Cilantro Lime Butter Chicken

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

Heat oven to 350 degrees if you are going to bake. You can also do this on the stove top with a frying pan.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breasts – thawed, trimmed if you want, and enough for each person in your party to have 1 servings (3-4oz).
  • Limes – 1/2 sliced and 1/2 for squeezing
  • Cilantro – leaves chopped, stems removed
  • Butter or coconut oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan, extra if you want it melted on top of chicken for serving
  • Melt the butter in the pan of your choice.
  • Arrange the chicken breasts in the pan
  • Squeeze 1/2 the lime over the chicken
  • Sprinkle with 1/2-3/4 of the clinantro
  • A little salt and more pepper than salt for cooking

The Cooking Part …

  • Cook until Chicken is done. I usually bake for 30 min or cook stove top for 10-15 min on med each side. I use a meat thermometer because it is easier for me to make sure it is done. I also set a timer to remember to flip or check.
  • Once done I cover and let rest about 5min while I finish prepping the sides, salad, and get the service ware ready.
  • Serve hot with extra slices of lime on top of each piece and a sprinkle of cilantro. Sometimes I add a dollop of butter too.

What to serve with …

I usually serve with any of these: roasted/baked potatoes, rice, asparagus, cauliflower, salad, and/or black beans. Enjoy!

Delicious and Simple Baked Salmon

In this easy to make main dish, I often stick it in the oven – make sure the timer is set loud enough – and then I work out while it cooks. Helps balance my life – good food and healthy body.

I am not a great cook, I’m good when I want to be, but honestly my mind is usually somewhere else and following recipes is really, really hard for me. Any distraction – 3 kids, the dog, a friend, a flower – and boom, we are having “blackened” food again … usually without the Cajan part. So I started making my food simple. Really simple. I wanted healthy and easy.

This one is super easy and allows you to go do something else while it cooks … Like Workout!

Ingredients Needed: Salmon filets, butter or coconut oil, rosemary in whatever form you have, I like ground for this dish, black pepper – I like the kind I can grind

  • Get some salmon – make sure it is thawed out (I often forget this step and end up with frozen items :). Enough for everybody to have a portion (3-4oz piece, size of a deck of cards).
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Line a baking dish with foil (if you want easy clean up)
  • Melt some butter or coconut oil – enough to cover the bottom with a little layer of liquid. I just put the oil in the baking dish and throw it in the oven while I get the salmon ready.
  • Arrange the salmon in the baking dish skin side down
  • Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze one half over the filets.
  • Sprinkle Rosemary over the tops of each piece
  • Grind fresh pepper over them
  • Cover with a piece of foil and bake for about 30 min depending on the thickness of the fish. Should be flaky and light pink inside.
  • Garnish with fresh lemon slices from the 2nd lemon half cut earlier

Pair with salad, roasted vegetables, rice pilaf, or baked potatoes to make a full meal.

Note: if it is to dry melt some butter over the top and note for next time cooking. Shorten the time.

Movement is Expression of the Soul

Have you ever finished a hard physical activity and savored the physical sensations in your body? The tired muscles, the satisfied feeling of accomplishment, the mental clarity of being fully present to your experience in the moment?

This is spirituality in action. The body is the vehicle for the soul’s expression. Movement is the language. We are made to move. The body and mind need movement to form clarity in our being. We want to ground our experiences in physicality so we better understand them in their entirety. If we can find a movement, gesture, sound, or other form for our experience it becomes more concrete.

Grounding our experiences in physical movement allows us to express ourselves more fully. We tend to follow through on goals better if we have written them down. We tend to remember details more clearly when we have jotted down a note or spoken them out loud (writing and speaking are movement). Studying becomes easier if we pair it with movement, we remember better. This is because our learning is anchored in our doing. It offers another pathway to wire knowledge inside our brains.

Movement helps us do. Movement helps us take the abstract concept of being and make it real by showing the concept in our physical bodies. When we finish a physical task we can see the product or accomplishment and feel the good feelings associated with doing something. This gives us a concrete example of our strength. Today I saw mine as I stopped to rest my tired legs on my ski poles. I looked up and back over the powdery mogul field I had finished traversing and felt pride I made it as far as I did.It is a hard task for me and the challenge both physically and mentally left me soaring with positive moods the rest of the day.

We can make inferences about people based on posture, physical stature of their bodies, and the way they move in the world. Often these inferences are accurate and help communicate important parts of our being to others. As a result we are more connected.

In many traditions we are represented to be parts of Goddess, God, Mother, Father, etc. If these claims are true our bodies are direct and unique expressions of the divine. And if that is true are you giving your divinity its due?

Today move your body with the goal of feeling fully embodied to give full expression of your soul, and honor your divine nature.

Photo Credit: Moguls under Legends Lift 8 at Purgatory. Durango, Colorado. Brave Ski Mom


Body Weight and Machine Cardio Blast

Ready to hit the gym and need to let go of some steam? This workout will blast through any stress you have hanging around. You’ll leave feeling strong, powerful, and ready to take on the world.

Workout Basics and Warm Up

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

Workout Warm Up Movements – Do 10 to each side

  • Arm Circles
  • Elbows Jabs (up and back) with core rotations – pay attention to pulling the bellybutton toward the spine and allowing movement through the torso without straining the spine.
  • Diagonal Front Arm Raise with Unweighted Squat – knees over ankles & butt back, like you are using a porta-potty at a music festival and determined not to touch any surfaces or soil yourself 🙂

Body Weight Set 1 – repeat the list 3 times for 30 seconds each movement

  • 180 Jump Squats
  • Froward / Backward Jumps
  • Leg Overs
  • Lateral Walking Pushups

Machine Set 1 – 1 minute as fast as you can

Treadmill Hill Climb – set incline at level high enough to maintain your target heart rate at 60-70%

Body Weight Set 2 – Repeat the list 3 times for 30 seconds each movement

  • Power Burpees
  • Plank Clocks to each side
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Side Plank Drops
  • Lateral Shuffle
  • 1 Leg 4 Square Hops

Machine Set 2 – 1 minute as fast as you can

Cross Trainer / Elliptical – Set level to maintain 60-70% target heart rate

Body Weight Set 3 – Repeat the list 3 times for 30 seconds each movement

  • Oblique Crunch Right Side
  • Center Sit Ups
  • Oblique Crunch Left Side
  • Boat Pose 30 Second Hold
  • Quadruped Knee to Opposite Elbow – Alternate sides

Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have a fun living in your body today!


Quantify All Your Movement Using Metabolic Equivalents (METs)

Want to know an easy way to count all your movement? Try using METs. These are metabolic equivalents and they help you determine how hard you are working when you do movement.

A MET is an absolute value used by exercise physiologists to help us understand how much work is being expended by any given activity based on how much oxygen you are using to complete the activity.

The measurement is based on your weight. Once you have determined your personal value based on your weight and oxygen needs, you can then determine all sorts of caloric values for a number of activities. This helps you count all the household chores, shopping, activity at work, play, and daily living activities you do everyday toward your exercise goals.

You can find the caloric burn of things like sleeping (.9 METs) or working at my desk (1.8 METs) to things like vigorous exercise and high intensity workouts.

When we think about moving for mental health and brain function lots of things count. It does not have to include an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. It is a simple as standing up and sitting back down 10 x right now or marching in place while swinging your arms, ok that one may be a little hard, but not expensive! It really is just the mindset that I have to move everyday. Movement IS medicine.

As you exercise you help build the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of our brains active in memory formation. During periods of high stress the hippocampus is damaged by glucocorticoids (stress chemicals in the body) and as a result does not function as well. Research shows that those with mental health disorders related to emotional dysregulation may be operating with a smaller hippocampus. Physical exercise has the benefit of increasing brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Increasing BDNF is a factor in neuroplasticity and helps build the hippocampus, thus increasing your ability to regulate your emotions, focus, and remember. Not so bad for something so free, huh?

Movement for mental health doesn’t have to be hard … it just has to be done.

Resources

Want a quick and easy way to see how hard you are working? Check out the Compendium of Physical Activities

Want more info on METs? National Public Radio just did a story on using METs to reach your fitness goals: Read the NPR story here.

Interesting in calculating your own activities? Check out this calculator to help you determine your calories burned: MET Calculator

Read past blog posts on METs and using them for cardiovascular exercise. 

Free Athletic Training

Get Moving: The links between physical exercise and psychological states

Ever wonder why it is so hard to exercise when you are feeling stressed? When you are feeling depressed? After experiencing a trauma? My research showed that when the nervous system is overwhelmed it is harder to workout, but that just exposing yourself to more exercise helps you get over the initial barriers you are experiencing.

This week, in the last of the series on self regulation, we are going to talk about exercise and movement. For many exercise is something extra they must do every day, but in reality movement is part of what regulates your body throughout the day. 

It starts with breathing. As you breathe you regulate your sympathetic and para sympathetic parts of your nervous system. You do this through what is known as heart rate variability. Many of us who work in the exercise and health care fields use this number to understand how healthy your cardiovascular system is, however in my world of somatic psychology I can also use it to program movement to help you change your psychological states. This manipulation of your physical system allows for another option to change how you feel without the same level of concentration changing your thoughts may take. 

Mind & Body as One

Lots of people talk about the mind – body connection and how important is is to your health. To me there is no separation. If we want to know if you are stressed we would look at your cortisol levels in your saliva, depressed check out your blood serotonin levels, how well you are absorbing the nutrients you need to make the neurotransmitters to feel content, pleasure, calm, and control your impulses (physical and thought based) we could examine your feces. 

The body and mind do not have a connection point. They are one thing. The mind just has the ability to abstractly consider your experiences and decide what you would like them to mean. This ability gives the impression that the body is separate from the mind, but the mind has nothing to make meaning of if it does not have the body experiences to decipher. Understanding this oneness helps make more sense of our need for movement to regulate our emotions. 

My Research Findings

When I was doing my doctoral research, it was hard to find the bridges to understanding how our physical health intersects our mental health. There were studies with some longevity looking at how aerobic exercise helped depression, anxiety, bi-polar, and even schizophrenia. We could see how exercise impacted stress levels and anecdotally I heard many stories of people who were helped by regular exercise. However, so many people struggle to work out it was hard to understand how psychological struggle was associated with lack of exercise when we know how helpful it is. Turns out there is correlation between how physically stressed your system is and how hard it is for you to exercise. In my research I found that those who struggled with panic disorder (that feeling like you are having a heart attack, going to die, cannot breathe, and are so scared that you cannot think. Sometimes even feel as though you are losing your mind) is the hardest disorder to get enough physical exercise to meet your needs. Problem is, physical exercise is what helps metabolize the chemicals out of your system and decrease your feelings of panic and stress. As the cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones rise in the system, they feed the symptoms creating a self fulfilling cycle of increasing stress levels. Thus making it harder and harder for the person to physically exercise.

Anxiety and Stress

For the person without panic, but with anxiety and stress overload, struggling to exercise is often linked in a similar fashion just not at the same level. It is hard to motivate and get out the door when your physical system is already so tired and feeling overwhelmed. People will describe feeling heavy, lethargic, slow thinking, or in contrast “tired but wired”. As a result exercise seems too hard and it is much easier to grab a substance to unwind or sit and watch TV. 

Depression

Depression is similar but different. In a depressed system every thing feels hard to manage and the body is very fatigued. It is a similar stress on the physical system, but depressed, a different manifestation of difficulties. When feeling depressed we often struggle to see the point of doing anything. People describe feeling heavy, lethargic, overwhelmed, increased sensitivity to pain, and inability to take care of basic living tasks. These make getting on the treadmill pretty darn hard. 

Kbands

How to Help Yourself Start Exercising

One thing interesting from my research was the fact that the more substance use disorder diagnoses someone had the more likely they were to exercise and the less likely they were to buy into barrier beliefs to accomplishing the tasks of working out. What they told me was, they had to move – they’d lost their license and had to ride bikes, walk, and “there isn’t much to do in jail”. As a result they were exposed to movement regularly and therefore saw and felt the benefits and kept the habit going while they could. As a result of their insight it became apparent that exposure was important to helping others begin the process of working out regularly. Enter movement specifically designed to help mental health diagnosed disorders – depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobia, bi-polar, ADHD. I routinely prescribe physical movement along side traditional therapy interventions because the research is pretty clear, exercise helps. It teaches us a lot about ourselves. 

The research links between physical movement and mental health is growing. There is more and more research coming out everyday looking at how the physical system changes as a result of our thinking and how our thinking is changed by our movements. 

So today, just move. Take a moment, get out of your chair or bed and walk around. As you move the body notice what movements might feel good. Based on your current mental state do you want to move slow or fast? Do you want to be close to the ground or jumping? Do you want to be “quiet” in your moments or “loud”? Move slow or explosive?

Use your inner awareness of your current mental health state to determine what movement would be best for you right now … Now go do that.

Why Blessing a Meal Matters

Ever wonder why so many spiritual traditions have a ritual designed around blessing the food you consume? Although they are different, many serve the same purpose. To get you to a place of parasympathetic response before you eat. Thus upping the chance that you will get the nutrition you need and be better prepared to survive.

This is the nervous system state you are in when you are calm, feeling centered, connected, and safe. It is often called the “rest & digest” state. In this state your neuro-chemistry is working in your favor to help decrease the stress load on the body. Food items are chemicals that must be broken down to be useful. For the body optimal digestion happens when the body can focus on this task (not stressful events and vigilance) and work to give you the nutrients you need.

If you are stressed when you eat, the body cannot focus on breaking down your food well. It has to maintain vigilance to survive your environment. Events like driving your car, fights with family/friends, office politics, watching the news, worrying about household tasks to complete – can be stressful events your body is attempting to manage instead of focused digestion.

What is physically happening when you are stressed

When your body is stressed you are activating your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). This is the circuit that manages your stress chemicals. When it is active the body has to attend to the adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones because they are being pumped into the system for a reason. The body knows the “fight & flight” feelings they create are about keeping you alive aka … are important. So the response to them dominates the rest and digest option.

When you are working to digest food under a high stress feelings, the body holds calories (often depositing them around your middle). This is because it is concerned that it may need these extra sources of energy for escape. You might truly feel like you need to escape from the office board room during your working lunch, however you probably do not want the calories you are consuming during it contributing to your muffin top.

Reasons to say a blessing over your food

To optimize our food choices we must be in a state of calm when we eat. Saying a prayer, blessing, thank you, or even just taking a deep breath before you eat helps the nervous system calm down and be better prepared to digest and use the food you are about to take in.

Try this little experiment on yourself. Next time you eat find a comfortable spot that you enjoy being in, sit down, spread your food in front of you so you can examine its textures, colors, smells. Take a deep breath and say a small blessing (can be as simple as thank you) before you eat. Acknowledge how you are feeding yourself to take care of you and then enjoy. Pay attention to your level of fullness as you eat and take a break or stop eating when you begin to feel full. Enjoy the space you are in and notice the colors, sounds, why you like it, what makes it interesting and unique to you. After 5 or 10 minutes decide if you would like to continue eating and what you would like to add to your meal. Then enjoy. Note your experience of the food while you ate and how you feel for a few hours and/or days after.

Contrast this experience with the rushed, harried, absentminded, and overwhelmed experiences you have had or had since the experiment above. Which meal nourished you?

You might find, practicing a nourishing meal experience more often may be the key to successful weight loss, positive mood states, and overall better life balance.

Share your experiences with us by commenting on this post in our FB community. I think you’ll find a common experience and support to continue to feed yourself well even when it is not an easy task.

Metabolic Core

Ready to get your ab workout on. This one will exhaust your core and leave you feeling strong – ready for any challenges you might face.

Workout Basics and Warm Up

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up. There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

Metabolic Core

Do 2 sets of 15 reps for each exercise below. I have included video clips of each since the names alone can be confusing.

  • Egg Rolls
  • Ninja Get Up
  • Side Lying V Up
  • Prone Knee to Elbow (Wide)
  • Forward / Backward Crawl
  • Suicide Press Ups
  • Plank Toe Rolls – 1 set of 15 each
    • Double Legs – 15 total
    • Single Legs – 15 for each leg

Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have a fun living in your body today!

Food and Mood

Ever noticed that you feel different after eating different foods? In the past the links between food and mood may have been considered pseudoscience as food is just fuel, right? Not anymore. In today’s world we know the quality of that fuel (food) matters.

Over a decade ago Wallin and Rissanen (1994) were discussing the impacts of food and food cravings on psychiatric diagnoses. Today we are studying how the gut microbiota are impacted by diet choices and influence behavior (Jørgensen, 2014). There is lots of research linking how well children do in the classroom to meals eaten throughout the day, how strong our workouts will be to when and how we eat, and shows us how our focus and concentration fluctuate with what additives and ingredients were packaged in that meal you ate. Today, consider how you are eating for your brain.

For many of us we eat a routine set of items. In these items we often find the same things we ate and were exposed to as children. As a result we are fueling similar to our biology and culture. This used to be a good thing, as more research is showing us how ethnicity impacts ability to digest particular food items. However, with such diversity in our food system, easy access to all sorts of new foods, and things like GMOs, additives, colors, and preservatives many of us do not feel as good as we used to when we eat the same foods from our past. We have moved away from those family, cultural, and ethically focused meal plans and begun to source our food miles and miles from our homes.

As you eat this week, notice how you feel before you eat. What is your emotional state? Are you really hungry? Are you just bored? Do you feel sad, happy, angry? How did you feel yesterday? Many times our food choices are based on energy levels from yesterday. Then notice the same about how you feel when you get done eating. Did that meal satisfy you? If not why not? What is the emotion set you are feeling as you finish eating?

Next notice your thoughts. As a personal trainer and former fitness center owner, people around me often say things like: “I know I shouldn’t eat this … but” as they take a huge bite of something. This is not the way to help your mind create an experience of health or your body feel good about what you are eating. If you want that piece of cake, eat it, but be careful how you think about it. If you are saying “I shouldn’t” then have a smaller piece and say “I am so grateful I have the opportunity to sample this sweetness, I am also grateful that I only need a little to feel satisfied”. Then eat the item mindfully and enjoy it fully. As you swallow tell your belly, “We are enjoying the sweetness of life in this moment”. Do the same when you eat salad and fruit and vegetables, and drink water. As you eat, tell yourself how great these items are for your cells, your gut flora, and your brain.

The connection between what we think and what we manifest is well known. You will cultivate what you what you put your attention on. Use the power of your attention to focus on what you want, not what you don’t. As you tell yourself you are making healthy choices and you are caring for your body well, you begin to manifest increased healthy behaviors. Don’t believe me? Begin to think about something you like, focus on it, Just do not think about pink elephants. How many of you saw a pink elephant in your mind?

The subconscious works in pictures. When you give it a subject, like pink elephants, “bad” food, things you hate, it puts resources toward creating the experience of noticing pink elephants (or other items). If it is this easy to see pink elephants in your mind, imagine how easy it will be to see your body working exactly as it should, humming along, doing just what is needed in each moment to fully function. Think about how easy it will be to take a food, tell yourself the food is helping your body, and create a healthy pattern of engagement between food that is good for you, feeding yourself well, and generating positive moods as a result.

As you increase the healthy foods, your mood improves, your sleep gets better, and it’s easier to manage stress in your life. Your body has the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to make the neurotransmitters you need to feel happy, content, and connected. All of which help you feel regulated and grounded. Want more ideas to help yourself stay on track? Check out an easier post: Eat Well, Feel Well

As you feed yourself today, say something positive and thankful over your food. You will be surprised how that shifts your focus and brings a different experience to your eating … Here’s to happy eating, enjoy!

References

Jørgensen, B.P., Hansen, J. T., Krych, L., Larsen, C., Klein, A.B., Nielsen, D. S., Josefsen, K., Hansen, A. K., Sørensen, D. B. (2014). A possible link between food and mood: Dietary impact on gut microbiota and behavior in BALB/c mice. PLOS ONE, 9(8), e103398 1-15.

Wallin M.S., Rissanen A.M. (1994). Food and mood: relationship between food, serotonin and affective disorders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 377, 36-40.