Elise Takes a Field Trip to Trader Joes

Grocery shopping with your nutritionist is a lot like taking your mother with you to buy a bathing suit. You are going to hear some painful truths. But at the end of the day, you’ll probably make much better choices.

Our director of CoreNutrtion, Barbara Lincoln, took me on a whirlwind tour of Trader Joe’s yesterday. (Thank goodness, because we had a freak blizzard and Henry and I otherwise would have been reduced to a breakfast of pasta with Splenda this morning.)

We were focusing mainly on breakfast, lunch and snack foods, since I have a nasty habit of treating gas stations like they’re restaurants. I also have many days when I fail to eat enough to sustain life. Which is just murder on the metabolism. Especially when you have the metabolism of a 46-year-old … Not that I’m 46.

We began with the pre-made salad section. Lots of saturated fat-filled dressings, lots of hidden sugars and carbohydrates. Egads! I ate these all summer, feeling virtuous, nay, holy, as I did so. We took the egg white salad with chives and split.

We had more luck in the fresh fruits and vegetables section, as might be expected. I loaded up on pre-washed kale, organic baby carrots, Brussels sprouts, and red, yellow and orange peppers. We invested in lots of blueberries, my breakfast fruit of choice. Barbara gently steered me away from the bananas, distracting me with a bag of pretty little honey crisp apples. Then we bought more avocados than I think I’ve ever had in my life. Barbara loves avocados. “Put them in omelets! Chop them into a salad. You can have half an avocado at a time!” I thought: A fun drinking game would be to do a shot of tequila every time Barbara says avocado. But then I remembered it was 2 p.m. and we were in Trader Joe’s.

We picked up organic string cheese and these adorable little balls of goat cheese. “Have two while you’re making the kids dinner,” Barbara recommended. Done. Then I started heading towards the bread section, which is right next to my favorite part of the store, the Tasting Station. I sometimes feed Henry lunch there.

“Nope,” Barbara said, putting a well-muscled arm on the cart and steering us away.

“But…”

“Unless the kids need bread for sandwiches?”

I was reaching toward those loaves of bread that come half-baked and make your house smell great while you pretend you’re baking bread. I could lie. I could tell her we were all out of bread. Except the kids never eat bread. They like a hot lunch. I paused, realizing that honesty is the cornerstone of the nutritionist-poor eater relationship. “No,” I mumbled.

“Nuts!” Barbara announced. We stocked up on mini bags of raw almonds. I wanted the ones with chocolate. Barbara did a bag-to-bag comparison on sugar and calories. I relented. But she let me buy a box of 100-calorie super dark chocolate bars for emergencies.

Then Barbara literally hugged a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to her chest: “This is like nectar,” she said. “Food of the gods.”

When we went by the beans, I picked up a can of garbanzos, thinking it made me look good. “It’s fine,” she said, “but they’re a carbohydrate. Don’t treat them like a protein.”

“”Really?”

“Look at it this way, would you rather have beans or a glass of wine? Or beans or a piece of chocolate?” I threw down the can of beans as if it was on fire.

We bought canned salmon, something I truly thought only cats ate, and sardines (likewise). Barbara recommended I try the salmon with a tablespoon of real mayonnaise. It’s worth a shot. And she suggested I add the sardines to stewed tomatoes. I could imagine a yummy, puttanesca-like flavor. Without the pasta.

I brightened up considerably at the dairy section. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. We selected Greek yogurt (I like 2%), organic raw eggs, a bag of pre-hard-boiled eggs and whole milk for my coffee. Barbara nixed the organic raw coconut I love to sprinkle on my yogurt. “Blueberries and almonds are really enough, right? Aren’t you just using the coconut for the sweetness?” she asked.

“Doesn’t it have fiber?”

“Raw almonds and blueberries have fiber.”

No coconut. I will have to withdrawal from it slowly.

As we went to check out, I had the feeling that I had taken someone else’s cart by accident. Where were the Joe Joe cookies, the half-n-half? What happened to the frozen Indian food entrees? The bread?

And yet, today I found myself having green tea and an apple for a snack. An apple. I like apples in theory, but I had always thought the only people who actually ate them were third graders who packed their lunches. It was surprisingly delicious.

Some of Barbara’s favorites:

• Prepackaged raw almonds or cashews. Stash these little bags everywhere for a quick snack!
• String cheese (full fat) and mini balls of goat or brie cheese. A great food choice when you’re preparing dinner for the kids. Much better than, say, shoving a fistful of their mac-n-cheese into your mouth.
• Avocados. And more avocados.
• Apples. Pair one with string cheese between meals or spread raw almond butter on slices.
• Whole hardboiled eggs. Slice them into salads to add protein. Especially if, like me, you are trying not to eat meat.
• A rainbow of peppers and other fresh vegetables, including a good salad base like kale or chopped Brussels sprouts.
• Extra virgin olive oil. Made mostly of monounsaturated fats (unlike coconut oil, which is mostly saturated fat), it also has antioxidants.
• Dark chocolate. Because you deserve a treat. In moderation.
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A Food Diary Is Pretty Much What It Sounds Like

My diary history began in about 1978. I treasured my little lined book with the Mork and Mindy cover, the delicate lock and tiny silver key. I hid the key under my pillow. Turns out my younger brother could pick the lock with his pinky nail. So most of my diary was in all caps: “KEEP OUT OR DIE PIG FART! IF YOU ARE READING THIS YOUR EYES WILL BLEED JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE CARRIE!”

Being in Catholic School at the time, there were also little prayers. Things like, “Dear God, if you have to make a whale eat someone again, maybe it should be Sister Jordan? And maybe that could happen before my piano lesson on Thursday?”

But there were secrets, too: “Jessie gave me a pecan. What does that mean? I am keeping it in my desk forever.”

By college I was a budding writer. When I skipped off to Paris in 1989, I poured my heart out. In French. Song lyrics, mostly. In my defense, I was madly in love with a singer, the winner of the French version of Star Search. And if you speak any French at all, you know pretty much every word rhymes with every other.

I hadn’t kept a diary again until our head of CoreNutrition Barbara Lincoln asked me to keep a food journal. All I had to do was download an app and type in everything I ate or drank for five days. No problem. It gave me something to do when the other mothers at pick-up were tapping importantly on their phones. I imagined them typing: “Tell Hil I’ve got Iowa covered,” while I banged out “2 T cold saag paneer, 1 apple, and a Dunkin Donuts flatbread.”

Five days straight of food journaling. And then Barbara asked for the password to my account. Insert vivid flashbacks here of my brother and his tiny pink fingernail, of the French musician who cheated on me with a Swedish flight attendant and then made fun of my songs. None of that matched the horror of allowing Barbara to see what I ate every day. While I was running a fitness studio.

And yet, somehow I swallowed my pride (and then journaled swallowing my pride – No saturated fat! No calories!) and gave Barbara the password. We are planning a meeting to go over my food choices in detail. But Barbara’s initial reactions already have made a big difference in my energy level. Bottom line is, I need to ask myself: “Am I eating healthy food that nourishes my body, or processed food filled with sodium and junk?”

In our first meeting, I discovered:

1. I was eating about half of what’s necessary to sustain life. Whaaaa? Yay! I get to eat more food! But wait. There’s more…
2. Barbara doesn’t want me to add just any calories. They have to be healthy. I’m not eating enough vegetables and fruit. “How can I wash, prepare, cut and bag a bunch of fruits and veggies when I feel like I’m shot out of a cannon every morning?” I ask. “Make time,” Barbara gently insists. “Five to seven servings a day.”
3. I eat too much saturated fat and not enough healthy fat. Sausage pizza and saag paneer are not great choices. Walnuts, salmon, olive oil and avocado get the green light.
4. My diet is high in sodium from processed foods. And I’m not drinking enough water. Add the Megaformer sweat factor. Hello, H2O!
5. I should trade some carbs for high-quality protein, about 75-90 mg a day. Bye-bye flatbreads.
6. No more half-n-half with my coffee. That one really hurt. But with whole or 2% milk I’ll get some protein and less saturated fat.
7. I need to nix the granola and go for 2% Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and raw nuts. Guess what? It’s delicious.

I’m not focused on losing weight, but I’m truly desperate to have more energy, sleep better at night and just feel better. I’ll keep you posted after we do a deep dive into my food choices. But just the process of keeping a food diary has been insightful. Saag paneer is not a food group. And I need to get chopping.
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I’m Putting My Food Where My Mouth Is

I’d like to look like I own a fitness studio rather than, say, a 24-hour donut franchise. I’m obsessed with the workout we teach and I can honestly tell you that at 46, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. But the stress of a new business, the lack of sleep, the almost constant work cycle and the demands of a family that insists on my love and presence, have all taken a toll on my eating habits. I’m learning the hard way that exercise alone simply isn’t enough to achieve the healthy body I want.

It would seem obvious that if you have a registered dietician like Barbara Lincoln on your team, you should tap that resource. She’s super-knowledgeable, generous, empathetic, and her biceps make Michelle Obama look like a slacker. But something kept holding me back. Answering a detailed questionnaire about my eating habits felt a little like inviting Barbara over to watch me shower. Could I really let the director of CoreNutrition see the secret Dunkin Donuts stops I’ve made when I’m seeing spots and lightheaded because I went 7 hours without eating? And the terrible choices I’ve made once there?

I tested the waters with Barbara during a casual chat about breakfast. I thought I’d get an A-plus for my nonfat Greek yogurt, blueberries, and the low-sugar, all natural cereal I stir into it.

“The berries are great!” Barbara said. “But I really think you should switch to full-fat yogurt. And that cereal, along with the fat-free stuff, is adding a lot of carbs.”

She was helpful, not judgmental. And I learned in two minutes that the start to my day, every day, might not be the best choice. So I downloaded a food-tracking app and filled out the dreaded questionnaire.

It’s amazing how unconscious I can be about food choices when I’m driving, creating a new playlist and mentally planning Henry’s birthday party all at once. I eat at least one meal a day in my car. It limits my range to anything hand-held that doesn’t drip and is available at a gas station or drive-through. It’s time to get a grip.

“You could carry two hard boiled eggs and some cut-up vegetables with you,” Barbara offered. Switching out a fast food flatbread sandwich for whole foods clearly could have a big impact.

Tracking food is fascinating and humbling. It forces you to be honest with yourself about what you’re putting into your body (sodium! hidden sugars!) and what you’re not (enough protein!).

So I’m putting my food where my mouth is and sharing this with you. I want to be a positive role model, not a hypocrite. I want to be able look my clients in the eye when I talk about nutrition.
I’ll keep you posted. Maybe even videotape some of my sessions with Barbara. You’re welcome to ride along on this journey with me. Just don’t ask me to stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way.


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The Mind-bending Process of Accepting Change

When I was about 8 years old, I watched a live television broadcast of a yogi bending a spoon using nothing but his powers of concentration. This was prime-time television in the 70s and if you missed out on it, I feel sorry for you.

Tuning out my obscenely annoying little brothers, I tried to bend a spoon using nothing but my mind. I was certain it would work. When the spoon stayed rigid, I focused instead on making the overhead light in my bedroom dance. The fact that I was not successful did nothing to dim my absolute belief that if I concentrated hard enough, I could bend anything to my will.

Years passed and life brought many joys and hardships. Still, there were times I would find myself staring into the belly of a spoon, bend, bend, bend. On bad first dates, while bankers and lawyers regaled me with tales of skiing heroics or the deal they just closed, I would turn my eyes to my coffee spoon and tune them out. Bend. You know you want to.

Thirty-eight years after I first began my quest to bend a spoon with my powers of concentration, it dawned on me: If I really wanted to bend a spoon, I could probably do it with my hands.

It’s human to get stuck in a notion and one place where lots of us seem to do it is with exercise. This is the time of year when we scoot to the gym like a line of lemmings to do more of the same thing that is no longer working for us. Why do we persist in believing that somehow, this January 1 will be different? Why did I spend four decades trying to bend a spoon with my brain?

Your body will respond to the training you give it, something fitness folks call Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. This is why, after some period of time spent in any unchanged workout, you will come to a plateau. That’s when it’s time to mix it up. Try something new and challenge your body in a new way to see continued progress and change.

It sounds simple, but old habits are hard to break. Instead of a resolution to do more of what’s no longer working, add variation to your routine. Think about your long-term goals. I’m not saying that you want to hopscotch from one work-out to the next or blindly follow the latest trend. Instead, set goals. Be consistent. And when you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your workout, add a new element. If you’re a devoted Pilates fan, add swimming or cycling. If you’re a runner, cross-train and watch your body change.

Our first-time clients are always shocked at CoreMotion’s intensity. It doesn’t matter whether they are Ironman triathletes or returning to exercise after recovering from surgery or childbirth, they always leave shaking, sweating, cursing under their breath and humbled. And then, about four classes later, we are pushing that same client to change up their spring load, slow down their pace, perfect their form. Because the body quickly adapts to what we demand from it.

In January, we are going to be rolling out our HardCore classes. These ultra-efficient workouts are forty minutes long, with every move keyed to firing up almost 600 muscles in your body at once. Are they actually more difficult than a CoreMotion class? That’s hard to quantify. But certainly they will be different. And that’s what our clients need to keep improving and challenging themselves.

Take it from a woman who still, every once in awhile, looks at a spoon and thinks maybe, just maybe, this time will be different.


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It’s a #resolutionrevolution!

Elise Headshot

I was never one to make a New Year’s resolution. Why wait until the New Year to feel guilty about my affinity for champagne and cupcakes? I have a long list of shortcomings and they pop up in my internal calendar regularly.

But I can also see the appeal of a resolution because it’s the grown-up version of a hall pass. The media loves to trumpet the myth of a 7-pound weight gain over the holidays. Imagine, it’s like we’re all strapping a Yorkshire terrier to our midsection and wearing it like a belt over the holidays.

Studies show this is false. For most Americans, average holiday weight gain is one pound. A lousy pound. So what’s the big deal?

The problem is, that pound represents half of what most Americans gain every year through adulthood. Two pounds a year, starting in college, and more if you are obese to begin with. And this is weight most of us never lose.

By our forties, most of us are at least twenty pounds heavier. By our sixties, we’ve gained at least forty pounds. Simple math, but scary. I’m not one to fixate on weight as a number, but steady weight gain in correlation with the constant of aging spells health problems: diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and some cancers, just to name a few. It’s also a vicious cycle. It’s much easier to avoid weight gain in the first place than to lose the weight. And the more we weigh, the less we feel like doing the very things that can keep our weight in check, like exercising and eating healthily.

Which is why we’re calling for a resolution revolution!

To combat steady weight gain, we need to be conscious of our lifestyle choices. Believe me, I love a treat, whether it’s served in a champagne flute or a fluted muffin cup. But a treat is just that … a treat. A special little celebration. Not dinner.

So this holiday season, we are challenging you to commit to getting healthy now. Exercise regularly and be conscious of the food you put in your mouth. Have a strategy before you go to that cocktail party so that you aren’t mindlessly allowing your glass to be refilled and your hors d’oeuvre intake to reach the dizzying caloric heights to which those pigs-in-a-blanket and mini spanakopita can take you.

We’re here for you over the holidays. Our on-site nutritionist Barbara Lincoln can help you navigate the season in a balanced way that leaves plenty of room for celebration. Our CoreMotion classes not only offer a complete workout in fifty minutes to help you get the fittest, healthiest body of your life, but we’re a great stress reducer. Trust us, your family will survive without you for an hour, and you’ll return to them a happier, better parent, sibling, aunt, uncle or grandparent.

Look for our #resolutionrevolution deals. We’re committed to you. Now it’s your turn.


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Barbara Lincoln: Small Changes for Meaningful Results

Small changes are easier to swallow than big ones. The easier a new habit is to adopt, the more likely it’s going to stick. It’s why everyone always tells you to start small and then go big. Sometimes you can do it in reverse but not as often. Small changes and conscious choices can make a big difference in terms of weight and health. An article in the New York Times a short while back based on a research study highlighted the importance of watching how your calories are consumed. Pretty soon after, a man in my husband’s office that was trying to lose weight asked him for some nutrition tips and the first one my husband gave was, “Don’t drink your calories.” I have him well trained!! Honestly I don’t keep juice in our house; I reserve it for special occasions. My girls would rather have a cookie. And one of the first places I look when a client is trying to lose weight or has been newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is the amount of sugary beverages and alcoholic drinks that are consumed. Okay, I will be the first to tell you that I like to have my cake and eat it too! And as the mother of two young children, I like to have my wine as well. But I am well aware that these are occasional treats and that my glass of wine will replace my cake that night.

Five small changes that lead to meaningful long term results:

  1. Stop drinking juice. Research consistently demonstrates the links between juice consumption and Type 2 diabetes and metabolic disorders. This might be a big change for some of you but in the grand scheme of things it’s a small thing that you can do on a daily basis that is amazing for your health.
  2. Watch the added sugar. Do you put more than one packet of sugar in your coffee? Do you drink more than one or two cups of coffee a day? These packets of sugar add up. Think as many as 3 pounds per year.
  3. Add a salad to lunch and dinner. Most adults don’t get the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If you were one of my clients, I’d recommend 7. This is as easy as adding a salad to lunch and dinner and see #5. If that doesn’t get you to 5 then you have some work to do.
  4. Stop after one maybe two glasses. There are many health benefits to consuming alcohol. Research consistently shows that those who drink have lower mortality rates than those who don’t. But it is an inverse relationship. The more you drink beyond one drink per day for women and two for men, things get worse. And if you’re watching your waistline all bets are off. Any additional calories that get consumed that are not burned off get stored as fat.
  5. Have fruit for dessert. It is healthy, filled with nutrients and fiber. And it displaces some other treat that you might eat after dinner. It also helps get you closer to #3, your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables as recommended for most adults.

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From the Core

As we’re heading into the final weeks before CoreMotion Studio’s Grand Opening, I’m struck by the similarities between how I feel now and how I felt when I was about to give birth. Back then, my emotions swung wildly between heedless optimism, dread that life as I knew it would never be the same, fear of the physical challenge ahead, and, above everything else, an aching desire to finally set eyes on the creature that had sucked all the nutrients, life and energy from me for the past nine months.

Ditto CoreMotion.

Our studio is still raw around the edges, but improvements are moving at warp speed. Just as a baby starts to lose that red, wrinkled appearance in the last few weeks of development and plump out into something so cute you’ll want to suck its toes and keep it safe forever, so too is our studio turning into something beautiful and inviting. And like any new mother, I can’t wait to show our friends, family and neighbors what we’ve created!

Starting Columbus Day, October 12, my team and I will be offering free community classes. Check our website for available times and to sign up! Free classes will extend through Thursday, October 15. That afternoon, come by for a ribbon cutting ceremony and Opening Celebration! The festivities will kick off at 5 p.m. We’ll have nibbles, bubbly and demonstrations of our cutting-edge workout.

Starting Friday, October 16 we’ll be offering initial classes for just $18. We also have in-house nutrition services. See our website for great deals and packages to get you on your way to your healthiest, best body ever!


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