December 12 12

Two years ago, I was consuming at least three Diet Cokes every day.

“It’s my one vice,” I’d say to try to convince others, but mostly to convince myself. “It’s not as bad as other things I could be drinking. I mean, there’s no alcohol—and there are no calories or sugar. It’s can’t be *that* bad, right?” And then I found myself in a situation where I had no Diet Coke within my reach. And I decided, right then and there, to quit cold turkey.

And do you know what happened?

After I got past the first three days of withdrawal {Insert images of Ewan McGregor detoxing and crawling out of the dirtiest toilet on earth in Trainspotting here} I started to feel…GOOD. I lost over ten pounds. Food started to taste better. I began to feel less tired, less sluggish. I had more energy than I’d had in years. My body was thanking me.

I haven’t had a sip since.

But, the detox didn’t really end there for me. For the first time in my life I began to realize that this body of mine? I have been a little unkind to it. You see, I suffer from the petite-girl syndrome. Because I am naturally on the small side and obviously have a metabolism that generally works in my favor, it’s easy for people (and me!) to assume that this means that I am healthy, when in reality thin does not equal healthy. I habitually skipped meals. I ate all the wrong foods under the guise of “Well, a calorie is a calorie! If I am going to eat 200 calories, I’d rather it be in the form of a deliciously decadent doughnut and not, say, a banana and a yogurt,” when in reality calories are not all created equal. I stressed too much, I exercised too little—well, really, not at all.

I was just a small girl in her thirties with a genetic predisposition to high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. And I needed to make some really big changes.

I started with my diet. I began adding more fresh fruits and vegetables. I began eating more whole grains and complex carbs. I began eating yogurt and hummus and chia seeds. I began to actually eat breakfast. I began to drink more water.

I started with my exercise. I bought a bicycle. I joined a gym. I signed up for a year’s worth of weekly personal training sessions. I have become addicted to things like push-ups and burpees and squats and lunges. I bought myself my very own Bosu ball. I like seeing how much further I can push my body. I like being sore—it means that I am using my muscles, it means that I am getting stronger with every squat.

Needless to say, I am getting there. It’s a slow process with a trial-and-error learning curve. I am learning about my body, my mind, my soul.

I feel better every day, but I know that there’s more I can do, more that I need to do.

When I was asked if I would be interested in a press event hosted by Nutrilite Nutritional Supplements—a two-day long event in New York City that would involve learning about important vitamin supplements, learning about the importance of the color wheel and adding more color to my diet, learning from three very knowledgeable experts—

Dr. Kip Johnson, a preventative health physician who for over two decades has researched vitamins and supplements from manufacturing and production to efficacy and usage,

Dr. Kip Johnson

Sean Foy, an internationally renowned exercise physiologist, behavioral coach and authority on fitness, weight management, and healthy living and author of 10 Minute Total Body Breakthrough

Sean Foy

and Dr. Micheline Vargas, Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist and a certified strength and conditioning coach,

Dr. Micheline Vargas

—about getting healthy and staying healthy, and learning how to cook Chicago-style Mexican food from celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, it was an absolute no-brainer for me.

That “more” I knew was out there?

It just landed in my lap.

In between cooking demonstrations where I completely embarrassed myself in front of Chef Rick Bayless, and I learned to properly truss a chicken and use whole wheat bread dough to turn a regular baking dish into a dutch oven and seven-course lunches filled with delicious colorful vegetables, I was able to talk to the three experts one-on-one. I was able to pick their brains about my family and genetic history and about my peanut and tree nut allergy (and possible fish allergy). I was able to get tangible and concrete answers to questions I had and answers to questions I didn’t even know that I had.

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 8.43.14 PM

ali in NYC

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(“I’m so sorry but I’m allergic to everything in this seven-course meal so if you could go ahead and make everything special for me that would be great.” They totally did, too. Because they were incredibly gracious and amazing hosts.)

 

I can no longer eat nuts as a good snack. Good alternative? Answer: pumpkin seeds. Genius.

With a possible fish allergy, can I get important omega-3s in other ways? Answer: Of course! Kale is great, as are Brussels sprouts, flax seed, legumes like pinto beans and kidney beans. Genius, again.

What are some of the good, healthy carbs? Oats are amazing! Oat bran, rolled oats, oat flour, oatrim—all great for you!

What are your top five ways to pack more health into your day?

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Start with a healthy breakfast.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Eat often; small meals and snacks throughout the day.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Drink plenty of water.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Balance healthy fats by increasing omega-3s.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Go nutty or seedy.

Even if I’m cooking with lots of colors—red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple and white—I worry that I still may not be able to get all the important nutrients that I need each day. I think I’d like to consider taking some supplements but I’m so confused as to what I need. We all have different needs based on our diets and health habits—so how do I know what to take and where to start? Help! Vitamin supplements are always an option, and if you click here, you can actually take an assessment that will ask you simple questions about your lifestyle and make recommendations as to what you should consider taking regularly. It takes the confusing guesswork out of it and actually even prepackages your daily supplements into something called MyPack, which, essentially, is one of those long days-of-the-week pill boxes in nice, neat, modern packaged form.

Are supplements for me? I’m not 100% sure—yet.

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 7.57.38 PM

I certainly walked away with some really good food for thought.

So I thought it was only fair to give you some thoughts of food—some Rick Bayless full-of-color food, of course!

Swiss Chard (or Spinach) Tacos with Caramelized Onion, Fresh Cheese and Red Chile (serves 4)

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You will need:

12-ounce bunch of Swiss chard (or collared, mustard, or beet greens), thick lower stems cut off

OR

10 ounces of cleaned spinach, lamb’s quarters, or amaranth greens (about 6 loosely packed cups)

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, fresh rendered lard or bacon drippings

1 large white or red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press

About 1 teaspoon chile flakes

1/2 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

Salt

12 warm corn tortillas, store bought

About 3/4 cup Smoky Chipotle Salsa or Guajillo Chile Salsa—or bottled salsa or hot sauce, for serving

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like feta or goat cheese, for serving

Directions:

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Cut the chard crosswise in 1/2-inch slices (small spinach, lamb’s quarters and amaranth greens can be left whole). In a very large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil (or the stand-in) over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until browned but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes, stir for a few seconds until aromatic, then add the broth or water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the greens. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan (if you don’t have a lid, a cookie sheet works well) and cook until the greens are almost tender, anywhere from 2 minutes for tender spinach and amaranth greens to 7 or 8 minutes for thick collard greens—Swiss chard needs about 5 minutes.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Uncover the pan, raise the temperature to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is nearly dry. Taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary.

Screen Shot 2012-05-31 at 4.12.12 PM Serve with warm tortillas, salsa and crumbled cheese for making soft tacos.

ENJOY!

I sure did.

 

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  1. I am *almost* ready to give up diet coke just because you make it look so damn good. Grrr.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Jen on December 12, 2012
  2. I so want to make those tacos!

    Good for you! I’m proud of you and all you have done! You’re an inspiration! I need to get back to working out and eating better. It’s amazing how true it is that when you eat crap, you feel like crap.

    [Reply]

    Comment by Kristabella on December 12, 2012
  3. Nutrilite vitamins are the Mercedes Benz of vitamins! I have been taking them for over 20 years. You should supplement!

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    Have you? What do you take? So curious!

    [Reply]

    LizP replied on

    I take Double X (their high potency multi-vitamin)
    Calcium
    Omega 3′s
    Vitamin D3 (I live in the PNW)
    Black Cohash & Soy (had a hysterectomy a few months ago – it helps with teh flashing)
    CoQ12
    My husband takes
    Double X, D3, glucosamine (knees), and the one for prostate health (name escapes me)
    My kids take
    Brainiums
    Multi-pops (their new pop rock kids vitamins)

    [Reply]

    Comment by LizP on December 12, 2012
  4. This was great… thanks for the info! Also, really? About the Diet Coke?!

    [Reply]

    ali replied on

    you mean really that I quit?

    [Reply]

    Comment by Loukia on December 12, 2012
  5. [...] PS: Ali did a fantastic post about the event from her perspective, and also shared the taco recipe that Sir Bayless made for us. Enjoy! [...]

    Pingback by Take Your Vitamins | Dutch Blitz on December 13, 2012
  6. I love the picture you chose of Sean. It totally captures him. ;)

    [Reply]

    Comment by Angella on December 13, 2012
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