Countdown To Coachella 2012: Healthy Ways To Get In Shape

There are only 4 short weeks left until the first weekend of Coachella! Gasp! my excitement is entirely subdued by my night terrors; waking up in a cold sweat stressed by the subconscious reminder of my seriously winterized physique… which isn’t even remotely close to being bikini-ready. Honestly – I’m not even sure it’s burka-ready. How am I supposed to get Jarvis Cocker to fall in love with me with these tree trunks I’m working with?

Tree Trunks Lady Illustration by Kit Scarbo

Illustration by Kit Scarbo

DETOX TO RETOX

Now desperate times may call for desperate measures, but we are not desperate! And we won’t succumb to crash diets (which may get you thin, but WILL get you fat all over again, not to mention weaken your immune system). What I’m talking about is a real deal detox, served in 4 easy-to-swallow weekly installments. This isn’t the Master Cleanse or a pricey juice fast; nope, just a few common-sense dietary, physical, and mental adjustments that when applied can make a major difference in everything from your moods and your sleep, to your look and just how much game you’ll get.

Making it through the next month is going to take some work and discipline on your part, but you’ll thank me 4 weeks from now when your skin is glowing and you’re kicking up dust to the sounds of Santigold in the desert (sporting a pair of impossibly short dolphin shorts I might add).

So here it is… your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Coachella 2010 photo by Marie-Joelle Parent

Coachella 2010 photo by Marie-Joelle Parent

WEEK 1

1. Cut out ALL sugar and sugar substitutes.

If it is sweet and it’s not a piece of whole fruit or a handsome man, then put it down and step away. This means no sugar, no corn syrup, no evaporated cane juice, no honey, no agave, no maple syrup, no dextrose, no sucrose, no soda, no sweetened fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate, no sugar tonight in your coffee, no sugar tonight in your tea. This also means no Nutrasweet, xylitol, stevia, splenda, etc… Recent studies have shown that calorie-free sweeteners can actually contribute to weight gain, and the artificial ones have been linked to cancer. That’s real talk.

2. Cut out ALL refined carbs.

Cookies, pasta, pretzels, muffins, sandwiches, croissants, bread, potato chips, white rice, the list goes on and on… Vending machine staples and vehicles for BLT’s are just as addictive and destructive as their carb-cousin sugar, and cause the same reaction when we ingest them (high spikes in blood sugar resulting in a rush, tailed by an inevitable crash, and followed up with cravings for more pizza). This is due to the fact that when we ingest a refined carb the enzymes in our mouth instantly turn them to glucose (sugar) so our bodies can immediately use them for energy.

But here’s the kicker, unless you’re gearing up for the Summer Olympics, you’re probably not using those carbs for energy; instead your body is storing the glucose as fat. When our blood sugar spikes the body produces insulin, a fat storage hormone; when we consistently stuff our faces with high-carb foods it can set off a series of insulin-related changes that over time causes insulin resistance, leading straight to muffin top.

Donuts

And if that isn’t enough, sugars and refined carbs are a drug four times more addictive than cocaine, fact! They light up our brain’s pleasure centers in the same way that drugs do, flooding us with dopamine and making it nearly impossible for many of us to live without them. And beyond your physique, they lead to a number of other less sexy things like chronic depression, tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, hormone disruption, and loss of skin elasticity… and nobody wants to share a poolside cabana with that tragedy.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by gluten-free products! All those gluten free breads, pastas, crackers and pizzas? They’re chocked-full of refined carbs, not to mention weird thickeners and binders such as xanthan gum, guar gum, and soy lecithin. Pssst… here’s a secret… those aren’t foods, so don’t eat them!

3. DRINK WATER!

Every year, my New Year’s resolution is to drink more water. Most of us aren’t drinking nearly enough water in a day, and many of us are also drinking caffeine, which has a negative effect on hydration, basically screwing any meager attempt at hydration that we may be making in the first place. Researchers estimate that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which can lead to such lovely side effects as headaches, fatigue, loss of skin elasticity, poor complexions, inadequate flushing of wastes and toxins, and joint pain to name a few.

A good rule of thumb is to drink a half-ounce of water daily for every pound you weigh. Here let me help you with the math… if you weigh 124 lbs, then drink 62 ounces of water. Non-caffeinated, unsweetened beverages count too! So sip on some herbal teas and coconut water for a little variety.

So, that’s it for the first week! Easy right? The first few days are sure to be a challenge, but I know you can do it! And to get you up and running, here are some helpful tips:

death by sugar

TRICKS OF THE TRADE

But what do I eat when I get a sugar craving??

First things first, before you eat anything, drink some water. Often times we mistake dehydration as a craving for food, especially something snacky. So once you’ve had your glass half-full of H2O, check in with yourself, and  if you’re still needing a little somethin somethin, then have a piece of fruit.  A bowl of berries, or an apple with almond butter and a handful of frozen grapes are all great ways to kick that sweet craving to the curb.

I’m also mildly obsessed with Lara bars and stash them as a squirrel would, all over the place. Made of whole unsweetened dried fruits and nuts, they’re a mega delicious and nutritious snack (just make sure to avoid the ones that contain fruit juice concentrates and things like chocolate chips). Lara Bars are especially great for the plane, or stashed in your purse for when you’re stuck in traffic (or most importantly when you are leaving the bar and trying to avoid making a stop at the taco truck). But limit them to 1-2 a day max.

Ok, fine… no sugar. But what do I eat in place of the refined carbs??

I have two words for you: Whole Grains. If you just have to get those grain-derived carbs in, then eat them in their whole forms. This means Ezekiel breads and wraps over their Caucasian counterparts, brown rice over the pearly whites, and stone ground corn tortillas over flour. Be sure to eat grains with a fat like olive oil, coconut oil or a high quality cultured butter, this will dramatically slow the release of insulin in your body, helping to regulate any spikes in your blood sugar. And if you have the time, soak your grains for at least 3-4 hours before cooking them, and preferably overnight, this makes them far easier for your body to digest.

Here are two delicious and slimming recipes from my vaults to inspire you – now get cooking!

Kale and Farro Salad (serves 3-4)

Organic Kale

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, leaves stripped from their stem
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups of cooked farro
1 apple, diced
2 scallions, chopped
½ cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Procedure:

Wash, then roughly chop the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, pepper, salt and cayenne pepper. Add the dressing to the kale and massage for one minute. Into the bowl, toss all the remaining ingredients and mix well, cover and place into the refrigerator for at least one hour. Drizzle some high quality extra virgin olive oil over each salad just before serving.

*Farro is and ancient strain of wheat, it was one of the first crops to be domesticated in the Near East.

Steel cut oats with cacao nibs, cherries, dates, and coconut (serves 4)

Steel Cut Oats

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unrefined coconut oil, cultured butter or olive oil
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup + 1/4 unsweetened almond, rice or hemp milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup unsweetened dried tart cherries
¼ cup chopped dates
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
¼ cup tablespoon cacao nibs

Procedure:

In a large saucepot, melt the fat and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.

Combine the ¾ cup of almond milk with the oatmeal. Stir gently to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the vanilla, stir and divide into 4 serving bowls (or just one and stash the leftovers in the fridge). Top each bowl with a drizzle of the remaining almond milk and equal sprinklings of cinnamon, cherries, dates, coconut and cacao. Savor immediately.


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