The Way I’m Eating Fruit

For the last several weeks, I’ve been trimming down a bit in preparation for a martial arts tournament and promotion exam. One of the things I have started doing is making a tweak to the way I eat fruit for breakfast. I have typically had a small serving of fruit with some mint leaves for breakfast with my oatmeal omelet (as described in my book), but to that I’ve recently been adding/replacing some of it with slices of cucumbers, a drizzle of peanut butter and a sprinkle of chili flakes:

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A lot of people forget that cucumbers and tomatoes are actually fruit too but they tend to be treated as vegetables because they’re not as sweet as what is traditionally considered fruit. And the concept of putting on peanut butter is not that new or revolutionary considering the fact that it’s been eaten with slices of apples or celery as a classic snack here in the states. And the concept of sprinkling on chili flakes is not that weird too since fruits like mango are often dried and spiced up as well.

The combination of all of it is beneficial though:

  • The addition of chili flakes have the benefit of keeping insulin levels low following the meal (aka you’ll feel less hungry).
  • As mentioned, cucumbers have less sugar than the other fruit I’ve been having them with (ie. the photographed examples above from left to right are: mangoes, strawberries, and apples). So instead of completely eliminating these other fruits (which also have their own health benefits) I’m simply replacing some of it with cucumber slices.
  • Peanut butter adds some healthy fat and protein which will also help you feel fuller.
  • There is also a health benefit to my choice of consuming fruit with mint leaves in that mint leaves promotes digestion and also stimulates a digestive enzyme that helps absorb nutrients from food and converts fat into usable energy (as opposed to having it be stored in your body)

While I love having mint leaves with my fruit (to the point where I often think it ends up being more of a mint leaf salad with fruit in it), I’m also going to be looking into getting some basil leaves in the near future too since they have been coming back to the farmers market with the return of the warmer season.

As a form of size/quantity reference, one of the red mini ramekins I used in the photographs above contain approximately 1.5 large strawberries (or 2 small strawberries) chopped + 4 or 5 slices of cucumbers. So it’s really not a lot. And I do more or less the same amount of fruit + mint leaves combination for having with my non-fat Greek yogurt  (with a sprinkle of cinnamon, chia seeds, and nuts) at night as my last meal of the day.

So here’s to a colorful diet and everything in moderation,

-M

My Birthday Suit 2016

I did come through with accomplishing my goal of publishing a book by my 30th birthday (refer to my previous blog post). But I did want to keep the tradition going of getting myself a small fun birthday gift in the form of a “birthday suit.”

For those that are not familiar with the birthday suit tradition I have, I actually thought that a birthday suit was an actual outfit until my 24th birthday. So I’ve just kept going with it since.

Though I also decided to purchase a cardigan (in case it looks familiar I do own it in 3 other colors) and a pair of sunglasses into the mix, the main item for me was this tropical dress and these shoes to get me in the vacation mood post-vacation since I don’t plan on taking any big trips for a good while.

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I’ve started making more adult decisions of investing in mutual bonds and stocks recently. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t responsibly do small fun purchases occasionally to mix it up. As I quoted Warren Buffet in my book, the best investment you can make is in yourself – responsible ones or fun ones! <— That last part was added on by me, in case you were wondering.

-M

Sports Bras and Sports Bra-Friendly Exercises

I haven’t blogged about fitness in a while, so here is a combination of two topics I am passionate about combined: Fashion AND fitness.

If you read my previous posting on my not-so-guilt pleasures, you may recall that I bought myself white lacy pair of heels. Well, I returned them … twice…. After trying on two different sizes I decided the were just not meant to be.

I traded in the pretty shoes for a sports bra. It’s not as fun-sounding, but it was a much better choice. Though the last blog entry was about me not feeling guilty, I AM guilty of not having been as good about updating my workout wardrobe, particularly the sports bras. And you realize that after wearing some sports bras for over ten years that the sports bras now are so much better! Behold, the purchase I made:

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Click here to buy the sports bra

Though one of my reasons for working out is to look good as a result of the workouts, it doesn’t mean you can’t look good working out.

I am also aware that while I do not have this problem, a lot of women who are well-endowed up in the chest have trouble finding a supportive sports bra. Worry not! I think this article has a great selection and break-down on sports bras for larger breasted women: http://www.self.com/flash/fitness-blog/2012/02/the-best-sports-bra-for-big-bu/

And these are the sports bras presented in the article (in the order it was presented in the article):

1.) Panache

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Click here to buy Panache Sports Bra

2.) Under Armour

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Click here to buy D-Cup Under Armour Sports Bra

3.) Enell

Enell Sportsbra

Click here to buy Enell Sports Bra

According to the article, Under Armour does things like having different types of bra straps for different cup sizes. For smaller breasts, the criss-cross design works well (like the one I got), whereas larger breasts require more support and are better off with over-the-shoulder straps that are wide.

I can only imagine that running or jumping with large breasts is probably quite unpleasant. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do these things or that you should not exercise.

I tend to recommend this for anyone who has bad knees as well, but jogging in a pool (where water comes up above waist level) is actually much more difficult due to the resistance of the water while reducing the impact you would get if you were to run on ground from all the pounding of the feet. In fact, you can also give your breasts a break from gravity pulling it down if you are doing this in a body of water coming up higher than your chest. Though in the case of underwater jogging, you may end up wearing a bathing suit top en lieu de a sports bra!

An exercise you can do anywhere are traditional push-ups or any other floor mat exercise that you can do face-down. You won’t have to worry about your breasts sagging down or riding up (or moving around much at all for that matter). Here’s a set of advanced push-ups (all of which I’ve tried and liked): http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/advanced-push-up-exercises/

Now, if you want to actually test how well a sports bra withstands bounce, the best exercise I could recommend you could try in the fitting room is the jumping jack. If you don’t have enough room in the actual room to outstretch your arms, go outside the room so you don’t hurt yourself. Why do a full arm extension jumping jack? It’s most likely that if you have enough room to outstretch your arms when doing a jumping jack that you’re allowing your chest muscles to stretch out too. If the sports bra is too old and the bottom band is worn out (or if it’s too big on you to begin with), it will ride up your breasts and your breasts will start to get sandwiched by the band where it’s not supposed to be.

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(photo from http://aksharing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/jumping-jacks-health.jpg)

Happy exercising!

Juicing vs Blending? And Other Nutritional Food Fads

Juice cleanses seem to be all the rage these days. While I’m all for consuming more vegetables, I am against the concept of substituting eating vegetables with juicing unless you somehow have a rare disorder of not being able to consume plant-based fiber. Some may even pose to ask the question juicing or blending, which is better?

The answer in this case is blending because you would not disregard the fiber and other remnants from the fruits and vegetables. But as many of my trainer friends would say, human bodies were designed to masticate food.

So my personal take is that neither one can beat chewing real vegetables. I also emphasize “vegetables” instead of “fruits” because many people don’t realize how much sugar can be in fruit and while a small dosage is great (I consume about 1/4 cup of fruit in the morning), you should aim to get your vitamins and minerals from lower sugar sources. So if you are going to in fact blend (or juice), you should keep that in mind and add more vegetables to the mix, though it will probably not taste as sweet.

For the same reason, I don’t think there really is an added benefit to consuming coconut water over regular water. Like my previous take on orange juice, the nutritional value of the fruit it was originally derived from is lost as it sits on the shelf. At the end, it’s just flavored sugar water.

I understand that people want to be on-the-go these days. So here’s a few portable vegetable snack options that I personally approve of and like to have on hand for those days when you might not have the time to pack a salad or want something to take on a hike (though I’ve also packed salads plenty of times to take with me on hikes):

Whey Bar

(Click on the image above if you want to buy it)

I am in disapproval of most protein bars because they are basically like those sugary cereals that have added vitamins and minerals artificially added on, covered in chocolate. However, this one actually tastes great and has a great protein-carb-fiber ratio in my opinion. And if you’re into the raw food diet or need to be on a gluten-free diet, this is a great option. The only downside to this bar is you want to make sure you check your teeth in the mirror right after you’ve eaten one to make sure you don’t have any remnants of chia seeds (which can easily be removed via a napkin). Very portable! And it has a significant amount of vitamins A, C, and E as well as Calcium.

NOTE: There are other varieties of bars made by the same company and none of the other ones compare nutritionally. So double check what kind you’re getting before you purchase in stores. The nutrition of this bar includes the following for one bar: 220 calories, 9g fat (1.5g saturated), 18g carbs, 2g fiber, 16 g protein

Kale Chips

(Click on the image above if you want to buy it)

I do like Lydia’s Organics, so while there are numerous brands out there for kale chips, I chose to post theirs on this posting. Kale chips can be crumbly, so what I like to do with the remaining kale chip crumbs at the end is to sprinkle it on top of my Greek yogurt (the last item I eat at night everyday) along with other things I might sprinkle on from chia seeds to hemp seeds. It’s a great way to get your vitamin A if you can’t carry around fresh leafy greens.

Nutritional information for the mega green kind consists of (per serving) 150% vitamin A, 40% vitamin C, and 10% of the recommended daily amount.

Green Crackers

If you like Kale chips, chances are you’ll like this one (also by Lydia’s Organics). And you can also do the same thing with the Greek yogurt for any crumbs left behind. The box packaging and the nature of the product texture does make this one less prone to crumbling than the kale chips. It also has a good protein-carb-fiber ratio so it’ll feel more substantial than eating just kale chips. For the serving size of 3 crackers, it’s 150 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated), 9g carbs, 4g fiber, 7g protein and 50% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.

Here’s also a few fad diets that I don’t really think people should follow so strictly:

The Paleo Diet (aka Caveman Diet)

This one is popular amongst cross-fitters and other gym enthusiasts. While the concept of eating things that would have only been found in nature by our paleolithic ancestors is generally good, some of the items on the list of things that you aren’t supposed to eat doesn’t seem 100% correct to me (the list was found on the Paleo Diet website at http://thepaleodiet.com/what-to-eat-on-the-paleo-diet/). Potatoes and legumes are on the list, which would rule out sweet potatoes and lentils (both of which I consider to be health foods).

Raw Food Diet

It is true that often times the nutritional value of foods are lost in the process of over-cooking them (eating raw slices of apple is more nutritional than eating apple pie filling, no doubt). So while it’s also generally a good idea to incorporate more raw fruits and vegetables into your diet, eating all foods raw isn’t always better. For an example, cooking tomatoes replaces the vitamin c (when eaten raw) with an increase in lycopene (when eaten cooked). And when you cook mushrooms, it helps release antioxidants such as ergothioneine while toxins and carcinogens such as agaritine get removed. So again, you shouldn’t strictly have to follow a raw food diet. 

Gluten- Free Diet

This diet is supposed to be for people who are celiac-positive, meaning those who have trouble absorbing nutrition from food when gluten is involved. However, there seems to be many people who go on this diet thinking it will help them stay fit. This is similar to the misconception that being a vegetarian is healthy as you can be on a potato chip and beer diet and qualify as a vegetarian (there are people out there who claim to be vegetarians but won’t eat vegetables). Here’s a video from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show that had me laughing because it really goes to show how ignorant people are:


And there you have it. The bottom line is, you should always make informed decisions and be ready to question fad diets so that you can weigh in on the pros and cons. A diet is not supposed to be a fad anyways – it’s a lifestyle.

My take on Portable Workout Equipment

It may seem odd that I go to the gym daily (except on weekends) but will often be seen using portable workout equipment even at the gym. Of course, that’s because I also use the non-portable equipment there too. But if you’re not one to join a local gym, here are a few items that you can have at home (or with you on the road when you’re traveling) that won’t take up space like those big exercise machines:

TRX bands

There are lots of workouts that you can see on TRX posters or on youtube videos utilizing TRX bands. Because it’s a set of bands that swing, the workouts you do on them can potentially be more difficult than with stationary bars. When you do push-ups with your feet in the handles, you’re basically getting an abdominal workout at the same time. You can also use them like those gymnastic rings. Since the point of using them is to use your body weight in lieu of weights, the portability level is excellent in both the lightness of the equipment and you can fold it like you would fold up a jump rope. It’s a great equipment in lieu of weight-lifting machines. The only thing you would have to worry about would be finding a place to suspend it from (it’s often found suspended from a barbell station frameMe at the gym).

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Click to buy a set here

Kettlebells

If you are a crossfit enthusiast, these are considered essential. However, it isn’t impossible to substitute them with regular dumbbells. If you’re already going to a gym like me where they have them available, go ahead and use them to do your kettlebell swings. But for things like the Turkish get-ups, I actually prefer using regular dumbbells because I don’t have to worry about the kettle part swinging into my forearms. Like dumbbells, they’re also weighted so it’s not the lightest form of equipment and you can’t fold it up or make it more portable.

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Click here to buy the kettlebells

Jump Ropes

It’s no surprise that this is an equipment that seems to have been around now forever, as it is extremely portable (as mentioned in the description I wrote about the trx bands).  And you can get a great cardio workout while staying somewhat stationary. I would of course not recommend jump-roping to anyone who’s already experiencing knee problems or may be prone to it (ie. if you are overweight, it could be a lot of strain/pounding on your joints). There are so many kinds out there, but I would just go ahead and start off with a straightforward, basic kind like this one:

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Click here to buy the jump rope

Medicine Balls

Like kettlebells, this is also considered an essential if you do crossfit. The point of these is to catch one at some point so it’s definitely good to have one around if you’re planning on doing such exercises. And since they are weighted, you will often see people using them for that purpose to do core-twisting exercises when they’re not being thrown. If you’re planning on having them stored at home, it is recommended that you get a medicine ball rack for them (especially if you’re going to get them in different weights/sizes). If you have wrist problems, it might not be the best equipment to have around for catching exercises.

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Click here to buy the medicine ball

 

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Click here to buy the medicine ball rack Tree

NOTE: Remember to consult your physician when in doubt (or just to be safe) before starting a new exercise program.

How to Dress for a hat

As a lover of Modern Vintage fashion, I am known to collect an array of fascinators and hats. It’s pretty much an automatic compliment-winning accessory. And you don’t have to be invited to a royal wedding to sport the look. As it was St. Patrick’s Day this week, here’s an emerald-colored hat that got added to my collection recently:

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Click here to buy the hat

The apparent dilemma for a lot of women seems to be not knowing what to wear with the hat. So here’s a set of recommendations of dresses I own that go well with this hat:

If you want to go for a matching colored dress, this is an a-line dress (which is flattering on most body types):

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Click here to buy the dress

Note that the color of the hat is much more vivid in person so it’s much closer to the color of the dress (don’t let the lighting in the photos fool you).

Now, if you really want to have the hat be a “pop” factor, you can opt for more neutral colors and go for something like this lovely peplum dress that is somewhat figure-conscious but it can mask a little bit of the lower abdomen area with the peplum while still creating a nice waistline with the band above it.

White peplum dress

(I just checked and this dress is no longer available on the website I got it from. So sorry, no link to this one)

Another option you have is to wear a dress of a similar color but in a slightly different tint/shade or in a different color but the same tint/shade. And to match the satin accent by having the dress material match it. This one (which I don’t own) appears to be of a lighter tint,which would allow the hat to also stand out more:

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Click here to buy the dress

No matter the dress, a great way to continue to accent the hat is to wear matching shoes. These are a pair I recently got that also matched the hat (the aqua one):

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Click here to buy the shoes

(Note: Again, the color of the shoes were much more “greener” in person so I have confirmed from my own personal experience of buying these shoes that they match the hat).

Of course gloves are a great option too (I will cover a blog posting on gloves separately). In this case, I would go for a pair of wrist length gloves that match the dress. –>ie. If I wear a white dress I would opt for a pair of white gloves)

In this situation, you’re trying to dress around the hat so the hat should be the focal point. Everything else should compliment it. So don’t wear statement pieces of jewelry. Whether in the form of a necklace or earrings, white pearls are classic go-to accessory pieces for me.

Update April 22, 2014: I purchased this lovely satin dress

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Click here to buy the dress

And this is what I look like with the full outfit:

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Common Workout Questions

Note: Everyone’s physical state is different so remember to trust your judgement (or your doctor’s advice) when it comes to exercising because only you know how you feel!

Q: Should I stretch before or after a workout? 

A: You don’t want to stretch cold muscles. For that reason, I usually stretch after a workout. However, if it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, it’s probably wiser to fit in some stretching in the beginning. So do a light warm up before you stretch. And if you want to be even more thorough, you can do the following: 1.) Warm up –> 2.) Stretch –> 3.) Work out –> 4.) Stretch again

Q: Cardio or weight lifting? 

A: BOTH. I’ve seen many bad examples of people who only do one or the other, especially when done to such an extreme level. Athletes like Tiger Woods have thankfully set good examples of how important conditioning in the gym is in addition to practicing their sport out on the field. Golf included, a lot of athletes suffer sports injuries from over-usage/repetition. As a general rule of thumb, one should consider working out opposing muscles (ie. if you work out your abdominal muscles, don’t forget to work out your back muscles). I practice running backwards and sideways in addition to the traditional forward direction. I also practice both martial arts and dance – In dance, I am often told to point my feet and rotate them outwards, whereas in martial arts I am told to point my feet slightly inwards with the knees slightly bent. Bottom line? Mix it up!

Q: Work out in the morning or in the afternoon? 

A: This is one is entirely up to you. I personally like to fit in a good workout at the gym before the rest of my day begins (so that I’m not in there at the end of the day when I’m feeling tired out). Martial arts or dance practice is usually in the evenings and afternoons so on many occasions, I end up working out both morning and afternoon or at night. And I certainly move a lot in between too. To sum, in order to be “fit” you need to “fit” it in there at some point in time.