Friday, December 21, 2012

My Time at Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop

I was compensated for my participation in Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop, but my thoughts and views are my own.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop in Chicago. The workshop took place over a period of roughly two days. I took the train to Union Station and headed over to the Congress Hotel by cab.

I arrived around 9:30 am and introduced myself to a few bloggers over breakfast. We then moved to a conference room where we listened to a few presentations regarding, health, nutrition and the role Coca-Cola is trying to play in both.

I was surprised to learn that Dasani water and Smart Water were both brands under Coca-cola.

I laughed silently to myself because my dad will only buy Dasani bottled water because he says the taste is so superior to other bottled waters -- a true example of brand loyalty!

I also found it interesting that outside of providing different types of actual products, Coca-Cola has many other types of programs. One program I thought was particularly interesting was Troops for Fitness. Through a huge grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation (we're talking like 3 million), the Chicago Park District (CPD) has created the Park Families Wellness Initiative which offers affordable nutrition and active lifestyle programs for communities in Chicago. In addition (which I think is the best part), the grant also supports the CPD in hiring U.S. veterans to teach military-style fitness classes.


The “Troops for Fitness” program, in conjunction with the CPD’s “Fun with Food” nutrition education curriculum, will be available in more than 60 Chicago-based community facilities. Talk about a win-win: supporting our troops and offering kids tip-top fitness classes. I love it!

We worked out way through lunch and then had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with nutritionists and fitness experts.

Photo Credit: The Coca-Cola Company and Bruce Powell Photography

Oh. My. God. Is that really me doing a lunge in my jeans in the hallway of the hotel? Yes.

But on the bright side of this slightly strange picture, is that my awesome fitness adviser created the perfect customized circuit for me. I almost feel like she read my mind. I have spent countless hours scouring the internet for circuits that fit my needs -- never to find one. She surprised me by presenting me with this circuit complete with how-to instructions.

As far as my diet, I was most interested in discussing with the nutritionist how to get certain nutrients (i.e. calcium, vitamin D) since I don't eat dairy. She gave me handouts detailing which foods are highest in certain nutrients and exactly how much of said nutrient is contained in them. If you recall from my last post, I was concerned about the amount of eggs I had been eating and she assured me it was fine. In fact, she told me something I never knew and found quite interesting: Our cholesterol isn't increased from foods that are high in cholesterol; our cholesterol rises when we consume too much saturated fat. Eggs get a bad rap for no reason at all!

The highlight of the afternoon, though, was meeting with celebrity fitness trainer, Harley Pasternak.

Photo Credit: The Coca-Cola Company and Bruce Powell Photography

I think I was one of the few bloggers who chose not to stay overnight, so I didn't bring a change of fitness clothes because the thought of lugging that on the train depressed me. So once again, I was "fitnessing" in my jeans which is really really odd. But Harley Pasternak's fitness ideology was refreshing. He talked about how you can't really spot train and walked us through a few exercises that instead, focused more on opening us up (decreasing the slouching, hunched over look). We practiced the Superman and planks, to name a few.

He then gave us copies of his new Wii and Kinect fitness workout game. It was a great end to a great day!

The next morning I arrived again by the express train that I swear felt like Ozzie Osbourne was driving. I had to put my knitting down a few times to hold onto the arm rests.

We were whisked away to the local Jewel grocery store where a nutrionist walked us through each aisle explaining how to make the best choices while shopping for food. I found the cereal aisle to be the most enlightening.

I am always trying to find good choices for my kids and I tend to look at the sugar, but the nutritionist told me it may be a better idea to look at the fiber and if the fiber serving supplies at least 20% of your daily serving, it's a good choice. Great tip, I must say!

After Jewel, we headed over to the Merchandise Mart where we had a cooking lesson at the Chopping Block.

We took turns preparing all sorts of dishes, including chicken breasts, hummus, crudite, baked pita chips, green beans and my favorite, roasted fingerling potatoes. The workshop ended with a great meal with a great group of bloggers!

Photo Credit: The Coca-Cola Company and Bruce Powell Photography

I took a cab straight back to Union Station where I caught the train in perfect time. It was a wonderful end to a very enlightening experience! Thanks so much to BlogHer and Coca-Cola for an awesome event!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Finding Balance through Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop

I was compensated for my participation in Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop, but my thoughts and views are my own.

In the beginning of of September, around the start of the school year, I stopped exercising. I quit running mid-summer because the heat was excruciating and I took to walking at night while listening to the entire Harry Potter series. I was still slowly gaining weight, though, despite all of the exercise and healthy eating. I knew it probably had something to do with Hashimotos and the quantity of food I was eating, but I wasn't sure. I had all of these crazy sugar cravings I felt I couldn't control. So I decided to stop exercising and focus strictly on what I ate.

Well, I am back down to my normal size -- sort of. Most importantly, though, I feel great. I'm sleeping better. I have more energy. I have zero cravings. I did this all by cutting out three little things: gluten, dairy and sugar.

If you've been following my blog for some time, you know that I have been gluten-free since the birth of my second child because I found over time, my body couldn't tolerate it any more. And I always flirted with the idea of being sugar-free and dairy-free. Sugar inflames all of my joints and muscles. It actually seems to make my muscles tender. And the more sugar I eat, the more I want. Dairy always made me feel bloated and caused intestinal distress. However, giving these things up seemed impossible -- absolutely out of the question -- hence the flirting and not the commitment.

But in September, I was at my wit's end. I had been exercising and watching what I ate for an entire year and at the same time, watched the scale slowly go up, up, up. So in addition to no gluten, I stopped eating dairy and sugar. I just stopped.

So what do I eat? I decided to stop worrying about calories and portion size and to eat when I was hungry and absolutely stay away from those three things (gluten, dairy and sugar).

I reverted back to not eating breakfast because quite honestly, I have never eaten breakfast in the past. I'm just not a breakfast person. I know all of the nutritionists in the world are gasping right now, but I say do what works for you.

For lunch, I have a gluten-free sandwich roll, with mayo, lettuce, onions and half an avocado (because avocado should be king of the world!), sprinkled liberally with salt.

I have two hard-boiled eggs for some protein.

After this, I found I was full. Ironically enough, around the same time I started this, I stopped eating most meat because it just grossed me out a little. I do have meat here and there (I had turkey on Thanksgiving) but if anything it's one day out of seven.  But I do eat a TON of eggs. My cholesterol is probably sky-high! I've been calling myself the vegan who eats eggs.

After lunch, I've taken to making French-pressed coffee. (I found it produces the most robust flavor!)

And then if I'm hungry, I'll have a piece of fruit. Or sometimes, if I am hungry in the morning, I have a piece of fruit then.

For dinner, I sort of wing it based on what I'm making the rest of my family. Last night, I made split pea soup (with the ham), grilled cheeses and roasted broccoli. So I had a huge bowl of soup with the broccoli.

If I am hungry at night, I tend to have some tortilla chips with guacamole. Or a big spoonful of peanut butter and a banana.

More often than not, though, I don't have anything because I'm simply not hungry.

Why am I telling you this? Not because I want you to try this; everyone needs to listen to his or her own body. And I feel like that's what I did. I stopped and listened and things changed. My quality of life changed just by cutting a few things out of my diet. Now whether or not I am putting the right things back into my body to supplement is the question.

Luckily, I have this amazing opportunity through BlogHer and Coca-Cola to attend a Balanced Living Workshop in Chicago. I live in a suburb of good old Chi-town, so when this opportunity presented itself, I was thrilled!

On December 11 and 12, I am going to attend a workshop with fitness and nutrition consultations and cooking demonstrations. So I'll actually have the chance to talk to a nutritionist about these changes I have made and see how I can make sure I am fueling my body the right way. And I can talk to a fitness expert about what types of exercise will work for me. Now who knows, maybe I was gaining weight while running because my food choices were so out of control. What I do know is that I will be able to talk with someone with knowledge. Like the title, of the workshop and my post, I am hoping to find some balance!

Stay tuned for updates on my exciting adventure!

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