All posts by Aimee

Three Ways to Stay Full Longer

Chew, chew, chew, it is the thing to do!

Llama chewingThe benefits of chewing one’s food cannot be emphasized enough, simply because it is so damn simple yet so freaking hard! Chewing does three main things to increase satiety:

  1. it signals the lowering of ghrelin levels (a ‘hunger’ hormone) and boosts satisfaction hormones CCK and GLP-1*, basically sending a message to the body that reads something like this: “We’ve got chow incoming! Turn down the alarms!”
  2. Chewing also increases our capacity to absorb nutrients by breaking down the cell walls and allowing enzymes to more efficiently do their job in preparing food for absorption in the digestive tract. If you get more nutrients per bite, you are likely to need fewer bites to satisfy your body!
  3. Additionally, chewing takes TIME. And the more time we spend with a meal the more time we have for satiety hormones to communicate to one another and finally to get to the brain, signaling fullness. We become more full on less food (more than 10% less, according to the study cited below)

When I first learned this concept I was told that chewing 50 times per bite was a good place to start (this came from Andrea Beaman, who learned it from macrobiotic teachings which advocated no less than 100 chews per bite!) I assumed I was chewing 20 times before swallowing and was shocked to discover I averaged about 9 chews per mouthful!! Bumping it up to 50 was like slow suicide; but I was able to increase it to 30 and noticed that I was full with 20 – 25% of my meal still sitting on my plate. It was a startling realization of how little food my body actually needs and how powerful those hormones can be when we use them to our advantage.

Takeaway: Chew each bite 30 – 40 times before swallowing.

Pump Up the Volume

About 10 years ago a book called Volumetrics came out, essentially stating that volume trumps calories when it comes to weight loss. This concept takes advantage of the fact that stomach size is limited, so you want to fill it with more bulk per calorie. This is not a new concept; in the 90’s Dr. Shapiro put out a fantastic book called Picture Perfect Weight Loss that gave a pictorial view of this concept (as shown here)

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 1.02.12 PM

 

Here it’s easy to see which is going to be more satisfying. When choosing a volumous plate, reach for whole foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. The Volume factor is one reason why my fat loss clients are strongly encouraged to make every meal 50% fibrous, watery veggies. You know the kind – stir fry veggies and salad greens – vegetables which are very dense in vitamins, minerals and phytonutients and very low in calories. Vegetables give you the most bang for your buck for staying slim, boosting overall health, and combatting inflammation and aging.

Takeaway: Make sure produce shows up at every meal and snack.

Pick Protein

If the fiber and volume of veggies fill you quickly, then protein provides the satiety staying power. Protein is a long-range satisfying food. It takes a long time for the body to break it down to utilize the amino acids which means it stays in the stomach longer and delays gastric emptying. Protein foods also boost dopamine levels in the brain, keeping us alert and mentally engaged and thus preventing snacking in the late afternoon in an attempt to revitalize lagging energy.

Takeaway:

*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21775556

I'm Sick…Should I Skip My Workout?

One of most frustrating things about getting sick is the interruption in your exercise routine. If fitness was part of your New Year’s resolution, you have established a regular routine and habit of movement. We notice the weather is starting to turn as cherry blossoms bloom and temperatures begin to raise, which only increases our desire to take our workout out of the gym.
And then —

Your child, your co-worker, that random stranger gifts you the sniffles.

Should you can your workout if you are sick? Well, It depends on your overall symptoms.

yellow lightLight Coughing and/or sneezing: Give it a try. If your energy is fine and you can breathe, you can exercise. You may want to have a lighter workout, though. If your coughing is deep within the chest and more of a consistent “hacking” nature then stay at home.

Body Aches and/or Deep Fatigue: Skip it. If you are approaching your workout sore and red lightexhausted, it isn’t going to get better. Your form will be off and you will not only increase your risk of injury, but may prolong your illness.

red lightFever and/or chills: Skip it. Stay at home, have some soup, rest!!! This holds true even if green light symptoms are also present.


green lightRunny Nose and/or Congestion: While this can be quite an annoyance, it doesn’t have to stop you from exercising if you feel up to it.

red lightNausea, upset stomach: Lay down, drink some ginger tea and call it a day. The jostling nature of physical activity is not likely to help you help you out!


green lightSore Throat: Go for it! If no fever is present, the increased body temperature of exercising may eradicate whatever nasty bug is settling in your throat.

As a general rule of thumb – if symptoms are present above the neck, feel free to exercise. If they are manifesting below the neck, its best to stay home. If you decide to work out, plan on exercising half your usual time, going
half-speed on the treadmill or stationary bike, and backing off on the
weights until you regain your health. If you’ve been out sick and are feeling better, keep it light and easy until your energy and stamina return fully.

Whenever you are ill make sure your immune system is supported with LOTS OF WATER. If your throat is tender, you may find hot beverages particularly comforting. Take a thermos to the gym with warm water and lemon juice. Also, remember to take those extra precautions to prevent your illness from spreading – wipe down handles and equipment, wash your hands often, and cough into your elbow or armpit to prevent germs from spreading.

The Highly Anticipated, Often Dreaded Ice Bath

The picture you see here is of me, after my first marathon, sitting in a tub of ice in a Portland, Oregon hotel. It was 2003.

ice-bath-porland marathon

It took me some time to warm up to the idea of an ice bath (pun intended). I detested the cold and had no intention of ever placing myself in a freezing environment if I could help it. During training for my first marathon, I would hear my coach recommend ice baths to his clients, and I shuddered at the thought. Finally, after one particularly difficult training run, my achy, stiff legs finally convinced me to try otherwise.

It was so worth it.

The day this photo was taken, I had finished my first and worst marathon ever. I was in a lot of pain. Sitting in this tub was like dousing a match in a cool glass of water. It was absolute, instant relief. It’s not always that dramatic  (nor should it be!) but the oft dreaded ice bath will consistently allow your muscles to recover faster and reduce soreness by curbing inflammation resulting from microtears in the tissue.  It is well worth ten minutes of discomfort, I promise!

That said, after hearing tales of runners prepping the tub and hopping in butt naked (and right back out!) I thought it may be important to share the best and easiest way to give yourself an ice bath. This comes from years of personal experience and a healthy aversion to the cold.

1) Suit up! Only your legs need to be submerged, which means you get to wear hats, gloves, and sweaters on the top half to keep your core nice and warm.  Note the stunning model below:

Aimee-Ice-Bath-2-Boston Marathon

 

2) Place an inch or so of warm water in the bottom of the tub. This warms the porcelain and offers a nice transitional phase into the ice bath.

3) Hop into the tub, half-dressed, and turn the handle all the way to cold. Let the water rise until it is just above your thighs.

4) Dump in 2-3 bags of ice as the finishing touch.  Bathe for 5-10 minutes, distracting yourself with a good book, that upcoming trip to Hawaii, reliving the glory of your athletic prowess, or conversation with a close friend who is sitting atop toilet next to you.

5) Polish it off with a nice, warm shower and a happy dance!

New Ways to Get Creative and make food fun!

Like everyone, I tend to get in food ruts. Once a month I like to shake things up by broadening my culinary creativity.

A standard monthly visit to the local Asian grocery store is always exciting. Having been raised in Western culture, many of the fruits, vegetables, and packaged goods are new and mysterious. So on every visit I pick a vegetable I am unfamiliar with.

Last month I chose lotus root. It was crispy like water chestnut, but lovely in shape and added a touch of elegance and sophistication to my Sea Goddess Saute’. This month I’ve chosen bac ha. I’ve never seen it or heard of it before. It is a stalk like celery or bok choy but has a spongy looking interior, like bone matrix or your bathroom sponge. It is a green vegetable. I’ve brought it home and googled it’s name. From this I have discovered that it is known as taro stem and elephant ear. I’ve also managed to take home a vegetable that must be cooked, lest microcrystals of calcium oxalate irritate my mucous membranes.

Never a dull moment in my kitchen!

What I’ll do next is find a recipe that uses this vegetable, further expanding my culinary horizons and adding a new recipe to my ever-growing list. It seems most common in Vietnamese food, and you’ll be certain that whatever the winning recipe is, it will be posted here!

This method of exploring new foods also works well to get children to eat produce. Bring them to the grocery store and have them each pick out a fruit or vegetable to try. Have them help prepare the produce as age appropriate and they will be more likely to try it!

Top Ten Calorie-Free Treats

Below are my list of top ten calorie free treats. These are suitable for any diet, whether you are a vegetarian, omnivore, lactose-intolerant, or even a gluten-free triathlete!

1) Massage

2) A walk in nature – the beach, a wooded trail, around a lake…

3) Good Conversation

4) Laughter

5) Spontaneous Dance Parties

6) Exercise

7) Spa treatments

8) A Good Book

9) Candle-lit, rose pedal, scented baths

10) Playing with dogs, cats, and/or kids

What are some of your favorite calorie-free treats?

Recipe of the Moment: Thai Sea Goddess Saute'

Okay.  I just finished making and eating this and I am one HAPPY camper! I added lotus root to this recipe to make it extra special. Lotus root is found in most Asian supermarkets for reasonable prices. It is a deeply symbolic food item with a rich cultural history (check it out).

Holy basil is a variety of basil revered for it’s effect on calming the nerves and reducing irritation and inflammation throughout the body while boosting immunity and facilitating the body’s ability to adapt to stressors.  Scallops and shrimp are high in tryptophan and contain appreciable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, making this a sure-fire mood lifting meal.Thai Sea Goddess Saute'

Enjoy!

Thai Sea Goddess Saute’

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on CHOW.com

  • 1 tbsp.  peanut or coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic or 1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup lotus root, sliced thinly and quartered
  • 1¼ pounds raw bay scallops
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, sliced fine
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, tops only, sliced fine
  • 1/2 pound frozen cooked shrimp, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 3 tablespoons  holy basil leaves (you can use Thai basil instead)
  • Holy basil florets or stem tips, for garnish
  1. All advance preparation may be found in the ingredient list.
  2. Add the oil to a very hot wok or skillet and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and lotus root and  sauté until garlic is light golden. Immediately add the scallops, and zucchini and stir-fry 1 minute.
  3. Add the chile sauce and sauté quickly until fragrant.
  4. Reduce the heat and add the cilantro, scallions, shrimp, and fish sauce. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Just before service, add the holy basil leaves and stir to incorporate.
  5. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Even better — rice or quinoa that has been cooked in coconut milk.  Incredible!

Staying Grounded: A Simple, Seasonal Soup

Winter is Vata season – season of air and wind. It leaves many of us a little scattered, especially if we are not living in tune with the seasons and taking more downtime and rest as the plants and animals around us do.
People with heavy amounts of Vata in their Ayurvedic constitution tend to have more difficulty staying focused and calm during winter months. Anxiety, worry, distracting thoughts, insomnia, or feeling “spaced out” is common for them when imbalanced. On a physical level, one may experience more gas, bloating, and constipation, fatigue with an inability to relax, and increased sensitivity to the cold. The grounding soup recipe below is seasonally appropriate for winter – when root veggies come into season – and they are quite calming and grounding to the body. From a Chinese 5 element and Ayurvedic standpoint, root vegetables draw our energy back towards the earth and help keep us calm and focused. They are slightly more yang, their own energies cause them to grow close to or burrow into the earth and this energy is passed onto the consumer.
Don’t believe in “energy” around food? Sugar, a highly yin food, makes most people a little spastic and unfocused. When Mom cooks a meal, it tastes better than when you follow her recipe to the “T”, because it is infused with her love. When the chef is upset…well, you can taste it in the food. It’s flat and “off” somehow.

If you are feeling a little spacey, a little anxious, a little constipated and bloated or just want a seasonal, warm winter meal, try the soup recipe below. It’s simple and delightful this time of year!

GROUNDING SOUP

– adapted from Jen Hoy’s recipe at about.com

According to Chinese 5 element theory, round and root vegetables strengthen the spleen and reproductive organs, nourish the liver, and aid digestion. This soothing soup has a notable calming, easing effect, and should be eaten often by anyone with a sensitive nervous system. The soup also helps promote lactation, and balance blood sugar. It is especially good during the cooler months, as it is considered a warming soup.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients:

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
* 1 leek, white and green parts, chopped
* 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 1 medium carrot, chopped
* 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
* 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
* 1 small turnip or rutabaga, peeled and chopped
* 1 small pumpkin, or butternut or kabocha squash, peeled and chopped
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 quarts vegetable or beef stock
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
* Sea salt
* Chopped parsley (optional)
* fresh ginger to taste (optional)

Preparation:
In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, leek, garlic, celery and carrot, and sauté until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add potato, sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, pumpkin and bay leaf. Stir vegetables, and then add vegetable stock.

Bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Add thyme, and sea salt to taste. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Remove bay leaf, and puree soup in a Vitamix, if desired.

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. This soup keeps well for several days.

Makes about 3 quarts, or 6 servings.

Aimee is Interviewed on Living her Passions!

I had the GREAT honor this afternoon of sharing with others what it is like to live an inspiring life. Sue Oliver, success coach and head of the Passions and Possibilities Project asked me to share some of my story and what it means to take the leap into living a life you are passionate about.

Below is our chat. I hope you find it inspiring and uplifting and that it moves you to live more of the life you dream for yourself!

With affection,

Aimee

PS — I am not endorsing, nor have any control over, any ad that is mentioned at the beginning of this radio show!!

The Importance of Mindfulness

I set this to post while I am away meditating. It seems appropriate, as meditation is an act of creating mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a key element in successfully maintaining weight loss, determining which foods work best for your body, and for staying healthy and balanced in all areas of life. With countless external cues creating an environment suited to overindulgence, vigorous attention to our body’s cues is perhaps the most effective tool for health available — and it costs nothing!

We can all agree that what we eat has a huge impact on our health and energy, but what is less commonly known is how what we eat affects our appetite, our moods, and our thoughts. With hectic, busy lifestyles, we are no longer aware of the impact that our food choices have on our level of functioning, and many have lost sight of what high level functioning feels like.

[Tweet “When we begin to pay attention, our entire world becomes possibility for change.”]

By noticing how the foods we eat affect our body, we empower ourselves to make different choices. One of the key things clients who work with VIBRANCE experience is a greater connection between food and body wellness, and a greater understanding of the language their unique body uses to communicate with them.
When we begin to make different choices based on how our body feels, we capitalize on the body’s ability to restore and heal itself and experience a greater sense of wellness and vitality.  [Tweet “When it comes to weight loss, mindfulness is mandatory for sustained success.”]

When I first started setting everything aside to enjoy my meal, I found it boring. Painfully so! I wanted to rush through my meal so I could get back to whatever seemed more pressing at the time.
Then I slowed down even more, focusing instead on the food that was in front of me — the gloss of the dressing on my spinach leaf, the sensation of biting into a crisp bite of apple or celery, the feel of different textures and tastes in my mouth as I chewed. I became aware I only chewed about 6 – 10 times before swallowing, so I tried to quadruple that and I found I needed to take smaller bites. Then I noticed I was full long before my plate was empty.

So I started putting less food on my plate…  You can see where this is going.

Multi-tasking is registered in the brain as stress; inducing a fight or flight response because the brain is divided between important duties.  The adrenaline kicks in to increase our attentiveness, but ultimately this has negative impact on our short term memory as well as our overall health and well-being.

When we multi-task while eating, we do not pick up on the very food cues that initiate digestion. The smell of food, even the thought of food starts our systems preparing for digestion and assimilation. Chewing begins the process of tearing down a meal and key enzymes located in saliva are responsible for digesting carbohydrate.  The sight of our meal cues the hormonal cascade that lets us know we are full 20 minutes after we begin eating.

[Tweet “When stressed or distracted, our digestive system takes the back seat.”] The body isn’t interested in extracting vitamins from an orange when it’s white-knuckling it through a stack of emails or preparation for a board meeting.  Consequently, digestion is impaired and stomach troubles, fat storage, and blood lipids increase while the ability to detoxify, extract vitamins and minerals, feel full and be satisfied decreases.

Simply sitting down, looking at your food, and paying attention to how it feels will make you feel more satisfied. Make it a habit and you’ll likely drop some weight, improve your digestion, and you may even find out you don’t actually like the convenience foods you’ve been eating all this time. (it’s happened before!)

Give it a try for one meal a day for the next 10 days and let me know what the effects are.  I’d love to hear back from you.

More information:

The Pitfalls of Multi-tasking

Why Being Mindful Matters

Study: A cup of tea can reduce stress up to 25%

A study by Dr Malcolm Cross confirms what tea-lovers have long espoused: if you are upset or anxious, it’s a good idea to brew a cup of tea.

The study, as reported by the British Telegraph, said that a stress-inducing test caused a reported 25% increase in stress levels by those who did not receiving tea following their stress test. Those who did receive tea reported a 4%  decrease in stress. (click here to read more about this study).

Keep in mind this is a British study, and the Brits have had a longstanding cultural relationship with tea. Even though Americans do not engage in teas to the extent of our British cousins, the image and experience of making a cup of tea can induce similar ideas of unwinding; this idea permeates our culture mostly in advertising and movies instead of occurring in the home.

Give it a try and see what happens! Below is my favorite way to prepare tea:


Aimee’s Cuppa

I never liked tea, nor drank it in the British style, until I met my friend Nefratiri. I would go over to Nef’s house when I was about 18 to talk about religion and government and all sorts of juicy topics.  She would make me tea using soymilk and maple syrup and I became HOOKED on the stuff.  It has since become a very soothing staple on cold days or whenever I need a little extra love.

  • 1 teabag or loose-leaf tea in a teaball (some of my faves: Celestial Seasoning’s Tension Tamer or Gingerbread tea; Republic of Tea Blackberry Sage, Morning Glory Chai or a redbush chai)
  • 1-2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy milk, almond milk, or hemp milk (rice milk is too watery)
  • boiling water

Bring water to a boil in a kettle or pot. Remove from heat. Add the teabag to your favorite mug and top with water, leaving room for “milk”. Add milk and maple syrup and stir.

Sit back, inhale deeply, and enjoy.