Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category


Sugar Challenge Follow-Up and Fitness Q & A

March 20, 2009

When I saw this message from my twitter friend @lizwicksteed, I knew I had to share it with all of you:

Hi Sagan

I’m now on day 6 of the challenge and have been amazed how quickly it’s going. We’ve eaten some delicious food (especially your recipes hehe) and I haven’t missed the sugar at all. One evening I did eat 8 dates in a fairly mindless way but other than that I haven’t felt any particular cravings and have even had to remind myself to eat my lunch a couple of times, which is so not me! It kind of levels out your mood too, doesn’t it? Like Julie I’m wondering about my balsamic vinegar – it’s extraordinary what foods contain sugar – even water biscuits, would you believe! I’m definitely going to keep added sugars to a minimum from now on. Thanks for having the idea and thanks for doing the hard work of giving a starter list of the kinds of meals you can eat. Off now for a breakfast of pitta stuffed with mashed banana, apple sauce and cinnamon….. By the way everyone the best chocolate bars in the world are sugar-free! My one big worry about the week was what I was going to do for breakfast on working days, when I often took a cereal bar and ate it at my desk – I hate eating soon after I get up. In the health food shop I found Nak*d fruit bars and bought some of those. There’s a cocoa one which is mostly dates, raisins, apple juice, walnut, almond, etc, and a little cocoa powder – it is pure heaven and far more satisfying than an ordinary chocolate bar… and guaranteed no added sugar!

– Liz

Thanks for the feedback, Liz! I love hearing about other people trying these experiments and challenges and to learn about how it affects each of us.

An interview revisited

Remember when I interviewed Kelly from Every Gym’s Nightmare for an article about personal trainers and fitness*? I really felt that she gave so much wonderful information that couldn’t be included in the article (word limits can’t be ignored, after all), so here is the rest of the interview for all of you to enjoy!

1. How do you motivate yourself and encourage others to motivate themselves to exercise each day?

I think one of the biggest motivators is focusing on the immediate positive. Too many people use long term goals, like losing a certain amount of weight, as motivation to get into the gym everyday. The problem with that is, weight loss takes a while to develop, which means you can get discouraged and start to skip your workouts.  People are result focused, so focusing on the benefits you receive immediately from exercise, like increased mood and energy, stress relief and better sleep will better motivate you to get your workout in each day.

2. How much cardio/stretching/weight training do you recommend to do each day/week?

According to the ACSM, the recommended guidelines for healthy adults is 20-60 min of continuous or intermittent (minimum of 10-min bouts accumulated throughout the day) aerobic (cardiovascular) activity most days of the week (5-6), one set of 8-10 exercises that conditions the major muscle groups 2-3 days a week for strength training, and stretch the major muscle groups a minimum of 2-3 days per week for flexibility.  These guidelines are to get health benefits from exercise. For weight loss or specific goals, like increasing muscle strength or size, in most cases you will need workout more frequently, but each person is different. In order to get a full picture of how to achieve your goals, you will have to sit down with a personal trainer or coach and develop a unique plan for you.

3. How do I know how heavy of a weight I should be lifting?

Weights and reps are a delicate balance. You should be lifting enough weight that the last rep you do of each exercise is the last rep you can do with proper form.  Once your form starts to slip, you are recruiting other muscle units which is ineffective and, in some cases, dangerous.  If you can perform over about 25 reps and still have good form, it’s probably time to up the weight to get more of a challenge.  You often hear about people doing 100 pushups or 100 crunches in a sitting- if you can do that many, it isn’t effective for you anymore and you need to increase the intensity by either adding weight, or performing a more difficult modification of the exercise.

4. Are body weight exercises as effective as weight lifting? 

It depends by what you mean by “effective.” Everyone works out for different reasons.  If you primary concern is muscle tone, or fat loss, yes, body weight resistance will do the trick- as long as the exercises you are performing get you to exhaustion (the last rep is the last one you can complete with proper form.)  If your primary goal is to increase the size of your muscles or to gain strength, weights is probably your most effective way to go, as the more weight you use, the more overload is applied to the muscle.

5. What exercises would you suggest for a warm up and cool down?

Your warm up and cool down should be a less intense version of whatever your workout was or is going to be.  Whatever muscles you are going to use during your workout should be the primary focus of your warm up.  Walking or jogging is usually sufficient.  Warm ups get your muscles and circulatory system ready for what’s about to come, and should last anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  Cool downs are to help the blood redistribute to the rest of your body, so a nice slow walk will do the trick. Always remember to stretch, too, but do it after your warm up or cool down when your muscles are warm to avoid pulling anything.

6. Is there any reason for women to worry about “getting bulky”? 

No. I hate that term, “bulky.”  First of all- muscle isn’t a gross thing; it’s something to be proud of, because you earned it through hard work.  But, no matter how much I say that, women’s main concern is probably always going to be to get thin.  The fact of the matter is, women do not produce enough testosterone to achieve significant hypertrophy, or gain in muscle size.  Quite the contrary: women who replace body fat with lean muscle not only drop inches, but they have a higher metabolism, which means they burn more calories throughout the day, which can aid in weight loss. Strength training is important to not only reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass, but it also strengthens your bones- a huge priority for women.  It’s a shame so many shy away from weights.

7. What is the best all-over exercise for cardio? For strength training? For stretching?

There’s no one size fits all exercise- everyone is at a different fitness level, has different limitations and different goals.  For cardio, anything that gets your heart rate up is going to improve your heart and lung function and burn calories.  For strength training, anything that overloads your muscle to the point of failure is going to get results, but to save time, I recommend combining upper and lower body exercise, like lunges with bicep curls, to get the most bang for your buck.  As far as stretching goes, you should always stretch your major muscle groups to maintain or increase your flexibility, making sure to hit hamstrings, glutes, quads, back, chest, and arms.

8. How often should you change up your workout?

I’m a firm believer that motivation is the biggest indicator of when you should switch up your routine. I mainly work with deconditioned, reluctant exercisers, so I have to switch up the routine quite often to keep them motivated and interested.  From a results standpoint, there is differing opinions, but I find that about every 4 weeks, assuming the individual is strength training 3 times a week, is a good time frame.  Switching up your workout, to create muscle confusion, doesn’t have to mean all new exercises though. Sometimes just switching the order you perform them is enough to kick start your results again.

9. Is there any food in particular that you feel is especially beneficial to providing the nutrients and energy necessary for a really good workout?

I wouldn’t say there is a specific food, but there are certain nutrients you need to get the most from your work out. Protein, for muscle repair from your strength training, and carbohydrates for energy, are vital to keep your energy levels up and to keep your body running as efficiently as possible.  When you eat these is a little bit more of a grey area: many people say you need to eat a snack of protein and carbs right after working out, but as long as you get your recommended daily amount sometime throughout the day, you will be fine.  A lot of people tend to over eat after a workout because they over estimate how many calories they actually burned.  Some don’t like to workout on a full stomach and eat afterwards- some prefer to eat before for the energy. It depends on what feels right to you.

10. What’s your take on protein powders and protein shakes?

Ah, protein.  I think we are a protein obsessed society.  I’ve written numerous articles and pieces on this and every time I do it seems to get people up in arms.  You need a certain amount of protein per day, 0.8-1 gram per kilogram of body weight, and any extra is stored in your body as fat.  “The more, the better” is the wrong attitude with protein.  Most people eat more protein than they need in a day from natural sources, so in most cases protein shakes and bars are unnecessary, unless they are to supplement missing protein from your diet.

11. What are the best ways to mix things up when you workout at home?

Use what you have around.  Common, everyday household items make great workout equipment.  Use your stairs for calf raises, or to run up and down, do pushups against a sturdy counter top or table.  Water and milk jugs make great weights, use walls for wall sits, chairs for tricep dips, paper plates for mountain climbers- there is no reason to spend a ton of money on equipment. You can definitely get just as good a workout in the comfort of your home.

12. Do you have any advice for university students trying to stay active?

College kids are some of the busiest people around.  Make incidental exercise a big part of your day. Try and walk whenever you can, sneak in crunches and push up breaks during your study time, and calf raises while you are waiting for your roomie to get out of the bathroom. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up without having to block out a huge chunk of time for a workout.

Thanks again, Kelly!

Breakfast Cookie

It seems as though you can’t be a food blogger unless you’ve made the infamous Breakfast Cookie and featured it on your blog. As far as I can tell, it’s basically a bowl of oatmeal in cookie form. But although I’ve tried making one for myself before and it has somewhat worked and been quite tasty, I’m not exactly sure of the best “procedure” for making a Breakfast Cookie. Do you heat it up in the microwave? Or do you refrigerate it so it will harden and then eat it cold? Inquisitive minds want to know. Hit me up in the comments with your Breakfast Cookie recipes!

*If you’re interested in more fitness type information, check out my Push ups aren’t just for body builders piece.


Interview with Tosca Reno

September 10, 2008

You’ve read the review for her book, now its time to ask the author herself some questions! Tosca Reno was kind enough to agree to an interview with me, so here it is. Enjoy!

1. Your whole philosophy is eating clean, but sometimes its difficult to judge exactly what clean eating is. Can you tell us a little bit about your definition of clean eating?

Clean Eating is a way of nourishing oneself that encourages consuming more food and eating more frequently. Whether you wish to lose or gain weight the answer is the same. Eat more, eat better food and eat more frequently. Second to these principles is the need to partner lean protein with slow burning complex carbohydrates at each meal. Portions are somewhat smaller but you don’t go hungry.

2. How did you first get involved with eating clean?

I met my now husband ten years ago and he felt I had “something” that might work for Oxygen magazine. He suggested I compete in a bodybuilding show and that I had to do as he said to prepare – that meant Eat Clean until I got in contest shape. I did it and was amazed at how effective it was.

3. You’ve mentioned on your blog that you’re entering a fitness model competition- you must really enjoy it! What made you originally want to get into modeling? And what was it that inspired you to give it a shot again after you’ve already “retired” from it?

I did not so much retire from modeling as from competing. The reason this happened is because I wrote a book that became a best-seller in its category (The Eat-Clean Diet). Then I wrote another one – The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook – which also became a best-seller. I have been almost too busy to compete since I have now written another 4 books. You can’t compete a little bit. You have to commit 100%. I have still been modeling for Oxygen magazine, Woman’s World and other mags. It has been very rewarding for me especially at my age. The reason I am competing now is to inspire other women to get up off the couch and have a go at life no matter what the age. The W Network is following my journey and the series will air in January 2009. I will be competing on September 20th and again in November.

4. It can be hard to find a way to keep in shape, especially when you’ve got small kids to look after! What’s your secret?

My secret is my drive to be my best. The motivation is my desire to live a long healthy life with my daughters. My inspiration is my daughters. That inspiration drives me to be my best always. Now that I see other women responding to the message to Eat Clean and take care of themselves, they are also part of my inspiration to stick with it!

5. I loved reading your book, The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids, even though I don’t have any kids myself. However, I do try to encourage my family and friends to eat healthy. It can be tough sometimes! Do you have any tips for persuading adults to eat clean?

The simplest thing in the world is to rethink what goes in your mouth. It is changing your mindset about food that is difficult. Ask yourself if the food you eat makes a difference to you? If the answer is no, you probably are not ready to change anything about your nutrition. However if the answer is yes, then the magic can begin right away. Start by opening your cupboard doors and your fridge. Clean out anything that is processed. Anything! Then go to the grocery store and really look at foods before you buy them. Most foods without a UPC code on them are Clean Foods. Make small changes first. Pitch white rice, eat brown. Eat only lean, range fed meats. Mix protein sources up with vegetarian or plant sources – nuts, beans, quinoa and so on. Eat more produce. Just ask yourself if the gas you are putting in your machine is high octane or garbage? Then go for it.

6. Many of my readers have small children of their own, so they can sympathize with the problems related to getting kids to eat clean. If there’s one piece of advice that you can give them regarding this issue, what would it be?

Be patient but keep trying. Parents play the role of a teacher for children. Put broccoli and spinach in front of your kids. Do it with patience and love. Do it ten times and pretty soon your child will learn to love something he or she did not like before. Parents need to lead by example. Don’t expect your child to pick up healthy eating habits if you don’t have them yourself.

7. What’s your opinion on philosophies that use the idea of trying to “trick” kids into eating healthy, such as books like “Deceptively Delicious”? From your experience do kids react better to knowing exactly what it is that they’re eating or does sneaking healthy food into their diet have a positive effect?

There is a place for “hiding” nutritious ingredients in foods if it is done with a goal of improving your child’s health. Sometimes a child’s unwillingness to eat a certain food is purely out of stubbornness without even having tried it. This may be the time to hide sweet potatoes in the spaghetti sauce. Kids don’t want to be bored with the details of why a food is good for them. They just want it to taste good. I will put foods in a dish that are a bit of a surprise to my family but they often like it in the end. Sooner or later they catch on and realize what they are eating actually tastes good and is good for them too.

Thanks so much for your time, Tosca!

If you want to learn more about Tosca and her books, check out her websites: and

By the way, I received the completed copy of Tosca’s book and it is really great. It’s a very beautiful, polished book (and the binding is much better than the half-finished version:)). The other night I tried her Crispy Chicken Bites as well as some oven roasted potato wedges and they were both delicious. I can definitely see how kids would like these meals!


What Do You Choose?

July 9, 2008

I was recently interviewed by Nutritious Junk as a healthy blogger- check out the interview here and be sure to check out her really great blog while you’re there!


Mmm. Food. It seems that many/most people have a love-hate relationship with food. On the one hand, it tastes great and serves as necessary fuel for our bodies, and it is often associated with social gatherings and all around good times. Its also a central feature of a lot of holidays, and holidays are generally a lot of fun; a break from the everyday. But on the other hand, when we eat too much food or when we eat processed stuff posing as food (yummy, chemicals!), it is detrimental to our heath and well-being. Children perform worse in schools, we become cranky and lethargic, and we become sick with all kinds of wacky diseases and ailments which affect our quality of life and our interactions with the rest of the world.

Over the long term, this has drastic results. If you haven’t experienced these results yourself, then ten to one you know someone who has (and if you don’t, then you probably live as a hermit in the mountains. And have no access to the Internet. And therefore are not reading this just at present). But what about in the short term?

Here is where it gets muddled. Scientists plod away at conducting their research and spit out stats at random intervals over the course of years, sending us mixed messages and going from one extreme to the other. One day they suggest that the occasional indulgence is beneficial; the next, they say that derailing just once from a healthy lifestyle can have long-term, nasty consequences for your body. Do this! Eat that! Stay away from this! Avoid these at all costs! (All of this being said, of course, at the same time as *they* put up yet more fast food chains with reckless abandon all across the city. Because its really necessary to have a McDonalds at regular intervals on the main street and a KFC right across from it).

You get lost in it. You forget the real goals, you forget that you like this or that and that you don’t particularly like another kind of food. Regardless of its health factor, sometimes you’re just not going to enjoy certain foods. I don’t like cooked spinach. I also do not like mayonnaise. Before I ever became the little health freak that I am (*waves energetically to all the other affectionate health freaks in the room*), I would not eat cooked spinach or mayo. And that has not changed. Now, I am more wiling to try something that I know is healthy, but it doesn’t mean that it will be my staple. And I am more careful about the bad stuff that I put in my body. Its really a simple equation (although it can be damn difficult to remember sometimes).

Yesterday night, an acquaintance of mine returned from a trip to New York City, so I was at her place for a Welcome Home slice of homemade chocolate cake. It was delicious and I enjoyed every bite of it with no thoughts of remorse (because how often does someone put a slice of homemade chocolate cake with fruit in it and homemade icing on the top in front of you? Precisely). And yet other days, when I lose sight of my real goals, I’ll wander the cupboards and spend an age trying to decide between the store-bought whole wheat bread or the homemade white buns. Which is the better choice? And what about different types of fruit- should I choose the apple, nectarine, or banana? Puffed wheat or oatmeal? Carrots or broccoli? Yogurt or cheese?

When I catch myself doing this, I give my head a shake. I should be asking, what is it that my body is asking for? What is it that I am needing more of? And if I want both the apple and the banana, well, I’m pretty sure that no one ever fell into a bad state of health because they had two pieces of fruit instead of one. So if I’m craving both, then I’m going to have both. It’s likely that I need the nutrients that come with both of these excellent fruits.

We’re looking at the long term. We’re looking at maintaining a healthy way of living, an attitude that will be ours no matter the situation. And as long as we’re listening to our bodies and are careful to not get too caught up in the silly details, we’re all set.

And how about all of you? Do you have the occasional silly questions between what kind of fruit you should eat, too? Is it triggered by past issues (such as an eating disorder)? How do you cope with it when you get caught up in these tiny details? I’d love to hear your thoughts!