Betcha’ thought I forgot about you… oh and here’s a nice pasta salad

pasta salad

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I posted. Betcha thought I forgot about you. Or about health. Or being healthy. Not at all, my friends. I’ve been working on walking the walk, as they say, and forgot about talking the talk. The holidays, winter and spring have been a lot of fun, honestly. So fun that I did occasionally lame out on my health. I went a little nutso with coconut ice cream, for instance, and hard cider with a Fireball chaser. I was a little lax about exercising. And I paid the price with a little winter weight gain and a few sugar-induced migraines. But I also skied and did some rock climbing, and dusted off my elliptical machine. So we’ll call it a wash.

But now it’s spring – the time of renewal. Of starting over. Of green shoots bursting from the ground. And of a million vows to start exercising and eating right again. I don’t know why New Year’s Eve is considered resolution time – everyone I know re-starts in the spring.

This lovely pasta salad is a nice spring renewal offering. I was inspired by a recipe in a health magazine. Mine includes organic brown rice and quinoa pasta (gluten-free), grilled salmon, olives, a LOT of spinach, red onions, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon, toasted sesame oil, tahini (sesame butter) and tamari (wheat-free soy sauce). Oh and garlic and sesame seeds. Mmm. It was so good it was hard to stop eating it. Give it a try!

Sondra’s Salmon Pasta Salad

What’s in it — add or subtract whatever sounds good to you, it’s your salad 🙂

  • 2 cups uncooked GF pasta
  • 2 cups grilled salmon, cut up
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. tahini (sesame butter)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or crushed
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

How to prepare it

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions – leave al dente (a little firm, not limpy)
  2. Drain pasta, transfer to large serving bowl
  3. Add spinach, stir and allow to wilt a little
  4. Stir in salmon, onions, red onion
  5. Mix dressing – combine olive oil, tamari, tahini, toasted sesame oil, lemon and garlic, stirring well
  6. Combine dressing into pasta salad, then top with sesame seeds
  7. Stir, serve, and enjoy!
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Sneaky Superstition

an apple a day...

Happy Friday the 13th! If you’re anything like me you’ve been on the lookout for bad luck all day, but aren’t really expecting to find it. That about sums up the Western world’s relationship with superstition. We’re not ready to chuck it so we keep it around but feel kind of silly about it.

Where did superstitions come from? Way, way back, even before “back in the day”, people didn’t have much in the way of science to explain why things happen. Good things, bad things, storms, rain, crop failures, it was all a crapshoot.

According to Wikipedia, it became popular to poo-poo superstitious beliefs in the 18th Century during the Age of Enlightenment. What an egotistically named Age. As if everything learned before then was unenlightened!

The same thing seems to have happened with folk wisdom, or “old wives’ tales”, over the last fifty years. Priceless chestnuts like “early to bed, early to rise, keeps a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” were chucked in favor of pharmaceuticals, Pop-Tarts, and TV dinners. Popular culture has relegated this practical advice to the same plane as superstition. Stuff we’ve all heard of but we don’t really believe in.

As a budding health coach I’m starting to realize how wise those old wives were. I feel like I should stitch samplers for my clients with age-old advice. Or at least pick some up on ebay.

What are your favorite old-timey – but still relevant – sayings? Is there something your mother or grandmother always used to say that still haunts you with its wisdom? Send tem my way! I’ll collect them and publish them in a follow-up piece.

JT brought sexy back. Let’s bring back wisdom!

Xoxo,
Sondra

Foot Massage Unicorn

Adobrable unicorn

Something not everyone knows about me is that I am a big fan of Chinese reflexology foot massages. “Foot massage” is a bit of a euphemism since they poke, rub and prod most of your body—but oh my it feels good! When I leave there my jaw is unclenched, my sinuses are clear, and my neck and wrists have full range of motion.

I’ve been going to the same little reflexology joint for about five years – ever since my friends Amy and Jason took me there after sushi one night. Amy warned me that it would be a bit odd, “but just go with it.” They park you in a giant recliner, bring a bucket of hot water for your feet, and start by massaging all sorts of non-feet parts. Head, face, neck, arms, hands, shoulders. Unlike traditional massage there is a focus on pressure points. There’s a spot on the top of my head that always hurts when they push it, and I always leave feeling better. I am sure those two things are related but I haven’t figured out exactly how.

Anyway, I went today for the first time in about four months. My neck and right arm have been sore, and my lower back, and this seemed like just the ticket. They did all the usual stuff – prodding the sore spot on my scalp, working out the knot in my right forearm, spending a wonderful half hour on my feet. Then, as usual, I turned over and they worked on my shoulders and back.

And then the magic happened. At first it was weird and a bit pervy. The guy lifted up my shirt a little in the back, and pulled down my yoga pants–just a bit, but still. But I’d long since internalized Amy’s advice and learned to just to go with it. The next thing I felt was warm lotion being rubbed on my sore lower back. Wow. That was nice. I made such a loud, appreciative groan that the guy asked if I was ok.

And then the hot towel. It was like a massage miracle. Like seeing a unicorn.

In all of my years of getting reflexology foot massages at this same joint I’ve never had the lower back/hot lotion/hot towel experience, and it’s possible I never will again. They are always changing the service. But somehow today, just when I needed it most, there is was for me. Like a beautiful forest creature.

Thank you universe for sending me a foot massage unicorn. May it live long and bring joy to countless others.

xoxo,
Sondra

Get your free Gluten-free Holiday Recipe Guide!

It seems like the holidays start earlier every year. As a nation we’ve just recovered from our collective Halloween candy coma and are already preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you’re one of the many people going gluten-free for the first time this year, don’t stress out about the holidays. My school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, is offering a free gluten-free holiday recipe guide that’s a great place to start.

 

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside Integrative Nutrition’s Gluten-Free Holiday recipe guide:

  • 24 delicious recipes for any time of day and every craving.
  • Seasonal ingredients to make the most of the fall harvest.
  • Healthy alternatives to conventional dishes that your family and friends will love.

Download your free gluten-free holiday recipe guide today.

If gluten-free cooking is new to you, you may want to practice before the big event. You know where to find me if you need a taste-tester!

And here are some of my other favorite gluten-free recipe resources — Gluten-Free Girl, Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book , This Rawsome Vegan Life (it has some great desert recipes) and Babycakes Recipes.

Happy eating.

xoxo,
Sondra

Listen With Your Eyes

eyes

Oh kindergarten, is there anything you didn’t try to teach us? Whether it was the value of true friends, the joy of going crazy at recess, or that reading is fundamental, you were always there to guide us.

I especially liked the singing. One of my favorite songs was I Can Sing a Rainbow. You may remember, it starts like this: “Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue. I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too.” Cute, right? But here comes the trippy part. “Listen with your eyes, listen with your eyes, and sing everything you see…”

Listen with your eyes?! What silly nonsense, my five year old self thought. It turns out that song was trying to teach me something that took almost forty years to understand.

My skin is my Achilles heel. Ever since puberty I’ve been plagued with cystic acne that colonizes my chin, forehead and sometimes even cheeks. As a teen and young adult it was humiliating, but I always assumed I’d grow out of it. I’d imagine my sleek, grown-up, future self in a killer suit (hey it was the 80’s) with a flawless complexion.

But here I am, living healthy and a budding health coach to boot, with what looks like teenage acne all over my chin. How can I expect people to listen to me about health when it looks like I’ve been indulging in all-night pizza binges?

The beauty industry has trained us to think that, no matter what abuse we put our bodies through, a pill or a cream or a machine will wash away our sins and give us flawless skin. Growing up I was given antibiotics and Retinol for my acne, and when that failed, the evil Accutane. A drug so poisonous they won’t give it to pregnant women.

As I grew older and the acne persisted I found some relief in ProActive—hey just because something is sold in infomercials doesn’t mean it don’t work. Oh but the chemicals! They bleached my pillowcases and towels. I can only imagine what they were doing to my insides. What finally did the trick were expensive spa treatments – microdermabrasion and lasers. Yes, lasers. Technicians literally blasted the cysts off my face.

Since I left my corporate job I’ve had to reprioritize my expenses, and I just can’t justify those high-tech facials right now. And I am trying to use fewer toxic chemicals, which leaves out ProActive. I’ve tried a few different skin care lines in the last year, which confuses your skin more than you’d think. And I went off, and then back on, my birth control pill (sorry, Mom, that’s probably TMI), which messed around with my hormones.

So here I am, left to contemplate my sins in the mirror. Because my skin is trying to tell me something. Despite the way it feels, it’s not sprouting acne out of spite. It’s a cry for help. It’s not my skin’s fault. My body has taken my skin hostage.

All skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and even premature wrinkles and gray hair, are our bodies way of raising a red flag. As our largest organ, the skin is used for a lot more than protecting us from the elements and keeping our insides in. It’s also a big way our bodies detoxify. We’re all familiar with sweat, except maybe ballerinas. They “glow”. That’s a normal and healthy detox, and it’s one of the reasons exercise is so important to general good health. It’s not just about weight loss. Other organs play a role in detoxification too—kidneys, liver, gallbladder. But when your internal organs are overloaded or blocked, which can happen when too much fat (cholesterol) junks up their valves, your skin gets called up from the bench. “Time to pull your weight!” says the coach.

So what’s causing my acne, and what can I do about it? As so often in life, it’s mainly three things:

1) Hormones. Mine are still out of whack from the pill switcheroo, so to address that I’ve started taking Maca, a root that grows in the Andes mountains in Peru. European explorers found the people in the high mountains to be unusually happy and mellow, and traced it to the Maca root. (Well, no taxes, no internet and no corporate jobs probably helped too.) The locals made their bread from flour made from the Maca root, one of the few things that grow at that altitude. Most known in the U.S. as an aphrodisiac (ahem), it’s also very effective in smoothing out hormone imbalances in women.

2) Skin care. I was using some pretty harsh “natural” anti-aging treatments from Perricone M.D. that left my skin extra sensitive. I like a lot of their products, but the Blue C Plasma and the Acyl-Glutathione stuff was just too harsh. I developed a rash on my eyelids and I’m pretty sure they added wrinkles. Product fail. I am now using a mix of Juice Beauty, doTERRA and Perricone M.D. products that seem to be working. And I’ll stick with them for a few months to allow my skin to adjust. See below for my current beauty regimen.

3) Food choices. As healthy as I am, I am human and occasionally slip. While gluten is non-negotiable for me, I was letting a little dairy sneak in. And sugar. And chocolate. All of these cause inflammation in the body and are a feeding ground for breakouts. After a recent breakup I might have spent a weekend watching Netflix and eating gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies out of the pan… Now that the evidence is on my face you can bet I am back on track with my eating.

As I mentioned, acne isn’t the only red flag your skin can raise. Any rash, unusual dryness or bumps can be a sign of a myriad of internal imbalances—nutrient deficiencies, stress, toxin overload, the list goes on. Don’t ignore it, and don’t try to self-diagnose. Seek out a doctor who subscribes to Functional Medicine – the practice of finding the root cause of ailments, not just treating symptoms. You can search for doctors here.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I am using on my face these days:

Listen to your skin and be kind to yourself!

xoxo,
Sondra

Change is the hardest word

Habit. What a dirty little word. We use it to explain away our worst tendencies, as if calling them habits whitewashes us from responsibility. No one wants to be called a drunk, an over-eater or a lazy bones, but we’re willing to cop to “being in the habit” of having a few too many drinks, enjoying a few too many desserts, or forgetting to go to the gym.

The Power of Habit book-cover

This week I read The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in life and business by Charles Duhigg. He argues, with support from Aristotle and William James, that changing the habit changes the man. Person. You know what I mean.

We’ve all made New Year’s resolutions with the intention of changing our lives. We start out strong on January first (okay, maybe January second), feeling self-righteous. But by Valentine’s Day most of us have petered out. No matter how much we want to lose the weight, quit smoking, or drink less, we lose momentum and the intention just drifts away. Soon we are back to our old habits.

Habit. There’s that dirty word again. Duhigg argues that our habits can be changed if we understand the underlying psychology behind them. For instance, let’s say I am trying to lose weight. And let’s say that every day around 3:00 pm a colleague comes around to see if I want a chocolate break. So I indulge in a treat despite my desire to lose weight. I know I should stop, but I like this person and I really like the break. It makes the rest of the afternoon pass by so much quicker. What can I do? I’m in the habit…

Duhigg would have me dig into the craving behind this habit. He argues that you can change the habit if you understand the cycle around it.

  • Cue: Tired and/or bored
  • Habit: Chocolate break with colleague
  • Payoff: Renewed focus for the afternoon

What I am really craving is a short distraction from work. That’s the heart of the habit. The chocolate is just part of the cycle. If I can substitute some other distraction I could lose weight while still fulfilling my need for a break. I could suggest that we change our break—talk a walk or eat an apple. I could find a healthier break buddy. I could go for a run. You get the idea. The pivotal concept is to identify the real craving and address it.

As interesting and fun to experiment with as this is going to be in my personal life, it’ll be key to my success as a health coach.

Joshua Rosenthal, founder of my nutrition school and the author of the book Integrative Nutrition, also has a thing or two to say about cravings. He teaches that a craving isn’t about a specific action or food, it’s just how the mind is interpreting a specific body need. Using our example above, as a nutritionist, Rosenthal would say that a craving for chocolate is really a craving for energy, which could be satisfied by an apple. From a nutrition standpoint I totally agree. But from a psychological standpoint, Duhigg would argue that the chocolate is not the core craving, and that an apple might not address it.

In fact in a debate I think the two would agree. Rosenthal refers to the food we eat as “secondary food” and believes that everything else in our life—friends, satisfying work, love, etc.—is our “primary food.” If you want to change your health, Rosenthal believes, you need to address both primary and secondary food. Which is more or less what Duhigg is saying, using psychology-speak.

Needless to say, the sociologist in me is licking my chops to start trying this out on people.

Evil laugh. Evil laugh. Evil laugh

This next year is going to be fun!

Curious about raw foods but don’t know where to start?

Wondering what all the fuss about raw foods is about?

My school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, has created a handy-dandy free raw foods guide. It explains what people mean by raw foods and super foods, discusses the common ways to store them, and even has a few (okay, three) recipes.

Click the colorful banner and download your free PDF guide today!



Introducing Curvy Chick Health!

Hello my lovelies,

I am so excited to begin my studies as a health coach – I can barely wait the two weeks for school to begin. I’ve needed an outlet for all this nervous energy, and so I’ve been doing what I do – figuring out the marketing and branding for my eventual wellness business.

In the name of research I’ve been visiting wellness centers and reading every “go get ‘em girl, get healthy” book out there. And what struck me is that most of the healthy role models look like, well, models. Which made me feel a little bad about myself. No matter how healthy I get I will never be a size 0, and all the wedge booties in the world won’t make me 5’10”.

But then I thought about it and realized that the majority of women in America, and likely the world, probably feel the exact the same way. And I’ve been looking for something to set me apart from all the other healthy living gurus. For my brand differentiator.

And so, drumroll please… introducing Curvy Chick Health™!

(Hey, that’s me!)

As the Curvy Chick health coach™ I’ll help clients focus on doing well to feel good, rather than striving for a specific weight, size or body style. To be the very best version of their badass beautiful selves, whatever that looks like.

Curvy Chick Wellness, LLC, my company, will offer health-related products–starting with doTERRA essential oils–and, eventually, reasonably-priced health centers giving the average person access to the kinds of holistic natural health benefits that only movie stars, millionaires and high-tech employees can afford today.

There are a few other Curvy Girls and Curvy Chicks with various kinds of coaching services today, but I think my offering is different enough and the market is big enough to support one more.

I could use some help designing my logo and corporate brand elements–if anyone wants to spend some time on a fun project, I can barter for free health coaching services!

In the coming months I will be rebranding this blog so I can start developing a Curvy Chick Health social media footprint. Don’t worry – this blog will still be chock full of healthy, yummy looking recipes and amusing anecdotes from my journey. In fact, even more so since, you know, this is kind of my job now.

My blog will still be right here at this URL, plus I’ll start using www.curvychickhealth.com. I’ve also reserved http://www.curvychickwellness.com but I plan to use that for my company website, when I have one. You can still reach me at whatever email address you use today, or the fancy-pants new curvychickhealth@outlook.com.

Hop on board the Curvy Chick train with me—it’s going to be an exciting ride!

Xoxo,
Your future Curvy Chick health coach

Back in the game

Fairy

Three quarters into my gap year something magical happened–a vision for my future materialized out of thin air. I guess I owe a big thank you to everyone who said that if I made room in my life for something better, it would appear.

I’ve been looking for an outlet to use my marketing and business experience in the health and wellness industry, ideally combined with food. Because everything’s better with food, right?

A chance conversation with my naturopath introduced me to the concept of health coaches, professionals who help clients make lifestyle changes to help them enjoy healthier, better, longer lives.

At first I was a little skeptical. I mean, if someone wants to make changes they could go online and figure it out themselves, right? That’s what I did. Except it took me three years and I’m still learning, and I’ve endured a painful amount of trial and error. And I doubted I could make real money any time soon. But the more I looked into it the more I felt a passion for it. Others could benefit from my years of trial and error, and I could help them avoid the same pitfalls, mistakes and enormous investment of time.

IIN logo

So after a thorough researching of health coaching programs I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s  online school. Why the Institute for Integrative Nutrition? I like their emphasis on whole foods and a holistic approach that recognizes that food is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. I’ll be trained to help clients optimize their life, not just their menus. I’m sure it will help me too! It’s a part-time, 11 month program.  In the spring I will start seeing clients on a trainee basis and in less than a year I will be a certified health coach.

Which is exciting enough, but wait, there’s more!

Once I opened the door to health coaching, a boatload of ideas came rushing in. I had no idea I was so entrepreneurial. My mind immediately went to how to turn this into a real business. I have a multi-pronged plan, never fear, dear friends. Eventually I’d like to open a wellness center with health coaches, yoga, acupuncture, etc. And launch a lifestyle product line and book(s). Basically become a force to be reckoned with and take over the world.

(Evil laugh, evil laugh, evil laugh)

But you’ll see more on that later, as my plans for worldwide wellness industry domination start to come together.

In the meantime, a girls’ gotta eat, and organic veggies don’t come cheap… so while I am earning my degree I will be lining up incremental revenue opportunities. My first product line is doTERRA essential oils. If you’re not familiar with essential oils, they’re a lot more than aromatherapy. They pack a wallop of benefits into a few drops. I am now a sales consultant—drop me a line if you’d like to learn more.

doTerra_oil_blends

In the fall I will start looking for part-time marketing gigs in the health and wellness industry. If you know anyone who has a fitness, supplement, organic foods, etc., company and needs some marketing help, please think of me!! I need to learn the industry and earn a little green, and could probably be a big help to them.

Thanks for following my journey!

xoxo,
Sondra

Girl v Food

While Man v Food is a fun romp with a guy over-eating his way across America, my food battles often end with a run to the bathroom. Food 1: Sondra 0. I can just imagine my TV show, wherein a winsome girl visits healthy restaurants and cooks at home, staying within the constraints of her food allergies, only to continue suffering stomach cramps, indigestion, and nausea. I don’t think the Travel Channel or the Food Network would get many sponsors for that one. Well, maybe the drug companies. They could cover the spectrum from digestive health, depression, anxiety, and hormonal imbalences.

This week I was visited by the food poisoning fairy. Yeah, I said it – food poisoning fairy. How else do you think people keep getting this? You all know I eat well, I know how to cook and wash my food, I don’t eat at Jack in the Box – how else could I have gotten it? It’s like I’ve gotten so healthy over the last few years, food up and went “well, we can’t let her win – I know, we’ll poison her.”

My friends have been very supportive with Facebook posts suggesting I “poison food back” and “shoot it with a shotgun”. Thank you, yes, I’ll get right on that.

And if you’re a TV scout or agent looking for the next Food Network breakout show, email me through WordPress. I’ll get right back to you.