Monthly Archives: January 2014

Snow Day! or WTF is a Runner’s High?

Last night we had our first real snow of the season and the allure of the white-frosted trees and fresh, crisp air seemed like a great excuse to ditch the gloomy confines of the gym today and take ‘fitness’ into the great outdoors. Jack and Don were happy to oblige and accompany me on a run followed by some at-home strength training (push-ups, eeew!) and a brief snowball fight (which I lost).

This was the second time this week that I opted out of the gym and into a run in the fresh air; once in a while a change of scenery is necessary in order to avoid the ‘workout doldrums’.  We have been blessed with a very mild winter here in Germany with temps staying consistently in the mid-30s (F) or higher, so it has been pretty easy for me to switch things up and take my workout on the road whenever I get bored with my normal routine. There is just one teeny-tiny little thing that would make it easier for me to skip the gym and get my cardio en plein-air and that would be if I actually enjoyed running.

There are a lot of things that I like about running… I like the thought of doing it, I like making an iPod playlist for running, I like the way I feel when I’m finished with a run, but I don’t enjoy doing the actual running. I find it slightly easier to do on a treadmill when I can control the speed and make sure the terrain stays absolutely flat, but running is never easy.

I’ve heard people say that they like or even LOVE running, and I don’t understand how that can be possible. In fact, I don’t believe them. I do believe, however, that they like or love the way running makes them feel, I like that too. There is something very satisfying about dripping sweat with your heart pounding and your legs aching from a good long gallop; it feels great to be finished with a run and know that you have just done your body a lot of good at no cost aside from the price of a pair of sneakers, but it just can’t be possible that anyone likes the actual running part!

From start to finish, running is more work than something that supposedly comes naturally to people should be. When moving from a warm up walk into the first steps of a jog, my body feels stiff and clunky. Whatever muscles I worked on at the gym the day before twinge in protest at having to move at speeds greater than an amble, and it takes a lot of concentration to establish a rhythm. And why is that??? Human beings have been running since the dawn of time- either toward something that will become dinner or away from something looking to make a human its dinner- so it seems like running should be as easy as walking, but it most certainly is not.

When I finally manage to jog out all of the kinks in my body and feel a little loose, the next challenge is that I can no longer breathe and my heart threatens to explode. I know that it wouldn’t be considered a cardio exercise if it didn’t tax our cardiovascular system a little bit, but why oh why oh why does running make my heart pound so that I have to turn up my podcast in order to hear Ira Glass tell me about Act One this week on This American Life over the drumming in my ears ? And why does every breath I take feel like fire in my lungs? Or worse, in the cold air, why does it feel like my trachea is no larger than one of those coffee stirring straws forcing me to gasp air like a goldfish whose bowl has been knocked over?

The grand finale of running discomfort comes when I have resigned myself to the fate of not being able to breathe and knowing that I could go into cardiac arrest at any moment. Just when I think that I can live with these things, my limbs turn into lead. Little by little, it takes more effort to lift my legs and pump my arms until it feels like I am running underwater, or maybe it’s more like being the Tin Man in a rain storm; my joints get creakier until I can’t possibly move them anymore.

So when people talk about getting a runner’s high, I think about how I feel- stiff, sore, lungs on fire, heart beating faster and louder than the bass line in a Ke$ha song and then, as if in a terrible nightmare, it all starts to happen in slow motion- I can only assume that a). these people black out while running because they can’t suck enough oxygen through their swizzle stick tracheas and they don’t accurately remember what the experience of running feels like, or b).  these people are trying to make themselves feel better by imagining that there is some payoff from running greater than simply checking off the exercise box on their to-do list. Either way, I’m not buying it.

For certain there are benefits to running. It is stress-relieveing and anxiety-reducing (no extra energy left to be stressed or anxious after a good, long run), it gets your blood moving which is great for all of your organs, it can help clear your thoughts (I spend most of my runs thinking about anything and everything so that I don’t have to think about the fact that I am running and I get a lot of planning done that way), but none of those benefits include a high of any sort. A Runner’s High is like a Unicorn or a pleasant-tasting cough syrup; it would be nice if any of those things existed, but they are all fantasy creatures and it isn’t fair to delude ourselves by pretending that they are real.

Sometimes I entertain the possibility that maybe I just haven’t run fast enough or far enough to experience the mythical Runner’s High, but I can’t find the motivation to want to try this theory out mostly because it would involve running faster and farther than I presently do. Once in a while, I’ll have a run that is kind of enjoyable. I’ll get through the first stages of creaky zombie-legs warm up and hit a rhythm and feel pretty good for a few miles, but most of the time I just feel like I would rather lie down on the pavement and call Don to come pick me up in the car than run another step.

Those are the days that I have to remind myself that running is not optional. I don’t have to do it every day, but I do occasionally have to do it if I want to be a fit and healthy person. Sure there are plenty of other cardio options, but every once in a while, even if its just for a short distance and at a very slow pace, it is necessary to remind my body what it feels like to run if only for the sake of proving to myself that it is not IMPOSSIBLE because it generally feels like it is. Also, even though all cardio exercises help to strengthen your cardiovascular system by insuring that you have a good, strong heart and big, healthy lungs, each exercise is slightly different in the way it works your body and it is always good to vary your exercise so that you are well-rounded in your fitness; focus too much on one thing, and you run the risk of looking like Popeye- scrawny all over with one concentration of big muscles!

Running is awful, it is difficult and sometimes painful and I often feel like I am failing at being a human being because I think running should come more naturally to me, but it is something that we must all do once in a while (even if we do it while pretending we are in the Hunger Games because that is the only way we could ever justify its necessity to ourselves). When I read articles about running either online or in magazines, it seems like the world is full of half-crazed running fanatics who swear that running is SO FUUUUNNNN or that it makes them SUPER HAAAAPPPPPYYYYY, and I’d like to remind everyone else out there that you are not alone. There are plenty of us who feel like running is an awful chore and the only thing about it that we look forward to is being done with our run so that we can spend another two or three days in the warm embrace of the elliptical machine, but when the gym starts to feel like a gloomy dungeon and our normal workout routine seems stale and boring, it is really nice to have the option of throwing on a pair of sneakers and getting a (literal) change of scenery. Running: I absolutely hate it, but I also kind of like it.

Jack doing his post-run stretching.
Jack doing his post-run stretching.

Hey Good-lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?

Don is away (dog-sitting for friends) for the long weekend, so I’m having  bachelorette time. Gossip Girl marathon! Painting my nails! Eating a dinner of diet Coke and Ben & Jerry’s!… maybe not that last part. When I was younger and had a metabolism faster than the speed of light, ice cream for dinner might have been a regular thing, but I’ve reformed now.

Part of the problem back then was that I did not know how to cook (the other part was that Ben & Jerry make delicious ice cream). I used to jump on Google to find out what a recipe meant when it asked me to do things like sauté and once I called my Mom to ask her how to make spaghetti (since the sauce came from a jar, I was pretty much asking her how to boil water and heat up liquified tomatoes). Until about a year ago, I felt like Derek Zoolander trying to get files from a computer whenever I tried to make something from a recipe.

Early last Spring, I came across a book in the library, ‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’ by Kathleen Flinn, that really helped me expand my culinary horizons beyond making couscous from a box. In the book, the author, who graduated from the Cordon Bleu in France, chronicles a year-or-so long project in which she teaches a handful of people who have no culinary skills (like myself) how to make food on their own. Even if you are proficient in the kitchen, the book is worth a read because the writing is thoughtful, the story is a good one, and the book includes some yummy recipes. Armed with some of those recipes and the advice given to the novice cooks in the book, I began to experiment in the kitchen and have become more proficient.

A lack of proficiency (or feeling like you lack proficiency) in the kitchen is why many of us eat meals that come from a box or out of the freezer; not only are these meals super easy and quick to make, but they taste the same EVERY SINGLE TIME you make them. You don’t have to wonder if the sauce is going to be salty enough when all you have to do is open the envelope and add water and it is the same envelope you open and add water too every Tuesday night. This kind of consistency is comforting to those of us who are overwhelmed in the kitchen, and, while we realize that things like Hamburger Helper may not be the best tasting, at least we know they will be palatable because it is foolproof.  Foolproof may be simple, but it generally isn’t very healthy (think about it, when has your doctor ever recommended that you eat more neon orange ‘cheese’ powder), and it doesn’t offer much variety in flavor.

Variety is very important when you are trying to eat healthy. If you are hoping to eat more vegetables and the only way you know how to cook them is to steam them, then pretty soon you will be dreading your veggies; and sometimes, it takes a few tries before you find a way to make a vegetable taste good. For example, the dining hall at my college used to serve an eggplant panini and it was not good. It smelled strange, had a funny, rubbery texture and tasted like I imagine formaldehyde would. Not having grown up eating eggplant, I attributed this undesirable  flavor to it and I decided that I hated eggplant. It wasn’t until six years later when I bought an eggplant on a whim and roasted it with some other veggies that I realized it was the marinade and the way the eggplant was sliced that made the panini so gross, and that I actually love eggplant!

Another upside to doing more ‘freestyle’ cooking and relying less on boxed meals is the ability to control the ingredients going into your dinner. What if your doctor has suggested you eat a lower sodium diet, and you are making yourself some Kraft Mac & Cheese? You aren’t adding any salt to it, so no problem, right? Well, if you glance at the nutrition facts, you’ll notice that it has twenty percent of your daily value of sodium in one serving, and you can’t really change that because you have no control over the ingredients in that little envelope. If we want to eat healthfully, we need to have a lot of control over the things that go into our meals, so, if walking into the kitchen makes you break out into hives, pick up Kathleen Flinn’s book, browse the internet for helpful sites, and start with a recipe that makes sense to you (try Smitten Kitchen, it is a food blog and the recipes are written well with clear instructions, and if you have questions, Deb will answer them in the comments). Here are some recipes that I have been into lately:

A Vegetable Minestrone Soup, sent to me by my sister-in-law, Alice, when I was pleading for more kale recipes!

2 med. onion, 4 lg carrots, 4 celery stalks, 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 cans canellini beans, 3 zucchini, 2 bunches greens (ie. kale, chard…), 2 qts broth, 28 oz diced tomatoes, 1 bay leaf, oregano, thyme, a dash of cayenne, 6 oz pasta

Sauté onions, garlic, carrots, celery. Add tomatoes and beans. Season (to taste, you can always add more later) and add broth, cook for 15 minutes. Add zucchini and greens, cook 10 mins. Add pasta, cook 10 mins

This recipe is quite tasty and made an enormous amount of pasta; in total about 14 generous bowls. A word of advice, use the biggest pot you own. Even my biggest pot couldn’t hold everything and I had to cook the pasta separately and I could only fit 1 qt of broth in the pot so I had to add more later in the week. This soup is great because there are a variety of textures and flavors so it is interesting to eat and, since there was so much of it, we ate it for dinner all week long! Thanks Alice!

Vegetable Minestrone, with an egg on top for added protein.
Vegetable Minestrone, with an egg on top for added protein.

Kale Calzone! You could, in theory, put whatever you want in the calzone, it doesn’t have to be kale, but if you are just acquainting yourself with kale, this is one of the yummiest ways to eat it. The crust recipe I think came from Smitten Kitchen originally.

Calzone crust: 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp yeast, 1/2 c warm water, 1 TBsp olive oil.

Mix dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until doughy. Dump on a floured counter and knead until uniform consistency. Put in oiled bowl and allow to rise 2 hrs. Dump on floured counter and knead again. Return to bowl and allow to rise 20 mins

Calzone filling: Kale, spinach, onions, garlic, feta, salt and pepper.

Use equal parts kale and spinach (about 10 oz of each). Boil the kale 4-5 minutes so it is more tender. Use onions and garlic to taste, brown the onions in olive oil so they are tender, add the garlic for the last few minutes. Mix the greens, onions, garlic and feta in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Stretch out your pizza dough on a pan or pizza stone, dump the filling on half of it, fold the other half of the dough over and mush the seam together to close. I usually cut a vent in the top of the calzone but I’m not sure if it is necessary. Bake for about 10 mins on your oven’s highest temp. Basically, you are waiting for the crust to brown since the filling is already cooked.

Kale, boiling
Kale, boiling

Give these recipes a try, the soup in particular is a good late-winter meal, and all of them are pretty healthy. Sure pizza dough isn’t necessarily good for you, but the bulk of what you are eating in the calzone is greens, and if you are trying to go lower carb,  leave the pasta out of the soup and maybe add in more carrots. For more yummy goodness, check out this kale salad recipe that my friend Amy found online and sent along, it is very good, and this tofu stir fry (I’m eating it right now for dinner, fantastic) from a fun-to-read blog, Fitness on Toast. Don’t be afraid to keep going back to healthy options that you may not like on the first try and also don’t feel pressured to eat something you really can’t stand. If eating celery no matter which way it is cooked(I HATE CELERY!) makes you feel like Ron Swanson eating a banana, it might be time to throw in the towel.

Go, go gadget…

We are well into the first month of the year, and many of us have begun our journey to better health. While the downside to the ‘New Year-New Me’ fitness craze is that gyms worldwide seem about 200% busier than normal, those of us who have been going to the gym faithfully year-round will get used to the increased gym traffic in time and those of us who are familiarizing ourselves with the gym for the first time will get our sea-legs soon enough and navigating the maze of machines will become second nature.

Over the last week or two, I have heard some of my gym acquaintances muttering about looking forward to the Resolution drop-off that will start in February. While I am tempted to agree with them when I have to change my workout plan on the fly because each dumbbell from 10-25 pounds is in use, the squat racks and Smith machines are all occupied, and every treadmill is whizzing away underneath a pair of sneakers, I am actually glad to see so many people committed to their health and I hope everyone is able to stick with their resolutions.

If you have resolved to be healthier and more fit, bravo for you! As you continue on your journey, remember that starting is the HARDEST part. The first day is awful, the first week is brutal, the first time you run a mile is excruciating, and the first time you try a new type of exercise is difficult. You wouldn’t want to have to start all over again, so stick with your resolution and don’t give up; if you can take that first step and walk a mile or do ten push-ups without your arms giving out on you, you can keep up with your workouts for an entire week. If you can make it to the gym for a whole week, you can surely do it for a month, and if you make it a month, you can do it the following month, and the one after that….until it is January 2015 and you need to find another resolution to make because you stuck with this year’s!

While I generally abide by a ‘less is more’ life philosophy, I find it extremely helpful to have things that keep track of my exercise and hold me accountable as I try to become healthier. There are probably a million gadgets and gizmos out there to help you become more fit; I wish I had the time and money to try each and every one of them, but I do not. The following is an overview of some things that I find useful and are worth it for you to consider trying. Some of these things I have mentioned previously, but I think they deserve to be mentioned again.

Go, go gadget…

Part of the main interface for the iPhone FitBit app
Part of the main interface for the iPhone FitBit app

FitBit: This company has something for everyone when it comes to pedometers. I call them pedometers because that is basically what they are, but they are pedometers on steroids, they are the Incredible Hulk of pedometers. I have had my FitBit One for about a year and LOVE it. With it, I can track my daily steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance travelled, calories burned and activity level. Online or in your smartphone, you can log the food you eat and activities the FitBit can’t track (like swimming) and you can seek out friends who also have FitBits to see how many steps they have. Aside from the One, FitBit offers another pedometer called the Zip and two that you can wear around your wrist, the Flex and the Force. Their products range in price from $60-$130 which seems pretty steep for a pedometer, but I sent mine through the washing machine this summer and it still works, so sometimes paying a little more has its benefits. What I like most about the FitBit is that it is an activity tracker and food log all in one and I like the social media aspect of it. A little friendly competition encourages me to be more active; currently, my Dad is leading my friends in steps. He is even beating a guy who ran a full marathon last weekend!

See how your steps compare to your friends'
See how your steps compare to your friends’ with FitBit

Bodybuilding.com: This website is great for people who are just starting to focus on strength training. Here you can find many programs (including the LiveFit Trainer, hint hint, nudge, nudge) designed for different needs, you can learn how to do various exercises by watching helpful videos, get nutrition advice and recipes, buy supplements, learn how to properly stretch, and even read informative articles like this one about stepping into the gym for the first time (coincidentally by my fav gym guru, Jamie Eason).  Everything except for the supplements is free. That’s right, FREE gym advice, FREE workout templates, FREE nutritional programs, FREE demonstration videos. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?

Home screen of the Bodyspace app
Home screen of the Bodyspace app

Bodyspace App: This free app is another facet of bodybuilding.com. You can access the app online through their site or you can download it for your smartphone. The app can help you find workouts and exercises specific to whichever muscle groups you want to focus on and you can track the workouts that you have done so that you can see your progress. You can search for specific workouts to track, for example, if you are thinking of starting the Live Fit trainer (do it! do it!) you can type ‘Jamie Eason’ under Find a Program and track your workouts as you go. I could do without the social media aspect of this app because I find the interface very cluttered especially when compared to FitBit’s, but otherwise the app is a convenient way to keep tabs on yourself. If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t feel like using fancy apps to track your workouts, invest in a notebook so that you can track your progress.

Find workouts by program and track them with Bodyspace. Too easy!
Find workouts by program and track them with Bodyspace. Too easy!

Map My Run, Map My Walk, Map My Ride: A few more free apps that help keep you moving. As their names depict, each app can help you track your running/walking/biking route and the distance and speed at which you travelled. Favorite routes can be saved and routes can be suggested for you. You can use these apps on your computer or smartphone, the only downfall is that the gps tracking really zaps your phone’s battery so it is not ideal for long bike rides.

Workout clothing: It is extremely important to have clothes that fit you well and that you feel comfortable in for exercising; you want to be able to move freely and not fidget with a too-short shirt or pants that are heading south. If you feel self-conscious about starting a workout program, it will only be intensified if you are uncomfortable in your clothing. Material is the second most important factor; pick material that is sweat wicking and lightweight so that you aren’t burning up while you are feeling the burn. If you want to get fancy-schmancy, some companies are now making things with antimicrobial materials to guarantee you won’t get swamp ass, but I’m not convinced this is necessary. At this point, my favorite workout clothes are the Under Armour Perfect Pant and the GapFit Breathe Ts and tank tops. I also like the Under Armour running shirts, but the GapFit Breathe material is super lightweight and super soft. I received a couple for Christmas, so we will see how they hold up compared to the Under Armour shirts.

Sneakers: With all of the innovative technology that goes into modern footwear, you really can’t go wrong choosing sneakers; basically they are all lightweight, breathable and balanced and it is really up to your personal preference as to which type and brand to buy. When shopping, be sure to try on a variety of pairs and take your time so that you end up with the best sneaker for you and ask for help from a sale associate who knows something about something.

I  hope some of this information is helpful, and I double hope that you are still hanging in there with your fitness resolutions. Remember to take things slowly at first so that you don’t rush off and injure yourself, and keep in mind that, at first, you may not see results when you look in the mirror. One of the easiest ways to get discouraged is to expect to see dramatic changes super fast. Instead of standing in front of the mirror every morning and hoping to see your face on Mary J. Blige’s body (she is super fit!), think about how you feel. Are you sleeping better at night because those workouts are zapping that anxious energy that usually keeps your mind ticking away? Do you feel more energized because you are filling up on fruits, veggies and nuts instead of coffee cake and Twizzlers? Are you getting less winded when you go for a walk or run because your body is getting stronger? These are the changes you’ll see right away and they are signs that your commitment to health is off to a good start. Keep going to those workouts and keep eating the right stuff! Next time, I’m hoping to piece together some of my favorite healthy recipes to share with you… expect to see some kale!

You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet: It’s Resolution Time, Baby

As much as I love the holidays and all of the merrymaking that accompanies them, I am looking forward to not having to be on guard against hidden calories every time I put something in my mouth. Don and I have a friend who is an excellent baker and she gave us a basket filled with goodies that we have finally found the bottom of, our stash of chocolate that ‘Santa’ left in our stockings is dwindling, and our roaring schedule of parties, dinners out with friends and celebratory feasts has toned back down to normal. I admit to indulging over the holidays (you show me the person who claims to be able to resist a sugar cookie and I’ll show you a liar), but I was diligent about staying active as much as possible.

There were a several days over the last few weeks where I had perfectly legitimate ‘Get Out of Jail Free Cards’- the gym opened later and closed earlier most days, I had to work longer hours to accommodate for holiday closures, and the weather has been damp and dreary- but I didn’t use them! It would have been so easy to hit snooze and nestle back under my covers for another thirty minutes of sweet, sweet sleep or to use the spare hour I had in between work and a holiday party to blow-dry and accessorize, but I didn’t choose the easy route! Instead, I chose the healthy route; the sometimes-I-had-to-get-up-at-4:30-and-go-running-in-the-dark-with-my-faithful-husband-and-hound route; the I’m-sorry-I-showed-up-to-your-party-with-wet-hair-and-only-one-earring-but-I-managed-to-squeeze-in-30-minutes-of-cardio route, and while I didn’t always feel like I was getting in the best workouts, I was grateful for having even the teeniest bit of exercise to both ward off the Ghosts of Christmas Treats Past and help relieve some of the anxiety that accompanies the holidays for everyone over the age of thirteen (why isn’t the Post Office a 24-hour operation and why can’t I buy tape, wine and mittens at the same store?).

Now that the tree has been dragged to the curb (or, if you are from Vermont, placed in the bed of your pickup to be forgotten about until it is a skeleton shedding rust-colored needles and you need to take it out to make room for a deer carcass)*, it is time to start thinking about your resolutions for the New Year! Probably, since it is the 6th of January, many of you have already pledged yourself to some form of betterment and maybe you have even begun to act on this pledge (if so, you should make a resolution to be an over-achiever because you are well on your way, my friend), but for the rest of us, the time to make a resolution is NOW and what better thing than to resolve to be healthier?

Being healthier means different things to people. Over the last five months, I have made a huge commitment to my health and have been impressed with myself for both finishing the LiveFit program and sticking with my workout routine after the program; a year ago, I would never have gone running in the wee hours of the morning unless I was thrown into some weird sort of Hunger Games scenario and my life depended on it. Even so, there are still things I need to work on and one of the biggest components for good health is a good diet, so I have resolved to eat better. I have been saying that I am trying to eat better for months and months and months, but as a wise Jedi master once advised a young Luke Skywalker “Do, or do not, there is no try.”

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

We’ve all heard the sayings: ‘You are what you eat’, ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’, ‘abs are built in the kitchen’, ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’, etc. It is a sad situation we have created for ourselves; we have an abundance of food available to us at all times of the year conveniently packaged in cellophane so that it stays fresh pretty much forever, but unfortunately all of that food is crap. It is tasty crap, it is convenient crap, but it is crap just the same. My first order of business was to trade pre-packaged processed fake food  for real food whenever possible. Why grab a can of overly salty soup from the store shelf when I own a knife, cutting board and a crockpot and can make my own soup? Why buy a tube of pre-made pizza dough that stays fresh for a suspiciously long time when I can dump flour, water and yeast in a bowl before I leave my house in the morning and have pizza dough waiting for me when I get home at night? Before I grab a package of something with vegetable flavoring from the grocery store shelf, I consider whether I have the skills and time to use the real vegetable instead, and if I lack the time, maybe I can do it tomorrow instead and eat something else tonight? I have been exploring new recipes (especially recipes for kale, if you have any of those, pass them along) so that I don’t get stuck in a boring health food rut.

In order to start eating better, I also had to identify the worst parts of my diet and the best parts of my diet.

The Worsts!: Cheese, bread, sugar

The Bests: kale, fruit, tea/water

What I have going for me in my current diet is that I love fresh fruit, I drink mostly tea and water and never soda, and since Thanksgiving, kale has been abundant in the grocery store so we have been eating it about five nights a week (hence the request for kale recipes, my husband has not uttered one protest about the month-long kale parade but I’m reaching the end of my creativity). My weaknesses are cheese (the stinkier and creamier, the better!), anything made in a bakery but particularly the German Weißbrot that I can get fresh from the oven at my grocery store, and, as always, sweets. My plan, and it is working so far, is to simply reduce the amount of the ‘worsts’ I eat and substitute more of the ‘bests’. When I have a hankering for something sweet and crunchy, instead of reaching for a divine chunk of hazelnut and raisins Ritter Sport, I grab a handful of juicy grapes. I have also been making plans for my meals so that I don’t get caught starving at dinnertime in a grocery store and snacking on a mozzarella ball as I wander the aisles wondering what I am going to make for dinner.

Kale!
Kale!

Eating healthier doesn’t have to be a big challenge. It seems like an overwhelming task and one that involves depriving yourself of treats, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m still treating myself to cookies, chocolate, beer and glühwein, I’m just not treating myself to them every day, and I’m keeping in mind what little I know about human biology and evolution. We are an animal that once spent its days wandering in search of food sometimes finding it, sometimes not. We evolved and developed a storage system (hello fat cells) for the food that we did not need at the moment but were able to consume so that we could use it later when we couldn’t find food, and then we evolved some more and developed ways to store food for longer (hello freezers and preservatives) so that there would never be a time when we couldn’t find it. My diet philosophy is this: eat when you are hungry, stop when you are not. If your sweet tooth is calling, see if fruit will satisfy before you reach for the Snickers. Fresh is best, frozen or canned is ok, chemical flavoring is to be avoided whenever possible. Fill your plate with veggies, leave a small space for protein and an even smaller space for carbs. And please, send me your kale recipes!

*I joke about Vermont because I love Vermont. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Champlain, I recognize that there are a multitude of things we Vermonters do well (pretty much everything), but getting rid of things we are finished using is not one of them.