Things I Wish I Had Learned About Nutrition in Cross Country

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At least three times a week I lace up my running shoes, turn on my Strava and my music and hit the open road. I run for fitness, for the alone time, and the elated feeling that results from flushed cheeks, labored breathing and shoes hitting the pavement as I get closer to the end goal. And when it’s over, that runner’s high remains for the rest of the day. A true dichotomy between love and hate, running has become one of my favorite ways to start my day.

This sort of exercise wasn’t always my favorite, however. I started running in junior high when my dad thought it would be a good idea to put me in cross country. As a dad should behave, he was just trying to get me involved in an activity somewhere. The adolescent school years can be quite unforgiving unless one has an activity they can be apart of and make lasting friends in the process.

It’s a shame, but cross country did nothing to encourage the runner within me. In fact it made me turn and run in the other direction (no pun intended). It took me a while to realize that I could run, not for speed or racing, but for my own personal enjoyment. I realized that running wasn’t something I needed to hate or fear, but I needed to approach it in my own way so that I really could enjoy it.

My chief complaint about cross country is the lack of education regarding nutrition. How you fuel before, during and after a run is just about as important as the run itself. But no one educated me on this. Nobody told me that eating pizza and fries was an unsuitable way of fueling up for a practice or that french toast sat in the stomach like a rock before a race. I didn’t know anything about nutrients, carbohydrates or simple sugars – I just ate what a typical junior highschooler ate. I know the adolescent body seems indestructible but even then I had a very sensitive stomach. I could have benefited from a little knowledge on the subject.

Now that I am training for a half-marathon, I’ve been paying very close attention to my race nutrition. A large part of my training involves trial and error – seeing what foods or methods work and which ones don’t. So come race day, things should go smoothly.

When it comes to endurance sports like running, the normal conventions of nutrition seem to get thrown out the window. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Anything otherwise healthy for you, is not good before a run. This includes high fiber foods and even healthy fats. Yet foods you would normally stay away from, like refined carbs such as processed white foods, are advantageous. I’ve found that a Larabar usually works for me pre-run.
  • If you’re going to be running for an hour or more, you need something to keep your muscles working. You need something that can be quickly absorbed and put to use as energy. Runner’s gels are always a go-to. But there are some other ways of getting energy you might not have heard of. I found an entire list with descriptions that is not limited to frozen grapes, dried fruit and even gummy bears and marshmallows. My dad likes to have Doritos and a Coke during an ironman. It makes no sense, but it does.

Certainly my pizza eating days of junior high are over, but it doesn’t stop at the obviously bad foods. The idea that healthy foods can actually stifle one’s running ability was a complete revelation to me.

What are your favorite ways to fuel up for an endurance activity? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Life Circumstances and the Call to Live Sustainably

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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto
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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto

After six long months of wedding planning, my husband and I are finally married. We said “I do,” danced as a married couple, and cut the cake. And just like that it was over. The whole experience was beautiful and redeeming. In hindsight, I would have much rather eloped in the english countryside and had an intimate and woodsy reception afterwards. Yet afternoon tea, bunting flags and whimsical calligraphy table numbers tied the rustic/vintage theme together nicely; certainly nothing to scoff at. The only thing we kept telling ourselves was, “We’ll be married and that’s all that matters.” In the end, we got some pretty pictures and I enjoyed walking around in that adored Jenny Yoo dress.

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Photo by: milkandhannahphoto

Planning a wedding yourself and without the help of a wedding coordinator means having very little time to engage in the activities you are passionate about. And for me that includes writing. So that is my excuse for my 6 month hiatus and I must say it is a pretty good one. If you think of something better, let me know.

I actually thought a lot about food in the months leading up to our wedding. Mostly because that period of time was the worst I think I had ever eaten in my life. I was in limbo, stuck between two lives. I lived with my parents but I also spent a lot of time with my husband. I found it very difficult buying groceries for one so I was at the mercy of whatever my parents had to eat or whatever my husband had to eat (which consequently wasn’t very much). I often found myself going through Starbucks in the morning, drinking copious amounts of coffee and by the afternoon if I didn’t pack a lunch, I was forced to buy fast food. For dinner, it was a last minute scramble to the grocery store. Do I pick up something pre made or fix up something quick and easy? As someone who aspires live the agrarian lifestyle to its fullest, this was a very difficult time for me. But it was my reality.

Things are much smoother now that we’re married. We actually have food in the house and we eat out far less often. It sustained me knowing there would be an end to the sporadic eating patterns I found myself in. If there wasn’t an end in sight I know I would have to change things – and fast. But now that we’re settling in, I’m finding what it means to be content. We don’t have a garden yet, but we will get to it next year. We’ve all gone vegan or vegetarian only to come right back to normalcy months later. We all know what it’s like to fail to live up to the call to live in harmony with the planet. Things happen. Life happens.

From now on, I’m not going to be led by the influence of others. I’m going to do what feels right for me and for our family. I’m going to work up to that agrarian lifestyle, instead of jumping headfirst into something that could collapse later. I’m going to live expectantly but realistically at the same time.

The key to living sustainably is a gradual change in lifestyle, just like anything else. I’m not saying total sustainability is unattainable for the average american household, but it must be approached slowly and steadily, with trial and error, and with much sacrifice in order to make this way of life stick.

Recognize where you’re at in your walk of life, but never let it limit you from reaching your potential.

– Adele

A Duchess’s Tale | Living A Life of Purpose

Here I am back from a long reprieve from writing. And now that I am back I’ve realized how much I missed it. On occasion a writer must go on the impulse of a thought. Thoughts are fleeting and so they might escape unless they be written down. So this is not what I usually write about, but I hope you’ll find it relevant nonetheless.

Late last week I was struck by the dedication of two women in history. Naturally, not being able to get it off the brain, I had to write about it. On a Friday evening I found myself watching The Duchess, staring Kiera Knightley. Instead of escaping into the great abyss that is the television, I found myself thinking about important issues. Great way to unwind on a Friday, huh?

The duchess is a true account (with some embellishments) of the life of the duchess of Devonshire, England. She marries at a very young age the duke of Devonshire; who, despite his great wealth and want of connection, seems to only care about securing his heir to the throne. After several failed attempts to have a boy, the duke begins to look elsewhere. He ends up marrying the duchess’s best friend and the three of them live together until her death.

It’s tempting for a girl alone and with a bottle of wine in hand to scream at the TV because of this nonsense. But my words would fall on deaf ears. There is no happy ending, no justice done. Times were different then. Women were utterly and completely dependent on men, and men could do whatever they wanted.

Now, is this some feminist rant? Hardly. What struck me was her determination and resilience despite the culture in which she lived. The duchess was smart, opinionated, she was a fashion icon, and she was involved in politics. I was also reminded of Jane Austen throughout this movie. She is not only one of the classics that inspired me to write, but she saw way beyond her time and became a woman’s rights activist in her own way.

Today, women don’t suffer as much from what I would call blatant discrimination. Although one could argue there’s discrimination against women in the workplace but that is not for me to discuss. No, we suffer more within. Insecurity, fear, and doubt are our vices. Even now as I write this, I realize I’ve gotten off the writing horse for a while and it’s hard to get back on again. Back to being vulnerable. But at the end of the day, I would rather be vulnerable than live in a safe bubble and never experience the world.

There’s a twinge of excitement within my bones when I realize my potential and that it’s within my grasp. The only person holding me back is myself. So whether you are man or woman, here’s to living a life of purpose.

– Adele

Total Wellness | Feel Good Food For Your Body and the Planet

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I’m currently sitting at my desk with pen and paper. No screen in front of my face with pop up adds or tabs to switch through. No distractions; the way writing should be. I could tell you that I had some sort of enlightenment but that would be lying. My MacBook power cord has been sparking every time I plug it into the socket. So due to the apparent fire hazard and the fact that my computer is dead, I must take to this more backward method.

I haven’t done much blogging work lately I guess you could say. I’ve been off instagram, pretty much all forms of social media – it’s nice. I’ve been spending time with friends and family and doing a lot of planning for the wedding! Most of all, I’ve been focusing on exercising more, doing yoga, and transitioning to a more plant-based diet. The reason, although very compelling, is not to get in better shape for the wedding. I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person, so this would just be taking it to the next level – for my body and for the wellbeing of the planet.

I love to watch documentaries on Netflix; particularly those that have to do with the food we eat. And since I’ve seen Food Inc. about 10 times, I thought it was time to find something different. I found a couple that were good and you can find these on Netflix! Vegucation and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Vegucation follows three New Yorkers that decide to go Vegan and why going vegan is so important for our bodies and the planet. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead follows a man named Joe Cross who nursed himself back to health from obesity and a debilitating autoimmune disease by juicing using only fruits and vegetables. Both are compelling and both have two common themes. They advocate for a plant based diet and they both show a lifestyle that goes totally against the grain (no pun intended) of where our food system is currently taking us.

I am absolutely floored when I hear of juicing or a plant based diet come under such scrutiny. Yet too often crazy diet fads and weight loss pills take center stage. No one is complaining about those. Okay maybe some people are, but these unnatural methods touting health benefits often comes up wanting.

Enough is enough. We’ve tried everything else, it’s time to get back to the basics. Fruits and vegetables is where it’s at – and that’s just the beginning to being on a healthy path for the rest of your life! Is meat, cheese, and dairy good for you? Sure! In moderation. The problem with that is for most people it’s the opposite. We eat more meat, cheese, and dairy and we eat fruits and vegetables in moderation. Fruits and vegetables are the real deal! Nutrition straight from the earth. You can’t get more wholistic than that!

A plant based diet isn’t what we typically think of as a diet. It’s a change of lifestyle. You are reorienting your tastebuds, expanding your palette, and changing your habits. Whether you decide to go all plant based (vegan) or mostly plant based, your body will thank you for it either way. For example, the purpose of a juice cleanse is not so you have to drink only liquids the rest of your life, it’s to give the body a boost and the motivation it really needs to get healthy and start craving the right kinds of foods.

I used to think going vegan was kind of unnecessary. Meat holds an essential building block to our health – protein. And as long as you eat locally sourced meat and not fast food it’s okay. There are a whole host of repercussions, some seen and some not seen, when we pick up that ground beef from the store. I don’t think I’m ready to go completely vegan, but I would like to gravitate toward a predominately plant based diet. It’s silly to think meat is my only source of protein when there are so many other alternatives out there.

I’m starting on a path to total wellness and I encourage you to do the same! If nothing else so you feel better and live a happy life! Have any of you tried going vegan or have done a juice cleanse? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Adele

Embracing Seasonality Part II: Winter Kale Salad with Blood Oranges & A Pomegranate Vinaigrette + Thoughts on Winter

Winter can be a rather bleak affair. When you’re in the thick of it, it feels like there is no escape; homes dimly lit by the winter sun and cold that envelops your whole body. If I’m honest I would rather be transported to a warmer climate, maybe sitting on the beach enjoying a summer salad and some fresh seafood too. I don’t much care for winter, I simply endure it (hopefully without too much grumbling!). Seeing as I’m not sitting on a beach but in southeastern Ohio, I must embrace even the bleakest of winters.

There’s something about winter, maybe the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures, that can put our bodies and minds into a depression and dormancy. It’s important that we not let our eating habits fall victim to this. I think most of us turn to our comfort foods as a consolation for the cold. Although I don’t tend to crave many processed foods anymore, I am a sucker for raw cookie dough! I can always take the hint when afterwards my belly starts hurting. I’ve never had an upset stomach from eating fruits and vegetables.

The biggest thing I notice about winter eating is a feeling of scarcity. In the spring we get to enjoy a plethora of fruits and veggies – tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, and the list goes on. It is very easy then to come up with a delicious spring or summer salad. If you are at all concerned about seasonality you may get to winter and think, “Well, there’s nothing to eat now.” The good news is there’s still wholesome food to eat while being food conscious at the same time.

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Citrus is a saving grace in the winter months. It is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and the pop of color alone is enough to cure even the most pervasive winter blues. Surprisingly enough, the peak growing season for oranges in the U.S. is December to March – in California, Florida, and to a lesser extent Texas and Arizona. So this time of year you can find different varieties of oranges far cheaper and in greater supply. These include blood oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, pomegranate, etc. It’s very easy to throw these in a salad, include them in your favorite dessert, or make a juice drink out of it.

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The good news is you don’t have to be a master chef or buy expensive ingredients to eat well this winter. Just make sure your plates have plenty of color. Like this organic purple kale salad that I enlivened with some blood oranges, apples, walnuts for protein, and blue cheese for added decadence. I then topped it off with a pomegranate vinaigrette. I used fresh pomegranate juice from a pomegranate fruit because you can get them for really cheap right now! Although I have not yet perfected the vinaigrette (It turned out too runny for me. Because you’re getting more water here than with a traditional vinaigrette, I would try using balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, or honey to thicken it up), here’s a great recipe for you to look at in the mean time!

Just because the weather is bleak right now doesn’t mean your diet has to reflect that. I can tell you this salad is packed with so many antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients that cookie dough can’t hold a candle to this. It is possible to eat seasonally well this winter it just takes some thinking outside of the box and the willingness to go beyond your food comfort zone. Your body and the environment will truly thank you for it.

Embracing Seasonality & The Flavors of Winter

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Growing up, I was unaware of the complex workings of our food system. I had no idea that oranges were an unnatural thing to see in the supermarket in the dead of winter. And that tomatoes were prematurely ripened so they could look like a tomato and trucked thousands of miles to end up on our shelves. I grew up eating strawberries in the middle of winter, unaware of the consequences. How could I have known any better? After all, no one told me this. It wasn’t until my college education that I began to question the “normalcies” of our food system.

If you strive like I do to eat seasonally, then I know you can relate to the feeling of pure torture as you walk through the produce section of the store. It’s all laid out, as in a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I crave the flavors of spring and wonder when we’re going to get out of this winter. It’s one hard pill to swallow when you realize you can easily reach for that $5 container of blueberries (ouch!) but your conscience wouldn’t allow it.

But as I delve more into the food culture, I find myself craving winter root vegetables. Maybe it’s my body trying find peace with the natural earth… or maybe because roasted acorn squash is incredibly delicious (I’m thinking it’s the latter ;)! The truth is there is a delightful array of options available to us during our winter hibernation. Of course nothing grows in the winter, but we can eat vegetables and fruits from the fall all thanks to modern storage methods. Even limiting your grocery trip to seasonal produce can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. (<< this is a wonderful article on carbon footprints on the Economist. It even talks about carbon footprint labeling. It’s worth a read!) Even better, subscribe to a CSA and you can reap the benefits of a local farmer’s fall harvest (more on CSAs later)!

Acorn squash is my favorite root vegetable by far! With a tough skin, it’s harder to cut but the work is well worth it! All you have to do is roast it and it is perfection! Butternut is the sister squash and it’s perfect to use as a soup. Any other vegetable like carrots, leaks, onions, and potatoes will do. Winter and fall fruits would include apples, grapes, and even certain varieties of raspberries and strawberries! If you’re looking to create a delicious winter salad, try kale, collard greens, or spinach. Kale is my personal favorite. And, if you’re looking for a different take on kale you can try kale chips – delicious and nutritious.

Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take some willpower. It becomes easier after a while and you might even find yourself starting to crave these foods! When we eat in balance with the seasons, we lessen our environmental impact. And yes in kind of a hokey way, we’re more in balance with the earth’s natural patterns. It makes us healthier, happier individuals.

Roasted Acorn Squash

– preheat oven to 350

– cut the squash into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet

– drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper

– bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft

Kale Chips

– preheat oven to 300

– arrange chip-size pieces of kale on a baking sheet (removing any stems)

– drizzle with olive oil and salt

– bake for 30 minutes or until crispy

A Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

For the past couple of years we have had what seems like an endless store of deer meat. My Fiancé got a deer a few years back and although I’ve tried to use it up any way I can, we still have a lot left over. This is a wonderful predicament to be in because it means I don’t have to buy meat from the grocery store. There is a veil between us and how our food is prepared and once that veil was lifted from my eyes, I was disgusted. Meat is by far one of the worst of the food industry – wreaking havoc on human health and the environment. If I can find a way around the system, I’m all for it.

Hunting for meat is wholesome and natural. It’s what people had to do in order to survive the winter. Now we don’t have to work for our food anymore. It is practically handed to us in the form of fast food and factory farms that make food production a science. I wish I could say I live a truly minimal lifestyle, only living off the land. But deer meat is one item I can say is nice to have loads of in the freezer at my disposal. If the apocalypse happened, we would be set (with meat anyway).

Deer meat is kind of a mixed bag for most people. Some like it, some don’t, and some are afraid to try it. I’m sure deer meat is the least of our worries with all the other exotic meats out there. Nevertheless, I want to ease your fears and show you a great way to use it – in chili. If you cook deer meat in something like chili or in a sauce it loses its gaminess and tastes (in my opinion) just like ground beef. You won’t be able to tell the difference. I created a basic crockpot chili recipe that is hearty and flavorful. It’s a good base to start with so if you like a little kick (which I don’t) you can certainly add more spices and even some hot sauce!

It’s nice if you have a handsome fiancé like I do to go out and catch you a deer! But what if you don’t have that? What are your options? Find a local farm or store where they carry local meat. If you live in Lancaster Ohio, Bay Food Market is a family owned business that processes meat themselves that they get from local farms in the area (be on the lookout for a story on them in the near future). To find a farm in your area, check out Eat Wild. As a last resort if you must buy meat from the grocery store, buy organic and free range meat. But since these organic companies are so big, you can’t be one hundred percent sure they are following all the guidelines. Loop holes, unfortunately, are common in the organic food system. The best situation is when you can visit the farm to see how your food is being prepared. You develop a relationship with the farmer. There’s nothing better for our health and for the environment than true pastoralism.

rustic chili

Recipe | Crockpot Deer Chili

Ingredients:

2 pounds of ground deer meat (or meat of your choice)

1 medium sweet onion

2 cups diced green peppers

2 cans organic diced tomatoes

1 can organic black beans

1 can organic kidney beans

1 can organic tomato paste

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. hot sauce (I use Frank’s Red Hot)

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add the meat, onion, green pepper, and salt and pepper to a large skillet and begin to brown the meat. Meanwhile, put the remaining ingredients in the crockpot. Add to that the browned ground meat and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Enjoy!