Spring Fling Chicken & Nectarine Salad

Spring Fling Nectarine Salad 2017

You can tell I’m feeling a little goofy when I choose a title like Spring Fling Chicken & Nectarine Salad, but it’s a gorgeous spring day and I don’t feel like taking life too seriously all the time. Sometimes we just need to be a little silly.

A friend of mine recently mentioned that they’d found some super ripe and delicious nectarines at my local store. It seemed kind of early in the season but they smelled amazing so I immediately bought a whole bunch of them. I made this salad three days in a row. It is so good! Well, as long as you like “fruit in your food” as I say. Not everybody likes fruit in their savory dishes, but I happen to love the savory-sweet combination and lunchtime salads are always an opportunity to satisfy that particular flavor craving.

Although it’s quite simple, this salad does not disappoint! The flavors balance and support each other in a fairly sophisticated way. The arugula provides a backdrop of bitterness for the mild chicken which is bolstered by pops of juicy sweetness from the nectarine. The toasted almonds bring warmth and depth while the basil and mint provide the freshness. Delicately dressing the salad allows each of the flavors to shine through on their own. I have a feeling this salad will be in my rotation all summer long. In fact, I planted some basil and mint in pots by my door so I could make sure that it does!

I hope you are all celebrating the arrival (finally! for a lot of us) of spring sunshine, warmer days and lovely, long evenings. Let me know if you try this salad and love it too!

Spring Fling Chicken & Nectarine Salad

5 oz. cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)

1 ripe nectarine

2 handfuls of arugula

a little red onion sliced very thinly

1/2 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted

7-8 basil leaves, thinly sliced (about 2 Tbsp.)

12 mint leaves, thinly sliced (about 2 Tbsp.)

1 Tbsp. Paleo mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar

salt

lots of cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Mix together mayonnaise and vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper in the bottom of a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add arugula to the bowl.
  3. Chop chicken and nectarine into 1/2″ sized bites and add to the bowl with the arugula.
  4. Add onion and almond slivers along with the sliced herbs.
  5. Toss everything together, add a little salt and pepper, and taste. Add more pepper if it needs it and enjoy!

 

Ditching the Old Ball and Chain (my scale, that is…)

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I’m a total scale addict and it’s time I let it go. The true confession is that I get on it all the time but I actually could probably tell you how much I weigh at any given moment. In fact, I sort of guess before getting on and it is confirmed more times than not. I also know that it fluctuates based on fluid levels, time of day, hormonal shifts, and other things. I don’t feel crazy about it…exactly. It’s sort of like a scientific experiment and most of the time it doesn’t affect my mental state. But then sometimes it does.

Lately, I feel like it’s having a negative impact on how I view my body and, therefore, my value and self-worth. (If I could put giant arrows with blinking neon pointing at that last statement, I would. This is where my real work needs to happen. So know that the arrows are there and that we – all of you amazing people out there and I – will be embarking on a bit of a journey to explore this.) I haven’t been crying over it or really even changing my behaviors based on the number, but I am absolutely internalizing it and I hear and feel the self-recrimination based on the number.

The reality is that over the past year I have seen some changes in my body and muscle growth that I like. Some of that will definitely show up in the numbers on the scale. But I’ve also not had my best eating habits, and that shows up too. The scale is just a number, just a record of what is happening with my body. I totally get this and hope that others out there understand that too. It’s a measure of gravitational pull – NOT value as a person or worthiness of love or a determinant of my ability to succeed. All true. Except…I feel something is off.

I’m going to listen to that intuition and get rid of the scale. I need to spend some time learning how to love and appreciate myself just as I am. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still have some body composition and nutritional goals that I want to work on. On the contrary. I’m actually feeling very excited about the aspect of exploring those things without being tied to their numerical representation.

I want to FEEL amazing. And I also want to look good. I nearly apologized for the shallowness of that desire. I am working hard lately to accept myself as I am and it’s funny to me where the insecurities show up. I feel extremely insecure admitting that I want to look attractive, according to my own aesthetic. I feel like I should be ashamed of that but I’m just going to leave it out there in honor of vulnerability and self-acceptance.

As I’ve thought more about self-acceptance lately, I’ve realized that I harbor a lot of judgment around the desire to be physically attractive and I’m not entirely sure why. I feel like I should only love my body for all that it is capable of regardless of how it looks. I DO truly love the FEELING of energy and freedom that comes from fueling my body right. The by-product is how my jeans fit. I honestly seek both and I’ve realized that at certain weights, I don’t feel right in my skin.

Now…that’s always been tied to a number. My question is, “How do I feel when I don’t know what that number is?” Because it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a number. So what if I focus on truly taking care of my body, mind, and soul? Then what? If I look and feel strong and confident and vibrant and sexy but I’m 10 lbs. heavier than I’d “like” to be – what does it matter?

And that’s what I want. Strong. Confident. Vibrant. Sexy. Luminous. Alive. Bold. True.

None of those are determined by a number on a scale.

So it will be gone this Saturday. I’m starting the Whole Life Challenge which looks at paying attention to a variety of lifestyle factors – Food, yes, but also Sleep, Hydration, Movement, Mobility, Lifestyle, and Awareness. I’ve never done it before and I’m excited. I like having a challenge to work on to help focus my attention and I am super-excited to see how the challenge impacts other, less quantifiable, aspects of my life. That’s why I’m getting rid of the scale. I am eager to embrace more intuition in my eating/movement/rest patterns and get a little better at listening to my body and following its lead.

Honestly, I don’t give my body enough credit. When I’m mad at the number on the scale or the fact that my pants fit a little tighter or that my tummy is squishier than I’d like it to be, I’m really doing it a disservice. I am so lucky and seriously, deeply grateful at the many gifts it gives me. I can hike for hours and exercise with an intensity that feels good to me. It cooks for my family and friends, does yoga, walks for miles and dances (on occasion) for hours. It’s run three 1/2 marathons, sleeps soundly, and knows how to laugh until I cry. And it adores a good cuddle. So I’m not complaining. In fact, it’s all of those things that I want more of and I don’t want my love for them muddied up by decades of internal dialog that make me doubt it.

I’ll leave it at that. If you have experience ditching the scale or working through body image and self-worth issues, please comment and let me know where you are in your journey. And if you are in the thick of it, know that I am sending you all kinds of love.

Turmeric Aioli

Turmeric Aioli 2016I have become a little addicted to turmeric these days. I love the earthiness of it and have enjoyed it in yellow curry powder for years. A while back, I found it at my local supermarket fresh, not dried. I couldn’t believe it. It looks a lot like ginger root, but when you peel it or cut it open, it is a vibrant orange color. The first time I saw it, I hadn’t even imagined you could get it in its original state. I thought it was only available as a dried powder. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, I just knew I needed to have it.

Turmeric has a ton of health properties. It is being increasingly reported on for all of the potential that it has. Some of the benefits of turmeric include its antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some reports say it can prevent prostate cancer, increase insulin sensitivity, treat arthritis, reduce cholesterol, prevent Alzheimer’s, and several more things as well. Even if it has half of the health benefits that it seems to, it’s worth adding to your day. Especially when you love it.

It makes things a gorgeous color too. Be warned, however, because it can stain counters or sinks if you leave it on there. I haven’t really had a problem with it, but I do notice it. Some people find the taste a little overpowering, though, so go easy the first time and see what you think. This recipe made my heart happy so I think you should try it and see what you think yourself! I ate it with raw broccoli and then this broccoli-tomato salad and then off the spoon. Then I had it on my eggs in the morning. So good!

Turmeric Aioli

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

About 2 Tbsp. grated fresh turmeric, from about a 2 inch knob

1/8 tsp. salt

pinch of fresh ground pepper

Directions

  1. Combine everything in a small bowl and allow to sit for a few minutes so the flavors can blend.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. Dip everything into it.

But is it YOU? – Keto update

be-youKeto lasted two and a half weeks for me. I got into ketosis, I was feeling okay, but it just wasn’t sitting right with me. I found myself looking at a bell pepper and wanting to eat it while thinking that I should be looking for some bacon or something fatty instead. If you know me at all, you know that’s a little bit crazy.

It’s not that I don’t like bacon – I do! But I love my veggies even more. If I don’t have enough of them, I begin to get antsy. The official “rules” of a ketogenic diet say that you can eat as much as you want/need of non-starchy vegetables, but I couldn’t get my head around that. With the amount of veggies that I feel good eating, I was popping out of ketosis quickly because I go over 20g of carbs really fast.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Often I felt really indulgent because fat is delicious and I would load up veggies with grassfed butter or pastured animal fats, and I would add extra avocado or a slice of bacon to things, which was fun. And, actually, this is something that I can totally do following a Paleo eating style too. It just felt more deliberate rather than natural.

Probably my favorite thing about trying this style of eating was that my cravings for junk food were completely replaced by cravings for vegetables. I wasn’t dreaming of bagels or bags of chips, I was completely fixated on giant salads with as many different veggies as I could put in or grabbing a handful (or two) of cherry tomatoes.

In the end, it became kind of an obsession and it didn’t feel healthy for me. And  honestly I didn’t feel any more energetic or clear than I do when I’m sticking to Paleo. I’m not saying that keto is bad – I’m just saying it’s not for me. And finding what works for you is key.

Want to know the first thing I ate when I decided that returning to Paleo was a better fit for me? A giant salad with chicken and celery and dried fruit with a creamy curry dressing. I settled right in to it and I felt more in line with my own principles.

Food inspires me. One of my great pleasures is sitting down with a new cookbook – or any number of the ones I have and love already – and flipping through to find fun things to cook and eat. When I was meal planning, I actually got discouraged because there were so many recipes that looked delicious but that I was skipping because they had too many carbs or some fruit or butternut squash or sweet potatoes or carrots or celery. Feeling sad when I’m meal planning is definitely not me!

I believe our bodies need more veggies, not less. I also believe my muscles need ample protein and I never quite knew if I was going over (which impacts ketosis) or not. Making the switch back to Paleo didn’t feel like I was slipping back into old, bad habits either because I am not chowing down on things I know that my body doesn’t like. It did feel like my body gave a big sigh of relief, though, when I had a handful of blueberries after lunch.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m deeply focused on giving my body, mind and soul what it needs to feel nourished and cared for. I’m about feeling a sense of clarity in my goals and delight in my choices. I’m about slowing down a little bit and loving the journey towards greater health for what it is. A journey. One that may be filled with missteps, experimentation, big wins and back tracking, excitement, and most importantly love for life and joy in the process. That also means healthy choices. It’s not a free-for-all at the buffet but truly tuning in to what makes me feel my best.

Every day is a new adventure and an opportunity for growth so don’t be discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work for you! Just take a deep breath and decide what it is you want to change. Ask yourself, what worked for me today? What do I want to do differently? And never, ever leave out YOU.

Sometimes It’s Hard

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Yesterday I was thinking about how easy this has been. No cravings, things are going well, my energy finally picked back up; the only thing I was a little frustrated with is that I’m not seeing the weight loss that I was anticipating. I was okay with that. Sort of. Bodies respond differently to things, it can take time, it’s really only been two weeks, what was I expecting? So some frustration, but overall still going strong.

Then I woke up this morning and my hardest day showed up. All of a sudden, I was having cravings galore and nothing seemed to satisfy my hunger. Eating this way is supposed to take care of all those things, but I haven’t experienced that yet. In fact, it’s been the opposite. I’m not craving sweet things, but I just can’t seem to feel satisfied. I don’t think that means keto doesn’t work, but rather that I have to continue on until my body settles down. It’s only been twelve days and when you’re talking about healthy habits and weight loss, twelve days is hardly considered a consistent pattern of eating. The funny thing was that I also recently saw the Whole30 Timeline again and it has these few days as being the hardest because our minds want to return to the old way. Consistency is important when beginning a new habit so I am definitely not giving up!

Now that evening is here, most of the cravings and concerns have dissipated, which is a relief.

As for today, here are a few things that I did to help work through everything:

  1. I meditated early on. I also focused my meditation on accepting the feelings that I was having instead of letting them overrun me and my actions. Once I acknowledged that I was having all kinds of cravings and that it was really frustrating, I just let it go.
  2. I had a good breakfast with all the right foods. Super important to set the tone for the day.
  3. I ate, probably too much, but I stuck to the foods that are a part of my goals. Even though eating throughout the day and snacking are not how I want to be on a regular basis, it was what I needed to do today. Staying away from carbs right now is more important than eating too much on this day.
  4. I reached out for help. There’s a Facebook group that I am part of that focuses on Paleo and Keto. I put out there that I was struggling and got a lot of support.
  5. I reconnected to why I am doing this…I want to feel amazing and I believe that this way of eating might give me that energy and ease.

It’s important to realize that some days are harder than others. Sometimes there will be setbacks. And sometimes, like today, we might be filled with doubt about our decision to focus on a particular habit. If it’s early on in the process, that’s really the time to dig in and keep moving forward. More than likely, the shift is just on the other side of the hard days. Given that, I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

Maintaining Momentum

momentum

Maintaining Momentum: Sometimes along the journey to greater health, or any change really, we just lose steam, and it is often difficult to figure out what to do in order to keep working towards our goals. It might even seem easier to go back to our old habits. If you want to reach your goal, though, if you want to transform your eating to support your body and mind, then you’re going to have to overcome any lull in momentum because we’re in this for the long haul.

Here are a couple of quick tips –

  1. Do one right now thing that moves you forward…Whatever goal you’ve decided to go for, think of one small thing that keeps you aligned with it. Maybe it’s a workout or a snack or meal that fits your plans. Maybe it’s journaling or finding a new recipe to cook or sitting down with a cup of tea. Figure out just one little thing that reconnects you to what you want, and then do it.
  2. Envision the future…Take a few moments every day to picture what your life will look like once you’ve reached your goal. Whether it’s something specific, like a particular body composition, or something more general, like consistently eating in a way that supports your health, envision all the details of your life once you’re there. Picture your daily life and imagine the energy that you’ll have, the clothes you’ll wear, the people you’ll be with, the activities you will do. The more detail you can add, the more your brain will get the message that this is where you’re going. The key is getting your brain on board – unequivocally.
  3. Tell yourself that you’ve got this…Seriously, more often than not, we lose momentum because we’ve allowed ourselves to entertain mental negotiations or negative self-talk that leaves us doubting whether or not we can achieve what we want to or even if we deserve it. Here’s the deal – if you want it, go for it! You are absolutely worthy and capable. If your momentum has taken a hit and you feel like giving in, it’s time to say (yes, even out loud) that you want what you want and why.
  4. Love yourself…Never forget that a little bit of self-care goes a long way. Every journey is bound to have some rough days, but if we can find a way to see the joy and pleasure in working towards our goals, then it gets just a little bit easier. When faced with the desire to give in, do something special for yourself – take a bath, read a book, take a walk, just sit. There are so many ways to indulge, even for just a moment, that can break you out of the pattern of giving up. Disengaging from the negative spiral and doing something loving for yourself can help you get back on track.

Your goals are important. You are so worth it. And you can totally do it!

Before I go, I thought I’d share which dinners made the list for this week, just in case you were looking for some inspiration.

Sunday – Sautéed scallops with cauliflower “risotto” / Monday – Chicken picatta with roasted brussels sprouts / Tuesday – Bacon burger with guacamole and bell pepper strips / Wednesday – Italian meatball soup / Thursday – Pork tenderloin with bacon-pecan shredded brussels sprouts

I hope you are all having a wonderful week! Remember, keep your attention focused on how you will feel when you reach your goal and go for it! Don’t let any more time go by. Your goal is important and so are you!

Whole30 Keto-style Update #1

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It’s been four days since I started my Whole30 reset and it’s going pretty well. I’ve had a few things that I’ve needed to adjust to and I’ve been learning to look at certain foods a little differently. I’m glad I decided to go keto for a while because the shift in perspective has reengaged me in the process of healthy eating. I really needed that mental space to disconnect me from some bad habits and get me excited about learning even more about food.

So here’s a little recap on the week so far.

Food: Keto focuses mostly on fats, then protein, and really reducing carbs. It’s interesting because fats are incredibly satiating and this should be easy. But I am struggling a little bit to really consume as many fats as is recommended. For so many years, I have looked at vegetables first, then protein, then some fat. Fat first feels strange. On top of that, I am staying away from dairy for at least the first week or 10 days. Generally, people following a ketogenic diet consume lots of cheese and other dairy, which helps hit the fat grams. Don’t get me wrong, I love dairy products, especially cheese. A lot. but after limiting dairy to great cheese on social occasions for so many years, I am not sure about introducing it again. I don’t generally have severe reactions to it, and the health benefits in yogurt and other grass fed products is appealing to me, so I think I will probably reintroduce it, but I want to be without it for a bit to see if it works for me. Other than that, it’s going pretty well.

Energy: I overindulged for the past couple months and that always makes a reset rougher. I’ve had mid-day exhaustion all week. I am really looking forward to that going away. I should have great energy pretty soon but right now, it’s not there. What’s happening is that my body got accustomed to burning carbs for fuel because they’re easy, but I’m not giving it any carbs anymore. I’m eating adequate protein to maintain my muscle so my body can now turn to fat as fuel. However, it’s a process and it takes a little time. I really noticed it today during my workout. I had zero energy and I was teaching a HIIT class (high intensity interval training) which is designed to be really challenging, but things that are normally tough-but-fun for me were laying me out flat. It could be that I was just tired from my activity yesterday, which is totally possible, but I believe it’s because my body and brain were looking hard for some carbs that just weren’t coming. The same thing happens to me when on a Whole30 so I know that the switch will happen and then it’ll be energy through the roof. It can’t come soon enough!

The Plan: I have been busy lately and operating without much of a plan. That was fine for the first week because I actually had some leftovers and easy ingredients to make meals. This coming week, though, there needs to be a plan. It’s time to make a list of meals and get the ingredients and get excited about the next week. Because I have every intention of it being a good one!

I’d love to hear how your week is going. Are you feeling great? Is it a struggle? Wherever you are, leave a note in the comments. Thanks!