Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

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!

November 3, 2009

A Primer on Initial Diet Changes for Newbies at FAHBG

Filed under: diet, real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , — frandrewrowell @ 8:51 pm

A few of you who are new to the gym have asked for some really basic first steps towards a diet change.  So, here goes…


Most of us have a shake for breakfast, right after we’ve done the morning workout.  My shakes look like this:

1.5 scoops of Champion Nutrition Protein Stack Whey (about 39 grams of protein)

1 scoop of organic cold milled flax seed (huge container from costco lasts me forever)

1 or 2 raw eggs (we get them from a local farm)

1/2 of a frozen banana

3 frozen strawberries (good ole’ costco)

1/2 cup of frozen blueberries (ditto)

1 cup of whole milk (we get it from a local dairy)

1/2 cup of water.

That’s usually about 2 shakes worth, but i never, ever complain that it’s too much for little ole’ me.

Lunch and Dinner

Here’s a huge first step – just don’t eat anything but meat and non-starchy vegetables and drink water (or maybe unsweetened tea) with every meal.  This means no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no dessert, no cokes…try to stay away from bread and sugar/corn syrup like they are the carriers of the plague. Learn to make mashed potatoes out of cauliflower.  You’ll never go back.

Look around our blog – click on “diet” (see, especially this post (thanks, Micah and Mara!))and see some of our deeper conversations about how to eat at Chic-fil-a and not die (get the chicken salad without the bread or the strips and a side of fruit instead of the fries) or how to make a squash sing.  We also like www.marksdailyapple.com for receipes that help keep some variety in what we eat. Every now and then we’ll have a big feast where we all prepare some of things we’ve been trying.

Now we aren’t all crazy faithful about all of this – we probably stay in the zone of that suggested diet about 80% of the time.  But we’ve found that if you focus on making the vast majority of every meal involve a dead animal and some green, red or yellow veggies, you will see your body shape change along with our workouts very, very quickly.

We are mixed on the dairy front (some are primal diet folks with dairy, others are paleo adherents and stay away from dairy), but try to stay away from heavy cream based salad dressings and the ice-cream-gluttony that might have been a part of your old life.

Here’s the deal – after about a month, you’ll be so used to your suddenly limited diet that the little bit of cheating we all do by necessity goes a long way toward curtailing your sweet tooth (or whatever it is that you miss most).  The glorious thing is that the mantra “fat does not make you fat” makes you a lot less concerned about that yummy layer of fat on your brisket. Instead, you focus more on avoiding the insulin kick that sugar gives you that will SLOW DOWN the progress you’re trying to make in making your body into the (hot) temple of the Holy Spirit which God intends for it to be by His grace.


You will be hungry, all the time, when you are doing these workouts.  So try to snack on things like raw almonds, a spoonful of almond butter, and oreos.  I mean, not oreos. Dadgum, there’s a big package of oreos right here on my desk at the church….o…r…e..oo…sss…

Forgive me.

Almonds are your friend – i mean it – don’t go anywhere without them for your first month.  They are the rosary prayers of a radical diet change.

Good luck – feel free to ask some questions in the comments!


October 24, 2009


Filed under: random — Tags: , , , , , , — Micah Vandegrift @ 4:18 pm

This is what I do for college.

Click Here if you can’t see it



But what I really wanted to do for college….I guess through Crossfit I’m beginning to do!


new major for micah

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