Thursday, February 23, 2017

29 Questions {Blog Survey}

HELLO! Happy Friday to you!

Ever since I started working with clients via Designed to Fit Nutrition, my faith in people on the Internet has been restored. As you can imagine, I get my fair share of trolls and haters on CNC, but coaching strangers from all over the country has really been such an awesome experience. I love getting to know my clients and talking to them about food, fitness, health, and wellness, which is most definitely a fun perk of the job for me. Anyway, the reason I am telling you this is because some of my clients have turned into (Facebook) friends. One of them recently shared this questionnaire on her personal page, and I thought it would make the perfect blog post, sooooo here are my answers to her 29 questions! And, of course, feel free to play along in the comment section!

1. Who are you named after? I don’t think anyone in particular, but I heard a story once that my mom wanted to name me “Tina,” but my grandmother preferred a Catholic/Christian name, so my parents went with “Christina.”

2. Last time you cried? Welllllll, I basically cried all of January (feeling sooooooo overwhelmed and stressed), but I’m good now! 🙂

3. Do you like your handwriting? Yes. It actually looks a lot like Mal’s handwriting, which is a little weird, right?

4. What is your favorite lunch meat? I love a good ham sandwich.

5. Do you still have your tonsils? Yep.

6. Would you bungee jump? Hell no. Too afraid of heights. And dying.

7. What is your favorite kind of cereal? I’m on a serious Cheerios kick lately.

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8. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Not unless I have to.

9. Do you think you’re strong? Yes.

10. Favorite ice cream? Almond Joy.

11. What is the first thing you notice about a person? Smile.

12. Football or baseball? Neither. Ok, if I had to pick… football.

13. What color pants are you wearing? Black.

14. Last thing you ate? Parsnip chips from Trader Joe’s. They are truly the greatest chips ever created.

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15. What are you listening to? Dave Matthews Band station on Pandora.

17. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Sky blue.

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17. Favorite smell? Is it creepy if I say Quinn? Haha! Ok, let’s go with freshly baked bread.

18. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone? Ummm… I talked to at least a dozen people (DTFN clients, friends, and Kerrie 8,000 times) on WhatsApp this morning.

19. Married? Happily (HAPPIEST!!!) for 8.5 years!

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20. Hair color? Dark brown.

21. Eye color? Hazel

22. Favorite food to eat? Cake. Donuts are a close second.

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23. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings.

24. Last movie you watched? No idea, but I probably fell asleep.

25. What color shirt are you wearing? Gray. And I’m lovvvving this hoodie, which is on sale for $22 right now! 🙂

26. Favorite Holiday? Christmas.

27. Beer or Wine? Sauvignon Blanc.

28. Night owl or morning person? Morning person.

29. Favorite day of the week? Friday!

Question of the Day

Your turn! Pick a question (or two) from above and share in the comment section! 

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Clean Eating Lemon & Honey Almonds Recipe

Clean Eating Lemon & Honey Almonds Recipe

This simple snack takes only minutes to prep if you have the lemon zested already!

Tip: When you use fresh lemons, don’t forget to zest them first. Freeze the zest on ice cube trays and you’ll have “… Read more →



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The Personality Factor: How Does Introversion or Extroversion Interact with Well-Being?

Inline_Introvert_ExtrovertSometimes it seems like this world is built for extroverts. The most successful politicians, entertainers, and public figures are (or at least come off as) extroverts. One of the “Big 5” personality traits we use to judge and praise people is extraversion (Introversion, falsely assumed as simply the lack of extraversion, doesn’t merit mention.) Certain studies suggest that extroverts make more money than introverts, on average. Extroverts tend to be happier than introverts, regardless of the cultural context. Introverts are more likely to suffer from depression and asthma.

On paper, it seems like extroversion is the clear evolutionary winner. It makes you happier, wealthier, and even healthier (maybe). It’s selected for in many of the most public spheres, like entertainment and politics. So why has introversion been so well preserved? Why do introverts, by most accounts, still comprise at least 25% of the population?

If you could construct the perfect human to innovate, explore, and conquer the world, understand and capitalize on its natural laws, and create powerful technology, you’d insert both adventurousness and circumspection, gregariousness and studiousness. You’d want a balanced person with the capacity to lead, inspire, engage, and act decisively—while also thinking deeply, ruminating, and planning ahead. Few of these superhumans exist, sadly. Those that do tend to excel.

But remember: The success of human populations didn’t just depend on the evolutionary success of each individual human who comprised them, but on the evolutionary success of the group as a whole—the super organism. The collective energy and aptitude.

And what makes for a healthier, more successful tribe?

One composed entirely of extroverts, one composed entirely of introverts, or one with a blend of both? Consider what each brings to the table.

Extroverts are probably more adventurous in many ways. They make friends more easily, act more decisively, and thrive on social energy.

Introverts are more cautious on average. They plan their moves, weigh their options, and often find socializing draining.

In difficult situations, extroverts are better at recruiting different parts of the brain to devise a quick response. Introverts respond relatively slowly to immediate stimuli, but they make up for it with an affinity for deep, focused work and abstract thought. 

Getting the right blend of introverts and extroverts in your group imbues the superorganism with the qualities necessary to excel and dominate. You have the planners and the doers. The adventurers who throw caution to the wind and those who warn against foolhardiness. 

This isn’t a binary relationship. Introversion and extraversion exist along a spectrum. Most people have elements of each, and the relative propensity appears to be hereditary.

On one level, the world caters to extroverts. We know this from an early age. Introverted toddlers hear “oh, aren’t you shy?” no less than a million times before they reach grade school. Schools stress the importance of “group work,” and often force it on students. The modern school itself is an evolutionary aberration where children are segregated by age and too often have all agency stripped from them.

That’s true.

But the world is also changing. Technology is opening new doors and changing the way we do business (and even life to some extent). There are more opportunities than ever before, and entrepreneurs are taking advantage. Creativity has perhaps never mattered more. Many of the greatest minds were introverted. People value—and deeply need—introverts who can hunker down and do the hard, deep work. 

I’m a bit of an introvert. And I’ve done pretty well for myself.

I can give talks and presentations. I can mingle at parties and conferences. I can and do run a business (or three). I do great in small or even large groups of people.

But I need to recharge. I need my alone time. I prefer the company of small groups of close friends and family. I love a good book. I require regular infusions of nature-tinged solitude.

In my experience, there are introverts who accept their disposition, who optimize its strengths and work with its needs, and introverts who deny their nature. The former are happy, well-adjusted, successful, and completely comfortable in their own skin. The latter are lying to themselves. They pine for extroversion and suffer needlessly because of it. 

So that’s the first step. Whether you’re more extroverted or more introverted, own it. Accept who you are.

Being an MDA reader, you’re probably wondering how extroversion and introversion can affect your health and life. What are the practical implications of being introverted or extroverted for well-being?

There’s not a ton of great definitive evidence. But we can make a few guesses based on what evidence exists. Regardless, I think there’s potential for some deep and insightful discussion.

  • Extroverts are more vulnerable to sleep deprivation-induced performance deficits. One study found that after 77 hours of sleep deprivation, extroverts performed poorly on tests of attention and vigilance; sleep-deprived introverts saw less degradation.
  • An introvert’s cerebral cortex is more active at rest than an extrovert’s. It’s lighting up just by virtue of its existence. This sounds “good,” but it also means most introverts are ruminators. They think, dwell, ponder. More active cortical matter—and thicker cortexes—can also mean overthinking.
  • An extrovert’s cerebral cortex is less aroused at baseline and requires more input to stimulate it. Socializing is a reliable way to stimulate an extrovert’s brain.
  • Social contact can be a powerful motivator for extroverts. The neuronal circuitry responsible for making decisions lights up in extroverts; not so much in introverts.
  • Neither extroversion nor introversion have much effect on a person’s response to training. E/I has no effect on exercise-induced mood changes.   I’m curious, though, how introversion/extroversion impacts choice of exercise and other specifics of training preferences.
  • According to one study, introverts respond better to negative reinforcement. Extroverts respond better to positive reinforcement. But I think there’s more to this story…. Other research suggests introverts tend to be more internally motivated. They might not need the outer push an extrovert benefits from but might respond if there’s a negative incentive (social or otherwise) to keep the peace or because negative reinforcement is more likely to interact with internal motivation/self-image.
  • On that subject, dopamine reward networks are more active in extroverts. They respond more to external rewards than introverts do. Introverts don’t appear to be as chemically motivated by common rewards in our culture/environment.
  • On the other hand, some experts suggest introverts tend to respond more to the parasympathetic-associated neurotransmitter, acetylcholinePowering down might just feel better than getting revved up as a result.
  • Interestingly, one small study revealed that introverts and extroverts exhibit different blood flow patterns in the brain, with introverts showing increased blood flow patterns in the frontal lobes and in the anterior thalamus and extroverts showing associated patterns in the anterior cingulate gyrus, the temporal lobes and the poster thalamus.

I’d say there’s a lot to unpack here—brain activation in relation to stimuli, emotional processing, motivation approach, etc. While it’s an intricate picture I think we’ll never fully get to the bottom of, it’s good to know we always have fodder for deeper research…and future conversation.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. Here’s where I turn it over to you—where I think anecdotal experience can help augment hard science’s assessment of complex “soft” science questions. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert (or ambivert—some combination of both)? How has this experience or perception influenced your health choices and life decisions? What resources or questions have been most insightful for you? Take care.

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Have You Tried Pinole?

Have you heard of pinole (pih-nole)? It may soon be giving quinoa a run for its money.  While this trendy superfood may be new to America, it has been around for centuries. Pinole is a grain mixture, made predominantly of heirloom blue and purple maize that’s roasted with raw cacao beans, then ground into a fine mixture. Served a multitude of ways, it’s most commonly combined with milk to form a thick, warm porridge. Similar in texture to oatmeal or grits, it’s a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.  Just two ounces of pinole provides 7 grams of fiber, 40 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 100 milligrams of anthocyanins; a specific antioxidant that may help reduce rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function.

In addition to being a great breakfast choice, pinole has historically been used as a source of fuel for endurance athletes. The Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico, known for long-distance running, consume pinole as their daily staple. These native people, whose lives are highlighted in the book Born to Run, relied on two things to fuel their hundred mile journeys: chia seeds and pinole.

Of course, starting your day with this cornmeal porridge won’t turn you into an ultra marathoner, but can be part of a nutritious breakfast. Much like other complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, and farro, pinole is a good source of energy, fiber, vitamins and minerals. While it’s slowly making its way into retail shelves, you can often find pinole online (Rancho Gordo sells a 1 pound bag for for $5.95), or at or at your favorite international or Mexican grocery store. If you’re looking to switch up your typical bowl of oats, give pinole a try.

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Photo courtesy of Rancho Gordo.



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Mall Street

Good morning! I’ve been really into peanut butter banana toast lately. Such a quick and easy breakfast, and on dense Great Harvest bread, it fills me right up.

On Monday Sarah and I took the kids to Short Pump for the day since they had a school holiday.

They had a wonderful time riding the escalators.

And playing boat in this double stroller. (Must have been the Sperry shoes that inspired that!)

Mazen wanted to pick out a wedding ring for Sylvia in KAY jewelers while Sarah had her ring fixed.

But Sylvia said “Wait, we’re just kids!”

Sarah and I tag-teamed some shopping, and we took the kids on the train that winds throughout the mall.

We had a delicious lunch at the Baker’s Crust.

I had a shrimp + avocado tropical salad. It was another warm sunny day!

On Tuesday it was back to school, back to work. Which brings me to my career news: I’m going to be working with Tina and Kerrie at Designed To Fit Nutrition! I’m really excited to get back into the field, and I’ll be working with clients creating custom meal plans and coaching. Hope to see some of you there!

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30-Day Challenge Analysis Part 3: Changing Your Life For Real – Let’s Do This Right

All right folks, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. That’s right, it’s the GRAND FINALE of the EPIC, three part 30-day challenge series. We’ve already talked about the pros and cons of 30-day throw downs (Part 1) and we’ve discussed (AT LENGTH) how we totally screw em’ up (Part 2). Now let’s get to the good stuff – let’s figure out how to do this right and truly ‘change your life’ and health for the long haul. If you haven’t read the first two parts, I would recommend doing that first, both for the background information and because, if I do say so myself, they’re damn entertaining. (**NOTE: I also laugh at all of my own jokes.**) If you’re already up to speed, then let’s get this party started…

The GREAT Group/Gym Challenge

Okay, all of you gym owners and coaches, regardless of how good your intentions may be when you set up one of these ’30-day fat loss challenges’, you are doing your members and the folks that participate in them no favors if you’re not running them right. If you’re wondering how you screw em’ up – then you haven’t read Part 2 of this series. Do that now and then come back and continue reading this.

First we’re going to address the ‘numbers game’ – you know; the weighing, waist circumferencing, and calipering/body fat testing. Sure, you need to measure something to determine a winner, but are these markers really indicators of success? Can you lose weight and body fat in 30 days? Yes, but quoting Tommy Boy, “I can get a good look at a t-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s @ss.” I think if we’ve learned anything through observing these challenges, it’s that most folks can gut out 30 days of restriction and get some ‘measurable’ results, but where are they 1-3 months from then? Were the results lasting? Did habits change for good? Did the participants learn/retain anything? Magic 8 Ball says, “Very doubtful.”

What would happen if instead of measuring waist circumference, body fat, and scale numbers, we measured habit changing successes. A couple years ago I did a “30 Challenges in 30 days” series of posts. Every day we did ONE thing to ‘change our lives’ and by the end of the 30 days, participants had 30 new tools in their tool boxes. Every day that they completed a challenge was a small victory and a ‘point’ toward their health. There was no list of do’s and don’ts – no flat out restriction, but rather a slow buildup of new habits over the course of the month. In addition to changing up the indicators of success and the overall implementation of a ‘transformation’ challenge; any good gym/coach will provide education, information and support. Maybe this looks like a weekly class to talk about nutrition and lifestyle habits, a series of emails with instructions, tips, recipes, etc. Or maybe it could be a Facebook group for participants to support each other, ask questions and share ideas; that’s moderated by the coaches and/or a dietitian. This group might be something that stays open for 2-3+ months after the challenge to help support LASTING habit changes and to offer continued support.

Ultimately, as health and nutrition experts we need to be teaching folks how to live and eat in a healthy way that is sustainable. We are doing them a disservice when we promote the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a diet/lifestyle change that runs in 30-day cycles. STOP IT.

The Perfect Personal/Individual Challenge

I know that most of you, embarking upon one of these 30-day life changing challenges, go into them with the goals to clean up your act, form new habits, and come out of feeling better when they’re over. But, in a lot of cases, somewhere along the way things get all messed up. We talked about that in Part 2 of this series in case you need a refresher. Now we’re going to talk about how to make new diet and lifestyle changes stick – with or without a 30-day ‘kick start’.

There are two types of people in the world. There’s the type that, when they go to the pool, head straight to the diving board and jump in, and then there’s the folks that start by dipping their toes in the water taking slow, deliberate steps deeper and deeper until they reach the “all-in” point. Neither of these methods is wrong – one just gets you wet faster, but that doesn’t make it better.

The same general idea can be applied to habit/behavior change – there’s the all-in right off the bat crowd: Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. These guys go from Burger King to broccoli overnight. This can work – but it can backfire too. The other group makes small changes until they finally get to the – all-in point, having adjusted slowly throughout the process. It takes longer, sure, but they eventually get there too. Again, neither of these ways is wrong – but it’s important to know or figure out which approach is going to work best for you.

If you’re an all-in ‘cannonball style’ type of person, 30 days of abstinence might be the ticket for you. That being said, you’re going to have to figure out how to make it work and what life is going to look like after day 30. Unfortunately, you can’t just decide to start tomorrow and expect it to all fall into place. For the folks that tip-toe into the changes, each step is more deliberate and planned. They know what’s coming and slowly adjust their habits over time, (maybe adding one new change each week). This often results in new habits sticking because they’ve had time to figure out how to make each adjustment work for them. Regardless of which direction you go, you’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to figure out how your life is going to look once you’re “all the way under”.

There are a few things you need to do BEFORE you start to help yourself be successful implementing either a 30-day transformation or gradual lifestyle change (this is the short list…):

  1. Know your why. Why are you doing this in the first place? If your answer is to see your abs and you’ve got no real desire to actually change your habits for good, you’re doing it wrong. Sure, at the end of the 30 days you might have those abs, but they aren’t going to last long with no real plan or desire to keep your new way of eating up. A better approach – go into this with the idea that you want to change your habits for life – not to ‘detox’ or to see how much weight you can lose. Your reasons for going in are key predictors of your results coming out.
  2. Have a plan! This is crucial. Know what your 30 days is going to look like. Meal plan, troubleshoot, and figure out how you’re going to make it all come together. But even more important than the 30 day plan is the day 31+ plan. You’ve got to decide what life is going to look like when the ‘transformation’ is complete. How will you incorporate your new habits into your life and where do all of the foods you eliminated fit into that plan? Benjamin Franklin wasn’t wrong when he said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
  3. Don’t ride the Merry-Go-Round. If you’re doing your 6th “Whole30” – you’re missing something. If you plan to succeed and you find your balance, there shouldn’t be a reason to do one of these ‘detoxes’ every 3-6 months. You can always tighten things up a bit, but it shouldn’t get so out of control that you need to resort to 30 days of restriction to get back on track. Find your “happy place” and run with it.
  4. Recruit help if you need it. If you’re not sure how to incorporate these new habits into your forever-life, find someone that can help you. Maybe it’s a friend or family member that’s been successful, a coach at the gym, or a dietitian (yeah, shameless self-promotion…). There are folks out there that can and want to help you – use them if/when you need them!

The ultimate goal of the 30-day challenge or any lifestyle transformation/change is to help develop new habits, get healthier and increase the length and quality of your life – not to see your abs (this should be considered an added bonus if it happens). Going in with the right mindset, educating yourself, and planning for a day 31 that doesn’t involve a buffet of Type 2 Diabetes are key to long term success. When it’s all said and done, you should have a box full of tools to help you stay healthy, look and feel good for life.

That concludes the 30-day challenge analysis series. What did you think and where are you going to go from here?

 

 

 



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