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Workshop: LIFETIME LEAN, Saturday August 29th

Not a day goes by where my Facebook feed doesn't contain at least one diet post, whether it's a friend trying to lose weight, an advertisement for the next big miracle, or an acquaintance selling some kind of "shrinkage" elixir. Dukan, juice fasting, MLM supplements, 5:2, cabbage soup, Skinny Bitch, Grapefruit diet, Atkins, the Zone... even new trends of drinking clay and ingesting tapeworm eggs just to lose weight- totally gross! Obviously, this all makes my job very tough- my clients point to Susie Q who's on an extreme low calorie diet losing 4 lbs. a week and wonder why they're only losing a quarter of that. They see these 12-week "amazing before and afters" that required 1,000-calorie-a-day meal plans and 2 hours of daily exercise and they get sad. I relate because I used to buy into that crap myself, to the point where I was popping handfuls of (now illegal) fat burners and vomiting up my food. Not cute!

This industry I'm in... a lot of it totally blows.

So, here's the deal- next Saturday afternoon, August 29th, I will be hosting an intensive three hour workshop along with Master Trainer and Nutrition Coach, Roz Alexander, to help people cut through all the stinky diet and fitness B.S. and actually learn how to create a sustainable, long-term plan. Real transformation requires commitment to learning, hunger for change, and a willingness to reprogram both mind and body. There's no quick fix, and you don't just wake up one day a brand new person- it's a daily commitment. Change IS hard work- the diet companies won't tell you that- but if you have a blueprint in place, some useful tools, and a real willingness to turn the corner for good, I know you can get to a place of strength, joy, and peace living in a body that you're friends with. If you're looking for an instant turnaround or you need to squeeze into a dress in two weeks, this workshop is not for you. If you're ready to unravel the diet world mess and do the work to be healthy, strong and confident, please join! If you think this may be useful to someone you know, share it! 

To learn more and secure your seat--> http://strongbody.peatix.com/?lang=en-sg


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Smartphone-free, One Day at a Time

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If push came to shove, I’m betting that the vast majority of you reading this right now would be able to give up a vice or two for at least a month, be it booze or chocolate or online shopping. I’m sure that some of you already do this regularly, whether for Drynuary or Lent or to fit into a fancy dress. And, there may be a good number of you who have chosen a more mindful and sober life, eschewing things like alcohol, tobacco, processed foods, or pills. But, what if you were asked to give up your Smartphone for at least thirty days?

Where I live in Singapore, we are some of the most digitally addicted people on the planet, boasting the highest smartphone penetration rate on the globe. Nomophobia- the fear of being without one’s mobile phone- prevails. About the size of a tarot card, these inanimate wizards gently pull us out of ourselves and into a shiny, filtered future crafted primarily by strangers we seem to know and trust. Our smartphones offer the ultimate in escapism- conscious and yet unconscious, responsive and yet aloof, continuously shifting its tricks to the tune of our moods. This is precisely why the Smartphone is a potential disaster for anyone susceptible to an addiction… which includes all of us.

I’ve been addicted to something for the majority of my life since birth, beginning with the wrinkled thumb of my left hand, which morphed my two front teeth into diving boards. The thumb sucking eventually gave way to food, cigarettes, love, booze, and benzos, all of which offered velvety rabbit holes of escapism where I could curl up and see the world as what I wished it to be instead of what it actually was. That’s the sucky part about addiction- the initially warm and fluffy den of it all eventually makes you feel like you are ever so gradually boiling to death.

Which is why, when I felt those telltale edges of anxiety creep up six months ago after a strong six years of sobriety, I began snooping around to see what kind of pit I’d fallen into. The first thing I did was make a list of the evidence by asking a simple question: what was I seeking to do in my life that I wasn’t achieving and WHY? There were about thirty things on that list, large and small, with a common theme woven throughout- I was failing at achieving most of my goals due to shortcomings in time management.

Next, I began journaling each morning upon waking in an effort to tap into which emotions were leading me astray. Some of the usual characters began to pop up- fear, insecurity, and dread- but the one that was particularly interesting was “overwhelm,” something I had worked so hard to overturn and which- given how I had reordered my life since exiting the corporate grind- had no place in my being. Finally, I looked at where my time and my emotions were being directed to, immediately realizing that I was gripped by an addiction both insidious and yet acceptable enough to be seen merely as a necessary evil of our era.

My Smartphone, that simple little device I’d used to control the flow of my daily life, was now controlling me. Endless hours were being siphoned into text messages and Whatsapps, beckoning reactions instead of responses as they filtered in with their tinkling, sparkly bells. The enjoyment of a meal or a vacation could only be confirmed upon Instagramming it. Texts like, “what’s better: quinoa or barley?” were suddenly urgent matters; staying on top of emails became a futile game.

By the time I realized what had happened, some of the damage had already been done. I could no longer spend great swathes of hours alone without scrambling to find something to distract me. My thought patterns and language were changing- less rhythm, more sound byte. And, all the things deemed most important were being interrupted continuously by the crude punctuations of beeps, bells and buzzing from something that had supposedly been designed to support daily life, rather than overtake it . So, on June 29th, I removed the heart of my iPhone- its SIM Card- and tucked the deadened device in a drawer, replacing it with a grey Nokia bar phone that does little more than tell the time.

Since then, life has taken on a very different pace, each day marked by flow, trips and slips. I’ve written the first half of a meaty book, poured my evenings into Yogananda’s written works, and spent more time staring into my third eye- as well as the sky. I’ve also overlooked two appointments, missed birthdays and events, and felt the embarrassing pull of FOMO (fear of missing out) each time I’ve logged onto Facebook from my home computer. I’ve lost a few social media friends, perhaps because I’m no longer constantly engaged, and some of my true friends have heartily complained as well.

All the inconveniences are sorely felt- no Spotify on the go, no camera to capture a special moment, no media streams to distract me while I’m waiting in line. But, so are the benefits- the freedom of a wandering mind, a happier husband, feeling less like a servant or a consumer and more like a human being who can once again create something beyond the ephemeral, or just sit quietly with whatever’s going on between the ears.

It’s been nearly a month without my Smartphone and I’m just not ready to rejoin the rest of the developed world yet. I still feel those edges of anxiety boiling beneath the surface which makes me wonder if I can go back to it at all without tumbling into the hole again. Several people have said, “just delete your apps,” or “have more self control” or “leave the iPhone at home,” and I cannot help but wonder if they’re not just other addicts staring down into those tiny panes of glass, those windows of denial.

The truth is, I’m still hooked. I peek over at the shiny apps gleaming from my friend’s Samsung Galaxy, conceptualize a slick photo or video, lament the fact that I’m no longer rowing on those rivers of distraction. I nearly salivate when I think about holding it in my hands again, or tucking it into a pocket with the earphone hanging out, or even scheduling an appointment without having to write it down in one of those silly diaries from the caveman days.

Perhaps we’re all cyborgs now, I wonder. Instead of thinking of it as an addiction, I could consider it an extension, a plug-in with a few major bugs. Here’s the thing- we’ll find a way to justify whatever pulls us out of the listlessness and longing that comes with being human. That’s addiction at its core- a pursuit of self-soothing that eventually morphs its victims into muted, mindless characters enslaved by their fix of choice. Addiction or extension, I’m going to pass on the zombification… at least for now. One day at a time.


Would you ever consider giving up your mobile phone? How about the Internet, or even Facebook? How long do you think you could live without these technologies? Leave your thoughts below; I'd love to hear from you. Did you like this post? If so, please share the love!

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The Conversation: A Weekly Blog Series on Women & Drinking

If you think alcohol abuse is primarily a men’s health issue and directly correlates with lower socioeconomic status, you might want to reconsider. Recent statistics are sobering, and the number of professional women with alcohol use disorders-- as well as the number of alcohol-related deaths and alcohol-related illnesses among white-collar women-- are rising swiftly. A 2014 poll by trade magazine, The Grocer, found that 16 percent of women admit to often finishing a whole bottle of wine themselves at home. According to Gallup, the more educated and economically well off a woman is, the more likely she is to drink; white women are particularly prone. According to author Gabrielle Glaser, in the US, the rate of women being hospitalized due to alcohol is five times that of men. In Singapore, excess alcohol consumption is rising swiftly; young women are the fastest growing group of binge drinkers.

While statistics are helpful in understanding a quickly evolving story about women, stress and excess, I’ve had a front row seat to its unfolding for nearly half my life. My own show began with alcohol-fueled hospitalizations and mandatory 12-Step meetings in my teens, a few years after discovering the magic powers of Kahlua and Goldschlager. This snowballed into something a bit more sophisticated when I had the opportunity to work at some of New York’s toniest nightclubs and bars for almost a decade, often finding myself in situations that even Carrie Bradshaw would be envious of. Champagne with Mary J. Blige in the back of her limo? Check. Shots with Diddy? Check. Partying with Kevin Spacey in the VIP lounge? Check. But, like all great parties, this one had to come to a close, and it faded out in the saddest possible way, like when the DJ accidentally cues Barry Manilow and everyone in the club forgets how to dance, dead stop. I ended up- hold your breath- in the daily grind, working the 9-to-5 professional gig in Manhattan while going to grad school, sporting button-downs and pleated trousers from Banana Republic and volunteering at non-profits in my spare time. It was a dignified, respectable life… Except that I kept drinking, and my depression persisted, and both my appetite and tolerance for booze and pills grew.

This may sound like an obscenely unique example, but the average addiction recovery meeting proves otherwise, quite usually an even mixture of women and men from all walks of life, many of who have seen quite colorful days and who have their own stories- or drunkalogues- to tell. In my nearly six years of sobriety, what I’ve also been able to spot outside of the protective recovery bubble are increasing numbers of women living just as I had been- a bottle of “fine” wine after a stressful day at work (and everyday is stressful…), regular martini lunches with friends, Facebook and Instagram posts of yet another night out, another exclamation about Happy Hour and need and how amazing it feels. Don’t get me a wrong, there’s nothing the matter with a woman enjoying a drink from time to time… until it becomes day in and day out, until the booze begins scooping up her dreams, until her life undulates in those telltale waves and she finds the whole of her being tipping over, sinking, engulfed.

So, here begins a conversation about women and drinking, one that will probably be quite unique, controversial and, at times, heated. Each week on the blog, I’ll be covering one aspect in this massively complicated puzzle, and I’ll propose ideas, sources and questions to help move us along to something that’s so desperately lacking: Answers. Solutions. Alternatives.

One thing to note- I am not a medical doctor, and I’m not an expert on the subject of alcohol use disorders by the traditional, academic version of the word (not yet at least. Those who know me well know that I have an addiction to school…). I’m not a counselor, a psychologist or an epidemiologist either. I’m simply someone who has been up, down and all around this issue and who has decided to dedicate part of my career to helping other women who are presently enmeshed. I don’t propose to have or to offer all the answers, and I do think that what works for one person may not work for another. Let’s make this a respectful and solutions-oriented conversation. If you disagree with me on a point or would like clarity on a topic, say so. If you’d like to share your perspective or story, please do! If you think I’ve overlooked something or have made an error, politely call me out on it- I’m here to learn and if I want to make a real impact in this area, I have a hell of a lot more to do in that respect!

I’ll be sharing “The Conversation” blog posts both on the site and via the newsletter, so if you’re not signed up yet, please do so! So, first things first, if you have a particular aspect of drinking that you’d like me to write about, leave a comment or contact me. If you’d like to contribute a blog post as an expert or as someone who has been on this journey, the same applies.

Thank you for reading, and I look so forward to having a fruitful conversation with you!






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Imagination to Reality: Kavita's Vision Board Story

When watercolor artist, Kavita Rajput, attended one of my Vision Board workshops at Woolf Works a few months back, I knew that there was a compelling story behind her words of introduction at the beginning of the session. Recently, I spotted a Facebook post announcing Kavita's first upcoming solo exhibition and so, of course, I had to ask her to share more about her experience with Vision Boards. Here's what Kavita had to say: 

"I think I made my first ‘vision board’ without realizing it. I was still studying finance while nursing secret dreams of doing something more creative. My ‘vision board’ was a newspaper article about famous people who had successfully changed their careers to follow their passions. Doctors-turned-musicians, accountants-turned-award winning movie directors and so on… This little newspaper cutout was taped on the inside of my cupboard and I used to see it every single day.

Almost a decade later, while still working in finance, I made another one, this time, more consciously. It had amongst many other things, a picture of an art exhibition and another picture of a business card that read ‘Kavita Aras Rajput, Artist’.

And here I am, 4 years later… waiting for my first solo exhibition to open in two weeks, having made that transition from finance to art.

It’s not magic. But after you have experienced it, it does seem pretty magical! Having a vision board and keeping it in a place where you see it most often helps remind you of your dream on a regular basis. Your subconscious mind starts focusing on possible paths or people or actions that can help you get to your desired destination. And then, what’s most important, is to act on those ‘inspirations’. Make plans, set small goals and do all that you can with what you have. Taking consistent action, however small, in the direction of your dreams is really important because it’s these small determined steps that make big dreams come true!

I recently attended a “Creating your Vision” workshop by Aimee Barnes and I absolutely loved how she has organized it. She is a truly inspirational woman and her own story of achieving her dreams is nothing short of amazing! Aimee guides you to gain clarity on your goals, create your own vision board and to form a plan to make that vision a reality. I would have really treasured this guidance when I first started making my vision boards!"

Many thanks, Kavita, for sharing your Vision Board story. Kavita will be showing her work in her first solo exhibition, "Moments in Watercolour by Kavita Rajput," at the ION Art Gallery from March 14th to the 20th. Her work can be found at 
www.facebook.com/KavitaArasRajput and www.kavitarajput.com

The Vision Board workshop at Woolf Works is back this month on Saturday, March 14th. If you want to create a clear picture of your aspirations and design a road map to get you to your goals while sharing laughs, inspiration and good company, then I look forward to seeing you there! Secure your seat at http://createyourvision.peatix.com/

Do you have a compelling story about Vision Boards? Email me at aimee@tangramfitness.com or share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you at Kavita's exhibition and at the upcoming Vision Board workshop.

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Personal Trainer Wanted: Eight Points to Consider

You better adore your personal trainer- you'll be spending a fair amount of time together! 

You better adore your personal trainer- you'll be spending a fair amount of time together! 

I’ll never forget my first personal trainer- a welterweight boxer at a commercial gym in New York who used to march my pin thin, chain-smoking body into the ring and have me jump rope for minutes at a time while he furiously punched out texts on his mobile phone. That relationship didn’t last very long, and losing $900 out of the deal in my broke college days taught me a valuable lesson about handing over dreams to someone without doing due diligence first. Now, as a coach and trainer who hires other coaches to train me (I have a competitive event I’m gearing up for and just enlisted a qualified pro to prepare me- more on that later…), I’d like to think I’m a little bit wiser than the twenty-something wisp of a chimney I used to be. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are eight points to consider when seeking a personal trainer or coach:

1. Make sure that the trainer is accredited by a well-respected international organization and holds current CPR and AED certifications. ACSM is known to be the “gold-standard certification,” and NASM and ACE are also highly regarded. Be forewarned- there are many trainers in Singapore who are not certified from a reputable source. Don’t be afraid to ask for certification verification.

2. Trainers are never “one size fits all.” Think about your specific goals and find a trainer who specializes in what you need. For instance, if you are aiming to stay in shape while pregnant, locate a female trainer skilled in prenatal fitness. Looking to build strength and gain definition? A personal trainer or coach who specializes in weight training and who is a bodybuilder would be very helpful. Looking to run a marathon? Hire a trainer who has been there and done that, and who has a track record of getting clients to the finish line.

3. Do you actually like this person? A personality match is key to a successful relationship between client and coach. Before committing to anything, schedule an initial meeting with the trainer to make sure that the two of you click. Good personal trainers and coaches almost always offer a complimentary assessment or initial training session prior. Use this as an opportunity to see if you can actually hang out with this person, as you’ll be spending a fair amount of time with them!

4. Does the trainer or coach have a high level of empathy? Empathy should be a job requirement in the health and fitness industry. You need to know that your trainer can give you emotional support during your fitness journey, and that they take a real interest in your well being. Work with a trainer who will listen and be responsive to your needs. If the trainer or coach bullies or belittles you, or tries to get you to do things you’re uncomfortable with, RUN!

5. Umm, how’s your trainer looking? This may seem shallow, but wouldn’t you rather work with a trainer who is in good shape? Won’t you be more motivated by a person who takes pride in their appearance and physically challenges themselves?
A personal trainer who does not seem to care about their body may not care about yours either, and likely doesn’t have the experience necessary to guide you on your journey. Of course, there are exceptions, but they’re rare.

6. Communication skills should be tailored for the 21st century! Does your trainer use desktop tools and applications to monitor and graph out your progress? Can your trainer or coach offer sessions over Skype when you travel, or keep in touch with you through social media and mobile apps? Professionals who can harness new technology to keep you on track offer advantages that should make your life easier in the long run.

7. Exercise is only one component of getting in shape- don’t forget nutrition! Look for a trainer who has education and certification in nutrition, either as a nutrition specialist, nutritionist or dietitian, depending on your needs. If your trainer doesn’t possess this knowledge, is he or she working with someone who does? Your trainer or coach should be able to guide you in making healthier food choices. If you’re an athlete or training for a specific event, a professional with sports nutrition and supplements knowledge may also be beneficial to you.

8. Finally, find a trainer who can stick with you throughout your journey and get you to your goal. Remember, however, that your trainer or coach is only actively with you a few hours a week, and has no control over what happens when you open the refrigerator door! That said, if you commit to putting in the work, your trainer should be able to guarantee results.

What other qualities do you think a trainer should have? Are you currently working with a personal trainer? Any memorable training experiences- good, bad or ugly? Leave your comments below- I’d love to hear from you!

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On the Bench: Staying Focused When You’re Out of the Game



When I launched Tangram Fitness only a few short months ago, I had a mission to build an empowering personal training and health coaching business that also raised awareness on important women’s issues – topics like mental health, eating disorders, self-esteem, body image, hygiene, and chronic illness. My reason behind creating a company like this was quite simple- I had turned my own life around through fitness and nutrition, and I know just how powerful a regular exercise routine can be, both anecdotally and scientifically. Exercise is my drug, the most powerful form of medicine I’ve found, and I wanted nothing more than to share it with others.

Feeling invincible.

Feeling invincible.

What I did not expect, however, was to have to face yet another serious challenge at a time when everything seemed to be coming together perfectly. I had a new business that I loved with some incredibly awesome clients, I was training to compete in a figure competition and feeling physically stronger than ever, and my life had been pretty excellent for quite a while. Everything was moving in the right direction…with one exception. The pelvic pain I’d first experienced five years ago (which was diagnosed as interstitial cystitis, or IC) had returned with a vengeance, despite following an IC-friendly diet and religiously caring for my physical health and stress levels. Each month, the pain became worse, and even as I gave my all to push through it at every workout and training session, I began struggling to accomplish simple daily tasks. I felt like I was sleepwalking with a sixty kilogram kettle bell attached to my pelvis, and I was urinating more than forty times per day, unable to sleep for more than an hour at a time at night.

Eventually, in September, I decided that it might be time to see a doctor. He referred me to a specialist, which led me to another specialist, who diagnosed me with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common women’s health condition that occurs when the cells from the lining of the uterus grow on other organs of the body, like the bladder, kidneys and bowel. Approximately 7% of women will have endometriosis in their lifetime, with an average diagnosis at between 25-35 years old. While many don’t exhibit any symptoms, for others, the pain can be excruciating. The exact cause of endometriosis is unknown, although recent studies indicate that exposure to pesticides greatly increases a woman’s risk of developing it. Up to 50% of infertile women have endometriosis, and it often coexists with other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, like lupus and interstitial cystitis. Aside from impacting tens of millions around the world, there are many well-known women who have endometriosis, (most notably, Padma Lakshmi, who founded the Endometriosis Foundation in the US) and yet, you hardly hear about this common disease, especially in Singapore. Unfortunately, lack of awareness has dire consequences. According to my specialist, many local women do not seek help until the endometriosis has reached a severe stage, which can be very difficult to treat.

This Wednesday, just a few hours after boot camp, I underwent laparoscopic and cystoscopy surgery- otherwise known as “keyhole surgery,” which removed nine areas of endometriosis on my organs. Reduction in pain is experienced by 80% of women who undergo this surgery, but there is a 30-40% chance that the endometriosis will return and surgery will be necessary again. For now, I am solely focused on healing quickly and being able to resume my active life again, but I have to admit, being sidelined like this is not my forte. I don’t “do sick” gracefully and one aspect of myself that I could stand to work on is patience, the ability to sit still and let life roll on as it is beyond the fifteen minutes I spend meditating in the morning.

As an athlete and fitness professional, accepting the trials of my body over the past five years has been difficult, but at the same time, it's also one of the factors that drove me to change my life and become an athlete in the first place. Because of the pain, I’ve missed more than a few of my workouts in the past four months, and for many other workouts, I was unable to give 100%. When I confided to a bodybuilder my concerns about surgery, I was told that I may not be able to compete after all because of the scars on stomach (total rubbish, by the way). More than a few people have said, “but you look fine!” Today, I’m finding it difficult to walk to the kitchen, which makes me wonder when I’ll actually be able to run again… two weeks, three weeks, a month?

Here’s the reality: the vast majority of us, at one time or another, will face a major health challenge that will either derail us from our goals or push us to emerge both stronger and wiser. You’re training for a marathon and you twist an ankle. You’re putting forth a serious effort to lose weight and you rupture a disc in your back. You’ve been preparing for a triathlon and you sustain a serious injury. These are all true stories from people I personally know, and they’ve all faced the same decision- keep moving forward, however slow, or stop. Unfortunately, many people do decide to give up, to use their illness or condition as an excuse to avoid anything that may be uncomfortable.

I’ve spent some time contemplating how I can still reach my big goals for 2014- building an impactful wellness business, changing people’s lives for the better, and competing successfully in figure- while healing fully.  Here are my steps to stay on track, as I work toward moving off the bench:

1. Create a recovery plan of action. Don’t just wait around until you feel 100% again- if that’s your mindset, then you might be waiting forever! Type out a road map that will get you back to where you need to be. Schedule walks and mini-workouts, as well as appointments with physiotherapists, naturopaths, and massage therapists who will assist you on your path to wellness. Put all of your exercise sessions on your calendar, and keep a notebook on your progress. Take things slowly, and aim to increase your speed or intensity by no more than 5-10% each week.

2. Express your frustrations constructively. Bottling up any negative feelings you may be experiencing can hinder your recovery and put you in a sour mood. Talk things out with a trusted friend, keep a journal, draw cartoons or blog about your journey.  If needed, don’t be afraid to chat with a therapist or psychologist. For those of you living with chronic conditions, it’s important to have a regular outlet to express what you’re going through. Painting and creative writing can also be beneficial.

3. Invite inspiration into your life. Identify people and sources of information that remind you of what you’re working on and why. I’ve been following IFBB Figure Pro Ava Cowan’s blog “The Journey Back to Strength," which documents her recovery from a serious injury as she works her way back to the stage. I also read Bodybuilding.com’s Transformation stories every single week for a feel good boost.

4. Recognize that there’s always another event down the road. So what if you miss the triathlon, marathon, or bodybuilding competition you were preparing for? Events are a dime a dozen now, and you can always register for one at a later date. On the plus side, it gives you more time to prepare! Don’t get so hung up on a deadline. If you want to get there, you’ll get there.

5. Take time to meditate. If your body is fighting an illness or injury, it’s more important than ever to reduce your stress levels and gain perspective. Mindfulness meditation can also assist with pain management, reducing chronic pain by up to 57% in clinical trials.

6. Buy yourself a motivational gift. Find a special treat that you’ll look forward to using when you’re back on your feet. A few days before my surgery, I went out and bought some fancy “Run NYC” kicks from New Balance. They’re waiting patiently for me.

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7. Eat for your health. Now is definitely not the time to pig out on junk or rely on processed food. Indulge in lots of whole fruits and veggies, and read up on diets that may help you in your healing. I’ve been following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (with a few exceptions- I still include lots of eggs in my diet and I avoid tomatoes and citrus). There are other types of elimination and immunity-building nutrition plans you may wish to try, depending on what you're dealing with.

8. Use this downtime to learn and grow. Make a list of books you want to read and topics you want to learn about, and then dig in! If you’ve ever wanted to build a website, get a certification, learn how to use Photoshop or Excel, or take an online course through a portal like Coursera, now is the time.

9. Practice self-love. Being sick or injured is not your fault; don’t take this stumbling block personally. Honor your needs with compassion, and listen to your body. Write a personal mantra or statement of healing, hang it up in your bedroom or bathroom, and recite it aloud as often as you can.

I’ll keep you posted with my learnings as I move forward, and explore writing more about fitness and nutrition for those of you who have chronic conditions or injuries. We all experience setbacks, but we should never let these barriers get in the way of living a full and fit life!

As always, leave your comments and questions below. I'd love to hear from you!

Take care,

Aimee 
 

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Mussels for Muscles: My Top Pick for a Healthy (and Eco-Friendly) Meal

Mussels for Muscles! 

Mussels for Muscles! 

It’s been about three years since I last ate chicken. I distinctly remember my final bite, at Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice in Katong, just a few days before I’d peeled open Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” on an intercontinental flight. I don’t want to ruin your dinner, so I’ll just say that his descriptions of factory farming and antibiotic use in poultry were enough for me to bid farewell—yet again— to the bird. This is a particularly unfortunate breakup for any athlete, since chicken is one of the best sources of cheap and convenient protein around.

Enter the Mussel. Mussels are a type of elongated, dark shelled clam inhabiting both freshwater and saltwater, with fairly diverse characteristics in appearance and taste. Their flavor reminds me of floating lazily in the ocean on a breezy day- salty and earthy at the same time. Mussels have been eaten for thousands of years, and were first commercially cultured in the 12th century in France on ropes suspended from buoys. This method—longline farming—has remained largely the same over hundreds of years. Many of the pre-packaged mussels available regionally hail from New Zealand, Australia and China, but there are also Asian Green Lipped Mussel farms much closer to home, in the Straits of Johor.

Due to its nutritional profile, affordability, sustainability and versatility, mussels are hard to beat. A one cup serving of mussels cooked in moist heat contains approximately 130 calories and a whopping 18 grams of protein. Mussels are high in selenium, a trace mineral that plays a critical role in antioxidant metabolism by supporting the enzyme, GPX, which removes hydrogen peroxide from the body and prevents damage to RNA and DNA. Mussels also contain high levels of two long chain fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), Omega 3 fats that are vital for healthy brain, eye, joint, skin and cardiovascular function. Their zinc content will help keep cold viruses at bay, and they have more vitamin A and iron than their crustacean counterparts, as well as being a rich source of vitamins B12 and E.

Mussels are one of the most sustainable food options today, and actually assist the environment by keeping our waters clean. Some scientists are even proposing that mussel farming may be a way of cleansing coastal waters from pollutants like sewage and fertilizers. One thing mussels won’t clean out is your wallet. A hearty mussels dinner at home for two can cost as little as $4 (crazy, considering how much Belgian restaurants charge in Singapore for a small pot of mussels)! Preparation and cooking time are stress-free; just pull off any “beards” from the shell and, if you’re so inclined, give them a bit of a scrub in the sink before steaming them with your favorite broth and aromatics. The creative options are endless! A white wine base is all the rage these days, but if you prefer to go alcohol-free, you can use fish stock, lemon water, or apple cider vinegar instead. Here’s a delicious, no-frills recipe for a muscle-boosting dinner in minutes:

Easy Breezy Mussels for Muscles:

3 pounds fresh mussels
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
4 small shallots, minced
3 sprigs of thyme
½ cup parsley
½ cup dry white wine or apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add thyme and garlic, as well as dry white wine or apple cider vinegar and boil for a minute. Add the mussels, lemon and most of the parsley. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until mussels have opened. Sprinkle the remaining parsley and pepper and serve the mussel in bowls with broth. Serves 2-3 hungry people. Voilà!

Enjoy! Have a favorite mussels recipe or sustainable protein option? Jot down your thoughts in the comment section! 

 

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