Who is really telling you to lose weight? (And why they might not always be right)

This post has been sitting with me for awhile, not because I’m afraid to talk about what follows, but because I want to give it the time and discussion deserves. Today we’re talking about diets and the people who tell you to go on them. My idea for writing this came from a recent visit to my home gym in Pittsburgh. I went there all the time during high school, and while the bathroom had a scale, it was never super weight loss oriented. Things seem to have changed since I came back. I may be more sensitive to the issue now that I’ve recovered, but I also think that the gym went a little nuts. They hired a supposed “weight loss professional” who promises that the key to happiness is to lose a few pounds. Her magic weight loss plan works not through healthy diet and exercise, though, but simply by having breakfast for dinner and vice versa.

Um….what? That kind of sounded sketchy…and quite possibly like it wouldn’t work. I looked further into her credentials and found that while this woman is a “certified life coach” she has no training in nutrition or dietetics, nor is she a group exercise instructor or personal trainer. Yet, she was posing as an expert in weight loss and nutrition (and by working in the gym, exercise), when she truly had no credentials. I was startled….any person off the street can tell people what’s healthy weight loss? And they can write a book about it? Insanity!

So, I started looking into the people behind the diets we follow more. Houston, we have a problem. Weight Watchers, perhaps the biggest weight loss business in the U.S., hires the local group leaders based merely on whether they lost weight using the program. So when you attend these programs, you really aren’t in the safe hands of a nutritionist who can track what HEALTHY and SAFE weight loss is. Rather, you are working with someone who found success using a point system that may not work for everyone. Yes, I am aware the program works for many people – I cannot bash that. The issue is, though, that they hire people whose only qualifications are having lost weight to handle the weight loss of others. They may not understand the psychological effects of weight loss, or what happens when someone loses TOO MUCH weight.  That’s a problem.

The trend continued when I noticed a girl who I graduated high school with selling “weight loss supplements” (aka dangerous diuretics) on Facebook, promising huge weight loss in less than a month. She, despite having no nutrition or fitness credentials, was offering free consultations to people so she could tell them how to use the pills. Not only are diuretics unsafe to begin with, but to have someone touting these as a safe way for people with different anatomies and disease profiles to lose weight was totally wrong.

It happened on a national scale recently too, as well. Dr. Oz, ever the promoter of this new gimmick and that new method to lose weight, went to Congress to share information on removing bad diet pills from the U.S. market. He apparently forgot that he constantly implores his audience to lose weight, but Senator Claire McCaskill called out the lack of science behind his claims.

“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,'” McCaskill said. “When you call a product a miracle, and it’s something you can buy, and it’s something that gives people false hope, I don’t understand why you need to go there.”

Yes! Finally, someone in the government talking sense on weight loss. You can learn more about the issue here, but the point is, this isn’t just an issue stuck in my tiny town in western Pennsylvania. And, to be frank, the issue isn’t simply solved by only allowing “professionals” to tout weight loss. First, you have to realize that people are making unscientific, unsafe claims about ways to lose weight. Every body is different – different bodies respond differently to different foods. There is no universal HEALTHY way to lose weight…that’s for a person to figure out for themselves. Secondly, these same people telling us to lose weight hold the belief that weight loss is equivalent to health, which isn’t true. Markers like cholesterol levels, movement abilities, blood pressure and blood sugar – things doctors and nutritionists measure – are far better indicators of health.

Because the gym is for so much more than weight loss!

Because the gym is for so much more than weight loss!

As someone who loves to eat healthy foods, and as a fitness instructor with responsibility to protect participants from these flawed messages, I want this to change. We, as healthy eaters, as fitness professionals, as humans on planet earth, can the tout health benefits that come from food or exercise, but we cannot make claims about weight loss, weight gain or miracle supplements that claim to “cure” fatness. The truth is that each person’s body operates differently. Some will thrive on a low carb or gluten free diet – others will become emaciated. And, better yet, fatness isn’t something to be cured. Diseases that often, but not always come along with obesity are though. Instead of pressuring others to buy into your diet, think first. Then, change the conversation. Think about touting health benefits over weight loss. And if you must bring weight loss up, say this worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. And for the love of god, please remember, the lower number on the scale doesn’t always mean better health.

What are your thoughts? Has someone ever told you to lose weight who wasn’t qualified?

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Summer Bucket List Update

Have I mentioned before on here that I absolutely adore summer? Because you know what? I do. This summer is shaping up to be a pretty exciting and busy one. I’m doing a lot. Seeing new things. Baking new treats. Meeting up with old friends. Working hard. Going back to my roots. It’s great and without the pressure of school, I’m thriving. Summer, needless to say, is my happiest of happy places.

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Since we’re a little over halfway through the first month of bucket list goals, I decided to check in. Here is my bucket list post so you can check it out!

  1. Go for a bike ride on the Boston Trail. Not yet! Maybe next weekend?
  2. Go camping! I’m going mid-July, the week before my trip to Austria, with my best friend Tessa and our boyfriends. Stay tuned for that adventure!
  3. Get a tan. Halfway there, I say. I have the awkward boob tanline, so that’s pretty exciting!
  4. Learn to roast a chicken, Julia Child style. Ugh, no, not yet!
  5. Swim! Done and done! (though I would love to swim more! :))
  6. Learn to make alterations with the sewing machine. I made alterations on a bikini top already…now onto a skirt!
  7. Go out to dinner for lobster. Still awaiting my chance!
  8. Pick blackberries and bake a pie! It’s not pie season yet :(
  9. Finish season seven of Mad Men. Ugh this one is taking me ages! I did, though, start watching Bob’s Burgers.
  10. Read. A lot. I’m done with Joyous Health and with The Fault in Our Stars (sobbing at 2 a.m., it’s fine). I did get a stack of books from a Half Price book sale (all for $2 each) so I have a ton more to get through!

The list definitely could use more progress, but I’m getting there! In other ways, I’ve done a lot. I’ve seen three concerts since we last checked in – Jeff Tweedy, Ben Folds with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Jake Bugg. I visited the zoo and Sandcastle. I’ve been working out HARD at the gym and feeling good about it. And, of course, I’ve baked a couple of recipes of donuts that I’m eager to share.

I’m excited to cross off more things, and I’m considering continuing the list for each season. What do you think? Whats on your summer bucket list?

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Cheesy Spicy Grits

Grits are weird. They’re at that halfway point between oatmeal and polenta and the texture can seem a little bit funny if they’re not done correctly. However, let it be known that these grits are not oatmeal’s creepy older brother. They have a little spice, but are also super gooey from the cheese, and who can resist that?

The awesome thing about cheesy grits is that they go great with a lot of main dishes. I last served then when I made the avocado compote butter for salmon. A heavenly meal! I used to also make a pretty crude version of these when I was at school. On Saturdays we had a breakfast bar in the dining hall, where they had plain grits. The salad bar was also open, so I would stir in cheese and jalepenos. It was kind of gross, but compared to a lot of the dining hall food available to a girl with allergies and who, at the time, was vegetarian, it was heaven.

Grits

I promise promise promise that these grits are more upscale than that, but also that all the ingredients are easily available. These are gluten free, which is another major plus.

Let’s get cooking!

Cheesy Spicy Grits
Peanut, tree nut, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish, egg and gluten free

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1 cup grits
1/4 cup butter
1/2 can Rotel
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Bring water, milk and salt to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the grits and continue to stir until they have the consistency of cream of wheat.
2. Add in the butter, Rotel and cheese. Stir and once combined, remove from heat. Enjoy!

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Mocha Granola (for snacking!)

Unff granola. My addiction to the stuff is oh so real. I shared my favorite granola recipe last year, but my mom and I (both granola lovers) started branching out since then. I have a bomb gingerbread granola recipe to share with y’all when the holidays get closer (put that on ice cream with caramel sauce…perfection!), and I’m hoping to try a tropical version with some dried pineapple and apricots soon. But for today, we’re eating mocha granola.

Granola

This recipe isn’t too sweet, and I prefer it as a snack rather than in milk just because of that. And, as usual, the recipe is not only nut free, but also gluten free. Double win! I am no genius, though. I was inspired by Amy’s Healthy Baking on this one, though I switched it up to fit my family’s allergies.

Let’s get baking!

Mocha Granola
Peanut, tree nut, egg, milk, soy, sesame and gluten free

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup gluten free oats
1 1/2 cup corn Chex cereal
6 tbsp. strong coffee (made from 1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee disolved in 6 tbsp water)
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup (add extra if need more sweetness)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
2. In a large bowl stir together the oats and Chex. In a separate bowl stir together coffee, cocoa powder, canola oil and maple syrup. Pour over the dry mixture.
3. Spread on a pan and cook for 40-45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Enjoy!

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Savory Romano-Crusted French Toast with Compote Butter

Lately I’ve been cooking a lot of egg-centric, compote butter-filled recipes. I made vegetarian migas, then I made some avocado compote butter. This recipe combines the two – a savory French toast (encrusted with romano cheese) topped with a sun dried tomato basil compote butter. Woah. I was inspired by How Sweet It Is on this recipe, though of course, I adapted it to have gluten free possibilities!

All food

This recipe is a little rich and maybe a little fancy. When I told my boyfriend about it, he said it sounded fancy or gourmet. The think about it is, while your ingredients may be a little fancy or gourmet in this recipe, the actual preparation takes less than an hour, and it’s fairly easy.

Compote Butter

I used my multigrain bread to make the French toast for my mom and myself, but for my sister, we used gluten free bread in a separate egg mixture. She loved it just as much as we did, so I figure that’s a success!

French Toast1

Let’s make savory French toast!

Savory French Toast
Peanut, tree nut, soy and sesame free

Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup Romano cheese
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 slices per person of gluten free or multigrain bread
3 tbsp. butter

Compote butter:
5 tbsp. butter
Handful of basil, chopped
1/4 cup rehydrated sundried tomatoes (NOT IN OIL), chopped

1. Start with the compote butter. Soften the 5 tbsp. butter, mix in the basil and sundried tomatoes. You can shape into a log on wax paper, or just serve it in a bowl.
2. Now to the egg mixture: whisk eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Separate the mixture if you are serving gluten free and regular eaters.
3. Heat a non-stick pan over the stove on medium-high heat. Add the 3 tbsp. butter to grease the pan.
4. Dip the bread in egg mixture. Make sure it’s covered! Now cook in the pan on each side until they are brown. This may take longer than you expect, especially at first.
5. Top the French toast with compote butter and a little extra cheese. Enjoy!

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Multigrain Bread with Quinoa and Oats

I am a hopeless carb lover. All my comfort foods are carb based – homemade pasta, macaroni and cheese, pierogies, the list goes on. To me, especially as a child, there was nothing better than a slice of bread with butter and a glass of water for a snack. My grandma joked that I liked jail food, but it was really just that I liked carbs.

Cut to today. My newest bread addiction (until about three days ago) was Trader Joe’s quinoa bread. It’s basically like a good honey whole wheat, with the added benefit of protein from the quinoa. Then I saw this recipe over at A Couple Cooks and thought, I can do that. One problem though – their version of the bread contained pumpkin seeds, which I’m allergic to. Not to mention, it had rye flour, which wasn’t around the house. So I did what any good baker does – I adapted. And you know what? I ended up with best, most filling, rustic bread I’ve had in awhile.

Bread

Let me tell you about the moment it came out of the oven. It was pretty late for our family – my dad and sister (the two celiacs) were already asleep. Thankfully for them, quinoa bread is something they wouldn’t have eaten prior to celiac anyway, so this bread event didn’t seem so special. Anyways, the moment the oven buzzer went off, my mom and I peaked inside and found our dough mass had turned into a luxurious crusty loaf – beautiful! Soon after we took it out of the oven, we sliced it and slathered it with real butter, which is somewhat of a rarity in my house. It was a special moment between us. No guilt, of course, just pure enjoyment over something we felt bad reveling in around our family members.

Bread

So isn’t baking bread like super difficult? Well, sometimes. Luckily, this recipe is no-knead, so you can mostly just chill while the yeast does its thing. Let’s get baking!

Multigrain Bread with Quinoa and Oats
Peanut, tree nut, sesame, egg, milk and soy free

Ingredients:
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/4 cup water
3 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
1.5 tbsp. salt
4 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

1. Soak the oats and quinoa in 1/4 cup of water for one hour.
2. Combine the yeast and 3 cups of lukewarm water in the bowl of a standard mixer.
3. Mix in the salt, flours and mix-ins until just combined. Place that mixture in a warm place, covering with wax paper and a towel. Let the dough rise.
4. On a floured surface, split the dough in two. Form it into two loaves.
5. Sprinkle cornmeal on a pan, then place the two loaves on top of it. Slice a few cuts in the top of the loaves. Let rest for 40 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Ten minutes before baking the bread, place a baking sheet in the oven and cover with water. Close the oven quickly to create steam.
7. Put the bread in the oven and cook for 35 minutes until brown and crusty. Remove from oven, slice and enjoy.

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Cran-Blueberry Smoothie

Smoothies are, hands down, the best way to get in some extra fruits and (sometimes) veggies in the morning. We’ve totally been over this before, and I don’t want to get preachy about it. But I DO want to share with you this awesome smoothie recipe that not only has tons of antioxidants, but is really great for your kidney health and, ahem, UTIs. Yeah, cranberry juice is kind of gross on it’s own, especially when you buy the pure juice, which is important when you’re in it for the health benefits. However, this smoothie combines tart cranberry juice with the antioxidant power of blueberries and just a bit of agave nectar, and it comes out tasting sweet and fulfilling, without being overpowering.

Cran-Blueberry Smoothie

I always think it’s important for a breakfast to go down easy. Most people have trouble even getting in solid foods – this is a way to break out of your just-black-coffee-nothing-more-for-breakfast attitude and to move into incorporating more fruits and veggies in your day. This recipe really fills me up, too, which is really nice because I typically start thinking about lunch at 10 a.m. Yikes!

Cran-Blueberry Smoothie

So how do we make the Cran-Blueberry Smoothie?

Cran-Blueberry Smoothie
Peanut, tree nut, dairy, egg soy, sesame, fish and shellfish free (gluten free if omitting wheat germ)

Ingredients:
1/2 frozen ripe banana
1/3 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup pure cranberry juice
2-3 ice cubes
1 tbsp. wheat germ (omit if gluten free/wheat allergic)
1 tsp. agave nectar (or honey)

1. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. If your batch is a little tart, feel free to add agave to taste!

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Links I Love

Hola amigos! I hope your week is going swimmingly so far! I’ve got some great links to share with you, from allergy-friendly recipes to body positive news stories and, of course, some fun in between.

Flowers

First, a quote to get you motivated to start the week!

“Explore, explore, travel the world over…have me in mind, I shall be watching. You can return to me. Now go.” ~Yevgeniy Yevtushenko

This week I found a few great recipes that I’m excited to try. Rebecca Sherrow at Pure and Peanut Free shared a beautiful Orange Vanilla Cake that just screams summer. I always am hoping to try to adapt A Couple Cooks’ recipe for Multi-Grain Artisan bread to not involve seeds. Joy the Baker shared a great piece on the differences between whole wheat flour and white flour in her weekly baking primer series, which I loved. And Kate over at Diary of Anaphylaxis found a great bakery in Denver for those with food allergies!

In the more literary world (I’m a huge reader, in case ya didn’t know) Slate caused the world to implode when they printed an op-ed piece that basically ripped on adults who love to read young adult fiction. It made me pretty upset, but NPR came back with an even better piece about the impact young adult fiction – and all fiction – can have on girls and women. Check it out here.

Do you sometimes have allergy symptoms to foods you aren’t allergic to? Oral Allergy Syndrome could be the cause. When pollens cross react with foods in the wild, it can sometimes cause you to have minor allergy symptoms. Check out a list of pollens and their cross reactors here.

I am not crafty, but this 5-minute Reed Diffuser project looks like something I could handle. I love yummy smelling things and I really do want to try using essential oils a bit more.

Do you live near Pittsburgh? Do you want to join the fight against poor body image and eating disorders? Come out to the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) walk on June 21! I’ve been following Catherine over at Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth for ages now, and she recently shared a very telling piece about struggling with eating disorders. Her strength in sharing was truly inspirational.

On that note, this new food-shaming trend is driving me nuts. Can you believe people are actually shaming women who look thin and are eating food? INSANE. You can learn more about how destructive things like this and “fat talk” are at the Huffington Post, where the issues behind body shaming women are unpacked in this story.

 

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Avocado Compote Butter for Salmon

So a few months ago, my family came to visit me in D.C. and we went to a restaurant called Matchbox. If you’ve lived in the area, you’ve probably heard of it because it has a few locations across the city. They have divine pizza (which I tried before this visit) and their banana chocolate chip bread pudding is to die for. My family came  at an opportune time – I had just began eating fish again and was ready to try it at a restaurant. Matchbox did something special with my salmon, though. They topped it with butter. I was amazed. In shock. The tiny eating disorder voice that sometimes still resonates in my head was getting pretty pissed off. But I ignored it, slathered that butter all over my salmon, and damn, was it good.

This was the inspiration for avocado compote butter!

This was the inspiration for avocado compote butter!

Fast forward a few months and my aunt sent me a Food Network recipe for avocado compound butter. She knows of my avocado love and thought I could use recipes for avocado butter, frosting and ice cream, among other things. The problem with this recipe, though, was the cilantro. No one in my family enjoys this powerful herb, so I switched it up and added parsley to the compound instead of cilantro. Y. U. M. I topped my salmon with a pretty big slice of the butter, and as it melted, it dripped perfectly throughout, creating a decadent dinner from simple, fresh ingredients.

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The awesome thing about this butter is that you make a big log of it…enough so that you don’t just have to have it on salmon. This week I’ve been slathering this delicious stuff all over crusty Italian bread for breakfast. The awesome thing is that it truly is better for you than butter – avocado has so many more nutrients than just plain butter, and this compound is also packed with parsley, aka the life herb in my book.

Here is an ugly picture of the butter on my salmon. Gotta have a visual, y'all!

Here is an ugly picture of the butter on my salmon. Gotta have a visual, y’all!

How do we  make this yummy butter? It’s so easy!

Avocado Compound Butter
Peanut, tree nut, egg, soy and sesame free

Ingredients:
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 ripe avocados
Handful of parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
2. Spread the mixture on wax paper. Form into a log and freeze for at least an hour and a half before serving.

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Vegetarian Migas

This is quite possible the best “easy” dinner I’ve ever made. Best because it’s nutritional – eggs act as a protein and fat, bread fills in the carbohydrate category and it’s chock full of my favorite vegetables. Best also because it’s adaptable – you can make it gluten free and it tastes just as good. You can modify the recipe to include what vegetables you like. And it’s quick and easy to make!

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Migas is a traditionally Spanish dish made using bread (often soaked in milk, but not in this dairy free recipe!), spinach and eggs. Sometimes, chorizo is added, which you’re more than welcome to do, though as this recipe is vegetarian, I will not be adding any.


Migas in pan

I’ve talked about all the nutritional benefits, but what about the taste? The bread soaks up the egg and becomes almost a savory french toast, while stir fried mushrooms, spinach and yellow bell peppers fill out the flavors. So yummy!

So how does one make migas? It truly isn’t difficult – it just takes a frying pan and a little confidence :)

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Vegetarian Migas
Gluten free, peanut free, tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, shellfish free, fish free, sesame free

Ingredients (for 2 servings)
Three slices of bread (gluten free), torn into chunks
2 cups of uncooked spinach
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
6 mushrooms, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. On a medium high heat, prime the pan with olive oil and garlic. Stir fry the garlic until brown and then remove the clove from the pan.
2. Once the clove is removed, add the bread, mushrooms and bell pepper. Stir fry until the bread gets a little brown on the edges and the peppers begin to give  a little if you stick a fork in them.
3. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the eggs into the pan and sort of scramble them around the rest of the ingredients. Make sure they are cooked fully, even when soaked into the bread.
6. Enjoy with a small side salad. Dinner is served! :)

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