Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Morning's Great Protein Shake Experiment

I decided to experiment with the Boring Ol' Protein Shake thing after this morning's training.  I don't do protein shakes all the time, but sometimes I do, and quite frankly, they suck.  So I decided to experiment.  It actually came out pretty well, so I thought I'd share it for those of you who are looking for new breakfast ideas.

VEGAN PUMPKIN PIE PROTEIN POWER SHAKE (makes two servings)

2 scoops vanilla vegan protein powder (I used Proventive Harmonized Vegan Protein)
2 servings (check package) of vegan creatine powder
1 can organic, unsweetened pumpkin
Unsweetened flax milk (my new nondairy milk love-- I just estimated what I'd need for two glasses of shake)
A heaping tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (full of all kinds of great spices that help lower blood sugar, raise antioxidant levels, help digestion, and more)
2 big tablespoons of raw cacao powder
2 packets of stevia, or to taste

Throw it all in the blender.  Drink with a spoon (it's thick!!)

Hope you like it!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2013

Well, it's that time again.  Every year, I make some goals to complete within the next year, and as New Year's is fast approaching, it's time I got that done.

Let's have a look at how my goals for 2012 went:

 -Press that darn 24kg.

DONE!  It was not the prettiest press, but it was a press nonetheless, and it was SO EXCITING!!!









-Deadlift 250lb minimum.

DONE!!  And just in the nick of time, too-- I hit this one just one week ago!







-20kg pullup.

DONE!  This video is not a 100% complete pullup, as I didn't get my throat quite to the bar, but I have done a full rep many times since this video was taken with a 20kg bell hanging on a belt.  It's not 100% consistent yet, but I hit it most of the time I try it.  I'm definitely better with a neutral grip on this one.  Unfortunately, I didn't get the full pullup on video yet.  I'll get on that.











-Finish and publish my cookbook and my other book!

I have been slacking horribly in this department, but I promise there is a good reason.  There is a big, big thing I will be unveiling coming up very soon.  It has been something I have been wanting to do for a very long time, but didn't have the right partnership to make it happen yet.  Now I do, and it's coming!!!  So stay tuned!!!  Getting the books done is going on my goals list for 2013.











-Easily bend the Iron Mind white nail (or better!)
-Scroll the 3/8" x 3/4" x 30" (or better!) bar
-Tear a stack of at least 25 high-quality playing cards in half
-Consistently tear at least 500 pages of phone book
-Roll a frying pan


All of the above, to be honest, I didn't train much this year (and I have not attempted the frying pan at all).  I was working hard on my other strength goals, which meant my strongman goals fell to the wayside for the time being.  Oddly enough, though, I hit another goal I had for several years in a row that I left off 2012's list this time around:  I hit my first unsupported handstand!!  


I had not been training it very hard (although I had been training it), but it just stuck!  Not for very long, but it stuck!  So it's something I'll keep working on.  I also hit some other pretty exciting hand balancing feats this year:










So that was all very exciting!


My goals for 2013:


-275lb DL minimum
-Make the 24kg press look better
-28kg press
-175lb back squat
-125lb bench press
-Enter first powerlifting competition
-Launch new surprise and accompanying media
-Get cookbook and other book completed

Also, not strength related per se, but next year is a Big Birthday Year for me, so I plan to do a Major Thing of Awesome that I've never done before every month of the year, and I am planning to take a big trip to Greece, Macedonia, and Turkey, too.  :) 

I am also making a firm vow to get more sleep every night.  I have not slept enough for quite a while, and it is really catching up with me.  As much as I preach the importance of getting enough sleep, I need to follow my own advice and make that happen in my own life.  So I will be setting a firm bedtime, and I will also be trying to take a bit more time in my week to relax and spend time with loved ones (and just with myself, too) to get more balance in my life. 

So those are my plans for 2013.  What are yours?  Post 'em here! 

No matter what, let's make 2013 the best year yet (but not the best of those yet to come-- every year should be better than the last!).  I know 2013 will be full of beautiful things, and I am excited for it!

Happy new year to all of you!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Interview!

I had the honor of being interviewed by Frank DiMeo, of DiMeo's Underground Strength Tribe today, and here it is!!  


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Time for a rant.

I try not to rant much, and I try not to let some of the things I see and hear around me get to me much.  And I promise that I will get back to health and fitness posts after this.  But I feel the need to rant today.  This is turning out to be very similar to the rant I posted last time I ranted, but I feel like being redundant today.

You see, there's new fury running rampant because California had the gall to suggest "No Meat Mondays--" that the average American might possibly be doing a good thing for their health and for the environment by not eating meat for one day per week, which has, of course, has led to an onslaught of vegan-bashing. 

As a vegan member of the strength community, I get that I am in the absolute minority, and I get that my way of life is not for everyone.  I do not push my views on anyone else, just as I would not want others to push theirs on me.  But I am living proof that it is not only possible, but easy to be very healthy, very strong, and very lean without animal products. 

What is comical is that even with documented proof (blood tests, body fat measurements, and so on), people still try to find an explanation for my success-- maybe my heritage is full of vegetarians?  (Nope-- Romanians and Russians are not known for their vegetarianism)  Maybe I should have such and such test done to PROVE that there is SOMETHING wrong with me?  (Dude.  Really?)  Oh, and my favorite-- "Well, you're fine for now, but later on, your brain is going to deteriorate."  (Yeah, after 13 years as a strict vegan, I'm still fine.  And please show me the peer-reviewed, published, irrefutable scientific proof that vegans have brain rot after a certain age.  If it's science you want, I can [and have done in previous blog posts, actually] pull up many peer-reviewed, published scientific articles that demonstrate that people following vegetarian diets tend to be healthier, have less disease, and live longer, higher-quality lives than those who do not).


I do not understand why my food choices, which are all 100% moral choices, make other people so incensed.  I am an animal lover and a lover of life, and I care deeply for the environment.  I do not wish to contribute to the death of any living creature inasmuch as I am able to avoid it.  The manner in which most meat is raised is absolutely detrimental to the planet.  So for me, it's a no-brainer.  When it comes down to it, my food choices are my business.  I am hurting no one (and saving many animal lives) by being vegan, and I am clearly benefiting myself, whether or not others can handle that fact. 

In any case, Meatless Mondays is not a law-- you are not going to be arrested if you don't follow it.  But if you do try it, I guarantee that meatless Mondays isn't going to turn anyone into a weak, sick, Twizzler-munching hippie.  It might give some people a newfound love for vegetables they'd never tried before.  It might help some people realize they don't need fast food every day to survive.  And it might just save the lives of a few animals, and maybe give the planet a little bit of the love it deserves.  But it most certainly does not deserve the fire and brimstone rage that it seems to incite.

Calm down, people.  You can have your two pounds of bacon on Tuesday.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Melody's Mantras

I have not written for a while.  Shame on me!  The good news is, I've been very busy getting some things in place that you should hear about in the not-too-distant future, so stay tuned.  :)

Recently, my friend Bret Contreras (you know, the Glute Guy) posted this gem on his blog.  I liked it.  I liked it so much that I was inspired by it, and I would like to add a few little rules of my own.  I have learned maybe one or two things in my lifetime, and these are the things that get me through every day.  I know this isn't my usual health and fitness spiel, but honestly, I think all of this stuff fits right in there perfectly.  When it comes down to it, we're all trying to get better in some way, shape, or form.  So thank you, Bret, for inspiring me to write this one!

1)  Never settle.  For anything.  One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing someone complain about some aspect of his/her life constantly and never doing one thing to improve upon it.  Excuses are easy.  Change is hard.  But making your own happiness is worth every bit of effort.  If you're unhappy with your physique, figure out what is making you unhappy, and take healthy (HEALTHY being the key word) steps to change it.  Are you under/overexercising?  Is your diet clean?  Are you eating enough, or too much?  Are you sleeping enough?  Are you being honest with yourself about your habits?

If you're unhappy in your relationship, think about this first-- are you happy with yourself?  It's impossible to truly be happy with anyone else if you don't love yourself.  This is the first place you need to look.  Learn to love yourself, and life becomes a lot easier.  Next: is the problem resolvable?  Is it worth fixing?  If it is, take the proper steps to make that happen, and realize that every relationship is a two-way street.  Both parties must be willing to put in the effort necessary to make things right.  If it is not worth fixing, I have always been strongly of the opinion that it is far better to be alone than in the wrong relationship.

If you're unhappy in your job, start looking for a career that makes you happy and take the steps necessary to make that path happen for you.  If you're going to spend 8+ hours doing something 5+ days per week, it had better be something that really makes you happy.  Some of the wisest words ever said to me were: "Figure out what you love doing.  Then figure out a way to make money doing it."

Whatever it is, if it matters, don't settle.  Life is too short.

2)  Never stop learning.  I get a lot of good-humored ribbing from my friends because I am constantly getting this certification or that degree or traveling to some country or buying some book or checking out some workshop or taking some class or seeking out some guru.  I find the world absolutely fascinating.  There is so much to discover, and so many ways you can grow and benefit from what these discoveries have to offer.  You might find a new talent, a new passion, a subject or person or creature that fascinates you.  You might change your opinions about things you never thought you would.  You might discover what you don't like, which is often just as valuable as knowing what you do.  Knowledge has nothing to do with degrees and paperwork.  It is passion, talent, and most importantly, the ability to apply what you know well and appropriately.  Anyone who thinks they have no need for further learning is not someone I have much interest in speaking to. 

3)  Keep a positive attitude.  I cannot stress this enough.  Just today, a client of mine who tends to think negative thoughts pressed a weight she'd never been able to press before with her weaker arm just by doing a positive thinking drill with me.  The mind is a supremely powerful device, and it can make you capable of things you never dreamed possible.  It can make you sick or make you well.  It can make you strong or make you weak.  It can help you realize your dreams, or keep you from ever leaving the house.  You are in charge of your destiny, and you deserve to have what you want out of life, whether it's your dream job, your dream guy/girl, or your triple bodyweight deadlift.  It's out there if you want it.  You just need to know you can do it, do the work necessary to get it, and grab it.  And be very proud of and grateful for your results.  :)   Besides, who wants to hang out with someone who is negative all the time?  Think about it.

4)  Take the time to do things beyond work that make you happy.   I am currently the lead singer in two bands-- an 80's/classic rock cover band and an Iron Maiden tribute band.  People look at me like I'm crazy, knowing my schedule.  But the fact of the matter is, this is my sanity and my biggest passion (besides health and fitness).  My basic needs are food, water, air, and performing music.  This is something I will never give up.  You'll see, when I'm 105 years old, up on stage, still belting out Van Halen.  :)  Make the time to do the things that put a smile on your face.  Your life will be far richer for it.

5)  Never regret.  I know this is hard to believe, but I've done some really dumb things  in my life.  I mean, really dumb.  I've made a lot of bad choices, and dealt with a lot of not-so-nice things.  But I have never regretted one thing I've ever done.  Life is a learning experience, and everything you've done in it has gotten you where you are now.  It's up to you to use those experiences, good and bad, to keep improving yourself.


I hope you guys have found this helpful somehow.  You can only get better.


Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's On Your Body vs. What's In Your Body

Ever heard of a transdermal medication?  Maybe you know them by a different name-- think nicotine patch, hormone patch, etc.

Your skin is your biggest organ, and yes, what you put on it can be absorbed into your bloodstream.  So when you wash your hair, brush your teeth, lotion up, put on cologne, and that sort of thing, you are potentially affecting your body's chemistry.  Phthalates (one of these chemicals) has also been found in plastic food containers, which can leach into your food and enter your system that way as well.  So what you put on your body (and what you store your food in) certainly deserves your attention.

No, not THAT kind of Poison!


One two-week long 2007 study did show that diethyl phthalate (DEP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and butyl paraben (BP) (common ingredients in hair and body products) are absorbed into the system, although no effects on reproductive or thyroid hormones had been found for that two-week period.   Another showed that some of these chemicals were excreted in the urine and that follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and inhibin B levels had been altered as a result, but that the results were unclear as to whether or not they represented an association with the chemical exposure.  A third study shows a potential relationship between the absorption of these chemicals in pregnant mothers and in the reproductive systems of the resulting children.  Yet another study shows a potential relationship between parabens and sperm DNA damage.  And a rather large Danish study performed in 2012 demonatrates that some testicular function may be compromised by phthalate absorption.  Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen, and while a confirmed direct link to cancer has yet to be determined, they have been found in breast cancer tissue. 


While further study is certainly merited, I believe a very good argument can (and should) be made that being very careful with the products you use is an excellent idea.  As with food, it's important to be as informed as possible about what you are putting on your body (and what you are putting your food into).  Read labels religiously, and look up the ingredients you're not familiar with.  Look for BPA-free food containers, or stick with glass. 

Now, I'm no girly-girl, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't love my lotions and potions and smellies.  So I thought I'd post the stuff I like to use (nasty ingredient-free!) so that you can see that there are options out there that not only don't put bad stuff in your system, but that give you really great hair and skin, and that make you smell awesome.  I don't get any kickbacks from any of these companies (or from any company at the moment, actually)-- these are simply products that I use and love.  So, without further ado, here's some products I love:

FACE WASH:  Lately, I've been using Passport to Organics' Turmeric Face Wash and really like it a lot.

FACE CREAM:  I vary between using straight tamanu oil (smells kind of grassy, but it's a great moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, and keeps lines and breakouts at bay), Reviva's TGF Beta-1 cream, and Passport to Organic's turmeric face creams

LOTION:  There are two companies I love for lotion.  One is the Body Bakery.  I admit, I have a penchant for smelling like baked goods, and their lotions are super-thick and make my skin extremely soft.  The only problem is, there's not a whole lot of lotion in the bottle, so it doesn't seem to last very long.  I wish they made larger sizes.   Some scents might be a bit too syrupy for many people, too; they have a huge menu to choose from, though!  They also make high-quality linen sprays, candles, lip balms, perfumes, laundry detergent, etc.   The lotion I've been using most often lately is The Raw Food World's Berry-Vanilla MSM lotion.  I absolutely LOVE it, and it comes in a big bottle, too!

HAND SOAP:  Triclosan, the ingredient in many antibacterial soaps, has been linked to impaired muscle function.   As a strength athlete and someone who likes her muscles working the way they should, thank you very much, I don't like that at all.  Also, all that antibacterial stuff has been causing all kinds of nasty super-resistant bacteria to emerge, and that's no good for anyone.  Castille soap works just fine (use it in the shower as a body wash, too!), and is very cheap.  I also like J.R. Watkins soaps a lot, and they smell nummy.  They also make lotions, housecleaners, and such.

HAIRCARE:  I recently discovered Broo's shampoos and conditioners, and I am totally hooked.  My hair is super-soft, and they smell really good but are not overpoweringly scented.

MAKEUP:  I don't wear makeup unless I'm forced to, so I can't really speak for this.  However, for those of you who use them, I found this list of eco-and-body-friendly cosmetics you might want to try. 

PERFUME:  Two of my clients own Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs.  While that definitely makes me biased, I am also genuinely addicted to their smellies.  "Vice" is my current favorite.   And they have a Fraggle Rock line.  What's not to love?

TOOTHPASTE:  I am prone to canker sores, and traditional toothpastes tend to exacerbate those for me.  Also, fluoride is quite toxic to the body (in very large amounts, but still, since it's something I'm putting directly in my mouth, something to consider), so I tend to stay away from fluoride toothpastes.   I really love OraMD (it's REALLY strong, so if you're not used to that, be aware!).  It's expensive, though, so I actually make my own from the same ingredients-- almond oil, peppermint oil, and spearmint oil.  My teeth have been in very good shape since using it.  I also like Now Foods' XyliWhite, but the flavor is really weak, so I tend to mix my homemade concoction with it. 

HOUSECLEANING:  What you clean your house with can be absolutely toxic to your environment-- the house, for many people, is the most polluted place they'll be in.  I make a point of using only non-toxic cleansers.  I like Bon Ami for getting stains out of sinks, bathtubs, and toilets.  I clean my floors with a really good microfiber mop, some water, and a little olive oil and/or vinegar.  For general cleaning and disinfecting, I love Shaklee's Basic H2 mixed with water and some essential oils (I usually use cinnamon, which repels ants, kills germs, and makes my house smell like Christmas) in a spray bottle.  Seriously, one small bottle of this stuff has lasted me over two years now, and I still have a fair amount left.

FOOD STORAGE:  I have been using glass containers and Silvermark's BPA-free line of containers. 

So that's a pretty good list of my favorite stuff.  Hope you found it helpful.  What are your favorite non-toxic products? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Can't" vs. "Won't"

I have a client who wants to "get healthy."  He has a serious health condition that proper diet and exercise habits will help greatly.  He comes to see me once per week.  I have given him several exercise programs for him to do on his own, as well as given him meal ideas, made myself available for food consultations, given him avenues to keep him accountable for his dietary choices, and so on.  Every time I see him, we have a conversation that goes a little something like this:

Me:  So how's the exercise program going?
Him:  It's not.
Me:  How come?
Him:  Because I can't do it.  I don't have time.
Me:  How about after work?
Him:  I can't.  I'm too tired after work.
Me:  How about before work?
Him:  I can't.  I don't want to wake up earlier.
Me:  How about at lunch time?
Him:  I can't.  I don't want to get sweaty at lunch.
Me:  What if you did 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes when you get home?
Him:  I can't.
Me:  :-/
Me:  What about your food?  How's that going?  I haven't seen your food diary at all.
Him:  (gives me a sheepish look)

And so on.

He's not the first client I've had who "can't" manage to get the work done on his own.  And I'm sure he won't be the last.

But here's the thing:

There's a big difference between "Can't" and "Won't."

When it comes down to it, most people who "can't" find the time/energy to exercise and eat more healthfully can find plenty of time to do things they deem more pleasant.  There are very, very few people out there who can't spare 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there to move their bodies.  There's almost no reason why a person can't forgo a McLunch for a healthy meal brought from home (or purchased from a market/restaurant, if need be).

A lot of people don't know that for almost five years, I was a computer consultant.  I had to travel Sunday-Thursday most weeks.  I worked a lot of late nights and was in a lot of pretty health-unfriendly areas.  I had to spend hours in catered meetings and was surrounded by co-workers who dragged me to team dinners at unfortunate restaurants.  I know how hard it can be-- but also how possible it is.  I used to take advantage of hotel gyms or do bodyweight exercises in my hotel room.  I would say no to the candy and sweets my co-workers brought in all the time.  I picked up a lot of healthier provisions I could eat without much preparation (baby carrots, salads, etc) at local supermarkets.  During one project, I would drive 20 minutes to the only place in town that had vegetarian meals and stock up. When meetings were catered, I'd usually ask before they ordered the food if there was a vegetarian option, or, if not I'd just eat the fruit or salad that came with the order (if it existed)-- or I'd just bring a bag of almonds to snack on.  It wasn't ideal, but it was doable. 

So think about it.  Is it really that you can't?  Is your day really so jam-packed that you can't find an extra five minutes here and there to do a set of squats, maybe, or some pushups?  (Do you watch TV or surf the internet when you come home?  Heeey-- there's some free time you might think about using...)

Is the junk food and sedentary lifestyle so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice your health for it?  Is the idea of eating healthier food (which, by the way, does not by any means mean "less tasty") so repugnant that diabetes, fatty liver disease, a heart attack, low energy levels, faster aging, joint pain, low immunity, and so on seem like better options? 

Think about it.

Is it that you can't?

Or is it that you won't?

If it truly is the former, and your health is important to you, then it's time you made a change in your life so that you can start taking care of yourself.

If it truly is the latter, and your health is important to you, then it's time you made a change in your attitude and approach towards healthy habits and find a way to turn your "won't" into a "will."

Physically write exercise "appointments" into your schedule, even if they're just a few minutes long a few times per day.
Pack ready-to-eat healthy food with you when you travel or go to work. 
Pile on the veggies in lieu of fries, rice, chips, and bread at restaurants.
Say no to your co-worker's candy dish.

It can be done.

Your life depends on it.




Questions?  Comments?  Feel free to post 'em here!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby Got Back

A good friend of mine wanted tome tips on strengthening her lats/pulling muscles, so I thought this would be as good a time as any to share some of that information with anyone else who might benefit.  So, without further ado, here are a few basic exercises I recommend.

First things first:  Here's a good look at your back muscles.


Most people are fairly overdeveloped in the chest area (slouching over desks, computers, steering wheels, dinner, etc, or suffering from "I only train what I can see in the mirror" syndrome) and get a nice little slouchy, forward-heady posture as a result.  From an aesthetic point of view, training the other side would make you look less like a caveman.


And, of course, there's that added bonus of impressing all the people walking behind you when you're wearing a tank top. 

And then there are the overachievers.


From a functional perspective, it will make you have less pain, will give you stronger shoulders (look at the way the muscles drape, and you can tell why), and will make your lifts better.  How many of you lose it in your back pretty quickly when you deadlift?  Know what a deadlift is?  Lifting something heavy off the ground.  Do you maybe do that sometimes outside the gym?  Think about it...

I wanted to focus on some very basic exercises-- before the pullups, before the rows, before the deadlifts-- to get those posterior complexes stronger so that all those other movements can improve.  Here are some of my favorites.

Scapular pullups/rows:  These are important because they teach your body how to properly retract the scapulae, and strengthen the muscles there as a result.  In most pulling motions, retracting the scapulae for the pull is an important step.  The idea is to pull your shoulder blades down and back (like you're putting them in your back pockets) while you're keeping your arms straight.  You can do this with your arms in most directions.  I'll demo here from a pullup position (side and back view) and a straight row position.

Scapular pullup, side view:

video 

Scapular pullup, back view:

video

Scapular row:

video

Batwings: I learned about Batwings from the amazing Dan John many moons ago.  The idea is to lie on your belly on a bench.  Then you do an end-position row with two heavy weights (I like to use kettlebells for this), hold for 5 or 10 seconds at the top, and lower again.  It's not a big motion-- it's just a short row to the top end of your personal ROM, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling your elbows up as far as possible.  Try to stick your thumbs in your armpits.  Sortakinda like this.



So there you have it-- some good foundational exercises to get those muscles in that back of yours firing properly.  Hope this helps!

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Relaaaax, Dude.

Selective relaxation is really important in training.  Try this, for example:  Try to jump as high as you can off the ground.  Now do it again, but tighten up every single muscle in your body, from your face to your arms and shoulders, etc. 

What's that?  You can't jump like that?

Exactly.

That fun little drill demonstrates the value of selective relaxation.  You can apply it to all kinds of things besides jumping.  Running is one.  Now, I am not a runner.  I hate running.  It is not fun for me.  I do it once in a while for my dog, or I'll run sprints to mix things up, or if someone challenges me, I might be talked into running a 5 or 10K (but the chances that I'll train for it are pretty slim).  If zombies are chasing me, I'll probably run.  But that's about it.  However, I know a lot of people adore running, and if you love it, and it's not hurting you, by all means, keep running.  In my massage practice, I get a ton of runners who come in with very sore shoulders/traps/necks/jaws after a run.  This is a sign that they are tensing up their upper bodies when they run.  I believe (and note that I have not seen this proven scientifically, but this is my belief, so take it with a grain of salt) that the body has a tendency to associate running with fear.  As far as your body is concerned, sez me, running is for escaping dangerous situations.  That is why (I think) the tendency for the majority of people is to automatically stick their shoulders in their ears when they run.  It's the body protecting the face from a potential threat. 

Is he deadlifting, or is he watching a slasher flick?


In weightlifting, it's really common-- and I'm as guilty of this as the next guy-- to grit the teeth, shrug the shoulders, and do all that other stuff that happens when you get stressed out and your body goes into fear mode.  Your body, I believe, translates either the weight you're lifting, the movement you're doing, or the face you're making, to the idea that you've been threatened and have reason to be afraid.  Your form often becomes less than optimal as a result.  In addition, when your body senses a threat,  it will generally try to keep you from doing the things that put you in that position.  So it will give you pain, stiffness, sickness, weakness, and other such physical limitations so that you can't get threatened again.  And you'll end up on my massage table, or home watching soap operas, or trying to train with less than optimal movement patterns (which will lead to more pain, and so on and so forth).

The best way to resolve this issue is to get to the point where your body no longer sees what you're doing as a threat.  Breath work will go a long way in helping you do this.  Breathing through your belly instead of your chest, breathing deeply and slowly, and breathing rhythmically and methodically in a way that makes sense for you throughout your activity can make a world of difference. 

Another good practice is to try to relax your face when you're lifting/running/etc.  If you watched the Olympics, you may have seen those slow-motion closeups of the sprinter's faces where their faces bobbled around like Jell-o.  Besides being hilarious, this was actually a great lesson in selective relaxation.  These guys are not threatened by the sprinting they do.  If they were to stiffen up, their speeds would most likely go down significantly, so the only way they can be as phenomenally fast as they are is to stay as selectively relaxed as possible.

If you're trying to train through pain, your body will absolutely create new motor patterns that won't be in your best interests, and will stiffen up when it expects to hurt.  If you're hurting, resolve that issue before you try to lift anything heavy or pound the pavement.

Do you apply selective relaxation to your training?  If so, how, and does it make a difference for you?  Post your secrets in the comments section below!  :)

By the way, I will be doing a mobility drills workshop on August 25 that will cover breathing and tons of ways you can play around with your neurological system to move better in your everyday life, so let me know if you'd like to join us!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gooooooooooooooooooal!

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in their fitness programs (and often in their lives outside of fitness) is that they go through them mindlessly with no goals or vague, long-term goals in mind.  So they might come in and tell me that they want to "lose weight" or "be healthy."  And while that's all well and good, it's really not going to help them in the long run, because these goals are intangible.  They are far too ambiguous to quantify, and there is no game plan to get them there.  Now, I also get people who have fairly specific goals in mind, but they are unrealistic ("I want to lose 100lbs in 3 months," or "I want to lose only the fat over my abs").  Either way, you're going to come away disappointed.

Little goals lead up to big ones.


Here's what I recommend to my people:

1)  Quantify your long-term goal, and ***make it realistic.***  Say you want to lose 100lbs.  First of all, know that I hate going by weight, because it is not a very accurate way of measuring body composition, but let's just say that's how you want to measure it.  I'd say it's reasonable that you might lose an average of 0.5lbs or so per week.  Some weeks, especially at the beginning, will show more weight loss than others, and some weeks will show no weight loss at all, so let's just put 0.5lbs/week out there as a reasonable number.  100/0.5=200.  200 weeks is about 3-ish years.  If we put in a high estimate of 1lb per week (I wouldn't push much more than this if you want to do it safely and with much less of a chance of gaining it back-- yes, there are people who have done it in less time, and if you are one of those people who can safely lose that much weight in a shorter amount of time, more power to you, but let's just stick with what I know is safe right now), it would be 100 weeks, which is about 2-ish years.   So a goal of losing 100lbs within 2-3 years would be reasonable. 

2)  Figure out the steps it is going to take to make your goal a reality.  So, for the person who wants to lose that much weight, there's probably going to need to be a major sustainable dietary overhaul, and there's going to need to be a smart exercise plan.  This person might also need counseling, pain relief if there is pain, better sleep habits, stress relief, etc.  As every person is different, everyone will have different obstacles on their way to optimal health. 

3)  Set tangible, short-term (1 month or less) goals with a definite deadline that help make the "big goal" a reality.  Write them down.  Tattoo them in your brain.  Make them a daily habit.  So, for instance, we'd likely need to chip away at this person's diet, so a short term goal might be something like, "for the next month, I will avoid all fast food."  I like to have people start with their most challenging obstacle and work their way down.  Once that goal has been realized and is not so difficult to continue, we add more (for instance, "for the next month, I will cut all processed foods out of my diet," and so on). 

4)  Particularly for fitness goals, when you have met one of your short-term goals successfully, give yourself a small, non-food based reward (not meeting your goal = no reward).   So, if you've avoided the Mickey D's for the month like you promised yourself you would, give yourself a spa day or a golf game or whatever makes you happy. 

5)  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Keep on adding more short-term goals that collectively add to your ability to meet your long-term goal.  Some people might only be able to address one short-term goal at a time; others might be able to do 3 or 4 (so, for instance, a food goal, and exercise goal, and a mental health goal).  Don't bite off more than you can chew, goalwise, or you will get overwhelmed and not be able to complete them. 

Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Brain Power

As some of you may know, I was not an athletic kid.   I was the last one picked for every sport in school, and dancing was pretty much the only thing I was good at.  Every year, we had to do this thing called the Presidential Fitness Test.  It involved several activities, including situps, a bent-arm hang (for girls)/pullup (for boys) test, and a mile run.  (Looking back, I find it lacking; I think I would add a few things to it.  But since I am not the President at the moment, I won't get into that right now.)

Every year, I would fail that test pretty miserably.  It was the run and the bent-arm hang that really got me.  My endurance and upper body strength were severely lacking, and I always ended up with something like a Certificate of Having Participated, or a Certificate Because We Feel Sorry For You, or whatever it was called. 

8th grade was the last year we had to do the exam, and I decided that I'd had enough of being humiliated, and that that was the year I was going to win a Presidential Fitness Award.  I didn't train for it (at the time, I didn't really think about those things).  But I knew what my weakest events were, and I was absolutely hell-bent on powering through them that year.  So when it came time for the run, where I had always plodded along in the back, chatting with my friends, this year, I put my mind to it and ran as fast as my legs would go, even though my lungs were burning and my thighs were killing me.  When the bent arm hang event arrived, I held on for dear life, willing myself to hang there although my arms were shaking and my biceps were begging me to quit.  And that year, much to the shock of my classmates, I got my Presidential Fitness Award.  It was pretty epic.



My point here is that there is a pretty big mental component to training.  My colleague, Logan Christopher, is an expert on this.  I am convinced that my deadlift numbers would be much closer to my triple bodyweight goal if I could just rein in my brain and focus really hard.  There is some interesting research backing up the power of the brain in relation to the strength of the muscles, such as this study and this one.  Several studies show that physical performance increases significantly with mental tricks such as "psyching up."  Initial studies show that using imagery can even help prevent loss of muscle during a period of immobility.   

If you are getting stuck in your training and need something to boost your strength, try imagery.  Whenever you are able, imagine yourself performing the feat you desire.  Feel the object you want to lift in your hands.  Mentally walk yourself through all the steps required to perform the feat, from the stance you'll take to the way you'll begin the lift, all the way to the end of the lift.  Do this daily, and often.  Contact Logan for more ideas, since he's a font of information about this sort of thing.  Let me know how it goes!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Deep Thoughts on a Saturday Night

When I was a little girl, I used to read books like Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and the Mary Poppins series over and over and over again.  I loved the idea of disappearing into some magical place.  I yearned to meet some fantastic person who could whisk me away to wonderful places with her flying umbrella.  I even tried to jump off the stairs and float away with my umbrella a few times.  (Just to save you the effort:  It didn't work).

OK, I gotta admit-- the umbrella trick is still pretty awesome.


I followed my sister around like a puppy dog-- I wished I was smart like her.  I even tried to read the huge James Michener novels she devoured to try to impress her and my parents, but they just didn't grab me the way books like The City Under The Back Steps did. 

I wished I were brilliant and beautiful like my best friend, Devjani.  I wished I were cool like my big brothers.  I wished I were popular like the kids who made fun of me at school, and I wished I were athletic like the kids who got picked first for all the sports teams while I waited, red-faced, knowing I'd be picked last.  I wished I were someone else, somewhere else. 

It wasn't until I was quite a bit older that I realized that you simply cannot escape yourself.  You are in charge of your own life, and you have the ability to choose your path.  Granted, there are always obstacles that are out of your control (some far bigger than others), but how you deal with them is entirely up to you. 

My sister is a genius, and I will never have her kind of intellect. Dev is stunning and beyond brilliant, and I will never look or think like her.  My brothers are still pretty darn cool, and I will never be their kind of cool.  I never did become one of the "popular kids" (and I can't say that's a bad thing).  I probably still suck at kickball and whiffle ball.

And you know what? 

I'm quite OK with that. 

I've been through a lot in my life, and I can't say I have a single regret.  I am really proud of who I have become and of the choices I have made (even the bad ones, since I've learned from them and, I believe, become a better person for them).  I love my life.  I don't think this is lucky.  It took a lot of work and a lot of soul-searching.  But despite this, I feel very fortunate to be able to say those words.

My point is, you are the only You there is.  You can't run away, and you can't be anyone else.  Trying to be someone you're not is an exercise in futility.  Instead, make yourself the very best You you can be.  Take care of your body.  Learn to love yourself.  Take the obstacles life throws at you in stride, and use them as stepping stones instead of excuses.  Make short-term goals and figure out exactly how you're going to make them come to fruition.  Follow up on that plan. Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Don't be afraid to remove anyone from your life who stands in your way.

I may never have gotten to jump down that rabbit hole, but I did learn to create my own magic.  I sincerely hope you do, too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Little Guest Bloggin'

I did a little guest post over at the amazing Aleks Salkin's blog (which you should read anyway, as Aleks has an Epic rating of 5,467).  Let me/him know what you think!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's In Melody's Medicine Cabinet?

A lot of people ask me what I use to cure various common ailments, so I thought I'd let everyone in on some of my not-so-secret secrets.  Here are the items I turn to most often for common problems.

1)  A healthy, clean diet and a solid, regular exercise plan that includes very heavy lifting.  I cannot express enough how important this is for overall health, and for preventing sickness and injury.  My body fat is low, my bloodwork is fantastic, and my body is very strong.  I rarely get sick, and when I do catch something that's been going around, it isn't nearly as severe or as long-lasting as it tends to be in others.  A few years ago, a 16kg (about 35lbs) kettlebell rolled off a weight bench and bounced off my left foot.  My foot swelled up like a baseball for a day, but, much to the shock of the X-ray technician and the doctor at urgent care, there was no sign of bone fracture at all (very surprising considering the size of the impact on the teeny-tiny bones that make up the top of the foot).  I attribute this to my diet and my strength training, and maybe a little bit of dumb luck. 

2) 

Hydrogen peroxide is a great, easy way to disinfect cuts, clean wax out of ears, resolve canker sores, disinfect gums and toothbrushes, and whiten teeth, and even works as a nontoxic house cleaner.  I find it absolutely indispensable.


3)

San Huang San (herbal ice) is a topical Chinese herbal remedy that I find extremely useful for contusions with inflammation that feels hot to the touch.  Like regular ice, if used for too long, it can slow down the healing process, so this is really only for an acute injury that eminates heat.  But it works very well, doesn't melt, and doesn't require access to a freezer.  If you have a first aid kit, I recommend having this on hand!  

4)

Stop Bleeding Powder/Yunnan Paiyao is another Chinese herb I find very useful to have around.  It is excellent for any cut that bleeds fairly heavily, has been proven to help reduce post-operative bleeding and has even shown to be effective in helping to repair intestinal wounds from inflammatory bowel disease.  Definitely another first aid kit star.

5) 

 Oregano oil is highly antiviral and antibacterial (even against E. coli and staph infections!).  When I feel a cold coming on, or when someone around me has been sick, this is one of the items I start taking immediately.  It cuts sick time down significantly (science reinforces this) and helps prevent me from catching whatever people cough and sneeze on me.  I also put several drops of this along with cinnamon oil (which is also antibacterial, keeps ants away, and smells great) in a soap solution in a spray bottle for housecleaning, and use it as a mouthwash for canker sores.

6)
Olive leaf extract is a fantastic immune booster, and has been shown to have antiviral effects on HIV-1, neuroinflammatory disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and has a host of other health benefits.   I use it especially during cold and flu season and when I'm feeling particularly fatigued.  

7)

Elderberry extract is another thing I grab immediately at the first inkling of a scratchy throat or sniffle.  It is a very powerful anti-viral and is good for your heart, too.  

8)

A heating pad.  It has been my experience that most injuries respond far better to heat than to cold (the exception being an acute injury with inflammation that eminates heat).  Heat helps to relax tight muscles, increases blood flow to an area, and helps in the healing process of many types of injuries.  I often recommend stick-on heat pads (they sell them at most drugstores) for first aid kits.

9)  
Cherries.  Man, oh, man, do I ever love cherry season.  Not only are they delicious, but these little nuggets of yum are highly anti-inflammatory.  Since most disease in the body is caused by inflammation, trying to keep it at bay is a smart move.  Consumption of cherries and other anti-inflammatory foods (like turmeric, chili peppers, green tea, cabbage, broccoli, apples, etc) and reduction of inflammatory foods (such as sugar and processed foods) can go a long way in reducing inflammation in the body and keeping disease at bay.

10)

Epsom salts are one of the cheapest ways to get your daily dose of magnesium.  Many people are deficient in this mineral.  Just a 20-minute (minimum) soak in a magnesium bath (or foot bath) is enough for your body to absorb the necessary magnesium without the gastrointestinal side-effects that often come along with taking it orally.  Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and helps resolve soreness, cramping, and twitching in the muscles.  It is also helps balance hormones and is a key nutrient for people suffering from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, muscular sclerosis, and other diseases of this nature.  

11)
Tamanu oil is both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.  It helps minor cuts and burns heal in no time, and even helps get rid of rashes and acne.  I also use it as a facial moisturizer; it keeps my skin clear and seems to keep wrinkles at bay.

So there you have it-- a small glimpse into my medicine cabinet.   Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Easy Recipe I Love. :)

I admit it-- I'm a sucker for whipped cream.  But as a vegan and a health nut, I won't consume it.  I don't even want to use the vegan stuff that's out there-- it tends to be full of sugar and chemicals.  So what I do instead is make coconut whip.  It's easy, chock full of medium-chain fatty acids, anti-inflammatory, sugar-free, and NUMMY.  Here's what I do:

First of all, I always have a few cans of coconut milk in the fridge for just such an occasion.  It should be COLD!!

You will need:
-1 can coconut milk
-Shredded coconut-- amount depends on how much you need to make it thick, but I usually end up using half a package or so.  I like Let's Do... Organic brand Organic Reduced Fat Shredded Coconut, but any kind will do
-One or two packets of stevia, or to taste.  You may not even want to sweeten it at all.  Up to you.

Take a can of full-fat coconut milk (organic preferred, of course) out of the fridge and pour it out, cream and all, into a bowl.  Beat the bejeezus out of it with an electric beater on high.  Add the stevia.  Add the shredded coconut a little at a time until it's at the desired consistency.  Eat with berries, or a spoon.   :)

You can experiment with flavors, too.  I have added raw cacao powder and a little instant organic coffee (I love Madre Labs brand Cafeceps) with good results! 

Let me know how you like it-- I could live off this stuff.  :)  And if you come up with any interesting additions, share what you did!

Monday, June 11, 2012

What to do for Hypertension

Now, we all know I'm not a big fan of meds, especially when a condition can often be remedied without them.  High blood pressure is one of those things.  If you can at all stay off the meds, please do!  There are a number of ways you can keep your blood pressure in check.

Keep the pressure off, man.


1)  Get acupuncture.  Several studies show that acupuncture can be very useful in treating hypertension

2)  Lose weight.  Obesity is well-known to be a major contributor to high blood pressure.  Cleaning up your diet and getting started on a regular, well-designed exercise program will go a long way in reducing your blood pressure numbers.

3)  Get more sleep.   Studies have found a direct link to sleeping less than 6 hours per night and hypertension, and a lesser, but still significant, link to sleeping poorly and hypertension.  So if you suspect you might have a sleep disorder, get a sleep study done and find out how it can be fixed.   Need more info on getting enough sleep?  Read this

4)  Eat protein from plants.  Several studies show that protein, and plant protein in particular, help to lower blood pressure.  (It's also necessary for muscle maintenance!)

5)  Scientifically proven blood pressure-lowering foods to include in your diet:
-celery
-berries and cherries
-wild-caught coldwater fish/fish oil/flaxseed oil/hempseed oil/chia seeds/other omega-3 fatty acids
-whole (not instant) oats
-onions
-garlic
-green tea
-broccoli and broccoli sprouts
-seaweed
-natto (if you can stand the taste)
-azuki beans
-cocoa (processed correctly and sans sugar)


6)  Supplements for blood pressure
-fish, krill, flax, or vegetarian DHA-EPA oil 
-astaxanthin
-turmeric
-quercetin
-magnesium
-calcium

Give some of these a try and let me know how it goes!

If you have anything to add, please do-- questions and comments, post below!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Safe Methods of Pain Relief

As a followup to yesterday's post, I'd like to cover several ways of getting rid of pain safely.

First of all, understand that a lot of pain medication is toxic to your system.  The side effects from these medications are probably not worth the temporary pain relief you get from them.  As these medications do not address the root of the problem, chances are, the pain relief will last only as long as the pill does.

There are more than 900 drugs and herbs that have been classified as hepatotoxic (poisonous to the liver).  Note that just because something is an "all natural" herb does not mean that it cannot harm your body.  I do not recommend taking any kind of pain pills unless there is absolutely no way around it.  In one study Acetominophen (Tylenol) overdose was implicated in 42% of hospitalized liver injuries.

NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER MIX ACETOMINOPHEN OR ANY OTHER HEPATOTOXIN WITH ALCOHOL.  EVER.

 Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) can cause severe heart and gastrointestinal problems, and is hepatotoxic to those with Hepatitis C.

NSAIDS (Aspirin, etc) can cause severe gastointestinal bleeding, even in low doses. 

Although research is scant, there are reports of muscle-relaxant induced cases of hepatotoxicity and jaundice

Although most people who follow dosage recommendations properly do not experience problems, I do not feel that taking symptom-relieving medication (medication that does not treat the disease, but merely masks symptoms) is necessary or wise unless there is simply no other alternative.  If you absolutely must take a pill, take it ONLY as recommended, and not any more than that.  Period.

Fortunately, there is almost always another alternative.

In the case of pain, this is most definitely the case.

Numerous studies show that acupuncture treatment is extremely effective for pain relief of many kinds, and has very few, if any, side effects. 

There are several studies demonstrating the efficacy of chiropractic in treating low back pain

Tapping/EFT does not have much in the way of scientific research behind it (although there is one promising-looking, though incomplete, study I have found to date); however, there many people have reported to me that this method has helped them in many areas (pain relief, emotional, anxiety, and more), and I have personally achieved considerably more physical strength after a brief tapping session.  It is easy to learn and easy to self-administer, so worth a shot.


CoQ10, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamin B-12 have all shown promise in research for migrane headache relief.

Massage therapy has shown some promise in relieving pain from menstruation, in relieving pain associated with cancer, and in relieving low back pain.

Capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot peppers hot) has shown considerable promise in relieving pain related to cancer, HIV, inflammation, diabetes, and other infections and metabolic disturbances when used as a site-specific, high-dose patch or injectable preparation

It is important to note that depression and other kinds of emotional distress are closely related to pain.  Addressing these emotional components alone can remove the source of the pain, and therefore the pain itself.  Cognitive therapy has been shown to address depression as effectively as taking anti-depressants (but without the side-effects).  Stress-relief techniques such as meditation, breathing techniques, exercise, or whatever works for the individual can go a long way in relieving stomach pain, muscular tightness, headaches, and other stress-related issues.

If you are, or know someone who is, having issues with severe pain and/or depression, please get the needed help.  Do not turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the problem.  It will not help.  It will make things worse.  There are alternatives. 


Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Reminder To Take Care Of What You've Got

Yesterday, I found out that one of my very closest childhood friends died.  He was 39 years old.  He was funny, he was talented, he was kind, and he gave the best bear hugs of anyone I ever knew.  We shared a love of old Bill Cosby standup comedy, corny jokes, and heavy metal music.  I went to my very first concert with him in the ninth grade (Monsters of Rock!).  We used to tell each other that if we weren't married by the time we were 30, we'd just marry each other (of course, the age got bumped up as we got older. :) )

His liver and kidney failure and eventual brain hemorrhage was due to a long-standing relationship with alcohol and Tylenol, a deadly combination that took the life of his girlfriend almost exactly one year before his death. 

I did not know about my friend's sickness.  I was not even aware that he drank.  When I texted him last week to come out, he texted back that he "couldn't make it" and that he'd "check it out on YouTube later" (he was in the hospital).  Particularly because of his girlfriend's death the year before, I assumed he knew better. 

I assumed wrong.

My friend's death was devastating, shocking, and deeply saddening.  He was a light in this world and my heart is emptier without him.  I wish that, at the very least, I had been able to say goodbye.

What I would like you all to take from this is:

1)  You can't escape from your problems through any substance.  If you're turning to alcohol, drugs, or anything else to ease your pain, you're going to the wrong place.  Take a very good look at your habits.  Please be honest with yourself and with the people who love you, and get the help you need.   Hiding the problem only makes things worse and hurts the ones you love as well.

2)  Please understand that the actions you take on your own life don't affect just you-- they affect everyone whose lives you touch.  You are not alone.  Reach out, and you'll find many people willing to help pull you up.

3)  Tylenol (and other painkillers) do not cure pain.  They are a temporary panacea that do not touch the root of the problem, and that cause significant damage to the body.  If you read the drug interaction blurb on acetaminophen (Tylenol's active ingredient), it says the following:

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Acetaminophen is metabolized (eliminated by conversion to other chemicals) by the liver. Therefore drugs that increase the action of liver enzymes that metabolize acetaminophen [for example, carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH, Nydrazid, Laniazid), rifampin (Rifamate, Rifadin, Rimactane)] reduce the levels of acetaminophen and may decrease the action of acetaminophen. Doses of acetaminophen greater than the recommended doses are toxic to the liver and may result in severe liver damage. The potential for acetaminophen to harm the liver is increased when it is combined with alcohol or drugs that also harm the liver. 

Side effects of Acetaminophen are:

SIDE EFFECTS: When used appropriately, side effects with acetaminophen are rare. The most serious side effect is liver damage due to large doses, chronic use or concomitant use with alcohol or other drugs that also damage the liver. Chronic alcohol use may also increase the risk of stomach bleeding. 

If you have pain, there are many, many alternatives to addressing it (and curing it instead of covering it up).  I never recommend taking any kind of pain medication unless it is absolutely necessary and there are no better alternatives.  I will be posting soon on alternative pain relief methods for those of you who are interested, but they include mental techniques, tapping, acupuncture, massage therapy, cognitive therapy, and more.  

I've lost my friend forever, but I hope that I can keep at least one person from attaining the same fate.  Please take care of your body.  It's the only one you've got.

RIP, Mikey.  You are loved. 
 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Healthy Grilling-- Yep, It Can Be Done!

Think your backyard barbeque needs to be all about hot dogs and hamburgers?  Heck no, sez me!  Here are some healthy, yummy, and guest-approved things I like to throw on the grill.

1)  Portobello Mushrooms!!!  I like to marinate them in EVOO or avocado oil, herbs, and balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes I do tamarind, lemon juice, lime juice, or something along those lines in place of the vinegar.  I eat them bun-free, but these go great with an Ezekiel sprouted hamburger bun and all the trimmings (see my note on all the trimmings at the end of this post).  Here are nutritional facts on Portobellos.



2)  Asparagus.  Make sure you buy thin stalks-- the thick ones get woody and fibrous.  They don't take long to cook at all.  I usually baste them with avocado oil, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper.   Here's the skinny on asparagus.



3)  Veggie kabobs.  So easy to make, and fun for kids to thread, too.  :)  I like to thread cherry tomatoes, bell pepper (all colors) cut into big chunks, zucchini and other summer squash, chunks of pineapple, chunks of mango, and smaller mushrooms, baste them in avocado oil and soy sauce and maybe a touch of apricot all-fruit preserves, and add a little salt and pepper.





4) Watermelon!!  Heck yeah, watermelon!!  It's awesome on the grill.  Throw it on an Ezekiel bun with some lettuce and tomato, and you'll have a grilled watermelon burger.  Throw it in a salad, and you'll have a grilled watermelon salad.  Absolutely awesome.  Here's what your body gets from watermelon.



5)  Speaking of salad, grilled salad is awesome.  Cut a head of lettuce in half (try a darker lettuce like Romaine-- iceberg doesn't have a whole lot of nutritional value), brush with avocado oil, salt, and pepper, and put in a bowl with balsamic and EVOO, chopped strawberries, and whatever herbs you like.  Here's a nice recipe for grilled radicchio salad-- I'd personally do it without the cheese, since I don't eat dairy.

In this grilled salad, I did cabbage, radicchio, and Romaine, and put a balsamic reduction on top.  I finished it off with a dash of Parma! (a vegan parmesan substitute that is essentially ground walnuts with a little sea salt)

5)  Sweet potatoes!  Parboil them first, and cut them into wedges.  You can squeeze some lime, drizzle on avocado oil, sprinkle some chili on them, and add a little salt and pepper.  Absolutely delicious.



6)  Cabbage!  You can make a foil packet of cabbage wedges, onion slices, bell pepper slices, a drizzle of avocado oil (or a bit of butter if you go that route), some salt and some pepper, and throw that on the grill for 10 min or so.
 
Now, it's always important to be safe and use a condiment.

(I'll wait a minute for you guys to laugh at that hilarious joke.)

The thing is, most condiments have nasty ingredients like High Fructose Corn syrup and other added sugars.  And you know how I feel about that.  (If not:  I don't like it.)  Make sure you READ YOUR INGREDIENTS, even when it comes to condiments.  I have found low- and no- sugar-added organic ketchup, BBQ sauce, mustard, and relish online and at Whole Foods.  You can even make your own ketchup (you can sub in stevia or erythritol for honey) and BBQ sauce pretty easily!   

Got any other healthy ideas for the grill?  Post 'em here, and have a great weekend!  :)