Use Pantry Staples To Avoid Splurging On End-Of-Week Take-Away Meals

Jannine Myers

Do you find that meal prepping only seems to take you through the first half of the week and by Thursday you’re out of food and meal ideas? I’m sure you’re not alone; I feel that that is probably the case in most households, even in those where meal prep and planning is a priority. It’s difficult to keep the momentum going from Sunday all the way through to Friday, and most likely, end-of-week temptations to pick dinner up from a favourite take-away joint will override any resistance.

If you really want to save money however, and also put a healthier home-made meal on the table, then don’t underestimate the meal potential of a few staple pantry items and leftover produce. Last week, for example, as Thursday rolled around and the perishables from our previous weekend’s grocery shop were mostly all consumed, it was time to get a little innovative. Here’s how I managed to put together a meal (that also served as leftover Friday lunch), from the following items:

  • Canned corn kernels
  • Canned pink salmon
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Eggs
  • Dried onions and dried garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Shredded cheese
  • Leftover produce – broccoli, beets, and zucchini

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I guess you could say the end result was a brown rice and salmon pie, with roasted veges. It’s obviously not nearly as appetizing as the take-away meal you’d much rather be eating, but if health and finances are a priority for you then cooking with simple and minimally processed pantry staples should be an option you’re willing to consider : )

How To Train When You’re Tired But Not Exhausted

Jannine Myers

Last week I started out on an evening run and knew right from the outset that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. I was plain exhausted after a long day at work and simply couldn’t muster up enough energy. Add to that the cold air and the smoke fumes from surrounding neighbourhood chimneys, and one thing was certain: it was obvious that my planned intervals weren’t going to happen.

In the past, as a novice runner, I would have attempted to ignore how my body was feeling, but I know better now. Learning to discern the difference between actual fatigue and the feeling of simply not wanting to work out, can often be the one thing that prevents the onset of overtraining.

As I think about my years in Okinawa, where year-round training was the norm, I recall how tempting it was to persevere through training sessions even when the body was under duress from either too little rest or extreme heat conditions. I saw many of my athlete friends and acquaintances experience setbacks because adherence to training plans took precedence over listening to body cues.

In many cases however, physical and/or mental fatigue may not be serious enough to warrant taking a day off. On such occasions there’s no need to throw the towel in and give up altogether; some quick modifications can help satisfy the urge to train and more importantly, reduce the risk of injury or illness.

Here are some ways to follow through with your scheduled run without hurting yourself :

1. Easy pace, short runs on a flat route – break up the distance into quarters; fast walk the first quarter, run at your usual easy pace for the second two quarters, and slow jog the final quarter.

2. Easy pace, short runs on a hilly course – run at regular easy pace on flat and downhill sections of the course, and walk the uphill sections.

3. Tempo runs – reduce tempo pace and/or tempo distance, according to how you feel. It’s also a good idea to leave the garmin and other timing devices at home; that way you’re not tempted to try and meet a set pace.

4. Speed workouts (fartlek/interval/track repeats) – reduce intensity (goal time for each repeat) and/or the number of repeats. You can also increase the recovery time between repeats.

5. Long runs – in lieu of a long run, it’s sometimes best to settle for a nice easy run that’s half the distance of your long run distance. If you’re determined to do your long run however, then at least add 20 to 30 seconds to your regular long run pace, and opt for a route that takes you on a double loop so that you have the option to stop after the first loop if it becomes obvious that you won’t be able to complete the full distance.

Train smart, and remain healthy and happy!

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“Never be afraid to reevaluate and adjust your goals. It is far more important to be honest with yourself about where you are at than to set unrealistic goals that lead to self-defeat.”
Teri Larsen Jones – US National Waterskiing Champion

“…pro-runners are comfortable with adjusting their expectations…… they have the ability to turn a lemon workout into lemonade”
Greg McMillan – World Class Running Coach

“…..some (workout) sessions are stars and some sessions are stones, but in the end they are all rocks and we build upon them.”
Brett Sutton – World Class Triathlete Coach 

Putting Supervised High Intensity Strength Training To The Test

Jannine Myers

In an effort to promote improved eating and fitness habits amongst staff members at BodyTech Gym, my co-workers and I were challenged by management to enter an in-house Body Composition Contest.The winning male and female would be determined by the greatest percentage of body fat lost over a period of four weeks. To make it reasonably fair, since some staff members had significantly more (or less) body fat to lose, other variables such as girth circumference measurements would be taken into account.

My personal goal throughout the contest was less focused on weight loss, and more focused instead on minimally decreasing body fat while simultaneously increasing strength and lean muscle mass. My usual workout routine outside of running typically involves at-home calisthenic and dumbbell workouts, but it’s been years since I last did any type of strength training in a gym environment with heavier weights and machines. I reasoned that this Body Composition Contest was the perfect catalyst to get serious about strengthening my injury-prone running legs! Additionally, I wanted to see what kind of results I could get by a) using BodyTech’s Supervised HIT Circuit two or three times a week, b) making no dietary changes at all, and c) limiting my cardiovascular training to no more than 30 to 60 minutes every other day.

First of all, for those of you who have never had a body composition test done, what you can expect is a measurement of estimated fat mass, which can be further measured by essential, and non-essential fat:

Essential Fat – fat that is required in order for the body to function properly; for women, 10 – 13% of essential fat is necessary to meet this need and anything below is going to be detrimental to long-term health. Conversely, a body fat percentage over and above 31% is too high, and also potentially harmful. Women who have between 24 and 31% body fat are seen as having an “Acceptable” amount of fat, although lowering their percentage to under 24 would be most optimal.

Non-Essential Fat – is exactly that; “non-essential.” The body uses this excess fat for storage, to protect organs and provide insulation; it is stored in the abdomen, around inner organs (visceral fat), or in various body locations underneath the skin (subcutaneous fat).

Everything else in your body that is not body fat (i.e. lean body mass), is made up of vital body tissues and cells: muscle, water, organs, connective tissue, and bone. Lean body mass should ideally be between 70 and 80% of a female’s body composition; 70% is acceptable, while 80% is very fit. And incidentally, a woman’s total body water percentage is also an indicator of good (or bad) health. For women, an ideal body water percentage is anywhere between 45 and 60%.

My baseline measurements on day one of the challenge revealed that my body fat percentage was already below 20%, with total water percentage being 60% and everything else (muscle, organs, tissue, and bones) being 22%. So health-wise, you could say that my body composition results were already showing favourable percentages, however there was still room for a little improvement and according to my physiotherapist, definitely room for leg and glute strength improvement.

The following is a sample of the weekly workout routine I stuck to, although admittedly it wasn’t until about a week and a half into the challenge that I got serious about my intentions of using the Supervised HIT Circuit:

Monday – 20 minute cardio HIIT workout on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit and supplementary glute exercises (total workout time 45 minutes)

Tuesday – 50 minute easy-paced run

Wednesday – 25 minute cardio HIIT workout at home, plus 5 minutes of oblique exercises

Thursday – 20 minutes steady cycling on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit (total workout time 45 minutes

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 20 minute cardio HIIT workout on stationary bike, followed by Supervised Circuit and supplementary glute exercises (total workout time 45 minutes)

Sunday – 45 minute steady-paced run

[I’ve also posted below a few examples of what a typical day of meals looks like for me]

At the end of the 4-week challenge, my body composition was tested again and the following changes had occurred:

  • a 1kg (2.2lb) decrease in weight
  • a 1% decrease in body fat
  • a 1% increase in water
  • a decrease in all girth circumference measurements: I trimmed a little fat from my triceps, hips, waist, and thighs
  • no change in fat free mass (muscle, organs, bone and tissue)

So how can these results be interpreted? Given that no dietary changes were made, the fact that I was able to still trim down in weight, body fat, and girth circumference measurements, indicates that the changes I made to my usual exercise routine (higher intensity weight training combined with moderate cardiovascular workouts) were most likely responsible for the overall fat loss. Notice too, that the percentages of weight and fat loss are not extreme, which also suggests that the results were safely achieved and less likely to last only temporarily (which generally happens when women try to lose weight with quick-fix diet strategies).

At this point you may be wondering if, despite the loss of weight and fat, my goal of increasing strength and muscle was achieved. The answer is yes and no. My workout card, that keeps a running record of weights lifted and number of repetitions on each of the Supervised Circuit machines, showed a small but gradual progression in strength gain on all but two of the machines. With regards to an increase in muscle mass, it didn’t happen; however, there was also no change, meaning that weight and fat loss occurred without compromising muscle mass.

The end result: a moderate but improved (and appropriate/steady rate of) change in body composition, as well as overall strength. Over a longer period, I suspect an increase in lean muscle mass would also have been seen.

Examples of my typical daily meals are below; I cook and bake most of our meals and rarely eat anything out of a box. Also, please note that although the generally accepted view is that sufficient daily protein intake for adults is 0.8g per kilo of body weight, I consume almost that amount in my post-workout shake alone! A study in the British Journal of Nutrition (August 2012), suggests that 1.2g per kilo of body weight is more beneficial, especially for endurance and strength-trained athletes.

Meal One: Post workout protein shake with half of a small banana, almond milk, flaxseed, and a small handful of walnuts (my choice of protein powder is made of undenatured whey, and contains 36g of protein).

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Meal Two examples: tofu and vegetable curry with brown rice + kiwifruit, or mussel and chickpea salad with roast vegetables + small green apple, or grilled salmon with roasted pumpkin, brussel sprouts and green beans.

Meal Three examples: apple-spiced millet and seed slice with plain yogurt and kiwifruit, or 3 rice cakes with peanut or almond butter + a small piece of fruit, or 2 pieces of toast with boiled egg and avocado + small piece of fruit.

Meal Four examples: Small bowl of chickpea and vege soup, with black rice/beet/mushroom patti served with small side salad of halloumi cheese, or grilled pesto chicken with brown rice and broccoli/pea soup, or ground turkey loaf with roasted capsicums and butternut squash + beet soup. And, I always end my dinner meal with a home-baked but healthy-ish sweet.

On weekends I enjoy a couple (or more) glasses of red wine, and I often go out for lunch or dinner, or order in and also enjoy a not-so-healthy dessert :)

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Disclaimer: The conclusions made in this blog post are mine alone, and based on my own thoughts and opinions. What works for me may not work for others. I am also not a calorie counter and nor do I recommend specific diets. I simply eat meals that I feel are nutritionally dense and balanced, I eat portion sizes that satisfy my appetite, and I allow room for a little indulging.

 

When All Else Fails, Ditch The Garmin

Jannine Myers

Image from Nike,com

Image from Nike,com

In a former article that I wrote for BreakingMuscle.com, I suggested that there are certain times when temporarily ditching your Garmin may be just what you need to get past motivational and physical lags in training. Here’s why:

 

Your Garmin Doesn’t Lie

At certain times of the year, especially after a full season of races, it’s not uncommon for runners to hit a motivational plateau. When this happens, strapping on a Garmin may be counterproductive to overcoming a lack of motivation. Garmins typically don’t lie; you’ll be duly informed when you do not hit your target paces and times.

 

Your Body Knows Best

Garmins force us to try and meet certain training goals, even when our bodies would prefer not to. That’s great – except when you’re sick, injured, or over-trained and should not be running at all. But even when symptoms are slight, and running can still be tolerated, it might be best to listen to your body versus your Garmin.

 

You’re Faster Than Your Garmin Might Suggest

Wearing a Garmin may hinder your potential to run faster. Amateur runners, for example, often rely on generic training plans with recommended “target paces” based on previous run times. A runner may attempt to meet those target training paces by setting Garmin alerts that are activated whenever his or her running pace is too fast or slow. It’s possible however, that speed potential will be thwarted, since pace is determined by Garmin alerts.

Your Garmin Focuses On Statistical Data Only: Quality is Irrelevant

A lot of runners tend to be perfectionists, and when it comes to training runs perfection manifests itself in the form of exactness. In other words, if Jane is supposed to do an eighteen-mile long run, and at 16.5 miles she is completely spent, Jane will still continue running (or continue dragging her feet) – until her Garmin reads exactly eighteen miles. Why? Because Jane thinks it’s critical that she follow exactly what her training plan dictates. Following your training plan to-a-T isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but ditching your Garmin may help you to be less concerned about quantity and more focused on quality.

 

Your Garmin Is Only As Good As Your Non-Negotiable Standards

Most runners can tell you what they believe is their “easy” pace. If Jane believes that her easy pace is an 8:30min/mile, then Jane is going to make sure that on her easy run days, that she runs no slower than an 8:30 min/mile pace. Running without a Garmin sets you free from such pre-imposed standards, and an easy run can actually be an easy run.

 

If your training ability is currently impaired due to harsh weather conditions, physical exhaustion, or lack of motivation, I encourage you to try ditching your Garmin. That means running without any pace or time goals, and hopefully a heightened and renewed sense of fulfillment as you temporarily focus on just enjoying your runs.

Do THIS, not THAT!

Jannine Myers

You’ve probably heard of or seen the book series Eat This, Not That. It’s a great reference for those who want to make healthier food choices but don’t know where to start. It’s fairly obvious that some foods are all about taste and less about nutritional value, so in this case, we can all agree that choosing to “eat this, not that,” is probably good advice for those looking for better options. In other instances however, where sports and training methods are concerned, the best choices are not so discernible.

In a day and age where nothing stays the same for too long, and where today’s trends get left behind by tomorrow’s, we’re frequently forced to consider new training methods, new running shoes, new strength and rehabilitation techniques, and new diets. It’s difficult keeping up with them all, and even more so trying to logically weigh up each of their pros and cons.

I remember reading a blog post some time ago about an ongoing “tit-for-tat” argument between two elite athletes, each a staunch advocate for their choice of sport. The argument had begun with a somewhat damning and public report of a particular style of physical training, and not surprisingly a retaliatory confrontation ensued. The author of the blog post pointed out that all the controversial bantering is unnecessary, and that any type of sport or exercise which promotes greater health and fitness should be celebrated rather than criticized.

I have to agree! Given that more than one third of U.S. adults are obese (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), I think that athletes in general, and collectively, should set the example for the non-exercising population and encourage them to find an enjoyable form of exercise, whatever that may be.

I admit that in the past I have recommended, or not recommended, certain sports or workout routines, based on my own biases and what has worked or not worked for me. The problem though, is that it’s not about me; it’s about the other person and what might might work for him or her. In that respect, I think a more admirable approach to how we view the workout choices of others, is to recognize that their chosen sport or training method keeps them from living sedentary lives.

One thing we athletes all understand, is that we are dedicated to being healthy and active because we love what we do. But like other things in life that people feel strongly about, there are always opposite schools of thought; in the fitness world there will always be people telling you to train this way not that way, or to wear minimalist shoes not support shoes, or to follow a paleo diet not a high-carb diet.

As long as the recommendations are given in a spirit of goodwill, then the recipient can gratefully receive the advice and act on it if they so wish. It’s when a person’s choices are violated by the cutting remarks of someone who insists they know better, that arguments like the one mentioned above spiral out of control. Why can’t athletes, regardless of their leanings towards a preferred choice of sport or type of exercise, simply support one another?

Getting back to the point made earlier: wouldn’t it be better to shift the emphasis from one which reeks of superiority, to one of respect, and then ultimately to one which applauds any type of lifestyle that moves a person towards greater health and fitness?

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Improving Success Odds By Managing Race Day Nerves

Jannine Myers

When getting ready to compete, whether against other runners or against yourself and the race goal/s you have set, mental preparation is key to determining your odds of success. Just as diet plays a key role in achieving health, weight, and fitness goals, mental fortitude plays a key role in achieving race and performance goals.

Getting to the finish line in a performance-worthy time (and a still physically composed manner), often has to do with how mentally strong you are. In a previous post on overcoming pre-race nerves, I offered some hopefully helpful tips; the following is an add-on:

1. Practice winning in your mind! Not necessarily a literal win, but a win in terms of the goal outcome you’re hoping for.

I can’t say it enough; visualization, and playing out in your mind what your ideal race-day will look like, is an incredibly powerful technique. During the week leading up to races, I like to use my final few training runs to hone my mental skills and get my thoughts in line with how I hope to perform.

More often than not, I am tired by this point in my training, and even though tapering runs are not terribly taxing on the body, they can still feel quite hard after weeks of focused training. The problem with this, is that a tapered run that feels like a struggle to finish can easily result in the body sending a false message to the brain; a message that produces a considerable decrease in confidence. Hence, it’s important at this time to combat false messages and thoughts by practicing techniques such as visualization and positive declarations.

2. Know what your “calming” rituals are, and if you don’t know them, learn them!

I have three specific calming rituals on race day: isolation, deep breathing, and focused self-talk. I enjoy immersing myself in the company of other runner friends as I’m checking in at races and getting myself organized, but as the start time nears the best way for me to calm my nerves and get the adrenaline working for me (not against me), is to excuse myself and go find a place to be alone. A few solitary moments afford an opportunity to meditate, breathe deeply, and practice visualization one last time.

3. In addition to visualization, practice “re-centering” your thoughts.

At my last race, my mental focus strayed a few times and I had to work quickly to recenter my thoughts. The first occurrence was at the start line, before we had even started running. A female who carried the obvious stance and posture of a competitive runner, and who was wearing a pair of Adidas Boston marathon shoes, positioned herself right in front of me. For a moment I was slightly intimidated and questioned my decision to be up front amongst the starter group.

The second occurrence was soon after; I hadn’t even made it to the 1km marker when a cheering spectator – who thought she was being supportive – yelled out, “You’re doing so good! Keep it up!” WHO DOES THAT? An endurance runner with a competitive goal in mind, does not want to hear, at mile .05, that he or she is doing “good!” Heck, there’s still 20.5km to go at that point!

Spectator tip: crowd support is the best – it truly is – but the best time to encourage a runner and let them know they’re doing good is closer towards the end of a race, when both stamina and mental strength are running low 😉

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great - at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

OR, the face you make when someone tells you you are doing great – at mile 0.5 of a half marathon!

The third occurrence was when a male runner decided to attach himself to my side and stay in line with my pace. It’s hard enough to concentrate on controlled pacing and breathing as it is (especially when you’re working hard to keep to a set pace), but when you have another runner right beside you mimicking your every footstep so that both sets of footsteps sound like one, it can become quite distracting and annoying.

In all of these situations I momentarily lost my focus, but that’s where meditation can be a game saver! Knowing how to quickly re-center your thoughts when your focus is diverted is key to overcoming such distractions and confidence drainers. You don’t need to be an expert at meditation, but practicing during training runs how to combat drifting or negative thoughts, can really help on race day.

4. Don’t underestimate your ability!

I heard an interview between Lewis Howes and 8-time Olympic Speed Skater medalist, Apollo Ohno, in which Ohno said the following about race day performance: “Somehow we have this unexplainable ability to perform beyond what previous physiology has shown.” With that in mind, Ohno would go into his competitions with a mindset that assured him of greater success, because he believed that in addition to all of his hard work and training, an underlying strength, unconsciously reserved for race day only, would also come into play.

5. And finally, play mind games that help get you from one mile or km marker to the next.

I almost always have some strategy in place, or what I will refer to as a “mile marker game,” going into every race. Giving myself little mind games to play as I run from one mile or km marker to the next, or from one aid station to another, really helps to keep me focused, motivated, and happy. It’s easy to feel excited and on a high when you first start running, but you all know how dismal it can feel towards the end of a race when your energy reserves are low and motivation is seriously waning.

At my last race, I had two things in mind at the outset:

The first was to run for one of my co-workers whose 21st birthday happened to be the same day. I told her that I would count down every kilometre as if it were a year of her life. As I passed each km marker, I would smile and imagine Hannah celebrating a new age and year, and as the finish line drew nearer, I felt motivated to get there faster so that I could imagine in my mind’s eye Hannah turning 21 and celebrating a significant milestone in her life.

The second was not so much a game as it was a source of inspiration. A good friend had sent “good luck” wishes, along with a message that her husband was running his first triathlon the same weekend. Her husband however, had been in a serious hit-and-run accident a year earlier, and was coming back from major surgeries and rehabilitation. Consequently, I made a conscious decision to show up at my race with feelings of gratitude and joy because unlike some, who are physically limited, I am only limited by my thoughts. I not only am capable of moving my legs and running; “I GET to run!”

I hope these tips are helpful; race day nerves can feel quite overwhelming but with strategic attention given to them, they CAN be managed :)

Diet REALLY Is Eighty Percent Of The Equation

Jannine Myers

One thing athletes must contend with is the inevitable likelihood that their training will at times be temporarily interrupted by injury or illness. This is an aspect of training that cannot be controlled, but one thing that can always be controlled, is diet; we are always in control of what we choose to nourish our bodies with.

In the past few weeks I’ve been very fortunate to receive some excellent physical fitness guidance and testing, thanks to a management team that values the ongoing commitment of staff members to further their knowledge and application of research-based health and fitness truths.

My results from a VO2 Max test, as well as an Ultrasound Body Composition test, revealed that I am eating and training in a way that is producing a desirable outcome – despite being forced by recent bouts of both illness and injury to cut back heavily on training. With that in mind, I want to briefly address the diet component of maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle.

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Most people, when attempting to eat for reasons such as weight loss, increased energy, improved performance, or greater overall health, attempt to a) restrict themselves to a reduced number of calories, and b) eliminate from their diet what they consider to be “bad foods.” Initial results might suggest that progress is taking place, but the fact that the average person repeats this process about 8 to 10 times a year indicates that there must be a better way.

Calorie-reduction, coupled with the removal of so-called “bad foods,” fails to produce long-term results, most likely because individuals attach a dieting mentality to their efforts and make too drastic a cut in calories while also placing absolutes on what they cannot eat. In the short-term, as weight loss is achieved, it might feel like health and performance goals are also being achieved, but usually a tipping point is reached where the results curve starts to take a negative turn. When that happens, motivation to continue begins to dwindle; hence, progress is stalled, weight gain occurs, and the cycle starts all over again.

I am a firm believer that eating for health and performance should not feel too difficult or challenging. In my Women’s Group Nutrition Coaching sessions, I introduce my clients to a way of eating that involves mastering new and effective life-forming habits. Achieving a strong, fit, and healthy body does not have to be an undesirable process. Granted, it won’t be easy at first, but with the right mindset and approach, it is possible to learn a way of eating and relating to food that is completely liberating and conducive to your goals.

In just a few weeks time, I will be starting a new group coaching session. If you’d like to be part of this group, or would like to inquire about cost and session details, please send your inquiries to myersnz1@yahoo.com.

[Note: coaching is done online, so for my followers and friends in the States and Japan, feel free to also send inquiries].

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Which cycle are you on??? Change IS possible!

Jannine Myers

– Nutrition and diet has always been important to me, but it becomes even more so during times of training, racing, illness, and injury. Just as I would normally pay attention to how I fuel my body during peak training phases, I also pay extra attention to my food choices whenever my body is under other types of physical (or emotional) stress.

Key Tip # 5 – Get interested in nutrition! Seek out information on the web and at the library, or consult a dietitian if necessary; learn what foods will help to speed up your recovery. Since my immediate goal is injury/recovery-related, my kitchen efforts at this time are focused on meals that contain a lot of anti-inflammatory foods such as broccoli, salmon, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, blueberries, and ginger and turmeric. On that note, I’ll leave you with one of my anti-inflammatory (and easily portable) breakfast meals:

Turmeric-Ginger Fruit Blend With Oats 

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Ingredients (Serves 4):

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 small banana

1 small apple

3 dried dates

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 cup oats

Toppings: 

Plain greek yogurt, a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (optional), pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds

 

Directions:

Mix the coconut milk, banana, apple, and spices together in a blender.

In four bowls (or containers with lids), add 1/4 cup dry oats to each. Top with a little water to moisten the oats. Pour the coconut milk mixture in even portions over all four oat bowls. Refrigerate for at least an hour. When you’re ready to eat, top with a dollop of yogurt, some pumpkin seeds and coconut shreds.

Enjoy :)

Chasing The Shadow Of My Future Self

Jannine Myers

A friend shared with me a video clip which cleverly portrays a runner as two identical persons running at the same time, with one of the runners always slightly behind the other. The catch phrase at the end of the video says, “And so it goes on and on, chasing the person you want to become.”

Watching the video made me think about my own runs and how I often run the same paths and routes, alone with my thoughts, and every once in a while catching a glimpse of my shadow ahead of me.

My shadow, I realized, can potentially be a glimpse of the “me” I hope to become; a shadow of myself that’s wrapped up in all of my hopes and dreams. I can metaphorically choose the path my shadow will take, by setting for myself specific goals that can progressively be moved towards with each running step I take.

I challenge us all to make 2018 the year that we each chase after our future desired self!

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Switch to Japanese Washoku-Style Eating for Health and Longevity

Jannine Myers

This week’s post is a little unusual but I hope you enjoy it. I had lunch recently with some elderly Japanese ladies; these women have been friends of mine for more than ten years and they have become like family to me. I have learned so much from them over the years about Japanese history and culture, and at our lunch they had more to share with me. I learned about this year’s Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival in Okinawa, and how several thousand Okinawans who live abroad returned to Okinawa to reunite with family members and enjoy a joint celebration (read this article for more information about Okinawa’s first wave of overseas migration).

The second thing I learned – which is the subject of this post – is about the traditional Japanese washoku diet. One of the ladies in the group attributes hers and her husband’s good health to the diet that they both follow; I asked her to describe for me what their daily meals typically consist of:

[Note: breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals generally include the same foods with the exception of protein source which alternates between tofu, lean cuts of meat, fish and seafood]

  • Genmai (brown rice) and beans – brown rice is high in fiber and has been linked with reduced cholesterol levels, while beans (of any kind) are really quite an amazing food with their long list of healthy nutrients.
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  • Natto – natto is fermented soybeans that have been soaked, steamed or boiled, then allowed time to ferment after the bacteria Bacillus subtilis has been added. Natto is most definitely an acquired taste, but it’s rich in both macro and micronutrients and it offers an extensive array of health benefits, hence the reason it’s enjoyed by many as a Japanese dietary staple.
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  • Miso soup – miso is also a fermented and nutritionally dense food. Lighter-colored miso is much milder (and generally sweeter) in taste than darker-colored miso, and the lighter colors indicate a shorter fermentation process. It’s probiotic properties aid in intestinal health but also help to build a stronger immune system.
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  • Other daily foods that are added to meals typically include small side servings of various kinds of seasonal vegetables (especially root vegetables) that are prepared and/or cooked in different ways. And of course, a lean protein source is always included.
  • Daily beverages include traditional Japanese teas, but two beverages my friend added to the list were Japanese black vinegar (which contains citric acid that supposedly benefits the brain and immune system by causing an increase in energy production), and hot water infused with fresh ginger and black Okinawan sugar (this beverage is especially helpful during the winter months as it is believed to warm the body from within and also promote better blood circulation).
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    Japanese Black Vinegar

And one last food that I’ve saved till last – since it’s quite interesting and I had never heard of it until now – is black garlic:

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According to my friend, she and her husband add rice and water to their rice cooker, then add several garlic bulbs on top of the rice before cooking. When the rice is done and the setting has moved to “Warm,” they leave the rice cooker unopened and untouched (no changes are made to the setting), for a minimum of two full weeks. The aroma is a little pungent at first, but it eventually settles down and when the garlic bulbs are removed two or three weeks later they look like those in the image above. The garlic cloves are peeled and eaten as is, and apparently taste very sweet and delicious; not bitter at all.

(Click this link and scroll down for a more detailed explanation of black garlic and why it is considered a health food).

Finally, if you’ve never eaten a traditional Japanese washoku meal, here’s an example of how it is typically plated:

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