Why I Hate Squats

I was working out nearly every day at a local franchise gym. I was mainly on the elliptical but would incorporate some circuit workouts with squats, dead bugs, and rows. A trainer came over to me and said I wasn’t squatting correctly. I said thanks for the tips, etc. He tried to get me to buy personal training packages. I get it, they have to hustle. And I was grateful he was looking out to avoid any injuries. But I wasn’t interested in buying any PT sessions.

As I (and most women) usually do, I said maybe and I wanted to leave it at that. Every single time I saw him he’d say something about the sessions, about my “form”, or about my body. I felt like I couldn’t tell him to bug off and I really just wanted to be left alone. It made me not want to go to the gym anymore. Being introverted with an anxiety disorder has taught me that I needed to learn how to navigate the world successfully but nothing gets you to revert to your safe space faster than unwanted attention by a stranger who can lift your weight 2x.

I signed up at my current gym and told the managers about my experience. They ensured me that wouldn’t happen there. When I was ready to sign up for personal training, I asked to work with a woman. I told her my story too.

You know what? She taught me how to squat. She’s taught me a lot of things from exercises, stretching, and perspective. I can’t thank her enough for being my advocate and my role model.

I love squats now. And I’m darn good at them.

Learning static stretches for running.

Scallion & Spinach Biscuity Muffins

A view of the muffin split in half to see the inside

Sometimes I really miss biscuits. And muffins. It’s not the plant-based diet that causes this yearning; it’s mostly that I try not to eat too many refined carbohydrates unless there’s a solid protein alongside of it. So here’s a combination of the objects of my desire. I recommend using 100% all-purpose for the most biscuit-like texture but you could swap in some whole wheat to give it fiber.

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or half AP, half whole wheat)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 1/4 cups unsweetened dairy-free milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground flax
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1 cup packed finely chopped leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc)
1/4 cup minced scallions
vegan butter or oil to grease the muffin pan

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, mustard, garlic powder, paprika, and nutritional yeast.
  3. In a small bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the dairy-free milk and flax. Whisk together until frothy.
  4. Add the oil slowly while whisking the mixture. Let sit while you finely chop the greens and mince the scallions.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients and the greens and scallions to the dry ingredient bowl until well incorporated. The batter will be thick. If it is too thick to mix, add a little of the milk to loosen it. Be careful not to add too much.
  6. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 23-27 minutes until cooked through.
10 scallion and spinach muffins in a muffin tin from an overhead shot

Really Healthy Banana Muffins

In true Shayla fashion, I forgot to update this thing. What’s funny is that I really enjoy writing even though I’m not particularly good at it. I’ve always taken a “whatever” approach to the things that I’m mediocre at. However, there is something I’m very good at doing and that’s what this post is about today.

That thing is baking! When I started this weight-loss journey I stopped baking. I’m sure you can imagine why. It’s hard to stay accountable when you’re sabotaging yourself. But!!! You can have treats on occasion and it doesn’t even have to be a bad treat. I have a terrible sweet tooth and pastries are my downfall. When I was looking for a way to use up some ripening bananas, I found this beaut by GimmeDelicious.

Layla, the curator + composer of GimmeDelicious, posted this delectable healthy banana muffin recipe and I’m all over it. I made a few minor adjustments but she gets full on credit for its awesomeness. This recipe makes 12 small muffins or 6-7 large muffins. You can make it dairy free and I’m pretty sure a flax egg would do the trick if you need to substitute those eggs. Gluten free subs would work great too!

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Healthy Banana Nut Muffins

What you’ll need:

  • large + medium sized mixing bowls
  • baking spatula
  • hand mixer (not necessary but will help)
  • measuring spoons + cups (all of them pretty much)
  • Large dinner spoon

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour (WW or GF flour will work too)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp old-fashioned oats, plus 1-2 tbsp for sprinkling (get the GF kind if you need it!)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed (that’s about 2.5 med bananas)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup honey (or maple syrup or agave)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2-1 cup chocolate chips, raisins, pecans, walnuts, etc (e.g. your choice!)

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a muffin pan with butter, oil, or insert liners.
  2. In the large mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Be sure you saved some oats for later. Set aside.
  3. In the medium mixing bowl, mash that banana. Add the eggs, honey, olive oil, almond milk, and vanilla. On a low speed, mix until combined.
  4. Combine the wet with the dry and mix with the spatula until fully incorporated. Stir in your fixin’s.
  5. Pour the batter into the cups until it’s about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with those reserved oats because it’ll make them pretty.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned on top and cooked through. You should use a toothpick to check the doneness. The toothpick should come out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool. Slather it with butter, more honey, peanut butter. Go crazy, you deserve it.

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Dal for Days

 

It was cold and rainy in New York City this past week. To warm up my belly without putting too much strain on my wallet, I decided to make dal. Dal is an Indian lentil stew and boy, is it good!

Sometimes I get intimidated by making Indian dishes because of the number of spices used, etc. I want to do it “right” but don’t always have the opportunity to stock my pantry with every seasoning. The recipe I go by is as minimal as it gets.

If you make the spice blend ahead of time and keep some on hand, your prep time will be even shorter. Let me know if you have any variations you’d like to share!

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Easy Dal

What you’ll need:

  • cutting board
  • chef’s knife
  • high sided non-stick pan
  • medium sauté pan
  • garlic press
  • small bowl
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoons
  • can opener

Dal Spice Blend (make this first)

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (ground)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed (ground)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix together in a small bowl. Taste a tiny bit to gauge heat/flavor. Feel free to add a little more or less depending on how you like it.

Ingredients

  • 3 tsp olive oil (2 tsp + 1 tsp)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled + minced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 2 tsp dal spice blend
  • 1/2 cup red split lentils
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 can lite coconut milk (do not open until ready to pour)
  • 1/2 bunch kale, washed and roughly chopped
  • chili sauce, sriracha, liquid aminos (you’ll see later why they are no measurements)
  • cilantro, roughly chopped (sub parsley if you don’t like cilantro)
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Rice (start cooking before the lentils) or naan (toast in the last 5 minutes until warmed through)
  1. In a high sided non-stick skillet, heat 2 tsp of olive oil over medium high heat. When hot, sauté the ginger and shallot for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the dal spice blend, salt to taste, and stir.
  2. Shake the can of coconut milk and open. Add the coconut milk, 3/4 cup water and red lentils to the pan. Bring to a simmer then lower the temperature to medium, stirring occasionally. Cook for 20-22 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Squeeze the juice from 2 lime quarters into the lentils and stir.
  3. After the lentils have cooked for about 10 minutes, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium high heat. Add the kale – be careful for any spattering from the water hitting the oil. Sauté the kale until wilted. Season it with some chili sauce and liquid aminos if you’d like. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Evenly distribute the lentils into two bowls. Top with the cooked kale, carb and cilantro. Enjoy!

Tip: Great for lunch the next day. You can double recipe easily- just test the spice blend before adding. You can top the dal with any sautéed or roasted vegetable and protein!

Can’t get any easier: Chia Pudding

Weight Update: I’m at 169lbs (down from 181lbs)! Finally below 170! Only 4 more pounds until I reach my first goal. This is the slowest, most agonizing process but I have to keep going. Follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates.

Happy Sunday everyone! It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post so I’m going to give you two recipes to get you through your week. It’s the same base, two different ways, and an endless number of possibilities.

I drink a meal replacement shake every morning and it doesn’t change much. 1 scoop protein powder (I use IdealShape!) almond milk, almond butter, chia, and banana (239 calories). Yum!!! But it gets kind of boring after 10 or 15 of these. So when I need to switch things up but still want to keep it low cal + healthy, I make chia pudding.

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View from the top of the breakfast hunger

If I forget to make it the night before, I toss all of the ingredients into my Nutribullet and voila! Easy breakfast.

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Blended Chia Pudding – great breakfast for the office!

Blended Chia Pudding

What you’ll need

  • high speed blender
  • spatula
  • tablespoon
  • 1/2 c. measuring cup
  • small container with a lid

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, cashew milk, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • cinnamon
  • toppings! fruit, nut butter, nuts, cacao, dried fruit, coconut, granola, whatever you like

Instructions

  1. Combine the chia seeds, milk and maple syrup in the blender. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste.
  2. Blend on high for about 1-2 minutes, until thick and smooth. It will be slightly gelatinous to touch. Pour into the container and top with your favorite things. Enjoy!

Est. 203 calories without toppings

Overnight Chia Pudding

What you’ll need

  • small container with a lid
  • tablespoon
  • 1/2 c. measuring cup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, cashew milk, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • cinnamon
  • toppings! fruit, nut butter, nuts, cacao, dried fruit, coconut, granola, whatever you like

Instructions

  1. Combine the chia seeds, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon to taste. Give it a good stir.
  2. Let sit in the fridge for a least 4 hours. It should thicken up immensely and have a gelatinous, tapioca like consistency. If it’s too thick when you’re ready to eat it, add a little extra milk to loosen it up. Top it with your favorite things. Enjoy!

Est. 215 calories without toppings

Tip: Feel free to add 1/8 tsp of almond or vanilla extra or 1/4 tsp orange zest to brighten the flavor. You can also do milk blends. I personally like using almond milk and canned, cooking coconut milk. It makes it so creamy!

 

A Story About Forgiving Yourself… Sort Of

This is a tough topic to bring up and I’ve decided to post my thoughts on it, raw and probably circular, on the internet.

I feel some serious frustration towards myself for letting myself become overweight. I’ve pushed healthy food professionally and personally for so many years but I didn’t commit to what I was preaching. I blamed the catering life for a while. How could I say no three cheese mac or coffee-cacao rubbed brisket?

A life-long, turbulent relationship with food and body image has brought me here. The reason I am overweight is because I have been saturated in denial about being in control of the issue.

2016-03-08 11.06.18

March 8th, 2016. Somewhere between 176-181lbs.

I know I’m not huge but I’m uncomfortable. I feel it most when I’m active but I can feel it even when I’m sedentary. My back has next to no strength to support itself and my poor hips and knees are achy.

When my brother decided to move forward with his weight loss surgery, I decided it was my turn to get serious about making some changes. So on January 6th, I started counting calories and slowly incorporating more activity into my day.

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Ow ow ow ow ow ow

Fast forward to today. I’ve lost about 9-10lbs. With the sun shining for the first time all week, I went for a run and I was slow (14 min avg pace!?!?). I was beginning to beat myself up for not being able to go longer or faster. Why didn’t I jog more? Why was this so hard? I wanted to give up halfway through the mile but I couldn’t. As a personal philosophy I don’t give up until I know the returns will be zilch.

I know this is going to be a long and slow process. I did the math- I would have to eat 1200 calories/day to lose 1lb/week to which I said, “Oh HELL no.” I love food and all of its complexities. Giving up my connection to food would be sacrificing a part of my identity (see personal Instagram tagline: Data nerd, Brooklyn biker, vegetable pusher). What I need to do is kickstart my relationship with food.  I don’t need to eat all the snacks because they’re there but if I want a donut, I should have a donut. And I should plan for that donut. I should savor that donut and all of its doughy sweetness. And then eat a giant bowl of vegetables when I’m hungry.

I’m trying to forgive myself for treating my body so badly all these years. Hundreds of days of endless drinking, mindless eating, and minimal movement that have damaged parts of me I didn’t know I had. I don’t know how to do this but I need to start somewhere. So I’ll start here, telling you about how like every other person struggling with their weight, I am mad at myself. The only way I can move forward psychologically and physically is to identify it, acknowledge it, and then let it go. Let self-love repair all that I’ve destroyed and salvage the few parts of me that are still ready to do this.

I’ll keep counting and restricting calories until I’ve reached a healthy point but I will not let anger fuel my desire to get there. To all of you sharing the same struggle, do yourself a favor and forgive yourself for failing time and time again. You’ve only lost when you’ve given up.

Also, get yourself a mantra. It helps.

Mine? Be strong, but gentle.

 

Sunday Snacks: Roasted Chickpeas

Happy Sunday! I was thinking of featuring a favorite snack on Sundays. Thoughts?

Today we’re chomping on roasted chickpeas. In the spirit of this wonderfully quick snack, I’ll keep today’s post short & sweet, but mostly savory.

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Roasted Chickpeas

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 large baking sheet lined with foil or parchment
  • colander
  • spatula
  • Paper towels or a very clean dish towel

Ingredients:

  • 1 29oz can of chickpeas, drained OR 2 15oz cans, drained
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • any other herb/spice your heart desires

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. f you haven’t already, drain the chickpeas in the colander.
  2. Carefully and slowly pour the chickpeas onto a dish towel or layer of paper towels on the counter. Dry the chickpeas until they have an almost matte like texture. Air drying works great too.
  3. Transfer to the foil/parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with about 1-2 tbsp olive oil and stir to evenly coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bake for a total of 30 minutes, checking and stirring every 10 minutes, until chickpeas are lightly browned. Caution when stirring the chickpeas while they’re baking- some might pop at you!
  5. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl. Toss with your favorite spices. I have a homemade za’atar blend that I like to put on chickpeas, yogurt, and popcorn. Enjoy!

Tip: These are seriously the best when they are warm. Also, while these are delightful and vegan, chickpeas are high in protein and in calories so be sure to eat the amount that works for your diet.