Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest Post: Meat - It's (Not) What's For Dinner!

I am beyond excited to share with you all Get Bizzy Living's very first guest post, brought to you by a very special person in my life - my amazing sister-in-law, Sarah (S. Bracks)!!
B & S Bracks
She and her hubby live on the West Coast and have been a beacon of healthy inspiration to me (and hopefully soon enough, to all of you, too!) because of their active lifestyles, their conscientious eating habits, and their responsible treatment of the earth.  Oh, and they're both hilarious people - I'm talking laugh-out-loud funny.  I don't want to go into too much detail because she lays out a lot of amazing ideas and facts in her post and I want you all to dive right in!  So without further ado, Get Bizzy Living presents...


Meat: It's (Not) What's For Dinner


Hi all.  I’m Bizzy’s sister-in-law, Sarah, and I live with my husband, Mike, in Seattle.  
Mike and I in our garden - with home-grown vegetables and a delicious brew in hand, of course!
Let me start by clearing the air: I am not a vegetarian, and this will not be a post that attempts to bring folks over to The Green Side.  In fact, I have a hefty ham hock simmering in some split pea soup as I write.  

I wanted to write about transitioning away from meat as a dinner staple because it aligns with Bizzy’s goal of finding a balance between fun and health; the more I learn about the food industry, the more I want to eat meat responsibly but not give it up entirely.  I hope that after reading this you have, at the very least, some questions about meat and its role in your day-to-day life. 

To give you a sense of what a low-meat menu could look like, here is our actual dinner menu this week:
Sunday: Blackened rock fish, broccoli, and bread
Monday: TLTs (Tempeh, lettuce & tomato sandwiches) and roasted carrots (vegan)
Tuesday: Pizza night! (vegetarian)
Wednesday: Split pea soup and salad  
Thursday: Lentils, squash, and braised greens “salad” with spicy lemon dressing (vegan)
Friday: Anasazi bean burgers and asparagus (vegan)
First, the WHY
When you eat a piece of meat, you have just participated in a food system that goes far beyond your digestive tract.  The dollars we spend on burgers and bacon are connected to the animals involved, of course, but also to the health of the land on which the animals live, the farmers and workers who raise and slaughter the animals and then process the meat, the gasoline needed to ship the meat, and finally the businesses who fund the system so that we have consistent access to affordable poultry, pork, beef and fish.

I worked on a farm and I’ve also taught a high school unit on food systems with a biology teacher for the past four years, so I was going to spend a lot of time in this post discussing food systems in America.  In the end, however, I decided to hit just the highlights of what I originally wrote and include resources at the end of the section for you to peruse if you want to know more.  I’m also happy to answer any questions.
  1. Adults need roughly 0.8g of protein per kg of weight per day. American adults get about 1½ to 2 times more protein than they actually need, 70% of which is animal protein.  It is a myth that vegetarians don’t get the protein they need, but it is true that vegans need to be intentional about how they will meet their protein needs.
  2. Most meat in America comes from animals raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.  CAFOs keep costs down for consumers by using practices that some argue are unethical for the animal and potentially hazardous for the human who eats it.
  3. Meat from CAFOs travels quite a distance to get to most of our dinner plates (unless you happen to live in Greely, CO). The “locavore” movement is based on the idea that the closer we are to the origin of our food, the better it is for smaller businesses and for the planet.
Resources to check out:
  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen
  • Unhappy Meals” by Michael Pollen
  • National Farmers Markets Database
  • Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
Now, the HOW
My husband and I are not wealthy by U.S. standards, but we do have a comfortable life. I am a public school teacher and Mike is a PhD student. When we first started to commit to eating meat more responsibly, we experienced some serious sticker shock. We realized that we couldn’t keep eating the same amount of meat every week if we also wanted to have money for things we need and/or want (namely rent, gas, good beer, and travel).

Problem #1: “Responsible” meat is more expensive.
Solution: Buy less meat.
Think about how much you currently spend on meat each week and call that your “weekly meat budget”. Now check out how much that amount would buy at a farmer’s market. If you don’t have a market, head to a grocery store that sells local or organic meat and figure out how much your weekly budget would buy there. What you’ll find is that if you want to spend the same amount that you’re spending now, you’ll have to eat less meat.

  • Consider investing in a meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. We recently purchased a half of a pig (about 70 pounds) from Thoughtful Food Farms in Monroe, WA (http://www.thoughtfulfoodfarm.com). We also purchased a Thanksgiving CSA from them, which includes a turkey. Now we know where our pork and turkey were raised and how they will be slaughtered. We even got to visit the farm and meet our pig!
  • Eat smaller portions of meat at dinner (this means you can buy less of it at the store!). Mike and I often eat half of what recipes or restaurants call a portion (but actually I think we’re pretty close to what the USDA recommends, about a pack of cards/3 oz. each). We will split a ½ pound of salmon or one juicy pork chop between the two of us. When meat is the star of our meal, we tend to go all out and make something really fancy with it because it’s so rarely a meat night, let alone a night where meat stands alone. 
  • What is more common for us is that we don’t build dinner around the meat. We’re much more likely to add meat to a dish that already has a lot going on such as a stir-fry, pasta, or casserole. Also, if the recipe calls for 1 lb. of ground beef for the meatballs or 2 chicken breasts for the enchiladas, we almost always cut it in half. As mentioned before, Americans tend to get more protein than they actually need, so we figure we’re not really losing out.
  • Eat meat fewer times per week. See Problem #2 for creative solutions.
Problem #2: Meat is a reliable, tasty, traditional way to get protein.
Solution: Get protein from non-meat sources and get creative.


Tofu
source
What it is: Curd (sort of a thick substance) made from mashed soybeans. Tofu comes in different forms – from soft (for desserts and “creamy” sauces) to extra-firm (for stir-fries and grilling).
Why we like it: Tofu soaks up the flavors with which is it is cooked. Soy beans (like all beans) offer much-needed fiber along with essential amino acids (protein).
How to cook it: We usually press extra-firm tofu to get out a lot of the water before we cook it and then we bake it or sauté it like you would chicken. Mike makes “crack-fu” which is crispy and full of flavor. Ask me if you want a killer Tofu Parmesan recipe.

Brands we like: Wildwood (extra-firm)

Tempeh
Sarah's photo - with some favorite accompaniments!
What it is: cooked and slightly fermented soy beans, often comes in strips
Why we like it: This is a great meat substitute for sandwiches and chili because it is firmer than tofu, but still soaks up flavors.
How to cook it: Sauté tempeh strips in a bit of oil and then throw them on a sandwich or crumble and add to anything you would add sausage or ground beef to.
Brands we like: Turtle Island Foods, especially the Maple Smoked Tempeh (we use it to make the TLTs since it reminds us so much of bacon!)



Seitan

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What it is: cooked wheat gluten (the protein component of wheat)
Why we like it: It is the closest in texture that we’ve found to pork or chicken, and it doesn’t contain soy.
How to cook it: Marinate it first, then sauté the seitan as you would pork or chicken
Brands we like: Westsoy is good, but Mike has started to make it himself!


Beans & Dried Peas
What they are: Beans and dried peas are legumes. We always try to have black beans, navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas in our pantry.
Why we like them: Beans are a super food because, among other essential nutrients, they give you protein and fiber. Beans are also so versatile – they can be whole or mashed, eaten on their own or added to something else. I love to experiment with bean burgers.
How to cook them: When using dry beans, always rinse your beans first and pick through them to make sure you don’t have any stones or shriveled up beans in the bunch. You need to soak beans before you cook them. Cooking times vary. An important note – when the beans are ALMOST cooked, add salt and other seasonings or else your beans will be bland. Lentils and split peas don’t require soaking ahead of time, which makes them a great last-minute addition to soups and salads.
Brands we like: We mostly buy beans in bulk, so we don’t really have any brand loyalty.

Resources we use to experiment with non-meat meals:

  • Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
  • I Can’t Believe it’s Tofu by Deborah Madison
  • 101 Cookbooks (blog) and Supernatural Everyday Food by Heidi Swanson
  • The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
  • Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry

Don’t have a lot of time or energy?  
There are a few prepared staples to which we turn when we’re rushed or uninspired at dinner time. Our current favorites are:

  • Chik’n Products (find them in the freezer) – These are mostly mushroom based, although you wouldn’t know it (take it from a mushroom-hater). We eat the patties on sandwiches (like a chicken sandwich) and the nuggets are a great substitute for chicken wings when you drench them in your favorite wing sauce.
  • Chez Gourmet Spicy Anasazi Bean Burgers (also found in the freezer) – these are SOOOOO good!
  • Soysages – our favorite is probably the Field Roast Chipotle soysage, but most of the brands we’ve tried are excellent.
  • Trader Joe’s Soyrizo – you would NEVER know that this is not chorizo. Well, you do have to add some olive or veggie oil when you cook it up, but seriously, this is the PERFECT meat substitute!

Final Thoughts

Mike and I don’t really ever “miss” meat. I think that’s largely because we never gave it up all the way and we still eat really well. Along with the health, economic, and environmental benefits that have come with our transition, I think I’ve actually gotten to be a better cook because I’ve had to learn new techniques to keep our dinners interesting without putting meat at the center of them. Our latest adventure involves cooking vegan a couple of nights each week, but that’s a whole separate blog post, eh?

For me, eating less meat means feeling healthier and being more at peace with my impact on the planet. It doesn’t make up for my love of a good IPA or my 30-mile daily commute, but I believe that it’s making a small difference. And it tastes good, too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Road Trippin' Made Healthy!

This past weekend, Bracks, my brother-in-law TB, and my future sis-in-law Margo embarked on a road trip to South Carolina to watch two dear friends of ours get married.  
a Carolina road-tripping requirement.
It was a fantastic weekend, full of sun, good healthy decisions (including a 3.5 mile walk on the beach with Margo - effortless exercise is my favorite!), and lovely celebrations of love.  

Upon returning to DC, Bracks and I spent Memorial Day with my family - a perfect cap to a wonderful weekend!  

I was reviewing my favorite health blogs yesterday evening when I came across something that I oh-so-wished I had known about during our road tripping adventure this past weekend: 

Eat Well Guide's Travel Map


You plug in your starting and ending destinations, and it helps you find "local, sustainable, and organic food wherever you go."  Just look at the amount of amazing places along our route at which we could have stopped!


Ever since I have started focusing on a healthier life, fast food has lost much of its appeal to me - seeing as the healthy choices available are scant at best (even the ones that pretend to be healthy), and I usually end up feeling icky for hours afterwards.  This travel guide will be a game-changer for future road trips.  I can't wait to employ it soon!

Have any of you used this resource before?  Will you use it now?

I hope that you had a wonderful three-day weekend!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Afternoon Links ~ 5.29.12

Here are the links that have my mind and body buzzing this week:
  • Heart disease is the number one killer for women in the U.S.  Ladies (and gents, too!), keep your heart happy and healthy with these fantastic, easy tips.
  • POM Wonderful juice has been touted for a long time as a "super juice."  New reports are implying that this might not be the case.  
  • You can do worlds for your mental health when you help others.  Here are 60 selfless ways to pay it forward, guaranteed to not only make someone else's day better, but yours, too (isn't it lovely how that works?)!
  • A lot of foods get a really bad rap on the health circuit.  The Washington Post explains that some of these foods - like eggs, potatoes, and fried foods even (!) - aren't as bad as we are led to think
  • It's almost June - do you know what that means?  Summertime is here!  Make the most of it by checking out these 100 tips on how to have a healthy summer.
  • Give yourself a boost of confidence and a can-do attitude with these keys to fearless empowerment.
  • Portion sizes have grown to gargantuan sizes since the 60s.  Check out this infographic on how they've changed, and prepare to be surprised!  
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Tune-y Tuesday #1: The Levels Edition

Since yesterday was a holiday, I'm bringing you a special edition version of Musical Monday today - aptly titled "Tune-y Tuesday."  Enjoy!

Here are the jams that are keeping my legs pumping and my mind occupied in the gym this week:

Winner of the Week:

Levels (Skrillex Remix) - Avicii
I had already been enamored with the original "Levels" by Avicii for a while, but this remix with the master-of-great-gym-jams, Skrillex, has completely revolutionized my attitude towards cardio workouts at the gym (specifically, intervals on the elliptical).  The energy is unstoppable, the beat is fast and strong, and I actually find myself grinning from ear to ear as sweat pours down my face (lovely, huh?).  I feel like if a song was ever made to be the soundtrack for a cardio machine workout, this would be it.  Just wait for the insanity to start kicking in at :50, and boom, you're off!!!!

The Contenders:

What the Hell - Avril Lavigne

Acapella (Guetta Extended Mix) - Kelis

The 16th Hour - Deadmau5

Who's That Chick? - David Guetta & Rihanna

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Inspiration

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Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everyone!  See you on Tuesday!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Tips!

Memorial Day weekend is approaching rapidly (wahoo!).

I thought it would be great to post some ways to maximize the first big warm-weather weekend of the year while still maintaining a healthy mindset.  I hope you enjoy these tips!
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Have a wonderful Memorial Day - one that is hopefully filled with family, friends, fun, and sun - and healthy choices, too!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If-

A few weeks ago, I shared a poem with you all that inspires me daily - the Desiderata.

I'm back with another thought-provoking poem today - If-, by Rudyard Kipling.  

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Where the Desiderata is calm and soothing, this poem strikes hard and powerfully.  It's a fantastic motivator, pushing me to work harder in the gym, home, and office, to commit my all to healthy eating and life habits, to be a good person to my friends, family, and every stranger I meet, and to never, never, never give up.  
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I only have one qualm with this poem.  I wish the last line were gender neutral, since I feel somewhat odd proclaiming after a tough workout, "Yeah! I'm inspired!  I can do it!  I'm a MAN!," when, clearly, I am not.  However, it's understandable why Kipling drafted the poem the way he did - it was originally written as a tribute to the actions of a certain British soldier during  the late 1800s.  

Regardless, it's a beautiful, fiery, and inspiring poem, and will hopefully get you energized to take on the day as much as it does for me.

If-

Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
(Source)

Now, don't you feel empowered?  

Let's all go out and make something of ourselves today - and tomorrow - and every day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quinoa Pizza Bites

What do you do when two of your culinary worlds collide?

Do you reject it?

Or do you embrace it?

The answer?  You embrace it.  You embrace it like it's a teddy bear and you're this cat:
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The old culinary world I am referring to is junk food (as I have so mournfully mentioned in past posts - like here and here).  My love for mac & cheese, buffalo anything, and pizza is insatiable.  Not to mention in major withdrawal.

The new culinary world I am referring to is my recent delve into the universe of quinoa - the goofy little nutritious supergrain with which I am having a blast lately.

My curiosity immediately perked when I came across this recipe this past Friday evening.  With an already-stocked kitchen and the knowledge that I had a few hours to kill before a dinner date with Bracks, I decided to whip up a batch.

Get Bizzy Living readers, meet your new favorite snack:


These things are off the charts.  And at one WW point+ each, they're a guilt-free savory snack that you'll come back to again and again and again.

So, let's get started, shall we?

Quinoa Pizza Bites


Adapted from this FitSugar recipe.

Printable recipe.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Quinoa, pre-rinsed and uncooked
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Mozzarella, shredded
15-17 Turkey Pepperoni Slices, quartered
1/2 Cup Onion, chopped
2 Tsp Garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp Basil, dried (OR 1/2 Cup Fresh Basil)
Salt to Taste
1 Tsp Paprika
1 Tsp Oregano

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Prepare the quinoa normally, as you would rice - using either this method or a rice cooker.
You see, the trick is to NOT have the quinoa explode out of the top of your rice cooker while you're preparing it. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
3.  Combine all of the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
Pre-pepperoni addition.  Forgot to take a pic, d'oh!
4.  Once the quinoa has been prepared, add it to the bowl.  Stir well to combine.
5.  Apply cooking spray to two 12-cup mini-muffin baking tins.
6.  Using a tablespoon, put a heaping spoonful into each cup (I would recommend patting them down just a little bit, so that they're easier to pick up and gobble down after they're cooked).
7.  Bake the two tins together for 15-20 minutes.
8.  Give them a few minutes to cool so that they're easier to remove from the muffin tins.
9.  Serve them immediately - whether it's to a crowd with pizza sauce, or to yourself, sans sauce (they're really good on their own, and it keeps the WW point intake low!).

A few notes about the recipe:
  • I didn't include garlic since it's not really my thing.
  • Although these were excellent with the dried basil, I can imagine that fresh basil would take them over the top.  So if you're preparing this recipe ahead of time, make sure to snag some fresh basil.
  • The original FitSugar recipe calls for a whole onion, but half is more than plenty.
  • Chances are you'll still have leftovers after filling the two tins.  Feel free to start the process over after the first batch comes out of the oven (or you can be like me and just keep adding to the already-prepared tins until quinoa is spilling all over the place.  But hey, that's nothing I'm not already used to - see my rice cooker picture above).
Since this recipe makes (minimally) 24 mini-muffins, I ate three, saved three for Bracks, and then bagged the rest and put them in the freezer, three bites to a bag.  Any time we want a quick bite, we just pull a baggy out, microwave on high for one-and-a-half to two minutes, and voila - pizza & quinoa goodness on the go!

Bracks could not stop talking about how much he enjoyed them - and even went so far as to suggest I bring them to football gatherings in the fall (we love us some Sunday football, and the grub that tends to come with it).  I most certainly will, armed with the aforementioned pizza sauce for dipping.
If this picture were taken in the future, I could pretty much guarantee that we would be staring at quinoa pizza bites.
Give these guys a go.  They're amazing, a crowd-pleaser, and super great at satisfying those little salty cravings we all tend to get from time to time.

Pizza and quinoa?  Totally the new peanut butter and jelly.  I'm calling it now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Afternoon Links ~ 5.21.12

Here are the links that have my mind and body buzzing this week (and in a brand, spanking new format!):

Musical Monday #7: The Calabria Edition

Here are the jams that are keeping my legs pumping and my mind occupied in the gym this week:

Winner of the Week:

Calabria 2008 - Enur (feat MIMS & Natasja)
This popped up on my dance station on Pandora a couple of days ago, and it's been pushing me every since.  I'm sure you've heard the background track before - it's used in a lot of club jams.  It's high-energy and has a powerful beat.  Love this.

The Contenders:

One Foot - fun.

Greyhound - Swedish House Mafia

Turn Up the Radio - Madonna

Cinema (Skrillex Remix) - Benny Benassi
(DISCLAIMER - the first minute of this one is pretty slow.  But I like to use it as a warm-up until it gets to 1:05, when the upbeat Skrillex-style part starts.  I've also gone double-time during the first part to keep up the energy - lots of options!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quinoa with Spinach

If you've been following Get Bizzy Living's facebook page, then you may already know that I recently acquired my first-ever bag of quinoa.

Check out this beaut!
I know, I know, I'm late to the party.  People have been raving about the awesomeness of quinoa for quite some time now.  But for the longest while, something about those tiny little pinhead-sized grains made me nervous.  I had no idea how to cook them, let alone what to actually do with them (okay, okay, you eat them - but with what?  And how?? How, I ask you??).

I'm glad that I finally overcame my apprehension, because these little beads of goodness are amazing.  And super good for you.  Quinoa is gluten-free, it's a great source of good protein (containing all of the amino acids), and it's rich in calcium, potassium, iron, and and zinc among other important minerals (source). Beyond that, it's thought to be wonderful for the cardiovascular system, a great antioxidant, and get this - a natural relief for migraines (source)!!!  Seriously, where has this stuff been all my life?

Suffice it to say that in the past week I have become very "keen" on quinoa. And I hope that after this post, you will be too!

I wanted to start off with a simple recipe to introduce me (and in effect, you all) to the world of quinoa.  So off I went to the Weight Watchers' recipe board, and came across this little number.  It was very easy to make, it tasted amazing, and it would pair up like a dream with basically any entree.  Oh, and it's only 3 points for a half cup serving.  And since quinoa is chock-full of essential protein, you don't need a lot to feel sated.  A win all around!

So without further ado,
I present to you...

Quinoa with Spinach

(Courtesy of Weight Watchers Online)


Printable Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Uncooked Onion, minced
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Cup Uncooked Quinoa, pre-rinsed
  • 2 Cups Reduced-Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Ground Pepper to taste
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes to taste
  • 4 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach, coarsely chopped
  • Table Salt to taste
Our crazy cast of characters.  That odd red thing in the background is our olive oil vessel.

Directions:


1.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic, and stir until well combined and tender (3-5 minutes).
2.  Add quinoa, stir until quinoa begins to turn golden brown (2 minutes).
3.  Add broth, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil.
4.  If you have any leftover chicken broth, put it in your favorite mug, microwave it on high for a minute, and sip away!
Mmmm, soothing.  And true.
5.  Cover skillet, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 12-13 minutes.
6.  Add the spinach, and stir until well combined.  Cover the skillet again, and cook until everything is tender and the liquid is absorbed.  Add salt.
7.  Serve with chicken, fish, or whatever you want!  Yields about 1/2 cup a serving.
I served it with a chicken breast, because that's my M.O. these days.

For the record, I halved the recipe since I was only cooking for two.  I also omitted the garlic because I'm not the biggest of garlic fans (but I'm not a vampire, I promise).  Feel free to do the same - it doesn't seem to affect the yummy taste.
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I can already tell that quinoa will now be a staple in Bracks' and my diet, and it makes me so very excited.

I mean, hey - it's easy to prepare, it has a plethora of health benefits, and it's fun to say.

That's a triple threat in my book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Migraines Are a BIG Pain

Yesterday's post dealt with some inspiration to develop our mental health.  So it seems only fitting that I turn the tables a bit today and talk to you all about some literal mental health, i.e., the bane of my existence, MIGRAINES.
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I experienced my first big-time migraine on January 1st, 2009 at a movie theater while watching Slumdog Millionaire with my folks.  One minute I was fine, the next, I felt like someone had turned me upside down and dunked my head underwater.  My orientation was off, my head was whirring, and I could feel a pulsing in my ears that would put Skrillex to shame.

The sensation eventually faded, and gave way to zigzags with the consistency of TV static materializing across my right field of vision.  They expanded until my ability to see anything in my right eye was pretty much gone (appearing almost exactly like this - except mine are black and white).

Those persisted for about 15 minutes before finally tapering, and were immediately replaced with what was easily one of the worst headaches of my entire life.  I was terrified, bewildered, and disoriented.  The entire series of events completely caught me off-guard, and, for a moment, the idea that I might actually have been dying did cross my mind.

Luckily by this point, we were back at my folks' place and my mom was armed with a computer, a pain reliever, and water.  We googled my symptoms and discovered that what was happening to me was a regular occurrence for countless other individuals.

I was experiencing an ocular migraine.
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I have learned a lot since my first bout with migraines that day in 2009, and my knowledge has certainly quelled much of my worry about what is happening inside of my head when they occur.

The sensation of dunking my head under water is referred to by many terms, but I prefer to call it a "head rush."  It's basically a sudden rush of blood to the head.  The subsequent zigzag vision is not only a typical symptom, it even has its own name: a visual aura.  It's dubbed by Wikipedia as being "the most common of the neurological events" (the neurological events, in this case, being the multiple-sensory auras that accompany migraine attacks). The headache, the most notorious aspect of migraine attacks, is the finishing event, just as it is for countless other sufferers.  Doctors are still trying to figure out exactly why migraines happen, but think it may be because of abnormal brain activity - changes in chemicals and nerves in the brain that make the blood-flow up there go off the wall for a little while.

It was reassuring to hear that the internet world was familiar with my type of migraine.  However, as time progressed, the attacks began to increase in frequency, and I knew I had to see a doctor for my own sanity. Together, we discussed my situation, and ways to better it.

It always surprises me to meet others who are suffering from the same or similar health issues that I have.  It's comforting to know that no matter how strange I think my body is acting, there are others going through the same thing who are probably worrying as much as I am. In fact, according to Migraine.com, 13% of U.S. adults suffer from migraines. That means, chances are more likely than not that I'm not the only one on this blog right now who suffers from migraines.

In an effort to help you or anyone you know who have to deal with these mental nuisances, I've put together a list of my tips and strategies for curbing migraine issues:

#1: Figure out your triggers. Migraines have a whole range of triggers, and knowing what causes them for you can mitigate the frequency of the attacks. When I first started to get a lot of them, I kept a migraine diary to find out what types of things I was doing/eating/drinking correlated with my attacks.  I quickly learned that one of my biggest triggers is dehydration (ahhh, now my love for water makes sense!).  I also have found that I have attacks more frequently when I drink red wine (and so, among other reasons, I subsequently stick to white only), or when I'm put into a situation with flashing/strobe lights.  I went to a Girl Talk concert at the 9:30 Club (watch at your own risk) last winter, and like clockwork, eight hours later, boom, ocular migraine.  Even certain iPhone games with flashing lights have triggered migraines for me!  I've learned to avoid these triggers, because the correlation seems to be direct.  However, sometimes, triggers aren't something I can consciously prevent - stuff like hormones, stress, or even changes in barometric pressure. This is one of the main reasons why I believe points #2 and #3 are of the utmost importance.
#2:  Listen to your body.  I have realized that my head rushes and visual auras are more of a blessing than a curse, because they are very tangible warning signs that a Headache from Hell is en route.  Sometimes, unfortunately, the warning signs aren't as blatant - you may start to feel a little lightheaded, smell something that isn't there, or get a ringing in your ears.  If you're having trouble with migraines, pay attention to how you were feeling right before the headache began.  A lot of the time, even if it's subtle, your body will send some cues your way, so that you can be ready to put point #3 into effect.
#3:  When a migraine hits, have an action plan prepared.  I carry Excedrin with me everywhere, since it's the only non-prescription pain reliever that works for me (and when I say "works," I mean it mitigates it, not gets rid of it completely).  I down a glass of water and pop an Excedrin the second I feel the head rush sensation. If I'm at work when it happens, I put on relaxing, soft music and dim the brightness on my computer screen.  If I'm home, I know it's time to lie down and try to take a nap before the headache settles in.  I have a friend and fellow migraine-sufferer who swears by downing a can of regular Coke and popping an Excedrin the second the warning signs appear.  Searching the internet, I have found a plethora of different ways people cope with their migraines.  It's a personal course of action, and sometimes it can be a tricky one.  


It goes without saying that everything I have noted above is anecdotal - the strategies and methods that have personally helped me with what would have otherwise been a devastating interruption in my life.  
If you are a migraine sufferer, I strongly suggest that in addition to trying out the tricks I have listed above, you check in with your general practitioner to discuss the best course of action for you.  

Migraines can be a huge pain, but they haven't stopped me from striving to live the happy and healthy life I want to live.  For migraine sufferers and for those who know someone suffering from migraines, I hope that this post has been helpful.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to discuss any migraine problems in more depth.  And remember - you are not alone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

101 Timeless Life Lessons

Are your brains feeling healthier after last week's post about Gandhi's life tips?  Are you ready for some more inspiring brain food?  Awesome!

The good people at Marc & Angel Hack Life have put together a phenomenal list of 101 timeless life lessons.

I've included my personal favorites from the list below, but please click on the link at the end of the post to read them all - they're definitely all worth it.


1. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.

12. Loving someone isn’t just about saying it every day, it’s showing it every day in every way.

21. The path to our destination is not always a straight one.  We go down the wrong one, we get lost, and we turn back.  But maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on.  Maybe what matters is that we embark. (This could be a mantra for this blog, actually!)

23. Knowing yourself is one thing, but truly believing and living as yourself is another.  With so much social conditioning in our society, we sometimes forget who we are.

26. Tell the negativity committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.

28. Live in such a way that if someone decided to speak badly of you, no one would believe it.

30. Life is shorter than it often seems.  Sometimes we are only given a few minutes to be with the ones we love, and hundreds of hours to spend thinking of them.  Cherish the moments you have with your friends and family, because in one single second they can be taken away from you forever.

31. Things change, but the sun always rises the next day.  The bad news: nothing is permanent.  The good news: nothing is permanent.

32. It’s your road, and yours alone.  Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.

48. Life is not about making others happy.  Life is about sharing your happiness with others.

59.Let the constant growth and improvement in your own life keep you so busy that you have no time left to criticize others.

60. When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.  Go for long walks.  Indulge in great conversations.  Question your assumptions.  Love yourself.  Pay attention to the moment.  Be a little crazy.  Count your blessings.  Let go for a little while and just be.

64. Being happy doesn’t always make us grateful, but being grateful will always make us happy.

65. Smile every chance you get; not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have and all the problems you know you don’t have.

67. If you’re finding it hard to be grateful for anything, sit down close your eyes and take a long slow breath and be grateful for oxygen.  Every breath you take is in sync with someone’s last.

77. Everyone says love hurts, but that’s not true.  Loneliness hurts.  Rejection hurts.  Losing someone hurts.  Envy hurts.  Everyone gets these things confused with love; but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.  Love is the one thing in this world that does not hurt.

78. Real friendship is a promise made in the heart.  Silent.  Unwritten.  Unbreakable by distance.  Unchangeable by time.

82. Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them.

85. Most of the time happiness doesn’t come from money or fame or power; it comes from good friends and family, and from the quiet nobility of leading a good life.

98. One of the greatest freedoms is truly not caring what everyone else thinks of you.

101. Sometimes you have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting.  Have faith that things will work out, maybe not how you planned, but just how it’s meant to be.

Click here to check out the list in its entirety.


Aren't there some wonderful life mantras you can take with you from this list?

All of them are amazing, and have given me some great inspiration to keep me going this week.  I hope the same for you!

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Afternoon Links ~ 5.14.12

Here are the links that have my mind and body buzzing this week:

3 Tips for Germ-Free Travel
Especially catered to those traveling by air.  Very useful.

10 Ways to Find Your Motivation to Work Out After Work
Funnily, my favorite time to work out is after work (for the time being, at least).  But sometimes it's a struggle to push myself to go - this is a great way of minimize that mental debate.

54 Unexpected Ways to Hack Your Health
Beer as shampoo?  Don't mind if I do!

Are You Making These Nutrition Mistakes?
Among other things, they stress the importance of hydration, and you all probably know how I feel about some good old fashioned H20 at this point!

The Best New Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
There are so many good ways you can affect your metabolism, and they're easier to do than you'd think!

Best of the Worst
A great guide to "healthified" versions of the best junk food.  I can't wait to make the healthified macaroni and cheese!!

Biggest Brunch Offenders
Quite complementary to my piece on breakfast last week.

Do Vitamins and Supplements Actually Work?
There are two schools of thought on this one - I prefer to think that they do, and that is why I take a handful of them daily (future post!).

Easy Ways to Destress When You Don't Have Time
One of my good childhood friends started this amazing women empowerment site.  This is just one of the useful articles available there.

Energy Ups and Downs?  Your Caffeine-Drinking May Be to Blame
A nice supplement to my post on caffeine from a few weeks back.

How Much Do Americans Really Exercise?
I feel lucky and motivated living in a city where the exercise rate is significantly higher than the rest of the USA, but the lack of exercise nationwide is a very scary cause for concern.

Starbucks Summery Beverages:  Which to Skip, Which to Sip
A great guide on the best choices from the famous java hotspot.

This Is How Much Sugar Is In Your 'Healthy' Breakfast
Showing the tangible amount of sugar is a staggering, tangible way to see just how good or bad your favorite snacks can be for you.  Very informative.

The Truth About Coconut Water
This surprised me greatly, since I've been a devout Vita Coco fan for quite some time, now.  No matter what you take from the article, I think it's still safe to assume that coconut (and/or regular) water will always be better for you post-workout than sugary re-hydrating sports drinks.

The Tumblr Guide to Healthy Living
A cheat sheet on a bunch of different ways to live a healthy lifestyle - super cool!

What You Need to Know About Smoothies
Lots of good advice in here - I'm not a big fan of mixing milk or yogurt into my smoothies anyway, but it's interesting to see why they recommend against it!

The Yoga of Driving: 7 Tips for a Stress-Free Drive
Yet another way that yoga's real-life applications can improve your life!

Check out the other three moves here.

Musical Monday #6 - The Mistletoe Edition

Here are the jams that are keeping my legs pumping and my mind occupied in the gym this week:

Winner of the Week:

Mistletoe - Jukebox the Ghost
Sometimes, poppy rock jams can do the trick just as well as upbeat hip hop and dance hits.  This is certainly the case with this track, by one of my favorite groups.  It's super fun, and it keeps me going when I need a burst of playful energy.

The Contenders:

Arena - B.O.B. (feat Chris Brown & T.I.)

Some Girls - Madonna

Drunk on You - Luke Bryant

The Fighter - Gym Class Heroes

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living Like Gandhi

It's been a while since I've focused on health for the mind, so I've decided to give my blog a little Gandhi love today.

MindBodyGreen, one of my favorite wellness blogs, recently posted a list of 10 Life Changing Tips Inspired by Gandhi.  They are amazing, inspiring, and definitely worth a read:

1. You Can Change the World
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."

2. Think Positive
"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes."

3. Cherish Life
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

4. Don't Give Up 
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."

5. Practice Compassion
"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind."

6. Live In Harmony 
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

7. Forgive
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

8. Meditate
"I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one."

9. Serve Others
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

10. Live Life To The Fullest
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."

Gandhi's whole principle of living was based off of the idea that humankind is inherently good.  Isn't that a wonderful, optimistic way to view the world?  I love it because it inspires me to see the good in the everyday.  I hope it will inspire you, too!!

Check out the whole article from MindBodyGreen here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Breakfast Blues

Do you ever get in a breakfast rut?  I sure do.

Probably because I love it so darned much.  It is without doubt my favorite meal of the day - I embrace all things breakfast.  Bacon.  Oatmeal.  Bagels.  Sausage.  Pancakes.  Cream cheese.  French toast.  Waffles.  Strawberry jam.  Omelettes.  Grits.  Syrup.  Biscuits.

I love it all.

I want it all.

Bracks and I even have brinner (breakfast for dinner) on a pretty consistent basis (or, at least we used to before this whole "health kick" thing started).


It's been quite an adjustment having to compromise my favorite meal of the day in order to live a healthier lifestyle.  I miss being able to indulge in the items mentioned above whenever I wanted.  I miss snagging that extra piece of sizzling bacon.  I miss heaping cream cheese and strawberry jam on a toasted everything wheat bagel (a truly incredible combo, by the way).  I miss justifying massive stacks of blueberry pancakes smothered in syrup and butter as somewhat healthy because "they have fruit in them."

My morning smoothies have been my go-to for the past few months, and while I love them and have found ways to change them up (stay tuned - I am dedicating a future post to a bunch of the variations I have been loving lately), sometimes I want something more substantial, too.

A liquid breakfast, though quite tasty and full of nutrients, sometimes makes me feel like I've ingested less than I actually have, meaning I get hungry for lunch sooner and my urge to snack throughout the day increases exponentially.

It was clear to me that my smoothie-for-breakfast infatuation was fading, and fading fast.  It was back to the drawing board - I needed to find a new way to enjoy a hefty, delicious breakfast that would keep me sated and satisfied, while  maximizing healthiness and minimizing calorie and fat intake.

I thought I was dreaming an impossible dream.


I thought wrong.

My new favorite go-to takes about three minutes (if that) to prepare in my kitchen, and on days when I'm really in a rush, the cafe downstairs in my office can prepare it for two dollars and change.  Not too shabby.

Introducing...

Bizzy's Egg White Extravaganza

no veggies in my eggs in this one, oops!
Starring... 
  • 3 Egg Whites (if you use the carton stuff, it's 1/2 cup.  My current favorite is  Safeway's Best of the Egg Whites)
  • Diced Green & Red Peppers, Onions
  • 2 slices Turkey Bacon (or 2 Turkey Sausage Links)
  • Fresh Fruit
The eggs take NO time to cook, so prior to preparing those, pop the two sausages in the microwave (follow the package instructions), or fry the turkey bacon on a non-stick frying pan with non-fat cooking spray.  Set them aside. Then...

Directions for Eggs:
1.  Spray olive oil cooking spray (or your non-fat cooking spray of choice) on a non-stick frying pan, heat up the pan.
2.  Add the peppers/onions, saute for just about a minute.
3.  Add egg whites.
4.  Stir with a wooden spoon until properly scrambled and combined.

Serve all of this on a plate with the turkey bacon/sausage and an assortment of fresh fruit (my current fruit of choice is red grapes).

The best part is that this whole meal (I'm talking eggs, turkey bacon, and fruit) is only TWO WW POINTS+.  TWO!!!!!  It's three points if you go with the sausage over the bacon - but still. Three points for a huge breakfast is pretty legen...wait for it...dary.

my office cafe's take on my new favorite breakfast
The possibilities for mixing up this fantastic breakfast are endless, too - here are some of my favorite variations:
  • I always, always, always put Texas Pete on the eggs.  Always.  0 points+.  
  • I pair the meal with a Bizzy's breakfast smoothie when I'm not running late in the morning.
  • I sometimes put a few spoonfuls of jarred salsa on top.  Most brands are 0 points+ (if there are no corn, beans, or cheese in them).  My two favorites: this and this.  Or, if you so choose, you could make your own!
  • Since I keep a ton of spinach around for my smoothies, sometimes I saute spinach instead of peppers and onions. 
  • I had about 1/2 cup of leftover enchilada filling after making Valerie's chicken enchiladas over the weekend, so on Sunday morning I heated it up in the nonstick pan and then added the egg whites.  I still paired it with grapes and a smoothie and counted the whole thing as 5 points+ (I did not serve it with turkey bacon/sausage since I had already had my poultry fix).
  • Mama Bracks gave me some great spices from Penzeys, so sometimes I shake in a sprinkle or two to add a kick to the eggs.  My current favorite is Arizona Dreaming.

So, there you have it - a healthy and low-fat way to satisfy your craving for a popular breakfast dish.  As for the other breakfast items listed above, it's not the end of the world to indulge every once in a while.  It's a matter of monitoring your portions and keeping it all in (drumroll, please) moderation.

I hope you enjoy this breakfast as much as I do, whether you have it for breakfast, lunch, or brinner.

source

Mmmm, brinner.