c” word or the “d” word around me!

That’s it. I’ve had it. If one more company uses the words “cleanse” or “detox” for one more product, I will lose it. Lose it! Because, guys, it’s ALL MARKETING. Which is another way of saying, it’s all bullshit. It’s just like the milk = strong bones correlation. Which is totally, factually, 100% incorrect yet is now indelibly imprinted into every American’s brain. The marketing geniuses have struck again and created the detox-cleanse myth. And now every product and program out there wants you to believe you NEED one because your body is so vile and dirty and filled with toxins.

scam

It’s a scam.

Stop. Stop, exhale, and read these next words very carefully:

Our bodies have an amazing detoxification system built into them. It is called our kidneys, our liver, our skin, and our lungs. Boom.

The reason this gets me so upset is the whole cleasining/detoxing industry succeeds by preying on people’s insecurities. Are you feeling fat? Detox! Have you been drinking too much alcohol? Cleanse!

And they further enable the “magic pill” wishful thinking that the entire diet industry lives and breathes by which boils down to this: it doesn’t matter how crappy I eat most of the time, I’ll just do a cleanse for 7 days (or take this new supplement or try this new diet, or, or, or) and all will be forgiven.

No! It does not work that way. That only results in damaging your metabolism and ensuring you will put any weight you’ve lost back on immediately. And probably a couple of extra pounds.

Here is the scientific, factual truth:

Toxins don’t build up in our body. If they did, we would die or be in need of serious medical intervention.

Are you still with me? Here’s a couple more things to think about:

  • Most cleanses or detoxes say your body is releasing “toxins”. What toxins? What exactly are they talking about? And, if they are “releasing” said toxins, show me a blood panel that proves this. Or a spit test or a poop test. Show me something that backs up what you are claiming! They can’t.
  • If, indeed, your body released toxins, guess where they would go? THROUGH YOUR KIDNEYS AND LIVER THEREBY RESTRESSING THE ORGANS YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DETOXIFYING AND CLEANSING.
  • Most marketing materials link toxin buildup general symptoms like fatigue, headache, insomnia or weight gain. They aren’t idiots. Who hasn’t experienced one or all of these in their lifetime?? However they fail to link specific toxins to specific symptoms or illness because they can’t. There is not one scientific study proving that a detox or cleanse treatment has had any useful medical effect.
  • Peter Pressman, an internist at the naval hospital in Jacksonville, Florida states, “There is absolutely no scientific basis for the assertion that the regimens popularly defined as ‘detox’ will augment the body’s own capacity for identifying and eliminating your own metabolic wastes or doing the same for environmental toxins,” he said. “I advise patients that these detox programs amount to a large quantity of excrement, both literally and figuratively.”

Instead, focus on making real, lasting changes to your diet. Changes that can be sustained for a lifetime. Not just 7 days. And these can be so easy. Drink more water. Eat more vegetables. Exercise more. Cook more food at home. Boom. Cleansed.

cleansing


This week’s recipe is from what may quite possibly be my most favorite cookbook ever.  And I have a LOT of cookbooks!  The recipe I chose is a great one for cleaning up your diet and getting more veggies into your day.

Kale Slaw with Creamy Mustard Dressing 
From at home in the whole kitchen

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons raw cashew butter
  • 2 tablespoons filtered water
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • Sea salt, to tasate
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salad:

  • 5 cups thinly sliced kale (from about 1 medium bunch)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 small bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds

MAKE THE DRESSING:

  1. Place cashew butter and water in a small bowl, and mix until smooth. Stir in garlic, vinegars, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add olive oil, mix again until smooth and creamy, season to taste, and set aside.

MAKE THE SALAD:

  1. Place kale, red cabbage, carrot, fennel, scallions, and sunflower seeds in a large salad bowl; toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing; toss until slaw is evenly coated and serve.

Nicole’s Notes:

  • This salad will last quite a long time in the refrigerator. Make it on Sunday and eat it as your lunch for a couple of days.
  • You can easily add whatever protein you desire: garbanzo beans, cannellini beans, shredded chicken or tuna.

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

Eat well.

We SERIOUSLY are all the same!

We go through our days wrapped up in our life. Our trials and tribulations that we believe are uniquely ours: work, kids, traffic, husband, wife, friends, eating, when am I going to exercise?, my life is so crazy, I just don’t have time! But recently, through an exercise done with the running teams I coach, what became blindingly obvious was this:

Even though we are unique and wonderfully weird and crazy in our own way, we all worry and stress about the same shit.

 So this was the workout:

  1. Write down a grudge or a bad habit or something that you always worry or stress about that you will COMMIT to letting go of for two months. Next run a mile as fast as you can. The pain you feel running that mile is a symbol of that negative pattern leaving your body.
  2. Now you write down something positive you are committed to manifesting in your life. It can be anything and it does not have to be connected to what you chose to let go of. Then you run a mile at a nice easy pace and come up with action steps you will take in order to manifest your intention.

First of all, I take no credit for coming up with this workout. so when I say it’s brilliant, I am not merely bragging. It was a powerful experience for a lot of my runners. And when I read what they wanted to give up or let go of, guess what? They were all the same. Out of roughly 130 runners, they broke down into 3 categories:

  1. Body image. Too skinny, too heavy, not fast, not strong, whatever. We all have it and we all seem to be worrying about it.
  2. Finances. Regardless of how much or little someone makes, they still stress about money.
  3. Relationships. They want one, they don’t want one, their kids are making them crazy, their friendships aren’t satisfying, they feel disconnected from their coworkers – you get the idea.

While we worry and stress and COMPARE (see my last blog about the comparing if you didn’t already read it) ourselves to others, they are busy doing it, too. NO ONE escapes it, so why don’t we all just stop? Stop because what has the worrying and stressing ever done for you anyways? Did it make it better? Did it resolve it?

I know the answer! NOPE.

Worry 2

This is not to belittle the challenges that life just loves to throw at us, but holding on to grudges and bad habits and negative self-talk are NOT productive and, ultimately, destructive. Focus on what you can change RIGHT NOW IN THIS VERY MOMENT and let everything else go. All that other stuff does is rob you of your happiness and joy. And you should all know by now how I feel about joy. It’s my drug, my reason for being. Get on that joy train, people! Or, as one of my most favorite people to quote, states:

life is short

You know something you can do right now in this very moment? Make this quiche. It is so, so easy and absolutely delicious. And the variations are endless.

Spinach and Feta Quiche with a Quinoa Crust

Taken from Cooking Light.

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, chilled
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  1. For the crust, preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Combine quinoa, pepper, and egg in a bowl, stirring well. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes; cool.
  3. For the filling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil and onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add spinach; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.
  4. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients in a boil; stir with a whisk. Arrange spinach mixture in crust; pour egg mixture over spinach. Sprinkle with feta. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; cut into 4 wedges.

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

Eat well.

“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.

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.