Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

May 2, 2010

Roasted Squash over Arugula with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Filed under: diet, real talk — Tags: , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 10:59 am

This recipe comes from some friends of Abby and I who run their own design company in Chicago called Letterform. Julie was featured on the Design*Sponge blog for this recipe and when I saw it, I just had to share it with you all. In addition, they make “foodie greeting cards” called Nourishing Notes, which I think we all could get behind and enjoy.

So look at the picture, let your mouth water a little and head over to Design*Sponge to read the recipe. Then buy some stuff from Andy and Julie! Support unique art, local foods and creativity!

April 2, 2010

Primal Challenge 2010

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 8:08 am

As part of our goal here at FAHBG to shape our bodies and minds closer to the ideal God created us for, we have decided to undertake a Primal Challenge (based loosely on Crossfit Integrity’s Paleo Challenge). Many of us have been off our game recently – whether still recovering from holiday snack habits or fasting for Lent – and our diets and fitness levels have generally not been what we hope they would be.

It’s time we got back on the wagon, hardcore. To help us do this, we have set up a point system to track our dietary habits and keep us accountable, and simultaneously we will be embarking upon a strength program based on Whole9’s PTP program. Basically, we will be deadlifting and overhead pressing multiple times every week, focusing on strength over metcons (no matter how sexy).

So pull up your shorts (ala Josh), chalk up your hands, and purge your kitchen of all illicit food-like substances, ’cause this here is fo’ real!

Duration: Saturday, April 10, 2010 to May 22, 2010

Before and Afters:
Photo – front, side and back view (optional)
Measurements – body weight, waist circumference, and body fat (optional)
Performance – 1 mile run, CrossFit Total, Fran (if you’ve done these within the last month or so, you can count those times, if not, you need to do them before we start)

Nutrition Log – track your eating habits for at least a week before the challenge begins so you can see how much your habits change during the challenge

1.  Measurement Improvements – weight, waist, and body fat plus visual change
2.  Performance Improvements – 1 mile run, CrossFit Total, Fran
3.  Scoring – points from daily nutrition and activity log

You will be required to keep track of your eating in a Nutrition log.  From this log, you will give a daily score of 0-10 based on your compliance with the Primal Diet.  A score of 10 would represent a day of eating like a true hunter gatherer: nothing but meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
~ 1 point off for every serving of: beans, hummus, peanuts, peas, agave, honey, real maple syrup, dried fruit, sweet or creamy salad dressings, or dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. and not including butter, heavy cream, or protein powder)
~ 2 points off for every serving of: soy products, quinoa, hot dogs, fast food meat
~ 3 points off for every serving of: grains of any kind including oatmeal, corn, millet, whatever.
~ 4 points off for every serving of:  Soda, juice, sports drinks, white potato, most restaurant appetizers, cookies, all non-primal baked goods, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sweets, pancakes, processed marinades, BBQ sauce, anything with high fructose corn syrup, sugar added dried fruit, pizza, beer, wine and all alcoholic drinks. Exceptions: dark chocolate over 60% is no penalty, and up to 4 oz of red wine is no penalty.

If you know something is not primal but you’re not sure how many points to take off, just use your judgment. Obviously eating a donut should merit more points off than eating some lentils. If you make a primal dessert, just count off for any honey or flour you use, rather than counting it as a sweet. If you make butternut squash (primal food so no penalty) but add HFCS maple syrup substitute, you will need to subtract 4 points for every serving of syrup consumed. If you consume only half a serving size, then only subtract 2 points.

Note: It is important that you track absolutely everything you consume. Guess on your portion sizes if you’re eating out, but be as accurate as you can. Overestimate rather than underestimate – a portion size is often smaller than we think. For example, 1 can of soda is 2 servings.  This means that if you drink an entire can you would lose 8 points. A serving of ice cream is usually half a cup, but most of us usually eat at least twice that in a sitting. If you go out for ice cream, you’re probably looking at 3-5 servings!

You may earn up to 8 bonus points per day to help make up for all those dietary cheats.

1.  One bonus point for everyday you participate in a CrossFit-style, high intensity workout. The benefits of a Primal lifestyle are magnified when combined with a training program that combines constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.

2.  One bonus point for everyday you consume at least 6 grams of Fish oil. Our primary goal with this challenge is to reduce Silent Inflammation.  Silent inflammation is far more insidious than classic inflammation because it is at the molecular level and may not be detected until it’s too late. It doesn’t generate the pain associated with classic inflammation and therefore goes untreated for years or even decades. Virtually every type of chronic disease (heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s) has a significant inflammatory component as its underlying cause. Fish oil and its high quality Omega 3s seems to be a miracle cure.

3.  One bonus point for everyday that you stretch MORE than 10 minutes.

4.  One bonus point for every night that you sleep 8 hours or more.

5. One bonus point every time you engage in a low level activity (like going for a walk, playing a game, gardening) for MORE than 30 minutes.

6. One bonus point every day you eat at least .7 grams of protein per lean pound of body weight. For example, I weigh 145 pounds, with about 20% body fat which equals about 30 pounds of fat. So my lean body weight is 115, multiplied by .7 equals 80 grams of protein per day.

7. One bonus point every day you eat LESS than .7 grams of carbohydrate per lean pound of body weight. So with the example above, I would need to eat less than 80 grams of carbohydrate per day.

8. One bonus point every day you eat at least 3 cups of green (or otherwise high nutrient) veggies (including real lettuce (not iceberg), spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, beets, kale, etc. and NOT including carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados, tomatoes, or green beans, which are higher carb/fat veggies).

By tracking your eating and activity, you should come up with your total for each day: between – infinity and 18 points.

I like to use mydailyplate.com to track my eating habits, which is free and user friendly.

Post questions and comments below…. Who’s with me??

December 22, 2009

‘Tis the Season to Cheat – Part II

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 5:46 pm

I am finally writing the follow-up to my first post about cheating during the holiday season. It seems a fitting time to do so, as the house is quiet with the insulin-induced slumber that followed the grit, biscuit, and beignet-filled meal my we enjoyed upon my parents’ arrival. We tried to ameliorate the carbs with some salmon and sausage, but there was only so much they could do.

It is so easy during these times to throw caution to the wind and just not care if we get fat/spike our insulin/feel momentarily sick, etc. The food is just too good, too available, and too festive to pass up.

But I was reminded again today of the impact our diets have on our well-being when it was evidenced through our friend Graham’s athletic performance. He was saying that he’s been feeling like he just doesn’t have it in him about five minutes into the last couple workouts, and I asked what he’s been eating. He grinned, sheepishly. I hated to remind him, because of course I’m reminding myself as well, but the clearest and quickest way to see the impact of a bad diet is in your performance of the gym. Now, you may not really care if your Fran time doubles this month. But, your suffering athletic performance is a sign of the stress and havoc being done to your body on the inside. And that is something you should care about.

So, in an effort to assist us all with keeping some semblance of health during our holiday bingeing, I am writing these posts. If you haven’t read the first post, start there. The most important things to remember to keep yourself on track is portions. Little bits of even the most sugar-drenched items will not hurt you that much. But if you’re wanting to really dig in, try one of the following ideas.


A treat only available during the holiday season, it is all the more tempting for its transience. This one’s actually made of pretty decent materials – eggs, cream, yum! – but it’s loaded with sugar. Add least all the fat helps to control your insulin response.

There are a few ways to attack this sweet, creamy beast of a drink.

1) Buy the normal stuff and cut it with milk. This is the lazy (wo)man’s option. I find that if I mix it half and half with milk, it is still thick and delicious, but I can enjoy a large glass without much of an insulin spike. Milk has the bonus of a little extra protein, but you could also use half-and-half or heavy cream – anything to reduce the sugar.

2) Make your own with raw milk and alternate sweeteners.

Here’s one recipe:

4 beaten egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar (use 1/8 t stevia and 2 Tbl agave, or whatever your favorite sweeter may be, instead)
1 cup whipping cream
Ground nutmeg

Mix the egg yolks, milk, and sugar in a large saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture gets slightly sticky. Remove from heat. Submerge pan in sink or bowl of ice water and stir for 2 minutes. If you wish, stir in whipping cream, 2 tablespoons bourbon, 2 tablespoons rum, and vanilla. Chill for at least 4 hours. Sprinkle each glass with nutmeg.

3) For non-dairy folks, make your own with coconut milk. Use the above recipe but use 3 cups coconut milk instead. It will have a distinct flavor, but doesn’t coconut eggnog sound delicious?

Christmas Cookies

Ok, if it’s sugar cookies you love, you’re out of luck. As the name should indicate, they’re pretty much diabetes incarnate. However, if it’s just the tradition of making, baking, and taking sweet morsels of goodness while a frosty wind blows outside, why not try a less evil version? The apple spice cookie recipe below comes from a childhood friend (with a few modifications) and is scrumptious.

Apple Spice Cookies
















Makes about 40 cookies. Two cookies have about 100 calories – 6 fat, 10 carbs, 3 protein.

Peppermint Bark

Another deadly temptation is peppermint bark. Usually arriving in large sheets or unevenly broken pieces, portion sizes are hard to figure and chaos generally ensues. There’s no way to make this one good (well, all of these things are not actually GOOD), but at least you can make it better. Stay away from the white chocolate versions (what is white chocolate besides all the bad and none of the sex-hormones?), and go for a dark version of this holiday favorite. The darker the better.

Midnight Peppermint Bark

  • 8-12 oz. of high-quality, organic, dark chocolate – we like around 70% cocoa
  • 2 regular sized candy canes, crushed up
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract

1 Break up peppermint candy into very little pieces. You may need to put it into a think plastic ziploc and pound it with a hammer. Since we’re cutting back the candy, you’ll want it very fine so as to distribute it more evenly.

2 Melt the chocolate according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually in a double boiler. Once melted, add the peppermint extract and stir. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.

3 Pour the melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and spread out with a spatula or wooden spoon. Sprinkle the peppermint candy chunks on to the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.

4 Place in the freezer for 5 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Those are my ideas, for now. If you need to bring a dessert to Christmas dinner, try making a fruit crisp with minimal extra sweetener and nutty topping. I’ll be making a mixed berry crisp with just a little tapioca, stevia, and agave in the fruit with a crumble of pecans, cinnamon, agave, stevia, and butter on top. I’ll let you know the proportions when I make it.

Merry Christmas!


November 25, 2009

‘Tis the Season to Cheat – Part I

Filed under: diet — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 2:05 pm

The earth has tilted on its axis, bringing dark evenings and a chill in the air. Here in Tallahassee, leaves are finally turning yellow and orange and drifting to the ground. Sweaters and boots are in vogue, albeit with the cursed skinny jeans tucked in between. Intoxicating scents of cinnamon, cloves, and sweets fill the air. The rich foods of winter – root vegetables, cookies, pies, casseroles, and steaming sweet drinks – call to us, appealing both to our light-deprived seasonal urge to put on protective fat and our holiday-induced desire for edible festivity.

In short, we are being called to cheat. To not do so would be an affront to the season, to our families and friends, to the very spirit of life at the present. Only the strongest will resist, and even those of us walking the same unusual path of a primal diet will likely think them extreme, deriding them and their inability to let go in secret.

So we’re going to cheat. There’s no way around it. The only question is, are we going to throw the rules out the door and eat stuffing until we fall into an insulin induced coma or are we going to attempt to maintain some degree of responsibility?

I urge you to choose the former. Cheat responsibly. Your body and you conscience will thank you.

Just because you’re not going to be able to (physically or mentally) create and consume a strict zone/primal meal or avoid every Christmas cookie that looks your way does NOT mean you should forget all the principles of healthy eating you have worked so hard to follow. There are ways to cheat that will allow you to enjoy some of the holiday foods you love without completely sacrificing your ideals or your waistline.

First, relieve yourself of some of the guilt you might experience by reminding yourself that cheating is actually recommended, in moderation. Mark Sisson of MDA recommends an 80/20 principle, where you eat primal 80% of the time and eat whatever you want 20% of the time. This is shown to reduce the mental stress of deprivation and thereby encourage you to stick to the plan longer than you might if you were strict 100% of the time.

One important thing to remember, particularly with sweets, is that the pleasurable effects of sugar consumption follow the law of diminishing returns. This means that the more you eat, the less good it feels. 70% of the dopamine produced by eating those Christmas cookies or that slice of pie will be released after the first bite. So to cheat smart, limit your portion to only a few bites – one cookie or a miniscule slice of pie. It may look sad, but eat it really, really slowly, and savor that flood of hormones. Disabuse yourself of the notion that eating another piece will produce the same pleasure that the first piece did. It will only produce insulin, nausea, guilt, and chub. Check out this post on MDA for more about eating sweets responsibly.

Urban Gets Diesel offers some insightful commentary on the subject of cheating in three posts. First, she reminds us that while cheating clearly has some mental benefits, it does NOT have any physical benefits. Bad fuel is bad fuel, no matter how you spin it. Second, she looks at some ways to cheat smart. She recommends: spreading that 20% out throughout the week rather than packing it all into one meal/day; being intentional about only cheating with things you really, really love; eating only enough of the forbidden food to satisfy your craving (ala the diminishing returns principle; savoring the consumption process slowly and with focus, i.e. not downing a pint of ice cream while watching a movie; and finally, figuring out how different cheat foods affect you and choosing the lesser of the available evils. For example, for her, a cheat of grain (pancakes) leaves her much better off than a cheat of dairy (ice cream). In her third article, she examines the danger of introducing habitual cheats and thinking they do not have negative consequences because you don’t feel immediate side-effects. She writes of the experience of re-introducing dairy, grains, or sugary foods after following a stricter diet:

After eating those foods, you may not notice an immediate reaction in any of your body’s systems. However, your body is still experiencing some, if not all, of the negative internal effects associated with those foods, such as inflammation, gut irritation, and insulin spikes.

Dallas explains, “Even infrequent consumption of foods (or food products) that contribute to elevated levels of insulin, cortisol, or the pro-inflammatory eicosanoids will set you up for inflammation-driven disease processes. Most of us already know the effect that chronic consumption of processed carbohydrates has on the development of Type II Diabetes, but this is only one example of how a previously asymptomatic (“silent”) inflammatory process can manifest itself as overt disease. Unfortunately, just eating a bagel and a yogurt for breakfast once a week is enough to trigger grain- and dairy-related inflammation, causing an uptick in all the inflammatory processes in your body for days or even weeks afterward. You might not be able to feel a bagel and yogurt invading your system, but you cannot avoid the pro-inflammatory effects of those foods.”

Basically, if you start cheating and enjoying it, don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s not really so bad to have that cereal for breakfast or those oreos for dessert a couple times a week. It is still bad for all the reasons you cut it out to begin with, and those “calendar” cheats will come back to haunt you one way or another.

Now, what do you do about all this with the biggest cheat day of the year staring you in the face?

Here are some of our ideas:

1) Bring approved sides that will supplement the lack of clean veggies and non-sugary sides at a typical holiday meal. Abby posted on this idea here and offers recipes for Roasted Vegetables, Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole, and Paleo Sweet Potato Pie. I am using a similar tactic for our meal at a friend’s house. I’m bringing green beans and carrots, Pureed Cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, fresh Cranberry Sauce sweetened with stevia and agave, and Abby’s Sweet Potato Casserole. This should guarantee that there are plenty of acceptable sides to accompany the meat.

If you haven’t tried Fauxtatoes yet, you need to. You’ll never miss the carb-loaded traditional version. The key is adding plenty of yummy fat. I don’t usually measure, but here’s a guestimate of how I make them.

Pureed Cauliflower Fauxtatoes Recipe

Steam one head of cauliflower, cut into chunks, along with 2 cloves of garlic and a bit of chopped onion until tender. Blend in food processor or blender with 1/2-1 cup cream, 1/2 stick butter, salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Texture is key here, so keep blending until you don’t see any chunks. Substitute coconut milk or regular milk for cream if desired. Voila!

2) Load up on meat and veggies first. The good thing about Thanksgiving is that there is always some form of meat available. This means you don’t have to worry about the disaster of arriving to a dinner party to find only various forms of process carbs available and no protein in sight, such as I did at a pasta dinner with spaghetti, bread, salad, and cake. Use this fact to your advantage. When you fill you plate for the first round, give yourself an unusual portion of meat and whatever clean vegetables you can find. Eat them first so you will be full of the healthy stuff, and then go back for whatever bad stuff you’re craving. If your belly is already rumbling happily with a dose of protein and good fiber, that steaming stuffing will look at least a little bit less like heaven.

3) Don’t deny, just ration. Instead of trying to ignore the existence of Grandma’s pecan pie or that marshmallow-topped sweet potato concoction, allow yourself to sample everything in moderation. Remember Sisson’s teaching about the first bite: all you need is a tiny scoop of each item to get almost the full benefit of sensory pleasure. So following with point #2, load your plate so full of meat and clean veggies that you can only fit a tiny daub each of potatoes, stuffing, candied whatever, and no roll.

4) Be selective. If you’re like me, there are certain parts of a meal that I can take or leave, and there are other parts I dream about all year and would rather die than not eat. For me, stuffing falls into the latter category, while a store-bought yeast roll or marshmallowed sweet potatoes fall into the latter. If this is you, then pick and choose your poisons carefully. Choose two or three of your favorite naughty sides and enjoy them to the fullest, but pass over those that only whisper your name instead of shouting it.

5) Be really, really careful with dessert. A decently portioned meal can be utterly ruined by three slices of pie with ice cream. Don’t undo all your hard work. This is coming from a self-admitted sweet tooth, so don’t tell me you can’t. I think one of the best strategies is to stuff yourself so full with the meal that you can barely fit a few bites of anything else down your gullet. Then, be selective if you can, choosing only one option to sample. If you’re like me and love all desserts and have to try everything, that won’t work. In that case, insist on serving yourself, and try only a 1/2 inch sliver of each pie. Then chant that diminishing returns stuff like a mantra as you let each bite dissolve in your mouth so very slowly.

If you’re into making your own, try using Agave and/or Stevia instead of sugar. I used a ratio of 1 Tbl Agave and 1/8 tsp stevia powder for a tasty but low-carb combo. There was no Stevia aftertaste, but I made a 13×9 pan of sweet potatoes casserole with only 2 Tbl of Agave. I’m not sure exactly how to substitute that for sugar yet (without just taste testing, which is what I do), but I’ll be working on it.

6) Pre-game. If you can’t count on anything clean other than maybe some turkey, you may have to resort to pre-party damage control. This is what I have started doing when I am going to a mystery meal, where anything from spaghetti to vegetarian burritos to french toast could be served. After a couple of ruined evenings spent waiting out insulin hangovers, I finally realized that you just cannot count on a decent protein source, let alone clean veggies, when eating with others. It’s shocking how far their ideas of good meals can be from ours, but it’s a fact for which we have to be prepared. My solution is to down a glass of protein powder and milk (with about 30 grams of protein) before leaving for the event. That way, I can sample whatever form of processed carbs they put before me without having to rudely refuse or worse sit in a silent, semi-vegetative state through the night’s conversation because an insulin spike and crash. With 30 grams of protein in your belly, you can face just about anything that’s thrown your way. It’s like liquid courage! This is less likely to be necessary with Thanksgiving, because a big hunk of meat is usually the centerpiece, but just know it is always an option.

Those are the tips I’ve come up with to cope with the potential perilous holiday meal. If you have any other ideas, please share in the comments!

Part II of this series will explore other holiday temptations and how to indulge sensibly, without compromising the festive spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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