Here’s the answer to your salt cravings.

Question: As an athlete, I am craving salt. Why? Should I give in to the craving?

Salt cravings can be linked to a lot of things, including stress, lack of sleep and even premenstrual syndrome, but since you’re athletic, most likely they are because of the loss of minerals — including sodium — from sweating.

Salt cravings also can be linked to dehydration, especially if they are accompanied by dizziness, thirst, headache, irritability or cramps. If you don’t sweat a lot, you can probably replace those minerals and quench your cravings with tap water alone. If you sweat more or if you’re an endurance athlete, however, drink an electrolyte-enhanced beverage, eat a (healthy) salty snack or sip a broth-based soup to help replace your deficit.

Spotlight On: BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of resilient plastics used for food containers, toiletries, sports equipment, household electronics and the anti-corrosive lining inside cans of food.

Many experts claim that BPA exposure is harmful: When ingested, it can mimic the structure and function of estrogen or can bind to estrogen receptors, negatively impacting reproduction, fetal development, energy levels and cell repair. High levels of BPA also have been linked to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and Type
2 diabetes.

Completely eradicating BPA exposure may be impossible because of its widespread use, but limit it whenever possible. Emphasize whole foods, avoid packaged and canned goods, use glass bottles instead of plastic, choose BPA-free plastic toys and products, and never microwave food in plastic containers; BPA and other chemicals can leak into food when heated.

Nutrition Myth Bustin’

True or False?: Combining carbs and protein in a meal is bad for digestion.

False. Lately, there is a theory that combining carbs and protein in a single meal “confuses” your digestive system, and that since your body is not equipped to digest mixed nutrients, it could cause weight gain. However, your body is specifically prepared for this kind of multitasking and releases all kinds of digestive enzymes at the same time that break down carbs, fats and protein — even if you didn’t eat all those macros in a single meal. Besides, most single foods contain a mix of two or more macros, so neither you — nor your body — needs to worry about choosing what to digest.

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Use these strategies to kick the calorie-counting habit once and for all.

When it comes to trimming down, counting your calories used to be the go-to plan. Thankfully, a new era of research has been steadily pounding nails into this antiquated calorie-counting coffin. Case in point: A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while eating more whole foods without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year. And a New England Journal of Medicine investigation showed that people whose diets included more servings of junk food, potato-sweetened drinks and red/processed meats gained weight during four-year intervals while those who ate more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and yogurt were protected from creeping weight gain — regardless of calorie intake.

This is not to say that calories don’t matter in the battle of the bulge; they do. But those 100 calories from bologna are not the same as 100 calories from broccoli, and the number of calories in a food absolutely does not indicate its healthfulness. “People would be better served by shifting their priorities away from counting calories and toward improving diet quality and eating habits,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time (Center Street, 2019). “Not only can calorie counting be tedious and inaccurate, it doesn’t give the full picture.”  

Dump those tired calorie-counting apps and instead use these body-benefiting metrics to get your fit on.

1. Focus on Fiber

Your Goal: 25-plus grams per day

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that simply focusing on eating a higher-fiber diet is just as effective for weight loss as following a set diet plan. “Fiber is found in foods that are relatively low in calories,” Young says. “It also fills you up, so it’s a weight-loss win-win.”

More reason to rough it: An investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming more fiber improves your microbiome — for example, the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut — and a robust microbiome has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved mental health. Yet despite these results, dietary surveys show that more than 90 percent of American adults don’t get enough daily fiber.

If you’re among the fiber-fraught, look into some legumes: Just 1 cup of beans offers 15 grams of fiber, which brings you more than halfway toward your daily goal of 25 grams. Other fiber-friendly foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Focus on chewing your food

2. The Chew

Your Goal: 20 to 30 percent fewer bites

It sounds too simple to be legit, but a Brigham Young University study found that people who counted their daily food bites and sips of non-water liquid and then committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer food bites and sips were successful at shedding several pounds over the course of a month — without making any other changes to their diet or exercise routine. “Counting bites slows down your food intake, which helps you eat more mindfully and better notice your body’s satiety signals,” Young notes. In other words, you’re less likely to eat and drink more than you actually need if you monitor how often you bring fork to mouth.

Want to try it? Simply count the number of bites of food or gulps of liquid other than water you take over the period of a week. Take the average and reduce that number by 20 to 30 percent per day to hit your goal. For example, if you average 120 bites/sips a day, you’d reduce that to 100 bites/sips daily.

3. Pumped-Up Protein

Your Goal: 20 to 30 grams per meal

The recommended amount of protein for active women is roughly 1.5 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight to support the repair and creation of muscles while keeping your appetite in check. The latest science also indicates that when you eat it is as important as how much you eat: Instead of consuming your daily protein quota at a single meal, distribute it more evenly throughout the day. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that muscle protein synthesis increased when people consumed 30 grams of protein in a meal (about 5 ounces of chicken breast) and that taking in more than that didn’t bring about bigger gains. Remember that additional calories of any kind — protein, fat or carbs — will be stored as body fat.

To cover the spread, look over your weekly meal plan and include a protein with each and every meal and snack. Chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, legumes and eggs are all great options.

4. Don’t Dine Out

Your Goal: 3 or fewer meals per away from home per week

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that adults who ate out more frequently consumed less nutritious diets and had higher food expenses, and a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study showed that women who ate lunch out at least once a week lost an average of 5 fewer pounds over the course of a year than those who brown-bagged it more often. Furthermore, women who consume lots of fast food may be more likely to experience infertility than women who rarely, if ever, eat fast-food meals, suggest researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“While it’s hard to eat healthy if you’re always eating out, it’s also difficult to eat poorly if you’re cooking for yourself using mostly whole-food ingredients,” Young explains.

To reduce your weekly dining-out habit, plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks, and then carve out some time to batch-cook your fare. Takeout is way less tempting when you’ve got a tasty homemade meal to nosh.

Cooking with vegetables

5. Volumize Your Vegetables

Your Goal: 3 cups daily

Most nutrition maxims come and go, but the push to eat more veggies will never wane. Beyond reducing the risk for nearly every disease under the sun, a large review of studies published in the journal Nutrients showed that women who eat more daily servings of vegetables tend to have slimmer waistlines and do a better job at staving off weight creep.

“When you eat more veggies, it tends to crowd out other higher-calorie foods in your diet to help with weight management,” says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, author of Essential Sports Nutrition: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Every Active Person (Rockridge Press, 2018). “And their added fiber will slow down digestion, which promotes satiety to help put the brakes on overeating.” Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the daily recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.

Infuse all your meals and snacks with veggies to ensure you hit your optimal intake: Add shredded carrots to your morning oatmeal, dig into a big green salad for lunch and toss around a veggie-laden stir-fry for dinner. Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly way to work more into everything from soups to smoothies.

6. Slash Added Sugar

Your Goal: Less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) daily

Studies show that people who eat too much added sugar (extra sweet stuff added in as opposed to that naturally present) face an increased risk for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease — not to mention unwanted belly flab — and those sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling haggard. “There’s a very different reaction in the body when foods with naturally occurring sugar are consumed like fruit and dairy as compared to foods such as cookies that are heavily processed with added sugar,” Sumbal says.

Chances are you’re overloading on sugar without even knowing it; various sugar aliases are pumped into nearly everything, from ketchup to salad dressing to almond butter. And so-called “natural sugars” such as added honey and coconut sugar do not get a free pass: They too count toward your daily added sugar allotment.

Thankfully, a new nutrition label calls out the grams of added sugar, making it way easier to keep tabs on your intake of the sweet stuff. Limit your intake to less than 6 to 12 teaspoons (24 to 48 grams) per day. Swap out products that list higher amounts of added sugar like flavored yogurt and granola with low- to no-sugar-added alternatives, such as plain yogurt and unsweetened muesli.

Opt for a healthier cocktai

7. Beware of the Booze

Your Goal: Fewer than 3 drinks per week

The research against alcohol is bulletproof: A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that people who abstained from alcohol were more successful at dropping pounds during a four-year lifestyle intervention program. And a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that women who drink heavily when they’re younger have a higher risk of becoming overweight as they age. What’s more, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for dying earlier — especially from cancer — by about 20 percent because alcohol is broken down in the body into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.

“When you drink, the liver is forced to metabolize the alcohol instead of fat, which may increase fat accumulation around the midsection,” Sumbal says. She adds that people often overlook the calories in booze (and sweet mixers), which can really add up over the course of a week. Factor in the lowered inhibitions when you get your buzz on, which make you more likely to mindlessly munch, and you could be in deep doo-doo.

You don’t have to totally swear off cheering in the weekend with your gal pals, but be smarter about imbibing: Trim a drink or two from your weekly routine, pour yourself smaller servings, and order cocktails made with soda water and wedges of whole fruit.

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Use these seven strategies to kick the calorie-counting habit once and for all.

When it comes to trimming down, counting your calories used to be the go-to plan. Thankfully, a new era of research has been steadily pounding nails into this antiquated calorie-counting coffin. Case in point: A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while eating more whole foods without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year. And a New England Journal of Medicine investigation showed that people whose diets included more servings of junk food, potato-sweetened drinks and red/processed meats gained weight during four-year intervals while those who ate more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and yogurt were protected from creeping weight gain — regardless of calorie intake.

This is not to say that calories don’t matter in the battle of the bulge; they do. But those 100 calories from bologna are not the same as 100 calories from broccoli, and the number of calories in a food absolutely does not indicate its healthfulness. “People would be better served by shifting their priorities away from counting calories and toward improving diet quality and eating habits,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time (Center Street, 2019). “Not only can calorie counting be tedious and inaccurate, it doesn’t give the full picture.”  

Dump those tired calorie-counting apps and instead use these body-benefiting metrics to get your fit on.

1. Focus on Fiber

Your Goal: 25-plus grams per day

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that simply focusing on eating a higher-fiber diet is just as effective for weight loss as following a set diet plan. “Fiber is found in foods that are relatively low in calories,” Young says. “It also fills you up, so it’s a weight-loss win-win.”

More reason to rough it: An investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming more fiber improves your microbiome — for example, the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut — and a robust microbiome has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved mental health. Yet despite these results, dietary surveys show that more than 90 percent of American adults don’t get enough daily fiber.

If you’re among the fiber-fraught, look into some legumes: Just 1 cup of beans offers 15 grams of fiber, which brings you more than halfway toward your daily goal of 25 grams. Other fiber-friendly foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

2. The Chew

Your Goal: 20 to 30 percent fewer bites

It sounds too simple to be legit, but a Brigham Young University study found that people who counted their daily food bites and sips of non-water liquid and then committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer food bites and sips were successful at shedding several pounds over the course of a month — without making any other changes to their diet or exercise routine. “Counting bites slows down your food intake, which helps you eat more mindfully and better notice your body’s satiety signals,” Young notes. In other words, you’re less likely to eat and drink more than you actually need if you monitor how often you bring fork to mouth.

Want to try it? Simply count the number of bites of food or gulps of liquid other than water you take over the period of a week. Take the average and reduce that number by 20 to 30 percent per day to hit your goal. For example, if you average 120 bites/sips a day, you’d reduce that to 100 bites/sips daily.

3. Pumped-Up Protein

Your Goal: 20 to 30 grams per meal

The recommended amount of protein for active women is roughly 1.5 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight to support the repair and creation of muscles while keeping your appetite in check. The latest science also indicates that when you eat it is as important as how much you eat: Instead of consuming your daily protein quota at a single meal, distribute it more evenly throughout the day. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that muscle protein synthesis increased when people consumed 30 grams of protein in a meal (about 5 ounces of chicken breast) and that taking in more than that didn’t bring about bigger gains. Remember that additional calories of any kind — protein, fat or carbs — will be stored as body fat.

To cover the spread, look over your weekly meal plan and include a protein with each and every meal and snack. Chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, legumes and eggs are all great options.

4. Don’t Dine Out

Your Goal: 3 or fewer meals per away from home per week

An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that adults who ate out more frequently consumed less nutritious diets and had higher food expenses, and a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study showed that women who ate lunch out at least once a week lost an average of 5 fewer pounds over the course of a year than those who brown-bagged it more often. Furthermore, women who consume lots of fast food may be more likely to experience infertility than women who rarely, if ever, eat fast-food meals, suggest researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.

“While it’s hard to eat healthy if you’re always eating out, it’s also difficult to eat poorly if you’re cooking for yourself using mostly whole-food ingredients,” Young explains.

To reduce your weekly dining-out habit, plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks, and then carve out some time to batch-cook your fare. Takeout is way less tempting when you’ve got a tasty homemade meal to nosh.

5. Volumize Your Vegetables

Your Goal: 3 cups daily

Most nutrition maxims come and go, but the push to eat more veggies will never wane. Beyond reducing the risk for nearly every disease under the sun, a large review of studies published in the journal Nutrients showed that women who eat more daily servings of vegetables tend to have slimmer waistlines and do a better job at staving off weight creep.

“When you eat more veggies, it tends to crowd out other higher-calorie foods in your diet to help with weight management,” says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, author of Essential Sports Nutrition: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Every Active Person (Rockridge Press, 2018). “And their added fiber will slow down digestion, which promotes satiety to help put the brakes on overeating.” Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the daily recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.

Infuse all your meals and snacks with veggies to ensure you hit your optimal intake: Add shredded carrots to your morning oatmeal, dig into a big green salad for lunch and toss around a veggie-laden stir-fry for dinner. Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly way to work more into everything from soups to smoothies.

6. Slash Added Sugar

Your Goal: Less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) daily

Studies show that people who eat too much added sugar (extra sweet stuff added in as opposed to that naturally present) face an increased risk for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease — not to mention unwanted belly flab — and those sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling haggard. “There’s a very different reaction in the body when foods with naturally occurring sugar are consumed like fruit and dairy as compared to foods such as cookies that are heavily processed with added sugar,” Sumbal says.

Chances are you’re overloading on sugar without even knowing it; various sugar aliases are pumped into nearly everything, from ketchup to salad dressing to almond butter. And so-called “natural sugars” such as added honey and coconut sugar do not get a free pass: They too count toward your daily added sugar allotment.

Thankfully, a new nutrition label calls out the grams of added sugar, making it way easier to keep tabs on your intake of the sweet stuff. Limit your intake to less than 6 to 12 teaspoons (24 to 48 grams) per day. Swap out products that list higher amounts of added sugar like flavored yogurt and granola with low- to no-sugar-added alternatives, such as plain yogurt and unsweetened muesli.

7. Beware of the Booze

Your Goal: Fewer than 3 drinks per week

The research against alcohol is bulletproof: A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that people who abstained from alcohol were more successful at dropping pounds during a four-year lifestyle intervention program. And a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that women who drink heavily when they’re younger have a higher risk of becoming overweight as they age. What’s more, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for dying earlier — especially from cancer — by about 20 percent because alcohol is broken down in the body into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.

“When you drink, the liver is forced to metabolize the alcohol instead of fat, which may increase fat accumulation around the midsection,” Sumbal says. She adds that people often overlook the calories in booze (and sweet mixers), which can really add up over the course of a week. Factor in the lowered inhibitions when you get your buzz on, which make you more likely to mindlessly munch, and you could be in deep doo-doo.

You don’t have to totally swear off cheering in the weekend with your gal pals, but be smarter about imbibing: Trim a drink or two from your weekly routine, pour yourself smaller servings, and order cocktails made with soda water and wedges of whole fruit.

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Honor National Nutrition Month by adding these macronutrients and micronutrients into your favorite dishes.

Are you getting tired of eating the same ol’ nutrient powerhouses every day? Could your favorite meals use a little nutrient boost? Are you searching for fresh ideas to help give your kitchen a spring-clean makeover? Then start by celebrating National Nutrition Month with Alexandra Catalano, a holistic nutritionist and creator of the popular lifestyle brand Eat Cute. She’s sharing five ingredients that might not be on your radar currently but pack an important punch when it comes to nutrition.

1. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is a beautiful, high-quality fat packed with a bevy of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, improving nutrient absorption, and nourishing your skin and hair,” Catalano says. “It’s high in monounsaturated oleic acid, which is why it is so perfect for helping reduce bad cholesterol.” Because it has a medium smoke point, which makes it ideal for using on lower-heat cooking or on uncooked foods — try using avocado oil in salad recipes instead of your go-to olive oil. When purchasing avocado oil, look for labels that state it’s organic, unrefined, cold-pressed and extra-virgin.

2. Hempseeds

Hempseeds or hemp hearts are the seeds of a hemp plant — their nutty flavor profile not only tastes delicious but also serves as a wonderful source of fiber, fat and protein. “Hempseeds are rich in fiber and can keep you feeling fuller longer and aid in digestive health,” says Catalano, noting that 1 ounce of hempseeds contains 9.2 grams of protein. “I love adding hemp seeds to my morning smoothies or enjoying hemp milk in my coffee or in baking.” She recommends buying organic and storing them in your fridge in an airtight jar or container because they are sensitive to heat and light. 

3. Spirulina

It’s no wonder spirulina is one of Catalano’s favorite superfoods — this blue-green algae contains protein and is packed with antioxidants. “Some major benefits include helping fight off candida because of its anti-microbial properties, boosting energy and pulling heavy metals out of the body,” she says. Try adding spirulina to smoothies or homemade protein bites, or simply add a small spoonful to water or juice. (The sweetness from the latter will help offset its earthy taste.) Choose brands that are organic and non-GMO, and Catalano recommend steering clear of spirulina coming from India and China because of their higher amounts of heavy metals. Store open containers in the fridge, and consume within a few months of opening.

4. Jackfruit

Not familiar with jackfruit? You may have seen it at the grocery store and wondered what the heck it was — it’s one of the largest fruits in the world, reaching up to 100 pounds. “Jackfruit is becoming incredibly popular as a meat substitute, is packed with antioxidants and is rich in magnesium,” says Catalano, describing the highly versatile fruit as having a banana-like flavor with a meat-like texture. “Jackfruit is also wonderful for improving digestion because its seeds are rich in fiber.” If you choose canned jackfruit over fresh, avoid products that contain additives like sugar, soy or chemicals. What makes jackfruit ideal for cooking is its ability to take on whatever flavoring you season it with — Catalano likes jackfruit grilled with sugar-free barbecue sauce and veggies, but you also can use it in soups, baked goods, chips and jams.

5. Camu Camu

Found in the rainforests of the Amazon in Peru and Brazil, camu camu is made from the berries grown on this shrub. “It’s the perfect superfood to enjoy year-round because of its incredible vitamin C content,” Catalano says. “This powerful berry is also rich in manganese and carotenoids that help fight off disease, and it’s wonderful for boosting the immune system and helping block free radicals.” You can find camu camu in powder form at your local health food store, and simply add it to beverages. Since its taste is very tart, it also pairs well with desserts, such as homemade coconut ice cream. Look for camu camu that is organic, non-GMO and is free of synthetic additives like soy, corn and chemicals.

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Your eating style and workout routine may be supporting your sweet tooth.

There’s more to food — and your relationship with food — than calories and macros. From my perspective as a health coach, traditional nutrient facts are only the tip of the “food iceberg.”

Have you heard of the concept “the polarity of food,” coined by professional chef and author Annemarie Colbin? It’s pretty straightforward. The premise: Everything has two extremes — or two “polarities.”

For example, hot and cold are extremes of the pole temperature, whereas loud and quiet are the extremes of the pole noise. In its essence, when you find one thing, you’ll also find the potential for its opposite.

So how does this apply to what we eat?

Food is more than just fuel. It has energetic qualities that go beyond the science and mechanics of calories, fat grams and other nutrient values.

Have you noticed how some foods naturally leave you feeling lifted and light, while others leave you tense or weighed down? Imagine how you feel when you eat a sugar-loaded treat (wired, antsy, “high”?) versus a savory comfort food (cozy, groggy, tired?).

This is an example of the polarity of food.

Everything in life — including food — can be viewed as expansive or contractive. I’m not saying you’re literally expanding or contracting, but this concept can change how you use and create energy.

So what does this polarity spectrum look like, and how might it contribute to your cravings?

Imagine a pendulum swinging left to right. On the far right are the “expansive” foods, and on the far left are the “contractive” foods. If the pendulum swings too far in either direction, the momentum will bring it back with equal force to the opposite side.

Examples of expansive foods are alcohol, caffeine and sugar. (You can find a more comprehensive list here.) The energy of these foods can make you feel relaxed and happy — blissful! But when you eat too many “bliss” foods, you may feel spacey, foggy or forgetful.

Examples of “contractive” foods are salt, eggs, red meat and other animal products. These foods can make you feel grounded and focused, but when you eat too many, you may feel tight, agitated and even angry.

How does this relate to sugar cravings?

Life is a balancing act. You navigate circumstances and confront obstacles that have an effect on you every day. So if life is full of opposites and your body is the pendulum always trying to find its center point, what do you think happens if you’re eating too many contractive foods?

What does your body crave in order to balance itself out? The opposite of contractive foods: sweet, expansive bliss foods!

The challenge lies in recognizing where and when you’re indulging in too many contractive foods, which may be contributing to your sugar cravings without you even realizing it. All the back and forth is signaling to your body that it needs something to re-center itself.

Let’s take it a step further and look at other daily activities through the lens of polarity.

Certain aspects of life are naturally contractive (which create more tension) or expansive (which encourage relaxation).

Examples of contractive activities are overexercising, overworking, partying and staying up late. When you partake in too many contractive activities, you will likely crave more expansive foods because you need relaxation and release.

When you don’t allow yourself to relax, you may find yourself bingeing on wine, chocolate and bread — rather than giving your body a break with sleep, reading, meditation, walking or a hot bath.

If you’ve been hitting it hard in the gym, constantly trying to increase your PR, or being strict with your meal planning, what do you crave? Sweets, bread, a martini? Expansive foods. Your body is craving a readjustment to find its center.

When I’m working with clients to deconstruct their cravings, we look at the foods they’re eating and their lifestyle. This constant swinging back and forth is taxing on the body and will lead to burnout. Your body wants to exist in the center, swinging gently over a short distance.

In my practice, I’ve noticed this cycle is habitual and can leave people thinking there’s something wrong with them for not having the willpower to create lasting change. Developing a lifestyle that works for you isn’t about willpower. It’s about shifting habits and growing into the best version of yourself.

What if you were able to break your bad habits, understand what’s really going on and then make better choices?

This isn’t about worrying about what foods are right or wrong or giving up all sweets. It’s about learning what needs in your life aren’t being met and understanding what’s going on with you on a deeper level so you can change your behavior long term.

If you would like to uncover which of your needs is not being met, learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner here and sign up for a free 45-minute one-on-one coaching session.

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Use these detoxing recipes to get your nutrition, your metabolism and your gut health back on track.

Post-holiday there is a lot of collateral damage — and we’re not just talking about your waistline. Your whole digestive system has been working overtime and is as tired and toxic as the rest of you feels. When your GI tract is fatigued, you may not be properly absorbing and using the nutrients from your food, which negatively impacts both your energy and your metabolism.

This two-week meal plan will ease you back into your healthy habits without suffering the withdrawal symptoms of an overindulged holiday season. The recipes are simple, balanced and flavorful, and they are created with real, non-processed whole foods. Use this plan for the prescribed two weeks, or repeat it as many times as you need to give your metabolism — and your year — a much-needed kick-start.

Asian Meatballs With Cauliflower Rice

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes

Cauliflower rice is a great substitution for regular rice, reducing your total carb intake and adding plenty of fiber and water for healthy digestion. The ginger helps calm the gut, and the coconut aminos are a great alternative to soy sauce, which can irritate your insides.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 90% lean ground pork
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut amino acids, plus more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 green onions, chopped and divided
  • 1 head cauliflower, grated
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds 
  • splash coconut oil
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine pork, sesame oil, amino acids, garlic, ginger, ½ the green onions, and salt and pepper (to taste). Roll into 1 ½-inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. Saute cauliflower rice in coconut oil. Divide cauliflower rice between bowls and season with dash of amino acids. Top with meatballs, sesame seeds and remaining green onions.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 3 meatballs): calories 375, fat 26 g, carbs, 12 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 4 g, protein 25 g, sodium 192 mg

Shrimp Asparagus Pesto Pasta

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Pesto is made primarily of basil, and according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, basil contains several important enzymes and antioxidants that assist the liver with detoxification. Asparagus also contains a bounty of folate, which according to the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences is necessary for optimal gut health.

Ingredients

  • 4½ cups asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/8 lb raw shrimp, shell on
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1½ lemons, sliced into rounds
  • 6 oz chickpea pasta
  • 3 tbsp pesto

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread asparagus and shrimp on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt (to taste) and top with lemon rounds. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and fully cooked. Meanwhile, cook chickpea pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine. When shrimp are slightly cooled, remove shells, then add shrimp and asparagus to pasta and stir to combine. Enjoy cold or reheated.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 589, fat 24 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 12 g, sugar 10 g, protein 61 g, sodium 495 mg

Kale and White Bean Caesar Salad

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 25 Minutes

Though they are lauded for other reasons, hemp plants also produce seeds, which are chock-full of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which assist your liver in its detoxing efforts. Hempseeds are also a source of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids to help you build that fat-burning lean muscle you want.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices organic bacon, cooked and chopped 
  • ¼ cup hempseeds
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 6 cups kale leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups white navy beans
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions

Place hempseeds, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor cup and process until smooth, adding more water to thin, if needed. Place kale in a large bowl and pour hempseed dressing over top. Massage dressing into kale for 3 to 4 minutes, or until kale starts to soften. Add bacon and white beans and toss. Season with sea salt and pepper (to taste).

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 382, fat 12 g, carbs 46 g, fiber 18 g, sugar 1 g, protein 23 g, sodium 352 mg

Coconut Matcha Smoothie

Coconut Matcha Smoothie

Makes 1 Serving
Takes 5 Minutes

Smoothies are a quick way to get in your nutrients without a lot of volume, giving you a break from intense digestion. Matcha is potent green tea leaf powder: One serving is equivalent to 10 cups of regular green tea!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated 
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 tbsp hempseeds
  • 1 tsp matcha powder 
  • ¼ cup vanilla protein powder

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender cup and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Facts: calories 416, fat 22 g, carbs 33 g, fiber 6 g, sugar 16 g, protein 26 g, sodium 204 mg

Trail Mix

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 5 Minutes

This high-powered snack is perfect for on-the-go energy.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup almonds
  • ¾ cup walnuts
  • 6 tbsp raisins
  • 6 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 617, fat 50 g, carbs 30 g, fiber 9.5 g, sugar 17 g, protein 31 g, sodium 11.4 mg

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and according to a study published in Planta Medica, black pepper can help your body better absorb curcumin by up to 2,000 percent! Parsley is also reputed to detoxify the system of heavy metals.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 16 oz skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced 
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped and divided
  • 2 tbsp raw honey
  • 1/3 cup organic raisins, no sugar added black pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken, onions, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, salt and pepper (to taste). Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes, ¼ cup parsley, honey and raisins. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Divide into bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 406, fat 17 g, carbs 29 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 22 g, protein 37 g, sodium 694 mg

Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice

Coconut Cod and Spinach With Rice

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 15 Minutes

Coconut milk contains medium-chain triglycerides, which are digested immediately and used as energy rather than sitting in your gut. Research suggests that MCT oil can help reduce overall calorie consumption, leading to gradual weight loss over time.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup jasmine rice
  • 1½ cups full-fat organic coconut milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1½ tbsp tamari
  • 1½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 (4-6 oz) cod fillets 
  • 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, then add coconut milk, water, tamari, vinegar, bay leaves and salt. Stir to combine. Add cod fillets and simmer about 8 minutes, or until fillets are white and flake easily with a fork. Stir in spinach and remove from heat; stir until spinach has wilted. Serve with rice.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 574, fat 23 g, carbs 43 g, fiber 2 g, sugar 2 g, protein 47 g, sodium 831 mg

Salmon Chowder

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 40 Minutes

When you consume acidic foods such as dairy, grains and processed sugar, your body has to work overtime to maintain a neutral pH. Eating more alkaline foods such as fennel helps balance your pH and reduce stomach acid.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 2 cups celery root
  • 2 cups rutabaga, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups organic chicken broth, plus an additional splash
  • 4 (4 oz) salmon fillets
  • 1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk 
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

Directions

In a large soup pot, melt coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add fennel, celery root and rutabaga. Cover and cook 15 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook another 10 minutes, then use an immersion blender until soup achieves a semi-chunky finish. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, add a splash of chicken broth to a saucepan and place salmon skin-side down. Bring to a simmer and poach 5 to 10 minutes. Remove fish from pan, remove skin and discard. Cut flesh into chunks and add to soup. Increase heat to medium and add coconut milk. Cook until heated through. Garnish with parsley when serving.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 414, fat 25 g, carbs 20 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 8 g, protein 27 g, sodium 793 mg

Cranberry Protein Cookies

Makes 8 Servings
Takes 20 Minutes

Cinnamon is one of the most delicious and healthful spices around, helping reduce inflammation and acting as an anti-bacterial agent. In addition, 1 teaspoonful contains 22 percent of your daily value of manganese, which according to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, helps you metabolize fats and carbohydrates and regulate your blood sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ¼ cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, combine mashed banana and protein powder and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and combine until a dough forms. Roll dough into 8 balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten lightly with a fork. Bake 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 1 cookie): calories 266, fat 18 g, carbs 19 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 6 g, protein 10 g, sodium 8 mg

Pear Spice Overnight Oats

Makes 4 Servings
Takes 8+ Hours

Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that tastes like thin, tangy yogurt, but it contains a more potent and diverse range of probiotics. Overconsumption of sugar, alcohol and processed foods can kill off a lot of the good bacteria in your gut, allowing the bad bugs to take over and increase inflammation. The probiotics in kefir help replace those lost microbes and restore balance in your system.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain kefir
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 pears, sliced 
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¾ cup vanilla protein powder

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except pears and tahini. Stir until well-blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, top with tahini and pears.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 474, fat 14 g, carbs 61 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 22 g, protein 29 g, sodium 135 mg

Rainbow Chopped Salad Jars

Makes 3 Servings
Takes 30 Minutes

Tahini — aka sesame-seed paste — is a great source of magnesium, which is needed for energy production in the body. And purple cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, which is necessary for both a healthy immune system and a healthy gut.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cups purple cabbage, chopped

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice and sea salt, adding water as needed to attain a creamy consistency. Divide dressing equally between 3 large Mason jars. Layer in chickpeas, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. When ready to eat, dump salad into a bowl and toss.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 496, fat 18 g, carbs 69 g, fiber 19 g, sugar 16 g, protein 22 g, sodium 493 mg

HYDRATION RECOMMENDATIONS

“I always say to start with drinking half your bodyweight in ounces per day as a minimum,” Uherek says. “However, if you’re sweating more because of workouts, add in about 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise. Add in a clean electrolyte option, like Nuun tablets to replenish electrolytes — clean brand meaning no added artificial sugars and food colorings.”

Craving a sweet treat?

Try these low-sugar suggestions from Alexa Uherek.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Combine 8 oz unsweetened almond milk + 1 tbsp 100% cacao powder + 1 tbsp maple syrup. Heat contents on low-medium in a pot on stove. To reduce sugar, use 1 tsp instead of a tbsp.

Nutrition Facts: calories 116, fat 5 g, carbs 17 g, fiber 3 g, sugar 12 g, protein 2 g,
sodium 164 mg

The Quick Fix

Gather ½ cup organic raspberries + 1 tbsp dark chocolate chips: Stuff one chip in each raspberry and enjoy.

Nutrition Facts: calories 122, fat 5 g, carbs 15 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 10 g, protein 2 g, sodium 1 mg

Additional snack options

¼ cup hummus + 1 cup baby carrots = calories 191 fat 11 g carbs 20 g fiber 6 g sugar 6 g protein 5 g sodium 360 mg

1 slice organic sprouted bread (toasted) + 1 tbsp raw nut butter = calories 205 fat 20 g  carbs 23 g fiber 4 g sugar 5 g protein 9 g sodium 160 mg

2 celery stalks + 2 tbsp nut butter + 3 tbsp goji berries = calories 267 fat 18 g carbs 21 g
fiber 7 g sugar 10 g protein 10 g sodium 116 mg

1 serving protein powder + 8 oz unsweetened cashew or almond milk = (macronutrients depend on protein powder)

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Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.

The fitness crowd tends to throw shade at the idea of skipping meals and snacks to slim down, believing this will eat away at your hard-earned muscle, grind your metabolism to a halt and spur diet-derailing hunger pangs. These days, however, the idea of occasionally shuttering your kitchen is the guiding principle of an increasingly popular — and increasingly researched — dieting approach with a lot of weight-loss buzz: intermittent fasting.

Believe it or not, fasting wasn’t invented by Instagram hashtags — in fact, people have been fasting for thousands of years: Our ancestors did it (usually because they didn’t have a constant supply of food stashed in the fridge), and a number of religious events such as Ramadan revolve around some form of dietary fast.

As the name implies, intermittent fasting (IF) is a system during which you alternate between periods of restricted calorie intake and periods of normal eating. To be clear, IF does not restrict the kinds of foods you can eat — as do diets like Paleo or keto — just how much you can eat on certain days of the week. Many swear by IF because it’s easy to implement, requires nothing draconian like a horrible juice cleanse, and it has been proved to be one of the speediest and sustainable ways to torch fat stores and promote a lean physique.

Research says fasting has been a favorite research topic as of late, and a number of studies have found intermittent energy restriction — in which people ate fewer than 800 calories at least once per week — to be a valid weight-loss strategy, at least in the short term. In one study, weight loss was similar among participants following either a heart-healthy diet or a high-protein, reduced-calorie IF regimen for three months. However, the IF diet won out for minimizing weight regain after one year. Another investigation showed that IF was just as good at stripping body fat as simple calorie cutting. However, IF did a better job at preserving lean body mass.

As to how exactly IF helps sculpt your physique, theories abound: Some propose that IF flips a metabolic switch that encourages your body to burn more fat. Others state that since IF restricts your window of eating, you’re likely to eat fewer calories during the course of a week, helping trim the waistline with less risk of losing muscle. Even more studies propose that IF might help people get in touch with their true feelings of satiety and fullness on food-restricted days, which can put the brakes on overeating during times of normal food intake.

On another front, IF may have other positive effects on your body, such as reducing memory loss, improving cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity. And contrary to logic, IF could actually help — not hurt — your physical performance at the gym: A 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes who participated in an every-other-day fasting protocol (eating 33 percent of their normal calorie intake on fasting days) for six weeks became more energy-efficient during exercise, reported less fatigue and experienced reduced body-fat levels. Researchers theorize that occasional energy restriction might spur changes in hormones and mitochondrial function, helping you get more out of your workouts.

Fit Girl Fasting

Want to give intermittent fasting a whirl? Try this 5:2 eating plan: You eat normally for five days and reduce your calorie intake to about 25 percent of normal for two days. Drink all the calorie-free liquids you want on both days to stay hydrated and healthy, and focus on whole, nutrient-rich foods for all seven days.

Feast Days

5 Days a Week

Breakfast
½ cup rolled oats (cooked) + 1/3 cup low-fat milk + 1 scoop protein powder (Top with 2 tbsp chopped nuts + ½ cup blueberries.)

Snack
2/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + ½ cup berries

Lunch
4 oz cooked salmon + 1 cup cooked quinoa + 2 cups mixed greens + drizzle of olive oil vinaigrette

Snack
1/3 cup hummus + ½ cup sliced red bell peppers

Post-Training Shake
1 cup milk + 1 scoop protein powder + ½ frozen chopped banana

Dinner
4 oz pan-seared boneless pork loin chop + 2 cups roasted baby potatoes + 1 cup steamed asparagus + 1 tsp olive oil

Nutrition Facts (per day): 1,953 calories, fat 93 g, protein 146 g, carbs 201 g

Fast Days

2 Days a Week

Midmorning Snack
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup chopped pineapple + 2 tbsp unsalted roasted sunflower seeds

Afternoon Snack
½ cup baby carrots + 1 string cheese + 1 oz almonds

Evening Snack
1 oz jerky

Nutrition Facts (per day): 586 calories, fat 36 g, protein 39 g, carbs 34 g

Fasting Cheat Sheet

Want to try intermittent fasting? Here are a few things to note before diving in.

High, low and start slow

There are different ways to put IF into practice, and since the jury is out as to which style yields the biggest benefits, choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.

The most common method of IF is 16:8. Here, you eat during an eight-hour window, say between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and fast the remaining 16 hours in that day. There is also the eat-stop-eat method during which you do a 24-hour fast twice a week and eat normally five days a week, and the 5:2 method during which you eat normally for five days, then reduce your food intake to about 25 percent of normal (which usually totals about 500 to 700 calories) on two nonconsecutive days per week.

If you’re new to IF and aren’t sure you can hang, ease into it so you have a better chance of sticking with it long term: A JAMA Internal Medicine study found that while people on an alternate-day fasting regimen (25 percent of energy needs on fasting days) experienced weight- loss benefits, about a third of the participants failed to make it to the end. To increase your chances of follow-through, consider the 12:12 method: Here, you fast for 12 hours per day and eat within a 12-hour window — which probably isn’t that far off from how you’re eating now. This method also could increase your chances for fat loss: A 2018 British investigation found that people who simply delayed their breakfast by 90 minutes and ate their dinner 90 minutes earlier than normal — with no imposed restrictions on what they could eat — lost twice as much body fat over a 10-week period than those who ate their meals at their normal times. Experts theorize this is owed to a decrease in both appetite and overall calorie intake.

Food for thought

If you choose a routine such as the 5:2 method during which on fasting days you simply eat less, don’t waste an entire day of calories on a couple of slices of gooey pizza. Make those calories count, and focus on nutrient-dense, satiating foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits and fish — items that deliver plenty of nutrients relative to the number of calories they contain.

Also, beware of the feeding-day binge: Since IF doesn’t dictate the types of foods you should eat, you might be tempted to reward yourself with less-than-healthful foods during normal eating periods. But IF only works for fat loss if you focus on nutrition, not just calories, so on non-fasting days, fall back into a normal diet full of whole, clean foods, and stick to your regular eating schedule of several meals and snacks per day.

Drink up

Dehydration can exacerbate hunger and leave you in a candy-worshipping hangry rage. Keep plenty of calorie-free liquids like water and tea nearby when fasting to promote satiety and replace some of the liquid you’re missing by cutting out much of your food. Not sure you’re getting enough H2O? Keep track of your urine color: The darker the color, the more water you need. As for caffeine — don’t worry about it. Recent research proved that it does not dehydrate people as much as it was once thought, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker.

Train to gain

The days you train and the days you feed or fast should align properly. If your goal is to nail a personal-record 1-mile run or improve on your strength with heavier lifts, train during non-fasting periods when you have more available energy. If your goal is fat loss, exercise on a fasting day to create a metabolic environment that favors fat burning as your carbohydrate stores become depleted. That being said, however, if you feel exhausted and lightheaded when exercising on a fasting day, either call it quits or eat some food. Your workout will be half-assed, and you’ll increase your risk of injury.

Pop a pill

On fasting days, consider taking a multivitamin to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy: A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that women following a weight-loss diet reported less hunger when supplementing with a multivitamin. Make sure your multi also includes the B vitamins that help turn food into energy and control appetite. To reduce muscle breakdown, think about branched-chain amino acids or including a protein powder supplement to your regimen, if it works into your fasted calorie allotment.

It may not work

Like many diets, the success of IF will vary from person to person. Some may rave about their success with fat loss and their clearer mind, while others may experience nothing but prolonged fatigue and irresistible cravings.

It often takes a couple of weeks for your body to adjust to IF, and side effects of fasting like raging hunger, brain fog, grumpiness or low energy will likely subside with time. If you’re still miserable after three weeks, IF is probably not right for you.

WARNING: Certain medical conditions can be worsened by fasting. Consult with your doctor if you’re diabetic, have low blood pressure, take medications, are underweight, are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding before beginning any sort of intermittent fasting. 

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Health and lifestyle coach Rebecca Pfanner breaks down why you’re scared of your appetite and offers steps you can take to permanently change your mindset.

Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it.

So many of us women fear our appetite. We’re scared to eat that brownie, macaroni or cake because “it’s going to make us fat.” When we give in, we tell our friends, “I was so bad today. I ate a brownie!” We’ve come to believe this is the most horrible thing a woman can do!

This is not true. This is the story we tell ourselves because we’ve been programmed to believe feeding our appetite is wrong.

Our appetite is what keeps us alive. Without it, we wouldn’t know when to eat. We would starve and die! So why have we turned this survival mechanism into something that makes us feel guilt, shame and disgust?

Look at Eve! She wanted that apple so badly. She had an appetite for it, craved it, desired it. So she took a bite. She fulfilled her appetite but was then shamed, kicked from the garden and made a disgrace. Eve’s story may have been the start of female shame and guilt when it comes to feeding the appetite.

Many of us continue to fight our appetite with every fiber of our beings. We don’t want to be kicked from our garden, so we hang onto the fear: “If I let myself experience my full appetite, there will be no end to what I devour.”

We’re making the very thing that gives us life, our appetite, a cause for emotional turmoil.

We’ve become so used to shaming our appetite as a “guilty pleasure” that we truly believe we’re wrong for wanting to appease it. When we do, we fall into an endless pit of desire that won’t stop.

When you desire something, do you feel guilty for thinking about what you want? What about shame for getting what you want because you didn’t “earn” it? Or guilt and shame for being “bad” — like eating that brownie or saying no to a request of our time?

Society often enforces these concepts. If you love sex, you’re a whore. If you love food, you’re a glutton and you’ll get fat when you should be skinny. If you love money, you’re greedy.

Many of us say we want “freedom” when it comes to food and body image, but when we deny or invalidate our natural appetite, we’re creating our own jail cell that keeps us trapped in our current way of being.

Here’s a secret: As our own jailers, we hold the key. We get to decide whether we consider our appetite good or bad.

Our appetite and desires lead us to our truth. So how can we allow for our true selves to step forward if we’re always shying away?

If we continue to fear what we want, we prevent ourselves from fully experiencing life. Some of us believe that if we connect with our sexuality, we’ll want to sleep with everyone we see. If we let ourselves make great money, we’ll become greedy, self-centric women.

What if the opposite were true? Your body doesn’t want to overindulge. It knows when to stop. The challenge lies in listening to its wisdom and separating your thoughts and emotions from your body’s intuition.

Instead of feeding the fear of your own appetite, let’s get curious and embrace it. In my work, my goal is to help you feel empowered to take charge of your feelings, thoughts and decisions.

Here’s how:

Be in Charge Instead of in Control 

We’ve gotten so used to focusing on maintaining our willpower, avoiding “bad” foods, counting calories and logging exercise. These restrictive behaviors lead to the guilt and shame associated with feeding our appetite because they’re so easily sabotaged and lead to feeling out of control.

Being in charge of your appetite keeps you focused on your intention of doing what you love without experiencing the guilt because you make intentional choices that leave you feeling empowered.

Know You Are Capable 

You’ve always had the power to make your decisions without all the rules and restrictions. Never allowing yourself sweetness feeds feelings of guilt and shame when you do indulge. Instead of following a plan desperately and strictly, listen to your body. 

Give Yourself Grace

Acknowledging your appetite can be hard since you may have spent a lifetime hushing it. Giving up the idea that your appetite and desires are bad may sound scary, even impossible. Allow yourself the room to have setbacks and experience doubt and frustration.

Learning how to give up restrictions will change your relationship with your appetite and what was once so scary — cookies, money, sex — will lose its power over you.

Instead of starting another diet this new year, let’s begin to lay the foundation for a new life where you embrace your appetite and desires — a life you’re excited to live, a life where you say yes to yourself.

What if embracing your appetite left you happy beyond measure?

What if it never needed to be so damn hard?

To learn more about working with Rebecca Pfanner, visit her website ModavateCoaching.com.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the set point weight theory and what it means for your fitness goals.

According to conventional weight-loss wisdom, dropping a few pounds is a matter of basic math: Burn more calories than you consume and watch the numbers on the scale plummet. But anyone who’s dealt with a stubborn plateau or struggled to maintain a loss knows that in practice, the equation isn’t that simple.

“The old ‘calories in, calories out’ idea is really only a very small piece of the puzzle,” says Lauren Antonucci, RD, CSSD, CDE, CDN, a board-certified sports nutritionist and director of Nutrition Energy in New York City. In addition to diet and exercise, a combination of factors works to regulate your body’s weight, keeping it at a number that’s biologically ideal, according to your genetics, your physiology and your environment. This phenomenon is known as the set point weight theory.

Set Point Weight Theory, Defined

Antonucci describes set point weight as the weight you would be if you weren’t concerned with how you looked in a bikini. “Let’s say you just walked around eating when you were hungry, stopping when you were full,” she says. “If you were eating mostly real foods, there’s a place where you would land, and not everyone lands in the same spot.”

While set point is still technically a theory that has yet to be scientifically proven, most experts agree that a person’s standard weight is determined by a combination of genetics, physiology and environment. Your environment includes what most weight-loss plans address: diet, exercise, lifestyle and level of daily activity. Physiology encompasses all bodily functions, including your metabolism, hormones and the genetic tendency of women to carry more body fat than men. And your genetics, as they relate to your set point, can be most easily understood by looking at your ancestors’ day-to-day lives — were their winters long and the food scarce? Then those with a high capacity for fat storage were most likely to survive and pass along their genes to you.

How Set Is Your Set Point?

While your genes are what they are, your body’s physiology can shift — or be shifted. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause can all cause a change — typically a gain — in weight. Some medications also can create long-lasting increases in the body’s fat supply. “That’s one that people in the United States tend to be more prone to because sometimes we’re giving medications such as antidepressants and people are on them for decades,” explains Holly Lofton, M.D., director of the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “[Those medications] can make our fat cells more stable, an environmental change that can lead to a physiological change. That can change one’s set point.”

Bariatric surgery, which removes part of the stomach or creates a bypass, also alters the body’s hormonal environment by removing the receptors that create hunger hormones. As a result, people who undergo this procedure typically see dramatic weight loss in the first two years. It’s fair to say that they experience a change in set point, but without consistent monitoring and maintenance, this new setting may not stick. “The body sees weight loss as an illness, so it will create hunger hormones from other pathways,” Lofton says. Over time, the weight may return.

If it seems like your set point is more likely to go up than down, that’s because it is. Of course, it is possible to lose weight through diet and exercise, but environmental changes are just one consideration. “It’s much easier to increase a set point than it is to decrease it,” Lofton says. “The body just doesn’t like to lose weight, it likes to gain weight.”

Metabolism Versus Set Point

But what if you “boost” your metabolism? Can that lower your set point?

It’s not uncommon to hear set point and metabolism used interchangeably, but they are two distinct concepts. While set point refers to your body’s standardized weight, your metabolism is the amount of energy you must expend to maintain that weight, and it can be broken down into a few categories:

Basal metabolic rate (BMR), or resting metabolic rate (RMR), is the amount of energy the body requires to support its basic functions — things like thought, heartbeat and breathing.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) goes beyond the basic functions to include all non-planned exertional activities, such as walking to your car, going to the bathroom and cleaning your house.

Activity expenditure encompasses planned exercise, like a high-intensity interval training class or a run in the park.

Lofton explains that when we lose physical weight, our BMR also decreases. “In order to maintain that lower weight, we have to make up that change in metabolism by doing something, usually increasing our physical activity expenditure,” she says. In other words, you can increase your metabolism to maintain a new weight, but you’re not necessarily changing your body’s set point. “If we bring the activity back down, then the body will likely go back to the way it was,” she says.

Setting Goals and Managing Expectations

If it seems like your set point weight is at odds with your goal weight, don’t throw in the towel just yet. “It is not impossible to lose weight and keep it off,” says Natalie Digate Muth, M.D., a dual board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician and registered dietitian based in Carlsbad, California. “But it’s probably not due to a change in set point but rather a continued and conscientious effort to increase energy expenditure through significant amounts of moderate to vigorous exercise and consumption of healthful, portion-controlled foods.”

To make a lasting change, start by upping your level of physical activity. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, Lofton says that able, active people should aim for around 240 minutes of exercise performed at an exertional rate — in other words, a leisurely gallop on the elliptical won’t cut it: You should be huffing and puffing. And don’t ignore strength training, which can improve your overall physique and change your body composition for the better, even if it doesn’t necessarily change the number on the scale.

“If you increase your muscle mass and simultaneously decrease your fat mass, your body is more metabolically active,” Lofton explains. “So you’re burning calories more efficiently even though your weight has not changed. But you’re still at the same weight because you have gained muscle and lost the same amount of fat.”

Theoretically, then, if you gain muscle and lose fat, you might not lose physical weight, but your body might be satisfied since you’re still at your set point and keep you there.

If meal planning is a source of confusion, it may be worth your time to schedule an appointment with a dietitian who can test your RMR and provide you with a recommendation for daily caloric intake. Interestingly, Antonucci sees many weight-loss patients who are chronically under-eating. “They keep getting better and better at the diet game and somehow end up eating less than they need for weight loss,” she says. “Their body gets confused and their metabolic rate goes down and they’re no longer losing. The only answer is to eat up to their metabolic rate. Then their metabolism will go up, and then they will stay there because their metabolism has changed.”

And remember that weight is just one of many available corporeal metrics. Considering body-fat percentage, waist circumference, how your clothes fit or simply how you look and feel is likely to give you a more accurate reading of your level of fitness. “You would be hard-pressed to find a person coming out of my office who can tell you we set a weight-loss goal for any time frame,” Antonucci says. “We set very specific, food-oriented, habit-changing behavior and exercise goals that, over time, are probably going to lead to weight loss if it’s desirable and healthy for people.”

Up the Ante

Holly Lofton, M.D., suggests performing 240 minutes of intense exercise per week. Increase your time under tension with this 20-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), which can be used as a finisher or as a quick, stand-alone workout.

In 20 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of the following:

  • 5 walkouts to plank push-ups
  • 20 jumping floor-tap squats
  • 15 knee-ins
  • 20 mountain climbers
  • 5 long jumps
  • 10 burpees
  • 20 alternating jumping lunges 

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Choose the best preworkout and postworkout foods to eat around your specific fitness routine for optimal performance, recovery and results.

If you’re like most people, your actual workout time logs in at roughly an hour, but what happens during the other 23 hours of the day is what ultimately determines your results, especially when it comes to nutrition. What you eat before and after a workout is a crucial element in your programming, and choosing wisely will help you get the results you want.

But not all foods are appropriate for fueling your specific activity. For instance, you’d never eat fried chicken right before running a marathon — unless you want to revisit it shortly after mile one — and you’d never just eat a plain salad after a tough metcon, since lettuce alone will not give your body what it needs to recover and rebuild your tissues.

Here, we’ve uncovered the latest in sports science nutrition to divine the best foods and eating patterns to use around specific activities. This will help you determine how to gas up before training and top off your tank when you’re done. Use these as a guideline to fuel your machine and hit the road to Resultsville.

WEIGHT TRAINING

BEFORE

Power Up With Protein

Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that eating protein as part of your pre-lift nosh can help reduce muscle protein breakdown and encourage better gains afterward. But don’t pound a burger before hitting the squat rack (hello, gut bomb). Instead, have a light preworkout snack with some easy-to-digest protein and carbs about 30 minutes before training.

Eat This: Power Balls

Soak 1½ cups of dried Mission figs (stems trimmed) in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain, pat dry and process in a food processor with 1/3 cup of plain protein powder, ¼ cup of cocoa powder, ¼ cup of almond butter, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, zest of one orange, juice of ½ an orange and pinch of salt. Form mixture into 1-inch balls and keep chilled. Eat two balls before a workout.

AFTER

Get Cracking

In a head-to-head comparison, researchers from the University of Illinois found that providing people with 18 grams of protein from whole eggs after lifting weights was about 40 percent more effective at stimulating myofibrillar protein synthetic response (aka muscle building) than egg whites alone. The protein in egg whites is complete, meaning it contains the right mix of essential amino acids, but it’s likely that the fat and other nutrients found in the egg yolk work synergistically with the protein in the egg whites to help battle-worn muscles recover.

Eat This: High-Pro Egg on Toast 

Mash two hard-boiled eggs with 2 teaspoons of pesto and ¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt. Spread on a piece of toasted whole-grain bread.

Gotta Have Ricotta

Ricotta is a standout source of leucine, the most muscle-friendly amino you can eat after pumping iron. According to research, leucine behaves like a hormone in your body, sparking muscle protein synthesis in response to weight training. Eat a leucine source such as ricotta with an equal ratio of carbs to raise insulin levels and encourage more efficient protein assimilation.

Eat This: Bodybuilder Bowl

Stir together ½ cup of part-skim ricotta cheese and 1 scoop of whey protein powder in a bowl. Top with 1/3 cup of muesli and ½ cup of chopped pineapple.

INTERVAL TRAINING

BEFORE

Get the Blues

Researchers from Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that consuming blueberries before intense exercise reduced the markers of muscle damage. The high level of antioxidants in blueberries work to reduce the stress associated with vigorous exercise like high-intensity interval training, and their natural sugars provide a source of quick-digesting energy so you can work at a higher intensity for longer. Combine blueberries with some protein 30 to 60 minutes before interval training to prevent your body from tapping into your muscles for energy.

Eat This: Blueberry Rice Cakes

Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on a rice cake and top with 1/3 cup of blueberries and 1 teaspoon of unsalted, dry-roasted sunflower seeds.

AFTER

Cereal Killer

A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that subjects who consumed a bowl of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk after moderate interval exercise experienced better recovery: The carbs restored spent glycogen reserves, while the milk protein reduced muscle breakdown. As little as 9 grams (1 cup) of a postworkout milk-based protein is enough to kick-start the muscle-making process.

Eat This: Simply Cereal

Add 1 cup of a 100 percent whole-grain, low-sugar cereal to a bowl and top with 1 cup of low-fat milk and a small handful each of walnuts and dried tart cherries.

Joe to Go

Recent research found that adding caffeine to post-exercise carbs can improve performance in subsequent interval training sessions four hours later. It might be that a shot of caffeine increases how much glycogen is produced from the carbs consumed, allowing you to tap into more energy reserves to push harder. Add a little protein to repair the micro-tears in your muscle fibers and accelerate recovery while also quelling hunger.

Drink This: Coffee Cure

Blend 1 cup of brewed coffee, 1 scoop of plain or vanilla protein powder, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 chopped frozen banana.

CROSSFIT

BEFORE

Boost Blood Flow

Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that subjects who drank about 2 cups of watermelon juice an hour before working out had less muscle soreness 24 hours later. L-citrulline, a naturally occurring amino acid in watermelon, is thought to increase blood flow to muscles, flushing out metabolic wastes and delivering reparative nutrients.

Eat This: Watermelon Warm-Up

Scoop ¾ cup of plain low-fat Greek yogurt into a bowl and top with chopped watermelon, 1 tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of honey.

AFTER

Colds vs. Carbs

Including quality carbs in your CrossFit recovery plan not only replaces spent energy stores but also could keep the sniffles at bay. According to research, carb-rich foods like spuds, grains and fruit appear to prevent the drop in immunity that occurs in response to intense exercise, making it harder for viruses to invade your body and beat you down.

Eat This: Sweet Potato “Toast” Sandwich

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the ends off a sweet potato, then slice lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer, brush with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, flip, brush with more oil and roast another 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Spread hummus on potato “toast” and top with sliced roasted chicken.

Something’s Fishy

Studies show that higher intakes of omega-3 fatty acids such as are found in salmon, sardines and mackerel may translate into reduced delayed onset muscle soreness: When omega-3s enter muscle cells, they limit the exercise-induced damage that causes painful inflammation and may even turn on pathways in the body that increase lean body mass.

Eat This: Salmon Savior

Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on two rye crackers like Wasa and top with 3 ounces of sliced smoked salmon and ¼ cup of sliced roasted red peppers.

STEADY-STATE CARDIO

BEFORE

Soup’s On

In an International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism study, people who ate chicken noodle soup before cycling drank and retained more water during the ride than those who just downed H2O. Sodium and other aspects of the soup seem to bring about a change in kidney function that promotes better hydration, and the noodles will give you some necessary energizing carbs for endurance.

Eat This: Pregame Potage

Warm up a quality store-bought soup such as Pacific Organic Chicken Noodle about 30 to 60 minutes before cardio. If you need more carbohydrate calories, eat some whole-wheat crackers along with it.

AFTER

Cottage Industry

Beyond the benefits of restocking energy stores and healing muscles, British researchers showed that people who consumed protein and carbs in a 3-to-1 ratio after a treadmill run experienced less bone breakdown and increased bone formation. Cottage cheese has all the protein you need for speedy recovery, while add-ins like granola and fruit will please your carb-thirsty muscles.

Eat This: Bone-Bolstering Bowl

Blend together ¾ cup of low-fat cottage cheese, 2 teaspoons of
peanut butter, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 frozen chopped banana. Pour into a bowl and top with raspberries and granola.

Put a Cherry on Top

Pucker up: Several studies show that the antioxidants in tart cherries (particularly the American-grown Montmorency variety) can promote better recovery from exercise, including decreasing muscle inflammation due to repetitive motions such as running. And when consumed after endurance exercise, the simple carbs in dried fruit are more likely to be stored as glycogen than as fat.

Eat This: Power Wrap

Stir together 1/3 cup of ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon of almond butter, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Spread on a whole-grain wrap, and sprinkle with a handful of dried tart cherries.

YOGA

BEFORE

Mix It Up

If you hit the mat without eating, your body won’t have the pep needed to hold that Crane Pose. Trail mix provides a nice mix of carbs, protein and fat to keep your energy up and your stomach satisfied. Since trail mix tends to be low-glycemic, eating a handful or two will encourage your body to tap into fat stores to power your vinyasa.

Eat This: Ohm-M-G Mix

In a large bowl, toss together 4 cups of air-popped popcorn, 3 ounces of chopped jerky, ¾ cup of pecans, ½ cup of dried cranberries, ½ cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

AFTER

Hydration and Immunization

Though big on mobility and relaxation, most yoga sessions don’t burn a ton of calories, so post-ohm look for something light and refreshing such as cantaloupe, which is packed with water for rehydration and natural sugars for re-energizing. Eat it with yogurt to tame any post-Warrior I hunger and mend hurting muscles. Bonus: The probiotics found in yogurt may work to bolster immunity in those who like to regularly work up a sweat.

Eat This: Cantaloupe Recoup

Scoop the seeds from a cantaloupe half and fill with plain yogurt. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of pistachios and 1 tablespoon of sliced mint.

Go Green

The antioxidants and minerals in dark greens like spinach contribute to muscle recovery from more intense forms of yoga that require you to pump out one hard move after another.

Drink This: Green-Machine Smoothie

Blend 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, 1 cup of baby spinach and ½ cup of frozen mango cubes.

Helping Hands The sports-nutrition market is so replete with powders, bars and gels, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are some of our top picks to power your workouts.

Organic Valley Organic Fuel Whey Protein Powder

This whey protein sourced from organic milk is great for post-gym smoothies, flooding your body with recovery-boosting amino acids.

organicvalley.coop, $30 (12 oz)

HealthySkoop Endurance Beets

Mix this beet powder with water preworkout for a hefty dose of nitrites, which have been shown to increase blood flow to muscles, allowing them to operate more efficiently during training.

healthyskoop.com, $24 (7.7 oz)

GoMacro Thrive Ginger Lemon Bar

With a good balance of carbs, protein and fat, this bar is great for taking the edge off before a workout. Made from 100 percent plant-based ingredients.

gomacro.com, $26 (12 bars)

Munk Pack Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie

Combine your recovery fuel with dessert with this gluten-free cookie that contains 18 grams of non-GMO plant-based protein.

munkpack.com, $17 (pack of 6)

Made in Nature Figgy Pops Mocha Almond Pop a couple of these 100 percent organic, responsibly sourced, whole-food nutrition balls infused with ground espresso for a preworkout energy boost.

madeinnature.com, $5

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