Thankful Thursday: Fighting Racism and Misogyny Requires Gratitude and Forgiveness, Not Hate

So, this happened.

It’s hard for me to figure out what’s more disgusting about this video.

The slurs? The fact that this woman spewed out the foulest language imaginable in front of her two young kids? The ease with which she jumped to racist talk when angry?

As the man in the video says, racism is alive and well.

We hear about it everyday. The recent Don Sterling episode was just one example in a very long history of discrimination and utter disregard for an entire race. As appalled as we all are when the story hits the front page, how often do we encounter this in our own backyards and do nothing?

I hear it at work in the stories my coworkers tell and the words they choose to describe people of other races:

Chinky eyes.

Dirty Mexican.

Speak English, you’re in America.

And it’s not just racism but misogyny as well. The way women are talked about, laughed at, criticized, or just plain condemned by those who work with me or near me is downright nauseating.

It shames me that I don’t stand up to it more. I could be like this guy and pull out my camera, record, and upload on YouTube. That’s what people do these days. And bravo to them for putting it out there. We need more people pushing this conversation into the mainstream.

Because as he said, racism is alive and well.

But is this really helping? We watch these videos, or read the rants on social media and people argue back and forth on message boards. People are outraged and express that anger through all kinds of outlets online or in person. Given how pervasive racism and misogyny are though, how much is any of it actually contributing towards tangible change?

I’m no saint. I judge and stereotype too. It’s easier for me to shut it out and just ignore it when I hear it from others, but I’m also quick to jump to conclusions. My experiences growing up led me to reject anything that pegged me (or anyone) into a racial profile and I stayed away from many aspects of my own cultural background as a result. I’ll admit that stems from my own insecurities which leads to a lack of understanding and unfair bias. Guilty as charged.

I spent most of my life defending the fact that I was Latino because I didn’t follow the preconceived notions of what a Latino looks like or acts like. It got to a point where I was so sick of having the conversation that I learned to tune out the racist talk. I am who I am, an amalgamation of the immigrant experience, New York urban upbringing, with a propensity for nerdy discourse and overthinking things. Take it or leave it.

But I’m beginning to question my ignorance. Not only have I lost out on embracing the beauty of my heritage, I’ve also become afraid to challenge others when I’m offended. By turning off my response to racism, I’ve become an uncomfortable bystander in moments when I really just want to turn to the person and ask them, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I hate confrontations. I’ve gotten by, by staying out of the fray, observing but not commenting, judging but not acting, feeling guilty but not forgiving; and I realize how horrible that makes me feel.

I don’t know what the right answer is. Battling every single person who says something racist or misogynistic seems impossible. And besides, responding in kind with your own verbal onslaught doesn’t solve anything.

You judge, I judge, we all judge, but no one wins.

Nor am I a naive idealist who believes that one day we’ll live in a world without racism. It’s always been there because it’s bred out of fear. And fear is never going anywhere.

That said, we’ve come a long way this past century in so many incredible ways. We have freedoms in this country that others in the world fight and die for every day, without ever realizing those dreams.

I can send my future daughter to school and not have to worry that masked gunmen will pluck her out of her class and sell her to the highest bidder. #BringBackOurGirls

I can marry and divorce a man without having my family stone me to death. #YesAllWomen

I can go to school or take a job in any industry I want regardless of my gender. #YesAllWomen

Immigrants like my parents can came to this country without speaking the language, and raise five children with the resources and benefits provided by our government. They are then able to gain citizenship and continue to fight for their rights without censorship or reprisal. A huge win for two Latinos who came out of brutal poverty and dictatorship. #Latism

For all of that I am thankful.

It will take more experience and conversation for me to understand my place in the daily battles of us versus them.

I do know that the goal for myself and my loved ones is to change that to we, to embrace everyone without prejudice along any lines; race, gender, physical disability, mental health, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, job title…or any choices made that I just don’t understand because I can’t relate.

My hope is that I can pass this along to my children. That the day they see me angry in a parking lot, that I handle it constructively and mindful that my children are learning how to deal with difficult situations from my example. Nothing like this woman who chose to teach her children the worst, as they too started cursing at the man in the car.

Violence perpetuates violence. Racism perpetuates racism. It’s a cycle.

I’ve made a conscious effort to stay away from some of the stickier subjects on this blog for different reasons. I didn’t even have the intention of posting something today, until I saw this video in my news feed. I’m sure I’ll come back to this post thinking I forgot an important point or wishing that I’d said something more eloquent or profound.

But I realize that all of that is besides the point. You can’t force people to change, but you do have a choice in how you react and treat those around you.

I chose to start this day with a reflection on my part in the dialogue around me. It’s a daily struggle for me to internalize all of the misguided ignorance I hear, but I also know that there are many people out there who don’t share those thoughts. I’m relying on my faith that soon I’ll be out of this environment and around like-minded company who can at least participate in a constructive conversation about the topic. For now, I have this blog and all of you.

This was a stream of consciousness meant to unburden some of these pent up feelings, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

What did you think about the video?

How do you choose to deal with hurtful comments that are racist or misogynistic in nature?

Why do we have such a hard time accepting people of other cultures or the opposite sex?

What are you thankful for this week?

Thankful Thursday 6-5-14

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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5 Surprising (and Delicious) Ways to Use Avocado


If you were stranded on a desert island, what one food would you absolutely have to have, no matter what?

There’s a lot to consider since we’re talking about survival here. I’ll assume there are coconuts on this island, and having seen Castaway about a hundred times (and being a massive Lost fan), I’ve learned basic coconut-opening skills with nothing but some rocks, arm power, and a bit of patience.

That leaves me with avocados. How can I live without them?

I’ve featured a number of recipes using avocado in the traditional ways: mashed into guacamole, sliced up in tacos, or chopped into a salad.

But have you tried avocado in a cake? Or pudding? Or in mac and cheese?

These fruit (yep, they’re fruit!) are super versatile, and can be used as a substitute for healthy saturated fats, like butter or oil, in many different recipes.

There are over 500 varieties of avocado from all over the world varying in size and color. My personal favorite is the Hass avocado. It’s dark green pebbly skin and creamy flesh stands out from the rest and on any given day, you’ll find at least one or two in my fruit bowl. Aside from its incredible flavor and versatility, avocados pack a mighty punch on the nutrition end. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Sodium and cholesterol-free, but densely packed with approximately 380 calories, 35g of fat, 16g of fiber and 5g of protein in an 8oz serving. Despite the high fat content, these fats are mostly monounsaturated (MUFAs) which are healthier and mainly found in avocados.
  • Speaking of fat: Perhaps the biggest health benefit of eating avocados is oleic acid, an omega-9 fat which helps decrease blood cholesterol by increasing the production of HDLs, or high-density lipoproteins.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: In a 1oz serving of hass avocado (about 1/5 wedge), there is 152mg of potassium (4%DV), 6.3mcg of Vitamin K (8%DV), and 27mcg of Folate (6%DV). Avocados are also rich in Vitamins B6, E,C, and Riboflavin each accounting for 4%DV.
  • Fiber: Avocados are high in fiber with approximately 40% of your DV in one serving. Fiber improves digestion and can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

If I could have an avocado a day, I would. In fact, I usually do!

Here are 5 surprising ways to use avocado that has nothing to do with tacos, salad, or sandwiches:

Avocado Coconut Popsicles from SkinnyTaste

photo courtesy of

The creaminess of avocado with the subtle sweetness of coconut, make this popsicle a yummy and refreshing treat this summer. With less than five ingredients in this recipe, this is easy enough to pull off any day of the week.

Avocado Buckwheat Pancakes from Kitchen Kemistry

Avocado pancakes
photo courtesy of













There’s no such thing as too many pancake recipes, in my opinion. This avocado buckwheat version powers up your breakfast with loads of fiber and is a great gluten-free substitute for traditional wheat pancakes.

Avocado Spaghetti from The Londoner

I know what you’re thinking. Spaghetti and…avocado? Surprising, I know. But when you consider the buttery texture and mild flavor of avocado, it makes sense. It’s like a different version of pesto. I’d consider going with a whole wheat pasta here to add some nuttiness and even more fiber.

Avocado Mac and Cheese from Two Peas and Their Pod

photo courtesy of

Mac and cheese usually gets a bad rap for being an unhealthy food, but there are easy ways to give this dish a healthy makeover. We’ve seen that avocado and pasta can go well together, so this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. I love the use of cilantro and lime here to give this mac and cheese some punch. This is a comfort food recipe that you can adapt to each season. Add some butternut squash in the winter months!

Fudgy Avocado Brownies from How Sweet Eats

Fudgy Avocado Brownies I
Photo courtesy of

Chocolate and avocado may be the most surprising combination….but it works. Trust me. I’ve made chocolate avocado protein smoothies before and it’s delightful. Brownies are the ultimate splurge food, so it’s pretty great to find a recipe out there that won’t make me feel completely guilty. Time to treat yo’self with these brownies!

There are so many amazing avocado recipes out there. Open yourself up to trying one that’s a little out of the ordinary to spice up your weekly menu. It’s time to pick up some avocados!

What’s your favorite avocado recipe?

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or on FB and Twitter.

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Crunchy Summer Rolls with Sweet and Savory Dipping Sauce

Crunchy Summer Rolls

I’ve had a terrible case of snack attacks this week.

Chips, fruits, bagels, yogurt, granola…uh, chocolate covered pretzels. Sure, that’s not all terrible but when you’re eating almost every hour on the hour, it’s time to admit to yourself that things have gotten out hand.

Not wanting to slide back into old, unhealthy habits, I knew I needed a veggie detox stat. It’s what I always do when I feel out of sorts. I had a plan but there was one more hurdle.

This week included a killer schedule that had me running all over the place. Getting to play around with new veggie recipes just wasn’t possible for me.

So, on the menu for this Meatless Monday was a super fast, super easy, super healthy mean-green dish that could get me back on track.

These crunchy summer rolls? Perfection.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

A bit of prep to chop, grate, and grill your fillings is worth the effort. Trust me.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Forget the rice paper. Go for big, dark, leafy greens. Not only are they packed with healthy nutrients, they’re built to easily roll up whatever you want. How cool is that?

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Having attempted and failed to roll burritos and wraps in the past, I have to say this was simply done. There’s no way to screw this up.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

Sweet and savory with a dash of heat? Sign me up.

Crunchy Summer Rolls

And bonus points for being so pretty to look at.


  • 1 red beet root, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut in half if thick stalks
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced in thin sticks
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 6 large mustard green leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ Haas avocado, sliced
  • Olive oil spray
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Dipping sauce

  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsps of warm water
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar (or fish sauce)
  • 1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ¾ crushed red pepper (or sriracha sauce)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsps grated carrot

1. Heat a grill pan and spray with oil. Once hot, place half the asparagus bunch in pan. Spray oil and sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side and set aside with the rest of the fillings.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve warm sugar in water. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Allow the sauce to chill in the fridge.

3. Working with one leaf at a time, trim the stems. Place a small amount of each of the fillings in the center. Fold the bottom up towards the center, then tuck in the sides and keep rolling until the fit is snug with the seam on the bottom. Repeat with the rest of the leaves.

4. Place rolls on a serving plate with the dipping sauce and slice in half. Done!

Wasn’t that easy? You can customize this with whatever ingredients you want. I’m not a fan of tofu, but that would go perfectly here, as well as mushrooms, micro greens, or even quinoa.

The next time I feel that snack attack coming on, I can roll up one of these veggie bad boys. Problem solved.

What’s your favorite healthy snack?

Do you have a Meatless Monday recipe to share?

As always, please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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Thankful Thursday: Is This What I Truly Want?

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

“We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay — and rise!”

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

-Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s poetry always moved me, but I didn’t quite appreciate the beauty and simplicity of her words until recently.

My journey- sometimes impossible but always worthwhile- continually forces me to confront my past, my fears, my choices and my vision of a life that I am working so hard to shape each second of every day.

It’s not easy. Nothing worth having, ever is.

But Angelou’s words always seem to appear when I needed them most, as a reminder to strip down the obstacle to it’s barest core and walk away from it with a lesson instead of a burden.

I’ve worked myself into the ground, trying so hard to do everything I can to move past this point in my journey and get to the next level towards my higher purpose. It’s as if I’m trying to make up for eight years of stagnant growth in a few months.

I ignored my body’s urgent messages, namely exhaustion and lack of focus, to slow down and committed myself to a grueling schedule.

I made excuses for skipping the things that actually make me feel good, like exercise and healthy eating, and told myself that it would have to take a backseat to what was necessary in the moment.

I forgot that experiencing the journey moment by moment was the whole point here, and the destination is only a byproduct.

We work ourselves into the ground or up against a wall and grind ourselves down even further until there’s nothing left. It’s become a silent disease that cripples us and stifles our passions. But we sacrifice it all for a vague dream or a status quo, never taking the time to stop and ask ourselves:

Is this what I truly want?

Maya Angelou was a remarkable woman in so many ways. She left a permanent mark in the world with her brilliance and her dedication to teaching us the most important lessons in life: self-acceptance, equality, kindness, dedication, love.

I’ve given up so many times in the past at exactly the point that I find myself now. I get so tired and the vision that appeared so sharp and bright when I began, suddenly gets blurry and confusing.

But if there’s anything I’m grateful for this week, it’s that I’m hitting that turning point and choosing to ask myself the important questions so that I can continue moving forward, not backward.

Get a workout in. Skip the piece of cake and reach for fruit instead. Go to bed earlier to get quality sleep for the day ahead. Saying no when I possibly can’t get it done. Saying yes when fear tells me not to. These are the little steps I’m taking to get there, bit by bit.

Thankful Thursday 529

Do you take the time to take care of yourself?

What are you thankful for this week?

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Wordless Wednesday: The Weatherman

wordless wednesday Freedom Tower 5-28-14

Growing up, I looked west for my weather report.

Are the towers covered in fog? Better grab an umbrella.

Thirteen years later and I still find myself looking west, searching the skyline for the familiar spires, my weathermen, and forgetting for just a second.

Muscle memory I guess.

I catch myself peeking at the new sleek spire from the corner of my eye each morning. I’m still unused to seeing it there. Almost like an invader in beloved territory.

But there it is again; my weatherman.

Better grab my umbrella.

What do you see each morning on your way to work or school? How does it make you feel?

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5 Super Easy Ways to Stay Healthy this Memorial Day

Memorial Day, Happy Memorial Day, Animated Graphics, Animated Gif, Animated Gifs, Keefers photo: Memorial Day, Happy Memorial Day, Animated Graphics, Animated Gif, Animated Gifs, Keefers 673990b9.gifIt’s the unofficial start to summer which means cookouts, beach trips, and a food-filled weekend!

It can be easy to get caught up in the fun and slip off the health wagon once the summer parties begin. From high-calorie eats at barbecues to boozy afternoons at outdoor beer gardens, you can quickly fall off track with your health goals.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are many simple ways to substitute typical summer party fare for healthier alternatives that will keep your celebrating while in shape, all season long.

Here are five tips to stay healthy this Memorial Day weekend and onward:

1. Skip the ketchup. It may seem like sacrilege to forgo the ketchup on a hot dog or burger during a barbecue, but think about how much of it you’re eating throughout the day. Ketchup, as yummy as it is, usually has high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. No need to load up on all of that added sugar each time you reach for that bottle. Mustard is a great alternative, in moderation. It’s much lower in fat, calories, and sugar, but can be high in salt. If you’re not a mustard fan, get your ketchup fix with thick slices of beefsteak tomatoes. They’re naturally sweet, and are nutritional powerhouses with fiber, vitamins A, C, K, B6, and lycopene which protects your skin from the sun and supports strong bones. Better choice, no?


2. Greek yogurt is all-purpose. Greek yogurt is a familiar breakfast staple, Throw in some granola and chopped fruit, and you’re good to go. But did you know that you can also use greek yogurt for savory dishes? If it’s your turn to bring the potato salad, swap the mayo for the low-fat and protein-packed yogurt instead. I’ve tried this before, and I can guarantee that your salad will still be delicious and creamy without weighing you down. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

Potato Salad
courtesy Shape magazine

3. Treat yourself with dessert. And by dessert, I mean fruit. LOTS of it. One of the best things about summer cookouts is that its perfect timing for some of the best fruit in season. Berries, peaches, plums, mangoes, pineapples, watermelon; there are many different varieties available that are both healthy and delicious. A slice of cake may seem tempting, but wouldn’t you rather snack on this instead?


4. Hydrate the smart way. Let’s be honest here. Most barbecues have some kind of alcohol, whether it’s beer or fruity cocktails. It’s a holiday and you want to kick back and have some fun. I get it.  I’m not going to rain on your parade, BUT if you’re looking to go the healthy route this year, be mindful to keep your alcoholic drinks to a minimum, one for women and two for men. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’re spending the day outdoors and playing games. How about you throw in some of the dessert in your water, like these fruit-infused waters?


5. Don’t just sit there. After a long and terrible winter, don’t you think it’s time to get up and move around a bit? Go for a swim or hang up a net and play a friendly game of volleyball with your friends. Do all of the things you told yourself you were going to do once the snow melted. Get those potato sacks out of storage. The weather is finally right, so put on that sunscreen and have some fun!

courtesy of Univision

 What are your plans this holiday weekend?

How do you stay healthy during cookouts and summer parties?

Please feel free to share your comments or questions below or on FB and Twitter.


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Thankful Thursday: Holding On For Tonight

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist

There are times when nothing helps.

I had the kind of week where I lost sight of the big picture. Autopilot kicked in and each day bled into the next, with little change in my mood or outlook on some major life changes that are looming on the horizon.

Meditation, exercise, writing in my journal, affirmations; none of it worked.

What frustrated me was that I felt more on track and confident in the last month then I had in a long time. Why the sudden turn around?

Then, I saw this:

I fell in love with “Chandelier” as soon as I heard it a month ago. Sia makes great music and I’ve adored her for awhile now.

But watching this video was a different experience.

Do you remember what it was like when you sat on a swing and pushed yourself as high as you could go? That exhilaration? The glee and wonder of it all?

I spend so much time analyzing, contemplating, second-guessing; just plain thinking myself into circles. All the while, I’m standing still, locked in a perpetual state of worry.

Sometimes, don’t you want to just get up and spin around in circles or jump up and down on your bed, like you did when you were a kid?

The pure reckless abandon of spins, jumps, and playing endless games that you invented, is what makes being a kid so damn incredible.

Watching this video brought me back to those days, but it also pushed me forward. Maybe I won’t run around my apartment leaping from furniture or throwing myself on the ground. I definitely won’t try doing splits anytime soon.

What I can do is learn to let go of all that tension I carry around, and to live in the moment. For no other reason then to embrace the idea that the we’re only guaranteed today and we should truly live in the time we have.

We have ups and downs and sometimes our circumstances make it hard to shake off the bad energy. I’m a realist and oftentimes a pessimist (there, I said it). There’s no harm in cutting yourself some slack to do something, anything that makes you feel like that kid on a swing trying to get higher off the ground.

Thankful Thursday; Holding on for Tonight

When was the last time you felt free and joyful like the young girl in the video?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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Challenge Yourself to Be Better Today

When I began my fitness journey years ago, my main goal was to lose weight. Nothing groundbreaking about that one. How many of us are motivated by the idea of hitting a magic number on the scale? I definitely was.

When I took on weight lifting over a year ago, I had no idea how much I would grow to love it and embrace true physical strength. I moved past weight loss to hitting bigger numbers with a barbell. All I thought was, MORE.

But things changed, and more importantly, I changed.

I found myself on a plateau a few months ago. I made excuses to avoid working out and I didn’t get the same buzz from lifting. My diet changed too. There were fewer rainbows on my plate and it was more likely that I’d go for second helpings on french fries than spinach salad.

This needed to stop. I’d been exactly here before and I know what a slippery slope this can be. The upside is that the hard work I’d put in the last four years meant I was more in tune with my body.

Even though it was getting harder for me to stick to my healthier habits, I felt a strong desire to get past this hump and I had the tools and experience to get there.

My solution? Create new fitness goals.

Hitting a new RM at the gym not cutting it for me this week? That’s okay. Do something else. Find something that keeps you motivated and challenges you to tear down those limits. The trick is to keep experimenting until you figure out what works for you right now.

And so I did.

Vega Sport collage

I’m not going to be a champion swimmer or break national records at a powerlifting meet. I might never get to balance in crow position or properly do a headstand. That’s not what’s important.

What’s become essential for me on this journey is this: my only goal is to be better than I was yesterday. My only competition is with my inner critic that fights hard to keep me saying, “no, I can’t.”

Between yoga, lifting, high intensity interval training, and now swimming, keeping my nutrition in check has become vital.

So, I’ve dusted off the shaker bottles (and gave them a good soak because yuck) and jumped at the chance to try Vega Sport’s Performance Protein.

It’s fair to say that I’ve tried a broad range of products in an effort to find something that I felt good about putting in my body. I’m a research-aholic which means I’ll spend a long time looking at things from every angle before I give it a green light.

Vega Sport 2 Vega Sport 3

A lot of the whey-based proteins I’ve tried were decent, but it drove me nuts how many of those products had tons of artificial sweeteners and additives.

Vega Sport Performance Protein is completely plant-based and is gluten & soy-free, which is a great alternative for vegans and those suffering from food allergies. It’s sweetened by Stevia, a healthier alternative to aspartame or other artificial sugars.

What really sold me was the added BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) to help boost muscle repair and recovery between workouts. This is usually a separate supplement, but Vega Sport saves time by adding this to their protein mix. Love it!

I’m more of a protein smoothie kind of gal, but I wouldn’t mind trying a mug cake or these strawberry protein waffles. Post-workout though, it’s straight to the blender for me.

Vega Sport 4

It was after a swim plus HIIT workout that I got to give this a shot, and it was so worth it.

VegaSport 1

One word: YUMMO!

Vega Sport 5

No need to add any sweeteners here as the banana and protein does that for you. I highly recommend kale for the added health benefits, but if you’re not the biggest fan of this hearty green, then go with spinach.

Kale Blueberry #FuelYourBetter Smoothie

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries
  • ½ frozen banana
  • 1 cup of fresh kale, stems removed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 packet of VegaSport Protein

Throw all ingredients into a blender and puree into smoothie perfection. Note: If you’re using fresh fruit, then be sure to add 4-5 ice cubes. That’ll make it nice and frothy.

You’ve made the choice to start leading a healthier life? Awesome! Keep in mind that this is all a work in progress and success won’t happen overnight. You have to put in the effort every single day.

Ask yourself what feels right to you and align your goals with that vision. Do this often.

What feels right to you today, may not work in a few months or a few years, and that’s alright. Just be honest with yourself.

No matter how I choose to move, it feels amazing to know that I’m getting better every day.

How do you stay motivated to stick to your fitness goals? 

Do you take any sports supplements?

How do you #fuelyourbetter?

Disclaimer: Please note that I was not financially compensated for this review by Vega Sport or any affiliate companies or organizations. My opinions are my own and do not represent an official endorsement of Vega Sport.

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Thankful Thursday: The Ones Who Get You

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

 People inspire you or they drain you- pick them wisely. -Hans F. Hansen

 You know who I’m talking about.

They’re the ones you turn to when no one gets what you’re trying to say.

The ones who have your back when someone screws you over or if you hit hard times.

The ones that make you laugh until your sides hurt and you can’t breathe, but you have to keep laughing because they’re so damn funny.

The ones who can read your face and then read your mind like a scary psychic, only it’s not scary. It’s awesome.

The ones who challenge you to push yourself a bit further than yesterday without ever making you feel like a loser because you haven’t quite reached your goals yet.

The ones who let you go on and on about the same crisis that’s kept you in the dumps for awhile and know when to just listen and and when it’s time to intervene.

The ones who make it okay to let out your full crazy- you know, the little peccadilloes you keep hidden from the general public- without judgement. In fact, they let their freak flags fly too.

The ones you don’t have ever have to explain yourself to because they know you well enough to understand who you are deep down and ultimately what you need.

The ones you trust and love, and more importantly, who trust and love you. As is.

Yeah, those guys.

To all my ones who’ve been there for me through it all; traveling around the world, frat parties, dancing in store windows, career changes,  breaking lifting records, tearful confessions, breakups to makeups to breakups again, running away, family fights, and all of the firsts:

You’re the ones that make all of this worth it.

Thankful Thursday: The Ones Who Get You

Who are your positive influences?

What are you thankful for this week?

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5 Things You Need to Know About Women’s Health


Ladies, it’s all about you this week!

From diet to pregnancy to oral and mental health, the Office of Women’s Health hosts a week filled with events and education initiatives to get women proactive about their well-being.


There are many aspects of health to consider when working towards optimal living.  Daily pressures coupled with busy schedules often means that we’re putting our health last on the priority list.

This week offers the perfect opportunity to put a spotlight on your health and well-being, to hopefully learn something new that will inspire you to embrace a healthier lifestyle.

Here are 5 things you need to know about women’s health to start:

  • Nearly 2 out of 3 women 20yrs and older are overweight or obese. Studies with Mexican-American women show that they are 40% more likely to be obese than their white counterparts.
  • Less than half of US women are getting enough aerobic exercise and only 20% are doing muscle-strengthening activity, making women more likely to develop heart disease and cancer (along with contributing to obesity and diabetes). Latinos are 30% less likely to engage in exercise than their white counterparts.
  • Smoking causes 80% of lung cancer deaths among women in the US. On the plus side, Latinas have lower smoking rates comparably, and they’re less likely to smoke during pregnancy.
  • Women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. According to the CDC, Latina teens are the most likely group to consider suicide.
  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US, with over 75% of women 40-60 yrs old having at least one risk factor. On average, Latinas are more likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than their white counterparts.

Did any of these facts surprise you?  What will you change to lead a healthier life?

The Office of Women’s Health also put together these great infographics with helpful tips on how to take care of yourself in all aspects of health.

NWHW-infographic-mental-health NWHW-infographic-get-active NWHW_infoGraphic_eat healthy NWHW-infographic-well-woman NWHW-infographic-safe-behaviors


As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂


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Revisiting Rome: Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce

eggplant parm 6
Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

It was our third day in Rome and we were exhausted. And hungry.

St. Peter's Basilica
The start of a very long walking day.

My mom is a notoriously picky eater. As the group leader, I was unofficially tasked with not only guiding us through the city, but finding affordable, non-touristy places to eat that would make my picky mom and equally picky sister, happy.

We got lucky this day.

Waiting for lunch in front of the Pantheon. Doesn’t she look happy?

My family begged me to take a lunch break at one of the cafes in front of the Pantheon. I looked at it skeptically.

“This is a tourist trap!” I declared.

Never underestimate the power of hunger and the promise of beautiful scenery to go with your meal.

My mom ordered eggplant parmesan. It was the only thing she ate with gusto the entire trip.

Although my family and I enjoy exploring restaurants, we prefer home-cooked meals. We rented an apartment in Rome and cooked most of our meals during the week with groceries we’d purchased from a local market.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world, but it made me happy to see my mom enjoy this meal with the Pantheon in the background. You really can’t beat that.

Five years later, I wanted to recreate that meal for Mother’s Day albeit without the ancient architecture circling us. I also decided to give it a healthy makeover.

When I surprised my mom with her lunch yesterday, she beamed and gave me a hug and a kiss.

Mission accomplished. 🙂


Serving 4

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced across
  • 2-3 cups of panko (whole wheat if available)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsps grated parmigiano reggiano, separated
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 28oz cans no salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried italian oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil

Optional side salad

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday


1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Prep 2 shallow bowls, one with beaten egg whites (you can add a little bit of water to thin this out) and the other with panko and 1 tbsp of grated parmigiano. Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil. Dip each slice of eggplant in egg white mixture, then panko, making sure to coat all sides with crumbs. Place on sheet evenly and then spray oil across the top. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping over halfway through.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

2. While the eggplant is baking, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tbsp of EVOO in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic for 45 seconds-1 minute (please don’t burn the garlic! you just want to infuse the oil). Add the tomatoes, paste and seasonings, except for fresh basil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover with lid. Cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove lid and stir in half a handful of chopped fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, Cook for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

3. Increase oven temp to 425ºF. In a glass baking dish, spoon tomato sauce across the bottom. Place the baked eggplant slices in a layer. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese and sprinkle 1 tbsp parmiggiano. Spoon more tomato sauce across the top. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

4. Serve 3 slices of eggplant with a side salad of spinach and tomatoes. Sprinkle a little bit of EVOO  and chopped fresh basil over the top. Prego! Homemade healthy goodness.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

This would go perfectly with a side of whole wheat spaghetti if you’re looking for something heartier.

What I love about making a big batch of tomato sauce (and wasn’t that recipe so easy?!), is that I can save the rest for another day. Why buy a jar of sauce when you can make your own without all of the added sugar and preservatives?

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Homemade Tomato Sauce- Meatless Monday

We sat at our old kitchen table. There were no fancy table linens or 1,000 year old temples or old Italian men playing accordions nearby. It was just us, eating together at home. And I’ll never forget it.

How did you celebrate Mother’s Day?

What’s your favorite meatless Italian dish?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Happy Mother’s Day Today and Always

mothers day kinsa fb

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the incredible women who inspire with their strength, resilience, creativity, and selflessness every day of the year. Thank you for all that you do in the name of love and family.

Wishing you a happy and healthy day filled with delicious treats, hugs, and love!

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Thankful Thursday: Why Not Me?

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

The alarm went off at 3am.

What the hell am I doing up at this hour?

Groggy and bleary-eyed, I rolled out of bed and turned my computer on.

Ah, this is what happens when you procrastinate, I told myself.

I’d let myself go up against a deadline and decided to wake up several hours before the workday so that I could finish my writing assignment. Having been exactly here before, I started the familiar process of beating myself up over a myriad of issues all contributing to my having to sit at my desk at 3am.

“If only you’d gotten yourself organized….”

“You always do this…”

“Everyone else has their shit together, but you can’t…”

You get the idea.

Have you ever stopped and listened to how you talk about yourself? It’s brutal.

Most of us have moments of doubt. New experiences and challenges often brings out our fears, which have a powerful hold on us whether we like it or not.

I recently went to an event hosted by Jillian Michaels where she spoke about how to lose weight, exercise, and build confidence to reach our goals. Interesting enough, although not particularly earth-shattering. Nevertheless, Michaels is a badass and a great speaker to boot, so I followed along.

What caused me to perk up and take notice was this question she asked:

Why not me?

Simple enough and one that I’d heard in some variation for over a year now. But in that moment,  it sounded so right.

I can sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face about how you need to celebrate all of the little unique foibles and idiosyncrasies that make up who you are. But I rarely do that for myself, and if I do, I usually dismiss it as being too selfish.

That’s all fear. That I know through and through. How do I break that fear cycle?

Michaels spoke about fear and tore apart the notion that the goal is to be fearless in all of our endeavors. Fear is a normal human response to situations that cause stress. We’re fighting a losing battle if we think that we can just ignore fear and “fake it ’till we make it,” without putting in the work to change our inner dialogue from one of discord to one of compassion.

Fear sneaks up on you. It knows when your guard is down and it keeps you immobilized, especially at times when you really need to move.

At 3am on a Monday morning, I felt that fear creep in as I typed away, until I asked myself:

Why not me?

And I kid you not, the fear slowly faded. My energy levels kicked up. My focus cleared and I felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Years have gone by with me wringing my hands, worrying myself to death over not accomplishing the course that I thought my life would take by the time I hit 30. I built up expectations of what my life should look like and when things didn’t go according to that plan, I very meticulously broke myself down until all I had left was fear and self-doubt.

The truth I’ve come to accept is that there is no “plan”, no one-size-fits-all approach to life that applies to everyone. We’ve created a status quo to follow, and kill ourselves to fit that mold. Creativity is stifled in favor of a life that we don’t want to live, and yet we don’t stop to consider what we actually want because we’re so afraid of going off that beaten track.

Each of us has a gift to contribute to this world that you alone can bring. There are realities that ground us, but by ignoring your inner voice, or worse, giving it a regular smackdown so that you can continue living unhappily, is unacceptable.

I’ve asked myself this question almost daily and each time I find myself pushing a little bit further past the walls I’d built so long ago to get closer to my passion and truth. I’m working harder than ever to accomplish goals and more importantly, I’m taking better care of how I talk about myself.

Instead of beating myself down, I’m choosing to lift myself up, to be grateful and forgiving, to be curious and determined, to be accepting of my fears but balanced in my approach. Some days are harder then others, but I’m investing the time to improve my relationship with myself and that’s worth the effort.

Ask yourself this question each time you experience fear: Why not me?

Thankful Thursday: Why not me?

How do you talk about yourself?

Why do you think we follow a status quo?

What was your answer when you asked, ‘why not me’?

What are you grateful for?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below, or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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3 Health Benefits of Mindful Eating

3 Benefits of Mindful EatingWhen was the last time you sat down to eat without your phone, tablet or television turned on in front of you? Were you mindful about the foods you ate? How did this impact your health?

In our rush to get from one activity to the next, eating often gets pushed back as a task on a to-do list. We race to get something to eat, to then stuff our faces while our minds are concentrating on anything but the foods on our plates and then we hurry back to our desks to finish checking off things from that never-ending list.

Eating becomes a mechanical act. We bite, we chew, we swallow, barely giving thought to what we’re actually doing.

I had this experience recently with a pear. There I was, reading an article about how healthcare technology is putting patients back in the driver’s seat for their health, and inhaling my pear. Literally, gobbling it down without sparing a thought to the flavor or texture or how it was nourishing my body. I just went through the robotic motions of biting, chewing, and swallowing while my eyes were glued to the screen.

About halfway through my pear, I stopped and realized how awful this was. The irony of what I was doing juxtaposed with what I was reading wasn’t lost on me either. It was mid-morning and I was already starving. The pear was meant to get me past that hump until lunch, but I couldn’t muster the energy to pay attention to what I was doing long enough to feel anything. Instead of feeling satiated, I still felt hungry.

I took that moment to stop and refocus my energy on the pear. The shape, the color, the scent, the taste. I turned off my screen so I would have even fewer distractions. The goal was to engage all my senses in the experience of eating that pear. And it was worth that effort. I actually felt satisfied by the end of the process.

We’ve trained ourselves to fill each moment with more than one activity. Our fear of missing out (#FOMO for the cool kids), keeps us locked in a cycle of constant connectivity and anxiety. Taking the time to focus on just eating almost seems like a luxury. That’s what Europeans do, right? Siestas and long dinners where people are doing nothing but eating and drinking? That can’t be healthy.

eating at work

Is finishing a large club sandwich in under five minutes healthy?

We’ve lost touch with how the act of eating affects our physical, emotional and mental health. It’s so more than just a biological function.

By applying some of the principles behind mindful meditation to eating, we can explore how increasing our attention to the foods we eat and the process of consumption can positively impact our health.

3 (of many) health benefits of mindful eating:

  • Taking the time to eat mindfully engages all of our senses and encourages self-awareness. By experiencing each part of the process in an unhurried fashion, you can evaluate how your food choices make you feel. Consider the choice between a bag of potato chips and a small green salad. How do the different colors appeal to you? What did the chips feel like on your hands? Did the salty chips taste better than the salad by the end? Keep your mind open to all of these observations.
  • Mindful eating awakens a connection to family, culture, and tradition. Sitting down to enjoy a meal with friends or family forges a bond. This creates new, positive experiences around food that can help build healthier habits over time. It nourishes the soul as much as the body.

family mindful eating

  • If soul nourishing isn’t on your agenda today, then consider how mindful eating can help you lose weight. By giving the brain time to process the physical act of eating, your body can properly digest the necessary nutrients from your meal and signal the brain that it’s actually satisfied. This is metabolism folks. The body was built for this. Forget about foods that speed this up for you. Dedicate each meal time to just eating and you’ll find that you have a better idea of what foods will give you energy and make you feel great, decrease the need for snacking, and keep you from overeating.
Eating habits cartoon
courtesy chibird.tumblr. com

The next time you sit down to a meal, forget about your schedule. Turn off all of your electronic devices. Focus all of your energy on the foods in front of you.

What does it look like?

How does it feel in your hands?

Does the aroma remind you of a happy memory?

Relish in that for a minute before you dig in. As you start to eat, take your time. Everything you need to do will keep for twenty minutes.

awareness checklist

Will you give this a shot?

How do you feel about mindful meditation?

How much time do you spend eating each meal?

Please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Top 3 Healthy Cinco de Mayo Dishes to Spice Up Your Meatless Monday Fiesta

Like St. Patricks Day, Cinco de Mayo is one of those holidays that we take seriously. As in, we find the yummiest food (and not a few drinks) to celebrate another country’s culture for the day without really having any idea what the holiday is about.

Salud! courtesy

These fiestas aren’t always so healthy though. Between the cheesy dips and the chips and the fried taquitos, you’ll find yourself overloading on empty calories and saturated fats. No bueno.

Look at all that cheese! Photo courtesy
Look at all that cheese!
Photo courtesy

It’s great that Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year because this gives us an opportunity to change up that fiesta menu to incorporate some of the incredible flavors of true Mexican cuisine without throwing in all of those fatty cheeses and sauces we love north of the border.

Bright, colorful, and delicious. Traditional Mexican cuisine is much lighter and far more nutritious than what’s been adapted as part of fast food culture here in the US. There are many ways to incorporate healthy dishes into your fiesta menu that’s true to the roots of Mexican food culture.

photo courtesy
photo courtesy

Mexican restaurants all over New York were crammed with patrons looking to indulge in a bit of tacos and margaritas action this weekend. But there’s no need to join the crowd when you can have your own healthy fiesta at home!

Here are my top 3 Mexican-inspired recipes that will keep you meatless this Monday without any chance of getting Montezuma’s revenge.

You know what I’m talking about.

¡Buen Provecho! Note: Sombrero optional.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt-Avocado Dressing

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Greek Yogurt Avocado Dressing

I LOOOOOOOVE quinoa; not just for it’s texture and flavor but also because a small amount with go a long way. You can make a large batch and throw in whatever you like, such as this southwestern style dish with black beans, peppers, and jicama.

Sweet Potato Hash with Homemade Guacamole and Egg Over Easy

Breakfat of Paleo Champions

Looking to jump start your day? I made this dish after a grueling workout and it remains my go-to whenever I’m starving, want something packed with flavor, and filling. Plus, is there anything better than guacamole? I think not.

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean & Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

Ah, the humble taco. I shared this recipe a few weeks ago and it remains one of my top Meatless Monday dishes to date. Pairing sweet potato with black beans is a standard for me (see above recipe) and this spicy version with crunchy cabbage and lemony cilantro is sure to keep you happy and full. Two of my favorite things.


What are your favorite Mexican dishes?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂


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Thankful Thursday: Mama Who Bore Me

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

We fight.

We laugh.

We gossip.

We debate.

We love and we live.

My mom, sister, and niece enjoying their first taste of gelato in Rome for her 65th birthday.

She taught me the value of sacrifice by example. She paved the way for me so long ago by breaking through language, financial and cultural barriers to get my family the very best that she could.

She showed me what it was to be a fighter, a domestic goddess, considerate and self-loving, questioning of the world around me, an exceptional woman through and through.

Celebrating my mom’s 69th birthday one year ago.

My mother turns 70 years young this weekend. How can I properly capture her? Words are so small in comparison to the footprint she’s already left on the world. Pictures are just  moments frozen in time, doing little to illustrate just how magnificent she is.

In the entire history of the world, she is singular. Unique. A one of a kind treasure.

And no matter how far apart we find ourselves mid argument or how misunderstood I feel (because we’ll always complain that parents just don’t understand), I can never stop loving this contrary, stubborn, incredibly giving, beautiful person.

What am I thankful for? 70 years of my mom. And all the years to come.

Thankful Thursday: Mama Who Bore Me

What are you thankful for this week?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Lose Sleep and You’ll Lose Your Mind and Health

We’ve all heard about the importance of sleep to our health and well-being at one point or another. It seems that I have someone pleading for me to get more sleep more than once on a daily basis. Oprah, Arianna, Mom…I hear you.

But the science behind sleep is a murky world. As much as we’ve come to learn about what happens to our bodies when we sleep, there’s still a lot we don’t know. The popularity of fitness trackers led to a great demand for sleep tracking as well, which some devices reportedly do for you. What do we do with that data though? How much sleep is enough sleep?

The answers vary and although I’m skeptical about the sleep tracking capabilities of fitness devices, the truth is that most of us are interested in understanding how sleep affects us.

In a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers revealed that sleep acts like a mental janitor, cleaning out all the ‘junk’ we accumulate during the day. If we can clean out our computers’ caches by deleting cookies on a regular basis, why can’t we give our brains that same attention?

So it was a bit of a shock to come across this infographic below and see just how destructive lack of sleep can be to your health in both the short and long-term. We like to think that we can “catch up” on sleep when the weekend hits, but the damage has already been done.

Insufficient sleep negatively impacts cardiovascular health, cognition, emotional well-being and encourages some of the most harmful behaviors that pose a major mortality risk. Some are even going so far as to call it a public health epidemic.

Diabetes? Stroke? Obesity? Increased cancer risk? Potential accidents when driving while exhausted? These are just some of the side effects that lack of sleep offers. And this doesn’t take into account how this may affect your relationships, career, and personal happiness.

The majority of significant sleep studies are performed on white adults with a smaller proportion of African-American adults. Various cultural and language barriers are obstacles to a closer analysis of US Latinos’ sleep health, but given the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and hypertension among Latinos, this raises questions about the role of sleep, or lack thereof, in further exacerbating these conditions.

Take a look at the infographic below, shared by Huffington Post, and consider how your exhaustion (because I’ll bet that most of you do not get enough sleep on a regular basis) may impact your life.

courtesy Huffington Post

How much sleep do you get each night?

How does lack of sleep affect your efforts to maintain healthy eating and fitness habits?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share in the comments section below, or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt and belVita Breakfast Biscuits

I have partnered with belVita and Dannon to help promote the belVita and Dannon partnership. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

Be honest with me here. How many times do you skip breakfast?

Are you slowly raising that hand up with a bit of a guilty expression on your face? Yup, I’ve been there.

Okay, now how many of you choose a sugary pastry or doughy bagel while in line for coffee to appease said guilt?….Yup, I’ve been there too.

With hectic mornings spent prepping for work or school, breakfast often gets overlooked. It happens.

As much as I enjoy a full and leisurely breakfast (hello, brunch anyone?), it’s a near impossibility for me to make the time each morning before I dash off to work. Shortcuts are necessary and I’m always looking for healthy breakfast options that I can pick up on my way out the door or leave packed and ready the night before.

Dannon Oikos Greek Nonfat Yogurt and Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits offer just that. They are delicious and convenient options that you can enjoy each morning without having to throw a wrench into your schedule or your diet.

Dannon and belVita 3

Greek yogurt has become a breakfast staple of mine this past year for its myriad of health benefits and smooth and creamy texture. It’s versatile too: I’ve used greek yogurt in baking recipes, subbed it in for sour cream, and I’ve tossed it into my smoothies. Dannon’s Oikos Greek Nonfat yogurt is no exception:

  • 12-15g of protein in each single serving (based on the flavor); 2x more protein than regular low-fat yogurt
  • 0g of fat
  • 80-130 calories (based on the flavor)

Dannong and belVita 2

I love that there are 10 different flavors to choose from so that I’ll never get bored. My favorite tends to be plain or vanilla because I throw in healthy sides like almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and fruit.

Dannon and belVita 1

And now I can add Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits as an alternative to sugary granola. Loaded with whole grains, these biscuits give you steady energy throughout the morning, helping me stay focused at work without thinking about taking a snack break. Feeling hungry can be a major distraction.

Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits come in 5 flavors including Golden Oat (pictured), Blueberry, Apple Cinnamon, Cinnamon Brown Sugar, and Chocolate. If you’re a nut about experimenting with different flavors and customization, then this is a perfect pairing with Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt.

Dannon and belVita 4

Each individual package of 4 crunchy biscuits is portioned for breakfast and provides:

  • 18-20g  of whole grains;  offers heart-healthy fiber and brain food (your brain needs carbs!)
  • 3g of dietary fiber; helps keep you feeling full longer
  • A good source of four B vitamins and iron; keeps you feeling strong and energized

Additionally, crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits contain no high-fructose corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils (0 grams of trans fat per labeled serving), and no artificial flavors or sweeteners.

Dannon and belVita 5

I am not a big fan of any food choice that sacrifices health for convenience, especially if that means I’m adding loads of  artificial ingredients that my body doesn’t need. I often go the DIY route, but belVita’s crunchy breakfast biscuits with Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt are a great way to fuel me through the busiest mornings when I can’t prepare something from scratch. Plus, it’s super yummy!

Dannon and belVita 6

It’s the perfect contrast of smooth and crunchy, tangy and sweet.

Optimal health is all about balance. Don’t beat yourself up for skipping breakfast. Save thatenergy for finding a breakfast option that will help you be more productive for the busy day ahead without costing you too much in time and money. Give Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt and belVita’s Crunchy Breakfast Biscuits a shot the next time you visit the grocery store.

Dannon and belVita collage

Be sure to visit Dannon’s Oikos  and belVita Breakfast Biscuits’ websites for more nutrition information and where to purchase their products.

Have you ever tried Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt or belVita’s Crunchy Breakfast Biscuits?

What’s your favorite on-the-go breakfast?

Share your thoughts and comments below or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂


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Thankful Thursday: Serendipitous Moments

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

“Whether we name divine presence synchronicity, serendipity, or graced moment matters little. What matters is the reality that our hearts have been understood. Nothing is as real as a healthy dose of magic which restores our spirits.”
Nancy Long

The last line of Long’s quote resonates profoundly for me, especially this week. I never gave serendipity much thought before, simply because I wrote those moments off as coincidence.

As I gave myself over to mindfulness and developed a deeper awareness of the signs around me, I realized that sometimes the universe unexpectedly opens a door. It might not be where I thought I was headed, but it’s always directed me where I needed to go.

Each time I experience serendipity, I feel what can only be described as wonder at what a bit of faith and time can yield in light of a desperate situation.  It’s profoundly humbling.  And magical too.


Have you ever felt serendipitous moments?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or on FB and Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Golden Beet and Radish Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus + BONUS EARTH DAY SMOOTHIE RECIPE!

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

10 minutes. That’s what it took to put this beautiful salad together. 10. Minutes.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

Pan-seared asparagus. Doesn’t that sound so yummy? I can feel my stomach rumbling already.

And then you’ve got these beautiful golden beets. I’ve only ever had beets that were boiled or roasted. It was a little scary to go for them completely raw here, but I realized how silly that was.

For this week’s special Earth Day edition of my Meatless Monday series, I wanted to feature a quick, simple, nutritious, and most importantly, TASTY, salad that wouldn’t leave any sort of waste.

Beets and radishes pack a nutritious punch:

  • Beets are high in folate, manganese, potassium and fiber that help promote cardiovascular health, lowers your risk of cancer, and proper functioning of the brain.
  • Radishes are a relative of arugula and both are members of the cruciferous family which boasts cancer-fighting benefits, digestive health, and heart health.

When bought fresh, radishes and beets come with the greens attached. People typically hack off those leafy green tops and trash them. Note to the world:


Not only are those greens edible, they’re filled with more nutritional benefits than the roots themselves. Radish greens contain much more protein, vitamin C and calcium than the small red bulbs.

Consider using them interchangeably with greens you’re more familiar with, like spinach or kale.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusSomething important to keep in mind though is that you MUST soak these greens at least two or three times before using them. They’re covered in dirt in almost every nook and cranny. We don’t want to eat that.

Beet & Radish Salad with AsparagusIn an effort to go green by eating my greens, I’m sharing TWO recipes here using both the roots and leaves in different ways. I saved the beet greens for a saute later this week. Maybe I’ll make some tacos out of them? Now…there’s an idea.

Golden Beet & Radish Salad with Pan-Seared Asparagus


Servings: 2

  • 4 cups of fresh arugula, rinsed
  • 1 large (or 2 small) fresh golden beets, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 radishes, greens trimmed (make sure to soak and remove dirt), sliced thinly
  • 1 small bunch of asparagus spears, cut into thirds
  • ½ cup of garbanzo beans, (if using canned beans, make sure to rinse and drain first)
  • 2 tbsps goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic glaze or vinegar (try to go for the glaze if available)


1. Prep all veggies, by soaking beets and radishes (greens too!), and slicing thinly with either a mandoline or very sharp knife.

2. In a small bowl, mix asparagus with the oil, salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high flame. Once hot, add the asparagus and spread evenly across the pan. Allow it to cook on one side for 3-4 minutes or until they start to brown. Flip over and cook on the other side. You want to make sure they sear but don’t burn.

Beet & Radish Salad with Asparagus

3. Prepare salad in a large serving bowl. Add arugula, sliced beets and radishes, beans, crumbled goat cheese, and seared asparagus. Toss together and presto- you’re done!

Earth Day 5



  • 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ½ cup of frozen mango
  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple
  • 2 tbsps hemp protein powder (you can sub in your favorite protein or flax seeds, chia seeds, etc)
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 2 cups radish greens, soaked 3 times (so much dirt trapped in there!) and drained

Blend well together and you’ve got yourself a powerful nutrient-packed smoothie. And pat yourself on the back for not wasting any part of that produce by throwing it away.

Earth Day 7

Looking for more radish or beet greens recipes? Check out these yummy ideas:

What do you do with your greens?

How are you going green for Earth Day?

Take part in the Meatless Monday Thunderclap by pledging here!

By taking the Meatless Monday pledge this Earth Day, you’ll:

  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
  • HELP REDUCE FOSSIL FUEL DEPENDENCE. On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

(Shared from Meatless Monday Earth Day initiative)

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Introducing…Me: The Liebster Award


I owe Annie of Strong Brees a HUGE hug for nominating me for the Liebster Award! Here it comes Annie:


Thank you times a million!

What I love most about these awards is the opportunity to get to know new bloggers who are doing some pretty awesome things on their sites and to spread the love. This also gives us a chance to pull back the curtain and share a bit of our origin story for those of you just tuning in.

It’s a great time all-around. So without further ado, let the share-fest begin!

First, let’s go over some of the rules:

  • You must link back to the person who nominated you.
  • You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
  • You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award.
  • You must create 10 questions for your nominees.
  • You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees.

Got it? Good.

Here’s my Q&A courtesy of Annie:

1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
There’s no one simple answer here, but the tipping point for me was back in 2009. I’d reached a point where I was really frustrated with my weight and overall appearance. I started to change my eating and exercise habits, researching (I’m obsessed with research!) nutrition and different workout routines, experimenting and ultimately found a pattern that worked. By 2012, I’d hit a lot of my goals but I still felt like I had so many questions about health and nutrition that I wanted to figure out. Why do some diets work for some people but don’t for others? How can we change our environment to be more accepting of different body types instead of emulating an unrealistic beauty standard? What can I do to help people overcome issues with ED and unhappiness?  At the suggestion of several of my friends I decided to start writing. I spent a week in London during the Olympics in 2012, and was so inspired that I spent the entire flight home writing out what would become Food4ThoughtNYC. I never looked back after that.
2.  What is your favorite piece of workout apparel?
me and Underarmour gearI’m obsessed with anything by UnderArmour, especially their leggings. They offer the perfect amount of flexibility and compression without feeling bulky or too tight. Plus, they look awesome! I’ve also learned over time that nothing beats a cotton top. I used to love all of those high-tech sweat-wicking materials but quickly realized that they smell pretty awful mid-workout. Invest your money in the shorts or pants and stick to inexpensive and comfortable tops- just a tip!
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
There’s two- Zumba and Crossfit. Talk about polar opposites! I’m a powerlifter and usually prefer workouts that are a bit more slow-paced with heavy weights. This year I’ve created some new goals around increasing my endurance which means I need to start embracing workouts that are fast-paced with a cardio component. One of my best friends is obsessed with Crossfit and I can’t go a day without coming across a blog post talking about whatever WOD they crushed. I want to drink the Koolaid too! And Zumba just looks like crazy fun. I can shimmy with the best of them, so why not make it a workout?
4.  What did you eat for breakfast (be honest, no judgement here!)?
Ah, you caught me! I just had a giant cup of coffee, but I’m working hard to minimize the extras I throw in. So, only a few teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon, a few drops of half-and-half, and a bit of coconut oil. That’s right, I put coconut oil in my coffee! I’ve read that it’s great for your digestive health and while the science behind the benefits of all things coconut is still a bit murky, I personally find this little addition pretty great for me. I like experimenting! And I also had a slice of whole wheat toast. I’ve got a green smoothie on tap once I finish writing this post.
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence?
Great question. I’m gonna go with writing. It’s a funny answer for me because writing also gives me a lot of anxiety. I worry if what I’m sharing will resonate or fall flat or if my grammar is completely screwed up. Sometimes I run away from it altogether, and I’ve taken some long breaks from my blog as a result. But I find the ebb and flow of my writing journey the past two years to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There are times when I’m literally bursting at the seams to sit down and get my thoughts down either on paper or on my site. It’s been cathartic, especially when I wrote about my issues with disordered eating or racial identity. And as much as it terrifies to put that out there for the world to read and potentially criticize, I always feel like I’ve triumphed in some way. It’s a roundabout way towards feeling confident, but nevertheless it’s been the most effective.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Impossible to answer! I’m a travel nut and my bucket list is way too long. I was in Moab last summer and while there I experienced some of the most serene moments in my life. Sitting there and staring out at these massive rock formations and the valleys between just made me feel so small and so huge at the same time. me and moabThose are the emotions I like to go for whenever I visit somewhere new. I suppose the next place I’d like to feel that would probably be the antithesis of Moab, so a forest comes to mind. I’d love to see the Sequoias in California or some of the old-world forests in Europe. My second choice would be somewhere mountainous. Clearly, nature wins for me!
7.  If time and money were no issue what would you do for a day?
Only one day?? Take a long walk in the early morning to a new neighborhood in NYC. Have breakfast (calories don’t count in this dream right?) and coffee at a slow pace. Visit a museum or go to the park for a few hours to read. Go home and experiment with a new recipe. Watch a movie. Call up a friend and go to a beer garden or outdoor restaurant to enjoy a meal, a few drinks, and a conversation, again at an unhurried pace. Eat dessert. Go home and play with my dog. Then go to bed. Nothing fancy or crazy. And completely unplugged from the digital world. I spend nearly every waking hour online for myself or for work and as much as I enjoy it, there are days when you just need to detox. This would be one of those days.
8.  Cardio or weights?  Why?
WEIGHTS. All the way. I’m a powerlifter, so yeah, weights.
Maribel- 195x2 Deadlift 5-17-13
Every time I tried losing weight in the past I’d go the cardio route only to quit pretty soon after. I don’t blame the exercise so much as a lack of understanding on my part of what really worked for me. When I started lifting with my personal trainer a year ago, something clicked. It’s a difficult challenge, but it was something I actually enjoyed doing, which was very different from every time I’ve hit the pavement attempting to run a couple of miles. This is why I make it my mission to tell everyone to ignore whatever workout trend is currently making the rounds and to quit believing that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness. Some of my friends are avid runners who get the high and love the feeling they get from hitting the pavement each day. Others swim, hike, dance, do yoga, spin, kickbox- or lift like I do. And even still, I’m not locked into one thing. This afternoon I’m going swimming and I’ve got a yoga session in store for tomorrow. I choose weights, but that’s not my only choice.
9.  Do you drink coffee? If so, how do you like it?
Ah, scroll up to read my answer to #4, lol. Yes. Coffee and I are old old friends. I even wrote about it here.
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In no specific order: hitting my 230lb deadlift before my 30th birthday last December when I originally aimed for 225lbs; being featured in Latina magazine this year as a top blogger; conquering my fear of bikes by learning to ride last year; getting healthy and fit for me and not for anyone else which was a MAJOR life lesson; traveling through 4 continents and living abroad more than once; nailing an internship with a startup whose mission I actually believe in that inspires me everyday; letting go of some of the pain from my past by embracing gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation as part of my daily practice; starting this crazy blog that led me to meet some truly incredible people out there who are proudly sharing their stories and constantly inspiring me with their honesty, passion, strength, and creativity. Thank you for all that you do!
I’m honestly gobsmacked by the amount of support and encouragement I’ve been lucky to receive from people I’ll probably never meet in real life, but who come here and find something that strikes a chord with them. I do this for me, to leave my mark in the universe in my own way. But really, I do this for you too.
I’ve said it from the beginning: my intention here is to start a conversation. I want to connect and learn from you to see how even the smallest exchange can create waves of change in our corners of the world. A million thank yous to each and every single one of you who’ve laid eyes on my page and the sites of all the bloggers out there that are working just as hard to create something truly unique.
The world needs more unique. 🙂
Alright, now the fun doesn’t stop here. It’s time to nominate what I consider to be truly incredible blogs that I’ve recently discovered and to continue paying it forward (my motto!).
And here are my questions (keeping some of Annie’s because they were great!)
1.  What inspired you to begin blogging?
2.  How do you feel about social media and being “connected”?
3.  What is one type of workout you have not yet tried but are curious about?
4.  What is your favorite healthy recipe?
5.  Name one thing you do, wear, or own that gives you the most confidence.
6.  If you could go for a walk/run anywhere in the world, where would it be?
7.  What song, movie or book inspires you?
8.  Do you practice meditation or have an interest in trying it out?
9.  Why do you write?
10.  What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Congrats to all of the nominees. Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Happy Easter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

Forgive Yourself Before Anyone Else Today

To Be BeautifulAs important as it is to let go of conflict with others by forgiving them, it’s just as important for you to let go of the negative self-talk and forgive yourself in the process.

Sometimes the reasons we argue stem from some deep seeded inner conflict that causes us to lash out. We hold onto resentment and anger out of fear.

Exercising forgiveness goes hand in hand with gratitude. Start with yourself.

Take a moment to consider how you would feel if you took a step back from whatever was causing you pain today and told yourself,

Hey, it’s okay. You did your best. It’s okay that this happened. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t loved. This doesn’t mean that you are alone. This doesn’t mean that things can’t change for the better. Let it go.

Go ahead and try it out this second if you can. Write it down and repeat it to yourself. Say it out loud. Or close your eyes and meditate.

It might feel kind of strange at first, but over time you’ll find this exercise to be vital and life-affirming. There’s no harm in trying.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: My Dog, the Hero

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

My dog Gizmo really is a hero. He saves my life each day without even knowing it. And all he asks for in return is for me to toss him his favorite toy and to feed him the food he likes. Oh, and the occasional cuddle.

And who wouldn’t want to cuddle with this guy?

Gizmo, the super dog

The way I met Gizmo was a little unconventional and it took me a bit of time to get used to the fact that I was responsible for this life. He depends on me to take care of him and give him what he needs.

What I didn’t expect was how much he would take care of me.

Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed

Studies reveal how owning a pet can improve our health and quality of life. To me, the biggest benefit has been an increase in happiness. Sure, there are times when Gizmo runs off with a pair of my socks and hides under the sofa where no one can get him, resulting in a complicated sock-retrieval scheme where furniture gets moved around to block his escape, which drives me absolutely insane.

But none of that matters when I come home after a long day and here comes Gizmo, bounding down the hallway to the door and jumping up and down like a mad thing, simply because I’m home. It melts my heart every single day and makes me laugh even when I’m miserable.

Gizmo turned 4 yesterday which makes him an adult in dog years. But he’s always going to be my little puppy.  And as much as I hate the costumes and props people get for their dogs (you can just see the humiliation on their faces as they’re forced to walk around in Easter dresses and heels), I may be tempted to get Gizmo a little cape. He’s a superhero after all.


Do you own a pet?

Has owning a pet improved your well-being?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean & Roasted Sweet Potato Tacos

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos

There are some things that are just meant to go together.

Peanut butter and chocolate. Bagels and cream cheese. Yogurt and granola.

You get the point. They combine to make a perfect medley of texture and flavor, hitting all the notes that keep you coming back for more.

Black beans and sweet potatoes are a marriage made in heaven. I’ve featured several recipes with this glorious combination and as much as I wanted to try something different for this Meatless Monday, I decided to just go with it. Besides, I had it on hand and I was hungry.

Sweet Potatoes

Now, let’s talk about tacos. If you’re looking for something quick and easy to make while sticking to a budget, than tacos are your friend.

You can keep it light by using fresh produce that’s in season, nutrient-rich greens, and heart-healthy avocado. Also, be sure to pick corn tortillas over flour. They have fewer calories (about 90 cal each) and a great chewy texture. The bonus is that it’s gluten free for those of you following that diet.

With my key ingredients in mind, I chose to go with a black bean, mushroom, and red pepper saute that I spiced up with ground chipotle. Canned chipotles in adobo sauce would be a great addition if you have it on  hand. Just be mindful of the amount of adobo sauce you use, and make sure to remove the seeds of the peppers before adding them to your dish. Unless you like the kind of heat that makes your eyes water and underarms sweat, then by all means, have at it.

Roasting the sweet potatoes brings out their natural sweetness while the cayenne gives it an extra kick. The cabbage and cilantro gives a nice crunch with a bit of lemony tanginess to  contrast the sweet and smoky. Altogether, it’s a kick-butt combo.

The best part is that these tacos pack a nutritious punch:

  • Vitamin A and C in the sweet potatoes and red peppers help boost your immunity, vision, and provide cancer fighting antioxidants.
  • Fiber in the avocado and black beans not only keep you feeling full longer, but it also protects you from cardiovascular disease by lowering your cholesterol, along with many other health benefits.
  • A cup of cabbage yields about 80% of your vitamin K DV, which supports bone health and plays a key role in blood clotting.

Why go out for tacos when you can make this delicious and healthy option at home for a fraction of the cost? Makes sense to me.


Serving 4, 2 tacos each

  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of diced bella mushrooms
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 Haas avocado, sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • Bunch of fresh cilantro, cleaned and trimmed
  • 8 white corn tortillas
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil, separated
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp of naranja agria marinade (aka bitter orange or lime juice if unavailable)
  • 2 tsp of salt, separated
  • ½ tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle powder
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with foil, add sweet potatoes, 1 tbsp of oil, 1 tsp of salt, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper; mix well. Place sheet in oven and bake for approx 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden and tender.

2. While potatoes are baking, heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium flame. Cook the minced garlic for 1-2 minutes, but be careful not to burn them otherwise you’ll end up with a bitter flavor! Add mushrooms and red peppers, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Once the veggies have softened, throw in the rinsed beans along with the paste, salt, chipotle, oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix everything together and allow it to cook for 8-10 minutes. About halfway through, add the bitter orange marinade (or lime juice). Remove from heat.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

3. Now comes the fun part! Make sure you have all of your taco toppings ready on the side for easy prep. Turn on a burner to low-medium flame. Working with one tortilla at a time, carefully place it over the flame using tongs. Once you see the edges darken and it puffs up in the center, then flip it over. Cook each side for about 1-2 minutes. Place on serving plate.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

4. Spoon about 1 tbsp of black bean and mushrooms, along with 1 tbsp of sweet potatoes on each tortilla. Top with sliced cabbage, avocado, and a small handful of cilantro. Squeeze a bit of lime juice on top if you have it, or just enjoy it as is.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos

I was a little hungry so I had three of these bad boys. How could I resist?

All that’s missing is a frozen margarita….but I’ll save that for another time. Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner after all.

What’s your favorite taco combination?

I’m always looking for something new, so please feel free to share your favorite recipes in the comments below or on FB and Twitter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: Anger Isn’t Always Bad

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

“Criticism always seems to add inspiration to your pursuit of success. Strip away the anger and bias. And use the rest as fuel.”
-Dan Waldschmidt




I’m grateful for the anger this week. That statement might leave some of you confused.

How can she be happy that she was angry?  Isn’t anger bad?

You’re not wrong. Anger isn’t an emotion anyone should go for especially if your true intention is to live in harmony with yourself and the world around you.

But it’d be false to say that feeling anger doesn’t creep up from time to time. Life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to and our response to stressful situations really breaks down to biology: we go into survival mode, our bodies react by producing more cortisol, and our adrenaline picks up. In short, we become physically tense and that inevitably bleeds into our mental and emotional state. Anger is a natural byproduct of stress.

So why am I grateful for being angry this week?

There are times when we need a jolt to break us out of a monotony. Sometimes it’s a check in the ‘win’ column, with a promotion or a chance meeting with a new friend or partner that you truly click with. Other times it’s changing old habits and finding new hobbies or exploring interests so that you feel energized and motivated to meet challenges with optimism.

Then there are those times that you really just need a kick in the pants. Where the cycle you find your life in is so destructive and soul-crushing that you’re numb day in and day out.

I’ve been there for longer than I care to say, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt real anger. I allowed that emotion, all white-hot and fiery, to consume me for a little while this week as I metaphorically shook my fist at the world (really, I just turned my phone off and avoided people for a few days while I mentally cursed the universe).

Then the tide shifted and I found energy underneath all of that frustration. The intensity of my anger has dissipated to a simmer, but what I feel more than anything is a fierce need to change my circumstances. My drive has doubled and I’m attacking each day as an opportunity.

I’m not saying that anger is the answer. At its core, anger does more to limit us if you hold onto the grudge for too long. It’s also self-indulgent. We’re so focused on being pissed off at what’s going on within our heads, that we neglect to see the upsides happening all around us, all the time.

What’s important to realize is that we need to allow ourselves to experience what we’re going through from top to bottom. Do not dismiss any part of that because you think you should be more forgiving or that you should be positive always. Those are lofty goals and at the end of the day, we’re all human. Admit to yourself that you’re angry, and then ask yourself, why?

Being self-aware and honest opens so many doors down the road. I was honestly angry for so many reasons this week, but the great thing is that I was able to apply that constructively to resolve some of the conflicts I mentioned last week, in a way that was positive. How could I not be grateful for that?

Thankful Thursday Food4ThoughtNYC  4/10/14

How do you experience anger?

Does anger help you or harm you?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂
Featured post

Using Technology to Aid in the Fight Against Breast Cancer


I am thrilled to welcome back author and breast cancer survivor Patricia Dean-Escoto to talk about her exciting new app for newly diagnosed or recovering breast cancer patients.

I hosted Ms. Escoto a year ago during her book tour for Top Ten Superfoods for Preventing Breast Cancer where she shared her nutrition tips for prevention and treatment. I have long been an advocate in using sound nutrition practices as the first and most important step to wellness and good health. It was wonderful to have a professional express how much focusing on nutrition helped her through her health crisis.

The timing of her app with my increasing interest in the role of technology in changing the way we approach our health was a stroke of good luck. A community that can support and encourage you to better health has been proven to be a positive force in the prevention and treatment of a number of physical and mental health issues. The world of apps and digital devices offers us a unique opportunity to leverage our smartphones to create an online community that can offer life-saving support and resources at the touch of a button.

Ms. Escoto’s foray into this world is incredibly exciting and I’m very appreciative of her willingness to share this amazing development with all of you. Please read on for Ms. Escoto’s story and for more information about My Breast Cancer Advocate, where you can find it, and how to connect with Ms. Escoto. Enjoy!

Using Technology to Aid in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

My Breast Cancer Advocate(1)We all can use someone by our side at difficult times. Especially when it’s something we have never gone through before. That is what I needed eight years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer was new to me, I had never experienced it, even in terms of a relative, so I didn’t know what to expect or what questions I should ask. I listened as the myriad of doctors I would see spoke to me in language I didn’t understand. Basically, my mind was in a fog trying to grasp the impact of my diagnosis. It was difficult for me to take in all of the information I was receiving.
Fortunately, I had a staunch advocate right there with me the whole time, taking notes, writing down everything the doctor said to me, asking questions, and reassuring me every step of the way.

However, this is so not the case for thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Often, they are alone, left to sift through the complicated waters of a dynamically changing environment when their main thought is just ‘how am I going to beat this thing’? Even now, I get calls from so many women, asking me what they should know, what questions they should ask before they go to their doctor.

These individuals inspired me to develop My Breast Cancer Advocate. An interactive app designed to assist newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. I wanted them to have a voice. I wanted them to be armed with as much knowledge as possible before they saw their doctor.

Testing, in cancer, is used for so many things. It’s used to determine stages, grade, and treatment options. It is a integral component of the process. My app explains all of this, along with common procedures and their associated side effects.

The side effects part is critical. I had a lumpectomy as part of my treatment, but I was unaware of the potential side effect of the procedure…lymphedema. Knowing this can help a person determine if they want to pursue a particular course of action. Other key features of the app include a glossary and the ability to set a calendar reminder.

But this is only half of what the app allows women to do. I’ve spent most of my adult life as an educator in one form or another. If there is anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that adults want to have a say in what’s happening to them. They want to have an active role in their own outcome; they want to be a partner in the process, particularly when it comes to their health.

In a large part, technology has amplified this feeling and it’s driving our need to connect with others. I had that same need and I saw it in others. These are key features I built into the app. Users not only can look up both traditional and holistic providers, but they can see the ratings of hospitals, find out their rights, connect with federal agencies, and get involved with organizations working to protect their health and the environment. But, more importantly, they can connect with each other via a dedicated blog that allows them to share their stories.

The blogging feature provides the user with an area to share information and to get information from other women who are going through the same thing. I see it as a place to unite and empower those diagnosed with breast cancer to ensure their voices are heard and they get the treatment they deserve.

About Patricia Dean-Escoto:

Patricia-Dean-Escoto-HeadshotPatricia Dean-Escoto is a certified nutrition consultant and breast cancer survivor.  Born in Montclair, New Jersey, she earned her master’s degree in Education from Capella University.  She has more than 20 years of experience working in both the field of education and healthcare.  In 2006, after being diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, Patricia returned to school to study nutrition.  She is a graduate of Bauman College, where she earned her certification as a Nutrition Consultant.   Recently, she hosted a year-long radio show called Pathways to Healing on the Voice America network where she interviewed experts in the field of health and wellness.  She is author of ‘The Top Ten Superfoods for Preventing Breast Cancer‘ and a Certified Cancer Physical Trainer.  Her company, Pathways2healing, works exclusively with cancer patients in the area of nutrition and exercise.  She lectures both locally and nationally on the topic of nutrition and cancer prevention.

My Breast Cancer Advocate: 

My Breast Cancer Advocate® is an interactive tool designed to act as an advocate for newly diagnosed or recovering breast cancer patients. Users can navigate the tool to determine questions to ask their doctors, gain valuable information about tests and procedures, set reminders, locate holistic and allopathic healthcare practitioners, learn about their rights, and find out what organizations are doing about prevention and legislation as it relates to breast cancer. Additionally, users can share their stories with other survivors via a dedicated blog, their Twitter, or Facebook accounts. Finally, the app contains a comprehensive dictionary of commonly used terms.


The app contains the following screens:

1. Questions
2. Tests
3. Procedures
4. Remind Me
5. Healthcare Network
6. My Rights
7. Get Involved
8. Share my story
9. Common Terms

Social Links:

Where to Purchase:

Featured post

The Health Tracker Revolution is Here

Type “health trackers” into a Google search and you’ll get dozens of newly invented devices and apps all engineered to give you an array of options to help track your activity and health-related symptoms over time. Items like Google glass and Samsung’s smart watch were once considered so high-tech that they were deemed sci-fi, something Samsung understood with their tongue-in-cheek ad last year featuring clips from old sci-fi movies.

Talking into your wrist? A computer in your glasses? Embedded chips and DNA testing at your fingertips? It’s no wonder that despite the trendiness of fitness trackers like Fitbit and Nike Fuel, Americans are still by and large wary of some of the most cutting-edge devices making their way onto the health trackers market this year. Recent estimates show that at least one-sixth of American adults own one, with interest in either fitness or wellness tracking as their primary use. At least one-third of this group, however, lose interest in these devices within a year.

It may take some time for late-adopters of technology trends to discover the best ways to integrate this kind of self-tracking into their daily lives, but the point has been made. We are in the middle of a smartphone revolution and few can deny the impact this has already had on our understanding of health and the ways we communicate about health.

Patients are empowered now, more than ever, to take a proactive role in their personal health by learning how their body responds in certain situations, noting patterns, and speaking frankly with their physicians about their observations- an innovative approach to healthcare than does more to help the medical community understand health trends much more efficiently than ever before.

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of


We are still learning more about how the role of health trackers in our lives will continue to mold a future where patient and doctor work more cohesively to tackle some of our biggest health issues. From obesity to asthma to pregnancy health, there are a number of applications that will aid patients in new, eye-opening ways. And we’re just scratching the surface.

Imagine what we could do with all of this data on the population level. How many lives could we change? How many lives could we potentially save?

There are loads of questions left to answer. Who will monitor this world and how? What about patient privacy concerns? How can we make this available to the poorest communities around the world who suffer from preventable disease on a daily basis?

My fascination with this world has grown exponentially in the last couple of months, especially as I’ve seen firsthand what some of these more innovative companies have in mind for global health with simple solutions that begin with a smartphone.

Tomorrow I will feature a guest writer who’s spoken on my blog in the past about her experience as a breast cancer survivor and how nutrition played a role in her rehabilitation. She is coming back to discuss how health tracking apps have been a beneficial resource for her clients.

This won’t be the last time you’ll hear me talk about this subject. I had an opportunity to try a FitBit, and my review is on its way. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts: What do you think about the health and fitness tracker trend? Do you own one? Do you use it?

Here are some fun infographics showing the rise of mobile health devices in the last year:

Smartphone Health Infographic

Wearable Tech Infographic

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

Thankful Thursday: Love in Conflict


“The point of living and of being an optimist is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come.” –Peter Ustinov
“Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness.” –Sacha Guitry

I once was asked how I balance my personal life with my public life. It was an odd question. Since I started blogging, I have been fairly open with the inner struggles I faced over the last few years. It was important to me to be authentic and honest with each post, and some of it has been cathartic in its own way.

But as I sat down to write out my gratitude journal for this week, I realized that there are many things I keep behind closed doors. I had one unspoken golden rule when it came to blogging: Don’t talk about your relationships. Especially conflicts.

It’s a sound policy. Keep those things personal and focus on the general issues that most people can relate to. Throw in a recipe here or there.  It’ll be fine.

Then I had to stop and ask myself: Is this really authentic? As someone who chooses to sit down week after week to share their gratitude, is it honest to ignore the struggles I face with others during my journey? Aren’t those conflicts an important factor in our personal growth and don’t they become learning experiences in and of themselves?

I’m in conflict from every angle: internally, with a partner, with a coworker, with family. It seems like I’m at odds with the universe these days and I’m left trying to figure out how to deal with it all.

I strive to be a good person in all aspects of my life. I take my relationships seriously and give myself over completely to the people I’ve come to love and trust over the years. In some ways, that’s been my fatal flaw. I’ve had people take advantage of my generosity because they knew that I would always be there, sticking it out because I told myself that I needed to, as a good friend or partner. It became an aspect of myself that I regarded as weak.

It took me a long time to understand that this wasn’t a weakness. Being a giver allows me to connect to people on a deeper level. I can share with them and empathize. Be a part of their lives in a profound way, even if it’s temporary. Those are the relationships worth giving myself over to and that’s not something I’m looking to change.

The part that I have learned, though, is that I need to manage my emotions with others, especially when I’m in conflict with them. And that brings me back to these past few weeks where it feels like there’s discord everywhere I turn. I’m figuring out how to apply the principles of gratitude and positive thinking to these situations and it feels like I’m failing miserably. So much so, that I’m breaking my golden rule and coming on here to talk about it out loud.

How do you manage your feelings and expectations of others, when they’re completely blocking you out? At what point do you stop putting yourself on the front lines of a daily barrage of hostility? What do you do when a loved one completely abandons you with no explanation and tells you to be patient when you try to figure out why?

I don’t have any answers right now, and it’s tough to find an upside when I feel like my heart keeps breaking over and over.

Then I was reminded of one truth that proves conflict doesn’t always mean the end of things. In my need to feel connected and a bit of love, I reached out to some friends who I’ve felt disconnected from lately. I broke down in tears yesterday when one of them listened as I went on and on about a work issue, and responded with, “I love you.” That’s all. And it was exactly the right thing to say.

I chided myself for losing sight of the bigger picture. Right now, it sucks. I don’t see the light. Things are still in patchy shades of grey. You can’t please everyone. And sometimes, people need to figure out what they’re doing on their own without input from the outside world. That means that I also have to be understanding that I can’t expect to fix everyone else’s problems. And even more importantly, I have to be mindful of how much I’m willing to give in conflict when the other person is giving me nothing.

Relationships are a give and take, and I’m still trying to find the balance between the two. I hope that the people in my life right now will stick around. It saddens me to think they might not. But at the end of the day, I can be grateful that I’m going at it constructively and with the intention for peace and love in my heart.

I’m not alone no matter how much I feel like I am.  And for that, I give thanks.

Gratitude Journal 4/3/14

 What are you grateful for today?

Please feel free to share below, or on Facebook and Twitter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂


Featured post

Meatless Monday: Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi

 Quick & Easy Aloo GobiNew York City is damn expensive. This isn’t breaking news to anyone really, but I thought I should point that out, given that I write a blog with “NYC” in the title and happen to live in the most expensive city in the US.

And that’s verified by the way. In a recent report, Manhattan came in as #1 in with a cost of living index of 225.4 against a national index average of 100.


Given the price tags that often make me blink twice or cause a sudden wave of nausea to wash over me, I find ways to get creative with saving a buck here and there. This is where my kitchen and I become best friends.

I’ve experimented plenty with various gluten-free and paleo recipes in the past year, and those were all fantastic. But sometimes that gets a bit pricey too. One of the things I love about Meatless Mondays is that it gives my wallet a break by encouraging me to shop for produce in season and avoiding expensive meat, especially since I tend to go for leaner, pricier cuts.

Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi

The upside to living in New York (yes, there’s a plus here too, even though this place makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes), is that given the close proximity to so many different cultures, I can often try cooking different cuisines because I have the ingredients handy.

So I thought I’d give my favorite Indian vegetarian dish a try; Aloo Gobi. It’s healthy, with nutritious additions like cauliflower and tomatoes; it’s hearty and filling; and it’s really, really delicious. 🙂

I’m actually amazed at how easy this was to pull together, and also how fast. It was done in under 30 minutes! Plus the best part is that you can make a big batch, and have some leftover for a few days, which is great because the flavors really start to meld and intensify over time too.

Oh and in true budget cooking fashion, I was very pleased to see that this all came in at under $10. Do yourself a favor and invest in some spices. Some of them may cost a bit depending on what’s available in your area, but they’ll add so much depth to your dishes. It’s worth the cost in the longterm.

Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi


serving 4; serving size, approx. 1 cup

  • ½  large cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 medium yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
  •  1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • ½ large white onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, peeled and minced
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, stalks chopped separately from leaves
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp chili powder (or chopped fresh green chilis if you prefer)
  •  1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ cup of water


1. Melt coconut oil in a large non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cumin seeds to the pan and cook until the onions soften and become translucent. Then add the turmeric, coriander, salt and chopped cilantro stems and mix well.

2. Add the tomatoes, garlic and ginger and cook with the onion mixture for a few minutes.

Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi3. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, and water. You want to be sure the veggies are coated in the curry sauce so mix everything together well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Allow it to cook for approx. 20 minutes or until the cauliflower and potatoes are fork tender.

4. Remove lid and add garam masala and chopped cilantro leaves. Stir and taste for seasonings; adjust as necessary. Then you’re done!  Serve while warm.

Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi Quick & Easy Aloo Gobi

I served this alone with no trimmings, but this would be great with some fresh whole wheat naan or chapati bread, brown rice, or if you really love cauliflower, then go for cauliflower rice as well.

(Note: Recipe adapted from Chuck Darwin at

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Do you have a vegetarian recipe to share?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂



Featured post

Thankful Thursday: The Word Vomit


Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.                                                          -Cheryl Strayed

I stood there, in front of the fridge, holding the door wide open, completely lost in thought. I forgot what I was looking for several minutes ago.  It wasn’t until the increasingly ripe romaine I’d left on the bottom shelf hit my nostrils (note to self: throw it away!), that I dropped my gaze and allowed my eyes to refocus on the contents on the fridge. Dinner? Oh right, dinner.

Dinner turned out to be a bowl of cereal with the almond milk my eyes landed on once I came out of my dream state. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I found myself thinking about where I’d gotten lost. Because that’s what it’s felt like lately. The world, as I knew it, had tilted. Up became down. Left became right. And I’ve been wobbling along trying to regain my center of gravity in an unknown, foggy landscape.

What do you do when change throws you off course? And I’m not just talking about changing jobs or changing an address. I’m talking about the heavy stuff. Like when you find that things that used to resonate with you down to the core, suddenly ring hollow? Or when the people you’ve grown close to, suddenly seem so far away? Or finding yourself in the other person’s shoes in a relationship?

Apparently, what I do is I stand in front of the fridge with my gym clothes on and stare at a carton of almond milk until my legs start to break out in goosebumps from the cold.

In all fairness, I’ve sidestepped a lot of these issues, allowing them to quietly churn the insides of my mind until it decided it needed more room to churn, and then it downshifted to my heart. That’s where I feel it; right there, smack dab in the middle of my chest. Pretty soon it’ll beat it’s way up my esophagus, through my throat, until it finds my larynx, and Opa! here comes the word vomit!

This may surprise you, lucky reader (s? maybe more than one of you will read this rambling post? maybe not?) , but I tend to bottle up a lot of what I’m feeling. Since I started blogging, and especially since I segued into the magical age of 30, I see the value in expressing what you feel in a way that’s both honest and constructive. That second word is key here, as I had no trouble expressing myself in the past, but usually with little thought given to how all that talk could actually lead to anything productive. But I make a conscious choice to work through the endless parade of perpetually conflicting ideas going through my brain at all hours of the day before I end up word vomiting all over you.

The problem is that I keep so much of it in that it usually ends pretty messy. I’m having a lot more of these stand-in-front-of-the-fridge-lost-in-la-la-land moments than I used to, and to be quite honest, it makes me want to shrug off the very notion of gratitude. What’s there to be grateful for when I can barely complete a simple task (dinner? oh right, dinner), without letting these huge questions about the changes in life bring me to the brink of….I dunno, is it the word vomit thing again or maybe it’s just tears? Maybe both? Sigh.

I begin way too many thoughts and conversations with that phrase, “I don’t know…” because that’s what this all boils down to in the end. I have no clue what I’m doing in any part of my life at least 99% of the time (I attribute the 1% to sleeping, which I believe I know how to do pretty well). Worse yet, I’ve lost the words to articulate exactly what it is I’m experiencing.

All you wise birds out there reading this (again, assuming anyone other than myself lays eyes on this thing), are probably clucking your tongues, going, “Oh, you’re just in it, and soon this won’t be so bad. Change happens, love, and you’ll learn to embrace it.” True. I can roll with that. In fact, I have been rolling with that, fairly bumpy road and all. But does it have to hurt so damn much?

Yes, I suppose it does. Change isn’t meant to be easy. Nor, I’d argue, are we really built for the emotional upheaval that comes with change, nevermind our inherent survival instincts. All that adrenaline fades at some point, and what you’re left with is a pile of unresolved issues that you dropped when you were running from one thing to the next. Maybe I’ve just been running for too long and it’s all catching up with me. Maybe I need to keep on running. I don’t know (Ah, there it is again).

So I ask, what is there to be grateful for? Ah all sort of things of course. But let me not pretend to pull a one-eighty here and tidy this all up with a nice little bow at the end. Things are far from tidy in my world these days.

I suppose what I can offer up to the universe right now is that I’m grateful for this. This moment. Or let me take it one step further. Every single moment I’ve found myself standing in front of a fridge, or mid-step to my bedroom, or at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change, or at my desk with blurred eyes staring at my computer screen. Each of those moments are packed with introspection; a quiet observation of who I am and where I am.

Some of those moments carry the lightness of wonder and imagination where I transport myself beyond the limits of my circumstances,where I dare to color outside of the box. Other moments bring me to the dark corners that force me to bend to the will of fear and self-doubt. And then there are those incredible moments where all I feel is the warm embrace of love and hope in a more peaceful existence, not just for myself but for the world around me.

The mind and the heart are tricky things. We carry a world of lies and truths in both, each and every single day and sometimes it’s a struggle to suss out which is which as changes happen and our paths branch out. What I’ll continue to tell myself and maybe you, lucky reader (s?) can also find helpful, is that it’s okay to feel that burden sometimes. Allow yourself to go through it and do what needs to be done to let it out in a way that’s going to make you stronger in the end.

Thank you for reading. And uh…sorry for word vomiting all over you.


Have something to be thankful for? Or maybe a comment you’d like to share? Feel free to post them in the comments below or go ahead and post on FB or Twitter. Whatever floats your boat.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy. 🙂

Featured post

Light and Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

Tapping the microphone.

Shaking the dust off my favorite pretty apron.

Clearing the throat. Ahem. AHEM!

Yes, I am still here!!

After a very long winter hiatus, I am back on the blog with a brand new recipe for my favorite day: Meatless Monday!

And while there isn’t a mic, there is a camera. Yes, an actual video camera helmed by my brother who chose me as the subject for his video documentary project for school.

Look hands!

So under the bright and glaring lights of the…uh tiny handheld camera, I awkwardly walked through this recipe for the one person who will watch this video (okay maybe two assuming my brother’s teacher actually sits through the whole thing) and put together a delicious meal. Altogether, not a bad way to get back into the food blogging game.

More to the point, this soup. This light and creamy Potato Leek soup is really exactly as advertised. And the roasted cabbage? A nice touch if I do say so myself.

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day which gave me an opportunity to do something a bit different while celebrating the holiday the proper way- sharing a pint of Guinness with someone dressed as a leprechaun with Irish food!

Corned beef, boiled potatoes, and cabbage never appealed to me plus it all seemed a bit obvious. Instead, I went for something simple, tasty, and quick while using quintessential Irish ingredients. The best part is I was able to make this whole meal for under $10. Save that pot of gold for something, and I’m done with silly St. Patty’s Day jokes.

A couple of notes before I get started with the recipe sharing business:

  • This is my first time cooking with leeks, but I was forewarned of the extra work involved. Leeks are veritable dirt traps so be sure to clean them properly before you use them in this or any recipe.
  • I couldn’t stand cabbage up until about a year ago. That was until I learned that cabbage could be absolutely wonderful if cooked with the right ingredients. I’d only ever had it raw in salads or cole slaw and it was usually too bitter for my tastebuds. Roasting them seemed a genius move and so simple. Plus they taste AH-MAZING!!!!
  • This recipe can be adapted for vegans by simply eliminating the sour cream. I actually debated this myself when I saw just how creamy the soup was after the vegetables were pureed. The sour cream adds another layer of richness without being overwhelming, but the soup was wonderful without it.
  • You’ll note the color of the soup is a little darker than normal. The vegetable stock I bought was tomato-based which I didn’t realize until I poured it out of the carton. This didn’t affect the flavor of the soup in a bad way, but just a heads up if you’re wondering why the shade seems off.

Now I normally include a nutrition factoids section in here, but I’m doing things a bit differently this time. Needless to say, my raison d’être remains the same: healthy cooking that doesn’t require a lot of fuss and is delicious. I think I accomplished that pretty well in my first pre-Spring go in the kitchen. 🙂


Servings 6-8 people

Serving size, approx 1 cup


  • 2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and sliced (white and pale green parts only!)
  • 4-5 medium-sized yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper

Roasted Cabbage

  • 1 medium sized cabbage, 1″ thick slices
  • Olive Oil Spray (or 2 tsps olive oil)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence


1. Prepare all vegetables by peeling, rinsing, and chopping as necessary. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

2. Heat oil in a large pot or dutch-oven and add onions, garlic and leeks once hot. Cook at medium-heat for about 10 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. DO NOT BROWN THE LEEKS!

3. Add the potatoes, stock, thyme, and salt and pepper to the onions. Stir everything together and reduce heat to a simmer. Place the lid and allow it to cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes.

4. While the soup is simmering, prepare cabbage on an oiled rimmed baking sheet and season both sides. Place in 400°F oven and cook for 40 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. Remove from oven once they’re caramelized and brown on the edges.

Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

5. Working in batches, carefully place soup in a blender (or food processor), filling it halfway. Do not seal completely, remove the plastic nozzle in the middle and cover with a kitchen towel. Pulse it for several seconds about 3 times before pureeing it completely. Do this for each batch and place the soup in a separate pot.

Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

6. Turn the heat on to low and stir pureed soup for several minutes. If you’re going for a vegan version of this dish then you’re done! If not then add the sour cream and continue stirring until it’s completely incorporated. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.

7. Serve up a bowl of soup with several pieces of roasted cabbage. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Done!

Light & Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Roasted Cabbage

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I’ve slowly been making my way back into the kitchen, experimenting with new dishes and finding some of that creativity with food that I enjoy so much. This time I managed to get it on camera and onto this blog to share it with all of you, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you tried the recipe, let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions below or on Facebook and Twitter!

recipe adapted from Eating Well magazine

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

Featured post

Thankful Thursday: Level Up!

imageLevel up your life. Wise words from Steve of Nerd Fitness, a crazy awesome website I used to follow religiously for fitness inspiration and tips. (The guy uses Legos to animate his posts for crying out loud!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of Steve and his call to level up every aspect of your life. His words hit me hard this morning as I sat down to write my journal and put my experiences this past week into words.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet since I have a mile-long to-do list and a ticking clock chaining me to my desk. Oy.

I’ve had loads of hard days mixed with some good in the past few months, but what’s made this week stand out for me are the new mental and physical challenges I’ve faced. I went to my first Soul Cycle class a week ago and yesterday, my trainer had me try single-armed jerks with kettlebells and dumbbells for the first time.

I’ve been training continuously for over a year with periods of intense focus and learning. But it’s been a while since I’ve felt completely out of my element in the gym, and I missed that terribly. Making the decision to be more active in my life by committing myself to regular exercise was a life-changing choice. Choosing to add a trainer not only reunited me with an incredible friend but took my fitness to the next level by introducing weight lifting and eventually power lifting to my routine.

Now I find myself on a new plateau looking for new adventures, and I’ve had the good fortune to begin exploring that this week. Maybe I won’t spin all the time and it’ll take time for me to get the jerk form down, but I’m out there giving it a shot, no matter how ridiculous I look (which is to say I look very ridiculous).

Check that off the list.

The social media challenges have been leveled up from what I’ve been doing this past year with Food4ThoughtNYC. I’d tweet here or post on Facebook there, but I never really got into the nitty-gritty of what social media could mean for my personal enrichment and my professional career.

I’ve had the incredible fortune of exploring that avenue as an intern for an extraordinary startup (more on this soon) based here in New York. It’s taken a lot of hard work and focus, and there are times when the amount of work involved with social media engagements seems insurmountable. But there’s this tremendous feeling of excitement too. The amount of information out there defies logic sometimes, but I’ve learned SO much these past few weeks about so many different ways we’re changing as a society. The landscape is constantly evolving and all of our actions contribute to that mural, each and every single day. It’s kind of insane but really inspiring at the same time.

My landscape is evolving too. Some parts of my life remain the same, and I’m striving to change them however possible. But I feel a significant shift happening in how I approach the world around me. I have a greater appreciation for the little moments because sometimes I can see how they’re adding up to create another world of possibilities for me, and that’s pretty amazing.

Take it from Steve. Level up your life every single day. Challenge yourselves to do one thing differently. You’ve got this one life to live. So do it already.

Oh, and PS- Cafe Bustelo is the best coffee on the planet. I’m just sayin’.

imageWhat are you thankful for this week? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy. 🙂

Featured post

The Day I Fell in Love with Soul Cycle

Soul Cycle NYC review

Let me begin with an admission: I have never gone to a spinning class. I’ll take it one step further and say that I don’t get on any bikes at all, stationary or not. You’ll usually find me by a squat rack or bench press in the weight room, powerlifting my way through a workout. Spinning, like many other cardio-intensive classes, just never called out to me. I prefer to lift heavy and workout alone. That’s just me.

I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to people wax poetic about the amazing workouts they’ve had at Soul Cycle, the premier spinning studio in New York City (with additional studios in California and most of New England). The trainers, their heart-pumping music playlists, and the party-like atmosphere were among the most popular comments I heard from Soul Cycle devotees. It all sounded pretty great, but I wasn’t convinced.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year and I found myself reconsidering my strict strength-training routine in favor of new fitness challenges, especially the fast-paced, heart-pumping kind. I took the ongoing construction of a spin studio in my gym as a sign that maybe I should broaden my horizons, namely on a bike.

Soul Cycle: me and you? A date? Okay, let’s go for it!

My first stop was on Soul Cycle’s website to pick my class and to find an instructor. Instead of offering a typical membership plan with monthly or annual coverage, Soul Cycle has a pay-as-you-go model with an option to pre-purchase any number of classes you want. The only fine print is that you must use those classes within a certain amount of time. Just keep that in mind, if you decide to buy several classes at once.

After spending a few hours perusing Soul Cycle’s excellent website and reading online reviews, I decided to pick Akin as my instructor. Each instructor gets their own page with a running feed of their social media networks and a current playlist of their favorite music. I like to know what I’m getting into before I sign up for anything, especially if it’s fitness related, so I really enjoyed the fact that I could compare different instructors to figure out who would be a good fit. Akin had a lot of thumbs up from both beginners and advanced spinners, and his mix of hip-hop, r&b, and pop was right up my musical alley. I suggest you take some time to do this for yourself. You also get to pick which bike you want to reserve, so if you want to hide out in the back, sit next to a friend, or burn it up with the pros up front, you have that option.

Arriving late to a Soul Cycle class should be avoided, especially if it’s your first time. I got to the studio with about ten minutes to spare and I wish I had some more time to get settled. The front desk staff was very friendly and efficient, even offering me a complimentary water for class. Once I signed off on the forms and picked up my shoes, I headed to the locker room to store my stuff. The studio itself is beautifully designed with the white, yellow, and black theme running throughout the space. The locker room was fairly small and co-ed, although there are separate bathroom facilities for men and women if you prefer to change in privacy. No need for a lock either. Each locker has its own digital lock that you can configure with your own code.

Once my stuff was safely stored, I ran upstairs and put my shoes on outside the doors. I didn’t understand the need for a rental until I got to the studio. Each shoe has a special clamp that locks onto the pedals. This ensures your stability and keeps you safely on the bike as you transition from one move to the next. I didn’t really get it at first but I quickly saw the need for this as the class got started and silently thanked the genius who thought of this little invention. That said, it should be noted that the shoe rental is required for each class. First rental is free, thereafter rentals are $3.

Note: Let me get this out of the way now: Soul Cycle is pricey. It’s $20 for your first class, $34 thereafter. That’s a bit of a splurge, especially if you’re a New Yorker trying to balance a limited budget. Then again, I know people dropping hundreds of dollars on Crossfit boxes and personal trainers, so to each their own. I say this now to cover my bases, but let me tell you about my class before you write it off completely.

If it’s your first time at Soul Cycle, be sure to inform one of the staff so that they can help you get set up. They adjust the set height, ask about lower back issues, and explain how to lock your shoe on the pedals. There are small two-pound hand weights located underneath the seat and a knob that increases or decreases resistance by the handlebars. The class was completely full and the music was already streaming out of the speakers. It’s a bit cramped with each rider within inches of each other in the dimly lit room, but already there was a lot of buzzing energy coursing through the studio.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

The doors close and the class starts at a running sprint. With the music pumping and my fellow riders spinning their wheels like maniacs, I felt a bit overwhelmed within the first five minutes. It gets hot, fast, and then to make matters worse, my towel fell to the ground with no easy way for me to pick it up. I had to leave it behind and just keep moving. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to dress appropriately, with a loose cotton tank and lightweight tights. This is NOT the class to wear sweats and a hoodie, Just a tip.

I’m not going to lie. I consider myself pretty fit so I thought I’d handle this class like a boss pretty well. It’s just a bike right? And I’ve got rhythm. I can dance. What’s so hard about doing a little shimmy to some awesome music while pedaling? I just squatted 125lbs the week before, so really, how could this be that tough?

This is where the date got kind of ugly.

You could tell who’s done this before as they expertly wove their bodies on the bike from side to side. I, on the other hand, spent most of my time trying to figure out how to move without losing pace on the pedals. Within the first fifteen minutes I thought there was no way I could ever get it and that this would be my first and last spinning experience. My heart was in my throat and my legs felt like they were on fire. I slammed headfirst into a wall and wanted nothing more than to collect my abandoned towel off the ground, wipe off the sweat, and head home with my tail between my legs.

I have to give a lot of credit to Akin. He led the charge with motivating speeches, encouraging us to let out great big yells to help release the tension. I’m a big believer in energy transference- sounds new-agey but I think that the tone of a room can be greatly influenced by the people in it, and that studio was no exception.

My bike was smack dab in the center, so I got to see all the riders around me, whenever I was able to tear my eyes away without losing my balance. Some were rocking it out, dancing like their lives depended on it. Others were just like me, figuring out their pace and struggling to get their coordination down. But the really awesome thing is that ALL of us were into it. There were no bored expressions and you got the sense that everyone was pushing it to the max throughout the workout.

Then came the breakthrough. Maybe it was Akin’s encouragement to dig a little deeper to beat back our fears that roused a familiar sensation deep inside. I am very familiar with the self-defeating talk that kept me from exercising so many times before. The person I am now, who embraces fitness and healthy living as a lifestyle, took years of soul-searching and half-hearted attempts at changing my habits.

Suddenly I found myself actually smiling. I even closed my eyes and let the rhythm wash over me, as silly as that sounds. I realized that it was a little ridiculous to walk in there expecting to be an expert without ever having tried it before. Even the 2lb weights I sneered at when he pulled them out during the workout, kicked my butt. I was utterly humbled.

 I’d forgotten what it was like to be truly challenged during a workout. Powerlifting is not easy, but sometimes I get caught up in the routine of it all, mentally checking out along the way. Switching it up with an intense spinning class woke me up and got me truly jazzed about making it through the class. I felt proud of myself, which I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.

I can thank Akin and Soul Cycle for shaking me out of my fitness rut and reminding me that how important it is to test my boundaries.

That’s one of the reasons I started working out in the first place: to fall in love with how much my body is capable of, even when my head tries to throw me off stride.

Not too shabby for a first date. Trust me, I’ve had worse.

What did I take away from my date and what tips can I give you? Check your ego at the door. And please don’t drop your towel on the floor. You’ll need it.

Here’s more info on Soul Cycle and the studio I visited:

Soul Cycle Tribeca, 103 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007
Classes: 1st class $20; Each class thereafter $34
Shoe Rentals: 1st class FREE; Rentals thereafter $3

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy. 🙂

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Thankful Thursdays: No (Wo)Man is an Island


Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,

“I will try again tomorrow.”

– Mary Anne Radmacher



It’s impossible to go through life without taking others into consideration. In the wise words of John Donne, ‘no man is an island.’ As much as I’d like to consider myself a trailblazer, walking down the road of life alone, without stopping to muse on what others might think about me, I’m human. I can’t help but wonder how the world perceives me.

Don’t compromise who you are and what you’re doing for the sake of others. That’s usually the advice I get when I start to get bogged down by negative thoughts. My confidence takes a nosedive and I find myself frozen, too scared to move forward or back because I worry about what my peers might think.

I’m a failure. My writing is terrible. I’m lazy. If I gain weight, I’ll be alone. Wasted potential. No substance….Loser.

Terrible line of thinking, isn’t it?

The reality is that when we preoccupy ourselves with what we think others are thinking about us, what we’re really doing is cutting ourselves down all on our own. We allow our fears to bully us into dark corners where we’re left powerless and immobilized. And the worst part is that it’s all our own doing.

I realize how depressing this sounds. Trust me, my goal is not to come here each week and be a downer for all of you. But it was important for me to reflect on some of the challenges I still experience  on my journey to wellness. It was a particularly dark week for me as I struggled past some of my deepest insecurities. 2014 hasn’t been very kind to me so far, and I’m often choosing between two difficult and unsavory options on an ongoing basis. And I imagine that many of you are in similar struggles.

We can be independent and driven as we strive to reach our goals, but it’s naive to think that we can block out the world in the process. Everything we do ripples out and affects those around us whether we realize it or not. Even when I’m feeling at my lowest and I’ve hidden myself away, I’m putting out an energy and that impacts my environment, for better or worse.

I’m grateful that when I have those days when all I’m doing is questioning all that I am, I can manage to look out and see love around me. Those moments offer an extraordinary opportunity to recalibrate. It’s a sucky process, no doubt about it. But a necessary one.

Take it one step at a time and forgive yourself for the little stumbles along the way. Don’t be scared to ask the hard questions and don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the answers right away. I know I forget that sometimes and that’s alright. We’ve all been there.


What do you do to get yourself out of a funk?

What are you grateful for this week? Please feel free to share!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Experiencing Orthorexia: One Year Later

wpid-textgram_1393418126.pngIt’s been a year since I sat down to write about my personal experience with disordered eating. I had just come off a miserable attempt at the paleo diet where I lost more than just weight. My inability to distinguish between a healthy awareness of what I was eating and an unhealthy obsession with every item of food that I purchased, led me into a downward spiral. It took time and the effort of good friends to pull me out of that wretched cycle, until I was finally able to see the harm I was doing.

I’ve since accepted that my relationship with food is complex. I have certain triggers that lie beneath the surface and sometimes they’re tripped whether I realize it or not. What helped me was learning more about my behavior and speaking out about it any way that I could. Luckily I had this platform to get the word out there about orthorexia, an eating disorder that I didn’t even know existed until I saw a lot of the symptoms match up with my habits. It was vital for me to share this information in the hope that someone out there would find it beneficial for themselves or for a loved one.

And so I’m back here to share this story again, for this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week running from February 23rd through March 1st. I continue to have my ups and downs, but the breakthrough I made last year helped me to find strength in expressing these thoughts to those I trust most, before they lead to unhealthy behaviors down the road.

If you’re experiencing difficulties in your relationship with food or body image, I urge you to please seek help from a trusted friend, family member, and most importantly a health professional. I know how hard it is to admit those thoughts to yourself, let alone to someone else who may not understand where you’re coming from. Speaking out about it is the all-important first step to healing and recovery. Wishing you good health!

What is Orthorexia? The Thin Line Between Healthy Eating and Unhealthy Obsession

Upon hearing the words “eating disorder,” it’s likely the images of an emaciated woman refusing food or another taking frequent trips to the bathroom to throw up are conjured.

We’re familiar with anorexia nervosa and bulimia through films, television shows, health class, or magazines. Modern technology now provides a new platform for these diseases with the creation of sites and profiles dedicated to ‘Anas,’ ‘Mias,’  and thinspiration ideals. Just do a quick search of these terms with a hashtag on Twitter and  you’ll see endless pages expressing the war with food out of a desperate need to be thin, raging daily.

You may know someone personally who’s facing their own battle with eating disorders and struggle with the obsessive addiction to be thin. Or maybe you’ve been down this road yourself.

However you’ve encountered eating disorders (ED) in the past, most people have heard of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating in some context. Given the overwhelming statistics of ED related health concerns and the media coverage utilized to help educate the public about these disorders, its become part of our modern social discourse. Despite that awareness, many people become afflicted with anxiety and some form of disordered eating, especially within our environment that often provides conflicting ideas about food and health.

There are eating disorders aside from anorexia and bulemia that are relatively unknown but share the same foundation of obsessive control of food for the purposes of weight loss or management to the point of addiction. I had my eyes opened forcefully late last year when I discovered one form of ED that I’d never heard of before but would never forget: orthorexia.

I recently told a story about my experiment with the Paleo diet and how it triggered some of my negative behavior with food that I thought I’d overcome. It was during this time that I discovered orthorexia.

I was at work going through my news feed and came across this article from Runner’s World that grabbed my attention. It spoke about how a fixation on eating healthy, organic foods can sometimes cross a line when you become obsessed with the need to be absolutely “pure” in all of your food choices. I felt that the description of this disorder fit me like a glove, and so I did what I normally do while reading health articles: I self-diagnose and freak out.

Everything about this disorder seemed to make sense to me since I was in the throes of a diet crisis that hadn’t even reached its peak yet. My breakdown wasn’t due for a couple of months, but I’d already sensed something was off in my gut.

The idea that you could take something perfectly healthy like eliminating processed foods from your diet or reducing your sugar intake and pervert it by ruthlessly examining every item of food that crosses your lips to determine if it passes your own high standard of healthiness didn’t seem far-fetched to me. It’s this kind of obsessive analysis that goes on in my mind all of the time about everything, especially food when I don’t keep it in check, which I wasn’t last year.

I think what eventually forced me to admit that something was wrong was my level of anxiety. I couldn’t just get home and throw dinner together or quickly pick up lunch during the day. I had to painstakingly plan my meals out ahead of time and think through each item on my grocery list to see if it passed my personal ‘approved list’ of foods that I could eat. What was supposed to be a simple diet turned into a nightmarish process. And worse yet, I’d still experience guilt if I wasn’t committed 100% of the time or ‘cheated’ on one meal. How could I not see the similarities?

Courtesy: Athleanx

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, orthorexia nervosa  is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating to the point that ‘purity’ becomes the goal and foods deemed impure are completely eliminated. The emphasis is more on quality than quantity and orthorexics go to extreme lengths to fiercely maintain a diet as natural and clean as possible.

Our nation is in the midst of a national health crisis with regard to the rates obesity and its associated health risks that constantly play out in the media on a daily basis. The focus on leading healthy lifestyles along with a movement towards going green with organic products and cutting out processed foods to be replaced by natural, all blend together to create a perfect storm for those susceptible to obsessive behaviors surrounding food. The sad irony is that in an effort to embrace a positive lifestyle change, some adopt worse habits that can be devastating and difficult to overcome.

Erin Sund wrote about orthorexia for AND and spoke with Dr. Marjorie Nolan about the disorder:

“Orthorexia starts out with a true intention of wanting to be healthier, but it’s taken to an extreme,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, CDN, ACSM-HFS, who specializes in working with eating disorder clients. “If someone is orthorexic, they typically avoid anything processed, like white flour or sugar. A food is virtually untouchable unless it’s certified organic or a whole food. Even something like whole-grain bread – which is a very healthy, high-fiber food – is off limits because it’s been processed in some way.”

Although orthorexia is not officially recognized by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders),  it is quickly becoming accepted as a new form of disordered eating that has similar effects on both the physical and mental health of those afflicted as anorexia and bulimia.

I am not a licensed professional nor a registered member of the APA or the AND. But I am an expert in me and what I’ve gone through personally with relation to food, and the point here is that any kind of obsessive behavior where you’re spending more time thinking about the food and its components and less time actually enjoying the meal, is not a good thing.

Initially, I found the very existence of a term that described my food issues satisfying with an immediate sense of relief as if I’d been “figured out.” There’s a name to what I’ve been experiencing and that makes all of this okay, I thought.

The fact is, no it really doesn’t make it okay. Giving it a name helps bring it out of the closet and raises awareness to others out there who might not realize that its unhealthy to be so excruciatingly detailed in their thought process about what’s on their plates. But that’s just step one and it’s harder to land on step two.

I don’t know if I’m orthorexic or if anything I’m going through qualifies as a classifiable disorder and really, I couldn’t care less. Tagging it as one thing or another doesn’t take away from the fact that I still have too many thoughts about food which make some decisions that are simple for others much harder for me. I don’t know why. I couldn’t tell you, but that’s where I am.

I’ve made a commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle and I believe I’m capable of approaching food with a positive frame of mind. What makes a difference for me is allowing myself to speak openly about my challenges and shed light on those dark corners so that I can stay on the right side of the line. I don’t think having a passion for healthy eating and living is a bad thing and it’s something I’m continually trying to understand each day.

The benefit I found from discovering orthorexia is that it opened my eyes to the negative habits I developed and it helped me begin a process of forgiveness and healing. I was able to acknowledge that it was real and that I wasn’t the only one with this kind of pressure. It’s all about choices and being honest with yourself about your intentions. That’s the power of knowledge and that’s my goal with this blog.

In an effort to keep that going and to share information that I think is vital for everyone to know, here is an infographic created by the non-profit National Eating Disorders Association who recently sponsored National Eating Disorders week February 24 through March 2nd. It was a massive campaign to help educate the public on the impact of eating disorders and learn more about services available for those in need of support and professional help. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is another amazing resource if you’d like more information.

Courtesy: NEDAwareness
Courtesy: NEDAwareness
Courtesy: NEDAwareness
Courtesy: NEDAwareness

I am always staggered by the statistics for ED. It reminds me that these disorders afflict people of all backgrounds, races, and genders.  Shed any limited thoughts you might have about the face of ED and consider that it’s an issue that affects people from so many different walks of life.

Have you experienced similar anxiety about food and healthy eating? What do you think about classifying orthorexia as an eating disorder and treating it as a disease? Share your thoughts! I’m curious.

As always, keep paying it forward, now and always. Stay healthy. 🙂

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Thankful Thursdays: It Works on Friday Too


So, I’m a day late.  But guess what? Expressing gratitude works on Friday just as much as it does on Thursday. Hell, it works any day of the week. You’ll still get those happiness points if you stop to say thanks for all the little moments that make life truly special.

That said, let’s move on to the nitty gritty. Here’s what I’m thankful for:


The Value of Honesty

That last point about honesty has become a major turning point in some of the relationships that are taking shape in my life. It seems a bit unnecessary to point out the importance of honesty because I think it’s safe to say that’s a quality we expect from all the people we embrace as friends or partners.

But how often are you truly open about what you’re feeling, especially when it turns out that feeling isn’t on the happier end of the spectrum?

The vulnerability and fear that comes with sharing some of those more difficult emotions have often led me to keep others at bay. For all of my self-awareness, I am more likely to stay tight-lipped about the things that make me upset, simply because it’s easier than fully confronting the issue head on.

This is changing. I’m beginning to see that closing myself off in this way has caused me more harm than good over the years. The really awesome part here is that I’ve managed to speak my mind in ways that are both healing and constructive, which has yielded some amazing changes in my personal relationships.

I have no clue what the future holds. None of us do. But for now, I can say with a bit of certainty, that the future can be a much brighter place if you make it a point to stay (constructively!) honest not only with yourself, but with those around you.

Been Around the World

Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

-Gustave Flaubert

I spent a good chunk of last week catching up on old episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations I never got around to watching when the show was still on air. There’s something about the combination of Bourdain’s sarcastic wit, smart commentary, beautiful cinematography, and mouth-watering meals that makes my heart sing, each and every time I watch that show.

My wanderlust was stirred. Badly. I’m usually spending this part of the year planning my next big trip to somewhere new. This is the first year in as long as I can remember that I do not have a trip on my agenda.

Sadness does not even cover it.

But in the middle of watching Bourdain sip his caipirinha on Ipanema beach in Rio, I realized that I’ve been a lucky duck when it comes to travel. I’ve spent the last 13 years exploring whenever I could with whatever resources I had because there is SO much of this world that I want to see.

No matter how far down in the dumps I go, or how difficult this part of my journey seems to be, I can always turn to these travel experiences as a reminder of just how fortunate I’ve been to see such incredible sights.

So in an effort to keep the gratitude going and keep my spirits lifted, I decided to go back and take a look at some of these glorious moments. Then I thought I’d share them here too. There’s nothing like a photo to help transport you away from the here and now. Enjoy!

What are you thankful for this week?

Feel free to share your thoughts below!

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: Keep it Simple


I was this close to not sharing my journal this week. Then I decided to keep it simple.

Given how it’s the only thing I’m posting these days (yes, I’m perfectly aware that I’ve been a bit off target with my articles of late), I have no excuse. None.

And really, keeping this journal has been one of the few things to keep me tethered to that divine energy I have inside of me. I forget it’s there sometimes. The ins and outs of each day with the challenges that keep me up late into the night are enough to make me stop in my tracks and forget about thanking anyone for anything.


Then I remember how awesome I feel just seeing this little graphic each week highlighting the things that put a smile on my face. You guys can’t see what I see when I reflect back on those moments, but I hope I can convey how they make me feel , especially because each of these things were lifesavers.

That’s the thing about choosing to live life mindfully with your eyes open. Sometimes there’s so much to see, some of it difficult and painful,  that all you want to do is shut out the world and run away.  And other times, the littlest thing is enough to make you laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all.

Hence my Doctor Who reference. Raise your hand if you’re a fellow Whovian! High five friend!

I hope everyone on the East coast experiencing storm #2901783978497369 this winter season is somewhere warm and safe surrounded by blankets and (healthy) snacks. Remember, sharing is caring.

If you’re looking to get on the joy train, tell me, what are you thankful for this week?


As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Go Red for Women’s Heart Health

Don’t save that red dress for Valentine’s day. Flaunt that color today, National Wear Red Day to help raise awareness about women’s heart health as part of the National Heart Health initiative by the American Heart Association this month.

You may not realize it, but heart disease is not just a problem for men. Take a look at this graphic below, courtesy of the American Heart Association:

High cholesterol, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity are all contributors that increase your risk for heart health problems, in both men and women. But what makes women susceptible than men?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk factors for heart disease vary from men on these points:

  • Metabolic syndrome — a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides — has a greater impact on women than on men.
  • Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you’re having symptoms of depression.
  • Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (small vessel heart disease).

Latinas are at an even greater risk for heart disease than their white counterparts. Higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and inactivity within the Latino community increase the likelihood of poor heart health and may lead to disease.

The American Heart Association shared these facts with me:

Facts You Didn’t Know About Latinas and Heart Disease

o   Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.

o   Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.

o   Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.

o   Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.

o   Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.

It is absolutely crucial that you take your heart health seriously, now more than ever. Wearing red today is one way to raise awareness in your community, but how can you take a step towards reducing your risk of heart disease?

There are 6 major risk factors for heart disease that you can modify or control: Cigarette and tobacco smoke, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes. Making healthier lifestyle choices will have loads of benefits for your health, especially for your heart.

Here are some tips to get you started towards good heart health:

Get moving! Remember, your heart is a muscle and the more you move your body, the stronger your heart will get over time. People who maintain an active lifestyle have a 45% lower risk of developing heart disease than do sedentary people. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise at least 5 days a week. Take a dance class. Go for a hike. Join your friends on a bike ride. Make it fun to keep yourself motivated and consistent.

– Heart-healthy eats. Key words to keep in mind: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low cholesterol and low fat foods.

  • Balance your diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to benefit from the vitamins and minerals that contribute to good heart health. Stick to whole fresh produce as much as possible and be sure to avoid fruits or vegetables that are canned with high sodium or high sugar syrups.
  • Recent studies show that 39% of people ages 18 and under, and 42% of adults don’t eat whole grains at all . Eating foods high in dietary fiber, such as whole grain products, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and will also help maintain your weight. Skip the bagels and breakfast pastries for breakfast and try oatmeal or whole wheat bread instead.
  • Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol are almost guaranteed to raise your blood cholesterol and your risk for coronary artery disease and heart attack. Your body needs fat, in addition to carbs and protein, for energy so don’t skip it altogether. Choose heart-healthy fats (aka MUFAs or monounsaturated fats if you want to get technical) such as extra-virgin olive oil or nuts. Be sure to keep this in moderation folks.

Kick the smoking habit. According to the AHA, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing blood pressure, making it harder for you to tolerate regular exercise, and making it more likely for blood to clot. Smoking also decreases the levels of HDL (high density lipoprotein) in your blood, otherwise known as the “good” cholesterol that may lower your risk for heart disease. There are many many good reasons to quit smoking, but the impact it has on heart health tops the list.

Wear red and talk to your friends, your neighbors, mothers and daughters, coworkers and social network: spread the word about the importance of heart health, not just today, but everyday. Set the example and pay it forward.

Here I am, showing off my red. Even my cell phone gets in on the action.


Are you wearing red today?

How are you celebrating Heart Health month? 

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: Another Door Opens


When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened to us.

-Helen Keller

I think Helen Keller was onto something here.

Keller embodied what it meant to overcome hardships as the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1904. She persevered and became an American icon who continues to inspire people to push past closed doors in order to succeed.

What was her secret? Why is it so hard for us to let go of the hurt that paralyzes us from action?

There is no one simple answer. Each of us has a unique path laid out before us with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

Some of us look to the problems of our unhealthy, overly-competitive global society that forces us to constantly compare ourselves to the millions of others out there who seemingly have their shit together.

Others point the finger inwards and tear themselves apart in an effort to find an answer to “why?”, which only pulls them further away from their purpose in life.

The fact is that once we feel a door close on us, we tend to shut down completely. We forget that those trials are in reality, an opening for something greater.

I have seen more doors close on me of late, then I have in a long time. As always, the timing of everything sucks and I find myself making some tough decisions about what I need to do in the short run. Like I told a close friend the other day, it’s time I put my strong girl pants on.

But I remain grateful for it all. The tears, the uncertainty, the challenges, and the fears; all of it is a part of a greater story that lies behind another door which isn’t really shut closed. Walking through them is taking every ounce of strength I have, but that effort is part of what makes me human. I carry these experiences with me always, as a reminder of what I’m capable of in spite of the roadblocks put in my way.

How can I not be thankful for that reminder?

Tell me, what do you do when you feel doors close on you?

How do you remain optimistic in difficult situations?

What are you thankful for this week?

Here’s my gratitude journal below. Please feel free to share your own notes of gratitude below or on Facebook or Twitter!


As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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#IStandwiththe47Million Against Cutting SNAP


I’m not ashamed to admit that my family and I reaped the benefits of what used to be known as food stamps. My dad worked very hard to pull in what he could while my mom raised all five of us with all of the resources she could find.

Eventually we moved past government aid and got ourselves on our feet. Now, as an adult who spends most of her time shopping, researching, and writing about food, I experience the challenge of finding quality, nutritious food without breaking the bank on a daily basis.

I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents, especially my mom as she managed a household of seven with limited financial means and without speaking English. As a kid, you don’t need to imagine that.

All that mattered was that the food was there, without fail, because we had the temporary help of government social welfare programs to get us there (same goes for health insurance, but that’s a whole conversation for another time).

Following the ongoing conversation about the proposed cuts to SNAP programs has been disheartening. The ongoing budget crises that continue to plague the Farm Bill and its many components threatens to change some of the important strides we’ve made to educate the public about healthy eating and provide access to quality, nutritious foods to a population that often doesn’t have access to it because of limited income.

New York City’s Greenmarket system administered by GrowNYC offers a fantastic grocery buying program that makes the fresh produce sold at farmer’s markets across the city available to EBT, WIC and FMNP (Farmers Market Nutrition Program) beneficiaries. The program has been wildly successful with EBT sales in 2012 exceeding $830,000.

According to GrowNYC, “EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, as some farmers reported that EBT sales comprise 25% to 50% of their total income.” This has become a national model for how to successfully integrate federal food benefit programs into farmers market programs across the country.

But what will happen to this program when SNAP benefits are cut if the current version of the Farm Bill is passed?

How will these families afford to buy the quality produce they’ve previously purchased with EBT benefits?

How will this affect the livelihood of farmers who’ve generated more income with the aid of EBT sales?

How will this impact our national obesity epidemic if low-income families lose access to nutritious foods due to cuts in SNAP funding?

The questions are endless.

I don’t need to ask what would have happened if my family didn’t get the help of WIC and food welfare programs, because the help was there when we needed it most. But how many families are facing that question for themselves as they struggle to make ends meet?

Latinos make up 17 percent of the one in six Americans who use food stamps.  According to the National Council of La Raza, Latino families experience food insecurity at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white households (23 percent versus 11 percent). SNAP is often a significant buffer from hunger for children, helping to ensure proper growth and development, the group said. Nearly one in three Latino children in the U.S. lives in a household receiving SNAP, according to NCLR.

Many who are against the cuts to SNAP point out that more than half of the recipients are already working, but putting healthy food on the table requires a livable wage, another raging issue affecting millions of Latinos and minorities across the country.

There are various proposals for a long-term Farm Bill that comprehensively addresses both the cost of living issue and access to affordable, quality foods for all families. The hope is that we will reach a consensus on how to improve the quality of life for Americans across the board. But we’re far from that goal as it stands.

#IStandwiththe47Million is a social media movement I came across in a plea from Margaret Purvis, the president of Food Bank for New York City. New York stands to bear the greatest brunt of this proposed cut, especially in our food bank programs across New York City. This threatens not only the survival of these programs, but the very survival of the thousands of hungry people who rely on food banks.

If you stand with the millions who are rallying against the proposed cuts to SNAP in the current Farm Bill law up for vote, then please do the following:

  • Email your local senator or congressman/woman about why you believe SNAP benefits should not be cut from the bill
  • Take a selfie pic of your feet and tweet why you #IStandwiththe47Million to @BarackObama and your local political leaders
  • Invite your friends and family to join in—every voice matters, and we need ALL Americans to speak out

Research the impact of SNAP in your state and see how the cuts will affect you directly. Empower yourself with the facts and stand up for equal rights and access to food everywhere.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursdays: The In-Between


“It’s everything in between we live for.” What are you doing with that time? Regretting or doubting the clumsy start of love? Fearing its end? Or celebrating—lavishly—the in-between?

I’m not much of an Oprah fan, but occasionally I find some gems in her countless newsletters that make me stop and consider my life from a different angle. The quote above was no exception.
I often get caught up in the ‘big picture’ view. Everything I do is calculated to reach for that image in one way or another. The series of steps seems endless, and so it’s no wonder that I feel like I’m never really getting anywhere with my goals.
One of the best things I learned from my weight loss journey is that the smaller changes to my diet and exercise that I adopted gradually were at the core of my success. By managing my expectations and embracing each new positive change as a major victory, I found it easier to do the things that I’d resisted for so long in all of my attempts to lose weight.
In between the start of the journey and the big picture goal at the end, there’s a world of experiences that we sometimes overlook in our rush to reach the finish line. We forget to live in the moment and enjoy it just for the sake of being exactly where we are in our journeys and reveling in that fact.
Somehow the present gets traded in for the future, and we find ourselves incapable of truly living in gratitude for the life we have right now.
Goals are important and vital to self-improvement, but not at the expense of sacrificing the joys of the in-between. Be mindful of all those little steps. That’s where life is.
Do you get caught up in the ‘big picture’?
How do you enjoy the ‘in-between’ moments of life?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: Are Your Eyes Open?

For you newcomers to my blog: welcome and bienvenidos!

Every Thursday I share at least three things I’m thankful for to keep myself accountable for recognizing the upsides in life, both big and small.

Sharing my gratitude journal last year was a cathartic experience. The therapeutic release of expressing gratitude for the good things in my life helped me gain perspective, especially when I needed it most.

2013 was a murky year filled with loads of detours. I felt like the Griswolds in their car getting stuck in one of those British roundabouts in European Vacation.

Yeah, this was me, on a perpetual loop.

Sometimes I struggled with thinking optimistically about my future, but focusing my attention on the good in the present moment allowed me to open my mind up to the potential that lay beyond my own limits.

A recent post by Ozioma of Burnbright Lifeworks, reinforced what I learned this past year:

Many of us lead exceedingly complex lives where millions of bits of information pass right before our very eyes, much of which we will never retain. This phenomenon causes our minds to focus on what appears to stand out: the BIG things. BIG shows of love, BIG spikes in sales, BIG, BIG, BIG. Before we know it, we fall out of gratitude and forget about the small wins we experience every day. Over time, what would have been milestones on our journey become meaningless and what would have been cause to celebrate is now seen as cause to compare.

I once learned that if you do not celebrate your achievements, both big and small, it’s as if they never happened.

On our journey to live big dreams, we can’t forget about the small acts of kindness, the small triumphs, and the small steps of progress we take everyday. If you truly want to enjoy the life you have, while working towards what your life can be, it’s important that you learn to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. ¹

She sums it up pretty nicely, no?

This week was filled with crazy highs and lows for me, but after a year of living in gratitude and looking at the upside, it was much easier for me to cast aside the  negative in favor of the moments that left me feeling ecstatic and appreciative of this life that I’m shaping each day.

So, without further ado, here are three things I’m thankful for this week.


Have I convinced you to start your own gratitude journal yet???

No worries, I’ll be back here each Thursday sharing my journey and hopefully getting you to see the advantages to being grateful for the life you’re living now.

Until then, think about what may be blocking you from what you truly want for yourself. What are those barriers? How can you move past them? What puts a smile on your face each day? Consider those answers and open your eyes to the world around you.

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! 🙂



¹How to Live the Life of Your Dreams Entheos Academy

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How Powerlifting and Latina Magazine Changed My Life

Where the heck are those curtains? I thought to myself.

I was rushing through a department store one afternoon on my lunch break from work when I received the email.


I’m working with Latina Magazine and for our social media issue, February, we’re reaching out collecting images from Latina bloggers all across the web. We’d love to include you!

I stopped in my tracks, nearly bumping into another other harried lunchtime shopper, as I scanned the message that popped up on-screen.

Latina magazine? Really?!

Considering I was inconsistent at best with my blog and my workouts had petered out considerably, I felt both awed and somewhat embarrassed. How could I possibly be included in a social media issue when I’d taken such a huge step back from this world?

I’m reminded of how I felt when I started training with Natalie a little over a year ago. I had just gotten over some of my gym fear by stepping out of my apartment and joining my brother on some runs. Natalie was a professional powerlifter and personal trainer with years of experience handling  heavy weights. I’d admired her from afar and I talked myself into giving it a shot. I figured I’d keep running and this would be a fun, new way to keep fit in the meantime.

The first two months of training were all about laying the foundation by building on my existing strength and layering on some of these new movements. I didn’t even touch a bar until several months of getting the basic movements down.


I can still remember how challenging it was to practice RDLs with a pvc pipe, awkwardly mimicking Natalie’s movements and completely embarrassed by what all the gawkers were thinking of my horrible form.

Of course there were no gawkers. There was no one there to criticize me or point fingers the way I scared myself into thinking would happen. Fear is a tricky and powerful thing.

I spent years before I started training, questioning who I was by equating my self-worth with what I didn’t have. I wasn’t thin. I wasn’t “successful”. I wasn’t a leader or inspirational. I wasn’t enough.

The baby steps I took with powerlifting a year ago opened up doors that I never thought I’d get through without a battering ram and maybe another decade of hemming and hawing. I found an outlet that showed me unequivocally what I could do with a bit of effort, and more importantly, with faith in myself to get it done.

It inspires me to talk to other women who are out there kicking butt in their gyms, their living rooms, and their communities by illustrating the way exercise and healthy eating have transformed their lives.

Strength is beauty, in any context.

Reflecting on the last year of lifting highs and lows, I find myself still working on that foundation where I began. I may have traded in the pvc pipe for a weighted bar with plates but the work is still going on in my mind to get past the fears of what he might say or what she might think.

Battling back that fear in all my endeavors continues to be a major hurdle that trips me up sometimes. These days I’m choosing to focus on the rebound, because no matter how much my inner critic finds ways to hold me back, I always end up right where I need to be.

I stood there, in the aisle of a busy department store and allowed myself to hesitate for just a moment. I let the fear in and talk me in and out of a series of thoughts doubting who I was and all that I had accomplished a year after I started blogging and lifting. But only for a moment. And then I got back to the business of proving that I did in fact earn this, no matter where I was in my journey.

And here I am.

From healthy living to raising our kids to saving money, the thriving community of Latina bloggers is an ever-growing group that is not afraid to speak up about the issues that matter to us. In the February 2014 social media issue of Latina magazine, we featured some of our favorites–including our own Irina Gonzalez‘s punto on this virtual familia. Check out our full list of the 37 Latina bloggers that you should be following in 2014!
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Thankful Thursdays: It’s Never Too Late


Another late start. Sigh.

This has become a bad habit I’ve developed the last few months.

Late to work. Late to the gym. Late to meet up with friends. Late to finalize my plans for New Year’s Eve (spent at home because I couldn’t make up my mind). Late to pretty much everything.

And here I am, late to write this post.

2013 was a strange year. An understatement of sorts because there’s no good way to boil down 365 days into one word. But that’s what it was: strange. With a side of bewildering. And a dash of weird.

As I rung out 2012, I proclaimed 2013 to be “MY year!” (to be fair, I spent last New Year’s Eve out with friends and made this statement after several celebratory drinks post-ball drop. Wasn’t late to that one).

Lucky thirteen, I thought. And it was lucky. Extraordinary in fact:

  • I spent 40 days exploring my spirituality and actively learning more about the nature of happiness through my then-guru’s miracle makeover program.


  • I tackled my racial identity issues head on by proclaiming loudly that the judgement of others had no bearing on who I am as an individual.
  • I FINALLY learned how to ride a bike, a major hurdle in more ways than one.


  • I opened up about my issues with disordered eating after my experiment with the Paleo diet.
  • I went back to school! I’m working towards a masters certificate in Nutrition Science at Tufts University and I just completed a course in wellness coaching certification. MAJOR win for the year.
  • I tested myself in the kitchen and created my own cookbook of sorts, by sharing my experiments here on this blog and promoting a Meatless Monday agenda.
Summer Series Banner 1
Part of my Meatless Monday and Summer Produce Recipe Series
  • I received the utterly surprising nod from Latina magazine as a top blogger this past summer which is both rewarding and humbling.
  • I beat my own expectations for what I was capable of physically by picking up powerlifting at the beginning of the year and then surpassing my own goals by December with this incredible lift.

These are just a handful of moments. There were personal experiences of transformations and epiphanies that pushed me to take a glimpse beyond my limits, if at least for a moment. Those brief periods illuminated a path for me by opening my mind up to new possibilities.


But not all was bright and cherry. There were changes that I struggled with as well. I celebrated the unions of my closest friends at their weddings this past year and watched them take those huge steps towards a new chapter in their lives. And I couldn’t help reflecting on my own.

Where was I headed? Who am I going to be when I reach that stage? Will I ever be ready for marriage when I don’t even feel ready for this life on my own?

The strong foot forward that started out the year, shifted as the road took a turn. My steps became unsure and I lost sight of my direction. I stepped away from this world that I spent the better part of the year building and I stopped writing.

It seemed that with each passing day I was slouching towards Bethlehem more than traversing the path of enlightenment.

It’s no wonder I find myself late to pretty much everything these days.

As the ball dropped on 2013, I took note of these changes and how I ended up in this period of malaise. And I got restless.

The truth is that when I shut myself off to the outside world by running away from social networks, this blog, and other commitments, I was really opening myself up to a brand new journey. It’s unexpected and frightening, but one of the most incredible changes (and challenges) to come my way in a very long time.

I was close to dismissing this year as a failure in my grand experiment to reshape my perspectives on life, health, and happiness simply because the transformations didn’t appear tangible or wholly impressive. Then I realized that I sold myself way too short, another habit that I have yet to shake.

We never know when our worlds will change or how, but when they do it seems that everything is new again. And that’s how I feel right now. Brand new and aware of more than just myself and my choices. My understanding of love and happiness is complex and ever-changing. My opinions of what being healthy means is also evolving with each new experience. I hope to continue challenging myself to stop saying “I can’t” by trying new things and pushing past my boundaries.

I don’t know what’s in store for me in 2014. With horizons broadened each day, I’m inching along in this journey. There’s ups and then there’s downs, but I’m finally beginning to understand that no matter how much I run away from the world, I am never truly alone or truly disconnected.

If there’s only one thing I can take away from my ‘lucky 13’ it’s the power of gratitude and perspective. Taking the time to reflect and reset forces me to recall why I started all of this in the first place. There are still so many goals I want to accomplish for myself and for the community around me. It’s never too late to get back to who you are and your mission. If you find yourself caught between action and inaction, remember that you can always reset and start over. Each moment is an opportunity and it turns out that I’m right on time for mine.

Happy New Year everyone! I’m looking forward to sharing much more with you in 2014 so stay tuned!!

As always, keep paying it forward and stay healthy! 🙂

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Thankful Thursday: What I’m Thankful for this Week


The big 3-0.

Yep, I’ve finally crossed the threshold of the my twenties and am starting off this new decade with a bit of celebration and a lot of introspection.

I never approached my thirtieth birthday with trepidation or angst. In fact, I looked forward to the day that I could bid adieu to the doubt, insecurities, and stupid mistakes that defined the last ten years of my life.

The reality is much different of course. There’s still fear. There’s still doubt. My insecurities are here for the long haul. And I’m pretty sure I’ll keep making mistakes just as easily.

But where I am now doesn’t compare with the kind of person I was at 21 or 25 or 29. This year alone has seen some of the biggest transformations of my life, in mind, body, and spirit.

To repeat a tired cliché, the most interesting people are works in progress. I plan to be interesting for a long long while.

As the holidays approach and the year comes to a close, I feel that the crossroads I’ve been standing at for the past couple of months are finally leading me somewhere.

Where? I have no clue. All I know is that my direction is forward and that I’m not alone on the journey. I’ve opened myself up to new experiences and new people who changed me irrevocably.

How can I not be grateful for all the hiccups, missteps, and challenges when they’ve brought me here, surrounded by love and inspiration?

So, bring it 30s. I’m ready for you.

What are you thankful for this week?

How has this year transformed your outlook on health and wellness?

As always, keep paying it forward and stay healthy. 🙂

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How to Get Your Mind Right

Yes, I’m still here.

I’m on a particularly difficult leg of my journey that’s kept me behind closed doors and really, a closed heart. I’m working on it though, and being mindful of the universe and it’s messages, I was led to this incredible post by Entheos.

Positive thinking and optimism are two goals that elude and challenge me on a daily basis. It’s incredible how something so simple at its core can be difficult to embody. The obstacles are everywhere. Negative work environments. Financial woes. Toxic relationships. Unhealthy and inactive lifestyles. And those pale in comparison to the walls we put up internally that keep us trapped in a cycle of fear and immobility.

The unpredictability of my personal journey this past year has left me feeling somewhat bewildered. I strive to keep my eyes open to the signs that will hopefully lead me to a new cycle of love, gratitude, and a celebration of self.

This post by Brian Johnson from the Entheos Academy is one of those signs. I’ll take it where I can get it.

Are you actively working towards optimal living? If so, how are you reaching your goals? What words of wisdom can you share?

As always, stay healthy and keep paying it forward! 🙂

How to Get Your Mind Right

“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thoughts as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible.” – Marcus Aurelius

Optimism. It’s huge. In fact, everyone from old-school philosophers to modern-day scientists tell us that being able to put our attention where we want when we want is one of THE keys to optimal living.

Before we jump into my Top 10 Big Ideas on how to get your mind right, let’s get a handle on what optimism isn’t!

== What Optimism Isn’t  ==

1. ANTs, Teflon & Velcro. Researchers like to say that we have “automatic negative thoughts.” They call them ANTs for short. (Apparently we have 60,000 thoughts/day. 95% of them are the same as yesterday. 80% of them are negative. That’s 45,000 ANTs/day!! Yikes.)

Unfortunately, our brains evolved to be “Velcro” for the negative stuff and “Teflon” for the good stuff. It was helpful for our survival but now? Not so much. We need to use some organic “ANT spray” on the automatic negative thoughts and create some automatic positive thoughts instead.

“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”  
– Buddha

2. Monkeys & Cars

–> Monkeys. Eastern philosophers like to say that when we’re stressed, it’s as if we have little out of control monkeys in our minds swinging from thought to thought to thought to thought to thought to endless looping thought. When we’re really stressed, it’s as if the monkeys are drunk! And they’re a little crazy! And they act like they just got stung by a scorpion! Yowsers. Know this: a) it’s normal + b) you can do something about it.

–> Cars. In Sanskrit, the word dukkha means suffering. It comes from two little words that describe a wheel that isn’t spinning properly. Imagine driving a sweet car with a wheel that won’t spin. You’re going to have problems. That’s EXACTLY what happens when our MINDS get stuck on a certain problem. We screech to a halt and suffer. Another way to look at it: Imagine having that sweet car with 4 good wheels but, unfortunately, you’re stuck in 1st gear. Or 5th gear. Or reverse. D’oh. Same thing. We suffer when we’re stuck!!

3. Learned Helplessness vs. Learned Optimism. Martin Seligman, the godfather of the Positive Psychology movement and resident genius of the University of Pennsylvania, studied helplessness. Fascinating research. He could expose dogs (and people!) to shocks and create “helplessness.” But he noticed that some people NEVER dropped into helplessness. They were optimistic. We need to learn what they do.

Helpful Distinctions:

Victim vs. Creator. There are basically two ways we can orient to the world: as a victim or as a creator. Scientists call this an “external locus of control” vs. an “internal locus of control.” It’s *really* important that we know that we always have the ability to choose an empowered response—that we have an internal locus of control and that our happiness is not determined by things that happen to us (external) but by how we choose to respond to those events (internal).

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset. Quit trying to “prove” yourself and have fun “improving” yourself! Celebrate the effort you put in and let go of the results!

Time to Hit the Optimism Gym. First thing we need to know: Scientists tell us that even if we’re currently a little more cranky and pessimistic than we’d like, we CAN become more optimistic.

How? We build our optimism the same way we build our muscles: Via consistent training! So, let’s hit the optimism gym.

The Top 10 Big Ideas

1. Choose the Most Empowered Response.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms— to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor FranklWe’re always interpreting the world. We can choose more or less empowered ways to see life. As we just discussed, the key to happiness is gaining more control over your responses. Stepping in between stimulus and response. Here’s a fun game: Something stressful happens. Now, notice that you’re feeling a little edgy and see if you can STOP. Not respond in a habitual negative way but CHOOSE a more empowered response.See the Silver Lining. Scientists agree with the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining. The fact is, the sun is always shining behind every cloud. There’s *always* a silver lining to any challenge we might be facing. We just need to look for it!10 out of 10 philosophers + psychologists agree: Making this a regular practice is a very (!) wise idea.

2. Put Your Bouncers & Attorneys to Work.

“The Master said, If out of the three hundred songs I had to take one phrase to cover all my teachings, I would say ‘Let there be no evil in your thoughts.’”  – ConfuciusAttorneys. Imagine two attorneys in your mind: one arguing for all your limitations, the other arguing on behalf of all your awesomeness. Which attorney will win? Whichever one you pay the most! (You pay them by the amount of attention you give them.)Bouncers. Give that attorney some extra support by hiring a bouncer for your mind. Only thoughts on the invite list get in. Bad thoughts? They’re kept out. Bam!One practical way to do that: cognitive therapists say: Write down your negative thoughts and challenge them!

3. Be Grateful.

Gratitude is scientifically proven to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to significantly and sustainably boost our happiness.Stanford-trained Ph.D. Sonja Lyubomirsky can bring peeps into her lab and split them into two groups: One group keeps track of things they’re grateful for once a week for six weeks. The other group just writes down random stuff. 6 weeks later, guess who’s happier?The grateful group. By 25%!!!What what? Yes. It’s true. Something as simple as jotting down 5 things you’re grateful for once a week can boost your happiness levels by 25%. Kinda makes you want to keep track of awesome things, eh?We can practice this throughout the day by engaging in what the guys who wrote The Tools (phenomenal book!) call “grateful flow.”

Anytime you’re feeling your inner Crankysaurus Rex rearing its head, step back and imagine all the amazing things you’re grateful for. That’s grateful flow. It’s awesome.

4. Think About What Went Well Today.

Savoring. It’s one of the most powerful ways to stop taking things for granted and really appreciate life. Take the time to appreciate the little things in your life that are wonderful—from a beautiful sunset to a kind word from a friend.Here’s a practical tool: Use the What Went Well exercise. It’s one of Martin Seligman’s top recommendations. Every day this week before you go to bed, write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. From the mundane to the sublime. Huge.

5. Play the Equanimity Game.

“When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self- control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.” – Marcus AureliusRemember that old Emperor guy in the movie Gladiator? That was Marcus Aurelius. (Gotta love Emperor-Philosophers, eh?)Aurelius faced a lot of challenges. His peeps would often die from pestilence, get attacked by barbarians, that sort of thing.He liked to play a game with himself. Any time he found himself off balance, he’d see how fast he could get back on balance and maintain his equaniminity (favorite word: it comes from the Latin “balanced” + “mind”).

Next time you get off balance, see how fast you can get back on balance. Make it a game!

6. Look at You vs. The Size of Your Problems.

Do you have a really big problem in your life?Well, hate to break it to you but that likely means that you’re being a really small person! :0We want to have fun noticing when we’re being ant-sized people and letting little molehills look like mountains.The key to dealing with bigger and bigger challenges with grace and ease is to become a BIGGER person. (How? Live your ideals!!)

7. Find What’s Funny.

Things not going great? Can you find something funny about it?Because there’s almost *always* something kinda funny about the little annoyances in our life.When I was getting ready to teach a class on Optimism last year, our dog decided to take a poop on us in the car (ew!) on our way to the pediatrician with our new little baby.Now, that was unfortunate! (Laughing.)My wife Alexandra and I knew that we could choose to either get upset about it or not. We chose to see that it was kinda funny and laughed as we cleaned it all up.

Going to laugh about this in 10 years?

Why wait? 🙂

8. Use Some Mind Tools (aka Mantras).

Just like Western scientists, Eastern gurus tell us that we can shape our minds. They have a lot of ways to do it. One of the ways they really like is thru the use of what they call mantras.The word mantra is Sanskrit. It comes from two little words man + tra. It basically means “mind tool.” How cool is that?Little mantras/mind tools like “Thank you thank you thank you!” or “I fearlessly approach any and all challenges. I fearlessly approach any and all challenges” can literally reshape our minds.It’s kinda like taking a little screwdriver to our brain and tightening it all up in there.

Good: “I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.”Not so good: “I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot. I’m an idiot.”

9. Meditate.

The most powerful way to train your attention?Meditation. Period.It’s like going to the gym for your mind. Even if it’s just for a minute a day, PRACTICE! It’s fun. 12-15 and you just might start altering your DNA! :)(Check out my class on How to Meditate without Moving to the Himalayas for more goodness here.)

10. Practice, Practice, Practice.

“All that is required to become an optimist is to have the goal and to practice it. The more you rehearse optimistic thoughts, the more ‘natural’ and ‘ingrained’ they will become. With time they will be part of you, and you will have made yourself into an altogether different person.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky

Now, all of these ideas are nice, but if we don’t PRACTICE them they’re useless.We can’t expect to try them out once in a while and get results. That’s kinda like Ben Stiller’s character in Zoolander who goes into the coal mine, works for 5 minutes and then comes out thinking he has black lung.Uh, yah.We need to work diligently, patiently and persistently at *anything* we want to master and there’s nothing more important to master than our minds.Buddha tells us that little by little a person becomes good just as a water pot is filled with water. We need to add little drops day in and day out and as we do that, our water pots will be brimming with joy and happiness and mojo and all things good.


  1. Gratitude journal. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for. Really feel into it. Do that once a week and watch your happiness soar.
  2. Practice choosing a more empowered response! Can you think of an incident over the last 72 hours when you might have gotten a little more stressed than useful? How could you have responded differently? Think about that and practice this week!
  3. Play the equanimity game! Find yourself off balance? See how fast you can get back on balance. Take a deep breath, notice your thoughts and get your mind balanced!
  4. Are you facing any challenges in your life right now? What’s the silver lining? What lesson or benefit might be hidden in the challenge?
  5. What was your favorite Big Idea? How can you start practicing it in your life starting TODAY?
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Thanksgiving is More than Black Friday

It’s that time of year again.

That’s right. Thanksgiving.

Our excuse to be major gluttons while watching football games, dodging familial landmines, and sleeping off hangovers in time to catch the early deals on Black Friday.

If you’ve been following my site, you’ll note that there’s a lot going on in that last statement that doesn’t fit into my picture of the holidays.

Thanksgiving can be and should be so much more than what it’s become.

Black Friday disturbs me. The one time I worked retail on that particular day was enough to haunt me for the rest of my life. I quit my job shortly thereafter.

Does owning that new television at half the price truly make you happy? What makes this year’s deal better than last year’s deal? Why are you cutting the quality time with your family short so that you can engage in bitter sometimes violent battles with others over something you don’t actually need?

Maybe I’m coming off a bit righteous. If so, than I don’t apologize.

I’ve spent the better part of this year digging into the why’s and how’s of happiness to try and get a better understanding of what makes me tick. It’s an ongoing process that often leaves me feeling confused, but that level of self-awareness has opened me up to thoughts that typically fall outside the lines. I grasp at the potential for something bigger and much more profound. Life is meant for living, and pursuing money for the sake of owning things isn’t living.

Sure, I have material wants, and as much as I hate it, money is a necessity. But I’ve found the moments that bring me the most joy and truly made me feel full, had nothing to do with a deal on a pair of boots.

Watching my best friend walk down the aisle with her mother on her wedding day will be a memory I hold forever. Sitting down and wrapping my arms around my knees as I take in the breathtaking beauty of the rocky landscapes in Utah brought me a deeper connection with nature and the world around me. My mind was never clearer as it was in those silent moments of observation.

If you’re one of the millions who is anxiously waiting for Friday, I won’t tell you to stop what you’re doing. And despite what this post sounds like, I’m not judging. Do you.

But don’t sacrifice the opportunity to experience some truly wonderful moments that will stay with you forever in favor of something that’s fleeting.

I shared most of my gratitude journal with the public this year as a way to keep me grounded and focused on the power of saying thank you on a regular basis. There are times when it’s a challenge to find the upside, but when I finally do, it’s always worth the effort.

This Thursday is the big one for gratitude and when it’s your turn to say what you’re thankful for, take full advantage of the chance to share what’s important to you with the people you love.

Put all of yourself in that time. Eat. Laugh. Share. Be present.

Make the choice truly celebrate the holiday from beginning to end. You’ll realize as time goes on that the parts that stick with you are the ones that didn’t cost a dime.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving?

What are you thankful for this year?

Note: I spent last Thanksgiving sharing a live feed of my healthy recipes throughout the day. As much fun as I had posting pictures and recipes, I realized that I could not and would not repeat that format this year. It goes to my point: Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and creating memories. That doesn’t include me whipping out a camera every five seconds. I’m stepping out from behind the keyboard and my phone to share an inside joke with my sister or to learn cooking tips from my mom. And you should do the same! Unplug for a little while! We’ll all meet up back here eventually.

If you’d like to take a look at some of these healthy dishes for Thanksgiving, then go ahead and check them out here.

If you’re looking for something different for dessert, then take a look at this chocolate pumpkin torte!

I’ll be back here to share my gratitude journal on Thursday. I hope you’ll feel inspired to share yours as well.


Keep paying it forward, now and always. 🙂


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5 New Ways to Cook with Cauliflower

Cauliflower is such a versatile (and healthy!) vegetable. Here are some new ways to enjoy them in your next meal. One of the best things about a clean diet is the opportunity to explore new foods that I would have previously turned down because I just didn’t know any better. Case in point: cauliflower.

I never had any problems with broccoli (what I consider to be cauliflower’s cousin) growing up. I remember eating them as a kid and thinking just how cool it was to be eating “little green trees” as I thought of them back then. But whenever my mom tried to stick a couple pieces of cauliflower on my plate, I’d protest. White trees were simply not cool. Plus they offended my 7-yr old epicurean sensibilities. They just didn’t taste good. Much like I did with beans, I’ll have to pin the blame on the chef (sorry Mom!) and not on the actual food.

Now that I’m in charge of my own grocery shopping and cooking, I’ve been able to revisit foods like cauliflower and give them a makeover. Once I figured out what to do with it, I realized how much I loved those little white trees cauliflower. It hits two of my must-haves right on the bulls-eye: super nutritious and versatile.

Cauliflower and Cruciferous Vegetables

I’ve spent some time talking about cruciferous vegetables in the past, but here’s a refresher.

If I had to suggest only one food to get you started on a healthy diet, it would have to be anything from the cruciferous family. The most popular cruciferous vegetables are kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy, and of course, cauliflower.

These vegetables often get tagged as “superfoods” with good reason. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Perhaps the greatest health benefit of cruciferous vegetables is that it may help lower your risk of developing cancer by reducing oxidative stress (when excessive free radicals or unstable molecules develop to the point of damaging the integrity of surrounding cells).

Cauliflower is very high in vitamin C, providing 86% of you DV in one serving! It’s also a great source of vitamin K (20% DV), folate (15% DV), potassium (9% DV) and soluble fiber (8% DV), providing a great nutritional punch to your diet. The high vitamin K count in cauliflower has important anti-inflammatory benefits to the body’s inflammatory response which contributes to an overall decreased risk of cancer. And the amount of fiber in cauliflower makes this a good choice for digestive system support.

We’re right at the beginning of cauliflower season and it will be at peak until fall, so now is the perfect time to pick one up. Note that cauliflower comes in different colors ranging from white to purple, orange, and green.

You can do what with cauliflower?

My eyes were opened to the enormous potential of healthy foods through the genius of sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Not only could I find recipes from my go-to cooking magazines and websites, but now I can see what another blogger is doing with cauliflower in Australia or a chef in India can share their best aloo gobi interpretation. It’s a cook’s dream and it makes healthy eating that much more accessible and appetizing to everyone.

It was through one of my many hours spent wasting time researching online that I found out how versatile cauliflower can be, making it a fantastic staple to have on hand. You can cook it in so many different ways and the somewhat dense texture makes cauliflower an excellent option for Meatless Monday, gluten/grain free or vegetarian/vegan recipes as a hearty substitute for meat and breads.

You’ve likely had cauliflower steamed, sauteed, or maybe even roasted. It’s often cooked in the same fashion as broccoli where it’s cut into florets and seasoned with garlic, oil, salt and pepper. I recently made this wonderful side of roasted cauliflower with pearl onions, cardamom, lemon and parsley. Easy preparation and great flavor combinations are part of the fun of cooking with cauliflower.

Cauliflower with text

But did you know you could mash it? Turn it into rice? Make it into a pizza crust? Serve it as tortillas??? No? Well, neither did I!

Here are 5 new ways to cook with cauliflower:

1. Cauliflower Rice

I decided to try this one myself as an experimental side to a stir-fry dish featuring spring produce that I prepared several weeks ago. I rarely eat any kind of rice anymore and after hearing about the wonders of cauliflower rice (especially from the paleo community) for months on end, I thought it was time to give this a go.

This was my interpretation but you’ll find dozens of recipes online to suit your tastes. The nice thing here is that it’s really easy to switch this up by changing the seasonings as the base recipe remains the same.

To begin, remove the core from the cauliflower and chop the rest into small, evenly-sized florets. Rinse well and set aside.

Chop the florets in small batches in your food processor until you get small rice-like pieces. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a nonstick frying pan and then add 2 tsps of finely chopped ginger, cook for a minute. Add the cauliflower rice, 2 tbsps of water, and a dash of salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook rice for about 4-5 minutes. Done!

cauliflower collage with text

Here’s a look at one way to make cauliflower rice a part of your next meal! You can get the recipe for my Pea Shoot Stir-Fry with Garlic-Ginger Cauliflower Rice here– trust me, it’s good stuff.

stir fry with cauliflower rice

I have yet to try the rest of these options, however they look amazing! I decided to compile some of the best cauliflower recipes I’ve seen from food bloggers and like-minded home cooks who have gotten great feedback from readers. Why not share the blog love by checking out their pages for other fun recipes to inspire you in the kitchen??  🙂

2.  Mashed Cauliflower

Tired of potatoes or looking for a healthier alternative? Give cauliflower a try instead. You can play with the ingredients to get the flavors you want, but check out this recipe to start.

Best Make Ahead Side: Garlic Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes” –

One of the best paleo food blogs I’ve found to date, NomNomPaleo offers an incredible selection of recipes covering all the bases with beautiful food photography to boot.

3. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

One of the biggest hurdles for many following grain-free diets is how to enjoy pizza without a wheat-based crust. There are gluten-free pizza crust recipes out there, but if you want to try something much easier and vegetable-based, take a look at this recipe.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza (Gourmet Vegetarian Style) –

I originally found this recipe through another blog I follow, Oh My Veggies, which offered up this great pizza recipe. They linked back to YourLighterSide for the crust and I was happy for it given all the wonderful options and feedback for both pizzas. This site also comes up again further down this list. If you’re in need of more great recipes for Meatless Monday or because you’re following vegetarian or vegan diets, than definitely visit these two blogs!

4. Cauliflower Tortillas

I rarely eat tacos (even though I love them) given the fact that tortillas are usually corn or flour, two things I don’t really eat often or at all. (Corn=GMOs!) So when I saw this recipe pop up on my Facebook feed the other day, I freaked out. Tortillas made from cauliflower? It was a moment.

Cauliflower Tortillas (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free) –

This blog is fairly new to me, but I was really impressed to find out the author behind it is a 17 yr-old who lost over 100lbs and decided to share his story and recipes via this site. Truly inspirational!

5. Cauliflower Lasagna Noodles

I have to admit, lasagna is not my favorite dish in the world. But I haven’t shut the door on it completely. I think I just have to find the right combination that works for me. When I experimented with paleo last year, I noticed a number of noodle-alternative recipes that use vegetables as the base. Zucchini and spaghetti squash were by far the most popular choices, but I’ve also seen many of these paleo-friendly lasagna dishes call for cauliflower noodles. I’m intrigued enough to attempt this at least once. How about you?

Cauliflower Noodle Lasagna –

If you spend a little time on this site, you’ll find hundreds of amazing healthy recipes. I really enjoy the author’s sense of humor throughout her posts and the creative spin with classic dishes like these lasagna noodles or her gluten-free/sugar-free girl scout samoa cookies.

Not enough cauliflower for you? There are so many recipes out there to satisfy your cauliflower fix, but here are some more sites for you to explore!

The Secret Life of Cauliflower –

Cauliflower Recipes – Cooking Light Magazine

Healthy Cauliflower Recipes and Cooking Tips – Eating Well Magazine


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