Handful of Health

Fueling For Weight Loss Is An Oxymoron

Food Is Fuel!

When you talk about health and wellness, it’s easy to say, “food is fuel.” The problem is that a lot of people jump into a fitness program with a goal that makes it hard to really see food as fuel.

Take the calories-in/calories-out approach. Technically, that’s exactly how you lose weight. But psychologically, what ends up happening with that approach is a major increase in calories out (why not make every day a long-run day?) paired with a major decrease in calories in (if 1,200 calories is the bare minimum, then 900 calories must be better, right??), with the expectation that the piddly number of calories you consume will magically “fuel” your calorie exertion. Have you tried that? It’s really depressing, not to mention exhausting.

There’s something to be said about really fueling your exercise, though. Specifically for an activity that you discover you’re passionate about. It’s no longer acceptable to work out in a brain fog from staying up late and then skipping breakfast. You have one hour to train that day, so you better show up ready to work. And you can’t just get by on a piece of toast, either. In fact, what if toast gives you indigestion? If you’re not really into your sport, you might just suffer through your workout with an upset stomach, because, hello, the toast + nondairy spread was like, 100 calories, and 40 minutes on the elliptical is 500 calories! Won’t you feel so vibrant and awesome when, after 87.5 workouts, you will have a 35,000 calorie deficit and will be 10 pounds lighter — even if you did spend the rest of the day after each of those workouts hangry and tired!

You don’t really want to be a zombie runner… do you? Photo by reabhecc

Spoiler alert: If you feel hangry and tired during the majority of your weight loss journey, the destination will likely be more of the same. But what if you could find the key to feeling vibrant and awesome for the whole thing? That’s where real fueling comes in.

Need energy for your morning roll? Have a legit breakfast with some actual energy (e.g. calories) in it. Need to avoid indigestion so you don’t stink up the mats when someone’s in your guard? Troubleshoot what’s up with your stomach — chances are your body’s telling you to feed it fuel it can actually use. Do too many carbs give you brain fog? Try less. Do too few carbs leave you dying in the middle of a 5-minute sparring round? Try more.

I feel like I’m a lot kinder to myself as a jiu jiteira. I want to give my body what it needs to allow me to do this sport that I love. I may not have my fueling down perfectly, but neither have I perfected my gi chokes or armbars. It’s definitely a work in progress, but fueling for jiu jitsu is making this journey fun the whole way through.

What do you like to eat for breakfast before a big workout?

Leave a comment [0 comments]

The Thing About Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

I’ve been wanting to blog about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) for a while. But, even though I’ve been training consistently for over a year, learning a bunch and moving slowly, snail-like, up the ranks…

Even though I’ve upgraded my gear, getting fun new gis and rashguards and SWAG…

Even though I’ve attended a kick-ass women’s grappling camp and competed in (…and won my division in??!) a small local tournament…

…BJJ is so hard to talk about!

Seriously, you should see my notes. They’re terrible. Especially when you’re a white belt, it’s impossible to technically explain how to do an armbar in less than 500 words in a way that’s guaranteed not to confuse the hell out of you when you re-read your notes in 24 hours. And have you ever tried drawing stick figures choking each other out? It’s a lot harder than you’d think.

That doesn’t discount how important this sport has become in my life, though. When things chase me in my nightmares, I no longer lose my vision, then my legs, then my voice. I choke those mofo’s out. In contrast, when I was running consistently, I could still never outrun the nightmare creatures.

But, shoot, guys, I really love BJJ. So I’m going to start talking about it.

I did just get my blue belt today… I suppose it’s time.

Blue Belt

 Is there something you love that you feel like you should talk about more? Tell me about it in the comments!

Leave a comment [0 comments]

Food Planning for San Diego Comic-Con (…and other awesome travels)

Slave Elsa and Penny

I totally went to San Diego Comic-Con last weekend! First convention ever. The photo above is an awesome cosplayer who dressed as Slave Elsa (get it? Slave Leia from Star Wars + Elsa from Frozen?) with me as Penny from Big Bang Theory. It was super fun, and way hectic, and incredibly awesome, and I did more food planning than I ever have for any non-camping trip ever… which totally paid off!

It wasn’t a Whole 30 approved trip or anything, but I didn’t end up with traveler’s tummy once during our entire vacation, and I feel like we saved both time and money by bringing lunch on our excursions. Instead of waiting in line for greasy lunch food (…and let me tell you, lunch lines were long), we could just stake out a nice sunny spot overlooking the bay and nom to our hearts’ content!

San Diego convention center lunch spot

For the plane ride, I used frozen grapes as an ice pack (TSA regulations) and ate them when they thawed. They were a bit soft but still yummy.

Here’s my airport bento, complete with a Cinnamoroll-shaped hardboiled egg, CSA cherry tomatoes, and Amazeballs from Well Fed 2 featuring our Smokey Ridge Charcuterie sausage mix. (Ok, Mel doesn’t call her meatball master recipe “amazeballs,” — but they are amazing, so that’s what I call them.)

Airport lunch

We got a hotel room with a fridge (if they tell you they can’t guarantee a fridge until you check in, tell them you have someone in your party with food intolerances — that seemed to be the trick where we stayed… we even got a microwave).

When we arrived, we hit up a nice grocery store that had packages of peeled, hardboiled eggs; ready-to-eat veggies; roast turkey breast; etc., which kept just fine in the fridge. Pro-tip, the Ralphs in the Gaslamp District of San Diego is super swanky.

Each night I’d pack the next day’s lunch and snacks, including my favorite nut mix and some paleo macaroons and chocolate covered banana bits for treats, and sometimes leftovers from our dinners out. My lunch box is a two-level bento style box that, when empty, can collapse to half its size, which was nice. (But I didn’t really account for washing it back at the hotel, oops?)

Here’s one day’s lunch. Hardboiled egg, roast turkey, sugar snap peas, carrots, jicama sticks, a leftover gluten-free cookie from Tender Greens, Whole Foods brand Cape Cod trail mix (basically almonds, cashews and cranberries), some cashew cream cheese for dipping, some cherries, and a gigantic Hydroflask full of ice-cold water.

Excursion lunch

The cashew cream cheese, and a few other sauces and dips, I actually packed at home. The cashew cream cheese was less than 2oz (for TSA regulations), and for my other sauces, I used these nifty, no-spill Lunch Bots dippers. I just popped them all in my liquids bag when we went through airport security, then put them back in with my cold stuff after we reached our terminal.

We lucked out with our hotel breakfasts too. Instead of just toast, muffins and pancakes, you could get eggs, sausage or bacon, and hash browns or home fries.

How do you guys like to plan food while traveling?

Leave a comment [2 comments]

Easy Peasy Immersion Blender Mayo

You’re standing in the salad dressing aisle of the grocery store with your paleo nutrition guide in hand. You pick up a bottle, look at the ingredients, put it back, ad infinitum. How’s a girl supposed to eat her mayonnaise when every single one in the store has soy, corn or canola oil as the primary ingredient?

I’m a mayonnaise girl — I like to think I get it from my grandma — and I’m going to share a secret with you that will change your life.

You can make the best mayonnaise you’ve ever had at home in under five minutes. And, it’s absolutely fool-proof!

What you’ll need:

  • A wide-mouth, pint-sized jar
  • An immersion blender that fits through the mouth of aforementioned jar
  • 1.25 cups of olive oil. I like to use 1 cup of light flavored olive oil and 1/4 cup of my favorite local olive oil from California Olive Ranch. (Light flavored olive oil doesn’t get bitter when you blend it like normal olive oil does. Avocado oil is also a good choice, but it’s more expensive.)
  • A farm-fresh egg from your local farmer’s market
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, lime juice, or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dry mustard and salt — celtic sea salt if you want to be super fancy

May Ingredients

What you’ll do:

1. Add your olive oil, the dry mustard, and the salt to your pint-sized jar.


2. Add your lemon/lime juice or apple cider vinegar.


3. If your egg is not room temperature, or if you have trouble getting your mayo to set up, “coddle” it by immersing it in boiling water for exactly one minute.

Coddle the egg

4. Let the egg float to the bottom with the lemon juice, while the oil separates to the top.


5. Stick your immersion blender all the way in to the bottom of the jar, and watch the magic!!!

(Click here to view the video if it won’t play in your browser.)

6. Enjoy the most delicious mayo you’ve ever eaten.


Ways I like to use olive oil mayonnaise:

  • Deviled eggs
  • “Tartar sauce:” mayo mixed with dill and garlic, very yummy on salmon
  • Quick, creamy caesar dressing: Mayo with mashed anchovies, garlic, and extra lemon juice
  • Quick, creamy however-you-please dressing: Mayo with some spices and a vinegar. Italian spices and balsamic! Asian spices and rice vinegar! Fresh herbs and apple cider vinegar! The combinations are endless.

Leave a comment [8 comments]

Holy Cow! Whole30 (or, How To Lose 10lbs in 30 Days)

Reading over past blog entries, I hadn’t realized how much I’ve changed since I started this blog two years ago. I went from an aspiring vegetarian and marathon-hopeful with worsening digestive issues, mood and skin problems to an aspiring cavewoman and black-belt hopeful with ever-increasing energy, well-being and self esteem.

I intend on explaining this transition in more detail in subsequent posts, but I’d like to start today off with a huge success!

As of yesterday, I have successfully completed my first Whole30 program, which is basically a 30-day, strict introduction to the wide range of paleo, primal, or ancestral styles of eating. If you’ve never heard those terms before, let me summarize it by saying it feels like the opposite of being a vegetarian. I have to laugh sometimes reading Facebook, since it seems like half my friends are trying to eat fewer animals, where the other half are trying to eat more.

I’ve been flirting with this way of eating for about a year now, but this is the first time I really stuck with a strict program that cut out the last few “gray area” foods I was having trouble doing without. It is the beginning of a journey of health discovery for me as I finally resolve or control some lifelong issues I had considered to be normal (eczema, depression, asthma, indigestion, fatigue, bloating, to name a few).

That said… how about some numbers?! If all y’all are half as geeky as I remember you being, you’ll love this shizz.

Before and After

Height: 5’8″
Weight: 160lbs
Body Fat*:  30.5%
Bust: 35″
Waist: 29″
Hips: 37″
Thigh: 24″
Height: 5’8″ (same, duh)
Weight: 150lbs (-10lbs)
Body Fat*:  30% (-0.5%)
Bust: 35″ (same — hooray!)
Waist: 27.75″ (-2.25″)
Hips: 35″ (-2″)
Thigh: 22.5″ (-1.5″)

*measured via bioimpedance

As a point of reference, here are photos comparing what I looked like in 2011 (at a weight of only 155lbs), looking sad and distended, vs. my fourth week of Whole30, feeling awesome enough to track my progress in a bikini top. ;)

Quite a difference, yeah?

So what exactly does this Whole30 “gig” (as Robb Wolf would say) look like? Did I cheat? Is it hard? Did it suck?

No, I did not have a “perfect” Whole30. Although I have never had a full-on eating disorder, I did spent many years with disordered eating habits, and I know that being too strict could trigger me to swing back 180 degrees out of the program. I had a few paleo treats and several alcoholic drinks during the program.

Did the food taste good? YES! Oh man, yes. I avoided “low fat” items like the plague, had all sorts of delicious dressings and sauces, enjoyed deviled eggs, and tried all sorts of new recipes that I totally loved. After making a couple meal planning tweaks halfway through the program (such as eating a real breakfast rather than subsisting on iced coffee), I got my appetite under control, and only was hungry a couple times a day before mealtime.

Was it hard? Yes, and no. The hardest part for me was the cooking portion, as I only ate three meals out during the entire program. Melissa from The Clothes Make The Girl summarizes my feelings about cooking pretty well:

I love Cooking and hate making dinner […]. Cooking is art and love and experimentation and relaxation and fun. Making dinner is “If I don’t get that food from its ingredient state into dinner state and into my mouth soon, I’m going to murder someone.”

I navigated my Whole30 using the detailed kitchen management and meal planning section of her great cookbook, Well Fed. Since I’m still pretty new to cooking, this translated to around 10 hours per weekend putzing around the kitchen prepping veggies, pre-cooking several kinds of meat, mixing up homemade sauces, and basically getting everything ready for a week of hassle-free breakfasts, lunches and dinners. However, I’m starting to really get the hang of it, so I don’t think it will be this time consuming for long.

The other hard thing for me was battling the Sugar Monster. Sugar — even natural sugars like honey and maple syrup — is delicious, deceitful, and does not agree with me at all. It’s also very addicting and difficult to kick. It takes me about two weeks to stop getting sugar cravings if I haven’t been careful about avoiding added sugars.

However, it was not hard in that, from around Day 3 on, I realized I prefer eating this way. I feel better, I look better, I perform better, and I like the food much better than I ever liked vegan grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll slave in the kitchen for a day or two a week to maintain that, no complaints.

A Day In The Life: Whole30 Version

Last but not least, here’s the day-by-day experience of my last 30 days. I hope it helps reassure the current crop of August Whole30-ers. I also hope that maybe it will convince the fence sitters to dig in and give it a try.

It’s only 30 days, what could you possibly lose?

Day 1
: OMG. So. TIRED. Brain doesn’t want to work. (“Carb flu”…) The fiance is still wondering what I was babbling about tonight before I went to bed and passed out. I made no sense at all.
Day 2: Decent energy for kardio kickboxing. For some reason my hands were shaking badly during my afternoon henna gig. Thankfully, henna is a very forgiving art form. Down 3.4 pounds in water weight, my dress pants finally fit comfortably in the waist again.
Day 3: I’ve slept like crap all week (keep having to get up to pee in the middle of the night, plus I was sore from kickboxing), but my energy levels and mood were fantastic in the afternoon. Did my weekly shopping list and literally spent all day in the kitchen. Will pay off in easy lunches and dinners all week.
Day 4: Still getting up several times a night to pee. My ring is really loose this morning, indicating that my fingers aren’t bloated anymore. Feeling marginally more mentally capable today, haha.
Day 5: Didn’t sleep well last night due to stress. Might take magnesium tonight and see if that helps. My Sunday Cook-a-Thon paid off; I’ve had plenty of homemade food to eat and take to work with me. Good thing, too, because I am HUNGRY today!
Day 6: Noticed today that my lips aren’t as chapped as usual (harsh desert climate makes it hard to avoid). I’m not drinking gallons of water, but I am drinking more than usual. All the veg must help too!
Day 7: I’d say my first week has been a success! My BodyShot iPhone app says I’m down 6lbs (!) and 2.75″ (!!!). Still figuring out the food volume thing. I’m hungry a lot, but not “hangry,” which I think is an important distinction. I was so relaxed today that it felt like it should be illegal, being a work day and all.
Day 8: Objectively, I can’t tell if I look any different, but my attitude towards my appearance has gotten a definite upgrade! I guess it helps when your tummy isn’t bloated and sore all the time. My fiance told me this morning that I’m lookin’ good. :)
Day 9: Ran a 5K today. I don’t think I have my fueling down quite yet, because my legs (and arms?!) were incredibly fatigued by the end. Got a good deal on Fallon cantaloupe from Lattin Farms at the farmers market, so this week is going to be a little higher carb!
Day 10: Sleep is still interrupted as I apparently have to get up every two hours to pee. WTF? My fridge is BURSTING with food after today’s cook-a-thon, but I definitely need to get more efficient. It took all day. For the first time since I started the Whole 30, I felt pleasantly full** after a meal (roasted organic, local chicken — what a treat! — plus roasted carrots and mashed yams). Wondering if the extra carb helped.
Day 11: Had a couple meal flops, which increased my cravings for non-Whole 30 fare.
Day 12: Caved in and fed the sugar monster today with a package of Hail Merry macaroons. The ingredients are all paleo, but they still contain added sugars. :) Feeling good, though, and Eat Different tells me I’ve avoided grains, legumes, dairy and processed food for 12 days straight.
Day 13: My schedule dictated a rather late lunch today, but I felt pretty good on my usual coffee plus a snack of raw nuts and berries until mid-afternoon. My energy levels must be stabilizing.
Day 14: You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the Whole 30, but I was really curious. I’m down another 1.2lbs this week, and another overall 1in.
Day 15: So tired. Went to bed super early and was exhausted by early evening again tonight.
Day 16: This may be TMI, but yesterday’s fatigue appears to be related to my cycle (light spotting today) — which is unusual, as I have used hormonal birth control for 10 years. On a partially related note, I’ve been reading at Paleo for Women that intermittent fasting (e.g., skipping breakfast) has the potential to be as unhealthy for women as it is healthy for men, so this week I’m going back to having protein with my iced coffee in the a.m.
Day 17: Cooking day! Had an easier time in the kitchen. Perhaps because I cooked more familiar dishes than brand-new ones. Over the last few days I’ve noticed my digestion has gotten a lot better, although I think there is still room for improvement.
Day 18: Adding in breakfast has helped exponentially! I had tuna salad to go this morning and have had steady energy all day long, with no hangriness as the afternoon wore on.
Day 19: Got kimchee and umeboshi (pickled plums) at the Asian market for a hit of flavor and probiotics. Meals will be fun this week!
Day 20: Lost another pound this week, plus my thighs magically shrunk by half an inch! Wonder if it’s related to estrogen regulation? My shorts all fit so much better now.
Day 21: I am on FIRE today!!! My self-esteem is super high. Attended Run Club for the first time in a few weeks. Surprisingly, I LOVE speed days and sprint workouts! Who knew! Plus, my MMA instructor who leads run club told me I’m getting definition in my thighs. To celebrate, I am wearing short shorts. :)
Day 22: Loving life today. Enjoying work, my relationships, my pets, my garden, and very much looking forward to what the future will bring!
Day 23: Need to make sure and keep more protein snacks around, especially at the end of the week when supplies are getting low and I need to go grocery shopping. I went a little crazy with the nuts/seeds/dried fruit after working out because I was starving and didn’t have any quick, “real” food. Suffice to say it didn’t give me the energy I needed to make a healthier meal. :(
Day 24: Starting to finally feel creative with cooking! This is HUGE. I’ve always had a hard time intuitively throwing dishes together.
Day 25: Sugary sweets do NOT agree with me. I had dairy and gluten free watermelon sorbet twice in the last few days, and I feel hungry and bloated today. Also, coffee with too much fat in it (whether cream or coconut milk) appears to be a bad idea for me first thing in the morning.
Day 26: Did I reset my carb burner?? Last night I was super tired, and this morning I was really groggy. However, I do feel better after a couple days without added sugar. And my tummy looks good again, too.
Day 27: Down another 1.8lbs and 2in! That makes for a total of 10lbs and 5.75in, with a few days left to go!
Day 28: I was super lazy last night and skipped making myself dinner, eating a plumb instead. That was a bad idea since Run Club was this morning! We did 400m sprints and I was having a really rough time, despite having a bit of tuna salad beforehand for breakfast. Lesson learned.
Day 29: Had a wonderful night out with friends! Cheated with alcohol, but kept the rest of my intake on-plan. I’m starting to dislike eating at restaurants. The paleo-friendly menu items always leave me hungry.
Day 30: Suffering from some Vitamin S deficiency today (SLEEP!), but overall feeling great!! Weekends are tough, and today I ended my Whole30 with a fizzle rather than a BANG! since I’m out of food and we attended a big picnic this afternoon. However, I’ve got my list ready to go for tomorrow. Looking forward to another Sunday cook-a-thon and another week of awesome paleo meals!
** Previously, I’d eat, and then I wouldn’t exactly be hungry, but I wouldn’t be full, either. My stomach just felt confused.

And now its time to start… Day 31!

Have you ever done a Whole30, or are you doing one now?
What is your experience with paleo?
Leave your comments and questions below! 

Leave a comment [14 comments]