Curried Lentils

Since I'm on a nutrient-dense-one-pot meals kick, enjoy this delicious lentil dish full of sweet and savory flavors. Lentils are a great source or folate, coming in at a whopping 181 mcg DFE per 1/2 cup cooked serving, which is almost half all the folate you need in one day*! They are also rich in minerals such as iron, phosphorous, potassium, and manganese; all very important in healthy metabolism. Curry is one of my favorite flavors and I love the sweetness of a good curry, the spiciness of ginger, and earthiness of lentils and root vegetables coming together for a nutritional-rich feast. Lentils are also an inexpensive protein source, and you can use almost any type with this recipe. Enjoy!

*Unless you are pregnant of have a medical condition. Your folate needs may increase depending on your nutrition status. 

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Curried Lentils

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 3-4 Medium Carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of each: yellow mustard seeds, brown mustard seeds, or 1 tsp of one or the other
  • 1 Tbsp. Curry Powder
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 Cup French Lentils (Green or brown will work fine, as well)
  • 2-3 Cups Filtered Water (enough to keep lentils covered)
  • 1 Bunch Dino/Lacinato Kale, chopped well
  • 1/4 Preserved Lemon, diced small OR Lemon Zest

Options for serving

  • Flaxseed Oil (2 tsp. per bowl)
  • Sea Salt

Kitchen Tools Needed

  • Sauce pan with lid, preferable steel, cast iron, or ceramic
  • Stovetop
  • Measuring Cup
  • Large Spoon or Spatula
  • Chef Knife and Cutting Board

Directions: In a sauce pan on low/medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for one minute, then add all spices: mustard seed, curry powder, red pepper. Sauté for two minutes. Add carrots and sauté for a few minutes until the carrots are warm and visibly starting to cook (color change). Add dry lentils, and stir around pot for a few seconds before adding the water. Keep the lentils completely covered by liquid until the very very end of the process (they will absorb some water, you might need to keep adding water). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40ish minutes (french lentils) or 20 minutes (green or brown lentils). When lentils are cooked through (you’ll be able to easily chew them), stir in kale and lemon, and after stirring immediately turn off the heat. Serve with sea salt to taste and flax seed oil. 

Quick Meal: Miso Salmon Salad

This nutrient-dense salad is full of satisfying healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein. The miso packs a flavor and probiotic punch. Bell peppers and lemon juice add antioxidants, and the greens are rich in folate (use spinach for a greater folate kick) and fiber. 

The best part? It takes about 10 minutes from fridge to fork. 

MisoSalmonSalad

Arugula Miso Salmon Salad

 

Ingredients 

  • 4 Cups Arugula
  • 1 Red, Yellow, or Orange Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 3 Green Onions (Scallions) Sliced, even the green parts
  • 1 6-ounce can Wild Salmon (or cooked, smoked, your choice)
  • 1 Tbsp. Miso Paste
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Avocado, Pitted and Sliced
  • 1 tsp. Granulated Garlic
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste (I rarely add salt because of the miso)

Directions: Drain the salmon and quick chop the vegetables. Add salmon, bell pepper, onions, miso, oil, and seasoning in a bowl and mix well. Makes two servings. Serve on top of arugula or baby spinach. Top with avocado slices. 

Feeling adventurous? Add sliced strawberries- trust me, it's delicious! 

5 Proven Tips for a Happy Holiday Body

The holiday season is fast approaching and that means dinners, potlucks, parties and guests with very little time for regular healthy habits. Avoid self-sabotage and keep your body and mind vibrant, energized, and strong this winter with my top 5 tips for a happy, healthy holiday body.  

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Makeover Leftovers: Moneysaving Tips

Key makeover ingredients: Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, Tamari (Wheat-free soy sauce), green onions, lemon, lime, or orange zest, coconut milk, curry paste, and even a bit of sea salt or flaxseed oil can really develop the flavors of your food. 

Key makeover ingredients: Fresh Parsley or Cilantro, Tamari (Wheat-free soy sauce), green onions, lemon, lime, or orange zest, coconut milk, curry paste, and even a bit of sea salt or flaxseed oil can really develop the flavors of your food. 

Got leftovers? Use them!

Sometimes three days of quinoa salad can result in the desire to never see nor taste the South American super-seed ever, ever again. But don't throw out last night's dinner just yet! Grains, greens, root vegetables, and proteins can all be redressed with a unique sauce to help give old food new purpose on your plate. In fact, by using simple and clean cooking methods, those extra carrots and peppers can be instantly transformed into a spicy curry, soup, or tangy salad. You'll end up eating well, saving money, and enjoy channeling some culinary creativity. Below are a few of my favorite ways to reinvigorate yesterday's dinner. 

Timesaver Tip: dice green onions on Sunday and keep in a container in the fridge for quickly adding to meals throughout the week. 

Timesaver Tip: dice green onions on Sunday and keep in a container in the fridge for quickly adding to meals throughout the week. 

Soup Transformation

Take a day-old cup of sautéed or roasted veggies and throw them in a saucepan with some broth or filtered water. Add a bay leaf, dried wakame seaweed, sea salt and other seasonings, bring to boil, and voila! The result is a lovely vegetable soup. Serve topped with freshly diced green onions and or fresh herbs such as cilantro or parsley for color and added nutrition. You can even add lentils or tofu for a heartier soup in fall, or toss in pulled chicken for a warming dish in winter.

Refry Transformation

Using a large oiled skillet on medium heat, leftover veggies can be refried with Tamari (wheat free soy sauce), or Coconut Aminos sauce (a soy sauce alternative). Both are available at most health food stores and many grocery stores. Crack an egg for added protein, or combine with a whole grain and kimchi. Top with fresh cilantro and diced green onion. Orange zest also makes a lovely fragrant addition when refrying vegetables. 

Curry is one of my favorite spice mixes to always have one hand. Curry paste comes in a variety of flavors and colors. I like keeping different options on hand.

Curry is one of my favorite spice mixes to always have one hand. Curry paste comes in a variety of flavors and colors. I like keeping different options on hand.

Curry Transformation

Take your left over vegetables and proteins and add some coconut milk, and curry paste (or powder). Whisk together the curry paste and coconut milk then add in your vegetables, chicken, fish, or tofu. Stir together in a saucepan and let the sauce reduce while your leftovers are being reheated. Enjoy curry vegetables over grains, or curried vegetables and protein over chopped dark leafy greens.

Frittata Transformation

Have some left over chopped veggies? Bag ‘em and throw them in your morning eggs. Sauté vegetables in a high-temp fat and pour whisked eggs over the top. Bake in a cast iron skillet or muffin pan for grab and go breakfast or snack. I love eggs topped with a quality sauerkraut for added probiotic kick, and extra flavor. Check out my Mini-Frittata Recipe here.

Build a Bowl Basics: Grains

What's your favorite grain: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat? Always cook extra grain and store in the fridge or freezer for time-squeezed moments. Left over grains can be repurposed in grain bowls, added to a curry, or made into a breakfast or desert pudding. Add coconut or nut-based milk with pumpkin, vanilla extract, and sweet spices like cinnamon for a treat. Top with pumpkin seeds. Learn more about how to build a delicious bowl here

I hope these tips are useful for you and inspire some creativity in the kitchen! What are some  ways you enjoy your leftovers? As always, follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for daily tips and recipes to make your food tasty and healthy. Want to have a blast in the kitchen and enjoy eating healthy food that makes you feel and look great? Sign up here for a free coaching consult with me today and I can put together a personalized program for you; my clients love their hands on cooking lessons! I even coach via Skype!

Thanks so much for reading! Share your favorite leftover tips below!

 

Healthy Cooking 101: Herbs and Spices

Did you know? Herbs and spices are incorporated into preparing a food to flavor it, or modify the original flavor of the food. This is slightly different from seasoning a food, as seasoning typically enhances the natural flavor of a food, and usually from adding salt.

Did you know? Herbs and spices are incorporated into preparing a food to flavor it, or modify the original flavor of the food. This is slightly different from seasoning a food, as seasoning typically enhances the natural flavor of a food, and usually from adding salt.

If you are looking to get more bang for your buck in your cooking, becoming more familiar with herbs and spices can improve your eating experience while also promoting potential benefits to your health. Many of my clients are either completely new to cooking, or stuck in recipe ruts. In case you don’t have the Food Network piped into your office, keep reading for a few simple tricks of making your food full of flavor. 

Herbs and Spices:

  • Encourage healthy eating by making natural whole food ingredients taste delicious.
  • Save you time by preparing simple, fast dishes with great flavors.
  • Increase the nutritional benefit of your food.

What are the differences between herbs and spices?

Herbs are retrieved from the stems, leaves or flowers of aromatic plants, and can be fresh or dried. Drying herbs does alter their flavor and original aroma, and fresh herbs are considered more ideal. Spices come from the roots, seeds, berries, buds, or bark of plants and have strong flavors. Most spices grow in tropical-like climates.  In traditional medicines, spices are thought to help build digestive strength and warmth so that nutrients are better absorbed from food. 

Fun fact: Cilantro is an example of fresh herb, coming from the leaves of the cilantro plant. The seeds, however, are the sweet and spicy coriander spice, and can be used whole in soothing teas, to flavor pickles, or alternatively can be used ground in baking and curries.

Fun fact: Cilantro is an example of fresh herb, coming from the leaves of the cilantro plant. The seeds, however, are the sweet and spicy coriander spice, and can be used whole in soothing teas, to flavor pickles, or alternatively can be used ground in baking and curries.

When is the best time to add flavoring agents to a dish?

Herbs and spices can be added at any time, but whether they are incorporated towards the beginning, middle or end of the cooking process has a direct result on how much they can influence a dish. Fresh herbs should be added towards the end of cooking, but whole spices should be added towards the beginning of cooking. Ground spices release flavor faster than whole, but can be added in the middle of cooking or later. 

What kinds of herbs and spices are good to have on hand?

Herb Highlights-

  • Basil: while there are many “flavors” of Basil, the sweet variety is typically found in most stores and provides a peppery taste. It is well incorporated into Mediterranean and Southeast Asian recipes and pairs well with garlic.
  • Cilantro: Sharp, tangy, and used in Mexican, Asian, and South American cooking, cilantro should not be heated. If too much is used it can result in a soapy taste.
  • Dill: Feathery in texture, strong in flavor, this anise-tasting herb is used in European dishes such as recipes with potatoes and fish. In traditional medicine, dill is suggested for menstrual difficulties.
  • Parsley: There are two common types: curly and Italian (flat-leaf).  One of the most common used herbs, the tangy flavor is stronger in the stems than in the leaves. Parsley can be used to flavor or garnish almost any dish, save for most deserts.
  • Rosemary: With its evergreen savory flavor, this herb is best used fresh. It also might possess medicinal properties.
  • Sage: Another savory herb with a medicinal past, sage is best used in deep dishes such as poultry, or lentil baked meals. In traditional medicine, it is used to help with parasitic infections. 
Check out my recipe for roasted vegetables here, and try sprinkling different spices on your veggies to create different flavors!

Check out my recipe for roasted vegetables here, and try sprinkling different spices on your veggies to create different flavors!

Spice Highlights-

  • Allspice: Used in baking and pickling, this spice grows as a tree in Jamaica and is usually sold in the whole-berry form.
  • Cayenne: Your basic “red-pepper,” is ground from multiple hot pepper plants and provides a kick to many different types of dishes. It also is a circulatory stimulant.
  • Paprika: This sweeter Hungarian red pepper is used in a variety of dishes and is a great way to add color to the top of simple foods, such as mashed potatoes.
  • Cinnamon: This sweet-affinity spice is often used in deserts but also pars well with spicy dishes. Cassia, a cousin of cinnamon with a courser and stronger flavor is often sold labeled as “Cinnamon” in the U.S.
  • Ginger: This “root” (actually the modified root-like stem of the ginger plant) has a fibrous interior and papery skin. It is used in Indian and other Asian cooking. Medicinally, it is helpful with nausea and can act as a circulatory stimulant.
  • Turmeric: Coming from a flowering plant related to the ginger plant, this spice has a woodsy-like connotation. While you can purchase it in “root” form, it is most commonly dried and ground and imparts a vibrant yellow to dishes. It also packs a medicinal punch, as there is building scientific evidence that it acts as an anti-inflammatory. Great with lentils.

While many recipes call for specific herbs or spices, it helps to experiment with flavors to see which ones you enjoy with different produce, protein, or grain companions. Know which ones you like the most, and always have them on hand to enrich the flavor of your cooking, even your take-out. Which are you favorites? As always, thank you for reading! Feeling like you need a healthy and flavorful boost to your food but don't know where to start? Sign up for a free consult with me today here and experience the benefits of having personalized support. I love helping people eat, look, and feel great!

Resources:

  • Labensky, S., Hause, A., & Martel, P. (2011). On Cooking.  A textbook of culinary fundamentals. (5th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson.
  • Pitchford, Paul. (2002) Healing with Whole Foods, Asian traditions and modern nutrition. (3rd ed.) Berkley: North Atlantic.
  • Grafton, E. (n/d). Lecture: Topic Three Seasoning vs. Flavoring (PDF). Retrieved from http://muih.learninghouse.com/mod/url/view.php?id=15371

 

My Summer Checklist

Summer is almost upon us, and it’s time to clean off the grill, plan some vacations, and get your feet sandal-ready. With a seasonal shift comes opportunity for new adventures outdoors, but also in the kitchen. Here are a few of my favorite ways to build your wellness-centered summertime checklist. 

My Getting Ready for Summer Checklist

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Summer is Coming: Quick Salad Redux

Summer is coming and with it comes one of my favorite seasonal perks: lots of fresh greens. This past week it got hot in LA. I'm not complaining, I love the dry heat, but there are some days where I simply cannot turn on the oven or else it won't be just the vegetables that are getting roasted. Here is a simple Savory Summer Kale Salad that you can easily evolve over the week in various forms to get the most variety out of your leftovers. The best part? No oven. 

Savory Summer Kale Salad: 3 Ways

Initial Ingredients

Start with a basic dinner side salad recipe.

Start with a basic dinner side salad recipe.

  • 1 bunch kale, chiffonade chopped (I used curly kale, Lacinato will also work)
  • 1 Red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 Cup Red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 Cup Kalamata olives, loose chop
  • 2 Tbsp. Capers
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil and/or flax seed oil
  • 2 tsp Garlic powder
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix the chopped kale, olive oil, seasoning and lemon juice in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, toss well, and serve.

We enjoyed this for dinner, and agreed it would be lovely with some smoked salmon or baked chicken breast. It was delicious and a very cooling way to end a hot day.

Round 2

Since this salad keeps so well in the fridge, I was ready for round two! It was time to add in some protein. The next day I added to the salad: 

After making a simple kale salad for dinner the night before, the next day add beans and avocado for a satisfying lunch!

After making a simple kale salad for dinner the night before, the next day add beans and avocado for a satisfying lunch!

  • 1 can black beans (bpa free, and rinsed)

  • Chopped cilantro

  • Avocado slices

  • And a touch more flaxseed oil

It was filling, and a refreshing lunch.

Round 3

We still had a bit of the salad left over. A simple third iteration? Just add:

  • Quinoa

And you might want to add a touch more of sea salt or granulated garlic for flavor.

Enjoy this timesaver salad tip for hot days and let me know what else you like to do to get your leftovers tasting fresh! Thank you for reading!

I post a lot of recipes on my Instagram feed, and you can follow me fore more tips and tricks!

 

Tips to Keep You Health-Smart: What I Learned from the SAG-AFTRA Health Fair

Yesterday I was very grateful to participate in the SAG-AFTRA Health Fair. Union members were able to receive free consults from myself, as well as numerous traditional and alternative practitioners. I learned a lot yesterday in my mini-consults about where people seem to get off-track with reaching and maintaining optimum wellness; here are some valuable tips to keep in mind to stay on your health “game.”

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I Choose Health: How To Make Healthy Decisions Daily

What set of “rules” do you follow? I encourage you to break away from the “Top Ten” lists that are very popular right now, an come up with your own list of what you know works for you. Commit to your rules, make room for fluidity and life, and feel in control of your health. This exercise takes minutes, but can free you of the pressure of making “healthy decisions” when you don’t have the time to think about anything but your work.

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Quick Meal Creation: Building a Bowl

A grain or salad bowl can be a simple, easy, quick way to put together a satisfying meal.

A grain or salad bowl can be a simple, easy, quick way to put together a satisfying meal.

When you are working 60+ hours a week, a hot stove is sometimes the last thing you want to face when off the clock. Over the years I’ve developed a system that helps support busy creative people create quick meals at home or at work (if you have a fridge at work), based on a favorite childhood tradition: the ice cream sundae.

Remember those ice cream socials from when you were a kid? You knew exactly what you wanted, and played with different toppings, with a variety of colors and textures until you created the supreme sundae. Working with the same principle, build yourself a delicious, mouth-watering bowl of vegetables and quality protein. 

  • Cook grains ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze. Always have rice, quinoa, or another whole grain cooked and on hand. Reheat on the stovetop, covered with a bit of water, or if you must, use a microwave while at the office to reheat your grains. Quinoa is always lovely enjoyed cold, no reheating necessary!
  • Use BPA-free canned beans such as Eden Organics to add protein and nutritious fiber to your bowls.
  • Pick a day of the week to clean and pre-chop raw vegetables so all you have to do is “sprinkle” for the next six days. Most veggies will last a week in the fridge, but sometimes it helps to store them in a glass container with a folded piece of paper towel to absorb excess moisture. 
  • Have bit more time on Sunday? Roast some vegetables for variety. Learn how to roast veggies here. Some veggies cook faster, some take longer. Most cooked vegetables will keep in the fridge for the rest of the week.
  • Remember pineapple sauce? Well it’s not quite the same thing, but embrace probiotic condiments like kimchi, miso and pickles, which can add great sweet and sour flavor to your bowl. These also help promote a healthy gut.
  • Nuts belong on sundaes and healthy grain bowls, alike! Sprinkle on some nuts for a crunchy finish and great source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • Always include a green. Pre-slice kale (it’ll hold up for a few days in the fridge), or use baby spinach, arugula, or lettuces.
  • Pick your “sundae sauce,” vary the big finish with dressings; use herbs, spices, mixed with an acidifying agent like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and a touch of healthy fat such as flax seed oil. Keep flax seed oil in the refrigerator at work, as well as at home and you’ll always have a healthy fat on hand for a tasty dressing base. Keep your favorite spices in a stackable screw-top mini-makeup tower so you can dress up your food with flavor while at work.

Building a Bowl

Bowl ingredients. To start, pick one or a mix of:

Grain Base:

This bowl includes raw spinach, fermented carrots and daikon, raw sweet seaweed salad, and a pastured fried egg.

This bowl includes raw spinach, fermented carrots and daikon, raw sweet seaweed salad, and a pastured fried egg.

  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Millett
  • Buckwheat
  • Red Rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Or a blend

Protein Base:

  • Wild Salmon (canned or smoked)
  • Black Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Organic Tofu (hot or cold)
  • Tempeh
  • Scrambled or Fried Egg
Tip: Use a "chiffonade" cutting technique to slice your greens into ribbons. This makes them easier to eat. 

Tip: Use a "chiffonade" cutting technique to slice your greens into ribbons. This makes them easier to eat. 

Green Base:

  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Dandelion (Cooked)
  • Beet Greens (Blanched)

Then Add Many Raw or Roasted Vegetables::

  • Shredded Carrot
  • Diced Radish
  • Sliced Cucumbers
  • Cubed Cooked Squash
  • Seaweed
  • Fresh Corn
  • Sliced Onion
  • Roasted Garlic
  • Previously Cooked Mushrooms
  • Avocado
Get creative! Try different combinations and play with flavors.

Get creative! Try different combinations and play with flavors.

Add Spices and Nuts: 

  • Ground Garlic
  • Ground Ginger
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Herbamare (sea salt spice blend)
  • Nuts and Seeds: Almond Slices, Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Seed
  • Granulated Kelp
  • Ground Cardamom
  • Ground Cinnamon

Finishing Dressings:

  • Fat: Olive Oil, Flax Seed Oil, or Walnut Oil
  • Acid: Lemon or Lime Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Mirin, Balsamic Vinegar

 Always Add Probiotic-Rich Foods:

  • Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Preserved Lemon, Pickle
  1.  Enjoy a 1/2-3/4 Cup Serving or a grain or bean, or a mix of the two.
  2. Always fill your bowl with greens, and mix into the grains/beans.
  3. Add other vegetables for more flavor and nutrients.
  4. Include one probiotic food.
  5. Finish with spices, a spritz of lemon, and a dollop of flaxseed oil or a nut oil (i.e. Walnut). Boom. Home-made lunch. Enjoy!

As always, thank you for reading! Hope you enjoy tapping into your inner child and building a delicious healthful bowl! 

Did you find this helpful? Imagine what getting personalized tips, recipes, and support would be like! Click here to schedule your free consult for coaching with me today!

Weeknight Timesaver: How to Roast Vegetables

After a long day, the last thing you want to do is prepare a complicated dinner. But some nights, a quick cold salad just doesn’t cut it. One of my favorite recipes that I encourage my clients to prepare weekly is a classic: Roasted Vegetables. A quick, simple side dish, vegetables can be roasted-ready in less than 30 minutes, with hands on time of only about 10 minutes. 

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Water: How Much is Enough?

Do you know how much water you should drink each day? Most people have heard the “8 x 8” rule; drink 8 glasses of water (8 ounces per glass) every day. Or maybe you’ve heard that you should drink half your weight in ounces each day... But guess what! Both of these are completely and entirely random and not backed up by science in any way. So how much water should you be drinking each day? Well, now things get a little complicated…  

In healthy adults, water constitutes approximately half or more of one’s body weight (this might be where the “drink half your weight in water a day” line originated). Since water takes up more space in our muscles than it does in our fat cells, typically women have about 50% of their body weight as water, whereas men have around 60%, as they are typically more muscular in body composition. Factors that affect how much water someone needs include:

Factors such as activity level affect how much water one actually needs to consume. 

Factors such as activity level affect how much water one actually needs to consume. 

  • body size and composition

  • alcohol consumption

  • environmental temperature and humidity

  • protein, salt and sugar intake

  • medications

  • pregnancy

  • age and medical conditions

  • changes in activity level

A flat rate recommendation of 8 cups of water a day cannot be a universal accurate recommendation, but there actually isn’t a ton of research on this subject. However, the USDA generated Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for the average adult ranges from 2.7 – 3.7 Liters of water each day, equal to about 91 – 125 ounces. That is a lot of water! You can meet much of this water requirement from food sources, but that depends on diet choices, especially if you’re eating enough vegetables, and other hydrating foods. Additionally, I doubt your average woman would say she weighs 182 lbs. (91 x 2, the drink half your weight in ounces of water each day is therefore not completely correct either).

Water Tips

Listen to Your Body

The body attempts to control water consumption via the thirst mechanism, which is triggered when you need to rehydrate. When activity levels are low to moderate, a healthy individual can typically rely on the sensation of thirst to know when and how much water one needs. Explore drinking water at regular intervals in your day and notice how you feel.

Eat Hydrating Foods

Lots of vegetables contain water and can help you hydrate while getting valuable vitamins and phytonutrients. Soup, tea, and even cooked whole grains can be sources of water in your diet. Avoid relying on sugary drinks as thirst quenchers, as these add useless calories and typically a lot of processed chemicals.

Drink Up to Lose Weight

Studies of individuals dieting for the purposes of weight loss who included increased water consumption as part of their program showed improved weight loss results compared to those on a solely on a weight loss program. However this only worked with people on a healthy diet designed for weight loss, so still plan on skipping the meatball sub and opt for veggies and lean protein.   

Pee Peek

Some foods (like beets) can affect urine color, but typically urine should be clear, and light yellow in color. Checking your urine can be a good clue as to if you’ve had enough water. When urine is dark and more concentrated in color, you might want to increase your water consumption.

Spruce Things Up

Try adding unsweetened cranberry, pomegranate, or tart cherry juice to your water to create a wonderful variety of flavors to encourage you to avoid reaching for diet sodas or sugary drinks when thirst strikes. All it takes is just a splash in glass or bottle of water! You can usually find these unsweetened juices in glass bottles at the grocery store.

Hope this was helpful! A reminder that my Group Health and Nutrition Program for Actors is enrolling now; get your spot today here

Resources 

  • Marieb, E. (2012). Essentials of human anatomy and physiology (10th ed). Benjamin Cummings: San Francisco.

  • Sienkiewicz Sizer, F., Whitney, E. (2014). Nutrition Concepts & Controversies (13th ed). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning: Belmot, CA.

  • Millard-Stafford, M,, Wendland, D.M., O'Dea, N.K., Norman, T.L.,(2012) Thirst and hydration status in everyday life. Nutr Rev., Nov(70) Suppl 2:S147-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00527.x.

  • Muckelbauer, R., Sarganas, G., Grüneis, A., Müller-Nordhorn, J., (2013) Association between water consumption and body weight outcomes: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. Aug;98(2):282-99. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.055061. 

Desk Nesting: What Foods to Keep at Work to Promote Your Health

There are a few key items you can keep at work that will spruce up any take-out/delivery meal to maximize your lunch’s healthy potential. This one’s for all my current and former assistants and executives out there working the production company grind. I think about all of you a lot in my posts; you have no free time to cook, some of you don’t even get to leave your desk at lunchtime. So let’s build you a work pantry that’s a healthy arsenal.  

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What’s in Your Stress Management Toolbox? Three Tips to Survive Your Day

Let’s talk about stress, baby! In this post I’ll list why stress management is so important, and my top three tips for finding balance in your day and supporting your mental and physical health.

We have a slight denial situation when it comes to stress and its impact on our health; while 9 out of 10 Americans believe that stress can contribute to the development of a major illness such as cardiovascular disease, depression or obesity, only just over 30% of us believe that stress can actually impact our own personal health.  We have a little bit of an invincibility complex here; “You might not be able to handle it, but I sure can.” No dear, you can’t… and here's why!

While job-related stress is common in our country, for those who work in the arts and entertainment industry, job-related stress can be a constant, unrelenting presence. Another warped reality fact: adults in Los Angeles consider a higher level of stress to be "healthy," more so than the rest of America. Many might develop the mental ability to stay in control when you’re running around the office, jumping from meeting to meeting, hustling on set, fitting in one (or twenty) more calls from your never-ending phone sheet, or navigating precarious diplomatic situations (you know what I mean…) and more. The thing is: your body doesn’t know that you aren’t running away from a lion. Thousands of generations ago, when humans spent their days hunting and gathering, the greatest moments of stress usually involved a large sharp-toothed animal, but even then, we weren’t being chased by leopards all day long. We took breaks, naps, ate berries and had sex. When your body stays in “I’m being chased by a lion” mode all day long, despite your best intellectual efforts, biology is taking its toll.

My Top Tips to Beat Biology at the Stress Game

One of my favorite places to walk in my neighborhood.

One of my favorite places to walk in my neighborhood.

1. Go for a walk

Walking can actually change your brain for the better: Research shows that people who start going for a walk even just 5 days a week showed an improvement in brain structures that help facilitate emotional and cognitive resilience.  Time strapped?

  • Schedule your walks. Put it in your calendar and protect it, even if it’s just 15 minutes, your body will thank you.
  • Make those phone calls while going for a walk. In LA people place business calls from their cars all the time, who says you can’t have your assistant roll your calls while you walk the lot?

2. Meditate

Meditation, even just a few minutes a day, can drastically change your life for the better. Research shows that mediation can measurably help manage anxiety, depression, and pain.

  • Want to learn to meditate? Try the UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center’s plethora of resources. In addition to workshops and events, the center also has a free online starter guide here

3. Eat Probiotic Rich Foods and Quality Fiber

The gut, the immune system and the brain are interconnected through our physiology, and what we eat can have a huge impact on our mental function. Emerging research is showing potential evidence that by including probiotics which support gut health in your diet, helps manage stress. Probiotic consumption promotes the releasing of “happy” neurotransmitters, and deceases stress hormones, which in turn helps counteract the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and potentially even other severe mental and developmental disorders.  Enjoy eating lacto-fermented foods (read: fermented foods made without vinegar, sugar, or yeast; just a simple salt brine):

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir (from dairy or coconut water)
  • Pickles
  • Other fermented vegetables (I like beets and carrots)

Thanks for taking the time to read today’s post. I hope you enjoyed these fun stress facts and tips. I want to hear from you! How are you handling stress in your life? What works and what doesn’t? Look for a post coming soon on my favorite brands of lacto-fermented foods, as well as posts about great places to go for a walk in Los Angeles.

Here’s to a healthy and happy rest of your week!

Sources:

  • Stress in America. (2012) American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final-2011.pdf

  • McEwen, B. S. (2012). Brain on stress: how the social environment gets under the skin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America109 Suppl 2, 17180–17185. doi:10.1073/pnas.1121254109

  • Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga ES, et al. (2014) Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med.174(3):357-368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018.

  • Dinan, T.G., Stranton, C., Cryan, J.F. (2013) Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic. Biological Psychiatry. 74 (10):720-726. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.05.001

Start the Day Right: Try Mini-Frittatas for Breakfast

Today we celebrate the start of National Public Health Week, championed by the American Public Health Association. Each day features a different aspect of public health, and today’s theme is “Be Healthy From the Start,” putting a focus on subjects such as maternal health, child nutrition, and making sure we are up do date with our emergency preparedness at home. Inspired by today’s theme, I’m going to share some motivating research in support of starting your day off right; with a healthy, filling, delicious breakfast! You’ll also get my super breakfast timesaver and incredibly easy Mini-Frittata recipe.

Read More

Cooking Basics: How to Prepare Quinoa

From hipsters to Hollywood celebrities, we’ve all heard about the current hot superfood; quinoa. I love recommending this little powerhouse to my clients. It is a complete protein, has high levels of potassium, which help control blood pressure, contains beauty boosting Vitamin E, is rich in essential B Vitamins, and is gluten free. It also cooks very quickly, if you’ve got time to think about what to eat, check all your cabinets for food, then Google delivery restaurant options nearby… you’ve got time for quinoa. One of my current clients had a bad experience with her first time eating quinoa, and I’ve found that’s often the case when it is not properly prepared. Since I’ll be posting more recipes that involve quinoa in the future, I think it’s helpful to start with the basics. 

You may notice that sometimes when you place quinoa in water there are little soap bubbles, this is a result of the saponins on the outside of the seed, which make it have a bitter flavor. Since quinoa is a seed, soaking it for a few hours can help reduce the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in quinoa’s outer layer. We want those plentiful vitamins and nutrients to be absorbable! If you don’t have time to soak, make sure to at least wash your quinoa very thoroughly. Washing quinoa also reduces the saponins, making it taste less bitter. Always wash your quinoa, unless it’s labeled as pre-rinsed!

A secret to preparing flavorful Quinoa is toasting it in a little oil before you add water to your cooking pot. You can use any healthy cold-pressed oil you like; I tend to use olive oil, but if I want a creamier flavor and haven’t hit my saturated fat max for the day, I use a bit of coconut oil. Remember to cook all grains in filtered water, since they absorb the water in which they are cooked.

Quinoa by the Numbers

Washing Quinoa:

  1. Place in a bowl
  2. Fill bowl with clean filtered water
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon
  4. Strain with a fine mesh strainer
  5. Repeat at least a couple times

Soaking Quinoa:

  1. After washing, place quinoa in bowl, cover with water, add lemon juice
  2. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours, can also soak overnight, or while at work
  3. Strain and rinse 

Cooking Quinoa:

  1. Add 1 tbsp. oil (olive or coconut work) into a sauce pan, bring to medium heat
  2. Add in cleaned quinoa and toast for about a minute
  3. Add in filtered water according to cooking ratio: 1 Cup Dry Quinoa to 2 Cups Water
  4. Bring to a boil add pinch of salt, then simmer about 12-15 minutes
  5. Quinoa is done once you can see a bit of the germ ring, fluff with fork, cover for 5 minutes with no heat 

You can serve quinoa hot or cold, on its own as a side dish, or toss it with veggies for a complete meal. It is a great substitute for couscous, and makes a fine pilaf. Once you’ve got the basics of prep covered, you can start experimenting with different spices and flavors. Let me know what you try! Enjoy!

Sources:

“Whole Grains 101: Quinoa – March Grain of the Month.” Whole Grains Council. (n/d) Retrieved from http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/quinoa-march-grain-of-the-month

 Beaty, D. “The Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds”. Food Matters. (n/d) Retrieved from http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-benefits-of-soaking-nuts-and-seeds.  

Grafton, Elenora. “Cooking Whole Grains.” MUIH (n/d) Retrieved from internal course website. 

Becoming a Coach, Part 3: Support, Survival, and Kale

Welcome back for the last in my series telling the story of how I survived spinal rock bottom and became a health and nutrition coach. In this post I’ll reveal the key things that kept me on a healing path and a timesaver recipe that you can transform into multiple meals all week long: LA Style Pinto Bean Salad “Concentrate.”

Keep fighting for health despite pain and setback.

For the months after surgery I did everything I could to regain my mobility; I walked, I did my physical therapy diligently, I ate well, and drank plenty of water. I tried to get off the narcotics as quickly as possible, and obsessively rationed half-cut doses to make sure I didn’t become what so many who suffer from back pain struggle with; addicted to pills. I was determined to heal, and return to my life.  There were still so many “bad” days, and there were still a lot of tears. I’d try to go to something social/normal, or my boyfriend and I would lust after a really cool festival out of town (Santa Barbara Annual Fermentation Festival, I’m looking at you, you sexy pickle making mistress…) but even if I was in the passenger seat with the head rest all the way flat, I’d end up losing multiple days to pain making up for my attempts at a normal life. Being able to drive seemed like a far-off unattainable goal. But even on those really bad days I kept walking, despite if it took all my energy for the day I’d go on at least a 20-minute walk.

Get personal and professional support.

Spine Doc was impressed with my progress. He’s admitted to me several times that he can’t take credit for my healing, he humbly states that he started the process, but my commitment to physical activity and a healthy lifestyle is the real reason the surgery is going to work in the long run. The last time I saw him he explained that in about 5-10 years my vertebrae will finish fusing, and it’s very possible that the back and leg pain will then disappear. I think I started crying when he told me this, for mixed reasons, but primarily because the idea of being able to dance (my first love), pick up a child, or maybe run/trot to make a changing traffic light seems like hitting the jackpot.

I also had my own health coach. Every two weeks we would check in via Skype, and through her example I learned how to be a better coach. We traded recipes, talked about meal planning, I shared where I was struggling physically and emotionally, and she gave me the support I needed to make decisions that allowed me to reach my goals.

Keep busy. Stay engaged mentally.

Spine Doc ended up refusing to let me go back to work at the originally agreed upon time, and extended my disability status by several more months, which I was not very happy about. Did I watch some Netflix while stuck in bed? I sure did. But I read a ton, as well. And I became certified as a Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition program. I even took online and hybrid classes at my local community college as I started to fear that I might need to make a career change due to my mobility restrictions. There’s nothing like a test on macronutrients that gets your head out of the “pain trap.” As I started to return to my science roots, which I had studied years ago in college, I realized that I loved talking about food and science together. I loved helping my “practice clients” from my health coaching program reach their health and wellness goals. You can read about their stories here. And when at the end of 2013 Spine Doc made is very clear that I was never going to be able to sit at a desk for an 8-hour day, let alone return to my previously typical 14-hour work day, I was psychologically, intellectually and emotionally ready to make a change. Thus I headed the calling; I became a small business owner, serving the creative professionals of Los Angeles and beyond with all their health coaching needs, running my business from a spine-friendly standing desk that my boyfriend built from a brilliant Ikea hack.

The Result

The obligatory "After" photo. April, 2014. Happy and healthy.

The obligatory "After" photo. April, 2014. Happy and healthy.

Each month I notice an improvement. I can now drive to West Hollywood and back (8 miles one way!), in LA traffic, while signing along to Adele at the top of my lungs. I got into and started a Masters in Science program in Nutrition and Integrative Health, which will enable me to expand upon my Health Coaching training with hard science (yes, please) and help me become licensed as a Nutritionist. I can now meet with several coaching clients in a row, and I know how to release pressure in my spine so that the sitting doesn’t hurt me. I’m even working with an amazing Pilates trainer who has created a spine-safe baby routine for me. The fight isn’t over, and I still need to lie down in the middle of the day often, but I’ve definitely come out on the other end of this year feeling like the hero of my healing story. This has been such a transformative experience, and all of it has prepared me to help you become the hero of your own story, because we all work our butts off and deserve a quality of life that comes from great health.

Now that I can chop and dice with the best of them, and now that I’m back at work, I love creating timesaver recipes that can evolve throughout the week. I created this salad “concentrate” because I wanted something that I could use on rice or quinoa, over greens, or even in tacos. Inspired by the flavors of Los Angeles, enjoy my Pinto Bean Salad Concentrate and additional meal transformations.

LA-Style Pinto Bean Salad “Concentrate”

Concentrate:

1, 15 oz. can Pinto Beans (Or 2 Cups Cooked Beans) Rinsed and Drained

1 Bunch Lacinato Kale, Chiffonade Chopped

½ Red Onion, Chopped

½ Cup Cilantro, Diced

2 tsp. Olive Oil (can also sub or add Flaxseed Oil for Omega-3 benefits)

Juice of 1 Lime

1 tsp. Garlic Powder

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Serving Options:

Serve over brown rice, add avocado slices when serving.

Serve over lettuce, add avocado when serving.

Serve warm (heat in sauce pan for 3 minutes) on corn tortillas. Top with radish and salsa.

Assembly:

Clean, and de-rib the kale, then stack the leaves and roll them into a tight flute-like shape. To chiffonade cut, slice across the rolled leaves ¼ inch ribbons, and once all kale is sliced, slice once along the length of the kale. Place kale, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Let stand for several minutes while you drain and rinse the beans, and then add everything together. Keeps for several days in the fridge, and you can use on top of the listed serving options for meal variety.

Thank you so much, Dear Reader, for sticking it out for this spiny tale.  This coming month’s blog posts will feature multiple helpful cooking ideas, recipes, sleep and stress management techniques and other fun helpful health and nutrition tips that you can use to be the hero of your journey to health. If you haven’t yet, please follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And if you’re ready to get the support you need and deserve, sign up right here for a free Health Coaching Consultation today and let’s make you feel like a hero.

Becoming a Coach, Part 2: Surgery, Clarity, and Rice Bowls

Welcome to Part 2 of the story on how I became a Health Coach.

Dear Reader, you've stuck it out after our first date, and I'm glad to see you again. Hang in there for a fantastic time-saver recipe for Peanut Butter Brown RIce Bowls at the end of this post. In the meantime, back to our tale of the broken girl with a whole lot to learn...

Months into epidurals and physical therapy, and being “disabled” according to my doctors and the state of California; I missed being at work, I yearned to be productive, as I simply felt a desire to keep busy and contribute. I took online classes from bed, and read health books looking for answers. Thank the technology gods for the iPad. Something was happening to me, not just physically, but I slowly realized that I was very very very broken on a much deeper level.

The obligatory "before" photo. This is also before I owned mascara... circa 2009.

The obligatory "before" photo. This is also before I owned mascara... circa 2009.

I realized that I had literally made myself sick to serve my career. I had spent a decade doing everything I could to be a “successful” theatre and film director, sacrificing my health for work was nothing new.  I started as an intern at the highly acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, got promoted and coordinated their professional acting school for a few years while freelance directing and teaching acting, working countless hours, and doing everything I could to nail the next job. I eventually felt like I hit a ceiling (like everyone does in their late 20’s, right? Ugh, totally) and decided it was time to go back to school. Not surprisingly, while in grad school I gained almost 40 lbs. Stress, food intolerances, poor “convenient” diet choices, and misdiagnosis had all contributed to the weight gain. My second year of school I was diagnosed with a completely bizarre genetic autoimmune disorder that I once saw on the TV show House, MD. After years of digestive upset, I was finally on the right medicine, and I decided to try going gluten free to help with the inflammation. Now this was before the gluten free “craze” so it wasn’t a cake walk (pun absolutely intended)… But with exercise and hard diet work I lost those “pesky” 40 lbs., and directed some more obscure German expressionism drama while doing so.

By my late twenties, I had directed at least 50 plays, some film/video shorts, and taught/worked with at least a thousand actors and other brilliant artists. When I started having joint and back pain towards the end of grad school, I decided to go the responsible “sit at a desk” route and went into film development. But there was a lurking issue that I desperately tried to ignore; I wasn’t creating anymore, and I had begun to silently mourn for my old craft, accepting that because of chronic pain, I had to say “goodbye” to a part of me that was as powerful and important as a once strong limb. I was no longer being creative. I was extremely productive, I was enjoying working very hard, and I loved learning about the film industry finally on the inside. Fast forward to being stuck in bed with my stupid spine, I reflected on the past few years, and it crossed my mind that I was completely miserable. Months on “disability,” a few epidurals later and slowly becoming a spine disease poster child, I had none of the things I had cherished before: I couldn’t sit in a theatre seat, a desk chair, and I couldn’t exactly direct from a bed. But I could learn how to heal, and I could fight for me. Not for my “career” or that thing that everyone thinks you’re supposed to become/do/have/belong to, it was time to learn how to really fight for what matters: my health, my life.

I put myself on an anti-inflammatory diet, and I did my “exercises” every day. I walked. I couldn’t stand still, bend, lift anything or sit, but I could walk, and I did so all over my beautiful Los Angeles neighborhood. I had never seen some of the magical things in my little nook of LA; plants, aromatic scents, farmers markets, so many birds, the beautiful view fed my healing as much as the pills and procedures. I tried to reconnect with friends I hadn’t talked to in years because of my ridiculous work schedule. I started to feed my body whole, real foods and I fed my soul for the first time in a very long time.

They found more things wrong. The epidurals didn’t stick (#punintended).

Who has freckles, two thumbs and loves morphine?           This lady. July, 2013.

Who has freckles, two thumbs and loves morphine?           This lady. July, 2013.

But I was stronger from PT. So Spine Doc removed the disc; I had surgery on July 2nd, 2013. Spine Doc decided that I needed a fusion of my L4/L5 vertebrae, but he wasn’t sure if he was going to do it or not, because I had a unique case. I’m not a doctor, but I guess having a herniated desiccated disc in a 31-year old female is rare and super precarious, in 70 year olds, you just kinda let them “go” or fuse ‘em. I had also developed peripheral neuropathy and my right lower leg was no longer reliable, but it sure was numb. I kissed my beautiful nude peep-toe patent leather heels from Nordstrom’s goodbye…

I was wheeled into surgery, and Spine Doc still didn’t know if he was going to pin me; I played it cool, suspense dissipates when fun iv drugs are involved. When he decided to not put in pins, it meant that rehab would be even more important so that the joint would immobilize and the bones would fuse naturally. It was tough. Really tough. There was so much inflammation in my spine that it felt like I was being pulled in half when I tried to get into bed. Those first few weeks every time my mother and boyfriend helped me into and out of bed I screamed, I had never made that noise in my life it; was as if all the broken bits in my heart and my body needed to be expelled and I couldn’t stop my pain from escaping. My poor neighbors… I went from greeting and getting Fritos for my college A-list action hero celebrity crush to doing laps around my kitchen table with my walker in the timespan of a season change.

But then wonderful things slowly happened. I encountered such kindness during that time in friends who visited and brought food, my home-care physical therapist who patiently taught me how to descend and ascend stairs in my building, my family, my boyfriend going above and beyond the call of duty. I felt pure abundant gratitude in every moment. I started to regain my ability to walk with confidence and could (holy crap) actually sit for about 5 minutes, and I felt the desire to create a dish that was healthful, nourishing, and satisfying to feed my body as it healed. I was limited in my movement, but I still felt the responsibility and need to take care of myself, and fight for my health. My vertical time was precious. Thus became the glory that is known as Peanut Butter Rice.

2 Minute “I’m standing up between Star Trek Episodes” Rice Bowl

Core Ingredients:

-3/4 Cup Cooked Brown Rice, warm

-1-2 Tbs. Nut Butter (Peanut, almond, cashew)

-1-2 tsp. Tamari, gluten free soy sauce, or coconut aminos

-1 tsp. ground ginger

-1 tsp. granulated garlic

Topping Options:

Brown rice bowls are a quick, nourishing meal.

Brown rice bowls are a quick, nourishing meal.

-Shredded carrots

-Handfuls arugula or chopped spinach greens

-Pickled ginger

-Sliced radish

-Sliced green onion

-Seaweed salad, or dried seaweed

-Fermented vegetables, such as Kimchi

-1 Tbs. flaxseed oil

In a bowl, add nut butter, tamari, and spices to warm brown rice. Stir well enough. You might want to adjust amounts to taste. To have a well-balanced snack, add vegetables, and/or a probiotic-rich food such as Kimchi. Greens will slightly wilt when mixed with warm rice. Recipe is for one, as this can be used as a solid snack, or the base of a larger meal. If using as the base of a meal, multiply for proper serving amount.

Even a wiggly child could make this; it’s the same principle as building an ice cream sundae at a sundae bar. And its real food nourishment propelled my healing into high gear. I thrived on the warmth of the rice paired with the phytonutrients of local green arugula, was grounded in the healthy fats of nut butter and flax seed oil, and loved the heat of LA-made kimchi from our Farmer’s Market. A quick fix to reconnect with hearty nourishing food.

I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Spine Doc still felt there might be a need for a second surgery and he threatened to do a full fusion should I not be able to maintain enough strength to mobilize the vertebrae. I lived in constant fear of falling, and had to wear a torso brace for months. I had about two shirts that fit over the brace, and I think everyone who came to visit me thought I must have been hitting the donuts real hard considering the size of that thing. This was a transformational time; while incredibly difficult, I was given the gift of clarity in those months of pain. Dear Reader, check back for Part 3, where I really kick it into gear, start my business and you and I start dating for serious. You’ll never believe how it turns out in the end!

If you haven’t yet, “follow” me on the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more recipes, health and nutrition tips, and encouragement. I broke so you don’t have to…

https://www.facebook.com/alysonrouxhealth

http://instagram.com/alyroux

https://twitter.com/alyroux

 

 

Becoming a Coach, Part 1: Disability, diet, and vodka

Welcome to my first blog post! I’m looking forward to creating a forum for posting and discussing health and wellness news, info, and nutrition tips and trends. I also promise to post delicious recipes and restaurant reviews. Dear reader, before we buy a condo and share a mortgage, let’s go on a first date and get to know each other a little...

If you asked me a year ago what I’d be doing now, I would have never thought I’d be running my own health coaching business, helping creative people reach wellness. Mostly, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d actually be healthy. One year ago today, I left my swanky job in film development at Universal Pictures, thinking I’d just go to a doctor’s appointment, get some pills and head back to the office once I rested. I had felt this pain before, ignored it, worked through it, and thought it was “normal.” Little did I know that my entire life was about to change and I didn’t have a choice! I couldn’t sit in a chair for more than a few minutes without horrible pain, I could barely drive, and I was loosing my balance, a lot. I thought I was maybe stressed, tired, not in shape, but I’d get some pain meds and be back to my old self in no time. However, after a couple days rest, the pain in my back and running down my legs didn’t get better. In fact it was worse.

Two weeks home “sick” and one MRI later, back at Orthopedic Doc’s office it became official; I had something wrong with my spine, and it was likely a surgical case. I needed to see a spine surgeon immediately, and because I could no longer drive, sit or stand still at all, Orthopedic Doc decided that I should not return to work until I regained strength (my butt muscles couldn’t really flex, imagine how they looked in pants), and the inflammation around my spinal column needed to be repaired. Then he said it; “You need to go on disability. Three months to start.” I mean, I could barely move, but I hadn’t even thought about disability, and I didn’t want to accept it. Me, the happy workaholic, me, the one who had either worked or been in school, or both for at least 60+ hours a week since I was basically 14, me/I was not disabled and could keep going. I could totally keep working 14 hour days at a desk without getting up. Right? No way, lady. The little pain I had for years had blown up into an “I refuse to be ignored” situation, and I was in for a really rocky rest of the year. I told job. Boss understood, though I’m sure it sounded like I was crazy. That’s the thing when you have pain, and not something really obviously wrong with you; you automatically fear everyone thinks you’re nuts and that you’re making it up. Surprisingly, the typically paranoid me stopped worrying about this pretty quickly because it Hurt. So. Damn. Much.

Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots...

Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots...

The surgeon scheduled an epidural nerve block on my spine (for you anatomy nerds at L4/L5) at their surgery center for the next day. My case was unusual, and Spine Doc wanted to avoid more invasive surgery if possible because of my (#yolo31) age. The plan was to keep doing epidurals and getting me into wicked hard-core physical therapy so that I could build strength and try to support the vertebrae on my own. Epidurals are really fun; they give you valium, and you’re not allowed to eat before hand because when they are injecting sh*t into your spine you’re naturally inclined to puke, but a day or so later, you feel like the Incredible Hulk. When the magic fades and the medicine wears off, the pain pills du jour don’t cut it; you tend to self-medicate. I’ll share my favorite, “this makes my back feel good” cocktail. And then I’ll catch you next post for Part 2 of this lovely little talk about how it had to get very very dark before the dawn…

Vodka Lemon “Holy Sh*t This Hurts, but I’m Staying Classy if it Kills Me” Fizz

VodkaLemonFizz

Ingredients:

  • Ice
  • 1-2(to taste) Shots Vodka (I love Tito’s)
  • Juice of One Half of a Lemon (or lime)
  • Soda Water (I use the Sodastream machine with filtered tap water)

Put ice in glass/mug/cup, pour in lemon juice, then vodka, then soda and stir. Add rosemary spring if you’re feeling really fancy/glimmer of hope.

Now the funny thing is vodka has been shown to not cause an increase in pain caused certain chronic inflammatory conditions unlike other forms of alcohol; I actually had read this in one of my “health” books so I decided it was super true. It’s usually gluten free, and there’s no added sugar in the above drink. I’m not advocating self-medicating with alcohol, certainly not drinking everyday, or exceeding recommended standard alcohol intake on a daily basis. Currently I actually do a lot of work on alcohol consumption with my clients, because it is a serious challenge to navigate Hollywood without copious amounts of booze. But, I’m being honest with you in this moment from my past, I am a pathological truth teller; those were some dark days in pain, stuck in my house, unable to be social or work, facing my to-be-determined future. This was my elixir.

Dear Reader, it gets so much better. Check back for Part 2 later this week, which includes a savory nourishing recipe that helped me truly heal, and helped my butt look better in pants. And it you haven’t yet, “follow” me on the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more recipes, health and nutrition tips, and encouragement.

https://www.facebook.com/alysonrouxhealth

http://instagram.com/alyroux

https://twitter.com/alyroux