How Much Should We Be Listening To Our Doctors?

I had a physical last week and I wanted to share a little piece of the visit with you. I’ll preface this post by saying that I haven’t done much research on the topic of nutrition and what we “should” eat, but I did see the documentary Fed Up! and have read a bunch of articles that RM has sent me since he is much more in tune with nutrition and things like that (he’s done a ridiculous amount of research on various diets like paleo, Whole30, SCD, bullet proof, etc.) so I feel like at this point I know a lot more about food and nutrition than I used to.

But, back to my visit. As most visits start out, we recapped my last visit. My doctor mentioned to me that my cholesterol was a little high and that I should get re-tested. And by a little high, I mean VERY little: they want you under 130 and mine was 131. She said that they don’t require you to do take an serious actions unless you’re over 190, so I had a long way to go (it’s also worth noting that the last time I got blood drawn for my cholesterol test it was 5pm after a full day of eating… they want you to test after fasting usually to get the most accurate results). Regardless, in typical Monique fashion, I got instantly nervous that I had high cholesterol and asked how I could fix it. She handed me a paper, titled “Heart Healthy Steps: Top Ten Ways to Lower Your Cholesterol”, but said not to worry too much since mine wasn’t that high.

When I got in the car (after another cholesterol test, mind you), my curiosity got the best of me so I started to read through the material. I didn’t get far, though, because after I read about how to reduce the saturated fat in my diet (which was the first tip in the document) I was appalled by the information they were giving me:

  • Avoid full-fat or “regular” cheese- instead, look for the terms “fat-free”, “reduced fat,” or “50% light” on the label.
  • Use non-fat, FIT milk, Simply Smart or low fat 1% milk and nonfat or lowfat yogurt (containing aspartame and fructose if watching carbs)
  • Avoid butter… it is NOT better than light tub margarine (without trans fats)
  • Avoid foods/desserts prepared with coconut or coconut milk

If you’re shaking your head as you read these, don’t worry- I was too. Actually, as I was typing them word for word from the sheet, I was chuckling to myself. There are so many things in just these 4 “tips” that go against all the research I’ve seen recently. If you watched Fed Up or if you have read any sort of food-related articles over the past few years, you’d know that picking “fat free” or anything low fat, reduced fat, margarine, etc. is probably not your best option. Sure, the fat count may be down, but what do you think they do to make them still taste good? They load them up with sugar and other artificial ingredients that your body doesn’t know how to accurately process. They may not have a high fat content, but low-fat isn’t the end all, be all to a healthy diet. There is so much more that goes into a well balanced diet, like eating lots of veggies, eating healthy fats like avocado and nuts and nut butters, eating lean proteins and eggs (yes, yolk and all!) and also treating yourself to pizza and wine every so often. 😉

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But, I feel like your traditional doctors office “send home” material is not accounting for the times and how recent research has opened up a whole new way of looking at food and what we “should” and “should not” be eating. Rather than pushing us to lower our fat by seeking out “low fat” and “fat free”, maybe they should talk to us about what foods make up our diet and what our day to day looks like. Are we eating a good mix of veggies, healthy fats, protein, carbs, etc.? Are we moving consistently? Are we drinking lots of water? These are things I wish she would’ve asked me when I asked her how I could lower my cholesterol.

At the end of the day, most of the time we should be eating REAL food in its natural form because our bodies know how to process and digest that. While I appreciate my doctor trying to help me, I was so discouraged my what she gave me as a reference/resource. Even though I am by no means a health or nutrition expert, I’ve at least been exposed to enough at this point that I kind of know what foods I should be eating to properly fuel myself for my daily activity, which is a lot more than probably a lot of people who have likely asked her the same “how can I fix it” type of question I asked.

As RM always tells me- if you focus on eating a diet that primarily comes from the ground, you’re probably fueling yourself well. Does this mean we don’t eat packaged foods or have pizza or wings or cookies? Hell, no! If you’ve been reading B2B for a while I think it’s pretty safe to say I actively strive for an 80/20 balance: most of the time I eat lots of veggies, protein, grains, etc., but I also have no problem going out for pizza and wine or a burger and a beer. These help keep me balanced and help me practice #moderation365 as Jill Coleman so perfectly says. Eating full fat foods/drinks, eating lots of veggies & fruits, eating fish and chicken (and yes, I choose dark meat over the breast meat!), drinking wine and eating pizza are things that make me happy and make me feel good, so that’s what I focus on much more than reading the labels to see how much fat or how many calories something has. If I can pronounce all of the ingredients, I feel pretty good about what I am choosing to fuel my body with.

I’d love to hear from you, though! What does your diet usually consist of? Have you changed your eating over the years as you learn more about nutrition and different foods? What are some key foods or products you like to include in your diet? Do you read labels when you shop? Do you prefer adhering to a strict “diet” or do you prefer to practice #moderation365 and take a more balanced approach?

Weekending: Pizza, Patriots, Puppies & Babies

Good morning! I’m not sure how many of you will be checking in today as it’s a holiday and it seems as though everyone I’ve talked to has today off… except me 😦 I am WFH so I guess it’s not so bad. Did you guys have a good weekend? We did, although we didn’t get to spend much time together because of separate plans/obligations. Let’s recap!

Friday

I WFH on Friday because I had to go in the office on Monday. It was actually so nice to be home on Friday- I hadn’t slept well all week because of my cold so it was great to sleep in a bit and stay in my jammies all morning! It was my rest day so I decided to do some active rest by taking my errands on foot. I had to go to the library to pick up our new book club book- has anyone read this?

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That night, RM and I went to meet up with his family at Charcoal Guido’s for a going away dinner for his sister. She moved down to Atlanta on Saturday to be with her boyfriend. The food and company were both great, but the Nutella pizza at the end kind of stole the show.

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We weren’t ready to go home after the dinner so I suggested swinging by Branch Line for another drink. It was crazy how busy it was there for 9:45pm! I always like seeing that with new restaurants.

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Saturday

On Saturday, I headed out in the rain to go teach. The January crowds are back and I love it! My class worked so hard- it was awesome.

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I was supposed to go visit my friends Christy and Kia since they both had baby girls a few weeks ago, but the weather was apparently bad up there so I ended up postponing it. With a free day ahead of me I decided treat myself to a Starbucks Chai Tea Latte (thanks for the gift card, Dana!!) and headed into the city to start our registry at Macy’s. I’d love to say that went great, but after an hour I walked out with a mere 5 things on it. Oops!

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Once I reached my limit of shopping, I headed to my sister’s apartment to hang with her and some of her friends and to watch the game. Her friend brought the cutest puppy ever and for some reason he loved me so I got lots of puppy snuggles!

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I had a blast hanging out with her and her friends- I hadn’t seen any of them in forever! the food was also great. I made some delicious pizza, there were meatballs, healthy buffalo chicken, veggies, pigs in a blanket, cheese puff pastries… I never do things for the game so I totally loved getting to check out what people do for “game day food”.

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Sunday

We got up and I offered to make us- you guessed it- pancakes! These were probably my best yet, so I wish I would’ve measured things so I could recreate them!

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After breakfast I hit the road to visit Christy and then Kia. I didn’t get any photos because I was busy snuggling the cutest little baby girls! It was nice to hang out with each of them for a bit- very relaxing!

Once I got back home I went food shopping and then we thought about going out to have a drink and catch up since we didn’t get to spend any of the weekend together, but we opted to stay in the house which actually worked out well because we were able to get lots of food prep done: sweet potatoes & brussels sprouts, kale, spicy broccoli and beans. I had taken a meatloaf out of the freezer earlier in the day so dinner was easy to throw together.

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This week is a busy week due to a few social engagements after work, so I’m happy we were able to get ahead of meal prep yesterday!

Questions for you: Did you watch the Patriots game? Do you have a favorite “game day” food to have at parties or bring to parties? What was the best part of your weekend? How is your week looking? Anything fun planned?

Five on Friday {1.15.16}

Good morning and TGIF! This has been a whirlwind of a week for me. For starters, I had to go in the office on Monday, but on top of that we were going live with a new program so I was in trainings/testing of that for pretty much all of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which really threw a wrench in my normal schedule! But, everything went well and the program developers are super cool guys so it could’ve been a lot worse. I also had some good workouts and made some headway with a new fitness adventure, so all is good!

For now, though, let’s focus on the fact that it’s FRIDAY! Anything good planned for the weekend? We have RM’s sister’s going away party tonight (she’s moving to Atlanta) and then I’m teaching tomorrow morning and then hopefully meeting my parents for lunch in Portsmouth before visiting my friends Kia and Christy and their brand new baby girls 🙂 Whatever you have on the agenda, I hope you have a blast, smile and laugh a lot, drink some vino and get some movement in!

Five on Friday:

1. Chin-ups- I may not have reached my goal of 10 unassisted pull-ups/chin ups, but at this point I am just focusing on what I CAN do. The other day, I went to the gym and ran and then decided to try and do some chin-ups. I hadn’t done any in a while and was surprised to find myself able to do 4 with relative ease (last one was a little tough!). I’ll take it!

As 2015 nears the end, I can't help but think back to the goals I made way back in January. One of those goals was 10 unassisted chin-ups. Did I get there? Hell no. Am I upset about it? Definitely not. 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼 # In the past, I would've been upset with myself for 'failing', but thanks to many incredible different people (@jillfit!), I've learned to embrace #antiperfectionism (most of the time 😉). I didn't 'fail' because I didn't hit my goal. Instead, I'm so excited about the fact I can go to the bar and whip out 4 unassisted chin-ups relatively easily (last one was challenging!) after not having done them in weeks. # I'm proud of the fact I've put in time lifting heavier weights, all just to help me lift my own body weight better. 🏋🏼🏋🏼 I'm proud of the rest days I've learned to love and embrace. I'm proud for cutting myself some slack and working out for the love of movement and my body rather than to look a certain way or to 'earn' my treats. 💛 # And it's been an amazing ride. Wherever you are in your fitness journey, take a minute and think about all you CAN do rather than things you still struggle with. Every day/workout will not be easy… That's just how it goes, but I will say it's a lot more fun thinking about the positive! I'd love to hear what you're proud of for accomplishing this year! #moderation365 #goals #unapologeticallystrong #leanandlovely #girlsgonestrong #meetmeatthebar #chinups #bodyweight #strengthisbeauty #strongwomen #motivation #inspiringfitness #bsc #lunchbreak

A video posted by Monique Gagnon (@burpeestobubbly) on

 

2. Meal Prep– Although this is a time consuming activity, I’ve learned over the years how worthwhile it is for me to spend time doing it. Whether it’s prepping a bunch of root veggies, chicken and kale or actually making a meal (casserole, soup, meatloaf, etc.), knowing I have the ability to go in the fridge and grab healthy food quickly and easily is a really good thing. I’m often busy during the week between social engagements or teaching so it’s hard for me to spend time making fresh dinners each night. Meal prep leftovers for the win!

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3. I can’t get rid of my cold! I know I am not alone in this because RM has had a cold for going on two weeks and I know of a bunch of other people who have also been sick, but it doesn’t make thigns any better! I haven’t been sleeping well and I’m tired of blowing my nose. Womp 😦

4. Dry weather doesn’t bode well with my hands- Throughout the warmer months, I always forget how DRY my skin can get during the winter, in particular, my right hand. I mean, look at this! Does anyone have any good lotion/moisturizer suggestions? I’m so bad at using hand creams, mostly because I hate the feeling of lotion on the palms of my hands (weird, right?), but this is so not sexy so I need to do something!

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5. Getting back into a consistent training routine– Although I’ve worked out consistently even throughout the holidays, my training schedule hasn’t really been consistent. My workouts over the past month or so have kind of been all over the place and while that is absolutely better than not working out at all, I am excited to get back to a normal and planned routine and schedule. I was finally able to make it to the gym during my lunch break yesterday and was so happy when I stumbled across Stephanie’s Burpee Bookend Full Body Circuit earlier in the morning. Some days I’m really focused and know exactly what I want to do, but there are others (like yesterday… and lots of days over the past month) where I really have no direction with regards to what I want to do. Her workout not only made me excited to get to the gym to try it out, but it also left me with shaky legs as I walked down the stairs after the workout was finished. The 50 burpees to start and finish the workout were killer… and I loved it!

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Have a great weekend, friends!
Questions for you: Tell me something making you smile this week? How have your workouts been lately? Does the cold, dry weather make your skin look like leather, too? What’s going on this weekend? 

Caramelized Banana French Toast

Hello there! We are nearly through the week- thank God! Going into the office on a Monday always throws me off.

I’ve teased you with pictures of the end result of this recipe on Instagram, so I figured it was time for me to share it with you. I feel a little bad, though, because it’s so easy it’s barely worth calling a “recipe” 😉

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While you could make this with whatever bread you have on hand or prefer, we opted to use Ezekiel bread for its health and digestion benefits. The first time I made this I used regular milk, but I used hemp milk next time because that’s what we had on hand so I think you could probably use whatever you prefer. There are optional add-ins, too!

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Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 pieces of bread of choice(Ezekiel, whole wheat, sour dough, homemade, etc.)
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup milk of choice (cow’s milk, almond, hemp, etc.)
  • few dashes of cinnamon
  • 1/2- whole banana, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. coconut flakes (optional- we did use this)
  • 1 tbsp. ground flax seed (optional- we did use this)

Directions,

  1. Whisk the eggs and then add in your milk and whisk some more. Finally add in the cinnamon and ground flaxseed and coconut flakes (if you’re using those).

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2. Place the bread in the egg mixture and let the bread soak it up really well before flipping it over and then eventually placing it in the pan. Continue this with all of the pieces of bread.

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3. Slice your banana and add it to a greased section of the pan cooking your bread. Let it brown up/caramelize on both sides before removing and placing atop the cooked French toast.

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4 Top with maple syrup and serve!

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I’m not a huge French toast person (much prefer pancakes), but I have to say that these were good enough to potentially make me into a French toast lover! The Ezekiel bread is pretty dense to start with so it ended up having a nice, hearty texture after it was cooked.

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The caramelized bananas added an incredible flavor to the whole dish- it’s so interesting how the flavor of a banana can change so much from eating it right out of the peel and then after it’s been cooked.

I definitely suggest whipping these up the next time you’re looking for a weekend breakfast changeup!

Questions for you: What’s your favorite weekend breakfast? Do you prefer sweet or savory?

 

Wednesday Workout: 4 Exercise Core & Upper Body Quickie Circuit

Good morning! Each week I always hope that I do a workout that is shareable with you guys. This doesn’t always happen, and to be honest, up until Monday night at the gym I wasn’t really sure I would even have a workout for you this week! Fear not, though, I not only have a workout for you, but it’s a super quickie circuit focusing on upper body and core- something I haven’t specifically focused on in any recent workouts.

As I’ve mentioned I am still fighting a cold so I’m taking my workouts down a notch. I wasn’t planning on working out on Monday, but I ended up being in meetings/trainings from 9:30-4:15 so saying I was going a little stir crazy is an understatement! I just felt like I needed some type of movement- nothing crazy or too strenuous, but something to get my blood flowing. I knew it was the right choice to go walk on the treadmill when the time and miles flew by. After I finished, I came up with this little circuit I am going to share with you today- it’s a perfect finisher or if you’re short on time, you can add a few more rounds and call it a day!

4 exercise core & upper body quickie circuit

Here are some explanations for the exercises:

  • Russian Twist & Press- Starting in a standard Russian Twist position (in a seated position, engage your core and lean back a little while keeping your chest open. You can either lift your feet up to bent knees, straight leg or keep them on the ground), twist your weight over to the right and when you bring it back through center, press it up at a 45* angle. Repeat to the other side so it goes: twist, press, twist.
  • Supine Extension- Grab a weight and lie on your back with your arms extended up over your chest and your legs straight up over your hips with your feet flexed. Next, inhale and make sure you engage your core as you lower both your arms and legs down as low as you can while keeping your lower back glued to the ground. Once you reach your lowest point, start your exhale and lift back up to the starting position. To make this easier, you can bend your knees instead of doing straight leg lowers, drop one leg at a time or ditch the weight for the arm lowers (lat pull).
  • Straight Leg Weight Presses– in the same position as the exercise above, you’re going to engage your core and lift your shoulder blades off the ground and reach the weight towards your feet.
  • Pull-ups- I was able to do 3 reps each round, but if you can do more- rock that! or, if you’re still working on your pull-ups, you can feel free to use a band or maybe to TRX pull-ups.

See? That’s it! Granted, the moves are challenging, but you can always modify up or down depending on your current fitness level. Form always trumps difficulty or reps. One other thing to note is that if you don’t have weights or a pull-up bar handy, you can do this with just your bodyweight (for a move to mimic pull-ups, I would suggest a superman pull).

I’d love to know if you try this 🙂

Questions for you: Do you like to do quickie finisher circuits at the end of a cardio or heavy weight focused workout? What type of workouts would you like to see more of/less of this year? Do you like the short ones like this or do you prefer the longer, full body ones?