Saturday, January 28, 2012


You were born with potential.

You were born with goodness and trust.

You were born with ideals and dreams.

You were born with greatness.

You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.

- Rumi

My mother recently sent me a card she had saved for me written by my paternal grandmother, Mabel Wildman, in 1979, I was 16 years old that year.  What seemed as totally random were the last two sentences,

Don't be afraid to fly.  It's the only way to go.

Reading those words at any other time of my life I would have thought she meant air travel!  But what did she really mean?  I'm choosing to believe she meant it much the same as my favorite Rumi phrase.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Plus 50%" Swing/Snatch workout #2

Here is the workout I did on Thursday morning.  Using four of my progressive swing combinations and four progressive snatch combinations (six for the Inter/Adv. version), it is the best of both worlds!

I ran out of batteries in my flip during the second rotation, but I'm sure you'll get the idea after watching the first video.  In rotations 3-6 I only lead you through the snatch portion, no point in watching me repeat the swings.  Although I would be interested if anyone uses these videos as "work along" or just for demonstration purposes.  I'd be happy to include the entire workout, as I am doing it anyway!

warm up
10 2 hd sw x 4 (15/15 = 2 min. 40 sw)

here's where the first video starts.....

rotation #1
10 2 hd sw
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 (all x 1 set = 2 min)
1 sw, 1 sn, 1 tr x 6 x 1 set (30/30)
"    "   + 10 2 hd (45/15)
"    "   + 10 tr
"     "  + 1/2 sw ld
"     "  + 5/5
7 min. 140 sw, 30 snatches

rotation #2
10 2 hd sw
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 sw
1 sn, 1 tr x 8 x 1 set (30/30)
"    "  + 10 2 hd (45/15) (this is where the batteries run out!)
"    "  + 10 tr
"    "  + 1/2 sw ld
"    "  + 5/5
7 min. 120 sw, 40 snatches

rotation #3
10 2 hd sw (I'm changing batteries during my rest periods, lol!)
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 sw
5/5 snatch x 1 set (30/30)
"    "  + 10 2 hd (45/15)
"    "  + 10 tr
"    "  + 1/2 sw ld
"    "  + 5/5
7 min. 90 sw 50 snatches

rotation #4
10 2 hd sw
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 sw
6/6 snatch x 1 set (30/30) (video starts here)
"    " + 10 2 hd (45/15)
"    " + 10 tr
"    " + 1/2 sw ld
"    " + 5/5
7 min. 90 sw, 60 snatches

28 min  480 swings, 180 snatches (660 reps total)

rotation #5 (bonus/adv.)
10 2 hd sw
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 sw
7/7 snatch x 1 set (30/30)(video starts here)
"    " + 10 2 hd (45/15)
"    " + 10 tr
"    " + 1/2 sw ld
"    " + 5/5
7 min. 90 sw, 70 snatches ( 35 min. 570 sw, 250 sn, 820 reps total)

rotation #6 (bonus/adv.)
10 2 hd sw
10 tr
1/2 sw ld
5/5 sw
8/8 snatches x 1 set (30/30)(video starts here)
"    " + 10 2 hd (45/15)
"    " + 10 tr
"    " + 1/2 sw ld
"    " + 5/5
7 min. 90 sw, 80 snatches (42 min. 660 sw, 330 sn, 990 reps total)

Zowie!  I managed to get a meatloaf finished, 5 servings of chicken/turkey pate done, publish this workout, and now I'm off to yoga, lunch packed, extra coffee made....all before 6:30am!  I may add more information to this workout post, but if you have any questions just comment and when I get back this afternoon I'll fill in any gaps.

Enjoy!  (the weekend and the workout!)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Purple Sweet Potatoes, Too Philosophical?

What's better than sweet potatoes?  White Japanese sweet potatoes.  What's better than white Japanese sweet potatoes?  Purple Japanese sweet potatoes!  What do you do when the season is over and you can't buy them anymore? drive all around town to every specialty market you can think of buying and hoarding as many as you can store in your fridge and pantry.......oh, is that just me?

I went through this with Delicata squash about 2 months ago....and let's see....corn and tomatoes in the summer....let's not forget the Xmas candy and fruitcake on sale.....  The reoccurring theme is the feeling of missing out, the feeling of not getting enough, and the feeling of lack.  Sometimes I feel this rush of urgency to stock up.  But I'm getting better and better at recognizing when the habit of hoarding starts to erupt.  And for me it's simply a habit I acted on much of my life to fill some sort of need.  The "need" isn't what is wrong, how I act out, through habits and behaviors to try and have that need met is what I'm learning to change.  Change in a way that gives me greater benefits.

Hoarding has gotten a lot of attention is the past couple of years because of TV shows exposing this disorder.  It's can be a very serious situation and I'm not trying to make light of it by comparing it to overstocking my kitchen with sweet potatoes, but there can be a fine line between "stocking up" and "hoarding", when it compels a person to act in the same ways out of some kind of fear.  Fear of not having enough is what compels me.  My need was to feel secure.

We all have childhood, teenage, young adult, and even "old" adult, psychological "stuff" that leaves a deep enough impression on us that we develop habits in order to protect ourselves....habits that may no longer give us the relief we were looking for.....but I'm not going to get into all of that.  What I do want to offer is that I know, for a fact, that the more aware I become of the habits and behaviors that lead me to act in certain ways, that are no longer healthy, the easier it is for me to change them.  And I do, and I am, everyday.

I did not buy extra Delicata, I did not drive all over town for purple sweet potatoes....although I did buy 5 fruitcakes on sale....hey, I said I'm working on it! (you can freeze fruitcake!)  Anyway....reminding myself I have enough, reminding myself that there is always more of anything I could want, and if not, something else will take it's place.  There is no shortage of wants, there is no shortage at all....of anything, there's more than enough.

Some might say, "well that's nice for you, but I don't have near all the things I need, much less want".  I'm not talking about "reality", I'm talking about how I feel.  If I lie in meditation (or just sit still and quiet), and visualize having all the things I want, right in front of me and really feeling what that would be like, then there's nothing I can't have.  It's the feeling that changes me, not the "having".  How many times have you purchased something thinking it was going to make you feel a certain way, and then you felt the opposite, or at least not as good as you thought it would?

I can have a purple sweet potato any time I want it.  All I have to do is close my eyes....but I've moved on....

This subject may, can, does, relate to overeating, at least it did for me, and I hope to write more about it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tracyrif"s "Plus 50%" Snatch Routine!

Here is my snatch version of "Plus 50%", another workout that I love, love, love!.  There are a couple of ways I increase the workload by 50%.  One is that when you get to the first 1 minute long set you only get a 30 sec rest, this equals a 2 to 1 work to rest ratio. The second is the last two sets increase the rep count by 50% (without a hand switch) into the rest period which equals a three to one work to rest ratio.  Enjoy!

5 rest 5 (15/15 x 2)
5/5 (30/30)
10 rest 10 (30/30 x 2)
10/10 (1 min/30)
15/15 (45/15 x 2)
7.5 min, 90 snatches

6 rest 6 (1 min)
6/6 (1 min)
12 rest 12 (2 min)
12/12 no rest (1.5 min)
18/18 (2 min)
7.5 min, 108 snatches

7 rest 7 (1 min)
7/7 (1 min)
14 rest 14 (2 min)
14/14 no rest (1.5 min)
21/21 (2 min)
7.5 min, 126 snatches

8 rest 8 (1 min)
8/8 (1 min)
16 rest 16 (2 min)
16/16 no rest (1.5 min) (apparently in the video I forgot this set...too much talking!  Don't skip it!)
24/24 (2 min)
7.5 min, 144 snatches

30 minutes, 468 snatches

There are a number of benefits of practicing snatch pacing.  I've been incorporating pace work into my snatch workouts for as long as I can remember and it's provided many, many super challenging routines.  But at the beginning of the day everybody has to start somewhere, and in my level 1 classes I rarely design workouts that use a pace faster than 6 reps per 15 sec. (that's 12 snatch reps per 30 sec interval), and super rare that I ask my students in those classes to snatch for 45 seconds without a hand switch.

Keep that in mind if you try this workout.  If you've been training the snatch for 2 years or less, and especially if you haven't, or don't train it regularly (once or twice a week), then only practice 5 rep and 6 rep rotations. (and try the 4 rep version below) You may not even have the strength endurance to snatch for 45 seconds without a hand switch.  Do not judge yourself! That's what these workouts are designed to do...progressively get you stronger! 

Everybody wants to go fast, fast, fast!  And that's probably because we are all speed demon cardio endurance junkies! At some point everybody needs to train strength endurance, and that's what those slower longer holds overhead do.  As I mentioned in the last video, I used a heavier bell on Tuesday and my rotations were, 5's, 4's, 5's, and 6's.  If you don't think slower reps and longer holds are challenging then you need a heavier bell!

Slow and/or heavy option

4 rest 4 (1 min)
4/4 (1 min)
8 rest 8 (2 min)
8/8 no rest (1.5 min)
12/12 (2 min)
7.5 min, 72 snatches

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are You Taking Your Training, Practice, or Workouts for Granted?

Recently I had to face the fact that I've been taking my yoga practice for granted.  For months now I've felt as if my practice has not been improving, totally taking responsibility for it, but not in the right way.  I thought I was at a point when my training was hitting a natural plateau, and I could only expect minimal gains, and found it frustrating.  I was miserable in my practice, so much so that I was starting to blame the practice itself (Bikrams) for my bad attitude....not for the stagnation of my practice, but because I wasn't having fun anymore.  To me, fun means seeing and feeling improvement.  Improvement can mean a lot of different's about "the journey, not the destination" right?  Because I had lost respect for my practice my attitude was getting really stinky....even more than usual (lol).  Not nice!  And realizing that it was me that stunk, not the practice, was a real eyeopener!

I thought I was treating my yoga practice as if it was important to me but I didn't realize how little, if any, effort I was putting into setting myself up for a good practice.  I was on auto pilot, simply going through the motions because yoga "was on the schedule", hoping each practice would be a "good practice", but not giving any thought or anything extra, pretty much just "showing up".  I was treating it more like "exercise". I was not taking into consideration what I was doing the day before a scheduled workout (practice) to help ensure I would be at my physical best for the next days practice.  This includes what, and how much I eat the day before, and it includes enough rest and recovery.  Not just packing my mat, water, change of clothes and lunch!  Like anything you want to be successful at, planning and preparation are the actions that can set you up for better results.  Planning and preparing to be my strongest, most ready, physical best, and to feel my best, is the best attitude adjustment of all!

Sometimes it seems easy to "be on our best behavior" when we have important dates coming up.  When we know a meet or competition is approaching we are careful to plan and prepare to be our best on that day.  When we have a performance or meeting we plan and prep to be our best that day. When we have an occasion, a party, a wedding, an event that we want to look and feel our best for we plan, we prepare.  What's so hard about putting in a little effort everyday for the next?  Isn't everyday important, and every practice/workout important?  Are you just "showing up"?

This is what I've learned not just for improving my yoga practice, but for improving my life.  One of Mark's phrases that truly sets the tone of our lives is "Training is the Source". Through my training I've learned about my life. When you take something, anything for granted you become a victim of the outcome.  Your attitude may be the one thing making you miserable....think about it!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Best Use of Your Time...."Eating In"

On of the most common question I get asked is "Can I swing kettlebells everyday?"  To which my answer is always...."If you could, I would!  Why do you think I took up yoga?"  So the answer is no.  To which is always accompanied with the look of disappointment.  (The quick answer is that you should not train any weight resistance exercises every day. Body weight exercises like yoga and walking (running) can be trained everyday)

But I never get asked the question, "Can I make my own meals everyday?"

I can get excited at the thought of pursuing many different physical sport/hobbies/practices.  I love the idea of getting back into the Martial Arts, I love the idea of getting back into cycling, or even learning how to swim and train for a mini triathlon.  I could get excited about training some of the power lifts, as well a signing up for beginning adult ballet lessons.  It would be easy for me to try and do it all, the only thing stopping me is...well, there's two...the first is, I kind of like spending time with Mark in the evenings more, and the second is that I have other things that take priority, like preparing my meals for the day/week.

I have all mornings, from the time Mark leaves for work, until he gets home, to do anything and everything I want to.  I train/teach and lead kettlebells for 2-3 hours 3 times a week, plus a few private lessons.  I have a 5-6 day regular Bikram's practice a week.  I walk 2-4 times a week either running errands around town on foot, or simply pounding pavement for 40-60 minutes.  All of those things, with the exception of my kettlebell training take a back seat to my other number one hobby, and that's cooking.  If I only had time for two things it would be those two, training kettlebells and that order. These two things have made, and continue to make, the biggest differences in my physical body and my life overall....not ballet lessons!  But why kettlebells before food/cooking, if food is indeed what made the biggest change in my body...the biggest body weight change.

Cooking and preparing food involves planning, shopping, prepping, actual cooking, clean up and that may include packing meals for another day.  I consider cooking a hobby, and there's nothing I don't enjoy about it....not even dirty dishes!.  Cooking is a hobby that satisfies all of my senses. Yes cooking is a science, but it's also an art that feeds my body, and for me, my soul.  I don't take it that seriously in the sense of perfection.  It's just one more"practice", and if there are two things I love, it's practice and repetition! (routine, regularity).

For most people regular exercise is easy compared to making your own meals regularly...that's why they want to try and exercise off the extra weight.  And swinging kettlebells especially is so much fun, (and why I hear the question) it would be awesome if we could just swing ourselves skinny!  When most people find an exercise they like, or at least find tolerable, they want to commit to it everyday, but won't commit the time for making the changes in their daily diets.

I'm telling you now that there is no better use of your time, for long term permanent weightloss than spending it creating the food and eating habits of a healthier lifestyle, besides, you'll get faster at it, and it will take less and less time!  You don't have to become a gourmet cook (unless you want to!)  I would find it surprising, not impossible, but surprising, if a person that eats out, and/or purchases fast, ready made foods, more often than not, could maintain a significant weightloss for any extended period of time, much less permanently....but that's my opinion.  Using your time to learn how to feed yourself is not something you try to avoid by choosing to overexercise instead, or doing exercises/workouts that produces little, if any, noticeable physical change.

I know how I feel after a good workout, and I know how I feel when I open my fridge and see the lunch I made for myself waiting for me!  The feelings are the same.  I feel accomplished.  I feel empowered.  I feel confident, in control and in charge!  And I bring those feelings to everything else I do!

How do you spend your time?  What are your priorities?  How do they make you feel?  Now, what's the next meal you are going to spend your time making?

PS But why kettlebells before food/cooking, if food is indeed what made the biggest change in my body...the biggest body weight change?  Because I've practiced making my own foods so much that it takes practically no time at all, it's a no brainer.  It's not hard, it's not bothersome, it's not's a joy.  Believe me, I spend and take more time designing, creating, journaling and posting swing routines than I do on "recipes", and that's a joy too! Each one inspires the other.  The better I feel about my health and body, with training the swing and eating good foods, the more I want to do those things....that's motivation!  Lucky me!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hope and Motivation, part 1

When I started blogging back in 2006 after losing 120lbs I felt like I had never in my life felt before.  What had happened, and what was happening was way bigger than a weightloss story.  I couldn't really describe it because I've not known of anyone that had, or was having the same I just started writing.  After being asked over and over again "How did you lose all that weight?" I was compelled to write about how, at the age of 41, I was feeling and looking better than I could ever imagine.  With the foundation of the "former" Tracy I felt like a new improved version of myself.  If I had to use one word, only one, to describe this new way of feeling it would be "confident". Feeling truly confident is the best feeling in the world, and covers many, many parts, if not all parts, of my life.

During those first years of blogging I dreamt about being the one that found the answers to the questions of motivation.  How does one get it, how does one keep it, how does one share it?  It is not the million dollar's the million dollar answer!  I wanted other people to experience what I had, and I felt the only way I could do that was to find the answers to what inspires motivation.  But I could only share what it was, and is, that motivates me.

I've been asked many times what motivated me to lose the weight.  The answer? Lots of things.  The first motivation was the fear of dying.  I mean really dying...dead!  Another motivation was the weightloss contest (bet) I got involved with at work, a competition.  Yet another was a personal challenge, the one I made to myself to not eat out at all, and make all of my own foods and meals.

I didn't die, I won the bet, and making my own meals is no longer a challenge but a gift I give myself and my family.  How, after accomplishing those things would the motivation to keep going, keep improving, or at least keep changing in a positive way, continue?  Training kettlebells.

This may sound hokey, it may even sound like I'm trying to sell something, but you can't buy what training kettlebells can give you.  It's not the "kettlebell" alone that's magic, it's "training", and the two together has been an unbeatable match for me.  Without one I would not have the other.  There is nothing truer than the phrase that Mark came up with "The kettlebell won't swing itself"

Before I go on I'd like to share a blog post I wrote 5 years ago a couple of months after I started my original blog, here it is;


Hope for the New Year

So much has happened to me in the last few weeks, in the last few days, I can only wonder what this next year holds for me.

Two years ago today I was happy. My life was good. Yes, I was fat, but I never defined myself by my weight. I always felt that I was smart, talented, and had a good life. I enjoyed eating alot of food and took responsibility for the results of that. In fact besides being phyisically uncomfortable at times I felt the biggest drawback of being so heavy was the judgement of other people about me because of my weight. I felt invisible. Not respected. And I did feel shame about my weight.

Being Mark Reifkind's wife, many times I wanted to hide. Married to a personal tainer and being so over weight I remember asking Mark when he would want to introduce me to a client or friend " Did you tell them I'm fat? You need to tell them I'm fat, because I don't want them to be surprised." I felt bad for him because I didn't want my weight to be a reflection of him. After all, should the worlds best personal trainer have such a fat wife?

I knew I had it in me to lose the weight and start exercising, I just didn't want to. Why? I don't even know the answer now. I think everyone knows how to lose weight. The question is why don't you want to? I, personally, don't think it matters why. You and I have the rest of our lives to try and figure that out, if we want to. It doesn't change the fact that 2+2=4. In otherwords, the fact is if you count your calories and start some sort of exercise, you will lose weight. You don't need me to tell you that.

What I want to offer is hope. Hope that you can recover from being overweight. Hope that you can recover from being out of shape. Hope that you can recover from being ashamed. Hope so that you can feel healthy, strong and proud. And that you can come through it looking and feeling better than you ever have before.

That's what kettlebell training has done for me. I tell everyone that my diet (food) changed the size of my body, but kettlebell training changed the composition of my body. And I wouldn't of believed it until I experienced it. Kettlebell training has given me hope. Hope that I can keep the weight off and feel and look great. Sometimes I think if I only would of known about KBs 10 years ago I might never have gained so much weight.

I hope that you find the motivation this year, if I can give you any I will. If you have already found your motivation, like me, I hope you keep it going strong.

You might have noticed that the title of this blog post, "Hope and Motivation" includes a "part 1", and that's because I have so much more to write.  Explore what I think is the answer.  The answer, my answer, is hope.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Plus 50%"

I swear I don't know where I come up with this stuff!  Totally unplanned, as usual, 5:30am this morning I accidentally created a new, swing routine that's really fun and challenging for many levels, AND that can be completed in just about 30 minutes!  Love when that happens!  Practice this one, as written, because I'm sure there will be more variations of these combinations.

I encourage you to do this workout as written even if it seems like it has some long rest periods for those of you more experienced in training my routines.  It may seem as if the first rotation is not as challenging as the second, but it is in a different way.  Let me remind you that training is not always taking the shortest rest periods as humanly possible.  Training is about progression and practicing your skill to improve power and strength....not to gut out a workout, or see how little rest you take and compare it to anyone else....if the rest periods are too long then the bell isn't heavy enough, OR you are not moving it with the power and acceleration intended for this type of high volume training.....Train Strong!

One more thing...this is a complete beginning level routine (600 swings/30 min), if you do not add in the 50% extra reps suggested, and complete all sets with equal work/rest ratios.

Tracyrif Swing routine "Plus 50%

First rotation

5 2 hd swing x 2 sets

10 tr x 2 sets (15/15, equal work to rest)
10 tr + 5 2 hd swings x 2 sets (15 reps)

1 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 2 sets (20 reps per) (30/30)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 + 10 tr x 2 sets (30 reps)

3 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 2 sets (30 reps) (45/45)
3 sw, 1 tr x 10 + 10 tr + 5 2 hd sw x 2 sets (45 reps)

10/10 x 2 x 2 sets (40 reps) (1 min/1 min)
10/10 + 1 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 2 sets (60 reps total)

20.5 min., 510 swing reps

Alternate version for the last 4 sets
10/10 x 2 x 2 sets (1 min/1 min)
10/10 x 2 x 2 sets (1 min/30 sec)
19.5 min 470 swing reps

Second Rotation (video demo)

5 2 hd swing x 2 sets

10 tr x 1 set (15/15, equal work to rest)
10 tr + 5 2 hd swings x 1 set  (15 reps)

1 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 1 set (20 reps) (30/30)
1 sw, 1 tr x 10 + 10 tr x 1 set (30 reps)

3 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 1 set (30 reps) (45/45)
3 sw, 1 tr x 10 + 10 tr + 5 2 hd sw x 1 set (45 reps)

10/10 x 2 x 1 set (40 reps)(1 min/1 min)
10/10 + 1 sw, 1 tr x 10 x 1 set (60 reps total)

10.5 min 260 swing reps

Total workout 21 min., 770 swing reps

Alternate version for the last 2 sets
10/10 x 2 x 1 set (1 min/1 min)
10/10 x 2 x 1 set (1 min/30 sec)
10 min 240 swing reps
Total 29.5 minutes, 710 swing reps

Saturday, January 7, 2012

What is Stopping you? "Eat In" part...?

My opinions in these past blog posts about how strongly I feel the importance of eating foods and meals made at home to help one lose weight are in no way meant to come across as the only way.  Eating in was important to me, and as it happened, I believe, I'm convinced, turned out to be one of the key changes I made to a lasting and, now I know, permanent, weightloss.  If part of how you found yourself overweight is through eating out regularly then I simply ask you to take into consideration the benefits this kind of change could make in your life.

One might think that the only obvious benefit to making meals and foods from scratch, with "real" ingredients, is that you aren't consuming "fake" foods, preservatives you don't need, chemicals used to extend shelf life (not your life!), food coloring, etc.  And yes, those certainly are some of the health benefits, and part of good health is being a "healthy body weight".  Some other reasons are that when we "eat out", we tend to eat more because we are served bigger portions.  Many times we wait too long to figure out what we are going to buy for lunch that we try and stave off hunger with sweets....and then we order too much food because we're "starved"!  We eat foods we wouldn't normally eat just because it's many times have you ordered a dessert, even when you weren't hungry for it just because "oh, I love lemon meringue pie...look, it's on the menu!  Or you are with a friend who isn't concerned about their own health encouraging you to order an appetizer or dessert, or at least share one, or two, with them.

Of course you can still find yourself overweight if the foods you are "eating in" are fast, convenient foods.  You don't have to "go out" for a bag of cookies, a box of cereal, a loaf of french bread, cheese puffs or a quart of ice cream.  Those things you can find in your own kitchen and pantry.  A combination of the kinds of foods you are eating, and your eating habits determine what is making and/or keeping you fat, or fatter than you say you want to be.

Now we can pretty much agree that making your own meals from scratch at home has many positive benefits, and in the past few blog posts I've given you more reasons. I've given you some ideas of how and where to start based on my own experience as a non-cook for most of my adult life (my fat adult life), what's holding you back?  Reason and knowledge have been addressed. What's stopping you from moving in this direction?

Time?  Energy? Willingness/motivation?  I will get to these next....maybe I'll write about the willingness and motivation first.  At this point if you still are questioning whether or not it's worth the time and energy I'll assume you need a little more motivation than what I've provided so far......

Friday, January 6, 2012

Variety is Overrated! "Eating In" part 4

Variety is overrated! Most peoples idea of variety is eating something "different" every meal.  Real variety is making and eating the same basic recipes and then recycling them with slightly different ingredients.  I think it's unfortunate this idea of having to cook a different meal for your family every night, never repeating one for fear someone will get bored.

There are only so many foods in the world.  Seriously.  There are unlimited amounts of ingredients, but when you put them all together in the traditional way of composing a meal, most of what we eat are basically the same things.  The only reason food magazines and cooking shows promote recipe after recipe is so you buy the magazine or watch the show and buy the advertised products!  Once you know how to cook an ear of corn, how many different recipes do you need for cooking corn on the cob?  Well, here's 15+  (sorry, I realize it's not corn season but this is what came off the top of my head)

All of them sound yummy...bacon, mayonaise, jalapeno butter etc...but trust me, once you know how to  cook an ear of corn, all of those recipe ideas will come naturally!  Who knows who was the first person that made jalapeno butter, but I'm sure it's been around for a long ass time!  If jalapeno is a flavor you like then at some point you would have "invented" jalapeno butter!

For instance....I love jalapenos, although I rarely buy canned pickled jalapeno peppers (even though I love them, see note*) I often use fresh jalapenos along with my onion and celery as a base for soups, stews and anything and everything else I can throw them in a fresh salad!  Canned jalapenos (or in a jar) are pickled with vinegar.  The definition of "pickle" is something that has been preserved in vinegar or a brine (brine is usually salt....olives are brined).  If you "marinate" a bunch of jalapeno peppers in vinegar, then the vinegar will taste like...?  Yes, jalapeno vinegar!  How could you use jalapeno vinegar?  Well, let's a salad dressing for sure.  In tuna salad?  Yep.  So I started using the vinegar in canned jalapenos as an ingredient in itself to spice up dressing, dips and salads.  Add it to mayonaise and you have jalapeno mayonaise to spread on a sandwich or a slice of meatloaf!  Did I just invent jalapeno mayonaise?  lol

In every culture, all over the world, there are only so many ways to cook and prepare foods (methods and techniques).  The only things that change are the ingredients that reflect it's regional and cultural roots.

Why must we eat "Italian" one night, "Mexican" another, "Chinese" another?

If we eat a salad everyday but change the day we add pickled jalapeno vinegar to the dressing, maybe some corn, some black beans and chicken..."Mexican".  Another day we use red wine vinegar (or God forbid balsamic, lol), white beans, garbanzos, or pasta, basil and again...chicken.  Another day we use Chinese cabbage, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, ginger, (sirachi sauce!) and again....chicken (lol, does anyone eat anything other than chicken....beside me of course!)...a salad is a salad, is a salad. But all of a sudden you can see the tremendous variety in a salad.

Here's one of my point.  Make a damn salad everyday!  Or some other meal you love, but you have to make it, you have to practice it, until it's yours.  You will find the variety if you want it, or need it! Same with any other kind of meal.  How do you think "wraps" started?  "Wraps" are burritos that reflect regional flavors!  Put all of the above salads in a tortilla and what do you have?  A wrap!  A recycled burrito!

So what's the point?  The point is that you can trust yourself.  You know what you like, and what you don't like.  The basic skills of cooking are "the craft", and you must learn and practice in order to express your creativity, and then your imagination will come to the forefront. For instance, you cannot create a kettlebell swing routine if you don't know the skill of a proper swing.  One you understand and have practiced the skill you can be free.

Variety is not freedom.  The illusion of variety is a trap.  Food is basic, so use basic recipes and basic techniques.  All that "fancy, smancy" stuff can be fun, if that's what you are in to, but at the end of the day learning how to feed yourself and your family with uncomplicated and nutritious foods/meals is what health and happiness is all about.

(note* Take note that although pickled foods are usually very low in calories, they may have different effects on different people.....I never lose weight by eating pickled products...maybe because I overeat them thinking they are "low calorie".  Find your own way.

I also want to thank my husband Mark for helping me "wrap up" my thoughts on this subject.  It was Mark that helped me bring up my final points to end this blog post.  Thanks Sweetie!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Building the Foundation, "Eat In" part 3

Like I said...I could go on and on and on, so let me hit on another point before I do....

I think in this country, especially, everybody has forgotten how to eat.  Let me rephrase that, everyone has forgotten what to eat!  Food has been turned into a form of entertainment instead of 3 squares a day.  Let's go back to those "3 squares".  Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Back in "the day" dessert was not an every night occurrence, but reserved for special occasions, or maybe one night a week.  Nowadays we expect dessert with every meal, every day, and in the case of breakfast it has become dessert, many times in the form of a mocha latte, and then add insult to injury by throwing down a muffin or scone on top of it!  That's 21 desserts a week!

What a luxury to be able to walk into the kitchen, open the fridge, take out a soda...or walk into the kitchen, open the pantry, take out a bag of chips or cookies.  What happened some black coffee, a couple of eggs (if you were lucky) or a bowl of hot steamin' oats for breakfast?  What about lunch?  Nothing wrong with a small sandwich, a pickle, an apple?  And dinner?  Well for the past 50 years it's been meat and potatoes....and a couple of leaves of iceberg lettuce with 1000 island dressing...but nobody's perfect!

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up my mother cooked an almost exact amount of food for the whole family, if someone was getting seconds it was dad! I can tell you right now how I became a chubby was by volunteering to help give out the lunches at school!  All of the helpers (me) got to eat any leftover boxes!  And once I was free to walk down to the corner "7-11" store on my own, well you remember getting a dime for every glass bottle you returned?  And how much were candy bars back then?  Yes, I think they were $.10!   6 bottles returned, six candy bars!  Lucky me...or so I thought at the time.  Is it this kind of freedom that has helped make us fat and spoiled?  What would have happened to me if I made my lunch everyday, only one lunch, no other choice, and no "7-11" around the block to walk to.

Back to building the foundation of "eating in".  What would you start with?  What meal do you know how to prepare, and like, maybe even love, that would be the first one you make for yourself?  What would happen if you prepared that meal every day, or every night?  I would bet you would get really good at it...and really efficient and fast!  I would even bet, closer to the end of the first week, you would naturally start to change it would start to feel so comfortable that trading out ingredients wouldn't stress you out, in fact you would be creating your own recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.  That's how you learn.  You learn by doing.  Doing over, and over, and over again.

In my book, "The Swing" (available March 13th, Harper Collins, pre order you copy now. LOL! Sorry I had to say it!) I write about the importance of practice with the simple cutting of an onion everyday.  Onions are practically the foundation of every savory recipe you come accross, and learning how to cut one properly and efficiently will help you develop the knife skills that are such an important part of meal preparation.

Find or have one recipe you know, like the back of your hand, and do it to death until you "make it your own".  That will be your foundation.  Build it by adding one new recipe, method or technique at a time.

For instance "grilling" is a method of cooking.  Grill a piece of meat, the same kind, a handful of times until you know how long it takes, and are confident it will come out right (or acceptable) almost every time.  Then choose a different cut, or kind, of meat or seafood...or grill some veggies.  Grilling is grilling, is grilling!  It's a "fast" cooking method and requires "fast cooking" tender cuts of meat (or veggies the get tender onions!, lol).  Don't worry if you screw up, we all screw up!  Grill yourself silly, and before you know it your friends will be asking you "grilling" questions!

Just some suggestions....that's how I got so good using my pressure cooker!  I pressure cooked until I was silly!

more to come...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Establish a Practice, "Eat In", part 2

OK, so I'll fix my last thought and then go on and on.....

"Eating in" is not a punishment, it's a gift.  Your life is a gift from God, your health is a gift from yourself!  There, that's better!

When I write about this subject it is relation to living permanently at a healthy bodyweight.  Everybody has the freedom to decide to eat out, or rely on ready made foods all the time, whether it's just because they like to, and can afford to, or whether they don't know how to prepare and cook food them selves, don't like to, don't care to, think they're too busy, or admit they're too lazy...everybody lives their own lives by their own standards.  But if you weigh more than you want to, and you don't want to spend the rest of your life that way, then something has got to give!

Let me also finish a couple of thoughts about ready made and purchased foods...  There are a ton of really good options available, especially if you live in an area that has health conscious grocery stores, markets, and restaurants. It is completely possible to lose weight and never cook a damn thing.  It's not the food itself that is making you, or keeping you fat, it's the kinds of foods, and how much you eat, especially high calorie foods.  Markets like Whole Foods make their ready to eat meals with whole ingredients...much like a gourmet cook, real butter, real cream, real cheese, real chocolate, lots of olive oil...."artisan" breads, cookies, cakes and pastry are as high in calories as Hostess Twinkie's are, just with no fake fats or sugars....healthy?  Slightly...maybe...depends on how much you eat!  Fast food?  Soda?  Well, sorry, if you want to eat 1500 calories of that crap everyday to lose weight then knock yourself out.

I've lived both ways.  For 41 years of my life my bodyweight went up, it went down, it went up, it went down, it went up, and up, and up....  Up to that point in my life no matter what I weighed there was one common thread...I didn't know how to feed myself by cooking and preparing my own meals.  Sure as I mentioned, you can, like I did, go on a reduced calorie diet with purchased ready made foods, or you you can "snack" yourself skinny with rice cakes, cans of tuna, and some purchased carrot sticks...oh, and let's not forget the "Lean Cuisine's", but it will more than likely not get you the eating habits you need to establish a permanent change in your situation.  Notice I say "more than likely not" because truthfully I think anything is possible, but why not have some good food while at the same time lose weight, take control, get healthier, live longer, be happier...oh and become a badass home cook!

I can promise you it is worlds apart.  Let me again repeat an important point....if you are of a healthy weight and you don't want to change a thing then all of this is irrelevant.  Healthy weight people have other things they worry about, eating out or eating in is not one of them.  Healthy weight people naturally don't overeat, they may have a natural feeling for when to stop...I don't know...

January 5, 2005, I dived in head first completely immersing myself with no choice of eating out.  BUT as much as it seems as if it all happened overnight it was years in the making....  Without planning or thinking about it, my interest in learning how to cook years earlier had become a practice, the practice of feeding myself and my family.  Cooking and preparing food is about establishing a practice, and everybody can start somewhere.  I believe everybody knows how to cook and/or prepare many good foods and/or meals without a recipe, and it's those foods and meals to which a beginner starts to build a the foundation of independence.  Cooking without recipes but with methods and technique should be the focus.  Like "strength is a skill" that can be learned through regular and consistent training (practice), so is cooking.

More to come.....gotta get up early, very early, to train.  Oh, and the turkey came out fab...oh and the beef stew I made this morning...I can't wait to share that one with you...get your PC ready!

Save Your Life, Eat In

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I stopped eating out completely.  And considering that I ate 99% of my meals from fast food chains that is quite an incredible about cold turkey (funny I'm thawing out a turkey right now to roast  It did not seem like a hardship at all, more than likely because I was ready.  I had spent the previous 8 or 9 years acting on my growing interest in learning how to cook.  Funny enough though it was gourmet cooking that I found as the focus of my new hobby....using real butter, cream, the highest quality ingredients none of which would be considered "diet" foods!  I had been living a double life so to speak.  Eating quick, salty, fatty, carb filled, low, low quality foods daily, while honing my skills as a wanne be gourmet cook.  Finally my desire to "wanne be" was so much greater than my fear to "not to be", as it also coincided with many health issues I was starting to experience, and it became obvious to me that this had to be part of the first step, a first huge step, as the key to losing weight and saving my life.

I know it's been trendy for at least a decade now to take an interest in food. The label "foodie" is one that many wear proudly, maybe even acting a bit snobby about it. Especially as the trend took a big turn towards health with the addition of labels like "organic" free range", "pature fed" etc. to describe foods and ingredients.  And then we have vegetarianism and veganism gaining popularity, reaching an all time high, with no end in sight.  But in my opinion if you don't make the priority of being intimately involved with the preparation of most of your own meals and foods then all of those labels are simply an act.  They are not a part of you or who you are.  In my opinion, being spoon fed by purchasing ready made foods is not the same as establishing the habits you need to feed yourself.  Is it that hard to grill up your own pasture fed beef hamburger?

It's also amazing to me how many people snack instead of eat in order to maintain these "standards of snobbery".  A handful of almonds? Sure I'm guilty of reaching for them when I can't quite get to a meal, but I don't make them my meal.  A bagful of veggies chips? A high protein, low carb "bar" of some sort should never regularly replace a meal.  A vegan donut is still a donut.

"Eating in" is not a punishment, it's a gift.  Your life is a gift, your health is not!

I could go on and on about this subject...and I will, but right now I've got to get ready for an 8:00am yoga be continued....