Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Return Journey

Good morning. As I prepare to start my journey of Project ReRoll I thought it would be a good idea to share with you the goals I’m setting out with and how I’m mapping out my quest to ReRoll my body.

I got on the scale today, to see where I was since I weighed myself last week when I wrote my answers to the interview that was the post yesterday. I had to step off and on the scale a few times, but when I realized the number was what it was…I stopped. I had gone up in weight. Stress of the weekend, not paying attention to what was going in, and realizing how much five days can change the dial on the scale has me more sure than ever than starting this quest, and sharing it with you, was the best thing I can do.

So, dear reader, every good quest starts with a goal. My goal is to begin, what I am dubbing, my 31 day challenge. For the month of August I am going to be working towards beginning a routine that will begin the transition from being round in the belly to an over all healthier me.

For diet I am going to do a juicing/paleo mix. Starting the first four days of the month weaning off of soda, fast food, and such by eating raw fruits and veggies. It will help transition my body, because on August 5th I will begin a juice fast that will last a minimum of 10 days. If I feel good with it, I’m going to continue and then blend in the paleo diet as I learn more about it and share that knowledge with you.

For exercise, I am going to start with doing the 30 Day Ab and 30 Day Arm work out. Each work out starts with four simple exercises you can do, without needing a gym membership, that increase each day ending with you doing, at least, 100 more reps of each exercise than the day you started. I addition to that I am going to increase the 1.5 mile walk to and from work I already do to include jogging so by the end of the challenge I am running the 1.5 miles home.

If you wanted to play along at home, I’m going to be using a few apps, that you can find as well, to help gamify my time as well. I’m going to be using the app “EpicWin” to  make tracking the work outs as much fun as RPG gaming with its leveling and rewards. I am also going to be using the app “Zombies, Run!” to track the transition from walking to running.

I wanted these goals and actions to be measurable and easy. By the end there is a quest map for you to follow if you wanted to make your own change in life.

And, like all good quests, it comes with some big obstacles. Over this month I’m attending no less than three conventions away from home. This means part of my weight loss will be, for at least 9 or 31 days, will be deep in the heart of every temptation that could set me off my path. I’m not going to these just to attend, I’m going to promote a film that’s still in the works and it’s a stressful time that can cause me to revert back to what’s easy with things like fast food, sleeping longer instead of working out, stress, and tons of alcohol.  I can share with you how you too can fit working out and being a healthier you into all aspects of your geek/nerd life just like Anne has.

As I’m going to be checking in with you once a week, these posts will be more like mini journals plotting out what I’ve done, how I feel, and what changes I’m seeing. I want to be as honest and accountable with you as I can.

Thank you for joining me on this quest to reroll my body, health, and mind. I hope this inspires you to make the changes you’ve been putting off the way that Anne has inspired me.

Mike Dougherty

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a Guest Blogger!

I've been hinting that there were some fun changes on the horizon for Project Reroll! Well get ready cause our first change is a-comin'! This is no longer just my story. 

I'm so excited to introduce you guys to Project Reroll's first guest blogger, Michael Dougherty. He's been a very supportive member of the reader community and is embarking on his own mission to pick new stats and slay the fat and will be making posts on Tuesdays about his own journey. This has always been a place for accountability, empathic sharing, and "teaching out" about the good, the bad, and the ugly of embracing the process of weight loss and nutrition. The process can be so different for everyone that I really think it can only improve the blog to have more than one person express what they're learning through the experience. 

So who is this Michael person? Why should you care about him? GET READY, cause he's awesome and I did a little introductory interview with him to get you all excited about hearing what he's got to say. 

 Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

My name is Michael C. Dougherty and I’m a geek. Like big time. My first books I remember reading were The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, and tons of Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve been playing D&D off and on since 1st edition and can remember getting my first Atari 2600. 

Recently, I wrote/directed the Joss Whedon blessed and FOX approved Firefly fan film “Browncoats: Redemption” that went on to raise $117,000 for charity in one year. I’m currently working on my next film “Z*Con” which is like “Goonies” meets “Shaun of the Dead” set in “Comic Con” which will also raise money for the American Red Cross, Kids Need to Read, and the Baltimore Bully Crew.

When did you decide you needed to change your ways and was there a specific moment where it clicked and you actually committed to doing it?

It’s been a long time coming. I can’t mark a specific date and time, because I’ve been debating about it off and on in my head, as we nerds do. I’ve read lots of books, like “The Nerdist” by Chris Hardwick has a section on having a healthy body, and friends like the amazing Elizabeth Wallace have sent me stuff to help, but it was really after watching Anne/you and my friends', Jeff Pulver and Joe Hancuff, personal transformations that I believed it could be possible for myself. I just woke up one day and decided ‘I don’t want to feel like this anymore’ and signed for a CrossFit class. After that…I’ve just wanted to be the change I want to see in others…for myself.

If you failed in the past, why do you think that was?

Because I wasn’t committed. I know that and know it’s totally on me. I allowed the bullshit in my own head and the comfort of life as it was to keep me from wanting more. I allowed work and other distractions to be the “Well I don’t have time to exercise/eat right because I’m too busy doing X.” Which is just me lying to myself.

What are your goals and how do you plan to accomplish them?

My goals are pretty simple and measurable. I’m starting August 1st and measuring success in 30 day increments so I’m not stressing out over daily fluctuations on the scale. I know that I’ll decrease, increase, and plateau, but I have seen so many people give up after seeing the day to day numbers that I know I will to.

I’ll be including a daily workout regimen that increases like the 30 day ab/arm challenge. Each week I’ll check in with my results, which I’ll be tracking with the Epic Win ap. I already walk 3 miles a day (1.5 miles each way) so I want to make the evening walk home to evolve into a jog and then a run. 

I will also be starting a juice fast for the first 10 days and then see how things go. I want to adopt more paleo into my diet, but it’ll be a transition I want to make slowly so my body doesn’t go into freak out mode.

The ultimate goal is math based. I’m currently around 285 and I want to try to drop a minimum of 10 lbs a month. This equates to about losing 1% of current weight per week (2.85 lbs) which all the research I’ve found seems to indicate is healthy and reasonable. That way if I do more…great, but I’m not stressing out about it which would cause me to slip.

There are so many options when it comes to diet and fitness. Why are you choosing this particular path?

I am former military. I was never in better shape in my life than when I was forced to do daily push ups, sit ups, and running in the ARMY. It is something my body resonates with and seems to react better to then trying heavy weight lifting. Plus, I can be as ADD as I want flipping the order I do them in so I don't get bored. 

For diet, one that I’ve done before and saw physical and emotional results from. Juicing is also a very mentally relaxing task for me. It is simple, I can let my brain go, and I get to enjoy some nice juice after. I’m going to be dipping my toe into the paleo diet. That will be the biggest challenge for me. My past lifestyle has been very easy and easy made me round. So it’s time to do something else.

What made you want to guest post about your journey on PR?

I have been so inspired by Anne's/your transformation that I wanted to help contribute to the site to show what she/you did can be done by anyone! And, I'm the kind of guy who needs to be backed into a corner. My personality is such that I have to put myself in a situation where I am accountable to something greater than myself to make change happen.

If you could reroll yourself as your favorite genre character or superhero, who would it be?

I would have said Spider-Man years back, but as I get older...Logan/Wolverine. Dude's tough as nails and only gets better with age.

I hope you guys are as excited as I am about seeing Michael challenge himself to make these changes. He's an awesome geek with a lot to offer and I feel honored that he came here to Project Reroll to share his story. That being said, there are seven days in a week. How awesome would it be if I wrote on two of them (as I already do) and the others were days that guest bloggers posted about their journeys? These could be vlogs or writing. I'd love to invite geeks of all sexes, ages, and backgrounds because I really think it's important that every "transformation" be put in perspective. I want people working on weight loss, or learning a new martial art, or trying a new fitness routine- there are just SO many physical challenges out there! It would be awesome to expose each other to all these different methods and what the day to day experience of pursuing these goals is like. I believe, like Michael, that personal transformation is something ANYONE can accomplish. However, different people might have to go about it in different ways in order to find lasting success that works for them. Is there anyone else who might be up for this challenge? If so, feel free to leave a comment or contact me so we can chat about your ideas! Ideally, I'd love to find 4 other staff writers to post on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  What say you, Slayers?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Tell Your Friends They're Fat

Short answer: You don't. 

At the beginning of this journey, people wanted to know a lot about how I was going about losing weight and sticking to it. What was I eating? What were my fitness goals? Later on, questions started pouring in about how I felt in my new body. Was it different? Did I have more energy? However, following the publication of my "success" story on Nerd Fitness, there's been a huge upswing in questions from people who want to know how to approach their friends about their weight issues and get them to change. 

It wasn't someone telling me to lose weight that caused me to take up arms and accept the mission. In fact, for years people told me to do something about my health and the more they insisted, the more I dug in my heals. To be told by someone you trust and love implicitly that you are less than acceptable in their eyes can be extremely hurtful, and what's more, that particular "f-word" can sting forever. I still remember every time that someone used it in regard to me whether it was out of the desperation of love or as a jibe. It hurts just the same either way and you can guarantee that when that person gets ready to face their demons, they are not going to come to you for empathy, guidance, and support. 

When a doctor or a parent told me I was overweight to the point where it would affect my health significantly, aside from the very first time when I was elementary school and I wouldn't have realized otherwise, I always wanted to ask them if they thought I didn't know that. 

I look in the mirror every morning. I can see that I'm fat. It's old news. Telling me isn't going to make me have some huge revelation that I haven't had already. Seeing photos of yourself where you've significantly gained weight since the last time you saw yourself in a picture or attempting to do something you could always do physically and then finding out you're unable to do it anymore- those are the things that will make you hit rock bottom and realize that you need to change for yourself and not for anyone else. I feel like I can pretty much guarantee you that the impetus to lose weight and keep it off never came from someone telling someone else they were fat. Truly finding redemption for your body through health and fitness isn't about anyone else but you. 

That's why it can be hard when we watch the people we love going down roads we know are toxic for them. At the end of the day, you can't want it enough for them. They have to want it themselves. So how can we help them along the way?

Let's look at some successful redemption tales, shall we?

Xena doesn't decide to change her ways because someone tells her she's an evil warlord. When they do that, she laughs in their face and slaughters their entire village. She eventually changes because of the people in her life. Hercules and Gabriel see her for her potential as a whole person and not just a force of destruction.

In Buffy, Spike doesn't change his ways because of a chip in his head. That limits his behavior, but it's Buffy's presence in his life that causes him to want redemption- to chase after his lost soul. 

In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Quark slowly changes his smarmy cheating Ferengi ways because he's deeply affected by the people living around him on the station. Without them, he wouldn't ever start sticking his neck out for people or making selfless acts.

These characters change because people in their lives set an example for them to follow that they admire.

So what do you do to be that example for your friends so they can morph into the rerolled heroes they were meant to be? 

You can love them for who they are right now, inside and out. Tell them that you do, because more than likely, they berate themselves and think they're worthless because of the place they've let themselves get to without doing anything. Tell them they matter to you. Make them feel good about themselves. If they feel good, then they'll think they're worth fighting for. 

You can "be the change you want to see in the world," as Ghandi said. Tackle your own health and addictions. Sometimes seeing someone else succeed is what will inspire someone to take charge of their own problems. 

You can educate yourself on nutrition and fitness so that when they are ready to ask questions, you have answers.

You can empathize with them and make them feel validated when they open up to you about their emotions, health related or not. That way, when they are ready to expose themselves and do the work to get healthy, they'll feel like you've created a safe harbor for them to express their trials and tribulations. They're going to need a fellowship to get that ring to Mordor and you could be a part of it. 

I'm certainly not an expert and I don't have all the answers. I just know how I've been affected by these kinds of confrontations and more importantly, how I'd like to be treated. So how 'bout it? If you have any related questions, advice, or experiences you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ironman: Man or Suit?

I'm not a huge superhero gal, but I've always had a thing for Ironman. Ever since I saw Ironman 3, I've been thinking about Tony and his personal struggle at the heart of the film. 

Is he the sum of his parts as a man, or is he the sum of his suits?

I think this really struck home with me because I've come to a very difficult part of my weight loss journey. It used to be that I had a progress picture to post every month or some new personal record to tweet or blog about. As I edge ever closer to my goal, things are slowing down and I'm transferring my focus from a diet to a way to live daily. There are fewer shiny new "IronAnne" suits to show off on a regular basis.Frankly, sharing them was one thing, but they meant more to me than they did for anyone else. Without hanging onto the victories, there's only the climb- and the climb can be damn tiresome. 

Like they were for Tony, my "suits" were a way of proving to myself I was on the right track and distracting me from any daily struggles I was having. They showed my skill, my determinations, and of course the results of my evolving lifestyle. Do I want a cookie? Yeah, but think about how great it was to cosplay at PAX? Don't I want to look even more badass at BronyCon? Looking at those results makes me hunger for more of the same. 

In Ironman 3, Tony's work keeps him from facing his crippling horror following the events in New York at the end of The Avengers. Focusing on building the suits makes him feel like he has some sort of control in a situation of such staggering proportions that is beyond his comprehension.

Similarily, you have some control in weight loss, but when it comes to the scale, you can't force it do anything. You can do everything right from eating to working out and still, you can't say definitively whether you'll lose three lbs that week or none. You can only set yourself up for success and your body is just going to do what it does.  In other words, you can only try to build suits. If they explode in your hands before seeing the light of day, that's just the risk you accept when you take on the challenge. 

Hell, even Tony Stark faces his fair share of unexpected malfunctions.

If the suits are unreliable, what then? Without the suits, who are we?

We are the suit makers. Your suit didn't work out the first time? Great. Make a new one. The power is in your hands. 

In layman's terms? Your results are great, but it's the work and your will to do it that matters. Even on my worst days, I still worked out. Even after I binged on donuts and BBQ, I got up the next day and I went grocery shopping so I could restock my fridge with Paleo goodness. Even when I was afraid to see the results on the scale, I still faced them because I remember how awful it was the first time. I'm never going back to square one because in square one, I didn't even have the will to try. 

Our perseverance in the overwhelmingly massive task of our daily health is absolutely key to our success. There won't be more results if you can't recover from setbacks. It's only a failure if you stop trying. Plus, despite how awesome it feels to build suits and get results, at the end of the day- heck, at the end of our lives- you have to be enough for yourself. 

You're the only person who can make the changes and flip that switch inside your head from "excuses" to "game on." We can elude ourselves all we want with distractions like measurements and scales and diet plans, but none of that gets executed without the man or woman inside the suit calling the shots. 

So what am I saying?

I'm saying be Ironman, damnit. Make the suits, sure, but don't forget that the ability to craft and control them is more powerful than the suits themselves. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

America the Hutt

I remember feeling like I was SO GROSS when in middle school. I was fat and unpopular. Boys in my class didn't ask me to dance at sock hops. My parents were concerned about my health and they were constantly trying to do things to get me to diet or workout. Naturally I resisted their attempts. What child wants to be told they're overweight? What pubescent girl wants to think she's the fattest/ugliest girl in her class? I didn't want to be different from the other kids who didn't belong to a gym or spend time working out after school. I wanted to go to MacDonald's after soccer practice and eat fries and a shake like everyone else. 

This is the way I remember myself.

I've spent a lot of time recounting my "success" story to people who are curious about how I got to my "rock bottom" moment (Recently I was lucky enough to share it with the awesome community at Nerd Fitness. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, give it a look-see!). Often, I start by saying that I was fat from a very young age and that I was incredibly self conscious about it. Although I participated in things like soccer and figure skating, I was never as good as the other kids. Physicality was never my strong suit. I hated my appearance and when I started to get interested in boys, I faced a string of rejections. So much of what happened during my formative elementary and middle school years contributed to my attitude towards nutrition and fitness, not to mention my self esteem. It was the bedrock upon which residency at Jabba's palace was built.

Recently, a friend posted a picture of us from middle school on Facebook. Prepare yourself to behold the behemoth female hutt, the gargantuan fatass of yesteryear. BEHOLD HER!


Ok, so given the lead-up, I'm guessing you're as shocked as I was. I look like a totally normal in this picture. Curvy and Teva-clad sure, but unhealthy? No! Yet, in my head, I thought I was a troll. I was convinced I had a huge problem. 

The fact is, I might not have been working out the way I am now, but I was involved in plenty of physical activity at school and in after school sports. I rollerbladed to school a lot! I rode my bike on the weekend. The reason I couldn't keep up with kids on my soccer team was because I played with kids who went on to get soccer scholarships and play on all state teams. I was AVERAGE in terms of skill, but I was active. I just felt bad about my performance because most of my friends excelled insanely at physical stuff.

Even though I wasn't as unhealthy as I perceived myself at the time, I still developed into an unhealthy adult. I was broken just like so many obese children are today.

I'm pretty sure my parents' constant concern about staying active and eating healthy, as well as their rigid rules about what kind of foods we all ate when we were together at home, contributed to my need to act out and eat fast food, binge on ice cream, and hide candy bars in my room. I'm sure the huge gap in skill level between my friends on the soccer team and myself had a lot to do with feeling like there was no point in applying myself to getting better. 

Then again, I'm not sure how it could have been done differently. Maybe my parents pushed too hard, but if they hadn't pushed at all, then where would I have been? It's just as likely that I might have gone down the same path to the Dark Side. If they hadn't instilled in me a "no quitting" attitude, I probably would have dropped out of all my sports after they lost the glow of "newness" and I was faced with the fact that I just wasn't very good at them.  

For about two months I've been meaning to write about how I feel about childhood obesity and its relationship to parenting, but I haven't because I'm not sure I have anything useful to add to the dialogue. It's a huge problem in this country. We are 100% failing our youth in a huge way. I don't think the answer is telling them they can't ever have any cookies or candy, but at the same time I don't think we should continue to let people stay as ignorant of the content of their food and the processes it goes through before it gets to the table. I wrote a post a while ago about how much I love the fact that NYC restaurants are required to post calorie counts on their menus. Sure, not all calories are created equal, but seeing that number does help me make better choices from time to time, even when it comes to treats. There are parts of the country that don't do that. Hell, there are parts of the country that practically build shrines to butter (mmm butter). We think that's normal! If you ask the countries in the world who don't have this same issue, you'll find that it's not.

My friend Dani just visited me from Brazil. She said she was shocked by our portion sizes and by the fact that everything comes fried and with some sort of starch. I started to notice that too when I first started Nutrisystem and now that I order Paleo when I'm out, it takes a lot of effort to sort of rewrite the menu. Most of the time I overpay for what I get because it costs more to replace fries with something healthier or I have to remove so many elements from my meal that I end up with a tiny portion.  It costs more money and it takes more effort to eat right- even though I'd wager it's totally worth it.

America builds it's foods to make us fat by habit. Sandwiches come with fries naturally. On menus, you hardly ever see "Choose your sandwich and one side." They just assume you want to put fries in your face (and it's a fairly good assumption... cause they are delicious devil food). There are places that list potato salad  and pasta salad as vegetables. You can see why our youth is confused. We're hardly helping them. 

Changing our national habits seems like a huge challenge. I'm not sure where to start, but I know we have to do something. I've spent the last few months asking parents I know about how they approach health in their own homes. There doesn't seem to be a formula from success. Some had kids who more naturally adapted to healthy lifestyles even though they did nothing special to encourage them and others have kids who continually struggle in adulthood despite having a childhood where every meal was planned.

I haven't written about what I think we should do to assuage our obesity problems in this country because I only know what works for me. My friends have gotten healthier and I've gotten healthier, but we've all done it in completely different ways. Weight Watchers, Keto, Paleo- you name it! We've all found something that spoke to us and that we could do for long enough to see results. I guess the only thing I can definitively say is that we have to somehow figure out how to heal apathy when it comes to health. Gorging ourselves and eating the "wrong" things has become so normalized in our country that it's the healthy choices that seem to exist on the fringe. If someone works out every morning before work, that person "must be crazy." If someone orders a salad at lunch with friends, we all say, "Oh you're so good." Those things should be fairly normal in a healthy country- but for us, they're not because we've poisoned our collective national mind but making unhealthy treats the "norm."

We have to figure out how to make people care, but so many people don't- or they just care more about pizza than they do about not getting diabetes. Plus, the more normal these obesity-caused-ailments become, the more our kids accept them as a natural part of life. The whole reason my "transformation" has been maintained so far is because I've directly linked health to the things I enjoy in my life. I run... from zombies. I do HIIT workouts... watching Xena. I lose weight... to cosplay. You get the point.

If you're one of those people (and I know they're out there because I used to be one) who feels like they have tried to lose weight, but they've just failed time after time, then find something you love that's directly affected in a negative way by your weight and think about how much more fulfilling your life would be if you could participate in it. It might be different for everyone, but becoming personally invested in getting a better a life might be the key. Yeah it's more work than some simple answer that would solve our country's weight problems, but I'm not sure that even exists.

If a kid loves sports, then great! Tell them how much better they'll perform if they fuel their body properly. If they love video games or action movies, encourage their interests and show them what it takes to get big and strong (like this 300 workout used by the actors to prep for the film). If they hate working out, but they love to cook, teach them about food! Let them take a cooking class that specializes in nutritious dishes so that they can learn a skill that will help them their whole life. Start small and they may see the benefit of working on the things that don't come naturally when they realize it will affect the skills they're already interested in improving.

There's one thing my parents did absolutely right (and I wish every kid was as lucky!). They encouraged me to follow my passions. Had I figured out how to bring my passions and my deficits into alignment earlier on, I might not be struggling as much with my health today.

I'm interested to hear how you all feel about "the obesity epidemic" in this country and what can be done to help heal it. It's something I think about a lot because I don't want anyone to have to suffer like I did. I don't have the answers, just an inkling. I think one of the most important things is to just get people talking! So talk, Slayers! Maybe we can start to untangle this Gorgon's knot together. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Project Reroll, The Flamethrower!

There's a new arrival at Project Reroll! In Spaceballs, Yogurt said it best. "Merchandising!" I just opened a store to sell shirts, bags, iPhone cases, waterbottles, and more! All of them feature our beautiful logo by Annie Stoll (Seriously, check out her stuff!)! She dedicated a lot of time an energy to  getting it just right and I just want to thank her SO MUCH and give her a shout out so y'all can find her other work on the web! Thanks Annie!

So why make a store?

I want to be able to commit more time to the blog and turn it into something even bigger and better than what it is currently. Sadly, I don't have the ability to do that because of pesky stuff like the time I have to commit to my day job to assuage the lack of disposable income I would need to take this project to the next level. 

Personally, when I read a blog, I'm not usually incentivized to contribute monetarily. Why pay money for something you can get for free? Plus, where does the money go and what direct benefits will I see for my contribution. I wouldn't ask for money if I didn't have an idea of how I'll spend it and what I'll do to improve your experience.

Set your fears at rest. I'll never make people pay for access to the blog. However, a community is what we make of it, and with 30,000 readers (holy Schwartz!), I think we have the slayers we need to level up the blog. Imagine what we could do if every reader gave a just one dollar?! 

More importantly, where will these earnings go? All funds raised through purchases at the store and deposits in the tip jar will be used to:

  • Pay for private hosting on our own site away from "blogger."
  • Develop a forum community so readers can get connected, chat about articles, and share information and experiences.
  • Allow me to dedicate more time to writing more posts and to develop a more comprehensive program for Life Coaching clients.
  • Purchase items/services/classes to review on the blog.
  • Help me travel to/participate in fitness events like runs, tough mudders, etc. so I can chronicle the training process and the actual event on the blog.
  • Pay for a proper video camera so I can make vlog posts on Project Reroll.
  • Buy business cards.
  • Acquire/distribute prizes for community contests
  • Pay for the organization of community events/meetups/classes in NYC (and maybe elsewhere eventually).
Of these upgrades, I'd love to find out what interests my slayers most! Conversely, I'd love to know if there's stuff that people just don't care about at all. Are there other upgrades you would like to see? Other types of merchandise? Let me know! Please leave your ideas, questions, and suggestions in the comments. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

HuKitchen Review

When you're trying to eat healthy- and especially to eat clean- finding restaurants where you can safely choose what you want can be a challenge. There tends to be a lot of hemming and hawing over what you can order without driving the waitstaff and the cooks crazy with special requests. A lot of time you end up paying more money for substitutions or not getting your money's worth because once you take the bun away from the sandwich and sub a side salad without dressing for the fries, you're not left with a ton of substance. It absolutely can be done, but it sort of wears on you after a while.

Then there's HuKitchen, a restaurant committed to serving foods with ingredients that are as pre-industrial as possible- meaning no processed food or refined sugars. One of the founders is paleo and while most of their food fits within the paleo/primal blueprint, there are some limited servings of whole grains, dairy, and legumes available. Vegans and vegetarians would also love the menu as well. Everything is gluten free, aside from the beers. You can read more about them in the FAQ on their website. 

The first thing I noticed upon entering the establishment was just how cool the decor was. It has this clean, urban grotto-gone-green vibe with wooden seats made out of varnished driftwood and big screens displaying menus available at different food stations. The menus clearly list all of the ingredients, and the coolest part is that you can pretty much assume all the food is paleo unless it explicitly notes that it contains grains or dairy. That was just so refreshing for me and made ordering a lot easier and quick than normal. 

The staff was really helpful. They offered free samples of everything so you could be sure you ordered something you liked and were happy to explain the ingredients used in each dish. I always get frustrated when I can't get that information at other restaurants without the waitstaff giving me the stink eye, so this was right up my alley. They knew what they were talking about and they did it all with a smile on their faces. 

Which brings me to the actual food, which was absolutely awesome! I ordered the organic thai chicken with coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro, basil over mashed sweet potatoes and carrots. The chicken was tender and juicy and the whole dish felt like comfort food with none of the guilt. I also ordered some roasted cauliflower on the side so I could increase the veggie content of my meal. It was pretty good and it was seasoned in a way I wouldn't have done it myself. My meal also came with a piece of grain-free veggie bread. Honestly, I don't know how they got the consistency so perfect because it really did have a great bread-y consistency and it tasted pretty good too. My friend Steven ordered their quarter chicken with mashed sweet potato and carrot and caramelized pineapple drizzled with cashew cream. He thought the chicken was wonderful and when he let me taste the pineapple, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I could eat that every day! I've never heard of cashew cream before, but you can bet I've been looking up recipes online ever since. I can't get it out of my mind! All of that came to just under $30 for two people which is really not that bad when you think about the quality of the ingredients being used and the labor that goes into it. Additionally, I tried their mango infused water with chia. I had never had chia before so I wanted to try it out. In the end I don't think it won me over, but I'm not a huge fruit infused water fan so I didn't expect to love it all that much. I will say that they had a ton of different teas and waters to choose from so it was fun to look at the wide selection. 

After we ate our meal we decided to try out their sweets. After my heavenly experience with HuKitchen's cashew cream, I was easily drawn to their mash bar. Now, as far as what a mash bar is exactly, I'm not sure, except to say that it's yummy! After many failed attempts at trying to understand what it was supposed to be, I just asked the server to give me whatever their most popular one was, which turned out to be the Organic Berry Coconut concoction. It was organic vanilla chia pudding with strawberry, blueberry, and cashew cream. It was very refreshing and sweet without being overly sugary. One issue with paleo for me is that I never feel like I get a proper desert because fruit is great, but it doesn't always do it for me when it comes to satisfying my sweet tooth. Well the addition of the pudding and cashew cream certainly took it to the next level. I can't wait to go back and try a different mash from their menu next time. Steven got a 72% dark chocolate bar with almond butter and puffed quinoa. I'm a fan of super dark chocolate and this is lighter than what I've been eating, but the square I had was creamy and delicious. It made for a nice change because usually "specialty" chocolate with added ingredients doesn't come dark enough to make it primal/paleo. Our deserts were about $5 each.
Some of the reviews I read online about this place disparaged the pricing of the food, but honestly I felt like it was worth every penny. We over-ordered while we were there so that I could review different things. I could have easily been satisfied with just the bowl of chicken over the mashed sweet potatoes. Taken alone, that would have been just under $10, which is totally reasonable. Maybe people were upset about the portions? I think people just have a distorted view of what a proper portion of food is these days. Who knows? I didn't see a problem with the pricing and because I deal with purchasing these kinds of ingredients myself, I was surprised they weren't charging more.

What I'm saying is that we should all be eating at this place. Their mission is spot on, their food is incredible, and what's more, it's incredibly good for you. These are the kinds of restaurants we should be supporting. If more people realized that eating clean doesn't mean eating boring, I think there would be a lot more demand for places like HuKitchen. I would love to see more locations open up around the city, but for that to happen, the food revolution will have to gain ground. Let's help them kick it into high gear!

If any of my New York slayers end up trying HuKitchen, let me know your thoughts and your favorite dishes in the comments!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Resistance is Not Futile

I was recently contacted by the lovely folks at AquaGear Swim Shop about reviewing some of their equipment. Even though I'm not huge into water sports (simply because I live in NYC and that's just not in the cards for me on a regular basis), I decided to check out the site and find out what they were all about.

It turns out they're a family owned business and while a lot of stores out there claim to have great customer service, I was really impressed that when I went to the site during the day, a little chat window popped up with someone asking if I needed assistance with anything in the online shop. I think that's pretty cool that they have live customer service available for a web store. I don't think I've ever seen that as an automatic option when selecting a product unless I actively went to a customer service page and looked for it. When I accepted the chat invite, I was quickly connected to a sales associate who was happy to help me with any questions I had about products.

The store was founded by Joanne Bullock who is apparently an aquatic personal trainer amongst other things and the store really reflects that angle. There are lots of items that you would expect to see from your average swim shop (like goggles, swimsuits, and swim caps) but there are also some really great training accessories like waterproof mp3 players, weights, and jogging belts as well as training DVDs and manuals. It's easy to search for a specific item or use the categories on the sidebar of the site to find what you want and hey, if you don't find it that way, you can always use the live chat feature to get advice!

I ended up choosing my item to review based on the fact that I needed something I could use out of the water. I've been adding some strength workouts into my routine and buying a set of weights can be really expensive and heavy, plus I don't know where I would store them in my starving artist's apartment. My mom has had some success with resistance bands and when I saw some on the site I immediately jumped at the opportunity to review them.

They had two kinds; the Speedo Aqua Fit 360 Stretch Bands which can be interchanged with a bunch of different pieces for different purposes or the All Pro Resistance Bands which come in two versions (extra heavy tension and medium). For the sake of being basic and not having to deal with attachments, I chose to get the extra heavy All Pro Resistance Bands. 

Ordering was easy and AquaGear saves your information for later use so you don't have to re-enter your shipping and billing address. However, they don't save your credit card info. That's actually something I like because I feel like it's really easy for someone to hack your password to things and then buy anything they want in that situation. Maybe I'm just paranoid but I don't mind the extra step of entering my payment info if it's going to ensure a little safety against identity theft. 

By the time I got back from my week of vacation in North Carolina, my shipment had arrived and I was ready to resist all the bands!

I was actually surprised at how effective they were at adding weight. I'd been pretty ghetto about the "rows" in my strength circuit. I was using heavy pots and pans or filling bags with books and lifting them so it was nice to have something with a firm grip that acted like a weight because I feel like they position of your hand when lifting can actually change some of the muscles that you use to perform the action. When I was using bags of books, my hand and/or wrist would often feel sore afterwards and I didn't experience that with the All Pro bands.

It also has an adjustable foot pad that you can slide up and down the band to stand on and shorten them for different positions. They were really easy to incorporate into my routine and gave me a lot of different options for upper body exercises without needing multiple pieces of equipment. Again, when space is an issue in your apartment, that's a pretty winning factor. They also come with a mesh storage bag so you can keep them together and out of the way when you're done (which is nice if you have a tendency to trip over things like me!).

One thing I'd like to know that the bands don't seem to offer on the packaging and that AquaGear doesn't offer in the store description for the item is the exact difference between the two sets of All Pro bands that they offer. Obviously one is medium and one is heavy, but how much weight is the resistance mimicing? I have no frame of reference for how much weight I'm moving. The other con for resistance bands is that they don't change their resistance, but with free weights you can always change them out for a heavier one. That's hardly the product's fault, though. It's really just something to keep in mind when trying to choose between weights and bands.

All in all, I'm really excited to continue using these bad boys and to see how I can use them to spice up my strength circuits! I was definitely able to get a more effective set of upper body exercises into today's workout and over time I think this is really going to improve my upper body strength. If there's anyone out there who has experience with resistance bands, I'd love to hear your advice on exercises in the comments!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

10 Tips for a Heathy Mind and Body

So much of weight loss and living healthy is about being mentally strong. Food is food, but your choices determine how healthy it is. You have a whole day in front of you and you could just lay around trying to get a perfect play-through of Mass Effect 2 or you could get out there and sweat (and then get your perfect play-through!). It all comes down to how bad you want to reach your goals and what you're willing to sacrifice in order to get what you want.

We're faced with food every day and it can really wear you out when you constantly have to make good choices despite your body craving things that aren't good for you. Fitting in your fitness routine can seem like a real drag and the more excuses you make, the easier it is to make them. If you don't find a way to get your head on straight it can be a slippery slope to derailing your progress. One bad choice can lead to a "well screw it" attitude and before you know it you've been off your game for a week and your pants don't fit.

So how do you get mentally strong? Here are my top ten tips to help you stay in a healthy mindset and keep you on track to get the body you want.
  • Make a list of the reasons you want to change your life and the things you won't miss about being unhealthy so that when you waver, you can look at it to remind yourself why you  need to stick it out.
  • Make as many choices as you can in the morning before you've depleted your willpower. If you leave stuff till later in the day, you'll be to tired to make the right choice.
  • Don't move too fast when you start out. Pick a few new habits to adopt and then add more as you go. If you overwhelm yourself with a super strict regime in the beginning, then you'll run the risk of burning out.
  • Level up your cooking! You won't have to wonder what's going in your food if you make it for yourself a majority of the time. It will give you a measure of control and won't leave you dependent on anyone or anything when it comes to your nutrition.
  • Have a plan. Waffling about with trying to eat healthy when you haven't done research on the different options or methods that you could use can be exhausting. Obviously the knowledge base you've had so far isn't working. Find something you can get excited about!
  • Find balance in your exercise and nutrition routine and make sure it works for you. What works for someone else, might not work for you and vice versa. If you get overwhelmed with counting calories, then find a diet where you don't have to worry about that like Atkins or Paleo. If you feel lost without structure, find a program where you're accountable for logging everything you eat so you can learn what it takes to stay on track. If that's what you want, then Weight Watchers or using Fitbit's nutrition planner might be a good fit.
  • Learn to forgive yourself. It takes a strong person to keep going despite setbacks but those who learn how to stay positive and keep moving forward are the only ones who will find lasting success.
  • Give yourself a break. Find rewards for doing well at your goals that allow you to relax and decompress. It takes a lot of energy and effort to make good choices all the time despite the presence of cake (even if it is a lie!). You need to find ways to release tension (hopefully not by eating treats) so you can stay strong and keep pushing forward. Get a pedicure, make time to watch your favorite show, read a book, plan a fun night out or a weekend excursion to a place you've always wanted to go. Shop for new clothes! Make it personal and the instant gratification of staying on track will speak for itself.
  • Find a fitness routine you love. It's a lot harder to convince yourself to go lift weights if you hate every second of it. Would you rather run? Would you rather do yoga? Would you rather take kick boxing? Play in a pick-up ice hockey game? Get passionate and make it happen! There's something out there for everyone.
  • Have a support system. It's true that no one can make you get healthy until you're ready to embrace that goal for yourself, but surrounding yourself with people whose values and goals align with yours or just those who love you unconditionally can be your saving grace. There will be days when you need to tell someone how much you miss ice cream or how sore you are from doing squats. You want someone who's going to tell you to keep going and not be an enabler who will help you sabotage your hard work. Surround yourself with people whose healthy outlook you admire.
Hopefully these are helpful to you all! If you have any of your own tips for fellow Slayers here at Project Reroll, please leave them in the comments so we can help each other.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My First 20k Run

In my recent "Challenge Accepted" post, I decided to take on my very first 20km run in order to celebrate reaching my first 20k unique views on the blog. It was definitely an insane thing to try considering I've only run about half that distance without stopping before but I decided to take it on anyways. I got my dad to film the whole thing so I could share a bit of schadenfreude with you all in thanks for your continued readership and support of my journey.

All in all, I did pretty well. I went out of the gate a little fast in the beginning because we had mapped out the distance wrong and the course I was visualizing in my mind was incorrect so I did run out of gas a little earlier than I had meant to. I ended up alternating walking 2 minutes and running 5 from 6-10 miles, but in the end those last two miles really almost did me in. My body just wanted to stop walking. There was a moment where I was telling my feet to keep moving but they just came to a halt for a split second and I had lots of cramping in my back. I just tried to run when I could but I couldn't seem to get back into my groove. I did manage to finish under 3 hours and without dying (always a plus!), which was my major goal, so I was happy. I'd have to do some more training before attempting anything like that again! As far as injuries, I only really have a sore toe, but that didn't keep me from running two days after the 20k, so I'm hoping it will heal up soon!

There are some more very cool things on the horizon for the blog that I'm excited to share with you. I'll let you know all about the developments as soon as I can!