When Did Bananas Become a…Controversy?

There I was minding my own barbell when right next to me the other gentleman in my class was sitting down to catch his breath. He was struggling, but putting in some amazing work and effort. The trainer for the class was checking in with him about his nutrition. One of the first things he asked this gentleman (he was clearly struggling with a lot of extra weight) if he was still eating bananas for breakfast. When he admitted that, yes he was, the trainer shook his head and started going into detail about all the bad qualities of a banana and why this was a bad choice.

 

I looked around. Was I the only one hearing this? Are bananas really the biggest battle this gentleman is facing?

Let me be clear: bananas are not his enemy. And they aren’t yours either.

Bananas are starchy and contain natural sugars. They are also delicious, satiating, widely available and highly convenient. They offer quick energy. They are not made in factories.

Fun fact:   apples have nearly as much sugar as bananas – the make-up of types of sugar is slightly different, but have you ever heard someone discourage someone from eating an apple? I think not, since an apple a day keeps the doctor away…right?

Perhaps if you’re lucky, you haven’t been privy to the villianizing of bananas. But the example with the gentleman above is not the only time I’ve experienced this phenomenon. Bananas are not Paleo, they’re not Whole30 approved and they show up on “Do Not Ever Eat” lists of many other eating plans.

Why is this? In my opinion it’s nitpicking. It’s someone deciding that micro milligrams worth of natural sugar are your enemy.

Unless you are diabetic, are allergic to them, or have another health condition, trust me when I say that bananas are not your enemy.

Let me give you a few reasons why:

  1. Food is never neither evil or perfect. That is because your choices shouldn’t be placed in a moral discussion. Food simply…is. When we put labels on whether our food is good or bad, we are essentially placing that label on ourselves and then we end either feeling that we are “good” or “bad” for eating a particular thing. I.e. “I was so BAD this weekend!” Why? “I ate pizzaaaa!!” Zomg! You are not bad because you ate a food. You are bad if you cut someone off on the freeway 😉
  2. Bananas have in the realm of 90 to 130 calories. In the scope of your nutritional day, this is small. If you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, this is 10% of your eating day. It is literally small potatoes. Fretting over this small thing is quite literally not seeing the forest for the trees.
  3. When it comes to losing fat, the bigger picture always wins. There is room for all kinds of things in your diet when you are creating a caloric deficit. Even bananas!
  4. Sugar from fruit is not your enemy. There, I said it. Unless you are mowing down 10 bananas a day, you are not going to exceed your daily recommended amount of sugar, trust me.
  5. Unless you’re a super athlete or have another need to pay attention to the micro-breakdown of the different kinds of sugars in a banana, it doesn’t matter for you. And to be frank, I am not even sure an athlete would care that much. When you’re working at elite levels, the amount of food one needs to sustain themselves can be mind-boggling.

I am not saying that everyone needs to eat bananas, by any means. In fact, I can think of a few reasons to not eat bananas (ecological footprint, etc.). But, they are okay to eat if you like them. There is no reason, ever, to ban a food that is so simple.

Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” is a slippery slope to moralizing food, which in turn becomes a judgment on yourself and others. And when we place these limits on food, it becomes a source of guilt or shame when we do eat them. It can also open to gate to binging because we “failed” at not eating all the “good” foods that we were supposed to.

Does that last paragraph make sense? If not, please go back and read it again.

It’s my opinion, that you should always eat what you like. Just like this famous guy said: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” –Michael Pollan

Healthy Holiday Brunch Menu

On Sunday I hosted a brunch for my lovely BootCampers. It was really great to get see so many of them in clothes other than yoga pants!

brunch spread 2

Much to my relief, they all seemed to enjoy my spread quite a lot and asked for the recipes, so I thought I’d share my round-up for a healthy-ish brunch!

SLOW-COOKER STEEL CUT OATS

I looked up several recipes and just ad-libbed my own version. I made triple this amount, but this is the ratio that I used. Recipe below would be about 3 to 4 servings.

  • cooking spray, butter or coconut oil (for coating the slow cooker)
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2% regular, but you can use any that you like, Almond, coconut, etc.)
  • 1 chopped apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • EDITED TO ADD: Oops, I forgot to include the timing directions, yikes! Your slow-cooker should be set to LOW and this should take about 7 to 8 hours to cook, so overnight is great and it’s nice to wake up to the smell and a warm breakfast. If you haven’t used your slow-cooker a lot and are nervous about it, it is often recommended when you make this recipe the first time to do so during the day when you can check on it. I did overnight for my first run, though, and it was just fine.

You’ll notice that I added no sugar or sweetener to this! And I really don’t think it needed any added, to be honest. I think this is partly because I used such a high ratio of milk to water and the natural sweetness from the milk helped. A lot of recipes did a more 50:50 ratio, but I wanted the oats to be creamy and it worked! I had never made these before and will definitely be making it again. SO GOOD.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH, KALE & SAUSAGE FRITTATA

I used this recipe from the Williams Sonoma website. I rarely follow recipes verbatim, but I did in this instance and it turned out great. I think this is the one thing that everyone unilaterally enjoyed. I only regret not making two fritattas!

BERRY SALAD

Super simple!

  • 6 cups of fresh berries
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey, heated up so it’s fairly liquified
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped, fresh mint

Toss this in a bowl and you are set. I had leftovers and felt this was especially tasty the next day on yogurt, because the berries had naturally macerated quite a bit, which would make it a great thing to do for weekly food prep methinks.

Also of note:  no, I don’t think berries need sweetness added from the honey, but it adds a nice festive touch and also (in my logic) helped make it a cohesive salad.

HEALTHIER BANANA BREAD WITH COCONUT

I used this recipe verbatim. The blogger claims it only has 115 calories per slice, so that definitely is pretty low compared to most banana breads. It also is pretty light and fluffy in its texture, which is due, I am sure, to the egg whites. I didn’t end up needing the 2 tablespoons of milk, either.

Of course, we also had plenty of mimosas, too, because I am fairly certain that is like, a requirement for Sunday brunch.

photo 1

All in all, this kind of spread is a good nod to my general eatin’ philosophy:  healthy without being crazy restrictive, lots and lots of flavor, whole foods (2% milk! whole milk ricotta!) and home-cooked. Nom nom, y’all!

Is Your House on Fire?

A few weeks ago I was at my dog park and it was later at night, around 9pm. I’d had a long day and felt my pup deserved an off-leash romp, even if that meant going in the dark. I didn’t expect anyone to be there, but an older woman was there with her two rascals. We started talking and before long I learned that as a young adult she had been a nun. It made sense, actually, she definitely had the demeanor of someone that had listened a lot in her life. The kind of listening were the words don’t matter so much as the space between the words.

Before you know it, she was telling me a story of someone she knew that was getting a divorce. She said that it seemed clear that the marriage had been over many years before, but that her “house wasn’t on fire yet” but that recently it had gone down quickly, all the way to the ground.

This concept of a house needing to be on fire before someone is motivated to truly change really struck me.

In terms of health and wellness many people don’t change until their house is on fire. They wait until their cholesterol is so high that it requires medication. They wait until they can’t climb a flight of stairs without losing their breath. They wait until the 5 pounds of holiday season weight has become 20 the next July.

And this makes sense. Life is busy, complicated and sometimes just getting by feels like you are winning at life. Treading water is better than drowning. I heard that and I feel that, too.

But we all know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Is there an area of your life that feels like that? Are you barely keeping your head above? Let’s focus on that and let’s try to change before your ship is totally sunk. Let’s stop before your fire begins — it’s so much easier to re-decorate a house than it is to re-build it, right?

If your area is fitness and healthy eating and you are just keeping your head above water right now, let’s do these three things this week to ensure we catch you before your house is engulfed in flames:

1. Focus on ADDING in one healthy eating behavior. That could be eating one huge salad a day with a lean protein. That’s it. Don’t change anything else in your diet, just ADD this salad.

2. Add in a high-intensity-interval training session to your workout week. Don’t change anything else you’re doing workout-wise. Just ADD this in. This can be some sprint repeats, hill sprint repeats and anything Tabata-style, like intervals on a spin bike. Shoot for a 20-minute session. Yes, that’s it!

3.  Spend one hour a week doing a relaxing self-care focused thing for yourself. This could be a leisure walk, a yoga class or podcast, or meditation — you can break it up into 10 minutes 6 – 7 days a week, too. 

Commit to this House on Fire Challenge for one week and tell me how it goes! If you need ideas on some high-intensity workouts to try, just ask!

kettlbell

The Importance of Flexibility: Food Choices

There is a popular fitness meme that is often brought up in terms of nutrition:  “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, which I believe is drawn from a popular Benjamin Franklin quote:

I must have first heard this concept back in 2007 or 2008 at the beginning of my BootCamp career and I loved it. It resonated with me and made so much sense:  knowing in advance what you’ll eat is an amazing way to lose weight or to simply eat healthier. It takes the stress off of the everyday because you don’t think, you just pull out the food you prepped on Sunday and eat that. The weeks I planned my meals and prepped food in advance, I ate better, hands down. Keep it simple, right?

Of course maintaining that degree of meticulousness when it comes to food is a challenge for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into now. As such, I can only think of a few distinct periods of time over the last 7 years that I was able to do it religiously. They didn’t last long, but they yielded positive results in terms of weight loss, body fat reduction and general well-being. It works. It just isn’t very sustainable for the long-term.

Continue reading “The Importance of Flexibility: Food Choices”