Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

The thing I hate most about gluten-free baking is that every recipe seems to call for way too many ingredients.  In my baking, as with my cooking, I prefer to keep it simple.  I like recipes that I can prepare with things I have laying around my house, or at the very least, things I will use again.  Gluten free baking seems to depend on a number of different starches and flours, and if I had a bag full of every kind of flour I’ve read about in recipes…well, I’d have a pantry full of bags.

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The amazing baker, with her cakes, at Life Grocery-Cafe. Whether you are gluten-free, vegan, or just looking for a healthy alternative, I highly recommend you check this place out!!

The inspiration for this recipe comes from the amazing quinoa-based cakes at Life Grocery in Marietta, GA.  Their cakes are incredibly moist (not easy to do in gluten-free baking), sweet but not too sweet, and best of all, are made with quinoa, which is a complete protein.   Unfortunately, these cakes are about 20 minutes away from my house, and it’s a rainy-lazy day…so I decided to give it a whirl and make my own.  I didn’t have big hopes of creating a cake that begins to match the awesomeness of Life’s carrot cake, and to be honest I really wanted to see what I could do with just the ingredients I have at the house.  It would be blasphemy to suggest that (cough) my cake was better than Life Grocery’s (IMPOSSIBLE!), but…it was good in a different way.  A little more moist.  Just saying.

I’m sure there are scientific reasons why gluten-free recipes usually require a blend of multiple flours, but I don’t think baking or cooking should be that complicated.   I will say, however, that in my own baking I have discovered that brown rice flour used by itself yields a product that basically just tastes like brown rice—same with oat flour, quinoa flour, almond meal, etc.   So, I made flour out of equal parts of three grains—oat, brown rice, and quinoa—and added a little xantham gum for good luck.  And it totally worked.

carrotcake

So here it is, the recipe!  As you read down the ingredients list, imagine me scouring my fridge for potential ingredients—because that’s exactly what I did.  For instance, pineapple.  Um…you see, I had an extra little fruit cup leftover from my daughter’s snack stash—she decided she hated pineapple after she’d eaten five of them.  So I figured I’d use it now or end up throwing it away one day…and I’m glad I did!  My advice is to not go out and buy a bunch of apples or pineapple just because I used them—look around your kitchen to see what you can throw in!  Zucchini, banana, pumpkin, and squash would all be good choices.

  • ½ cup dry oats (be careful to use gluten-free oats, or omit and use coconut instead)
  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • ½ cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon xantham gum
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • pumpkin pie spice (I was out of nutmeg….)
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 small green apple, grated
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine oil and brown sugar and mix until smooth; whisk in eggs.  Add fruits to sugar mixture, and then stir into dry mixture.  Bake in greased cake pan at 350 for 45 minutes, or until fork inserted into the middle comes out clean.  I covered with tinfoil for the second half of the baking time. Top with cream cheese frosting.

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Embracing In-Betweenness

As many have noticed (and have gracefully pointed out), I have been slowing down on my blog in these past couple of months.  I have been in the process of finishing up my Master’s thesis, which I successfully defended at the beginning of this month.  If you would have asked me a few months ago what I thought of my thesis, I’d have told you that it was the worst thing I have ever written and I just wanted it to be over with.  In fact, on the day I defended I knew I hadn’t said all of the things I really wanted to say; luckily, my amazing committee knew this and gave me a chance to get it all out there. To date, my thesis defense was the BEST experience of my academic career, and I could not be more proud of the finished product that is taking shape as a result.

What I do when I'm not blogging or in the gym...

What I do when I’m not blogging or in the gym…

And what is this thesis about?  Short answer: bodybuilding.  My stuffy elevator pitch involves such keywords as gender, transgression, subversion, normativity, categories, femininity, masculinity, and opposing binaries.  But really, my thesis is about in-betweenness.  Stuckness.  That feeling of never quite fitting, despite pressure to fit.  Sound familiar? You don’t have to be a fitness competitor to understand this theme.

My research points out that, no matter how hard we try, we will never fit neatly into a category.  But we already knew this, right?  The question we are left with, however, is what to do with all of the people who don’t fit.  As the sport of bodybuilding demonstrates, but which happens all the time, the tendency is to simply create new categories.  But what do we get when we make new categories?  New spaces between categories.  The more categories we come up with, the more gutter space we create.  My research zooms in on these gutter spaces, examining how they can be useful to the people who inhabit them.

My daughter defines a rainbow as being a perfect mix of sun and rain.  In-betweenness at its best!

My daughter defines a rainbow as “a perfect mix of sun and rain.” In-betweenness at its best!

In the sport of bodybuilding, we navigate these in-between spaces constantly—it can mean being too big for Figure but too small for Women’s Bodybuilding, or having a perfect physique but not having the right hairstyle (really!).  For my non-bodybuilding friends out there, however, we can look at much more practical examples.  How many of you find that jeans never fit your waist and your butt at the same time?  Or that you are healthy and fit but still not thin?  Or very thin but not fit?  Has anyone noticed the pressure to be thin and fit, but also a social drinker/eater?  Or that to be successful in sports, women must un-learn how to be ladylike?  We are surrounded by labels, categories, classifications, and contradicting expectations—and we can never fit perfectly.

The way I see it, we have two choices: we can live in the pursuit of molding ourselves to fit a category, or we stand firmly in the gutter.  Which you choose depends on how hard you want to fight, and what you consider “winning.”  Some people go to unhealthy extremes to be thin, just to look good in a picture.  Bikini competitors often get breast implants because it will help them win a trophy.  They can have that.  Personally, I suggest we willfully inhabit the gutter!  Embrace not fitting.  By doing so—by remaining in the gutter space ON PURPOSE—we face frustrations, but we don’t sell ourselves out for a trophy, or a compliment, or some other meaningless recognition.  We stick it to the man.  We own that gutter.

I am learning to love being muscular and feminine at the same time.  I love embodying multiple dualisms (translation: being two opposites at once): feminine and strong, physical and intellectual,  small and big.  It makes me feel sneaky…

Embrace your in-betweenness!

Speaking of things that are in-between, this recipe for pumpkin pie is perfectly situated between “sweet” and “healthy.”  That is, it satisfies the sweet tooth and is a healthier alternative to traditional recipes.  I am especially happy about the quinoa flour, which was an excellent way to increase the protein content.   And, best of all, it passes the kid-test!

Filling:

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup splenda
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon

Crust:

  • ½ c oat flour
  • ½ c quinoa flour
  • ½ c oats
  • ¼  cup honey
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ¼ cup almond milk
  • pinch of salt

For crust:

Mix dry ingredients in bowl; stir in honey, oil, and milk.  Mix well with a fork or your fingers, until the mixture begins to stick together.  Press into a greased pie pan.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350.

To make the pie:

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Add to pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cover with foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Have Your Progress and Own it Too

I have been noticing a terrible trend in the men and women around me, and it is time to address it. I apologize to my friends who will likely recognize themselves in the following examples—I write only out of love for you all.  But you are driving me crazy.  These are all real-life examples from friends and clients (male and female!) in this past week alone:

  • “A 105 squat isn’t that good, but it’s good for me…”
  • “This may not sound like much to the runners out there, but I ran 3 miles in 42 minutes!”
  • “I still can’t bench press very much, but it felt so much easier!”
  • “I can’t dead lift as much as [some random dude], but that was a personal record!”
  • “It’s not a lot, but three days in one week is good for me.”
  • “I put on ten pounds of lean mass! I know I’m still not very big, but it’s a lot for me.”
  • “I know I’m still fat, but I’ve lost six inches!”

STOP MINIMIZING YOUR SUCCESSES! Your journey is personal, and that makes your progress personal.  It’s yours, you earned it.  If you accomplish something, don’t downplay it! If it’s awesome for you, it’s awesome. Period.

strongforgirl

What I love most about power lifting is that it is ultimately an individual sport. And, to ensure fairness in competition, it is divided into multiple categories.  These categories exist for a reason!  I can’t bench press anywhere near the amount of weight my training partners put up, but they are men who outweigh me by well over 100 pounds!  It’s the same for runners–how could someone who has been running for three weeks possibly be expected to run as fast or as long as someone who has been running for 20 years?  We can apply this perspective to any sport or goal–it’s important to keep things in context.

Women have been taught to be humble, to be thin and weak, to be quiet about our accomplishments, to be unimposing and docile. To see so many women breaking past those boundaries to pursue strength, muscle, and endurance is absolutely mind blowing.  But it’s not enough to do it—we have to OWN it.  You may be new, face challenges, experience setbacks…but you are HERE dammit, and there is no reason not to claim your achievement.  If you do something awesome, let yourself have it!  No one is going to laugh if your progress isn’t in the same range as theirs.  The people who are ahead of you have just been doing it longer or have a different set of circumstances.  Men, you aren’t off the hook either—for you guys, it may even be harder because masculine ritual basically requires you to laugh at each other, but suck it up and keep your focus on what you’re doing.

You can own your accomplishments and be humble.  In the same way that health and fitness must be a lifestyle, not a short-term endeavor, change is a long-term work in progress.  This is why I urge clients to choose goals that don’t focus on weight loss—the weight loss will come, but if that’s your only goal you will eventually tap out your potential.  With healthy fitness goals, there is always room to be bigger, stronger, faster, and to have more endurance.  You can recognize that you’ve gotten stronger without suggesting that you set the standard for strength.

Powerlifters and Strongmen set a pretty good example, in my opinion, of what it looks like to have tons of pride but still be humble.  I have seen 250 lb men who can squat 800lb (and aren’t ashamed to tell you all about it…) get excited about a 120lb girl who can squat 135.  It is understood that “awesome” means awesome to you.  Surround yourself by true athletes and good trainers who see past what you’re doing to recognize your potential, and learn to recognize this in others.

Also, never underestimate the influence you have on other people!  I know two women, one a friend and one a client, who don’t know each other—each has talked to me about how the other has inspired her at different times and in different ways, as they are both at different places in their journeys.  Whatever shape you’re in, wherever you are in your goal, remember that there is someone behind you trying to summon the courage to go forward, and sometimes it’s more inspiring to see someone else struggling to “get there” than it is to watch others who make it look easy.  Even elite athletes, coaches, and trainers can be inspired by your progress! I am humbled and inspired daily by the progress of my clients and others in my gym.  Here are a few examples:

candice

  • A client who brings her baby to the gym just to get her fit on! While the rest of us whine about what a pain in the butt it can be just to drive over to the gym, she’s lugging a pack and play in one hand, gym bag in the other, with a baby on one hip!
  • A young strength athlete in the gym with a prosthetic leg.  Remind me never to make an excuse for giving up.
  • A friend who recently overcame self-consciousness and self-doubt, bit the bullet, and is now learning how to lift in her mid-30s.
  •  A young athlete, one of three 12 year olds on a team of 15-18 year olds (and the smallest girl on the team), who pushed herself through the same rigorous team workout long past when her body began to fail, far beyond when someone else would have given up, to the point of crying.  And kept going! 

 Who inspires you?  Who do you inspire? If you keep your accomplishments to yourself, or if you make less of them, you rob others of the inspiration you could be providing.  Marianne Williamson said it best:

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.

Speaking of my awesome clients, one brought me cookies yesterday!  Big shout out to Candice, who gave me permission to share the recipe:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups old fashioned oats (instant will make the cookies a bit softer, I prefer traditional)
  • ½ cup white, almond flour
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup raw honey
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp butter
Bake @350 for 10-12 min.  When mixing, mix all wet and dry separate first, then combine.

Clean[ish] Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s FALL, my favorite season, and that means PUMPKIN! I am basically in love with all things pumpkin flavored—coffee, soups, and anything baked! Pumpkin itself is a fantastic food—rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium, pumpkin is a tasty and nutritious addition to just about anything you can think of.  In baking, pumpkin adds moisture and density, and its texture is unmistakable.  I love to add it to my oatmeal pancakes, protein pancakes, smoothies, curries, cookies, breads, and just about anything else I can squeeze it into!

Last year, at the very beginning of my Unwrapped adventure, my daughter challenged me to baking a pumpkin pie.  At the time, I was in the process of working through my list of taken-for-granted packaged foods in an attempt to learn how to make everything from the source.  Her request threw me for a loop—I had absolutely no idea how to derive pumpkin puree from an actual pumpkin, and it hadn’t even occurred to me that it might come up.  I felt intimidated and completely unprepared to turn jack-o-lantern material into food!  Somehow, though, I figured it out and through trial and error I learned the ins and outs of preparing pumpkin.

Did you know that many “pumpkin” foods, including pies, are made with sweet potato or squash instead of pumpkin?  I did not!  Imagine my surprise when I cooked my first pumpkin and ended up with a pile of yellow mush that looked nothing like the brown puree that comes in the can!  I learned to look for certain varieties of pumpkins, such as sugar pie and baby bear (sounds like pet names, no?), which are smaller and tastier than your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin.  I have also found that to get a sizeable amount of puree, I need several of them.

For pies and baked goods I actually prefer to mix pumpkin and sweet potato.  Sweet potato is not only an optimal carbohydrate that is preferred by most bodybuilders—it is also much easier to work with and is sweeter than pumpkin, which eliminates some of the need for additional sweeteners.  And honestly, it looks much more like the canned pumpkin we’re all used to seeing.

Today, I had a brown banana and a small pumpkin on my kitchen counter, and I had to do something with them before it was too late.  I came up with a pretty impressive recipe for pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, if I do say so myself!  As always, my challenge is to create recipes that are not heavy in butter, sugar, oil, or gluten—while passing the kid test.  This one passed–my seven year old daughter loved them!

To avoid gluten, I use oat flour.  You can use a food processor to make your own if you don’t have any handy—simply pour some oats in and chop them up.  If you don’t mind the extra fats, you could also use almonds or almond meal, or some combination of oats/almonds.   I also used splenda.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  • 1 cup pumpkin/sweet potato puree
  • 1.5 cups oat flour
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 egg
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg  (I have no idea how much I used of either spice)
  • 1/2tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup splenda

Preheat oven to 350.  Mash banana until it is nearly liquid; stir in the splenda until the mixture is smooth, and then stir in egg and pumpkin.  Add the remaining ingredients to the pumpkin mixture.  Spoon onto cookie sheet—these cookies are dense and will not spread out, so I recommend making smaller cookies.  Bake for 14 minutes.  This made about 20 cookies.

REST is WORK! Recognize and Prevent Over-training

In the pursuit of health and fitness, most people tend to focus their energies on food and training.  However, there is a third component that is often overlooked and absolutely critical: RECOVERY.

What we do in the gym is important, so don’t get me wrong, but what we do AFTER the gym is critical to reaching our goals.  It’s where the magic happens. Think, for a moment, about the process by which we grow our muscles: during weight training, we essentially break them down by creating damage to the muscle fibers. The process of repairing these damaged muscle fibers is what causes muscles to grow, as new cells are created to repair the site of the injury.  The result is literally bigger and stronger muscles.  Mind you, there are many factors, including genetics, that determine exactly what your bigger and stronger muscles will look like, but the process is the same for everyone.  So stay with me for a minute—I’m not going to turn you into Arnold.

Continuing to train on muscles that are never allowed to recover is the fast track to overtraining; this not only halts any progress you are trying to make, but also leads to injury.  Think about it: if you damage your muscle but don’t allow it to heal properly, and then train on it again, you just damage it further.  And if you continue to push, your body will be miserable, you’ll be depressed, your progress will halt, and you’ll be wondering where on earth you went wrong.  I am usually on the other end of this phone call or email at least once or twice a week.

Most people have experienced or will eventually encounter overtraining, whether they know it or not.  So it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of overtraining.   A quick Google search for “overtraining” will turn up an exhaustive list of all of the possible symptoms, but sometimes they are pretty far-reaching and may leave you wondering how to tell the difference between the flu and overtraining.  So here are some descriptions of the ones I see the most.  If you recognize yourself, as I suspect many of you will, be patient with me.  And if you’re a skimmer, make sure you catch the last few paragraphs—I’ll tell you how you can avoid or respond to the following:

1.  Lack of motivation.
I see this one most frequently, and for me it’s the first sign.  Last week you couldn’t WAIT to get to the gym, but suddenly you realize that for the past few days you haven’t really been feeling it, your workouts seem aimless, and you can’t get motivated.

2. Changes in your normal sleep pattern.
Insomnia is usually my second sign.  After a good workout, you should be tired at night!  Suddenly you’re up all night for no reason, or just aren’t sleeping very soundly.  You may also experience more difficulty getting out of bed than normal.

3. Low immune system.
You know that feeling you get when you’re just about to get sick?  Learn to recognize it if you can’t already.  When you feel this way, you usually have an opportunity to prevent the impending illness.  When I encounter days like this, I know it can go either way: if I’m smart, I won’t train in this condition.  Admittedly, I’m not always as smart as I should be. Do as I say, not as I do…I’ve learned this one the hard way!

4.  General pain, discomfort, or not-quite-right-ness.
For me, this one shows up as a discomfort that edges on pain that I can’t quite put my finger on.  I’ll usually say that “my central nervous system hurts,” as a joke that really isn’t funny because it’s kind of true.  This one can also show up as muscle or joint pain that persists longer than normal or for no apparent reason.

5.  Moodiness/irritability/low patience.
Usually due to one or more of the above.  You know it when you have it.

6.  Sudden decline in performance.
Weight that should be easy isn’t.  Endurance is way off.  You probably had trouble getting started (see #1), but once you did it didn’t get any better.  Maybe you float around the gym unable to actually commit to your workout.

Great news: overtraining can be prevented!  There are a few things you need to know.  First and foremost, recognize that REST IS WORK.  My clients should all recognize this statement!  Do not allow yourself to feel guilty for taking time off.  You need that time off for several reasons.  It not only gives your body a chance to repair and recover from the work you’ve done, but it also gives you a necessary mental break.  Too much of anything can lead to burnout, and this is true for the mental side of training–if you do something over and over, you’ll eventually get tired of it.  The people who train the most consistently also usually rest consistently.  Be the tortoise, not the hair.  If you don’t plan for a rest, then you’ll be miserable when your body forces you to rest—and it will, eventually.

Realize the importance of nutrition.  There is a reason why bodybuilders focus on protein—it’s what repairs the damages we inflict on our muscles! Translation: it’s what allows muscles to grow.  <—–you want this.  Trust me.  Now, I could write a whole new post on exactly how to optimize your body’s ability to use this protein, but for now I’ll just leave you with the knowledge that it can indeed be sped up or slowed down based on the form you choose and what you choose to eat with it.  If you want specifics, contact me or look it up.  No, contact me—there is a lot of junk out there written by supplement companies who are just trying to sell you something.

If you are on a heavy lifting program, don’t forget to designate an occasional de-load week.  I know it’s no fun to lift less than 65% of your max effort, or to sit around stretching while all of your friends are lifting; it’s tough on the ego.  But it’s necessary. “Go hard or go home” is a great motto, but sometimes it’s counterproductive.  No one should be lifting at or near full capacity every day of every week.  A day off won’t cut it.  You need several days of active recovery—keep your body moving, but lay off the heavy stuff.  There are many ways to do this, and it really depends on how you train—again, if you have specific questions please feel free to run them by me so we can create a plan that works for you.

Go to bed at a decent hour!  A large part of recovery takes place while you are asleep.  The fastest way to overtrain and piss off your adrenals is to not get enough sleep.  If you keep going and going, you will overtrain very quickly and end up in a vicious cycle that ends with fatigue and overcaffeination—eventually, your adrenals will hate you.  If you push yourself into adrenal fatigue, you will have a very difficult time reaching your fitness goals—many people experience this wall and eventually give up, and its ‘ll because they didn’t get enough sleep.  Very sad–don’t let this happen to you.

Add variety to your training.  A lot of the smarter programs I have encountered have variety built in, but even still it’s important to switch it up.  This functions in the same way as the de-load week, but gives your body a longer break from one kind of stressor while allowing you to focus on new goals.  I prefer to stick to a program for 4-6 weeks at a time.  If it is a program that I really enjoy, I might only interrupt it for a week or two, but it’s really important to me to focus on short term goals.  How many people go to the gym and lift the same way every week for years at a time?  Do you really think they get stronger every week? Probably not.  Curling 25lb dumbbells every week for a year, with no variation in training, is not likely to result in a substantial increase in the amount of weight someone can curl.  I often get emails from people who have become extremely frustrated and want to know why they are not getting stronger. The first thing I ask is how long they’ve been doing the same thing.  Invariably, I find that the person has not changed his or her training in months or even years. In order to break past a plateau, try something different.  Walk away, try something new, and come back to it.

At some point during your training, you are likely to encounter symptoms of overtraining.  But there are degrees of severity—learn to recognize the signs quickly so that you can manage a small problem before it becomes a much larger problem with a much longer-lasting interruption to your training.

And now, the clean cookie recipe I promised:

  • 3 cups oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • splenda/stevia (optional—I didn’t use any)
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 grated zucchini and/or carrot (I used both)
  • ½ cup crushed walnuts
  • 2tbsp peanut butter (ok, maybe 3…it was a big glob)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional for the kid version—I made it both ways)

Bake on 350 for 12 minutes.  This yielded six very large cookies.  I am not currently counting calories or macros, so if you are you may want to be mindful of the amount of nuts and peanut butter you use–they add up quickly.

*CLEAN* Mason Jar Banana Custard Upside Down Pie!

It worked!  Today I invented a recipe based on a recipe I found in a waiting room at my hair salon.  Go figure, right?  The recipe was for a simple egg custard, baked in mason jars, and it called for a bunch of eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla, and milk.  But I started thinking…what happens if I sub almond milk, drop the sugar, add some fruit….the next thing I knew I had my hair in foils and a new recipe was born!

So here it is, my clean version!  This recipe makes enough for three medium sized jars (8oz).


Custard:
3 eggs
1.5 cups almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 overly ripe bananas (I used 1.5)
cinnamon
Berries, if desired (today I threw in some frozen berries)
Topping:
1 cup oats
1/4 cup almond meal (whole nuts work fine, and they don’t have to be almonds– you’ll make it into meal anyway)
1/4 cup coconut flakes (optional!)

To prepare custard:

Mash banana with fork until it becomes nearly liquid.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs and milk until almost foamy.  Add vanilla, cinnamon, and banana and mix until it’s pretty smooth.

To prepare crust:

Put oats, coconut, and almonds into food processor.  Blend until it forms a powder.

Fill each jar evenly with custard mix.  If you want to add berries, add them here.  Then top with crust mix and pat smooth.  Place the jars into a baking dish and fill the dish with boiling water–half way up the jars is probably best, but my dish was too shallow so it only came up about a quarter of the way.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.  Custard and juice from berries will start to move up into the crust.

 

Enjoy!  Each jar contains 1/3 cup oats, 1 egg, 1/2 banana, a few berries, and 1/2 cup almond meal.  I calculated this at about 250-300 calories, depending on the brands you choose and what you put in it.  For instance, you could do without the coconut and slightly reduce the almond meal.   And I bet for my vegan friends, you could sub tofu for egg…maybe I’ll try it and let you know how it goes!

Round Pegs, Square Holes, and Finding Your Space in the Gym

“I just feel…like I don’t belong at the gym.”

Let’s think about this for a minute—first of all, how many of us are guilty of this?!  For many, this is a total setback from reaching goals and making progress!  And then, let’s talk for a minute about what the hell it even means to look like we belong in a gym?  Why are we still so inclined to believe that fit people belong in gyms and unfit people don’t?  How backward is that?  But how about the general assumption that fit has a look, and that it’s usually slender?  Why are people so inclined to notice  a thin woman, who may or may not work out at all, and assume she’s fit, while overlooking the fact that plenty of bigger girls are way more fit?  Hell, when I’m not dieted down I am not sure how fit I appear, but I have rarely met a thin woman who can outlift me.  I actually want to write “I have never…” but to avoid argument I’ll say rarely.

So it’s time for another post about what fit looks like, what it means to be fit, how our minds have been so unfortunately adulterated by the media, and how we can rethink our bodies.

Nobody—not even the most fit person you’ve ever met in your LIFE—goes to the gym BECAUSE she’s fit.  People go to the gym to GET fit.  To get MORE fit.  To improve, to reach goals, to affect some new change.  Some people think they go to STAY fit, but to be honest, it usually doesn’t go well for people without goals.  So half the people I know who go to stay fit are really just there because they feel like they should be, and they’re just taking up space that would be way more useful to someone trying to GET fit or get MORE fit.

When I was new to lifting and trying to explore the possibilities for my body, I met a coach who had been around bodybuilding and powerlifting for two decades.  This old man was seriously what we’d call old school, but after years of observing athletes of all sorts, the guy knew a thing or two about them.  He approached me while I was deadlifting at the University of Maine gym, and we became friends.  The next day, he caught me running on a treadmill and asked me what the hell I was doing.  Shocked and frankly a little scared, I told him I was trying to get lean.  He told me that runners run, and lifters lift, and stopped my treadmill for me.  Bastard.  I was not yet a “lifter,” I was just a girl in a gym trying to figure it out!  But he gave me some great advice—he told me that runners are not thin because they run, they run because they are thin and their bodies are made for it.  He explained to me about body types and genetic inclinations, and pointed out athletes in a variety of sports that had certain characteristics.   He told me that I could fight my genetics or work with them, but my life would be a lot better and I’d love my body much more if I figured out what my body was meant for.

His advice not only stuck with me, but has been proven over and over for the past several years.  I do not train abs.  Ever.  And yet at high body fat I still have them.  What use would this genetic freakery be to a runner?  I have short, huge legs that build easily—I still have yet to realize my full potential in powerlifting, but I can promise I’ll be a much more successful power lifter than hurdler.  Now, I run because I like it, but I have no hopes of hitting crazy marathon times.

There are days, oh god are there, that I feel too big.  I feel bulky, unfeminine, out of place, and sometimes just plain awkward.  I have a hard time shopping or getting dressed, and my entire “look” is always affected by my build.  Certain hair cuts, clothing, and too much jewelry just look weird with my build!  I love fashion, but I understand what works on my body, and it rarely involves patterns, ruffles, a-line tops, skinny jeans, or capped sleeves.  But I can’t change this.  At my leanest, I still look hard and vascular and kind of masculine.  When I get softer (read: more body fat) I don’t actually get more feminine, I just get bigger all over!  Damned if I’m lean, damned if I’m fat.  I can change my body fat, I can change the size of my muscles (a little), but I can’t change my body type or general shape.

I recently competed in Women’s Physique instead of Women’s Bodybuilding.  I did this for several reasons, but mostly because I’m a little small for a bodybuilder.  But I love exactly how my body comes in when I’m lean.  It’s unique, and I think one could identify my physique in a lineup because it’s very different than a lot of others.  I have big round muscle bellies so my biceps and triceps are beautiful!  I love my huge legs, my big traps, and my abs.  I love the parts that are “too soft,” and I love the lines of my frame.  I also have a very feminine face and a striking complexion, and I love how that pairs with my physique.  But those things I love don’t win shows!  So I decided to try Women’s Physique, knowing the judging hasn’t been streamlined and it would be hit or miss.  I made an effort to show up a little softer than I would for bodybuilding, but it wasn’t enough–I have been analyzing photos of my most recent show as well as photos from dozens of others, and I realize that there is an unmistakable look that is being favored by Physique judges–they are looking for longer lines and a more slender frame.

I’m in the post-show regrouping phase, where I decide what I want to do next and how I’m going to do it.  I had to decide if I like my physique as is, what improvements I’m willing to make, and what changes would win shows but aren’t improvements in my opinion.  I can try to get smaller–no more squatting or super heavy lifting–to try to fit into Physique a little better, or I can get bigger and keep at it in bodybuilding.  That decision is harder than I’m making it sound–it comes with tears and frustrations, and it involves my self esteem.  But, returning to the advice of the old school coach from Umaine, I chose to deal with this by focusing on what my body is made to do–my “thing.”

I truly believe we all have a “thing,” and I can’t explain the feeling of total joy and relief I experienced when I realized what mine was.  Even now, when I feel bulky, strange, unfeminine, and out of place, I return to the thing that makes me feel amazing—strength sports.  A side effect of this for me is the ability to build muscle relatively easily, but even in physique sports I’m caught between categories.  I always come back from a bodybuilding show revved up and ready to get back to heavy lifting—and I realize that this is because the subjective nature of bodybuilding always causes me to feel like I’ve fallen short and don’t belong, so I turn back to where I feel good.

So while I’m sorting out how I feel about competing, how I feel about my body, and what I’m going to do next, I’m flipping 400+ pound tires, looking forward to hitting awesome PRs, and pressing more weight than I have in years.  I am also forced to eat appropriately for recovery from these workouts–so I will probably get bigger.  And there we have it, folks–and answer: watch out Bodybuilding, I’m coming back for you!  Who the hell wants to do all that work to gain muscle, just to turn around and lose it again to fit into a category?  Not this girl!  And I love everything that comes with building my muscles up and leaning back out to see what I have.  So I will be back.

Where do you feel good?  What’s your “thing”?  It’s time to figure out what your body is meant for.  I believe you’ll know it when you find it.  And it doesn’t have to be some extreme sport or anything competitive–it could be a cardio class that you rock at.  It could be cycling, or maybe you’re a badass rower!  Have you ever played a sport or done something that just…clicked?  Are you aware that you’re incredibly strong but too afraid to push?  Are you really good at box jumps?  Do you ever wonder if you’d be a good runner?  Maybe you’re athletic all-around and need to be pushed in a cross-training environment?  And now, the shameless plug: If you live within a reasonable driving distance of Marietta, GA, ask me how I can help you find your “thing!”

Too often we think of our bodies in terms of how they look, and we base all of our effort in the gym on an aesthetic goal.  This leads to a lot of round peg/square hole issues.  A lot of people tell me that they don’t want to be thin, they just want to feel good.  I get that.  But until you put your body to use in a way that feels good, you will continue to judge how you feel by how you look.

In my experience, changing how you look is not always enough to change how you feel.  In fact, I find that they go hand in hand but require separate components of a long process.  If you want to transform how you LOOK, it’s time to talk about what you’re eating.  But if you truly want to change how you FEEL, it’s time to talk about what you’re DOING.  And it’s totally possible to do both at the same time!

I mentioned “eating for recovery,” and if you’re lifting heavy and not sure what I mean by this, don’t be afraid to ask!  For now, here’s one of my new favorite post-workout meals.

Pina Colada Pudding:

1 cup fat free Greek Yogurt
2 tbsp coconut flakes (unsweetened if you can find them!)
banana, sliced
1/4 c kashi cereal flakes (I love the crunch…but you can do without or sub for basically any cereal!)

Mix and enjoy!  🙂

Post-Contest Update, and New Recipes!

As many of you know, I competed in an NPC bodybuilding show a week ago.  The 16 weeks leading up to the show were incredible, and as always, I learned so much.  Every time we compete, we become scientific experiments of cause and effect.  The greatest bodybuilders are usually the smartest–to be successful, it’s important to understand how the body uses food.  “If I eat _____, then my body responds by ________.”  How cool is that?  But this time, I came at it from a slightly new perspective.  Those of you who have been following my blog from the beginning may recall an earlier post in which I explained why I took a break from bodybuilding, and what I had hoped to gain—and keep–by coming back.  I think my most recent experiment has a lot to offer in terms of how we reconcile body recomposition with eating for overall health.  Sometimes it seems like two different conversations, and I feel that I was successfully able to blend them.

About two weeks post-show. A little fluffy but thank god the cankles are gone!

About a week and a half before the show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bodybuilding nutrition is often so focused on macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) that micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from food sources often get overlooked.  Tired of knowing we weren’t as healthy as we could be, last fall my family took on an adventure—we wanted to go package-free, rely mostly on local produce, and find a more sustainable meat source.  We did not want to continue consuming the pounds and pounds of chicken and overlooking the importance of fruits and vegetables.  We went from a chicken-with-vegetables outlook, to a vegetables-with-chicken approach.  In doing so, we eliminated our multivitamins and several supplements that we were taking.  A year later, we are still maintaining our new lifestyle.  In fact, we’re just getting better and better at it!

Backstage with a client–she ROCKED her first show!

My decision to compete presented a problem—we knew how to use foods to manipulate my body, and we weren’t sure how our new lifestyle would fit into a bodybuilding contest preparation diet.  With some adjustments, we continued right on as best we could and I actually benefitted greatly from the new approach.  My meals were big, filling, and absolutely satisfying.  Using a variety of vegetables, I was able to blend flavors and textures that transformed my boring chicken into amazing meals.  Where before I would eat 4 ounces of chicken with a little bit of green beans, now I was eating mounds of vegetables with a little bit of chicken!  I was also able to incorporate my green smoothies—a boring, watery protein shake was transformed into a very satisfying smoothie by adding half a cucumber, a cup of spinach, and some cinnamon!

I basically ate my weight in fruit while everyone else was eating peanut butter cups. To each her own!

The one question everyone kept asking me, and understandably so, was “what are you going to eat when you’re done?!”  In my previous shows, I gave this a lot of thought.  Oh my gosh did I think about it!  I actually brought an entire cake to the restaurant after the show and dug in by myself with a spoon!  The next year may or may not have involved gas station goodies for the entire 8 hour drive home…but this year I had a different plan for my recovery phase, so I found a gluten-free, vegan, no-sugar-added cake that I had planned to eat right after.  But a funny thing happened—I found that I genuinely, after all of those weeks of dieting, really just wanted some fruit!  Similarly, I didn’t have any big cheat meal planned for the days after the show.  I had an eggplant on my kitchen counter that I was dying to cook—and so after an initial cheat meal (sushi!) and an omelette the next morning, the first thing I did was cook that eggplant!

Since then, I’ve had my cheat meals on Saturdays, but with the extra calories and macronutrients in my life, I’ve been mainly focused on having fun with the “clean” whole foods I already loved and grew to miss while dieting down.  If I had to make a list of these foods, I would include coconut, nuts, quinoa, lentils, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, almond milk, and the variety of fruits and vegetables I use in my green smoothies.  On a bodybuilding diet, everything you put in your body “counts,” so for instance, while kale is a great “clean” food and a nutritious green vegetable, a physique athlete must still be conscious of the fact that it contains three times the amount of carbohydrates and calories as other greens such as collards and mustard greens.  It might now seem to matter much, but when you’re hungry it’s easy to eat three or four cups of sautéed kale at a time!

I have made so many awesome meals since my show!  Among them has been a pasta-less lasagna, a fruit/nut “cookies”, a veggie saute/sauce that blew my mind, and a new post-workout protein bowl.  Enjoy!

No-Pasta Lasagna

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into ¼ in rounds
  • 1 small container of fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • spinach

Sauce:

  • 5-6 tomatoes
  • carrots (the more the merrier, I say!)
  • zucchini or yellow squash (or both!)
  • onions (or onion powder—Mike hates onions)
  • minced garlic
  • fresh basil leaves (dried would work)
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

1.  Lightly salt the eggplant slices and lay out on a towel for about 20 minutes.  Lightly press another towel on top of the slices to absorb any excess water.  This dries out the eggplant just a little and keeps it from getting slimy when you bake it.

2.  Place the sauce ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.  If you make a batch of this sauce ahead of time it is so much more flavorful!  But in a pinch you can make it as needed.

3.  Thoroughly mix egg and ricotta; set aside.

4.  Lightly salt the eggplant slices and lay out on a towel for about 20 minutes.  Lightly press another towel on top of the slices to absorb any excess water.  This dries out the eggplant just a little and keeps it from getting slimy when you bake it.

5.  Lightly grease (I use Pam) a large glass baking dish.  Spoon a small amount of sauce into the pan to form a light coating.  Lay down slices of eggplant, slightly overlapping, to create a single layer in the bottom of the dish.  Spoon ricotta mix onto the eggplant; use the back of a spoon to spread evenly.  Cover with a layer of spinach, and then add another layer of eggplant.  Cover with the remaining sauce.  If you prefer, you can cover this with a layer of mozzarella cheese before baking.

6.  Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling at the sides.

Fig/Banana/Oat/Peanut Butter bars

  • 6 large figs
  • 1 large, very ripe banana
  • 2 cups oats
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut flakes (look for some with no added sugar!)

Mash the figs and banana until blended and in almost liquid form.  Mix in oats, peanut butter, and coconut.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Cool in pan, and refrigerate.  Serve when cool.

Vegetable “sauce”

  • ½ lb okra, sliced
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • yellow squash, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1tbsp olive oil in pan; add garlic and heat for about a minute.  Add vegetables, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  Cook until squash has reduced in size and okra is soft.  This will look like a slimy mess, but when I served it over mashed potatoes with baked chicken, my daughter fell in love with this flavorful “vegetable gravy”!  Okra can get slimy, and this characteristic makes it ideal for soups and stews.   Otherwise, people fry it or avoid it altogether because they don’t know how to avoid the slime.  Embrace the slime in this saute!

It Takes a Village to Raise Your Fitness

  • I used to be fit, but then I had children and kid food isn’t the healthiest….
  • I would eat more healthy foods, but my husband doesn’t like vegetables…
  • I like healthy foods, but my kids/husband/partner won’t eat anything but pizza…
  • I get busy trying to get the kids off to school, and McDonald’s is on the way to work…
  • It’s just so hard with all the junk food in the house…
  • My kids take up all my time—I never have time to eat/go to the gym/etc
  • I can’t seem to make time for the gym because my family needs me…

These are all very common statements—I hear them each at least once a week.  Almost everyone seems to remember a time when weight wasn’t an issue and it was easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle.  For many, getting married, having children, or moving in with a partner can be major disruptions in a fitness regimen.  Face it—when you live alone, you live without the responsibility of what other people eat and you aren’t on someone else’s schedule.  But even living alone is not without challenges—there is no accountability.  With no real reason to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, one can sleep until 11:00 a.m.  and the next thing you know it’s dinner time and you’ve done nothing!

I couldn’t do anything without their support! So we do it all together. 🙂

So what’s my point?  Being healthy is not about isolation.  It can’t be.  In fact, if you can only achieve it in isolation then are you really healthy? We need partners for accountability—someone to encourage us and push us to keep our commitments during those moments of weakness.  We need people to motivate us.  Married with children is the BEST time to establish a healthy and fit lifestyle, because when we do so we set an example for our children that they will have for the rest of their lives.  Healthy eating does not have to mean cabbage soup and tofu or a really expensive grocery bill.  It can mean flat bread pizza—with extra cheese for your husband or children.  It can mean modifying all of your favorite recipes to include vegetables where you didn’t know they could go!  It means setting good habits, understanding how to balance your meals, and making good choices.  It’s not as out of reach as many people think it is.  I promise! 

 

When I take on a new client, I expect progress.  In fact, I refuse to stand there and watch someone do dumbell curls when I know that as soon as she leaves, she’s going to be a mess.  I ask a lot of questions—allergies, injuries, family history of illness, food aversions, craving times, etc.  But I also ask questions about social life and home structure—because I know that in order to see results, the magic plan I come up with has to support and be supported by people at home.  It’s your job to make fitness a priority in your life, but I consider it part of my job to  come up with a plan that is compatible with the parts of your life that are important to you.

People want to be “healthier” but have no idea where to start.  Start with a PLAN.  A

A busy work day doesn’t have to prevent you from eating and sticking to your plan! Bring it with you.

routine that is manageable and realistic—I don’t care if you eat tuna fish and oats six times a day (don’t take that literally…I do care), but for goodness sake, have a plan and follow it!  For several of my clients who have children, I have found that meals 1-4 on a plan are easy enough, but things fall apart at dinner.  For clients who are single, they fall apart over food preparation–they don’t want to cook for one person so they gravitate to fast food and the freezer aisle.  So once you identify your weaknesses, why not plan for these disasters ahead of time? Keep reading.  It’s about to get dense, so stick with me to the end of this, and leave me a comment if you need clarification.

If you took my advice in the last post, you looked up your maintenance calories.   If you didn’t, look them up here  (keep in mind this calculator puts you in the ballpark, but experience helps you hone it–my maintenance calories are a little lower than the calculator comes up with).

Let’s say, to choose a round number to work with, your maintenance calories (the number of calories your body needs in order to maintain its current weight) are 2,200.  We decide that to lose one pound a week (=3,600cal/week), you have to have a deficit of 500 calories a day (for some people, that’s one latte and two sodas!).  So you need to eat 1,700 calories a day if you want to lose one pound per week.  Let’s say we decide you should eat six times a day.  You have, roughly, 285 calories per meal (1,700/6=.  Now, some meals will be higher than that, and others will be slightly lower than that.  We are looking for an average.  Meal 1, for instance, should consist (arguably) of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.  This means that in order to balance that meal properly, you’ll need at least 300 calories to work with.  A post-workout meal, on the other hand, which could be a banana and why protein shake, is more likely to be around 200 calories.  Meal six might be cottage cheese, which is about 150 calories.

So let’s say you’ve averaged it out so that once all the other meals are accounted for, you have about 350 calories to work with at meal 5 (“dinner”).  That’s a lot of stinkin calories to work with if you’re trying to achieve a relatively clean meal that tastes good!  That’s three hard taco shells, 1/2 cup pintos, and ¾ cup of lean ground turkey.  Live without some cheese or use a tiny bit (grated carrot is a good sub).  Your family can enjoy tacos their way, while you manipulate the recipe to fit you own needs.  You can do this with so many other things!  Make oven-baked chicken nuggets (coated in raisin bran or corn flakes), or flatbread pizza (using THESE), or baked sweet potato “fries.”  It’s possible to cook a dinner your family loves while maintaining a meal plan that will help you to reach your goals.

So create a plan.  Decide what you’re going to eat every day for breakfast and lunch.  Plan two meals in between.  Stick to it.  Make sure you have what you need—if you’re going to eat oatmeal, for instance, make sure you have oats on hand!  Prepare those meals ahead of time and have them ready so that you can take them with you or pull them out of the fridge when it’s time.  I highly recommend having two “lunches”.  I swear by it.  Let’s say you go with chicken, rice, and veggies.  That’s 300 calories on the dot if you follow appropriate serving sizes.  The alternative might be a protein shake and some nuts, or greek yogurt and some granola—both of these are easily skipped.

This reminds me: People tend to think of snacks as little mini meals, but in fact they should be thought of as meals or you will have the tendency to skip them because you overlook their significance.   The meal you eat after meal 3 (lunch) is not a snack—in my world, that’s called meal 4.  Treat it like one, and eat it like one.  If you skip a meal on your plan, you will be hungry when you don’t want to be and you will make mistakes. Don’t be that guy.  Half of what prevents binge eating and emotional eating is…well, eating.  If you eat what you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to, you’re much less likely to binge.

Once you have 5 meals planned, leave dinner open.  Shoot for balance, make good choices, and eat within your calculated calorie range.  This way, your family or friends don’t feel totally shafted just because you’re getting healthier—and if you do this right, you can introduce health in a way that they can appreciate rather than fear.

Dinner ideas on 350 calories or less:

Note: these ideas are for people hoping to sustain a healthier lifestyle.  The idea here is to show you how you can set and maintain a plan that is reasonable and achievable in the long-term.  If you’re looking for a short-term, ASAP weight loss plan, then these meals may not be for you.

Flatbread BBQ chicken pizza:
1 flatout (90 cals)
1 tbsp bbq (30 cals)
1 oz cheese (85 cals)
veggie toppings
4 oz chicken (120 cals)

Tacos:
3 crunchy shells (140)
4 oz lean ground turkey (120)
shredded carrot
lettuce, tomato, etc
1/3 avocado (90)

Oven “fried” chicken tenders and sweet potato fries:
chicken, cut into strips (4 oz, 120 cals)
3 cups corn flakes, flax flakes, or bran flakes (you have to eat a full cup to get 120 calories…you might get a quarter of a cup per serving of chicken here)
spices–I like Mrs. Dash
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 medium sweet potato, julienned (6 oz, 150)

Whisk egg and milk together; set aside.  In a plastic bag, mash up the flakes and add seasoning.  Dip chicken pieces into egg mixture to coat, then place them into the bag a few at a time and give it a good shake to coat the pieces.  Bake on 425 for about 15 minutes–adjust time depending on the size of your pieces, as larger pieces may take longer to coat.

Coat sweet potato lightly in Pam cooking spray.  Lay flat on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes.

Poop Talk

Alright, so here’s the deal: you need to…er…go…more.  First, let’s just be frank and get it out there: I’m writing a blog post about poop.  More accurately, about pooping. The more I tiptoe around it, the worse I’m making the problem.  We’re all friends here, right?  But I will make a deal with you: in order to make this comfortable for everyone, I am going to avoid horrible puns and poo-related jokes.  You are now safe to read on.  Note: There are no pictures because…well…what would be an appropriate image for this topic?

I recently wrote a Facebook status about a phenomenon that I have experienced with my female clients: our fitness—or at least, our perception of it—is often profoundly affected by our pooping regimen.  Or lack thereof.  It happens often that, for no reason at all, we are bloated and heavy-feeling.  Our weight loss is on hold.  We are doing everything right, and yet we can’t figure out what the heck is so…off.

For competitors, this can be a nightmare!  We are looking for steady progress on a weekly basis.  While we don’t judge our progress solely by the bathroom scale, we do rely on a combination of how we look and what we weigh.  So imagine our mortification when, after five days, we are WORSE when we are supposed to be better!  After a while we learn our bodies well enough to know, for example, that Tuesday is not a good day—we’ll poop by Friday and then Saturday everything will be back to glorious perfection.  Until the following Tuesday…sigh.

But even for those who are not competing, the mental frustration can be devastating.  Again, you’re doing everything right—you’ve been seeing some great progress, but then for no reason at all you’ve had five days of steadily getting worse.  Maybe the difference is on the scale and maybe it’s not; maybe your pants are a little tighter when they should be looser.  Maybe you just feel…yucky and you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Don’t immediately assume that you’re doing something wrong!  It is common for me, at this point, to ask a client very bluntly: “when was the last time you pooped?”  (Yes, my friends, your trainer will know more about your poop than your immediate family members).

And then, just when you can’t take it anymore, you have what I called in my Facebook status a “hallelujah moment” when all of your progress comes together at once.  You’ve pooped!  You feel flatter, lighter, healthier, and…just plain better.  This moment feels like it deserves some kind of applause and recognition, but you can’t tell anyone.  (Unless you’re my client, and then you’ll tell me and I’ll be excited too.  I love my job).  Maybe you pooped once or twice this week already but you know it wasn’t…well, you weren’t finished.  I’m not talking about those.  I’m talking about the one that you’ve waited for at least a week for.   The big one.

How can we have more of those?!  Is this what men do every morning?  Is this why they have so much pride in their poo?  Ah-ha!  This must be why they show each other and talk so openly about it!  They’re onto something.  Why the hell can’t we do that?  As you may know, my academic background is in gender and body theory—how do we think of the woman’s body?  How do we use our bodies, move our bodies, and constrain our bodies?  How have we come to be the way we are?  What does it mean to “throw like a girl,” and why do we do that?  These kinds of questions have helped me re-learn how to use my body for things like pullups, squats, and other movements that I struggled with as a result of social pressures to sit, act, and present myself “like a lady.”  And they have helped me learn to poop.

What does theory have to do with poo?  (Go ahead, make a joke).  Maybe the answer is less about food and more about attitude.  Or at the very least, a combination of both.  When was the last time you made pooping a priority?  I swear sometimes my partner only goes to the bathroom every morning to read a magazine.  Can he really be pooping all of that time?  Whether he is or isn’t, he’s got a good idea—he reserves time every morning just for it.  Nothing—I do mean nothing—comes in the way of his “morning routine.”  Maybe we could all benefit from this undying commitment to the toilet.

If you’re still not convinced that pooping is a learned behavior, then you’re wondering what the heck you can do about it.  As for the science of the body and how to establish regularity, I think it’s going to depend on the cause of your problem.  While I believe that, to some extent, the best explanation for why these issues seem to primarily affect women probably has to do with the mental blockage I have discussed, from a physical standpoint I refuse to believe that every body is the same.

There are so many websites that offer tips.  So much contradictory information—one site tells you what not to eat, and the next tells you to eat it.  Everyone has a different answer, and if you’re like me, you’ve tried them all.  I hate to tell you that I don’t have The Answer.  But I have compiled a few posts that have informed me from multiple perspectives.   Drawing from the links below, here is a rough synopsis of common causes:

  • Not enough fiber
  • Not enough water
  • A lack of time
  • Gluten allergy
  • Grain intolerance
  • Not enough grains (see the contradiction?!
  • Too many legumes
  • Too much red meat
  • Dairy allergy/intolerance
  • Too many processed foods
  • Too much caffeine (although coffee is my perfect go-inducer)

Is your head spinning?  Try these five steps first:

  1. Drink more water –buy a gallon jug, fill it, and aspire to finish at least half of it by the end of the day
  2. Reduce or eliminate processed foods
  3. Make time every morning to poop; if you don’t have to go, just sit there for ten minutes
  4. Add more green vegetables to your diet (try my green smoothie below)
  5. Add a probiotic to your diet

From here, it’s a process of elimination (joke not intended) and experimentation.  But don’t try eliminating more than one thing at once, or you’ll never know which one worked!

Today’s Green Smoothie Recipe:

1 cucumber, peeled
2 cups spinach
1 carrot
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 avocado
1tsp stevia
1tsp cinnamon
5 ice cubes

Blend together, drink while cold.  Just trust me on this one.  🙂

For an overview:
http://www.realage.com/gastrointestinal/bowel-health

Legit, helpful tips:
http://welladjustedbabies.com/13-tips-for-better-bowel-health/

From the Gluten/Grain People:
http://glutenfreehelp.info/gluten-free-research/gluten-sensitivity-and-constipation-understanding-the-link/
http://www.smart-healthy-eating.com/foods-that-cause-constipation.html

From the Paleo people:
http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/05/treating-constipation-without.html
http://healthyedge.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/the-paleo-diet-for-constipation/