Exercise & Body-Mind Connection

In my last post, I talked about why movement and making time to move is important not only for a healthy body, but for a healthy mind-body connection.  After uploading that post, I proceeded with my day and heard an ad on the radio marketing a discounted gym membership for listeners looking to shed that last 10 pounds before swimsuit season.  Waiting in line at the grocery store, I noticed magazines promising a workout to tone your tummy in 7 days or a “Summer Shape-Up” routine to target every zone in “just minutes a day”!

Honestly, I’m just fed up with seeing that kind of marketing everywhere I go.  Why can’t people just exercise and move without weight loss being the ultimate goal?  Can’t we just move our bodies because it feels good?  Why does a progressive action to exercise imply that we’re unhappy with how we look and that we’re doing said action to lose weight or tone-up?

In the modern media, exercise is a means to lose weight and nothing else.  And while exercise does aid in burning fat and building muscle, we cannot forget about the countless other benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss!  Regular exercise can:

  1. Reduce stress & improve mental clarity (great for combating depression & anxiety),
  2. Positively impact one’s self-image & self-love,
  3. Prevent brain cell degeneration,
  4. Increase productivity & increase one’s ability to relax,
  5. Encourage normal body function to fight disease (i.e. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure),

And so much more!  Movement of all kind is beneficial to the body; stretching elongates targeted muscles and the surrounding connective tissues to elicit muscle relaxation and increase flexibility.  Joint mobilization stimulates the body’s production of synovial fluid to allow freer joint movement (which is vital as we get older) and increases kinetic (bodily) awareness.

kahyoga3For a healthy mind-body connection, exercise is key.  When we habitually associate exercise with weight loss, it can make us feel that if we’re not losing weight as a result of exercise, our efforts are wasted and then discourages us from continuing.  Get out and move not to get down to a certain size or to fit society’s bologna standards; do it to show your body that you love and accept it just as it is, and that’s why you want to take care of it.

Do it because it feels good and you deserve to feel good!

~

Sources:

  • OnHealth
  • Huffpost
  • Benjamin, Patricia. Tappan’s Handbook of Massage Therapy. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2016. Print. Pg 291.
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Beyond the Scale

I wrote this several weeks ago but have been hesitant to share it.  Whilst rereading it, I realize it comes off a little… depressive.  But I’ve decided to leave this post as-is because these are all things that I felt at the time I wrote it.  But I think it’s important to note that I do not only feel this way.  Losing weight has been a struggle, but it’s also helped me to learn more about myself.  And while some days are hard, most days are great and I’m a very happy and grateful human.  This is all a part of my journey and I treat each experience as an integral part of that.


As life would have it, shortly after I posted about my weight loss I realized that I wasn’t healthy. On paper, sure, I was healthy- my weight was the lowest it’s been in years which, of course, has other positive bodily effects. But I didn’t feel good.

I was falling into detrimental habits that I am unfortunately all too familiar with. I was obsessing over the number on the scale. People noticed my weight loss and told me how great I looked and congratulated me on such a feat. This should have motivated me but instead it tore me apart. My weight directly affected my self-worth, and as the number on the scale went down my esteem went up- and vice-versa. Suddenly, I only saw myself as a number on the scale.

Feeling like I had no purpose other than to be skinny, I turned to food for comfort and started gaining weight… Again. My mind began to fog. Those around me noticed my weight loss, so surely they would notice my gain. My face isn’t as thin as it was only four weeks ago; my waist not as slim. In my mind, everything I was eating was “bad”. I felt guilty eating anything. When I was home alone with only my dog I would actually put food back because JEEZ terriers are so judgmental!

In hindsight, I can tell that my behavior over the past month has been destructive. But I didn’t realize how bad things had actually gotten until two weekends ago when Jeff and I went away. On our mini-vacation, the hotel we stayed at offered a buffet breakfast. I could have eaten every single item lined up there and even if I felt like I was about to burst I would keep eating just because it was there. While I was eating delicious pancakes all I could think about was the next thing I was going to eat. It was here that I realized just how much of what I was eating was being eaten just because it was there. Starving or stuffed, food was my life whether I even enjoyed it or not. I always had to be eating. I felt ashamed.

In the beginning, I was determined to lose weight to look “good” in a bikini. I didn’t want to look back on my wedding photos and hate what I saw. I wanted to feel good about myself. But as people began to notice my weight loss, my reasons why morphed into just one reason: I wanted people to think that I was skinny; and if they didn’t, it meant I was nothing. (I realize that this has everything to do with me and NOTHING to do with my family and peers who only saw how hard I was working to reach my goal and were graciously congratulating me for it.)

But at the time, I couldn’t see what was happening. I was losing weight and so my self-worth and esteem were high and that was all that mattered. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t stop thinking about the leftovers in the fridge. It didn’t matter that no matter how much I lost it would never be enough. It didn’t matter that if I felt I’d indulged too much I would degrade myself with words like “fat” or “pig” or “ugly” or “dumb”. It didn’t matter because every day I was getting skinnier.

My mind wasn’t healthy;  I was so detached from my body and what it truly needed.  For some, like myself, there is so much more to losing weight than eating less.  For me, it’s a lifestyle change, and as I’m adjusting my whole life I’m having to deal with stuff from every part of my life that has brought me here.

A lifestyle change isn’t always just about eating less, but may include changing how we handle problems or learning to eat mindfully instead of eating just because it’s there.  Everyone’s journey is different, and this is a part of mine.  I’m having to realize why I feel compelled to eat a whole bag of chips instead of a healthy-sized serving.  I need to recognize when my body feels satisfied instead of just eating until I can’t breathe.

I wanted to share this because this is honestly where I’m at.  It’s certainly not pretty, but I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly parts of my journey.  Going through this has been difficult, but I think it’s also made me a better person.  Writing this has helped me learn more about myself and by sharing it here, I hope to shed light on an issue not often discussed when people talk about losing weight.

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Mental and emotional health are just as important as physical health.  I’m taking some time to reevaluate and prioritize my long-term goals.  Bodily health means nothing to me if my mind and soul aren’t also healthy.  My personal journey is about finding balance in my body and in life, and my blog is a direct extension of that.  Holistic health considers all parts of the body and though for the moment I’ve lost sight of that, I’m hopeful and know that each struggle only makes me stronger.

~

Better For You Banana Bread | Recipe

Lately, I’ve really been struggling to find the balance between what is healthy for me and what is “Weight Watchers healthy”. For those unfamiliar with the program, Weight Watchers members are assigned a daily points value based on their height, weight, gender, age and a few other factors. Each food item also has a points value that is calculated based on the number of calories and grams of saturated fat, sugar and protein. In short, the goal is to track the number of points you eat a day while hitting your personal daily points target.

So what do I mean by “Weight Watchers healthy”? For example, on the program one tablespoon of Kerrygold butter is 5 points (that’s pretty high). On the other hand, you can have virtually as much I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter butter-like spray as you want for 0 points (that’s ideal!). But this “butter-like” spray is loaded with chemicals and additives that are foreign to our bodies, so it is extremely difficult for us to digest them. Kerrygold butter not only comes from grass-fed cows, but because it is closer to it’s natural state our bodies are more familiar with it.

When you remove the fat from foods that naturally contain fat, it actually becomes harder for your body to digest. A general rule-of-thumb when scouting out healthy items is the fewer ingredients on the label, the better. That being said, these foods aren’t exactly Weight Watchers-friendly. If I want to sauté some onion in one measly tablespoon of butter, I have to sacrifice some protein to make it feasible for the plan.

You could say, “Kels, you could cut out dairy altogether! Then you wouldn’t have to worry about the butter debacle!” But let’s be real- I’m not going to do that. And if I’m going to eat it, it’s going to be the real stuff that my body recognizes and can process. It’s all about balance, anyway, right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis brings me to the reason you clicked this link- the banana bread. Banana bread summons up such feelings of warmth and comfort; many of us grew up eating it homemade by mom. These loaves are probably a little different from the one I’m sharing with you today, though, because there is no processed sugar here! This recipe from Cookie and Kate uses honey to naturally sweeten the bread while providing trace nutrients that granulated sugar does not.

On WW, one tablespoon of honey is four points, while one tablespoon of white granulated sugar is only three points. According to the plan, sugar is better for us than honey. But sugar doesn’t have the vitamins and antibacterial properties that honey naturally contains. While the plan does work if you follow it, I’m going to decide what’s “healthy”; I’m going to stick to what’s going to nourish my body, not what’s going to make me lose weight. (Can I have both? Coming to a future post.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlright, enough talking: this banana bread is delicious, nutritious, easy to make and your friends will never be able to tell it’s actually healthy (I sure couldn’t; my best friend made this for a post-night out treat and I immediately knew I needed the recipe. Additional note: may cure hangovers).


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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted (may sub olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup honey (may sub maple syrup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup ripe banana, mashed (about 2 large bananas)
  • 1/4 cup milk (may sub dairy-free milk or water)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (may sub all-purpose or regular whole wheat flour)
  • Optional: chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit of choice to fold-in

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, use a whisk to beat together coconut oil and honey. Beat in eggs. Add mashed banana and milk and whisk until combined. Add baking soda, vanilla, salt and cinnamon and combine.
  • Ditch the whisk and use a wooden spoon to fold in the flour until just combined. If you’re adding chocolate chips or nuts, now’s the time to fold them in, too.
  • Pour your batter into the greased loaf pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I added chocolate chips and it took closer to 65 minutes to fully bake). Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes before slicing- if you can bear it!

~

Spinach & Mushroom Alfredo (Vegan) | Kelsey’s Cookbook

Now that Fall is here, the season for warm, indulgent foods is upon us.  I mean, I want those foods year-round, but doesn’t it feel more acceptable once the temp starts to drop?

I love a good cheesy alfredo, but I don’t love the heavy, bloated feeling I get after I eat such a dish.  So yesterday I threw this together as a lighter, healthier yet equally delicious alternative!

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As I’ve been experimenting more in the kitchen and, in turn, learning more, I’ve grown to love foods that a year or two ago I never would have touched!  This has given me so much more confidence in the kitchen and has allowed me to come up with my own recipes.  Amidst a lot of failures there’s bound to be a few successes, and this spinach & mushroom alfredo is one of them!

This healthy yet indulgent dish does not contain any dairy which often sits so heavy in the tummy.  The spinach and mushrooms give this dish its creamy texture, AND they’re packed with nutritional value!  While spinach is high in iron and beneficial vitamins, mushrooms are high in protein and selenium, an essential nutrient found most often in animal-proteins, so that makes mushrooms ideal for vegetarians or for those who are vegan.  Selenium strengthens bone, hair, nails and teeth and it’s antioxidant properties strengthen the immune system* (which is important around flu season)!

This alfredo also contains nutritional yeast, which, as you may be able to tell from it’s name, has a high nutritional value.  In addition to also containing selenium, nutritional yeast, or nooch, is full of essential B vitamins, folic acid, zinc and protein.**  This is all well and good, but I love this stuff because it gives everything a rich, cheesy, savory flavor and it just enhances whatever you put it in.  You can find it at your local health food store.

If the nutritional value of this dish doesn’t hook you, it’s flavor will!  You won’t even miss the heavy cream or cheese- I promise!  I can’t say enough good things about this dish; try it for yourself and taste exactly what I’m talking about!


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Serves: 1
Ingredients

  • 3 oz (dry) pasta of choice
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 1 large clove)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • dried parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • scallions, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Start by cooking your pasta (don’t forget to salt the water!).  Cook the pasta until it’s about 3/4 of the way done; for example, if the instructions say to cook for 11 minutes, only cook it for 8 minutes.  When it’s done, DO NOT drain the pasta because we will be using the pasta water!
  • While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce by adding the olive oil and garlic to a large pan on medium heat.  Sauté until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and spinach and sauté until the spinach is completely wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and give the mixture a final stir.
  • Pour the spinach mixture into a blender and add the nutritional yeast and about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.  Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Pour your spinach alfredo sauce back into the pan and bring to a light simmer.  Add the partially cooked pasta to the sauce and add about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water.  Let the sauce and pasta simmer and continue to add more reserved pasta water, if needed, until the pasta is cooked to your liking and the sauce has reached desired consistency.
  • When pasta is done, add basil and oregano and stir to combine.  If desired, before serving sprinkle with parsley and add scallions.

Thanks for reading!  If you make this recipe, tag me on Instagram or Twitter @kelseyathome.  Until next time!  Xx

Love & light,
Kelsey


*Source: Health Benefits of Mushrooms
**Source: What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast?