Healthy-BreakfastI’ve been pushing the benefits of whole, unprocessed foods for a while now. I’ve been preaching the consumption of healthy Fats and whole, unprocessed foods and pushing everyone to avoid low-fat versions of foods till I’ve become blue in the face. Seriously, just call me Sunny Smurfette…

If you walk down any grocery aisle, you’ll be bombarded with “Healthier Choice Now Fat Free” “Pure Goodness and Low Fat” and “Non-Fat” branding all over every package and box. These are all marketing ploys to get you to buy the over processed, sugar laden junk on the shelves. It makes sense that they are catering to our demands though, since for the last 40 years we have been brain washed about the dangers of saturated fat. Is it no mystery that our misguided demand for low fat foods has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry in low-fat food products touted as “healthy choices”.

New ground breaking research by Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, a director at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, has found that patients with low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets didn’t experience a reduction in heart disease. But patients eating higher levels of saturated fat, found in dairy and unprocessed meat, and less carbohydrates (such as those found in potato chips, refined sugar and pizza) were less likely to suffer heart attacks.

His findings make total sense to me. Think about it, if low fat foods are supposed to keep off the fat, then why have heart disease and obesity rates skyrocketed in North America since they were introduced to our markets in the last 20 years? Wouldn’t all those people suffering from obesity just need to switch to low fat cheese and eat all the pizza they want? That’s a big fat nope!

Eating Fat does not equate to gaining fat. Eating too much cake, fries, pop and candy are what will make you fat, along with anything else that you eat in excess of a normal serving size.

Breakfast of Champions From Around the World:

Of course, This doesn’t’ mean that we should be starting the day with 12 pieces of bacon and 6 eggs for breakfast, but a healthy breakfast of 2 organic eggs, 1 strip of real bacon fried in real lard, half an organic fried tomato and a piece of toast are actually quite good for you. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been a classic English Breakfast for eons.  In fact, you can look at the history of breakfast habits of many nations and you will see that that high fat foods are always included and necessary for starting the day right.

Take the traditional Turkish breakfast that my husband and I ate on a trip to Turkey a while back.  The platter was meant for two, and consisted of nuts, olives, fresh veggies, cheeses, some meat, butter, honey and bread. Served with tea, it provided just the right amount of energy and sustenance to keep us touring the city till well into the late afternoon. turkish-breakfast

Last week while on a business trip in Japan, my husband was complaining to me on the phone that the Japanese Breakfast offered at his hotel consisted of rice, miso soup and broiled salmon (very high in good fats by the way). He was wondering where all the sugary donuts were that he and his American colleagues were used to.traditional-japanese-breakfast-foods-aikido-retreat-japan-spring-2012

Norwegians love their smoked meats and the traditional Norwegian breakfasts doesn’t disappoint. Combine the meats with perfectly aged cheeses, organic eggs and real mayonnaise and you have a yummy and healthy breakfast that packs a punch.norwegian-breakfast-skudeneshavn

To Brazilians, a traditional Brazilian breakfast means simple and delicious. Think strong coffee, milk, bread, butter and jam, cheese, ham and sometimes accompanied with some fresh fruit.Brazilian-Breakfast

We know full well that these countries listed above don’t have issues with obesity like we do in North America. Unfortunately it is nations that have started importing and buying “American” food products labeled “fat free” that are seeing spikes in health problems.

Dietary fat doesn’t make people ‘fat’

Going back to Dr. Krauss and his research, he confirms that fat doesn’t make us fat, sugar does (even though fat has more calories—9 per gram—than carbs or sugars). Yes, saturated fat adds to our caloric intake, but our digestion breaks down food into the simple sugar glucose, which provides energy to our body tissue. This sugar triggers the release of insulin, a hormone that cries “Feed Me!!” to a body’s cells and turns unused energy into fat. Unfortunately during the fat-free craze, we just replaced saturated fat with too many starchy carbohydrates and are now constantly releasing too much insulin into our systems (can you now see why Diabetes is on the rise?)

Saturated fat helps make you feel full

If you take foods with saturated fat out of the diet, your body will hunger for a replacement—and often find it in starchy, processed carbohydrates. Dr. Krauss says that there are actually adverse results in substituting carbohydrates for fat. Recent research moves saturated fat from the “bad” to the “neutral” column because it contains both good and bad elements that appear to cancel one another out. It’s important to remember that different types of fat produce different types of cholesterol, with both good and bad effects. The ratio of “good” cholesterol to “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream is what has an effect for cardiovascular health risks.

Man-made trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils like shortening are definitely bad for the body, but fats found in eggs, olive oil and fish are rich in “good” cholesterol. Protein-rich foods like red meat and nuts, which also contain saturated fats, are best at making the stomach feel full. This is why you can eat a bag of pretzels and not feel full, even though you’ve consumed hundreds of calories.

Stick to whole foods

And by that I don’t mean the grocery chain (though it’s a great place to shop). Whole, unprocessed foods, be they beef, grains or vegetables, are always a better option than packaged foods. Try to minimize intake of processed foods, especially processed carbohydrates. Experts say while steak may be healthier than you realized, a diet heavy on vegetables is always best. Carbohydrates such as bread or rice made from whole grains rather than refined white flour like white bread and bagels are much better for you.

So nix the sugary cereals, put down that bagel and slowly back away. Instead, butter that whole-wheat bread, add veggies, cheese, eggs and meat and then you have a real breakfast of champions.

To Eating Positively Well,

Sunny

Losing_WeightOne of the most common phrases I hear is “I want to lose weight”. The answer I want to give back is usually quite long and drawn out, so I thought I would write a short response here and let everyone know that the phrase I’d really like to hear instead is “I want to lose Body Fat”. People new to fitness would presume that those two phrases are one and the same, but today I would like to make a big stink about how losing weight is nothing the same as losing body fat! I’d shout it from rooftops if I could (or in the case of today’s photo, from the high steps of Spain’s ancient forts) but alas shouting it into the blog world will have to suffice.

When someone says that they want to lose weight, it is in actuality a very vague goal. They get so focused on seeing that number on the scale drop that they start cutting calories and loading up on the cardio. They don’t think about the fact that they are probably losing muscle mass, water or stored glycogen and even metabolic waste first before they actually start losing a substantial amount of body fat.

Don’t focus on that Scale

Everyone says it, “Muscle weighs more than fat” but that’s actually not true.

5 lbs of muscle and 5 lbs of fat are both equal in weight, it’s just that fat takes up more room in your body. Fat is all fluffy and gooey and free form, while each muscle comes in a set shape that takes up less space and feels hard to the touch. That is why you can see dimpling below the surface of the skin when there is more fatty tissue present than muscle.

In reality, a 135lb person who has more muscle and a lower body fat percentage can look leaner and thinner than a 135lb person with a higher body fat percentage.

muscle_vs_fat

The Real Answer to Losing Weight Read the rest of this entry »

working_out_body_imageHey you.

Do whatever you want. Really. Be anything you want to be… Anything. You. Want.

Don’t conform to the image that others perceive you as having, unless you have worked hard to project that certain image, but even then the chances are high that what they perceive and what you perceive are two completely different things. That’s just how it is, no two people can truly think alike, it’s not human nature, so again, just do whatever you want.

For instance, doesn’t it seem so silly that people assume if you have blonde hair, that you must somehow not value knowledge and learning? Or if you grew up overweight, and had bad grades in gym class, that you are destined to forever hate all types of physical activity. Maybe you had a bad gym teacher, maybe you were being bullied at that time in that class, or that your life experiences hadn’t shown you the importance of being healthy yet. Whatever the reason, now you can be whomever you choose to be.

Often others can’t handle this and they don’t know what to do with themselves when they realize you have broken out of the mold they had you in. That is not your problem. Your only task is to be happy, to pursue happiness and be happy with yourself. Simple right?

Lesson’s from my Hair Dresser

A few months ago, I was sitting in my hair dresser’s chair and he told me that he had been doing some construction on his home. My hair dresser is a very sweet man that works magic on thick, coarse hair like mine. He spends all day long talking cut and color, perms and highlights, while going home to his wife and raising his two sons, tending to his vegetable garden, using power tools to build a new addition to his home and watching soccer with a cold beer in hand. Read the rest of this entry »

What_to_eat_on_the_road_healthyThe picture I’ve posted here is of recent meals I had while on vacation in the Algarve region of Portugal. Looks simple, healthy and a bit fancy right? Well, actually the large photo was of a meal I had in a British Style Pub right on the harbor and it wasn’t a fancy place at all. When I go to the Pub here in Chicago, the only food I can find is greasy onion rings and ketchup.

Everywhere I went in Europe, I was able to find delicious and healthy meal options right on the menu. I didn’t have to ask them to hold the fries, or to go easy on the sauce, or to substitute the double battered onion rings for a salad, in Europe it always came perfectly paired with veggies or a side of salad.

I find that in North America, we are quick to settle for what is offered by restaurants. In Europe, a restaurant would go out of business if the food wasn’t made with farm fresh ingredients or simply made from scratch. In North America, the restaurants that do offer the fresh, organic and made-from-scratch options are considered fancy and usually come with a hefty price tag. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is so much that we do better here on our side of the pond, but when it comes to food, the Europeans know where it’s at.

Now what to do when traveling around the US and Canada and you can’t find a single thing on the menu that you deem healthy? Here are a few tips based on what I choose to eat when I’m on the road: Read the rest of this entry »

FeelingGoodSometimes it’s easy to let other people’s insecurities get to you. They start making comments like “I hate my thighs”, or “I can’t eat that, I need to lose like 5 pounds!” or even worse, “don’t you just hate how we can’t be as skinny as her?” and you start thinking that there must be something wrong with you and that maybe you too should be thinking twice about eating that last morsel.

I know that I don’t have the thin body you see in the media, but there is no reason for anyone to body shame me for not wanting to aspire to someone else’s ideals. I could turn the tables and start talking about how sick and skinny those models look (and probably feel), but what would that achieve? That is negativity that starts weighing down on your soul and I just want to fill my life with light and positivity, besides, ain’t nobody got time for that!

I am constantly reminding myself that my legs helped me squat 200lbs, or that my shoulders helped me hold my handstand in a strong, stable position. My body is strong, I love nourishing it with nutritious foods, and I love feeling happy and healthy from all the vitamins in what I eat and the endorphins that exercise gives me. Other people will always have their opinions, but how they feel about your body has nothing to do with how you actually feel.

So pssst…the secret to looking good is to feel good. If you feel good about the decisions you are making (like making an effort to cook at home and making time for exercise), if you fill your belly with healthy nutritious foods that gives you the proper vitamins and nutrients to fuel your body, and if you surround yourself with positive people, you are bound to feel and look good.

I guess that’s not really a big secret is it? It just gets easier to do with practice, so let’s start with small steps and get to a point where other people’s opinions are just that… their opinions and not ours.

To Being Positively Strong,

 

Sunny

 

OrangeHappyI just spent the last ten days eating my way through Portugal and Southern Spain. I was blown away by the quality of the food, the abundance of fresh fish and fruit and the wide array of spices and flavors found in all things edible. So much so that I will probably make several different posts with all the different photos I took there (just thought I’d warn you ahead of time).

What I love about a vacation is that it’s a great opportunity for your system to recharge. My mind is fresh and full with new ideas, while my body had a chance to rest from all the protein powders, intense HIIT sessions and heavy weight lifting sessions that I usually subject it to. When I get back into the gym later today, I will probably make a bigger impact as I’ll wake my body back up and give it another much needed change.

I was in no way inactive while I was on vacation. I was walking for 10-12 hours a day, up many hills and uneven surfaces to see all kinds of forts and castles (whew, talk about cobble stones being great for balance training) and I also made it a point to do these exercises in my hotel room every few days. At the same time I didn’t stress about work, blogging, missing a workout or having to cook healthy meals or making sure I met my macro requirements at any time. I just took in the sites, learned about history, ate a lot of freshly picked fruit and chose to eat at restaurants that served good, wholesome foods.

20140514_222858I also had a chance to sit in the sun, catch up on my favorite blogs, and reconnect with my sweet husband. Now that we’re back, I can’t wait to put all of my new ideas to paper, but to also plan our next vacation for next year (I know, I know, I just got back, but looking forward to a new trip let’s me get through long work days :) ). Let me know if you have any upcoming vacations planned or if you have any suggestions for places I should visit that offer really good local food.

To Positively Strong Vacations,

Sunny

PhotoGrid_1400019425381

Strong not SkinnyAll through my university years, I was competing heavily in Karate. I was weight training 3 times a week, karate training 4 times a week, and running every other day to maintain my 117lbs to compete in the lightweight division. During the off season, I would go easy on maintaining my strict diet and I guess what you call “bulk” a little. I was quite lean, and probably a little under weight for my 5’5 frame, since I have never been able to get down to that weight again while trying to maintain a good amount of muscle.

I remember one Halloween party during the off season, a guy I had met at another party once before, came up to me and said “Wow, you’re looking so great! The last time I saw you, you were looking too skinny and too muscle-y!”

The problem with statements like that, is that this guy knew nothing about me and actually had the audacity to make judgement about my body. Some may think there is nothing wrong with statements like that, but for years it made me think twice about getting any stronger because I was worried about gaining more muscle, or being too big, or being too skinny, or trying to be everything to everybody.

Lucky for me, I had a strong support system of family, friends and coaches that always pushed me to be a better version of myself, and I eventually came to understand that other people’s opinions don’t count when you are making decisions to enhance your own life. After all, no one has to live your life but you, and since then I have learned to trust in my own judgement and experiences to make decisions about who I want to be and what I want to look like.

Now, I simply want to be strong, I want to be healthy and I want to be able to do things that I couldn’t do the day before. Also, I love to eat real food, not diet, lift heavy and keep adding to my PR, so if I had to listen to the opinions of everyone else, I would probably have to stop doing most of the things that I love… sorry, but all of the things that make me happy are non-negotiable.

I look forward to the day when we stop judging each other for being too big, too skinny, too muscular or too much of anything and just want happiness for one another. Let’s just workout to be stronger, to be faster, to be healthy and live long happy lives, and acknowledge that healthy comes in many different shapes and sizes.

To Being Positively Strong,

Sunny

 

ProteinFrenchToastIf you are using whole eggs to make your French toast, then there is already a bunch of Protein in your french toast to begin with, but I am trying to build muscle, and so after a heavy weights workout I am looking for a lot more protein to repair muscle tissue. This is where my super protein whole wheat french toast recipe enters. It’s über simple to make and jam packed with protein and complex carbohydrates, I usually eat these once a week in the afternoon, after a workout, instead of the usual protein shake.

Here are all the ingredients that you will need:

  • 1 Whole Egg
  • 1 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Scoop of your favorite Vanilla Protein Powder (as I’ve said in this blog, I prefer Dymatize)
  • 1 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 TBS of Unsweetend Almond Milk
  • 2 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread (you can use any type really. Ezekiel, sproted,, multi-grain…)
  • 1 Tsp of Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 Medium Banana (sliced as garnish)

Read the rest of this entry »

EarthDayFitnessI’m big on mother nature. I believe in the 3 R’s (I’ll literally shed a tear if you don’t know that the 3R’s stand for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) and I try my best to live environmentally friendly. I carry a reusable water bottle, refuse plastic shopping bags by always carrying my own reusable bags, I drive an Eco-friendly car, I shun plastic straws, I choose local produce, make sure to change my bulbs to energy efficient ones, I try not to shop for anything unless I absolutely need it and I also make sure to turn off all the lights before I leave a room.

Simple habits like that don’t take a lot of sacrifice, and after a while I didn’t even realize that I was doing anything out of the ordinary. The same has to be true for making healthier fitness choices. Just recently, I caught myself telling my mom that losing weight is not complicated, it can be a hard habit to form, but it is not complicated. So here are my 3 clean steps to losing weight and living a healthier life:

Read the rest of this entry »

FitnessGoals At the beginning of my fitness journey, before I had any formal education on health and fitness, I had a photo (cut out of a magazine) of young Gisele Bundchen hanging by my desk. While doing homework I would glance over to Gisele’s picture and study her long, thin legs, her bony, protruding shoulders and angular features on her face. I would promise myself that I would go for a run and hit the gym everyday, that I would look like her by summer and vow to eat healthy, cut sugar and that the only snacks I would consume would be carrots and celery sticks.

I’ve always had a dedicated spirit and would push hard at the gym, watched what I ate, but no matter what, my body never ended up looking like Gisele’s. Instead my legs would add muscle, get shapelier and though my stomach would get flatter and flatter, my hips would not budge an inch. What was I doing wrong?

Actually I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but what I should have been doing is setting realistic goals to my body type and lifestyle. I’m only 5 foot 5 and I’ve always had thick legs and wide hips, so the photo of 5 foot 11 Gisele Bundchen was not an attainable goal for me. If I had chosen to tack up a photo of lovely Jennifer Lopez and aimed for her body shape, then it would have been a more realistic goal and I would have been able to stay motivated for longer periods of time.

Being fit and healthy comes in all shapes and sizes. Read the rest of this entry »

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